Wednesday, April 28, 2010


"My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw."
-- George Washington

"My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, 
but I think she enjoyed it."
-- Mark Twain
(tee hee *grin* I love you Mom!)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Washing Dishes

A few weeks ago, my friend was regaling me with stories from a party she attended.  It was one of those in-home product sort of parties.  The kind that are almost more about the fellowship than about the shopping (almost).  Like most parties of this sort, it included a wacky game at the beginning to break the ice. Each participant had to admit to their least favorite household chore, and give the reason why she doesn't like doing it.  The answers got twisted around in a hilarious way, but I'll leave that part out to protect the innocent.

My least favorite chore is washing dishes, because after I'm done eating...I just want to be done.  I want to sit and just enjoy my food coma.  The chore of washing dishes just gets in the way. 

Saturday, I had the privilege of cooking for a few friends.  We had a wonderful lunch (complete with dessert).  We had appetizers and snacks too.  We laughed and played games all afternoon.  It was a fantastic time.

And the next day:  I had a pile of dishes.  Just sitting there.  Taunting me. 

As I was sudsing up my sponge and letting the water get hot, I recalled that silly game from my friend's story.  And I thought to myself, "Instead of despising this chore, how can I invite God into this moment?"

After all, dirty dishes are reflective of used dishes.  It made me think about how when I allow myself to be used for something good, I may get dirty in the process.  But that dirt is nothing to be ashamed of.  In fact, perhaps it should be looked upon with a little bit of joy.  Plus, it's so refreshing to go through the proverbial sponge-bath on the other side! 

I also thought about how its easier to clean dishes when they're fresh.  Once everything gets crusty and hard, it takes a lot more scrubbing to get things clean.  And life is like that too.  If we let things sit and coagulate or crust, it takes a lot more elbow grease to break the mess up.  But with a little soap, a little soaking, and a little determination...that piece can be shiny and clean again.

As I let my thoughts continue to drift that way, I found that my taunting task had become a teaching moment.  And I wasn't annoyed.  In fact, as I placed the last dish on the counter to dry I was pretty refreshed.  Fancy that!  

Perhaps I should extend that invitation more often...

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Good golly.

Don't you love it when a movie catches you by surprise? I was watching what I quickly decided was a lame excuse for a romantic comedy, until a scene near the end blindsided me and I found myself tear-streaked in the middle of my office.

A father cornered a son-in-law...year's after his daughter's (and his wife's) death.  The son had been driving the car at the time of the accident and had carried around the guilt, and the belief that he was blamed and despised for years.  But now he couldn't run.  The father had interrupted him in a public setting and there was no where to hide.  And as his faced his father-in-law, you could see him at the end of his rope...panicked...hurt...tired...and bracing for wrath.

But instead of anger, he heard these words:  "We didn't blame you, all we wanted to do was mourn with you. But we couldn't find you. That was the worst part."

And a guy who had been putting on a brave face and talking a good talk (though he wasn't fooling many people) for far too long...broke down and cried in the arms of his father.

Yep.  I was wrecked.

Why do we run?  And who should we be catching?   

Lord give me the humility to lay down blame that never belonged to me, to courage be vulnerable and caught by those who love me, and the tenacity to keep running and keep looking for those who are burdened...even if all I can do is mourn with them.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


It's amazing where my mind will wander during church. Not that I don't pay attention. Just that some lyric during worship or some statement during a sermon will send my brain on a crazy rabbit trail.

For example: "God is not an add on."

I work in the technology field, so I immediately began thinking of iPhones (*There's an app for that*) and applications and add-ons and program suites and the like. And then it struck me, God is not an add-on, but maybe our faith requires patches and updates.

Let me explain. Have you ever had iTunes open, and that little screen pops up and tells you that there are new things available to download? 1) You have to have iTunes open for it to scan and recognize there's something missing. 2) Seeing the pop-up is step one. You have to actively engage and click for the update to install.

Security programs have similar things. They're called "security patches." Because while a program may completely comprehensive (I know that's with it.), there are constantly new viruses and threats being developed by 'bad guys.' When the 'good guys' find stuff like that, they'll write some new code that combats the problem and send it out as a patch...a band-aid...a help make the security program even better. Did I lose you, or does that make sense?

God is not lacking. Neither is his truth. They are constant and full and are everything we need. But as Rob Bell might say, like art and Velvet Elvis, the way we look at it and live it out changes. The Christians of today look and act and do church differently than the Christians of 2000 years ago. (And different from when God first spoke to Abram out of the burning bush.) It's an ongoing, vibrant, living sort of relationship. I think that's a good thing.

