Finding a Mentor and Being a Mentor

I sat across from a young woman at Turtle Bread where I often meet with people I’m mentoring.  It’s a vibrant little neighborhood place with a retro black and white tile floor and vintage distressed tables. It makes me feel hip, like I’m in a French café but in the middle Minneapolis. Such illusions. :)

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I hesitate to use the word “mentoring” because it sounds so official and important and I am so definitely NOT. (seriously.) However, I’m blessed to be friends with some young women who I meet with one on one in what they refer to as a “mentoring” relationship.  Because people ask me about these relationships often, I thought I’d write a bit about them.

Finding a mentor is a little like finding a date on Match.com.  You have ideas of what you want, but you’re also grateful if anyone says “yes” at all.  If you want some suggestions on finding a mentor, check this out.

Being a mentor is a little like jumping out of an airplane – you’re scared, but willing to take the leap. You feel out of control and completely dependent on the pro you’re harnessed to. That is, you’re acutely aware of dependence on God. If you want more on being  a mentor, check this out.

Any day I drive to meet with my younger friends I have this conversation with God:

Me: God, I’ve got nothing! No perfect nuggets of wisdom, no silver life bullets, no black and white answers.

God: Just show up with me. I’ve got your back.

I pray for those I mentor. I ask a lot of questions.  I text them if a verse comes to mind or write a note of encouragement.

But mostly I try to listen to God and listen to them.

That’s the only key I know to mentoring.

Listen to God. Listen to the other.

Oh, and remind them that they’re doing fine. They are enough because God is enough.

What has your experience been with being or finding a mentor?

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What Are You Hoping For?

“Hope” is a weird word. I’ve always felt like it’s used a lot, but it’s kind of fluffy and fuzzy, often without substance, like pink cotton candy.  We’re drawn to it cuz it’s pretty, like a wish, but I think maybe we don’t really understand it in a way that’s helpful in our “with God” life.

We mistakenly think that hope is positive thinking, or the tingly good feels, or confidence that things are going to turn out the way we want them to.

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John started preaching a series on hope a couple weeks ago.  It’s caused me to reflect a lot about this word.  I think where we get off track is in the object of our hope.  I know so many people who are longing, wishing, hoping for something deeply important to them – healing from cancer, a baby, reconciliation in a relationship, marriage, a job…

And that’s good and natural to ask God for what we hope for.  Jesus says “Come to me…” and “What do you want me to do for you?” and “Pour out your hearts…”

But when I put my hope in my specific picture of a future, that’s where I get in trouble. I’m trusting in circumstances and feelings and myself more than putting hope in my God.  If I cling to my specific picture of hope I make an idol out of it instead of offering it with open hands to God who knows better than I, and who can, even in this broken world, bring good that I can’t imagine out of despair.  It may not be the good that I conjured up, or the perfection I would experience in an unbroken world, but like this quote says:

“Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.” Rumi

We bring our scribbly picture to God and, like a toddler who thinks they’re Picasso, demand that He frame it and declare it perfect as is.  “THIS IS OUR ONE AND ONLY HOPE!” we say.  “We will DIE without this hope fulfilled!”

But I think God patiently waits for us to settle down and hand over our picture for Him to paint in and around and create something that may look totally different. But better in a way.

That doesn’t mean that giving up our picture is without pain and grief.

We see folks in Scripture struggle with this constantly. Abraham, Moses, Joseph – people who had to let go of controlling the way they wanted their picture to look. They learned to put their hope in a Person rather than a product.

Job 13:5 Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.

Isaiah 40:31 But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength…

Psalm 146:3,5-6 Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save…Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, an everything in them – He remains faithful forever.

Sometimes the picture changes because we are victims to the hurtful choices of others. Sometimes because of our own choices, and sometimes because we just live in a world where we will always experience the lingering effects of the Fall.  Our picture of a hoped-for future may change, but God does not.

