What I do and where I stand.

A decade ago I completed a graduate degree in conflict resolution. To some of you this may sound somewhat suspicious like a money-grab posing as academia or the equivalent of studying underwater basket weaving. I assure you, it was not. It has since become one of the most life-changing and fruitful endeavors of my life.

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Subconsciously, this degree choice served two purposes for my personal life: 1) my family of origin struggled with managing conflict in healthy ways and 2) as a minister’s kid from a young age, I observed churches consistently mismanage conflict. Those two life-experiences alone impacted my faith, my marriage, my relationships with friends, and my children. My graduate degree woke me up to my own ability to manage conflict around me and within me. It trained me to understand the complexities of conflict, how it impacts systems, and how to effectively engage and manage it. What I loved about the program was its functionality. Rather than merely focusing on philosophies or societal theories aimlessly floating in the ether, I became a certified mediator and divorce mediator in the process. I learned to pinpoint issues and how to separate those issues from interests. I learned to observe how culture determines how conflict is approached and how cultural collisions are often causes of major conflict. I learned that individual personalities also approach conflict differently adding even more layers to conflict management. I now accept that how each of us handle conflict reveals a great deal about our own emotional intelligence and stability. If you don’t handle conflict well or the people around you don’t handle conflict any better, life is hard.

However, just because you have knowledge or expertise in a specific field doesn’t mean anyone else really gives a flying flip, fully respects that knowledge, or even desires your help. There are a few reasons why you don’t see a whole lot of professional relational conflict managers around every corner. But these times, they are changing and since I own this blog…

Most of the time people don’t like to face conflict for one singular reason: fear. We fear losing control, we fear losing things or traditions we value, and we simply fear awkward conversations which may require taking responsibility for our own behaviors. This fear can manifest in different ways- all unhealthy. Some people love the drama of being embroiled in conflict because it distracts from actually making essential changes to solve the problem at hand. This drama gives them attention and essentially gives them control of the environment. They become the star of the chaos, yet if you try to pin them down on their own personal behaviors, watch out. They will attack you personally.

Other people squelch difficult conversations as soon as their control is threatened. Maintaining control becomes the only agenda. These folks talk a lot about processes, hierarchies, traditions, and rules leaving no room for addressing relevant issues. Stasis is paramount. Change and other viewpoints are a threat to their power. These folks usually are power brokers in several areas of life and may feel significant loss if a power shift appears imminent. Stifling conflict is about their survival and self-worth.

Right-fighters are actually sometimes right…at least according to their worldview. They argue. They get loud. They are stubborn. They are not so great at negotiation or gray areas or listening. What they fear most is actually being wrong, and they may very well fight to the death to prove they are 100% right.

Finally, you have my personal category: those of us who fear painful conversations, the avoiders. Painful conversations are miserable especially for introverts who don’t feel confident interacting already. When you add apologies, vulnerability, emotions…ugh… I’ll need a two week nap. It is easier just to avoid the conflict entirely than to open myself up to scrutiny or to willfully offer up limited emotional currency. I can easily lie to myself about living a peaceful existence if I simply ignore every issue that comes up.

These days I serve the Center for Alternatives in Community Justice (CACJ) as the program coordinator of a new initiative: Centre County Community Conferencing. I was blessed to be a part of this program’s launch, and I cannot say enough good about the people I work with and serve. Community Conferencing is a simple process, much like mediation, where any number of people sit and work through conflict with the help of a trained neutral facilitator. It is a simple process, but the conversations are never easy. But that is the struggle with conflict, isn’t it?

What I’ve witnessed are conversations within community conferencing which transform relationships, ignite creativity and problem solving, and reawaken the part of us from childhood which soars in equality. Simple conversations humanize adversaries reminding us that we all share this common space on earth, and it is ok to make room for everyone- even those who come to different conclusions than we do. These conversations repair relational harm. They are healing in a way that our traditional American courtrooms are not. Where we have relied on punitive systems in the past as a culture, community conferencing is restorative. I believe in my very core that community conferencing, or circle conversations, are the way to resolve conflict moving forward, and I am beyond thrilled to be a part of its inception here in Central Pennsylvania.

