A life-long legacy of real-deal faith

Moving sometimes feels like God’s ultimate character-training ground.

And when you’re moving with four young kids,  it’s a faith-growing opportunity for the whole family.

When we first started this process, I didn’t even want to get my kids’ hopes up too much about all the possibilities of  a new house.  I organized closets, purged junk, and packed up boxes for storage without telling them why.

It wasn’t until they were all gone for a day and I painted  their room that I finally fessed up.

The confession went something like this:

“While  you girls are gone, I’m going to repaint your room.”

“What?!!  Paint?!!  I hope it’ll still be purple!!!”

And that was it, the big  moment when I had to share the news.

“Well, actually, no, the whole point is to cover over the purple.  You see, we’re preparing the house to  sell  it and that means making the rooms neutral colors.  Your walls will be cream.”

Long pause.  Long, long pause.

An initially disappointed face:  “Cream?  Cream?  I really liked the purple.”

Then the news sinks in. “Wait!!  We’re going to try to move?!!!!”

And oh the ups and downs of moving have involved us all.  I tried to prep the girls’ hearts for how long it may take to sell our house or what it all  involves.  How we shouldn’t get our hearts set on a particular house unless our contract is accepted.

Truthfully, though, God has been so good to us and the process has been fairly smooth as far as these processes ever go.  But what I love the most is how my kids celebrate the good things He has done.

When a buyer put an offer on our house so quickly after we put it on the market, one of my girls said, “Look how God answered our prayers!  We prayed this would be fast and He did that for us!”

When we picked the new house and it had the right number of bedrooms and was still in their beloved school district, one of my daughters said, “God really gave us what we needed!”

And as we worked through inspections and repairs and all the prep work for moving, they prayed right along with us for God to  help the process go smoothly.

We’re actually still praying!

They are engaging in active faith and using the language of faith.  They are turning to prayer in times of need and praising God for answering  the prayers we offer.

And it’s a beautiful thing.

In life, there are some things we can’t always share with our children, not completely, especially not when they’re young.  We shield them from some of the hardest and scariest situations..

But there are also times and seasons when it’s right to draw them in to see how our faith fares when we don’t know all the answers.

What  does faith look like when we’re waiting?

When we’re uncertain?

When we’re hurt?

When we’re disappointed?

If our tweens and teens think faith is easy, what will happen when decisions are hard and oppression is real and personal?

I’ve been feeling a heart-check, the need  to make sure my faith is sincere and to live that out with my kids.

When I say, “God answered our prayers,” I need to make sure that’s the truth, that my kids knew I was praying….and they see how God came through.

I find that Paul slips this word “sincerity” into his letters quietly and frequently (2 Corinthians 11:3,  Philippians 1:17, 1 Timothy 1:5, 2 Timothy 1:5).

He doesn’t lay out a long sermon about what sincere faith looks like, but he makes this consistent distinction.

Don’t just have faith.

Have sincere faith.

Maybe it was the former Pharisee in  Paul showing through here.  Genuine faith mattered to him because otherwise it’s just show and outward actions.

This is what Paul says about Timothy:

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well (2 Timothy 1:5 ESV).

Timothy’s sincere faith is something he learned from his mom, who learned it from his grandmother.

Because they were the real deal, Timothy grew to be the real deal also.

This is what I want for my kids and what I want for me–a lifelong legacy of “real-deal faith.”

May our faith be sincere, rooted so deep-down within us that our automatic response to trouble is the fruit of belief:  prayerfulness, trust,  confidence in God.

May our faith be genuine, not just outward show with Christian catch-phrases and good-girl actions, but  a life led sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.


Welcome Home


We want to do “Home” here.

On the bad days, on the days you messed up or didn’t win, on the days the minivan breaks down and we all cram into the little car to shuttle around town….

On the days when we say the foolish thing and our tempers get the better of us…

On the day when we’re just crazy forgetful or running late and the ballet studio is calling me (again) because my daughter is waiting for me and I’m still two minutes away on Main Street….

On the nights when mom didn’t sleep because she was up all night stressing about a problem and then remembering to pray over it…

When we get bad news, when our feelings are hurt, when our friendships are tricky, when two girls keep fighting on the playground and that ruins our favorite recess game….

We want to come home.

I want my husband and my kids and surely myself to have this place of space and grace.

