Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Hello There, God

Why, hello there, God.
Have you been there the whole time?
You have?

That was you?
The one
lighting bushes on fire,
sending sacred echoes,
smiling at,
delighting in,

If only I would stop and look around.
If only I would stop for just a moment.
Stop and bask in the glory of your love
that renews
that transforms
that refreshes
that comforts
that stills
that schedules
that times out prefectly.

If only I would come to the well...
and drink.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

10,080 Minutes of Prayer

It is that time of year again when Kingwood Christian Church hosts a 24/7 prayer room for one week. From midnight on Pentecost Sunday until the following Saturday night at midnight, someone is in our sanctuary every single hour of the day.

Seven days.
168 hours.
10,080 minutes of prayer.

Prayers for the people of the world,
Prayers for our church,
Prayers for our church staff,
Prayers for those suffering from addiction,
Prayers for our world leaders,
Prayers for our schools, teachers and students,
Prayers for those we love who are hurting.

For someone who might say, "An hour? How can I pray for an hour?"
I would just like to say, "Come and see."

There are opportunities to pray through art, through music, through scripture.
One can light a candle for someone or write a name on the prayer wall.
One can confess sins and pray for those recently baptized.
One can pray with a sacred object and and pray for those who don't know God's love.
We can name a burden we carry and release it into God's hands.
So many ways to pray.
Each one precious.

We are not a huge church.
I dare say it is miraculous that we've been able to cover all the time slots - 168 of them.

Thankfully there are those willing to take the midnight to 6 am shifts.
There are those who have said, "If you need me, just call."
On many nights, our pastors have taken up the slack, praying through the night.
Many have taken more than one shift.
Some have committed their presence daily.

I have been blessed by these moments with God.
It is Holy Ground.

My Best Teachers

The large box was sitting on the porch when we got home.
She spied it right away.
What could be in there?
Is it something for me?

The opening revealed unexciting contents:
her booster seat, accidentally left in our dear friend's car and an envelope for Mom.

Then her eyes went back to the big box, FULL of packing peanuts, just sitting there.
Her eyes lit up.
And in the way that moms have of taking the fun out of everything, I said,
"Please don't make a mess all over the floor with the peanuts."
Then I went about my business.
A few minutes later I walked by the room.
And I couldn't help but smile.

Did she make a mess?
Yes. (And this is before she got OUT of the box!)
Did she seize an opportunity, as children usually do, to live in the moment?
You betcha!

As a mom who struggles
with living in the present moment,
I realized I have an excellent teacher right here.
I envy her ability to create fun in that box.
How big a box would I need to be able to climb inside?
Let's not go there.

Fast foward a few weeks. My hubby was out of the country, visiting his family in Grenada. I had completed one week of solo parenting, pretty smoothly, I thought. It was bedtime for Chloe and I asked Trent if he could read her story with her. He did this willingly and with all the funny voices (how I am thankful for his sweet big brother moments!)
When I came in to kiss her, he had turned out the light and was cuddling with her.
I gave them both their goodnight smooches and turned to walk away.

Trent said, "Oh no, you are not getting away that easily. You have to come lay down with us and make a Chloe sandwich. This is a silly family tradition where two of us cuddle a little one in the middle to make a "sandwich."

Bossy, isn't he?
Wise, too.
Because MY mind was on the tasks I still needed to complete dowstairs..laundry, dishes, and a few church emails.

But, really, there was no place I needed to be more than right there,
cuddling with my little and not-so-little kids,
enjoying their love,
at the end of our day.

Matthew 18:3
And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Friday, May 4, 2012


“Today while the blossoms still cling to the vine,
I’ll taste your strawberries I’ll drink your sweet wine.
A million tomorrows shall all pass away,
Ere I forget all the joys that are mine today."

If you'd like to hear a beautiful version of this song, click here

I have a confession to make: living in the present is very hard for me. Always has been. 

I’m not proud of this. 

If I’m being honest, I’m more of a planner and a “stew”er. I am great at planning events and organizing folks. I am also great at worrying about the future with my favorite game of “play-out-the-worst-case-scenarios-so-I-will-somehow-be-prepared-no-matter-what.” The sad illusion is that I’m in control! This practice does nothing but rob me of the joy of this present moment. 

And that’s just on the front end of things. On the back end, I spend precious time and energy “stewing” over things that have happened, playing them over in my mind and thinking, “I should have..I wish I had..” – more fruitless behavior that robs me of joy. 

Simple calculations show me that if I use half of my energy planning for the future and the other half stewing about the past, that leaves exactly NO TIME to actually live life in this glorious present. 

A well known religious leader said, “Be where you are. Otherwise you will miss your life.” 

I do not want to miss my life.

As a reminder, I have this framed picture on my desk at work: 

“The world is full of people
Who will go their whole lives
And not actually live one day.
She did not intend on being one of them.”

While some people I know just naturally and easily live in the present moment, I have to work at it. This is my journey. So what things can I do to help me stay in the present moment?

