What Harm Can a Text Do?

A young woman I mentor sat across the table from me in my Starbucks “office” and shared her frustration that a member of her small group had dropped out.

The woman had posted something on Facebook about her candidate in the presidential election.

Someone from the small group had pushed back on Facebook.

The group member sent an email letting the group know she had been hurt and offended and wouldn’t be coming anymore. She declined to meet in person to clear the air and come to a better understanding.



I don’t personally know all of you who read this, but I’m betting each of you could share stories of misunderstanding that have come from a text taken the wrong way, or lack of response to an email, or an ill-advised opinion posted on Facebook that hurt someone’s feelings.


Sometimes it’s what we do communicate, and sometimes it’s what is left unsaid. Sometimes it is the inability to hear a tone of voice, or see a facial expression that gets us off-track relationally.

A friend of mine pointed out these verses recently:

I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. 3 John 13,14

Do you think even John and Paul may have dealt with people misunderstanding their heart when their letters were limited by the inability to convey a gentle tone and empathy…to reach out and touch someone on the arm, to look deep into their eyes?

I encouraged my young friend to process this experience with her small group, and without talking about politics, or the woman who left, ask themselves what they can learn from this.

Are there times they can share when they have been misunderstood because they didn’t communicate something sensitive or potentially explosive face to face? Or times they’ve been hurt by someone else?

Why do you think people are bolder on social media than they would be face to face?

How can they can redeem the relationship with their fellow group member?

Is there any policy regarding disagreements that they might agree to as group moving forward?

Our hard and fast rule is “NEVER fight in email (or text)”.

My small group has a 24/7 text chain which is an awesome way to encourage each other and share prayer requests and even silly things. The other day one of the women shared a prayer request and I was tempted to make a joke about her dysfunctional family (which we ALL have and which we’ve joked about in person frequently), but it was a text, and I was uncertain how she was feeling in the moment so I didn’t send it.

My thought? When in doubt, leave it out.

What has been your experience with misunderstandings when communicating through social media?


Why We all Need an Aunt Joyce

My Aunt Joyce is 87 years old. She is my mom’s sister, 5 years her senior.

When they shared a bedroom as kids Aunt Joyce convinced my mom that at night she climbed out the window and became Wonder Woman, her tights and cape hidden in the gutter of the roof. (I don’t think she realized Wonder Woman doesn’t wear a cape).


As much as I love Aunt Joyce, she lives thousands of miles away and until recently we weren’t in close contact.

Then two things happened. David got cancer, and she (who has never EVER owned a computer) got an iPad.

You might say Aunt Joyce is a late bloomer. She gives me hope for myself.

Aunt Joyce got her ears pierced at 84. But she won’t buy dangly earrings because she thinks it draws attention to her less-than-young-looking neck.

She was distressed after she had cataract surgery and she could see her imperfections more clearly. She asked me to pray for her pride because she said even Nancy, her Clinique girl would not be able to help her.

She stood in the background while David was in hospice, praying. Just praying. The whole time she reminded me of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Sure, steady, peace-filled. A quiet comforter.

She has a goal of having her whole church over to her apartment, a few at a time, for dinner. She asks me to pray for grace and patience when she is having the “elderly” over for coffee. They can be a bit cranky, you know.

Recently Aunt Joyce sent me this wonderful quote on prayer:

“Fall upon prayer as your only aid and help in this life. When you are weary, pray. When you are joyful, let your joy feed deeper prayer. When in hunger or thirst, open your heart to the Lord. When in exultation bind your life more firmly to God. When prayer itself if hard, pray all the more. For prayer is ascent to the heart of God who is its true and proper Master in every condition of this life.” Archimandrite Irenei

We all need an Aunt Joyce

  • to remind us, as Craig Groeschel says, “If you’re not dead, you’re not done.”
  • to remind us of the value of “small things” (Zechariah 4:10)

God is great not because nothing is too big for Him. God is great because nothing is too small for Him either. Mark Batterson

  • to remind us that “A changed world begins with us … and a changed us begins when we pray.” Eugene Peterson (James 5:15b)
  • to model a quiet, godly life of faithfulness that clings to God no matter what (1 Thes. 4:11)

And, like Wonder Woman and Super Girl (or Lucy and Ethel) I just stared open-mouth last year when my mom, the other half of this dynamic duo, said she thought she and Dad (82 and 85 years old) ought to take the 2-6 a.m. shift hosting the homeless at their church on Christmas Eve.

