Wednesday’s Word: WAIT

Sometimes we run out of words. And sometimes we have too many of them. Sometimes there’s so much to ask that we don’t even know where to begin. Which is why, on Wednesdays, we simplify to one word—and, from there, let our thoughts take us where they may. Read more about the idea here. Wait ...

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Sometimes we run out of words. And sometimes we have too many of them. Sometimes there’s so much to ask that we don’t even know where to begin. Which is why, on Wednesdays, we simplify to one word—and, from there, let our thoughts take us where they may. Read more about the idea here.


Wait

“Wait upon the Lord.” I’ve read this in the Bible. I hear it from friends. I need the reminder because sometimes I want to push my way through things. Make them happen on my own and not wait for Your timing. But maybe, just maybe, I’m using that as an excuse not to have to act. To face challenges. To risk disappointment or failure. Lord, let me wait when YOU tell me to wait. And while I’m waiting, let me grow ever closer to you. Then, please let me know when the time to wait is over and the time to move forward is at hand. When that time comes, help me trust that You will never leave my side. Amen.

Wednesday’s Word: REFLECT

Sometimes we run out of words. And sometimes we have too many of them. Sometimes there’s so much to ask that we don’t even know where to begin. Which is why, on Wednesdays, we simplify to one word—and, from there, let our thoughts take us where they may. Read more about the idea here. Reflect ...

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Sometimes we run out of words. And sometimes we have too many of them. Sometimes there’s so much to ask that we don’t even know where to begin. Which is why, on Wednesdays, we simplify to one word—and, from there, let our thoughts take us where they may. Read more about the idea here.


Reflect

A reflection is rarely perfect—there’s some dust on the mirror, or a ripple in the pond—but the image is true enough, most of the time, for us to see what it’s supposed to look like. Lord, let me reflect You. I won’t always get it right. It will probably be easy enough to tell that I’m not You. But what if I could reflect just a portion of the light that You shine? What if I could offer a fraction of the forgiveness You’ve granted, the hope You’ve imparted, the love You’ve lavished on me? What if people could look at me—and see You? What if they could look at the imperfect and glimpse perfection? What if I lived my life in such a way that people would long to reach for You?

Wednesday’s Word: REACH

Sometimes we run out of words. And sometimes we have too many of them. Sometimes there’s so much to ask that we don’t even know where to begin. Which is why, on Wednesdays, we simplify to one word—and, from there, let our thoughts take us where they may. Read more about the idea here. Reach ...

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Sometimes we run out of words. And sometimes we have too many of them. Sometimes there’s so much to ask that we don’t even know where to begin. Which is why, on Wednesdays, we simplify to one word—and, from there, let our thoughts take us where they may. Read more about the idea here.


Reach

Some of my favorite Bible verses are about reaching. In Luke 5, Jesus reached out to the leper. In John, Jesus told Thomas to reach into his side so he could stop doubting and believe. In Psalm 18, “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.” Here’s the beauty of it: the reaching goes both ways. I reach. He reaches. He reaches; I do. It never stops, never fails, never ever ceases. All I have to do is hold out my hand. Or grasp the one He’s already extended to me.

Wednesday’s Word: HORIZON

Sometimes we run out of words. And sometimes we have too many of them. Sometimes there’s so much to ask that we don’t even know where to begin. Which is why, on Wednesdays, we simplify to one word. Read more about the idea here. Horizon We drove partway to Iowa Friday night to watch Anna’s ...

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Sometimes we run out of words. And sometimes we have too many of them. Sometimes there’s so much to ask that we don’t even know where to begin. Which is why, on Wednesdays, we simplify to one word. Read more about the idea here.


Horizon

We drove partway to Iowa Friday night to watch Anna’s swim meet, then got up early Saturday to travel the rest of the way. I’m not a morning person. But I was amazed by the beauty—even though it was early, even though there was snow and the trees are nothing but bare branches and the ground showing through was a dull brown. Because you could see the gently undulating hills, rounded against the horizon. And behind the icy white, draped with purple-gray shadows, the sky glowed, like the hills were being back-lit. The color was clearer, brighter, a pale (but yet somehow vivid) yellow-white-blue. And I thought, that’s what hope looks like. Just past the horizon. Just out of sight, but not out of reach. Light. Potential. Perching on the edge of the precipice while we wait. Knowing if we keep our eyes on the horizon, we will soon see what we’re waiting for.