This is the place we celebrate with milkshakes and we commiserate with movie nights and freshly popped popcorn.

Life can sure be disappointing sometimes.  People can be cruel, trodding all over you when you’re already down in the dust.

But home is where the people are who genuinely celebrate your victories and accomplishments.

Home is also where you drag your disappointed heart with its hurt and sadness because it’s safe here.  You are hugged.  You are loved without conditions and expectations.  These are your people, the ones who are for you.  The ones who won’t mock your tears or tell you to ‘buck up and just get over it.’

Home should be the safe place.  The united place.  The place where being you is being enough.

Of course, Home isn’t that way for everyone.  And that’s the great tragedy.  It must break God’s heart to see how Home sometimes hurt instead of heals.

But at least here in my space, in my life, for my family, I want Home to be the refuge God meant it to be.

I read in Psalm 90:1, how Moses prayed to God.  He said:

“Lord, through all the generations you have been our home” (NLT).

I’ve read this in other translations before.  The ESV says the Lord has been our “dwelling place” and the HCSB says the Lord has been our “refuge.”

But I let that word “home” echo a bit and think about what it means for God to be Home for me.

My safe place.

My refuge.

The place where I abide, live, dwell…where I relax and be myself, where I kick off my shoes and plod around in my cozy white socks, where the masks are off and people see the real me, where I wash off my makeup, where I mess up sometimes and ask for forgiveness from those who love me still.

God is my Home.

He’s celebrating our victories.

And He’s wrapping us up in arms so big when we unload the disappointment, hurt and sadness we’ve been carrying on our shoulders.

In a world where we can feel judged and criticized, like people are always jumping in with suggestions of how we should be, where bullies and mean girls set themselves against us, God is our Home.

He loves you as you are.  He says you’re beautiful.  He says you have value and worth and He’s proud of you and He’s seen it. All of it! All your hard work and effort–and He says it’s good.

I wonder what it was like for Moses to write that God was his home?

Moses–the slave baby sent into the river on a basket, raised by an Egyptian princess in a palace where he didn’t quite fit in.

Moses–the murderer turned fugitive, who spent 40 years out in the wilderness tending sheep and living outside his community.

Moses–the leader of a nation that spent another 40 years wandering around the desert, pitching tents, moving on and never lingering in one place for long.




5 Things This Introvert Is Teaching My Extroverted Daughter (and what she’s teaching me)


My daughter is an extrovert-to-the-power-of-10.  At 18 months old, I realized she could not have a day at home and be happy.

Could.  Not.

If I did not put that child in the car seat and drive her somewhere every single day she would end up a screaming mess of frustrated babyhood and I would have a mom meltdown.

Now, I’m pretty sure she goes through withdrawals after two days off school because she must see friends every day and if she’s not seeing them in person, could she please call one of them on the phone?

I, on the other hand, like home-time, family-time, quiet-time, me-time, creative-time, thinking-time, and I hate the telephone.  I pretty much disintegrate emotionally if I’m out of my house too long more than two days in a row.

But God made me her mom, so we’re in this together and maybe we’re both better because of it.

5 things This Introvert is Teaching My Extroverted Daughter:

1. Be comfortable with who you are when no one is around: If you’re uncomfortable with yourself when you’re on your own and it’s quiet, then something’s wrong.  You need to know who you are and like who you are even in the silence.

2. Family comes first: Sure, it’s exciting to hang out with your friends and I’m so thankful you’ve chosen good friends to be with.  But family always comes first.  It’s too easy to be nicer to those outside your home than it is to be kind to those you live with every single day all up close and personal.  Don’t take family for granted and don’t treat them worse than you treat your friends or even strangers.

3. Sometimes it’s better to think about what you’re going to say before you say it: Pause.  Think.   Then Speak.

4. Quiet is not the enemy and boredom is just fuel for creativity:  If you’ve squeezed out all opportunities for quiet, rest, and unscheduled time, then you’ve squeezed out time with God and time for God to speak to you.

5. It’s okay to say “no”:  You don’t have to answer the phone every time it rings.  You don’t have to do everything you’re asked to do or go everywhere you’re asked to go.  Sometimes saying “no” is the healthiest and wisest thing you can say.

5 Things My Extroverted Daughter is Teaching Me:

1. People matter more than to-do lists and tasks.  It’s okay to leave the to-do list until tomorrow and spend time watching a movie or sitting with someone, playing a game, or just talking.  God’s heart is for people first above agendas, plans, and projects.

