To Be the Church…is to Move

to be the church is to be on the move
to be the church is to be willing and available
to be the church is to care for the people on the fringes
to be the church is to go
to be the church is to care deeply for others, all others
to be the church is to love
to be the church is to give of ourselves
we are not called to a holy huddle
we are not called to the status quo
we are not called to stop, stay, and hide
we are not called to think of ourselves first and mostly
we are not called to save ourselves, our stuff, our preferences
we are not called to build up around us
we are not called to keep a tight hold of this thing called the gospel
to be the church is to move, one and the same
the people of God have always been called to move
the people of God have always done hard, extraordinary things
the people of God have always been the unlikely ones
the people of God have always been pushed to the uncomfortable
the people of God have always had questions
the people of God have always had to learn dependence on God
the people of God have always found the risk outweighs comfort
because God alone is worthy of our lives
because God compels us follow him to purpose and meaning
because somehow God lets us see
because somehow God speaks and prompts and whispers
because somehow God changes and transforms our hearts
because somehow God leads us in the unknown, unfamiliar places
because somehow God gives us peace in the middle of this world
we can’t help it
once we truly discover, behold, and know in our bones the goodness of God we will move
we are the church and we will move
it’s who we are
it’s who God is

I can sleep (Reflections on Mark 4)

I wrote this a little while back. I didn’t feel comfortable posting it. The language felt too simplistic. Writing in this form feels more vulnerable. I wasn’t sure if this was just for me or whether it was meant for others. But since the time I wrote it down, it has come to me over and over as I see God working here and there. I see God doing things around me and in me I know I didn’t do. God works as we sleep and rest and trust. These words came when I saw connections between several stories in Mark chapter 4 of the Bible.

I can sleep.
I will grow.
I can sleep.
Storms will rage.
I can sleep.
Results will multiply.
What am I listening to?
God, tell me the secrets of your kingdom.
I can sleep.
Small seeds will grow.
I can sleep.
God will rise.
I can sleep.
I will wonder how.
I can sleep.
The kingdom will expand.
Can I hear?
God, tell me how you work.
I can sleep.
Fear can go.
I can sleep.
God will speak.
I can sleep.
Faith can rise.
Please, God let my faith arise.

Others, like the seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop -thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.
Mark 4:20

Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.
Mark 4:27

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
Mark 4:40

Stories from the Holy Land: My American Ignorance

How do I begin to tell stories from the Holy Land? I visited places and listened to people for 8 days straight. It was jam packed. Full of amazing places. Lovely people. Commercialized places. Brave people. Battered places. Hopeful people. Divided places. Restorative people.

Where do I start? How do I begin to explain the complexity that exists in Israel-Palestine, when I do not understand it all myself? Yet I have a determined yearning to communicate what I can to whom I can. I am compelled–heart beating out of my chest compelled–to be a peacemaker in some way, shape, or form from my little suburban corner of the world.

Garden of Gethsemane

During our last pow-wow as a team our guide, Todd, encouraged us to tell our own story when we returned to America. It is my desire to tell my story as I engage the stories of the land I walked and the people I met.

Let me begin with the basic foundation of ignorance I lived with all my life about the Middle East, specifically about Palestine. In later posts, I’ll describe the misunderstandings I had about Israel, but this blog focuses on my ignorance about Palestine, also called the Occupied Palestinian Territories. On the second day of our trip, I turned to a friend and said, “I feel like I’ve been duped!”

Whether it was intentional or not I don’t know, but growing up in the 70s and 80s, I never heard a single positive thing about Palestine. Whenever I heard the word Palestine or Palestinian, or saw the Palestinian flag even, it incited fear in me. I saw “them” as being violent and hateful of America. The only memories of exposure to Palestinians, not many, are flashes of violence and anger across the television screen. Those images, chosen by the media powers-to-be, fostered fear in my heart.

After a while I did not think of Israel or Palestine at all. As a pretty typical, in love, college-aged American in the 90s I thought of myself first and foremost. In the years following college, as a newly married transplant to Ohio, I again focused on what was in front of me. I was too busy, navigating my new adult married life in a new state, to think about world affairs very often.

