Jack’s Woods

It is a fine autumn day for a walk in the woods. I take our 14-year-old yellow lab, chow mix for a wander on a path through a preserve across the street. Because of the very thick carpet of leaves, the path is barely discernible. However Jack, the dog leads me on unperturbed. He knows the way having walked it many times with his master, my husband. Although I cannot see the path Jack has no trouble walking around the big circular loop, leading the way. It speaks to me about our spiritual path. How if we spend time with our master, and stay in the path, we will know the way. Jack is going blind and can not hear very well, and lately he has had some trouble walking due to a stroke. But this does not phase him on our walk. He is happy to be out in God’s creation and trucks along in front of me. In fact, as I pause to take a picture and admire the beautiful leaves and branches against the deep blue sky, he pulls on the leash wondering what is taking me so long. Why don’t I follow along and keep moving?  If I look closely I will notice that there are signposts, miniature yellow diamonds nailed to trees along the way. And there are helpful raised wooden walkways in places where it is damp. And there are kind souls who have cut some of the larger fallen trees leaving a pathway open for the Sojourner. Somewhere under the leaves, people have placed branches along both sides of the path to define it and show us the way.  On our spiritual journey are there places where we need to sign posts or little walkways to keep us out of trouble?

A dog's life
A dog’s life




Public Transportation

When I was growing up, my dad commuted by train to Manhattan from the suburbs.  I live in the suburbs of another city and work in a suburb that is 10 miles from my house.  Recently I started taking the train to work.  Better for the planet, gets me a brisk walk each day and time outdoors, and also can be paid for with pre-tax dollars – lots of positives here.  And it gives me a short window to sit and enjoy my tea while reading a bit for grad school.  Plus lots of people watching. Recently my twenty-four year old remarked to me that she feels like a grown up because she has a monthly pass to a parking garage – now I feel like a grown up because I’m taking the train to work like my dad!

The best thing about it so far has been the short walk between the train station and my office which is 8-10 minutes depending on how briskly I walk.  First of all, it is fall, so the trees are beautiful. Second the weather has been fair.  And third, it’s balmy this week.  There is something about being out in nature first thing in the morning that is soul nurturing.  It is just a wonderful feeling.  I love the outdoors and it connects me to my Creator.  But I have found that a brief walk is also good for my brain – it gets my mind going.  I always find new ideas and inspirations come to me while I am walking.  So that is a huge benefit; what a way to start the day – invigorated, inspired, and intellectually awake.

The train is another story – going to work, there is a nice conductor, and the train is generally clean. And they announce the stops over the loud speaker as well as on a display monitor.  Going home, they seldom announce the stops and it is dark and there does not seem to be a display monitor.  How are we expected to find our way home?  It’s too dark to see the names of the stations, and those signs are not lit up.  Yesterday all the passengers were asking each other – which station is this and fortunately someone knew.  And I could see a few landmarks I recognized one stop before home. Safely home.

Unimaginable Love

My colleague subscribes to the Moravian Daily Text and often reads them aloud to us at the start of a meeting.  I was struck by the language in this particular prayer:

Gracious One, do not stop calling us to open ourselves to your unimaginable love. Help us to come together that our witness of faith may be unified for all the world to know of your great compassion. Amen. (emphasis added)

I know nothing about the Moravians, except for their motto which I have heard before:

In Essentials, Unity; In Nonessentials, Liberty; In All Things, Love

and which I think is a terrific sentiment. May we all be more inclined to love and unity as we reflect God’s unimaginable love.

The daily readings suggested for this day by the Moravians include:
Monday, November 2
Psalm 119:129–136
Ezekiel 38:7–39:13
2 Peter 1:1–11
Jeremiah 29:13–14
Matthew 18:19

I pray you will meditate today on God’s Word and his unimaginable love.

500 Words

My friend, writer Jeff Goins, challenges his audience to write 500 words.  I’ve been noodling the idea of writing a book and so I’ll take the plunge.

I want to encourage parents everywhere that it is possible to raise godly children who follow Christ and excel in the things they put their minds to.  The world wants you to believe that rebellion is a given and that the teen years will be a nightmare.  Not so!  We raised two girls who did not rebel in any major ways.  Sure they experimented with alcohol, and pushed the boundaries, made occasional poor choices, and fought with each other; but, they were also high-school valedictorians, accepted early to college, and excelled in their colleges.  Today the younger one is entering her senior year at a Christian college and the older graduated from a prestigious school and is pursuing her dream of stage management.

How did we do it?  Consistency, love, firm boundaries, and faith integrated into every aspect of life is the short answer.  The long answer, well, that’s a book.  Our family is very close, the sisters are best friends and mom is often their confidante.  And dad is their role model.  We were active in church and looked for opportunities for them to be mentored and discipled.  We walked out our faith as transparently as possible.  We chose a lifestyle of service and ministry and hospitality which created a place of vitality and we were part of a tribe of like-minded families.

