I will NOT be hacked!

While I was FaceTiming with Tony and Anne Marie this morning, I watched as message after message flashed across the top of my computer screen alerting me to email after email being returned-to sender, marked “undeliverable.” I hadn’t sent any email so this was curious and a bit alarming. I saw the number on my email alert growing and then vaporize to nothing. I was viewing a real-time hack job by some very unkind person.

Lately, I’ve been reading in Matthew. The past few days, I’ve been sitting in the story of the woman who had been bleeding for a long time. She took courage and pressed through the crowd to purposefully touch Jesus in hopes that just touching him would heal her. Jesus felt her intent and turned and spoke to her,

“Daughter, take courage, your faith has made you well.” (Matt 10:22)

I love that He called her, “Daughter.” We are His sons and His daughters…each one of us His favorite. I am impressed that He tells her to take courage. She took courage and now she is to take courage.

Can you think of times you have been courageous? Life gives us many opportunities to be strong and courageous. Jesus seems to be gently telling the woman this won’t be the last time she will need courage.

I will not be hacked!

I will not be hacked!

I know that hacking doesn’t require a lot of courage, but it does produce some anxiety for me. Since I had been sitting in the words, “Take Courage,” for a few days, I took a deep breath and decided to not be anxious. I wasn’t going to let myself, ME, be hacked…

What might you be facing that requires a lot more courage than being hacked? What could you and I do to remind us to “Take Courage,” when we are faced with situations that want to hack our peace, joy, contentment, hope? I hope I will remember to “Take Courage,” to pray and ask for help, and refuse to be hacked.

(PS- I have no idea why or how I was hacked. When I think of all the airports, airline lounges, coffee shops, hotels, homes and various other sites I’ve been to in the last 2 months the options are endless… please be careful out there!  And for those who got a screwy email from me today, I’m very sorry!)


An upside down wonderful non-traditional Thanksgiving

We’re far from family this year, and though we could have celebrated with friends, our hectic fall and full schedule this winter caused us to want to pull-away for a quiet few days with just the two-of-us. A wedding Kevin is doing this weekend on Long Island gave us the perfect ticket to a non-traditional Thanksgiving, and perfect fall weather made going to the beach the best possible choice. We’re feeling very rested, non-stressed and content even as we count our blessings and think of our family and friends with love.

Thanksgiving even in the mess

When did you realize that what you first learned about Thanksgiving wasn’t the whole story?

When did you realize that your family celebrations were not Hallmark perfect?

When was the first time you felt guilt for being so blessed while others were lacking so much?

IMG_6467Thanksgiving is a paradoxical holiday. It reminds us of past sins, calls us to love each other the best we can, and to share whatever, however, whenever, with whomever.

Sins. In the story I learned in first grade, the Pilgrims were refugees. Unwanted in their countries of origin, they were fleeing persecution and ran into starvation on their way to the other side of privilege. Once they had enough to eat and had established themselves, they held power over their hosts who, in the story I was taught, had welcomed them, taught them how to grow food, and shared what they had with them. Because of their hosts hospitality, the newcomers/refugees lived to rule over their rescuers.

Love. Oh the love and joy and mess of family. Holidays bring out our best and our worst, create memories and bond us together with the good, the bad and sometimes the ugly. That first Thanksgiving meal, I was taught, was a very diverse affair. Family meant neighbor, teacher, rescuer, needy, friend. Family meant those who survive together. Those who help each other through the bad times. That original culture of family didn’t last, to our eternal shame and deep regret. But, we can choose to restore a culture of welcome, assistance through education and practical measures, love and acceptance even when we’re different, even when we believe differently, even when we come from incredibly different places.

Share. All across our nation people will open their homes to share Thanksgiving with others. Churches and soup kitchens will try to provide a Thanksgiving feast for the needy. This is a wonderful contrast to the loud commercial voices telling us to shop, spend, accumulate more stuff for ourselves and those we love. Thanksgiving reminds us to share, just like the hosts at that long ago meal. With whom will we share our bounty and blessings?

There are serious reasons people don’t want to celebrate Thanksgiving:
Some protest the horrible history of how our country was settled.
Others fear the mess of family getting together.
Some are haunted by the daunting needs of those we don’t know.

The tradition of our Thanksgiving holiday gives us opportunities to repent and overcome our history, to find ways to love our family and friends even when we’re each a bit weird or crazy, and share with those we don’t know, who are different from we are, and who have needs we can help meet. We don’t have to be defined by or stuck in our history. With God’s grace and forgiveness, with His help and amazing love and resources, we can be forgiven, we can move beyond what was, and we can experience the joy of Giving Thanks with family and friends while finding those with whom we can share.


Thanksgiving may never be a perfect, Hallmark Holiday.
But, it can be redeemed and we can be changed.
Thanksgiving celebrates our God and His incredible care and love for us.
I have so much to be grateful for. I imagine you do, too.

Psalm 69:30 I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.


Do you know what you really want for Christmas?