But God opened my eyes in a fresh way to my need for his amazing grace as God revealed how truly depraved, selfish and prideful I was. But his love didn’t change for me, it was wide and expansive. It wrapped me up, as is. Thereby, my heart grew in capacity for others as I experienced the depth of his love. I began to look at the world with fresh eyes–a world he loved, a world he longs to restore. Justice and peace began to beat in my heart. He has been awakening me to oppression and disadvantage in our country and in the world ever since. I just as easily could have been born into poverty or with a different skin color or in a different geographic region, completely changing my life experience. I am just beginning to see my privilege more clearly.

When I was in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories I heard a wide variety of perspectives. Here is a snapshot of some of the Palestinian perspectives I heard.

I listened to an Arab Palestinian Israeli Christian women in Nazareth speak of her job creating biblical resources to empower and strengthen others. I heard an Arab Palestinian Christian women in the West Bank tell of her family’s struggle to keep possession of the land they have legally owned for 100 years. Over speaker phone, a young Palestinian woman in Gaza spoke of her struggle to get permission to leave the Gaza Strip to attend the university she had been accepted to attend. An Arab Palestinian Christian professor in Bethlehem taught me about the stages of reconciliation and the organization he founded that brings Israelis and Palestinians together to get to know each other. In Haifa, in northern Israel, an Arab Palestinian Israeli Christian man shared of his family’s ministry to prisoners, in which they seek to provide a welcoming place of healing and restoration.


Farm in the West Bank

Gaza Strip in the distance


Ministry in Haifa

These stories of love and life now sit next to the TV pictures of violence and death in my mind. There was and there is violence, yes. But more so, there is life and restoration. There are so many Palestinians who live good, peaceful lives. They want the same things Americans want–life, family, peace, work, stability, simple things really. Such hope fills my heart as I think of these brave, enduring warriors on the front lines of reconciliation and restoration. Now I have a new, complex paradigm of nationality, religion, and ethnicity from which to think of and pray for Palestinians, some living in Israel, some living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and some living in nearby countries as refugees, still. I was in shock as I attempted to absorb the story of a young Palestinian man who has lived in a refugee camp in Bethlehem for his entire life.

Aida refugee camp

This is my first lesson and gift from the Holy Land: who the Palestinian people are is wider, more diverse and more hospitable than I could ever imagine. I am floored that I had a front row seat to see the beauty and complexity of the Palestinian people. Most Palestinians are Arab; many of them are Muslims, while some are Christians. Some Palestinians live in Israel and are Israeli citizens. Others live in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank (also called the Occupied Palestinian Territories), or in surrounding countries.

What people group do you think you know? What group of people is wider and more diverse than you know?

What ignorance do you carry, whether about people groups in America or abroad? What questions could you begin to ask to fight this ignorance? Is there someone’s story and perspective you are willing to sit down and listen to?

This is only the beginning of the unraveling of me, the unraveling of my ignorance, and the unraveling of the beauty I experienced there. I will continue to tell the stories that gripped and changed me while in the Holy Land. There will be stories from both the religious Jewish perspective and the secular Jewish perspective. I will look at Zionism and the birth of Israel as a modern nation state. I will get into more detail on certain Palestinian perspectives. I will tell my personal stories as I encountered Jesus there. I will attempt to convey the bravery and power of the women I met who live on the Israeli Gaza border.

It is absolutely crazy how much I learned in eight days. It is going to take me a while to blog about it all!



Remembering revival and the Mount of Olives

As Easter approaches my mind takes me back to the Holy Land. When I stood on the Mount of Olives in September of 2016 I was overcome as I imagined Jesus right there. On his way for me. On his way to his death, he was here. For me. For you, too. I felt close to him as I walked down the Mount of Olives. I remembered his love for me which compelled him to keep going. Flooded with emotion I took each step deliberately soaking up every minute. My eyes absorbed all they could, the bright blue sky, the trees with thorns, like the ones used to make his “crown,” the warmth of the sun, the view of the old city of Jerusalem. I imagined Jesus’ thoughts and steps. Scenes from the gospels flashed on the screen of my mind.