2. Ministry always means loving people.  It’s not possible to be a vessel fit for God’s service if I fail to love people.  Being an introvert is not an excuse for being self-focused or for acting like the world is all about ‘me’.  Ministry requires compassion, unselfishness, kindness, generosity with time and resources, and absolutely requires loving others—whether you’re an introvert or not.

3. Most things really are better with a friend.  Sharing experiences with others opens you up to new perspectives and ideas.

4. If you’re always worried about what people think, you miss out on a lot of fun. Sometimes you just have to risk it and put yourself out there, even when it’s uncomfortable or unexpected or unknown.  Be silly.  Have fun.  Do something new even if you won’t be great at it.  Learn to laugh at yourself.

5. A room full of new people is just a room full of potential new friends.  So don’t be afraid; just enjoy the adventure!

 Children are a gift from the Lord;
    they are a reward from him (Psalm 127:3 NLT)

I originally shared this post a few years ago, but I’ve been thinking about it again recently and wanted to share it with you all once again!
Originally published July 2014


Packing for Camp 101 (and the essential truth we all need to know)

1 chronicles 28

The first time we sent our older girls away to summer camp, it was just for a weekend.  For younger kids, it was a “get your feet wet” kind of experience, stay two nights at camp, have lots of fun, and then plan on coming back for the full week the next time.

So, for a two-night camp, we packed three shirts and three pairs of shorts so they’d have a spare plus a pair of jeans and a skirt and top they could use for a chapel service if they needed to look nice.

I picked them up at the end of the weekend and they were dressed in some crazy outfit : Skirt and camp t-shirt or jeans (in 100+degree weather).

Why the fashion mish-mash?

Simple. They ran out of clothes.

At home, I opened up their duffel bags and discovered their clothes were wet.  All of them.

This year, our packing strategy was simple.  Pack pretty much every piece of clothing they own.

Well, that might be a bit exaggerated.  But seriously.  I packed a lot of extra clothes plus two beach towels and two bath towels and two different swimming outfits.

We packed a lot.

Then, for the entire week before camp, I gave them great words of wisdom.

I said things like, “Make good choices.  Listen to your counselors.  Don’t be afraid.  Try new things.  Be kind and make new friends.  Sleep.  Don’t spend all your money at the camp store in one day.”

Oh, and this little treasure, “If you buy soda at the camp store, do NOT buy Mountain Dew.  Sprite has no caffeine–fine.  Coke has some caffeine, not the best, but I won’t freak out.  But please do NOT buy Mountain Dew.”

Those words came from experience.  Last time I picked them up, they’d discovered Mountain Dew for the first time.

But I also gave them this little tidbit of advice over and over and over again: “Hang up your wet clothes.  Seriously.  Towels get hung up to dry.  Do not toss your wet swimsuit and towel into your suitcase with your other clothes.”

These are some of the last words I said to them before we waved goodbye at drop-off.

“I love you” and “Hang up wet things.”

My husband, on the other hand, had his own wisdom to share over and over before camp. And when we said goodbye, he said it again. He leaned over to kiss their heads, told them, “I love you,” and then give instruction:

“Wear sunscreen.  At all times.  All over your face.  Use your bug spray.  Wear your hat every single time you go outside.”

This is the what we worry over because we’re not with them to make sure they are safe, taking care of themselves, and keeping their clothes dry.

Or that they aren’t drinking Mountain Dew, are eating reasonable meals, and are being respectful to their camp counselors.

They will be making choices every day and we have to trust that after all our training, these choices will be good ones.

So, we said goodbye for the week.  We met their counselors, dropped off their luggage, watched as they picked out bunks, and then left.

And now, I’m praying and praying and praying.

This independence-training has been gradual: a few hours of preschool a few days a week.  School days.  Middle school starts in just a few weeks for my oldest girl with more decisions, bigger ones, and more independence.

Do they know what really matters?

Today, I read how David commissioned his son, Solomon.  What were those essential things David said before he died and Solomon took over the kingdom?

He said,

And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought.  If you seek him, he will be found by you…Be careful now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong and do it (1 Chronicles 28:9-10 ESV).

I’m sure David trained Solomon in other ways.  He gathered the supplies Solomon would need to build the temple so that his son would be fully equipped for his calling.

