Monthly Archives: February 2014

the church is arguing while people are hurting

There is this story about Jesus in the book of Mark where He shows up on the scene of a dad who is desperate on behalf of his child. And wouldn’t you believe it, when Jesus shows up his disciples are arguing! Here they  are arguing while this man is suffering. This sounds so familiar, I can barely handle it. Some things never change and yet how long do we need to learn our lessons?

Jesus asks them why they are arguing and this dad answers for them, which is hilarious! He explains that his son is possessed by a spirit that has “robbed” him of his speech.  His son falls to the ground, foams at the mouth and, well, acts like a monster. The dad looks at Jesus and says, “Your disciples tried to heal him but they couldn’t do it.” So, yeah that is why they are arguing.

sanctuary

I can just imagine this scene. Jesus seems irritated and says “You unbelieving generation. How long shall I put up with you?”  He is talking to his followers. He is not talking to unbelievers! Of all people, Jesus has talked to them about faith, about mustard seeds, about moving mountains and about the authority they have been given to do big things. And here their mustard seeds are being thrown into each others eyes, the mountains are ashamed and the biggest thing going is an argument.

And we are still arguing. We are arguing over the right way to pray, the right way to heal, what Jesus really meant when he said X, Y and Z. And in all our arguing, people lay writhing in pain right next to us, but our desire to be right blinds our eyes and our hearts.

I remember after a service when I was on staff at a college ministry and a student tried to to strike up what he probably thought would be an interesting conversation that we could banter back and forth about. You know, a typical hot button Christian issue to argue over. The entire time he and his friend were trying to peak my interest in the aisle, there was a girl to my right sitting in the middle of a pew crying. I was trying not to be rude and just cut these guys off from their deeply passionate opinions and yet, this girl was obviously hurting. She had long blond hair and beautiful eyes and she wept there all alone. As they were asking me what my opinion was, I noticed no one in this entire church was stopping to check in with this girl who was clearly not ok. It struck me in that moment, that this perhaps is why the church appears to be dying. Just like the disciples who were battling over words while the boy was writhing in pain, so too, are Jesus’  disciples today.

pews by laura

While we argue about baptism, there are people who need the hope Jesus has to offer in the life everlasting that beckons one in and out of that water. While we argue about once saved always saved, there are people who just need to be rescued. While we argue over what is the worst sin ever, there are people who are waking up everyday bent over by their sin and they believe God and His people would have nothing to do with them because of it. And they believe that because they are writhing in pain and we are sitting around arguing with each other.

How long, oh unbelieving generation will we argue while people are hurting? Oh, how long?

Jesus didn’t get involved in their arguments.  Notice what He does. He says “Bring the boy to me.” He wants to stand face to face with the one who is hurting. The Bible says in Mark 9:20When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground, rolling around, foaming at the mouth.” I think that’s fascinating. As soon as a spirit that bends people over is in the presence of Jesus, it convulses. In the same way, when people see Jesus in His people, they too will respond like this. And yet we think a good argument will cure them.

Like a doctor, Jesus asks how long the boy has been like this. Apparently this guy’s condition has been so bad since childhood that he has fallen in water and fire and almost died because of this oppressive spirit. And then the dad says this: “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

If you can do anything? I wonder how many people want to say this to Jesus but don’t think they can. If you can do anything. If you can turn my life around Jesus. If you can help my marriage. If you can break the chains of addiction. If you can clean up my messy life.

Jesus is funny in how He responds. He asks sarcastically “‘If you can’?” almost as if to point out who this guy is dealing with. This man is dealing with the One who made the ocean in His sleep and then bossed the wind and the waves around and they obeyed him. This man is talking to the One who made his kid and so He can make what ails his kid go away. Jesus says to the dad: “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

And then the most beautiful prayer perhaps ever uttered, out the mouth of this desperate dad, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” This is what should have been coming out of the disciples mouths rather than arguing. I do believe and where I don’t, Oh Lord help me overcome my unbelief. Maybe this should be the prayer of the Church, of this unbelieving generation, of those who want nothing to do with Church but hope Jesus “can” and the prayer for those that are writhing in pain and so want to believe there is a way out. Help me overcome my unbelief. 

sanctuarylight

Jesus didn’t give a theological, expositional sermon on what this man needs to believe. Jesus commanded the spirit out of the boy and out it came as easy as uttering a goodbye. Jesus honored this prayer. I have been pondering what is faith and I love that Jesus honored this man’s doubt, his unbelief and his humility to come to Jesus with what little, little faith he had. And when he did he asked for the faith he lacked.

