About lauracrosby

I'm a follower of Jesus trying to pay attention to the story God desires to write with my life. I love creating all kinds of things, including a welcoming place in our home where there’s good food and lively conversation. I’m a friend to twenty-somethings journeying with Jesus (and mother to two of them). I’m a walker and a Starbucks groupie. This blog is about creative discipleship and reflections on leadership from my perspective as a friend, wife, leader, mom, daughter, mentor. As I write, the people I have in mind are the young leaders my husband and I are privileged to call friends, but I hope anyone who stumbles across this blog will go away encouraged.

After Easter

Good morning!  So many of you are new to this blog that I decided to re-post an offering from last year about this time.  I pray it is encouraging to you today!

My cousin died last week.  And a friend was deeply wounded by something a loved one said to her.  And another friend continues to pray for healing from a painful illness.  And another is deeply discouraged.  I imagine each of you could add something to the list.

And last week, after Easter, I was reading in John 20 when Mary comes and finds the tomb empty.  It was my “scheduled” devotional reading, and I’m a rule-follower, so I was obedient, and read it, but inside I was thinking…”Easter is OVER!  Been there, celebrated that.  Let’s move on.” (I’m not proud, just being honest).

I felt like those people who leave their Christmas wreath up til May.  Easter didn’t feel relevant after Easter, which I know is soooo wrong, but like at the tomb, God was gracious and showed up

I was clonked on the head like one of the Three Stooges as I entered into this passage as Mary.  Yes, Mary Magdalene, the one who Jesus miraculously cast all the demons out of, but at the same time, someone like all of us, any of us, who are ever in pain, lost, confused...

She’s so wrapped up in her own despair she doesn’t recognize Jesus.  And He’s RIGHT THERE! With her.  But at first her grief is larger than her God.  It’s all she can see.

“I will never leave or forsake you.”

And Jesus asks her “Why are you crying?

I imagine a gentle tone and understanding in His eyes.  And I think, “What would Mary have answered?”

“I’m wrecked.  I’m disillusioned.  I’m lonely.  I’m afraid.  I don’t know what to do.”?

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit.”

And then Jesus says her name.  “Mary.”  And I imagine it like a parent would softly say the name of a distraught toddler as they tried to soothe away their tears.

In that one word it seems Jesus is telling Mary, and us, so many things.

I’m here.  And it will be ok because I’m here.  I see you.  I understand your pain.  I hurt with you. Just a few days ago I was the one saying “My God, why have you forsaken me?”  So I get it.  Really.

“Do not fear for I have redeemed you.  I have summoned you by name.  You are mine.”

So for Joyce and Katie and Sue and Nikki, and so many others I pray that you might sense Jesus turning to you and asking “Why are you crying?”  That you might sense Him truly enter into your pain and gently say your name.

Sometimes I guess I just need to be reminded that Easter isn’t just about Easter.  It’s about all those days after Easter when we cry or feel desperate or disappointed or alone and it seems like Jesus has left the building.  But He hasn’t.  So maybe I’ll leave the Easter decorations up another week.

To All Those Who Didn’t Show

I wrote yesterday about the waiting on the Fool’s Bench at Easter.

As it turned out, I didn’t sit.  I stood near the door to church in the Great Room, craning my neck, looking over the shoulder of anyone I was talking to, hoping to see the shaved bald head of my next-door-neighbor and his blond wife walk in.

I prayed and prayed.  I saved seats at two (count ‘em, two!) services, which did NOT endear me to those who did come and were tackling others for a spot, practically paying hard cash money so they could sit inside the sanctuary instead of in the overflow rooms.

It didn’t happen.  Yes, the other friend did show at an earlier service and I pray that she felt totally hogswaggled by the enormity of God’s love for her, but it’s hard not to focus on the ones who didn’t come.  photo-109

I’ve been thinking about them…All the friends and neighbors and co-workers and prodigal family members you invited to church this Sunday.  Or last.  Or any one of a bazillion times.

They didn’t come because this morning they got too afraid.  Or they were embarrassed, or hung over, or just…tired.  Or they’ve been hurt so deeply that they’re not ready yet.

