Monday, March 31, 2014

The Desert Prayer

Today I come clean.
I bare an intimate part of my story.
A part that witnesses to the sweet faithfulness of God.

You can't tell me God doesn't answer prayer.

I know He does.

So here's my less than 1,000 words.

Five years ago, my third child was born.
She joined two siblings, neither of which were old enough to begin Kindergarten.

Motherhood was kicking my butt.
My husband and I were adjusting to zone defense at home.
My expectations were too high.
My tools for everyday survival were dangerously low.
The chasm between those two felt like the Grand Canyon.
I was being swallowed up.
Expectation and reality lie at opposite ends of the continuum.
And to add insult to injury, 
I. was. exhausted.
Children do that.
So do transitions.

Our church was transitioning too.
We were without a senior pastor,
leaving my husband as the only pastor on staff.
At the point our third child was born, 
we were entering the second year void of senior pastoral leadership.

Ministry was kicking my butt.
People's expectations were unreasonable.
The tools passed on to us for navigating these uncertain waters were minimal.
The chasm between those two felt like watching an endless horizon while at sea.

This was a time of great darkness.
I was struggling emotionally.
My husband was struggling.
Some people were constantly challenging, complaining, criticizing, thinking the worst.
Nothing seemed good enough. Fast enough. Effective enough.

My husband was getting beat up.
My husband was held responsible but not given authority.
My faith brothers and sisters seemed more like rivals than teammates.
Fingers were pointed.
Trust was breached.
Hurt happened.
Defenses went up.

And I did what any sleep-deprived, ministry wife who had just delivered their third child would do.
I shrank into myself.
I walled my heart up.
I pulled away from relationships.
Relationships were, after all, the reason I was experiencing so much pain.

I couldn't take another blasted second of any of it.
Unable to deal with the demands of three small children.
Watching my husband bleed before my eyes while I scrambled to find a tourniquet.

Each morning, when I'd wake up, I would cringe at having to face the day.
I would pray that I could just face it with my family and not have to see anyone else.
Especially at the church.
Because the church didn't feel safe.
The church was inflicting pain, not relieving it.

I was a mess.
And not the kind of mess that looks bad but can easily be cleaned up in 20 minutes.
That's my kitchen. Or my bathroom.
No, I was a MESS.
Loads of emotional baggage. Years of believing lies and seeing God for who He wasn't.
Shattered illusions of my life lay in shards at my feet.
I was a free-falling, fear-clutching, faith-questioning mess.

And then I made one of the best decisions of my life.
I went to counseling.
I still see that decision as grace.
I was in so much pain I couldn't see straight
but God allowed me to get to a brown leather couch
so I could spill it all.
Everything pent up, shut out, holed up, breathed in, spewed out.

And little step by little step, 
I began to walk through this desert time.
And at some point in the six months I sat on that couch, 
I began to whisper a prayer.
A prayer I didn't fully understand in the middle of my pain.
A hope beyond what I was able to accomplish.
A God-sized circle as Mark Batterson calls it.

Father, give me a love for your people again.

It was one of those prayers you love and hate simultaneously.
I knew it was right. I knew it was the way of health.
I could remember days of feeling the love for those who currently felt like enemies.
I wanted it again.
But to get there?
That would require the hard work of forgiveness.
and self study.
and God study.
It would require a re-assembling of my faith that still felt fragile and immensely private.
But I prayed it anyway.

Father, give me a love for your people again.

Counseling lasted six months.
My desert time lasted three and a half years.
182 weeks of relearning truth and reframing my life with that truth.
1,300 days of heart-wrenching realignment to the One who knows me best and loves me most.
30,660 hours to fall in love with the God I thought I knew but only saw in part.

Slowly I walked with Jesus out of that pit.
Each new statement of belief,
each lie rebuked, 
each day faced, 
each moment lived, 
each fear disarmed, 
each injury pardoned, 
each person affirmed,
formed a step that I placed all my weight upon
and lifted me closer to freedom. 

And two months ago, 
when our congregation was facing turmoil
and transition threatened to resurface, 
and some were revealing the uglier sides of their nature,
I realized something.

Two months ago, 
when my heart for God's church was marked by
I recognized one, singular, glorious fact.

