Monday, September 19, 2016


Have you seen the hashtag #adulting?

Here is how "adulting" is defined in the Urban Dictionary:

Adulting (v): to do grown up things and hold responsibilities such as, a 9-5 job, a mortgage/rent, a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grown ups.

But one has to ask the question, "Why has this newly created verb become necessary?" My generation and my parents' generation moved into adulthood without needing a verb to describe the process. We did all that stuff (we still do!), but didn't consider it to be anything special or unique. It was just what one did as one matured. These things wouldn't have been worth mentioning and hashtagging on Facebook--if we had had Facebook, that is. 

So I found myself mocking the #adulting crowd, until I realized that I am in a similar experience spiritually. Lately I've been having the sense that God is asking me to grow up in my relationship with him. He's asking me to become His friend, much in the way my young adult children (who will always be my children) are becoming my friends as well. They can't stop being my kids, but the relationship is certainly changing, maturing. And I rather like it. Can I have the same the experience with with my Father, God?


Yep. That's what I'm calling it. It's time for me to do grown up things and hold responsibilities in the Kingdom of God, God's kicking me out of the nest. 

So what does #spiritual adulting look like?

I'm still sort of figuring that out. But it certainly means that my spiritual hissy fits and temper tantrums just aren't acceptable anymore. It means that I can't shrink back and whine when there's work to be done. If I'm hungry, I might just have to learn to cook. 

But if I've learned to listen and obey, if I've tuned my ears to the Shepherd's voice, if I've adapted to His Kingdom ways, then shouldn't I become agile and adept at the work He intives me to do? Unlike Gideon, who had to keep checking to make sure that he understood what God was asking, God should now be able to direct me with the batting of His eye. A sublte nudge, and I'm off to do what's being asked. Unlike the Corinthians and Hebrews, who weren't ready for solid food, it's time that I cut my teeth on some spiritual meat. 

In fact, I'm finding that the Bible has a lot to say about #spiritualadulting. But just like I assumed that #adulting was a natural transition that required no special attention, I think that I imagined that #spiritualadulting would happen naturally too. The Bible indicates otherwise. In fact, Paul chides the Corinthians for refusing to move into spiritual adulthood. It turns out that Neverland is actually more real than we thought. Many life-long Christians are happy to be playing around, fighting Captain Hook and swimming with mermaids, when God has clearly said that it's time to leave the nursery. 

It's great to be a child of God. And I'll never stop being his child, but it's time to stop my childish ways. God's calling me to grow up. And I want to step up. How about you? 

#spiritualadulting. It's on. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Ten Totally Trivial Tidbits

  1. Our renovations are almost complete, and the church building will be open and funcitoning soon! In fact, we are already having our daily prayer meetings in the building and Sunday we'll hold services there for the first time. WOOT WOOT!!
  2. Tim Keller wrote a really great little tidbit about "Political Idolatry." If you find yourself using words like "fear" and "evil" when talking about politics or politicians, you might find it helpful. Or convicting. Here's a link:
  3. Things I don't like about having an empty nest: I miss my boys, I miss my boys, I miss my boys. And  I have no "excuse" to make cookies. 
  4. Things I like about having an empty nest: No junkfood in the house because I can't use the excuse that I'm buying it for the boys (we're actually losing weight!) and total control of the TV (I'm making up for 20 years of no chick flicks).
  5. True confession: I'm actually watching Star Trek, Next Generation on Netflix. Which probably 1) doesn't qualify as "chick" TV and 2) goes to show that I'm a lot nerdier without my boys around to keep me cool. 
  6. I have a new favorite game. It's called Caveman: The Quest for Fire. Only I don't own it and I can't get it in France. I'm hoping to get it next time I'm in the States. You get to hunt dinosaurs and invent baskets and scout out caves...yeah, well, it's better than it sounds. I promise.
  7. Someday I might tell you what David and I got each other for our 24th wedding anniversary. But then again, I might not. Because everybody loves a little mystery.
  8. It seems like everything I'm reading these days, both articles and books, is making reference to the Brothers Karamazov. Which I've never read. So, now I'm reading The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky. It might take me the rest of the year.
  9. Chandler is missing speaking French, so sometimes when we text each other we do it in French. 
  10. I'm totally struggling to come up with number TEN here. Oh! I know! I tried homemade toothpaste this week. It was made from turmeric and coconut oil and peppermint oil--which was a surprisigly pleasant taste! But the turmeric stains a white sink something awful when you spit it out, so I'm not sure I'll keep using the concoction. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Get Lost

Years (and years and years) ago I attend a class about how to share your faith. Rather than suggesting that we start with a Gospel presentation, the teacher said that we should begin by asking questions. Supposedly, as we probed the other persons' belief system, they themselves would begin to recognize that they were lost. The point was that we needed to help people recognize that they were "lost" before we could tell them how to be "found."

