Monday, July 21, 2014


It was the summer between 9th and 10th grade, and I was sitting in orchestra rehearsal midway through the month-long summer music academy at Pensacola Christian College. I’d been playing violin for a few years, but this was the first time I was in the world of soundproof practice rooms, sectionals, and several hours of practice a day. It was challenging, but I loved it.

We were working on Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italian (A 15 ½ minute song! Talk about serious musicianship!), and the trombones were in trouble. There’s a part in the song where they have a tricky rhythm. Triplet 1, rest, triplet 1. If you sang it it would go something like “di-di-di-da {pause} di-di-di-da.” It starts at the end of the measure too, which is typically harder for young musicians because you have to count the rests before jumping into your notes.

It’s a critical rhythm at that point in the song, because it sets the tone and tempo for that section, and everyone else’s part layers on top of it.

And the trombones just couldn’t get it.

After trying everything in the book, from one method of counting to another, playing super slow, and trying over and over again to get it right, it still just wasn’t happening. In fact, I think it was getting worse. Because by this point, the poor trombones aren’t just frustrated and mentally tired, they’re also embarrassed because the rest of the orchestra is there just waiting and witnessing their struggle.

Then our conductor said something I’ll never forget. He was a short, Einstein-haired, big-nosed, elderly sort of guy. But he was diminutive in appearance only until he picked up a baton. Then he transformed to have this quiet assurance that brooked no contradiction. If he said it, that’s the way it was. He was picky, but he was right. And what made him special was he was able to communicate all of that with a sense of humor. 

Anyway, he rapped his baton on his stand and said, “You need to sniff.”

Everyone looked at him like he was a bit crazy. But our incredulity didn’t faze him in the slightest, “You need to sniff. Di-di-di-da {sniff} di-di-di-da. Beethoven would sniff. You need to sniff. Try it.”

Memory is a funny thing. I know it’s a Tchaikovsky piece, but I swear our conductor said Beethoven would sniff. Maybe he was meeting us halfway, knowing Beethoven would stand out in our minds.

So we did. First he just had the trombones do it, singing the rhythm out in time.
Di-di-di-da {sniff} di-di-di-da. Their sniffs were a little tentative so he had everyone join in. Di-di-di-da {sniff} di-di-di-da. After a few repetitions (and more than a few giggles), we got over the craziness of the whole idea and really committed to the sniff. And once we did, that tricky rhythm came together like magic.

It was amazing, and I’ll never forget it.

That’s what I think scripture means when it says Jesus spoke with authority. The phrase “with authority” was a known term in the rabbinical teaching structure. It basically meant that people recognized Jesus had enough insight to look at a familiar thing in a fresh way. But a little more than that because anyone can have a crazy opinion, but if you spoke “with authority” then people actually respected your point of view.

When I read, “The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this? A new teaching—and with authority!” (Mark 1:27) I imagine the crowd feeling the same sense of wonder we did in the orchestra. After all, who in their right mind would tell a trombone section to sniff? You won’t find that anywhere in an exercise book. But he did, and “Beethoven would sniff” changed everything for us that summer. It took a tricky rhythm and made it attainable. Frustration gave way to comprehension and we went on to play the piece with confidence and unity. And I think that’s just what Jesus does with God’s law. Time after time, he offers a new insight that suddenly makes the convoluted very simple.

If you want to take a listen, the infamous rhythm is at 0:52. I dare you not to sniff. But make sure you mean it if you do.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


The following conversation took place in one of the early episodes of MasterChef this season:

Joe - Mystery Box, Season 5. We start with desserts. What's the biggest mistake we see with mystery boxes like this one?
Gordan - It's one of overcomplication.
Graham - As you get more and more experienced as a cook or a chef, it's all about putting less on the plate. I think here you're going to see people try to add every single thing possible, and we all know that just muddles it.

"You're going to see people try to add every single thing possible, and we all know that just muddles it."

Ouch.  How often do I (do we) do just that?  Try to throw every trick we have, whether it's to impress, to please, or to measure up?

But when we do that, the painting we're trying to compose with our programs or with our lives just ends up looking like the brown, soupy, finger-painted masterpiece of a four-year-old artist.  You know the kind. It might be beautiful to the imagination, but the reality is just a bit of a mess. As Harry Potter observed in the Half-Blood Prince: "Bangs and smoke are more often the sign of ineptitude rather than expertise."

"As you get more and more's all about putting less on the plate."

Be intentional.  Keep it simple.  Put less on your plate.

It will be less muddled.

And ultimately, more delicious.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Silver. Refuge. All caught up.

Favorite Proverbs: #27 Silver is the New Gray

Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness. Proverbs 16:31

What words of wisdom would you offer anyone celebrating a milestone birthday this year?

I believe this thought is borrowed from a toast, but I've always found it both encouraging and wise:  To look forward with pleasure, and backward without remorse.

Favorite Proverbs: #26 Tower of Power

The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10

Liz suggested we can speak His name, open His Word, and seek His Church. How else might we run into His strong tower?

Change direction.  I think of a refuge and I think of being safe behind those strong walls.  One of the most humbling and beautiful parts growing and maturing is that my eyes are constantly being open to a better way. It's humbling to realize when I'm out of bounds.  Those boundaries aren't there to be restricting.  They're there to be protective.  (Not that God's protection is limited to a finite space of course.)  But when my eyes are opened to a new aspect of that better way and I find that I've been wandering in the woods instead of the tower grounds, the best thing I can do is change direction.  The quote the proverb:  the righteous run to it and are safe.

And with that, for the first time in a long while, I'm all caught up!  (A nice way to celebrate the halfway point of this journey through Proverbs.) Now I can focus on finishing up some other posts that have been rattling around in my head for a bit.

Friday, July 11, 2014


Favorite Proverbs: #28 How Low Can We Go?

Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud. Proverbs 16:19

If this devotion has convicted you to do more for those in need, how do you plan to get started? If you are already doing and giving in a sacrificial way, what has the Lord taught you in the process?

"Travel light."  This is an idea planted into my heart years ago by a very wise birthday card.  Ever since then, that idea has taken root and grown strong.  To me, traveling light isn't just about letting go of worry and regret.  It's also grown to be about being intentional about the things I decide to acquire and keep.  Even more, it's about not filling my time or my budget to capacity.  Why?  To be able to be generous.  It's been a learning journey, but in the process the thing I've learned the most is this (and it's going to sound cliche): I can't out-give God.  Mostly because as I pour out, he pours right back in.  Not always in the same way (it's not like he's running a divine reimbursement service), but always in a way that provides a blessing.

It helps that I belong to a church family that values giving.  My senior pastor often mentions the verse that talks about leaving the edges of fields for the needy (Leviticus 19:9-10).  Purposefully setting aside a part of my proverbial field has been life-changing.  Because what begins as a sacrifice then becomes a budget.

