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.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

How Do You Measure a Life?

You have to love a cheesy musical line as a blog title, admit you do!!! So this morning, I was woken up with the words, "your coffee is ready" - my eyes were still fighting for their right to remain shut when my brain turned on. That's how things usually go for me. 0-73 mph immediately. Instantly I started singing Seasons of Love from Rent - I mean instantly. David looked at me with a puzzled expression that lasted a few seconds but it quickly faded having lived with me for so long. I looked at him and said, "you know, you said coffee and that made me think of how do you measure a life, in sunsets, in cups of coffee etc." He just smiled and muttered something like, "you're nuts."

And so my thoughts today are turned to HOW DO YOU MEASURE A LIFE? Well actually not how do you measure as much as what matters in your life. A lovely thing to think about really. I think I am going to spend some time with my kids talking about this tonight. As Easter approaches and we reflect on life, recreation and the power to live changed lives, what matters seems to really matter.

And so in my random ponderings today while I have done other things, the following things have come to mind. These are things that matter to me. A way of being in the world that I value. On my best days in my best moments I hit on a few, and then sometimes they are just another "want to." I hope you make your own list.

The quality of the relationship I am cultivating with my God. I want it to be Exodus 33-ish.
A good cup of tea
Conversation that is challenging and shaping
Friends who make me better
Passion - in everything
The ability to feel deeply
The desire to learn
Living fully
Loving without concern for reciprocity
Delighting in the gift of mutuality
Laughing - a lot and with conviction
Tears - for hard things and for joys
Peace to live in the midst of a world that does not make sense sometimes
Memories and history
Seeking understanding before being understood
Allowing the active work of the Holy Spirit in me to lead me into places of ministry that I would not know otherwise
Speaking words of life

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Because everything IS spiritual

It was probably 3 or 4 years ago that I heard Rob Bell on his preaching tour. We took a little road trip to Oklahoma City with some of the people we love the most and just sat and absorbed 2 hours of incredible preaching. The title of that tour was everythingisspiritual. It lived up to the hype in ways I can not even describe.

And so a journey began for me. A way of looking at life and living it that does not compartmentalize "our spiritual life" from the real world. It required me to intentionally check my language and to live my whole life with a sense of sacred intentionality, also. Just think about how ludicrous it is to think that we can somehow segment the spiritual into a portion of life that we manage that is other to the rest of life. Really? As if we could tell God to remain in His portion of this thing called My Life.

So many really significant things begin to form and shape when we choose to live in this truth. Every conversation and human interaction is in someway sacred ground - incarnational ministry. After conversations with friends in Starbucks or on the couch in the living room, on FaceTime on my iphone or on skype on my computer screen I find myself thinking "we just did church." I also land up seeing God in new and inspiring places. He shows up with regularity in the things we sometimes foolishly call "secular." Sermons are preached and lessons taught outside of church structures. The story of God becomes something that we can all connect to and enter because it permeates all places, not just the ones of steeples and dresses, ties and choirs, sacraments and pews. Insights can come from the words of Moses and the impassioned cries of Bono. Poetry, Art, Music, Movies, Books, Human lives all testify with creation to a God that is worthy of all my attention.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Missional Discipleship

Those who know me best know that anything that becomes too predictable or monotonous drives me crazy. Repetitive tasks are my least favorite although I do feel a sense of comfort from a schedule and relational security. Go figure? Reading is no exception to this for me. I read in manic phases. Literally consuming books at a ridiculous rate and then going months not touching one. Right now, my nightstand has a stack about 8 high and I am making my way through them. Not just any old books either...some greats. I've got Halter & Smay's And sitting there. I have a Nouwen one waiting on me. I have a Miller and a Bell. All of my favorites calling my name. And still others.

Besides the few contemplative pieces tucked in my stack, most of them are about missionality and the missional conversation. But I got tired of reading about Missional church. Tired of reading about it and not living it. Tired of wanting it but not being prepared to do what it takes. Then we did. We stepped out and made some huge shifts in our life and I couldn't read about it anymore. But, I'm ready to read again. Ready to enter the conversation again trying to sink my teeth into what this looks like lived out. Ready to see where our disciple making ways seem counter to the life of Jesus. Ready to reflect on what it looks like in community.

