Genesis 1

It’s the beginning of a brand-new year. A few days in, but still brand-spanking-new. The day before the last year ended, we celebrated our family Christmas, and my mother (knowing of my frustration with devotionals written by people who seem to have life together) thoughtfully gave me a “Real-Life Devotional Bible.”

Today I sat down to look at it. And the first devotional in it centered on Genesis 1 – “In the Beginning…”

Apparently, an apt way to begin a new year.

The message of the devotion for “Day 1” was about rest. The author observed that throughout the creation story, there is a repeated statement: “…and there was evening, and there was morning…”

God creates and works, but the priority is rest. Time is centered on that period of rest, not of activity. It may seem to us that the most important part of the day is that part with the most energy, the most productivity, the most potential for getting things accomplished – but the time of rest is just as important, if not more so. To “rest” doesn’t necessarily mean sitting around twiddling your thumbs – although it may, for some folks – but to pause. To take a moment (or several) and center yourself. To reconnect with your priorities. To physically relax and let your body and mind be refreshed, renewed, restored.

In all honesty, it was a nice little devotional, but it dredged up a lot of frustration in me. I have struggled with feeling extremely disconnected from God for the past while – like I’ve tried everything I know how to do to try and connect but nothing seems to happen. There was a time when I had verbal, out-loud conversations with the Divine. When I could easily discern the next step of the moment or see God’s presence in the details of life. When Yhwh was tangibly present in every breath I took. But two years ago my understanding of God shifted. My understanding of God as passionate and compassionate, constructing and destructing, loving and angry, jealous and bold, gentle and grace-filled – was turned on its head. I still cannot reconcile how I could know so tangibly the Divine work I was engaged in as a wife/mother as well as a spiritual leader – and have that stripped away from me so violently by pastors standing on Kingdom Authority.

Did God take a rest that day? I don’t see how the Divine was present in that situation – both with me and against me in the same moment – in a position where I was told I had to decide how to cut my heart in half, only to have it torn by others.

In the last two years, I’ve had people (with the best intentions) suggest that this is a time of rest for me – that I should be thankful for it – that I should focus on my family – that I should seek peace and contentment. Never mind the gaping wound in my spirit, or that my faith has been bleeding out in front of them. Clots have formed, and callouses and scabs have occasionally grown – but the wound is still deep, and still present – and still comes back to the same point. Where was God? If all of this is part of some divine master-plan, or was in any way done with prayer and godly wisdom/guidance – how is it possible that the cost of the actions taken by others has been my Spirit? My faith? My soul?

Where is God in that? In all of my years working with Christians, with churches, in Divinity School, in ministry, in life – I have never seen such a contradiction. Where the Spirit-inspired actions of God have come at the cost of someone’s faith. Yes, bad things happen to good people. Yes, we seek to find purpose in them because it makes us feel better. Yes, there are times when we do need to take a period of rest and seek peace. But I’ve been trying to do that for two years now. I’ve all but given up because no matter how I turn it around in my head, I cannot understand how any of this is godly. Even though we landed in a godly place, and the people we are surrounded with are Christ-centered and care about us, I still don’t understand how these wounds were caused by holy means. How my heart could be shredded by Christ. How my faith could be so wounded by the One I trusted so much.

And so I fight the idea of rest. Of taking time and centering myself. Of making my relationship with God, who seemed to stand by and guide both sides of the harmful act, a priority. Of hoping that maybe this was all human pride and action – that the pastors standing on Kingdom Authority were wrong (not that they would admit it) and God was present but still somehow allowed my heart and faith to be mangled. Because my heart wasn’t cleanly cut – it was shredded. Because it hurts to sit still and bleed out. It scares me to imagine what I might hear if God speaks – what I might discover, or be asked to do if I rest.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. God created, and then he rested before beginning a new day of creation. Time in Genesis begins in the evening – the time of rest ad renewal that comes before the act of creating, of providing, of sustaining.