The other big lesson I've learned:  I don't need to out-give God (or anybody else). Once I started seeing the needs of the world, I felt like I started seeing them all.  And there's a lot.  How in the world could my little bit make any sort of real difference?  But God has shown me time and time again that it's not about an amount, it's about my heart.  Jesus famously took a sack lunch and fed a multitude.  God still does that today.  He doesn't want me to give my whole field, but he does want me to be a good steward and to be obedient with my edges.

Being lowly, living humbly...traveling light. So I can give him all my edges, and in his hands, those edges can change the world.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hidden Motives

Favorite Proverbs: #29 Hidden Motives

A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart. Proverbs 21:2

What has the Lord been teaching you this week?

One of the great things about growing up in church is having a treasury of verses set to song that bubble up to the surface of my mind when I need them most. This one has been on repeat in my mind lately:

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delighteth in his way.  Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down.  For the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.  Psalm 37:23

What a great promise and reminder right?  And I honestly think that delight goes both ways:  God delights and sings over us, and when we are in the middle of what he's doing, we're delighting in him.

The best part is, perfection is not required.  We stumble, we hiccup, we sometimes hobble through, but this verse says that wobbles or falls or missed opportunities are not a disqualification.  No matter how bad/guilty/disappointed we might feel, we are not cast down, thrown out, or given up on. The Lord upholds us with his righteous right hand.

More than I would like to admit, I struggle with feelings of guilt and underachievement.  (Especially when I'm feeling particularly fallible, or simply...uninteresting.) But with that verse on musical repeat, his still small voice has been faithfully reminding me that his delight isn't contingent on my successes or achievements.  He loves me just as I am.  Not for what I've done or haven't done.  Not for my past victories, or in spite of my past failures.  He just loves me.  More than that.  He delights in this journey we are sharing together.

Remembering that restores my joy too.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Smart Money

Favorite Proverbs: #30 Smart Money

How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver! Proverbs 16:16

The CEV translation sums up this verse, “It’s much better to be wise and sensible than to be rich.” How might you convince a teenager of that truth?

There's probably nothing more convincing that someone faithfully walking out their own convictions.  The polar opposite of "Do as I say, not as I do."  Do as I do, because life is better this way.  How do I treat gold and silver?  What priority to I place on wisdom and insight?  The teenagers in my life will see that...and take note.

That being said, it wasn't until I traveled overseas that I fully understood just how rich our culture is in stuff while at the same time being so very poor in spirit. And I will never forget traveling to a small coastal town in Mississippi to help with the rebuilding effort the year after Katrina completely devastated the Golf region. Some of those people had lost everything, but not their spirit...and their stories were amazing. For that reason, I think encouraging teenagers to volunteer and serve (either here or abroad) is a great way to reveal the truth of this verse.  Sometimes you just can't know things until your perspective has been changed.

“If only people would realize that moral principles are like measles...They have to be caught. And only the people who've got them can pass on the contagion.” ~ Aldous Huxley

Monday, July 7, 2014

Heavy Lifting

Favorite Proverbs: #31 Heavy Lifting

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. Proverbs 12:25

If you’re not okay right now, could you tell someone you trust?
If someone around you isn’t okay, what kind word could you offer them today?

There's no good way to get a grip on a runaway train of anxious thoughts.  Maybe that's what makes them so heavy on the heart.  Like a oversized load of laundry you're trying to carry in one trip to the washer, it's a wiley burden.  Just when you think you have a precarious hold, you look down only to discover you've missed an errant sock, and if you bend down to pick it up, you somehow drop another one from the towering pile.  It can be a comedy of errors if your mood is right...or the straw that breaks your fragile facade into a million pieces.  Yes, the laundry is dirty. You know that, and you're trying to take it to the right place to fix that.  If only you could get there.

How precious are the words of a friend.  A friend's encouraging words can enter into shattered mess of a pile gone terribly wrong and knock that runaway train right from its tracks.  A kind word can be an extra hand that picks up the errant sock, allowing you to keep your tenuous grip on the way to the washer.  A kind word can change the soundtrack and somehow make a tragic moment into a comedic one.  (Have you ever had a friend rescue you from frustration and tears by dissolving you into a pile of giggles?  I have.  It's the best kind of rescue.)

I'm definitely blessed to have friends I can reach out to when I'm struggling.  The hardest part is admitting that I need the help.  The thought of my friend's hands on my errant socks?  It's embarrassing.  But a friend won't air that laundry, they'll help you carry it to the washer.  And the thing is, I know I wouldn't be bothered in the least if the tables were turned.  It's a sock.  There's nothing to be ashamed about.  That's just life.  Why is it so much easier to give help than receive it? (Especially when anxiety is involved.)

My prayer is to have the bravery to be transparent with those who have my trust, and to have ears to hear and eyes to see when someone might need a hand themselves.  Not to carry the whole load. There's someone whose hands are big enough for that.  Just to pick up a sock or two on the way.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Favorite Proverbs: #32 Beauty is as Beauty Does

Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion. Proverbs 11:22

Several women chose this verse from Proverbs as their favorite. How does it speak to you?

I loved the quote: "With great beauty comes great responsibility."  So true!  I work as a hairbraider at the local Renaissance Festival, and for those nine weekends I get to see that quote and this verse acted out front and center.  It never ceases to amaze me how many people seem to leave their discretion out of their dressing process. The braiders actually have a "Bad Costume Bingo" card as a way of taking a tally of some of the...let's call them choices (because that's what they are)...we see often enough that while they might startle us, they don't surprise us anymore.

Some costuming is eye-catching for all the right reasons, and those are on the Bingo card too: for being beautiful or creative or well-executed or fun.  But then there are the things that are eye-catching for all the wrong reasons.

Everybody and every body is beautiful.  I truly believe that.  And some people really do have stunning wrapping paper.  But something gets lost when they don't treat their wrapping paper well.  Each time I see someone Bingo-card worthy, it grieves my heart a little bit.  Because while I'm sure they want to be turning heads, I can't believe they want to be turning them for that reason.

Every body is beautiful, even mine!  But no matter how confident I might be in my outer beauty (a sliding scale to be sure!), it's my inner beauty that I want to shine through.

This season, I guarantee you I'll be thinking about pierced pigs, and good choices.

Friday, June 6, 2014

We All Fall Down

Favorite Proverbs: #33 We All Fall Down

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18

When has pride plunged you headlong into disaster?
What did God teach you in the process?

I tried to outsmart kiwi.

One of my true joys is cooking for people.  And I like to think I'm pretty good at it.  I especially love to theme food to an occasion.  So when an opportunity arose for me to bring a dessert to a St. Patrick's Day gathering, I decided to put a spin on an old favorite and make Strawberry Pretzel Salad, but with kiwi's instead.

Confident in my cleverness, I re-googled the familiar recipe to make sure I didn't forget anything.  When I did, I noticed a cliff-note on the page informing me that kiwi can't be mixed into jello.  There's just something about kiwi that keeps jello from setting.  "That's ok." I thought to myself.  "I'll just put sliced kiwi's on top when I'm done."  Ha!  Take that you tricksy little fruit!