I think trials and temptations work that way too. There's "nothing new under the sun," but old tricks take on new guises. Pride, selfishness, vanity, ways to fall to these foibles pop up all the time.

And just as technology has gotten smaller and more portable, I think the Church has gone through a similar process. The 'temple' has gone from a place to a people. I have lots of friends who have very deep and active faith lives, who don't often find themselves within the walls of a church. Churches themselves are growing big as they grow small -- returning to the idea of small groups and community and living out these principles we believe in the context of every day life.

Which makes Christians kind of like mobile technology...and we have the ultimate security suite. But in being a very mobile and busy group, it's easy to get swept up in all that we're doing and forget to reconnect to our home network. Just like computers and iTune programs, we need to connect to our network and check for new patches. Otherwise our system might be caught off-guard and infected by the newest virus that's been going around.

And we all know what happens when one computer gets infected. Before you know it your address book has been hijacked and crazy emails have been sent to everyone you know, putting people that you care about at risk because you weren't as vigilant or as careful as you should have been.

So no, God is not an add-on.  He's all you need. Finding him and downloading him into your life will change it forever. But life isn't stagnant.  It changes all the time.  And it's messy.  And temptations can be clever.  But the Holy Spirit isn't silent, the Bible is called the "living word," and we get to pursue this thing in good company.

Don't be caught off-guard. When was the last time you did a vulnerability scan and checked for an update? (And remember, seeing it is not enough. You have to download and install it too.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I see your true colors shining through.
I see your true colors, and that's why I love you.

It's a great song.  But there's a line in there that bothers me
"We're all the same color when you turn out the lights."

I know the songwriter's point is that we need to look beyond skin color.  But we shouldn't have to hide or lose our vision in order to "see" each other.  We should embrace and respect our differences when the lights are on. 

Mister Rogers once said, "When we love a person, we accept him or her exactly as is: the lovely with the unlovely, the strong along with the fearful, the true mixed in with the facade, and of course, the only way we can do it is by accepting ourselves that way."

Not hidden like a secret in the dark, but love out in the open.  Lights blazing, colors showing.

Monday, April 19, 2010


A ramble a few weeks overdue...

Good Friday morning, I was trying to remember everything I needed for church service that evening, including a suitable outfit to wear for my participation on the praise team.  Easter Sunday morning is the time for bright colors and floral prints, but Friday night is not Sunday morning.  So I decided to go with my good 'ole concert black.  After all, it was Black Friday, right?  Wait... not Black Friday.  Good Friday.  Black Friday happens in the fall.  But my mental misstape made me think about shopping.  And God. 

For a moment, I looked at Good Friday like God's Black Friday.  Like some big cosmic 2 for 1 sale.  Not really 2 for 1. But still, Jesus's life made it possible for all humanity to be in reconciliation again.  It's a bulk deal that happens one-one-one with each of us. 

There's a joke that says,  A woman will pay $1 for a $2 item she doesn't need (It was a good deal.), while a man will pay $2 for a $1 item he needs (He needs it!).  God just broke all the rules and paid $2 for a $1 item he didn't need.  (But he wants and loves us!)

If you've ever come back from a victorious shopping mission, you know you the celebration well:

"Look at what I got!"
"But look at what it cost you."

A triumphant gleam. 
A squeal and a clutch to the chest.
A happy dance.

"It doesn't matter what it cost.  It's mine now.  And it was worth it."

I know it's not a perfect analogy.  But, oh how he loves us.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


You never let go.  You never let go.  You never let go. 
~ David Crowder

The first time I heard this song, it made me cry.  I remembered a story.

A story about a boy who was swimming.  But there was an alligator.  His father saw the alligator and called out.  The son started swimming toward the shore, and just as he approached where his father reached out to him from the dock, the alligator reached him. The same time the father frantically grabbed his little boy by the wrists, the alligator clamped his jaws into his calves. That began an incredible tug-of-war.  The alligator was much stronger than the father, but the father dug in his heels and refused to let go.  Someone came along and shot the alligator.  The boy survived, but had horrible scars.  Scars on his legs from the alligator's powerful jaws.  But scars on his arms from where his father dug in and refused to let go.

I think some of my biggest scars aren't from when I fell down, but from when He held on.

He held on when I got myself in trouble.
He held on when I tried to pull away in hurt or anger.
He held on when I was too complacent or lazy or distracted to move myself.
He held on when I didn't feel hold-on-able.

