Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Nobody ever told me about grace.

This is just a quick rant inspired by my lunchtime reading. I've picked up a copy of Richard J. Foster's (of A Celebration of Discipline fame) Prayer. I'm about four chapters in, but since my life is generally chaotic in the way of most modern Americans, I decided to go back to the beginning because I can't remember how we got to where we were (The Prayer of Examen, to be specific). Even though I can't seem to retain much of what he's written, as I'm reading it it resonates with me, so backtracking is not a waste of time. This particular bit is what has inspired my post today. Regarding our need to "get our house in order" before we delve into prayer, Foster says,

"Frankly, this side of eternity we will never unravel the good from the bad, the pure from the impure. But what I have come to see is that God is big enough to receive us with all our mixture. We do not have to be bright, or pure, or filled with faith, or anything. That is what grace means, and not only are we saved by grace, we live by it as well. And we pray by it."

This is so completely contrary to what I was taught as a young believer in youth group. I distinctly remember so many conversations about how God can't look on sin, therefore, if we have any sin in us, we can't come to God (except, of course to confess that sin, I suppose, but that wasn't really fleshed out). We were told that God literally could not hear us if we were sinful. So how in the hell were we supposed to ever get any access? We were all well enough versed to know that we are chronic sinners, so it left me feeling stymied. I was always sinful. I never felt clean enough to approach God.

As I think back on those years, I don't remember much talk about grace. And now, ten or fifteen years later, I feel rather jilted. Just saying. What an unpleasant picture of the life a Christian could expect to experience. Why would we want to sign on to that? 

I am so thankful for this season in my life where I am learning these new qualities. Grace. Forgiveness. Love. Grace.

Monday, December 3, 2012

One Small Thing

Don't Google that title. Turns out it's the name of a romance novel about two guys raising a baby. So I was thinking that if I can just come up with one small thing to do a day, one small thing that would be helpful to someone other than myself, what would that be? Wouldn't that be a good thing? Wouldn't that make me more like Jesus? So I Googled it, and ended up on Goodreads reading the back cover of One Small Thing,  a sweet romance novel about these two guys. Then I decided it was time for lunch, so I went and heated up my leftover soup, fixed myself a coffee cup of Pepsi (my splurge today).

And now I'm back here at the computer, enjoying my soup and Pepsi and contemplating my one small thing again. But here's what I'm wondering now: remember a few sentences back where I said that if I could do one small, good thing a day it would make me more like Jesus? I'm not so sure it would. Is it supposed to be so systematic, this living as a Christ Follower? I mean, it kind of makes you feel like the girlfriend who finds a list in her boyfriend's jacket pocket that says: "Nice things to do for my girlfriend". It feels so mechanical. Shouldn't it be an overflowing of the Spirit's work within me? If I have to sit around and try to think of good things to do, perhaps that is an indication that I am trying to turn this life back into a life of works rather than a relationship of love. Even if my motives are pretty decent.

So, I think for now, I'll stop beating myself up for not doing enough "good" every day and start beating myself up for having allowed the relationship to wane this way.

That's not true. No beating ourselves up here. I'm kidding. But I am going to make an intentional effort to stop beating myself up for not doing the "things", and I'm going to refocus on the relationship that sparked this desire to do good to begin with.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Somehow, some crazy lady took over my body a few weeks ago at church, and volunteered me to give a testimony at one of our Wednesday night services. The way I speak in public is this: I write copious notes, finally get an outline, write out the whole speech, read it, read it, then finally get up to speak, and talk entirely off the cuff. So, for what it's worth, here's what I've written to say tonight. What I'll actually say is anybody's guess!  (But God's, who thinks it's all hilarious, I'm sure)
 - Lew

Ooh, also, ignore my punctuation. When I write a speech, I punctuate for speaking, not for grammatical correctness. And, obviously, it's kinda chatty because, well, it's a chat!