In a sense, going to seminary has been doing a similar thing to me. It has been helping me get "lost."

Since I was practically born on the second pew of a church, I've spent most of my life feeling "found." I knew what Christians believed. I knew what one must do to be saved. I knew how salvation had been wrought. I knew what the Bible said. I knew (basically) what the Bible meant. I was as found as found could be.

Or so I thought.

But class by class, things began to unravel. Questions--BIG questions--started looming large. Doubts moved in and set up house.

I'm not alone. Thankfully, I have an amazing group of colleagues by my side, a cohort of ministers who are muddling through right along side of me. They challenge me, inspire me, undo me, nourish me, and comfort me. We have gone to the brink together.

During one class, while peering out over a steep precipice of unknowns, one of my classmates became ashen. Noticing his fallen countenence, our professor asked, "What's wrong? What are you thinking?"

To which my classmate replied, "I'm just wondering how in the world I'm going to preach this stuff to my church!"

Our professor exploded, "DON'T PREACH THIS STUFF!!! This is just the stuff with which YOU must wrestle if you are ever to preach well."

My professor wasn't advocating hiding essential doctrines or watering down the Gospel. He wasn't insinuating that your average everyday Christian doesn't have a genuine faith. He was simply reminding us that going to seminary is both a privilege and a responsibility. We are becoming theologians, guardians of orthodoxy for our generation. And as such, we better know what those who have gone before us thought, and how they arrived at their conclusions, and why (or if?) those conclusions matter. And frankly, that stuff is messy. I wish it were neat and tidy, but it just isn't. Because God entrusted His Good News to human beings, and He continues to do so.

My professor's point was that we have to let the hard, confusing, difficult truths inform us. And then we have to let the Spirit transform us. Then, and only then, might we be ready to attempt to preach--and to handle His awesome Word of Truth with the dignity and respect it so deserves.

This "informing and transforming" feels a lot like being lost. And yet...I have the sense that I am being found as well.

I have found a profound respect for Christian orthodoxy.

I have found a deeper sense of awe for the person of God.

I have found a greater appreciation for the Scriptures.

I have found a surer faith in a few Truths. I've discovered the essentials.

I have found a genuine admiration for the broad and diverse family of God.

And I'm learning that not all doubt is unhealthy. Some doubts keep me humble. Those doubts are gifts of grace.

In the end, learning about God does not take the place of experiencing God. Knowing about Jesus is not the same thing as knowing Jesus. Believing in the Spirit is not that same thing as living in the Spirit. And if there's one thing all the questions and doubts have driven me to do, it's to cling to the One who saved me.

In fact, I think of when Jesus healed the man who was born blind, and how everyone questioned the poor guy about HOW he was healed. He doesn't know how it happened. All he knows is, "I was blind, and now I see."

Before seminary, my faith was full of answers. Now my faith is full of questions. But one thing I know: I was blind, and now I see.

He found me, despite the doubts and questions.

Jesus changes my life. Jesus makes me whole. Jesus fills my heart. Jesus gives me pupose. Jesus enables me to love. Jesus makes me holy.

I'm not sure everyone must wrestle with the complexities of faith, but I'm sure that we all go through periods of doubt and questions. In those moments, I suppose we have to take our cue from Jacob, the Old Testament patriarch. We wrestle with God, but we don't let go. We might get wounded in the fight, but we hold on until the blessing comes.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Aisles, Empty Nest, and "I DO"

 August 22, 1992, I walked down an aisle to marry the man that I love.

Today, August 22, 2016, exactly 24 years later, I watched another man that I love walk down another aisle--an airport corridor, actually, to head back to the States to begin his second year at Liberty University. 