In the last few months, I’ve had conversations with police chiefs, city managers, university vice presidents, activist group leaders, LGBT+ leaders, left wingers, right wingers, black people, brown people, white people, abused people, jail wardens, incarcerated people, homeless people, gaming commissioners, and even have a potential meeting coming up with a congressman; all for the sake of promoting this process of community conferencing. I’ve listened. I’ve asked questions. And guess what- I’ve left every conversation feeling hopeful with a new respect for and understanding of each of my conversation partners. Instead of drastic differences and sinister war plans, I’ve found similarities, kindness, and creative geniuses. I’ve found that every person I’ve spoken with longs for these kinds of conversations and feels the urgency to make this cultural shift, yet due to our hierarchical lockdown on systemic changes, it is a slooooooowwww endeavor to transition from calling the cops on your neighbor every day to actually sitting down and having a conversation. But I see the movement toward this hope for healing, and I joyfully will ride this wave on the way there.

I don’t think I need to explain to you how significant an issue we have in this country with how we respond to those with whom we disagree. I bet you see it. I don’t pretend to have the solutions to all the issues. There are many MANY issues that need our urgent attention. I DO know the only way to address those issues, and it is not by voting in the right person, screaming about it on Facebook, creating more segregated communities, making secret decisions behind closed doors, fighting to maintain our sacred traditions, or ignoring it hoping it will all blow over. We simply must leave our echo chambers and our self-congratulatory mirrors/friends and have difficult conversations with people who look, think, act, believe differently than us. It is the only way forward. We must let go of what worked before and start again. Create anew…together.

Conflict resolution is an ugly business. The process is simple, but within it there are loud, often scary, emotions. There are painful memories of abuse and failures. There are moments of awkward silences and righteous anger. And then there is a shift; a shift in the air when people finally start to see one another again as humans rather than adversaries.


In my heart and in my prayers, I always come back to how I can help churches. I am beyond grateful to have the opportunity to use what I’ve learned for the greater community and perhaps that is a more fruitful endeavor. Unfortunately in my experience and observations, churches are the worst offenders when it comes to successfully handling conflict. I’ve witnessed churches choose division over conflict management or even an attempt at creating resolutions. On an individual basis, I watch self-proclaimed “Christians” fill their social media with racist rants, name calling, and political rhetoric that chills me to the bone further dividing our country and our communities. It disgusts me. We appear very comfortable with our chosen platforms, and we gleefully destroy anyone who challenges us as we walk in an obedient line with the power-broker politicians at the helm of our respective movements. After all, as long as we put money in the tray and get a spiritual high from Sundays and vote for the right person, we’ll be in heaven, right? Meanwhile, the world sees us for what we are: people who can’t get along, won’t listen, who only parrot what they hear on the news, and whose only cultural impact may be maintaining our denominational stasis and personal interests.

My personal beliefs and faith traditions are the fruit of the reformation movement and the later restoration movement. Those movements were valuable and absolutely essential for their time. Now is the time for a reconciliation movement in our churches and maybe even a deconstruction of the false God of the Sunday entertainment hour and political nationalistic church. Christ demanded more than our stasis. He demanded more of our lives than a rocking Hillsong ballad. He desired our attempts at holiness which includes reconciliation. And like a dear professor taught me: Peace isn’t the absence of conflict. Peace is both justice and mercy at work at once. Sometimes we think we are maintaining peace, but we are really just squelching uncomfortable and challenging dialogue. Peace takes work.

I do know there are some of you out there doing something different. I see you opening your doors and your houses. I see you walking away from the pews and making room for people on couches and in pubs for sometimes difficult conversations. You look different from the norm and so do your churches. Praise God. I know you may feel abandoned by the mainstream because of this…but meh, so was Jesus. Don’t ever look back to denominational stasis. Death lies there. Keep up the difficult conversations. Keep up the work.

-in love-

Honey and Vinegar and Proverbs

Whenever I was particularly surly toward my parents as an adolescent, my mother with her mild southern drawl that you can only catch if you have lived north of the Mason-Dixon line, would resort to saying something like “you’ll catch more flies with honey than you will with that vinegar”. Nevertheless because I am who I am, I’ve heard this old adage about a million times from my sweet mom. I don’t know if this happens to you, but I’ve reached the age now where my mother’s voice is my inner voice. This, of course, means I hear this phrase often before I even utter a word. I’m embarrassed to confess that since I still have days where I live out my adolescent rebellion, I’ve conducted my own study of whether or not this maxim is true as far as catching fruit flies that swarm old bananas that my children neglect. And I can tell you after a non-scientific study, that in the art of catching fruit flies, honey nor vinegar can complete with a nice glass of cabernet sauvignon.