The hype is on. Shopping mania stocks me in my mail box, on my computer, through the TV. It is easy to get swept up in the “need to buy!” The need to buy now to save lots of money. Do you know how to save lots of money? Don’t buy into commercialism for Christmas this year. Instead….

*Thoughtfully consider how best to honor the meaning of Christmas

*Thoughtfully consider what you really want for Christmas~for yourself and for your family and friends

*Thoughtfully consider the best way to procure what you really want, what you really want to experience

*Thoughtfully acknowledge what you love about the holiday season, and what you really don’t like. Live intentionally into what is life and joy producing and avoid what sucks you under.

We don’t have to get caught up in the buying frenzy. We don’t have to spend more than we have; more time, more energy, more resources. We don’t have to go into debt. We don’t have to feel pressured to give what we don’t have or even want to give. I know I don’t like to give what isn’t needed, what just fills an obligation, what will probably end up in a landfill soon. Instead, I like to honor the people I love with a gift to a favorite charity or by shopping local, not big box retailers.

I don’t want to be Scrooge this Christmas, but can I admit to feeling overwhelmed with coming up with a perfect gift for friends and family who already seem to have everything they need and want? The idea of giving more to people like me who have more than enough often feels like gluttony when so many in our world are hungry or lack clean water.

And, one more thing to thoughtfully consider…our calendars.
*We don’t have to say yes to everything. The Christmas season is full of so many wonderful options.
*We don’t have to do everything better than we’ve ever done it before. We can simplify and slow down, making time to enjoy the season and not just survive it.

Can you imagine what you really want this Christmas? You can make choices to make your Christmas all you want it to be. It just takes a little time to thoughtfully consider and then intentionality to live the life you want to live. Yes, life will happen and December won’t be perfect. It is probable you will find yourself going to events you might have preferred to skip over. But, if you are living as intentionally as you can, you will have the margin in your spirit to maybe even enjoy what you thought you wouldn’t like. DSCF2124


new wine-new wineskins

FullSizeRenderIt is a beautiful November day, cold and crisp with blue sky and puffy clouds. Pandora plays praise music and the hearth beside me reflects the fire and candle light. Today my heart is processing how I’m different from who I was 6 weeks ago when I headed for 3 retreats in Italy and Lesotho and how life at home has changed, too. There is a bit of let-down/sadness in my heart today as I think about the joy and sadness of being away and re-entry.

That’s why I felt so loved when I opened my Bible to my reading in Matthew. I’m taking time this fall to get to know Jesus better before we celebrate His birth in about a month. I began reading just where I left off, Matthew 9:17.

“No one,” Jesus said, “puts new wine into old wineskins;
otherwise the wineskins burst and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined.”

He was talking about fitting his new teaching into old patterns of religious life. It just wouldn’t work. But, for me, today, there was a another reminder….

I’m transitioning between what I left 6 weeks ago to what life is now. While I was away, I felt many emotions as I met beautiful women, men and children and listened to their heart stories. I was changed by their courage and faith, impacted by the hard things they face, challenged by their heroic lifestyles. While I was away, life continued on here at home. I scramble to pick up the threads of where people were and find they’ve moved on- not without me, but they aren’t where I left them.

God gently speaks to me this morning saying,
“Linda, you can’t force what is new into what was old.”
He is so right.

As I come home and re-enter life I will experience a huge mess if I don’t acknowledge things have changed- even in just 6 weeks. I’m different. Others are too. If I insist on living the “new wine” through the “old wineskin” something will burst. Expectations, hopes, and relationships that are now different cannot bear the strain of trying to be the same.

There is incredible freedom in pouring new wine into new wineskins- of discovering how to live the new while remembering the old, savoring the new while celebrating the old. Life moves, flows, becomes… I do, too. You do, too. I missed being here while I was enjoying being away. I can’t make up what I missed. But, I can enjoy the new; the new me, the new you, this new season.

Do you ever find yourself trying to stuff the old into the new and only ending up with a mess? It helps to name the Old we are missing and take time to acknowledge the loss we are feeling. It also helps to name the New- which may not be all positive or all negative but a real mixed-bag. How can you welcome or live well into what is new while honoring and saying good-bye to what is old? These will be great questions for us to ponder as we near the end of 2015.

We can move past fear to love as Jesus loved…

I’ve lived overseas where Americans were scorned, looked down on and seen as the reason for all the ills in my host country. I’ve lived in a small town that was afraid of America, where its citizens shouted, “Go Home Gringa!” and kept their distance because I was a tall, white, American. I’ve lived in a town where I didn’t know the culture and often butchered the language yet tried my best cause I so wanted to be welcomed and feel at home. I’ve lived in places where I wasn’t wanted. All because I was an American.