Today, August 22, 2016, exactly 24 years later, I received a text message with a photo of another man that I love heading off on a bicycle to his first day of classes at Ivy Tech.

Suddenly, I'm keenly aware of the fact that we officially have an "empty nest." Who knew time could pass so quickly? How I cherished every minute! And I'm eager to cheer them on in their next steps. 

Many have warned me about the deep sense of loss that a mother might experience at this point in the parenting journey. I thought that perhaps I'd be immune from such sentiments. After all, I have a pretty full life, a busy ministry schedule, and all sorts of projects in the works, not to mention I'm in seminary. And it's not like those boys have needed much mothering these past few years.

And yet....

Yes, something has changed. Its not so much about a loss of identity, but a loss of proximity. They're still my boys, they're just, well, far. Far away from me. Getting on with life. Moving away. Moving on. 

As they should.

In the meantime, that guy to whom I said "I DO" 24 years ago is sitting by my side, holding my hand. Together we marvel at what has been and delight in what is still yet to be. 

This one I get to keep.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Changes for Chandler

This guy has had a rough year.

He attempted something that is considered a major challenge--he competed for a spot in medical school in France. It was a gruelling year-long fight, one that felt lost within months. He persevered to the end, and yet, he didn't make the cut. The process is so competitive that only 10-15% of the candidates actually get admitted.

When he learned his final results, he had some soul-searching to do. He no longer has the option to pursue medicine in France, but he could have chosen to go a different direction here. Or...he could return to the States, where the system gives undergraduates more time to make a decision about their ultimate career direction.

He has chosen to return to the States.

So tomorrow, Chandler will board a flight to Chicago, where my dear sister Barbarba will meet him and take him to her hometown of Bloomington, Indiana. Ultimately, Chandler plans to attend Indiana Univeristy, where my sister is a professor. But he'll spend the next year at Ivy Tech, establishing US residency and applying for admission to IU.

Please pray for Chandler as he makes this major leap. Pray for new friends--maybe even a few who speak French. Pray for direction as he tries to discern whether he wants to go pre-med or change directions. And pray that the overwhelming disappointment over the events of the past year does not steal his joy for what is possible in the years to come.

From the day he was born, Chandler has been a fighter. He's been knocked down, but never knocked out. He's got a lot more fight in him, and we're cheering him on with everything we've got!

We love you, Chan. And we couldn't be prouder.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Holy Fear

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,

And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 9:10

There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Romans 3:18

I suppose it is should not shock me that a world so lacking in reverent fear of God would also be suffering from a serious deficiency of wisdom. 

After my last blog post, my sister pointed out that perhaps the problem isn't fear, but misplaced fear. The Bible is clear: those of us who live by grace through faith in the saving work of Christ should be set free from every sort of fear, save one--the righteous and holy fear of the living God. 

This is a fear that reminds us that God is God, and we are not. It is a fear that keeps us humble, grateful, and hungry for justice. It is a fear that refuses to forget that there will be a day of reckoning. And it is a fear spurs us on to love and good deeds as the "out-working" of our salvation.

And while I believe we are invited to experience the lavish riches of God's grace, convinced that we can neither earn nor improve upon its merits, I wonder if we haven't wandered from the work that His grace is meant to accomplish in and through us. We delight so deeply in the love of God--as well we should, but have we neglected his Holiness in the process? The point of our salvation is not to give us a nice, cozy, happy life for all eternity. The point of our salvation is to make us into the image of Christ for the glory of God and the sake of the world. And this is to be done with a level of fear and trembling!

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;  for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Philippians 2:12-13

Thankfully, the work is not ours alone. Paul reminds us that it is GOD who is at work in me. But it is precisely because God is at work in me that I should have a sense of holy fear. 

This idea is more easily understood if we put it in human terms. Imagine that your boss was always standing right behind you at work, listening to every phone call, reading every email, viewing every website you visit, watching every game you play, seeing every eye-roll, hearing every sigh. Imagine that this boss is actually eager to see you succeed (not fail!), but that she also has a better understanding of the company's vision, strategy, and goals than you do. In fact, she's the CEO, the CFO, and the Board of Directors all rolled into one. So she's offering you input along the way, feeding you helpful hints, and making sure you have every resource that you could possibly need at your fingertips so that you can do the job that you were hired to do. Might the presence and provision of your superior change the way you work? Of course it would! Because with that type of boss, you'd have both a sense of security that you couldn't fail (grace) and an eagerness to please the one who gave you the job (fear). 

