Are You Ready for God to Show Up?

This past Sunday, Christians around the globe gathered in churches scattered far and wide to celebrate something big–the birth of the church. On Pentecost Sunday, we remember the remarkable story of the Holy Spirit roaring like a hurricane throughout the room where the apostles were gathered, branding them as holy vessels with a tongue of fire above their heads, and giving them the ability to speak in many different languages. On that day thousands of years ago, God showed up in a big way. God sent his Spirit…the Advocate…the Breath of God…to fulfill the promise Jesus made to the disciples before he was raised to heaven.

As the disciples spoke, the Spirit was set loose–opening the minds and hearts of countless people from all over the known world to the gospel message.

At its core, Pentecost is a celebration of the Holy Spirit and of God’s awesome power to fulfill each and every one of the promises made in Scripture. It’s a celebration of hope –the hope that we have in God’s mighty power to act in this world and to build his kingdom here…on Earth as it is in heaven.

Sometimes, it can be hard to reconcile the Pentecost story to the world in which we live. There’s too much hate. Too much evil. Too much anger. Too much uncertainty. But lately, I’ve felt a tugging deep within my core–a desire to proclaim the goodness of God to all I meet. It’s like a little spark–a tiny ember popping from a flaming log and shining for a moment in the night sky. It burns in the center of my soul and says, “Tell people what God is doing.” So I’ve been trying. When I hear God speak through a piece of Scripture, devotional reading, or prayer, I send it out in a text message, or even in a chat group at work. Sometimes I omit the words God and Jesus, depending on who I’m reaching out to…but I figure the Holy Spirit will take care of that. As an ember, I’m called to provide a little sizzle, not a full-blown conflagration.

I share my spark in other ways, too–being gracious to those I meet in public, having conversations and listening when interacting with fellow human beings rather than keeping my head down and eyes focused on my phone. And reaching out to build new relationships…to expand my sphere beyond the four walls of my home, or even the many walls of our church building. It’s not always easy, and sometimes there’s a trade-off in time or energy. As an introvert, I prefer cocooning, but I’m trying to follow the pull to be an ember.

Because as the Spirit threw open the doors behind which the disciples hid during Pentecost so they could share the good news of Jesus Christ, so, too, the Spirit calls us forth into the turbulent waters of the world today to share the message of God’s love. It’s not easy. There’s much that stands in the way. But where God wills, the Spirit makes a way…just as it did on Pentecost over two thousand years ago.

The psalmist writes:

The story of Pentecost is the story of God showing up. But it didn’t end there. History is full of moments when the Spirit has moved. Some have been blazes that have led to national or international revivals, while others have been small sparks in individual lives that have transformed relationships, brought hope in the midst of darkness, or changed the course of a church congregation. There’s SO much the Spirit can do when it is unleashed in our lives, even if it’s just an ember that burns brightly for a moment.

So let’s be embers, my friends. Let’s be the spark of the Spirit and lean into our communities, our nation, our world, and allow God room to move. Let’s be the hands and feet that bring good news to the brokenhearted. Let’s speak to others in words of love. Let’s offer grace to those whom we disagree with. Let’s forgive those who have wronged us. Let’s show mercy to those whom we feel are misguided or wrong. Let’s offer food to the hungry, and care to the homeless. Let’s listen before we speak, and allow others to talk. Let’s greet everyone we meet with kindness. Let’s open our hearts to empathy, and show compassion for those whose journey looks different from ours. Let’s sit with those who mourn, and encourage those who are struggling. Let’s push our each other to be better and to do better.

Most importantly, let’s expect God to show up today. And tomorrow. And the next day. And let’s be ready to follow when he does.

Blessings and Peace,


NIV Student Bible: Teen Review

My 14-year-old came home last week talking about the book of Ecclesiastes. This is not a normal circumstance–but I had tasked him with helping me review the new NIV Student Bible from Zondervan, which I was given a free copy of to review as a Bible Gateway BG2 member–and he was taking it seriously.