Each one represents a different kind of pain.  If I'm really honest, some of the deepest pain I've felt has been from things I've felt wrenched away in lieu of His vision for my life.  In those times, the words of Crowder's song aren't words of relief and gratitude, but words of anger and disappointment.  You never let go!  But I think if I could look back, the struggle would seem different now.  Perhaps with the perspective of hindsight, I would see the alligator chomped down on my legs and pulling with all it's might.

Regardless of the alligator...those scars are beautiful.  Because when I reach out to someone else they'll see those scars.  Maybe they'll ask, "What in the world happened to you?"

And I can say, "He didn't let go."

He never will.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


No one -- not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses -- ever makes it alone. …They are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot." ~ Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers.

A lot of the stories in this book brought to mind a passage from 1 Samuel, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” David would never have been a hockey star. He was the youngest brother. The smallest. The older boys would have been the one to get the extra coaching and training because people saw something special. They saw strength and coordination. Little did they know there was a giant slayer in that little shepherd!

It made me wonder whom I have cheated of success because I did not give the gift of opportunity. Who could have been a great friend if I could have overlooked our initial personality or preference differences? Whom could I have mentored if I could have seen beneath the surface?

But looking back is silly. So instead, I’m turning those thoughts forward.

Am I willing to “bite deep into a welcoming land and work like a madwoman at what I know?” That’s the legacy that built the fashion and law moguls of New York. They had parents that took what they knew and rocked it. It wasn’t a glamorous skill. For some it was as simple as making aprons. But they were faithful. They didn’t wish for a different talent. They didn’t begrudge their limitations or the opportunities they didn’t have. (Ok, they might have. But that didn’t stop them.) They worked hard. And their examples and core values helped the successive generations to become superstars.

I may think my talents are far too ordinary to be life changing. But if I’m willing to put those thoughts aside and just work hard at what I know, maybe I can give someone the opportunity they need to be an Outlier.  Who knows, maybe those investments and interactions will help me too.  To see the world in a way I couldn't before.

That’s my challenge to you today: Give the gift of opportunity.

** Edit **
What exactly is an "Outlier?"  It could be defined as "an observation that appears to deviate markedly from other members of the sample in which it occurs."  But I borrowed the term from the book of the same title by Malcolm Gladwell.  He uses it to describe people that fall outside the normal realm of success, whether they may be Bill Gates, the Beatles, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Mozart, or professional hockey players.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Hearth

Ok, I admit it.  I haven't been very "tenacious" for the past few weeks:  I haven't been blogging.  I haven't been to yoga.  My "to do" list is giving me dirty looks.  I've felt like my schedule has been out of alignment.  Not blown to bits, but just off enough so that my time doesn't clump the way that I want it to.  Does that make sense? Some of the distractions have been quite wonderful, but the end result is still there.

But thanks to Easter, Nexus, and Percy Jackson, (bizarre combination, right?) I feel like I've got everything back where it should be.

Easter is like my real Thanksgiving (In recent years, I've been away on Thanksgiving).  It's a day of family, food, thankfulness, and celebration.  People come home.  Families and communities have get-togethers.  And whenever I get to hang out with family, I always leave feeling a bit more balanced and energized.

Then, last night after Nexus (a time I've come to treasure each month) I came home and wrapped up the Percy Jackson series. One of my favorite moments happens in the final book. I don't want to give too much of the plot away, but let me try to paint this picture for you.  A battle of cosmic proportions, a hero with a fatal flaw, and homely minor god whose been basically overlooked with everything else that's going on.  Percy decides to leave something very important with this god.  When he makes that decision she asks, "Why would you leave me with this?"  He replies, "Because Hope survives best at the hearth.  Guard it for me, and I won't be tempted to give up again."

The term "hearth" isn't used much anymore.  What came to mind when you read it?  For me, I envision a fireplace in a family room.  Where adults recline while children play.  New pictures are constantly crammed on the mantle or on the wall.  It's where everyone crowds on Christmas morning or on Thanksgiving afternoon.  Or it's just where you sit and catch your breath at the end of a day.

And then it all clicked together.  Nexus is like coming back to the hearth for me.  Sure, I spend time with God throughout my regular schedule.  But it's like everyday running around.  "You need anything from the store?"  "Do you have something going on tomorrow night?" "Can I take your car today?"  "Did you hear that new song on the radio?" "Thanks for doing the dishes."  But those few moments at Nexus are like kicking back in front of the fireplace and catching up.  It's no wonder that I feel realigned!

Hope survives best at the hearth.