If you lack faith today to believe God can do anything, ask Him to overcome your disbelief. If you are letting go of faith faster than you can grasp it, ask God to overcome your grasp. If you lack faith to be obedient to the things in which you know He has called you to, ask God to be bigger than the belief within you that feels so small. If you want to believe, but you struggle to believe, ask Jesus to turn your faithlessness into faith.

After Jesus drove the spirit out of the boy, the boy looked like a corpse and many thought he was dead. But did Jesus leave him there? No, Jesus “took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.”  Now this boy could truly live!

In privacy, Jesus disciples asked Him why they couldn’t drive it out and Jesus says “This kind can come out only by prayer.” I think what He meant is that it can only come out by the kind of prayer the dad who struggled with unbelief prayed. Jesus, once again insinuating that this man’s faith was bigger than theirs. A man who they would have described as less faithful than themselves. A man they would have rated as less spiritual. While they argue, a man of wee faith prays for more. And more is what he receives. More faith. More life. More health. More of his son. More “can”.

I wonder what more we could experience if we, His people, stop using our words to argue, but instead use them to pray, “Lord help me overcome my unbelief for You can do anything.” Then perhaps, there might be less people writhing in pain to our right. 

pews by laura2

I broke conversation with the two young men wanting to argue the theologic points of some controversial subject. I just couldn’t stand it any longer. I went and sat next to her. I put my left arm around her as she look up at the front of the sanctuary. I noticed she stayed almost 30 minutes after the service just sitting in that pew, so I said, “What keeps you sitting here?” She said almost surprised by her own words, “This place feels like home. And when I leave here, I lose this feeling. Everything out there is hurting me, but here I have experienced home, safety, refuge. I am afraid to go.”  This was the beginning of a conversation with a young woman who had been severely wounded and would not have considered herself close to God, high on a belief scale or very faithful, yet she had an encounter with Jesus and din’t want to leave. We had a beautiful conversation that led to Jesus and His great love and healing offer for her life that she now knows goes with her wherever she does.

I realized that night- that conversation so easily could have been missed by being tempted and distracted by the disciples arguing. I will never forget that moment and from here on out I have made a promise that I will not sit around and argue and debate while people are writhing in pain. I will leave that to other people. I will not stand by and try to be right while people’s circumstances are wrong.

 

A Secret Told: by Carrie Chute

Carrie and I have many mutual friends and I have prayed for and watched her family as they have navigated some severely difficult trials. I asked her if she wanted to write a post sharing her story and where she finds God in it’s midst. Her first response, was that she probably shouldn’t because she isn’t in a black and white place in her faith. She didn’t feel like she could “wrap everything up with bow”. I said, “perfect.” If the only people who share their stories within Christian community are the one’s who have it all together and figured out, where does that leave the rest of us? As I blogged last week about faith and what it is, I continue to press into the idea that all of us are in pursuit of who God is and we can all learn from each other on the journey. I hope our faith can flourish when we become real about our doubts. am thrilled that she has chosen to share her secret here.   -Willow

Wanna know a secret? I cannot sum up all of my beliefs in a neat and tidy bundle. All the things I used to feel so certain of are not actually certainties for me anymore. If you ask me to recite the Apostle’s Creed, I can do it, but if I parse it apart and think about all the tiny details inside of it, I might start to squirm.

snowball

Here’s another one: There was a time when I learned so much from hearing sermons and doing Bible studies. I was very involved as a participant and as a leader in Bible Study Fellowship. I learned a lot.  Now, I find it challenging to stay focused on the spoken word. And, truthfully, I have become a questioner…perhaps a doubter…

For a number of years I’ve tried to put my “statement of belief” in written form. I’ve composed it – or parts of it – in my head periodically, but I have not actually formed a well-written, well-composed, clearly understood statement of faith. It’s haaaaard.

But here’s what I know: There is a God. How do I know this? I know this because how in the world could there NOT be a God?! Who the heck do you think created this world? Who orchestrates events – or allows events to work themselves out?  I know that there’s a God because I feel it in my bones…in spite of all the things I DON’T fully understand, I KNOW that there is a God.