I get it though. Be nice and people may like you. Be kind and win friends. Gentle words may influence someone, and I suppose those things are all true. I work in conflict resolution and communications, and believe me, the way you spin things matter to the hearer. The adage may be a loosely summarized Proverb after all.

“Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”

Proverbs 16:24

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but hard words stir up anger.”

Proverbs 15:1

Can you feel a but coming?

But, kindness is subjective. Is honesty kind? There are a lot of honest words that don’t go down as smooth as the golden bee slime. Some honest words sting and feel a lot more like astringent… like vinegar. I find it interesting that vinegar is a disinfectant and an antibacterial. It cleans windows and mirrors and has been used for thousands of years for medicinal cleaning. It may not taste as sweet and your teeth may buzz, but vinegar is equal in usefulness as honey. So if honey is the equivalent of kind words, then vinegar may just be honesty. There are a few proverbs regarding honest words as well.

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”

Proverbs 27: 6

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.”

Proverbs 12:1

I don’t know if you have experienced this, but especially in our current cultural context, honesty is difficult; especially if you are sharing your perspective with someone whom you know may disagree. I want to suggest that vinegar you perceive spewing from someone’s mouth, may suggest one of three things:

1) Pain. Unhealed wounds have a tendency to explode from our mouths and spray anyone in spitting distance. People in physical pain can be some of the meanest people on the planet. People in emotional pain can cut your heart to pieces.

2) Expertise. There are people who communicate assertively and directly who do not waste time with niceties and ego massaging. They will speak up and out exerting their expertise and experience. Expertise doesn’t always come from academia.

3) Unheard. If you ignore someone long enough, one of two things happens. They get louder and more angry or they give up and walk. A large portion of our communities feel unheard of late. Their noise has purpose.

It is almost safer to not say anything at all, and, guess what, there is a Proverb for you too.

“It is foolish to belittle a neighbor; a person with good sense remains silent.”

Proverbs 11:12

But before you make silence your communication go-to, I want you to consider that silence is often an avoidance strategy made by people, often fearful, who simply don’t want to take the time to sort through difficult conversations and be forced to feel the ping of vinegar on their tongue much less burn their eyes.

On the other hand, silence in the presence of those in pain, or those who have experience to share, or those who desperately need to be heard is healthy and helpful. Scripture is consistent in warning believers about the danger of too many words and how the tongue can damage relationships.

So where does this leave us?

What I keep coming back to is this: Listen to understand not to respond. Speak only after you think about what you are going to say. And be gently honest always. If the motive is to be an encouragement and benefit others, then saturate the conversation with honey! If the motive is to generate friends, save face, or manipulate, stop in your tracks. If you see feel a pull to share something from your experience or to bring someone closer to Jesus, speak gently. Use vinegar sparingly and attempt to be self-aware enough to be careful in it’s application.

I love words. Words have meaning and those meanings matter to the hearer. Words are powerful; they can heal and destroy. I love that Jesus is known as The Word and though he didn’t always choose to speak, he did assertively and often. Take heart, not everyone loved the words Jesus spoke because they were just not sweet enough.

“A person’s words can be life-giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook.”

Proverbs 18:4

“Words satisfy the soul as food satisfies the stomach; the right words on a person’s lips bring satisfaction.”

Proverbs 18:20

Galentine’s Day and Real Love

Thanks to Leslie Knope, Galentine’s day is upon us. There are so many things that I love about Leslie Knope. And even though she’s just a fictional character, I wish I could be her, have her energy, her zest for success, and her never-ending devotion to her friends. (Thanks, NBC, for gifting us with Parks and Rec. We rewatched it three times during this pandemic.)

My favorite Leslie moments usually include Galentine’s day, the day preceding Valentines Day when Leslie gathers her female friends and celebrates their relationships. Usually an over-the-top celebration in true Leslie style with excessive, yet personal, gifts while making more than a few people uncomfortable with verbose declarations of Leslie’s appreciation. Leslie’s Galentine’s day celebrates female friendship, getting closer to others, and love outside the demands of Hallmark, chocolate, and romance…and the requirement of women to have an interested male in their life in order to feel valuable.

