Mar 28, 2009

Speaking the Truth in Love

Sometimes we're faced with a situation with a friend, where we nudged by the Spirit to speak the truth. I have faced that with family and friends, alike. I've talked recently with a close friend going through a lot of pain and turmoil about sharing the truth. It has brought me to a place of truly knowing that speaking the truth in love requires patience and prayer and perseverance and a spirit of gentleness and understanding.


As I long for Christ to be formed in me

I know it is God's way of maturing my faith

By giving me a covenant within my soul

To be true to God and faithful to my heart's stirrings

The gift of language, the gift of voice allows us

To praise and worship God in every aspect of our lives

And to imitate Christ as we build each other up

To come to the authentic center of who God desires us to be

So aware of the depth of my humanness

Striving, yet not always succeeding

Attempting, and sometimes failing

Yet still persevering with the intention of love

For the proof of God's amazing love for us

Flowing down from the cross of Calvary

Showers us in mercy and grace

So undeserved, yet so extravagant

For God binds us together--brothers and sisters in Christ

And we are a fragile tapestry--intertwined and complex, if we are honest

And speaking the truth in love can bring pain as well as joy

And God continually calls us to open ourselves

In total trust as He leads in gentleness, yet strength

Speaking the truth in love means trying to embody

A savior who speaks truth and gives light

It means making and keeping promises as He has

Making truthfulness and faithfulness alive in the world

What a challenge, yet an honor

To dare to transform ourselves

To imitate the example of Christ

Actively serving Him in this world

By speaking the truth in love

Mar 26, 2009


“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!” Romans 5:3-5 (The Message)

I attended a women’s retreat a couple years ago. It was a great day of fellowship and renewal. As part of the devotional time, the pastor led us on guided mediations. She had us pick a word from a basket and to meditate on that word for our ministry and our lives. We thought about if it was a word that could lead us or a word we needed to let go.

As I looked at the word, I just smiled. I’m always amazed that rainbow of ways God reveals Himself to me. The word was FORTITUDE. “How appropriate,” I thought. I had just been let go from my company in downsizing after 22 years of service. The grief and anxiety of that time was pretty stressful. Being the single parent of two teenaged sons in that situation, added some concern.

But as I thought about the word and about my faith and about how extraordinary all of the journeys of our lives are, I felt peace. This scripture from Romans came rushing back to me. A friend had read the scripture to me on the day of my divorce. Some other well-meaning friends had congratulated me on that day that I was “free”, and I felt anything but free. I felt such grief and pain. So when my friend recited this scripture to me, it really became a mantra for my life and faith.

I looked up the word fortitude. It means: strength of mind that allows one to endure pain or adversity with courage; perseverance. God used the moment to bring me around the bend. I had already experienced loss and grief, but as the words of this scripture sunk deeply into my soul again, I just felt God’s presence. I felt His nudge to rest in Him.

The thing is, through many storms and difficulties I’ve walked through, I am grateful for fortitude. But I wasn’t born with it. It was given to me as a gift from a loving heavenly Father. I can look at all those times and recognize that those dark times have brought new undertaking, new growth and a strength I’ve never known.

I am not the same Christian I was when I first began my walk. I’m grateful I already had a foundation of faith. But what I find beautiful is that the roots of faith are deeper now. I walk with a risen Christ who never leaves me and who I love and trust deeply.

There are days as a single parent I still fall into bed in tears—wondering how I can balance all the pressures I feel. I wonder, at times, if I have given enough of a foundation to my kids so they’ll make the choice to love God with all their hearts. The list for all of us goes on and on—balancing family, church, home, work. But fortitude in my faith-life has taught me that God is my center. It is when I center my heart and my mind on Him and surrender totally, I experience the gift of being made a new creation each day.

So through the trials and even through the joys and every ordinary moment in between God is indeed developing passionate patience, perseverance, fortitude and a strength that can only come from this God who loves us deeply.

And, my friends, I find such comfort knowing I worship this endlessly loving God who never, ever, no matter what, leaves us.

Mar 21, 2009


Mystery of faith, transformer of life
You have descended, Spirit of the Living God
Shaping my soul, awakening my core
Creating the path, leading me on.

Astounded that I see gifts I never possessed
Welling up inside so fearlessly and boldly
Tearing down the walls I had built up
Making what was broken, whole.

My cup of life that had seemed
Broken, flawed and damaged
My perception, not Yours
Perfection never the goal
But my humanness, formed by You

You have given all for me
As witnessed by the gift of the cross
But have I received—really received
And surrendered all I am back to you?

Accepting the forming of my soul
This developing, slow growth inside
Instead of my anxious control
Embracing Your grace, my humanness
Rejoicing in the gift of the Spirit

Cherishing the unsolicited
As offerings of your design
the unknown
To treasure the unfulfilled

Learning to love the flaws
And sure now of their purpose
As I let go in gratefulness
To be used for your glory.

