Five Things I Have Learned about Doing that Scary Thing

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Since my kidney transplant eight years ago, I have tried a lot of new adventures. So when I saw the Mrs. Disciple linkup for this week of Five New Experiences, I thought this would be easy. Having survived a disease that had killed several members of my family gave me a feeling of empowerment to tackle other scary things. It also made me wonder why I had wasted so much time not trying.

So from those tries,

Five Things I Have Learned about Doing that Scary Thing

1. Have rules to live by

When I’m faced with backing down or trying something new that scares me, I resort to two decision-making rules—two questions I ask myself.

1—Am I likely to ever get this chance again?

2—Will I regret not doing this?

These two questions have propelled me into all kinds of adventures.

Some years ago, on a vacation to Nova Scotia, we discovered a zipline company. It was pretty simple—one long line down a mountain. The girls were eager to try. I was . . . not so much. When we arrived, we discovered that they only accepted cash, and wouldn’t you know, we had only enough Canadian dollars for four. Not five.

We probably could have negotiated a group rate, or offered him American cash, which he certainly would have taken. But instead, I looked at the loooong zipline running to the ground and said, “Um, I’ll make the sacrifice. You guys go.” I wasn’t chickening out. We didn’t have the cash, right?

I was totally chickening out.

And I regretted that decision for years.

They had a glorious time doing something they’d never tried, and I just had to hear about it and wish I had decided differently.

Now, when I look at something like the art museum in the meaner streets of Pittsburgh and wonder, Should I get out of my safe locked car and go in?, I know that I will regret not seeing this thing I will probably never see again. And it gives me courage.

IMG_6099Now, when I am standing at the start of a ropes course that did not look at all scary from the ground, I know I will regret not trying. (And, because I did this two days ago, I also know I don’t need to do it again.)

Now, when I wonder if I should take a random road trip to Austin on the spur of the moment, I understand that this opportunity will not come again, and what’s to be lost?

In my experience there, that drive friendly thing? Delusional.

These two questions have been some of the best two things I’ve ever asked myself.

Am I likely to ever get this chance again?

Will I regret not doing this?

Which adventure leads to lesson #2–

2. Use the Buddy System

When we had another chance in Costa Rica, this time on a course of six lines, I took it. The first line was terrifying. I wobbled off it, feeling unwell and woozy. I considered calling it a day and saying I tried. When the guide saw me tilting a bit, he said, “This next one is the mile-long line. We’re going tandem, you and me.” It was stunning–and fun. I managed the other four lines just fine.

If he had not seen my need and offered me his borrowed strength to get through the next tough spot? I would never have been able to negotiate a mile-long zipline. I’d have been dangling there somewhere above the rain forest canopy praying for God to take me quickly before I died of terror. But with someone else to offer expertise, encouragement, and strong arms for the task? I saw the waterfalls, treetops, and blue skies I otherwise would have missed. I felt the freedom of soaring into the wind and the rush of planting my feet firmly on the platform having done the job.

When a new experience frightens us, we need a buddy. We need someone to tell us we can do it, to threaten us if need be, to remind us that with God and with the gifts he has given, we do not have to be afraid. Grab a friend and do that scary thing together.

3. Don’t underestimate yourself

IMG_4894.JPGOn our “grand tour” to Europe five years ago, after my husband left to go back home, the four of us ladies (three daughters and I) were left to navigate the continent on our own. In the first few days, we were stalled by a transportation strike in Italy. Stranded in Venice, we hauled suitcases up and down stairs, managed to locate the Grand Canal, hopped aboard the only moving train with no reservations and no real idea of how we would get where we needed to go, and eventually got there.

It was frustrating. It was exhausting. I may or may not have said words a pastor doesn’t say. But you know what else it was? Empowering. We did it. We got where we needed to go, in a strange country with a strange language, and we did it with a sense of humor. When I would normally have leaned on my husband to do the scary hard things, I had to do them myself. And I learned that I could.

In her book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg notes that “Multiple studies in multiple industries show that women often judge their own performance as worse than it actually is.” Isn’t that the truth in your experience? I know it is in mine. I detest performance self-evaluations. I just don’t want to talk about how well I think I’m doing. Most of us feel more comfortable talking about how much we think we’re failing than how we think we’re crushing it. That’s sad.

Trying new experiences can be a chance for us to say, I can do hard thing. I can do this. And it feels good. Especially when you’re finally on the train and you can put those suitcases down.

Most of us feel more comfortable talking about how much we think we’re failing than how we think we’re crushing it.

