Thursday, November 21, 2013


Luka at 2 1/2 loves his trains.  He is also just begining to talk and put his beautiful thoughts into words. This is probably my very favorite stage of childhood.  A few mornings ago he was very busy setting up his tracks, lining up his Thomas and cars.  Everything was all set up as he played, just talking away to no one but himself.

And this is what I heard him say,"Ready?  Not Yet.  Few Minutes."  Then he just waited on his knees beside his train.  Pretty soon, "Ready?  Not Yet.  Few Minutes."  Some more waiting happened.  He didn't look around.  He didn't add anything.  He just waited and then repeated the same phrases, again.

It fascinated me.  What was he thinking?  What was he waiting for?  I thought about how often we use those phrases with children.  "Not yet, we have to wait a few minutes."  "Just a minute."

It also drew my thoughts to our Father, which art in heaven.  I thought about hearing God prompting and calling me.  Sending that still small voice that asks me to love...  I imagined Him waiting, saying, "Ready?"  And all too often my response is, "Not yet.  I'm not prepared, I'm not sure if I'm hearing you right. I need more Bible study...more training...more faith....others could do it so much better...I don't feel comfortable...I'm not ready."

I shared this story with a friend today and immediately she connected it with her prodigal son.  She talked of her struggle to really trust God to love this son of hers, to let go and submit to whatever God needs to do to bring him home to the Father.

We talked about that sense that we are never enough...that our faith is never great enough, that we know we can't conjure up what we think is needed in those kinds of situations.  But we are also incredibly thankful that God's love is so great, God's power is unlimited, God's ways are beyond our understanding, and we can know that God is enough.

Ready?  Okay, Lord.  I believe, help me in my unbelief.  Make me ready.

Dancing in the Opera House

Monday evening Lilah, our 6 year old grand-daughter had her first performance at the Sydney Opera House.  She was one of two kindergarteners, or kindies as they are called here, at a musical extravaganza involving 24 area schools.  Obviously she was the best!  (At least according to this grandma.)

It was a wonderful night of music from a conbined choir of 600 students, several dance teams, a few instrumental groups and a few solos.  There was one little Japanese violon player that you would absolutely not have believed!  It was a great night for all.

I loved Lilah's comment after the concert when she said, "When we finished the last dance I couldn't take the smile off my face."

Pure joy in doing something she loves.  At 2 years old we could tell her body was made to dance.  If she hadn't danced during a day she would be upset at bedtime saying, "I didn't dance today!"

So I am wondering...what is it that gives you so much joy you can't take the smile off your face? What was it when you were a child?  Is there anything you need to reclaim  from your childhood that you have shelved because you didn't think you were good enough?  Or did you let something go that there just wasn't time for, and now you want to re-explore it?

Unless you become like a little child you cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven.  Matt 18:3

I hope today, or tomorrow, or soon you do something that gives you so much joy you can't take the smile off your face.  To LIFE!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Totally Aussie

I am spending the month of November in Australia with son Cory and his wife Elisa and their two little ones, Lilah 6 and Luka 2.  I love looking for thoses totally aussie moments and yesterday was one of them...

Cory's church belongs to a greater ministry called Wesly Mission in the heart of Sydney.  Yesterday was the 100th annual Wesley Fair; basically a craft, baked goods, rummage sale combination.  I was waiting for the elevator on the floor with the offices when I ran into three other folks heading down.

One of them asked, "Have you been down  to the fair?

Response:  No I'm going down now for a "sticky bake."  (At least that is what I heard.)

I responded:  "Ooo, that sounds yummy.  Is that a sweet roll?"


Response:  No, I mean I'm going for a "look see."

Aah, of course..."sticky bake...look see."

So later that evening I asked Cory why in the world they say, "Sticky bake" when talking about taking a look around?


He responded:  It's "sticky beak", not "sticky bake."  (Well that cleared up everything...not.)
"Sticky beak means to stick your beak into something and see what you find...check it out," he said.

It's amazing how hard it can be to understand someone who is speaking the same language.  It makes me realize that so much of our "Christianeze" language is totally foreign to those who grow up outside of our churched communities.  What we assume is powerful language might make no sense to someone first encountering the Good News.  We don't intend to shut them out, but if we are not careful it happens so easily.

