Color me confused

Jesus … said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” Mark 5:19 Modern art scares a lot of people. What is the blue square supposed to mean? The squiggly lines? The warped, misshapen body? I don’t always know, ...

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Jesus … said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” Mark 5:19

Modern art scares a lot of people. What is the blue square supposed to mean? The squiggly lines? The warped, misshapen body? I don’t always know, but there are some pieces that I like, just because I do. On a gut level, judging solely by emotion, something in them resonates with me.

But some pieces — well, it takes me back to my college honors humanities class, you know, the one at 1:00 in the afternoon during winter quarter, right after lunch, when the warm classroom and full stomach and last night’s all-nighter would catch up with me and I didn’t stand a chance. But on the rare occasion when I could stay awake, I was frustrated. How am I supposed to know that this author wrote his satirical essay in response to the politics of the day or that he composed this poem in response to the loss of his entire family to the plague? Why does a red hat have to mean anything besides that it’s a red hat? Did the author intend for all the symbolism we’re now studying, or is it just something made up by literature teachers everywhere?

In other words, I sure could’ve used a translator in that class. And that’s what I think occasionally as I stare at a piece of art, wondering what on earth qualified it to be placed in a museum. If you’re right there with me, don’t feel bad for your confusion or uncertainty. The art is simply speaking a language we don’t understand.

Language is designed to help us communicate, but sometimes it has the opposite effect.

Look back, all the way to the Tower of Babel, when God used language to separate us. In today’s high-tech society, global communication issues have been more or less solved, but in our towns, communities, schools, churches, and even on Facebook, language can be a giant barrier. Words of judgment, division, separation, accusation — of course those things push people away. But so do many innocuous-seeming words used by well-meaning, sincere believers.

On my walk… we must die daily… I’m broken… covered by the blood… I crucified my old man and put on my new man… feeding on the word… born again… I’ve been delivered… God has brought me to the Promised Land… I’ve been to the mountaintop… victory march… is she showing any fruit?

I confess, I’ve used Christianese myself. Sometimes the jargon just seems easier — it’s the shorthand we use among others who share our beliefs, simple phrases that communicate profound meanings. But here’s the danger: it can make other people feel like they’re not in the club. It becomes a tool for exclusion, not inclusion. Instead of sharing your testimony, you may have created a stumbling block, another way for someone to doubt their faith (I don’t know what she’s talking about; I’ve never felt that before; my faith must not be real or right; who are you to decide if I’m ‘saved’?).

As believers, we’re all looking at the same things: The same Bible. The same miracle-working God. The same Savior. But we’ve had different experiences. Different expectations. Different issues and prejudices and hurts and lives. Because of this, the same words won’t work for everyone — the one telling the story or the one listening. By all means, use whatever words you have to tell people about the wonderful God you serve. I’m not suggesting that you stop. But watch for eyes glazing over, people shifting in their chairs, glancing at their watches.

What people want — in art, in relationships, in their faith — is authenticity. Understanding. Connection. Something that will draw them in, not push them away. Something real, something true, something that will resonate with them at a gut level, way beyond intellectual understanding but with deep emotion. Something they can understand without a translator.

How to worship when you’re not in church

Around the time my husband and I were married (25 years ago), we both felt the pull to attend church. Until then, it had never been part of my regular routine—I’d always preferred sleeping in on Sundays—but I discovered, to my surprise, that I loved going to church. My only complaint? I wished there were ...

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Around the time my husband and I were married (25 years ago), we both felt the pull to attend church. Until then, it had never been part of my regular routine—I’d always preferred sleeping in on Sundays—but I discovered, to my surprise, that I loved going to church. My only complaint? I wished there were some way to carry that feeling with me when I went home. I remember sitting on the end of my bed one morning after we came home, the songs repeating endlessly in my mind, feeling a longing for something more.

I browsed the gospel and hymn cassette tapes in the music section of various department stores and tried to pick out titles that sounded familiar, but I couldn’t find anything similar to the songs we sang. So I randomly picked out some tapes, eagerly plugged them into my car stereo, and felt disappointed when I recognized nothing. The tapes made their way into the garage sale pile, and I was left, once again, wanting something I couldn’t define.

At that time, I did not know that there was a kind of faith that went beyond the walls of a church. I didn’t realize that there was so much more to faith than showing up for an hour on Sundays. Nor did I know that I could have any kind of relationship with God, let alone one that sustained me minute by minute, giving me strength and clarity and guiding my steps. I had no idea that I could live my life in a state of worship. Once I learned that it was possible, it changed my faith for good.

Yet I think there are a lot of people with similar experiences to the ones I described, who haven’t witnessed examples of people living a life of worship but feel a vague hunger for something they can’t explain. No matter how strong your faith is, no matter whether it plays a dominant role in your life or a tiny one, the reality is that we were made to worship God. Sounds simple, right? But the truth is that our concept of worship may be incomplete and limited. When we expand our ideas about worship, we will begin to see God more clearly. We’ll realize He is present all the time, and we’ll discover a sense of fulfillment that is deeper than we imagined it could be.

