Monday Morning Magic

My alarm went of at 5:15AM. I leapt up, made my bed, grabbed a shower, dressed in the clothes I set out the night before, and raced out the door. Between getting dressed and dashing out the door I did pause to make sure that Mom’s meds and breakfast were set out exactly the way she likes them.

Once out the door I headed for the the place I love to be on Monday mornings: The Animal League of Green Valley. Choosing to volunteer on Monday mornings is the best thing I ever done. My week starts out with lots of wags and puppy kisses. I walk whoever I can, and love every moment whether I’m being pulled along or stopping to smell every leaf. Then when every dog is walked by all the volunteers, we hang out for socialization and some training.

There are times when I ache for my dogs back in Ohio. I would rescue in a heartbeat, but Mom can’t handle the stress or the dander. I’d volunteer every day, but Mom can barely handle me being gone for one day. So I suck the life out of my time away and give thanks for this respite that feeds my soul.

As I was reflecting back on my morning doggy therapy session, I had a pang of sadness. For a brief moment I was reminded of the Syrophoenician woman who had a conversation with Jesus. It went like this:

Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the region of Tyre and Sidon. And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely demon-possessed.” But He did not answer her with even a word. And His disciples came up and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us!” But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” Yet He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” And she said, “Yes, Lord; but please help, for even the dogs feed on the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed at once (Mark 15:21-28, NLT).

I love this story. She wasn’t asking for the world. She was, in her own mind, willing to settle for “crumbs that fell from the table.” The scraps. The castoffs. Jesus commended her for her persistence and her faith. The Apostle Paul said it this way: little is much when God is in it.

So while others are dreading Mondays, I’m ready for the “crumbs.” They more than satisfy.

Lessons Learned From Mom: Control Is An Illusion

How many people do you know who try to control everything? Who have meltdowns when things don’t go according to plan? Who micromanager their lives and the lives of others?

How many meltdowns have you had this week because you couldn’t orchestrate things the way you wanted?

I’ve had a couple.

Yesterday, I mentioned how Mom let me put her calendar away. Relinquished a little control.

Today it was the bathroom scale.

For as long as I can remember, Mom has been obsessed with her weight. The issue was never the size of her clothing, it was how much she weighed. Her second husband was just as obsessed, and I saw him shame her for eating too much or not being active like he was.

I bit my tongue on more than one occasion and sat on my hands (a technique I learned in school to keep from talking, because everyone knows I can’t talk without using my hands…but I digress.)

Mom had to move the bathroom scales to accommodate her new shower bench. She wasn’t happy with what felt like crowding. I asked her if she really needed to keep the scales in the bathroom. She stopped talking, and became pensive. I could tell there was an inner dialog raging inside. I waited.

Then she looked at me and instructed me to take them out of the bathroom. They have disappeared into the bottom of her closet.

Letting go of habits is hard. Especially if they have been life-long. When Mom came home from the hospital last January after a very serious bout with pneumonia, she had lost some weight. She was weighing about 92 pounds. She was ecstatic. It was like she had finally reached her life goal. Over the year she put on eight pounds. Somehow, in her mind, it was too much.

Giving up the scale was huge. For her.

I wish I could find that kind of freedom.

While I was still in high school, Mom wrote in the baby book she kept our milestones in a prediction that impacted my thinking in the most damaging way. She declared that I would weigh 140 pounds when I turned 18. I remember hearing the statement as a negative pronouncement regarding the horrendous direction my weight was trending. I fought against her vision. I fought and I fought and I lost and I lost.

I want to be healthy. I want to feel better in my body. I don’t want to constantly be battling to achieve a number.

But like Mom…I’m not sure I know how to be another way. Maybe control comes more by not trying so hard to control.

New Year! New You?

For several weeks I’ve been thinking about how I want to be different next year, how I want to be better, and what I want to bring with me into 2021.