This is the same mom who texts and sends pictures on her iPhone, and dresses so hip that her granddaughters have been known to borrow her stuff.

Who are these women??? I want to be like them when I grow up.

The Fields Preached Me a Sermon

In the predawn dark I see twinkle lights have dressed the trees on the square outside my Starbucks, but the fountain will be on for a few more days.

We’ve had a frost, but half the leaves are still holding on for dear life, like a climber dangling from a rocky cliff precipice, desperately clinging. They share one final gasp of color – a last hurrah.


It’s that in-between time when change is coming and it may seem dark and ominous like that spooky abandoned house, or maybe to you it’s an invitation to comfy hibernation – a soft place by the fire while the wind howls in the dark outside.

Creation is my spiritual pathway. I love seeing more of God and myself through His hand in nature. When I walk I love to ask, “Lord, what do you have to show me about yourself and myself today?”

The other day this line struck me from my morning reading

The fields preached me a sermon. Proverbs 24:33 MSG

Isn’t that great?

One of the things I love about waking early in the morning is that when I walk to Starbucks, the stars are still bright and are such a powerful reminder that I did NOTHING to put them there, or keep them there, or guard them through the nighttime hours. They were there yesterday, and will be there tomorrow. Because God.

I breathe deeply and relax in His sovereignty. I am not the boss of the stars, or the leaves, the fields or the streams. They will keep growing, waking, sleeping, flowing. Because God.


William Bebe was a friend of Teddy Roosevelt’s. He said the two of them would go out on the lawn at night and search the skies for a certain spot of star-like light near the lower left-hand corner of the Great Square of Pegasus.

Roosevelt would say: “That is the Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda. It is as large as our Milky Way. It is one of a hundred million galaxies. It consists of one hundred billion suns, each larger than our sun.” Then Roosevelt would grin and say, “Now I think we are small enough! Let’s go to bed.”

Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing. Isaiah 40:26

When our eyes look up, our anxiety goes down.

What sermon do the fields, or the stars, have to preach us today?

One Key to Racial Reconciliation

This weekend a video went viral of a confrontation between a policeman in our town and a young African American. As hard as it is to watch, John and I have viewed it several times. We’ve prayed, and reflected, and read the many articles and responses.

(Warning – graphic language)

Everyone watches through a certain lens, with particular baggage, expectations, and bias.

People are quick to take sides. To want to say this person was RIGHT and this person was WRONG.

But what if issues like racial tension became less about one-upmanship and more about relationship? 

What if our posture was more one of humility, curiosity, and respect towards those different from us?

As I’ve reflected on this, I really think one of the keys to racial reconciliation is that we ask more questions, and listen longer than is comfortable.

I wonder how this cop and this young black man would answer these questions about the incident:

  • How did you feel during this experience and why?
  • What were you thinking? What motivated you to respond the way you did?
  • What, if anything might you do differently if you were to have a “do over”?

Whoever’s “side” we gravitate towards initially, what if we were to listen carefully to “the other’s” answers and ask more questions?

What if the cop were to invite the young man out for coffee and just listen?

What if the cop were to listen deeply to the young man’s answers with respect and without defensiveness?

What if the young man were to listen deeply to the cop’s perspective?

Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. 1 Cor. 13

What Do We Say to our Daughters and Sons?

Back in the 90’s we grappled with how to talk to our kids about Bill Clinton’s immorality.

