Living the Blessed Life

Posted by on Monday, Apr 10, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

I never heard it growing up. It just wasn’t a saying. I heard it when I moved to Dallas. You’ve heard it, too – Blessed. We Christians use it often. “They have a blessed life.” “I’ve lived a blessed life.” I googled images of “blessed life.” Here’s a sample of what pops up. I’ve been noodling on the birth of Jesus in Luke. There I tripped over Mary’s words in the Magnificat, specifically the ones where she proclaims that she’s blessed and that God has done great things for her. And I’m wondering, as I noodle over the meaning of her life if I’ve minimized the meaning of blessed. What exactly are we referring to when we say “our life is blessed?” That we are financially ok…that our relationships are in a good place…that our health is holding up? The more and more I read Scripture the more I realize how unsanitized it is, how what we say or think isn’t what’s being said through the lives of those of whom the Scriptures speak. Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. (Luke 1:46-49) I’ve spent the week noodling on Mary’s life. The events that Scripture reveals about her. As I’ve pondered I’ve increasingly wondered how she could say, “God did great things for her?” Mary got pregnant by the Holy Spirit. (That’s freaky!) She could have faced death by stoning for the pregnancy. (That’s scary!) There was a time of tension over it with Joseph. (How awkward was that conversation?) She lived in a shame/honor culture. Where her parents ashamed? What about the community? Did they mock her? Leave her out? Say mean things to her? Her reputation, the most valuable possession a woman had, was on the line. While very pregnant she traveled on a donkey. (Ouch.) She gave birth in a cave with animals. (Smells. Need I say more?) She had no other woman present for the delivery. No mother, sister, or aunt to look her in the eye and help her navigate this painful experience. Herod’s threat forced her to go on the run. She left her home and friends. Some of those friends she left behind lost their sons on account of hers. Don’t blow past that. When I had my 2-year-old son Hunter, we had playdates with other 2-year-olds. And us moms would make them PB&Js and chat while the kids played. What was it like to leave...

Read More

The Moment You Crumble On The Bathroom Floor

Posted by on Tuesday, Feb 23, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

A sister in Christ wrote this out of deep pain. She’d been holding it in for a long time but now it came rushing out. Poetry. Pain. Some of you will understand – others will not. I do. And I want her cry to be heard. Church please hear.   That moment when you find yourself crumpled on your bathroom floor. A puddle of tears and confusion. What is wrong with me? Deep wounds emerge for triage and you realize the truths you’ve been able to push down, to sooth, until now. This desire seems big and hairy and its spitting the pacifiers across the room. Why don’t you want me Jesus? Why can’t I have a seat at the table? Is it true? Am I not good enough? Here’s the rub: I have a deep grief that women are not valid in the church. Valued. Maybe. As long as they stay in their place. Sure there are exceptions of leaders, teachers, preachers. But why not me? I get it, there really are singers that should have never made it to American Idol auditions on broadcast television. And I’m embarrassed to even admit: I want to try. Maybe I’m delusional. Or prideful. What if I had been allowed? What if in my preaching class in 1997, what if it wasn’t just condescension? What if they took me seriously? What if I took myself seriously? But I didn’t. I said this: “I know, I know, it won’t happen. But thanks for having me guys. You wrote really nice comments on my sermon eval.” And tolerance is not the same as embracing. Being nice isn’t empowering. I settled. It’s like the abuser that abuses subtly. And that time you almost wish he would just go ahead and punch you so you knew it was real. Not just some figment of your imagination. I keep finding myself with the nagging…is it real? Is it real that my church heritage that I love excludes me? Is it real that I want this? Am I actually called? You know Lord, it would be so so much easier if you literally would write me a letter of recommendation that I could pull out and show: I hereby declare that this woman has my recommendation to preach my Gospel in church on a Sunday. I can hear your thoughts, “But the Bible says…” Yeah, I know. I just wonder…do we really know what the Bible says? You might be thinking, “Go preach the Gospel where you can—it doesn’t have to be at church!” Yep, I do…to my kids, my husband, my friends, neighbors. And I love it. But maybe, maybe I’m allowed to preach to my...

