a friend came

IMG_6225Even though she knew we are really busy
a friend came to visit this weekend

She thought
“At least I can give them a reason to slow down”

What a gift!

We lit candles
sipped wine
ate simple, delicious food
talked and laughed
about multiple trivial and important topics
that interest us
that matter and don’t matter

Because she came
we slowed down
we relaxed
even as bad news continued to unfold in unfortunate places around the world
even as our work continued to demand

She came
We paused
It was really good….

Even though He knew we were sinners and hopeless on our own
This Friend came at Christmas so many years ago

He thought, “I can save my people from their sins
I can give them life abundant
I can give them eternal life with me

What an amazing gift!

He gives us reasons
to pause
slow down
embrace our life
and hold all that is precious tight
while we pray
grieve and

He comes
into the joys, victories, sorrows and challenges
that accompany each of our days
forgives our sin
and picks us up when we fall
never leaves us alone
loves us every moment
as a Father loves His favorite child

Because He comes
we are never alone
Because He comes
we have all we need for life and godliness

What a priceless gift!

The advent of hope is Christmas
The place of pain is Good Friday
The reality of victory is Easter
The power for abundant life is Pentecost
Love is the source behind each one

Everyday has lessons of Christmas, Good Friday, Easter and Pentecost

Everyday He makes it possible to live into each seasons’ truth

I live this truth on the days full of peace and joy, and on nights like last night when the reality of the bombing of Dr’s Without Borders in Afghanistan, the shootings in OR, the violence in Chicago, and my own upcoming responsibilities and trips threaten to overwhelm me. I celebrate Him during my joyful day and lean into Him during my sleepless night. Sorrow kissing joy… my life is a balance of death and life, but life wins each time because He came. Because He comes. Because He is here…

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 10.45.21 PM

Because He Came
Because He comes
Life Wins

A Peacemaker…

A friend of mine lives in Germany and serves at a refugee center. She shared a story about a press conference held by Chancellor Angela Merkel a few weeks ago at the beginning of the refugee crisis. She translates:

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 8.08.24 PMThe woman at the beginning of this video clip (See above where you can click to view the press conference) is expressing her concern about the fear of Islam and it’s coming to Europe. She asks Frau Merkel how she will protect us. 

Merkel answers first with a few words about how the Germans have already raised up some of those who have gone to fight for ISIS. Then she says that fear is not a good counselor for our own lives and shouldn’t be for our society. 

She talks about how there are already Muslims living in Germany. 

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 8.09.31 PMAnd then she says, “We have the opportunity and the freedom to share and to talk about our religion.  If a Muslim has the courage to say that they’re Muslim, then we should have the courage to say that we’re Christians.  This can be a way to start a conversation with them.  Or we also have the “tradition” to go to church or to really stand firm on the Bible.  Or to be able to explain a picture in a church.  If you can write a few things about what Pentecost is then you know who you are.  And for all of us to complain that the Muslims know the Koran better than we know what we believe is strange.

Maybe this debate is a chance for us to go back to our roots.  We don’t need to be defensive about the religion. We can protect ourselves from terrorism, but we should be careful not to complain about how Muslims are treating the world when we as a country have a history of dramatic and terrible treatment of people as well.  We, as a country, should protect ourselves against terror, but we have no right to act like we’re better than them.” (At minute 2:38 you can hear her say the word Bible)

In her response, Angela Merkel  doesn’t forget anyone is capable of horror while also inviting her people to live their faith and not be afraid to be hospitable to the stranger who holds a different faith. Germany has a reputation of being a hospitable place for the refugee, having taken in most of the refugees from Bosnia when Yugoslavia fell apart. (See this article) While Germany is welcoming refugees, encouraging its citizens to renew their faith, and choosing hospitality over fear, we have leaders saying if they are elected they will send the Syrians home. To where? To what? Where is our compassion? Faith? Courage?

