Courageous Conversations

Tile-Strength-and-CourageRaising a teenager is almost like having a never-ending Courageous Conversation. It feels like all things lead to some teaching point based on the various sometimes-sudden moods, the social pressures, and the transformation that my daughter Emma is going through. She’s caught in that world between kid and not-quite-old-enough.

I walk with her, and she walks with me, my imperfections no longer hidden or sugarcoated. It is crystal clear that I don’t have all the answers, and unlike her younger years, a simple kiss on a “boo-boo” after a fall on the playground isn’t enough to chase all her tears away. I’m realizing that sometimes the best thing I can give her is presence and prayer.

I see her shying away from being open with good friends at times. I encourage her towards conversation, especially through conflict. And I see how challenging that can be in an age of texting and Snapchat. Everything is so instant with this pressure to respond quickly before thought even has a chance to intervene.

Good conversation takes time and effort, and to have any depth, it takes honesty. I find it takes courage to be honest with her about some of the mistakes—the big ones—I made along the way. And despite the fact that my flaws are pretty apparent, it is admittedly a work in progress. I guess I fear if I’m “too honest” that it might do damage in a way I can’t perceive.

As a freelance writer and editor, I spend time a good amount of time reading and editing books, and I have worked on several life stories the last few years. I know the authors well enough to know that it wasn’t easy for any of them to put their secrets on the page, where even close family members would know things about them that they never knew.

But I also see the freedom those writers have experienced in that type of courageous expression, modeling how our personal stories in even their most raw parts can be redeemed and used to help other people on the journey. And that is what I’m striving for with Emma. I want to keep stepping forward, whether I’m feeling brave or not, to have those tough conversations.

I know my words and honesty can’t keep her from failing or making mistakes of her own. But my story and the stories of those around her can help her see that though we are all flawed, our life stories—with bumps, bruises, U-turns, and dead ends as well as victories, celebrations, and glorious horizons—make a beautiful tapestry that is meant to be shared. It just takes a little bit of courage.


This post originally appeared on the C3 Nashville blog. C3, held March 6-8, 2014, is an annual event where participants engage in topics related to culture and faith. This year’s theme was Courageous Conversations.


Deep waters

photo 2

New life can be found in deep water

“Drowning must be a terrible way to die, breath snatched as dark waters cover you, panic rising as you’re claimed by murky coldness.”–
From Confessions of a Big Girl  

When I think of murky cold water, I’m taken back to my childhood and images of the muddy Ohio River. I recall strains of “Shall we gather at the river…” sung loudly and fervently, a thick Kentucky accent wrapped around each note and phrase, as a group of earnest believers made their way to the banks of the river for the sacrament of baptism.

I remember the minister slowly entering the water up to above his waist, finding his footing before those who wanted to be baptized made their way to him. I don’t recall the liturgy in full. But I do remember the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” being said for each person. Then I watched how each one trusted the arms of the pastor, leaning back into that brown seemingly dirty water to profess their faith in Christ.

Water can be a very beautiful and safe thing.

Water sitting in a clear glass is a nourishing beverage. Healthy. Harmless.

An inch or two of standing water outside after a warm summer rain: that’s a puddle perfect for splashing in, running through. Fun. Whimsical.

A crystal blue pool with a deep end, or a community pool with a lifeguard; a pond on a farm or a lake with rippling water ready for water skiing: these places are where the water can get over your head if you don’t know how to swim.

And what about an ocean? You can’t drink the water there. That can be a problem. Especially if you need it, if you are lost at sea that deep water will not help you. In the ocean, the stakes are higher. It takes the proper equipment to survive the waves and the mysteries that swim there.

A few years ago I saw first hand the devastation that water can do when a flood damaged much of the bottom floor of our church and claimed the lives of two of our members. I wrote about that incident, and I learned to respect the power of water like never before.

Sin is like water. We think we can control it. When it is just sitting there in a glass, we know we’ve got it covered. We can swallow it whole, and it won’t be trouble. But what happens when the water gets too deep and murky?

