Refugees and Red Cups

Thanksgiving is a wrap, and it has finally snowed in Minnesota. It is the first Sunday in Advent. As I look out on the lake starting to slowly freeze, I write “Buy Christmas Tree” on my to-do list, but my mind is still reflecting on Thursday.

This was a “different” Thanksgiving for us. We were taken in as “refugees”, fleeing from a year of hard memories, looking for a different home in which to celebrate the holiday.

I looked down the long, long table filled with laughter and flickering candlelight, conversations amongst our “other family” and some people I’d never met before and I was so thankful.


It was not the table of my hometown, not my immediate family, no brother David at the head, but still…we felt at home.

Because we were in a place of love and welcome and “There you are!”

There were hugs, and favorite dishes, “Tell me about…” and “I’m so sorry…”

You and I and those in refugee camps and on streets everywhere all long to be invited; to have a place at the table, to feel welcomed and loved and known.

And this is God’s desire for us. To have a place at His table.


As we light this first Advent candle called Hope, I think of the homeless, walking dusty roads near and far, looking for a place, today and 2,000 years ago.

I think of Jesus who seeks a home with us, and how as we welcome others we welcome Him.


We, as Jesus people have the opportunity to say “There’s room for everyone at the table. Come.”  And instead we complain about red cups.

Where can we embody the Hope of Jesus today?  What if we threw open the doors our hearts?  What if we set a place at our table and welcomed someone in?




Soul Food When You Just Need to Smile

Most of you have probably seen this by now, but my cousin Katie posted it on Facebook last week, and oh. my. gosh. the JOY!!! I couldn’t love it more! If this doesn’t make you smile I don’t know what will!

What snaps you out of a sulk? I bet this will :)

This is so cool! What if we actually spread light like this wherever we went?

May your weekend be filled with continued thanksgiving and joy!

Preparing to Prepare for Jesus

So I thought I was doing so much better with the jet-lag thing this time around, but maybe not. This morning I was awake at 4:00, up at 4:30 and out the door at 5:00. Problem is my Starbucks doesn’t open til 5:30. So I walked the long way, through the dark silent streets of my neighborhood, most folks still snuggled in their warm beds, dreaming of sugar plums or something.

It was cold and crisp and as my breath showed up in white wisps, it gave me a chance to pray and to reflect on the upcoming Advent season.


The silence and peace of the early morning was such a contrast to the noise, and hurry that can dominate this season when we long for the “heavenly peace” of Silent Night –  to be preparing for Jesus.

It got me to thinking…What do you want for Advent this year? What do you love about Advent? What are your hopes? How do you make choices instead of allowing the world to squeeze you into its mold?  I wrote last week about having a plan.

So, two questions that lead to choices around Advent: Continue reading

5 Questions for a Happier Holiday Season

Note: this is a repost from last year. It’s hard to look at this picture, but as I read it over, it strikes me that in this season of loss, these questions may be more important than ever for us. Maybe for you too.

It’s three days before Thanksgiving and Christmas is just a ho-ho-ho away.  For most of us that means more family interaction during a season when we’re often physically, emotionally, and spiritually stretched thin.

DSC00629For people who are trying not to gain weight, they say the most important thing is to go into food intense situations with a plan.

As I look back on our early days of marriage, there are things we could have done to set ourselves up better for success.   We could have used a plan!

Yesterday I shared the following with a young married couples community I shepherd at our church, but these  guidelines for a holiday plan apply whether you’re married or single… Continue reading

Stay Woke

“Stay woke” is a phrase I wasn’t familiar with until recently. Now it seems I see it everywhere I turn. It’s a phrase used by much of the African American community.  And it’s a spiritual practice I’m passionate about – that is, “Pay attention to the world around you!”

I think that “staying woke” often comes when God’s Word collides with our everyday lives. We see the Gospel being lived out and are inspired, or we are prompted by the Holy Spirit to do something unnatural to us, but common to Jesus.

This morning I thought of it as I was reading James 3:17 which is describing a Holy life.

It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings...treating each other with dignity and honor.

This was timely as God’s Word often is, since you know…He’s God and all.

Anyway, it brought to mind two recent “snapshots”.  In each instance I observe friends who “stay woke” and treat those who are often “invisible” with the dignity and honor of men and women made in God’s image. Continue reading

A Reminder For Days When the World Seems to Be a Windstorm of Evil

As I write this I’m sitting outside in Lilongwe, Malawi. I write “November 18” in my journal, but it seems incongruous to think of cold gray skies and bare trees at home when it may reach 100 degrees in the afternoon here.

Now, at 6 a.m. though, it is tolerable and a breeze blows like it has continually since we arrived.

Sometimes gentle, sometimes with more confidence, the wind blows.

We receive news that the world seems to be crashing this week – chaotic, mean, angry, divisive. ISIS, racism, guns, immigrants without welcome…

And yet, in this tiny country that few can find on a map, the wind of God’s Spirit still blows.

