Finding Your Own Walk

In the summertime I feel like a thirsty person at the end of a long run, standing in front of a gushing fire hydrant, mouth open wide to receive big gulps of sparkling, cold water as fast as I can.  In Minnesota summer is short, so we have to drink quickly!  It’s the DELIGHTFUL season of barefoot and bike rides, corn-on-the-cob and birdsong, pink sunrises and living large outdoors. All of the time.

A friend went strawberry picking and made shortcake for our small group.  Another divided his Hosta to share with me (my yard bunny thanks him :( ).  I got fresh vegetables at the Farmer’s Market Saturday.  Today I’ll celebrate a friend’s birthday lunch outside on the lake.  A baby robin, Roberto, rescued from our window well, has become like a member of our family.

Summer, you are so good.

This past week I had the added gift of getting away to a retreat home in Virginia – tucked in between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Alleghany mountains.  It is a place that has been built with love and prayer and attention to every detail.IMG_7524

I wanted to share some excerpts from a poem, written by our host, Anne Grizzle, in hopes that you might find your own walk with God this summer and “join in the applause”.

In the Cool of the Morning

No matter what else is happening in your world,

and even when summer afternoons are scorchers,

you can still, like Adam and Eve, sneak out

in the cool of the morning and walk with God.

Find any woods, lake, meadow, or garden spot

and wander down whatever hillside, pounded path or

thicket that calls your name that day until something

makes you cry uncle and stop to wonder –                                                                  IMG_7608

IMG_7603 IMG_7555 IMG_7562At each stop, declare Habakkuk’s words,

“The Lord is in his holy temple.

Let all the earth keep silence before him.”

In that silence, you might hear

a titmouse twittering, a fly

circling until it lands, or the wind,

like parents with a baby at the circus,

clapping the tree’s hands in delight.

You may join in the applause.

Where are you stopping to “cry uncle” and wonder at the work of God?

If you like this, you may also like the post What do you do When It’s April in Minnesota?

 

 

Three Ways to Fight

My husband John has been in the leadership boxing ring with a maddening challenge for the past couple years.

I’m on the sidelines, literally jumping up and down, shadow-boxing in our kitchen and yelling “Go to the mattresses!” when he reports the latest crazy atrocities at the end of a day.Unknown

I’m a DO-er!!  I want to take out an Uzzi and FIX this now!  Ok, as a Jesus-follower that might not be the best plan, but for the love of justice!!!

Trying to ratchet back the passion and put on the mantel of patience John seems to wear so easily, I’ve been reflecting on the different responses to THE ROCK AND A HARD PLACE LEADERSHIP CHALLENGES I see in Scripture.  Here are three I’ve come up with:

1.  Stand still. Do not fret.  The Lord will fight for you. We see this in Moses’ life and leadership.  He says, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” (Ex. 14:13).  Psalm 37:7 says, “Be still before the Lord and with patiently for Him”  Pray and wait.  (definitely not my strong suit!)

2.  Step cautiously.  Be patient and wise and measured in response.  Go slow. The Lord is at work in ways we can’t see.  I see this in the account of Nehemiah, who had a deliberate rhythm of prayer and then action as he led the Jews in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.

And in Esther, who, with Mordecai, created a wise strategic plan to advocate for her people who were in trouble.

3.  Set aside all the “rules”.  (my favorite :)) Seek a new way. Innovate.  Fight, in the strength of the Lord.  I see this in David‘s battle with Goliath.  The armor of conventional warfare didn’t fit (1 Samuel 17:32-50).  Something radical and innovative was called for.  Sometimes we even call this “the third way”.

Of course it isn’t always (or even usually) a clear cut #1, 2, or 3, but it’s been helpful to me to think about these.

Do you have a challenging situation you’ve been praying about?  Which of these approaches do you naturally gravitate towards?  Which is the most unnatural? Can you think of others?

