Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I am prepping right now for my High School Protestant Class at Ascension Academy this Spring. We are going to be working through the book unChristian. It is a good read and offers some really good insights for consideration.

Chapter 1 has a line tucked away in the opening page that has really struck me. Nothing particularly profound but very striking. David Kinnamon and Gabe Lyons spent three years looking at the perceptions of "outsiders" toward Christians and Church and spend the bulk of this book looking at the big perceptions that add to Christianity's image problem. One of the things they heard from Mosaics (16-29) repeatedly in their research was this little line: "They admit their emotional and intellectual barriers go up when they are around Christians, and they reject Jesus because they feel rejected by Christians."

This is so convicting to me. There are so many possible questions that flow out of this statement. Bad theology that unravels right here and good theology that is just begging to be heard. Conversations about kingdom and living for Jesus now and not merely hanging on for heaven. Confessions about how and when we really live incarnationally and when we fail. So many ideas.

But today as I sit on my couch watching the snow fall, I am struck very personally by the thought - "how do I represent Jesus?"

Monday, December 28, 2009


Warning: Self Indulgent Personal Reflections to Follow!

It has been a while since I have had as many unanswered questions in my mind as I seem to have right now. Questions about the future, about what to do, about how to do it, about established church vs. organic church, about heaven and hell, about passion vs pragmatics, about timing vs. randomness....oh the list goes on.

Last night David and I talked for hours about some of this and we had to end the conversation with "idk's" -- not a very helpful place for someone who is seeking answers. But life sometimes presents us with more questions than answers and knowing how to be in the midst of that is an art.

My ability to "be" is being challenged and the indecision feels like it is killing me. And so for today, the words of Jesus keep rattling around my head.... "do not worry about your life..."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

More on Moses

The last couple of days I have had some thoughts bouncing around my brain but have struggled to land them. Hopefully being able to articulate them here I can solidify what I am thinking. Don't mind me while I process!

It becomes clear early on in Exodus that God uses flawed people. Spend much time in scripture and that is a hard to miss fact. Humanities perfection is never a prerequisite to God using us. Good thing, eh? Moses appears less than confident in his ability to speak for God. He seems generally anxious about things. He needs God to reaffirm His promises. He gets angry and frustrated and generally seems like a pretty normal guy.

This is speaking volumes to me right now in life. The last almost 3 years since turning 40 have taken me on a journey that I could never have predicted. Stereotypically I began reflecting on life and who I am and how I live it. I asked God to invade my heart and begin to show me the worst parts of myself so I could offer those up to Him. I was done with dark, secret places. It has been an eye opening, awe inspiring painful process. The first six months of this year seemed to be bringing that process to a conclusion. God had been faithful to reveal Himself to me and to reveal so much crud about myself that is has been overwhelming.

Don't read that I had handled the revealed crud in the first six months of this year - I just knew what it was. That felt good and I have never felt as close to God in my life. But then, as July drew on - wham! I was hit by a whole new set of stuff and it has made the last six months of the year the most personally challenging, invigorating ones I have experienced in years. Out of the blue I learned stuff about myself, how I feel, what I need, what I lack, what I crave and who I can be -- and they all surprised me.....NEW STUFF!

But here is the most delightful part of all. In the middle of me uncovering new crud and still seeing myself as struggling, God has drawn people to me who are struggling with similar things. He never misses an opportunity for us to walk alongside each other. He can use us in the middle of our struggles. He still uses flawed people and that is good news!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Gratitude comes in different packages

Like most everyone else on the planet, as Christmas draws close and the New Year is on the horizon, we begin to reflect on blessings and the things we are grateful for.

This morning I was thinking about some of the things that I am grateful for:

1.The sound of my kids laughing -- they both can really crack up and sometimes I find myself just dying laughing because they are laughing!

2.Ten o'clock tea -- every night David and I stop whatever we are doing and have our "before bed tea" around 10 or 10:30. No matter what else has happened that day or how disconnected we may be due to busyness or ministry, we know without a doubt that we get real connection time over a cuppa every night.

3.Relationships -- it is no surprise to anyone that I would describe myself as relationally driven. I am so thankful for the people in my life who I have coffee with, have lunch with, work with, volunteer with, and worship with. Naturally we all find ourselves closer to some people than others but all the layers of relationship matter for different reasons. And so to my closest friends -- the besties -- I just say I love you!