4. Not trying is the only failure

Another latest new experience has been becoming a friendship partner to a refugee family. This is so out of my comfort zone. I don’t do strangers. I don’t do small talk. I don’t do situations where I don’t know what my job is supposed to be. I definitely don’t do sit on a couch awkwardly not knowing what to say and not even knowing how to say it in a way a non-English speaker will understand. But it seemed suddenly so minute to worry about my discomfort when faced with masses of people for whom discomfort was quite the relative term.

Honestly? It’s not going well. I keep sending text messages, calling, trying to set up appointments. And I don’t get answers. I’m frustrated. I want to quit. I won’t, not until I know that it’s just not going to work.

Even if I do end up quitting though, there is value in the trying. Learning something from a new experience that didn’t work is not failing. It’s obedience. I hope I works out, and I will continue to work with the organization in other capacities if it doesn’t. But if that happens, I will have tried. I won’t regret not trying. And I will have learned.


5. Listen to the call, not the catcall

I did something brand new this week that is possibly the most terrifying thing ever. I applied to be a senior pastor. I never thought that was something I would do, and I have no idea if it will end up happening. Surprisingly, I am at complete peace with the whole thing. Also surprisingly, I have been having recurring bad dreams about the whole thing. Apparently, my subconscious is not nearly as unafraid as my conscious.

Dreams like, I am asked to preach and find myself in front of a Willow-Creek-size sort of crowd. With my sermon slides projected in Disneyworld-like 360-surround and a giant spotlight on . . . me. I’m not particularly frightened of speaking to crowds, so this has not yet reached nightmare proportions. Until I go to pull out my trusty new iPad with sermon notes, and I find that instead I have a pocket full of crumpled up receipts, paper scraps, and napkins on which those notes are scratched. I am standing there trying to uncrumple twenty papers, put them in order, and read the tiny bad handwriting. In front of thousands of critical people.

Yep, this is where it turns Chucky Doll scary. I do have recurring bad dreams of not being prepared for things. They have escalated.

But see, this is also where I have to pull back and remember a few things. I am called. God has asked, “Yes or no?” And I have answered. I don’t have to listen to the voices that tell me I’m not enough or I will surely fail. I only have to listen to His voice. If He says walk right into this new scary thing, it means He will walk with me. That little word “with”? A tiny preposition in English. You know what it means in Hebrew? Alongside me, behind me, before me, above and below and all around me. Enveloped by God. That’s pretty good assurance to head into that scary thing.

What’s your next scary thing? Maybe it might be a good thing to try.

First Encounters with Jesus – Humility and a Laser Light Show

bb58c-img_7197I discovered Jesus as a thirteen-year-old watching Jesus Christ Superstar.

Most pastors and theologians I know would suggest that was a bad beginning. It seemed to take, though, as I’m still following Him some years later. You just never know which way that Holy Spirit wind is going to blow, do you?

I didn’t know the answer to the question the singers kept asking – Who are you, anyway, Jesus? Watching him die on a cross there on late night TV, I suddenly wanted to. I sincerely, desperately wanted to know who that was who would do such an incomprehensible, soul-searing thing. Because Sunday-school born and bred or not, I knew what he was doing, and I knew it was for me. I just didn’t know what I was supposed to do about it.

The culture that created that stage play and movie – my culture – was asking some macro and micro-cosmic questions.

Who do you say you are?

Jesus–Who do others say you are? Do you agree with them? Really, they were asking, Are you still relevant? Do you still mean anything? Is who you are still important to anyone here and now?

The answer was yes.

The answer is still yes.

Always, and eternally, yes.

But we have to know which Jesus we mean. Which Jesus is the conversation about? Which Jesus are we allowing to die on that cross and speak truth into our 21st century skeptical existence?

I promised an exploration into those questions, and it starts here, the first time Jesus makes a truly public appearance.

Wrapped now in flesh, the God who once hovered over the waters was plunged beneath them at the hands of a wild-eyed wilderness preacher.” Rachel Held Evans

0e66c-img_0506Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”

But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him. After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” (Matthew 3.13-17)

Do you think you’re who they say you are?

This is a pretty whiz-bang way to make your first public appearance. The clouds open up and James Earl Jones’ voice booms out of heaven. He labels you pretty clearly – God’s son. Well OK then. There should be no more questions.

Jesus could take his special effects show and make bank on it. He could have an instant platform and thousands of followers on twitter. He could get his own reality show. He could talk world domination. He could do ….all the things the devil will soon tempt him to do out in the wilderness. Exert his power. Use his position. Make it big and splashy and all about him.

But he does not.

John knows who he is. He offers to give Jesus his rightful place. He cannot fathom that Jesus would not want to step up into the limelight, nor that he would want to step down toward submission and anonymity.