  • I can take time to be still and feel God’s presence.
  • I can take a walk in nature, which connects me to the creative energy of God.
  • I enjoy a weekly Bible study with women of all ages. As we share our experiences, my sisters remind me that someday I’m going to miss this hectic time of life with young kids running me ragged. Sometime in the sooner-than-I-can-even-believe future, my house will be all too quiet. If I’m not careful, my to-do list can take priority over bike rides, folding laundry can win out over a game of Chutes and Ladders, and cleaning up the kitchen can trump a quick game of bowling on the Wii. Time moves along all too quickly and the kids are growing up so fast. O Lord, let me take advantage of every opportunity to be present and laugh and play and tickle and listen AND LOVE.
  • Finally, I practice the daily disciple of gratitude. Ann Voskamp’s lovely book One Thousand Gifts changed my life by reminding me that grace and joy can be ours if we only give thanks. Stopping to thank God for the blessings in my life helps keep me focused on this moment. In fact, this was her offering last weekend on her blog
                        For walking out the door
                        to go stand out in some field
                        to startle at the momentousness
                        of sky and grass and breath in your lung
                        right now…

What practices help you experience your life fully in the present?

While God’s love is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow,
I can only experience God’s love right now, today.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

This Isn't My Mess!

Heather worked efficiently among the church ladies, giving directions about what to put where.
Cleaning out and organizing her mom’s house was a daunting task, but the church ladies were there, as church ladies often are, to help with what needed to be done.
She was dealing with years of neglect as well as a disorder where buying more things will somehow fill the void where a husband and grown children used be.
 Things were moving along slowly, but we were making progress. Suddenly, we heard sniffles and looked over to see Heather weeping. This strong and determined young mother was completely undone.
“I don’t want to do this, she wailed.
This is NOT MY MESS!
But…she’s my mother!”
We rushed over and offered our hugs and love and encouragement.
Obviously, the situation is difficult on many levels. Watching Heather’s daughter-struggle between complete frustration at her mom for letting things get to this state and, in the next moment, fierce protection and desire for her well-being tugged at my heart.
Can’t we all relate in our own crazy families?
Like being furious at my teenage son for not turning in a big project that seriously impacted his grade, yet loving him to the very core of my being.
Sometimes being in community means that we have to help clean up messes that we didn’t create.
I couldn’t help but think about the last week of Jesus’ life. That night in the garden, the night before his death, he asked his friends for a simple thing: please stay with me while I pray.
And these men, his homeys, his buds, his peeps – in their flawed humanness, they couldn’t stay awake with him.
So he prayed alone in that garden, knowing what the next twenty-four hours would hold.
Our Savior said,
           “Father, I don’t want to do this!
This is NOT MY MESS!
But they are my children.
If there is any other way…
But Your will be done."

What gift of grace that Heather didn’t say to her mom, “You made this mess, now you’re on your own to clean it up!”
And what a gift of Grace that Jesus knew we couldn’t clean up our mess, either. So He took care of it for us. And He continues to be with us, even in the midst of our ugly days, honoring the promise that He will never leave us, no matter how big our mess is.

Luke 22:42

42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

Joshua 1:5
No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.
Reflection questions:
·        Is there an area of your life that feels like a mess right now? What would it take for you to surrender it to Jesus?
·        Have you even had to spend time and energy cleaning up a mess that you didn’t create or deserve to clean up? How did it make you feel? What were you able to learn from the experience?
·        Have others ever had to clean up your mess? How did you handle it? How did they?
·        If you could talk to Heather, what encouragement could you offer?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Miracle of Easter

Jeremiah 29:11   
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.

Chocolate bunnies
Dyeing Easter eggs
Easter dress shopping
Special family time
Easter lilies and
Jesus is risen!
Up until a few years ago, Easter was about traditions that I followed as a child and have carried forward with my children. As a believer, I read scripture and prayed. I tried to focus on the journey of Jesus in the last week of his life. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and then the joy of Easter Sunday. I heard the words transformation and resurrection and tried to understand what they meant. I thought I understood.
Three years ago, my mom received the much anticipated call that a kidney was available for a transplant. She had been on dialysis for two years. 18 years before that, I had donated a kidney to her. The expected life of a live donor kidney is 10-12 years. We felt incredibly blessed that my kidney, in her body, worked well for 18 years. Now she was having her second transplant. Everything went well and on Super Bowl Sunday night, 2009, she was sitting up in bed, eating jello after a successful transplant surgery. But within a few hours, everything went wrong. By Monday morning, she was in ICU on a respirator and all her body systems were shutting down. The doctors did not know what was happening or why. The cultures they took to determine the cause of infection had to incubate for several days. When I walked into that ICU room and saw a machine breathing for my mother and four IV trees with 40 bags of medicine each hooked up to her frail body I could barely stand up. The next few days were touch and go until they determined that the infection came from the very kidney meant to give her life. E coli was raging.  Not only was the new kidney not working, her very life was hanging in the balance. After isolating the infection, each day we would see some improvement, and then we would have a setback. Mom was gone from us during this time, and her coloring was ashen, her tiny body just a shell. As I struggled to make sense of what was happening and also be a support to my dad, I remember praying, “God, please heal her. And after all the fighting she has done, please save this kidney.” Her improvement continued and after 42 days in ICU, she was moved to a regular room where she continued to improve and grow stronger. Her kidney was working well and she began the work of physical therapy which would allow her to go home. With the attentive care from my dad, she made steady progress toward wholeness and healing.
Three years later she is strong and feisty – a walking testimonial of healing. Each time I am with her I marvel at the goodness of a God who loves us and restores us. He did not just save my mom or spare her life, he restored her to full health. I feel a bit like Mary and Martha who witnessed their brother’s death and also his resurrection. I have witnessed God’s resurrection power through my mother’s healing. For me, Easter has a profound new meaning, full of gratitude and hope.