Do you set goals or make resolutions? I used to. And they would last until about the third week of January. I know I can be disciplined and include routine in my life, but so many of the things I try to add just don’t stick.

So I began to dig into why. Why don’t they stick? Why can’t I pick goals I can achieve. Goals need to be SMART:


(I couldn’t find a graphic that included everything I wanted to put here, so I made my own—forgive the raw nature, but that’s how I’d teach it.)

Going back over this information, two words stuck out to me: relevant and attractive. This is probably where my goals failed. Realizing this reminded me of when I failed my oral exams for my M.Div. so miserably that they suggested we act as if the horrible showing never happened and schedule to do them again next time around.

Regurgitating information merely to demonstrate an array of facts didn’t work for me. How was I going to figure this out? Then without even knowing smart goals I realized I needed to find a way to make my accumulated knowledge both attractive and relevant.

At the time I was trying to figure this out I was engaged in the learning/training experience called Clinical Pastoral Education, CPE for short. Each quarter (I took 10) I had to identify my learning goals. What did I want to learn? What learning would enhance my skills and move me along in my long range plan?

The way this all worked out, I began to link my learning as being under an overarching theme. Everything began to fall into place, become connected, and make so much sense that when I went in the second time the committee commented on how confident and clear I seemed—two words that never would have described my first time before the committee.

Thinking of that brought me to my lightbulb moment. The goals I had been setting were goals I felt I should set. They were goals that had greater meaning to others than to me, so they were neither relevant or attractive to me, and therefore unsuccessful.

With this awareness, how will I set some goals for this year?

First, what is my appealing over arching theme? I landed on the scriptural call to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Here’s my worksheet so far:

So…I need a little time to live with these, but I’ll be back by Wednesday to let you know how this has developed for me.









































What Makes You Weep?

This morning I have had everything from moist eyes to full-out sobs.

The first tears came as I was reading material for my message on Sunday. I am continuing my series on “Continuing the Work of Jesus, Simply” by focusing on Jesus’ compassionate invitation to learn from him the “unforced rhythms of grace (Peterson’s translation Matthew 11:29 in the Message). During my study this morning, I came across this quote: “But they had limited evidence. They did not see the end from the beginning. They drew their conclusion only from what they saw, not from the infinite wisdom of God. And, even so, they looked at the evidence through prejudiced eyes. The Christ must behave according to their own pattern, or else He was not the Christ. It is no wonder that they came out with the wrong answer.” (An Exposition of the Four Gospels Matthew, Herschel H. Hobbs, p. 141)

How like today? We still don’t get it. Tears.

Then I read a Facebook post from a high school friend. Yesterday was her birthday. Two weeks ago one of her dogs died right in the middle of playing out in the yard. This morning they had to put their other dog down because they discovered bladder cancer. My heart broke. I sobbed. (Typing this now even a couple hours later, I wept all over again.)

How like today? Sorrow, disappointment, aching. Tears.

I had just gone back to reading when Mom tapped on my door. She brought me a section of the paper. The USA Today published an insert, “Women of the Century, 100 Women Who Changed the World.” In January they invited nominations of notable women. Then a committee put the list and bios together. As a woman who felt a calling from a very young age to a predominately male occupation, christian minister, I have experienced prejudice, nastiness, and discrimination for forty years. I shed many tears and sometimes begged God to remove this calling from my life. But I have also been supported by other women clergy who understand in multiple denominations. I have been encouraged remain faithful. Reading over the names and bios, seeing their pictures, reminded me that I am not alone in this battle, and there’s still much work to do. Work I have been and will be given to do.

How like today. We are still fighting: to be heard, to be recognized, to make a difference. But we do not fight alone. Tears.

Tears. Why do I cry this day?

I cry because some days I still don’t understand the “whys” of my life. Why I’m here and my husband there. Why I had to quit the one job in my life I loved like no other. I don’t want to come out with the wrong answer. But I will lament…release…and keep seeking to serve even when I don’t get it.

