Why I Still Go To Church

Ah yes. Hear that collective groan?  “To church, or not to church,”  that is the question among believers. Many of us are sick and tired of the way churches have become bloated institutions driven by the agendas of a handful of people. Many of us have been seriously wounded, neglected and rejected. Many of us, old and young alike, remark, “I just don’t see the point.”

I do not deny these stark accusations. And yet, I still go to church. Here’s why.


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Wait Training

When I first saw these berries, I remarked to the Lord that they are like many Christians I know. So much potential and yet frozen over. Two days later, I couldn’t stop thinking about this photo.  Then the Lord dropped his interpretation and (surprise!)  it was very different from mine.  He simply said, “The wait of glory.”

It’s not a spelling error. The wait of glory.

As I mull on this notion, my spiritual synapses ignite like firecrackers. Wait on God. Wait on glory. Believe in His glory. In me? Ah yes, the scripture, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” But hope?  What am I hoping in? No, who am I hoping in? He is our hope. Dan-n-n-ng.


Whether we like it or not, there is a “waiting” in the life with Jesus. And it is holy ground. How will we respond?

Think of Moses as he took off his shoes.  Why did God ask him do that? Continue reading

Pesto: A Lesson on Jesus and Gratitude

I’ve heard a lot of people bad-mouthing God lately. Mean stuff.  Accusing Him of wrong doing, of abandoning people, of being cruel and unjust. And while I know their petty insults don’t put a dent in His endless joy, it aggravates me. A lot.

I rant to God myself but I don’t blame Him for my stupidity or the stupidity of others. In fact, Jesus is my best and brightest hope. So why isolate from the only One who heals, loves to help, and changes circumstances?   As I was mumbling to God about these mumblers, He gave me a crazy picture that put things in perspective for us all.

My friend Kate makes the best pesto in the world. The bowls magically empty every time I serve it. Even when it is not served, people request it. “So you got any more of Kate’s pesto?” they ask, already knowing I do. It would be near criminal to refuse them. It’s that good.

It all started with Kate’s crazy basil plant that she ignored and it produced abundantly, out of control. That is another blog post altogether, but she decided to make pesto with her abundant plant and then realized that her quantities of pesto were also abundant. Enter me, the willing pesto junkie, happy to take any extras she may have.

She recently asked me if I wanted last year’s leftovers to make room for this year’s batch. I took it all.  Without guilt or hesitation. All.  And yes, I shared the abundant stash with other pesto junkie friends.pesto

Now in my world, I have really tried to express my gratefulness. From my perspective, I really, really think I have thanked Kate appropriately.  I have bragged on her, I have posted on her Facebook page, I have texted.  I am pretty sure that she knows that I am grateful for this delicious gift.

Until. Until she gave me the recipe and I decided to make it myself.

(Jesus is relevant in this story so stay with me.)

She gave me the sacred recipe with extra notes gleaned from trial and error. She gave me some of her sacred, abundant, Basil plant. She told me where and what kinds of ingredients to buy. She even told me what kind of food processor I would need.

I was making it, but everything was still from her and through her…

It was the most humbling moment. When I made it myself, only then did I see the effort required, the true and high cost of the ingredients, the lavish flavors that were carefully blended together. This is not your basic thrown down of mere nuts, olive oil and basil.  There were two fine cheeses I couldn’t even pronounce, two different kinds of nuts, extra virgin olive oil, on and on the extravagant list goes.  It’s not hard to make necessarily.  But when my own batch was done, I found I was grateful beyond words. And no, to be honest, it was not as good as hers. She has “the touch.”

I had no idea.  I had no idea the cost of the cheeses and nuts. No idea how much basil was required. No idea of the effort and the precision.

Then it hit me, how could I be fully grateful for that which I had no idea of its true cost?

I thought about Jesus a lot when I was making pesto that day with my junkie friend, Heather.  We kept making remarks like, “Now we know why it’s so good.” and “Wow, who knew this was in here?”  and, “Oh my goodness, this is so expensive to make!”

