Monday, November 28, 2016

For the first day of Advent, I wanted to share a G K Chesterton poem with you. It is, in true Chesterton fashion, witty and deep and awe-inspiring. I'm using it as a source of contemplation this Christmas season. May his words touch your heart, mind, and soul, and help you to marvel anew at the wonder of the incarnation.


There has fallen on earth for a token
A god too great for the sky.
He has burst out of all things and broken
The bounds of eternity:
Into time and the terminal land
He has strayed like a thief or a lover,
For the wine of the world brims over,
Its splendour is spilt on the sand.

Who is proud when the heavens are humble,
Who mounts if the mountains fall,
If the fixed stars topple and tumble
And a deluge of love drowns all-
Who rears up his head for a crown,
Who holds up his will for a warrant,
Who strives with the starry torrent,
When all that is good goes down?

For in dread of such falling and failing
The fallen angels fell
Inverted in insolence, scaling
The hanging mountain of hell:
But unmeasured of plummet and rod
Too deep for their sight to scan,
Outrushing the fall of man
Is the height of the fall of God.

Glory to God in the Lowest
The spout of the stars in spate-
Where thunderbolt thinks to be slowest
And the lightning fears to be late:
As men dive for sunken gem
Pursuing, we hunt and hound it,
The fallen star has found it
In the cavern of Bethlehem.

                        Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Walking Out the One Anothers

We are continually learning what it means to be the church. But the idea of living in community, for the sake of the community, is a good place to start.

Easier said than done.

We all like the idea of community. We have all seen what happens in those rare moments when a community rallies around a cause and "makes a difference." However, living in community--not just in times of great tragedy or in the wake of a disaster, but in day to day, ordinary, life--is a whole different ball game. And it is both harder and easier than I had imagined. It is also, I believe, the life to which we have been called.

You know all of those "one anothers" in the Bible?

Love one another

Serve one another

Submit to one another

Encourage one another

Confess your sins to one another

Pray for one another

Be at peace with one another

Wash one another's feet

Be devoted to one another

Accept one another

Admonish one another

Wait for one another

Greet one another

Bear one another's burdens

Bear with one another

Do not lie to one another

Consider one another more important than yourselves

Comfort one another

Build up one another

Seek after that which is good for one another

Stimulate one another to love and good deeds

Do not speak against one another

Be hospitable to one another

Have fellowship with one another

Living in community provides daily opportunity for me to practice these things. I'm not talking about living in A community. We all do that. And that does provide opportunity to do these things as well. But I'm talking about living IN community.

What's the difference? Three things: solidarity, proximity, and intentionality. We are not one family trying to do these things in our neighborhood. Instead, we have planted a small community of believers (2 families and 2 singles) within an existing community to BE the church in and for that community.

Solidarity--we are a community of believers with a shared vision
Proximity--we all live walking distance from each other and from the church
Intentionality--we are taking these "one anothers" seriously in how we interact with each other and the broader community.

There is so much talk and rhetoric out there in the world about what it means to be a person or a community of faith. But the God who came to dwell among us invites us to also be incarnate in our world, embodying all that He taught us. I'm pretty convinced that the world can not be reached through brilliant arguments and well worded statements of faith alone. I'm pretty convinced that unless and until we are embodying those arguments and statements, we are just clanging cymbals.

The truth is, the lost people around me simply don't care about going to heaven or to hell. Such ideas are too foreign to their experience and world view. But when they see the "one anothers" being lived out in their midst--THAT, they want. And when I can simply explain that THAT is but a foretaste of heaven, the reality for which we were created, then I have something to share that they want to hear. Then the arguments have some merit. This is where effective evangelism is happening in our context.

There is no one way or model for this to happen. So as I share a peek into how that is being played out here in Old Lyon, please do not think that I am saying that this is the only way. It is one way.