I’m currently reading Dr. Naima Johnston-Bush’s book Confessions of a Big Girl: Reflections on Fat, Faith and Femininity. Even though I grew up a world away from the one Naima did, and we have very different stories of how we came to faith, the book is filled with connection points for any woman. There are few of us who haven’t struggled with body image, self-worth, and believing that God can really love and fulfill us so much.

In her chapter entitled “It Led to My Death,” Naima tells of a time in her life when even with caution signs, she decided to go her own way and before she knew it, it was too late to turn back.

Naima’s deep and dangerous water was the all-too-common destructive relationship with a man who said all of the right things and showed love and respect for a time, but who actually represented a dark and powerful undertow. As the relationship continued, she recognized he was robbing her true beauty and self respect, but it seemed there was no way out.

Fear and desperation led Naima to her dusty Bible for answers. And as her faith slowly strengthened, she began to fight the current. Bravely, she acknowledged the part she played in the real-life drama—how she willingly “held [her] breath and sank.”

Naima’s story could be my own. I have taken part in destructive and confusing relationships covered in sticky sweet layers of deception. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize that I often did not have the discernment skills nor spiritual depth and wisdom to handle those relationships properly.

Looking back results in the classic phrase, “If I had known then, what I know now.” But I believe that sin has an ongoing purpose in our faith journeys. I’m honestly grateful that though forgiven and free, I can still feel a tinge of pain when I think of the times I succumbed to the deep waters of sin.

But as Naima reminds me, and all of us really, it is precisely those times that lead to a death that can save us. As she so skillfully states, “…dying to sin and self-loathing, I drowned and was buried only to rise again because the Lord called me from the depths of the waters to walk upon them and not drown beneath them.”

Sin can be like water. But as He does with so many things, God takes the water meant for our destruction, and He redeems it to give us new life in Him. Thanks be to God.

If you would like to read Confessions of a Big Girl: Reflections on Fat, Faith and Femininity by Dr. Naima Johnston-Bush, it is available now at www.amazon.com. As I am sharing a piece of her story with you, Naima has graciously offered that the first two people to leave a comment on my blog will be entered into a drawing to win a free copy of the book. For more information about Naima and her ministry, visit www.facebook.com/ministryofnaima.



WonderRecently I was honored to be asked to go to Grandparents & Special Friends Day at a local private school as the special friend of a young lady from our church. I was doubtless filling in for grandparents who did not live close. Plus, when I thanked the sweet girl for her invitation, she honestly said, “We don’t know many people around here.” At least I am blessed to be one of the few.

The day entailed a sweet program where each grade did a musical presentation before we were given tours of the school. The program was progressive from the youngest grades up to eighth grade. As I watched the kids, all uniform clad and many eager to share their hard work, I started noticing more details about the students. The uniforms did not hide the occasional student with unkempt hair, or an untucked shirt here and there. They couldn’t hide the weariness in some kids faces, or the students that didn’t smile as they sang.

I sat there realizing that adults are more like kids than we like to admit.

There’s a commercial out right now which features a dad and his son eating pudding. Dad starts talking about his adult life, and the kid’s imagination takes him into the scenarios he hears described. Suddenly we see the son is balding with a small suit on. He goes through the day, fighting traffic, dealing with jerks in the office, and so on. By the end of his dad’s explanation of why he needs pudding, the son simply hands his cup of pudding over saying his dad needs it more than he does.

It’s cute to see the kid in the commercial walking through his dad’s paces. We adults sometimes like to think we have it all together because we have learned stuff along the way. But in reality, we are messy, and we get hurt. We fall down, and we make mistakes every day. In those ways we are very much like kids.

We sometimes have to deal with bullies in the form of bosses or mean people. We don’t always choose good and faithful friends. We forget to take our lunch with us, and someone has to spot us until we can pay it back. Then we spill the lunch that we had to borrow money for down our shirt and we don’t have an extra one at work. We are like kids.