5810f-img_0500It’s the first thing people who encounter Jesus see. A man who has defeated Satan’s temptations and been announced to the world by God Himself, but he calmly walks into the water like he is ambling up to a stoplight and obeying the ‘walk’ sign. As if he is anyone in the crowd of people who need this obedience like they need bread in a famine.

He doesn’t need it, but he chooses it, and in choosing, he says to the people watching him for maybe the first time, “I am here to restore the order of things, and though I could be your Almighty God I choose to be your companion on this journey. I’m starting something new. Come with me.”

Jesus’ first statement before the world was that he could choose power and glory — but he will not.

c3078-img_0982That’s a Jesus we can love, isn’t it? That’s a Jesus we can trust, perhaps, in a world where it seems Christian leaders have not taken that road often enough. That’s a Jesus we can want to get to know more. That’s a Jesus who is still relevant in 2016.

Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.  (Philippians 2.6-8)

We are quick to choose the power and glory. That shouldn’t be surprising, since it’s the choice first made in that fate-filled garden. But can’t you love a Savior who chooses humility instead, at a time when the power stakes are at their highest?

We’re told, in this world where Jesus is no longer considered chic, that even His followers have to choose power and glory if we want to have an impact. Perhaps the way of Jesus is more relevant than we realize. It’s relevant to meet anger with humility. It’s incredibly relevant to take the road of quiet obedience rather than offer sound-bites on our position.

I want to know a man who is so completely different. I want to walk beside One who insists on a life so counter to His world’s wisdom. I want to put into practice a relevance that is so radical it’s timeless.

How about you?

Jesus for the Win


275bd-img_45452015. Many of us are probably saying good riddance to 2015. Glad to have you behind us. Let’s move on to better days. Kicking 2015 to the curb.

Many others are doubtful that better days are in the offing in 2016. The economy may be better, but the headlines are not. Our newsfeeds have become minefields. Man’s inhumanity to man has become the stuff of epic legend. Plus, it’s an election year. So there is that PTSD to look forward to.

I suspect most of the news is not really new at all. It’s just that many of us have been afforded immunity for a long while. We have been the monkeys who never had to see, hear, or feel evil. Now we do. And I have to admit, I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

So as I pondered what to begin 2016 with, I thought, start with Jesus. OK, that’s not exactly a new thing; I hope most of what I write starts with Jesus. Plus, it’s the classic Sunday school answer.

What should I write about? Um, Jesus? Kid in the front row, for the win.

But the world wants Jesus. I truly believe this.

cb589-img_6725There is a hunger in the world for a hero. For someone who is better than we are, who is powerful enough to make things better, who offers a transcendence we crave but hardly hope to believe in.

We didn’t make a new Star Wars for nothing. It’s one, limited answer to a hunger pang we can’t satisfy.

Make no mistake – people who are wary of God-talk don’t want Jesus as we have portrayed him all too often. They don’t want sanitized Jesus. They don’t want white American Jesus. They don’t want Jesus-lite. I am convinced, though, that when people say they don’t want Jesus at all, more often than not they don’t know who Jesus is. More often than not, it’s because we’ve presented the wrong Jesus.

So what if we found out who the real Jesus is? What if we asked the real Jesus to stand up? What if, in response to all the young people leaving the church because they don’t believe in what we’re teaching anymore, we offered a Jesus they could love? A Jesus they could trust? A Jesus that did not look like us? A untamable Jesus who both loves and speaks truth with relentless purpose? Or as N. T. Wright posits,

“We might discover if we really looked a more disturbing, more urgent genius than we ever imagined.”

That Jesus they could believe in, perhaps.

Maybe that Jesus you feel like you could believe in, too.

Wright again,

“If Jesus was a figure of history, we can try to discover what he did and what it meant in his own day. We can try to get inside the Gospels to discover the Jesus they’ve been telling us about all along, But whom we had managed to screen out.”

17b9e-window4So I’m going to start the year searching for that Jesus. Let’s look together. Let’s strip away all that we have added to Jesus and assumed about Jesus and attributed to Jesus and just Look. At. Jesus. It may not sound exciting. Not as rewarding as Five Easy Steps to Better Whatever. But I think we know better.

I think we’ll be surprised.

I think we’ll be uncomfortable.

I think we’ll be curious.

I think we’ll fall in love.


Anyone who comments on a post, likes my Facebook page, follows me on Twitter, or shares a post is in the running for a surprise gift each month! But please tell me you’re from the email list if you do the twitter or facebook thing, or I won’t know!