Yesterday a dad with two daughters asked me and a couple other moms with grown kids how he ought to talk to his 11-year-old about what she is hearing about the Trump tape.


He started a conversation, driving her home one day recently and she said “Oh I know all about that! I hear about it at school”.

Here’s the thing. Our kids may have INFORMATION.

Our daughters and sons may know that WHAT they are hearing is wrong, but they need to know WHY it is inappropriate and HOW to be strong and brave in potential situations they may find themselves in.

If there is one regret I have as a mom it’s that I didn’t coach my kids for awkward situations more.

The good news is that this terrible tape and election in the gutter gives us a chance to reiterate with our daughters (and sons) that they are fearfully and wonderfully made. God has created them inside and out as amazing bundles of uniqueness to be cherished – treated with respect, and honor.

Over and over again as they go out the door we need to remind them that they are precious masterpieces of infinite worth.

And then we need to say…

If someone uses lewd, crude language that offends you…

If someone talks about another person in a way that is degrading…

If someone asks you to do something that makes you uncomfortable…

If someone touches you in a way that is unwanted…

You are the boss of you.

You are the boss of your eyes and ears, your mind and body.

You ALWAYS have a choice. God has made you of infinite worth and so you look up, not down.

You may be scared, but you whisper the prayer that never fails: “Help.” Then you stand tall and use your voice. You say, “STOP! THIS IS NOT OK!”

  • But what about the value of tolerance?

This kind of behavior is evil and evil is never to be tolerated.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [or women] to do nothing.” Edmund Burke

  • But what if they laugh at me?

You pity them. You look them straight in the eye and say, “Your laughter does not make me less than.” I am trying to respect you and I expect you to show me respect too.

 “Strong men — men who are truly role models — don’t need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful.” Michelle Obama

  • But what if they call me a prude?

Words matter. They can hurt . But when that happens you wrap yourself in this word: “BELOVED”. And you remember:

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”  Luke 6:45

May God work even this together for good in our homes. May we raise brave, kind, strong sons and daughters who respect themselves and others.

“When they go low, we go…”

The Most Important Time to Unplug

Years ago during a long, snowy, Minnesota winter, our girls built a luge run over our deck stairs ten feet high, down through the back yard to the pond below.

As Maggie prepped for her initial run on a plastic sled, she asked John to stand at the edge of the pond and promise to catch her if she was going so fast that she might slide onto the ice which was thin.

John reassured her over and over again. No problem. He would catch her no matter what.

You can guess what’s coming, right?

Maggie zipped down the luge and flew right past her father’s outstretched arms so fast that he actually jumped back instead of catching her and into the slushy pond she went.

Shocked, scared, mad, betrayed, sad, wounded…WET.

We all have ice-crashing moments when there is a tumult of emotion and our first reaction is often to reach for a security blanket that may look like our phone, TV, or computer. 

If you’re like me, maybe you do this because our drive in emotional turmoil is either to escape or to vent.

However, ice-crashing moments are the exact time that it is most important to unplug. I write this because I experienced an ice-crashing moment last week and in the aftermath I learned some things about myself that may be true for you too.

Texting, TV, or social media is dangerous in emotional times because it:

  • Distracts from issues that need to be faced. I don’t think a Netflix marathon with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s is always a bad thing at all, but if we don’t do the hard work of being still with God alone, we will default to emotion and letting unhealthy tapes play over and over in our head.

We need to look hard at the emotion and interrogate it. Ask where it is coming from. Where is the truth? What would the Enemy like me to believe? What is the most life-giving response I can embrace?

  • Demands that we DO something too quickly. The relentless 24/7 access to information, noise, voices tends to amp up our sense of urgency. There is a word in scripture translated “terrified” that is the Greek word, “tarasso” which means “to set in motion what needs to remain still”.

Betrayal + quickly written emails = disaster.

Anger + quickly posted tweet = disaster.