I had it all figured out.

I proceeded to make a beautiful dessert.  It was picture perfect.  And just before leaving the house to go to the party, I carefully arranged my sliced kiwis on top of their perfectly set gelatin bed.  Then into the car and away we go.

It wasn't three minutes later when, as slowing down to drive over a neighborhood speedhump, the whole top layer of my kiwi-topped dessert simply slid off...and onto the floor of the car.


I watched it all happen in slow motion; equal parts bemused and horrified. I guess they were serious about that kiwi thing.  But not only does it keep jello from setting, it will actually cause already set jello to become melty again. That certainly wasn't in the cliff-note!

So what did I do?  I pulled over to the side of the road, had a good laugh, picked up the floor mat on that side of the car, unceremoniously dumped the slimy green mess on the grass, and arrived at my destination with a topless dessert...and a story.

I learned to heed instructions. (and not to try to outsmart least where kiwis are concerned.)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

She Speaks

Favorite Proverbs: #34 She Speaks

She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. Proverbs 31:26

Who needs to hear a word of grace, mercy, or love from you today?

This is the kind of question I end up pondering throughout my day.  The quick answer is, who doesn't?  But this proverb inspires me to actively look at those around me, and intentionally think about what I want to say before I say it.

Liz shared: "When our Proverbs 31 sister speaks, “her mouth is full” (CEB). She offers something worth hearing. People gladly listen, knowing her words will be “like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). Most days, my words are like stale popcorn in a striped paper bag."

I would be fibbing if I said I didn't often feel like that too.  The "she" in this verse is pretty intimidating and sets a pretty high standard.  But I'm encouraged by another scripture that says, "What you say flows from what is in your heart" (Luke 6:45, NLT).  Taking verses like this one to heart and making them part of my internal dialogue is the first step to building that treasury from which my words can flow.  Because really, who doesn't need to hear a good word today?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Cover Up

Favorite Proverbs: #35 Cover Up

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs. Proverbs 10:12

Since “love erases all sins by forgiving them” (NIRV), how does God’s love help you love and forgive others?

Well, knowing just how much grace I've been shown certainly helps me to turn around and show that love and grace to others. But in pondering over this verse, I kept thinking about the difference between "like" and "love."  I almost see the former as an emotion and the latter as an action. And as I've grown, I've come to view "like" as optional, but "love" as mandatory.  If I want to be a Christ-follower, I've got to show love.  The kind of love that is patient, kind, and keeps no record of wrongs.  And maybe that's how a Jesus-kind-of-love erases.  It doesn't keep a record and wipes the slate clean. Oddly enough, while our friends and family can most benefit from our "like", I sometimes think that it's those on the periphery that are most impacted by our "love" -- those counter-intuitive actions and choices that allow us to be the social center of God's kindness.  Those moments can touch a heart, smooth a conflict, and change the course of a day.

That's not to say of course that those close to us don't benefit from our love.  After all, that's often where we experience the deepest conflict, and where the intersection of like and love gets very real. (And where we have the very real opportunity to intentionally let go of the offense and hurt that can deepen into hatred and instead choose to keep no record of wrong, and show love instead.)  I guess what I mean is, when you're on the receiving end of something unexpected...especially when it's stands out.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

One Word

Favorite Proverbs: #36 One Word

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

How high up on your list is getting wisdom?

Growing up, one of the things I most admired in my dad was his wisdom.  No matter how complicated or conflicted the thing was that I was struggling with, he had this way of pausing for a moment and then finding the simple, wise truth in the center of the storm.  It never ceased to amaze me, and at the same time gave me a great model to look up to and aspire toward.

The critical piece of that puzzle is the pause.  My dad showed me not only the incredible priority that we should place on getting wisdom, but also the essential step of stopping to think (and pray) and put that wisdom into action.  As Thomas Edison said, "The value of an idea lies in the using of it."

I'm grateful that, like so many other things in scripture, wisdom is a gift.  It says in James 1:5, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."  (Side note:  without finding fault.  How awesome is that?)

Like Liz pointed out, it does cost though.  It costs time. (The pause.  It's critical).  And if I'm honest, it costs a bit of pride too.  (Seeing the whole picture or a different perspective means zooming out of and off of me.  Sometimes that feels like it costs very dearly indeed.)

But the result.  Priceless.

And worth it every time.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Morning by Morning

Favorite Proverbs: #37 Morning by Morning

The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. Proverbs 4:18

How did this verse encourage you today?

I needed this reminder. That we're not expected to get where we're going in one day.  It's a path.  It's progressive.  And it get's brighter.  Sometimes by the smidgiest of smidgens.  Sometimes direct and sometimes filtered through the clouds. But ever brighter till the full light of day. I find that incredibly encouraging. 

It reminds me of a lyric from an old hymn: "Sometimes it's good to look back down.  We've come so far, we've gained such ground.  But joy is not in where we've been.  Joy is who's standing at the end."

I think Joy is who makes the journey with us too.  Regardless of the weather and into glorious light.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Term of Endearment

Favorite Proverbs: #38 Term of Endearment

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. Proverbs 3:11 and 12

What does God’s discipline look like to you?

To me, God's discipline often looks like coaching.  A good coach can look at your form and tell you how to correct it.  They know when to push you, when to hold you back.  Most importantly, they know how to draw the best from you, and can somehow see your potential long before you know its there.  While it might catch you by surprise, it's like they knew it was there all along.

They make you pay for it when you mess up, but in a way that makes you stronger for it (and hopefully in a way that helps you learn from your mistakes).  They're not afraid to sit you on the bench if you're not ready (or if you need to be held accountable), and but they're also not afraid to give you your chance to shine.

A good coach will say the hard truth, but there's also nothing quite like a coach's pep talk either.  How many great sports movies feature those locker-room or final-moment-of-the-game speeches that remind you of who you are and what you can do, making the hair on your arms stand up, and your inner conqueror rise to the challenge?  And as someone who grew up playing both sports and music, I can testify that those speeches don't just happen in locker rooms either.  They take place backstage too.

So yeah, maybe it's because I've been blessed to have wonderful coaches cross my path, but When I read "discipline", that's often the imagery that comes to mind.

Two roads

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood...

Thus begins one of the most famous poems of all time.  Most people key in on the last few lines.

and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Those words are captured in art, featured in speeches, and posted on knick-knacks of all kinds.

But I find myself captured by Frost's opening words:  Two roads diverged.


I'm a thinker. A weigher. A contemplator. An overanalyzer. An agonizer.

And it doesn't always stop after I make a decision.  Whether it's something small like posting to Instagram (yes, I overanalyze my Instagrams), or something big like contemplating a career change (who wouldn't agonize about that?).

Frost's simple opening line speaks to me.  Two roads diverged.

Look before you leap, but once you choose a path, stop agonizing.  The time for wonder and worry is past.  It's time to be committed.  To move confidently forward.  Don't look back.

Two roads diverged.  That makes all the difference.