Actually, what really happened was he started reading the Bible…and really liked it. I remember getting my first NIV Student Bible as a teen–and it transformed the way I read the Bible. Apparently, this new edition, with commentary by bestselling author Phillip Yancey, is doing the same. My son talked to me about Solomon’s words on life–how the king looked out over his vast kingdom, contemplated his vast wealth and abundant life, and declared: “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!!”

My son commented that, in reading the commentary, he learned that Solomon wasn’t really saying all life is meaningless, just life without God because God gives life meaning. And, he said, the notes in the Bible applied the teaching in a real-world way that made sense to him. My chin might have hit the floor.

You can read more about the new NIV Student Bible from Zondervan here: But I thought I’d let my son fill you in on all the deets that appealed to him.

First, he says the Guided Reading plans are easy to follow…and that he learned a lot from the. He liked the way they were broken down by topic. He also thought the introduction to each Bible book gave a lot of useful information about what was to come, and that the examples included tied into real life and “made sense.”

Then there are the notes, which he says are “nice and helpful to understanding more about the Scripture.”

His overall impression: “All in all, this Bible is nice to use, easy to follow, and there is a lot to learn from it–but this Bible makes it easy to learn. The NIV Student Bible makes understanding the Bible easier.”

After giving me his review, he asked me if he could keep using the Bible, because he is really enjoying reading it. Then he promptly put it back in his backpack, where he’s been carrying it to and from school for two weeks–reading in his spare time both in class and on the bus.

I’m pretty sure I can’t give more of an endorsement than that!

Blessings and Peace,


Unity in Diversity

What does it mean to be diverse? Technically speaking, it’s just having a variety of stuff, though when we use it we’re generally referring to the inclusion in a group or organization of people from many different backgrounds, ethnicities, and experiences. The kingdom of God has always been a diverse place–you can begin at the beginning to see God’s appreciation of diversity in the makeup of creation. Leaders in the Old Testament came from different backgrounds, and the people of Israel sometimes welcomed “outsiders” into their fold. Ruth was from Moab, God saved the Ninevites, and the disciples themselves were a motley crew made up of fisherman, a doctor, a tax collector, a Hellenized Jew, and eventually one of the most bigoted Jewish leaders. Moreover, Jesus often spoke to diverse groups of people, welcoming the upper crust, no crust, and even Samaritans to God’s feast of love.

Jesus made clear through both walk and talk that the Gospel is for everyone–a message solidified in Peter’s vision in Acts 10, and Paul’s words in Galatians 3 that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female in God’s kingdom.

Though unity is central in the body of Christ (look at Acts 2 and the oneness of the believers), diversity is as well. The early church was highly diverse. There were people from different races, zip codes, cultures, theologies, and income levels who came together united under the banner that Jesus saves. Was there conflict? Of course! And there was positioning and posturing and power grabbing, too. But time and again the church leaders sought to resolve conflict by taking the path of love because they understood that what mattered most was the transformation of the world through the gospel message of Jesus Christ. (Acts 15:6-21) Peter affirmed to the Jerusalem Council that both circumcised and uncircumcised were saved in the same way–by the grace of Christ Jesus.

In the 3rd letter of John, the apostle writes to a dear friend and shares that he and his team of missionaries have been barred from a church because of Diotrephes–a seemingly self-appointed gatekeeper who has taken umbrage with John’s message, even resorting to spreading “malicious nonsense” about John and his followers. However, John also expresses his intent to call this bully out the next time he’s in town…because in the kingdom of God, there is no room for bullies.

Lately, I have been troubled at the bullying supposedly good “Christians” have been doing–seeking to marginalize, castigate, and even dehumanize others, and barring them from the love of Jesus Christ. John’s words about the malicious nonsense being spread ring true in the hate-filled rhetoric and mean-spirited laws aimed at the LGBTQ community, as well as Asian Americans, Latin American immigrants, and the Jewish community. The things being spread on social media, shouted by politicians, and enacted in law are nonsense at best, and a fomentation of violence at worst.