If only we could capture the playfulness, wonder, and the spirit of joy that kids have this time of year. 

We are at the beginning of Advent, and the new year in our church life. The story starts again–the most amazing story every lived. And we do have the chance to act like kids. We have the chance to approach the next few weeks with childlike faith and wonder as we visit the manger and think about how God changed the world forever with a little baby.

Yes, there will be mall traffic, and school programs, and decorating, and family functions, and so much more to navigate. But let’s act like kids this year as we focus on the coming of our King. Let’s anticipate His arrival by (at least inwardly) jumping up and down, just like kids at Christmas. Who’s with me?


Recovery in Question

Recovery in question...

Recovery in question…

Emma turns 14 this weekend. I can’t really believe that 14 years have passed. I can’t believe that in 4 or 5 years my nest might be empty. To celebrate this momentous birthday, an age marking awkwardness but also independence, we are having a party. Not just a party, but a Masquerade Ball.

It is sooooo Emma. There’s a dress code for boys and girls. There’s a fabulous menu, beautiful masks, a long song list for DJ Doug. And I’m hoping the songs I don’t know won’t embarrass me or the other adult guests coming or that my dance moves don’t embarrass my daughter. Who am I kidding?

In the vein of throwing a classy party, I mean Ball, we are trying to stay away from the usual party fare of chex mix and BBQ wienies. But since our budget won’t allow for a caterer, I’m the chef at hand. That sounded like a great plan when we were leisurely driving over fall break, planning the menu and decor.

Now in a week that has turned stupid by all of the things that have hard and fast deadlines, including the Ball, I’m feeling quite overwhelmed. I’ve had delicious moments of energy and productivity, but the pile is so very large and daunting on both professional and home fronts. So the other side is me barking and grumbling and nagging for someone in the universe to please help! Like someone who is 13.95 years old who I live with…“Hey you there, offspring, help me!”

The result is sorry-filled teenager staring blankly. “What can I do?” her eyes and voice say.

Indeed, what can she do for this always-setting-the-bar-too-high mess of me? I like to think I am a recovering perfectionist, but am I really recovering? Am I putting all of this pressure on myself? Have the “shoulds” taken over?

I think my perfectionism was dampened in Emma’s younger years due to the perfect storm of going through the trauma of divorce, transitioning to single parenthood, and scrambling for income at every turn. It was a period in my life that basically showed me that failure is a launching point. It was the first time I really started seeing and understanding grace at work so that I could accept it and begin to extend it to others.

But I tell you, there are times now since Emma has entered into this age of pushing back and stretching her wings, that I feel like that old person again. It’s like I’m grasping for more control by boxing her in with too high standards and my way of doing things. How can she learn to be her own person, to be her own capable adult, with this kind of perfectionist bullying?

She can’t.

On our chalkboard where we write the dinner possibilities for the week, where there is now a pumpkin face, I sometimes write, “Harp less, encourage more.”

This statement is totally 100% for me and no one else in the house. Not for Emma, not for our cat Mo, not for anyone else who comes to visit. It’s just for me. It’s where I want to live but sometimes find it so hard to live out.

In my mind the week where this important milestone of 14 happened for the one and only time in Emma’s life, looked so different. I was going to be a little more Martha Stewart + Jesus, calm, organized, brilliantly creative and loving. I feel more like Jeff Lewis from Flipping Out, obsessive, frantic, and demanding (minus the psychics and “scream therapy,” though maybe that would help at this point).

And I’m realizing that I need that statement from our chalkboard now more than ever. But this time I need to say it to myself.

“Harp less, encourage more.”

Stop trying to do too much. Stop worrying so much. Stop striving so much. Stop beating yourself up. Hug more. Pause more. Love more. Celebrate.

And maybe, just maybe if I can resolve to put less pressure on myself to be more than I really can be anyway, I can let go and enjoy the process and the time with Emma between here and this celebration and even, God willing, beyond.