Romans 12:1 serves as a great guide to how to worship, even when you’re not in church. In this verse, Paul urges us, “in view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” 

In many churches, we’ve gotten in the habit of referring to the song portion of a service as “worship,” but in reality, true worship isn’t confined to what happens at church, nor is it about the music. In fact, worship is even better when you bring it into your daily life, letting God flow through you and around you as you do your ordinary, everyday tasks. By taking this verse apart, we can discover how to let your whole life reflect a state of worship.

In view of God’s mercy. In order to accept God’s promise that when we believe we belong to Him forevermore (even after death), we must first recognize our need for what He offers. When we see the enormity of our sin, we understand the extent of the sacrifice Jesus made—willingly—on our behalf. When we grasp that there are no limits to God’s mercy, it changes the way we interact with others. We see that what we’ve been given is special, but it’s not exclusively ours.

The same love and forgiveness and acceptance is available to anyone who wants it. Because of this, we are able to act with mercy towards others, and when we do so, we’re glorifying God. We’re acting in a state of worship.

Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice. Worship isn’t just an abstract state of mind. Serving God and bringing glory to God are done through our actions, by living a life that represents the truth of God. It’s about revealing the character of God and showing His love to others.

Ask God to help you behave in ways that exemplify His character and portray His message of acceptance and forgiveness and kindness. When you act as His hand extended towards others in need—by giving, by helping, by listening, by encouraging—you are offering your body as a living sacrifice. It’s not a sacrifice unless you give up something valuable, but this kind of sacrifice brings with it great rewards.

As you build relationships with others, you will find opportunities to share what God is doing in your life. And as you see more of Him, your faith will deepen, and you’ll find yourself worshipping God more and more often.

Holy and pleasing to God. Fill your mind with what is good and pleasing and holy (Philippians 4:8). It doesn’t have to be labeled “Christian” in order to be uplifting and edifying—but you do need to guard your mind and heart against temptations because there is no one else who will do this for you.

For me, what this looks like is listening to contemporary Christian rock more often than any other music—not because the other is inherently bad, but because if I’m going to have song lyrics stuck in my head, I want them to be good. I want to dwell on something inspiring, to meditate on something hopeful, and to wrestle with complex truths. I read all kinds of books, but I’ve learned to shy away from gratuitous violence and demeaning relationships in the fiction I read, because I don’t like the way that makes me feel.

The truth is we can find God in non-religious movies, books, and activities if we set our mind on Him and remember to watch for Him. Each of us has to decide what to feed ourselves to bring out the best in ourselves, and then to turn it around to offer it to God.

This is your true and proper worship. It’s not enough to simply like God; the truest worship is when we go all in. This extravagant love and extreme submission includes wanting whatever God thinks is best for you, in all areas of life.

We have a human tendency to compartmentalize—this box is for church, and that one is for the other parts of life. Make a conscious effort to keep the boxes wide open and allow them to overflow into other areas. Be open about how you see God in your life, but don’t bash someone over the head with your belief. Simply live it, authentically.

Let your life be your worship. Offer it as a gift to the God who has given you so much. That’s the most powerful kind of testimony, and the most beautiful kind of worship—whether you’re in church or not.

Originally written for Crosswalk.

Church and the power of a shared story

One day during a writing workshop I attended, the teacher (a well-known author) assigned us the task of sitting for 30 minutes in three very different locations and writing down every single detail we observed. That evening, after we shared the details with each other, she told us that now they belonged to us. What ...

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One day during a writing workshop I attended, the teacher (a well-known author) assigned us the task of sitting for 30 minutes in three very different locations and writing down every single detail we observed. That evening, after we shared the details with each other, she told us that now they belonged to us. What the other women observed became part of my repertoire, and my observations became part of theirs. Now I can take these ideas and absorb them, hold them close, make them part of my story — weave them into the fabric of who I am.

There are a million reasons I could give for getting involved in a church — not because you have to be in church to have faith or practice it, but because it is the ideal place to learn from other people who are, at least in theory, trying to live out the faith we share. No, the people there won’t be perfect. They most likely will fail miserably, as we all do, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them. It also doesn’t mean you have to go early for Sunday school or sign up for all the Bible studies — although you can. It just means that it’s a good place to observe. Open your eyes. Listen. Talk. Share. Ask questions. See how someone clings to God in the darker moments of her life — or notice how she doesn’t — and watch how that changes her. Don’t hide your secrets. If you want to have a perfect little life on Facebook, be my guest. But somewhere in your life find people with whom you can be real.