But this is the essential truth:

Seek the Lord.

Serve Him wholeheartedly.

Be strong and do the work He has called you to do.

And when it comes down to it, this is the essential truth for us and the essential truth I want my kids to remember when I’m not with them.

Of course, wearing sunscreen and hanging up your towels doesn’t hurt!

But in the middle of a thousand messages and overwhelming choices, here’s what God tells us:

Seek me.
Serve me.
Be strong and fulfill your calling.

This is what really matters.


Please Beware of the Authenticity

2 timothy 1

She extended her hand, pointed down the street and said, “be sure to avoid our authenticity.”

The kids on our fourth grade field trip to Colonial Williamsburg paused a moment in confusion.


Then this wave of understanding passed over our group.

The horse-drawn carriages.

The dusty road.

The piles of smelly “authenticity” left behind by these horses as they pulled those carriages down that dusty road.


Day later, I shuffled my crew of four kids into Wal-Mart for a prescription, and I recalled the tour guide’s warning.

My two-year-old was having a two-year-old day.

He had an outburst of anger when we pulled into the Wal-Mart because we didn’t stop at the Chick-fil-A or the frozen yogurt place instead.

He then had a meltdown in the parking lot because I didn’t let him dance around in the middle of the road.  No, I was the mean mom who insisted he hold her hand in the parking lot!

He hadn’t even finished blinking away those tears before he threw himself into a full-fledged tantrum because I did not get a cart for our quick jaunt in and out of the store.

As he wailed in the pharmacy pick-up line, slowly calming down, I saw someone nearby throw a look my way.

What kind of mother was I?

That’s when I had this flashback moment to that field trip to Colonial Williamsburg the week before.

A tour guide could have waved her hand in my direction and warned people to “Beware of the Authenticity.”

Because that’s what others were seeing, a little moment of Real in the middle of my day.

Maybe they were judging me.  After all, what kind of mother was I who didn’t buy her son ice cream before dinner and then dared to hold his hand in the parking lot?  How dare I tell my tiny tyrant “No?!”

And that’s the funniest thing about it, because even while they were judging me in this moment of authenticity, I was actually being a good mom—not giving into the dangerous whims of a toddler, never once losing my cool or my temper but quietly asserting my will over his, and allowing him to calm down as he realized (once again) that maybe mom really was the boss.

But authenticity is uncomfortable.  It’s smelly and embarrassing.

It’s the kind of thing we wish we could sweep away and pretend doesn’t exist at all.

Authenticity?  In my life?


I always have it together.

My kids always behave.

I’m never forgetful or short-tempered or indecisive or insecure.

Yet, the very thing we usually avoid is the very thing that God honors and delights in:  The truest parts of ourselves laid out before Him, without masks, without facades, without excuses or pretension.

When Hannah prayed desperately in the temple for a child, she brought her authentic self to God.

She was mocked for being childless.  Her husband didn’t understand her pain.

She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly” (1 Samuel 1:10 ESV).

Eli the priest judged her prayer.  Surely she was drunk in the middle of the day.  Only that could explain her despair.

Hannah heard his caustic mockery, the judgment and denunciation.

But here’s the thing:  The very moment Eli condemned her, Hannah was doing the most true and honest thing she could do:  “pouring out my soul before the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:15 ESV).

And God saw her.  He had compassion on her.  He granted her request.

Maybe we’re tempted today to judge those around us: The bad mom, the forgetful coworker, the short-tempered friend.

Or maybe others are judging us as we pour out our soul before the Lord and bring the Real and the Genuine to Him, embarrassing as it is, vulnerable as it makes us.

That’s hard for me.  I want people to think I’m a good mom, but there in the Wal-Mart they probably thought I was a right awful mess!

I trust this, though: God sees the truth.

He desires the real.  The genuine.  The sincere.

God loves the authentic.

He doesn’t, of course, excuse sin and allow us to do whatever we want whenever we want because “that’s just who we are.”

No, authenticity means bringing our brokenness and our bad days and our honest struggles to Him.

It means He applauds us when we’re doing what’s right, even if the world judges us unfairly.

It means having “genuine faith,” the tried-and-true kind (2 Timothy 1:5).  The kind of faith that withstands trials and difficulties.

It means loving those around us even when we see their own Authenticity and maybe offering them prayer, an understanding ear, and a hug instead of a judging word or condemning look.