I believe that he is a God of love. I believe he cares about all of us. I think he cares about Presbyterians and Methodists and Baptists and interdenominationals and non-demoninationals and Assembly of God people and Muslims and Seventh Day Adventists and atheists and agnostics. I believe he loves rich people and middle-income people and poor people. I think he loves heterosexual people and homosexual people and married people and single people. I believe that God loves people who were born in the tiny country of Monaco and he loves people in Suriname and Syria and Afghanistan. I believe he loves people whose skin looks like mine and people who have different colored skin than mine. I believe he loves people who try very hard to obey every single one of the Ten Commandments and those who couldn’t give a rat’s ass about any of them. I believe he loves people who say “rat’s ass.” ☺

carrie chute3

I am always being judgmental about people who are judgmental – which I don’t think he likes so much. It seems to me that God likes it best when we quit trying to fix everybody around us and try to fix ourselves. I think it makes God happy when we love each other…

He loves even our broken selves. That one is a hard one for me. The gracious God thing… As my friend Doug says, “there is nothing you can do that will make God love you anymore or any less than he does right now.” Whoa! Good one! Love that – and I struggle with that.

My life, since 2008, has been full of “life events.” Deaths, illnesses, divorces, uncertainty, change… I haven’t really loved a lot of the events of the past six years. I have fussed at God about a lot of it.  I’ve questioned God. I’ve questioned tenets of the Christian faith. I’ve rebelled – mostly internally. And, as I’ve mentioned, my “statement of belief” has gotten fuzzy.

carrie chute4

But here’s the thing: Even though things aren’t so clear and exact for me anymore, I still believe there is a God. I still believe he loves me and the billions and billions of other people in the world. I don’t think he really wants me to get it all together before he’s able to love me. I don’t understand him…but I love him…and believe he is there. And, if things don’t go my way, I don’t think that means that he‘s stopped loving me. I believe he still loves me and that he is still good – regardless of the events of the day. If something really miraculous happens, it doesn’t mean that he loves me more than he loves the person whose prayer wasn’t answered the way they wished.

It’s a funny thing to doubt and believe at the same time, but that’s pretty much where I am… And, it’s taken me FOREVER to get as comfortable with that as I am. (Not to say that I’m totally okay with that…) But that’s where I stand.

 carrie chute2

I don’t totally get the whole thing. I can’t let go ‘cause it’s way down deep inside of me.- Carrie 

To read Carrie’s blog, click here. 

 

 

 

what is faith?

What is faith? I just had a high school kid message me telling me people were questioning his Christianity because he thought being gay was ok. I just had a woman whose husband has cancer think she couldn’t necessarily write a blog for me because she doubts some of the black and whites of her childhood faith. I had a good friend sit in my living room and tell me he isn’t a Christian. As I probed, he said he was down with Jesus, but didn’t think he could say he would move to Africa right now if Jesus asked him to. I asked him if Jesus was asking him to do that? He said “No, but shouldn’t I be able to say I would if He were?” My response was, “What if Jesus wasn’t asking you to move to Africa and change the world, what if He were merely asking you to go to work and love people?” He was stumped because people have drawn a picture of what it means to have faith, to be a Christian, and for him it meant that he has to be able to say “I will move to Africa for Jesus.” 

photo: Nathan Getzin

photo: Nathan Getzin

I can just imagine Jesus running into people as Jesus does- I can just see Him running into the woman at the well, the Rabbis on their way to the temple, the tax collectors and fishermen on the sea of Galilee and saying to all them, here is what it means to have faith. “First you must only have this kind of sex and secondly you must be willing to leave Jerusalem and go to Africa. Thirdly you must believe that eating seafood is bad and bacon is worse and One Hundred and fourthly you must…..”

Now this is not to say that Jesus doesn’t call people to live lives of purity, of love, and of sacrifice, but are the ways we define faith, faith?

We paint pictures of what faith is. Are they accurate?

What is faith? Is faith a list of things someone tells us to believe? Is faith agreeing to a specific doctrinal statement? Is faith what we believe, put into action?