Friday Five–Five Adjective that Are You

This week’s Friday Five linkup is a fun one. Five adjectives. What five adjectives describe you? I thought this would be a fun opportunity for us to get to know one another better. I’ll list my five, and I’d love to hear five adjectives that describe you in the comments. Please!

(Plus. Because I’m a pastor, I made them all “I’s.” Because I’m fun like that. Alliteration is optional for you.)


So easy to come up with first. I need my bubble. Last night, we went to see Star Wars. (Finally, since the fist time we tried to see it the fire alarm went off and the theater cleared. Fun times.) But when we got home, I needed at least a half hour to myself in total quiet. It was that overstimulating. I don’t do overstimulation.

I am off the charts, people. I can actually relate sometimes to socially-awkward Mr. Darcy, staring, blinking at people, vaguely wondering if they are saying anything I need to be paying attention to. I’m that bad at small talk.

Plusses—I can be very productive all by myself, and I can go deep with things that need it.

Minuses—I don’t know how to meet people. I really don’t. I’m the public speaker who loves speaking to hundreds of people but cannot mingle afterward to save my life. Yep. Poor Darcy is not standoffish—he’s terrified.


I like to learn. I like to research. I like to understand. I have All. The. Questions. It used to drive my poor mother batty.

Plusses—I can research like nobody’s business. If it needs knowing, I will find it.

Minuses—I can research until it’s dead and I know way more about a project than anyone will ever need to. Thus, procrastinating the project. No one cares about all that background information I dug up on that article. Just write it already.

(Although some reader somewhere will know and will care and will send you comments like “Han Solo never used a light saber so what do you know?” while completely ignoring the point of your article. Yes, they will.)


Another Myers-Briggs measurement in which I am way off to one side. I just know, OK? First impressions are usually right. You won’t be hiding a lot from me. I can see down the road and get in the right lane long before most. (Literally, sometimes, a trait quite opposite of my husband, which drives me batty.)

Plusses—Great strategist at work, here.

Minuses—Sometimes I don’t just know. But I think I do. And I get sooo impatient with those like my dear husband who is, um, not exactly intuitive. At All. I want to know why not instead of letting him be who he is and playing to his strengths. Wrong answer.


Not in the important things. I just may have a shorter list of what’s important. But I manage a strange mix of taking life very seriously and not taking it seriously at all. Whatevs—it works for me.

Truth, I’ve lived long enough to have a firmer grasp on what merits drama and what does not than I did once upon a time. And very, very little does. I hold the rest lightly. I don’t need to defend myself—God is my attorney. And I certainly don’t need to jump on anyone in order to defend God. He’s quite capable.

Plusses—You probably can’t offend me. I mean, not that I’m asking for you to try, but it probably won’t work. And that is quite different from the person I used to be.

Minuses—I throw people off with my sense of humor. They’re not quite sure what to make of certain statements. I should probably try to be less sarcastic and a little more concrete. Nah.


OK, not really, but I could not come up with an adjective that started with an “I” that was synonymous with stubborn, determined, with a shade of rebellion. So insubordinate it is. See #4 if you are disturbed by that.

I don’t mean that I disregard authority (um, sometimes, maybe) but that words like “You can’t do that” are fighting words to me. If you want me to do something, the only surefire way to manage it is to tell me I probably can’t. Although, that streak might work the other way, and I just might say, “I didn’t want to.” It depends on the mood.

Plusses—It got me through the early loss of my parents. It gets me through a profession that may have the highest percentage of male domination of any career. (Perhaps the military beats the evangelical clergy. But not by much.)

Minuses—That should be obvious. Rebellion is sexy in movies, but often it’s just plain lazy circumvention of dealing with issues in real life.

And one I want in 2016—Gentle. In the biblical definition, which is:

Sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love.

Founded on strength (not weakness like we often think) and prompted by love.

I just want to be gentle in 2016. The world needs it.

What about you? What are your adjectives? What would you like to be able to say about yourself? I’d like to know you better, too.

Head on over to the linkup at Mrs. Disciple to read more!

Pulling Weeds: Being Thankful for Real Community

Guest blogging today is Sarah May. Sarah writes about seeing happiness in the most unlikely of situations and how we can bring that happiness to grieving people.
Sarah is a 20-something trying to navigate the world with a little help from Jesus and little bit of sarcasm. For more from Sarah visit

I Hope They’re Weeds

IMG_8765Killing weeds is never fun. It may be cathartic if you’ve had a rough day, but no one jumps at the chance to weed the garden. It’s just not pleasant. I recently found myself cleaning the yard and killing weeds with my trusty bottle of Round Up and like most mindless task, I found myself thinking about life while I sprayed roundup on what I hope were weeds.