Did you know that LGBTQ teens are nearly 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers? And it’s not because of who they are, but how they have been stigmatized and traumatized by their communities. These youth also experience bullying at a much more significant rate than their peers, and are more likely to be both physically and sexually assaulted.

As Jesus followers, we are called to be greeters, not gatekeepers.

I know many Christians have differing views about Scripture and the LGBTQ community–but as someone who has friends in the community, and as someone who has prayerfully studied the Bible with academic insight, I cannot abide the hate some believers spew in Jesus’ name.

Jesus calls us to servant leadership borne of love. His arms are open (John 3:16-18) as he seeks the salvation of all. As Jesus followers, we are called to be greeters, not gatekeepers.

You can agree or disagree with my theology…I don’t mind. The apostles themselves didn’t always agree, but it doesn’t give us the right to be mean or abusive. Jesus never said to hate those who differ from you, to persecute those who are different. He didn’t call his disciples to weaponize his words, or to bully salvation into others (though that’s what some in history have done). No, Jesus said to love others, because it is through loving that we introduce others God.

Blessings and Peace–and Love,


A Roller Coaster of a Ride

Several years ago, my father-in-law experienced a significant health scare. Though he is well now, I remember that time as being a veritable roller coaster of emotions. Initially, doctors thought healing my father-law would be simple…relief…but that relief became alarm very quickly as surgeons were consulted. Confusion then set in, as one department said, “Sure! We can fix this!” and the other said, “No, we really can’t.” But we weren’t done yet. For just as it seemed we had a tenuous path forward, a surgeon said the most terrifying phrase of all–this could potentially lead to death. The bottom dropped. And still, the ride continued, because the next morning what had been the…worst…prognosis…was suddenly spun around once more, as the partnering physician said, “Actually, I do this everyday. It’s going to be a piece of cake.”

I remember sitting in the surgical waiting room, trying to keep my brain busy as we sat on tenterhooks awaiting news. And then, suddenly, the door a door was thrown open, and the surgeon gleefully pranced inside (the man literally had a spring in his step) proclaiming the surgery a triumphant success. Thank God! Hallelujah! Where’s the wine?

Just a few short hours later, I was with my father-in-law in the ICU room as a nurse checked his cognitive function. As she asked him why he was in the hospital, my father-in-law, never missing a beat, pulled out his trademark humor and said: “I had br-a-a-a-in surgery.” Laughing, I knew we were going to be okay.

Life can feel like a roller coaster sometimes, can’t it? Things are chugging along smoothly, then the bottom drops out. We’re struggling up a hill that seems as if it will go on forever, but then all of a sudden, we’ve reached the summit and the whole world stretches before us. There are sudden turns, jarring moments of flailing upside down, but also smooth straightaways where we can sit back, smile, and enjoy the breeze.

This, in a nutshell, is Holy Week. We begin at Palm Sunday with joyous crowds, loud hosannas, and hope for tomorrow, only to be tempered a bit by the solemnity of Maundy Thursday as Jesus offers a new cup. Friday is an absolute horror show, as the crowds suddenly turn on the one they were exalting to shout, “Crucify him!” And then Saturday dawns, dark, somber, joyless with the disciples asking from their closed room, “How did this happen?” Of course, we know how it happened, as God spoke it from the very beginning of the story.

Luke 2 might seem an odd place to land when contemplating the Easter story…but the events of Holy Week are encapsulated for us in the words of Simeon as he beholds the Messiah.

Simeon tells Mary and Joseph that their child will bring salvation….but even more fantastical, it will be a salvation for ALL people–not just the Jews. Hallelujah, right? We are cresting the hilltop–but wait–Simeon isn’t finished yet. Looking straight at Mary he says:

What?! How did we go from salvation to sword so quickly? Ask Peter…he knows (John 18:10) Simeon makes it clear that along the path to salvation will be both joy and sorrow–and that Mary, this new mother still reeling from all that has happened and been revealed these past nine months, will find her heart broken open by this infant she cradles in her arms.