Finally, an open vessel.

Mar 13, 2009

Pressing On

Lent is when you have me look intentionally, deliberately, purposefully
Into the well of my soul-- to all I am becoming—drawing me nearer
I feel the nudge, the prod, the desire to move
From this comfortable, contented place that I get stuck in

Your mercy is new every morning
Yet, I pause to ponder whether the newness of my soul
Means I should be approaching life differently
Seeking the unexpected, surprised by the unpredictable

Because your love isn’t something to put
In a beautiful golden box – all neat and tidy
But your love is transformational and life-changing
I can let go of my desire for seeking perfection
Because instead I’m desperately seeking you, God

Here I am brutally honest about being ordinary, broken and human
Knowing that you can take this life, these experiences
And make something beautiful to be used for your glory
Soaked and bathed in endless mercy and grace

Am I aware enough that you challenge me to be more?
To go deeper, to take risks, to approach the painful, prickly paths?
Am I connected enough to be at peace with the silence and in tune with you?
Or does my own schedule, program and plan become my short-sighted focus?

Instead, Lord, I long to be open and willing and waiting
Tearing down the walls that are really my fears
Peeling away the masks that I still hide behind
Forgetting sometimes that I am already accepted, loved

So entwined in the routine of life, that I shut myself off
From the way you want me to take the leap of faith
Push myself to the edge, allow my heart to race in anticipation
And uncover the truth. Your truth. Boldly being your light in the world.

Ignite the fire within me. And don’t let it burn out.
Until you have finished your work in me.
Give me the desire to persevere and endure.
Always keeping my goal on the cross of Jesus Christ.

Mar 11, 2009

Singing in My Soul

When I finally learn
That walking through valleys
Helps me seek and draw near
To The Holy One--
Is when I find peace

Darkness and shadows 
Can surround and consume,
Fear and doubt can set in

But when trust and hope
Are finally lived in truth,
That's when I hear it--
The singing in my soul

It may start with lament--
The wails of pain that hold me

But slowly it is in the singing
Through the sorrow
That I learn my life's song

Reminding me
I walk by faith and not by sight
And I am moved by this deep mystery

The God who NEVER leaves
Who has a bigger plan
Than I can possibly dream
Is present deep within me 
And I am enveloped
In unfathomable awe and wonder

As the darkness changes to light
And then God paints instead
A rainbow, a masterpiece
Of vivid and vibrant colors again

And out of the dark I always hear it:
First one note, then another and another
Joining in a melody that is uniquely mine.

A tune that begins softly,
Then builds in intensity.
Increasing and lifting to new heights
Pulling me out of every depth

Becoming a beautiful piece of music--
My music, my path, my choice, my life
To the point of clear and ringing harmony
Purest praise that I sing not with my voice

But with the song that wells up in my soul

Mar 9, 2009


Thinking about the journey to the cross and Jesus' time in the wilderness began my thoughts of our own wilderness, our own hunger and thirst for the Holy, the sacred.

The earth, still untilled Surface layer hardened by winter
Barren, brown and dry
Brittle and broken stems
Lifeless, dull, fruitless

But through the soil
The tiller digs in deeply
And uproots the dried blossoms
And gives new life to what lay dormant
Forcing its way through a winter crust

Feel the blazing of bright sunlight
The warm wind blowing freely
The deep thirsting for rain
To bathe with refreshment
Waiting, wanting, longing

Sensing the approach of a rainstorm
Hearing the wind and the thunder roar
Its rumbling drawing nearer
Crack of lightning blazing the sky

And now just stillness...
The air is heavy
And one raindrop falls
Then another and another
Tumbling down upon you...
Splashing and dancing and dribbling

Through the openings of the soil
Falling faster and faster
A steady pace now
Trickling rivulets
Sinking deep into all
The readied and prepared spaces

The watering refreshes
The newness invigorates
The roots deep within and new shoots
Cleansed and purified, now flourishing

From wilderness to thriving
From emptiness to fullness
From bleakness to abundance
From death of resurrection
From despair to hope

Mar 3, 2009

Listening to Your Life

It was a day many years ago. It was soon after my husband had left. I was still trying to manage life without him, while trying to build a life for my children and I. It was probably still in the first month and there were so many changes, pains, chaos. I was pretty much a bundle of nerves, trying so hard to be a faithful, loving wife and a good mother through the pain. But I clearly didn't know what the future would hold.