Because it is in the sharing, in the seeing, that you find the knowing. And it is the knowing that strengthens you and develops a faith that is lasting. When you look through the eyes of faith and notice how God works, it will change what you see when no amount of money-juggling will prevent overdraft fees. It will help you distinguish Him when your nephew responds again to the siren song of his addiction, or your child fails another class, or a herniated disk cancels your golf vacation. It will help comfort you when the biopsy shows that you really did spend too much time in the sun or that there’s no getting around it, you have to seriously change your diet because your health has hit critical stages. No matter how much you love chocolate. Or salt. Or bacon. He will guide you when your reputation tanks, or your investments do, or when the tanker jackknives on the interstate and kills a four-year-old child. It will sustain you when you can’t please a boss or seem to make a smart decision or salvage your marriage. It’s not dependent on you — because the Bible tells us, “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.” (2 Timothy 2:13, NLT)

Sweet and precious Lord, help us not to overlook the gifts you’ve given us, the ones surrounding us in the pews at church (or surrounding us in life, if we don’t go to church). Teach me, Lord, to see You, honor You, pay attention to You. Grant me Your unfathomable peace. And thank You for putting people in my life to walk alongside me. Help me learn from them, no matter what I’m going through. Amen.


P.S. If you don’t go to church, please don’t think I’m criticizing you. We each have to find our own way and our own place and I’m glad that my blog is part of your spiritual life. In fact, I wrote an article called Should You Feel Shame for Missing Church?, and the short answer is no :-). But I have been forever changed—in a good way—by the people at my church and I know the powerful things that can happen when you find a church to call home.

A peek into my journal

I thought about titling this “Naked and unashamed,” but that would make it look like I have a whole lot more confidence than I really have. With me, naked just is never a good thing! Whatever you want to call it, though, this post is about getting real. I wrote this in my journal recently, ...

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I thought about titling this “Naked and unashamed,” but that would make it look like I have a whole lot more confidence than I really have. With me, naked just is never a good thing! Whatever you want to call it, though, this post is about getting real.

I wrote this in my journal recently, and then the next time I picked it up I felt so strongly that I should share it—not because it’s amazing writing, and not because I have the answers, because I don’t—but because I think someone out there needs to know that they are not alone. Here’s the truth: We don’t all feel inspired all the time, and we don’t always know how to pray. Even me—and I’ve published two books on prayer. So please read on and know that each person’s faith life will ebb and flow. Prayer may come easily sometimes and be more difficult at other times. But God remains the same, and He always wants to hear from us. I am so grateful.


It’s Saturday morning—really almost noon—and I’m feeling that familiar resistance. I should work; I want to read. I should pray; I want to read. I should be productive—I have so much to do—but I’m tired and just want to indulge myself.

Lord, what is it in me that wants to do meaningless, selfish things over spending time with You? Is it the fear—the knowledge—that You know me? That You see through my BS? That You know how far my heart and thoughts are from You in the daily grind?

Revive that passion in me, Lord. Please. It was so good for me to spend the last few days with Cindy and share our stories about You, about our faith and discoveries. To be reminded, through my own words and experiences, how amazing You are. To remember what a gift You’ve given me and all the ways in which You’ve revealed Yourself to me.

I already know that my prayer life will probably never look like it used to. I’ve changed; You have not.

But what I have now feels stagnant and boring. Distinctly uninspiring.

The irony isn’t lost on me: I write about how to invigorate your prayer life, how to try again and again, to do something new to shake it up. I tell people I get to write, not because I am a better pray-er, but because I want You more than I want to stay where I am.

I do want You, Lord.

I want to hear You and see You—but I really want to know You. To let my days be changed by Your presence. To let my life be changed by Your participation and provision. To let You so permeate my being that every particle of me is transformed into something new—unrecognizable as me but fully recognizable as YOU.

Sometimes it seems as though the leap between where I am and where I want to be is impossible to traverse. No obvious path; seemingly impassible obstacles.

And yet I know—and believe—that nothing is impossible for You. My failings don’t even enter into the equation.

Do this impossible thing, Lord. Whisk me over the chasm I sense between us. I’m not asking You to deliver me from the hard work of it. Just for You to show me the footholds I need to navigate across. To inspire me, step by step. To coach me, coax me, whisper encouragement to me. To never leave my side—and yet, inexplicably, to be waiting on the other side when I arrive, arms wide open for a deep embrace.

Help me to get there, Lord. One tiny step at a time.


Dear Lord, thank You for hearing our prayers—and for always wanting to answer them when we’re simply wanting to grow closer to You. Help revive my passion; restore my lagging faith; remind me how amazing You are. I know these things, and I believe in my heart, but sometimes my head gets in the way. Thank You for loving us so much. Thank You for wanting us to lean on You. Thank You for always, always being there and for knowing the desires of our heart. Amen.

20 Prayers to Pray Throughout a Busy Day (free printable)

Prayer is our primary means of communication with God, and it is only through God that we have the strength, abilities and wisdom we need to face a busy day. But when we’re so busy, when is there time to pray? My answer may surprise you: Always. It’s true, though. We don’t have to stop ...

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Prayer is our primary means of communication with God, and it is only through God that we have the strength, abilities and wisdom we need to face a busy day. But when we’re so busy, when is there time to pray? My answer may surprise you: Always. It’s true, though. We don’t have to stop everything in order to pray. Instead, let these short, simple prayers run through your mind as you go about your everyday tasks—your conversation with God will become a soundtrack underscoring your ordinary days, transforming them into something extraordinarily beautiful and meaningful.