I have no issue with Valentine’s Day. My dad has bought me chocolates in a heart shaped box for as long as I can remember. I like the floral cards and all the hoopla, but Galentine’s day is slowly becoming more important to me. You see, I was that girl. That girl in adolescence who didn’t feel pretty unless a boy noticed her. That was me. You know her, that annoying girl too infatuated with princess stories of damsels in distress waiting for her knight in shining armor who always showed up in the nick of time. Fast forward 25 years and now I observe my husband and my sons and how impossible it is for men to meet those expectations, and when men don’t cower to whatever female particular of the day exists, they are punished severely for it. See, Valentine’s Day is difficult for men, too.

Further, when I look into the eyes of my daughter, I never want her to feel valued because she is simply pretty or has a boyfriend. As I tell her: pretty fades but smart stays. I don’t want her to give up who she is for a manufactured and commercialized faux love. I also don’t want her to expect a prince when what she will find may in fact be the opposite. You see, my prayer is that, our children are autonomous servants of others and God regardless of what earthly relationships occur.

I fear this world’s definition of love fluctuates between impossible expectations and/or gratuitous sex. Both extremes will break all of us and are not love at all. Wouldn’t a healthier option be to celebrate real love like Galentine’s day? I suppose unyielding loyalty, self-sacrifice, and forgiveness are not sexy enough words to use in a red and pink card. If you are like me and you’ve witnessed divorce after divorce and scandal after scandal, those words are sweeter than chocolate and more lasting than the most expensive rose. And really, loyalty, self-sacrifice, and forgiveness are the only things that keep any relationship strong.

You may have an amazing spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or whatever else kids call it these days, but rest assured, friend, that significant other in your life doesn’t make you important, valued, or more of a person. God bestows your worth and value and purpose. You are uniquely qualified to fulfill a God-chosen purpose on this earth. While a partner may help you, they do not bestow those gifts to you that God intends for you alone to put to use. And if that relationship falls apart or never happens, you are still expected to be the good in the world. Because the reality is human love is fallible, but you can bank on God’s love and He is all you need.

So, to my dear friends on this Galentine’s day who have stuck with me through the tough times, through ugly tears, who show up and ask the hard questions, challenge me, and move me toward action in order to change the world for Jesus, thank you. Thank you for being my loyal friend, for sacrificing your time, and forgiving me all my gross mistakes. I’m thankful for the chance to serve alongside you. I hope you thrive today. I hope you practice real love. Happy Galentine’s Day.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:4-7‬

Anti-masker.

I was an anti-masker before Covid 19. I’ve written articles, taught bible classes, submitted papers, led retreat discussions, and pleaded till I was blue in the face about masks all before we lost anyone to this horrible virus. And now I wonder if these literal masks, that we need to wear right now, are a lesson from God, albeit a sort of discipline from God for those of us who are professional mask-bearers.

For some of us, years before we ever wrapped those little strings behind our ears, we so often walked before God and others with our fake smiles and well-rehearsed “I’m fine” responses. We hid our sin, our struggles, our pain, our doubts long before we had the luxury of hiding our smiles or frowns behind three layers of fabric.

This is not a comfortable blog to write. I write these words knowing full well the masks I’ve worn and still wear. There are some things you cannot share at an open mic, you see. This is a fact that either you won’t understand if you are like me and hate inauthenticity OR you will understand and reading about it may make you uncomfortable. I have learned a few things over the last few years. In essence, I’ve learned that sometimes you need to wear a fake smile. You fake it for the sake of self-preservation and for the sake of the wounded around you. There are some pains you can’t share with the sharing circle. (And, gosh, I hate sharing circles. *Introverts in the room unite!* We need them at times…blah blah blah.) There are times when you must be selective about what you tell certain people. This is a fact. A fact that 1) you learn the hard way after someone betrays you or 2) because the grief or wound you wear is so insidious that sharing it sucks the air right out of a room of happy people. If you are in that precarious position of smiling through pain, please find someone somewhere where you can untie those strings and be you and be painfully, emotionally naked. It doesn’t have to be your church family, though I pray it is. Remember, church is bigger than the people you see on Sunday. Find someone somewhere who sees behind your mask. Please.

Do I believe God is punishing the world with Covid? (See, I knew someone was asking that.) And my answer is, no. No, I do not believe that God is punishing us with a virus that has stolen the lives of so many. I DO believe He will use this virus to mold us, change us, and draw us into a deeper relationship with Him because that is His goal, to draw us to Him. I absolutely believe that, and at least today, I considered that this mask issue may be one way of drawing us into deeper relationships with one another AND God, our Father.