I wonder how Mary responded. Did she look at Joseph and murmur, “This dude is loco.” Or did she feel an inkling of fear shivering up her spine? Maybe she walked out of the Temple and decided it was time for a nap, as I can’t imagine she’d been getting much sleep and things often appear worse when you’re tired.

Regardless, Simeon’s words echo throughout the Gospel story–that the work this child born under such remarkable circumstances was called to do will bring about such turmoil and upheaval, both within our innermost beings and out in the midst of a broken and volatile world. There will be highs, and there will be lows. We will be caught off guard–or perhaps snoozing, like the disciples. (Matthew 26:40-42) We will shout, and we will cry. We will be stunned into silence. But we will also stand in awe at the absolute marvel that God has wrought in bringing about our reconciliation to him.

As we enter into this Holy Week, let us do so remembering that salvation is messy work. Be willing to experience all of the emotions this week brings–not skipping past the dips and turns and gravity-defying inversions. Instead, let’s walk with Jesus as he moves from palms to hyssop–as he listens to exaltations becoming jeers–as he asks for the cup to be taken from him, but affirms God’s will be done. Take the roller coaster ride of the salvation story this week–because when the cart finally pulls back into the station, we’ll be ready for the joy.

Blessings and Peace,


Unscheduled Stops

In our family, we love a good road trip. Part of the magic of trekking across this vast landscape we call America is leaving room for new adventures that might present themselves as we roll along. A few years ago, as we were driving through the Southwest, we saw that we were closer to the Petrified Forest than we realized. So, we stopped and spent a lovely few hours hiking through ancient (or beyond ancient) rocks–marveling at the grandeur and majesty of God. This past summer, we headed East to Washington, D.C. With no plans one evening, we made our way to the U.S. Capitol and sat on the steps of this hallowed seat of government, visiting with a group of veterans who had come to exercise their Constitutional rights in the push to secure funding for service members who had become ill in the course of their duty. More recently, on a work trip to Philadelphia, I spent half a day wandering the city and exploring some of its history–going wherever the spirit of inquiry led me, delighting in learning more about the marvelous mayhem that was our nation’s founding.

At this point, you’re probably thinking that you didn’t click onto this post to read about my travel history…and that’s a fair critique. So let me get to the point…In this day and age, we lead hyper scheduled lives. Look at your calendar and see how many empty days you have. We don’t have a free Saturday until February 25. Our daily schedules follow a same pattern–minutes carefully accounted for from the moment we wake to the moment our heads hit the pillow once again. Yet all of this scheduling poses a problem for our practice of faith, because God doesn’t move according to our schedules. He has his own, and it often looks nothing like ours.

I love this passage from the Gospel of John. Jesus is talking to Nicodemus, a Pharisee, who wants to believe in salvation, but Jesus’s words just don’t gel with his understanding. Everything in Nicodemus’s life says to follow the path of tradition. Hold fast to your education, maintain your daily practices, adhere to the schedule established in the Book of Law. And so, Nicodemus says to Jesus, “This doesn’t make any sense. It’s completely illogical.”

And, in the most aggravatingly awesome way ever, Jesus responds…Yes. You’re exactly right.

Instead of walking Nicodemus through the law (see Peter’s speech in Acts 2:14-41 for that), Jesus essentially tells him that God’s plan goes against everything Nicodemus has ever expected, and that he just needs to get over that and accept that things are going to be different. God’s Spirit goes where it wants to, Jesus says. You can follow, or not.

Personally, I find a lot of relief in Jesus’s response to Nicodemus. It takes the pressure off my already overtaxed brain to figure something else out. It’s one less thing I need to have an answer for. God has his own plan, and I can follow or not. But like Nicodemus, following God’s spirit might require some unscheduled stops–or even a full-out detour from the present path.

God doesn’t care about our schedules, which I know from personal experience, as He has disrupted nearly every plan I’ve ever had for my life. If you don’t believe that God is the Great Disrupter of Schedules, a cursory glance through Scripture should confirm this truth. Try Abraham, or Jacob, or Joseph, or Moses, or Hannah, or Ruth, or Mary, or Peter, or Paul….the Bible is full of human plans usurped by God’s eternal ones.