1. Thank you for this day.
This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it. ~PSALM 118:2,4

2. Be with me.
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. ~PSALM 118:6

3. You are so good.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. ~1 CHRONICLES 16:34

4. Give me strength for this day.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. ~GALATIANS 6:9

5. Protect me.
I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. ~LUKE 10:19

6. Thank You for the work that keeps me busy.
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands. ~PSALM 90:17

7. Lord, give me rest.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. ~MATTHEW 11:28-30

8. Help me to love.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. ~ROMANS 12:9-10

9. Let me see You.
“You will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord. ~JEREMIAH 29:12-14

10. Fill me with joy.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. ~JOHN 15:11

11. Show me how to glorify you.
There is no one like You among the gods, O Lord, Nor are there any works like Yours. All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, And they shall glorify Your name. For You are great and do wondrous deeds; You alone are God. ~PSALM 86:8-10

12. Give me a generous heart.
A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. ~PROVERBS 11:25

13. Erase my worries.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. ~JOHN 14:17

14. Help me.
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. ~PSALM 34:17

15. Let my words be uplifting.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

16. Forgive me and help me forgive others.

Jesus said, “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” ~MATTHEW 6:14

17. Thank You for being in control.
“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. ~JEREMIAH 29:11

18. Teach me. Guide me. Show me what to do.
Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me. ~PSALM 25:4-5

19. Purify my mind.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. ~PHILIPPIANS 4:8

20. Thank You. Again. Always.
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~1 THESSALONIANS 5:18

This article first appeared on crosswalk.com September 12, 2016

Click here to download the free printable list of 20 prayers.

Faith in a rear-view mirror

If you’ve been reading me for long, you know I’m not ashamed to admit all of the many ways I do things wrong, right? In that spirit, let me tell you about what I was thinking the other day when I passed a cop going the other direction, slammed on my brakes, saw his brake ...

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If you’ve been reading me for long, you know I’m not ashamed to admit all of the many ways I do things wrong, right? In that spirit, let me tell you about what I was thinking the other day when I passed a cop going the other direction, slammed on my brakes, saw his brake lights, and THEN proceeded to drive below the speed limit for the next five miles as I watched my rearview mirror for flashing lights, heart pounding, chanting, “Sh&%” under my breath.

We all break the law in one way or another, no matter how careful and/or good we might think we are. Sometimes we even get away with it, like I did. (Thank goodness.)

From there, though, my mind wandered, and I started thinking about how this applies to God’s laws, His standards, His holiness.

I am not legalistic at all. I believe God’s defining characteristics are love, grace, and forgiveness. That was the whole point of Jesus’ crucifixion: that we couldn’t—and don’t have to—pay the penalty for our lack of perfection. I think I have a healthy view of my faults, but I don’t dwell a lot on how lowly I am or beat myself up for my inherent failings and wrong behavior.

Because wouldn’t it stink if someone followed us around all the time, watching for the chance to say “GOTCHA!”? If every time we turned around, someone was waiting to throw a penalty at us? What kind of life would that be?

You know, I think that is possibly part of the reason why God did what He did. Conventional teaching says it was because of His great love for us, that no man should perish. It explains that God is holy and perfect and therefore it is greatly offensive for Him to be confronted with anything less than perfectly holy, and there had to be a sacrifice to bridge that gap.

I’m not disagreeing. I know all of that.

But have you ever considered that maybe it was also a way of God giving us a life we could enjoy (the abundant life discussed in the Bible)? I think it was partly about creating an environment in which we’re welcomed with open arms, not afraid to come to Him—because even though God knows all about us, and is clear about who He is, he doesn’t want a barrier between us. He designed us to have relationships with Him and with each other.

And how amazing is that?

A friend recently said that if your idea of sin is small, your God is small. If you don’t see how lost you were and how much you are in need of a savior, you can’t truly celebrate the enormity of being found. So I started praying about it—do I lean too far towards the concept of grace? Am I shortchanging God or living in denial about all that I’ve done wrong? Have I truly turned away from my sins and been changed? Am I full of pride or ego, or am I realistic about how badly I need God?

The next day, I was practicing the talk I was to give at a prayer workshop the following day, just checking the timing and smoothness of it. It was all about grace. About how God doesn’t beat us up, but just wants us to turn to Him. About how I’m flawed and not more holy than someone else, and how ironic it is that someone who fails as often as I do could write not one but two books about prayer. About how I think that’s why I got to write those books—to tell people it’s okay to not be perfect. The only thing that sets me apart in even the slightest way is that when I fall short, I try again. I don’t let shame keep me away; I want God more than I want to dwell on what I’ve done wrong. And I believe that God wants me to come to Him. So I return to Him, again and again and again and again.

And as my words came out, so did the tears. I kept practicing anyway. By the end, I was sobbing—tears of thankfulness because of how deeply I believe it all to be true. Because I don’t deserve God’s magnanimous grace. I didn’t earn it. I can’t, on my own, be truly good. I can try, and I do. I get some things right, but I seriously mess up others. I sometimes deceive myself, and sometimes I have profound insights into who I am.