4.All the little things: post-it notes, good ice, real coke, the sound of rain, colored paper clips, sharpies, starbucks, mail, organized cabinets, fun jewelry, my pets, storage containers of any kind, textures, books....I should stop now!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Moses and God

For the first time in a long time I am spending time reading Exodus. To be honest, not by choice but due to some curriculum writing that is looming in my near future. However, the more time I spend with it, the more I choose to spend. I am so enjoying the relationship between Moses and God. It is real, intimate, and communicative. And just when one might think that familiarity breeds contempt the Almighty Sovereign Worship Compelling nature of God overcomes Moses and I the reader want to hide my face too.

I am chapters away and because I know the story, epic events away, from the narrow focus of the curriculum I will be writing, but it has me pondering. These thoughts are a little random, not thematic and still in process. Today I am struck by these insights:

-God is the ultimate covenant keeper
-God loves us and seeks relationship with us in a fierce, passionate way
-I am left not understanding the "situational ethics" sometimes...the midwives lie to protect the Israelites and God blesses them....huh?
-God and Moses know each other -- really know each other
-God meets Moses in a burning bush .... Moses holds God's feet to the fire and insists that He acts (so boldly at times it makes me uncomfortable)
-God provides in both extravagant and simple ways
-God equips humanity for the task that He calls us to

And today as I feel a little uncertain about what the future holds, I am assured again that Manna for today is all we need.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Search Me

Psalm 139 declares that God has searched us and knows us. This is not news. Scripture often reminds us that he made us and formed us and remembers that we are dust. But there is something haunting in these words.

Allow yourself to linger there for a moment. There is no dark place, no secret closet, no hiding spot in the heart that He does not have access to, yet we live like we can fool Him.

I think I am discovering that there is nothing quite as freeing as asking God to know me and wanting Him to willingly search me. It means I have to face the sin, the crud, the stuff that I try to ignore. But as each wave of truthfulness and surrender takes over, we position ourselves for spiritual transformation.

Just a few words in the opening lines of a Psalm can change us.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


Today I begin meeting with a new Spiritual Formation Group on Wednesday nights. What a trip this will be. We will journey together through the book Sacred Rhythms and see what God has in store for us. As a community we will share our hearts and learn to be real and open with each other so that the Lord can speak into our lives.

I am convinced that this journey is richer and fuller if we can begin by surfacing our longings. What is it that God has placed in you that keeps trying to rise to the surface, but you squelch. Ruth Haley Barton invites readers to begin exploring that idea early on in her book. Donald Miller, in Searching for God Knows What writes: "what if the deepest longings of your heart where there for a reason? small minded boxed-in formulas of modern religion weren't the Truth? the gospel of Jesus was not safe after all, but full of intrigue, passion and romance?"

Longings are sometimes scary to us. They involve us naming what we want. They may involve a "holy discontent" they may even make us feel unfaithful to what we have always known and done. I am excited by the prospect of seeing this group of women surface their longings!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Holy Ground

In churches of Christ over the last 20 years or so, we have sung #100 & #101 from the blue book in a woven medley style. Given that I haven't used a song book in years, it is also shown in a media form in a woven medley style. Even though this is an older set of songs, there is something very moving to me in the words. Something holy, rich, awe inducing.

Today those words are rushing over my spirit in regards to relationship. Our relationships are holy ground. We risk, we seek approval, we hear pain, we gain affirmation, we struggle together, we see ourselves most clearly in relationship to others, we confess, we forgive and we love. Just doesn't get much better than that.

And so God is calling me, yelling at me actually to say thanks for the Holy Ground of relationship. I believe through God I can live out his covenantal character with every person I meet. In my marriage I can seek to be conformed more fully into the image of Christ so that I can be a wife that empowers David to be the best he can be. In my friendships I seek to love more fully and unconditionally. In relationships that I am just starting I seek to be open and safe.

But rarely are these things so easy to order. Issues arise, pain intrudes, woundedness and brokenness sometimes hijack our best attempts at holy relationships. Sometimes we over function, other times we under function. Boundaries are crossed and then realigned. It gets messy. Our hearts are pulled in directions that surprise us and we have to step back. Did I mention it was messy? And so in each of these moments of less than stellar relational behaviour, I ask the Lord to cover me and make me new. And to be an agent of forgiveness, grace and strength to those who are struggling.
You redeem my life from the pit, and crown me with love and mercy. (Psalm 103)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009


While driving home today from Abilene, I believe the Lord really revealed some things to me. I am part of a small group that is seeking the presence of the Lord through the book Sacred Pathways and community with each other.