So I agree, a big part of our problem is misplaced fear. We are often too worried about all of the stuff that God has under control (safety, provision, resources) and not concerned enough about the call that God has given us (do justly, love mercy, walk humbly). 

He has shown you, O man, what is good;

And what does the Lord require of you

But to do justly,

To love mercy,

And to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

Jesus exemplified this charge, proclaiming the year of jubilee by working justice on behalf of the oppressed, by extending mercy to the masses (which he saw as helpless and harassed), and by living in constant, humble, submission to the Father. This is where the fear of God and the freedom from all other fears converge. 

If I fear being treated unjustly and don't fear God, I won't be free to seek justice. The Bible teaches that the justice of God is found when I relinquish my rights ("Why not rather be wronged?" I Cor. 6:7), relinquish my possessions ("Go and sell all that you have and give to the poor" Mark 10:21), and relinquish my power ("For God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong" I Cor. 1:27). 

If I fear being treated unkindly and don't fear God, I won't love mercy, I'll tend towards cruelty. The Bible teaches that the mercy of God is given to the undeserving ("He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy" Titus 3:5), the mercy of God is limitless ("His mercies never come to en end" Lam. 3:22), and that mercy is found in giving it away ("Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy" Matt. 5:7).

And if I fear being overlooked and I don't fear God, I won't walk humbly with my God, I'll seek to elevate myself. The Bible teaches that the way up is down, ("Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up" James 4:1) and that I should seek what is best for others ("...each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself" Phil 2:3). 

As I decide NOT to fear anything except GOD, I will become an agent of His justice and a lover of His mercy. Only then will I be humble before him, eager to work to please Him. 

Tying this to the last post, then, I suppose I need to ask myself, "What would it look like to put a fear of God at the heart of gun debate?"  "What would it look like to put a fear of God at the heart of the immigration debate?" "What would it look like to put a fear of God at the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement?"  How do I, a follower of Christ, engage my culture on each of these issues in a way that exemplifies a right and holy fear of God without giving any room to fear of another kind? These are good questions, and again, I'm not sure I know the answers. But I want to wrestle with these thoughts and seek the peaceable wisdom of God so that I might discern His good, pleasing, and perfect will. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Reflecting on Current Events

What a week you've had, my fellow Americans.  And how very far away I feel from it all.  Yet, you are near to my heart. I am one of you.

It's moments like this when wordsmiths like me are out like mad on the web trying to make pithy statements or dazzling observations. Facebook lights up with soundbites and hashtags. All of us, trying to make sense of a world that seems senseless.

Knowing my words won't add anything new to the conversation, I can easily retreat to silence. But there is danger there, too. Because silence can communicate contentedness with the status quo, complicity with all that is wrong. So while I do not expect to add anything new, I must say something.

The first thing that I will say is that I am ignorant, which means that the best thing I can do is shut up and listen to those who are less ignorant than myself. As a white American, I have privileges and opportunities that I don't even realize I have. I cannot understand what it is like to be a minority. It's not that I don't want to understand. It's that I can't. So when I am tempted to spout off solutions or to claim that my experience is representative of another person's experience, I do not reveal my wisdom, I reveal my ignorance. This is not to say that I should not try to understand, but I must realize that I am only going to be able to achieve an intellectual level of understanding and not an experiential level.

At the intellectual level we can study statistics and trends, we can talk about "equality" and "opportunity." We can make laws and sign petitions and have debates. Even better, I can lean into my friendships with minority people in an effort to hear and learn from their experiences. I can stop listening only to the voices of those who sound like me and listen to the voices that challenge my paradigm. These voices may not change my mind, but they will expand my heart and help me to have compassion. And I need to really listen. Listen to understand, and not just to refute. I need to imagine the possibility that there are things I don't yet know, haven't yet encountered, or have wrongly dismissed. Such listening might open me up to a new perspective. It could help me to think more deeply and sincerely about the complexity of the problems. It could lead to better solutions.

Oh but that IS such hard work. And we live in a world that prefers quips and tweets. We're all looking for that one meme that is going to bottom-line it for us. Deep thinking is no longer valued. And, sadly, we evangelical Christians can be more about categorizing issues into black and white, right and wrong, than wrestling with complexities. Why do we do that?

