Saturday, December 10, 2011

The BIG idea

I realize what a special gift I have been given over the past 10 years here at the Central church in Amarillo. Seldom in ministry does one feel like you have "a minister" or "an elder" and I have had both. Tim, only 6 years older than me, is one of the greatest shepherds I know. He has a rich inner life. His relationship with Jesus is contagious. He is tender and kind and ready with a smile. In fact, he is listed as The Tender Shepherd in my phone :). Tim and I try to grab coffee or lunch about once a month for catch up time. He hears about my Come before Winter experiences and lately I've been tracking with his reading as he goes through the Spiritual Direction program at Lipscomb. We share ministry struggles and thoughts about God and scripture. We have struggled with what it means to really be missional, to embrace technology and to make disciples. Lately we have been talking about Exodus. He has been teaching it and I have been studying it for curriculum writing.

One of the greatest gifts this friendship affords is the ability to speak words that have never been spoken before. Unlanded thoughts. Things you may need to adjust once voiced. Ideas you may not even really believe but they are floating around in your head. I do not take this lightly. Last week, while over eating at the Chinese buffet with Tim, I made a statement that has been mulling around in my head but I have never said with such assurance before. "Among other things, I think Exodus has provided me with the most important lesson about God that I have learned in forever. God's desire is to dwell among his people." We kicked that around awhile and happened to agree. I can't shake it. I keep thinking about it. It really does change everything.

It forms and informs our belief about:


When we live in the very real belief that God is fully present and can not be summoned and dismissed at will it gives new life and color to this life. Everything really is Spiritual.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

It's all about the Heart

I just got back from doing a retreat in Honduras and several of the women there had heard me speak before. It prompted a conversation that keeps replaying in my head. I was asked the question, "why are you so inspired by the God of the Old Testament?" It set me back a bit. I had never considered the God of the Old Testament to be different to the God of the New Testament. I think when we hold such a view we lose. On every front. We are left with an incomplete picture of God. We strip and diminish and dilute our understanding in an attempt to have manageable boxes to fit God in. This is God. The Great I Am. The Holy Uncreated One. Sovereign King. Redeemer. Revealer. Defender. Merciful One. My Kindness. Always has been and always will be.

It got me reflecting on some of the core beliefs I hold about the Old Testament:

1.I believe that the point of all scripture is to tell the story of God.

2.In that telling we discover a couple of central themes: God seeks relationship with humanity and desires to live among us; The condition of the heart has always mattered to God; God's presence is the key to spiritual formation; God is both just and merciful

3.The law was given for many reasons, but relationship and justice are two of the biggest reasons.

4.It is difficult for me to understand the ministry of Jesus without knowing the heart of God that has been revealed all the way through Creation, Exodus, Rescue and Restoration.

It is in the seamless reading of God's story and the seamless understanding of Covenant that I believe our eyes are opened to the mystery of a life with God.

Friday, September 30, 2011


I have been talking about the idea of "home" with my high school students this week. We looked at song lyrics from about 6 or so songs all themed around the idea of "coming home." From Kid Rock to Jason Aldean to Chris Tomlin to OneRepublic and Dirty Money. Yep, we ran the gamut. And then we looked at Psalm 84 to search for similar thoughts. I really appreciate that they recognized immediately that "home" is sometimes a person, a place, an environment, a group of people - not always the house you grew up in. We were talking about a place where you feel safe, comfortable, included and where you belong.

Last night I was re-watching scenes from Antwone Fisher - an amazing story on many levels, but specifically in terms of the drive for a place to belong. Home was both elusive, hurtful and dangerous in his experience. And then in one conversation with his Aunt, he found a place to belong. It brings tears to my eyes just writing about it.

In my families time of transition right now from a life of full time paid ministry to a new adventure, and with an upcoming move, I have been challenged to think about where my place of belonging and comfort is. Where is "home" for this Italian-Jewish girl born and raised in South Africa who has lived in Texas for the last 20 years? Where does my heart gravitate to in its quest to find "that place where you exhale and all is right with the world?"

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Country Music

My family says it all went downhill after I bought my first pair of boots. They tease me mercilessly over my growing love of Country music. I've tried to defend myself but the best defense is just hitting play on my Country Favs playlist and they scatter!

I have thought a lot about why I have grown to appreciate this genre that for so long irritated me beyond belief. And here it is in a nutshell. There is no pretense. Country music tells our stories. All of us can find a place of entry into the story of life through the lyrics you hear. Heartache, joy, pain, regret, celebration, love, desire, misplaced trust, fear, forbidden love, grief - it's all there. I love the raw, unedited take on what "Joe and Suzy Normal" really experience in life. I love the way the sacred and the secular walk hand in hand. It's what I believe about life - in musical lyrics. I think it took me being more aware of my own humanity and brokenness. In that frame of mind I could hear a song and it would resonate with me. I started to "me too" and "I get that" along with what I was hearing.

I am comforted especially by the holy proximity I hear. You know, the guy sitting at the bar recounting the issues of his heart but also acknowledging God. Instead of painting a picture of life that adds to the segmented regular and spiritual life myth. Country music really says, "everything is spiritual."

So, Billy Currington perhaps you are right. God is great, beer is good and people are crazy!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chasing Bunnies

I'm not going to lie, it looked more like a Jackalope or a small deer than a bunny.