If only it were an easy task.

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Christmas Ponderings

It’s December – although there isn’t snow on the ground (or even in the air, for that matter), Christmas carols are playing. Cookies are being baked. A tree has been bought and decorated. Gifts are starting to pile up. We are waiting for a baby.

We live in a birth-control world. We live in a world of stress and chaos beyond our comprehension where often the single-most thing we can control is our body and what we do with it. Until we can’t.

For some women, pregnancy is a result of their own decision – for others, the result of someone else’s. Some women are overjoyed at the prospect, many are scared, some are even repelled and appalled by the idea. Some women will even long for the results to come back positive, while others don’t give it a second thought what it means to want a child. Some experience smooth pregnancies without concern, while others struggle with depression, anxiety, or other legitimate concerns over their growing bellies – or over why their bellies will not grow. Some babies will be entirely healthy, born without complication, while others will need medical intervention and care – or will be beyond that help.

My point is that we are in the midst of Christmas season – a time that most of us associate with joy and love and warm, fuzzy feelings as we stroll through malls and hang decorations and watch shiny light bounce off of snowflakes. It’s easy to forget that there is much more to this season than light and joy and peace-filled thoughts.

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Gifts and Risks

I find myself in a balancing act that just leave me exhausted – physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. When we moved to this new area, I needed a job. I spent months applying to anything and everything I could find in online or in print – I sent in hundreds of applications. But, it turns out, I’m overqualified for 99.9% of those positions. I have too much experience. Too much eduction. Too much specialty in one area and not enough life experience in others. Factor in the fact that, because our family has moved so much in the past several years for reasons beyond my control, I’ve not been able to hold any of the jobs on my resume more than 1 year – long story short, I got turned down by dollar stores and non-profits alike, and all for the same reasons.

It was utterly rejecting and demoralizing. But I eventually found myself interviewing for a position that I currently hold part-time. And a year later I was approached about working with the local school part-time. I work both jobs, and I’m exhausted all of the time because neither of them uses my gifts and talents as completely as they could be used. Because there isn’t much (if any) wriggle room for me to move into a different position without further exhaustion. Because I’m afraid to give one – or both – up. I’m afraid to trust – to hope – that the sacrifice would pay off when so often in the recent years of my experience, such sacrifices have left me reeling.

Ephesians 4:7-16 reads (NRSV):
But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.” (When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

These are the words that sit in my head this morning – the challenge I find as I am frustrated with the exhaustion of two jobs and fear of change. What was I gifted with? I’ve lost sight of it. I used to say that my role was that of a pastor – a reluctant one, but that none the less. And yet, just as I acknowledged that call and stopped fighting God, I found myself reeling from more circumstances beyond my control. I’m still reeling, but the sharp pain has dulled and time has moved on – but to revisit these words – to own them and discover them within myself – scares me. Puts me in a place of having to take ownership again of God’s gifts in my life. Puts me in a place of being held accountable for how I use them – in what I do. And that terrifies me. And exhausts me.

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I miss having my own house.  My own home.  A place where I don’t have to worry about what people are going to say when they discover my daughter has written “I love you” in orange marker all over her bedroom wall.  And on the window frame.  And on the inside of the kitchen cabinet door.  A place where I can paint the kitchen any color I want without getting permission from a larger group of people who may then want to give input into the shade of blue I’m talking about – and who will have every right to make the final decision because it’s their house.  I’m simply living there.

Maybe this is what every tenant feels about their landlord – but in my perspective, our place is unique.  Not only do we not own the house, but most of our resources are provided through the goodwill of others.  My husband’s salary wouldn’t be paid if not for the voluntary giving of others.  Our electricity, water, and heating oil are paid for by those same voluntary givers.  Our needs are provided for by the grace of others.