Gallery of Gratitude—Week #7

15 weeks, 15 letters, 15 minutes. To start the new year, 2015. It’s never too late to join us. Learn about the challenge here. Someone who helped you find God This could be anyone from a nationally-renowned pastor or Bible scholar to a grandmother who taught you to pray. It could be a friend whose ...

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15 weeks, 15 letters, 15 minutes. To start the new year, 2015. It’s never too late to join us. Learn about the challenge here.

Someone who helped you find God

This could be anyone from a nationally-renowned pastor or Bible scholar to a grandmother who taught you to pray. It could be a friend whose calm spirit draws you to her, while her words point you to the Almighty God. Maybe you’ve learned about God from your spouse, whose faith never wavers. Or from a child, whose enthusiastic faith knocks down your barriers of doubt and cynicism. Whether their influence has been small or large, whether it’s something easy to define or something abstract and elusive, reach out today. Let that person in your life know that their faith has inspired you or that the lessons they taught changed you.


When I first walked into what is now my church, I definitely felt like I didn’t belong. I didn’t struggle with feelings of not being worthy or have worries that my less-than-perfect past disqualified me. (I certainly didn’t think I was better than anyone else. But somehow I “got,” right from the start, that God welcomed me anyway.) But I was strong and independent. Liberal and outspoken. A career woman who, at that time, earned more than my husband. In this church, though they’d walked away from old traditions governing the way people dressed, most women wore skirts and conservative shoes, had long hair and little makeup. They usually worked, but the jobs came after God and church and other family obligations. Husbands seemed to have authority over their wives. People shopped at thrift shops and bought bargain brands, while I bought high-end shampoos and didn’t have time to clip coupons, let alone a sane enough life to remember them when I went to the store. Moms carried their kids around with them—contentedly, rather than constantly looking for ways to get a break, to temporarily escape their duties, as I did. When someone taught them, they believed what they were told, without question. They already knew the Bible stories. And when music played, they danced.

And then there was me. I didn’t dance. I didn’t lose myself in the Spirit. When I finally raised one hand in worship, I held tight to the pew with the other hand, anchoring me in this physical world. When we gathered at the altar to pray, I’d keep one eye open. I’d pray, but I’d also notice the stack of hands as we prayed for individuals, hear the individual voices in the jumble that surrounded me. I watched. I listened.

But from the start, even though a part of me held back, God drew me in. And one of the key people in that process was Bishop Robert Miller.

In my mind, when I remember visiting that first week, he was standing on the platform, tall and dignified. Thin, in a well-cut suit, hair combed back, sideburns and a big smile. He stood at the podium and preached. I don’t know what he said. But I remember being intimidated. He was so slick, so polished. So knowledgeable. So holy. Not long after I started attending regularly, I remember Bishop stopping by my office one day to see how I was doing. I wanted him to like me. I wanted to impress him. But I always wondered what he must think of me because I didn’t feel like I fit.

Yet he welcomed me anyway. And when he taught, I was hooked. In between bites of donuts and sips of coffee, he talked to the adult Sunday school class. And  I took notes frantically, afraid I’d miss something. I filled the margins with my questions, then I went home and looked up what I didn’t understand. He challenged and engaged me. His messages were always spiritual—stories of faith, deep studies of the Scriptures—yet they captured my mind. Every week, without fail, I’d follow along. And by the end, as he brought the message around full circle, as he tied up all the loose ends, I was surprised. Fascinated. Amazed how all of these different pieces fit together into something whole and inspiring.

In the last few years, Bishop’s son Nathan has taken over in the role of pastor, and he gets much well-deserved praise. But to so many of us at Grace & Mercy, Bishop played a huge role in drawing us in, in pointing us to God.