Each of us can make fear motivated decisions. This isn’t God’s way of living. Perfect Love, God’s amazing love, casts out fear and leads us, allows us, compels us to be hospitable to the stranger, to the wanderer, to the ones in our lives in need. May we not be afraid as we decide today how to love the people God has placed in our lives. May we really know and embrace our faith so that we are free to embrace all the opportunities God gives us to Love Him and Love our neighbors.

1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love.
But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.
The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Colossians 3:14
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

peacemakers in a world at war…

Pope Francis’s message of peace and hope were quickly blotted out with fresh headlines of a major victory by the Taliban in Afghanistan, the battle of words and ideologies in our nation’s political system and at the U.N., and horrible violence in Chicago. Peace seems like such an illusion for our very hurting world as the CAR falls apart again and refugees continue to die in their quest for life. What can you and I do?

Our lives hold examples of disrupted peace in relationships ruptured or on the brink of disaster. Each of us can think of loved ones, friends and family, suffering from illness, unemployment, and other challenges that threaten peace of heart and mind. How do we handle lost peace on our micro and the world’s macro level? How can we be peacemakers?

We cannot offer to others what we do not hold in our hands or possess in our hearts. Peace is one of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit, so inviting Him to fill us each day and teach us His peace is a wonderful starting place. We can be alert to worry and fear and turn from these very real emotions to prayer for peace. This active, intentional choice increases our active Trust and Faith in the One Who holds us together (Colossians 1:17) and gives us His Peace.

Last night, I practiced turning from worry and fear to my God Who holds me together when it feels like the world is falling a part. I was upset by our violent and divisive world that seems bent on destroying peace. I prayed for my concerns and also took time to surrender my emotional upset to God Who gave me just enough comfort and peace to finally fall asleep.

DSCF1137Today, I was invited to join a global prayer group that is promising to pray at 11:55 am every morning for God’s Kingdom to come, His Will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven. This seems a small step of disciplined obedience for me to take, but one that actually creates a space for peace in my Heart as I pray with my brothers and sisters around the world. This allows me to take steps towards being a peacemaker as I receive God’s peace and pass it on to others as I pray for them. These may seem like small steps–but who knows where they might lead! I hope you will join me!

healing for old injuries….

A week ago, I re-injured my left wrist that I sprained last March. While I know a fall down our stairs caused the first injury, I do not have any idea why my wrist started swelling with pain last Monday. I have an appointment  this morning to see the hand specialist again with hope that he can set me back on the healing path.

Each one of us can be impacted by past injuries when our scars start to interfere with our current lives. We often know the history of our woundedness but we’re surprised when we start to hurt or act out in ways that remind us more of our past than our present. When our responses to problems is out of proportion to the event, then past wounds are probably hurting. Sometimes when we are feeling down or discouraged there may be current events that are reminding our spirit of past events and the emotional imprint created at that time becomes real again.

When we sense that we’ve somehow awakened an old injury, or a tender place in our spirit has been re-injured, we are invited to take our pain to our Great Physician for help and healing. With this Psalm, we can pray, “Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer and give heed to the voice of my supplications! In my day of trouble I shall call upon You, For You will answer me.” (Psalm 86:7-8) And He will hear us.

We can also go for professional counseling, or meet with our Pastor, confess our need to trusted friends. There is help for us when we are re-injured. Our choice for living well is to admit we’re re-injured and set aside time to seek the help we need.

DSC_0004This last weekend, 6 couples from our church went with us to Spruce Lake Retreat for a marriage retreat. It is always a challenge to make time for our marriages but these couples wanted to make their relationships a priority, so they did whatever it took so they could get away together.

During our retreat, we looked at God’s purpose, plan and power for our marriages. We confronted the threats our marriages face and talked about communication and conflict resolution. In the process, old injuries and re-injuries were addressed and help and encouragement were found. Over and over again, the couples thanked us for providing this opportunity to remember God’s principles for marriage and live into His truth and experience His healing. It was a very special weekend.