I've been mulling the line of that poem for over a year now.  I can't tell you how...."inspirational" isn't the right world..."supportive" might has been in regards to my family's decision to move forward with the brain surgery that ultimately extended my Dad's life.  We were faced with a pretty major two-road situation.  Once we leaped, there was no looking back.  But that jump, and the dedication to the path afterword, really has made all the difference.

In the early days of recovery, I know we all wondered "what if" we had chosen the other way.  But Frost's poem reassured me.  The roads diverged.  There's no use worrying or daydreaming about what might have been.  And as more information came in, it turns out that mysterious other road would have been a bleak indeed. So I'm glad we took the road we did, and that lesson to weigh but then let go has stayed with me.

Two roads diverged.  It's a powerful truth.

I wonder if might ever catch on in the knick knack world.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Good Fruit

Favorite Proverbs: #39 Good Fruit

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives. Proverbs 11:30

What has God planted inside you that’s ready to bear fruit this season?

Relentless optimism.  That's been my motto and my mantra this past year.  It's been a doozy for sure, and I've been honored to be the cheerleader of my family. Something Liz said in her post really resonated with me. "God calls us not only to bloom where we’re planted, but also to bloom where we’ve been transplanted for the sake of others."

That's something I think I was doing pretty well through the summer, and even the fall...but then winter hit.  Somewhere in the midst of the short days, cold weather, being cooped up in the house, and weathering the emotional chaos of the season, my optimism lost it's edge.  It was still there, but maybe more weary than relentless.

But I feel that changing.  And not just because of the weather.  I can feel the seeds of joy and kindness growing once again, bringing with them a renewed sense of purpose in the role I've been called to serve.

Bloom where I'm transplanted.  I'm definitely going to take that thought to heart.


Favorite Proverbs: #40 Surrender

There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord. Proverbs 21:30

Even living inside the castle walls, we may still harbor rebellious thoughts. What is God asking you to surrender this day?

I can't help it.  Mulling over this proverb has me thinking of another:  Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21).  In my early 20s, I went through a period where God seemed to take every plan and dream I had dreamed for myself and systematically dismantled them.  I don't know that I've ever fully recovered from that.  But I don't know that that's a bad thing.  I tenaciously hold onto the words of Jesus: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself." So yeah, surrendering life plans.  Good there.

What I'm not as good at is surrendering my friends.  What I plan and scheme about is how to live this whole Jesus thing out in a way that draws other people to him...and to the hope and life and grace and joy and wholeness I've found.  It's hard for me to remember that it's not my job to connect the dots for people.  Does he use me?  Yes.  Absolutely.  But am I in control of the process? No.  It's just my job to, well, to love Jesus with everything I am, to show it by loving other people, and to surrender the rest. 

Surrendering the rest.  That's the hard part.

Courage of Gideon

Before the fleeces. Before the whittling down of an army. Before the torches and trumpets... God asks Gideon to do something audacious: Tear down his father's alter to Baal and the Asherah pole (which honored the pagan goddess Asherah), then build a proper alter to Jehovah God and use the wood from the pole to offer a burnt offering.

Radical stuff. And Gideon does it. But not the way I want my Biblical heroes to go about their escapades.

He doesn't storm the castle at dawn. He doesn't go to the town square and take a stand before a crowd. He doesn't boldly stare down a giant or defiantly stand before a king. "Because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime." (Judges 6:27)

I want to criticize him for doing it at night. What kind of bravery is that?

But isn't character defined as what you are when no one is watching? Isn't it wisdom to know “when” and “how” in addition to “what”? And isn't bravery taking action despite the fact you might be terrified?

The bottom line is, he did it. He was scared. But he did what the Lord asked. (And he didn’t put it off. While we waited for night, he waited for that night.) And it turns out his previously noted fear turned out to be well founded. When the townspeople found out what he did, they demanded for him to be put to death. Scripture describes them as “hostile.” It wasn’t pretty. They were riled up and ready for combat.

Where's Gideon? Proudly standing by his actions? Delivering a charismatic message communicating why he did what he did and turning the hearts of the crowd from Baal and Asherah to Jehovah God?

Nope. He's offstage somewhere hiding. For some reason, I can identify with that. With doing the right thing, and the hard thing, and then bracing for the ramifications and not really knowing what to do next. Have you ever been there too?

Feeling deeply passionate about something, but not having eloquence to explain it? I can identify with that too. Can you?

He’s just destroyed his father’s idol, publically defying him. So you might imagine his father would be the first in line to root him from his hiding place and turn him over for punishment. Instead, he’s the one standing between his son and the angry horde. (Way to go dad!)

Why is that? He should be the angriest guy in the town.

Perhaps it’s because he knew what it had cost his son to do what he did. It brings to mind Pride and Prejudice, when Lizzy talks about the reserved nature of her sister Jane. To the crowd, Jane’s countenance might just communicate politeness. But Lizzy knows her sister. She sees every nuance that shows how deeply Jane loves Bingley. Others might not see it, but to Lizzy it’s loud and clear.

Maybe that’s why Gideon’s dad has just a great change of heart. Because he knew his son’s personality, and understood how deep his convictions must be if he felt driven to destroy the idol and the Asherah pole. He knew how much it meant for Gideon to do what he did. Or maybe he just realized he loved his son more than he loved his idol. Regardless, there he is. Not just keeping his son from harm, but standing up for him too. (There’s the movie-ready speech I was looking for!)

So yeah, I want to criticize Gideon for doing his task at night. I want to change the story to have him boldly facing the music instead of hiding in his father’s house. But not all courage is the mid-day duel. It is doing the right thing and the hard thing, even when you’re scared. Acting on your convictions even when there might be hostile repercussions come morning…

Especially if what you’re doing has never been done before. (While Asherah poles are mentioned several times in the Old Testament, this is the first time in scripture anyone is mentioned taking a stand against one. And Gideon goes straight for the jugular and cuts it down, then uses the wood to burn an offering to Jehovah God. Like I said, pretty radical stuff.)

Gideon didn't know how to stand up for himself. But what matters is he knows how to stand up for God. He might not be the poster child for it, but he’s a trailblazer nonetheless.

And his methods didn’t make the outcomes any less epic. At the end of this story, the town is idol-free, his dad has a change of heart (and an awesome speech), and Gideon has a new reputation (complete with a new nick-name). That will come in pretty handy down the road.

His story shows me not all courage is facing a crowd, or being the voice that rises above the din. Sometimes it’s about feeling small and scared, and doing the right thing when no one is looking.

His story also shows me an advocate might come from the place you least expect it. Sometimes it’s about opening the eyes of the right person.

Maybe Gideon’s story makes me uncomfortable because it hits close to home. I can relate to him. I want to criticize him. But if I’m truly honest, I want to be like him too.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

When Less is More

Favorite Proverbs: #41 When Less is More

Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil. Proverbs 15:16

What do you want more of in your life? And what do you want less of?