I’m very interested to know where somebody comes from in their faith life because for me, it’s been quite the journey and I figure I’m only a little more than a third of the way through it. And honestly, it’s been a real struggle for me, too, and continues to be, so I am always encouraged to hear how others have wrestled with God over things that seem to come so easily to others. So, I thought that tonight, I would tell you that: where I am, how I got here, what I’ve learned on this leg of the trip.
Faith has always been very hard for me because believing anyone or anything is very hard for me. I think a lot. I always have, and when you think, naturally, you come up with questions. Like, for some reason, when I was a kid I got really hung up on why God would let Abraham wander through Sodom looking for a handful of people that would be worthy enough that God wouldn’t burn down the whole place. Didn’t God know they weren’t there? Wasn’t that really cruel of God to lead Abraham on like that?
The very strict school I went to encouraged critical thinking when it was directed at how politicians were chipping away at our religious freedom or how Hollywood was forcing the abortion agenda on us, but when those critical thinking skills were turned on the Bible or their theology, it wasn’t welcomed at all. I asked my 8th grade science teacher a question about where dinosaurs were in the Bible, and his answer was an angry “So are you saying you don’t believe the Bible?” right there in front of the whole class. That’s embarrassing!  My youth leaders and other adults said things like, “Well, you just have to have faith” or “Oh, I don’t know. I don’t ask those kinds of questions.”
The God I had come to know by the time I was in my late teens was a big, temperamental guy with carrots and a stick. He wasn’t real keen on being asked a lot of questions, and he was like a dad who loved his daughters but secretly wished they’d all been born sons. I had learned that if I asked too many questions, started poking around where I wasn’t supposed to, the whole thing might fall apart. And somewhere in the back of my mind, I couldn’t shake the thought that it might all be one big charade.
I spent my last school years in a smaller, rather charismatic school. I met the Holy Spirit there. I saw adults who were the very houses where the Holy Spirit lived. I wasn’t quite sure what I was seeing, but it was new and different, and I thought that if this was what I’d been missing, I wanted in. Maybe. I still had to think it through…a lot. But you know, what I learned from them that it was okay to think it through, that it was important to work out my salvation. They didn’t always have answers to my questions, but they respected that I had them.
So, God gave me about ten years to freely wallow in my questions. I read the Bible, all kinds of books because I’m secretly convinced that the answer to anything can be found between the covers of a book, and around that time we joined West Hartsville. At the time, I didn’t feel like I was growing in my faith at all. I felt like I was completely paralyzed by all of these plaguing doubts and questions. Like, I was going to keep looking around corners until suddenly, I was going to find that God wasn’t there after all. Looking back now, though, it is very clear that God was teaching me all sorts of things during that period.
I had a really long commute then and most days I spent that commute talking, loudly, to God. Arguing and complaining about things that didn’t make sense to me. And there was this one Fall day I remember so well, I was saying things like “I can’t understand. Help me understand. Give me understanding.” and eventually, I rambled around to “Lean not on your own understanding.” That verse had, for a long time, meant to me that you were just supposed to have blind faith, something I am obviously NOT good with. But that day, what I understood God to mean was this: that I didn’t’ have to figure it all out. It wasn’t up to me and my brainpower. If I would just trust God, He would help me to understand. He would open my mind, present it to me in a clearer way, or help me to understand what it was that was really important and help me move past those things that I may not get an answer to here on earth.
I remember this time so well. Everything is a little bit brighter in my memories. Finally. It was also around that time, I think, that Kevin preached about a little pep talk/kick in the pants that Paul gave Timothy. I don’t know exactly where it was, 1 or 2 Timothy, but basically, Paul said to Timothy, “Look, you’ve got a good foundation. You’ve had a good, solid Biblical education. It’s not going to be all roses, but you need to get up and get back out there.” And I’m telling you, it really may as well have been written directly to me. That was what God told me, too. God said, “In all the things you’ve questioned me on, haven’t I proven myself to be big enough to handle them? Has there been one riddle you could throw at me that I couldn’t resolve? Ok, then. You need to trust me, and keep moving. Enough of this wallowing.”
And so, I went home that Sunday, and I sort of “got up” and have been trying to keep going ever since. Now, I’m in a different place with different struggles. I still have all of these questions, but they don’t paralyze me like they did before. God already told me that He’s big enough. I have to remember that when a new doubt confronts me. my God is so much bigger than that small imposter of a god that I thought I was supposed to worship. No wonder I had such trouble believing, worshiping. It wasn’t the real, true I AM.
Now, one of my struggles is to be obedient when I hear God telling me to do something I really don’t want to do. Small things, sometimes. Make eye contact with the homeless person passing you on the street (there’s a lot of homeless people near where I work). She’s are a person, too. “But God,” I whine, ”What if they talk to me????” Share with your friend, who you know is going to ridicule you, that you go to church several times a week and yes, you actually do believe that stuff.
You know, I think God’s timing is best (imagine that!). While I was feeling guilty for not being able to figure it all out fast enough, for not having enough faith, God was using that time solidifying a base for me, building up a firmer foundation for me to stand on because He knows, these questions are never going to leave me alone. I have found that a lot of the questions and arguments were with the philosophies of man, not the gospel of my Jesus. My anger, angst, hurt, a lot of that was misdirected at what I thought was God. It wasn’t from God, and when I finally figured that out, I was able to lift my head ever so slightly and say, “Ok. I’m in.”