Of course I read a few pages and my mind races. Questions. What if's. Doubts. More Questions. Definitions. You know how that goes. And in the midst of all of it, it struck me today that I had blogged a definition of Missional Discipleship back in Sept. 2006 - yes almost 5 years ago. I dug it out and got convicted all over again.

Missional discipleship:
It starts with Missio Dei - the very nature of God is that He calls and sends. He forms us into distinctive communities that reflect the redemptive reign of God through justice, mercy and reconciliation (Kingdom) in the coming of Christ and in the becoming like Christ (Incarnation). Together we journey(Community), maturing into Christ formed followers (Spiritual Formation) who in the power of the Spirit begin shaping others into Christ formed followers (Equipping).

Yay for reading and the waters it stirs.

Ethical Requirement?

In the great story of God that scripture reveals I am struck by the fact that in forming His people, God made special provision for the marginal. Over and over again, he laid out His heart for the ones who were powerless, under-represented and marginalized. The minor prophets take God's heart and put it in lights. It is front and center. Verse after verse of His disgust at their mistreatment. Verse after verse of His disgust toward those who are mistreating. He goes so far as to say that He would prefer lives given to the service of the alien and the broken ahead of sacrifices and worship. Laws about the Year of Jubilee, Gleaning, Sharing are peppered throughout the Torah and there is no need to guess where He stands on this. Yet, humanity fails and falls short of the heart of God.

One of my favorite verses of all times is Micah 6:8. It is painted on my dining room walls and I see it daily. God lays out an ethical requirement for His people. They are to love justice and mercy. He doesn't give us wiggle room here. He doesn't clarify circumstances. He doesn't give a loophole if one is being taken advantage of. There are no caveats. He simply states, that to be His people, called by His name, reflecting His heart we are to....

It is interesting to me that He knew we would fail in this regard if left to our own devices. And so, He builds in a way to hold us accountable to justice and compassion. A friend of mine posted a quote today by one of my favorite thinkers: "Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary." - Reinhold Niebuhr
I am not arguing for world wide democracy - the world is a little more nuanced and complicated than that in my opinion. However, the idea that we need a standard to be held to in our attempts to serve the "least of these" is significant to me. I can be self serving, selfish and self consumed in a heart beat. But it takes God's heartbeat within me to see with His eyes and touch with His touch.

As we are transformed more fully into the image of God, the requirement part of Micah 6:8 fades into the distance and the compulsion to be a vessel of justice and mercy takes over. Jesus calls us to a kingdom where justice and mercy prevail and we begin to share God's heartbeat for compassion wherever we can be a conduit for it.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Rules and Relationship

I heard a lesson on Sunday that fits well with some things I am thinking about. It was well thought through and camped heavily in Exodus, where I am living right now due to some curriculum writing. The general gist of the lesson, if I was going to summarize, was about how to understand "the rules" or law in terms of the heart and God's intention for us versus fundamentalistic thinking. Nothing earth shattering there. However, as I ponder this idea about rules and law, it strikes me over and over again that God initiates, makes, and keeps covenant with people in the midst of them not caring about the rules or law.

This beautiful partnership of rules and relationship or law and love simply overwhelms me. God, in His desire for us to be His people, shaped and formed by His heart knows what is best for us.

Here is the earth shattering part. Law is never given without Love. Rules are never issued outside of relationship. Even in the consequences, we are assured that punishment may last to the 3rd or 4th generation, but His hesed will remain till the 1000th generation.
Sinai is this stunning picture of the rule-law giving God on the mountain AND the relationship-love desiring God who chooses to live with His people in the camp.

And so, every time we talk about the rules or the law, it is imperative that we talk about the covenant. They form and inform each other. And I can't imagine a more tasty pairing.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Community 3

(From Community 2)
Control: In community we still control how confessional we are. We are the gatekeepers of how much we put out there regardless of the community we find ourselves in.