This is going to sound strange, and maybe a bit off topic, but I want less bushes. My winter project this year was cutting down four evergreen bushes that have dwelt next to my house since I moved in. I’m sure at one time they were quite lovely, but they grew into wild, untamed things. They might have been intended for other reasons, but they’re pretty much spider condominiums once the weather warms up. They’re chock full of the eight-legged creatures. Fast ones with eerie webs. And they just give me the heebie jeebies. This was the year I drew a line in the sand and said no more. 

A few afternoons snipping, chopping, sawing, and hauling…the monstrosities have been evicted. (Along with their unwelcome inhabitants.) It’s amazing how clean and open and approachable my house looks now! And as I was unloading the last glorious load of branches and brambles at the dump, I started wondering if I had any bushes in my mental house. Thoughts or memories or stories or tendencies that I might mean for one reason, but just end up becoming shelter for creepy crawly thoughts instead. I want less of that kind of internal dialogue.

I want to be able to give myself more grace. It’s so easy for me to read promises in God’s word, and picture them for other people. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that they apply to me too. His extravagant love. His patience. His grace. His peace. His joy. His strength. It’s not just for others. It’s for me too. I want more of that.

Less bushes. More grace.

Worth the Wait

Favorite Proverbs: #42 Worth the Wait

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

What are you longing for? And how might you put your hope in God?

The company I work for has been going through a massive reorganization, which has left me in a strange sort of limbo for the past two years, and despite the time that’s passes, there’s no end in sight. It’s so incredibly frustrating to try and function with no clear vision or purpose. Not to mention little or no communication, feedback, or resources. It’s truly made my heart feel sick. I long for the day when the dust finally settles and I move forward with purpose again.

In the original post, Liz said: “To move from doubt to belief requires a leap of faith, which often looks less like leaping and more like waiting, trusting, and praying.” I need to find a way to make that leap; to let go of my need and desire to be in the know, and to have control, and put my job and my career path in God’s hands. I know in my head that it is a testimony to just do as best I can with what I’m given. My head knows this. My heart still feels frustrated.

But even as I’m writing, He’s reminding me this time of limbo had its blessings too. I know. I just wish it was over. Lord, give me the courage to make that leap of faith.

Step by Step

Step by Step - Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Proverbs 4:26 

This one hits his one hits home, and is such a wonderful encouragement. I’ve read and re-read this post over the past two weeks, just letting it simmer and soak in. And just like God loves me enough to have this verse show up in the line-up just when I needed it, he loves me enough to have this song show up during worship on Sunday:

“A thousand times I've failed, still your mercy remains. And should I stumble again, still I'm caught in your grace….Your will above all else, my purpose remains. The art of losing myself in bringing you praise…To love you from the inside out.”

I want to be graceful and sure and always do the right thing. When I stumble, I feel disappointed, embarrassed, and dumb. But who am I trying to impress? God knows the depths of my heart and all my secrets. The ones I treasure with joy, and the ones I would rather not own up to…anytime…ever. But they’re not secret to him. And his mercy remains. When I stumble: 1) He’s not surprised because he knows (and designed) the path and 2) I’m caught in his steadfast loving arms.

As this Proverb implies, sometimes stumbles happen because I’m being careless. And inevitably, after a stumble or a wobble, it’s my natural tendency to take a moment to reset and regain my balance and composure. To bring my awareness back to the path or the task at hand. Maybe even glance over (or up) to get a reassuring glance before moving forward once again.

This insight rings through all the pain and embarrassment: “You don’t have to try to be steadfast—you are steadfast.”

For this, I am so profoundly grateful. (But I’ll try to give more careful thought to my path just the same.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Birthday Party

I can't get this story out of my head.

"It was the right thing to do." ~ Tony Campolo  

Lord, give me eyes to see the right thing, and the everyday courage to do it.

"I would join a church like that." ~ Hawaiian Diner Owner

I couldn't help but think of a passage from Crazy Love by Francis Chan:
We need to stop giving people excuses not to believe in God. You've probably heard the expression "I believe in God, just not organized religion." I don’t think people would say that if the church truly lived like we are called to. The expression would change to "I can’t deny what the church does, but I don’t believe in their God." At least then they’d address their rejection of God rather than use the church as a scapegoat. 
Stuff to ponder.  

And stuff to live.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Seven Brides...or So

I love when stories collide.

I'm reading through the Old Testament again and made it to Judges 21. Strange story. But when I got to this verse:

"So that is what the Benjamites did. While the young women were dancing, each man caught one and carried her off to be his wife. Then they returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and settled in them." (Judges 21:23).

It made me think of the "Sobbin' Women" song from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and the subsequent scene where the brothers sneak into town and pretty much capture their sweethearts. "Tell ya 'bout them sobbin' women who lived in the Roman days...."

What a hilarious mental picture to make the word come alive!

(And while it's not exactly the beginning most girls would imagine for their fairy tale of wedded bliss, I hope these young women went on to have happy stories, like their movie counterparts did.)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


I've Got a Secret - A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret. Proverbs 11:13

One statement Liz made really jumped out to me: "Sadly, I fall in both camps: totally zip-lipped with the big stuff that truly matters, less careful with the small stuff that seems insignificant but really isn’t."

That hit a little close to home. 

I've had to play confidant and secret keeper quite a lot in my life.  I always take that position seriously and wouldn't dream of betraying that confidence. 

But how often to I misjudge the sensitivity of a small thing and betray a confidence without realizing the treasure of the information I was holding? 

Little stuff that's not little. Those little glimpses of deeper issues or vulnerabilities that we're not ready to lay bare, but we allow to peek through in interactions we have with people we think we can trust...with everything big and small.

I've been on the receiving side of that.  And it hurts.  It makes you feel small and exposed and wondering, "I wonder what else they say about me when I'm not around."

Today I'm challenged to keep an eye on my idle words, to abstain from whispered rumors, and to keep the secrets entrusted to my care.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Leviticus. Oh Leviticus! For many aspiring readers who want to read the Bible through from start to finish, Leviticus is the kiss of death. There’s just no way around it. It’s infamously boring. All those laws. Offerings and feasts. So many, and so repetitive! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve struggled through it, fighting the tendency for my eyes to glaze over and the words to morph into “blah blah blah blah blah.”

But I looked at Leviticus through a new lens, and suddenly this stale book came to life. (It might have helped that this time I was listening to an audio version, keeping my glaze-prone eyes from faltering.)

Leviticus was a book of law given to a people who for generations had known nothing but slavery. They weren’t treated as people. They were killed at a whim. They were worked to exhaustion. Their stuff could be confiscated or destroyed at the discretion of their slavers. They could be abused. And they had no way of standing up to injustices because they had no rights. They were simply slaves.

Suddenly, here’s a set of rules that affirms they have value. Their stuff has value. Their time has value. Their family structure has value. Wrongs have known and reasonable punishments.

What a world changer!

You mean I have a course of restitution if someone kills my cow? Yep. The miscreant has to make repayment.