In this group I have shared my struggle with this thing we call "church." Church as we know it, is hard for me. Probably will always be. I love rapid change, I am a product of Post-Modernity, I am uninstitutional - all things that make regular church hard. But God, in the gentle whisper is speaking to me.

God prompted me to begin defining what my ideal church would look like. And so I made a mental list. The ideal church:

Works for justice:
for the under-represented in this country
for the marginalized around the globe
for the gay community who are denied basic rights in their relationships

Has full and equal participation in worship, in ministry, in service:
the only qualifying question is: who is most gifted to fit this role?

Has worship that is vibrant, dynamically current and engaging.

Encounters the Lord through the arts.

That sees itself as a place for hundreds of intimate communities to experience "worship together" and to equip Christians to go and live like Christ in their actual worlds.

Is organized around, defined by intimate communities within the larger whole.

I felt smug and proud of my mental list. And then God prompted me again. What would David's list look like? What about Michelle, or Allyson? What about Sally, Missy, Adam, Greg. What about Matt? Slowly I began to realize all the "Ideal Lists" would look significantly different. Some of what is core to my list, would be unattractive to David. He would probably fill his list with things that reach back to his Catholic roots - things that have shaped him and he loves and adores. Clearly, I heard the question, So why should your list prevail?

And I began to realize what God was leading me to. The real challenge is this. What is stopping me from being church (the ideal list) in every aspect of my life. What is stopping me from working for justice, of creating the kind of community I value, worshipping regularly in the way I described. I already have wonderful opportunities to teach across the globe, recently, even preach - what a joy that was! And God has opened the door for me to work with Center Peace to help provide a place of belonging for those struggling with same-sex attraction.

Instead of an unholy discontent with church as it exists currently, what about being an incarnational example of what I believe in. Why not be the church. If being like Christ is really the goal, if sharing His heartbeat is what I am aiming for, does the representation of church really matter. If my inner life is so God directed that I am fully present with Him what does it matter.

These are hard things. Kingdom things. Relational things. My prayer is that God will continue to call me to a holy discontent: a real hunger for Him. And when my spirit of unholy discontent about church creeps in, I can ask Him to temper that with what really matters.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Fully Alive

Currently, I am reading Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton. It is a rich read. In the opening pages she addresses a struggle that surfaced all sorts of emotions in me. She talks about the longings of our heart. Those linked to our faith journey. The deep, often hidden, ever present longings. You know the ones. They make you ask the question: "Is there more than this". These same longings often express themselves as the desire for more, for deeper, for greater significance. Barton suggests that Jesus invites us to surface the longings and give them to Him. She refers to the times when Jesus approaches people and asks the question; What do you WANT from me? Have you thought about that. Really? Jesus asks Bartimaeus this question. I am thinking, sight was probably high on his list. Surely Jesus knew this. But there is more going on here. This question is meant to surface the obvious needs and the longings of our heart.

These longings can be satisfied. As we draw in close to God through living out the spiritual practices the longings of our heart can be expressed. Once they are named and offered to the Lord, He is faithful to honor.

And here is the other aspect of this. Longing is our hearts way of begging for life. Our faith walk HAS to be about more than heaven or some eventual ultimate salvation. It has got to be about our life here and now. A life that is devoted to seeking Jesus. A life devoted to being shaped by Jesus. A life devoted to seizing moments and living them for Jesus. A life devoted to justice, to mercy, to love. A life lived in such a way that our being empowers others around us to live fully too.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Oh What A Day!

Sunday was a first for me. I was asked to preach for the Amarillo Unitarian Fellowship. I have never spoken to such a diverse group before, especially regarding spiritual things. The days leading up to Sunday had me tense. I wanted to speak a word that would be heard in language that would be credible to such a diverse crowd. Yet, the burden of being faithful to my love of Jesus.

God came through and together we formed a message that was relevant and true. The members of the Fellowship were gracious, welcoming and hospitable to me.

Travels and such

I recently returned from two weeks in Australia and a week in Papua New Guinea. I was part of a team that hosted two renewals with Come before Winter. What an incredible blessing. God does amazing things in us and the women who are attending the renewals. Too much happened for me to summarize in a blog post. But some of the enduring thoughts are this:

1.I have made some of the most incredible friendships that will last a lifetime. Inspirational, strong, intelligent, heart directed, spiritual woman. What a gift. It was so hard to leave.

2.Even after teaching a block on how to read the Psalter and a theological reading group on Psalm 103 (several times), I gained insights into this Psalm that were profound and forming. Continued revelation is a gift.