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Texts I Send to My Husband

August 15, 7:32 AM
Hey babe. I made it to work. Mom is leaving pullups on the porch for u. Love u.

August 15, 9:26 AM
I put the taco meat in the freezer but it you want a fun bfast, you could get it out and top some scrambled eggs with it, cheese, salsa and snips of green onions. :)

August 15, 9:26 AM
It's in the freezer door in a bag.


August 16, 7:40 AM
Im at work. Love u.

August 16, 8:29 AM
Hey i changed my mind about the slow cooker turn it on HIGH at 1:00.

August 16, 8:46 AM
Oh and dump the little cup of chicken innards into the soup as well. We wont eat them but theyll be good for flavor.

And so it goes most mornings. Mind you, this man is very self-sufficient. I just feel the need to text him because between managing budgets, empty personnel slots and ensuring compliance with department policy, these are the things I think about.  A lot.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


I am not terribly graceful. While not exactly awkward, I’ve never thought my movements were beautiful or lithe. I ain’t no ballerina, much as my six year old heart wanted to be. Now, I long for a different kind of grace and beauty in my life. I picture scenes like this: I wake up before dawn, push the button on the coffee pot, take a quick shower, maybe throw a quick bread into the oven, grab a cup of coffee and settle down to do some Bible study. I light a candle, turn on Fernando Ortega, and spend an hour immersed in Scripture. God speaks to me. I listen. I am moved. I have learned much. I am a better servant for Him. I am prepared for the day. I have put on the Full Armor of God, am ready to ward off the evil that may attack my household. My husband can sit proudly at the city gates now. My children, er-um…just the one that I have, will call me blessed. Except - my idea has flaws: no quick bread under the sun takes an hour to bake…I’ve burned the coffee cake.

Here’s the real picture of my Saturday. I did wake up before dawn. At 5:40am, actually. I started the coffee pot, debated on taking a shower, and decide to whip up a batch of fresh sourdough bread while I wait for the coffee to perk. Because I’m good like that, yo! I start proofing some yeast and then try to find something soothing on the radio. Nothing’s on. I try to listen to NPR, but the show that’s on before 6 AM ain’t no Terri Gross…or Tom Ashbrook…I try the local Christian radio station. Nothing but bubble-gummy pop. Whoops, I banged a glass. I’m going to wake up the whole rest of the family!  Finally, I pull out my husband’s laptop and turn it to that good, old faithful blog I go to all the time and complain about punctuation, and listen to her lovely autoplay music. It really is peaceful. I love it.

Ok, got the music going, got the coffee perking, my yeast is proofed. I haul out my big bread bowl, pull down the box of flour and…damn. I’m almost out of flour!  I may not have the requisite 5 cups of unbleached all purpose. Oh, well, no reason to panic. I can totally deal. I measure out as much white flour as I’ve got then do the rest with whole wheat. Add the other ingredients, add the yeast, lukewarm water (which I’m sure is too hot), start to stir. It’s not incorporating all of the flour. I remember that whole wheat flour absorbs more liquid, so I throw in a splash more water. It turns sticky. I do not remember it being this way the last time. Must be because of the whole wheat. I’m sure it will work out, so I go ahead and cover it, put it on my back porch to rise, and go get a coffee cup to fill.

