22 December 2009

"Oldie" but "goodie"

I heard a Christmas song today that I remember from childhood.
The version I heard is of a little girl singing first, followed by a choir,
and then ending with the young girl.
It is sweet.
But mostly, the words are the desire of my heart
to reflect on this week, especially.

Maybe you'll remember it as you browse these lyrics:

Happy Birthday Jesus.
I'm so glad it's Christmas.
All the tinsel and lights,
and the presents are nice
but the real gift is you.

Happy birthday Jesus!
I'm so glad it's Christmas!
All the carols and bells
make the holiday swell
but it's all about you.

Happy birthday Jesus...Jesus I love you.


Happy Birthday Jesus!
I love you!

09 December 2009

Oh Dove, why did you have to change?

Nearly a year ago, I wrote a post about the messages on Dove candies.

I'm excited to report, this year Dove has a new candy
--peppermint bark with dark Dove chocolate.
They join the rank of favorite Christmas candy. Delicious. I love them.

I eagerly and carefully unwrapped my first one,
anticipating my "Dove promise" written on the inside of the foil.
I nearly choked and
spit up the chocolate (forgive me, people)
because the promises are now
Martha Stewart Holiday tips???? Really?
Here is one of the tips:
Parsnips and brussels sprouts are hearty seasonal sides. (I guess I learned it is brussels sprouts and not brussel sprouts.)

Really, Martha?
Really, Dove? That is a holiday promise I needed to know??

Some good things really don't need to change. Sigh.

I'll be back.
To share more significant things than
my feelings about Dove promises.

My Master's program final thesis
project paper is due in two days.

Some of my intentions for my "post-Grad school" time?
Read a book. Any book of my choice. Because I can. Because I want to.
Ooooooh, the luxury.

Finish wedding thank yous.
Yes. You may receive yours.

And Blog.
Oh to write for something other than an assignment.

Oh, AND, download photos. I have over 1200 on my little camera. Over 600 that I have not downloaded yet.

So...life will resume. And I'll be back.

17 September 2009

Difference of seven

God never ceases to amaze me. I am not suggesting that I have God figured out. But I am continually wowed by the splendor and sweetness of the way God moves. Here is one latest story.

My husband received his walking papers from work unexpectedly on December 30, 2008. As September hit the top page of the calendar, we could not believe it was the start of the ninth month of unemployment. Perhaps like me you know several people who are unemployed. I personally spend time in two of the states that lead the nation in unemployment. It is a time unfamiliar to most of us as lately, too frequently, we watch despair and fear walk into people's homes and lives and camp out there as people wonder (and worry) about provision, food, shelter, etc. Yet, in comparison to other parts of the world, in terms of real poverty, the United States really does not compete. Despite our current economy we are a wealthy nation.

And so, we too, have participated in the gruel of searching for work. It requires energy that one may not realize. There are systems and theories and ideas for how to network and land interviews which will then secure positions. B has pursued those strategies. He secured several interviews and had great contacts. He worked and reworked his networking options. And still nothing landed. Sometimes he even had an inside edge with influential people who make recommendations. At the end of the day though, no jobs offers were extended. This hope and release, hope and despair, expectation and rejection cycle takes its toll.

One of his interviews allowed him to interact with someone whom he previously worked with. The position he was interviewing for would report to that person (let's call him Bob). In the conversation after the interview, Bob said to B, you really are not suited for this position. You would be better suited for my position. I'm actually in the running for a job elsewhere. If I secure that position, I will recommend you as my replacement.

B received this with a grain of salt, because obviously there were so many elements outside of his control, much less, so many pieces that needed to fall into place.
True to his word, Bob called the day after Labor Day to communicate he was leaving. If B would email his resume, he would put in the word to his boss.

Two days later, B was called for an interview.
One day after that, he interviewed.
Mid interview, they offered him the job.
He started the job two days later, seven days after Bob contacted him.

What a delightful provision of the Lord. We are grateful. We did not really see it coming and are rejoicing in these moments of seeing the Lord move in mysterious and marvelous ways. That is NOT to say we did not see God move in mysterious and marvelous ways during this season of unemployment. But those stories, they are for a different post.
In the meantime, stayed tuned. You never know what the next seven might surface as God works out His good and perfect plans.

07 September 2009


Hello blogging world.

I'm venturing back in.
It's been two months. I got married. I moved (in part). School started again a few weeks ago. Hours increased at my work.

Tonight I face an hour or so more of work and then I journey home. That is, to my weekday home while I live in Michigan. Straddling the border twice weekly adds to the craziness. For tonight, however, the focus is settling into the school time routine, (along with most of the western side of Michigan as most elementary and high schools started classes today). Homework beckons. Sleep summons. Relationships hibernate. I'm grateful for the routine even if I miss regular interaction with friends, not to mention, the freedom to read something for pure pleasure or particular interest.'Tis all part of the school season.