And I want to say to them, it’s ok.  It’s really ok.  We’ll keep waiting.  We’ll keep saving a place.  We understand.  We’ve messed up and we will again, but we’ve discovered this amazing truth that Jesus is crazy about us, and He’s crazy about you with love that just won’t quit.  Easter is just the beginning that love story.

I go into the sanctuary today and see a guy I know who’s been in recovery a couple of years now.  I get a hug from a friend whose marriage is imploding.  I talk to a woman whose been out of work for two years and has a mom in hospice.  These are my people, prodigals all.  The people just like me who are hot messes.  Broken but being put back together by the lavish love of Jesus.

So if you didn’t come today, don’t worry.  But know that these are your people too.  And we’ll be there waiting, saving a place for when you decide it’s safe to come in.

 

The Fool’s Bench at Easter

It’s early Easter morning as I write this at Starbucks.  Husband John has already come and gone to church to proclaim, “He is risen!” at the second of six services (The first was last night.  Weird, but I guess it was already Easter somewhere in the world)

 

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As I sit here, some come in dressed in their Easter best – pastel and fancy.  All patent leathery.  Others wander in their scruffy Sunday morning grunge – either clueless or apathetic or defiant.  I wonder which as I watch them.

Last night John got an email from some friends who have had no use for church.  It started, “You probably hate those ‘dicks’ who just show up at Christmas and Easter, but ___________(his wife) has had a rough month.  Her dad died and she may show up at your church tomorrow.”

We respond with encouragement and welcome.  “We’ll save you a place!”

The other day I took cookies over to my next door neighbors, also “not church” people.  I included cards to invite them to join us for Easter at our church and lamely mumbled “We’d love to have you come, but no big deal if it’s not your thing.”

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I continued to chat with my neighbor and her dog for another 15 minutes about everything and nothing.  I turned to leave and she shouted after me, “See you Sunday!”

What the what??  I stopped in my tracks, thinking “You mean you’re COMING???  Just like that??  I didn’t expect you to, you know…actually respond!”

But what I said, all nonchalant and natural was “Great!  I’ll save you a place!”

Last year I wrote, “One of the best gifts we can give each other is a place in community. That’s Easter.  Jesus inviting everyone to enjoy a place at His table.” 

John has shared in the past how we have adopted an idea originated with Bill Hybels.  We refer to the seats outside the sanctuary as the Fool’s Bench.  This is where folks wait for folks they’ve invited to church.  They may be friends or family members they’ve prayed for for years.  They sit and hope and pray, “Lord, please prompt them to come.  Let nothing discourage them.  Let them feel loved and welcomed.”  It’s called the Fool’s Bench because you sit there alone, and sometimes no one shows.  But sometimes they do.

So this morning I’ll be sitting on the Fool’s Bench, because Jesus, through the cross and resurrection is saying to any and all, “No matter who you are or where you’ve come from, I’ve been waiting for you!  There’s a place saved with your name on it!”

Happy Easter!

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How Do You Picture Choosing Life?

As I’ve been traveling I’ve not been able to post very consistently and I’ve really dropped the ball on our One Word Fridays.  Sorry about that.

Like I wrote the other day, it’s been a week of living back into real life.  And part of that has been letting my heart and mind catch up with the rest of me.  Doing a kind of  Examen.  Celebrating places of Life, and mourning places of Death.

The main thing that drives me to write this blog is the conviction that we don’t just drift into becoming more like Jesus.  We have to pay attention.  When we do, maybe we end up saying with Jacob, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”

So…today I’m paying attention to the “patches of God-light” or instances from the past two months that shouted, “This is what it looks like to choose LIFE!”.  Here are 6 of them:

1.  Hospitality  We had the delightful privilege of staying at the guest cottage belonging to some friends in Charlotte NC while we met with some mentors.  We had dinner with our friends and some different topics of interest came up in our conversation.  The next morning (one when rain was predicted), here’s what our hostess left outside our door.  The books are about the topics we had discussed the night before.