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken. Ps. 62:5,6

What has your experience with hope been?

What I’ve Been Reading

I had quite a list of books that I wanted for Christmas.  And I received a bunch, including two copies of the same book, both from my husband (He blames it on the fact that he didn’t save all his shopping til Christmas Eve like is his usual custom, so he forgot what he had bought. And wrapped, apparently)

Anyway, I’ve been enjoying making my way through this stack and I thought I’d share some with you.

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Continue reading

Saints and Sinners and What Matters

We flew to Atlanta Monday morning for the memorial service of a dear friend. A saint and a sinner like all of us, but also a man who has left a powerful kingdom legacy that inspires thousands.

It’s been a weird, hard, mystical journey that we have participated in from afar the past 9 months as Steve died “well”; honest about the pain and even fear, of letting go, but also the joy of reaching out to heaven – the next leg of the eternal life he began with Jesus here on this earth.

We left Minneapolis at 14 below zero and deplaned in a tropical 46 degrees. As we drove to the hilly, pine-forested suburb of Peachtree, I was amazed by the gift of purply pansies, crocuses, and yellow jonquils, defiantly triumphing over February. A courageous picture of the life we were celebrating.IMG_3856

I sat in the classic white, sanctuary before the service, buzzing with people of faith, converging from states coast to coast, greeting each other. Bound together by Jesus and grace. Hard to imagine more prestigious national ministry leaders gathered in one place.

I felt inspired, strengthened, sobered by the privilege of standing together before our God, singing lustily “Great is Thy faithfulness, O God our Father…”

Side by side stood book writers, soul winners, slave rescuers, well diggers, good news bringers, and advisors to presidents.
Prophets, pastors, and professors with voices raised together in worship. The room was filled with so many we know, love, have served with… Scattered throughout the sanctuary were friends who have fertilized and cultivated our small faith.

There were others too, who have impacted us differently: a pastor removed from ministry for a “moral failing”, another divorced and remarried, his ex-wife also present. Across the room, a ministry leader who deeply wounded me, and a supremely confident, sharp-witted woman with whom I feel small and intimidated.

Many would look at a list of the people in that room and think, “What an amazing collection of kingdom leaders.”

But what struck me was “What an amazing collection of sinners saved by grace. What a gift to know that this is what binds us together. Not our sufficiency, but rather, our utter dependance on Jesus who died for our friend Steve, and for all of us who are, like toddlers, lurching forward and stumbling, trying to follow Him.”

In the end, we’re all just a sacred mess, waiting for clean up on aisle six.

Our voices – those of holy riffraff all – were raised in faith and hope.

“Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine and ten thousand beside…”

Monday night it got cold and snowed in Atlanta. But the flowers still bravely stretched their faces towards heaven. Like we do.

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Two Practices to Help you Get off the Moving Walkway

Returning to Real Life after a vacation (even a short one) in a Warm Place is a little like jumping onto one of those moving walkways at the airport in the “keep walking” lane. You’re concentrating on getting Somewhere and thinking about Things, while juggling luggage and trying not to run over other moving walkers.  It’s easy to be absorbed with lists and tasks rather than present to God and others.

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This was my challenge last week. Real Life kept getting in the way of a Real Relationship with God – you know, where you actually are still, and listen, and talk to Him and say “What do You have to tell me about Yourself and myself, Jesus?”  I’d be humming along, getting things done – even good things like reading the Bible – and all of a sudden realize that being with Jesus was kind of like brushing my teeth – I was going through the motions without thinking about it.

Here’s what happens when being with Jesus is like brushing my teeth – I start feeling fat and ugly and discouraged and cranky, tired, and out of sorts – kind of like a toddler who needs a nap or a time out.

There are a couple practices that seem to help me in my gotta keep going on the walkway, or cranky toddler mode – Centering Prayer and the Examen. Don’t freak out that they sound all contempla-yogi.  That’s not me.  But just 3 minutes with either of these helps gently steer me back into a relationship with Jesus instead of a religion about doing things.  Even a mom with toddlers can manage that.