I cry because loss is a part of living. I cry because sorrow can blindside us. I cry because losing the things I treasure, value…love hurts. And to say that it doesn’t is a lie. To hurt indicates that we had something special and now it’s gone. How fortunate we were to have those things. But that doesn’t mean something else, possibly more perfect or valuable won’t come along. Grieving, acknowledging what was lost, enables me to keep living—treasuring the memory and making room for whatever is next.

I cry because others have to struggle. Being gifted, intelligent, and motivated doesn’t guarantee an easy road. The prejudice of others, the insecurity of others, the selfishness of others can throw painful blocks, detours, and frustrations in our path to fulfilling our callings. But clearly, we do not walk this road alone. Others have gone before us. Others walk alongside us. Others are placing their trust in our faithfulness.

This morning I wept. And oddly, I feel a clarity and strength, a desire to keep on. I’ve laid that burden down. And look ahead.

Erasing History…Or Just Your Version

I’m getting tired of people who are saying the people who are protesting and demanding that white supremacy monuments are trying to erase history.

They aren’t.

Unless you believe that yours is the only version of history that matters. 

The more I listen and read, the more I realize the history I was spoon fed in school was whitewashed—cleansed of the rich heritage of others. BIPOC history, with all it’s richness, was swapped out for a misrepresentation or ignoring of how land was gained and jobs got done. Assimilation was the mandate. 

As we discussed this over breakfast, my mother made a comment that was insightful. She said that white supremacy didn’t start once people landed on these shores. Nope. I came on the boats. And our founders didn’t stray far from their roots. They may have tried to hide behind the words in their documents, but they didn’t mean that everyone was created equal, or deserved life, liberty, and happiness. No. That was reserved for those whose skin was like theirs.

What if instead of being afraid of what really happened—or continues to happen—we truly educated ourselves on what transpired, on what has been denied or ignored. What if we read…and listened. What if we made room for others. 

Maybe we really could learn something from history.

Out For A Run

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Way back when I was in college, during my sophomore year, I decided I was fat and needed to lose weight.

Okay, it wasn’t a new thought…I remember feeling fat from when I was 12.

Here I was at 12–along with the friends who helped me celebrate:

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That’s me in the bottom left.

I remember a time when my mother announced I would weigh 140 lbs. when I turned eighteen. I was mortified. That number loomed over my like an indictment: I was going to be fat forever! (Incidentally, she was right!)

So there I was in my second year of college feeling totally pudgy and ugly. I had put on the “freshmen 15” and then some. I went to my family doctor on break and begged for help. He put me on an eating plan, gave me a diet pill, and told me to run a mile a day.

What? Pill, no problem. Food sacrifice, not crazy about it, but I figured I’d manage. But run a mile? Who are you kidding, doc? I didn’t think I could walk a mile, let alone run one. This might be impossible.

My roommate and I figured out sixteen laps of the gym was a mile. This was handy for the rainy, snowy, or cold days—so I wouldn’t have any excuse to not get my mile in. (I’ll save the whole cutting corners thing for another blog.) I also mapped a half mile on the back road to the college and struggled to “run” out and back on nice days.

I never timed myself, but I got pretty good at getting it done. I did everything I was supposed to and actually got down to 125 lbs. I got smaller clothes and a few looks from some handsome young men.

Fast forward forty years. The small clothes are long gone. I know there’s no magic pill worth taking. I’ve tried a zillion eating plans, and while they work for a while, I can’t stick to them (bars and shakes, shakes and bars). Why? I like food, and I’m addicted to sugar.

The only thing I’ve stuck with for longer than a blink is my dependence on my Fitbit. I used one hit or miss for a few years, and then in 2016 I got serious. Paying attention to my steps, stairs, sleep, and exercise has become routine for me—a healthy obsession. I like know what I’ve accomplished (someone else tracking), but I’ve also learned how to use it gracefully. I can take a day off and not freak out.

