The 3 Words You Need in the Costco Parking Lot or ________________

I’m taking a blogging sabbatical this summer, but will occasionally be sharing some posts from the past.

In spite of my vow never to leave Minnesota in the summer, Friday I leave on a trip to Northerwestern Kenya to take a closer look at the work World Vision is doing in maternal and child health and learn how to be a better advocate. Traveling in the developing world always requires me to lay aside any agenda or timetable, so this post from a few years ago is a good reminder to me. Maybe you too.

I was maneuvering laboriously, with stops and starts, through the parking lot at Costco yesterday, thinking for the millionth time that the Costco parking lot is either an outer ring of hell or a brilliant opportunity for spiritual formation.  

As I dodged runaway giant shopping carts,

and waited for pedestrians absorbed in studying their shopping lists wandering blindly in the middle of the row,

and backed up for cars in front of me that slammed on their brakes upon spying the tell-tale white reverse lights of a car vacating a parking place they could nab

I thought of a spiritual practice a friend of mine has been advocating.  The simple practice of saying “Come Holy Spirit” throughout the day in situations like this that require patience, understanding, and discipline beyond me.

When I say “Come Holy Spirit” it reminds me that God is with me in every small moment.  It encourages me to try to see the situation through His eyes.  It reminds me of His character.  It says, “I’m depending on your power because I’m weak as a baby and about as mature.  I need you.  Your power perfected in my weakness.”

I love to think about Isaiah 9:6 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders.  He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace…

Which of these names do you most need to be reminded of today?

Come Holy Spirit.

Come Counselor.

Come Mighty God.

Come Everlasting Father.

Come Prince of Peace.

Come.  

Even to the Costco parking lot.

Soul Food Friday for Father’s Day

My small group sat around the other night sharing horror stories about teens and sexual assault, young men who don’t have role models and don’t have high ideals, don’t respect women…It can be discouraging as we see a lack of honorable young men, but there ARE inspiring stories out there! I want to share some this Father’s Day weekend.

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And last…my favorite Tweet from @XplodingUnicorn

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Happy Father’s Day!

What My Daughters and I are Learning About Community

I’m taking a blogging sabbatical this summer, but will occasionally be sharing some posts from the past. This one was a guest post written by daughter Katy 4 or 5 years ago.

Have you ever taken the Meyers Briggs personality inventory?

It’s where you answer a bunch of questions, and at the end you’re assigned four letters that make up the basics of your personality.
4 powerful letters that tell someone all they need to know about how you’d respond…

  • If strangers showed up at your door inviting you to a costume party,
  • Or if you had to decide under pressure, which wire to cut to diffuse a bomb,
  • Or whether you’d say “Suck it up.” or “You poor, poor baby!” if someone told you their hamster died.

Well in our family, the 4 letters that sum up Maggie are exactly the opposite of the 4 letters that sum me (Katy) up.

In spite of being opposites, while growing up, the two of us were inseparable.  Walking to and from elementary school together, taking (voluntary) trips up to the local library to stock up on Sherlock Holmes books to read aloud to one another in the privacy of the latest edition of our ever-improving fort.  We’d rally the neighborhood kids for night games and home made video productions, snow forts and magic shows.

We were a dream team.

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But then, something happened. I think professionals call it “puberty”. We turned into the worst versions of ourselves, camping out on the far edges of our opposite personalities.

Things that were cute about Maggie became shallow and annoying. My attitude went from an indulgent older sister to, frankly, a superior jerk. Those halves on Meyer’s Briggs became like some sort of bizarre science class punnett square exercise gone wrong.

In our case, it took about 6 years apart and the advent of g-chat to start a new season of communicating. Rather than the cutting remarks and dismissive sarcasm, we began to speak with each other as people, rather than sisters.

Each of us slowly slid towards the center of that personality chart, first recognizing our weaknesses, then working to develop into more balanced people.

It sounds quite nice and simple in that sentence, but some of this “realization” came through heated phone calls and the occasional adopting of our high school personalities.  AKA our “worst selves.”