I'm glad only 15 weeks remain--what a sweet and life-changing journey I'm on!

(Hmmm, I've been trying for days to upload a photo but keep getting an error message. I'll post for now and perhaps add a photo later.)

07 July 2009


Four days from now, the wedding event of Diana Klungel and Barkley Garrett will commence. (Woot!!!) In comparing our preparation journey to others, our engagement and wedding planning is relatively short (of course the stories of exception are out there). I hope and pray the wedding is beautiful, that God is glorified, and that people have fun.

But really, way more important than this one day, is our marriage. That is what we've been preparing for. In the "greater" event of our marriage, I hope we come to understand and experience even more fully the love of God, and that through that, we offer and extend that love even more fully to others.

So that is my hope and prayer: that beyond the fun planning of a wedding, that the greater gift of the day is how we bless and honor God through our marriage.
I hope it all brings God glory.

23 June 2009

711 on my mind

I'm getting married. And the wedding is creeping ever closer. It actually jumped into view because we changed our original plans.

Here's the scoop: I don't know how to describe this process except to say that I am not the girl who had her whole wedding planned at 13 (or 17, or 21 or...)This lack of expectations leads to freedom but it also demands a need for some rapid fire decisions. I'm a full-time graduate student who also works full time. I have 11 weeks "off" from school for summer. Our plans were to get married this very summer. August seemed about right.

That is, until we started investigating our projected date with my family. And that's when my planning hit the wall of my sister's reality. Her response to whether or not she could make the date was a profound "No!" Although, she assured me that she could watch a video.

Even though I had not pre- planned the wedding, the idea of my sister watching the video and not attending this blessed event caused me to cry. Oh, and her excuse, did I mention, is completely legitimate. She is pregnant and at that time it would be too high risk for her to travel.

Needless to say, we scrambled around for a different option. And because of some other travel commitments and other factors along the way, we arrived a month sooner with a new date of July 11.

So yes, much planning ensues. Most of the essentials are planned and well in view for which I'm extremely grateful. Phew!

Truthfully, even though six weeks seems pretty hectic to plan an event, I don't know if I would have wanted it much longer. Today marks 18 days. 18 days!!!

Given that reality, even though I have stories galore within my head and ponderings on my heart, I probably will be silent a few more weeks. Check back if you care!!

Photo credit: Hildred...and yes, that is a napkin ring!! :)

13 May 2009


This is my third annual interview day--a long day at work. We conduct interviews for prospective students in our Master's of Arts in Counseling program. They enter the office waiting area usually a bit nervous, unsure of what to expect. We ask them to arrive early to handle any outstanding paperwork. Waiting manifests either as a gift to slow down, collect one's self and pray, or it can increase agitation and anxiety. It is our desire to offer God's peace to those who enter this place.

We also serve those who conduct the interviews. They arrive early from our main campus a few hours away. Our "tradition" is to provide some sustenance in terms of food and drink so we order a light spread from Panera including bagels and egg souffles, some fruit. We provide water and coffee if they wish. We want them to experience God's peace as well.

Today I picked up the food items and as I set them out, I realized I did not receive my entire order. It was not a huge deal, as it was just a few bagels, but I called to let them know. Immediately they connected me to the manager who proceeded to apologize and respond with options for how they could take care of us.
Let me tell you, they went above and beyond as they not only delivered the items that were missing, they also delivered additional bagels and coffee. They earned my respect as a customer to ensure that I would continue to patronize their business. That signals great customer service.

Here's what I wonder...
what would happen if this were more personal? Let's say a friend of mine promised something, but it didn't happen. Or, how about considering our relationship with God. What happens when we don't follow thru on a promise to God? Certainly we don't look at God as a customer that we need to "win" back. But if trust is broken, how are repairs made? When someone lets you down, how do you work to reestablish trust and rebuild a relationship? Ultimately I wonder, how do we practice forgiveness in such a way that reconciliation becomes part of our natural rhythm of life?
I know this, it's much easier for me to take the coffee, eat a bagel, and consider things "good" with Panera. Somehow God extends that grace to us. But how do we receive that, and live it by dispensing it in our relationships with others?

11 May 2009

garage incident gratitude

Here I was, backing out of B's garage for a baseball game.
When, well, I noticed things flying.

On the side of the garage where I had parked rests a stack of shingles. And on top of that stack is a pile of wire and plastic grid-like sheets. The kind that when you put them all together, you can make a bunch of cube shelving pieces. Anyway, the things that were flying were these grid-like sheets of wire and plastic. Apparently I turned too sharply and they caught on my bumper.