Lord, thank you for loving recovering perfectionists like me. Help me, in the moments where I stop to listen to you, and feel your love, to then live out of that reservoir and not return to my silly way of striving and pushing. Amen.


Good Form

running-symbolA couple of weeks ago, I went to a running clinic on Good Form. I’ve been running for almost a decade, so why would I need a Good Form class? After my car accident earlier this year, it took me a while to get back into my normal workout schedule. And unfortunately by the time I was done with physical therapy, much of my endurance that I built up last year was lost.

This hasn’t been discouraging for me. In fact, I’ve focused on more cross training with dance, shorter running routes, and strength work as I gear up for a Warrior Dash in October. But even as my focus has been other types of exercise, I have this longing to train for another longer race. And with that longing has come a desire to improve my running both in form and speed, which I know will increase my overall benefit from it. It made sense then to start with my form as a precursor to speed training.

At the class, our experienced instructor Tammy Sanders took a video of each of us running past her. Then she played our videos back one by one in slow motion, pointing out how our feet were striking the pavement, what our posture looked like, and if our arms were in the right position. We learned that cadence, or the number of steps per minute, is important too.

It was very enlightening to find out that I’m a heel striker, my arms are coming across my body too much, and that I have good posture and head position. I left the class focused on the simple truths that would help me correct my poor form: bend my knees, center my posture, look down the road and not down at the pavement, lean slightly forward, run with light steps to stay balanced.

My first solo run to practice the good form tips I had learned went well for the first mile or so. But I noticed after that, my body wanted to return to old habits. I struggled at times to keep the new, better form even though I knew that it was more efficient and would help me avoid injuries common to runners. I measured my cadence that day, and found out that mine is about 170 versus the optimum 180 strikes per minute. I have work to do there too.

For a decade, I’ve been running—with success—as far as I would define it. I’ve never been fast; I’ve had very few injuries, but with good form now added to the mix, what more might I discover I can achieve?

What if I practiced good form in my spiritual life as well?

I’m not asking this question to lead into a discussion on “works” here. I’m talking about what if I consciously started to address the bad spiritual habits or baggage I picked up along the way that is throwing my form off.

For those of us raised on church, sometimes bad spiritual form is linked to our families and how they relate to church or other believers. If we’ve been hurt at church, sometimes it is linked to forgiveness we refuse to extend to other Christians or a church as a whole. For those of us who were or are preacher’s kids there’s a reason that there is a negative stereotype equated with many of us. And we see many pastors and wives of pastors (I was also one of these) wound up in burdens that while related to ministry also have to do with poor spiritual form due to burn out, unresolved conflicts, and living hidden lives outside of their parish.

But like the formation of any bad habit, poor spiritual form doesn’t happen overnight. I know for me, I can think of several very distinct instances or situations even in the last five years of being a Christian where certain seeds planted bad form. And frankly, I let those seeds take root.

This bad form has made me more cautious about being “too involved” at church sometimes. It has made me distrust certain Christians without real cause. Basically bad spiritual form has given me excuses to hang some of my decisions on, a place to justify a distance and a separation that I sometimes have practiced in order to protect myself.

I know there is a different way. I can practice good spiritual form. It isn’t easy. Bad habits are hard to break.

But I can start with some simple truths:

bend my knees in prayer

center my posture on God

look down the road and see who is in need not down at the pavement absorbed in my own problems

lean slightly forward into hope

run with light steps giving my burdens to God to stay balanced

Father, help us to practice good form in our spiritual lives that we may be strengthened in you and that we might discover anew what you can do through us to the glory of your Kingdom. Amen.




The favored coconut cake

I cook and bake as often as I can, though not as often as I would like. The thought of having time to leisurely shop at the grocery store for a list of delicious ingredients, only to come home and use those ingredients in a recipe (perhaps from my “Food I want to make and eat” list on Pinterest) sounds to me like luxurious hours well spent. Like other foodies, I don’t really linger on one type of cuisine. I have favorite dishes and restaurants inspired by my international taste buds, a product of getting to travel the world with my parents as a child.