Have I no faith if I don’t agree with how you live?  Have you no faith if you don’t agree with how I live? Are we making gay teenagers feel the love and pursuit they have for Christ aren’t real because their sexual feelings are? Can they have both and still have faith? Can they wrestle with one and not the other? Can they wrestle with both? How can they have an authentic pursuit and relationship with Christ if they have to hide one to find the other? Can a woman who is looking cancer square in the eyes not buy into everything she has been told and still have faith? Can we doubt and still have faith? Isn’t doubt the very essence of why it is called faith? I have a million questions and isn’t ok to be a person of faith and still have questions?

Hebrews 11:1 describes what faith is.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

photo: Nathan Getzin

photo: Nathan Getzin

Does it say faith is confidence in a list of rules to live by and assurance in what others say is true? Does it say faith is confidence in what we have no doubts about and assurance of what we can see? No.

Faith is being confident in what we hope for. What do you hope for? Do you hope God is good? Do you hope He is a Rescuer for you when you need rescuing and a Rescuer for a world in need of rescue? Do you hope He is forgiving for all your flub ups? Do you hope He is sovereign over all things that seem out of control? Do you hope He is truth and that when everything seems wishy washy, He will guide us all north? Do you hope that God loves people with such an intense love that HE would be willing to do anything for them?

This then is faith. It is being sure of what you hope for even if you don’t see it.  Ok, so when you drive to chemo treatments and you don’t see the rescue, do you still hold out hope for it in the end, the very end? Then you have faith. So when you feel dirty and awful because you keep doing the very thing you know you ought not to, do you hope that God’s forgiveness for you is bigger than your own forgiveness? Then you have faith. Do you look at other people and think they are such schmucks and you can barely handle their humanity and then you remember God can… and that brings you hope? This then is faith. Do you look at the cross and sometimes it seem crazy, ridiculous that this was God’s message to tell you how much He loves you and then you realize you love him back? This then is faith.

Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Why are we making it so many other things?

Perhaps the most important question is not what is faith, but Who do you put your faith in?

I do not put my faith in rules. I do not put my faith in my sexuality. I do not put my faith in my government. I do not put my faith in my body or my money or my friends or my church attendance. I put my faith in Him who is my Rescuer, Him who loves me with a sacrificial love that cannot be comprehended, in Him who is above all things, in Him who holds all things together, in Him who spans all realms and lasts forever. My faith is Jesus Christ, all things aside. All things, aside, in Jesus Christ is my faith. I am confident in hoping on and in Him and certain that even on the days I don’t see Him, He is here with me, however and whoever, I may be.

Let’s keep asking questions. That’s faith.

Seeing what God is doing and naming it

collidemissionThere is this crazy thing that happens when you get to stand on the sidelines and watch God do something. And I think everyone on the Collide team would say that is just what we get to do. This past week we tried to put in words what God is doing through Collide in one sentence. I think seeing what God is doing and naming it is an exercise we should all do. These pictures encapsulate that exercise. There was laughter, gratitude and words that we hung onto- words like journey, authenticity, brokenness, and transformation. We continue to be amazed at how God collides with people of all places in their journey and forever changes them. We will keep you posted on our one sentence as it is birthed:)

 

the one broken bumper car in the middle of the arena: by Bethany Flint

As I have gotten to know Bethany I have just found her to be so lovable. She is insightful, kind and full of joy. I think you will enjoy her thoughts on colliding with Jesus as much as I have. -Willow

bethany flint

Hey, let’s just run into each other!”, my older son exclaimed to his little brother. I have to say, I never said that to any of my friends as we played together growing up. Add that to the list of things I never heard until I became a boy mom.

The crazy thing is that my boys crash into each other not to deliberately hurt each other (for once). They’re giggling and rolling and throwing their heads back and cackling. They do it on purpose. They love colliding. They love each other. They collide with each other because they love each other. The love is in the collision itself.

Ever since Willow and the Collide team have invited a room full of women to collide with Jesus, I can’t stop thinking about how we impact one another (positively and negatively, sometimes purposefully, but mostly inadvertently) and how Jesus collided with Bible-people and now-people.