Now, years later, here we are, co-inhabiting a 900 square foot apartment in the heart of our nation’s capital.  Had you told us 5 years ago that this would be our living situation, we would have thought you were a lunatic.  Surprisingly, it is going quite well.

There have been a few flare ups where we’ve seen those high school selves resurface, and it’s embarrassing.  But we’re truly enjoying one another’s company, the sharing of friend groups, being invited to the same parties, and attending the same church for the first time in years.

We find ourselves working to carve out “sister time” and we’ve seen this time become increasingly more meaningful.  As we earn one another’s respect, we are better able to speak into each other’s lives.

The bottom line is that when we allow the other person’s strengths to threaten us we’re our worst selves.  But when we move towards each other in humility, ready to learn from the other’s strengths, and seek help in the areas where we’re weak, we thrive.

When I can sincerely say, “Maggie, what would you do in this social situation?” where I feel unsure, and she can sincerely ask “Katy, what bus should I get from U Street to get home? or Who is Christine Legard and why do we care about her?” we both benefit.

What I’ve learned from watching Katy and Maggie grow as they live in community is to ask questions.  When I’m in situations where the emotion seems to rumble in my stomach and travel to my face and threaten to come out of my mouth in unwise words I’m trying to ask:

1.  What am I afraid of?  Really.

2.  What can I learn from this person?

3.  What questions should I ask to gain better understanding?

What collaborative, or community building situations are the most challenging to you?  When do you feel most threatened?  What is helpful?

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Living a Plan B Life

I’m taking a blogging sabbatical this summer, but will occasionally be sharing some posts from the past. Hope you’re soaking up God’s goodness and catching glimpses of His everyday grace!

Ice cubes.  6 small potatoes.  A get-well card.

Sometimes in line at the grocery store don’t you feel like the check-out folks are wondering, “What’s she really up to??”

In this case, each item represented “Plan B” on a day that screamed “I live a PLAN B LIFE!” in big and small ways.

  • The ice cubes were for our broken ice maker. (first world problems, right??)
  • The potatoes for a recipe gone wrong.
  • The card for a friend having a double mastectomy.

But this was just a small glimpse of bigger realities of disappointments and losses that got me asking questions like:

  • Lord, why is everyone else always in control and why do I never get my way?  (Clearly no Theresa of Avila here!)
  • Where are You in this and what are You trying to teach me?  Submission?  Humility?  Trust in your redemptive power? (Could I have Door 2 instead please?)
  • Is there anyone not living a “Plan B” life?  (Hard for me to think of anyone, but then I didn’t really want to think about anyone else cuz this was all about ME!)
  • How did Your Bible guys handle Plan B’s?  (Moses, David, Abraham, Paul…wow, a lot of Plan B’s)

Somehow, the most important Plan B discipline for the Bible guys seemed to be leaning in.  Not understanding necessarily.  Not having 1-2-3 answers.  But having the faith to say, “I choose to believe in you, God, more than this disappointment.”

Perhaps the spiritual discipline of Plan B involves giving up the illusion of control…giving up trying to write our own story and letting God write His story through us.

Or this…One line stood out in my Bible reading yesterday morning…

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?…How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him?” (Mt.7)

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I wonder how often God’s bread just looks like a stone to me because I think I know better than Him how my good gift should appear.  Part of the discipline of Plan B seems to be trusting in God’s goodness...His identity even when we can’t see or understand His activity.

Clearly I don’t have this figured out.  This is just me, wrestling with God after a Plan B day in a Plan B life.

I like to have a plan for everything.  And like all people, I like the plan to go my way.  Plan B is not my strong suit, but maybe it is actually my sweet spot (and yours), because it puts me where God wants me, needing to lean into Him.  For His grace.  His presence.  His power.  His understanding.

What’s your Plan B situation?  What are you learning in it about spiritual discipline?

Is it Possible to Fail at Communion?

It’s Memorial Day and I’ve been missing my girls! Here’s a post from a few years ago when Maggie was single and she and Katy were living together in D.C. 

“We’re at church and Maggie is having a meltdown.  