Centering Prayer is a method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God’s presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship.

My friend is so good at the practice of Centering Prayer. She can’t imagine starting her day without 15 minutes of silent listening with Jesus. But for me it’s quite a discipline not to devolve into thinking about my grocery list after about 3 minutes.

Anyway, I’m getting off track (much like I’m prone to do with Jesus).  Here’s what happened when I truly sat still and silent with Jesus in my tired discouragement.  He reminded me “I’m in this.” and “I am your team.”  Just that.

In Centering Prayer it’s not like you’re going to hear the audible voice of God. Maybe absolutely nothing will happen except that in silence you’ll acknowledge who you are (beloved child), and who you’re not (God). But maybe God will give you a little nudge..remind you of something, or bring Scripture to mind.

When I returned to the practice of the Examen – reviewing my day and looking for where I was cooperating the most fully with God’s action in my life and where I was resisting – the story was a bit different.  I became aware of a heck of a lot of sin that I needed to ask forgiveness for.  Clearly when I’m on auto-pilot life is all about Me. But that was just this one day.  Sometimes I’m overwhelmed at all the places where the Life and work of God is evident when I stop to look back over my day. Either way, they help me engage with God rather than multi-tasking Him into my life on the moving walkway.

This practicing the presence of God is hard stuff!  What do you do to stay awake to Him?

Stronger in the Rhythm of Everyday Breathing

We got back Tuesday night late from a long weekend in Florida celebrating my nephew’s wedding. Even though it was cold for Florida, there were bright colors like fuchsia and emerald that we forget during the never-ending Minneapolis winters of snow white and soot gray.  We didn’t have to wear 10 layers of clothes and spend 20 minutes just “getting ready” to go outside.  Mostly there was sun and the smell of fresh cut grass. We could breathe.  And we did.

We breathed in the love of family and friends and laughter and deep sleep and play – such delightful play.  It made me think again, of how much we hold our breath in the everyday grind of life and how we need to figure out a rhythm that allows us to breathe without waiting for vacation.

My One Word for 2015 is Stronger.  The rhythm of breathing is just one more area where I need to grow stronger, and I was reminded of these words I wrote awhile ago:

It’s summertime, which for me conjures up memories of being at the Lake House with my cousins, perpetually in a wet swim suit, rarely out of the lake.  One of the many games we would play was “who-can-hold-their-breath-longest-without-dying”.

Ok, it wasn’t a real active game, but you know…simple pleasures.  And nobody actually died so our parents considered it a win.

Sometimes without even thinking about it, we play life like this  “who-can-hold-their-breath-longest-without-dying” game.

I don’t write much about Sabbath.  And I’ve never written about Selah.  But as I’ve started running, I’ve become much more aware of the importance of rhythm and rest, and basics. Like breathing.  And not holding our breath til we pass out.

Selah is a term used mostly in the Psalms and a few times in Habbakuk that is a bit of a mystery.  Scholars aren’t positive what it means, but they think it means “rest” or “pause”.

Mark Batterson says, like in music, if Sabbath is a full rest, maybe Selah is a sixteenth rest.  A chance to catch your breath.

Or maybe Selah is the life jacket that helps us pop up above the water of everyday stress. Continue reading

Faith

Faith is a funny thing.  It shows up in hospital rooms and in the desperate “Help!” silently prayed in the midst of a tense conversation.  It seems to hover in the beauty of forests and night skies, punctuated with hallelujah’s.   It peeks around the corner where single moms struggle to survive and shows up brave where “I forgive you’s” are offered.  It’s whispered on the lips of soldiers dying in foreign countries, far from their moms.

But this week, as we attend both a family wedding and the funeral of a dear friend, it strikes me that faith surprises us most when we stop to look at life and see it in a multitude of “thank you’s”. Continue reading

What are You Trying to Cover Up?