This is how we live the authentic life and invite others to do the same.

What I’m learning as the mom of a dancer

romans 12-6

My own experience with dance consists of one ballet class when I was four, one super cute photo of me in a tutu, and one fiasco of a recital concluding my dance career.

So, as the mom of a dancer I’m always learning things like:

  1. Don’t expect to understand anything the teachers say in class.  I watch a row full of girls in leotards and tights nod in understanding when the teacher says they are to “shu-shu, tendu, plies, releve, dijon, au revoir, RSVP sil vous plait, bon jour, bon appetit (okay, I made most of those up).  All I hear is “French stuff, French stuff, French stuff, more French stuff.”
  2. Splits, despite their appearance, are physically possible (just not for me).  My daughter slides down to the floor and splits her body in half without groans of horror or the sound of her bones breaking.  She didn’t start out that way.  It took years of increasing flexibility and lots of complaints along the way, but now she’s got it.
  3. Dancers come in many shapes and sizes.  Maybe the professional culture of ballet says otherwise, but I love seeing the teachers and students at our dance studio with different body structures.  Beauty and strength, flexibility and discipline can look different on different women.
  4. I’ll never vacuum the floor without first having to pick up hair pins.  Where do they all come from?  How do they all jump out of my daughter’s head onto every surface of our home?  I’ll never know.  But if you ever need a bobby pin, just stop by my house before I vacuum!  (Or gather the bobby pins scattered all over my husband’s car since he picks her up from dance.)
  5. Storing hair accessories takes creativity: When another girl at the studio popped open a travel soap container and started pulling out hair nets, ponytail holders and pins, it was better than a Pinterest discovery. Best.  Idea.  Ever.

But here’s the lesson that’s being etched on my heart this year:

God loves when we give Him our all, even if our “all” is different than the “all” of others.

I’ve taken my daughter to dance classes for years.  I’ve bought her leotards and tights and slipped her hair up into buns.

I’ve written the check each month for her classes.

I’ve worked out insane schedules trying to fit everything on our calendar.

And I’m not a dancer.  I’m not good at it.  I have no training in it.

Even though I can recognize beauty and strength, it’s her passion, not mine.

Still, it’s taken me time to truly value this passion God has given her, to say that it’s beautiful and worthy and worth the sacrifice and effort.

Sporty families often value athleticism over other gifts.

Musical families tend to value musicality.

Artistic families—art.

And so it goes.

My daughter, though, teaches her non-dancing mom to value dance.

I am humbled.

In Galatians 2, Paul defends his own passion to the leaders of the New Testament church.

Until then, everyone thought salvation through Jesus was for the Jews and the Jews alone.

But here was Paul, preaching to the Gentiles and baptizing them, taking the Gospel to those who hadn’t heard.

He was outrageously radical!

Some were probably suspicious of his calling.  They thought it was ‘less than.’  Others wanted to restrict it.

But finally, Paul says:

…when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised …and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised (Galatians 2:7, 9).

We can exhaust ourselves in the church trying to do what everyone else is doing because it seems so valuable.

We can frustrate ourselves by trying to make others care about what we love.  Our pleas can sound like this:  “Every Christian should care about this as much as I do…..”  “If you love Jesus, you’d be involved in this ministry that means so much to me….”

Or, we can give “the right hand of fellowship” to others.

We can perceive and applaud the grace God has given to others just as the church did for Paul.

We seek God’s unique purpose for our own lives and we throw ourselves fully into that work to give Him glory!

And then we rejoice because God is at work in others, as well. We worship God for His goodness and His creativity and we cheer others on for their obedience and faithful sacrifice.

We praise God for the way He makes the body of Christ uniquely unified in its utter diversity.


Being Still is only the first step

psalm 46 NASB

I found her that day with untied tap shoes on her feet and eyes red from crying.

We zipped into the ballet studio, one mom and three girls (plus one baby boy) on a mission.

Three daughters in four back-to-back and sometimes overlapping dance classes during observation week.  This means instead of huddling in my minivan or zooming around town doing errands in between classes, I sat in the corner of the dance class taking pictures.

We all piled into my youngest daughter’s class except for my tap-dancing girl who left to change into her tap-tap-tappy shoes.  I watched the clock carefully and slipped out just in time to check on her before her tap class began.