At church on the morning that I’m writing this, we were singing “How Great Thou Art,” and Bishop sang a verse into the microphone. Tears ran down my face as my heart felt like it would burst with love and gratitude. This man has shown me so much. He stood strong in his faith, never wavering, as I wrestled with my questions, as I struggled with doubts. And he never failed to pour out his faith for all of us. The man who once intimidated me has softened. He reaches out an arm to hug me when he sees me. He reads my words and offers encouragement. Kids climb in his lap and make him laugh. His eyes crinkle when he smiles. And when he walks into the sanctuary, we all stand taller. He’s given so much to each one of us and we want to make him proud. We want to show him that he did well. That all of his serving and teaching mattered. That he was a conduit through which God spoke—over and over. Through which God revealed, illuminated, restored. And loved.


Who helped point you towards God? Let that person know that they made a difference. And please share your stories in the comments. I’d love to hear them!

Wednesday’s Word: BLOOM

Sometimes we run out of words. And sometimes we have too many of them. Sometimes there’s so much to ask that we don’t even know where to begin. Which is why, on Wednesdays, we simplify to one word. Read more about the idea here. Bloom As Valentine’s Day approaches, stores are filled with red and ...

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Sometimes we run out of words. And sometimes we have too many of them. Sometimes there’s so much to ask that we don’t even know where to begin. Which is why, on Wednesdays, we simplify to one word. Read more about the idea here.


Bloom

As Valentine’s Day approaches, stores are filled with red and pink and heart-shaped boxes and flowers. Everyone’s focused on their sweethearts—but today I want to think about You, Lord. The One who loves me, adores me, even cherishes me, more than anyone else. I want to buy myself a big, gorgeous bouquet as a reminder. But I know that if I do, it will only be a matter of days before the petals litter the table around the vase. And before I’ve even really enjoyed them, the flowers’ usefulness will be worn out.

It seems like I’m always in such a hurry. I want to get to the beauty and skip the long, tedious process of getting there. But as I reflect, I realize that the bloom is just a small part of the whole life cycle. Before the flower reaches its full beauty, its seed must begin buried in the dark, deep in the dirt. Water and light and nutrients allow it to grow. Conditions must be right, temperatures in a precise range. And time must pass. Eventually, when all conditions are met, the flower finally blooms.

Thank You for waiting, for providing the necessary ingredients, for having the vision to see what I might become. And for tending to me, watching eagerly for the blossoms to burst forth—yet not discounting the long process during which I attempt to become something beautiful. Thank You for not skipping past the hard, less glamorous moments. Thank You for growing me, slowly but surely, into the glorious burst of color You’ve had in mind all along. Something that is not fleeting or precarious, but a transforming beauty that remains.

Gallery of Gratitude—Week #6

15 weeks, 15 letters, 15 minutes. To start the new year, 2015. It’s never too late to join us. Learn about the challenge here. Someone under the age of 18 When we think about people who have influenced us, we often look to our past. But young people can have an impact, too—because of their hard ...

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15 weeks, 15 letters, 15 minutes. To start the new year, 2015. It’s never too late to join us. Learn about the challenge here.

Someone under the age of 18

When we think about people who have influenced us, we often look to our past. But young people can have an impact, too—because of their hard work; or compassion for pets, siblings, or others; or their willingness to do what is asked; or because of their sunshiny smile. Write and let a young person know that you noticed them.

Today I’m going to share part of one of the chapters in my book (What He is Made Of: Drawing the Underlying Structure). It talks about how if we look closely, if we watch to see Who God is and what He is made of, it helps us learn to lean on Him. This is just one small segment about a sweet little girl I adore (written a couple years ago when she was just five).


vanessaOne morning, I watched a little girl make the rounds during the worship service. Five-year-old Vanessa is irresistible with her pale translucent skin, dark blond hair, green eyes, and a sweet smile that camouflages her somewhat devious personality. She walked up the aisle with little flouncy twists of her skirt, chin tucked down into her doll, big eyes taking in everything. She stopped at the end of a row, watching until Peggy glanced in her direction. When Vanessa ran to her, Peggy laughed and picked her up and swung her around.