Remember how angry Jesus would get at the Pharisees, who were tithing down to the tiniest cent while failing miserably at loving others? They were working so hard at being right that they failed to seek true righteousness. Mercy can't be measured, so it fell off their radar.

The second thing I will say is that  from a distance, at least, the United States appears to be a nation gripped by fear. Given the challenges and difficulties of life, fear is a natural human response. But fear is not a God-honoring response. Fear begets hate. I'm pretty sure that's why "Fear not" is the most repeated command in the Bible. But the inverse is also true--perfect love casts out fear. So if you really need a black and white barometer, why not use this one: "Am I being motivated by love or by fear?"

Fear, unchecked, will be the death of us. It is becoming the guiding force of political and social issues, and it is not healthy! Fear is at the heart of the gun debate. Fear is at the heart of the immigrant debate. Fear is at the heart of racism. Fear is at the heart of the bathroom debates, for heaven's sake! And fear is at the heart of the all the election rhetoric.

Look at the fear-mongering that goes on, particularly from Evangelical Christian leaders. On his own website, James Dobson defends his support of Trump by saying, "Hillary scares me to death." This is not good leadership, it isn't even Biblical, for he is rooting his decision in fear. Ben Carson, a man many of us respected, has said things like "Hillary is of the devil." And fear of Trump is worn like a badge of honor by, well, just about everyone. Both sides are trying to garner support for their candidate by painting the scariest picture of the other person. Fear. On all sides.

Let's not take our fear to the voting booth or the pulpit. Let's take our fear to Christ, confess it as sin, and ask for His wisdom and discernment to be our guides. Let's step back from the hysteria. Listen to the words of James chapter 3:
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Here we have a filter to determine if what we are doing or thinking is aligned with God's wisdom or not. Don't ask "Is it scary?" Ask "Is it pure (or is it impure)? Is it peaceable (or is it hostile)? Is is gentle (or is it harsh)? Is it reasonable (or is it rediculous)? Is it full of mercy (or is it cruel)? Is it unwavering (or is it faltering)? Is it without hypocrisy (or is it hypocritical)?" And then consider how you share your views. Are you sowing in peace (or are you sowing  in dissention)? And just an aside--there is not a single news station in the US that is NOT sowing dissention. So maybe turn off the TV and the radio and read more newspapers. Most are available online these days, and this access to the written word allows you to search out all sides of an issue while refusing to support the inflammatory, baiting, fear-mongering rubbish that permeates the airwaves. Try to find facts, and take time to think constructively about the facts that you find.

Let me end where I began. I am ignorant. But I also have the advantage of viewing things from outside the American arena--which offers a unique perspective. I have so much to learn, and the more I learn the more I realize how much I don't know. So I'm simply sharing what I think to be my best contribution to the important conversations that are swirling all around us. Two things I am committing to do: Listen more and fear less.

The following are links to articles or books that I have found helpful. None of them are perfect, and I do not agree with everything that is found in them. But I do find that reading these things is helping me to understand the complexity of these issues, to think more deeply about solutions, and to consider what my best contribution might be. Believe it or not, there are a lot of very smart people of integrity on all sides of these issues.

Here is a link to a short article that explains why #AllLivesMatter may be an uninformed and unhelpful respose to #BlackLivesMatter.

Colleen Mitchell, a Catholic missionary in Costa Rica, speaks truth in her article, "10 Reasons Why I Don't Want to be You White Ally."

This is the best article I've read on why Trump is so popular with evangelicals.

I really appreciate this insightful article from a woman with a black son and a husband who is a white police officer.

If you haven't yet read The Same Kind of Different as MeI highly recommend it. It's an easy but poignant book.

I was challenged by bell hooks' book Where We Stand: Class Matters. Some of her writing is inflammatory and she does not provide sufficient research to support her harsh judgements; however, I must admit that some of her claims ring with truth and have made me think twice about the ramifications of our consumerist culture and how consumerism is linked to racism and sexism. This book is hard for a white middle/upper class audience to read because it is highly critical. But if you read it, seek to leave room for conviction and try not to dismiss all of it just because some of it is over the top.

Another good book on consumerism is William T. Cavanaugh's book Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire.