Monday, November 16, 2015

Thursday, October 22, 2015


I stopped teaching photography over two years ago.  I loved teaching.  My classes and students were never ordinary.  It wasn't unusual for students to cry in my classes.  Something in those few hours we spent together, in all those discussions of creativity and vulnerability and discipline and excellence- we'd pull out something beautiful.  We'd all leave more awake.  Women still stop me in Target to say thank you, and I love that.  What I did was get obsessed about something truly incredible, and I could not keep it in.  Giving that out was a holy experience.

My thing, my obsession, is light.  See the light. Look for it and find it.  Watch it pulse and wrap and expand.  Remove all the distractions and focus on what light is doing, what it's giving.  Harness the full potential of all your tools right now, instead of wanting for something grander; something you think holds all the answers to what you lack.  What you have in your hands is more than enough.  Be blown away by the power and potential waiting in every dark space; look beyond the shadows and find the light.  Intentionally go to the places the world calls forsaken and ugly, and shove it to the haters- there's beauty there.  Find it.  Then put all your skill and heart into working with it; tackle it with religious devotion.  Mark it and keep it.  Savor and share it. 

Substitute light for Jesus, and you have my life now; and I don't think it's a true substitution.  It's an expansion of one passion.  It's a calling.  

Calling isn't a job, though it may lead us to several of them over the years.  Calling isn't something we chase and may or may not ever catch.   God is not holding out on you; he's not playing a game of hide and seek, or waiting for you to wise up.  

Calling is meant to connect every big, mighty, universal thing we're meant for with gritty everyday living.  

Calling is our intimate connection to the divine; the way we partner our heads, hearts, and hands with the one who made us, redeemed us, and actively restores us to what we should be. It's where we actively participate with God's redemptive work.  God is sewing a torn world back together and he's inviting you to get in it with him.  

Calling is a core God-life connection intended for every human being, and it's illustrated in as many unique ways.  You are uniquely called to wake up; to see your wrongs made right, to grow up in Christ.  

Your calling is not limited by anything.  It's not limited by location, age, a job title, work experience, or any human relationship.  It's the thing that drives you, guides you, and feeds you wherever you are.  

How God fleshes this out in your life is just for you and him; no one else can do that but the two of you.  Say yes to that calling, and you'll live like a constant invitation for others to do the same.  Wide awake living is a holy contagion.

Your calling won't drop out of the sky.  Don't be afraid you'll miss it.  Surrender your notions of what you think it should be.  Your calling is found in your lifeline to Christ; and if Christ is in you, he's not going anywhere.  Don't ask God to give you a calling or a mission; realize it's already here and give him permission to uncover it. 

When he does, say yes and keep going.

Thursday, October 1, 2015


The deep, jagged cut of corruption in this world deceives us.  We believe a simple, smooth lie that darkness has won.  That one bite of fruit catalyzed a mass exodus of the presence of the Creator, and we were left behind to rot.

We see the lost and fractured and pray they'll be filled with the Holy Spirit, but imagine that Spirit coming down on them from another place, an alien invasion upon a lost planet.    

Look deeply into suffering, raw pain, disease, abuse, neglect.  The surface swims with poison and injustice.  See the trail in the grass; the hiss of the snake will drown out your ears.  

Don't turn away, don't obey fear.  Look deeper, press in.  Listen.  Look.  Look at what holds it all up, what can't be stolen away.  Run your fingers through the grass and feel something of what you were born to know.

Train your eyes to see the burn of light no darkness can overcome.  Your sacred ears will hear it.  You'll hear His voice,

"I'm here.  I've never left.  My hands made all you see.  It's mine.  It's broken now, but I'm mending.  I'm making all things new.   
I intimately know every drop of HIV infected blood.  Intricate, created excellence shines in every strand of DNA.  Look for the glory.  Do you see it?  I'm here.  I'm mending.  I'm making all things new.   
This world is full of blinding hurt.  Molestation, abused power, cancer, and theft.  Don't lose hope.  Anchor with me down deeper than the lies and the pain.   
We aren't bringing glory in to a lost world, child.  We're uncovering the glory that's already here.   
We're clearing away the mockers and the liars and the infection.  Underneath it all, I'm there.  I never left. 
Darkness did not win.  I will never abandon you.  I'm here.  I'm mending.  I'm making all things new.  Come with me; you were made for it.  Watch me closely.  Put your hands on mine and get in the mess with me.  We're here, we're mending, we're making all things new.   
Feel intense joy as we upend evil and expose the light it's tried to snuff out.  Shiver with joy every time My hands heal, locking the broken into alignment.  Let's put it as it should be.   
The blind see, the lame walk.  The dead raise.  I do that.  There's no fracture I can't set right.  I tend to the suffering. I never walk away. I want you in it with me.  Wake up and walk.   
We're here.  We're mending.  We're making all things new."