Of course there is also the danger that we never get into any situations where everyone doesn't already know all the "Christianeze," because that can seem a lot more comfortable.  So I invite you to have a "look see"  go out for a "sticky beak" and see what God is up to in places you may not have frequented lately...or ever.  Stretch your vocabulary!!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Out of the Darkness and Into the Light

I think I've figured out why it has taken me so long to blog again. What is on my heart is not a feel good story; it is a heart-wrenching reality that needs a response. Some of you know that this past year I have gotten involved at the Center for Women in Transition. The name speaks to the HOPE they offer, rather than focusing on the evil they address. (Sexual assault and domestic violence)

This blog is about:
  1. A little 9 year old who comes to the center for counseling to help him deal with the domestic violence and abuse in his home. He is a wonderful, outgoing, resilient child making a lot of progress. Within 10 minutes I wanted to adopt him. The rescue impulse had kicked in...full strength. So much more needs to happen for him to live in a safe and loving home, but progress is being made.
  2. It is also about the voices of women calling in on the crisis line...fearful voices, tired voices, desperate voices, sad voices, voices trying to be brave enough to leave their situation, voices desperate to find shelter for the night, voices with little ones crying in the background, voices of pregnant women. And these voices belong to women of all ages, races, financial situations, educational backgrounds. 
  3. It's about the fact that at a Midlife Momentum small group setting in this past year there were 6 participants, 4 of whom had experienced abuse in their family of origin or in a marriage. This blew my mind, and it continues to break my heart, as I realize how many children are living in fear of those who should keep them safe and loved.
  4. It's about the fact that there are 3 times as many shelters for animals as there are for women and children. There is something very wrong with this picture. It breaks my heart every time I need to tell someone that our shelters are full to capacity when they have finally gotten the courage to leave their situation. We try to find other options, but it isn't always possible. Because of the limited space we can only offer immediate shelter if the situation is lethal.
  5. I could go on and get into the area of human trafficking...but I better save that for another time.

Isaiah 1:16-17 Wash yourselves, make yourself clean;put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; SEEK JUSTICE, REBUKE THE OPPRESSOR, DEFEND THE FATHERLESS, PLEAD FOR THE WIDOW.

I think the Father's heart puts the abused and assaulted in the same category. How can we be partners who help break the cycle? How do we create places of safety and welcome?  When the situation looks so dark how are we able to bring light?  How can we be lovers in the name of Jesus in this broken world?  It starts in our homes.

Lord, Please help us, that we might help others!!

I'm in Australia for the month of November, so I'm sure there will be some grandma stories coming...apologies in advance, but you know when you have such beautiful reminders of God's goodness around you have to pay attention.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Telling Stories

Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of history keeping and communication of which we know.  I love hearing a good story, reading a good story and telling a good story.  Having children settle all around this great world I am thankful for the advances of technology that allow me to stay connected with my kids and grandchildren.

Recently when we were skyping with our grandkids in Australia I told them about meeting an Australian in a Kohl"s department store.  I drew the story out.  I made them an important part of the story. I told it well.

I met a cashier in Kohl"s that had an aussie accent, so I asked where she was from.  She said Australia, and I mentioned that I go there every year.  I told her where Cory lives and she got so excited, commenting, "You not only know where Sydney is, you know the suburbs!"  I told Lilah how she lived near Manly Beach and went to Macquarie University, how she knew right where they lived, and how excited she was to talk about "Home" with someone who knew her area.

When I got done telling my story Lilah asked, "Do you have another story?"  She wanted more! Stories connect us with one another.

I love telling stories.  Every time we skype, at the end we give a blessing, and now I want to make sure that each time I talk to the grandkids I try to have a story to tell.  Even if it isn't long or of great significance I want a story to share.   We all love a good story.  We are people of the story.

One of the great challenges of us "more mature" members of the family is being "keepers of the story;" both our own family stories and our FAMILY story of creation and redemption and sanctification and salvation...and all that lies within and beyond.  We need to tell the stories, not just of what God did in Scripture, but what God is doing our lives, communities and the world!

One time when teaching an advent lesson in a children's program at a church in Michigan a neighborhood child said, "I've heard about Jesus.  Didn't he get hit by a car?"  Boom!  Reality check! We need to be telling stories!! We need to look for opportunities to tell THE STORY.

Ps. 78:1-4  O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth.  I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things from of old...what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us.  We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Keep My Tongue from Evil!

Once upon a time I overheard a conversation between two "church" women at a restaurant.  Let's call them Pearl and Vivian.  Pearl declared, "Well that's my gossip for today."  But the conversation continued and soon she announced, "He's not a very good deacon.  He shouldn't be on the board."  If I could hear this conversation in a crowded restaurant so could several others.

My immediate thought was, "And she is not a safe person.  This is not a woman you can trust."