My entire bumper except a piece or two on the driver's side was hanging off my car. I was so groaning, and so calculating the repair bill into the thousands. Again. Previous body work on my car when my car transformed into the driver less, horseless carriage (some may recall when my car rolled down a hill across a business driveway/intersection, halted abruptly and not-so-gently by a guardrail which stopped it from rolling into a gas station, all because I forgot to put on my emergency break when I met my boss for coffee at a local coffee shop), maxed at around $4k! $4k--for a driver less collision. (This was pre-blogging, apparently, as I searched for the story now and can't find it. Circa November 2005.)
Money spent on the same very bumper that now was dangling like a child's loose tooth, the major difference being I didn't want someone to yank the bumper to unattach it like a kid might want someone to do with their loose tooth.

My one regret in telling you all of this is that I did not take before and after photos. But this very morning, my love B, removed what was left dangling, took every loose piece apart, and reattached the bumper to my now happy Honda Civic coupe. If I hadn't revealed this garage incident to you just now, and you saw my sweet little ride cruising down the road, you wouldn't know.
That's how good it looks.
And that's how good B is.
Yep. I'm all shades of grateful!!

28 April 2009

breaking up is hard to do

Not to be pessimistic, but it was probably the last time for such an occasion.
It's not that it's over, but really,
It IS over, in the way we knew it.

We met at His Mansion Ministries in the mid and late 90's. We all happened to locate (returning from some) in West Michigan. Hoping to hold on to some of the accountability and community strong practices from the Mansion, we committed to meet weekly. And we did. For breakfast. At 6:00 or 6:30a every week.
That is, until things started to dissolve. K & K got married and moved to Minnesota to complete their undergrad degrees. Our circle was broken. The breakfast meetings discontinued.
But then, K & K moved back.

Their journey of having kids--beautiful quads who arrived early--enveloped all of us as we visited in the hospital and then at their home. We started meeting Monday nights for our "small group" of dinner and conversation. Those nights expanded to include other "mansionites" as John was around, Teresa, Darrell, Rachel, and even Stephanie would occasionally join us. It was a sweet place of grounding, fellowship, and intentionally sharing our lives together. Mind you, it wasn't intimate spiritual conversations at all times. I remember one night where we programmed individual ring tones on our phones. Deep stuff. :) But the regularity and intentionality of meeting together in this space did continue to shape and form bonds between us and allow us to see how God was working in each other's lives. For this I am extremely grateful.

But then K & K moved again, and the group dissolved.

These seasons of friendship and community are such a gift. The above photo marks the "original" group as we met recently to celebrate a transition for Bonnie. She's moving...
and I'm happy for her to return to Colorado. But I will dearly miss this beloved friend. You are always welcome back, BB!! I'm so glad for the chance to have journeyed with you in this way.

21 April 2009

I spy...

Nancy Drew rarely enters my mind. Until recently when my sister asked me what Nancy Drew character I used to portray. (I love that her daughter, my niece Kate is reading Nancy Drew like crazy. The great mysteries continue!)

We "played" Nancy Drew constantly. We solved all sorts of imaginative mysteries as Nancy Drew. It was my sister, Carmen, myself, and our friend Christine, mostly. Sometimes Christine was given the boot when our neighbor's niece, Tiffany, was in town. (Tiffany might have landed in the "bossy-pushy" category.)We figure Carmen was Nancy, Christine was Jo, and I was Bess.
But really, we don't remember too much specifically about what character we played.
I do remember the schemes and the seeming hours of running, hiding, discovering, and sleuthing all through the neighborhood. We were good.

This spurred on several others mystery type loves in my life. Of course, the Hardy Boys was a natural next step, not to mention Remington Steele, and Moonlighting. (Does anyone remember Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd in Moonlighting?) I loved those dramas.

I navigated toward similar reading--Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, and the like. I loved James Bond and the Bourne movies, just to name a few.
And then, there came Alias.
A bit of me wanted to be Sydney Bristol, I confess. *Sigh*

I say all of that to say that a spy's life would not suit the needs of my heart and spirit, but everyone once in a while, I still imagine a romantic view of such an occupation.

Any other "wanna be's" out there?

19 April 2009

Poverty redefined

Tims are tough. We know that. The unemployment rate is discussed at least once a day if not more frequently. Budgets require tightening. Lifestyles as we've come to know them in the western world, in particular, are changing and in some cases dramatically.
Times are tough, but do we really know poor? Do we really know sacrifice?
Are we really aware of the richness and absolute wealth that we've become so accustomed to?

This "guest post" from a friend of mine causes me to rethink what I know and consider a different perspective. See what you think.


A Reflection

On Sunday morning before church, I got a call about a baby: a girl, seven months old, young mother, very poor, unable to care for the baby . . . “Can you help?” I agreed to meet with the persons involved today, Tuesday.The baby was brought in from her remote, mountain home. I sat down in a middle-class living room here in the city with the mother, the baby, the mother’s employer and her two children, the mother’s employer’s sister and mother, and two of my teenagers.

The mother of the baby is twenty-two years old, and she works as a house servant in the home of two young professionals and their two children. They pay her one hundred dollars per month, which is less than half the legal minimum wage in Honduras. She is a live-in maid, and is given two days off every fifteen days to go home and see her siblings and baby, who live several hours away. Both of this young woman’s parents are dead. In a household of eight, she is the only one with employment. Everyone depends upon her $100/month for food and education. For her family, her pregnancy meant another hungry child, and for her employer, it was an unwelcome intrusion.