If you sit with open hands, imagining your ROCK AND A HARD PLACE THING, still before God, how might He lead you?  Maybe it’s different today than how He will lead you tomorrow, but just for today what’s your “fight” strategy?

 

Birthdays, Feeling the Awesomeness, and a Spiritual Practice

A little re-post from a couple years ago…Have a happy Monday and remember you’re awesome! (even without a hat)

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Here’s an email one of our daughters sent to friends recently, asking them to save October 15th.  Why that day?   Here’s what she wrote:

“Because it’s magical.  Because it’s the day of my birth!  And I demand that you all celebrate with me.  I don’t have an exact plan yet, but you can assume that it will involve you all, celebratory beverages, and you all telling me how glad you are that I was born.

I love it!  Now of course she was writing that tongue in cheek.  She’s not at all arrogant, but unlike most of us, she does have a pretty healthy self-image. 

I, on the other hand, am more like the rest of the world, and deal with insecurity in varying degrees depending on how many cookies I’ve eaten, a song I heard on the radio, and the barometric pressure that day.

I love Mark Batterson’s thought: “Our focus determines our reality.”

Am I focusing on ME and how I stack up compared to everyone else?  Or am I focusing on GOD and the truth that I am a beloved child of His and He delights in me? Continue reading

Holding My Breath

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

When I started running, I became much more aware of the importance of rhythm and rest, and basics. Like breathing.  And not holding our breath til we, you know, pass out.

This is not about Sabbath, but Selah. 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.

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If, as Eugene Peterson says, Sabbath is a day of “shutting down and shutting up.” maybe Selah moments are those in your day where you stop to think about breathing.  Reorient, and remember that you’re not in control, but you know the One who is. Continue reading

6 Things I’m Learning About Handling Criticism

In our relationship John and I often say that the emotional trajectory of my typical day looks like this:roller-coaster-ftr

And John’s emotional trajectory looks like this:IMG_0532

So when a young woman I mentor asked if she could come over and talk to us about how John has navigated the crises and criticism of leadership with a “non-anxious presence” and how I have achieved the victory of not, you know…killing, any of those critics, we said, “of course!”

John’s temperament just naturally sets him up better for criticism, but he also has a lot of wisdom to share and I have a lot to learn.  Our conversation made me reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned  I am trying to learn about dealing with criticism.

Here are a few: Continue reading

3 Insights from my Reader Survey and Why it Might Matter to You

Two and a half years ago I prayed about God’s direction for a new season, and He used the story of Elijah and the widow to prompt me to use my “flour and oil” – my tiny bit that He would make enough.

Specifically, this blog.  I said, “Ok, I’ll try to show up with my flour and oil if You’ll show up with Your Spirit.”  It is no holy-moley exaggeration to say that it’s been a stretching experience of dependence on Him for weekly words.  Any value here is Him graciously using me.  Last week, for the first time I did a survey to see how you feel it’s going.

People in “real” jobs get a pay check and a yearly review.  Students get grades and diplomas.   We all grow by evaluating - setting goals and checking to see where we’re hitting the mark and where we need to recalibrate.  Other than praying and trusting God, discerning progress and value on a blog is hard.

I know surveys can be a pain, so I want to say a HUGE “Thank you!” to the many readers who took the time to give feedback!  I sooooo appreciate it!!  It was informative and encouraging!  Often I write and post and it feels like my words are flying out into a vast cosmic void.  This survey assured me that there are actual PEOPLE reading and being encouraged by these posts God graciously gives me.  It was so great getting to KNOW you a little bit through your responses!

Three things I learned from the survey: Continue reading

Three Ways to Choose Life When You’re “Stuck”

This week has taken on the theme of “stuckness” so I thought I’d continue it on this One Word Friday.  

When we’re stuck, “LIFE” often seems to be a choice hiding like Waldo at a convention of clowns.  It requires determination and intention.