Perhaps one of the reasons "Community" is not functioning at the level we hope for in meeting the "confessional" needs of our people is that we are still the gatekeepers. As an individual in a community, you are your own PR representative. You disseminate information as you desire. You spin it as you need. You test the waters of acceptance and reveal versions of the truth. You are still the guardian of what is buried the deepest. And perhaps most deadly, we often don't even know what is buried there and how it is forming and shaping our behaviors.

You know the stories, You have lived them. I know the stories and I am living them. A group meets regularly for years and many things are shared and intimacy is valued. Crisis hits and sacred ground is stood on. These are your people and the connection is tight. Then, out of what seems like nowhere you discover one of the group members is entangled in a life battle with sin and has been for years. It shakes you to the core as you begin to question the authenticity of your community experience. You review conversations like post game films, looking for the "drops." You feel cheated, lied to, let down and disappointed. You thought you knew this person and now you feel like you don't. You question if anything shared was real or was it all a lie?

These feelings and thoughts are normal in these type situations - not always accurate but normal. I think we tend to want to abandon an entire relational, community experience as untrue when we discover something like this. However, that may not be true. While a significant secret may have been kept from you, it does not discount all the rest of what you know and love about a person. Once we grieve the loss we feel, I pray we can find it in our hearts to continue in community with people who are struggling with holiness but still in love with the Holy One.

But why does this happen...In "Community?" My answer is that whether we are in community or not, we are the gatekeepers of our deepest secrets. Community does not necessarily change this - it just provides us close spiritual friends to hide our real struggles from.

So, what does change it? I am beginning to think that the solution to this one, is when the focus shifts from community and moves to encouraging individuals to begin a journey of self discovery. A journey that includes discovering our woundedness. Uncovering our pains, our triggers and our hurts. Naming them safely with one who is equipped to walk with us, and replacing them with words of Truth about our identity and our purpose. And then when the lies of the deceiver are thrown out and the words of Life from I AM are taken in, we can begin to get honest about who we are and how we live. A group of people all on a journey to healing their hearts and making them a place for Truth to reside and resonate can then form community that is really authentic.

Bottom-line as I see it today. Our desire for confessional environments to spring up out of community are certainly noble. And sometimes they do. But, creating a group of some kind and assuming the the group environment is enough to make confession happen is flawed and naive at best. I think we would see more authentic confessional community happen if we focused some attention on assisting our people in getting emotionally healthy to prepare their heart for the fruit of confessional living.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Community 2

And besides the church chatter, have you talked to many average members lately? After years of pouring themselves into accountability groups and life groups and every other kind of group we have offered, many are just disappointed. They just haven’t had the experience they were hoping for.

This is not true for everyone for all times. I have been in groups that have changed my life in significant ways. I know you have too. I am talking in generalities that I am observing and hearing about.

Just observing the situation is one thing. Thinking through the why’s and looking for the what if’s and what’s next is tricky. But I have some thoughts roaming around in my head that I am still trying to land. I am hoping to explore a few more thoughts on this in different blog posts. I am thinking through the following thoughts:

1.Control: In community we still control how confessional we are. We are the gatekeepers of how much we put out there regardless of the community we find ourselves in.

2.Woundedness: Should our starting place shift in our desire for confessional community. Instead of assuming confession is going to flow in groups, should we focus on equipping individuals in self awareness so they know their wounds, know their behaviors that flow out of their wounds and can then begin the healing process.

3.Truth Asking: One hears a lot about Truth Telling. Usually defined something like this: I see behavior in your life and because of our covenant in community I get to share truth with you about your attitudes and behaviors. What if we transition to Truth Asking? Asking each other about the traps and triggers in our lives and not fearing the messiness of the answer. Truth Asking assumes one will walk the road of struggle with another without fear or judgment. It also assumes that we all in our brokenness have a road to walk.