You mean someone can’t just come in and take advantage of my wife? Nope. There’s a punishment for that.

You mean I don’t have to work day in and day out? That’s right. You get to have a regular day of rest, and holidays throughout the year. 

Line by line, Leviticus builds upon the framework of the Ten Commandments to show what is acceptable and unacceptable for a culture of people chosen to show the world what life looks like with God leading the way. This mass of refugees who have known nothing but slavery are given power to be people again.

A beautiful passage in Leviticus (Lev 19:9-10) talks about the “edges of the field” and basically tells people to look out for those in need.

What’s even more beautiful is that Leviticus gives instructions for how the Israelites should treat their own slaves. Unsurprisingly, it’s with dignity and fairness. It would be so easy for the Israelites to be angry and bitter about the injustice of their past, and pay it forward now that they’re free and in a place of power. Leviticus shows that God’s way is not like that. Someone may work for you, but that doesn’t give you the right to mistreat them. They’re still people. And they are valued.

That's the phrase that kept coming to mind: “You have value.”  A message that carries through the rest of the Bible and points straight to Jesus.

“But now, this is what the LORD says-- he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1 (There’s a lot of redeeming in Leviticus)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (A redemption worthy of God's son? That's quite valuable indeed.)

You matter. What a beautiful message to find in a boring book. (Sorry Leviticus. It's true.)

Sunday, February 23, 2014


Every time I read this woman’s story, my heart goes out to her.  The whole Jacob-Leah-Rachel story is pretty wackadoo, but she really gets the short end of the stick.

The wedding night mixup is still bizarre to me when I read it.  Was Leah an active planner in this debacle or simply a pawn to her father’s plans? Laban was a pretty shady guy, and double-crossed Jacob on more than one occasion.  He was a swindler and an opportunist.    While she was obviously involved, the narrative doesn’t tell us how much of it was her idea or if she was a voluntary participant.  I suppose in the end, it doesn’t matter.

But the hits just keep coming for Leah.  Her husband is very vocal about not loving her or wanting her, but he seems happy to keep sleeping with her:  fulfilling her week and subsequently fathering six sons with her.  6!  Women of that day measured success by their ability to bear sons, but hers didn’t seem to raise her in her husband’s esteem at all.  How did that prey on her emotions?  Her identity?  Her self-image?  Plus, how tormenting was it to watch her husband labor seven years to marry another person? Her younger, prettier sister no less? How bad could she be?

This time when I read the story though, something jumped out to me.  The names of her sons, especially the first four:

Reuben.  According to the notes in my Bible, Reuben sounds like the Hebrew for he has seen my misery. “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”  Genesis 29:32
Simeon.  One who hears. “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” Genesis 29:33
Levi.  Derived from the Hebrew for attached. “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Genesis 29:34
Judah.  Derived from the Hebrew for praise. “This time I will praise the Lord.” Genesis 29:35

The names show both her pain and her faith, and it was the last two that really struck me.  She’s the mother of the tribe of priests and the tribe of kings.  And Jesus is described as the Lion of the tribe of Judah.  Leah’s not one of the famous five women called out in the genealogy of Christ (poor girl, overlooked again), but there she is.  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob+Leah.  Not Rachel.  Leah.

While Jacob only had room in his heart for Rachel, God had room in his for Leah.  That's a pretty wonderful thing.

I’m so thankful for a heavenly father who doesn't overlook.  He sees.  He hears.  He loves.  He gives. Abundantly.

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Last Halloween, my sister asked me to braid her hair for her "dark elf warrior" costume.  Since I braid at the local renaissance festival, her request (though unique and elaborate) was well within my bag of tricks:   "Something like Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones, but bunned up, and with rope twists.  Oh, and with accents in the front to hide the seam for my elf ears."

Sure.  As long as we're keeping it simple.

But I knew she was looking ahead to a costume contest later that night, and I was happy to oblige.  After all, braiding is fun for me, and she has great hair for it.  I put my practiced fingers to the task and created a masterpiece.  And just as I placed the last touch and stepped back to admire the finished product, my sister said, "Ok.  Now you can paint it."

Huh?  I didn't see that coming.  But with great reservation, I did just that.

With each dab of paint, my beautiful braid lost some of its luster. The paint highlighted every stray hair.  Suddenly, an artsy, loose bun just looked messy and unkempt.  It was hard to get the paint into every nook and cranny made by the weave, so it started to look incomplete and unfinished.

At least to my eye.

She loved it.  In fact, she went on to win the costume contest that night.

And while I was happy for her, a part of me was sad that that was the version of the braid other people saw. Even though they thought it was awesome.

For some reason, it got me thinking about church and the gospel.  (Perhaps a little ironic on Halloween night, but there you go.) How hard to we try to dress up God's message when all we need is his truth?  Trying to make it cooler or more relevant or whatever?  Maybe my thoughts went that way because I tend to think in analogies, and no matter how strong or powerful an analogy is...there will always be holes.  And I've been in the church world long enough to see programs try to capitalize on different fads and trends in order to best win the attention and affection of their audience.

I wonder if his truth is like that braid.  If painting it up just makes it messy, or just diminishes the glory of what he originally had in mind?  Are we losing the depth of the message by painting it into a corner or costuming it up?

God with us.
It is finished.
Come to me and I will give you rest.

That's it.  Plain and simple.

I don't know if that makes sense. But it challenged me to just be God’s love in action and let the beautiful power of the Gospel speak for itself.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Mitsa Mar

I was 27 and battling a Jane Austen life-crisis. (Single, with no prospect of marriage, and about to officially become a burden on my parents.) However, the crisis was averted after a house hunting adventure uncovered this hidden gem that turned out to be perfect for my first place. As soon as I walked in the door, I knew. (So did my realtor. After looking at several other properties that day (all of them dismal), I bravely looked at him and declared, “I think I want to make an offer.” He replied, “Well…that’s good! Because as soon as we left the house I made a call to the office to get the paperwork started.”   “I just had a feeling,” he said.)

I miraculously went to closing just two weeks later, and after signing papers for the biggest commitment of my life…I promptly left the country for two weeks on holiday. The last stop of that trip was to visit a friend of mine who lives in Ireland. In the midst of catching up, I couldn’t help but mention my big news, and her first question to me was ,“What did you name it?”

Name what? I thought. My house? 

I’d never even thought of that. After all, not many houses in the US have names. But to her Irish sensibilities, all houses should have names. A la, Pemberly or Green Gables. Her childhood home had a wonderful name. Sadly, I can’t remember what it was, but the few times they had to relocate, they would christen their new home with it too.

So I sat down and pondered. What should I name my house? I thought about wanting to capture the idea of warmth and welcome and refuge I hoped my home would embody. I scoured my geeky knowledge to see if something from one of my favorite sagas would jump out at me.

And then it struck me: My house is my little piece of the world.  The tiny corner of the universe I get to call home. Being the Lord of the Rings fan I am (and wanting my house name to give a nod to the beautiful Celtic country where I was inspired to name it), I immediately went to see if I could translate “tiny corner” into Elvish. And voila. There it was. As soon as I spotted the words in Elvish, I knew I had a winner:

"Mitsa Mar."