I didn’t always have this intimate connection with Jesus but ever since I was a little girl I did believe in God. I can’t explain why. I just did. God was real to me. I feel like I have always believed in God’s existence.

As I have gotten older I have experienced strong doubt from time to time about the whole thing, really. I have wondered, “What if there is nothing after I die? What if it is nothing? What if once I die, I am gone forever? Then, this is it. Nothing more.” Doubt can be an unsettling, scary thing.

But I always come back to belief. My faith persists not because I can prove every bit of it. It does not persist because it is an academic pursuit for me. It does not persist because I can see with my eyes God’s physical form. My faith persists because Jesus’ love and suffering persuade me.

It persists through my doubt and suffering and questions because I have experienced relationship with a God who loves me and suffered for me. First I believed because of an internal, irresistible draw. Then I came to believe the facts and the doctrine about Christianity, the Church and Jesus, even though I didn’t understand it all. But further down my faith journey, Jesus became alive to me. Jesus was no longer a fact, Jesus became the love of my life, the one who came for the world and for me-for me, exactly as I was, mess and all.

One of the catalysts was reading and meditating on the Bible. Particularly, it was a slow reading of the book of John along with conversations with a small group of women. We spent about a year doing it. Jesus lit up the pages of my Bible that year. God becomes visible on earth through Jesus.

At the beginning of this process, Jesus’ words struck me. I will not forget.  Jesus asked two people who were following him,

“What do you want?” 

Jesus’ question transcended that historical moment and cut straight to my heart in 2004. It was as if Jesus was asking me,

“What do you want, Jen?”

Really, Jesus, you want to know what I want?

Weird, I always thought I was the only one to ask questions. God, Jesus, God in the form of a man, wants to know what I want. I couldn’t get over it.

Then the two asked Jesus where he was staying and Jesus said to them,

“Come and you will see.” 

Again, straight to my heart,

“Come and see, Jen. Come and see. You are welcome on this journey to discover me. I want you to get to know me, personally, intimately. You. Yes, you.”

This God asks questions and gives invitations. I was invited. Not to religion. Not to a strict set of rules. Not to a standard I had already blown. But to him, to Jesus himself. This began a revival awakening everything within me. And this is the spark I need everyday if I am to live awake and in faith. What are his questions for me today? What is his invitation right now?

After years of questions and invitations from Jesus, I walked down the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem where he walked, wrestled, and cried. This was the way to the cross which makes it possible for such closeness. I couldn’t get over it. I still am not over it. May I never get over his questions, his invitations, and his steps of descent to his death. Remembering what fueled his obedience persuades me ever still.

“When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him.                           John 1:36-39

What laying on the ground in the middle of the forest showed me

My muscles began to fully relax. I was laying on the ground in the middle of the forest in the cold. I breathed in, the smell of dirt and pine filled my nostrils.

Oh, I haven’t fully been resting in you, God.

I didn’t realize it until then. Fully trusting, fully resting is different than partially trusting and partially resting. Fullness is what calls our name. The fullness. I chose to surrender and offer myself fully to the fullness of God in that moment. I had a choice, I could surrender and rest or not.

Sometimes life moves on in such a way we forget where we’ve been. Learning and transformation have taken place but we forget. Sometimes we can’t articulate how it has happened. I know I’ve changed: from stuck in guilt to learning to move about in freedom, from drowning in insecurity to learning to cling to God’s unconditional love, from anxious in comparison to learning to accept who I am, from bound in selfishness to learning to give love away.

It is all about what God has done.  Anyone who has walked with God in an authentic way will tell you how much he has done. We marvel at the God who pierces through human stubbornness, pride and self-hatred. Jesus meets us in our weakness and emptiness. His power causes what is to become something totally new and different. It is hard to believe, but it is true. I wouldn’t believe it, except I have experienced it.

Today the choices I made along the way are striking me. Granted, out of desperation,  exasperation, and hopelessness, but I did make choices. I cried out. I looked for God, pressed into him, moved away and pressed in again.