So, for today, when you pull on that mask and you walk through a grocery store or at your place of work, ask yourself–what protective layer am I really wearing in addition to this little mask?

Are you ok? Because I’m not. I’m tired. I’m weary of smiling through pain. I’m weary of distrusting everyone… as if I needed a virus for help with that! Heck, I fear people who don’t have a fever and cough. I fear judgement. I fear unforgiveness. I fear the pain that comes from being in relationship with failable people. I fear others’ insensitivity. I have enough distrust for us all, and because of this, I wear a mask so I can hide those fears from you to protect myself and to protect you from me. And here I am writing all this while finding it very comfortable hiding behind layers of cotton so I can safely stick my tongue out at the rude lady at the cash register, and yet I am so tired of not seeing your smiling face. I’m so tired of this extra layer that I wear just to stay sane– literally and figuratively speaking.

And knowing that I cannot protect myself -much less you- from people who say and do hurtful things when they get a glimpse of the real us. I do understand if you want to stay underwraps. But you see, the world will always have jerks; the world will not always have you. And I need you to show your face for the sake of the rest of us who are barely treading water and feel alone. Your realness may just be the lifejacket that someone needs.

So enough. May these literal masks remind us to free ourselves from our figurative masks.

  • To be real, no matter how unloveable others’ may deem us to be!
  • To be authentic, no matter the judgment that comes roaring toward us!
  • To be our sinful, wretched selves whose only hope is Christ’s sacrifice!
  • To truly live as free men and women not for the sake of pleasing humans, but solely pleasing God!
  • And finally, to shake off our fear, dust off, and to try to learn to trust again!

-in love.

Cup of Pain

Here’s the deal. You know those ‘Christiany’ posts about filling your cup with joy so you spill out joy? I believe that. I do. I try to fill my cup with joy. I try to fill others’ cups with joy. I’m trying to fill all the cups. Joy. Joy. Joy in all the cups.

BUT- life is just not that simple. And the plain old fact is life is hard. Most people, especially now amidst Covid and our country’s general morale, are living lives of pain and anxiety. In fact, there are a lot of cups spilling out pain all around us and that pain will splash onto our clean, white newly pressed joy shirts should we bump into their proverbial emotional cups of coffee.

Expect pain.

And rather than shriek at the stain on your shirt and the pain of that burn, greet that person with compassion and kindness and patience and understanding rather than contempt. Then maybe, just maybe, we will season their brew with a little sweetness.

Grace, always grace, especially over platitudes. -in love.

John 6:37-38

What if…

What if every single thing that has happened around you in your life, both tragic and blessing,
every sunset,
every sunrise,
every laugh,
every tear,
every burial,
every birth,
what if every single second that passed, God intentionally and specifically used all those moments to draw you to Him?

Not causing the bad but taking hold of it and molding it into a moment to whisper in your ear…”I’m here.”

Are we listening?

God’s sense of humor.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

Two years ago, I was inspired by an amazing friend who prays for God to reveal a theme word to live into every year. At first, this sounded to me like that crazy mystic-Christian fluff stuff that drives me bonkers. Nevertheless, with a cynical heart and a sense of desperation for God’s guidance, I tried it and asked God for a word for 2019. I know many of you will think I’m crazy, but I believe He gave me two words whilst I was in the bathtub ugly sobbing my way through a prayer that only a mom who is about to send her first kid to college would understand. (I wish sending a kid to college was the most difficult issue we faced in 2019.) It is probably because I am hard-headed and needed an extra dose of heavenly lessons that God gave me two words rather than just one. I wish I could explain how I know that these words were from God. I can’t. Let me just say that He inaudibly finished some sentences for me before I could think or speak them.

The words for 2019 were Trust and Loved. God proved in that year that I can trust Him, trust others, and that I am intentionally loved. The lesson was loud. The lesson hurt, but the rewards are healing and precious. I came out of 2019 no longer doubting God’s promises and viewing my world very differently.

The words for 2020 were Joy and Run. I was excited about the first and frustrated with the last. What I learned was that Joy from God doesn’t come from financial security, good health, jobs, perfect marriages, children, food etc. Joy from God comes when you can look around you into a crumbling world full of fear, hate, and mistrust and still smile knowing that God is there amidst chaos. Happiness is earthly and temporal. Joy is heaven-focused (and can be stolen–hold tight to it). As far as running goes, I did try to get back in the habit. And especially once we moved north I was running about every other day. I have wondered if that extra strengthening of my lungs helped me get through Covid, honestly. Because the cough I developed was no joke. God knows. Perhaps God was telling me to run toward the hope of 2021.