Today, as I go to the doctor, I’m hoping for healing. As I pray for the couples at the retreat, I’m hoping for continued healing and wonderful health for their marriages. What about you? Where would you like to see healing happen in your life or in the lives of people you love? Let’s confidently pray together to our Father who promises He will hear and answer us.

Isaiah 65:24 It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.

It may seem crazy, but its time to think about… Christmas!

DSCF2180This blog post is about Christmas. REALLY???  Yep. I’m asking you to please stick with me, OK?

I know that Christmas is three months out, but you know it will be here sooner than we can imagine. And, if you and I are not purposeful and intentional about how we want to celebrate this wonderful holiday, we will get caught up in the crazy chaos and the meaning of Christmas will slip out of our grasp. So, if we want this to be a memorable Christmas, we first need to decide what will make it memorable?

Do you know? Do you know what will make it a special holiday for you and your friends and family?

Every other year, our immediate family gets to spend Christmas together. This will be our year to be together and our kids and grandsons are coming to our home. We are already dreaming and making plans of what we want those days to look like.

Christmas will not start for Kevin and me when our kids walk in the door. For me, Christmas starts now. I’ve started sitting in one of the Gospels to read about my Savior’s life. As I get to know Him all over again through reading about His life, reading about His values, reading His words, my heart is preparing for Christmas. This is one way I intentionally live into Christmas.

Our family decided years ago that we wanted to give to others rather than give to ourselves. So, each year, we choose an organization that is helping the least of these around the world and give what we would have spent on each other to that charity.  We have had the joy of building wells in Africa (The Water Project) and have given wheel chairs to people who never dreamed of having a way to get around (Free Wheel Chair.) There are many organizations that care for the needy people in our world. Please let me know if you need ideas- I have plenty! The refugee crisis in Europe is tugging on my heart this year as well as needs in our inner cities.

Here’s the deal, though. We have to have this conversation with our families now so everyone can commit to giving to others instead of ourselves. This is an important conversation to have and it does take time to decide this is what you want to do and then choose the charity you will support.

This is a very important consideration for families with children still at home. What do our children experience and take away from Christmas?

Do they adopt generosity or selfishness, focus on others or on themselves, learn to share or strategize how to receive?

Are they worn out from the frenzy of activities, rushing from one party to another, from one family gathering to another?

Are they jaded by all the glitz and glamor or are they impacted by the real meaning of the season?


These questions do not just apply to children do they. We should also ask them of ourselves.

What activities can we incorporate to help us celebrate the real Christmas?

Which activities do not enhance Christmas’s real meaning and should be eliminated?

Which activities add pressure?

Which ones make us laugh and are just lots and lots of fun?

Which ones lead us to worship and praise?

Which ones form traditions and provide great memories?

Which ones just wear us out all over?

These are things to think about NOW before the holiday season sweeps us up in mad shopping and calendar rush. It may seem early to be thinking about Christmas, but our God spent forever planning for the time when He would send His Son into the world to be our Savior. Wouldn’t we be wise to set aside a bit of time to prayerfully consider how we want to live into this very Holy Holiday Season?



opportunities as antidotes to loss

DSC_0074Scott Walker just took a major loss as he quit his campaign for US president. From a far, we are watching the incredible tragedy of loss of home and country in the Middle East. Losses show up for each of us almost every day.  Not only for us; each of us know people who are bravely dealing with loss; loss of work, of meaning, of independence, health, relationships.

One thing people need in times of loss is opportunity; opportunities are antidotes for losses. The Syrians want the opportunity to walk into a new life, to find a new home, meaningful work, and live in peace. People who suffer all kinds of losses hope for the opportunities to restore the core of what has been lost.

We can give opportunities to people who have suffered loss.