In the middle of the night with a newborn, crying like a baby myself, I asked God for help because I was so tired. After time with a group of people feeling insecure, I asked God to show me what was going on, ready for the ugly truth. Before I went to bed at night, I laid on my face on the upstairs hallway floor and begged God to capture my kids’ hearts and guide and protect them. In the evenings, I furiously flipped through the pages of my Bible to discover everything I could about Jesus. During my days, when I could grab a moment amidst little kids, I scribbled phrases, definitions, pictures in my journal to process my heart and God’s word. At night, I put worshipful, truth-filled songs on repeat as I went to sleep. When there was tension between what God said and what happened in real life, I questioned Him about anything and everything.

There is the unexplainable working of God in our hearts and minds and lives. And there is our furious seeking of Him and His ways. This is the mysterious combination of what He does and what we do.

Look for God, he can be found. Offer yourself to God, he will show up. Choose God’s fullness, it can not be matched. Breathe in God’s presence, he will give rest to your weary bones. Lay on the forest floor, face to the ground. Offer yourself to the God who is above it all, wait to see what he does.

“He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed-the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.”            Romans 4:17 (NIV)

“Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time–remember, you’ve been raised from the dead!–into God’s ways of doing things.”                                    Romans 6:13 (Message)


Where are we going women of Willow Crystal Lake?

I have been leading the women’s ministry at Willow Creek Community Church, Crystal Lake campus for 7 months now. We created a Women’s Ministry Leadership team and have been working on mission, target, values, and now vision. I recently had “a moment” during one of our meetings. For now, I won’t go into why I had the “moment” or what the exact details of the “moment” were. Suffice it to say, it was unsettling and caused me to question again,

“What am I doing here? Why are we doing this? Where are we going? Is this the right direction?”

As I lay in bed after the meeting trying to go to sleep that particular night, God gave me these words to describe some of my hopes for us, as women of Willow Crystal Lake~

Gospel women
Intimate-with-Jesus women
Changed women
Women who feed on Jesus’ words
Women who would open up that chair in a split second
Women who are willing to go deep with each other
Women who are not afraid of deep and uncomfortable
Women who know it’s ok not to know
Women who make other women feel safe
Women who are ok with the mess
Women who are willing to be inconvenienced
Women who are going out to the margins
Women who want more for their lives, their kids or their families than to be safe, to do the American thing
Women who depend on the grace of God like nobody’s business
Women who know their standing with a holy, loving God
Women who say yes to the things of God
Women who give their lives away
Women who take care of themselves
Women who cheer each other on
Women who share their story
Women who welcome others in
Women who are marked with the imprint of Jesus
Women who are compelled to go

I needed this reminder of the “grander vision.” We are still in process of crafting the mission, target, values, and vision for the Women’s Ministry at Willow Crystal Lake. But one thing is sure, we are on our way.

Have you ever found true freedom? (and my first give-away)

Are you locked up, stuck, or chained to a certain way of thinking or behaving? Do you want out? Do you feel trapped by your circumstances? Are you bound to fear, anger, unhappiness or some other culprit? Do you long to live in freedom but don’t know how to get there? Can you say you have found true freedom?

I stood at my kitchen sink, looked out the window to the driveway and cried. I tried to breathe. I tried to “get it together.” I couldn’t muster up the patience, endurance and wisdom I needed to get through my days with 4 young kids. I felt trapped. I felt weak. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t be the mom I dreamed of being before I became a mom. Not in totality anyway. Sure there were moments. Moments I soaked up my children’s cuteness. Moments I responded with the right words to discipline or guide my kiddos. But the strength of which the hard times hit took me down, down to screaming and tantrums, my screaming and my tantrums. Did I just throw a book at the wall? How could I have spoken to my 5 year like that? Is this who I am? How did I get here? God, please let the good outweigh the bad.

I believe parenting can bring out the worst and the best in us. And when the worst shows itself, it brings us to our knees. I was brought to my knees, to my literal knees.

But where I ended up was in the free, spacious place of God’s love and presence. It didn’t happen in a split, glorious second. It was given and discovered over years. Freedom was found by me. It tasted like a bite of fresh fruit when your mouth is dry, like cool water on a hot day.