3.After the renewals I got to hang out with friends from years ago in South Africa. Few things are as fulfilling as sweet reunions.

4.The missionaries (linguists who are translating scripture, traditional missionaries, support ministers etc) in Papua New Guinea are awe-inspiring. This is not an easy country to move to but they have done it with grace and love. Their work is hard and long term. They are isolated and often alone for projects. They make you want to be better. Lift them up in prayer. Lift up Wycliffe, Pioneer Bible Translators, NewTribes - all of these sending organizations.

5.My heart was touched by the single women who are on the field. Working hard. Maintaining boundaries. Sometimes lonely. Quite amazing.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I realize this is a delicate subject.

I am part of a group that is looking at our youth ministry space and making design recommendations for updates and improvements. We technically don't have a space besides regular classrooms. It is hard for kids in a youth group to see the mega churches in their cities and only wish to have the facilities and on tap entertainment that they provide. My home is pretty and certainly nicer than the majority of the world's population will ever dream of. But herein lies the quandary. Today I have been plagued by this thought: how can we expect our kids to simplify, do with less, intentionally recycle, give extravagantly and at the same time be party to trying to "update" their space. These are extremes, I know. Yet the question will not leave my heart.

Personally, I feel like God is taking me on a journey of living with less. I am loving it. I feel like the economy is proving that storing away for a future that is uncertain is not a goal worthy of the kind of dedication and slavery that consumes so many lives. People have literally seen there nest eggs evaporate. Should we be responsible? Sure. Do I think that we should be giving and generous ahead of financial hoarding? Absolutely. There has to be something to the idea of "daily bread' given that Jesus speaks to it so often. God is not big on the Israelites storing for tomorrow either.

But honestly, this is hard. Our Christian culture looks very similar to the world in general when it comes to money and stuff and I am over that. I made a decision to not buy any new clothing or anything decorative for my home for this year. It has required me just not going to stores. In certain stores I just avoid those departments. But it is hard. And this is just one small area. Now this is not just about doing with less, it is about enjoying and appreciating what we have. A hard discipline really.

So while I have these challenging areas in my life that God is trying to grow me in I am also faced with the youth space issue. What to do?

Monday, March 02, 2009


You've heard the research, maybe even heard the direct accusations. Christians are hypocrites. I am not a fan of casting any large group into one particular category with one foul swoop, and so my instant reaction is to say, "wait a minute." I want to do a good PR job on us and manage our images a little, justifying behaviors or explaining away actions. I so badly don't want to be "one of them" that my indignation and holier than thou attitude, lands me right in the middle of "them" more than I would like.

Like it or not, this is a worthy topic to think about. Servers in restaurants complain about the Sunday lunch crowd, unbelievers feel judged by Christians, many who have held themselves up as people of God have been exposed to the general public as cheats, liars, adulterers and manipulators. At some level it is not too much to say, some have earned the reputation of Hypocrite and all of us have to now bear it. But the court of public opinion is not really the greatest concern for me, albeit important. What about God...what does He think?

I have spent time in Acts 5 with Ananias and Sapphira lately. What a sobering read that can be. And after much reflection I believe we are being taught something so powerful in this account that it can not be ignored. God acted harshly, swiftly, decisively with these two. Why? Others have lied, others have cheated, many still do. I firmly believe the issue at stake was hypocrisy. God is ever patient with us as we attempt to live in kingdom ways - often messing up and allowing temptations to overcome us. Yet, if our hearts are turned to Him and we are desirous of a surrendered life and are making attempts to that end, He continues to grace us with gifts of growth and change. However with A & S He sees right through to the heart. They had predetermined to appear religious, pious, holy, sacrificial, surrendered- but it was all a show. God will not have that. If our aim is to receive the admiration, praise and respect of our spiritual family by our acts of faith that are borne out of ill-motive and deception we can expect the wrath of God. They were claiming to be something they were not. God did not require their land or the proceeds from it. And yet they chose to try to deceive the Lord, the Apostles, the community of faith in order to appear more righteous than they were.

For many of us, we will not face such a drastic situation. But on a daily basis as we live for God I have been challenged to review my motives, my heart, my intent and to ask God to cleanse any ugliness from my heart. How thankful I am for mercy!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Faith in a vaccuum

As I am reading Acts I am confronted with "the church" at every turn. This is hard for me. I know congregational ministry is how my bills are paid every month. But, truth be told, it is hard for me. I have often joked to David that church gets in the way of my faith all the time. Many jokes are told with truth lingering just below the surface.