Enter 2021. Since January 1, I’ve been praying and wondering about my theme word for this year. And on January 2, I think I may have received the word…maybe. Regardless, I did get a good laugh. On January 2, I woke up and immediately thought the word “unfettered”. Now this is not a word in my everyday vernacular. I was only halfway sure I knew what it meant. At first I wondered what the heck I was dreaming about. Then, when the word stuck with me through my shower rather than fading into my subconscious like most dreams do, I researched.

Unfettered: Adjective. not controlled or restrictedFREEUNRESTRAINED

Because I believe in testing the spirits, I pulled up the Bible on my phone to see where this word fit into God’s Word. Unfettered? Could this be my word? In my quick simple search I pulled up three verses where this word is commonly used in various translations of the Bible. The first is found in the book of John where John says he is not worthy to untie/unfettered Jesus’ sandals. The second is before the triumphant entry when Jesus tells the apostles to go and find a colt or donkey and untie/unfetter it for Him to ride upon. And finally the last verse that pulled up is found in Job. When I saw one verse was found in Job, I thought, “Yep. This is it. This is the word for me.” I thought this may be it because last year, when my husband and I were going through one of the most horrific spiritual journeys of our lives, we read Job. Now, post spiritual crisis, that seems melodramatic as God led us and guided us so much more pleasantly than poor Job. Nevertheless, I pulled up the verse in Job that uses the word unfettered…

“Who gives the wild ass his freedom? Who unfetters his ropes?” Job 39:5

Wait. What? Did God just call me an ass?

I laughed. I laughed hard.

In hindsight, over the last two years, there were several, or if I’m completely honest, plenty of times when in fact I was an incomprehensible ass when it came to my faith. I doubted God’s provision over and over again, and even so, He still showed up. I was so angry at God for taking us on a journey of loneliness and abandonment that there were days when I wouldn’t speak to Him. Like a spoiled child, I refused to do what God was calling me to do because of my lack of faith. I blamed everyone in my path for my lack of effort in my relationship with God. I blamed the liberal left. I blamed the self-righteous right. I blamed the heretics living next-door. I blamed churches. I blamed church people. I blamed my parents. I blamed my husband. I’m pretty accomplished at the blame game. So, yes, I deserve that name among a few others, I suspect.

After I got over the initial shock of Job 39:5 and the potential of God having a great sense of humor and justice, I reminded myself which word I was given twenty minutes earlier. I read on. The rest of Job 39 is a list of several animals described by God that exist as a result of complete dependence upon Him. God was putting Job in his place in this chapter and essentially reminding him who was boss. Spoiler, it’s not Job…nor you…nor me.

This very same lesson God was teaching Job is exactly what He wanted me to learn over the last two years. And since I finally let go and accepted God’s guidance, the sensation that I continue to have is one of freedom. In fact, I’ve said that very word – freedom – many times since God relocated our family. I feel free.

I feel free of my fear and anxiety. (Though I do have some moments of relapse that I’m working through.)

I feel free of the constant judgement and expectations of others. (Whether those were real or imaginary, probably both, they plague me no longer.)

And quite frankly, just being able to get back into nature and seasons that I recognize and enjoy has set my soul to soaring. Leaving behind the concrete jungle has freed my spirit in ways that even surprised me, and I knew I loved nature, but now it seems as I inhale cool crisp mountain air…I can finally breathe again.

So, yes, I think unfettered is a fine word for this year. I will thank God daily for the freedom He gave this awkward questioning soul– both my freedom from the law of sin and death and freedom from where I was literally, emotionally, and spiritually. I am free indeed.

“I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” Job 42:5-6

I’m Sailing Away.

There is a direct correlation between the amount of TV news I consume and my anxiety levels. Ignorance truly is blissful. There are days when I want my naivety back and I simply want to trust that the faces I see on the street are not about to key my car or scream at me for buying white bread. My fear of others is relatively new, but I would have to admit to having some kind of social anxiety since I was a toddler. The talking heads seem to nourish my disorder by reminding me, albeit in the subtext, that anyone outside my small circle is not trustworthy especially if they look, talk, vote, worship differently than I.