She wiped her eyes and explained, “I couldn’t get the ribbons on my shoes tied and I didn’t have anyone to help me….”

I tied the ribbons swiftly and then smoothed down her hair with my hand.  Then I said it so she knew it wasn’t just about shoes anymore:

You didn’t trust me to come help you.  I knew you’d need help and I came just in time.

She’d been frantic and upset and all along I had a plan for her rescue and I was right on time, not a second too late.

So, all her fretting had been unnecessary drama.

And when is fretting not?

For months, I’ve dreaded this schedule and the packed-in craziness of our agenda of these few weeks.  I feared the stress—-as in, tearful eyes, breathless suffocation just thinking about it.

But here we are.  We’re making it.  God is gracious.

Those mornings I feared how it could possibly work out, the details of each day that I just couldn’t figure out in advance, the way my to-do lists exploded at the start of each day…it’s all been in God’s hands.

When I felt that familiar strangulation of fear, I heard a still and small reminder: Don’t worry about that.  Just think about today.

So I did.

I focused just on today.

And God has been bringing me the perfect rescues at the perfect moments all along, despite all my worrying and fretting that it’d all fall apart.


Because I’m learning to trust Him.

I trust Him to bring me the help I need exactly when I need it.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

So often, we read that familiar Psalm—-BE STILL and know—and we focus on the stillness (Psalm 46:10).

Yes, stop with the flustered activity, the desperate attempts to fix things on our own, the frantic search for help from everyone except the only One who can truly save….

“Cease striving” it says in the NASB.

So, for a moment we pause.

Here’s what I’ve been learning—“Being still” is not enough. It simply tells me what not to do.

Don’t rush around in frantic activity.
Don’t try to do everything on your own.
Don’t come up with your on fixes and try to force your own solutions.
Don’t keep a white-knuckled grip of control on your circumstances.
Don’t rehash regrets or dwell on hypothetical problems that haven’t even happened yet.

I can’t forget, though, that after I’ve ceased that striving and calmed my heart, God tells me what I should be doing in the stillness.

The verse tells me to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 ESV).

Know Him.

Know He is God.

Know that He’s got this under control and I can rest because He cares for me.

He is I AM.  He isn’t just the God who was or the God who will be faithful.

He is here.  Now.  In this very moment, I rely on His presence.

So, like Moses standing there on a holy mountain before a Holy God, I pray that I may know Him:

If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you (Exodus 33:13).

Because, God, in order to dwell in Your presence day after hectic day, I must be still and I must know.  I want to know You more, know You as I AM, know You as God present with me.  ~Amen~

Originally posted February 11, 2014

So we worship with abandon

psalm 150

I can hear my son dancing in his carseat as I drive the minivan around town.

He dances with a particular sense of abandon, throwing his whole body into his head-banging, side to side, forward and back.   He snaps his elbows out and pulls his hands to his chest and then kicks his feet.

When he breaks into dancing at home, he does a combination of skipping/leaping/running in circles that is breathlessly exciting.

He is into it.

I know he’s dancing wildly back there in the minivan (as wildly as one can dance when strapped into a 5-point harness car seat), so I pull down my rear-view mirror for a moment to see what he’s doing.

He immediately freezes in mid-boogie and looks away trying not to catch my gaze.

All of that joyful movement stops in an instant and gives way to bashful embarrassment.

My son is a secret dancer.

Even though I never criticize him for it, he has this innate pulling back, an automatic embarrassment that we never overcome no matter how many times I tell him: “It’s okay to dance.”

I wonder if we also are secret-dancers, secret-worshipers, holding back, hiding away, not wanting to look too wild or too ‘into it.’

Like Nicodemus, maybe we clothe our time with Jesus in darkness and privacy.

Even among other Christians, we might pull back.  Don’t get too serious.  Don’t worship too passionately.  Don’t change your priorities too much.  Don’t talk about God too often.  Don’t let the Bible actually change you.

Jesus has a way, though, of busting through all of the layers of propriety and face-saving, people-pleasing, status-quo-following.

No matter how hard we may try at times to stuff our faith into acceptable packages of behavior, God can stir us to abandon.

In Luke 7, Jesus watched as a widow followed the casket of her only son while wailing with sorrow.  Seeing her pain, Jesus responded with compassion, touched the coffin and commanded that her precious son rise up from the dead.

