Saturday, November 28, 2015


I had just spent a lovely afternoon with my friend and after praying together, I walked her to the metro to catch her train back home. As we stood outside the station saying our goodbyes, an older, obviously inebriated man stumbled over to us.

Parenthetically: I DO live in the middle of a pretty big city. I have regular encounters with addicts, homeless people, and beggars. Earlier that same afternoon my friend and I had given a few bucks to a young, injured musician. He was from eastern Europe, didn't speak any French, only a little English, and he told us that because of his broken arm he was unable to play his guitar, which is why he was begging on the street. He simply said, "I have two choices, steal or beg, and I'm not a thief." I wished I could've taken the poor guy home with me, but I knew that wasn't the answer. So we each gave him a little spare change, hoping it would at least add up to a warm meal. I'm just telling you this so that you know that while I clearly can't meet every need I see on the street, I try to stay open to the possibility that God might be leading me to help some from time to time.

But when the older drunk guy headed for us, I inwardly rolled my eyes. I was trying to savor my last few minutes with a friend, I didn't want to be interrupted, and I had no more loose change on me. I avoided making eye contact and hoped he would stagger in a different direction.

He didn't.

He came right up into our personal space, such that both my friend and I instinctively took a subtle half-step backwards as we inhaled the scent of stale beer. "What does he want?" I thought, annoyed. He simply looked at us and said, "Vous ĂȘtes belles." You're beautiful. I was suspicious of his motives, but my friend smiled sweetly and said, "Merci !" Thank you. And he walked away.

My friend parted, and I quickly forgot the whole encounter. Two hours later David and I headed to evening prayer. Our pastor was there with his wife and two young children. We shared about our days and thanked God for the ways and places that we had seen His hand at work among us. I mentioned my time with my friend. I didn't mention the drunk guy.

After praying, David and I got up to leave. But I was stopped by Alicia, our pastor's 4-old daughter who ran up to me and hugged my knees. I stroked her hair and looked into her eyes. Then she reached up towards me and I instinctively bowed down. She gently stroked my face twice and said, "Tu es belle." You're beautiful.

It was the second time in the span of a few hours that I had heard those words, and the coincidence did not escape my notice.

Only my response to the two encounters was completely different. I felt invaded by one, but envelopped by the other. I stepped away from one, but moved toward the other. I was deeply suspicious of one, but fully trusting of the other. I was annoyed by one interruption, but charmed by the other. And yet, in the end, neither needed or wanted anything from me. Both the old man and the young child offered blessing. One came in a package I rejected, the other in a package I received.

It makes me think of how often Jesus welcomed the love of the unlovely. Both outcasts and small children were invited into his personal space. He never took a half-step back. Jesus moves towards.

I want to be like him.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Blogging about Blogging

There was a time when I would blog three to four times a week. Blogging is like breathing for me--it is that place where I process and wrestle with deep thoughts, where I confess and expose my struggles with life and faith, where I laugh at myself and marvel at God and muse at the intermingling of the two. Honestly, friends, I don't do it for you. I do it for me. I have never thought of my blog as a ministry to others. I've always seen it as therapy for myself. I count it as a luxury of sorts--a hobby. Something I GET to do, not something I HAVE to do.

So when I started Seminary over a year a ago and suddenly found myself with (GASP) assigned reading and writing, the blog got put on the on back burner. After all, no one grades my blog and it certainly isn't earning me any scholarships, salary, or fame. I've gotten to the point where instead of blogging three to four times a week, I'm blogging three to four times a month. And  I guess I thought it didn't matter, because, you know, I do it for myself. Only a few weeks ago I realized something. Blogging is like breathing for me--and I'm suffocating.

Still, I continued to ignore it. Where was the time? Everything else took priority. I knew I needed to write because the knots in my head and my heart were getting bigger and tighter, and writing is my only means of unraveling them. But the pressures of daily living are unrelenting, and my plate is as full of most of yours will be today as you feast on turkey and dressing. The ministries on my plate are appealing and delightful and I want to have them all. But it turns out that eating--no matter how delicious the food--is not all that satisfying when one can't breathe.

All of the ministries that I love are starting to lose their flavor because I am not breathing between bites. Blogging is like breathing for me. Why would I ignore breathing? Because I had fully convinced myself that blogging--like breathing--is entirely self-serving. And I translated that to mean selfish, expendable, or superfluous. But I don't think of breathing like that. Somehow, breathing (though self-serving) is worthy of my time. In fact, I can't not do it.

And so it seems that the only healthy thing to do is to blog more regularly. To breathe. Which I intend to do.

But if I'm being totally honest (which, you know, I usually am) I'd have to admit that it was a note from a stranger that woke me up and reminded me to breathe. A young woman sent me a message through Facebook that I almost didn't see because she wasn't my friend, and messages from strangers on Facebook don't go into one's regular inbox. Having done a "marathon read" of my blog, she shared with me how my writing had ministered to her. And it was as if God wanted to remind me that even though I write for me (and that's okay! He wants me to breathe)--He can use it (wants to use it?) to speak to others as well.

Before I started blogging, I journaled. Fact: if the writing were really meant just for me, then journaling would be the right medium. Yet, somehow I sense that my words are meant to be shared. I like sharing them. I need to share them. I can't not do it.

So for the past year this poor little blog has been on life-support, limping along, winded and weak. But today there is a fresh wind blowing.

Yes, I'm breathing again. And I like it. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

About that...

There is this great story in the Gospel of Luke when the disciples are traveling with Jesus to Jerusalem. It is getting dark, and Jesus sends a few of them ahead to a Samaritan village where they plan to spend the night. But it turns out the Samaritans didn't want to play host to Jesus. The Bible tells us, "the people there did not welcome him."

The disciples are angry, indignant, and self-righteous at this turn of events. They even offer to "call down fire from heaven to destroy them." The disciples feel threatened by the Samaritan's rejection, but Jesus? Not so much. In fact, Jesus is more bothered by his disciples' response to the rejection. The disciples want to rebuke the Samaritans, but Jesus rebukes his disciples.

You see, Jesus never expected the world to love and accept him. Rejection doesn't surprise him. It doesn't even offend him. It's us who take offense. And in our offense, we often sin. We miss the mark. We miss the point.

Do you get where I'm going with this? Yes, I'm talking about the stupid cups. And all of the other things over which American Christians will agonize in the coming months. In trying to make Jesus the point of the season, how very often we miss the point ourselves. 

We have got to stop acting offended or surprised when earthly powers, businesses, and governments don't welcome Jesus. Heck, he was born in a barn to show us that he was going to be an outsider from the get-go! It's not our job to make the world love him. It's our job to love a world that hates him. It's not our job to call down fire from heaven every time we think that Jesus has been forced out of the picture. It's our job to offer grace and mercy to bring Jesus back into the picture.

Think before you post, people. Ask yourself, "Am I calling down fire from heaven?" And if you are, remember how Jesus responded to his disciples when they did the exact same thing. 

 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them.
Luke 9: 54-55