God had answered my prayer.
He had restored a love for His people.
My pain, my hurt, my injury
absorbed by Him
and in it's place...
new love, 
greater love.

My arms were opened for embrace
and not closed to brace for retaliation.
My eyes could see the potential for growth
and not the potential for ruin.

God had answered my prayer.
And I am overwhelmed.
And abundantly grateful.
All for His glory and for His purposes.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Random Things On My Mind

This was a recent conversation between me and my 6-year old son...
Levi: I don't want to go upstairs because I'm afraid monsters will chase me.
Me: Monsters aren't real.
Levi: When I'm scared I don't think of that.

His response is rather brilliant. His self-awareness was impressive.
And he easily explained the problem why many of us, who've accumulated more years then he,
have remained paralyzed in the face of fear.

When face to face with the things that scare us, we often forget what is true.
Truth can be a substantial aid to exercising courage.
Truth dismantles fear, piece by piece.
Truth strong-arms fear.

I wonder what more could be done,
what messes could be avoided, 
what dreams could be realized,
if the battle of fear was fought remembering what is true?

Remembering what is true in the face of fear is the evidence of right thinking and sound judgment and that comes from one place...

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.
2 Timothy 1:7


"My attitude depends on how you treat me."

This appeared on the Facebook page of one of my cyber-world friends.
And I shake my head.
Not because I don't actually live this statement out sometimes.
I do.
There are times when I have been treated poorly and my attitude follows suit.

I shake my head because I never want this proclamation to be the way things are supposed to be. 
I shake my head because this statement relinquishes my power in choosing my own response.
This statement implies your choices will determine mine.
This statement removes my power to choose for myself.
For those who want to blame everyone else for personal troubles, this statement can be a comfort.
For those wishing to do the hard work of maturing and health, this statement is a death knell.

I aspire to treat others based on a standard outside of myself.
I wish to treat others in a way that is not dependent upon the actions of others.
The ideal for human interaction needs to be greater than you or me.
Greater than our own fragile humanity.
Greater than our own propensity toward selfish behavior.

This statement is the thinking of a child.
A playground mentality.
A swingset mantra.
And there is far too much to experience, learn, and do for life to be short-circuited by childish thinking.

Everyone of us must be willing to take responsibility for our own attitudes and choices.
That is the decision of an adult. Of maturity.
Let's get busy growing up.

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. 
But when I grew up, I put away childish things.  
1 Corinthians 13:11

Friday, March 28, 2014


Linking up with Lisa-Jo and Five Minute Friday.

Today's word: Mighty
Five minutes. No edits. Just words as they spill out.


the lure of compromise
when desiring a particular result

the temptation to corner-cut
when the way proves steep and long

the allure of gossip
when another has slipped and fallen

the hold of jealousy
when others prosper at our expense


mightier still can be...

the still small voice 
that paves a path of integrity

the way of wisdom
as she beckons us to follow close behind

the sound of grace
that passes up judgment and erases shame 

the wounded brow
that wears thorns that lead to freedom


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Jury Duty: Post #1

The return address read: 68th District Court. Flint, Michigan.
I slipped the mint green paper from the envelope, groaning inwardly.
A summons for jury duty.

Included was a nice paragraph listing the valid reasons to be excused from this civic responsiblility.
Unfortunately, I met none of the criteria. 
I requested the prayer group ask God to spare me this headache.
Something very spiritual like, 
"Please, Lord, when I call the night before, let the recording say there's no need to report."

It didn't work.
(To be fair, however, I only had to report for two of the four days I was scheduled for jury duty.)

This was all new and unfamiliar.
That's the pleasant way to say I was extremely anxious. 
I found childcare and wrote lessons plans for the "substitute teacher" of my 3 children.
I checked and double-checked Google Maps so I could see the building I needed to find.
God bless Google Maps. 
No, seriously.
I read and read again the FAQs about Jury Duty.
I gulped hard, got in the van and drove myself downtown to a building I had never really noticed and parked in a multi-level garage whose former life was to hold the vehicles of Montgomery-Ward patrons.