Part of being a follower of Christ means that we must be ready for unscheduled stops because we know that the Spirit blows wherever God wills. Maybe it’s a co-worker who needs some encouragement when we have a deadline to meet. Or maybe it’s our child who wants to talk ad nauseam about seemingly mundane things (but really just wants to be with us) when we’re simply trying to relax and unwind from a hectic day. Perhaps it’s a request for financial assistance when we had planned to use our resources on something completely different (and likely more fun). Sometimes, it’s even upending our calendars to make room for work that God is doing somewhere else.

Jesus reminds us, in the Gospel of John, that wherever he is, there his servants should be. If we truly seek to follow the path that Jesus has laid out, then we have to be okay with unscheduled stops along the way. As you and I ponder our calendars, make plans for the days ahead, I would encourage each of us to leave some room to follow where God’s Spirit leads. As with some of our best vacations experiences…the unscheduled stops are sometimes the best.

Blessings and Peace,


Stop Persisting

“Mom,” my 16-year-old said, looking down at me on my hands and knees, pulling armfuls of dead leaves from beneath a thorny bush. “You know the wind’s just blowing the leaves back under there, right? I think you need to stop aiming for perfection.” With a sigh, I looked at the leaves scuttling along the footpath…inching their way toward the bushes…gleefully taunting me in my efforts to clear them from the yard.

“I just need to get a few more,” I replied, reaching my tired arms forward to pull another bunch from beneath the bush. After all, this was a church mission project…and I was supposed to be working on behalf of God. Perfection seemed appropriate. My son shook his head. He knew what I didn’t want to admit–there will always be just a few more leaves to get.

We live in a society that relentlessly pushes us toward perfection–the perfect body, the perfect marriage, the perfect kids, the perfect pet, the perfect job…it goes on and on. Carefully crafted branding messages and pithy social media slogans bombard our senses–perpetuating the push to perfect. Fake it til you make it; If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again; Nothing ventured, nothing gained; Failure is not an option; Keep going; Persist.

The problem with all of this, in my life anyway, is that the drive to be better always leaves me feeling like a failure, because no matter how much harder or smarter I work, perfection remains out of reach. I keep persisting, only to run headlong into the same brick wall time and time again–and the only thing that gets dented is my head! And when I start feeling weak and broken, judgement enters in–of both myself and others. To soothe my own feelings of inadequacy, I turn my ire on others–judging them in their failures to ease my own hurting soul.

This, of course, is the opposite of what God wants for us. God, who comes to us with grace, love, and mercy, never intended for us to bear the brunt of perfection. If we could achieve it on our own, why did we need salvation in the first place? The truth is, we weren’t made for perfection–we were made for God.

It is only when we release the need for perfection, when we resist persisting, that we find ourselves made perfect in God’s love. How is that possible? God created us to be dependent not on ourselves, but on him. God is so much bigger, so much more capable, and so much wiser than we are that it is he who does the heavy lifting for us. When we yield…God picks us up–and he is infinitely more able to transform us than we are to transform ourselves.

The apostle Paul understood this need for humility–a gift he did not naturally possess. In 2nd Corinthians, Paul makes a revealing statement. Though he admits to being vastly superior to most every other human being in his knowledge, fervor, and leadership abilities, he notes that God has given him a “thorn in his side” to carry. The thorn (he doesn’t elaborate on the specifics) vexes him, until he realizes its purpose: God gave Paul the thorn to teach him the lesson he could not learn on his own–surrender. And with that surrender, Paul experienced freedom.

Because he realized his need for God, Paul was able to boast more avidly–not in his own abilities, but in God’s mercy and grace.

Change is hard work, but it doesn’t require more striving, it requires letting go. We must go to God and admit our failures…our tendency to judge, to be jealous, to be petty and conceited and self-righteous. He knows it anyway, but there’s release in the confessing, and then comes the freedom we receive when we finally stop persisting and lean into God’s mercy, knowing that change doesn’t come from us. And accepting that others are undergoing the same transformation.