Cancer’s New Normal

You see, the weeds in my yard are two and half years old. I know this because that’s how long it’s been since our yard received some serious love. The weeds were symbolic of our lives going through cancer and then grief. When you enter the world of life with cancer, your new normal does not involve yard work, or home repairs. It involves clinics, hospital stays, trying to not fall behind at work, and chick-fil-a more than once a week.
After a year and half of our new life with cancer, we lost our new normal life and entered the world of grief. Grief exhaustion from the past year and half collided, and the energy to do anything outside of the normal means of living was just to overwhelming. For every weed, a new emotion.
When we first entered the world of cancer, people were quick to help without us asking. Food was delivered; a group showed up to finish some home projects and clean the yard. We were and are thankful for this. It helped make the transition easier. Then the rain fell and the garden grew. Yard work was never anywhere near the top of the to do list.

Smiling in Grief

Grief is terribly isolating. However, if you go the other side of the world, you will find a group of women who smile the biggest smiles you have ever seen. These women are either widows or they were left by their husbands. Due to the culture and the legal marriage age of 15, they have limited skills to earn a living and mouths to feed. These women have banded together and are supported by the community. They learn job skills as they go through life together. Not because it’s fun or church organized. They have to. To put food on the table and educate their children in hopes of a better future one day.
If you are ever blessed to meet a group of these women, I hope they rip your heart out in the best of ways. I have met these women, and they are full of more life and love for the Lord than anyone I have ever met. In meeting them all, I wanted to do was cry with an overwhelming emotion I cannot explain, but I couldn’t cry because a short 4’5″ woman with missing teeth grabbed me by the arm singing with the biggest smile on her face. Soon after, I found myself in the dancing circle singing and dancing.
I couldn’t cry; they were just too happy and I didn’t want to rob them of this joy. These women in this community, who had nothing, were so very happy. This is where happiness is in its purist form. Living life and supporting one another because it’s what they must do to live. It wasn’t about a monthly to do at the church or a biannual event. It wasn’t a way to feel like they had served the Lord and filled up their Jesus tank.

Good Deeds vs Good Neighbors

My family has been on the receiving end of these church groups and good deed quota filling events. But here I am, killing those same weeds. While my yard has been cleaned up and repairs fixed, those weeds grew back, because cancer and grief aren’t a one-time thing. They are a lifetime thing. While everyone is quick to help once or twice, few are willing to walk this path; for those few who have we are so very thankful.

While my dad was sick and in the months following his passing a neighbor would push his lawn mower down the street to our house and cut our grass. He wouldn’t ask or say “Call if you need anything.” He just did. Friends that call and say “I’m a minute from your house and coming to visit”–Those are God’s people. The small group of people whom I would call my parents’ true friends, who showed up to clean and organize our garage without motive or invite. And this tiny group, even though my Dad no longer gets to join them on their Friday night Mexican dinners, still always invites my mom.

I am often asked “Hey, how’s your mom?”. I have decided I will no longer answer this question. I am not my mom, and I cannot tell you how she is doing. If you want to know, call her, message her, stop by the house and find out for yourself.

I once had a fortune cookie tell me “Joy shared is doubled, sorrow shared is halved.” This cannot be more true.
This phase of life has taught me to help other without asking and to listen when a friend needs to talk. I can’t fix the world, or anything any one else is going through. But I can listen.

In short, if you find yourself wanting to share God’s love with someone in need,  please do, but be prepared to pull up the weeds when they regrow.

Five Way to Reignite the Fire of Perseverance

Different kid. Similar attitude.

Our firstborn Becca learned to walk the way she learned to talk. Without preamble. At nine months, she went from rolling everywhere to standing up and walking around. Babies with fewer places to go bothered with crawling. Similarly, she seemed to begin talking in full sentences. After the initial, “Kitty,” “Daddy,” it was “Can we go to the park?” And the race to simply dive in never ended.

The two skills combined the day my husband taught her the word perseverance. Running to the playground, Becca gravitated immediately to the monkey bars. Our little monkey climbed to the top and began the trek across. She fell. She tried again. She fell. Absolutely determined not to let those bars defeat her, Becca continued her attempts, probably 20 or 30, until she proudly crossed the entire set.

Brent told her she had great perseverance. She asked what that was. She was, after all, barely two. One can’t be expected to have a vocabulary that encompasses many four-syllable words when you still wear a diaper at night.

Like Becca, things came easily to me as a child. For those that didn’t, I persevered until they did. But somewhere in those years, I lost the childhood ability to persevere. I began to focus on what I could do, not what I could not, and play it safe, carefully building a world where I could succeed easily and feel good about who I was. It worked well.