I had been called by the employer’s mother, whom I have known for many years. On the phone, she described the baby as being in desperate straits, and the mother eager to have someone care for her. In reality, I saw a young woman who dearly wanted to care for her baby, but without a single voice in her favor. Her employer had just miscarried. I asked this woman, “Can’t you take care of the baby here?” It seemed like the logical, merciful solution. The mother could keep her little girl and continue working.

“Oh, no!” this young woman replied. “My husband would never agree to that. And besides, we don’t have enough room.” I thought of the closed doors in Bethlehem the night Jesus was born. I thought of the miscarried baby who certainly would have had a special place prepared in this same home for his/her arrival.

But not this child. This child was a problem, an obstacle which needed to be removed. They would do “the right thing.” They would call Suzy, and she would make the problem go away. Their servant could get back to work, and they could get on with their lives.

I took the baby, because no child should grow up where he or she is not wanted. The mother wept. The woman who called me held her and said all would be well. And I’m sitting up, thinking about a world in which there is often, even today, no room in the inn.

15 April 2009

"Give me the presence or I die!"

Last weekend at the retreat center, the room I stayed in was called "Beth-el" -the dwelling of God.

As I read and prayed and slept in that room, I felt the blessing of God's presence melting my crust, drawing out the core of what is true about me, that I am God's beloved daughter. So much else in life tries to define my identity. But that piece, my core role as God's beloved is true no matter what.

In addition to a welcome space to rest, my room had some great resources to help guide my retreat time. One of them was the following passage which completely resonated with my heart and my desperation for retreating.

Let me know you think!

There is a practice of the presence of God
which is done on the run in the busiest of days,
in office, and schoolroom and kitchen.
Little prayers and communion;
ejaculations of surrender & joy and exaltation;
if it didn't sound silly to say it,
little snugglings of our soul moving nearer to God.
Most of our lives can be lived this way,
as divine conversation of our soul with God,
going on behind the scenes all the time.

But then come crucial periods in life
when the quest grows hot,
when the hot breath of the Hound of Heaven is at our heels,
when the heart cries out,
"Give me the Presence or I die!"

And these are the times when we get
beneath the conventional mildness of average religiosity
and find Him more fully, who is dearer than life itself.
From these women and mean will come the profound return to religion,
ie, the love of God and neighbor,
which is so desperately needed."

-Thomas Kelly The Eternal Promise (1938)

09 April 2009

It's time

I'm not sure how to explain how ridiculous this is. But I realized, my margins had expired. I needed space. Me, the off the charts extrovert, needs space away. The trigger that signaled the ridiculous? I had an exchange with one of our beloved faculty here in GR and felt personally slammed because she criticized the candy options in my candy jar. Yes. How that seemed so personal, I can't begin to explain. I realize, it sounds and IS ridiculous.

And so, for that, and other reasons, I'm retreating.
Just writing the word slows the exhale.

I know that my blog writing may seem to indicate that I've been retreating frequently. But it's much the opposite. Life, work, everything has been quite crazy.

Some might know that B's Mom died unexpectedly a little over a week ago. So I accompanied him on the trip to and from family for the funeral. It was long. It had moments of much tension. It also was a place of laughter and release. I wouldn't trade the experience, but the time was not what I "planned." Unavoidably, it "bled" into other schedules including work and school. And so, my soul is aching for alone time with Jesus.

I'm excited to unplug.

Blessed Easter to you!

13 March 2009

lessons learned

It goes without saying that it was NOT the reaction I hoped for. If I've relayed this story before, please forgive me.

Here is the scenario: it was a gym class day and I had forgotten my tennis shoes. You know the rule. Have a pair of shoes specifically kept to wear inside a gym, not worn in the street, in order to protect the gym floor's surface. I felt confident that it didn't matter that I had forgotten my shoes.
Although my situation appeared grave on the surface, I had an ace in the hole.

he he he.
I confidently dashed away from the elementary school area and ventured into the high school, boldly going where few students had gone before, and even fewer students live to talk about (ok, yes, mild exaggeration), I stepped into the teacher's lounge, scaled the crowd of mingling teachers and called out, "Mom?"
It was quite a disappointment, after all that, to retreat to my gym class, already in progress, and report that "yes, I had found my Mother," but, "No, she was not going to go home to retrieve my gym shoes and bring them to school for my use."
My forgetfulness demanded that I suffer the consequences. My mom did not bail me out.

Needless to say, I don't think I ever forgot my gym shoes again.
'Twas a good lesson, Mom. Thanks for your tough love!

11 March 2009


This was the prayer of "my" Lenten devotional for today. I hope it ministers to you and blesses God!