Read More

Pondering From Luke 8: 4-15

Posted by on Monday, Oct 27, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Pondering From Luke 8:4-15 This parable is a familiar one. I didn’t even want to write about it. But Jesus spoke, and so I write. In this parable there’s seed, which is God’s Word. And there are four kinds of soil (or ways people respond to Jesus and his message). We have seeds on a path, on the rock, among thorns, and in good soil. Jesus explains … 11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. 12 The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. 13 The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. 14 The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. 15 And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest. Obstacles to our walk with God clearly exist. They not only exist but pull hard, trying to loosen our grip. While we cling to God’s hope and promises, they pull … trying to loosen our grip. Satan. Worry. Riches. Pleasure. And trials. It wasn’t but a few  years ago that I almost lost my grip. A tsunami hit. I wasn’t even aware it was coming, and my faith was rocked. For the first time, I wondered if living for Jesus was worth it. I considered leaving the ministry. I struggled believing his Word. I felt abandoned, betrayed, and lost. Pain can cause the heart to harden. I tried to move towards him even in my pain. I couldn’t read his Word, so I listened to it online: And slowly, ever so slowly, Jesus started warming my heart again. He does that. Makes our hearts soft. I’m so grateful that when I was about to let go, he didn’t. This passage reminded me that there are obstacles, and they are pulling – hard. If we are going to cling to God’s hope and promises, we must go to Jesus. And listen. Jesus said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” (Luke...

Read More

Fear Can Make Us Wiggle

Posted by on Wednesday, Sep 17, 2014 in Blog | 2 comments

This next week I’m teaching on the toxic topic of fear. I’ve been thinking a lot about my own fears. Most of my fears include the issue of pain – I don’t want to feel pain. It’s not fun. When I feel pain I tend to go into self -preservation mode. That’s led me to think about what it means to  self-preserve. I must confess over the last several years  I have  been an on and off again  self-preserver. Fear makes us  (me) wiggle when God has us (me) dangling. And isn’t that exactly what we see in Genesis 12:10-13? “Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” Got to love that man self-preserving. Self-preservation. It happens. We see it when fear strikes. What if I loss my job, or how will this impact the kids, or what about my house, or what if it takes my life, or what if my daughter gets hit by a car, or what if … Fear paralyzes us and we make moves to get away from it, solve it. We wiggle.   We ignore, hide, and go inward. We put our heads in the sand and hope it goes away. We take up alliances … usually with those who can win or benefit us the most. We become less vulnerable, less willing to share our inner selves with others. We become suspicious and distrust others. We set up rules. We become controlling. We … We do this because we want all things to be good and wonderful. We don’t like to encounter difficulty, pain, suffering or discomfort. It’s not fun. I know I don’t like it. It’s hard … and I’m not a fan of hard. I wonder if self-preservation is a natural response … a God-given way to protect ourselves? Or, is it part of the fall … a way I respond that’s not of God at all? This is an important distinction because it lets me know if I need to embrace it (if it’s healthy) … or if I need to fight it (if it’s destructive). I was at lunch with Sally (not her real name) recently. Sally is wise. We talked extensively about how we...

Read More

My Date With Jesus

Posted by on Thursday, Jun 26, 2014 in Blog | 3 comments

Jesus was a great date in Washington D.C. We met at The Summit on June 18-21st. I sat and listened to experts while Jesus whispered in my ear what he wanted me to know, hear, see, think and do. Many times when Jesus speaks he does so through repeated themes or specific words and/or concepts that illuminate when mentioned. However, that’s not what happened on our first day together. Instead, I found myself grieving over losses in my life. Not what I had anticipated! My first day: Women in church leadership shared gender barriers they’ve encountered, and there I was reminded of my own. Jesus wanted to talk about some of those wounds I’d tucked away. Like how it hurt when a man wouldn’t shake my hand when he realized I was the “gal in the Dallas Morning News who had caused a stir because I preached from the pulpit.” That hurts. At another seminar where we talked about structural and cognitive barriers (and implicit bias), a doctoral student shared how she felt invisible as an Asian woman living in America. When she said those words, to my surprise, I found myself recalling a traumatic event in my life where my voice was silenced – I choked up. Later in the afternoon, I heard a panel discussion on domestic violence. The woman introducing the panelist opened by stating, “I am a child of domestic violence.” Out of nowhere, I realized I am, too. I’ve known I grew up in an abusive home, but I’ve never termed it in such forceful words. They provoked deep sadness. At the end of the day Steve asked what I was pondering. “I can’t tell you or I’ll start crying right here in front of everyone.” My first day with Jesus was a day of grieving. Lament. It’s part of our Christian walk, yet often we ignore or repress it. God did not. Over 60% of the Psalms are Psalms of lament: Where are you God? Why did you allow this to happen? And in John 11:33 we read, “When Jesus saw her weeping … he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” (He groaned in the spirit means to have indignation on, to blame, to sigh with chagrin, to snort with anger.) “Then Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) Sometimes Jesus wants to take us on a date to bring up wounds we’ve stuffed down deep in order to grieve with us. There’s healing in that. During the rest of my time with Jesus, he pointed out areas where I am weak and needed shoring up. The three specific areas he kept illuminating through different events and conversations were: collaboration, cleansing and conversation. Collaboration: I...

Read More