Louie Giglio’s voice quoting Romans 8:1-2,

“there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death,”

was on repeat in those days. Passion, a movement and a conference for college-aged students founded by Louie and Shelley Giglio began creating CD’s of recordings from their live gatherings. God used the song, You Are My King, off Passion: One Day Live to penetrate my heart with the truth that “if the Son has set you free then you are free indeed.” (John 8:36) The song repeats this over and over. I repeated it over and over. Sometimes we need to repeat something over and over. Crying it out, turning it over in our minds and hearts.

Could this actually be true? If it is, God, I want it.

But I don’t know how to get there. I don’t know how to live there.

To be free, yes Lord, I want it.

This may be the strongest evidence in my life which points me to the existence and power of a creator, a God who loves me and is over all and in all. This freedom experience that began on my knees as a tired mama to four littles. I can’t deny how God has set me free.

Free from the condemnation my actions created. Free from the yo-yo effect of the self-worth roller coaster. Free from the pressure of thinking that I need to be a perfect mom. Free from the shame from my failures. Free from the guilt that is mine. Free from comparing my mama style to others. Free from the responsibility of saving my kids.

Free to pray and ask God to do what I can not do, in my heart, mind, and soul and in my kids’ hearts, minds, and souls.

At this point in my life I have been awakened to different bondage, different chains. God has been working to keep me free. God used Rebekah Lyons’ last book, Freefall to Fly, a couple of years ago to assure me I was not alone in the struggles I faced after moving and having two more unexpected kids. Yes, that is numbers 5 and 6 for those of you who do not know me. Twin boys came crashing into our lives 2 and 1/2 weeks after moving to a new state 6 and 1/2 years ago.

When I found out her new book was getting ready to release and she wanted people to join her launch team to help get the word out, I knew I was supposed to join. Through You Are Free: Be Who You Already Are Rebekah is a companion on the path to freedom. She lets us in on her own struggle and discovery. She asks good, penetrating questions. This could be your starting line to freedom. Or it could be a continuation for those God has begun this freedom work. And for others, this is a needed refresher which leads to the crisp, invigorating waters of deeper freedom.

Probably my favorite chapter is Free to Confess in which Rebekah concludes, “Confession, whether it be a confession of repentance or a declaration of truth, begets freedom. There is no shortcut or strategy. This is how we run free.” This chapter helped reveal some lies gaining strength creating distance with God and my husband. This lie threatened to keep me from moving closer to where I believe God wants me to go.

I especially think this book would be great for a small group of friends to read together and discuss using the questions at the end of each chapter.

I would love to give a copy of You Are Free away. Leave a comment and I will randomly draw a winner! You can leave a comment on WordPress, FB, Instagram, or Twitter.

“Jesus’ love will hunt you down until you land on your knees. It knows no bounds; it cannot stop, in spite of all our kicking and screaming. It will lift your head and cradle your heart. It will remind you who you were before all the running. His love will bring you back to life. Jesus set you free to receive his love, and you are free to love others with the same ferocity. Walk in that freedom.”            -Rebekah Lyons



She walked onto stage, tall with grey hair, a calm presence you could feel right off the bat. I began to cry. It startled me, the emotion. People who know me think, “What? Of course, emotion from you.” I could have sobbed louder, but I was in a room with about 100 other women, the group of women who gathered for our IF:local. To find out more about IF:Gathering visit

Why did this hit me? What was it? An older woman taking the stage to speak, to teach brought a mixture of grief and hope. Since moving to Crystal Lake I have missed my older mentors from Ohio. When we first moved to Akron, we were straight out of college. We were the youngest on staff at the church. There was a plethora of older woman surrounding me. I was 21. Funny to think back now. In some ways it feels like yesterday, other ways like an eternity. God has used women steps ahead of me to show me himself, to guide me closer to him. I took their lives in. I learned to follow Jesus myself by watching them. Some I tried to emulate. Some, I decided, no, that style is not me, or that opinion, I disagree with. A few, I thought, I want to be just like them. Their love for Jesus, their genuineness, their passion is what I want. I asked questions. I paid attention. I challenged. I pursued.