And now it isn’t just the news. Social media news outlets and “friends” also remind us that we are all just fragmented parts of a very divided America. There are two distinct sides and you should firmly plant yourself in one of those groups or so they will it. Many of my family members and friends have bought into the derision of unity. We witness strangers openly attack one another and make outlandish accusations against people they don’t really know at all based upon hearsay and heartburn. And if you put yourself out there, chances are someone will take issue with what you say or even imply. Honestly, these divisions have existed for a long time. Churches have a long, ugly history of division. We should own that. Division is louder now and it sells in the marketplace. As it turns out, playing on our fears of the unknown is an easy way to control the populace and make money.

When I close my eyes I feel as if we are all on a ship heading for uncharted territories, and whether it is the apocalypse or utopia is yet to be seen or described by the captain. Depending upon the day or the current, I’m either nauseated or I’m enjoying the sea mist in my face. My vote, even if I cast it, will not stop this ship. I have zero control of the rudder and regardless of where we land, I have no choice but to trust this captain and be content with the destination. This ship doesn’t reach port until the captain says so. Sure, the ultimate destination is heaven, but right now I’m just sailing toward next year. It matters not, same captain.

I’ve learned that a great deal of fear comes from a lack of control. The older you get the more you realize that you have control over very little in life. I control my choices. That is it. I don’t control my circumstances, and I can’t get off this ship. I definitely do not control my spouse or my children. I can’t control the weather or politics or my health. I can’t control what others believe about me. I only control my attitude. Letting go of the facade of control is both terrifying and a reclamation of that lost bliss. A great deal of flexibility is required in letting go because it insists that you ride with the current more than against. Sail on!

Not everyone will like you. In fact some people, just don’t. You are not Miss America and chances are, if you are Miss America, most people will only be your friend until the next princess gets the crown. Be kind anyway. Don’t assume people hate you because of your color or religion or otherwise, and if they do, let them. Often some of us never get the memo that it is really is ok to be disliked by others and that life is not about competing for likes or popularity. And I know this is un-American, but you are not even required to fight for your right to be whatever it is you chose to be. I don’t know if you saw Titanic, but the party was definitely better below decks. When I let go of trying to please the masses, I became extremely intolerable to some, but the greatest part was being freed from the slavery of pleasing others. I know a guy who gave up all His rights. It was painful, but it worked out well for the rest of us.

I’ve had some battles with my God over trust. Yielding to Him has not been pleasant. I confess that it took me being completely empty and hopeless to let go. I do not wish this for you. Avoid it if you can. Like most virtues, peace and trust take effort and practice especially in times of unrest and uncertainty.

The waters are murky right now and fierce waves on the horizon.

Don’t be afraid.

COVID-19 and Shifting Sand

Every day I waver between believing this COVID situation will all be over soon resulting in the return of normalcy as we knew it OR right now we are all witnessing society being reset in some kind of slow cataclysmic wave. I am not exaggerating when I say that every day my feelings shift back and forth in this regard. This emotionally charged shifting sand of feelings is primarily ignited by social media scrolling and by consuming regular news media neither of which are particularly reliable or healthy.

If I am not careful my mind will take me six months into the future, and depending on the day, that future may include sitting and listening to my daughter play cello with her orchestra OR sitting in my house in a hazmat suit holding her as she watches her college dreams slip through her fingers. My mother heart worries about my sons and whether they will ever go back to school and march with the band. Fear can consume a lot of my time if I let it.

And yet, I cannot control the future.

We don’t know the future.

While it is annoying that we cannot see where this is all heading, it is probably a mercy that we can’t. Our human minds can only handle bits of tragedy at once, and speaking hopefully, perhaps we are moving toward blessing rather than tragedy. Why does our mind take some of us to tragedy so swiftly?


Shifting Sand.

The last time my husband and I were facing a big change in our life I listened to a song over and over and over, and it comforted me. You can listen to that song here. I hope it comforts you to know that you are not alone in your shifting sand faith.

I’ve learned that my faith shifts depending upon what I consume. Like the fable about the two wolves living inside a man, and the one who survives is the one he feeds, fear grows when you feed it. Make no mistake. What is happening in our world IS scary. Whether we are being controlled by the government OR whether we are all bound to contract a serious illness, both are terrifying prospects. In both scenarios we, the public, lose. And I don’t know what the solution is to either reality. I cannot control it. Neither can you. What I can control is whether I live in fear or whether I live in faith.