We sit with people from around the world, joining hands and hearts with our hosts, who include some of the “least of these”.

We sit under a Baobab tree sharing stories, and the breeze whispers around us, and each time I am reminded that God’s spirit is still here, still at work and I think of another time the Wind was felt.

When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them. Acts 2:1-4

I sit and feel the breeze under the trees as a thankful community dances and sings around a well of clean water that they helped build with World Vision, that they know how to fix, that has changed their life – from despair to joy, from sickness to health. Continue reading

When God Sets Eternity in Our Hearts

Dear Baby David,

As I write this, John and I are in Malawi, but I’m thinking of you.

It’s been four months since you left us.

Thanksgiving is next week and you won’t be here to play football with the family, or cook the turkey on the grill, or sit at the head of the table. You and John won’t be cleaning up in the kitchen after the feast.


And soon we will enter a new season. Snow will softly cover the ground like a Mama quietly tucking her baby in with a comforter.

I want to stop the days and the snow and the Christmas season from coming.

It feels wrong to go on without you and I keep thinking of things I wish I had talked to you about before you died.

Faith is a gift, but it’s also a choice. We choose to continue to trust that God is good in spite of this very bad thing that has happened. Very bad for us, but you not so much.

People like to say “He’s in a better place…He’s with Jesus…He’s free from pain now” and I believe it’s true, but often they’re words we say without really understanding, because, well, we’re still here – alive, but not with you.

Here’s the thing…It felt like if we talked about “IT”, we didn’t have enough faith. Like we were giving up on OUR specific preferred prayer outcome.

If we discussed the possibility of death we were opening a scary door we didn’t want to crack. Because as wonderful as life in heaven might be, we’re basically a very selfish lot who want you here.

Yes, we fully knew as we prayed for healing, not only that God COULD easily heal you in this life, but also that He MIGHT not.

His healing might come on the other side. We believe that because we trust in Jesus, Life with Him forever in heaven is ours. But we really didn’t want you to go ahead without us.

So when I heard John Ortberg preach on death and heaven in the spring, I wanted to share it with you, and talk about it, but also… I didn’t.

Ortberg quotes Ecclesiastes: “[God] has also set eternity in the human heart…” And then he says:

Everybody dies. Every creature ceases to exist, but God has set eternity in the human heart.

I think about it like this sometimes. One of the most amazing aspects of nature to me is how God has placed in animals…a kind of built-in homing instinct of incredible accuracy….

Homing pigeons, I understand, can find their way home from places they have never been on the planet so accurately they were actually used by the ancient Romans and Genghis Kahn.

Dung beetles actually navigate home by the Milky Way.

Salmon leave the ocean and travel to the exact spot on the exact river where they were born.

And then my favorite part: Continue reading

Soul Food – Gifts for Christmas

It’s almost Thanksgiving. Twinkle lights are starting to appear and Peppermint Mochas are available. I’ve started playing Christmas music and praying about how God might use these posts to bring life and peace this Advent.


One of the huge stressors of the season is the gift giving. Can I get an “AMEN”?!! The financial strain, the time crunch, the emotional stress of trying to find Just The Right Thing. We want it to be delightful and natural and sometimes it is, but others times…

Can I make a few suggestions (especially if you have young kids)? Note: everyone is different! Maybe these aren’t right for you. Continue reading

The Rest of the Story on the “B word”

On Monday I wrote about reading the Bible and my plan for this year.  I mentioned that I hesitate to write this kind of post because it can sound so legalistic which is not how I feel or what I want to communicate. I have friends reading this who are not yet into the Bible. Just the word can seem threatening, so I feel like my words on this are extra important.

So I tried…But when I read back over the post, it felt…kind of 1, 2, 3-ish. Not the whole story. Like saying Jonah is about a fish. Just a few facts.

My relationship with the Bible has changed over the years, just like my relationship with Jesus has changed.

I have such a deep love for God’s Word in this season that it’s hard to express it.

I am drawn to the Bible. I savor it. I feel tenderhearted like Mary, and awe-struck like the shepherds in the starry night filled with angels. It is intimate and conversational and life-giving.

There is a foreverness about God’s Word that is deeply reassuring. But it hasn’t always been that way. Continue reading

4 Benefits to Reading (most of) the Bible in a Year

Confession: I am afraid this post is going to come off like one of those neat and tidy, happy clappy “Life is so good with Jesus” posts that are true as far as they go, but can make everyone feel queasy and a little “less than”.

That is NOT what I want. But I also can’t deny the powerful effect committing to a “Read through the Bible in a Year Plan” has had on me. Yeah, I’ve always read the Bible before, but this has been different. And yes, I’ve missed a bunch of days, but that’s ok.


So…Here are few things I’ve experienced reading the whole most of a lot of the Bible in a Year Continue reading

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