I kept thinking about Kate just giving me all that pesto.  So extravagant a gift and all I gave her was a greedy thank you and an ask for more. I kept thinking about Jesus.  About how I think I know why to be thankful but really I don’t have a clue of the real cost…

A couple of God take aways:

Be grateful rather than greedy.  When we complain/accuse/blame The God of Love and Life, we forget that we can’t even breath without His power. He gives us all that we have. We may be dissatisfied, or greedy, or clueless, but we do well to remember that “he graciously gives us all things for life and godliness.” All that we have, even that which we complain about…it’s a gift from Him.

His lavishness is to be shared. It is out of His abundance that He gives us abundance so that we can give abundantly.  God blessed Kate’s basil that she transformed and shared with me. Out of her blessing I was able to enjoy this amazing gift but also to pass the blessing on to others. What have you been blessed with?  Are you transforming it? Are you sharing it?

Consider the great cost.  Jesus has given us His extravagant, abundant love, redemption, adoption—every single blessing we enjoy.  On our good days, we throw little thank you’s at Him while our hands are out asking for more. On our bad days, we just complain. And yet we don’t even know all that it took— all the ingredients, the cost, the precision, the sacrifice, for us to have His life.

How gracious. How giving. How generous. How patient with my ignorance.

It is the giver of the gift who knows the full price of the gift. Like Kate with her pesto. Like Jesus with his redemption. It is the receiver of the gift (me!) that would do well to consider the cost and realize some things can never be re-paid only shared. Maybe the best way to bless Jesus, or Kate, is to honor the giver by passing on the blessing I have received with a grateful heart.

As for the trash talking about God? Maybe the sound of our praise and thanksgiving will drown out their doubt and unbelief. Maybe our shared abundance will do more to soften their hard hearts than any correction.

Our Awkward Lovely Selves

Why is awkward such a curse?  Why is being in human contact so painful that we will vie for just about any alternative to escape. Enter:

  • Food
  • Porn
  • Smartphones
  • Texting
  • Gossip
  • Avoidance
  • Sex
  • Shopping
  • Drugs
  • Work
  • Shall I go on?

I wonder if Awkward is a symptom instead of a cause. I heard a story once about the power of the photograph.  Read that again. The Power of a Photograph.  The story goes that a group of people were interacting, sharing, relaxed and comfortable in their own skin. They were even “unaware” of personal flaws until…the introduction of the photograph. One woman was said to be quick to smile, full of laughter and joy— until she  saw her face for the first time in a photograph. IMG_1970

Try to give yourself time to envision this.

Our children are INUNDATED with images of themselves. From newborn photos in the hospital, to annual growth pictures, to school pictures, to now Facebook and Instagram postings, our children are constantly seeing themselves captured in time. They are constantly “on display.”  I even remember seeing a great shot on a school field trip of one of Charis’s friends.  I said, “Hey, let me get your picture.” She immediately straightened her back, threw her shoulders back, cocked her head to one side, and then gave me a perfect cover girl smile. Obviously, my original shot of her was ruined, but her “photo coaching” was evident.

So try hard to think of life without the constant evaluation. No concern of whether you are with makeup or without. No selfies. No Kodak moments. Just living life as a fluid experience.

Back to the laughing woman. She saw her own captured image for the first time and for the first time she became self conscious. Conscious of her self.

The wrinkles when she laughed, the gap in her teeth, the way her eyes squinted unevenly, all these unique attributes were, before this moment, simply part of who she was and blissfully un-critiqued.  But no more.

We live in an age of Self Conscious.  How do I look? How do they look? How do I look compared to them?

The temptation is so strong. Case in point. I am in Nashville today having joined Chuck on a business trip.  We got up at 5 a.m. and had a three hour car drive.  So I washed my face, brushed my teeth, pulled my hair back in a ponytail and headed out the door. I was completely at ease until Chuck dropped me off at the Starbucks near Vanderbilt.