4.What Are the Barriers to Confessional Community: I am struggling with an idea that I am still thinking through. In our attempt to Christianize our lives we have taken parenting, marriage, and finances and made them into indicators of our spirituality or maturity. An entire culture has developed around the family that has deified it to something I am not sure God ever intended. Perfection in parenting, marriage and financial management has solidified the “appear as all is great” mentality that permeates many Christian communities. What happens when you are not doing so well? Who is brave enough to stand up and say it? How can we grow confessional communities in the midst of the pseudo-perfection we seem to value. Does it really matter that you have no debt if you are bitter and not compassionate to the alien. Somewhere along the road, we have gotten distracted.

So.....I am asking God to help me discern through this muddle of thoughts.

Community 1

Community. What a loaded word in church conversation. It has been for a while. However it has taken on a whole new slant in the Missional church conversation. As we struggle with what it means to grow disciples versus just church attendees, community crops up with predictable regularity. In Missional communities we are trying to move from consumers of church goods and services to being outposts of the Kingdom of God where we live, work, play and worship.

It has me pondering. Are we asking “community” to bear a weight it was never intended to bear? It seems to have become the panacea to all our ills. A spiritual band-aid that is quickly applied in hopes of it healing the buried wound. I am having my doubts.

Please do not misunderstand me. I am all about intimate relationships, community, and accountability. I treasure my friendships and take them seriously. I pursue and I respond and I value what happens in spiritual friendship. So, hear these musings, as simply musings, from one who is feeling the push and pull tension of community.

Over the last 25 years, churches have been enamored with small groups of differing stripes. We have embraced the Family Life Group, the Accountability Group, Triads, Men’s Groups, Women’s Groups, Fellowship Groups, Prayer Groups, Study Groups, and Recovery Groups. And the list goes on. Yet still, we are struggling with solutions to isolation, individualism, sin, luke-warmness and we keep going back to Community as our solution. All of our groups are somehow still not meeting the need we see. It is almost like the solution we have come up with, while a good solution is for a question or a struggle we are not asking or facing. An authentic struggle and authentic answers, just not to the same question.

I have heard more than my fair share of ministry staff church chatter that poses the question: “why are we still not hearing about people’s crisis until it is too late. Why is divorce the next step when we first hear about the marriage struggle?” “Why is a return to addiction the behavior we hear about when we never knew there was a struggle to start with.” “How do we create community so that our members will become confessional?” You get the idea. We are still desperately looking for a way to form community to do what we think it needs to do. 25 years into intentional church structuring to provide it and we are still struggling. Big time.

It’s not due to a lack of resources. Go to any bookstore, peruse the internet, and look at church conferences. There are theologies, strategies, concepts and formulations to create community in every form you could desire. I’ve read more books on groups than I can even count.

When Willow Creeks study, Reveal, first hit the blogosphere and media, many church leaders were gob smacked. If Willow were struggling to form fully formed disciples of Christ, what possible chance did the average small church have. If Willow was struggling to create authentic community in an environment where church was being “done” via groups, how could anyone succeed at this?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Volkswagen Commercial: The Force

I am not sure a commercial has ever touched me quite as deeply as this one. It makes me want to stand up and cheer for that Dad!

It has me thinking....about keeping dreams alive; about believing; about trusting; about fun; about what it means to allow other people to live their dreams; about who the light clickers are in my life. Thanks VW - incredible.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Public Ministry

If you know me, you know the discomfort I am feeling just typing the two words, "Public Ministry" as a title. However, let me go on.

When it comes to Spiritual Warfare and things unseen I am more than aware that a battle rages and most times we go on blissfully unaware. I am not a fan of the fear induced tactics used by some who rant and rail on Hollywood, Washington and the Media for every ill in the world. I often wonder why we would expect things not of Christ to be holy. I am not a reactionary to things that are sometimes called "secular." I see God in the strangest places and His heart is often shown best in the places we least expect it. And I do not live in fear seeing Satan behind every bush either. But that is another post. And to top it off, I am often a little "inappropriate" without even trying. So, when I refer to an attack of Satan I do not say it glibly, filter it through all I have just said. Some days it just feels like Satan, the deceiver, is waiting to pounce. And, it is always, I mean always, when I am about to engage in a very public form of ministry.