However, during holidays and birthdays, I have come to be somewhat of a cake maker. Some of my favorite cake recipes are in the pages of Giada’s Kitchen and Tessa Kiros’ Apples for Jam. But at the top of the list as voted by friends, family, coworkers and even clergy is absolutely, undeniably my coconut cake.

I once brought two leftover pieces to my church’s music office for our director and associate director of music. I didn’t even have a chance to get the pieces separated on two serving plates. My tasters dug in right there on the paper plate, and one even ate the crumbs off his desk.

Of course, it isn’t my coconut cake. I didn’t develop this recipe of greatness. The recipe is actually in a cookbook by none other than Paula Deen.

Yeah, I know. Paula Deen. I have to say right off that this cake is so good that there is no way that I am boycotting the recipe. It’s actually her son Jamie’s recipe according to the book, not that that makes any difference to me. I’ve been following the story, and this whole Paula Deen thing bothers me. Yes, she is currently being sued for harassment, a case that certainly needs to take it’s course, but the “sin” that has really put her on trial seems to have been almost 30 years old.

I know time may tell a different story, but my point here is not to defend Paula Deen in particular. If we take a look at how people like Bill Clinton and Anthony Weiner have seemingly out lived their own scandals in the public eye, Paula Deen should have a lot of hope for her own career.

Celebrity aside, I’m worried that a situation like this says we are in part, living in a graceless age. Consequences are important, don’t misunderstand me. But when a person cannot be forgiven for something like this that happened in the very distant past, what does that say about our society? Are we inadvertently telling people honesty is not always the best policy? I mean does anyone else feel like we may be witnessing a hefty dose of Pharisaical self-righteousness in all of this?

I used to be a pretty self-righteous person myself. It’s a heavy mantle to wear honestly because when you are self-righteous, you just simply cannot screw up. There’s never a moment where you can let your guard down or appear less than perfect. When you are a Pharisee and you do screw up, you instinctively turn up the heat on someone else’s sins if you feel that you might get burned by your own mistakes.

Thanks be to God, I did make mistakes—major ones—and then other life circumstances turned my world upside down. I was tired of the act, so I took a good look at my Pharisee self. And all of that broke me.

And I’m so glad it did because even now as I type these words, tears well up in my eyes in complete and utter gratitude. That refiner’s fire taught me about grace. Before I didn’t understand anything about it, so of course I couldn’t and wouldn’t extend it. I pray that the Kim of those days is dead and gone though I know I need steady reminders to live out my faith with a grace-covered and grace-offering spirit.

I’m imagining that this Paula Deen story may be scary for some people. Beyond the consequences for poor choices, how many of us live in fear that someday, maybe 10 years, 20 years, or 30 years from now we’ll have to face and confess anew something that was long ago covered in Christ’s blood? Is there fear beyond the comfort of forgiven sins in a world that seems so ready to tear someone down?

As Don Henley helped write in the expertly penned song, “The Heart of the Matter,” 

These times are so uncertain

There’s a yearning undefined

…People filled with rage

We all need a little tenderness

How can love survive in such a graceless age?

I propose it can survive in those of us that understand a little about grace, enough to share it at least. Our forgiven sins and new selves can manifest in grace and show up in the ways we love one another. And when we practice the grace we have experienced, forgiveness and love cease to only be biblical edicts. Grace in practice changes the way we engage with the world around us in the everyday stuff of life.

We show it when we support a friend through a messy divorce; when we give a job to a recovering addict; when we love a pregnant, unmarried teen, and maybe even when we keep making that coconut cake from a star that has fallen from grace in the court of popular opinion.

Dear God, help us to combat the graceless age we live in through the power of your spirit. Help us recognize our own weakness and desperate need for grace and by that recognition extend it to those around us. Amen.

The Heart of the Matter © EMI Music Publishing, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.



40 years ago my grandparents celebrated their 25th Anniversary here.

