Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Of Ships and Lions

“The ship is safest when it’s in port. But that’s not what ships were made for.”—Paulo Coelho

I had a much-needed tranquil Christmas day. Never got dressed to the point of being presentable. Didn’t even make a Christmas dinner—just heated up leftovers. Napped twice, watched a couple of movies, finished a book. And now look at me: I’m finally in a proper frame of mind for blogging. It’s been weeks.

The problem has not been a matter of nothing to say; it’s that my brain’s been running in too many directions, like my oldest son’s puppy who can’t seem to settle with one bit of mischief over another.

I have to admit the past few months have been tumultuous. Well, maybe the past year or two. Okay, the last four years, at least. And the chaos has had little to do with physical circumstances or relationships, though the Lord has drawn those into the picture from time to time. But the core of what I’m talking about is an inward and spiritual revolution going on in the midst of my normally serene heart.

I used to be afraid of it. Then I hated it. Then I embraced it. Now I’m on a wild expedition through personally uncharted territory. And having the time of my life. Not that it isn’t still scary at times or that I don’t long for peaceful waters occasionally, but this . . . . This is living.

And I only bring it up because many of you know exactly what I’m talking about. Not that you know specifically what Jesus is doing in my heart and mind, but you sense what he’s trying to do in yours.

It’s not safe, you know. It never is. But I don’t believe any thinking person could argue that Jesus is safe. When one of the children in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia asks if Aslan the Lion—the Christ-figure in the story—is safe, she gets this answer: “Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

So I’m praying for you now. Praying that you’ll let the Lord of heaven and earth lead a rebellion in you. That he’ll turn upside down whatever is comfortable and complacent in your life. That he’ll start at the fringe of what you know—really know—to be good and true and noble and perfect and use it to upset the rest of your life. Don’t be shocked. Or frightened. Or resistant.

It’s what you were made for.

So . . . share with me. What is he doing in you just now, or calling you to, or making you question?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Bigger and Better

My cheeks are still cold from playing “Bigger and Better” with a group of middle school students. I got the easy part—with my windows down so I could monitor things, I drove four 6th grade boys house-to-house as they asked strangers to trade them for something bigger and better. They started with a paper clip and ended up with a pair of snow skis. They actually made one trade too many and lost the skis for an old shadeless lamp. They traded the lamp for a big purple Barney. When they got back in the car, I told them they had ten minutes left in the game and a big decision to make. They got my meaning and headed back to trade for the skis again.

Almost every homeowner joined in on the fun, except for the lady that yelled at them to go away. When our time was up, I dropped the guys back off at their youth group party. I haven’t heard whether or not their skis were voted best trade, but I thought they did terrific. Now I’m sitting by the fire in my living room enjoying a quiet evening after the hour of competitive excitement.

And I just read these words in The Shaping of Things to Come by Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch: “. . . faith . . . [means] we stake our lives upon a conviction: It is far closer to raw courage than it is to mere belief. A missional church is as imaginative as it is bold. And missional leadership is courageous and willing to try new things and risk all if necessary to see the kingdom come.”

Bob and I have been thinking a lot about being missional lately. About what it means to minister in America today where the culture is rapidly changing, growing more diverse and global and spiritual while at the same time giving less and less credence to faith in Jesus Christ. We see so many people who are discouraged, depressed, de-spirited, and demoralized. They’re frustrated with churches, with politicians, with the status quo. They’re too busy, they’re worried about the environment, they’re skeptical of institutional anything.

In a big way, my husband and I want to do the hard work of figuring out how to enter our culture as missionaries. It’s simply not the environment we grew up in. And let’s be honest—too often, churches and ministries and Christians are so far removed from the world as it really is today that we’ve become ineffective in it. Bob and I are striving to become incarnational Christians—to actually enter into the lives of not-yet-Christians in a way that connects to them where they are so that they might know God and participate in his kingdom. Though the task is daunting and even confounding at times, the ideas we’ve tossed around are exciting. And scary. And risky.

But somehow I sense we’re trading up for something bigger and better.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


We had a leaking pipe under the slab of our house. You know, the kind where you end up with strangers in your closet when you only thought they were going to be in your bathroom.

It started about a week ago with a warm wet spot on the carpet in front of my sink. I rubbed our schnauzer’s nose in it, sprayed it with disinfectant, and blotted it up. It came back. The dog was outside.

It took five days for a plumber to get here, break the slab, and fix the leak. Now there’s a hole in the cabinet floor, no carpet on my side of the bathroom, and huge turbo fans pointed at the bare concrete.

I didn’t know the carpet in the closet got wet, too. Actually, just sort of in the doorway of the closet. But I didn’t clean the closet out like I did the bathroom cabinet. Which means the two very nice young men who worked for us today got a glimpse of what my life is really like.

Shelves sagging with old tax returns and boxes of keepsakes. A huge, impractical bag from Mexico. Tons and tons of old photos in shoeboxes. A basket of dirty laundry. A half dozen turtlenecks that I can’t tolerate wearing anymore, but am afraid to throw out. In case, you know, I change my mind about strangling. A pile of pajamas and workout clothes and swimsuits and stuff that I really don’t have a place for. At least they were on a shelf and not on the floor.

Don’t misunderstand. The floor is a cluttered mess, too. The whole thing looks like a tornado struck. Frankly, it’s a place where I can throw everything I’m indecisive about. A place where I can tell myself I’ll deal with it later. A private place to keep my dirty and not so dirty secrets.

It embarrassed me that these kindly carpet strangers saw my closet today. But they were professional about it, and we all acted like it didn’t matter.

I’m often just as embarrassed when kindly friends see what’s really inside my own heart. There’s a lot of clutter there. And maybe that’s normal and maybe it’s not, but I can tell you, it’s often not pretty. Thankfully, I have help in cleaning it out—God help, that is.

I’m kind of starting to like the whole transparency thing—blogging, for example—for a couple of reasons. First of all, it means I have to do something about the mess inside (accountability). Secondly, I’m discovering that there are a lot of others who’re hanging on to some of the same things in their heart-closets, and somehow we find mutual encouragement in the sharing.

And we’re all being wonderfully unprofessional about it and acting like it matters.