Father, you are all around and in me, walking in
my garden, shining in the sun, singing in the birds,
behind the face of every man and woman I meet,
and lying down with me at night.

Jesus, you are all around and in me, walking in my
garden, shining in the sun, singing in the birds,
behind the face of every man and woman I meet,
and lying down with me at night.

Holy Spirit, you are all around and in me, walking
in my garden, shining in the sun, singing in the
birds, behind the face of every man and woman I
meet, and lying down with me at night.

I will rejoice and walk with You by my tree of
temptations to reach the life You prepared for me
today. I will rejoice and walk with You today and
offer all my deeds as I try to care for your gifts and

I will rejoice and walk with You today until I rest in
Your peace tonight.

Credit: Szabolcs Kerekes serves with CRM-Hungary and works with church planters and pastors. He recently authored a book called Matrix Conversations about journeying toward Christ with those in the post-modern generation. Szabolcs, his wife, Erika, and their children, Anna, Julia, and David, live in Hungary.

07 March 2009

don't let it happen again

I remember watching Hotel Rwanda several years ago and then "meeting" the main character at a January series at Calvin College. The movie and the story, and particularly the Western world's seeming paralysis disturbs me still.
We have no excuse to stay uninformed about the travesties in this world.
There is a current crisis in Darfur.
A friend sent me the link to this website with a message urging me to send an urgent message to Secretary of State Clinton.

Please, browse the website, check sources, become informed about the issues, pray fervently, and take action. You can make a difference.

05 March 2009

raining down gently

One of my classmates (dear Suzy pictured below in blue on the right) posted this today. It seems appropriate that more people should be privy to this story. Let me know what you think.

This excerpt is from A Promise Kept: The Story of An Unforgettable Love, by Dr. Robertson McQuilkin, who stepped down as President of Columbia International University in order to care for his wife, who was suffering from Alzheimers Disease:

“Twenty-two years is a long time. But then again, it can be shorter than one anticipates. And how do you say good-bye to friends you do not wish to leave?

The decision to come to Columbia was the most difficult I have had to make; the decision to leave 22 years later, though painful, was one of the easiest. It was almost as if God engineered the circumstances so that I had no alternatives. Let me explain:

My dear wife, Muriel, has been in failing mental health for about 12 years. So far I have been able to carry both her ever-growing needs and my leadership responsibility at Columbia. But recently it has become apparent that Muriel is contented most of the time she is with me and almost none of the time I am away from her. It is not just ‘discontent.’ She is filled with fear – even terror – that she has lost me and always goes in search of me when I leave home. So it is clear to me that she needs me now, full-time.

Perhaps it would help you understand if I shared with you what I shared in chapel at the time of the announcement of my resignation. The decision was made, in a way, 42 years ago when I promised to care for Muriel ‘in sickness and in health . . . till death do us part.’ So, as I told the students and faculty, as a man of my word, integrity has something to do with it. But so does fairness. She has cared for me fully and sacrificially all these years; if I cared for her for the next 40 years I would not be out of her debt. Duty, however, can be grim and stoic. But there is more: I love Muriel. She is a delight to me – her childlike dependence and confidence in me, her warm love, occasional flashes of that wit I used to relish so, her happy spirit and tough resilience in the face of her continual distressing frustration. I don’t have to care for her. I get to! It is a high honor to care for so wonderful a person.” (21-22)

Here is what Dr. McQuilkin says about memories:

“Memories help too. Muriel stocked the cupboard of my mind with the best of them. I often live again a special moment of love she planned so creatively or laugh at some remembered outburst of her irrepressible approach to life. Sometimes the happy doesn’t bubble up with joy, but rains down gently with tears. When Joy Gresham reminded C. S. Lewis that their joy would soon end, that she would die, he replied that he didn’t want to think about that. Joy responded, ‘The pain is part of the happiness. That’s the deal.’ In the summer of ’95 Muriel’s right hand went limp – the first major decline since she lost the ability to stand to feed herself eighteen months before. A little loss, you would think, but I shed a few tears. It’s almost like part of me dies with each of her little deaths. That precious hand, so creative, so loving, so busy for me and everyone else. But it wasn’t just the old memories. That right hand was the last way she had to communicate. She would reach out to hold hands, pat me on the back when I hugged her, push me away when she didn’t like what I was doing. I missed her hand. Memories, sweet and bittersweet. (63-64)

04 March 2009

we belong

After college, I didn't really know "what I wanted to be when I grew up" but I wanted to form an identity outside of my family. My family is great. I love them and am increasingly grateful for the gift of where I "landed" and who I landed beside family-wise. But I was the youngest of four girls. That always defined part of my identity and I longed for something additional.

So, as ironies go, I moved in with two friends from college, who happened to be sisters, who were moving into a four bedroom house that their oldest sister rented. I didn't venture too far from the familiar it seems. It was a great experience though. I loved living at 25 Cherry Street with these women.