It made me think of how easy it is for us to criticize others.  We are so quick to ignore the warnings of Scripture to STOP gossiping, and yet it is so dangerous to the Body!  It is easy to make a "humorous" comment at the expense of another.

One of the prayers we may hear in church before the sermon is, "May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord."  I'm thinking we should all pray that prayer a whole lot more!  How often do we drop a comment, make a judgment, call into question someone's character, say things that tear down, rather than build up?

I wonder if there are people who have heard me say things that make them cringe and think, "She is not a safe person.  I can't trust her."  This conversation made me recommit to being the kind of person others feel is safe, and they can trust.  Conversations...words...comments are so slippery.  They have a way of slipping out without us meaning to let them go, which is why making sure our hearts are meditating on the right things is even more important.

Ps 34:13  Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.

I think we would be amazed if we knew the impact our words have on others and the kingdom.
Lord, let the words that come from my mouth bless others and glorify you.  So be it!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Here's Me

(Please note that on the right sidebar there is a place for you to enter your email address to get notices each time there is a new blog.  I'm a lot behind in the tech age and finally figured out how to do this. I appreciate all those who journey with me.)

The next book on my reading list is Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown.  I've been told it is excellent.  I've been told vulnerability is about courage, and trust, and making relationships more real.  I'll let you know what I learn after I read it.  In the meantime I'm giving this vulnerability thing a whirl.

The past couple of months I have been in a bit of a spiritual crisis.  I know what I believe, and I know that what I believe is true. I also know that I don't know or believe nearly as much as God wants me to...keep going Holly, keep growing! I know that I know, that I know God has created each one of us; that God has a plan and a purpose, which we need to live in to in order to experience the abundant life Christ came to give us.  I know this!  But I'm not feeling it lately.  I'm not experiencing it.  "I can't make it happen."

Integrity is one of my core values.  I need to practice what I preach, and I want to do that faithfully. On the one hand I have had such a powerful "calling" into this Midlife Momentum ministry; on the other hand nothing has been coming together for this next year.  I've been trying some new avenues, and maybe it is too soon to see where it is leading, but it feels like a dead end.

As I contemplated and prayed about it I have found myself, on a couple of different occasions, throwing my hands up and saying, "I can't make this happen."  And immediately I sensed God saying, "And that surprises you?"  Of course I can't "make this happen."  It is the work of the Spirit and the timing of God.  I wrestle with "Letting go and Letting God" and trying to understand what my part is in developing this ministry. But I am still stuck with my frustration.

Then last week in a conversation with a good friend I shared my frustrations and some new things I was thinking about doing, rather that focusing on Midlife Momentum full time.  I was feeling guilty, that it might be leaving what God had called me to.  She challenged me to see how it might fit together; how it might be the next step on the journey.  It drew me back to something I had written 4 years ago...that basically once we figure out what God has called us to it isn't a "done deal."  The call of God is evolutionary.  We continue to grow and change and the "call" continues to build on what God has been teaching us.  I know the need to provide transformative opportunities for midlifers is important for the individuals and for the kingdom, but what will that look like?

So I feel a bit like I am wandering around in the wilderness looking for the next oasis.  I would appreciate your prayers as I seek to live faithfully and peacefully into all God has in store.  

Isaiah 40:38  Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

I need this verse, and I "can't make it happen" on my own...we all know that, right?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Boom...and it is fall.

(Please note, on the right there is a place to enter your email for notices of each new post.)

I don't think I have ever experienced a year when Labor Day weekend was like flipping a switch quite so much as this year.  It was uncanny!

I was driving down the street on Tuesday taking in all the sights (the flowers, weeds, tips of colored leaves, children with back packs heading dow the sidewalk) and sounds (cicadas), and smells in the air that are just uniquely fall. The slanting of the sunlight is different; the breeze feels different. Boom! From summer to fall, just like that!

It got me thinking about seasons of change, and how in our lives those of us in midlife are in the fall season as well. It too sneaks up on us, catching us unaware. But there it is, with all the adaptations we need to make. There are things we need to leave behind, things we need to pull out of the closets and decide if they are still useful, still fit our personalities and needs, still need to be refreshed, or passed on, or just plain dumped.  What will we hang on to, and what can we let go of?  

It has been interesting this week to also have those days that feel like flashbacks to summer, with 90 degree days...but it is still defintely fall. (I know, not technically.)  Transitions!  Changes! Celebrations for what has been and is now...preparations for what is to come.  What are the important things that are happening inside us, around us?