I remember coming home early from work and sitting on my front porch, realizing the trees were beginning to change to brilliant colors. I remember feeling like I missing life--the real important moments--the glory of the sunset, the laughter in my children, the love of a friend, that only a month before I lived for. I was enveloped in grief. Even though it was still hard to pray, I began saying breath prayers--a one sentence chant, so I could connect with God and feel His presence. "Thank you for never leaving." It struck me that I didn't want to miss the beauty of this warm September afternoon. My sons and I packed sandwiches and drinks and went to the park. They played on the playground and we fed the ducks at the lake. For the first time in a long time, I was really engaged in the moment. I struggled to take my focus off the pain and just enjoy and savor the gift of the moment. And I know just then God was speaking.

I knelt down and adjusted Andrew's (my youngest, who was 3) jacket and put his hood on. He smiled so brightly then, as I gazed into his saucer-sized crystal blue eyes. My older son, Kevin was running ahead, throwing a ball up in the sky, full of vigor. Andrew, the quieter spirit, just content to grab for my hand. He pulled me down motioning that he had a secret. And so softly, almost inaudibly, he said, "Please don't leave, Mommy." It occurred to me that if I hadn't been listening, if I had been rushing or preoccupied, I wouldn't have heard the cry of his heart. I've thought of that moment a million times. It's one of the photographic memories I file away, recalling it to remind me to listen.

And the gift of my children, especially in managing through difficult times and leading to the teenage years, have taught me to truly listen. Because sometimes they'll say something I need to hear. Or sometimes the words are not there, but I can sense the feeling or through some acting out, identify the fear. As I went through some of those times, it was the family and friends who were just willing to listen that gave me the greatest sense of peace.

I think, for me, Lent is a perfect time to slow down and listen. Listen to the rhythms of your life, listen to the longings in your heart, listen to the sorrows in your soul. Keep quiet for awhile and observe. Bathe yourself in a sunrise at the beach, or a quiet walk through the forest. Connect with God in a new way. Don't jump to conclusions and offer a "fix" for a friend. Listen intently, and have the patience to know that only God may understand the burdens they are carrying. Listen to what is said. Listen for what is not said. Sometimes in my prayer life I wonder: Am I just doing all the talking--pouring my heart out, but not giving enough attention to God's heart and His response? Am I listening for God's whispers to my heart?

Hands down, my favorite Christian author is Frederick Buechner. When I first read his writings, I was immediately drawn in to his depth of understanding of the Christian faith and the clear, gentle, flowing way he describes so many issues of faith. He enters in the deep and complex rhythms of the soul with such simplicity.

This quote on listening to God by Buechner is one of my favorites: "If God speaks anywhere, it is into our personal lives that God speaks. Someone we love dies. Some unforeseen act of kindness or cruelty touches the heart or makes the blood turn cold. We fail a friend or a friend fails us and we are appalled at the capacity we all have for estranging the very people in our lives we need most. Or maybe nothing extraordinary happens at all--just one day following another. We sleep and dream. We wake. We work. We remember and we forget. We have fun and are depressed. And into the thick of it, or out of the thick of it, God speaks. God speaks and the words are incarnate in the flesh and blood of ourselves and of our own footsore and sacred journeys. Listen for God."

I love the solemness of Lent. It truly is a time for me to take stock, to look deep below the surface, to examine my soul, to spend time in God's Word, in prayer, in solitude. To slow down enough to let the chaos and noise of life subside, to be intentional about listening to my life. And listening for my God.

Mar 2, 2009

Worship and Wonder

I have such a deep appreciation for worship. I was fortunate to have some really amazing teachers in my family and in ministry as God called me deeper to understanding and appreciating true worship. There are so many facets of worship. And Lent, for me, is good time to once examine corporate and personal worship in my life...making sure always that the One who never leaves me is the one who deserves all the glory.


True worship...the response we bring,

Holy God, through eyes of faith,

We see a magnificent picture painted

Of Your strong and beautiful character.

In Your holiness we hear your voice of truth that we seek,

Our hearts are lifted in devotion,

Desiring to give you honor and glory.

When we behold the mystery and delight in your majesty,

With hearts open, genuine worship thrives on wonder.

We can adore and value others without a sense of awe,

But cannot worship and honor you without the revelation of wonder.

The highest mountain peak and widest canyon depths

Are just an echo to your unfathomable, immeasurable, infinite splendor.

Your strength and power ar beyond our comprehension,

Like the widest horizon, so matchless is your love and grace,

far beyond our understanding.

Yet, you don't NEED our worship,

but you LOVE our worship.

Your delight in heartfelt offerings of the deepest parts of ourselves--

Everything we could offer You, has first been provided by You.

Yet, there is joy of the loving Father poured out on His cherished children.

We come in awe to respond to your faithfulness and righteousness.

We draw close to you, our God, praising you, in light of the cross.

We cannot enter worship on our own goodness,

but THROUGH Jesus and WITH Jesus and IN Jesus

We honor the gift: your ways and your thoughts are higher than we could ever imagine

And we worship in endless wonder