And what to we offer in return?  Our presence.  The security of knowing that if a crisis happens, people know where to find us.  This is the third parsonage we’ve lived in, and over the years we’ve had people knock on our door for gas money, for help finding a mechanic, for food, for clothing, for help recovering from a fire, for emergency assistance, for counseling, for shelter, for reassurance, for comfort, for new insights, for guidance, for grace.

My husband may not see his worship attendance swell on Sunday morning, and we may not meet or even be aware of every person in the community – but they know who we are.  They know where we live.  They see us around town.  They know we are here.

It feels like living in a fish bowl, especially since we live on the corner of two busy roads.  It scares me, knowing that we have young children and people are watching them as well as me and my husband.  It’s not where I would’ve ever chosen to bring my family and live, and yet this is where we are.



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Thoughts on a Sunday Morning

I fail at being disciplined.  I haven’t made this outlet a priority as I meant to.  Please forgive me for that.

I’ve been recently reminded that I do not hold onto relationships well.  I build relationships in an area or during a time, and then when I move out of that area or time passes I don’t actively work to maintain those connections – I trust that they will continue to be there, but I just can’t bring myself to reach out to those people whom I love and honor as friends.

This isn’t a new phenomena in my life; there are only a small number of high school friends that I still “keep track of” – that I still reach out to and speak to.  There are also very few friends from college that I am regularly in touch with (although that number is skewed since I married one of those friends).  Same with my travels overseas, and my return to the States, and our moves to Andover, Syracuse, the Adirondacks, and so forth.  I try and cultivate relationships while I’m there, but as soon as we leave I stop reaching out to them.  I isolate myself and grieve the loss.  It just hurts too much.

I know I’ve shared this with a few folks along the way – mostly strangers who have briefly touched my life – but I’ve very rarely acknowledged this to those who know me, much less to those who know me well.

I’ve never been able to decide if this quality – this building and (for lack of a better description) taking relationships for granted – is a flaw in my character or something that has been an asset to my resilience – that has allowed me to survive various circumstances thus far.  I know those people whom I care about are there, have impacted my life, are still present in my own life from a distance, and will more than likely understand and still love me once they’ve seen or heard me admit this.  I have no doubt of these things, and in many ways that knowledge and faith allows me to continue moving forward, building new relationships, and coping with circumstances that have (over the past several years) made it difficult to form sturdy, long-term support systems.

If you are one of those people whom I have known along the way, thank you for being part of my life and creating the space for me to be part of yours.  Even if I haven’t spoken to you or written to you – on email or social media or “old fashioned snail-mail” – I have not forgotten you.  I have thought of you and prayed for you and thanked God for you.  Every moment of my day seems to be filled with thoughts and memories of places I’ve been and people I’ve met, triggered by events of the day or smells or various objects or people I meet along the way, and prayers of thankfulness, concern, joy, and so forth.

Even as I am writing this, I am praying for my family, as well as Marie, Melanie, Jodi, Lis, Mizuki, Emi, Sharon, LyAnn and Andy, Dave, Asaka, Tomoe, Mayu, Hisae, Jen, and the list goes on and on…each name and prayer brings about another and the chain is never ending.

Sometimes my brain – and my spirit – floods over.

I have faith, though, that we continue to be connected – through our love for one another, through the time we shared together, through memories and experience.  And I thank God for that.

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Easter Weekend 2015


Several years ago (more than I’d care to say) I was at a National Youth Convention in St. Louis.  I was in college, working with a local church as their youth leader, exploring the idea of attending seminary, and wrestling with shadows.

I had been to conventions like this before – local youth conventions filled with workshops and worship, fellowshipping with other young people and card games played in elevators…But this was the first time I had been surrounded by colleagues rather than peers.  Professionals and volunteers, working with local churches and outreach ministries, coming together to learn from presenters and from each other how to be better hands and feet of Christ to the young people in their world.