I like the way Anne Lamott puts it in her book, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy:

“Over and over, in spite of our awfulness and having squandered our funds, the ticket-taker at the venue waves us on through. Forgiven and included, when we experience this, that we are in this with one another, flailing and starting over in the awful beauty of being humans together, we are saved.”

New Year, One Word: Possibility

Each year, I like to choose one word to anchor myself as the world hurtles around the sun for another 365-ish days. This year, I had planned on choosing the word flexibility, as it seems to be something God is asking of me a lot lately. But then, a simple misinterpretation on my husband’s part opened up a whole new realm for me this year as flexibility became possibility.

What a beautiful word! Possibility is gazing at magnificent pink and orange sunrise through an open window, that first sip of hot roasted morning coffee with a splash of cream and chocolate, the moment between typing in my password and my email loading on my work computer, standing before all of the newly released books adorning the shelves nearest the entrance at our local library. Possibility is heady and intoxicating–the seed of an idea ripened with expectation and hope.

Possibility is looking out at the world not as it is, but as it could be. It’s about greeting each day as an adventure waiting to be had, each project a world waiting to be explored. Possibility is about being open, vulnerable even. It’s a surrendering of self to what might be if we are willing to lay down our ideas of what we think can or should be. Possibility is a resounding YES in a world that so often wants to say no.

As we see in this Scripture, Jesus calls us to be people of possibility. But it’s not a possibility borne of our own efforts and strivings; rather, it is something that requires us to be wholly dependent on our Creator–the one who brings all possibilities into being. This year, we will be faced with many impossibilities: peace, forgiveness, an end to poverty, justice, an end to oppression. We can’t save the world, but the good news is that all things are possible for God, and he has already laid out the path of salvation for us. How might God be calling you to embrace his possible this year?

Blessings and Peace,


When Serving Makes Your Quads Scream in Protest

Last weekend, we held a service event at church cleverly called “Leave the Leaves to Us.” You can likely guess what it entailed–lots of raking and bagging of fall foliage. Unfortunately, this was an event that had to be rescheduled, due to unseasonably warm temperatures in early October and the stubborn persistence of the leaves to remain tethered to their trees. The later date for our project meant that the “us” participating consisted of 3 adults and 2 teenage boys (my own) who have a strong aversion to physical labor. The weather had finally turned cold as we plodded out into wet morning, and the winds were gusting.

For the next approximately 6 to 60 hours we went from yard to yard –raking, scooping, bagging, tossing over and over and over again. The wind blew, taunting us it seemed in our efforts, as leaves once piled gleefully twirled and pirouetted to freedom. This, I thought to myself, is why I hate yard work. Aside from mowing, which I love because it’s a workout in which I can see immediate results, I detest yard work. It always seems like a pointless endeavor. Pull weeds one day, they’ll reemerge the next. Pack up one leaf, another will fall. And it uses muscles that I generally prefer to leave in peace.

By the end of the event, my quads were screaming, my nose was stuffed up, I was covered in dirt, and I stunk. And herein lies the truth about serving–sometimes it stinks.

In churches we like to sell the Hallmark version of serving–soft lights, loving smiles, warm fuzzies and hot cocoa for everyone. Organizations know that if they’re going to ask for help, the helpers better get something in return, like a t-shirt that says “I’m a good person.” So, we sell the quid pro quo: Serving isn’t just about helping someone else–you get something, too! You get to pat yourself on the back and bask in the butterscotch-scented glow of doing a good deed. And eat free pizza.

The problem with this message is that it misses the point. Serving isn’t about us, it’s about loving God and helping others. It’s about someone else’s needs, not our own. When we serve, we are allowing ourselves to be the conduit by which others can experience the love of Christ–and sometimes that means raking and bagging leaves until our quads quit in protest. Sometimes it means giving up a Saturday lie-in to go stand in the cold and ring a bell while shoppers push past, or taking that ten dollars you had earmarked for a coffee and cinnamon roll and giving it to the guy on the street you’re trying really hard not to see. Serving might mean giving up prime vacation time to help clean up after a hurricane rather than lying on a beach, or volunteering to mentor a kid once a week when children make you more squeamish than spiders.