But we also encouraged them to be independent and to think for themselves.  While we did many activities together as a family, and savored the moments, days, and years, we were not ‘helicopter parents’.   Often I would hear other parents lament the burden of having children at home, as in “I can’t wait for school to start” or “summer is too long.”  I could not fully understand this mindset.  Our children are a gift and I was thankful for the time that I had with them.  I invested myself fully as a mom in all aspects of their development.  I encouraged them to develop interests and friendships outside the home, but made home a place they would want to come back to.

We instilled discipline in them from a young age without being harsh or overbearing.  We taught them to think, to discern, and to make decisions. We expected them to be responsible and resourceful. While we live a middle-class life, we taught them not to take privilege for granted, mostly by example and experience in the developing world. For a period of time, we homeschooled them.  We read aloud as a family well into their teen years.  We also read the Bible together and encouraged them to read and memorize Scripture.  We were involved in their faith development, not leaving it to the church.  We practiced thankfulness.

Oh and we ate dinner together as a family just about every night.

Want more?  Well, I guess you’ll have to (wait for) and buy the book!

Hard Eucharisteo

Once again I am wakeful between 2-3 a.m.  Clearly my brain is still processing all that has happened. This story could have had a different ending for my family. Would I still be giving thanks?
Eucharisteo. Charis: at its root grace and joy. Eucharisteo: giving thanks. In ALL things. This is what Ann Voskamp calls ‘hard eucharisteo.’

When I first got the news of what was happening, I went straight to my knees. Since then, I’ve been on my knees several times in gratitude, in questioning, in praise, in lament, in worship. We MUST be on our knees for this generation.

An SPU prof expresses just how difficult it is to process all the emotions. Beautifully said. This campus community is so strong and so filled with charis.

As I chatted yesterday with a student on Eastern’s campus, who coincidentally is also named Jenny, she remarked, ‘we’re not safe anywhere.’  My response was, “we’re not safe anywhere, but we are safe everywhere in the arms of God. He will carry us through.”

My final text to Gennie last night was “Go live life!”

Pray for SPU

Please join us in prayer for the students and families at Seattle Pacific University. #prayforspuThere was a shooting on campus yesterday. One male student has died and a female student is in intensive care after undergoing surgery last night.

Those of you who knew our girls when they were small will remember that bagels were a staple in our home.  But for a bagel, Gennie might not be here today.

Our daughter, Gennie, is a junior at SPU and texted us late yesterday afternoon. The text that no parent wants to get: ‘I’m safe. There is a shooter on campus. We’re in lockdown.’ She was on her way to meet a friend in the building where the shooting happened when she stopped to get something to eat, a bagel. When she arrived the police were there with one of the victims. She described seeing a lot of blood. She sheltered with other students in the building across the street until the campus was secured. Her friend hid under a table and was spared.

We are thankful for Gennie’s safety but heartbroken for the victims and families.

She texted me late last night saying how much homework she still had to do for U Scholars and how she needed to finish preparing for a one question essay test today – which we have been chatting about all week – the question is “What does it mean to be human?” – this was for U Scholars – a culmination of all their science, theology and philosophy of the past 3 years.  They are to write a maximum of one page. I had shared with her earlier this week about my current devotional readings in One Thousand Gifts about how the meaning of life is to glorify and honor God (from the Westminster Shorter Catechism) to see His beauty and glory all around us and about my readings in The Pursuit of God about how the veil of self keeps us from a fuller intimacy with God.

I assured her that classes were to be cancelled today.  I imagine the question will take on new meaning in the light of yesterday’s tragedy.

“but faith is always a way of seeing, a seeking for God in everything. And if the eyes gaze long enough to see God lifted in a thing, how can the lips not offer eucharisteo? The truly saved have eyes of faith and lips of thanks. Faith is in the gaze of a soul” Ann Voskamp

Please join us in praying for this CCCU school and the students and families. This is the beginning of finals weeks for the students and graduation is scheduled for a week from tomorrow. Obviously classes are cancelled today and there is another prayer service on campus at noon. I am convinced that our prayers for this generation are vital.

God’s grace and mercy be with us all.


Sense of Place

There is a place I like to go, a small town, a beach town, an island … I’ve been going there since childhood.  And something about that place has gotten into my blood.

A town administrator said “the uniqueness of Conanicut Island. ‘It’s so extraordinarily beautiful: the landscape, the seascape, the village, the sense of place. People are willing to come forward to preserve and protect that. I don’t think you will find many places where people have so much gratitude towards where they live.’”

It’s a combination of factors: small village, beaches, rocky shores, lighthouse, farmland, quiet streets and even quieter neighborhoods.