After a few minutes, Vanessa headed to the other end of the row, waiting until Katie beckoned her over. She giggled, snuggling in, prepared to be adored. Just as she was about to doze
off in Katie’s arms, Vanessa suddenly extended her arms to me. I wrapped my arms around her and squeezed her tight. Before long, she climbed over the pew to sit next to Jordan. When he smiled at her, she scooted closer and showed him her doll, waiting for him to light up in delight. He did. We all had, the moment she shifted her attention to us.

Vanessa was in a safe place, where she knew without a doubt she was loved and would be welcomed with open arms. So she made her way through the church, letting one and all adore her. Because we’ve loved her since she was born, she knows what to expect. When she leaps into the air, she expects to be caught. When she reaches up, we’ll reach down. When she climbs into our laps, she will feel loved. Doubt doesn’t enter into the equation. Vanessa feels safe because we’ve never disappointed her.

When we learn the underlying structure of God, we, too, can feel that security. When we read stories about the convoluted paths of men and women failing over and over again—
killing and lying and cheating and complaining and rebelling—when we hear about miraculous deliverances, of complete change, of God’s unfailing love, then we learn what to expect. We start to believe we can trust Him. We don’t know exactly how He’ll react—in Vanessa’s case, she may not know if we will hug her or spin her or cuddle her or tickle her or give her our last piece of gum—but we do know that He has our best interests at heart. That He’s going to do what’s right. And that there are no limits to the ways He will solve our problems or the lengths He will go for one, just one, lost or hurting soul.

So we study His Word. We pray. We write. And when the time is right, when we are sure we have His attention, well, then we run toward Him. And leap.


Is there a young person in your life who has caught your attention? Let them know you’re noticed them. Remind them that their actions—or their mere presence—matters.

Wednesday’s Word: TRANSPARENT

Sometimes we run out of words. And sometimes we have too many of them. Sometimes there’s so much to ask that we don’t even know where to begin. Which is why, on Wednesdays, we simplify to one word. Read more about the idea here. Transparent One of many things I love about watercolors is their ...

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Sometimes we run out of words. And sometimes we have too many of them. Sometimes there’s so much to ask that we don’t even know where to begin. Which is why, on Wednesdays, we simplify to one word. Read more about the idea here.


Transparent

One of many things I love about watercolors is their transparency. The way the colors seem clear and light, the pigment pure yet soft. Transparent has become a popular buzzword, which makes me not want to like it, but the truth is it is exactly how I want to be defined. I want to let what’s underneath show through. I want the colors and layers to blend, to be complicated and nuanced yet clear and bright. I want to be more than what’s on the surface, and I don’t want to hide what’s inside.

Because, in truth, Lord, I am the accumulation of all of my experiences, a blend of all my feelings and troubles and issues and hang-ups. It’s sure easier to be opaque, to hide all the ugliness under a solid exterior. But then no one can see You inside me. No one can witness the transformation You’re effecting. Seeing a single color is fine and it can be pretty. But the true beauty comes with the layering and juxtaposition. The beauty is in all the colors coming together to make one exquisite work of art.

Gallery of Gratitude—Week #5

15 weeks, 15 letters, 15 minutes. To start the new year, 2015. It’s never too late to join us. Learn about the challenge here. Someone who loved someone you loved When my mom died, I wasn’t the only one who felt a loss. She had coworkers, a priest, friends, and kids who came into her clinic ...

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15 weeks, 15 letters, 15 minutes. To start the new year, 2015. It’s never too late to join us. Learn about the challenge here.

Someone who loved someone you loved

When my mom died, I wasn’t the only one who felt a loss. She had coworkers, a priest, friends, and kids who came into her clinic at school. Today, send a message to a person who might also miss someone you’ve lost. Or write anyone who’s recently experienced a lost of any sort (divorce, death, loss of a job) and let them know they’re not alone.