The son sat up and started talking.

We’re told that “they were all filled with awe and praised God.  ‘A great prophet has appeared among us,’ they said. ‘God has come to help his people.’ This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country (Luke 7:16-17 NIV).

The Message describes the scene:

They all realized they were in a place of holy mystery, that God was at work among them. They were quietly worshipful—and then noisily grateful, calling out among themselves, “God is back, looking to the needs of his people!” The news of Jesus spread all through the country (Luke 7:16-17 MSG).

God’s presence, always with us, should awaken the sense that we’re in a “place of holy mystery.”  Yes, God is at work here and we are amazed!

We may begin ‘quietly worshipful,’ but then we can’t hold it in!  We praise God!  We are ‘noisily grateful!”  We tell everyone what Jesus has done.

Just like these worshipers, we shout: “Praise God, He is at work among us!  Praise God, I’ve seen His hand and He’s real, our God is real!!  Praise God, He has not abandoned us, but He is looking after the needs of His people!!”

We all have these moments when we can choose to dance and sing about all that God has done or remain hidden in the shadows as night-time Jesus-seekers too frightened of popular opinion for all-out discipleship.

This was Nicodemus’s choice. He came in the darkness to ask Jesus just what being “born again” really meant.

But later, after Jesus died,  it wasn’t the disciples or the women at the cross who arranged for his burial.

Instead, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for Jesus’ body.  He was “a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders” (John 19:38).

And who was with him?  None other than Nicodemus, who brought about 75 pounds of lotions and spices to anoint Jesus’ body.  Together, they wrapped their Savior with linen and placed him in a garden tomb (John 19:38-42).

Two secret worshipers, frightened of others’ opinions, ashamed to go public with their faith, now honored Jesus with reverent awe and unhidden love.

Suddenly, religious position, public opinion, and power didn’t matter very much.

Jesus had abandoned all for them, so they worshiped with abandon.

Jesus abandoned everything for us also, so we can also worship with abandon!

God is with us!  Jesus is risen!  He is real!  He is at work among us!



Our Jesus Style

colossians 3-8b

My son screams in the morning when I take off his fire truck pajamas and put on his dinosaur shirt.

Does he want the shirt with the train?  The dump truck and excavator?  The monkey?

No. What he really wants is to stay in his fire truck pajamas all day.

At the end of the day, though, long after I’ve wrestled him into actual clothes, he screams again when I try to take off his dinosaur shirt and put back on the fire truck pajamas.

Now he wants to wear the dinosaur to bed.

Toddler wardrobe wars.

I’ve done this four times with four kids.

I had the daughter who went several years of her life only wearing dresses and skirts and never ever wearing pants.

I had the daughter who only wore pink and purple and didn’t like any other colors, but who also still refuses to wear dresses or skirts.

Then there was my compliant child.  She would say, ‘no’ and take off running when I held up a shirt she didn’t like.

When I found this half-naked toddler in the house, the shirt would be completely missing and she’d appear innocent.

I searched her room, the dresser, every hiding place without result.  No shirt.

Then I went to throw something away and saw it peeking out of the trash can.

She skipped the tantrums and went right for putting clothes she didn’t like in the garbage.

I wonder what would happen if we were as careful about the attitudes, beliefs, and heart conditions we clothe ourselves in every morning.  Maybe we should be that picky.

It’s a favorite metaphor of the apostles, reminding us to peel off the old clothes of flesh, lust and sin and to purposefully put on a brand new outfit everyday.

We are to clothe ourselves in Christ.

Paul described it this way:

But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator . . .

 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity (Colossians 3:8-14, NIV).

In other words, take it off, take it all off: The anger, the bad attitude and grumpiness, the bad language, the lies.  All of those pesky remnants of our pre-salvation self have to go.

We stare at the closet and choose the new clothes we’ll wear each day with great care, pulling on clothes of compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and most of all love.

Add in to that mix the favorite outfit of Peter:

“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” (1 Peter 5:5)

The bottom line, for Paul is that we should, “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh” (Romans 13:14, NIV).

Unfortunately, our old fleshly selves have a way of sneaking their way back into our closets.

We think we’ve restyled only to snap in anger during the morning rush.

How did that discarded sin find it’s way into our wardrobe again?  More importantly, how did we end up wearing it today?