I wouldn’t wish that experience, though mine was mild, on anyone. To paint a person with the broad stroke of identity because of their passport country is so mis-guided and short of understanding of who that person is. Labeling people by a group borders on, and probably is, racist, prejudice, hateful.  Such behavior should be unacceptable for anyone who is from our melting-pot nation. Yet- this is our sinful, mis-guided history. Every new group (even those forced here through slavery) who has ever come to these shores has faced discrimination, prejudice and really hard times as they fought for acceptance and finally won a hard battle to prove they were American.

Many have written to express the responsibility Christ Followers have to welcome the stranger and to care for the needy. Yet, many of our presidential candidates, governors and civic leaders are calling for a halt to welcoming the refugees from Syria. Many people who love Jesus are living in fear instead of in confidence that we really can live the Gospel and actually be the Good Samaritan.

Have you ever been in a situation where you were afraid of being judged or rejected because of the actions of a few who somehow became the face and voice of you?

Can you imagine the horror of Syrian Refugee Parents as they watch the backlash to a people group because of the actions to a few?

Can you imagine their worry for their children even as they try to sustain life and hope? I can imagine the anxiety they feel as they wonder what will become of them, as they see their children living in the open, without proper food, clothing, water, cleanliness, and education.

Can you imagine the strain on marriages? The husband who said we have to try to escape and the wife who followed his lead with fear, trepidation and questions of the wisdom of risking so much?

So much is wrong with this picture. So much is wrong with the terror, the displacement of real, live, wonderful people who only want to create a safe lives for their families. There is so much wrong with a nation that is about to binge on holiday shopping for ourselves when so many are living such wretched lives. So much is wrong…

But- it doesn’t have to be this way. We can live wisely and compassionately. We can be hospitable, loving and generous. We can be if we will follow our God’s Way. We can if we trust, believe and act like our Savior. We can because He did!

You and I have a choice. Fear can rule us. Fear can rob us. Prejudice can limit our understanding. Or, we can move past fear with faith and hope and discover a whole people group of individuals worth getting to know, worth loving and accepting, worth fighting for.


always pampered in every situaion

Ticketing our trips to Italy and Lesotho as 3 round trips (Newark-Frankfurt, Frankfurt- Bologna, Frankfurt – Maseru) saved close to $5000 for each of us- close to $10,000 total! But, the looks of exasperation by ticket agents and the extra work we caused them was a bit stressful. Then yesterday, in Maseru and in Johannesburg on my way home, the system refused to check me and my luggage all the way to home. So I went through immigration, claimed my baggage, checked it, went back through immigration and security in both Johannesburg and Frankfurt.

When I first learned I was going to have to go through these extra, time-consuming steps I was bummed. Admittedly, I’m pretty tired after 5 very intense, yet wonderful, ministry weeks. I’m feeling a bit depleted though very thankful for all God did. When I boarded my 10.5 hour flight to Frankfurt, I was even more bummed to realize the man in front of me was pretty big and would need to recline in order to fit, that my row was full and the man next to me (I was on the aisle) claimed the arm rest and part of my space (his arm resting up against my arm or under my arm against my side) and the man on the other side of the aisle needed aisle space to fit. It felt claustrophobic.

Just when I thought I needed a bit of pampering, it seemed the reverse was happening. “God, I prayed, if this is OK with you, then it will be OK with me if you help me. Your strength is perfect when my strength is gone. You carry us when we can’t carry on. Raised in Your power the weak become strong. Your strength is perfect, Your strength is perfect.”

DSC_0009I got through all the extra steps in less than an hour at each airport and was able to find a bit of peace and quiet and wi-fi, along with delicious hot chocolate in the airline lounges in Johannesburg and Frankfurt. I pondered and prayed a lot on the flights and felt God was inviting me to lean into Him and let Him care for me in less that my ideal setting. You know, I hardly ever sleep on flights, but on that very crowded flight I slept for 4 hours. A gift from my Father.

God cares for us in every situation. Not just when we are feeling blessed and spoiled, but when we are disappointed, grieving, upset, hurting for whatever large or small reason. His Grace is always there for us just like He is.

This Steven Curtis song came into my life through CeCe Winan at a very difficult time in my life. I remember listening to it over and over as the truth of its words comforted and taught me. No matter what we are facing, we really can live through it because of Christ Who is our strength! (I can’t post the link from Germany for some legal reason… but it is on my FB page.)

I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength
But sometimes I wonder what He can do through me?
No great success to show, no glory on my own
Yet in my weakness He is there to let me know

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone
Hell carry us when we can’t carry on
Raised in His power, the weak become strong
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect

We can only know the power that He holds
When we truly see how deep our weakness goes
His strength in us begins, where ours comes to an end
He hears our humble cry and proves again

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone
Hell carry us when we can’t carry on
Raised in His power, the weak become strong
His strength is perfect

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone
Hell carry us when we can’t carry on
Raised in His power, the weak become strong
His strength is perfect

His strength is perfect
Raised in His power, the weak become strong
His strength is perfect
His strength is perfect
Read more: Steven Curtis Chapman – His Strength Is Perfect Lyrics | MetroLyrics