Blog

Before and After

BEFORE.

Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory. I wake to a quiet house, kiss the husband, take care of necessities, pour a cup. Sit with book and journal, thought and prayer, silence. Most days begin bowing my heart, if not my body, before my Father.

Breakfast.

Conversation, laughter over frozen waffles. Background music, enjoyed together. Or the rush and tumble of everyone running late, but running late together.

Presence and Connection.

I am wherever I am. When I want to connect, I ask for it: Pick up the telephone, move physically toward another human being. Risk rejection. Together, I see with my eyes, hear with my ears, touch with my hands. When I am alone, I am fully alone. And when I’m with someone else, I’m fully with that person.

Work.

I work when I am at work. Anything that needs to be done must get done within those walls, the boundary of those hours. If I work late, it’s on purpose. I’m aware that I’m working. The boss can’t get to me after hours, few bold enough to call at home. Even as a budding work-aholic, these are easy boundaries to hold.

Friends.

Extroverted, I feel close to many people. My calendar is as full as my heart. Coffee, lunch, work friends, college friends, old friends, new friends. Sometimes I am overwhelmed, push against my limits. But a girl only has a certain number of hours to connect. There’s only so much energy to start, grow, and keep up with friendships. Life includes more than I like of “We kind of lost contact, I should call her.”

Evenings.

Dinner together, wash dishes, get ready for bed. Evenings are for books and conversations. Let’s play a game! What do you want to watch tonight? When we choose movies or TV, we choose together. Life in community requires compromise. We are home, or out with others. Here or there, with no in between. And if we are out, there is always the blessed ritual of coming home to each other.

The outside world.

Want news? Buy a paper. Turn on the TV. Have a favorite celebrity, author, or athlete? Buy a magazine for the interview. Maybe catch a clip on a talk show. Want to engage with the world? You have to get out into it.

AFTER

Rise and shine and…check in with the outside world. Necessities take a bit longer, distractions to scroll, podcasts to listen to. Mornings include pouring a hot cup, plus a journal, book and prayer. But to be honest, most days begin bowing over blue light.

Breakfast.

Quiet. Nearly everyone has headphones in, their own separate soundtracks. When there’s a rush and tumble, it’s often because one or more of us was plugged in, distracted.

Presence and Connection.

Presence is something we have to fight for. The world fell out of practice, now we need meditation books and podcasts and apps, ironically accessed via the very tools that trained us to be absent. I can connect now, from wherever I am. So convenient? No risk, but also nothing to see, hear or touch. I am rarely ever really alone. But I’m also rarely fully with another person.

Work.

I work when I am at work. I work when I can’t resist the lure of checking in, responding, seeing what’s going on. I work when anyone has a quick question. I work when anyone needs me to work. The lines are blurred, I’m barely aware that I’m working. Boundaries are hard, barely worth the effort. Accessibility is the expectation.

Friends.

Extroverted, I have 1,848 friends. I don’t have lunch or coffee with many, but there’s almost no limit to the number of people I can touch base with. I’m in contact with almost every person I’ve ever known: High school friends, college friends, past work friends, past church friends. Who do I spend actual time with? I’m unlimited, but also unsatisfied.

Evenings.

Dinner together, wash dishes, get ready for bed. We play games, watch something together, but it’s harder to find something everyone likes. Unlimited choices don’t always make it easier to choose. Too often, headphones go on, kids do their own thing, hoping we won’t notice. Compromise is no longer necessary? He watches videos in one room, I play a game in another. We’re together, but more connected to the outside than we are to each other. How do you come home to each other if you never left?

The outside world.

I don’t even need to open my door, we’re never not connected to the outside world. There’s no escape from news, from politics and violence and outrage.  I know more about at least 50 celebrities, authors, and athletes than I do about my neighbors. Seduced by convenience, “connection” is always at my fingertips. And yet connection feels like very hard work.

“Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him;   he cannot save himself, or say, “Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”

Isaiah 44:20

This Fall, Matt and I started a Masters program in Christian Spiritual Formation at Friends University. Our first class began by looking at the many and varied ways we are formed by the world and our particular cultural context, before studying specific ways we are formed spiritually. I wrote this piece for an assignment asking us to look at one aspect of American life that shapes and forms us.

Now seems like a great time to revisit “DO NOT FEAR.”