It was weekend of challenge for me; as much as I loved being in such an environment, I was hurting.  I had left an abusive relationship behind and was struggling with the shame and the guilt of having failed to hold everything together – feeling like I should have been a better set of hands and feet of Christ in that relationship, that perhaps if I had held it together longer Christ would’ve brought healing and made things right…feeling like my body had been betrayed and my spirit had been crushed…feeling like it was only a matter of time until my fellow youth pastors and colleagues (both at the convention, and at my home-base) found out…dreading what their reaction would be, and wondering if – and how – I could find healing.

It was with these struggles that I made my way to their prayer room (passing David Crowder on the way, incidentally).  I can’t say how much time I spent sitting in that room, but gracefully there was a array of art supplies and an invitation to express myself – my feelings, my prayers, grief, my pain, my shame – everything – through color and texture.

I found the need to seek out three colors of construction paper, the same three colors of oil pastels, and space.  I sketched without thinking – doing so instinctively without any idea of what I was creating – simply seeking to pour myself out because I was so incredibly empty. When I was finished, I had three small squares of paper with droplets – similar to the picture above.  I left them on the altar space.  A sacrifice of myself.  A response to the sacrifice made for me.

I haven’t seen those pieces since, although I am sure that the event organizers took care to treat all of the prayer-filled artwork and creations with the greatest of spiritual care and consideration.  The image, however, has never left me.

All of these years later, I have sketched them out roughly a few times but it never dawned on my to paint them until recently.  What you see above is the result of that time and effort.  I hope it speaks to your spirit as it continues to speak to mine.

May God bless and keep you.  Happy Easter!



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Early Sunday Morning

Have you ever had to wait for something?  For good news or bad news…For the doctor or your turn at the DMV…For test results (medical, academic, or other)…For someone special to show up…For the food to finish cooking…

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to wait.  I’m not horrible at it – I just don’t like to.

Waiting can be uncomfortable because it reminds me that I only have so much influence on/in situations, circumstances, and the world around me.

It creates space in my schedule to allows my imagination time to run rampent with possibilities – both worrisome and hopeful.  It creates space for reflection, causing me to consider what is happening or what has brought me to this point – and even what will happen next.

Waiting can also build anticipation.  There’s a story that Dr. Fred Craddock told in one of his lecture on preaching, about a boy who asked his grandfather to cut an apple for him.  Rather than quickly cutting the apple straight through, the grandfather pulls out his pocketknife and slowly begins cutting, while the boy watches juice from the apple start to form drops and fall to the ground and the smell of fresh apple wafts into the air.  As the boy hungrily waits for his apple, his anticipation of what the apple will taste like grows.  (just writing this out makes me want an apple…)

As I was thinking about Lent yesterday, and I realized that much of the Christian life is centered on waiting…Waiting for the Christ-child to be born.  Waiting for Jesus’ death on the cross and (simultaneously) waiting for his ressurrection.  Waiting for the Holy Spirit to arrive at Pentacost.  Waiting for Jesus to return.  Waiting for God to speak or work or bless or answer prayers.

That’s a whole lot of waiting.

Now, I’m not going to get very deep into this.  Mostly because it’s too late at night/early in the morning, but also I haven’t had a chance to really think this through long enough to get very deep right now.  But it is something to think about.

I know that I tend to seek distractions – to fill my time with my family life or trivial matters or chores or solving the world’s problems – that keep me from thinking about whatever it is that I’m waiting for, or wondering when the waiting will end.

When you are waiting for something (or someone) – does the space of waiting make you uneasy, or are you quite comfortable with it? Does it cause anxiety or anticipation for you? What do you do with that feeling?


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A New Day

I woke up with a new sense of responsibility this morning – you know, the sense you have on January 2nd when you’ve vowed before God and mankind to go to the gym more, or to reform your eating habits, or to travel to all 50 states, or even to clean your house more than once a year…The sense that there is hope of a new day – a new chance for change – a bright future ahead!

And all the while, a small part of you realizes that the optimism will sooner or later fade and you’ll face the choice of trudging along in your vow, chalking it up as a lost cause, or persevering triumphantly(!) to meet your goal.