Monday, August 10, 2015

Name the Feels.

If you're around young children for any length of time, you'll see some big emotions.  Kids experience a wide range of feelings and reactions, and because they're so young, they have trouble understanding and articulating them.  They're working out life in a world that can be tough and confusing.  There's a language barrier, and so much gets lost in translation.

When my kids were young, I was always encouraging them to use their words.  Don't keep it inside!  Use your words.  Even now, my mature sixth grader needs to be reminded to do this.

We say kids are resilient and recover quickly, but more often than not, with few tools for working out their stress, they internalize, repress, and move on; not because it's resolved, but because they have to.  And you can bet that anything internalized and repressed will come out later in out-of-proportion reactions to stress or disappointment.  Kids can grow anxious, angry, or insecure, and it can color their interactions with family and friends.

If we don't grow in our ability to see, understand, and process our internal world in healthy ways, the effects last into adulthood and can really break us down.

If you have a child in your life, they either just got through a big reaction, or they are approaching one!  Sometimes these reactions seem so sudden, so out-of-proportion to the moment, that we get exasperated as parents or teachers.  Right now?  Really?

But here is the crucial point:  any time we have a big reaction, it needs real attention.  Right now, or as soon as possible.  

When a child in your life lashes out or grows incredibly quiet and goes "inside themselves" in reaction to something, picture Jesus holding out a big, red STOP sign.  This is your cue to pause, breathe, and connect with what's underneath it all.  Take five, connect with them, and work through it now, because if they "put it away" and we just wait until it blows over, we're really just making a reservation for a future meltdown.

Because left to it's own, it won't go.  It'll grow.

When your child hits a "moment", help them pause.  Get on their level, and connect.  Encourage them to stop, breathe, and focus on you.  Validate their feelings, because they're real.  Give them some words to describe what's going on.  Let them cool down for a moment if they need it, but be sure they know you aren't going anywhere.

Encourage your child to give their big feelings a name.  Start by asking them, "Do you feel sad, mad, or bad?"  

Sad and mad are both ways we react to pain from outside sources.  We've been hurt somehow so we react.  We cry, we feel low and crushed.  Or, we get angry.  We rage and lash out.  If your child says they're sad or mad, help them backtrack and find the catalyst, where it all started.  Let them explain it with their own words, then explain it back to them so they know you heard and understand.  Validate them if they've got a good reason to feel sad or mad, and if they don't, take a minute to explain the situation from another point of view.

When we're sad or mad, there's a good chance another person could be involved.  Maybe you, or a sibling.  In that case, you might need to help them forgive, or get forgiven yourself.

Bad is a bit different.  Bad usually means I feel bad about me.  Maybe they've done something wrong.  Perhaps it was a while ago, and they tried to hide it, but it's been eating them up.  Maybe they feel like they are doing the same wrong thing over and over and they just can't stop.  A young child doesn't have big money words like guilt, shame, or condemnation, but they do know they feel bad.  Help them talk it out, get forgiveness and give it, and then fill them up with good things.  Let them know how you feel about them, how God feels about them.  Tell them true things.  Let them see that even at their messiest, you don't go anywhere, and you love them and want them just the same.

Once you're in a good place, then work out some simple action steps for how we can handle a situation like this in the future.  But wait on that until love has won it over.  When love is anchoring them down, those helpful words can take hold.

And most importantly, when you feel the feels, when you overreact, stop.  Learn the practice of pausing. This is how God cultivates a healthy and strong heart in us.  Give words to the why you feel this way.  Work it out with God, with others, and don't put it off.  Get forgiveness right now, connect right now; don't shove it.  When you get messy, let your kids see you model how to be imperfect and healthy.  Let them know real and messy is good, and we're here to stick together.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Transparent Devotion

Not long ago I found myself in a discussion about journaling as a method of spiritual discipline.  One of the men in my class immediately rubbed at the idea of writing honest, uncensored thoughts on a page, leaving the ugly in print; concerned his wife or children would find it one day.

Cultural and generational differences between us, I do understand his point, and there are practical reasons behind his argument.  But there's something deeper at work there.  There's no shame in working out our salvation honestly with God, and no shame in confessed sin unless that sin is treasured, not fully given over.

My heart hurt for him; I'd love to see him free to pour out truth on a page, to get cleaned out, to be able to leave it unashamed on the grace-filled floor.