We just got a full page of single-spaced instructions on how to take communion here.  She’s sure she’s gonna make a mistake and wreck everything.” 

I got this text with the accompanying picture from our daughter Katy who was visiting a new church with Maggie in D.C. where they are living together.

Then last week we were visiting them, and arrived right after their second visit to this church.  Communion is served every week and again, they were full of energy recounting their communion experience.

With great animation and hand gestures they said, “Everyone has to walk down to the front of the sanctuary, following the diagram and then it’s like a communion smorgasbord with 89,000 choices you have to make!”

On the fly!  

In front of PEOPLE!  

While thinking about JESUS!

Drink or dip, wine or juice, gluten free wafer or bread

With all these choices, Katy mistakenly ate her bread before dipping, then drank from cup she thought was wine but was grape juice.  Communion fail.

How can anyone reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice and God’s abundant grace when they’re worrying about DOING the wrong thing to celebrate it?

According to Maggie, “You’ve really gotta work for communion at this place!”  Ironic isn’t it?  Work to receive grace?

A friend of hers suggested she might want to do a couple of practice run-throughs before she came back again.

We were laughing at this experience, but I couldn’t help think of a friend of mine who had been in line to take communion once and watched as the girl in front of her systematically plucked piece after piece of the cut squares of bread off the serving plate and stacked them on top of each other in her hand.

My friend thought, “She can’t do that!  You’re only supposed to take ONE!  That’s not the way it’s done! Where are the communion police when you need them??”

Then it was like the Lord tapped her on the shoulder and said “This is what this meal is all about – lavish grace without limit.  Offered at great cost, but free for the taking.”

We’re all beggars in need of bread, but perhaps this woman had a deeper sense of how desperately she depended on Jesus’ forgiveness.

Anyway, all this has got me thinking about our awareness of our own sinfulness and need for grace, whether we follow the directions for taking communion right or not.

The good news is that the only way to fail at communion is to not accept it as a gift that we desperately need.

Have you ever stressed over taking communion?  Is communion conducive to paying attention to God’s work in your life?                                                                                      Have you ever made a “mistake” taking communion?

Soul Food for Memorial Day Weekend

We started Memorial Day weekend off a little early last night with a spur of the moment dinner out, soaking up the beauty of our town. So full of gratitude!

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Whenever you start it, I hope you all have a delightful weekend, perhaps sharing the sentiment of one of my favorite Instagram posts:

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And if it’s been a bad week, just shake it off!

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I want to spend every minute I can outdoors, but our forecast has a bunch of rain in it so I may get into some of the books I want to read…

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Unfortunately, my friend Michelle won’t be getting outside. I went to see her in the hospital today where she’s on bed rest waiting for her 3rd baby to arrive.  She’s longing to be outside this weekend, but is doing the important work of growing a baby!

As hard as it is to be patient, she shared encouragement she got from the Lord on a hard day (she’s already been in for 3 weeks!). They did an ultrasound and not only did it show this clear, tiny foot…

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but God brought to mind Proverbs 16:9 which she wrote on the back of the picture.

In their heart, humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

What a great reminder for anyone waiting for anything this weekend!

Summer’s almost here and that means salads, so here’s a new recipe I like…  I found the original on Pinterest.
Ingredients
  • 1 bag spring salad mix
  • 1 bag romaine
  • I made my own bacon bits but burned them so ended up using a 3 oz bag of Hormel real applewood smoked bacon bits
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
  • 1 large granny smith apple, chopped
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans or almonds
  • 5 oz  Gorgonzola or blue cheese crumbled

Directions
Clean lettuce, place in large bowl and top with ingredients – toss.

Tips

  • You can add more or less of each ingredient – do what you prefer.
  • Chop the apple right before serving to prevent it from browning.
  • This salad is great with grilled chicken tossed on top for a meal.
  • I’m thinking I might try a variation and replace the fruit with blueberries and add red onion

    Mary’s Sweet Balsamic Dressing

    Ingredients

    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil or canola
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 3 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar
    • 1/8 teaspoon dry mustard (or a little squeeze of Grey Poupon mustard)
    • Few twists of fresh cracked pepper Or use 1/8 tsp of reg ground pepper

That’s a little bit of what has delighted me this this week. What about you?