We aren’t picky enough about the spiritual clothes we don every day.  When we’re not paying attention and when we’re not being careful, we find we’re  wearing the dirty rags of old habits and familiar sins.

We have to make the conscious choice, the prayerful choice, the one where we ask Christ to robe us in His righteousness.

We can choose to wear Jesus each day.

Reject the clothing of the old self and instead pull on love and step into compassion.  Spice things up with a scarf of kindness and a jacket of forgiveness.  Wear our own favorite shoes of humility and gentleness.

It’s our Jesus style, it’s Christ shining through us, making HIs presence in our lives unmistakable.

Originally posted November 8, 2011

The one thing I need to hear when I’m waiting

psalm 27

I was five minutes early and already nervous.

A friend and I were meeting up so we could drive together to an event.

The plan was simple.  Meet in the parking lot at 5:00.

At 4:55, I started worrying.

Did we say 5:00 or 5:30?  Did I have the time right?  What if we had miscommunicated?  What if I told her the wrong day?  The wrong place?  The wrong time?

This could be a disaster.

By 4:57, I pulled out my phone to double-check our messages.

Okay, I’m safe.  This was the right day and time and place.

But what if she couldn’t see my car where I was parked?  What if she pulls in the other side of the parking lot and misses me completely?

I crane my neck around, glancing from side to side.  Then I actually drive through the parking lot to make sure she wasn’t already there waiting for me and I’m just being ridiculous.

It’s 4:59 now, and yes, I am absolutely being ridiculous, but it’s taken on a humongous snowball life of its own and I feel powerless to stop it.

I am worrying about being late and about traffic and maybe we should have said we should meet earlier.

I am worrying about miscommunication and how I should have called her that day to verify the details one last time.

Then I start worrying about my friend.  What if she is hurt and in a car accident somewhere and she can’t call to tell me because she’s in an ambulance on the way to the hospital?

And then, just as I’ve worked myself up into frantic worry….my friend pulls in.

It’s 5:01.

She’s fine.  I’m fine.  We’re completely on time.

I really am ridiculous.

Every single day, I tell my two-year-old son to ‘be patient’ about 20 times.  Maybe 50 times.

He wants juice.  He wants snack.  He wants Bob the Builder on the TV.  He wants his shoes on.  He wants his shoes off.  He needs help with a toy.  He wants me to read a book.

What do I say?

Okay, in just a moment.  Be patient.

And, I act like he should just accept that.  I act like it’s a perfectly reasonable request for a two-year-old to have patience.

But today, I’m recognizing that it’s hard.

I should teach him patience, of course.  I still need to keep asking him to wait sometimes.  This doesn’t mean I need to snap-to-it and answer his every whim and will immediately.

No, I teach him to ‘be patient,’ but I do it with some understanding that what I’m asking him to do takes oh such a long time to learn.

Some days he’ll get it just right.

And some days he’ll fall to pieces just like his crazy mom does when she’s waiting for a friend in a parking lot at 4:55 p.m. and they’re supposed to meet at 5:00.

There’s something more, too: All these years, I’ve recognized how waiting takes patience (and who likes learning about patience?) and it takes trust (and who finds trusting without controlling easy?).

But it also takes courage.

David wrote:

Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:14 ESV).

and again:

Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
    all you who wait for the Lord! (Psalm 31:24 ESV).

I’ve missed it a million times.  I’ve read those Psalms and sang them and written them in my journal over and over again, but today it hits me in a new way.

God says that in the waiting, I need to take heart.

I need to be courageous.

I need to be strong.

And, that’s exactly what I need to hear in seasons of waiting because when I’m waiting, I’m full of doubt and questions and worry.

I think maybe I heard God wrong.  Maybe this is going to take forever and He’s never going to bring me through this situation.  Maybe the deliverance won’t come after all.  Maybe I’m in the wrong place.  Maybe there was miscommunication.  Maybe I missed God and He was already here and gone and now I’m outside of His will!  Maybe God is done with me and now He’s just left me here in this place.

I’m being ridiculous, I know it.

Yet, it’s in the moments of waiting that I feel most abandoned and most afraid.

And it’s in the moments of waiting that God says exactly what I need to hear the most:

Don’t believe the lies.  Don’t fret over the future.  Don’t question the calling.  Don’t doubt God’s ability or willingness to care for you.  Don’t think you’re alone.

Be strong, and let your heart take courage.