The disciples understood this true nature of serving, though they didn’t always like it either. Paul often writes of the suffering he endured in his quest to spread the gospel near and far. There were nights without shelter, days without food, muscles that were constantly sore, and physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion. Yet notice what Paul says to the Corinthians about working for God:

Paul doesn’t tell the Corinthians that serving others feels great. There’s an implicit acknowledgement here that it does not. But what he does say is that in whatever work God calls us to do, God will provide what we need to get the job done. God gives us the tools we need so that we can help others in his name–fulfilling their needs and showing them that God is real. He is here. And he cares.

So, was there was a moment in leaf-bagging last weekend when God’s spirit descended and turned the task into a profoundly soul-stirring event for me? Not even a little. But even so, when it comes time to leaving the leaves to us next year, I’ll be one of the “us’s.” Because for the people we helped, it meant a lot. Our work was just another way to show the grace and love of God to our neighbors. And in the end, serving others isn’t about me at all.

Blessings and Peace,


Share the Story God Is Writing

Last night, along with thousands of others, I watched the T.V. in open-mouthed shock as the St. Louis Cardinals ended their fairy-tale 2022 season with an unexpected loss in the first round of MLB playoffs. This was not the story Cardinals fans had written. It was supposed to be one last magical post-season run with three of the greatest players the franchise (and baseball) has ever known. And instead, it stopped before it had barely begun.

Over the next several days, countless sportswriters and armchair managers will unpack all of the decisions, plays, and missteps that crashed the dream team train…but I’m not sure it matters. In fact, the Cardinals loss reminds me that when it comes to life, we don’t always get to write the story the way we want.

Americans love a good fairy tale–it’s what we’ve been raised on. From our nation’s inception the mythos has been one of digging deep and pulling up to overcome great odds and achieve the seemingly impossible in a way that storytellers describe as fated…magical…extraordinary…historic. We’ve been raised to expect a happily ever after. But that’s not real, at least, not always. The truth is that, despite our best efforts to write ourselves into the sunset, life can change the story pretty quickly. The dream team loses, our dream job goes to someone else, we’re outbid on our dream home, and our dream vacation turns into a nightmare. Sometimes there’s no prince charming or fairy godmother. Relationships get broken. Loved ones don’t get better. And we’re left with a profound sense of unfairness.

Unfortunately, many churches and ministries have fostered this fairy-tale thinking by selling a fabled version of Jesus. If you truly trust Jesus, the story goes, then your life will be magical, maybe what some would call #blessed. But that is a fallacy. The truth is, Jesus understood this life much better than we do. He saw the unfairness of life everyday as he walked past soldiers occupying his homeland, as he ministered to those who were outcast through no fault of their own, as he grieved with friends in the loss of a loved one, as he shared his food with those who had none to spare, and as he received the kiss of betrayal from a trusted friend. In this life, Jesus told his disciples, you will have trouble.

Fortunately for us, God is fashioning us a faith that can carry us far beyond the proverbial human-made sunset into the God-breathed ever after. How so? Look at what Jesus tells the man healed of demon possession in Luke 8:

When Jesus brought healing, he often instructed the recipients of his miracles to remain quiet. It seems odd, since so many people would have been moved by the miraculous. Yet Jesus wasn’t looking to be a side-show–he didn’t want people to focus on the happily ever after, but on the spiritual transformation that occurred when he entered into the story. Apparently, spiritual transformation is what this man in Luke 8 received. So Jesus instructed him to share his story with others…even though it wasn’t a fairy tale….and that is exactly what God is asking us to do too.

God calls us to share the story HE is writing–to live the messy, broken, unfair, complicated, ordinary, non-Insta worthy experiences that the world has written in our lives, but to do so with God as the author and perfecter of our souls. God invites us to place the big-game losses in his hands, so that he can encourage us, instruct us, and ultimately shape us for his kingdom. We don’t have to wallow when life does’t go our way, though there will be grief to bear. Instead, God calls us to give it to him because he can craft it into a story worth sharing.