Again, this is not a magic formula, but here are three things I do to try to “choose life” when I’m stuck:

1.  Affirm the LIFE in others.  Write notes of encouragement and blessing, noting the value you see in others.

2.  Pray LIFE for others.  Take time to lift up others who are struggling in challenging circumstances.

3.  Practice gratitude for the LIFE around you.  I love the theory that I just read in Rhoda Janzen’s memoir, “Menonite Meets Mr. Right”.  She tells of a jar of water representing discontentment being displaced as we drop in rocks of gratitude.  The waters of discontent are forced out by the rocks of thankfulness.

What are some ways you choose life when you’re feeling stuck?  Consider posting in the comments below!

Here are just a few of the things I’m grateful for today.  I wish there was a way to waft the aroma of barbecue and lilacs and clover and to record the squeals of the kids on my block playing in their wading pool!

DSC00814 DSC00811 DSC00808 DSC00807 DSC00801 IMG_7121

 

What to do When You’re Stuck, part 2

Tuesday (yes, I’m a little off schedule with the holiday weekend) I wrote about the universal experience of feeling stuck from time to time.  For a week, or a month, or maybe you feel like you’re living a “stuck” life.

I shared some things I’ve been learning and trying to apply from Nehemiah who never acted without praying, and never prayed without acting.  Like peanut butter and jelly, prayer and action were inseparable in Nehemiah’s life as he got the Israelites unstuck and lead them in re-building the walls around Jerusalem.

But it turns out there was more.  Instead of pb & j, it was more like a BLT.  There was a third distinguishing characteristic in Nehemiah’s life – praise.

Over and over again he acknowledges dependence on God’s character – His power, His help, His care.  Nehemiah doesn’t lose sight of who’s God and who’s NOT.  He prays on behalf of the people “whom You redeemed by YOUR great strength and YOUR mighty hand.”

He reminds others “our God will fight for us” and says “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome…”  He tells others about “the gracious hand of God” repeatedly, and acknowledges the work is done “with the help of our God.”

So…PRAY, ACT, PRAISE, REPEAT.  But what if this “magic” formula doesn’t work in 52 days like it did for Nehemiah?

Sometimes I believe we stay stuck because God is at work “unsticking” other stuff in us that we’re not aware needs unsticking.  Character stuff that may not be our priority, but is His.  Like the stubborn leftover egg in a frying pan, He scrapes away.Unknown

What if our prayers in these seasons included, “Lord, help me not just to obsess on getting unstuck, but for as long as I’m here, show me what You want to form in me.  Help me to be present to You in each moment.”

Our friend, Steve Hayner, is “stuck” in a season of scary, debilitating cancer.  He is beautifully living out a life with similar character qualities to Nehemiah.  The other day he wrote this:

 In J.B. Phillips’ translation of the New Testament, he renders Romans 5:1-5 this way: 

1-2 Since then it is by faith that we are justified, let us grasp the fact that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through [Christ] we have confidently entered into this new relationship of grace, and here we take our stand, in happy certainty of the glorious things he has for us in the future.

3-5 This doesn’t mean, of course, that we have only a hope of future joys—we can be full of joy here and now even in our trials and troubles. Taken in the right spirit these very things will give us patient endurance; this in turn will develop a mature character, and a character of this sort produces a steady hope, a hope that will never disappoint us. Already we have some experience of the love of God flooding through our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us.

 

These were great verses to wake up to this morning.  Life is lived in the grace of Jesus through and through–whether the grace is obvious in our immediate circumstances or not. With Jesus at work in our lives, God’s “good” is always being done and we always continue to grow and to be transformed.
Have you been in a situation of feeling “stuck” over a long season?  What do you feel like God was forming in you?

What to do When You’re Stuck, part one

Years ago, when we were newly married and just learning to play golf, my sisters-in-law and I were on a course together while our husbands played ahead of us.