When I was about ten, my mom was in a collision. A dad with too many kids in the back seat for seat belts, who was looking for work painting houses, ran a stop sign and hit my mom’s car. It was a typical dry Texas November with tan grass and leafless trees. This collision showed me a new definition of love, however, as a few weeks later, my mom and I drove an hour to take that family a full Thanksgiving meal, complete with Christmas presents for the kids. I’m still amazed at how she chose to turn that collision into love for that family. She showed me that a collision with Jesus doesn’t slow to a stop before his love impacts another.

fairride

Twenty years later, my sweet three-year-old niece and my mom were both diagnosed with cancer a few months apart. I remember kneeling before my toilet, laying on the closed lid, and crying on the purple fuzzy cover, absolutely furious with God. Of all the people in this world to receive ‘the sentence,’ why these two precious loves? In this case, my crash with God looked more like me pounding on his chest in anger. He lovingly absorbed my blows, showing me that he’s big enough to handle my questions, doubts, fears, anger. He loved me enough not to ignore me. He loved me enough not to chastise me. He loved me enough to let me collide into him. I was coming at him in anger. He was absorbing my impact in love. There was still love within that collision.

I’ve been struck lately by a group of friends who sought out Jesus. They had heard about Jesus and knew he could heal their friend’s useless legs. As Jesus was teaching in a home, the friends didn’t let a crowded house stop them from getting to Jesus. No problem, guys. Let’s just climb up to the roof and RIP IT OFF. Are you crazy? Maybe. So come on, let’s crash the party. Seriously? How desperate do you have to be to destroy someone’s home for a shot at healing for your buddy? But these guys do it! I don’t know whose crazy hairbrained idea it was–the lame guy himself or one of his apparently very loyal friends–but somebody knew enough about Jesus to get this guy to him at any cost. Talk about a collision–they were about to crash down on Jesus’ head!

bumper

What gets me just as much as ripping a hole in an ever-loving ceiling is that Jesus is completely fine with it. Not only is he fine, but says, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” What do faulty legs have to do with a sinful heart? Something that I noticed this time was that Jesus tells the friends that he healed the man not because of the man’s faith, but because of the friends’ faith. This encourages me. I used to pray for people but be discouraged when they didn’t see God working in their lives. This shows me that God will work in others’ lives on behalf of those who pray for them. Love was in that collision for all involved.

Then, rather than explaining why this guy has lame legs, Jesus says to the religious know-it-alls in the room, “which is easier, to forgive that man or to tell him to get up and walk?” Hmm. Well, shouldn’t it be easier to just speak away someone’s dirty little secrets than make a mat-bound man’s legs suddenly work? Then I think about how seemingly easy it has been for Jesus up until this point to heal various people of all kinds of problems. He healed all kinds of people from all kinds of things. But forgiving sins? That required a bloody march up a hill carrying his own beams. That required a collision with death high up on a Roman torture instrument. Forgiveness of sins required the life-less coming back to life: in that present and for the always future.

What’s crazy to me is that Jesus heals the man both physically and spiritually. He forgave his sin and fixed his legs. He answered his “or” question with “and.” In love, the friends crashed their friend into Jesus. In love, Jesus returns the impact with whole healing. Love was in the collision.

broken bumper car

Sometimes I feel like the one broken bumper car in the middle of the arena, being crashed into by life. Illness. Boom. Finances. Crash. Relationships. Oof. I need to get on the roof and saw it open to reach Jesus. Turns out he’s been waiting. He wants me to crash into him. He meets me, us, you, with healing and forgiveness. The love is in the collision.

What will you be when you grow up?

If you asked me what I was going to be when I grew up, I would have had some cutesy answer about being a TV broadcaster or a Nordstrom buyer. Though, the requirement of speaking calmly in one tone of voice would have never been possible, and based on the wardrobe in my closet, I clearly never stood a chance at either of those career options. And, as I think about it, I probably answered this often ordinary and unhelpful question while wearing some floral, hippy dress that swayed freely over some ol’ patched jeans.

playin

My first and only book sent me to a young author’s conference in first grade. It was called Willow’s Whispers and it was bound by colored tape and aluminum foil. Classic. It included stories about unicorns and crashing planes in lily pads with frogs trying to save humans. This might tell you (and should tell me) that I should’ve stopped writing right then and there, underneath the guidance of Mrs. First Grade Teacher. But it didn’t and it hasn’t. Growing up under the wings of an activist, I remember practicing Martin Luther King speeches with passion and was moved by the idea that one’s voice proclaimed change for people. Yet, I spent years of my life hoping to something that paid a lot, hoping to be something that sounded cool, hoping to really make it. Decades later, I no longer care as much about what I will be when I grow up, nor do I care much about what you will be when you grow up. I care much more about who I will be when I grow up and so I ask that question instead: Who will you be when you grow up?