One of the beautiful things about Holland Michigan is that families settle there (take aforementioned roommates for instance). In my church home there, I kept discovering more people who were related to someone else. It truly amazed me. They were lovely friendly people.

But none of them needed me. Because they had their families.

Now, at the expense of sounding needy, I hope you know what I mean. They were friendly and kind and nice. But they did not need me for friendship or social activities, or even too much conversation, really, because of the blessing of their familial and extended family relationships.

My closest friends in that community were people who had moved away and returned to the area, or who were "transplants" like me. Through the years though, Western Michigan became home. The family I have experienced here is rich and full. I am really grateful.

I say all of that to say, one of my sisters came to town this weekend (see photo). And I loved that. For a few moments I had family here (oh to be like everyone else). I am still basking in the beauty of her presence and our conversations. I am glad we can "just be" and share our hearts. I am glad I belong to her and she to me!

03 March 2009


In conversation with some friends the other day, we were talking about high schoolers on the fringes. You know, the ones that have been rejected by others, or have chosen to stay "outside" of certain circles for various reasons. Sometimes it is those on the fringes that become friends with others on the fringes. Jesus certainly seemed to hang with "fringe" friends.

At the end of the day, we all want to belong.
We like to link ourselves to people, things, circumstances, events, positions, etc.
And it's not a bad thing. God calls us to community and invites us to belong to him.
That is our primary place to belong. We are God's beloved and we belong to him.
I like that.

These great folks "belonged to me" or I to them in a formal way when we worked together. I celebrate the gift of belonging to them and together belonging to God.

So I'm wondering, might there be anyone on the fringes around us that could use an invitation to belong?

Oh..and, Happy Birthday to Cathy and Kyle!

27 January 2009


Good people still come to the rescue of those in need. This won't make the 11 pm news. In fact, it won't make any newscast. But I think it's worth the mention that there are people who make choices to help others.
and yes, I just happen to have a personal story to share.

Today was a glorious day in West Michigan. The sunrise and cloud brushed sky scape of early morning hinted at the beauty of the day.
On days like this, people like me, who can ignore the salty, snowy, windshield wiper fluid stained "crud" of winter driving on cloudy days, often acknowledge that perhaps it is worth exploring if indeed a car exists under all the layers of grime. And such exploration can happen with a simple car wash.
Ah, the beauty!
And so, I drove through the brushes and sprays of the automatic car wash.
I could almost hear my car's gratitude whilst layers of winter molted and melted away.

One sits higher in a salt-free car on a sunny day. I confess, and suspect I'm not alone, that when I've just had my car washed, I appear snobby to the salt-infested car "neighbors" near me. I mean, I don't want to drive too close, or pull up too near, for fear that some of their salty debris might migrate onto my like new finish. Time to practice those safe distances I learned in driver's training. (Okay, maybe you don't care THAT much.)

I parked my car with pride next to the sporty, yet, might I mention, salty, grimy Mercedes in the parking lot.
(That's my pride, btw, I haven't taken to smoking or anything!)

So, imagine returning to my car, at oh, 9:30 tonight, and discovering that the very object of my pride, the sparkling clean machine, fails to unlock, due to the aforementioned car wash.

That's where the real heroes of the story emerge: Tony and Joe, our "night crew" at the building I work at. Yes, they braved the cold, found the deicer (sp?), and persisted in turning my key, even when I declared defeat and suggested we crawl through my trunk (my bursting-with-camping-supplies-even-though-it's-winter trunk). They really saved the day. And allowed me the luxury of getting home, here, to my cozy house, to write this silly tale of my pride, and their generous assistance.

24 January 2009

famous people etiquette

So, you know that way when people of importance or some fame come along and people clamor for their attention, take photos, request autographs, etc.? I'm a little outside of that. I mean that I may not care as much about such things as the next person.

But last week, I confess, I really did kinda want a photo with Shane Claiborne, but mostly for the "hey, look at me with Shane Claiborne" sort of shtick which really, well, I don't need to indulge any more narcissistic tendencies.
My classmate and cohort member Linda, now she was much more noble than I. She asked Shane for a note to take along to her daughter's good friend who really, really, really admires Shane.
Thus, instead of a photo with Shane, I settled for a photo of his note. I thought it was great. Especially his phrase practicing the resurrection with divine defiance. I like that.

How about it? Shall we together pursue
practicing the resurrection with divine defiance? What does that mean for today?

21 January 2009

favorite bit

Tuesday's Inauguration of our 44th president marked something significant. I know the conversation swirls about President Obama being bi-racial, therefore not black. But perhaps we can agree about this: he is a person of color. That is a first for our country. And personally, in the ceremony, as I listened on the radio, I found the benediction by Rev Lowery to be a highlight.

Here's some of his language as reported on a USA Today blog:

"Rev. Joseph Lowery, a civil rights icon and a pastor known to speak his mind to power, opened his benediction with the first words of the "Negro National Anthem," Lift Every Voice and Sing,

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears ...