40 years ago my grandparents celebrated their 25th Anniversary here.

I’m nearing the end of my “School’s out for Summer” vacation. Traveling with my mom Ginger and daughter Emma, we spent most of the time in Mayfield, Kentucky visiting my aunt and uncle and their oldest son and his wife. We had a great week of movies and food and church happenings around the congregation my uncle pastors. I’ve made an attempt to get things in that both mom and Emma like.

In that vein since my family has always loved baseball, I planned for the last leg of the trip to take us to Jackson and Memphis Tennessee so that we could take in ballgames at Pringles Park and AutoZone Park. Lucky for us, we were running late to the game in Jackson when high winds and a thunderstorm rolled through. We caught the storm en route in Milan, Tennessee and had to wait it out. By the time we did get to Jackson, things were a bit too soggy for the game to start on time, so we had a nice dinner at a local Mexican joint and headed on in to Memphis.

After some business and fun with friends and musicians Linda and Cecil Yancy, we had planned on heading to the Redbirds game. But a mix-up with comp tickets left us high and dry, so we opted for dinner in a sweet Irish restaurant and pub called The Brass Door. A man named Seamus runs the joint, and I highly recommend the food and the vibe of the place.

It was there at The Brass Door that serendipity became apparent. Tomorrow is my grandparent’s 65th anniversary, and as my mom explained over fish and chips, 40 years ago she and my dad were taking them out with my mom’s kid brother Steve to celebrate. We sat just a few blocks from the very restaurant they went to that is unfortunately no longer in business. It was one of those rotating places high on top of a building overlooking Memphis. I snapped a photo of the building as we drove past (as pictured).

Who would have guessed that we would be sitting in the same town that my grandparents Elmo and Verna Melvin celebrated their 25th anniversary on the eve of their 65th anniversary? Wow. I wasn’t even born when that occurred.

It’s a season of anniversaries for us. This month marks the 13th anniversary of Emma being baptized and my confirmation in the Episcopal Church.  In just a few weeks it will be the 5th anniversary of my divorce, and the 4th anniversary of our move to Nashville.

As I think about these milestones, I realize they represent such an amazing spectrum of feelings and events. My grandparent’s anniversary is truly awesome in that same way with everything that those 65 years hold. 65 years!

They have faced so much together: poverty, abundance, love, anger, tragedy, joy, family, more family, a growing faith, health, sickness, loss, comfort, constancy, patience, and…well…I could go on and on. This short list represents how the good stuff is mixed in with the hard stuff. And as I look down the short path to the 40th anniversary of my birth this December, I’m starting to appreciate this tension more. I think there is a richness that can be savored in the good things when we have overcome the challenges on our way to the celebration of a milestone.

As Jesus so wonderfully shares in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

When I think about my grandparents being married for so long, I see this verse (and many others) being lived out. I think they would both admit they couldn’t have made it to this milestone on their own, but only through the power of the Prince of Peace. So I pray that they can celebrate the full spectrum of all this anniversary represents between them and to those of us that are near and far thinking of them. They have overcome all that life has handed them for 65 years, together, walking with God. I am so blessed by their testimony of love and perseverance, and hope I can continue to walk through the trials and milestones of my life with such honor and faith.


Clear title

My free and clear but totaled Jeep

My free and clear but totaled Jeep

My car was totaled in February. I was on my way to work, and a young driver lost control of his vehicle and hit me right at my driver’s side window. A few days later  (as pictured) I was saying goodbye to my Jeep Grand Cherokee as it sat at the wrecker’s lot waiting to be dragged off to a junkyard. From this shot the extensive damage isn’t evident; only the buckled door frame gives a hint that something’s wrong.

I have to say it was a tearful goodbye. At almost 11 years old, so much had happened in and around that car.

I bought the car by timing out the first payment with the arrival of the first real paycheck my former husband earned after becoming a priest. Emma grew up in that car. She’s the reason I bought the car. Rear-facing baby seats and VW Golfs don’t mix, so I traded German engineering for a car manufacturer with military roots.