Am I suggesting we visit Walmart without a mask and lick the credit card scanner? No. Am I suggesting that we trust everything out of the mouth of the government? Absolutely not. I am not even telling you to avoid watching the news. But…

If you will grant me this moment in your media diet, and listen to the voice of someone who struggles with depression and who has family members who are enslaved by anxiety, be mindful of how much you consume and be aware of what beast lurking within you are feeding. And the beast within will tell you that you need to be well-informed. And the beast within will tell you that you have everything to lose. And the beast within will tell you that information will help you maintain control. And I tell you, as a survivor who still wages these battles every day, the beast lies.

  • Be informed, turn it off, and make your own educated decision based upon hope and not solely based upon a daily charged tweet, post, or newscast. Remind yourself that people make money off of those mediums, and sensationalism sells big.
  • Be aware that nothing you own is truly yours. Give it away.
  • Be aware that the people around you are of God’s concern, and He loves them more than you do.
  • Be assured that you do not even have control over your next breath. Appreciate the next inhale… and exhale.

(None of that is a comfort to those of you clinging to sides of the fear pit trying to get out. I know how it works. This is not intended to comfort; rather it is a reality check. You might even feel angry right now after being told to turn off the TV. Anger is born out of fear.)

Things ARE changing. Good things are happening within that change. People are stepping up and speaking out. Look for the good. Seek out what NEEDS to change in your family system and in your church system and in your work system, and be a part of that growth. Notice that families are walking together outside. Notice that the sky looks bluer. Take your next breath and be thankful. Be grateful to live in a time where you get to watch all this unfold. Both the tragedies and the blessings bear witness to God’s plan and provision. You may be part of His plan, so support the sick. Protect the endangered. Pick up the phone. Love your people. Make the pain of this change worth it. Breathe.

Wherever we are going, God is there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quick meals.

“…to the church that meets in your home.” Paul penned those words when writing to Philemon in his letter to encourage the freedom of Onesimus. Philemon is a heartfelt letter to a personal friend for a shared personal friend. It’s about trust and love and acceptance. It’s a short letter from Paul to Philemon and the church that met in his home.

Meeting in a home is not a new thing for the church. It isn’t a trend or even a thing that only happens during pandemics. It isn’t merely what non-conformists or eccentric divisive spirits practice. Churches meeting in homes, sharing a meal, sharing the Lord’s supper, sharing scripture, and spiritual intimacy has been normal for two thousand years. What makes today different is that just our individual families are meeting together and trying to figure this out without much guidance from professionals…until all the prerecorded services hit facebook last week. But there are those who practice this out of necessity, out of a call to do so, out of desperately wanting more out of spiritual relationships.

For now, most of our friends are across town. Our loved ones somewhere else. We are all going at this alone and digitally tuning into other believers around the globe. But good things are happening in this precious time. Good conversations between parents and kids and believers from all over are happening. Questions are being asked. Answers are being pursued.  Prayers are being uttered and heard by those who’ve never spoke nor heard them. Your faith is either being discovered, growing, or revealing that it needs to grow. Good things are happening for believers, likewise good things are happening for the church. Perhaps God is allowing a sabbath where we are called to remember Him. He didn’t cause the virus. Perhaps he is allowing the break. Perhaps he wants us to ask what the point of all this church stuff truly is.

Church was always more than Sunday. Church was never supposed to be a quick meal. The Lord’s Supper was not created to be fast food. It’s now. It’s time. It’s neighbors checking on neighbors. It’s buying groceries for others. It’s making phone calls and sending cards. It’s family learning about one another. It’s brainstorming together how to DO good. It’s the ache in your heart to see and hug the people you love and to look into their eyes again…to be known, absolved, and loved for who you are. It’s waking up and becoming aware that family is seated around the table laughing and sharing and there are no time constraints or quotas to be met.  The church consists of relationships built upon the love of Christ that are so unique and so real and so accepting that you want to include others. I hope you have that. I hope you see that you need that and the world needs that. I hope you feel the call to add more plates when you set your table. 

As you miss your people, as you dive into potentially awkward prayer with your family, as you begin to notice that sweet things happen in tiny moments in tiny groups who know each other inside and out, remember to take that with you when you go back into your congregations. And don’t let this lesson be wasted. Don’t let this call to love better be forgotten. Expect better conversations, pursue closer relationships, live out your faith through the week rather than consuming a fast food Sunday. Make life together more than a quick meal. Make church more than a quick meal.