When You Open Your Bible

There are many mornings when I don’t feel like reading Scripture. But almost inevitably, when I do, God smacks me upside the head with something

a. relevant

b. encouraging

c. convicting

d. all of the above

I love our friend Mark Batterson’s line: “When you open your Bible God opens His mouth.”

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Today it is one line from 1 Samuel 14:36 that God speaks to me.

Saul is passionate! Charging ahead! Wanting to knock off the Philistines (for God of course). And then this…

But the priest slowed them down. “Let’s find out what God thinks about this.”

I don’t like Saul, but I am so like Saul – Fire, ready, aim!

I needed this reminder today! I think of my “to do” list – so many plans, ideas… I stop when I read this verse and think also of Nehemiah who had the wise rhythm of prayer/action/prayer/action.

I take out my journal and pray through my plans,

God, what do YOU have to say about this…?

What are my motives in this thing…really? Will this honor You?

It’s one thing to ask, but shoot…then I have to pay attention, like for more than a minute. And I’m a little spiritually ADD.

Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. trying to listen.

What to do When Your Marriage Is Less Than Perfect

Our marriage is far from perfect, and always will be because, well, we’re us. Broken. Selfish.

Still, I am so over the moon thankful for my amazing husband. He is patient when I am so…not. He is cool and steady when I am a hot mess. He is grace personified, spoiling me, serving me…and he’s the most fun adventure companion.

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But, we’ve been married almost 33 years, so there have been one or two seasons when we weren’t as crazy about each other.

The season when kids are tiny can be particularly stressful on marriages because you both are stretched thin like wet spaghetti ready to break. And you both desperately want to be selfish because YOU’ve changed 7,624 dirty diapers and got up with the crying baby LAST time, and cleaned up the crayon masterpiece on the couch, and YOU.ARE.SO.TIRED.

There was another season, though, about 8 years into our marriage, when the kids were out of diapers and I went through a time of having an incredibly critical spirit towards John.

You said WHAT? You didn’t do WHAT? You want to wear WHAT?

It seemed like everything made me cringe and I couldn’t figure out why. John and I were still the same broken and beautiful people who married each other, but I was wearing a different set of glasses.

There are times when absolutely, counseling is the best choice you can make. But there are other times when just a little tweaking is required to get back to a healthy spouse-loving place, and if I was talking to my 32-year-old self, here are some of the things I might say.

First of all, you see what you’re looking for. 

Scientists call this “confirmation bias”.

Confirmation bias – refers to a type of selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one’s beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one’s beliefs.

Have you ever noticed how once you decide you don’t like someone, you see more and more evidence that your judgment is correct?

I’m still not exactly sure why that was a bad season for us, but I do know marriage is like a flywheel – it takes some hard work to get it spinning one direction, but when it does, it seems to keep going.

When the flywheel is flying negative it takes some time and energy to change direction.

If I was talking to my younger self, I’d say, look for anything and everything authentic to affirm in your husband. And then SAY IT. Tell him how much you appreciate it when he’s home on time for dinner, or takes a turn reading Good Night Moon, or changes a diaper.

More than that, the next time you’re out in public, find a way to honestly brag about your spouse to someone else. If the conversation is about a politician making rash, irresponsible statements I could say “That’s one thing I really appreciate about John – he’s wise and patient. He thinks before he speaks.”

If I was talking to my younger, critical self, I’d also say, pray. And not a rant of “Lord can You even beLIEVE what this husband of mine just did?! For the love of all that’s holy, would You just CHANGE him already?” No, I’d say pray for grace, strength, wisdom, and patience for both you and your spouse. Pray that God would equip him for every good work as he goes through his day and then watch for God to show up.

Again, you see what you look for.

What about you? Those of you who have been married a long time, what might you add? 

 

 

 

When the Church Leaves the Building

Yesterday I had the chance to climb to the top of this dome for the third time in my life. IMG_4659

St. Paul’s Cahedral has been standing in one form or another on this spot since 604. It was rebuilt after the great London fire in 1666. It was repaired after being bombed in WW2. It is magnificent.