Lowery implored God to help Americans make "choices on the side of love, not hate, on the side of inclusion not exclusion, tolerance not intolerance."

He updated the famous passages from Isaiah, suggesting humanity "beat tanks into tractors." He called for a time, quoting Micah 4:4, when every man shall sit beneath his vine and fig tree and live in peace and unafraid, Amos 5:24, "Let justice roll down like waters."

Lowery also brought a smile to the president with a recitation he's used before, asking God to

... help us work for that day when black will not be asked to give back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right."

He concluded,

Let all who do justice and love mercy say amen and say amen."

- from Cathy Lynn Grossman of the USA Today

I googled the remarks because I was interested in reading what I heard.
What I did not predict, is that people would be upset about these remarks.

Am I missing something? Are his comments something that need to divide us? Or can we find an invitation within those words to live differently?

Lord have mercy on us, really, so that we would not allow the enemy to win battles that cause us to be at odds with one another. Another great leader prayed once, "Lord, let them be one, as the Father and son are one."

Photo credit: by Ron Edmonds/AP: The Rev. Joseph E. Lowery gives the benediction at the end of the swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington

19 January 2009

things the media doesn't tell me (us)

I first "met" Tony Campolo way back when in college. Maybe you have experienced Tony's evangelistic heart in a college setting. He definitely is among those who "spur others on toward love and good deeds." I remember praying about whether I should attend "mission year" in Philadelphia, or how I could interact with Tony's ministry.

It has been interesting to read about Tony through the years. He is often described as a left wing, off the charts, outspoken evangelical, among other, not very pleasant titles. He was criticized for giving council to our former US president, Bill Clinton. Honestly, within most "evangelical" circles, he doesn't get much "good" press. That in itself is a post I can't take on today.

But I must say this. Tony dearly loves Jesus. And he loves the church as God called the church to be. AND he loves America, even if he doesn't appreciate all the policies and actions of the country. I appreciated the opportunity to hear his heart and hang out with him last week. Despite what is reported, despite the ways things are reported in an effort to divide leaders and the church, he is a red-letter Christian. I may not agree with everything about this dear man, but I believe his heart and his motivation.

Health update: I didn't get the med center in Philly for a variety of reasons. I have it slated as a tomorrow activity when I get back to GR as I'm still dealing with this low grade stomach (abdomen?) pain. Thanks for your prayers and well wishes!

17 January 2009


Last Friday night, the night before I was leaving for Philly, I nearly didn't sleep. I felt so completely sick in my stomach. As a result, i almost didn't go to Philly. But my Mom always taught me to get up and take a shower, even when u feel sick, and see if that helped. I felt a wee bit better so I came. (Hooray!)
However, I'm not right.
It's the oddest thing.
I won't give you all the details, but it's been a week now and my stomach is not right.
I'm engaging in class and life here but not to the fullest.
I'm not eating "normally" for fear that certain things will trigger something.

So last very night, on the phone with B, he walks through my symptoms on some website (aren't we so glad we can self-diagnose these days?) and wonders with me if I might be having an attack related to my appendix.
I groaned b/c I really don't want appendicitis, of course, nor to be treated away from home.
But I'm not better. (Incidentally, has anyone out there had an appendix "flare up" in any way? Please convey your story!)

So...I'm off to shower (thanks Mom!) and see what the day holds.
Maybe a trip to a med center?

Prayers are most welcome if you're speaking to Papa today.

15 January 2009

I think I "get it"

Here's the thing I've been pondering. It's actually something that I've considered previously especially during the recent presidential election.
I really dislike arguing with people about certain issues and certain things.

Today something Tony said really made sense to me.
He was talking about how he and his wife view the idea of homosexual or gay marriage differently. His wife favors it and he greatly opposes it.
So folks ask them how their marriage survives this issue.
And he said, "it is very simple."

I expected his response to be that they simply don't talk about it.
But that is quite opposite of the truth.
In fact, they go around the country "debating" each other.
They frequently face this topic. And they know each other's position and argument pretty well.

Instead, Tony said this, "we survive because we both entertain the idea that we can be wrong. Need to entertain the possibility that you are wrong, otherwise there is no discussion. You just try to overpower the other person with your argument."

That is what struck the cord.
I don't like discussions where there doesn't seem to be any freedom to disagree with another person. Certainly I've also been in the position where I'm trying to "overpower" another perosn with my argument. That isn't fun.

But to discuss things without a sense of judgment or disrespect, now that is conversation I would value.

Can you relate to this?

I obviously do. And I'm hopeful!


We're sitting at the feet of Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne this very week here in Philly. It's unsettling in the best way.

Here are a few challenges Shane tossed our way tonight:

How can we worship a homeless man on Sunday and ignore one on Monday?

Stop complaining about the church we experienced and start living the church we’ve been dreaming of.