I went in the bathroom and saw my reflection. Without even “thinking” I compared my appearance to the college, preppy, professional, cool lookers I had passed on the way in.  Wow, I thought, I look awful.

Really? In a span of walking from the front door to the bathroom, I went from completely at ease to completely self critical.  That, my friends, is the curse of Self Conscious. And, may I go further? I believe this root produces a nasty offshoot called Awkward.

We get in social settings and our fear of conflict or failure or criticism chokes our hearts and emotions to such a degree that we seize up and morph into this ball of Awkward. We’re so concerned about what to say, how to say, should I say. It all comes back to looking to each other for definition and approval.

I tell you there is freedom. And that freedom comes not by winning the game of perfection, or isolation.  No one wins when there is only one standard of beauty. No one wins when we resort to emotional shut down to avoid the tension.

Freedom comes when we acknowledge the fear of being less than and allow Perfect Love to have His say. That is what transformed my Starbucks moment.  “I belong to my lover, and His desire is for me.” (Song of Songs 7:10)  Oh yeah, there is a bigger story being told here.

It really is the diversity, the collage, the imperfections of humanity that make us truly alive. It is the beauty expressed in each of us that lets us truly see the beauty of God. It is the love of God that helps me love me and thus love you.  Why? Because if He can love my crazy, psycho self with all my inconsistencies, I am confident He can love you too.  Understanding the “Level Ground of Love” that we all stand on really does change our need for approval from others.

Freedom comes when God’s compassion for the human condition becomes our standard instead of our own self conscious assessment.

And the whole awkward business? It is uprooted when we shift off Self. Everyone wants to be loved. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone blows it. And NO one knows how to glide through this life thing without an occasional crash.  Therefore everyone can relate to the need for grace.

We need a bigger view. The pressure’s off. Just be you.  I’ll be me.  Let’s just laugh and love together and let go of the Kodak moment. We are more than a snapshot. We are more than just awkward.

Photo Credit by Salem Spicka

Pro-Choice…I once was blind, but now I see

“If you don’t want to have an abortion, then don’t have one. If I do want to, then it should be available.”

“What right do you have to tell me what to do with my body? It’s my choice!”

“Thank you [HIllary Clinton] for always speaking up for women.”
Let’s play a little game, shall we? Let’s translate some of these comments from people who advocate abortion:
“If you don’t want to murder someone then don’t, but if I do want to murder someone, then I should have all the tools to do it.”

“I have the right to do what I want with my body, even if it means I am destroying someone’s body in the meantime.”

“Thank you Hillary Clinton for only protecting the women who are able to speak for themselves and not the ones who are currently silent in the womb.”

I did have an abortion.
I was pro-choice.
Until I realized how selfish and ridiculous my logic was — I was guilty of murder so let me help more people be guilty of murder.

What aggravates me about the abortion debate is many  people are so high and mighty about their personal rights and so condescending to others who value all human life.  What I want, what I think, what I need.  One woman said she couldn’t imagine bringing her baby into prison to see the dad. So she aborted instead.  This is crazytown.  Death is better than hardship?

And on top of it all, the personal hell that abortion brings is the most UNDERrated dilemma ever.  How many women and men have I walked with who carry life-altering grief, shame and guilt.  They made decisions based on too much fear and too little help and  hope. No one talks about this reality in the pro-choice camps.

Thank you Jesus for washing that blood off my hands.  Thank you for healing my broken heart. I pray the same for those who still suffer from this choice.

Today though, I want to address the staunch pro-choicers…If you are in favor of murdering the babies for mom’s convenience, preference, and shortsightedness about the future (I can say this because I did it) then proceed.  Let’s just agree to call it what it is: Perverted human rights. One human life valued above another. Period.

Don’t call it empowering, or justified, or noble. Just call it murder. I pray that somehow, you will one day see that we have “choiced” away a huge portion of our country’s resources and wounded our own soul in the process.

God have mercy on us all.  Give us eyes to see the truth Lord.

Photo Credit: Salem Spicka