Until adulthood, when the rest of the world caught up, and I just stared, bewildered, as opportunities passed me by, given to lesser mortals who were less gifted but harder working. I didn’t know what to do. I had forgotten how to persevere, and I wasn’t sure how to get it back.

Right now, studies indicate that there is an epidemic of college student blinking at the world the way I did. They have always been told they’re awesome, and now the adult world is demanding they prove it. They don’t know how.

Over at Mrs. Disciple, we’re taking perseverance today. Maybe you feel like I did, or maybe you know a young person who is in that blinking, bewildered state. Either way, here are five things I’ve learned about reigniting perseverance when success has been too easy.

Do things you don’t want to do

20150809_161947_001You can slide by a lot of years not doing the things you don’t want to if you’re smart enough (or anything enough, really). Then that neglect bites you in the butt. I hated follow up and phone calls. I turned in my resume – they’ll see how great I am. Why do I have to call? Really, it was less self-assurance and more introvert terror at the thought of picking up a phone. I was the same in interviews. It’s all good on paper. Why do I have to talk to you? Needless to say, not many jobs came my way.

So I taught my daughters better. You have to take the extra step. You have to do what you don’t want to do. Persevering to reach a goal means to outline what conventional wisdom says you need to reach it and do those things. All those things. Not just the ones you like. Do the ones you don’t like first and get them done.

And yes, it’s so much easier now –you can just write an email.

Accept correction

Can I just say something here, between you and me? You don’t know everything. You don’t always know what’s best. You can’t have the greatest solution for everything. How do I know this? Because I’ve tried. I hate correction. It makes me feel hurt and confused and ‘less than.’ The thing is, now I accept it. (Usually.)

To persevere toward a goal, we need help. We need to get better. We might get to the finish line alone, but it will not be our best race. Some of the most life-changing advice I’ve ever received was constructive criticism from friends. All the “you’re doing great” in the world is wonderful and needed to keep us going. But just one, “Hey, I’ve noticed this. You might want to take a look at that,” can be a course-changing lifesaver.

Solicit advice from people you trust. (Random people need not apply to criticize, please.) Ask for suggestions for improvement. Listen when someone gives one, even unasked. Take the defenses down long enough to weigh its validity. These people who love you enough to tell the truth are your best friends and allies. Hold them close.

Slow down

IMG_7844Plunging forward and reading directions later is a hallmark of someone for whom success comes easily. We’ll get the information we need as we need it. For now, full steam ahead.

Until we near the end of putting together the IKEA bookshelf and find this particular screw doesn’t fit and that one seems to be missing, and OK, you can just force it all together with one big hammer blow, but will that really still be holding books three years down the road?

Have you been there?

I used to opt for the hammer blow. But I am improving. It seems an odd thing, in teaching how to persevere, to say slow down and stop moving toward the goal. But if I am hurrying toward it so fast that I am not heeding warning signs, there will be a disaster down the road.

Stop. Check for all the tools you will need. Look for the directions others have given or the ones you can figure out you will need. Ask questions. Seek out the thing you may be missing. Then, by all means, proceed full steam ahead.

Work harder

You know the fish in the pond adage. A big fish in a small pond doesn’t have to work too hard to survive. He’s at the top of the food chain, and everything he needs swims right up to him. Move that fish to a big pond where he’s the little one though, and not so much. Suddenly, not only does he have to compete for food, but he’d better swim fast so he isn’t food.

He’s probably gonna die.

That’s pretty much my experience entering college and the real world. Except I didn’t really know how to swim. I’d never been taught to push past “good enough to get an A” and discover what I was actually capable of. Beyond sitting in classes, I had to gain real world skills in improving and competing.

And I still do. Podcasts, seminars, conferences, mentors. All in the mix. Plus, mostly, the hard work of butt in chair knocking things out until they are my best work, not acceptable work. Not settling for OK.

Great Wall
This thing didn’t happen through settling for OK.

Now, this can go to extremes, and I am not suggesting the trap of perfectionism. (Been there, done that, lousy T-shirt.) For many things, good enough is good enough. But not for what matters.

For those to whom success can come easily, learning to take that extra step, give that extra percentage, find that extra something you didn’t know you had in you until you forced it out through pure sweat and perseverance, is a hard, hard thing. But it’s completely beautiful.

Lose control

People for whom success comes easily soon learn to measure the risks they take and control the outcomes carefully. Why? We are ensuring our continued success. We have constructed a universe in which we won’t fail, because we don’t know how. We never have. We know somehow it will be catastrophic, so we avoid it at all costs.