I think I’m going to approach this task as a discipline rather than as a goal.  In the midst of the daily chaos and pressures of life, it’s not going to be easy to carve out time to stand still and add a post.  Yet, I think, it will be worth it.

A few short years ago I attended a series of studies focused on Richard M. Foster’s book, Celebration of Disciplines.*  In it, Foster has discerned and described 12 spiritual disciplines: the “inward disciplines” of the Christian life (prayer, fasting, meditation, and study), the “outward disciplines” that are visible to others (simplicity, solitude, submission, and service), and the “corporate disciplines” that are exercised with others (confession, worship, guidance, and celebration).

I am not going to go into exhaustive detail about all of these disciplines at the moment, but I mention them because days like today I am reminded of how much time, energy, and work it is to cultivate a discipline-filled life – spiritually as well as practically.

Foster’s book (which you can find online, as it’s come out in several editions) centers on helping people cultivate depth – of their spiritual life, and of their understanding of God.  I struggled to incorporate those disciplines into my life when I first read the book many years ago as an idealistic college student for Pastor Wally’s Intro to Ministry class (Caramel Macchiatos come to mind!).  I struggled again during that series of studies.  The disciplines make sense.  They cultivate spiritual life and Divine understanding organically. They aren’t as abstract or as difficult to practice as you may imagine.  But practicing them as a discipline – as a practice of instruction that molds, shapes, corrects, or focuses – is HARD.

And yes, I was tempted to use my whiney-voice just now.

The purpose of this space is to be a place where I can engage and wrestle with various thoughts and topics, to share the depths I have discovered so that others may be blessed.  I don’t want this to become an occasional hobby, but it’s going to take effort to cultivate that depth while seeking to share it.  That’s going to require intentionality, forethought, and accountability – as well as giving of my time, energy, and effort.


Yes.  It’s worth it.

______________________________________________________________*As much as I would like to provide all of the bibliographical information about the Celebration of Disciplines, I am writing this from memory and do not have it all handy.  It has come out in several editions over the years, and possibly through more than one publisher; if you do a search for it, you should be able to find it pretty easily!

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Here We Go!

I prefer to describe myself as not exactly technologically adept; in all honesty, I’m more able to find my way around webpages and computers (and my iPhone) than I’m likely to admit.  There’ some thing about owning your abilities that makes you vulnerable – it raises the bar of expectation.  Somewhere along the line I went from designing webpages and converting files with skill and confidence to downplaying my knowledge and ability with technology.  I don’t know when exactly that was, but rest assured (I know I do!): setting that expectation low means that I’m never asked to push buttons on highly expensive pieces of equipment without supervision!

And yet, here we are.  I’ve spent the free moments of my day (when the kids are quiet, the husband’s occupied elsewhere, and the dogs have given up their quest for attention) putting together this space – creating the environment, if you will.  It may not be anything breathtaking or earth-shattering, but it’s clean.  Thought-filled.  Mine.

I do want to give a shout-out to the folks at KDA Technologies – especially Wes Dean – for preparing this space for me, and for being willing to answer the “desperately screwed up and need help!” phone calls that haven’t happened yet, but probably will…(see the note about expectations above!)  There are lots of folks who are incredibly good at the work they do – and when you factor in a desire to help people connect (personally or professionally) – you really won’t find a better group of folks!

And so, with no further ado, here we go!

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WELCOME to my little corner of the world…wide web, that is! This is the space I’ve carved out (with a lot of help from the folks at KDA Technologies, and with the support of my family) to share my thoughts – practical, theological, spiritual, creative, and so forth.

It is my prayer and hope that this space will be a blessing to you – who-ever you are, where-ever you are, and what-ever is going on in your life. It is also my prayer and hope that this space will be a safe space where you can share your thoughts as well, turning my posts into a conversation that can nurture, challenge, inform, and inspire!

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