Today I am 44. Wow, there is something about writing it down. Striking. I am on the other side. Now if you are 20 years ahead of me, you’re thinking, “you’re young still!” I understand. But I am on the other side. It feels strange. However there is something so freeing about becoming this age. Certain things are settled now. I do not fret over some of the little things I used to 20 years ago. I do know who I am in a deeper way now. But life and circumstances have a way of pressing in a little more now. Kids get older, issues feel weightier. Time feels so much more of the essence. Time is ticking away. More than ever before I want my life to be spent well. More than ever I want to do the most important things, not what culture says is important, but important as it relates to eternity.

As God has developed me over the years, my desires have morphed into something closer to his. I think more of people than things. (Not always!) I consider oppressed and vulnerable people more than I ever have. I want to meet needs. I want people to know how good God is. I want people to experience transformation from the inside out and know the Spirit who brings about such change. New desires awaken. I think of new things I want to be.

But I look back. I have been a stay-at-home mom for almost 19 years. I do not have certain experiences. I do not have certain degrees. I look ahead and feel limited by my choices. I am not sure I have what I need to go where I dream of going.

We listen on the edge of our seats as the speaker, Jill Briscoe, speaks of bombs falling when she was 6 in war time Britain and C.S. Lewis’ words on the radio when she was a young adult. We try to imagine what life was like back then. The details are so different from life today but the search for God transcends time, country, and culture. We relate to her as human, as a woman looking for answers, looking for hope. We find ourselves saying yes in the deepest places of our hearts as she gives us a peek into her fears, her resistance, and finally her surrender. My heart and mind resonates with hers. I was enjoying the history, the wisdom, and the stories.

Then, all of sudden God pierced my heart. It was somewhat of an aside for her.

“everything that has made you, you, the color of your skin, your skills, whether discovered and used and honed or raw, everything that you, when you get to my age, I’m in my eighties, you’ll look back on your life and say, God has used every single one of them, if, of course, you’ve given Him permission, if you’ve said yes.”

Straight through those words, like a dart, flying through the air to the target of truth.

“I thought I missed something.”

I quickly and deliberately scribbled it down in my notebook. I can not forget this.

“I didn’t.”

God to me,

“You didn’t. You didn’t miss it.”

Sometimes the truth hits like a ton of bricks, bowling you over til you are flat on the ground in the very best way. Truth setting me free from lies. Freedom rushing into my mind and heart. No condemnation. God comes to our ailing minds and hearts and breathes reassurance of his faithfulness over us.

I did not miss whatever I need to be able to do whatever it is He wants me to do with the rest of my life. He made sure of it. He will take every piece and use it. Everything.

I say yes, again. Everything, God, everything is yours. You take care of everything.

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men and women, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men and women would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.'” Acts 17:24-28

Create your own Psalm 136 as you begin the year, I’ll go first

As many of you know, my best thinking usually occurs on the trail, just God and I, among the trees. It is harder again now with the snow, ice, and mud but I have come to love the unpredictability of the ground as I run. It’s weird, I know. Not so much with life circumstances though. I do not have a natural fondness for uncertainty in my days. I want to see how things will work out. But I can not see everything right now. Uncertainty threatens.

God gently reminded. This is what faith is all about. Faith comes in when there is a gap, a gap between the reality of today and what could be or will be in the future. All of a sudden, I remembered some scripture and a little exercise Jeanine Larson led a group of us through many years ago. I learned much from Jeanine as I watched her love and follow Jesus. She asked us to use Psalm 136 as a template. We were to remember what God had done in our lives and write it out in between the lines “his love endures forever” which repeats over and over in the Psalm.

Remembering what God has done in our lives is like the fence I used to steady me on part of the trail filled with ice today. It is a safeguard which gives us strength to keep moving even when it is hard. Remembering builds our faith when we are in the midst of the next thing where we need God to show up.

Here is my own Psalm 136 for today. I challenge you to do it yourself with your own story as a way to begin the new year.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of gods.

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords.