Considering that March 2020 was 2 years long, it’s not surprising that Spring 2018 seems like a million years ago. At the time, I was in the middle of a long, hard season, facing a lot of unknowns.  I survived that season in part by taking a long, hard look at the Bible’s most repeated command: Do Not Fear.

I took everything I learned from that study and turned it into a devotional. I thought now might be a great time to offer that again, as now we’re all in a place with lots of unknowns.

It’s free on the  FREE BIBLE STUDIES AND RESOURCES TAB on the upper right corner of my website. Or just click here.

Here’s what I said about it at the time…

So much in our lives tempts us to look at obstacles, at our lack, at the things we fear. And God invites us to look to Him, to look to love.
How do you fight fear with the knowledge of God’s love?
What would it take to for us to be so sure of God’s love of us that His love would drown out our fears?

It’s a PDF, so you can download it and print it, or just read it on your phone or tablet.

Enjoy, and pass it on to anyone you think will be helped! Things might get pretty scary around here, but we don’t have to be afraid.

For the hurting on Good Friday

Extraordinary circumstances can bring the best out of people, true. But they can also bring out the worst. I am not at my best.

I’ve had several conversations with friends and neighbors hurting because of the choices of others who seem to be at their worst. Spouses and partners. Parents. Children. Bosses, businesses, landlords. Customers, coworkers, fellow shoppers, Facebook friends. Politicians. People.

I’m not excusing behavior that harms others, we should all work extra hard right now to choose kindness and common good. We can also give each other grace, we are not at our best.

My heart is heavy today for those who are hurting because someone else is at their worst.

Protestants prefer our empty crosses, because God is alive (hallelujah, we are Easter people.)

But today, on Good Friday, when so many are not their best selves, hurting because pandemics apparently can bring out the worst in people… I am thankful for the crucifix. For Jesus on the cross, suffering from the worst this broken world had to offer.

To my friends who are hurting: Jesus understands. He suffers with you. He sees. He knows. He is Emmanuel, God with you, with you in this hurt.

And this is not the end.

A Simple Advent Celebration for Groups or Families

I wasn’t raised celebrating Advent (or even going to church on Christmas Eve), but I’ve found Advent to be tremendously meaningful over the past 10 + years. I love focusing intentionally on Jesus throughout the month of December, both personally and with my family.

Family devotionals have never really been our thing. But I try the hardest during advent, and that’s the only time we’ve really made them work. For years – especially leading groups of college girls, and when I was trying to lead my own young kids in celebrating advent – I was desperate for Advent resources.  I’ve tried lots of things, Jesse Trees, daily discussions, some really beautiful books. But daily things tend to get super overwhelming when I try to force them on my family.  I can (and do) manage a daily devotional myself most days, because I badly need the space and quiet. But daily with the kids has always felt like a battle. Over the years, we cobbled together a simple weekly plan that worked for us.

I think this simple plan will work well for most friend groups, community gatherings or families.

Is Jesus your Cheerleader?

I’ve written over the past few weeks about God with us and in us. I’ve never spoken to a group of women for whom the idea of intimacy with God, that kind of closeness, wasn’t scary for some, if not most.

So today we’re talking about one last promise. I’ve betrayed my English Major roots and themed everything I’ve written this month around PREPOSITIONS. We have WITH, and we have IN. Our last preposition is FOR: God is FOR us.

If the idea of intimacy with God is uncomfortable for you, perhaps that is because you have a view of God that isn’t safe. It’s hard to feel good about a God who is with and in you, if you don’t believe He is for you.

Why isn’t the promise of God-With-Us (Emmanuel) in the New Testament? (Don’t worry, it’s good news!)

God is WITH ME. I’m hanging on tight to that promise.

HE IS WITH US. That’s good news, but it isn’t the end of the story.

In this season I feel God inviting me deeper.

When I searched the Bible and pulled a long list of God’s WITH US promises, I saw that they are all over the Bible… Until you hit the end of the Gospels.

Then you don’t see “WITH YOU” promised again until it’s fulfilled in the Revelation, with “the tabernacle of God … among men…”

In all these years of clinging to the promise of God with us, I never noticed that the promise doesn’t come up in Paul’s writing or any letters from the early church in our New Testament. Paul and the other NT Writers don’t talk about God WITH US.

Hanging on to the promise: God with us

God is WITH us. This is gospel, this is good news.

We invite people to become Christians.  And we’ve hopefully responded to that invitation ourselves. But do we live the truth that believing Jesus is just the beginning?