Our success is who we are.

We carefully curate that persona. We cannot bear the thought of letting anyone down, being publicly shown up, or not being in control of an outcome that will reflect on us. (Oh man, try raising kids that way.)

Problem is, we take zero risks that way. And we don’t grow. We don’t learn to persevere toward greater things, because those always come with danger. To be a perseverer, we need to step away from the control button. Lean to fail. Learn it isn’ the end of the world. Learn people will still love us, and God will still love us. Feel the relief of joining the rest of the race in being human.

(To read more on this important topic, and how to teach it to our kids go here.)

There’s only one problem – you just have to do it. No preamble. Just jump onto those scary monkey bars and go.


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12.1

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9.24


Grown Up Reviews of Childhood Favorites: Gilligan’s Island

IMG_6280Do you know what people do when they are on the fourth day of the flu and can’t move but can finally look at something like a TV screen without their eyes crossing and a migraine forming? I don’t know about other people, but I know what I did. I watched an entire season of Gilligan’s Island. Don’t judge. I will leave you to your guilty sick day pleasures. (I also watched six hours of Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice.)

And I realized, there are multiple issues here I never thought to ponder when I was young. Youth are so gullible. So here, in no particular order, my adult-me questions for the makers of this iconic show:

–Did all those people carry their entire wardrobes, accessories, and makeup kits with them on this three-hour-tour? Because I don’t think those things are all made of bamboo. Normal people leave their suitcases at the hotel for the afternoon.

–It was a three-hour-tour. How far can you get from Hawaii that you can’t be found in three hours? Even accounting for the storm? I want some hard meteorological data.

–Ginger, real movie stars do not dress like that in normal life. The only time they wear clothing like you do is IN THE ACTUAL MOVIES. The only person who would wear a sequined evening gown on a dolphin cruise is a delusional actress. Or a mermaid. Which is it?

–Skipper, do you know what the title Captain means? It means you are captain of a ship. Not of a land. Why do you keep trying to boss everyone around when you are clearly no longer on a ship? Especially since we all know you are the one who should have checked some weather reports before you went on that three-hour-tour. Your Captain’s bars smell a bit like Cracker Jack; perhaps you should not defend them so forcibly. Or you may be reminded of that other popular naval word—mutiny.

This is what can happen when you have a library employee in the house.

–Mary Ann, what are you doing here? You appear to be nice girl from Iowa. Did you win this trip to Hawaii on Price Is Right? What did you dress up as? Did Price Is Right exist? Because otherwise the chances of a single midwestern girl making this trip alone in 1964 are approximately -2%. So you must be something more sinister under that girl-next-door facade. Cold War Spy? That was Mary Ann’s real identity.

–Ginger, do you really have a 22” waist? If so, there is something wrong with you, and it isn’t because you eat only bananas.

–Speaking of which, if you all exist on a diet of tropical fruit, would that not make you a little, err, irregular? Is there a latrine hut? Where is it? Who cleans it? How deep could you have dug to make it? All important questions.

–Professor, did you bring your beakers and books on the cruise with you? You are weird, sir. Never mind, I always liked you. I would have married the professor. Except you were deserted on that island about the time I was born, so that would probably not have worked out.

–Mr. and Mrs. Howell, what are you doing on a boat that looks like it takes Coppertone-slicked tourists to drink mimosas on a fake tropical island with blinking colored lights? Slumming? There is no comprehensible reason for you to exist here.

–On that note, where are the fleets you own? Why are they not looking for you? Were you that much of a jerk as a boss? I guess karma is real.

–There is a long list of guest appearances. How do you have guest appearances? You are on a desert isle that no one knows exists and you found only by accident! Yet so many others find it, too? There has to be a line to the mainland you just aren’t catching on to. Seriously. Are you sure they aren’t pranking you? You know, I think Candid Camera existed around this time, too.

–However, with all the guests you have popping in, this is quite the popular uncharted island. Howells, I sense a cash opportunity here when you get back to civilization.

What were your childhood favorite shows or movies? I think I may do more of these. There has to be some way to redeem all that time I spent in front of 70’s TV. Next–first reactions of a Star Wars newbie. In the 21st century.

I Want Less in 2016

IMG_8764Did you choose a word to focus on during 2015? It’s become a popular practice, and I’ve enjoyed it the last couple years. It helps me to stay focused on one main thing. And we all know that focus, and its arch-nemesis random distraction, are the angel and the devil on our shoulders a lot of the time.

(If you’re interested in the one word idea, there are instructions and ideas here.)