As I’m sitting the carton of coffee creamer on the counter, I hear the tell-tale signs that a little person is awake. I walk to our bedroom door, shoulders sagging, and open it. There she is. “I want to hold you, Mommy.” My husband, noting the look on my face, says, “Bring me a bottle of milk. Maybe she’ll go back to sleep.” But I know it’s no use. She’s awake now. There will be no scented candles burning while I pore over the Words of God. I pick her up and carry her to the kitchen.

“I was just about to fix myself a cup of coffee,” I say, much more cheerfully than I feel. “Would you like one in a big girl cup, and then we can drink it on the front porch?”

“Yes, ma’am,” is her reply. Well, thank you, God, for the small things. She said “ma’am”.

I praised her for her good manners, reminded her that she needed to use the potty as soon as she woke up, and then we fixed our cups of coffee. She chose a pink and white novelty mug that someone had given me a long time ago. It’s got the silhouette of a woman wearing high heels and a ruffly dress. In girly pink letters, it reads “So Blessed” then in tiny letters along the bottom of the cup “No wonder my heart is filled with joy! Acts 2:26”.

Anyone who has ever had a little person of this particular age knows that it takes a long time to do anything with them. As we are finally ready to go out to the porch, coffee cups in hand, I spot my tub of sourdough starter, all fed and ready to be…made into bread!  I FORGOT TO PUT THE SOURDOUGH STARTER IN THE SOURDOUGH BREAD! This is like saying, “I forgot to put the cream cheese in the cheesecake.” Again. Damn. Is that the second time I’ve mentally cussed this morning? I cannot believe I’ve done this. I’ve wasted what little flour I had, wasted that precious 30 minutes when I could’ve been reading the Bible and praying and listening to God and doing all of those things that I beat myself up for not doing.

Oh, well. No point crying over it now. We take our coffee and books out on the porch, and I start writing this. And that is where we are. She spilled her coffee on the little outdoor table and insisted on cleaning it up. I took her in, and we got a damp wash cloth. I carried her back out to the porch and sat her down. “You’re a good carrier, Mommy!” she says. I moved the plants and books off the table and let her wipe up her spilled coffee. “I clean up the spill, Mommy! Now you can put all the ‘fings’ back,” she tells me. I was sitting on the steps, just getting ready to type some more. I get up. Replace the aloe plant, my book, her coffee. We chat a little with the green lizard who had been hiding on my chair. My coffee is cold. We go back in for a refill. We come back out. She wants to put on her ruffly dress (she spotted the ruffles on the woman on her cup). We go in and put on the dress.

It is at this point that I pull out the silver bullet. The one that makes me feel so guilty but works every time. “Do you want me to get my phone for you? So you can play your games?” I ask. I am a bad mother. I am horrible. I work all day, five days a week. We have two days together, and here I am giving her the phone to entertain her within the first hour she’s awake. But…I NEED MY CUP OF COFFEE. I NEEDED A HALF HOUR WITH MY NEW BOOK I WAS READING! Did I mention it’s called Seeking Spiritual Intimacy? I’m sure it holds the secret to that deeper relationship with Jesus that I so crave.

And she has to go potty.

And…I just spilled my coffee on the porch while I was trying to come back out the door holding this giant laptop and my cup of coffee.

And….she has forgotten the phone that was keeping her occupied for so long. She runs to get it. She is adorable. She drinks her coffee by holding the handle only, the cup shaking violently. It’s only half full, but I can imagine it spilling all over the dress she is wearing, the one she wants to wear to a coffee shop later this morning where we are meeting some friends. Whew. Ok. She got it to her mouth and back down to the table with no spills.

I have to stop now. I’ve spent too much time doing this and not enough time with her. Plus, I have a friend coming over later today, so I have to straighten some things up in the kitchen. And throw out that lump of sourdough-free sourdough.

“Look! I catched one!” she is telling me. I look over. She has blown some bubbles and managed to catch one with the wand. Seriously, this is a big deal. She’s never been able to accomplish this before. I have to stop before I miss something else. Thanks for dropping by today. I forget what the point of this post was, but it had to do with grace.