“The good news is that we’re all doomed, and you can give up any sense of control. Resistance is futile. Many things are going to get worse and weaker, like democracy and your upper arms.” Anne Lamott

Unfortunately I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel.

This weekend we’re going to be celebrating a family wedding in Florida, so that means trying to fix all the body parts that I can usually cover or camouflage in winter, but which will be uncovered and un-camouflaged in photos for all eternity after February 14th.

In my efforts to fix All Of The Things before Saturday, I focus first on my freckly legs and arms.  I blame the 70’s and Farrah Fawcett for this debacle that no amount of magic cream can repair.  We were all about the baby oil and rays and tan.

Gen Y you are wiser and prettier than that. You’ll grow old maintaining your alabaster skin because your moms slathered you with sunscreen. Thank them. Today.

Anyway, a friend of mine told me about Jergens Natural Glow – a moisturizer with sunscreen that “gradually creates flawless natural-looking color…” Tan in a tube! It worked for her so I gave it a go, but on me it looks totally orange, so now I just appear like I’ve been on a bizarre diet of carrots for the past 6 months.

Next, I finally gave in and bought a sleeveless dress after resisting for years.  Unfortunately the fashion industry has apparently decided that sleeves are too extravagant so they aren’t making them any more.  Consequently I’m hoping that 3 weeks of lifting tiny weights in front of the TV will result in finely toned arms for this weekend.  A woman can dream.

So what’s your thing?  What is it that you’re self-conscious about? The thing that keeps you from getting out on the dance floor, or from wearing a swim suit, or compels you to wear a hat? Continue reading

What are You Afraid Of?

This weekend I did something I didn’t want to do. I opened myself to something when I really wanted to remain safe, and closed. I did it because I thought it would be good for me, like eating Kale or going to Yoga class.  Healthy, but uncomfortable and not very palatable.

I put myself in an environment with a speaker whose theology I don’t always agree with. It was a situation where there would be questions and theories and ambiguity and nuance and I was afraid this person might speak for God in ways that wouldn’t make Him happy. More accurately, he might speak for God in ways that I wouldn’t.

My inclination is to run from controversy and fog like I’d run from an angry bear in the forest. But I want to be brave.

I’ve always preferred black and white to gray, the safe middle to the unknown edges when it comes to theology, and yet, I came out of seminary with more questions than I went in with, but also a bigger, safer, though more mysterious God.

Maybe I went in thinking I could study God like a scientist studies monkeys and learns to predict their movements.  But it was more like diving into the ocean with alternately crashing 10 foot high swells and then motionless becalmed water. The pull of the tide, and the dark, fathomless depths with sea caves and weird creatures.

So why, if I’ve felt secure enough to thrash in the sea with God, does my stomach clench when I’m in situations where someone might say something “wrong”, angry, or… gasp, even heretical? Continue reading

How to Get Your “-er”

Choosing “STRONGER” as my One Word for 2015 definitely has it’s downsides.  It means I’m being forced to look at the WEAKER areas in my life and, you know…actually DO something about them.

My Weight Watcher leader used to say, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

So “-ER” means SOMETHING has got to change.

One of the glaring weaknesses in my character is around money.  I just don’t like to pay attention to it.

At all.

Start using words like “budget” or “overdraft” or “money market” and my eyes glaze over like a stoner from the 70’s.

It’s not like I’m a crazy spender. I’m not really a “shopper”.  But I just always assume there’s gonna be money there for me to give or spend – like the Tooth Fairy just takes care of my bank account.  This has led to a tad bit of, let’s just say, less than responsible money management (since there’s no “management” involved).

It’s like with weight and diets.  The more you know, the more you feel responsible.  I don’t want to know anything about money because I really don’t want to be responsible.

Ignorance is bliss baby!  To get your “-er” you need to do something different. Continue reading

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