Sometimes I may think about it more than other times, but I do recognize what a gift it is. Because always, always, I try to remember who God is. 

And to me, He is a God of second (and third and 482nd) chances. His face lights up when I turn back to Him. His arms are open to welcome me. His head is inclined towards me, eager to listen, interested in what I have to say. Am I the center of the universe? Of course not. But God is big enough to be this personally invested in each and every one of us. He loves each of us enough to delight in us. When we turn to Him, we’re not keeping Him from doing bigger and better things. We’re being who He created us to be.

He’s not following us around looking for reasons to penalize us. He doesn’t rejoice when we mess up. But when we come to Him because we just want to be with Him, I believe He celebrates.

He’s not hiding behind a barricade, waiting to pounce. We can relax, let down our guard. And open our hearts to the knowledge that He’s not trying to trip us up. He’s not setting us up for failure.

When we live life as though He is the God of “gotcha!”, we’re belittling the fulfilling life that He has given us and we’re shortchanging ourselves.

We can’t pretend the law isn’t there. We shouldn’t overlook our transgressions and missteps. But we don’t have to live in that place of remorse and regret and shame. Once we’ve acknowledged what is in our rearview mirrors, we need to put our eyes back on the road ahead—the one He’s on with us.

And floor it.

Reclaiming my voice

You’ll notice that this makes three posts from me this week! Have I been inhabited by aliens? Sheesh! I’ll never be able to sustain this pace, nor will I try to. But here’s the ironic thing: I may have published three posts in a week, but this is the first one in which I have something new ...

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You’ll notice that this makes three posts from me this week! Have I been inhabited by aliens? Sheesh!

I’ll never be able to sustain this pace, nor will I try to. But here’s the ironic thing: I may have published three posts in a week, but this is the first one in which I have something new to say. My first post was an excerpt from Designed to Pray and a coloring page. The second was a guest post. In the midst of putting those together, and uploading a post for Internet Café Devotions, I realized a truth I’ve been hiding from. Well, that’s it, I guess: I’ve been hiding. But now it’s time to come clean.

I feel like I’ve lost my voice.

I want to bring hope and encouragement, not despair and criticism. And over the past few months, I’ve struggled. What I’ve had to say hasn’t been popular, and knowing that several people will unsubscribe as a result of each of those posts has silenced me. (I’m not kidding: while I typed this post a few days ago (just after posting a different post), I received a notice of four new unsubscribes.)

I’m not complaining, I promise; I’m just being real.

I’ve struggled through the election and aftermath, knowing that my opinions are not popular ones, including among many within the Church. I’ve wrestled with what to say and how to say it. I’ve tried to stay focused on God and not politics, to only voice opinions if they’re backed by the Word of God. To only talk about it if there’s a bigger issues—living as a Christian, and what Christianity is about—not about a political issue. I’ve wondered if I have an obligation to use what little “platform” I have to try to effect change, or if I should just shush.

I’m certain that I’ve offended people, in spite of very sincere efforts not to. If you’re one of those people, please accept my apology.

The unfortunate consequence of it all is that now I feel as though who I am, what I think, and how I try to live my faith are not acceptable to a bunch of people I like and admire. (Please know that I’m not asking for affirmation. Truly, I regularly hear from people expressing gratitude for what I do and say and I’m moved by every one of those messages.)

But I’m human, and I want people to like me. Even more than that, though, I want to write and remain true to my God and my faith. And I’ve let myself go silent.

So consider this my public confession. What is kept secret often holds a kind of power over us and brings shame, but I want God’s light to fall on this. So I’m revealing my insecurities to you, trusting that this is a safe place for me to be real. I’m asking God to start fresh in me. To ignite new passion and point me in the right direction.

I’m asking Him questions like: What do I write next? What do people want to hear from me? And more important even than that: what does He want me to say?

Now I’m bringing this to you to ask for your prayers. To thank you for walking this road with me. And to admit that I don’t have it all together.

Yet I know who does have it all together—and in spite of my cynicism and disillusionment and lack of direction, I’m entrusting this to God. Because His will is my deepest desire. I don’t want to do anything if I’m not doing it with and for Him. And I’m not accomplishing anything of value on my own.

Pray with me? (And then leave a comment to let me know how I can pray for you, or what struggle you want to reveal in order to let God prevail over it.)

Dear Lord, I find that I’m withdrawing into myself, even though I’ve experienced firsthand the truth that healing is found in the company of friends, in the sounds of laughter and tears, in the breaking of bread together and the sharing of lives. Expand my view, Lord. Let me look beyond myself, reach past my emotions and opinions and ego and instead lean on Your truth. Let me remember Who You are… All that You are… All that You have been to me—and all that You want to be to me. Give me the desire to embrace it, and let me be willing to change. Even if it’s painful or embarrassing or complicated. Because I don’t want there to be a wall between You and me. You came to remove those barriers, to give us unlimited access, to build intimacy with us and to share our lives. This is one gift that I don’t want to throw away—or leave in a gift bag stacked in a corner. I want to use every gift You’ve given me to its full extent. I want to come alive again, to be used by You, to be revived by You, and to be Your instrument, fully obedient and passionately dedicated and weary from overuse, not lack of use. I offer my life to You, again, fully surrendered and releasing control. I walk forward in obedience, not sure yet where I’m going, but doing my part to keep moving forward until I get clear direction. And I feel my hopes rising up as I anticipate finding You on this path in a deeper way. I am Yours, Lord, in every breath, every thought, every dream, every hope. Yours and Yours alone. Because there is no One else like You. Thank You for wanting me. Thank You for hearing. And thank You for the answer I know You have for me. Amen.