Choosing life = paying attention to the way I can serve others.

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2. Relationships  A week in one of my favorite cities, reconnecting with friends in ministry at National Community Church and spending time with daughter Katy!

Choosing life = learning from everyone everywhere.

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3. Travel in Israel/Palestine, Telos Conversations and at the International Justice Mission Global Prayer Gathering

Choosing life = partnering with God in His work of bringing justice around the world.

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4. Creation Life emerging from death, even in Minnesota!

Choosing life = noticing the smallest gifts.

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 5. Words

Choosing life = choosing to share life-giving words that build up rather than tear down.

Bob Goff (@bobgoff)
God doesn’t look for typos in our lives; He’s a creator, not an editor. We’re all rough drafts of who we’re becoming.

6. Random Acts of Kindness Twice in the past two months – once here and once in Florida, people have surprised us, paying for our dinner!

Choosing Life = looking for opportunities to delight others.

photo-102What are some places you’ve experienced Life over the past two months?

 

Easter and a Lunch in Jerusalem

It’s Easter week and I do NOT have the gift of evangelism.  Easter delights me.  Evangelism…well, not so much.

Can you relate?

I was part of a Christian organization in college that taught us to “share our faith” (read: tell people how messed up they are and scare the Hell out of them.  Literally).  We had to go out and practice “sharing” the 4 Spiritual Laws with people (read: random, confused strangers).

It may have scarred me for life – not the tract, the way of “sharing”.

Or maybe I’m just using that as an excuse.  I have nothing against the 4 Spiritual Laws as a resource.  Ironically it is how I came to faith in Jesus.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I was sitting around a table in Jerusalem eating lunch with a very diverse group of people.

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There were other Jesus-followers like me (you know, kind, sensitive, careful to not offend).

And there was our host, who pastors a church of mostly Messianic Jews.  He is passionate about bringing Jews into a relationship with Jesus – accepting Him as their Messiah.

Lastly there was a Jewish couple at the table who do not buy the Jesus as Messiah line.

I sat in the middle of the table with the “Burdened pastor guy” at one end, and the Jewish couple at the other.

What if the Jewish couple felt offended, uncomfortable, or judged?

What if the pastor “preached” at them (or served pork?).

What if my friend Matt Moberg asked a question that stepped on someone’s toes somewhere at the table and they slammed down their fork and stormed out?

I know that the Gospel can be offensive even if we don’t make it offensive with our delivery. (1 Cor. 1:23, Romans 9:33)

But it didn’t happen.  What also didn’t happen was an honest conversation where real questions were asked respectfully from both ends of the table.

The pastor shared his prayer – that the Jews would come to know Jesus as their savior.

The Jews at the table did not fall to their knees and “pray the prayer of salvation”.  Everyone was respectful and no blood was shed.

Afterwards it prompted several conversations in our group about our posture towards non-believers in Jesus, or explorers, or people of other faiths.

Augustine said “Preach the gospel everywhere. If necessary use words.”  Most of us, I think, have decided that words are really never necessary.

Are we actually denying our faith by our uber-sensitive silence?

I’ve been thinking…What if we, as Christians, saw ourselves as hosts at a luncheon, around a table with guests of varying experiences, just like the one I attended in Jerusalem?  Maybe we’d prioritize

  • People over projects.  If you’re getting to know someone, you want to KNOW about them and have them know about you…authentically.  Build on what you have in common, but be honest about where you have different perspectives or experience.
  • Love language over foreign language.  Genuinely care for the other.  Ask yourself  if you’re speaking a “language” they’ll relate to.
  • Conversation over conversion (which means more asking than telling)
  • Appetizers over All-you-can-eat Old Country Buffet. Offer tiny bites (like those mini desserts in shot glasses they have now).  Don’t try to cram a whole meal down someone’s throat.

Like I said, I’m really not good at this, so I’m trying to learn.  Are there experiences or thoughts you can share?

“But in your hears revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect…”  1 Peter 3:15

 

 

What I’m Not Reading

I’m home.  Home to my little house in my “Mayberry” neighborhood and my community filled with people who cheer and frustrate, and are broken and in the process of being put back together just like me.