I’ve learned something else, too. I can run more than a mile. Ok, it may not look like “running.” It’s something between a fast walk and a jog: a wog, or jalking. But I get my heart beat up beyond target and I pass people as I go. I am 63, I feel good about it…about me.

How much more than a mile, you ask? Depends on the day and how much time I have. I’ve done as much as five miles. And every time I do, I punch “impossible” in the face.

What have you deemed impossible that might actually be doable? What things have you let other people decide are true about you, for you? What is in your heart that you have longed to do, but been afraid to try and fail? I didn’t wog five miles my first time out. I built up to it. It’s like the old saying, “how do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time.

Typically we reach our goals, one step at a time.

What will your first step be?

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And Be Thankful…

(I’ve been staying with my mom for a couple weeks. She is recovering from a nasty bout of pneumonia. This morning we were having a conversation about worry, control, and acceptance of the new normal. After our talk, I found this piece in my to be finished file. The message seems timely…hope it is for you, too.)

Have you ever considered what it must have been like to be Adam and Eve? How perfect their life was. How every one of their needs was met before they could ask. How they had no questions, because there was no need. How every day they walked with God—they were completely in his presence.

How cunning of the Tempter to challenge their naïveté, their simple way of life.

He challenged them on the only front he could: their desire for more, their sense of entitlement. And they bit and bought his deception, and that introduced the problem of dissatisfaction to the whole human race.

We are entering the season of the year when we focus not only on being thankful, but a time when we contemplate the giving of the greatest gift—God himself coming as a baby—born that man no more may die.

Recently, I spent some time in my Sunday message addressing how meekness is not weakness. I suggested the definition: Meekness is therefore an active and deliberate acceptance of undesirable circumstances that are wisely seen by the individual as only part of a larger picture. 

I think Paul must have understood this. 

To the Corinthian church he wrote: Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:8-10, NLT).

Eugene Peterson in The Message gives us this paraphrase of the same passage: I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. Now I could see Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Because of this shift in thinking, I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get—the less control I try to muster, the stronger I become.

To the Colossians Paul also wrote: And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father (Colossians 3:15-17, NLT).

And to the Thessalonians, in his final advice section, he pens: Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NLT).

James got it too: Dear brothers and sisters,[a] when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing (James 1:2-4, NLT).

Our strength comes from being grateful that God is in control. We can rely on him. The recognition of our inability to control things is where our weakness meets up with God’s strength.

This is where I find confidence to declare with Paul, that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

It’s not a matter of “doing” everything. 

I can’t do everything, or every thing.

But I can face what ever comes my way.

Because he promises in all things we are—or can be—more than conquerors.

So when the tempter slithers up beside and tries to convince you that you don’t have enough, or the best, or less than someone else—call him what he is: a big fat liar.

The LORD, he is your shepherd…and you have everything you need…

…and be grateful.

Lessons To Learn

(I wrote this in 2009 when my precious nephew died. I’m still learning the lessons I describe…probably will for the rest of my days.)

Recently a pop star/icon/music legend died. Perhaps you may have heard about it. Over and over I heard people expressing their grief and insisting that he “died too soon.” I think I understand what they were thinking. Twenty years ago my father died. He was only fifty-three. I knew then that was young-ish. Now that I am fifty-two I know just how young that really was.

Yesterday my nephew died from injuries sustained from a fifty foot fall. He was fifteen. That, my friends, is too young. There are some things about this I am not able to wrap my brain around, but here’s what I have pulled out of this mess.

Most importantly, life is brief. Live it. Don’t wait for something to come along to begin to do what you love. Growing up I heard this from my mom. She would tell us, “Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” Her use of this phrase typically referred to some unpleasant job, like cleaning our room, that we didn’t want to do. It’s equally good advice for the things we want to do or feel passionate about. Isn’t that how Jake was? At fifteen, he had crammed a lot of living in.