Fear + quickly posted FB warning = disaster.

When we stay plugged in we may be tempted to set something in motion when instead we need to remain still.

  • Distances us from Jesus. How often is my phone the first thing I reach for – to vent to a friend when I have an ice-crashing moment? How often do I put an electronic device between me and Jesus, thinking, I’ll get around to talking to Him at some point, but really I’m obsessed with strategizing my way out of the discomfort? My goal isn’t really getting His perspective, but controlling the situation instead.
  • Discourages us through comparison. Turning to social media after an ice-crashing moment will do one of two things. It will make us proud because we will see others who are much “losier” that we are, or it will make us feel defeated because EVERYONE we look at has it all together. Neither is a great option.


My phone is my security blanket. The best decisions I made last week were the times I distanced myself from it and left it at home. Maybe that’s not true for you. Maybe it’s something else that needs to be unplugged or left alone when you have an ice-crashing moment. What’s your experience been?

When You Need Encouragement For Your Race

Yesterday was the Twin Cities Marathon. This time I was on the sideline cheering for friends and relatives running, scuffling, wheel-chairing, limping, charging to their finish line.


I’ve run (read: scuffled) races myself, and other times like yesterday, I’ve cheered and prayed like crazy, feeling like part of a team with all humankind who are doing the best they can to run a good race.

When daughter Katy ran the Marine Corps Marathon a couple years ago I had the opportunity to be a cheerer.

I anxiously kept scanning the crowds of runners and praying for Katy, like the father of the prodigal son, willing him to come into view from afar off.

And when she came into sight I went crazy: IMG_8597

Is this a tiny bit of what our Heavenly Father feels as He watches us running our race of faith?  Is He picking us out of the crowd, fully aware of the miles when it’s going to be harder to keep putting one foot in front of another?  

Sometimes proudly pointing, like “That’s my boy!  That’s my girl!”, and other times yelling, “You’ve got this because you’ve got Me!!  You’re not alone!”

We are all runners.  We are all cheerers.

We all have hard races to run and we need each other.


As cheerers we get to be the megaphone of God for a world full of weary marathoners.

I knew that miles 19-22 would be the hardest for Katy and so I got to jump on the course and run with her for that stretch.  Just like the year when she ran alongside me, and John cheered, and friends prayed and supported.

Two years ago in D.C. when Katy came up that last tough hill into sight, approaching the Iwo Jima Memorial at the finish line I had no shame.  I went crazy jumping, screaming, crying, waving.

And somehow above the voices of thousands of others, she heard, she turned, and found me.  She smiled and waved and as she passed me and ran to the finish line there was this picture – the bright turquoise runner in the middle of the frame – tiny in the grand scheme of things, but unmistakeable to her earthly parents and her Heavenly Father.


And this is you too. Know that you have a heavenly Father who is crazy about you, cheering you on today.

A Tale of Two Films

I watched two films yesterday.

Both left me speechless.

One left me in tears of despair for how far our country has fallen, and the other left me in tears of awe and inspiration at the triumph of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity.

One was a film of one of our presidential candidates.


The other was a film about the courage of two women and a man in the Katwe slum of Kampala, Uganda. 


Both are true stories.

One degrades and objectifies women. The other demonstrates that dignity and dreams can prevail.

One is about keeping the status quo that empowers some and leaves others subjugated. The other is about empowering everyone and bringing about change that lifts and honors even the poorest, smallest, and most invisible among us.

Here’s the thing…We can and we should decry the morals, language, and values modeled by Donald Trump but we can and should do more.

Could I suggest we make a commitment to:

  • Examine our own hearts for hypocrisy and repent.
  • Examine our own lives for language that is crass, crude, demeaning, or just not God-honoring and stop it. Period. 
  • Examine the way we are raising our sons and daughters and ask:
    • Are we raising godly men who will treat women with the honor and respect they deserve?
    • Are we raising godly daughters who are aware of their inherent worth apart from their looks?
    • Are we raising children who will say “No! This is wrong!” and instead aspire to all that is good, pure, honorable, and integrous*
  • Examine the stories we gravitate to that fill our minds. Are we going low or going high?