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The past two months have been rich and stimulating and very, very full.  Full of new relationships and places and ideas, and stories and prayers and intense conversations.  It’s been wonderful and overwhelming at the same time.  And not the norm.

I love variety and travel and learning new things.  It’s a blessing.  But I need to get back to living my real life.

So…this is the pile of books I’m not reading.

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Don’t get me wrong.  They look really good and I’m excited about digging into them, but here’s where I’ve felt a pinch in the butt by the Holy Spirit.

I’m getting fat.

It’s crazy wonderful to be exposed to stimulating relationships and new information and great books, but the danger is we become obese – filled up with all of the deliciousness and getting no exercise.  Processing and applying nothing.  A holy hoarder if you will.

I think…”Oh that’s such a great IDEA!!  I should tell someone and they should DO it!”

“I will think more about _______________(insert anything I hear that I’m convicted or excited about) and how real that can be real in my life…someday.”

“I’m gonna Tweet that quote!”

We consume more, tweet more, Instagram more than we live into.

These days I need to do more living into.

I have a friend who used to say, “Start reading Jesus’ words in the New Testament and when you get to a command, stop, and don’t read further until you do it.”

And then there’s Jen Hatmaker who writes, “At some point, the church stopped living the Bible and decided just to study it, culling the feast parts and whitewashing the fast parts.  We are addicted to the buffet, skillfully discarding the costly discipleship required after consuming.”

I’ll get around to reading these books and be glad I did, but not today.

Today I need to write a note of encouragement, take a walk and pray present, do laundry, and forgive that person who dinged me.  I need to create stuff and breathe deep and serve others in my real-life community.

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For you the challenge may be the opposite.  Maybe you need to stop doing and be still.  Or maybe you’re starving for more sustenance and need to fill up with inspiration from God’s Word and information about the needs in His world.

What are you living into today?

Changing the Hashtag

Is it just me or does it seem like Christians have been acting a little meaner lately?

Maybe this shouldn’t surprise me, but it does.

My mom was one of those who said “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  And mostly, my tribe has lived by that.  Certainly you who read this blog are in that camp.

But, it turns out that church world can be a pretty darn ugly place.  Especially in social mediaville.  Go figure.

World Vision is a vibrant, effective, non-profit organization that exists to serve the poorest of the poor in Jesus‘ name. We believe the work they do, with extraordinary commitment and love, is amazing.

Two weeks ago the leadership and board of World Vision made a series of mistakes. Mistakes they are heart-sick about.

Mistakes that have undercut the trust of supporters, and deeply wounded gay people who are beloved children of God.

But I’m thinking, maybe the biggest mistake the leadership of World Vision made was to drastically over-estimate the ability of Christian brothers and sisters to live in unity and love while not agreeing on everything.

Sadly, it seemed to me that many in the evangelical world responded with swords of self-righteousness drawn, marking battle lines.  It felt like everything was end-of-the-world-dramatic and horrible.

As I read the comments and tweets and posts I thought about our two daughters who are very different from each other.

One is an introvert – strong, with brown hair…wicked smart and a runner. The other is petite, blonde-haired, creative and committed to social justice. She does yoga.

Both are followers of Jesus.

They are beloved children of ours.                                                                                                                                     They are beloved children of God.

They are different from each other, and different from us and (surprise surprise), we don’t agree on everything. But…

We wouldn’t say to either of them, “You can’t possibly love Jesus or spend eternity with Him or do good in the world because you disagree with us on gay marriage.”

But that, essentially, is what many in the church did in response to an HR decision that was trying to love employees well and fairly, and recognize that although World Vision as an organization doesn’t endorse gay marriage, not all Christians agree with them.

It’s like the church people with the loudest voices were shouting with hashtags like #WHOSINANDWHOSOUT.

I confess that there have been times when that has been me.

The thing is, I don’t see anyplace in my Bible where, because someone didn’t agree with Jesus, He said, “Nope, that’s it!  Not gonna love you anymore.”#REJECT.