Right before I am heading off to speak somewhere or teach someplace or lead something, I hear his whispers in my ear. I hear him telling me that I have no business doing what I do. I hear him reminding me of how broken I am. I usually have the opportunity to take him up on the offers he throws out for me. And if in moments of distraction I do falter in some way, I hear his accusation proving that his original whispers were accurate. The message that always seems to sound the clearest is the one that says, "how can you go and teach women when you screw up so often."

That message used to work. It shut me down. Not so much now. On my best days in my best moments I know what is true. It is because I am so broken that God can use my life for His purposes. On a normal day in a normal moment, I know it is still true, it is just so much harder to believe.

Today, I am struck by a sudden onset of hard things to deal with in my heart. He lurks around waiting to pounce. And it is no coincidence that it is the start of a very public season of ministry for me this Spring.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

That Grieving Thing

Make no mistake, over a 5 year blogging period I have written more than one post about grief!

Tonight I am sitting here thinking about my Mom. Tomorrow is the 8th anniversary of her death. Each year it hits me in a different way. There was initial relief after being her care taker for so long and it being so hard. Then there was the loneliness. Anger came and went. The feeling of abandonment visited one year. Then sadness - just good old fashioned sadness. And longing, a different kind of missing and sadness. Oh, the emotions have been varied and deep. But tonight as I sit here and think about things, I am struck with my struggle for identity. Phew, there I said it.

I know all the faith talk about true identity. I say those words to others. I believe them. I teach them. But honestly, they do not bring comfort right now, tonight. Sometimes the ache of pain is so deep and real that you can feel it in your body. That's where I sit tonight. And I long for identity tied to parents. I had to grieve my Dad's death at 11, all my grandparents before that and then my Mom when I was 35. It feels strange to not have parents. It sometimes makes me wonder who I am. And that is the version of grief that showed up this year.

Like all hard things, this one will allow me to ask the very important questions: what did I learn about myself in this and where are the places that God needs to reign more fully.
And, I take great comfort in knowing there are new mercies every morning.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Disturb us, Lord

I love beautiful prayers and this one by Francis Drake is a treasure....

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


It does not take long when reading Henri Nouwen, for one to realize the depth of wisdom, experience, insight, sacrifice and reflection that his life can offer. I have been drawn to his writings for 20 years or so and find myself journeying back to some of the same pieces over and over.

His writing is significant in Christian Spiritual Formation, but really it is the fact that he lived life well that matters most. He made choices in favor of people, for the sake of the Kingdom in spite of personal gain. And God has been glorified.

These words of his are incubating in my mind right now: "the friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief or bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing....not healing...not curing...that is a friend who cares." Currently, my heart is aching for several friends who are going through VERY tough things and I am a fixer by nature. I work to not be. Did you catch that? And while I absolutely value "presence" and just being able to "be" with people in their hardest moments, my brain goes into overdrive and begins searching for ways to "help." Unless I told you that is what was happening in my mind, you might never guess, but it's happening in every moment of crisis.

I love Nouwen's call to put down the flawed idea of savior and pick up the beautiful role of present friend. This kind of presence can only come out of the overflow of a heart so turned to God that His peace defines, His comfort is tangible and His character is trusted. And so my heart is convicted that as we walk alongside the ones we love, being attentive to God on their behalf, the real job is making oneself available to hear what it is that God is whispering in intimate hushed tones. It is less about what we can do for people and way more about who we are for people because of who God is.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Color Purple

I don't really know how to write what I am feeling about this, but that has never stopped me before, so here goes.

I love me some purple! Not sure what that is about but it has been a lifelong love. My Dad, who was a musician, stand up comedian guy, had day jobs to support his artists life and one of those was in the carpet business for a season. He decided to re-carpet our house at one point. I got to pick my color for my room. And yes, I chose rich deep purple. It was me. And to my musician/artist Dad.