I love seeing many churches in the U.K. that have remained empty for years, now being refurbished and reclaimed, slowly filling with people – like the plants of Holy Trinity Brompton, where Alpha was started.

We entered into vibrant worship Sunday at St. Luke’s Kentish town – one of these church plants in a reclaimed building.

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Nikki Gumbel (pastor at HTB) compares church revitalization to the story of Lazarus being brought back to life:

This passage indirectly provides a picture of hope for the church. There is a sickness in parts of the church and many are declaring its death. Some parts of the church seem to have ‘fallen asleep’ (John 11:11). And in some cases there seems to be a ‘bad odour’ (v.39).

This passage reminds us of Jesus’ power to bring even the dead to life. This resurrection power is still at work in the church today.

The church is not dependent on the building of St. Paul’s, or St. Luke’s or wherever.

Jesus said, “I will build this church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Mt. 16:18

The bottom line is that we are the church.

And something powerful happens when the church leaves the building.

For a season, some mentors of ours, Gordon and Gail MacDonald, were pastoring in New York City.  They befriended some city bus drivers who were Christ-followers. The bus drivers were discouraged because they felt they didn’t have an environment for ministry.  Gordon pushed back and suggested:

“Why don’t you start up your buses each morning and, while the engine is warming (while still empty), walk down the aisle of the bus and shout, ‘In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, I declare this bus to be a sanctuary where passengers will experience something of the love of Christ through me.’ You can be a pastor in your own sanctuary.”

The bus drivers took his suggestion and experienced a transformation of perspective on their everyday life.  Suddenly their buses were a safe place where they were aware God was present and welcoming.

For my friend Anne a 747 is her sanctuary.  I can’t imagine anyone more full of the love of Jesus caring for weary travelers with joy and patience on the long flight from Minneapolis to Amsterdam.  Her flights are places where God is present and welcoming. Recently Anne switched her schedule to work this flight when I and my colleague were on our way home.  She treated us like royalty, but she does that with everyone she meets!

Another friend moved to a new home a couple years ago and before painting over the walls of her living room, this is what she wrote:

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She and her husband are declaring their home to be a sanctuary where the Lord lives.

The church leaves the building anytime you create a sanctuary in your neighborhood, or office, or on your team, or in your home.

Is there an everyday space that you might pray over and be intentional about making it a sanctuary?

One Secret For Everyday Battles

John has a yearly board meeting in the U.K., so we tend to take a couple of extra days when we can, to see something new. This year we packed a lot into two days.

My husband is much more into history than I am, so when he got excited that we were going to be near a battlefield outside Hastings I said “Woohoo!” without much true enthusiasm.

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Turns out the Battle of Hastings in 1066 is a pretty big deal and was a fascinating visit with an audio guide that revealed several leadership, marriage, and faith lessons I’ve been thinking about ever since we left.

The bottom line in this battle is that Harold, new king of England (by questionable means), was defending Great Britain against William the Conqueror from Normandy (his name kind of gives away the story), who wanted to be boss of the island too.

At one point in the battle, William’s French soldiers mistakenly got word that he had been killed. They lost heart and started to retreat with the British soldiers hot on their heals.

William got wind of this and galloped his horse over to that part of the battle. He lifted his helmet/mask thingy, revealing his face and yelled something like, “I’m alive! Don’t lose heart! Victory is in front of you, only death behind!”

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The men, energized, inspired, and encouraged, turned around and eventually they won the battle.

I just keep picturing this leader, lifting his mask so his troops can look him in the eye and know that all is not lost.

I think of God, lifting His mask and showing us His face in Jesus.

I think of all the times that the battle seems too much…

We’re discouraged, tired, overwhelmed, lonely. We feel beaten up.

We forget who we are and whose we are.

But every time we open the Bible, God lifts His mask again. We see Jesus and we receive encouragement, inspiration and the assurance that He has the battle in hand.

This is what the Lord says to you_ ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.

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