One Word?

My word for 2015 was rest. It wasn’t hard to do. Being sick for 11 of the 12 months made it nearly impossible for me not to rest. I may not have done so willingly – but I definitely pulled back and admitted – I need rest. I cannot do this. Whatever it is. It may have been a severe mercy, as Sheldon VanAuken has said, but I did learn about rest. I believe I am better at taking time out for sheer fun and for people. Sometimes, the two even mix.

For 2016, I’m choosing the word less. I know, strange word. Other people choose way more exciting, active words to focus on. Oh well. “Less” has been on my heart in various ways for a long time.

Less stuff. Less busyness. Less “I need.” Less frustration. Les anger at world events and less taking offense. Less me. Oh, so much less me.

(Or, if you’re a grammar snob as I am, sometimes the word is going to have to be fewer. But that’s beside the point…)

Why less?

Can you think of anything you’d like less of?

A writer/speaker spends fifty to eighty percent of her time self-promoting. It’s part of the business. If I don’t get my name out there, make a constant push to get noticed, I don’t get paid. Simple math, really. Plus, I don’t get the soul-knowledge joy of knowing I’m doing the work I was created to do. It’s tough for an extreme introvert like me.

(When I took the Myers-Briggs in seminary, the prof asked me if I really thought going into ministry was a good idea with my off-the-chart introversion score. Well, it wasn’t my idea, it was God’s, so how was I to say? Plus, I was pregnant and had a ten-month-old. So all those questions about “Are you tired a lot?” Ya think?)

But you know what? Sometimes, so much focus on ‘me’ makes it crowded inside my head. Sometimes, I really hate having to prove to the world how awesome I am. I want to yell, “I’m pretty normal, really, and so are all of you. Can’t we just be that, together??”

Sometimes, I get sick of my own awesomeness.

I have a low threshold for self-promotion anyway. Worse, I start to believe my own press and think I deserve recognition, and then….then entitlement and envy and resentment start driving the car. They do not drive nicely.

So, less in 2016.

IMG_8807Here are the things I want less of:

Less stuff

We are cleaning the basement. I’m not even kidding this time. It is no idle threat. It’s either this or a controlled burn. We are also jettisoning other things we don’t need all over the house. There are people who do need and will use this stuff. OK, no one needs or will use a broken knick knack of a fairy my daughter made ten yeas ago. But the other stuff….it can go somewhere useful.

Working with refugee families has renewed my sense of urgency to rid my life of the excess so I can concentrate on giving more away. I want generosity to bookend my life. That’s hard when the “stuff” exerts its pull so convincingly.

If less stuff appeals to you, I highly recommend Jen Hatmaker’s book 7. It will help you in the letting go process. And, Jen will also kick your but when needed. Try some of these if you want hard core help. I might.

Less anger

A presidential election year is going to make this a tough one. I try to walk the line between being unified and loving in the Christian community and calling out the jerks who give us a bad name. It’s a murky area. Who is to say exactly where the line is drawn? It’s not in my pay grade. So in 2016 I am choosing to find more and better ways of loving those with whom I disagree. While still disagreeing mightily when I feel God is not being honored.

How do you manage to do that?

Less me

Way more putting God and others in the limelight. Less, “Why not me?” It’s fun to encourage others and watch them shine. I want to do more of that. In fact, if you have something you want to shine out there, I’d love to hear about it. And tell others.

My key verses for this year:

 He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. (John 3.30)

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6.33)

What do you want to choose for 2016? Less of something? More of something? What are your verses? I’d love to know. I’d love for us to encourage one another toward that goal.

I’m living less in 2016.

Here are some resources if you’re looking to set goals for your new year. Isn’t it a great feeling to start fresh? I love that God gives us that any time, not just at New Year’s, when we ask.

Goal setting activities (I love the practicality here and the ideas)

How to set goals

5 Fun Goal Setting Activities

Other things for 2016:

I’ll be starting a series on who Jesus is. If we stripped away all that we have added to Jesus, what would we see? Whom would we encounter? How would we be changed? It’s going to be fun. And risky. Because Jesus is not the tame lion we have made him out to be. (Or, well, the white American male.) I’d love to hear about your encounters with Jesus.

Next week, I’ll have a surprise guest post!

What topics would you like to talk about?

And remember my promise begun late last year: Anyone who comments on a post, likes my Facebook page, follows me on Twitter, or shares a post is in the running for a surprise gift each month. (I promise, it will not be the broken-winged fairy.) But please tell me you’re from the email list if you do the twitter or facebook thing, or I won’t know!

Stay tuned. I’m looking forward to 2016 with you!