As I have journeyed through decades and hoped in things that fell through, worked for things that I lost hope in, declared a major I never used, worked random jobs and seen people put their identity in that thing they were gonna be when they grew up, I have seen something. I have seen God shaping, building, writing. And in that, He seems much more interested in who I am than what I do.  God seems much more opinionated about how I treat my employer than who actually writes my paycheck. He seems much more concerned with my heart than my title. God seems to prioritize my character above my career. This is not to somehow say, God could give a rip about what you choose to do with your life. God is a personal God and cares about our lives. And God can actually use your career to do amazing things in this world! But we spend soooooo much time worrying about we will do and much less time working out who we will be.

who will you

We even ingrain this in our kids by asking them this darn question and then making all their goals aimed toward this one thing they will do. This can create great disappointment in their future and most adults can resonate with that. It also creates a shallowness. So our son becomes the fireman he always wanted to be or our daughter, the doctor or the lawyer. But have we asked him or her who they want to be? Have we asked them as much about becoming people of loyalty, commitment, integrity, sacrifice, generosity, compassion and faith?

When they grow up, they will either be who they always wanted and still feel as though something is missing. Or they will be sadly disappointed that they didn’t cut it as a pro basketball player or scientist, and then what? Then who are they?  Both create a major identity crises. And many of us know this feeling all to well. Your identity, who you are made to be cannot rest in what you do. God taught me this through disappointment, failure and a nagging sense of not being enough. Who you are is not what you do. This is good news if you aren’t doing what you wanted and scary news if you are.

I might not be doing what I thought I would be doing, but I am so grateful to have landed in a place where who I am is so much more than what I do. What I do, is still whisper and yell and o.k., -shout. What I do is still write about silly things and real things and the need for rescue and my writing might only ever be covered in tinfoil. But I hold onto knowing that what I do, though, doesn’t determine who I am. Who I am can, though, determine what I do. 

aidanonlog

Who we are, is the story God is writing. Allow Him to be the Author that moves your pen. It is then that who and what you become when you grow up tell an amazing story!

 

Many are my plans, a snowpocalypse, Portlandia and the boss

I am currently in what some Portlandians are calling the snowpocalypse. It’s not really as bad as it sounds. But….I did just prep and write for speaking at a retreat in Cannon Beach, hopped a train and traveled from Washington into Oregon in the hopes of getting there. We traveled the tracks from a cold crisp day into a white flurry. As we got closer to Portland, I got word that the snow storm might indeed cancel the retreat. I could only laugh.

train

My friend Kate’s husband, Dave, picked my daughter and I up from the train station. As Bella and I walked into the old, cool downtown station looking for Dave, I couldn’t help but hear the words “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” The all too famous words from Proverbs 19:21.

arrival

I hugged Dave and belted out those words, as if to say, who knows what is in store this weekend and thanks for picking us up! Having no idea that I was about to hop in a 1990 Honda Accord that has nearly 300,000 miles and no seat belt. I prayed for my life as I watched Dave try to eek out of the train station into crazy traffic. because everybody and their brother was leaving work early to get home.

An hour later we had gone maybe 4 blocks. Portlandians, who I am jealous of, and want to be like, were frolicking in the snow, honking at each other losing their hipster patience, slipping and sliding, unable to climb hills, and yet still, there were those hardcore environmentalist, outdoorsy bikers acting as if that white stuff was No Big Thang.

During that ride home our windshield wipers decided to stop working due to ice chunks and Dave regularly had to get out and chip at them. We almost ran over a pit bull and a few cars came sliding toward us. We celebrated hitting 20 miles an hour since we averaging about 5.

5milesanhour

In all this, I looked back at Bella, who must have been utterly bored in a car for standstill traffic because apparently she had found my makeup bag and must have decided to try her hand at painting. Painting her face.

bellapainting

A few hours later we made it to the Ahl home. The cheery yellow paint welcomed us with open arms and so did the spaghetti and meatballs and the bacon wrapped asparagus. We soon forgot about the pending storm for a moment to be, enjoy, and find gratitude for what is good and here. Then the weather channels woke us back up into the anxiety, the panic, the drama of what could be nothing that they want to make everything. We waited, we wondered, will we have to cancel this retreat? We watched. Every so often I would see Kate open the door to get an idea of the current status outside. As if looking again five minutes later will tell us more. It is that often glance we all take out the window when it snows that we hope tells us something. We would look up at the lampposts and spot for falling snow. We would read every weather report to see the varying opinions.

