My Favorites

I'll be honest with you, dear readers. Lately, I've been a bit off. The best way to sum it up is by saying I've been "emotionally constipated." My insides are hurting a little, and it's like I can't get comfortable or be at rest. I feel a lot of junk up inside me but I can't seem to get it out. You're welcome for that pleasant metaphor. This "emotional constipation" seems to happen every so often, and it's fairly predictable. I go through some sort of life transition (we recently moved), throwing my healthy rhythms off kilter and I start to let them lapse. What do I mean by "healthy rhythms"? Well, some people call it self care, some people call it soul keeping. It's comprised of all those things that keep me from becoming an insane person. So yes. One might say they're important.

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The Path

Sometimes I like to walk the labyrinth. I have a place I go every once in awhile to have a Sabbath-a breather for my soul. I walk, I read, I pray, I just spend time being. And yesterday, I took a long overdue day at this place. As I approached the labyrinth yesterday in the crisp, damp air, I became overwhelmed. What a perfect metaphor for our lives. This path that I walk could tell the story of my life, probably more poetically than I could.

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On Prayer & God's Kingdom

scripture "God, we need you. Like, real bad."

Those incredibly eloquent words are written on the page of my journal today. Sometimes prayer is a love song, sometimes a battle cry, and sometimes a desperate call for help. For me, it can be all of the above in a span of five minutes.

Prayer isn't always pretty. It's not a neat and tidy list that starts with "God bless..." I mean, maybe sometimes. But not for me, most of the time. In fact, my closest loved ones have strict instructions that if I die young, my children are absolutely NOT to see my journals until they are 21. My prayers are not exactly PG rated.

And let's be honest, neither is scripture. That's not real life. Real life on this broken and weary planet comes with violence and oppression and suffering and four-letter words. It comes with screaming and wailing and death. Just look at David's prayers in the Psalms.

BUT GOD...

I love those words. God was not content to stand by and watch his children suffer. God is not passive--God cares deeply. He cared so much he came among us to experience the heartache we feel, the gut-wrenching pain and the agony, and even death. And then....

RESURRECTION LIFE.

God won the victory over all the screwed-up and the broken-down, and his life is breaking through the darkness, little by little. "God's kingdom is like a mustard seed," Jesus said. Smaller than all other seeds, yet it grows into a plant where even birds can make their nest. If we look for it, we'll find it. God's beautiful, surprising, marvelous kingdom is coming among us, and we are the privileged witnesses to it.

"Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven."

Our prayers are one of the many vehicles God often uses to bring his kingdom now. God's glorious, full-of-hope future is breaking into our dim and dreary present, many times through our own prayers. God's ways are higher than mine, and the way he works is still a wondrous mystery to me, but I've seen him use prayer countless times.

More often than not, God needs to bring his kingdom in me before he brings it in my situation, and he does that through prayer. When I pray for someone, God usually changes my heart towards them, causing me to see them through the lens of his love. When I pray for circumstances, he almost always changes my perspective on them. And the new perspective is always infused with his wisdom and hope.

If you don't know how to pray, you're in good company. Jesus' disciples didn't either, so they asked him to teach them. This is the prayer he gave them:

“Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins

as we forgive those

who sin against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power,

and the glory are yours,

now and forever. Amen.”

If that's too much for you, start with "thank you." Or simply, "Help." God can't resist a humble heart (James 4:6), so just be brave enough to ask for help. That's the first step toward trust. And if he tells you something, believe it. That's what he calls "righteousness" (James 2:23). And if you're angry, that's ok too. You can tell him. David did. Once, when I lost someone I dearly loved, God said to me, "I'd rather you run to me throwing punches than stand at a distance." God is big enough for our natural human emotions. It's ok. And he is good. He can be trusted. I have a lifetime of proof.

"Oh, my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.”

--King David (Psalm 62:8)

So if you're full of joy today, pray. If you're full of sorrow today, pray. If your heart is broken today, pray. If you're soaring in celebration today, pray. Pray all the time, in every emotion and circumstance, without stopping. Pour out your heart to God, and watch him bring his glorious kingdom.

To the Families in Boats Tonight

syria photo: Ralph Ellis and Gul Tuysuz, CNN

I can’t get them out of my head tonight: all those families in rickety boats. Hearts pounding out of their chests. Mommas and Daddies breathing hot, wet air and praying their babies don’t make a sound. Some with horrifying images of family members killed playing on repeat in their minds. Sweating, thirsting, and terrified of going overboard, heart leaping into their chest with every lurch and reel of the shoddy little vessel. I can’t stomach it. All the pain, all the anxiety, all the suffering.

And that’s just a tiny fraction of each of their stories. That nightmarish boat ride is just one of a hundred horrible things they’ve had to endure. As I sit in my safe, quiet house, bombs are going off and guns are being fired and people are fleeing for their lives. As I relax in my comfy chair, people are walking thousands of miles carrying food and family members.

And so, to the families fleeing tonight, I write:

I think of you as I watch my daughters eat their dinner until their bellies are full, knowing the pain in your stomachs is nothing compared to watching your own children's hunger.

I think of you as I listen to my daughters’ carefree laughs and stories, knowing you’re hearing painful cries instead.

I think of you as we play “Go Fish” and “Pictionary”, knowing you’d give anything to feel that light hearted again.

I think of you as I brush teeth, help with potty and PJ’s, knowing you’re going without clean water and bathrooms.

I think of you as I snuggle my toddler tight, breathing her in as I hear her own breath in my ear. I hold her longer than usual, thankful for the privilege. I squeeze her tight, knowing Aylan’s daddy and many more of you along with him are aching to hold your babies again.

I think of you as I hug my daughter, tucked in secure with her innocence tonight, knowing some of your little girls have been stripped of that right.

I think of you as I pray with my babies, knowing you’d wish you could pray “thank you for our new pet fish” instead of “please let us make it out alive.”

What these families are facing is unthinkable, and so I can’t stop thinking about them. I’m praying for them with every breath tonight. I refuse to add my own indifference to the long litany of atrocities they’ve endured. I will pray. I will give. I will try in every way I can to show up for these families and give them whatever help is in my power.

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.”

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’”

“Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!”

Father, have mercy on us. Lord, take care of those in rickety boats tonight. Jesus, multiply the bread of the hungry. Provide rivers of living water. Prepare a table in the wilderness and be a refuge, a strong tower. You are our only hope. Use us to carry your love, your help, and your provision. Amen.

For more information on the tangible help we can bring during this global crisis, visit http://wewelcomerefugees.com.