Grief is a funny thing. Sharing a loss can cause people to grow apart—sometimes people don’t want to see someone who reminds them of what they’ve lost. On the other end of the spectrum, though, the shared loss can also pull people together. When I run into one of Mom’s friends, it triggers a little bit of sadness—but that’s trumped by the comfort of knowing that someone else gets it. Someone else shares the hurt. Someone else misses her too. She influenced lives outside of our small little family. There are so many people I could name right now, but Judi comes immediately to mind.

She and Mom were friends from high school, and in Mom’s last few years, even though Judi lived in Texas and Mom in Indiana, they grew closer than ever. Judi had been fighting cancer for years, and now Mom was. They sent each other quirky gifts and made each other laugh. I’m so grateful for that, for the way their friendship grew during those years. For the fact that Mom knew that someone out there “got it.” Dad insisted that Mom was gonna be OK. So did I. But Judi, I think, is the one person who would go down those “what if” roads. Who would talk about the fears and really understood what Mom was facing. She didn’t love Mom any less than we did. And she fought and prayed for God to heal Mom. But she let Mom be real.

A few months after Mom died, my sister and I got a package in the mail from Judi, with cards saying she knew how hard it must be to face the date of Mom’s birthday without her. A year or two earlier, Judi bought herself and Mom matching bracelets which contained a single charm—a coin from the years of their births. Now she wears both hers and Mom’s on her own bracelet. But that year Judi sent what has to be the most thoughtful gift I’ve ever received: a silver dime from the year Mom was born, mounted and hanging from a silver chain. She sent Kerry and I each one.

I know that gift was from Judi. I know she loved my mom, and that she promised Mom she would continue to remind her girls how much they were loved. But that necklace feels like a touch from Mom, a gift from the woman I never thought could give me a gift again. I wear it when I wish she could be there to see what I’m doing. I wear it when I need courage. I wear it when I just want to remember. I wear it nearly all the time. And I give thanks for Judi, for instinctively knowing just what I needed. For understanding that Mom is the thread that connects Judi and I, and that when I think of Judi, I feel closer to Mom.

Is there someone you can reach out to today? Someone else who feels a void, someone who also misses a person who used to be present in both of your lives? Or is there someone who you know is feeling a loss, and even though you don’t share that loss in the same way, would you just let them know that you remember? That you’re thinking of them, and of the person they loved, and that you wanted them to know? Mail a letter, or post a little bit about them on Facebook, or comment on this blog post… or pick up the phone and tell them hello.

Wednesday’s Word: SHARPEN

Sometimes we run out of words. And sometimes we have too many of them. Sometimes there’s so much to ask that we don’t even know where to begin. Which is why, on Wednesdays, we simplify to one word. Read more about the idea here. Sharpen Pencils are tools for beginners—children learning their alphabets. But they’re ...

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Sometimes we run out of words. And sometimes we have too many of them. Sometimes there’s so much to ask that we don’t even know where to begin. Which is why, on Wednesdays, we simplify to one word. Read more about the idea here.


Sharpen

Pencils are tools for beginners—children learning their alphabets. But they’re also a tool of choice for master artists with so much to express in one bold or delicate stroke. The duller the pencil, the softer the mark—but the softness comes with less precision and little control. When the lead is worn down all the way, the pointy wood splinters around it will gouge your paper, ripping a hole in it. A sharp pencil, on the other hand, makes a crisp, sure stroke. Strong. But you have to be careful not to make it too sharp, or the lead itself might tear through your paper. Or simply snap when you put pressure on it.

It’s a delicate balance, like when we talk to others about You.

Lord, we need Your help. To not injure or push people away, while remaining true to who You are. To accurately portray Your essence without destroying anything in the process. Popular culture wants everything wrapped up with a nice tidy bow. Christian culture wants to make You into something easy to explain, simple to digest. But You are complex and complicated. Sharp and yet soft. Practical and unpretentious, yet glorious and beyond the grasp of our imagination.

Lord, let me sketch an accurate likeness of You, one that is not harmful or inaccurate or misleading. Sharpen my understanding of who You are. Of all sides of You, all aspects. Let me see You in Your wholeness. Let me live my life trying to be who You made me to be. And let me draw you in truth. Amen.

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