I don’t know that He’d be a hashtag kind of guy, but if He was I’m guessing it might be different than some of the ones I’m tempted to use.

In spite of the loud, pharisaical voices the world hears and has come to equate with “evangelicalism” – I am encouraged by some gentle-strong voices of friends who are saying with humility and grace, “We may disagree, on some things, but we both love Jesus and are trying to be kind and brave and love like He would.”

I believe there are many who would like to model a different kind of love to the world.  I believe there are many who, even if they disagree about some of the things, would unite around the Main Thing.  

I believe many who love Jesus would like to encourage one another under a new hashtag.

What if Christian organizations and churches and leaders united around the love that Jesus modeled?  What if we flooded social media with words of compassion and life and encouragement?  

Maybe we could talk to each other about the places we disagree face to face, where there’s room for nuance and expression and deeper understanding.

Will you join me in changing the hashtag?

#LOVEGODLOVEPEOPLE

When Mistakes Have Been Made and You Want to Hide

I’ve titled this series “When Mistakes Have Been Made”, but I’m thinking that may minimize what we’re talking about and what many of us experience.  Maybe the title should be something more like “When you’ve messed up messier than Lindsay Lohan.” or “When your sin seems like a toxic waste dump”.

The problem is most people are doing the best they can.  They’re trying really hard to do the right thing.

Sometimes as a leader you make an error in judgement that hurts many like friendly fire.  Other times you feel like you’re walking through a land mine of personal sin. But you long to do better.

Whether it’s your personal choices, or identifying with a community that has behaved badly, sometimes you just want to hide. I’ve written about silence and lament, but clearly there’s more.

When I make mistakes I think I want to hide, but I realize I really want something else.

This is a note I framed that Katy wrote when she was about 4 or 5 years old.

IMG_3323 In case you can’t decipher it it says,

“Do not come in! P.S. I will be under the covers.”

In other words, I’m hiding, but I really want to be found. I want you to find me and love me no matter what I’ve done or how bad I’ve messed up. 

Isn’t there a part of all of us that feels that way? A desire to be known. Found. Accepted no matter how big the mistake. No matter how “not good enough” we feel.

I’ve been thinking lately that I should hang another picture underneath this note.

picture of the Samaritan woman at the well. The woman trying to hide in plain sight, going to the well in the middle of the day – like an obese person shopping at Walmart at midnight – so she wouldn’t be shamed by critics.

It struck me recently when I was teaching on this passage… What is it that she runs back and tells everyone after her encounter with Jesus? What impacted her the most? “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out.” (John 4:29 MSG). He saw her and He still accepted her. She mattered to Jesus.

Just a reminder. In case you’re feeling like you’re under the covers and no one knows, you’re wrong. God knows. He sees. He loves you. No matter how “not good enough” you are.

 

When Mistakes Have Been Made and You Don’t Know What to Do

I vividly remember the second time I ever saw my husband, John.

He was up in front of the congregation at the church I was attending. He was the youth pastor, fresh out of seminary and it was his first time preaching. He was leading the congregation in reading the morning Scripture passage responsively – him one verse, us the next. The problem was he was reading from one Psalm and the congregation was reading from another – the correct one – the one printed in the bulletin.

After a few awkward, “off” responses that left people confused, he stopped and said, “Have you ever made a really big mistake in front of a lot of people?”

I may have fallen in love with him at that moment. A leader who can own his mistakes and move on is rare.

But some mistakes are much bigger than others.  Sometimes owning our mistakes is complicated and the consequential damage can seem irreparable. Continue reading

When Mistakes Have Been Made and You Don’t Know What to Say

Hmmm… Well…Ahem…(Can you picture me looking down and scuffling the dirt with the toe of my shoe?)  A lot going on this past week on so many fronts…

Mistakes have been made.

I’ve made them, you’ve made them, we all have.

Some have bigger consequences than others.

Ironically, part of the text for John’s sermon yesterday included these words about Peter on the Mt. of Transfiguration “He did not know what to say…”  This comes right after “Peter said…” (Mark 9) Continue reading