Are we willing to take the worst pair of shoes and deform our feet?
(In reference to working with Mother Teresa who did that very thing so that she did not have better shoes than anyone else around her.)

Don’t give your worst clothes to charity. Give the things we think we can’t live without.

The best thing to do with the best things in life is to give them away.

And that folks, well,
those comments and much much MUCH more are giving me much pause.

How we live....how we view and interact with the poor
...how we treat creation...how we love...just to name a few,

these are the things God looks at. How are things looking for you and me?

11 January 2009

things we see differently

So the other night B and I were talking and the conversation went a bit like this:
Me: "B, so you know how different we are?"
B: hesitating, wondering what direction I'm going with this..."you mean, different like..."
Me: knowing he needed me to bail him out, "I mean in the way we think and process information and sometimes how we relate to people..."
B: "oh," very obviously relieved, "yes, that way..."
Me: "well, I was wondering if I could share some of YOUR life with some of "my" people."

He knew what I was talking about, of course.
Our conversation continued because what he is going through presently, is something I have gone through. And so, part of my motivation and heart, was to communicate, "B, I long for you to have the support and love that I experienced."
And he agreed.
He expressed that even though we ARE so very different, he would be willing to be a bit more, let's say, vulnerable, for lack of a better word, and open himself up to a broader community for his current circumstance.

How is THAT for vague and how is THAT for expectation?

Let me fill in the detail.
December 30 Barkley's bosses did his review and said,
"we're not going to beat around the bush. Numbers don't warrant as many people as we have in your office. We're going to let you go."
That's it.
No discussion.

And so, without any delay, Barkley joined the many many many unemployed folks in the area. It's not necessarily a group one wants to join. But there it is.

In fact, it is brutal and terrifying.
Life is so not within our control.

And God says, "find your rest in me. Trust me."

B has responsibilities and commitments in the area that he really can't relocate. And so that in some ways, that narrows down the search for a job which is helpful.
It also fuels the fear.

Again, God says one thing. Our hearts sometimes surface something else.

Would you, as God leads, please talk to God about this for B?

oh, in other news, I'm in Philadelphia for my class. My online Master's program has a once a year face-to-face requirement where we sit at the feet of really fabulous teachers and speakers. That is a bonus. AND we get to see our dear classmates who we interact with "in the box" from week to week. It is a great and exhausting 10 days.

Oh, AND, it's my last one. Even though I have one year left of school, this is my last J-term (January intensive seminar). And so, even though I'm happy to be here, I'm also realizing that this may be the very last time I see some of my classmates (especially the one in Tanzania, Honduras, England, etc.). It's the reality of the seasons of our lives but it's still hard.
Happy. Sad.
Becoming acquainted. Letting go.
Sharing life deeply, daily will transfer to perhaps facebook interactions with occasional Christmas card greetings. (I'm grateful for the electronic connection, don't get me wrong. But it's not the same...)

So is the journey.

Thanks for walking with me.

06 January 2009


I'm not together right now. Too much going on in my heart and head, I suspect. In the gift of the holidays, I took time away to spend with family and friends and loved the break. It is not without cost, however.
I decided despite having books to read for class and a paper to write this week before my face-to-face "residency" starting Sunday in Philadelphia, I wanted a break from books, writing, classwork, etc. What a treat to feel free to be present to people and experiences over Christmas and New Year's! I received my reward. Now I must pay! The cost is that this week the reading and hopefully writing must ensue.

And that is unsettling. The reading lingers and slowly sinks deep into my heart and spirit. I can't escape the challenges. It is a constant invitation to reflect, consider and live differently. I want to be faithful. Yet what I'm reading asks for much sacrifice. I'm not sure I'm up to the task. Actually, more honestly, I don't know how willing I am.

So here are some things to consider, in my attempt to extend the invitation (b/c you know I hate doing things alone!):

"The church as we know it is a tragically dysfunctional family
in which some children are starving while others have food stashed in their closets."

"One of the most radical things we do is
love the people we live with,
day after day,
mistake after mistake."

"God is not glorified when we try to live together as perfect people...
Jesus was glorified when he loved the one who would hurt him...
we are glorified, that God may be glorified,
when we keep loving one another, even after we hurt one another."

"God is glorified when we keep doing the dirty work,
even for people who treat us dirty."

God is calling us to live differently.
This means laying down expectations.
This demands grace (receiving AND dispensing).
This requires love, love, and more love.

Living for God's glory is not an easy task. Everything in us and around us wars for our attention and energy and resources. We are seduced into thinking if we help ourselves, if we consume more, if we have the latest whatever, if we look a certain way then...

God calls forth such a different picture.

Here 2009 begins. We have these days, these "new" moments to live into our calling and identity of children, beloved children, of God.

How will we live?
Can we love better this new year?
Can we serve more graciously?
Can we live more simply?
Can we pray more earnestly?
Will you help me on that journey?
Can we, will we, help each other?

Quotes from Becoming an answer to our prayers by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.