I wrote this on March 28, 2011:

I feel tired and lonely.  I feel unimportant and unpleasant to be with.  I feel irritable and wasteful, out of control, and turned away from You.  I can't stop on my own.  I am so tense, angry, frustrated, alone- desperate for a fresh, new change.  So alone, so disgusted.  There I am.  Desperate for relief.  I absolutely do not feel fully alive right now, not at all. 
I have a longing, it's not filled.  I know You fill it.  I know You are here, so where are You?  I don't know where I am.  You do.  Just fix it.  Stop the torment, free my mind, my body, my spirit.  My soul is downcast.  Lift up my head. 
I know a lot of things, I feel very little of the truth.  Everything is overboard, in the wrong direction.  You could toss it all over to the other side of lost.  I'm lost in flesh and the world.  Get me lost in all You are.  I'm tied up in knots.  I am a low psalm, I feel no good.  Turn it up.
Over the last two decades, I've archived dozens of journals, and scribbled through stacks of books and Bible studies.  Thousands of pages full of raw, honest vulnerability written just between me and God; but I've always kept them safe.

Someday I'll be gone and they'll stay behind.  My daughters and my son can pore over the pages, read every word.  They'll paint a picture of the everyday working of the Holy Spirit, a mysterious and methodical arc of transformation, shaping me up and cleaning me out. A lifetime of renovation.

I imagine them as adults, tall and mature, their own hands gliding over the pages, and I don't blush.  Grace, Patience, Lily, and Hudson, you can know I wrote them for me, but I saved them for you.  It is a vulnerable, weighty thing, but I want to live an outward life of such transparent devotion that when I'm gone, you will not be surprised to discover that your mother had dark nights of the soul.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


The last two years of my life have been intense and rich;  life has expanded higher, wider, and deeper than ever before. It's been wonderful, and it's meant incredible change for all of us.  These seasons prove what is essential, and what can be missed.  We bend, stretch, move, and let go when needed.

Some of the things I used to enjoy daily needed to shift back for a time.  If it did not have a soul, a voice, or a deadline, it fell behind.  Experimental cooking, writing, reading as much as I'd like, hiking trips, and photography took huge hits.  I've slowly brought these things back into my routine, rightly placed; everything but my camera.  It's been packed away for months.

Yesterday while on retreat at an empty monastery, I took it out for the first time this year.

I held it in my hands, it's weight familiar and right.  All my muscle memory was there and ready.  I looked her over, apologized briefly, and began.

My camera does not have a soul, a voice, or a deadline, but the discipline of seeing expands my own soul, and so for me, it is essential.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Last week I left work on a hot day, and arrived home to a long list.  My kids headed out to the sprinkler- and wanted to invite a friend to play too.

I had a split-second choice to make:  keep working, or drop it?  I dropped it.  The bills aren't actually due for another month, and no one cares if our house is clean anyway.

I shoved the dishes over, filled a kettle, and made iced tea instead.

A warm and lazy hour stretched out before us,  simple and stable.  I sat with a good friend while our daughters played, unexpectedly telling her things I've not dared to say to almost anyone, for fear of being misunderstood.  There were no answers or resolutions, but I was heard and she understands; that's enough.

I left that afternoon feeling light and clean, energized and ready to finish the day well.

We will be a family that pursues smallness and slowness.  We won't run from hard work.  We'll engage it with all we've got, free to obey when life's rhythms say rest.

I'm resolved.  I flatly refuse to be busy and I'm bringing my family with me.

We will live a deliberately unhurried life.  We will breathe and not suffocate.  We will work with a clear, determined will set on excellence, not quantity.

We will live alert and savor the good, wide awake and entirely free from the shadow of frantic, false productivity.

We will move motivated by our First Love, and not by fear; arms wide open, inviting you to join us.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Holy Week.

Jesus Christ is a bright tomb.
Heavy joy,
deep debt of love.
Blood-soaked sin,
perfect food.
Happy burden,
better-than-my-life surrender.
Anchored peace.

Monday, March 16, 2015


My heart is a battleground, and sometimes I'm my own worst enemy.  I wonder if you can relate.  Are you a repeat offender like me?  Do you have a savored sin?  It could be an addiction to approval, money, or cake.  Maybe for you it's outbursts of rage or an impulse to hide.  Perhaps you tend to obey fear, not God.

Favorite sins are a comfort food, poisoning us from the inside out.  It's what we default to under stress, where we shelter when we feel anxious, tired, or exposed.  We fall, confess, repent, then turn around again.

It's where we're most likely to fall and we know it; a stumbling block, a nagging voice we hate- but occasionally let win.  You might call yours a thorn in your flesh, a cross to bear.  Everyone's got issues, this one's mine.  I'll never totally get over it, but I'll keep fighting.

Think of yours right now- what is it?  Give it a name.  Like me, I'm sure you know yours well.