Anyway, I never lost my love of the brilliant color and even in the black, white and turquoise years I was secretly a fan. Then I attended college at ACU. A dream come true for a purple lover.

Purple has always represented more to me than just a fun color. I use the expression, "my inner purple" a lot. Those who know me, understand that means my Arlene-ness. You know, the inner core of who you are. Mine just feels, well, purple. I love the purple metaphors for life in poetry, in prose, in art, in theatre. I love the Spiritual significance. The audacity of it, really.

And so, the journey of purple in the hair happened last year. I know there are haters among my friends who scrunch their nose up a bit and wonder, "what the heck." And that is a-ok with me. But the purple streaks in the hair story has taken on its own life. I did it, at first, because I was bored. I fight an inner battle of rebellion all the time. Filtering, monitoring, choosing, intentionally deciding. Picture a two year old trying hard to obey. There you've got it. That is me, inside, still - at almost 44. But allowing some of the inner purple out, just a little, functions like a release valve. And you thought it was just a bad hair color choice.

But the purple hair journey got more interesting as I began to notice what was happening. People who would hardly engage me in conversation before began talking to me. People who looked different to me. It became a great conversation starter. I found a point of connection with a few teenagers who I had previously not been able to connect with before. It has led to significant conversations with checkers at the grocery store, people at the Pizza place around the corner, the tire guys at the local store.

The converse was true too. There is nothing like the disapproving stare of a more conservative peer who is making assumptions about your character based on a few inches of hair color they have observed. It took me back to the less comfortable years and made me think about how I perhaps have judged others. Interesting.

But, I'm writing about it today because of a comment that I overheard on Saturday. Spencer started his Basketball season and we were about in the gym at a local church where he plays. My phone rang and so I hung back to take the call while the family all got settled. Two women came walking by, assumed I was not paying attention because I was on the phone and just a little ways away from where I was standing, the one says to the other, "I guess she should pick to either wear the cross or have the purple hair." It stunned me. I finished on the phone and went to find David. I told him the story and chose to try and just let it go. But, wow - some cards were shown right there. I have pondered those words for several days now. I keep wondering about the times I have had a similar thought and I have asked God to strip my heart of those. Honestly, I think I have messed up enough in my life that judging other people seemed foolish a long time ago, but I know I have my moments. I pray God keeps those words alive in a positive way as a reminder for me.

But for now, I'm all about the cross and purple living symbiotically. And besides, it makes me happy.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

A God Who Sees

Gen. 16: 13 She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

I read this verse today and it will not leave my mind. I have said this before and I am standing by it. I think one of the greatest needs of humanity is to be known and seen. Not seen in a flashy, attention seeking way, but simply to be seen. Noticed. I have heard homeless people describe the pain that comes from being invisible. I have heard those who are recently divorced talk about the pain of becoming invisible to the couples they used to hang out with. Nations who have little to offer are allowed to crumble under genocide, aids epidemics, wars and starvation because they are invisible. Children feel it from parents who are distracted. Teenagers feel it when they are not heard. The elderly are often pushed to the side and in an attempt to reduce our responsibility and increase our convenience they become invisible. People all around us who there but are unseen.

Jesus had a thing for losers, as one of my favorite songs says. He noticed. He saw invisible people. He usually aligned himself with them. He sought them out. Women, children, the sick, the hurting, the ones society marginalized.

And so, now you see why these words from Genesis have found a place in my heart. God is the one who sees. His view of the world and humanity is the one that matters. And once we have had that encounter with the One who sees, our lives are never the same. Hagar who has been a player in a really bad plan to solve a family problem has been mistreated, she flees and hides and feels invisible. But as she hides she discovers that the Lord still sees her. But not only that, He chooses to meet her in that moment of deep distress.

Today I pray that I may see like the one who sees. With His lens. With His heart. With His eyes.