Roughly translated it’s “small house,” and I love it. (Tolkien didn’t develop Elvish enough to have words for either “tiny” or “corner”, so I used mitsa which means “small” and mar which means “home, house, or dwelling.”)

My house *is* small. Very small by American standards. But it’s perfect for me. And in many ways, it seems bigger on the inside. I’ve had the great joy to host wonderful evenings full of friendship and laughter. I’ve had the honor to extend hospitality to those who needed a place to stay. I’ve grown to love the solace of having a place to call my own…a refuge to come home to after being off on adventures (sometimes halfway around the world).

Finding it was definitely a miracle. But I know I was meant to be the steward of this little place. My small house. My tiny corner of the universe.

Mitsa Mar.

This post was inspired by Five Minute Friday and this week's word - "small"

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Mashed Potatoes

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Proverbs 3:27

I recently had my annual well visit with my doctor. I like him because he remembers details about my life, and when we were chatting about stuff he asked me about my recent mission trips. He made the comment that he has peers who have done work with “Doctors without Borders” and he has always wanted to go. I admitted that sometimes I wish I had a more “practical” skill to share with the people I meet. And bless him, he was quick to point out that people need love and laughter and encouragement just as much as they may need medical or dental care. They all facilitate healing (and the sharing of the love of Jesus).

So this verse encourages me to not minimize the good I can do. Whatever my “power” happens to look like, I shouldn’t hoard it, but give it freely away. I may never know the profound impact of my wee bit of good. And it’s not for me to know; it’s for me to give.

I also thought about how over the past year I have probably mashed more potatoes than…I don’t know, but I’ve mashed a lot of potatoes. See, I’m in charge of evening care for my Dad and Grandpa, and mashed potatoes are their favorite food. So I make them. A lot. Sometimes I feel like if I have to mash another potato, I’ll just scream.

But this verse reminds me that sometimes, love looks suspiciously like mashed potatoes. Because even when I’m a little weary of it, I truly love my family and I’m happy to serve them.

So I'll go on mashing, and go on long as it is within my power to do it.

This post was inspired by Liz's "Favorite Proverbs" post: Do Good

Monday, February 17, 2014

Blogging with Liz: Favorite Proverbs

My friend Liz has an awesome blog. This year, she’s going doing a weekly Bible study post on people’s 50 favorite proverbs. I love her exegetical style, and often find myself pondering the question she includes at the end of each post. So this is me…catching up with the proverbs she’s covered so far. Without further ado: Blogging with Liz.

Wisdom’s Source - For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6

I'm late revving up my engines, but here I am! I believe God is asking me to use his free gift of wisdom to get back into writing. God often speaks to me in strange and off-the-beat moments, and I used to be good at sitting down and capturing them (or working them out) as blog posts. This past year has been one of closeness with my heavenly father, but relative silence in the blogging world. But I sense a changing in the wind, and I truly believe it's his still, small voice calling me once again to return to the discipline of writing. Now I just have to put feet to that call. (Easier said than done!)

Right Time, Right Word - A person finds joy in giving an apt reply— and how good is a timely word! Proverbs 15:23

Timely words. I’ve experienced this phenomenon a time or two, and the one that sticks out most vividly in my memory is the time I shared a bit of my testimony with a village of women outside of Jinja, Uganda. I struggled with what I wanted to say, because I didn’t think I would have any common denominator with these women. My background and circumstances were just so different from theirs. How could I possibly say anything relevant or encouraging to them? But I went out on what I thought was a limb and spoke from my heart. Wouldn’t you know it; they had just finished a Bible study that overlapped with several of the aspects of my testimony! It was a precious time of fellowship, and I emerged from that day with a renewed respect for that still small voice that speaks so faithfully to my heart.

No Fooling - The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. Proverbs 12:15

Something that seemed so right at the time.  Missionary friendship. You know, continuing to be close friends with someone who once walked the straight and narrow but is now following the wide and popular…thinking my presence would shine a light in a darkened place.  It's a principle that may be true, but is a path that must be walked with great care and intention. Because while it is true that the light of Christ can shine in the darkest of dark, it is also true that bad company corrupts good character. And when roles are reversed, and the once discipled becomes the missionary to the disciple-er….the regular rules of outreach become blurred. Advisers told me to distance myself from my friend, but I foolishly thought if I held out, I could show grace and compassion and unconditional love and, be a conduit of reconciliation. But in this case it was foolish. When hearts are hardened, it doesn’t matter what my walk shows. The fallen friend sees what they want to see, and hears what they want to hear. Truth be told, my character and testimony *did* suffer for a time, and it was incredibly hard to back away from someone I loved. But through my experience I learned the difference between showing Jesus to a new audience vs. showing Jesus to a hardened heart. It’s a heartbreaking lesson, and I still pray for my friend…but I no longer walk as closely by her side.

In the Spotlight - The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord that sheds light on one’s inmost being. Proverbs 20:27

When I ponder this verse, I think about how God has set eternity in the hearts of men. The very fact that the human spirit continues to search and ask and explores deep questions is a searchlight meant to point the way home to our heavenly Father. And no matter how messy and complicated our inmost being might be, grace whispers “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” (Romans 5:20) This promise has rescued me on more than one dark night, and my view of God expands each time I understand a deeper part of myself. “You love that part too?” I ask. “Yes.” Comes the answer. “I knit you together before your story began (Psalm 139:19), and I love you.” As my road continues on, I can truly declare that I love him, but he loved me first (1 John 4:9)…quirks and failures and triumphs all.

Here Comes Trouble - When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Proverbs 11:2

When I look back now at all the activities and responsibilities I juggled in my early 20’s, I just don’t know how I did it. Being that high performer was an area of pride for me. My "Newport Beach" moment came when the inevitable happened and I dropped the ball in a big way. It was a time of transition at our church, and there was suddenly a need for someone to lead the children’s handbell group. The person who asked me thought I would be more than up to the task: I’d grown up playing handbells at our church, I was good with kids, I was a natural leader…everything pointed to me being the perfect person to fit the bill. I thought so too.

But it turned out that even though the kids only rehearsed once a week for an hour, the demand and draw on me as the leader went much beyond that. The kids were lovely. I had actually had a great time introducing them to the world of music, and even more into the world of handbells. But I quickly discovered myself falling behind and feeling unprepared and frazzled. Long story short, it turned out to be a train wreck and I dropped out just two months after accepting the challenge.

I was so embarrassed, disappointed in myself, and tremendously humbled. I prided myself on being dependable, being a leader, and being able to balance my demanding schedule…and I had fallen flat on my face. I felt guilty about letting the kids down. I felt guilty about letting the leader down. And truth be told, I spent the next several months avoiding both sets of people. Because each time I did, I felt my stomach drop anew. I was just ashamed.