In our desire to have a building that not only housed our weekly worship services and daily prayer meetings, but was open to the community all week long, we landed on the idea of opening a shared workspace facility, where we rent desks to self-employed or independent people in need of office space. From 8 am - 6 pm, M-F, the building functions as a Co-Working Venue. But from 7-7:45 am and 6-6:30 pm, M-F, we have prayer meetings in that same space. The people who rent space are invited (but certainly not required) to participate. But they understand that the space is shared with a church and that such activities will be part of the weekly rhythms. We also have our weekly services (called Happy Hour) at 5 pm on Sunday evenings.

No matter the day or the hour, we practice the "one anothers." There are four or five of us who are both church members and co-workers, and so as we go to the "office" to do our work (for me, sermon writing, conference prep, networking, coaching) we have the joy and privilege of interacting with our broader community on a day to day basis: loving, serving, speaking truth, sharing joy, practicing hospitality, spurring good deeds. We're living this stuff out both inside and outside of church walls because this church's walls extend into the community.

Again, this is both easier and harder than I imagined it would be. Easier because it is organic. I am not having to contrive ways to interact with people from the community. I am not having to create "outreach" events or manipulate conversations. We live out our faith with those who work alongside us. But it's harder because I can't compartmentalize and there are no clear boundaries. Sometimes I don't want to "serve one another" (i.e. clean the office) or "have fellowship with one another" (i.e. stop my work to engage in a meaningful conversation). And I am finding myself faced with how challenging these "one anothers" are if we actually try to live them out in our regular daily lives.

But when we get it right...oh the beauty and the rapture we experience. God is present all the time, but there is a sense of His manifest presence among us when we live this out by His strength and for His glory.

Yesterday was one of those days for me. But since this post is getting a bit long, I'll save that story for another day. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What's Chasing You?

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4: 19
Paul wrote these words to the Philippians, after they had sent him a financial gift. He knew that the gift he had received would have created needs for the Philippians--they had given out of poverty, not abundance. I imagine it was hard for Paul to accept such a gift. In fact, he might have been tempted to return it, except that he had great faith in God's generosity. 


It's quite a promise. And as I was reflecting on this verse this morning, I was reminded of Psalm 23, which concludes with a similar sentiment.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life

The word that is translated "follow" is actually a hunting term that means to chase or pursue. In other words, the goodness of God--his love and his provision--are  not things that I need to chase after, they are things that chase after me. Or as Matthew put it, they are simply '"added" to my life as I seek hard after God. 

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:33

So I had to ask myself if I believe this promise that Paul makes to the Philippians. Do I chase after the blessings or the blesser? Because while it may seem that these two are connected, the pursuit of one will lead me in the opposite direction of the other. I cannot chase both.

If I chase the blessings, I may catch a few of them, but chances are I'll miss both the Kingdom and His righteousness. But if I chase the blesser, I will not only find the Kingdom, I'll find the King. And if I find the King, what else could I possibly need? Does a child starve when her dad is the King? Does she wander about in rags? Is she floundering through life without  mission or pupose? Surely not! 

And yet, I chase the blessings.

I don't really trust that God is enough, that Christ is sufficient, and that I will be satisfied in Him alone. I say I believe those things, but I live like I don't. 

When finances are limited, I stop being generous. When time is limited, I stop being available. When positions are limited, I vie for a place. When options are limited, I lobby for my way. I spend my energy fighting for the things that Jesus gives away for free. As I chase these things, I am chased by worry, fear, and doubt--all of which tell me that I am never going to have enough, do enough, or be enough. 

In my pursuit of worldly riches, I am impoverished of the riches of his glory. 

When I pursue Jesus, all the rest is "added." The still waters and calm pastures. The paths of righteousness. The restoration of my soul. These are the things that are chasing me when I chase after the blesser instead of the blessings.

So if you want to know what you are really chasing after, all you have to ask yourself is "What's chasing me?" Are you hounded by worry or overcome by peace? Are you running from scarcity or overtaken by abundance? Are you trying to escape isolation or drowning in love? 

What's chasing you?

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.