Thursday, January 06, 2011


I have written several posts over the last 5 years about friendship, community and relationships. And here I go again. I read a quote today that has really struck a chord with me and I posted it on facebook but I have to explore it some more. From my friend Michele Moore Fant's status: "A great community creates conditions where people can fall in love. It is a place where we can make a fuss over one another. It is a place where we can ask, "How did I ever live without you?" Lois Schmidt

The words...."it is a place where we can ask, how did I ever live without you" really resonate with me. God has given me a generous portion of friends who I can honestly say those words to. We are scattered far and wide across the country and across the world, but they are "those" friends. And that got me thinking.....

In good counseling circles, would those words be acceptable or would they be a sign of bad boundaries and enmeshment? I personally love them. I love the idea of community where you literally feel like your life is incomplete without the touch of the ones that matter. Where, in your relationships you have the edges rubbed off. Where you see the mind and heart of Christ in ways you are not yet experiencing. Where you join giftings and offer something more meaningful to the world. Where you know these people KNOW me and still LOVE me.

This kind of "falling in love friendship" within community is risky. It is intense. It is done with covenant and intentionality. It reaches into your heart and takes up residence. And so it does not leave easily. It is designed to stay the course, for the long haul.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

"Like an airport, the church was never meant to be a destination." Reggie McNeal

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Just having a little rant today....

I have tried to use this blog space of mine as cheap therapy over the last five or so years. It has certainly provided me with ample opportunity for cathartic posts. Not that my plan was fool proof, therapy has been in order along the way, too.

I have, be proud, even employed filters in my writing. Sometimes feeling things and wanting to say things that I knew would not be well received, I managed some restraint. Those who know me, know this in itself is something to be amazed by. I do have filters. I can employ restraint. I know, as I said, be proud.

My political post from 2 years ago, while certainly not the highest comment generating one, is the closest I have come to really putting it all out there.
Until today.

I'm kidding...kinda'. Nothing too heavy, just some thoughts that I need to give an escape path to. They are chasing around in my brain and that's a scary place.

Rant 1: Do you ever want to look at some people squarely in the face and just say...CHILL! Just typing that in caps made me feel better. Oy, this one is about to kill me. I am accused of laughing too quickly, too loudly and too often - but the opposite is not ideal either. Facebook has prompted this one. I have a friend or two that only post the most serious, heavy, lesson learned, self improvement type things. I just want to yell, "tell me about something you saw at Walmart today, please. I can't take one more maxim of universal absolute truth." I am not a shallow-can't-go-deep girl. I love the intense, passion of a good deep conversation. But seriously, I mean, lightheartedly, c'mon guys - chill and chuckle a bit!

Rant 2: "The mommy-blog-that-highlights-the-perfect-life" - the pressure is killer! Thankfully I am too old to be part of this movement, but my heart aches and my brain gets mad for those who are pressured to subscribe to it. I have never seen a time in mommy-hood where there was: more pressure to cook meals ahead for months at a time, make said meals look like The Pioneer Woman's, hand make cards, stitch cute things on cute clothing, spend hours on finding ideas on hand making and stitching perfection, schedule kid play time so it looks more like preschool with field trips, art time, story time as if the child needs play suggested by others instead of intuitively just play. The mommies must also look cute, the kids even cuter, with bedrooms that are design masterpieces. And to top it off - Mommyhood must be the pinnacle of all your hopes, dreams and ambitions and fulfilling.
NOW IF YOU ARE OFFENDED: I think the Pioneer Woman, etsy etc are all great resources - don't get me wrong. I like looking cute and I like nice things too. And if Mommyhood has completed you, more power to you. However, I think there are young women around the country that are struggling under the pressure, too afraid to say they want off the "perfect life bus." Its just unattractive to me. The appearance of perfection always is. I want to be a part of the raw, the gritty, the real, the unlaminated, chaotic, non-matching part of people's world.

Rant 3: I am on a very carb restrictive eating plan due to an allergy to wheat. Carbs do not seem to know that. They call my name seductively from the pantry, in restaurants, at the bakery, in my dreams. I've tried to tell them, "it's not about you, it's me." They whisper back in the quiet...."oh but we had you at hello." So, little carby flirts - get behind me. Oh wait, I have less behind since I eliminated you.

This rant session is over, this girl has a little less angst, life is good.