His love endures forever.

to him who alone does great wonders.

His love endures forever.

who delivered me from roller-coaster self-worth.

His love endures forever.

who made me see how I could read, study, and understand the Bible myself. (empowered by the Holy Spirit)

His love endures forever.

who provided for our family through many lean years.

His love endures forever.

who used 813 Weber to show me I don’t need a perfect or new house to be satisfied.

His love endures forever.

who delivered me from shame and despise.

His love endures forever.

to him who has given us too much.

His love endures forever.

to him who has brought me into an identity wilderness and out again.

His love endures forever.

to him who has given me incredible opportunities beyond my imagination.

His love endures forever.

to him who gave my marriage the TLC it needed.

His love endures forever.

to the One who will see us through this next thing.

His love endures forever.

to the One who has given me burning passion and desire for people to know him deeply.

His love endures forever.

to the One who will show me the way yet again this year.

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of heaven.

His love endures forever.

I am truly thankful for a God who is steady when I am not. Here’s to him and his love showing up in 2017.



Who am I?

On the second night in Jericho when I laid down to go to sleep I thought, “What is happening to me, here?” There is a stirring, a movement on a personal level, one I am just beginning to identify, one with many layers. We are encouraged over and over, “be here, be present, listen, learn.” We are on pilgrimage. But it is not my own mindfulness which deeply beckons and awakens me here, it is God’s mindfulness.

We started out in Jericho, the oldest town in the world. It sits right near the Dead Sea which contains so much salt you float easily and if you get water in your eyes it is an injury. In Jericho, the place in which Joshua led the Israelites into the promised land, the place in which Moses was not allowed to go, we climbed a mount where it is believed Satan tempted Jesus. I imagined it and was overwhelmed. Jesus. Tempted. Just like me. Here, love compelling him. And I am here, how is this possible? Who am I?

We scanned the horizon. Current-day Mt. Nebo sits in Jordan, just on the other side of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. “Moses stood right over there, on that very mount,” someone said. Moses, the one who said, if you are not with us God, I don’t want to go. I’ve prayed this prayer over my own life. Moses who, once I got to know him better, was not this faultless hero I once thought him to be but human and flawed like me. God used Moses and he wants to use me and you in his redemption story. Who am I?

One of our teammates reminded us of part of the story of Joshua on this mount. I was overcome, remembering. I was reminded of who I was. My heart and mind filled with courage as I thought about who God wants me to become. I remembered the first time God showed me how sometimes we need to take the first step into the river. The grace of it all bowled me over. I remembered back to when my faith became completely integral to my life, no longer a side story but the story. The story of God pursuing humanity and yet my very own story.

For years of my life, my security and good feelings when up and down with my behavior. Shame was the barometer. Shame was the thermometer, an arrow pointed at myself or others. But once God began to show me in my core it is not about being right all the time, it is not about living up to this certain standard it changed me. God chipped away at some of my distortions. Grace grabbed my heart in new ways and I began to cry out “who am I, God? Who am I that you would love me, save me, chase after me, call me yours?” It changed my identity. As I stood in the physical place of this personally transformative story, it took my breath away. This story, this narrative I actually believe is true. It caused my heart and soul to cry out again, “Why me, Lord? Who am I?” As it says in the Psalms, who am I that you are mindful of me?

And here’s the thing. I believe this is true for every human. God is mindful of you and me, each of us. God is mindful. How can this be? Creator, sustainer of life is mindful of me. What?

This place does it to you. It makes you feel small and beloved in one fail swoop.


Who are we, God? Who are we that you would consider us? We, the broken. We, the prideful. We, the slashers of others. We, the liars. We, the wounded. We, the twisted. We, the ones who can’t stay awake for a little while.

You are mindful. You weep over us. You yearn for us.

I saw it in you, Jesus. I felt it as I walked down the Mount of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane. You stopped in that place, you cried out, while the disciples fell asleep. You got up and kept going through the garden for us. You said yes to aloneness for us. We, who are fragile and alone, this is who you are mindful of. How can this possibly be true?


This place begs me to remember, begs me not to give up. This place. Who are we? Who am I?