I moved from Kansas City to Baltimore to Nashville in that car. A lot of life changes are represented in those moves. There’s even a great picture of my two best friends from Baltimore—Lauren and Greg—sitting on my tailgate with me the day I packed up to leave Maryland.

I know it was just a car, but it represented so much more. In that car was a mix of memories and conversations and accidents and victories.

I have a different car now—a dream car really. I always wanted a Jeep Wrangler. When I ended up with a totaled car, I figured why not shop for what I want. With only two Wranglers in 100 miles of Nashville that fit the bill, I would say I was pretty blessed to find the one I have.

My new used car didn’t come without a price. Weeks of Physical Therapy due to the accident cost me time and money. My Jeep Grand Cherokee was paid off, free and clear of any title. The Wrangler is partially owned by Huntington Bank, thank you very much. I don’t have a clear title anymore.

My car is part of a silver linings playbook in a sense. It’s what I always wanted, but I wouldn’t have it if it weren’t for that unexpected accident, and in the end I’m working to pay for the dream—to pay for a clear title.

I have friends in similar situations. My best friend, George who is still in cardiac rehab from his surgery in December, is very grateful to be alive. There are just a few medical bills he has to tend to. He has another chance at life, but he doesn’t have a clear title.

Another dear friend is finding a new, thriving life for her and her kids after a tough divorce, yet she still has to work on the sometimes-strained relationship she has with her ex. She is blessed that things are better for her and her kids, but she doesn’t have a clear title.

At church recently, I was gratefully reminded that there is an ultimate hope and joy in the fact that there will be a day when all of our titles will be clear. From John in Revelation 21 (bold face mine):

I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

NIV, Verses 2-7

No more tears. No more death. No cost.

This song really says it all with rich vivid imagery:

When I can read my title clear to mansions in the skies,

I’ll bid farewell to every fear and wipe my weeping eyes.

Should earth against my soul engage, and hellish darts be hurled,

Then I can smile at Satan’s rage and face a frowning world.


Let cares like a deluge come, and storms of sorrow fall,

May I but safely reach my home, my God, my Heav’n, my All.

There shall I bathe my weary soul in seas of heav’nly rest,

And not a wave of trouble roll across my peaceful breast.  

–“When I can read my title clear” by Isaac Watts

So take heart. There will come a day when your title will be clear, when you won’t even have to count on a silver linings playbook, because of the hope in the life to come. Amen.


More body of Christ

Body of Christ

Body of Christ

It’s one of my favorite stories from my daughter’s toddler years. Our family was attending our first Episcopal church. Our daughter had been baptized there, and Emma’s dad Chuck was in the process of becoming a priest. We were learning the traditions of a church much different than those of our childhoods.

I did not leave the Nazarene church due to any deep seeded angst. I did sometimes feel like a square peg in a round hole while I was growing up in the church, but much of that could be explained by being a preacher’s kid and a theatre geek. I left simply for love—love of a new tradition of worship and love of my then husband, Chuck.

I felt if each of us went to different churches our house would be a house divided. So though Chuck studied at Nazarene Theological Seminary, he soon felt a call to be an Episcopal priest. And through my own personal prayer and discernment, it seemed the very right thing to do was to support him and join this new church steeped in liturgy and ancient worship such as I had not experienced before.

One of the traditions that I fell in love with is the celebration of Christ’s sacrifice through communion every Sunday. I simply love how that is the center, the climax really, of most weekly services. No matter the priest, the sermon, or the season, we all come together at the table to acknowledge that Christ died and rose again to save us.

I don’t remember the exact time of year, but our church was meeting in our fellowship hall due to some renovations in the main sanctuary. The space was seemingly less sacred as we used it as a place for lunches after service, weekly meetings, and the annual pancake supper. To accommodate all of the weekly worshippers, chairs were now crowded in row upon row. We sat near the back. With a squirmy toddler on my lap, I didn’t know when an exit would be necessary.