I was starting to feel sick with a sore throat that felt like knives were cutting me furiously. It was like they were mad at me and what did I do? I went to bed early for a night of their angry reminders. I woke in the morning to a furnace that stopped working and a state that decided to close. This was the snowpacolypse. They were right. Portlandians are always right. The world is shutting down. The retreat is cancelled. And here I am sitting in a living room hundreds of miles from home, drinking emergen C while the kids go in and out to build snow men, make snow angels and have royal snowball fights.

playinginthesnow

Snow stops people. I think snow is God’s way of letting us all know that we aren’t in control. We don’t make the world revolve. We aren’t in charge. And all our work, all our efforts, all our plans, they are not the boss. God is the boss. God is in charge. God is the One in whose plans prevail.

And this, these words from Proverbs, they are good for us to remember. Sometimes we just go about life on autopilot. I’m gonna do this and then I’m gonna do that. I am going to this town and then that town. I am going to go to college and then work at Microsoft. I am going to get married to this guy after we date for this long. I am going to have a baby. I am going to go on this trip next spring break. I am going to take a train and go do X, Y or Z. We hold false power. We are duped to think that we have as much control as we act like we have. The snow really is God’s reminder. You can’t even make a furnace restart when it breaks down. You can’t even clear a highway to make a retreat happen. You can’t even protect yourself from an accident and with no seat belt, you are at My whim. You can’t even take away a sore throat.

willow-picture

This snow reminds me, what I will remind you, many are my plans and many are yours, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Always know that if our plans change, fall through or are scratched, God has a purpose. And His purpose is always better than any plan we could ever devise. As we travel life’s tracks we have to sit and wait, watch and listen as we live trusting in God’s purpose.

she wanted to make her cancer count

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She looked at me on the sidelines of our son’s football game. She had beautiful eyes and a heart even more stunning. She was missing her eyelashes. She wore a wig. In the midst of a conversation about her coming to speak at Collide, a woman’s ministry I had asked her to come and share her story at, she looked at me and said “I want to make my cancer count.”

I realized that day she watches football games differently than I do. She watched them like she wasn’t sure how many more she would get to watch. Just her presence pierced mine. It was the way she lived.

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I get her. She is my age. She is married to a faithful, good man. She has kids and loves them like crazy and probably wants to watch them grow old. A few years ago she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and it had spread into her breasts, lungs and even spine. When she was at the Cancer care hospital, apparently a woman decked out in Harley Davidson gear challenged her: We’re not dying from cancer, we’re living with it.'” Julia’s response?  “Could I lie in bed all day? Yes, but that’s not living with cancer, that’s dying from it.” This kind of attitude led Julia to start an organization in the midst of her fight called Team Julia that is helping fund a cure for cancer and helping other cancer patients pay their hospital bills.

She wanted to come to Collide and share the story that God was writing with her life, but she ended up feeling too ill to make it. Instead of replacing her spot with another story, we felt led to do something else. We paused and all 200 of us and wrote into her story. We wrote prayers. We shared scripture that instilled hope and faith. We shared our own stories of grief and pain and God in it’s midst. It was a beautiful moment. I drove up to her house to deliver those messages. She wasn’t home. All of her kids came to the door. And I handed them all of the cards and asked them to give them to their mom. Days later, after reading these words of faith, hope and love from other women, Julia said they truly blessed her.

write into anotehrs story

I can’t help but think about that today.

She said goodbye to her children and her husband yesterday. I grieve for her. I grieve for them. No mom should ever have to say goodbye to her kids. In the midst of grief, all those who knew her can say without a shadow of doubt she truly made her cancer count. She used her pain and suffering for Glory. I am in awe of how she chose to live and die. May her heart, love, fight, strength and hope live on and continue showing God’s love to those who find themselves like her on the sidelines watching the game differently, because they know it doesn’t last forever.

Today if you want to help make her cancer count for those that are fighting the nasty painful fight, please check out Team Julia and give generously to a cause that is truly blessing people who need hope and help. https://www.teamjulia.org/

May God meet you on the sidelines and may you always hold present, that this, right now, is all you know you can play. You have today, make it count.

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