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. ~1 Peter 2:1-5, NIV

Seeing you, being seen, and seeing Him

My friend Tami and I are very different, although we’ve been close friends for years. We are on different ends of the spectrum politically and in many other ways. But the other day I met her for lunch and ended up pouring out my heart—how I feel, what emotions have come to the surface lately, ...

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My friend Tami and I are very different, although we’ve been close friends for years. We are on different ends of the spectrum politically and in many other ways. But the other day I met her for lunch and ended up pouring out my heart—how I feel, what emotions have come to the surface lately, and so on. I told her these things knowing she had different opinions, and she shared a little about where she’s coming from. We could do this because we were in a safe place—we both knew we were loved, differences and all, and we trusted each other to listen with an open heart.

It was a really healing moment for me. A reminder that differences don’t have to divide us.

One thing Tami and I have always had in common is we hate to be misunderstood. If you want to be mad at me, fine, but only if you’re basing it on the things I actually did or what I actually meant. We can’t rest until we’ve corrected mistaken impressions.

A big insight I’ve had lately is along those same lines: We all want to be seen and know that we’re heard.

[I promise this isn’t about the election… bear with me. REALLY. I promise. It has a God point and doesn’t take a stand about sides!]

I’ve heard analysts say that many thousands of people who supported our President-elect voted in large part because they felt like he understood their plight and was on their side. They supported him because for years they’ve felt overlooked by our government and media and now they feel as though they have finally been seen.

On the other hand, many who are disappointed about the results think that the people who voted the other way do not care about people of different colors, religions, sexual persuasions, and so on. And they want to be sure people understand the implications of that and what it means for the people who feel as though they’ve been overlooked.

See? Not politics.

It’s about being seen.

As I’ve been praying and thinking and talking and wrestling with my emotions and beliefs lately, I’ve landed here: Am I putting my money where my mouth is? Am I living the life and faith I believe we’re directed to live? I won’t go into all of those questions and ramifications—unless you have several hours to spare, you can thank me for that. But one of the conclusions I’ve reached is just what I said earlier. People want to be seen and understood. It’s a basic, driving force in human existence.

And it’s something we can affect, no matter who’s at the helm of this country.

In Psalm 139, David says:

“O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!
Psalm 139:1-6, NLT

Today, I’d like to suggest three basic steps towards healing, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum. Because the truth is we’re all on the same side. God’s banner over us is love. And it’s over all of us—people of all varieties and backgrounds and persuasions.

1) Spend time with God and be open about your conflicts, turmoil, confusion, anger, joy, frustration with acquaintances… whatever you’re feeling. Because He already knows you, and He created us to live in relationship. We grow closer to God when we share with Him who we are. Healing happens when we get real with God, and time in His presence can bring clarity and peace.

2) Seek out time with a trusted friend. You certainly don’t have to talk politics. Share your life. Let yourself feel safe and understood. God created us to live in relationship, and healing often takes place in community, rarely alone.

3) Reach out to someone today and let them know they are seen. It doesn’t require a personal or controversial discussion—simply pay attention to the people around you. Praise your child for a small act of kindness. Kiss your husband on the cheek and thank him for taking out the trash. Compliment the server at a restaurant for her efficiency. Tell a stranger you like her sense of style.

One person at a time, we can begin to change our understanding, to recognize the beliefs that drive a person. We can make a difference one life, one moment, one baby step at a time. And over time, as this kindness and generosity of spirit spreads, maybe—just maybe—it will impact the toxic environment in which we live.

Because people will be seen. And in the process, they will see the love that drives us, and it will point them to the God who inspires us.

Dear Precious Lord, help us today. Soften our hearts toward others. Increase our compassion. Enlighten our understanding. Thank You for seeing us and knowing us. Thank You for caring. Thank You for being our safe place to turn. You are mighty and altogether lovely—and I want to show You to others through the way I care for them. Help me. Teach me. Go with me. Amen.

Maybe this is a good place to start

  Every time I see another person say “suck it up” or “stop whining and move on,” I feel more bereft than before—because those statements show that people don’t get it. This isn’t about politics, and suggesting that my sadness isn’t valid is belittling. Honestly, this response only underscores the reasons I’m upset in the ...

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Every time I see another person say “suck it up” or “stop whining and move on,” I feel more bereft than before—because those statements show that people don’t get it. This isn’t about politics, and suggesting that my sadness isn’t valid is belittling. Honestly, this response only underscores the reasons I’m upset in the first place.