I am in the middle of a conversation right now with a friend about his discouragement with organized religion. He is struggling with how to be a Christian without the trappings of church. I have been there. I am not a huge fan of the institution. I want to break the rules. I thrive in change. Creativity and reinvention are what sustain me. None of these are traits that the church is known for.

So, what now? Here is what I believe to be true. One can certainly be a Christian and live in an isolated situation. However, I don't really think we can be spiritually formed or have our faith refined unless we are prepared to live in community with others. There is just nothing that softens the edges quite like having to deal with people that take patience. And taken one step further as we are called to do in the community of faith...nothing softens the edges quite like learning to love people who are different to ourselves.

And so, as Acts keeps reminding me, God adds us to communities of faith because He knows that is where we are most transformed into His image.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Faith & Justice

For those of you who are reading this from Amarillo, I am not talking about Channel 4 news, but it is the perfect segue. We have a local TV station here with two night time anchors, Andy Justice and Faith Miller. What a deal for KAMR. Their news slogan is.....(drum roll) Faith&Justice working for you (or something similar).

And as I am about to tell my High School religion students this is no coincidence. Faith and justice go together because that is what God designed from the very beginning. The Old Testament is cram packed with references to God judging the hearts of those who are mistreating the weak, the alien, the under represented. Micah 6:8 says that God requires us to be people who Act Justly, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly with Him. Jesus' ministry is defined by His compassion and His care for the least of these. He tells us that when we ignore the plight of the thirsty, the hungry or the naked, we essentially ignore His plight. We read on and see that true and pure religion is defined as taking care of widows and orphans.

I have had my students looking at these verses and some shocking stats from Unicef on the real conditions of food, medicine and basic supplies around the world. One of them said, "this is just depressing" and wondered why I am making them face these things. My answer to her leads me to this post. It is a harsh reality, but empowering. Once we face the real condition of our globe, and we take the time to investigate what we can do, we can make a difference. And so I assigned them each two websites to read through and answer some questions about so that they can see how they can make a difference. We checked out everything from Tom's Shoes, to Christian Relief Fund to Kiva Microfinancing. I asked them to answer several questions about the organization and how much it would take for them to get involved in just one project. The tougher question was for them to look at their spending habits and see what it would take for them to divert money that usually flows to their entertainment etc and put it to one of these projects. It does not cost us that much really to make a difference in just one area. Buying a mosquito net from NothingButNets.net is just $10 and that can save a life. For $10 really? Just two trips to McDonalds. Hmmm..

We are taking the lesson a little further today with a field trip to Natural Grocers to hear a short presentation on Fair Trade/Equal Exchange. I am not trying to get them to spend every dollar on non profits or never drink a cup of Folgers again. I just want them to know their are options and choices where they can make an impact on the world. With Valentines coming up I thought showing them Fair Trade chocolate seemed like a good option.

Friday I have them reading a section from Irresistible Revolution and then hopefully this will lead to a school wide project or focus where we as a school can think beyond ourselves and make a mark for Justice on the world. Not because we want to be social activists (not that I would have a problem with that as the reason) but because we claim to be people of faith. And I firmly believe that faith should lead us to justice.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Blogging Block

I have needed a push to blog recently. For the first time in a long time I literally have nothing to say. Did I just write that? Me, chatty-cathy...nothing. I struggled to make the time to blog during the holidays and I find that when I am out of the habit, it is hard to return to it.

It's more than that though. I find myself slipping quickly into my shell after Christmas - January is a tough month. The anniversary of both parent's death come creeping up on me and I am not always conscious of how it affects me until I look over my shoulder. But I can feel the weight lifting already.

I am also spiritually dry right now. You know how the seasons come and go. I have not been in this place for a while and so it has really knocked the wind out of my sails. I was having coffee with a friend a week or so ago and he too is struggling right now. This is what I have come to. Many Christians live their lives from church meeting to church meeting with very little God time or God moments in between and they seem quite okay with that experience. But when you have struggled for something more and you have experienced walking intimately with the Lord and you know the connection that brings in your life, it is such a hard thing to endure the times that are dry. In my life times like this happen because my focus shifts and how I use my time changes and before long I begin treating God like someone I know, just not someone I want to be with. Being able to articulate this and feeling more normalcy return to my schedule is helping this weight to lift also.

Here's to 2009 and waking up each day asking the question: "What do you want to do with me today, Lord?"