*Mt. 23:25, Colossians 4:6, Deuteronomy 6:6-8, Philippians 4:8

Fix It God

What’s your go-to when you pray? If you’re like me there are many words asking instructing God to CHANGE something! Heal, move, provide, DO something drastic to FIX things, right?

Lately I’ve been impacted by something John shared with me. He’s been preparing for an upcoming sermon series on the prayers of Paul and the other day he pointed out that Paul never prays for circumstances to be changed. 

He prays for God to be glorified. He prays for formation into the character of Christ. He prays to know more of God’s character in the situations he’s in. But he doesn’t pray “FIX IT.”

This morning in my reading I saw an example of this.

Colossians 4:2-6 Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude.

Don’t forget to pray for us, that God will open doors for telling the mystery of Christ, even while I’m locked up in this jail. Pray that every time I open my mouth I’ll be able to make Christ plain as day to them. 

Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech.

Paul doesn’t ask them to pray “Get me outta here!” or “Smite these Roman rascals!” He prays for an open door for the message of the gospel to be clearly proclaimed. Right. Where. He. Is.

So I’ve been thinking about the implications for you and me.

Maybe this morning we pray that God, instead of changing THINGS, would use us for His glory, His purposes, in the midst of the mess.

Lord, right where we are today, may we shine the light of Your love, may our words be gracious, may we model your non-anxious presence…

In our crappy job..

In the hospital…

In the traffic jam…

In our singleness.

In our home with rebellious kids or sticky toddlers…

In our team with the people we don’t like…

In our old age…

So that You will be glorified and others will want to know You.

And if you’re a parent, this is for you 🙂


A Priest, a Levite, and Me at Starbucks

There’s a new guy who’s been coming to my “office” (read: Starbucks). He’s maybe 45 years old, chubby, with white blond hair. He wears track shorts every day rain, shine, or 50 degrees. He sits in the same chair looking for his next victim someone to talk to.


I’ve watched him, desperately latching onto anyone who will catch his eye. If someone acknowledges him, however briefly, it’s all over. He will stick to them like a factory tag you forgot to remove from your jeans, trying to make conversation. My judge-y mcjudgerson self thinks he might as well have “EMOTIONALLY NEEDY” written across his forehead.

And so, I’m careful to avert my eyes so I don’t get sucked into his vortex of chattiness. I don’t need this. I don’t need him interrupting my time with JESUS.

And then Jesus tells me a story about another guy in need by the side of the road, and a priest and a Levite who avert their eyes, crossing to the other side in order not to be  inconvenienced by the messiness of this stranger’s life.

But then, the least likely suspect, (maybe it would  be a white supremacist stopping to help an African American today), draws near and cares for the man’s needs. Jesus commends him as the loving neighbor.

I sigh and think “Ok, ok, Lord. I get your point.”

I go to the counter and ask my baristas, “What do you know about the guy who’s been coming in lately? What’s his story?”

“He says he got kicked out of another coffee shop, but he’s trying to be good and he likes it here. He’s got PTSD.”

I pay for his next day’s drink anonymously, feeling self-righteous. I’ve done my “Good Samaritan” thing, ready to move on. But Jesus isn’t done with me yet.

I want to turn away, but Jesus turns towards.

I sense Him gently asking: “Did the Samaritan throw a CVS gift card across the road from a safe distance and let the needy guy buy his own bandages? Is a free drink the only thing this guy needs to feel loved and seen? Have you never been needy or lonely?”

Jesus can be so persistent and inconvenient can’t He??

So this morning I say a quick prayer and brace myself as I walk into Starbucks. I look needy guy straight in the eye, smile, and say “Good morning! I’ve been seeing you here a lot lately. What’s your name?”

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