Since hearing someone else’s story always changes my understanding, I’m sharing mine with you. I’m sure there are plenty of people who are whining and pouting and just like to be mad. But there are lots and lots of other people who, I think, feel much like I do. Our rights may not be compromised, but we see that those of others might be, and we feel the pain on their behalf.

If anything unusual happened during these past few months, it is that people went public with their thoughts and opinions and our social media environment helps remove social filters. Which should be good. We want honesty and authenticity, right? Except that in so many cases the thoughts and opinions exposed were ugly. Downright hateful and mean and insulting.

(I know this goes both ways, although among my friends, I’ve seen next to nothing of the sort coming from the liberals and tons of bashing from the conservatives—but many of the conservatives I know tell me that all the liberals are hateful and violent. And that’s exactly my point. When we make broad generalizations, we’re insulting actual, specific individuals. Most of us are not extremists, and general statements like that are, quite simply, not fair. And I’m genuinely sorry I didn’t realize that sooner.)

Am I happy with the outcome? No. I accept that Donald Trump will be my President, and I will try to give him a chance. But my political disappointment is no more extreme than that of a conservative when Obama was elected. About half the time, simply because of the way democracy works, we will all be disappointed. No big deal.

Am I grieving? Yes. But the reason is not because “my” candidate lost the election.

It is not because Donald Trump was elected. It’s because grief is sometimes the appropriate response when something is lost. It’s right to feel sad when you see wrongs and injustices.

These past few months, we all witnessed new levels of hatred and division, name-calling and bullying. As I watched the results pour in on Tuesday night, I started to cry because I realized that the conclusion of the election will not conclude the problem.

We’ve seen too much to go back. We’ve seen who we are—as a country, as different political groups, as a Church. Maybe Trump didn’t cause the ugliness in individual people but he inherently, by his own words, gave permission to people to speak out. They felt comfortable letting others see parts of themselves they would have once kept hidden. And now millions more feel acute rejection—because even if, as a Trump supporter, you’re not hateful or bigoted, Trump’s victory seems to many to be an endorsement of those traits.

When people are hurting, we—as Christians—should feel empathy and sorrow. It’s not sadness about Democrats “not getting our way.” It’s about having compassion for the millions of hurting people who need to know that even though Trump won, we believe they have value. We see them.

Here’s just a little bit of what else we’ve seen.

  • Many people—who are anything other than straight, white, middle class Christians—are feeling justifiable fear. Countless individuals are being taunted, facing hatred, and experiencing violent backlash simply because of their ancestry or a stereotype.
  • Millions of women are victims of sexual abuse, and many men simply cannot understand what mainstream acceptance of sexism and abuse does to a woman’s soul.
  • Not all Christians believe the same things—or if we do, we choose to live out our ideologies very differently.
  • Many Christians (and to be fair, probably many other religions, too) feel threatened by those who believe differently.
  • Nobody likes to be stereotyped; we want to be evaluated on our individual merits and behaviors, not someone’s opinion about a group we belong to.
  • Our actions have a real impact on others’ perceptions of who we are—especially as Christians, who are called to show God to the world. People (within and outside of the Church) are questioning if Christianity is all they thought it was, and if our God is worth following if His followers act this way.
  • Minorities and differences are not as accepted as we thought.
  • Thousands (probably millions) have spent their lifetimes feeling ignored, so when Trump made them feel seen, they responded to him. At the same time, countless others feel unseen now because of the number of votes for a platform seemingly opposed to their beliefs or lifestyles.
  • Because so many voted “against” rather than “for”—we know that negative emotions like dislike and distrust are extremely powerful motivators.

These issues aren’t about politics but basic human decency—the lack of it and the necessity for more of it. Now that we know, it’s not as simple as just “dropping it” and moving on.

This could be a really good thing. It could. When something is hidden, it can’t be addressed. Hidden things hold a dark kind of power over us.

But now we can change.

So, as a liberal, am I packing my bags and leaving the country? No. I won’t deny that in the midst of my emotions, I didn’t wish I could. But I don’t usually run from a problem, even if I could. So instead I’m spending time with trusted friends who make me feel safe to be me. I’m talking to God and trying to come to terms with our new reality. I’m praying for insight and direction and inspiration.

And I’m hoping—fervently, passionately hoping—that this will be the start of something amazing. That this will not be an era of hate, but that people will pull together to find the good. That we will work together to help people who aren’t just like us feel they belong. That we will learn to look beyond our own experience and be aware of someone else’s.

Recently, we’ve focused on our differences, but if we look harder, I believe we can find more to bring us together. And if we believe what our faith teaches us, we all have work to do.

  • As Christians, we have to forgive—not because it’s our gut response or because we’re feeling magnanimous but because we were first forgiven by Christ.
  • We have to love others—because we were loved first with an extravagant love whose depths we cannot begin to fathom.
  • We must stop judging because God is the righteous judge. We must stop casting stones because we are not without our own sin.
  • We need to accept others, because Jesus turned no one away. God’s love is freely offered to everyone.