Mark 16:6  “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. “

Saturday, April 21, 2012

20 Years Ago

20 years ago
A young woman dreamed of joining the Peace Corps.
When the application asked if she had a country preference,
She checked, “No preference.”
When her assignment came as a teacher trainer on the island of Grenada
She immediately headed to the public library
To see where the heck they were sending her.
20 years ago
That young woman found her new home
In a place with warm, friendly people,
Adorable, curious children,
The sweet nectar of mangoes, dripping from every tree,
And a cute young teacher named Ryan.
And a church in Kingwood, Texas prayed for her.
They sent notes of encouragement
And care packages with things like Oreos and Pace picante sauce.

20 years ago,
She was placed in a small country school
at the north end of a tropical island
that is only 12x22 miles wide.
Placed by whom?
No question about that.
Of all the schools on that island,
Of all the islands in the Caribbean,
Of all the countries in the world,
God placed her there.
And over two years, that nice young teacher named Ryan became a friend,
then a boyfriend and then a fiancée to the young woman.

And Ryan made a choice: to give up that life in order to start a new one with her

He came to America and became a husband, and then a father.
He became a friend, a faithful church worker and a citizen of the United States.

And the church in Kingwood, Texas,
Opened its arms and its heart to this Grenadian son.

Fast forward twenty years.

One month ago, 17 of us carried the prayers,
and energy,
and hope,
and love,
and financial support,
of Kingwood Christian Church,
across the ocean
to our brothers and sisters in Grenada.

One month ago I had the honor of sharing Grenada with my church family.
One month ago I had the honor of sharing my church family with Grenada.
One month ago, standing in the very spot where Ryan asked me to marry him,
We renewed our marriage vows in the presence of our dear friends.

One month ago I saw nine months of planning bear beautiful fruit.
One month ago I saw an 18 year dream come true - a dream to help, to give back.
God’s perfect plan,
20 years in the making.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Psalm 139:13 (NIV)
For you created my inmost being;
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Questions for Reflection: 

 Looking back on your life, can you think of a time when God was at work, long before you were  aware of it? Thank God for that time. How would you describe that time?

Do you have any pictures of yourself during this time period? What do you notice when you look at yourself in those pictures? What could you say today, knowing what you know, to that person back then? What words could you use to encourage her?

How does it make you feel to realize that God is ever-present, even when we aren’t aware or tuned in?

Are you in the midst of a struggle now that seems hopeless? Imagine the best possible outcome and write about that. How long might it take? Share this desire of your heart with God, asking for the patience needed to wait.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Redemption with Donuts

You would think I would learn, but no.
Apparently I am a slow learner with this raising teenagers stuff.
Had to nag the boy on the way to school,
When he's not even awake yet, not fully human.
Just raw emotion, sleepy body and hormones tumbled together 
and slumped in the seat beside me.

"Don't forget you have one day of tuba practice to make up," I say.

I forgot my mantra of kindness and gentleness:
No corrections or negativity on the way to school.

Because, really, who needs to start his day hearing that?

Not surprisingly, a conflict was born, 
Created by me, the one who boasts of being a peacemaker.
Tears in the voice, anger a little too close to the suface.

And then the TONE and the accusations and the raised voice:
You aren't listening, Mom.
You NEVER listen.

Suddenly my desire to take him for donuts was gone, 
a good plan interrupted.
There is expressing himself and there is being disrespectful.
He had crossed the line.
"That's it. I'm not taking you for donuts."
And I didn't.

Oh, there was great gnashing of teeth and renting of clothes.
"I wasn't yelling; YOU are the one who started it."
"I didn't MEAN to raise my voice."
And finally, quietly, "I'm sorry, Mom."

These are the "gray area" moments of parenting when I waffle.
Yes, I want to set limits and consequences and follow through.
Yes, I want my son to speak respectfully, even when he's upset.
But the bigger goal for me, for us, the bigger question:
What can I do to help restore connection, to make it right?
How can I show grace, that it's okay to ask for a do-over?

This day I said, 
"If you can be nice, we might be able to go a little later."

No for now, but not forever.
The consequence is not getting it when you wanted it
but the possibility is still there.

In his silence, I could sense the emotional movement
from disappointment
to consideration
to acceptance. 

Him smiling and the investment was worth it.

Thankful for daily opportunities to offer grace,
Even with donuts.