And so it was that on that Sunday in the bottom level multipurpose room of our church, the time for communion came. We went forward to receive the body and blood, Emma in my arms. The customary words, “Body of Christ,” “Blood of Christ,” were issued as I received the bread and then the cup. Then Emma received a wafer. She chewed the remaining bits as I turned us back up the aisle and began navigating the narrow path to our seats.

She finished the bread and then without warning yelled out, “More body of Christ!” Everything seemed to stop as all eyes landed on Emma and I. Then throughout the hall laughter from our friendly congregation erupted, and smiles were exchanged as communion continued, believers celebrating Christ’s sacrifice together that day amidst linoleum floors, fluorescent lighting, and folding chairs.

As Lent draws to a close, I know I am not the only one eagerly anticipating the celebration of Easter. I pray that even with it’s reverence and awe, as we honor days such as Good Friday with the solemn and rightful digesting of the price that was paid for our sins, that we will feel a true rush of joy at Easter. And like the words expressed by my little girl many years ago now, I hope we feel that Easter once again marks a day where we encounter a desire for more of Jesus.

When we celebrate with our families and friends whether over creamy deviled eggs, ham, and carrot cake or fried fish, hushpuppies, and homemade cobbler, may we enter into the season of Easter—which goes beyond that one Sunday—to a place where we cry out, “More body of Christ!” And may we share our enthusiasm for the One who has saved us with the people we love and everyone around us. Amen.


Take the shot

Take the shot

Take the shot

“Goal of the century.”

“Best goal of all time.”

That’s what the London AP said last fall about soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s goal in a Sweden versus England match.

What made the shot so incredible? Zlatan was shooting blind. The goal was made with a 25-yard overhead kick that sank right into the net.

The odds were clearly against him, but it didn’t prevent him from taking the shot. When you watch the replay of the goal, you see that Zlatan didn’t even hesitate to take what looks like a completely impossible shot. The commentator mentions Zlatan’s “improvisation and skill.” I love the juxtaposition of these two words.

Cynics and naysayers would probably say this was a lucky shot. I look at it a bit differently. His physique, his coaching, his hours of practice all prepared him for this moment.

Sometimes even though we are prepared for a moment like this, we fail to take the shot.

Zlatan’s shot reminds me of faith. As Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (NIV) This chapter in Hebrews goes on to trace the history of a team of faithful followers who did extraordinary things in the name of God, taking blind shots, as they trusted Him to lead the way.

  • Abraham faithfully raises a knife over Isaac
  • Moses faithfully leaves the privileged house of Pharoah to eventually lead the Israelites to freedom
  • Rahab faithfully helps the spies who come to Jericho

These stories just scratch the surface of a myriad of believers who have taken the shot with a promise unseen or a blessing yet unfulfilled, and often the promise or blessing is somewhere far off in the distance. This particular passage of scripture doesn’t tell the whole story—how many of our forefathers and mothers doubted God’s words to them, tried to manipulate events to quicken God’s promise, or even wallowed in their own insecurities. And yet, they all stepped up to take the shot, however unclear the future was.

Sometimes we can’t see what is ahead. Sometimes the path is so foggy the brightest flashlight doesn’t help. Sometimes though we study scripture and learn from sermons and seek counsel from fellow Christians, we still aren’t sure of what to do next.

I have a pretty extreme need for knowing the course ahead, ever the planner, I want to take the safest path. But frankly the lack of trust at times has stopped me in my progress. Sometimes I’m too afraid to take a calculated risk because I’m trusting in myself versus trusting God and His sure and lasting promises to me.

As 2012 came to a close, I felt God pushing me out of my comfort zone in some surprising, life-giving ways. When my humanity takes over, I get scared and start talking myself out of moving forward. But as 2013 is now a full month underway, I’m praying for courage and strength, even if my back is to the goal, to trust the training, the coaching, and the practice, to step up and take the shot.

May you find the courage to do the to take the shots God is leading you to take in 2013.