Trusting Christ opens the door to a life WITH Jesus. John says, “THIS Is eternal life, that they may KNOW YOU, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

What difference does it make, as you think about walking with Jesus, to know that you are more than just a Christian? You are one who lives her life WITH GOD. You are more than “saved”, you have a WITH YOU God.

I don’t know what you are facing today. But I do know that God is WITH you.

Will you respond? Will you say YES to the great with you promise of Jesus? Will you welcome Him in, remind yourself that you’re not alone, put out the hands of your heart and hold on to Jesus, with you in whatever you’re going through?

I hope so. Because I personally am hanging on TIGHT to this promise.

Do we need to ask God to “be with us”?

I’ve rarely prayed in a group where SOMEONE hasn’t asked God to “be with us”, I’ve prayed it myself. And it can’t be wrong, since Paul prays it: Now the God of peace be with you all.  (Rom15:33, also 16:20, 24, end of many of his letters)

But I try to catch myself, I try not to pray this anymore, because I don’t know that we have to ask God to be with us. We can thank Him that He IS with us. He’s already promised that He is.

God with us is part of the Original Design:

Love Drives Fear Away {Free Devotional: No Fear}


 

So far 2018 has had more than enough change for me: I’ve graduated a kid from high school, registered another for middle school, quit one job and started another. Every time my youngest son sits on my lap, I know it could be the last. I updated my resume and interviewed for a job for the first time since the 1990s. I let go of work and ministry that have been a part of my life for longer than my husband or children, and am learning something new.It is exhilarating and terrifying and overwhelming and great and in 2 months I’ll be 3 years from 50 (FIFTY.)I’ve needed every lesson I’ve learned about the Biblical command, “Do not fear.”

I’ve needed to know that God sees me. That His promises are worth waiting for. That He loves and chooses me. That the Lord is my Shepherd. I’ve reminded myself over and over that He is with me, no matter what happens. And I am still reminding myself that sonship (my belonging to God as His daughter) may be the antidote to fear.

The changes in our life aren’t over, but I’m learning to embrace even the scary parts. The things I fear open a door for me to wrap God’s good words around me like a blanket, to run to the truth like a fortress, to put God’s promises on like shoes and walk in them.Especially the best and most beautiful promise of all, the love of God.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. (1 John 4:18)

So much in our lives tempts us to look at obstacles, at our lack, at the things we fear. And God invites us to look to Him, to look to love.
How do you fight fear with the knowledge of God’s love?

What would it take to for us to be so sure of God’s love of us that His love would drown out our fears?

This post is the last in the NO FEAR Devotional Series. You can read all of the posts in the series hereIf this devotional resonated with you, feel free to share it using one of the links below: That really helps people to find this site, which hopefully will bless them as it has blessed you!


Love Drives Fear Away {Wrapping up the No Fear Study}


So far 2018 has had more than enough change for me: I’ve graduated a kid from high school, registered another for middle school, quit one job and started another. Every time my youngest son sits on my lap, I know it could be the last. I updated my resume and interviewed for a job for the first time since the 1990s. I let go of work and ministry that have been a part of my life for longer than my husband or children, and am learning something new.It is exhilarating and terrifying and overwhelming and great and in 2 months I’ll be 3 years from 50 (FIFTY.)I’ve needed every lesson I’ve learned about the Biblical command, “Do not fear.”

I’ve needed to know that God sees me. That His promises are worth waiting for. That He loves and chooses me. That the Lord is my Shepherd. I’ve reminded myself over and over that He is with me, no matter what happens. And I am still reminding myself that sonship (my belonging to God as His daughter) may be the antidote to fear.

The changes in our life aren’t over, but I’m learning to embrace even the scary parts. The things I fear open a door for me to wrap God’s good words around me like a blanket, to run to the truth like a fortress, to put God’s promises on like shoes and walk in them.Especially the best and most beautiful promise of all, the love of God.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. (1 John 4:18)

So much in our lives tempts us to look at obstacles, at our lack, at the things we fear. And God invites us to look to Him, to look to love.
How do you fight fear with the knowledge of God’s love?

What would it take to for us to be so sure of God’s love of us that His love would drown out our fears?

This post is the last in the NO FEAR Devotional Series. You can read all of the posts in the series hereIf this devotional resonated with you, feel free to share it using one of the links below: That really helps people to find this site, which hopefully will bless them as it has blessed you!