It's a thief and a liar.  It wrecks relationships and smothers you.  It clouds your connection to God.  It makes you feel dirty, defeated, worthless.  You've grieved over it, you've surrendered it, but the battle to give in is still there.  Maybe it's just once in a while, or maybe it's every day.  Keep surrendering.  Keep choosing to obey; take the light over the dark.  

But I have a question for you:  Do you think it's possible to forget this sin?  Do you really believe you could go a day, a month, or even years without falling back into this pattern?  Could even the voices that tempt you go quiet?  If you bristle at the idea, I understand- but consider how the subtle agreements we make might be cutting God's power short.

You don't have a thorn.  You have a Healer.

Jesus had a cross to bear, and it's finished.  When he talks about his disciples taking up their cross and following him, he does not mean carrying the weight of a sticky sin struggle as a burden on your back.  That's not for you.

Who told you you'll never get over this?

Who knows what we could be missing?

I'm challenged to believe the truth that God's grace is sufficient; not only to help me modify behavior and get through the day.  I'm challenged to believe that his power is made perfect in my weakness, ready to completely deliver me, restore me, and transform me into something entirely new.  Jesus took the full weight of all my sin and shame, but he didn't stop there.  The cross still stands as an invitation to wide open life; to get holy right now in the mess of everyday living.

Holiness isn't a perfect score card or a finish line.  It's a person to consume me.  

As we orient our hearts toward Jesus, he follows through with us.  He is not holding out on you.  Ask him to become your obsession; work him over in your mind again and again, let him overwhelm you. Every lesser god pales in comparison.  In that kind of light, old desires shrink and fade; we begin to forget.  They disconnect from us altogether.  When we talk about them, the weight, sting, and heat are gone.  Out of your healed heart Jesus speaks.  He presses into the lives of people who need him.  You'll trade cycles of sin for uninterrupted grace, life that multiplies.

There's more than one way to slay a dragon.  Sometimes God heals in an instant, one mighty swipe. I've seen it for myself.  But I know him, and I know he loves to work things out in moments and choices; perpetual motions of love, obedience, and surrender.  Working like that, we starve that dragon together, one day at a time.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Thank you.

For Jim.

Years ago I fell into a trap.  Somewhere, somehow, I believed the lie that if I'm strong and bold, I'll tear you down.  I had a fire in my bones and God wanted it to rage- but not too much!  Be amazing- but not too amazing!  You'll be too much.

Remember- he leads, you follow.

Speak with passion- but not too much passion!  People will think you're pushy.  It might be better to stay quiet.  You've got a bomb inside- hide it a little- or a lot.  Don't ever overpower your husband.  He leads- you follow.  Tone it down.

It was the undercurrent of countless books, some sermons, and not a few conversations with women and men who truly had my best interest at heart.  It took us years to get honest about just how much those subtle lies handicapped me, to begin pulling back the layers to uncover the truth.

No one partnered with those lies more than myself.  No one could have pulled me out like you.  The truth is, we are all meant to lead, to influence, to find what is excellent in one another and fan it into flame.  And we are all called to follow Jesus.

Strong leadership is not a dictatorship, but a partnership.  A joining together to move us all higher and deeper.  Jesus-centered leadership does not diminish the strength of others, but provides definition, refining, an environment ideal for growth.  Leaders see what others do not, and call that excellence out of hiding.

No one has imitated Christ to me like you- no human has had a greater impact on my knowing of Him than you.  Your servant heart cut me loose.  You never let me settle.  When I wanted to pull back, you stepped in to remind me there is so much here I've refused to see.

I think we've both known- always known- that a part of me was buried alive.  You knew one day I'd break out.  You never held me back, and always held me up.  When I had passion, you told me to pursue it.  When I backed off, you called me on it.  When I- a year before I'd speak of it to anyone else- said out loud that God might be calling me to be a pastor, you said, "Do it."  When I couldn't carry it on my own yet, you held it for me.

You know me; the brilliant and the ugly.  Where I saw caskets, you saw cocoons.

Monday, February 9, 2015

He's wise.

One lazy afternoon I sat with Hudson on the couch, telling him I can't believe I get to be his mom, and how in the world did I ever end up with such a cool kid to get to know?  How did we get here?  This is amazing!

I said I was so full with how awesome life is that I had no idea what to do about it.

"Just say thank you," he said.  Then he walked away.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Coming Clean.

Honest relationships require intimacy.

Intimacy is endless hours of nothing, together. A quantity of choosing the other.  These hours are marked by spontaneous moments of connection, made richer for the long walk that got us there.

These moments move, weave, and stitch shared garments.  Fitted and worn-in, no one else gets to wear them but us.  And now the world is not so cold, so we venture out, boldly.

Yes, we make a mess of things; mud on my jeans, blood on your shirt.  We take them to the spin cycle together, where it's a bit chaotic, but we come out clean.

Saturday, October 18, 2014