Last night while David and I were walking around the little lake close to our house, I spotted a pair of very large ears at a distance out in the field. I stopped and stared a minute and realized it was a rabbit. A large one. Very large. Of course, my "take a picture of everything" instinct kicked in and I reached for my phone to snap a picture. I was too far away and the impact of tyrannosaurus-bunny would have been totally lost in my lame attempt at a photograph. I tugged at David and suggested we walk out into the field to get a better shot. He shook his head a little and said, it would be pointless because the creature would run away. I let it go for about 20 more steps but then like a 3 year old who just has to experience their world, I took off. I walked across the field. Part of me wanted to creep all ninja-like but every now and again I try to minimize the embarrassment I bring on my husband. As predicted the beast started running away. And I mean r-u-n-n-i-n-g. That was no bunny-hop! I chased it a little but soon stopped when I realized my laughing was only adding to the desperation of it's fleeing. Capturing the picture was long out of my mind. I was having a blast chasing this thing in a field at the lake.

Life would be simpler and my heart would be more protected if I did not feel the need to venture off the paved walkway to dash across the field. But I'm not planning on trading in my "path pass" anytime soon.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Freedom and Censorship

I know what you are thinking and that is not what I mean. I grew up with movies that were "cut" and books that were banned and propaganda that was distributed all in an attempt to control a nation. Been there, done that and no t-shirts were allowed because we were not supposed to know it was happening.

Today, my mind is chasing thoughts about what it means to be free and what it means to censor our words for the sake of others simply because we follow Jesus.

I have dabbled in this topic a little before but left it quickly because it is complicated. But, today as I sat on my patio baking in the sun, I found myself back here and so it triggered this blog post. I do not believe that we are ever free. Ever. As long as we are in relationship with other people. Sheesh, I know it is not the American way or even the Freedom in Christ way. But, at least for me, and I'm responsible for me, I think its true.

Here is what I mean. If I was free I could express my thoughts as I think them. I could say what I think and feel whenever the situation arises. I could act on how I feel as I desire. I could put my wants, desires and needs ahead of others. I could rant and offend with no consequences.

However, I don't get to act that way. I don't get to act that way because of relationship. Relationship with Jesus and relationship with the people I love and frankly those that I just tolerate, too. I do not get to say whatever I like because words have power and the consequences are way bigger than my need to vent or rant. I do not get to act on every feeling I have, even the ones that at times feel like they are going to overwhelm me. I just don't get to do it because other people's lives are at stake.

Yesterday a friend and I were talking about allowing people to express how they feel in a public forum and we were weighing how open a given site should be. It raised an issue that is connected to this. We are not even free to stand by and let others get hurt. Again, because of relationship we have to stand on the side of those being marginalized.

And so, freedom takes on a different meaning inside of relationship. We are free to lay down our lives for the sake of others. Free to censor our words. Free to limit our anger. Free to behave our way to holiness. Free to deny our desires and wants.

I believe this with all my heart. Today, I don't like the cost.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Life, Death and Living

My phone rang about 4:45pm yesterday and it was a long time friend who I love and respect greatly. Yesterday was a tough day as it marked the one year anniversary of our friends Phil and Raychel dying in a car wreck. I heard Scott's voice and the emotion just bubbled up inside of me. He knew how I was feeling, I knew how he was feeling. In fact, we are part of a larger group of wonderful friends and we knew how the whole group was feeling. We shared stories for a few minutes and then said goodbye. A phone conversation that lasted about 10 minutes but was literally like calming lotion on a very wounded place.

But here is the thing. I had fun yesterday, too. I had several other conversations, texted back and forth with other friends, taught my class and did my regular life thing. Unless I told you what was on my heart, you would not have known. I was not trying to hide anything. I just felt the need to share my grief with the ones who i knew were grieving, too. And to live out my life in the other areas like I would any other day.

That tension struck me last night. And hence this post. Living life in the midst of pain and grief but not being shut down by it. Is that possible? Does it appear disrespectful? Does it rub up against social norms? Is it okay that my heart was aching in one spot yet I was being silly and lighthearted in other spots?

And I think I have an answer for me at least. I think it is possible, in fact, I think it is necessary. Does this align with commonly held cultural views on how we respond to death, probably not. But that's okay with me. I think we all find our way of being in the world and we live it as fully as we can.

And so, Phil...let me say. I thought of you a whole bunch yesterday. I saw your lovely face and inviting smile. I heard your giggle and could picture your bright eyes. The clean shaved head, that made me happy, flashed through my mind. I heard your gentle voice with words that you picked carefully. And I heard you sing. Oh, did I hear you sing. Your voice that sounded like the most beautiful music played over and over in my mind. The way you loved Debby and Raychel and Zachary felt so comforting to me yesterday. Which makes me think of Miss Raychel. See Ray, I spelled your name with the "y" -- sweet girl, I got to say everything I could dream of saying as I spoke at your memorial service. Let me just say, I miss you and your quick smile, your hearty laugh, the white sunglasses perched on your head and your off the wall humor.

But guys know this. I also drank tea, cooked dinner, did the Mom thing and hung out with David. I taught school and went to the bank. I laughed with other friends and played Apples to Apples. And in the living of life as normal, while my heart ached for you, I felt like you were right there. I hope that I never get used to you being gone.