I made my way down a hall and eyed a fellow mint green paper-carrying victim.
I introduced myself, learned her name was Tashia and was the mom of an adorable 5-month old.
Adorable is my adjective as evidenced by sweet baby cheeks on her phone.
We walked down the hall, hoping we were headed the right direction.
Tashia and I rode down the escalators and hung a left.
We made our way through the metal detectors and to the rather smallish Jury Assembly room.
I found myself amid 40 strangers and Tashia.
Small circular tables filled the space.
There was one flat screen television tuned to morning shows I never get a chance to watch as a home-educating mother of children under 10.
Everyone watched the telly or had their nose in a book.
I was about to become one of the bookworms.

I sat down and breathed a sigh of relief.
I had made it this far.
I patted myself on the back, feeling proud of my accomplishment.
You know, the accomplishment of driving 3 miles to our small downtown to report for a task that thousands before me have done.

I pulled out my book and began to read.
20 minutes passed and then I turned ever-so-slightly gitty.
I was struck by this realization:
I am sans children,
reading a book of my choice,
while my children are still getting their schoolwork done.
These facts combined in my mind to form a brand-new and unexpected conclusion...
I LOVE jury duty!

...Jury Duty: Post #2 coming soon...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Hard Work of Clarity

Clarity is important.

When we set goals.
When we dream.
When we instruct.
When we set boundaries.
When we work to create an organizational culture.
Anytime we communicate or interact, it is vital to be clear.

The thing is...clarity is hard work.

A simple, clear statement is more than likely the result of some blood, sweat, and tears.
It's like an iceberg.
We only see the tip. 
But there is an invisible mass beneath the surface.

One clear statement is heard or read quickly 
but comes at the cost of many unheard, unseen, not-so-clear moments working toward that clarity.

Ask any author,
or graduate student writing a research paper.
Ask any teacher,
or parent attempting to direct their children.

One of the comments I hear most often about my sermons is that I am clear.
That what I say is understandable and to the point.
And I am coming to realize that is a desirable response.
What the listener is saying, whether they realize it or not, 
is the hours I spent shaping my sentences paid off.

Clarity requires intentional effort to understand
what we want to say, 
to whom we want to say it
and the words we will use to accomplish the task.

Clarity is hard work but it is worth it.

Friday, March 14, 2014


Linking up with Five Minute Friday.

Trying something a little different today...


The talk was he was here.
In town.
Her last hope.
Her only hope.
Now or never.
Now is always the best time for faith.

She readied herself to meet the public.
The ones who had scorned her.
Shunned her.
The ones who held her responsible for what her body chose to do.
It's not to say she really blamed them.
Even 12 years ago she would have passed the same harsh judgment on others.
Today she knew better.

One deep breath and she stepped outside the threshold of her safety net.
Her home had been her haven.
But hers.
And the space to which she withdrew when the crowds rejected her.

But not today.
The crowds would not keep her back.
Healing was passing through town
and she would be there.

She recited scriptures in her mind
as she rubbed shoulders with those who had disctanced themselves.
She loved the words of God.
The words that promised healing.

Suddenly the motion stopped.
Chattering increased.
She was pushed and tossed with the wave of bodies as they all strained to see.
It was maddening. This crowd.
The wall that separated her from freedom.
And she would not relent.


Just the hem.
It was enough.
The crowd would not keep her from him.

And in the dust she lay.
Afraid but well.
Unsure but renewed.
And Healing turned and spoke.
And his words shocked the disciples,
and humbled the crowd
to which this daughter was now restored.

(See Matthew 5:24b - 34.)


So in all fairness, this post took 9 minutes to write, not 5. 

Friday, March 7, 2014


Once again, linking up here.
5 Minutes.
Just writing.
One single word.
Another moment to exhale and say, "Here goes nothing. Here goes everything."

Today's word is WILLING.


Sometimes there's a long distance between willing and able.
A curving path
between what we desire and what we are actually going to do about it.
A string of switchbacks that separates my inclinations with possible realities.

Sometimes the journey between emotional readiness and practical capabilities
seems to be an overgrown trail
reaching out into the horizon
that someone else will successfully conquer.

Sometimes the real differential between my willingness and my ability
is the full of sum of my fear.
Sometimes when willing and able seem to span opposite ends of the continuum 
I wonder if risk will be the bridge that unites these two or the fault line that keeps them divided.