The lesson I learned? The power of focusing on a few things instead of trying to everything. The necessity of being able to say “no.” And eventually, the beautiful forgiveness and renewal you can find in the context of serving in a church family. (That’s quite humbling to receive too.)

** Whew!  All caught up! ...Till Wednesday :-)  **

Saturday, February 15, 2014


Five Minute Friday, Linkup link
This week’s word: Garden


“Garden.” This is s a surprisingly laden word for me. Almost immediately, two pictures pop into my head. Ok. Three. Thus is the magic of the imagination.

 I think of my mom, and how she loves gardens but isn’t particularly great at tending to them. I tease her by saying she’s really great at growing jungles (of weeds), but there’s no malice behind the jest. I know she loves the colorful beauty of a well-tended garden, but like most of us, the “tending” gets lost in the everyday chaos of life. I’ve bypassed this at my home by simply refusing to garden for now. Maybe one day I’ll embark on a journey to home-grown asparagus and yearly planned flowers. But for now, I’m haunted by our once-in-a-blue-moon weeding efforts to rescue and resuscitate my mom’s garden dreams.

I think of the “Secret Garden.” That great children’s classic that gives hope to anyone who has felt afraid to live and love. Dickon will forever hold a special place in my heart, and I’m pretty sure I had a little crush on his character when I was in elementary school.

But the most vivid picture that comes to mind is of a garden in Uganda. I was privileged to visit the home of Pastor Bev in Jinja to celebrate the birthday of my friend Jen. And here, in the middle of dry season, right next to an infamous slum, I encountered a beautiful English garden. I snapped a few pictures that did little capture to splendor and charm of this little oasis, and that evening is full of precious memories for me. My friend is very quiet and reserved. But that evening, I saw her shine. A power outage (normal fare in Uganda) forced us to celebrate by candlelight and good old-fashioned storytelling. And the small, intimate, stripped-down evening suited her to a t.

Later in my trip, I returned to that garden to hitch a ride with another local missionary under Bev’s ministry. We took an SUV out to a distant village, picking up numerous passengers on our trek, and I had the distinct joy of sharing an encouraging word with the local village women. Two translators immediately repackaged my words into both Lugana and Swahili (which was beyond bizarre), and in many ways that day opened the floodgate of missionary work in my life.

So yeah, “garden” brings me back to both my childhood and that trip to Uganda. I’m ever so grateful to both.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Messy Communion

Hiding at the back of the chancel as part of the worship team, I sometimes get to see the messy side of Sunday morning. This is a true story from a few weeks ago.

It’s time for communion. The ushers are making their way through the congregation, passing trays of bread and juice. The pastor is delivering a beautiful reminder of what this sacrament is all about. The pianist skillfully keeps the background music going to set the solemn atmosphere.

And while the pastor prays and asks everyone to "eat the bread in remembrance of me"…a poor guitar player is scrambling.

Sometimes the worship team takes communion together before second service, but this Sunday we thought we would try taking it along with the congregation. Our awesome man-behind-the-scenes thoughtfully laid out the elements before service started, so they’re patiently waiting there on the edge of the piano.

But this Sunday, the worship team is guitar heavy.

Four players – three guitars and one bass – are all in a row, and suddenly all four of them need to turn around to pick up their cups and wafers without also whacking each other with the necks of their instruments.  Two of the guys quickly realize they can duck back a bit and lean in to reach their bits of bread and juice. But for the guitarist right in front of the waiting elements and there’s really no easy or graceful way for him to turn around and pick them up. It takes him a moment to figure it out, and by the time he’s got it, the rest of the congregation has already moved passed the “taking” portion of communion and is on to the follow-up prayer.

I see him pause for the briefest instant (perhaps he’s asking himself, “Now what? Do I still take it?”), before he quickly eats his wafer and drinks his juice, finishing mere seconds before the pastor wraps up his prayer.

I don't think anyone else witnessed his struggle...but I did.  And in that moment, God whispered to my heart, “Yes. I’m with you always. In the messy moments too. Remember me.

God with us.

In our messy moments.

When things don’t go smoothly or as planned.

He’s still right there.

Sharing it all with us.

He doesn’t abandon us for the crowd.

He’s the kind of shepherd who reaches for the one.

How often do I lose sight of that and forget to remember he's right there?  Always.

I don’t know if that guitar player felt the same encouragement and reassurance as I did during that communion. (I hope so.) All I know is, I’m really thankful for my little hiding place on Sunday mornings. Sometimes it’s right where I need to be to hear his voice.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


Five Minute Friday
This week’s word: Write


I told myself in January that I would get back into the habit of wrestling my thoughts out of my head and onto the page. Now it’s solidly a week into February and I have yet to complete one post. For a moment, I want to beat up on myself and see this as a failure. But just as those thoughts are winding up for a good long rant…they’re stopped by another onee.

I don’t audition well.

I’ve played violin since I was in elementary school, and while I’m no Vanessa Mae or Joshua Bell, I’m no slouch either. But every time I tried to audition for something crazy awesome, I could never quite get everything in gear. In fact, while I was playing with one orchestra in college, one of the first violins had no idea why I was playing with the seconds. “You’re so much better than that.” My reply? ::shrug:: I just don’t audition well.

After a while I joked to someone (probably my best friend) that it was almost like God wanted to keep me for himself. Like my playing would be this gift of the moment, or a supporting role in a crowd, rather than a starring one in front.

And whether or not that’s theologically sound, it brought be a lot of peace and allowed me to let go of all that audition angst. (To clarify: I still don’t audition well, but now I don’t beat myself up about it. I just play for the joy.)

I remember being at one of the David Crowder Band’s final concerts. While reminiscing over their last 10 years of touring, Crowder shared that when their first song really took off, they realized they had been given custody of something much bigger than themselves. The lyrics were given to them, but they were a gift meant to be shared with others.

That’s how I see the work of my favorite writers (bloggers or otherwise), and I’d like to think some of my words are like that too.

Sometimes a thought comes to me and captivates my mind and my fingers, almost holding me hostage until I write them down. And whether they’re meant to be read immediately or sometime in the future, I just know that they’re meant to be shared. They’re a gift.

But other times, no matter how much time I spend staring at my screen, my thoughts rebelliously rattle around my head and refuse to be tamed onto paper. They scamper away as soon as I get close enough to see the straight path from start to finish. (Then almost without fail, as soon as I’m safely away from the keyboard…they present themselves just as beautiful and eloquent as can be.) It's just...I know someone will read it, and I'm simply locking up.

Those times it just feels like I’m not auditioning well.

I know a part of it is that I’m out of practice. (After all, no matter what your talent is, you have to work on it. Even “naturals” have to have disciple and hone their craft.) But I think sometimes a part of is…those thoughts are for me. Perhaps one day they’ll simmer down and congeal into something I’m able to share. Or maybe through the wrestling of writing I’m meant to learn something I wouldn’t have seen if it had come easily.

Or maybe, for this moment, He’s just keeping me to himself.