Other than sister-in-law, Rose hitting a tree and having the ball careen back over her head, farther away from the hole than where she started, the day might have been uneventful except that sister-in-law Betsy had the bright idea of driving the golf cart through a sand trap.

Golf carts, in case you were wondering, are not dune buggies.  Their wheels spin like the blades of a fan – a lot of movement, but no forward motion.

I’ve been been thinking of that spinning-wheel-spitting-sand-stuckness lately because that’s the way I’ve been feeling.  

Stuck is not a feeling unique to me.  If you’re not there now, you probably have been.

  • Maybe you’re stuck in a job you don’t like.
  • Stuck in a relationship that’s not healthy.
  • Stuck in a financial hole.
  • Stuck with a problem that seems unsolvable.
  • Maybe doors seem to be closing and you can’t find the proverbial open window.  They’re all closed too.

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In my personal “stuckness” I’ve been re-reading Nehemiah and trying to apply some principles from his life.

Nehemiah is the guy who was wrecked by the report he received in exile that the walls of Jerusalem were in ruins.  He is the leader who God uses to oversee the rebuilding of the walls.  Look at just a few verses from the book of Nehemiah:

“I prayed before the God of heaven. THEN I said…”

“I prayed to the God of heaven AND I answered the king…”

“We prayed to our God AND posted a guard…”

Here’s the thing that strikes me most deeply:

Nehemiah never acted without praying and never prayed without acting. 

For some of us, our tendency is to major on problem-solving.  Strive, fix, do, without inquiring or submitting or listening for the counsel of the Know-it-all-Guy we say we want to give control to.  So we spin our wheels often digging in deeper in the sand.

For others, the temptation is to do a lot of praying and reflecting and “put it in God’s hands” assuming that means He’ll magically do all the work and we can go sit in the lawn chair with some ice tea, thank you very much.  Abandon the golf cart for someone else to deal with, as it were.

I tend to fall into the first camp – fire, ready, aim (to use a different metaphor).  So here’s what trying to apply this Nehemiah principle is looking like these days in my life:

I pray early each morning.  And by that I mean I rant at God a little bit in my journal, telling Him about all the stuckness in my life, in case He hasn’t been paying attention.

And then I ask Him what He’s going to do about it, and what He wants me to do about it.

And then I try to pay attention to the constructive choices I can make, circling back to God to say “So what do you think about THAT?  Whatcha gonna do now?  And how close are we to getting out of this sand trap?”

Maybe as you pray, the action God will prompt you to do is to get counseling, or take a Financial Peace class, or apply for a job, or find a mentor.  

PRAY, ACT, REPEAT.

If only that was the magic formula.

But wait!  There’s more!  Next post…

In what ways have you been (or are you) stuck?  What helped?

 

 

Living Instead of Liking a Better Story

First, let me say loud and clear: I LOVE the ministry of Jen Hatmaker!  I think she is an amazing, funny, inspiring, kingdom-loving mom and leader.  If you’ve been following this blog long you’ll remember when we did our own “experimental mutiny against excess” motivated by her book, 7, so clearly she’s been influential.  If you haven’t read her stuff, you should!

But the other day I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and came across this:

photo-8The rest of the update reads: “…minutes past Remy’s bedtime. Tra la la.”

So I’m looking at this and thinking, “Oh, that’s nice.  Family.  Beginning of summer.  Building good memories.”

I’m happy she could post that, but it’s not a big deal, right?  It’s not like her kids won American Idol or converted Kanye West.  I would hope many of you could post some nice slice of a pre-bedtime moment if you have kids, or a nice pic of you and friends relaxing on your deck if you don’t, right?

What baffles me is what’s under the update.  4,700 people “liked” this, and 138 people commented!

I showed husband John and asked him why he thought so many people engaged with a simple picture of someone’s kids playing in their back yard.  He said something which I thought was brilliant (I think most of what he says is pretty brilliant though).  He said: Continue reading