But it’s not all hard stuff.

  • We get to hope because God alone brings hope into impossible situations.
  • We get to remember that these trials in our world are nothing for a God who is not limited by place or time or circumstance. No need is beyond his capacity for repair or his ability to procure.

We do know this, right? Then let’s act like we believe it. Let’s build genuine relationships with all types of people and not be afraid of that which is different. Let’s attempt to understand where those we disagree with are coming from. Let’s not get bogged down by despair but let’s do find more, better ways to extend kindness and generosity with sincerity and grace. Let’s show God’s love in more genuine ways. Let’s acknowledge that the Church will never be perfect because it’s made up of imperfect individuals—but that doesn’t mean we can’t be better.

It’s not all on us as a country or community, though. We each have our own personal work to do—getting to know God better, seeking Him sooner and more often. Turning from selfishness and ignorance toward the light of His understanding. Putting our trust in God, who never fails us. (He may do things we don’t like, but He doesn’t fail us.)

So even though I am mourning and hurting, and even though I’ve been insulted and am disappointed in others, and even though I’m overwhelmed with despair, I will keep trying to do what’s right. Because I know that someone else’s misbehavior doesn’t justify my own. Lashing out to hurt someone else doesn’t heal the wound they inflicted on me.

I have to believe that mankind is better than the examples I’ve seen lately. I have to trust that every insult directed at (pick one) liberals/Democrats/Christians/women isn’t a personal attack. I have to give people the benefit of the doubt, even when I don’t want to, even when it would be easier to skip church or cancel lunch with a friend or unfriend someone on Facebook. I have to be all right with knowing that lots of people don’t understand me and never will.

And it’s okay. Because in the end, I don’t have control over anyone else. I can only be responsible for myself, and I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I don’t want to be bitter. I don’t want to hold grudges and be bogged down by despair. I want to be better. I want to let other people know they matter. And I want to be able to look God in the face and hear “well done, my good and faithful servant.”

I want His best. I want Him. I want to be quick to embrace and slow to take offense. I want to live true to my faith and convictions. I want to see that in you and I want to develop that in myself. And that, my friends, is something that goes way beyond politics and elections, and it provides a solid start on a place in which we can agree. I hope you’ll join me there.

Jumping into the deep waters of your faith

Several years ago, my husband and I went snorkeling in Belize. The boat took a group of us way out into the sparkling, glittering turquoise water. No land to be seen in any direction. Nothing but a couple of buoys. And lots (and lots and lots) of water. Well, I’m not much of a swimmer. ...

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Several years ago, my husband and I went snorkeling in Belize. The boat took a group of us way out into the sparkling, glittering turquoise water. No land to be seen in any direction. Nothing but a couple of buoys. And lots (and lots and lots) of water.

Well, I’m not much of a swimmer. But I had a life jacket and had convinced myself I could do this.

Until it was time to get out of the boat. Everyone else jumped in. My husband was swimming around, minus a life jacket, diving down to look at coral and coming back up, having a blast. And I was still stuck on the side of the boat. I couldn’t do it. It was too hard, and I was paralyzed.

Our guide got back into the boat with me and talked to me. He sat beside me on the edge. He held my hand. And eventually we jumped—together.

As my friend Peggy taught last weekend at a women’s conference, Ezekiel is led into progressively deeper waters in chapter 47. I, too, started in the shallow waters of faith. There were moments of fear, but the water rose slowly and I acclimated. Lately, as I’m maturing in my faith, as I seek to go deeper and become more discerning, I have realized I’m swimming in deep, endless waters—and I confess, I am afraid.

But when God takes us into those waters, we don’t go alone. He grabs our hands and jumps along with us.

God is showing me that the reason I feel tired and scared and unsettled is because I’m not trusting Him to hold onto me. To lie back and float, to give in, to yield. Instead, I’m frantically treading water. Gasping for breath. Using every ounce of power in my muscles simply to stay afloat. I’ve let my imagination take over—what horrendous creatures lurk below the surface? What if the floatation device fails?

But that day in Belize, I learned a lesson. Sure, it’s hard to take that initial leap.To relax and move on the surface of the water, letting the floatation device do its job. And it’s frightening to put your face into the water. It’s challenging to convince your brain that you will still be able to breathe. To trust the plastic mask to protect your eyes so that you can open them without them stinging or burning.

Because once we’ve leapt and taken a deep breath and let go of our trepidation, we get to open our eyes to look into the depths. Witness the mysteries. Occasionally, we may be startled by the sights, but for the most part, when we gaze into the deep, we see unfathomable beauty. Discover new things. Observe the nuances and intricate shapes and breathtaking forms of life and impossibly vivid colors.

We experience wonder.

We are humbled by the enormity of all that we see, the things we didn’t know even existed. And we enter into a place of awe of the God who creates such beauty.

And that is when it happens. We stop struggling to remain afloat by our own power. We stop kicking. We start to trust that when we breathe in, the air will come—full of life, free of danger. We let God cradle us, and we allow ourselves to float on the gentle waves of His love.

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