Blessings and Peace,


A Gnatty Plague

Each morning, my boys and I engage in a ritualistic dance as we head out the door. Arms waving in frenzied motions above our heads, we feverishly hop-skip to the car, twirl beside the doors, and fall breathless into our seats. Pulling out of the driveway, we roll the windows down and wave our arms in the air–a bizarre adieu to the neighbors who must be thinking…we should really invest in a privacy fence.

While our neighbors might be confounded by our early morning motion madness, there is a perfectly good explanation for the cavorting–namely, gnats. Each night, seemingly millions of little gnats surround our home, swarming around the screen door and congregating in the dewy condensation on the cars. Our frantic arm waving, hopping, and twirling is all an attempt to push through the flighty insects without them zooming into our mouths–or up our noses. These gnats are a pestilential problem…an annual plague that disperses only when the temperature falls.

Until recently, when I read the story of the Exodus, I always thought the Egyptians were kind of wimpy. I mean, getting all fussed over a plague of gnats? Please…Yet God has a sense of humor, and it sometimes leans toward the ironic. As I open the front door each morning and prepare to fling myself into the teeming mass of what our “pest control specialist” calls midges, I totally get it. Gnats are a plague. Albeit, a seasonal one.

Pondering the gnats led me to a realization beyond the fact that I need to stop spraying for spiders (because they eat gnats). Like the gnats, our everyday worries can become a plague–pervading our thoughts, disrupting our focus, and leading to pointless feelings of both consternation and agitation. When we worry about the small stuff, we not only miss out on the blessings God is trying to give to us, but we also forgo opportunities to be God’s blessing to others. How so?

As a United Methodist pastor’s spouse, I’ve moved around a lot. My family and I are always transplants in communities, and that can be a hard thing. Sometimes I worry when facing new opportunities to get to know people where we’re dropped. I think that my clothes are too shabby, my chin wobbles too much, and I’m really too much of a book nerd. All of my little worries consume me to the point where it feels easier to just shut the door on the idea of peopling and stay home. Yet how much I would miss if I let those unfounded fears have their way!

I would have missed opportunities to make new friends. I would have missed opportunities for God to refresh my soul. And I would have missed opportunities to lay some paving stones in the building of God’s kingdom.

Our daily gnat-like worries can rob us of joy, leaving us isolated, overly self-focused, and often cynical. Our God wants more for us than that. He wants us to rest soundly in the knowledge that, whatever life throws our way, he is there–the Rock on which we stand. I love this passage from the book of Isaiah:

Have you ever come across a rock bigger than God? I am going to guess not. Though life can throw us for a loop, “trouble don’t last always.” God reminds us, just as he reminded the Israelites long ago, that he’s bigger and stronger than any worry we might have. And his plan for us is greater than any of our fears.

So how are we to live? Look at how Peter puts it:

Living a life of joy is the greatest expression of love for God that we can offer the world. I’m not talking about Pollyanna-ish optimism, I’m talking about a deep-rooted sense of peace that springs from God’s spirt which dwells within our souls and pours out of us in genuine expressions of love for others. It might be turning a conversation around when it becomes overly pessimistic. It could be praying with someone who needs to know that there is another human being in this world who cares about what is happening to them. It might be participating in a service project with a glad heart, rather than grumbling under your breath as I have been wont to do. A carefree life isn’t free of cares, but a person living a carefree life in God understands that he cares for us more than any of our fears. And that should give us hope.

Like the gnats that gather around our home each summer, so we will have seasons of worry. There will be illness, budgets will be stretched thin, loved ones will make questionable choices, we will fail at many things. Just a I can’t banish the gnats, so we can’t banish our worries. But we can make a conscious choice not to be consumed by them. We can turn to God, our Rock and Caregiver, and cast those cares on him. We can live carefree, knowing that God cares so much for us.

Blessings and Peace,