Laugh often. Jake was an imp. I can’t count the many times Julie told me how he made her laugh. There is enough sorrow and pain in this world, but not near enough laughter. It is natural for us to be sad at times, but we don’t have to trade in our laughter and carry around sorrow for forever. Who would be the first person to try and make us laugh at a time like this? Take his cue.

Love Jesus. Julie shared how Jake was feeling that God was calling him to something. At fifteen he was open to do whatever God asked. He didn’t know what it was, but he was going to be ready when the call came. I was told during this week at camp he even had opportunity to lead someone to a personal relationship with the Savior he loved and served. There’s a Christian cliché that says, “Your life may be the only Bible some may ever read.” For me, the page that has Jake on it says, “You can love Jesus. You can trust Him, even when you don’t have all the answers.”

Jake’s life ended while he was doing something he enjoyed, with people he liked, in a setting that was beautiful, aware of the God who created and loved him. Some will ask where God was and is in all of this. God’s voice was in the voice of the counselor who told Jake to be careful and stay on the path. Perhaps he wasn’t listening as closely as he should have. Perhaps he was traveling too close to the edge. We can all relate to that. We’ve all strayed off the path and paid consequences we didn’t count on. I guess that’s the next point. Listen. We need to make sure that we’re tuned in and listening. There’s so much that God wants to say to us if we’ll just quit talking long enough and listen.

Learn. Jake was learning about this magical world of photography. Someone close to Jake felt bad for “teaching” him what he knew. That needs to stop; because if hadn’t been photography, it would have been something else. I remember when Jake was little and into soccer, he had this thing he put around his waist that had a soccer ball attached so he could practice soccer. He always wanted to be better. Learning opens us up to living. So whether we’re fifty or fifteen, or somewhere in between, we need to keep learning—to keep growing, to keep living.

Lean. Sometimes when tragedy hits we have the tendency to pull away and lick our wounds and ask our questions alone. This is not the time for that. It is the time to lean in on each other. When my dad died, he died at home with hospice. Those of us at the house were remembering things about Dad and amid our tears there were funny stories that brought laughter. I noticed that the hospice worker had written in her notes: “Family remembering appropriately.” That night my brother, sister, and I sang together. It was a good time of leaning. As family and friends we have to get better at leaning on one another. I know life can be hectic and full—but let’s not let it crowd out the opportunities to come tighter and draw strength and encouragement from one another.

Yes, he was gone too soon, but he will never really ever be gone, if we learn the lessons from his life. In that way we will keep him alive and let his life make an even greater impact.

Selah: Still in the Darkness

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In darkness we often find fear. Not seeing…not knowing. Where should we go? What lurks beyond our sight? Panic!

What if God is leading us to a new place of trust…in him?

What if instead of panic and fear that pushes us to run—a foolish choice at best since we cannot see where we are going—God wants us to sit still?

This morning I had a conversation with another believer who was describing how God pushed aside her daily To Do list and offerered her his instead.

And there was only one thing on it.

What if God is inviting us to set aside our busyness and multi-tasking ways and do his one thing?

What if we got still in the darkness—the unknown—believe God’s word and promise, and just wait until he showed us the next step to take?

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13)

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Wednesday’s Word: Laughter!

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“They” say laughter is good medicine. If that’s true, then being around me must good for other people’s health. Because I make people laugh. Sometimes they laugh with me—other times at me. But it’s laughter all the same.

I remember a conversation I had with one of our foster boys. He got in a fight with another boy. A careless comment ended up coming to blows. As I pulled the details out of him, I uncovered some humor he had missed. We take ourselves to seriously. I pointed out the ridiculous statement that had been made and we both had a good laugh.

On a different occasion I was the one who needed to laugh. I recognized the comedy in the moment, but wouldn’t allow myself to laugh. Instead I adopted a controlling, dominant parent. It was awful—for both my daughter and myself. Laughter would have been much better than humble pie that day.

Perhaps it’s easier for me to find humor because it’s easier for me to see good, and find joy.

I hope you’re able to uncover plenty of reasons to laugh today.