For example, people need the opportunity to mourn their loss. Rescuing and making life all better for people who need to mourn only prolongs their grief. People need opportunities to remember, to tell their stories, to weep. People need opportunities to process their sadness with others who will listen and hold their stories with honor and respect.

Other times, with different losses, we can advocate for people, come alongside and be there for them, actively research and network to find help for their loss. A fourteen year old boy was killed in a drive-by shooting in Chicago this weekend. A church is his neighborhood has been given the opportunity to continue learning what it means to be a presence for peace and hope while offering the same even as they pray and reach out to the people living there.

There are life situations when you and I need to take responsibility for our own opportunities.

For example, when life is overwhelming and we are fighting to survive, we may create opportunities to rest, refresh and renew our hearts and minds. This isn’t easy when we are in survival mode, but it is a must. Five minutes of quiet, one verse of scripture, a breath prayer can be windows of opportunities that open possibilities for next-step opportunities.

Opportunities of choice require intention and some level of energy. Not creating, making or taking opportunities may seem the only choice when we’re depressed or sad, but with God’s help each of us can confess our lack of motivation, ask for help and at least look up. Those are opportunities, too.

DSCF8572When we cannot imagine what an opportunity could possibly look like, there are opportunities we can choose that might lead to more  opportunities. Meeting with a counselor, spiritual director, or pastor can lead to insight and help. Picking up a camera and looking through the view finder can focus our attention on bits of surrounding beauty. Meeting a friend for coffee can invite someone who cares to accompany us. Catching leaves as they fall or creating a flower arrangement can give us something else to see and feel for even just a few minutes. Baking, cooking, preparing a meal can nourish more than our empty tummies. Praying is probably the most helpful and important opportunity we can take. God wants to listen, to comfort, to be our Help in times of loss.

These small opportunities can all help. But there are more. Looking around to notice who in our lives needs opportunities of understanding, help, encouragement, and companionship expands a world of opportunities. Investing in others is a double win opportunity! When we give opportunities to others, our own loss is met while we share an opportunity with someone who may need it.

So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance (opportunity), let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith. (Galatians 6:10)

blessed by generosity

Years ago, generous friends took Kevin and my to Craft, a higher end restaurant in NYC. It was an amazing experience of delicious food. One of the dishes we had that night was Braised Spare Ribs. The meat melted in our mouths and tasted like meat candy which is really something for me to say since I’m not a huge meat fan.

Not long after that memorable dinner, I found Chef Tom Colicchio’s recipe on Food and Wine’s web site. I was amazed he generously shared his recipe! Instead of guarding the recipe and keeping it top-secret, he empowered anyone who wanted to recreate his deliciousness.

Well, after years of wait, this weekend’s cooler temps seemed a perfect setting for this meal. New friends brought a delicious Spanish Red to accompany the meal that was rounded out with country smashed red potatoes, green beans and carrots lightly cooked, and crunchy, juicy watermelon.

Kevin gave the meal a 10. I had a lot of fun preparing it, but even as I prepped the veggies and went through the many stages of cooking the meat, I was constantly aware that we were going to enjoy this meal because of other people’s generosity. Friends had taken us to Craft, the chef had shared his recipe. In so many ways, I benefit because people give what they have to make life better for others.

IMG_2639Every day I benefit from the generosity of my team who give and pray so I can come alongside God’s people however He leads. Every day I benefit from my friends and family who choose to come alongside me with their companionship and love. Every day I benefit from my God’s love, grace, mercy, forgiveness and amazingly unending resources so I can do life well. I am so blessed on the good days like this perfect fall day, and the hard days when goodbyes are being said, challenges present themselves, or life is just hard. Every day I’m changed because of the generosity of My Father and His people. You, too? We are blessed!

The questions I’m sitting in as I end this beautiful day are, “How generous am I?” “What do I have that I can share with others?” “Are my hands open, willing to give?” May God help me to always live a generous life for His sake and for others!

Mark 6:38 (The Message) Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”