Friday, July 27, 2012

It's the little things

Sarah Bessey challenged us to write, quickly and without thinking about it too much, what's saving us right now. (Oh, my gosh, I'm such a tech flunkie, I don't even know how to link properly. Here's the site: For me, it's not one thing (although as a mom who's debating weaning her almost three year old, I completely identify with what's saving her right now: nursing her sweet little girl, seeing those precious cheeks, those eyes looking back up at you) but a number of small things.

It's that email I received from one of my true "bosom friends" in response to a frustrated, I-can't-do-anything-right rant I'd sent her early in one morning. She said she was right there with me, understood exactly what I was saying, and ended with this clencher: "You are doing a great job. I know you are because I know you." Oh. Thank you, God, for sending her into my life so many years ago!

It's the new posts I get in my inbox from places like Deeper Story, Sarah Bessey, sheloves, and others (again, excuse the lack of hyperlinks; I'm very new at this...also, Kathy Escobar, I miss you! Please come back!) that remind me that I am not alone. I am not the only person neither boycotting nor stocking up at Chick-fil-A. I am not the only one who knows who she is in Christ but still wonders if she's doing anything useful at all.

It's that Michael W. Smith's "Go West, Young Man" came on Pandora yesterday. Really. First man I had a crush on. He so rocked (and still does, of course, but I've got my own personal rock star now with whom I am completely enamored). I can remember, right this second, sitting in my booster seat in the back seat of my Mom's 1980's model Nissan Sentra, studying every section of the little booklet that came in that tape. He knew how to rock a color blocked jacket (though I hope he won't try bringing the trend back anytime soon) and...was it cowboy boots?

It's sitting on my Olivia's bed with her after a long day at work, making a flower design out of her new set of sparkly headbands that Daddy bought her. Did you know you can make the letter "S" by putting two headbands together, just so? She didn't either. She thought I was a genius!

And lastly, it's that deep, abiding knowledge that I AM is big enough. That no matter my doubts, my worries, my tiredness, my confusion, my tears, my anger, my joy, God is bigger than it all but also encompasses it all, is within and without it all. It's that gut feeling that I heard and felt, loud and clear, this morning, driving down that long two lane road between corn fields, "I AM big enough!"

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I Can Count on Bobby McGee

In his (excellent!) sermon on Sunday, our pastor said that among the barriers to real, personal revival was our sin. Of course, he's right, but the idea of barriers to revival is sticking with me, and I wonder if the barrier isn't more insidious than just flat out, easy to identify sins. I think it's also very much about being overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by calendar appointments, committments, and responsibilities, yes; but also, I find myself so completely overwhelmed by too much information. I hadn't even started processing and mourning for the people of Aurora, CO when my heart and mind (thank you NPR) were turned back to Syria again. And then there's the problem of all of those children and families in Haiti that Ann Voskamp posted about last week (Don't you love the ambivalent relationship I have with her blog? Much as her lack of punctuation grieves me, I can't stay away from it.). And I can't forget about the teenage-married-homeless-with a baby couple that my coworker told me about last week. I have to remember to email her, and see if I have any baby things that would be helpful for them. And these are just the things I'm thinking about now, at 7:52 AM...before the workday officially even starts. I'm reminded of Olivia and turtles. She watched an episode of "Monkey See, Monkey Do" a few days ago.  It featured a turtle who repeatedly showed the kids how to "be a turtle": get down on all fours, tuck your knees, elbows and head in, say, "Look!  I'm a turtle!" This is what I want to do. An altered version, underneath my L-shaped desk, elbows and knees tucked in, with something like Ron Rolheiser's The Holy Longing, a cup of really good coffee, and some great music playing. Or maybe a junky paperback. At times like this, I'm not sure the better therapy.  But, as it happens, Janis Joplin's on my Pandora right now. And I'm pretty sure my coworker just made a fresh pot of Folgers. And it is, indeed, time to get to work.

This was very much a stream of consciousness post, as most of mine are likely to be from here on out. Don't spend too much time trying to figure out what the "point" of it was.