In this midlife season we look at our calendars and realize we have options about how we will fill these days, and weeks, and months, and years. Will we wake up each morning and ask God what should be on the agenda, or will we let other people or circumstances dictate what takes priority? Will our time be lived out wisely? Will we live intentionally, or by accident? With peace, or anxiety?

Fall is my favorite time of year, though I'm not certain why.  It might be that sense of new beginning that comes with a new school and church year.  It might be a return to a rhythm.  I might be the sense of maturity and productivity, fields and trees ripening, apple cider and pumpkins, or simply the beauty, the colors and light. 
"It is good," as the Creator might say. 

Will I relish this fall season of life as well, paying attention to the colors, the winds of the Spirit, the relationships that evolve, the opportunities to ripen into mature godly people? Will I carry the presence of God and the Spirit of peace and joy into the rooms I enter? Will I be there to lift up, care for and listen to those in their winter, as well as being there to bless and feed and nurture those in the spring and summer of life?

Rather than deny our age and idolize youth we have the chance to model a healthy midlife that embraces all of the blessings that come with years of life, experience, growth, relationships, and relationship with the God who created us...for just a time as this.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Qwerky house

There was a crooked man
Who had a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together
In a little crooked house.
Sometimes I feel like that man, only my house isn't so much crooked as it is qwerky...if that's how you spell it.

I really like our house, but it is a bit strange.  When you enter the front door the living room/dining room is to your right.  Ahead of you in a beautiful entryway is a huge built in mirror.  To you left is a beautiful open staircase which one would assume leads to a large upstairs...except it doesn't.  They did a really good job on this entryway!

The upstairs has lovingly been dubbed our Oompa Loompa rooms.  So named after the movie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which had very small people working at it.  Our upsatirs bath has about a 2 square foot area where the ceiling reaches a magnificent height of 77 inches.  The bedroom , which is fairly long has a 1 foot stretch down the middle that is also 77 inches.  The rest of the area has sloping ceilings. Plus, the bedroom has track lighting with 3 lights right down the middle.  Thus they are named the Oompa Loopma Bathroom and Bedroom.

One of my favorite memories of the summer is Diedrick and Annika just belly laughing as they told me the story of Papa being up there with them, standing up to leave, promptly hitting his head on the first light, ducking for the second and standing up again too soon and hitting the third.  Sooo funny.

What is just as qwerky, is me.  I find myself taking guests and friends up there all the time to see what we have done with the Oompa Loompa rooms.  Often I come downstairs thinking, they must think I am really weird.  Why would I be excited about this qwerky little house?  Why would I think it is anything to show to others?  It's not big, or decorated well, or great in any way, shape or form.

Then I got a birthday card from Caleb and Sonja with a picture of a dog with his/her head out the window of a car, enjoying the ride.  Inside it read, "It's the simple things in life that make it good!  And Caleb wrote, "Mom, you're good at that--celebrating the simple things in life.  I'm thankful for your optimism and joy."  That rather made my day!

Some days I do that much better than others.  But it is a see the blessings all celebrate the goodness and grace of God.  To pay attention!!  That is a very hard thing for us to do.  Richard Rohr says, "We don't know how to take joy in the simple things anymore because, frankly, we are sated."  We are full, stuffed with too much...too much food, too much stuff...too much to experience and do.  Rohr goes on to say, "I think of all the pwerful experiences that I've had.  But only when I taste my experiences enough so they become realizations, do I change.  That takes time and space."

That is part of the reason I stop and think about the little things and how God speaks through them; how I can be changed by what seems like an insignificant story or experience...and how I can grow.  So thank you for listening to me and sharing my learnings, through whatever ways God chooses.

Shortest blog

I broke my toe.  God said, "Holly, sit down."  I'm sitting, Lord.  What next?  "Holly, listen."  I'm listening, Lord.  "Peace."

Saturday, August 10, 2013

1 am and Singing

Charlie sent me a text at 11:45 pm.  Now it is nearly 1:00 am and I'm still awake.  Charlie is 20 something...I am not.  Charlie, 11:45 is too late to send your best friend's mom a text.  But I love you anyway.

Charlie was part of the 20 something gang that descended on Holland this week for Amanda and Nate's wedding.  This wedding also brought our son Caleb and wife Sonja to town.  We got to play host to several of their friends.  This meant our house was filled with fun and laughter, comings and goings.

There was a campfire in the back yard Thursday night as people gathered for the weekend.  Good food and drink, and life stories to share.  Ten people crowded the breakfast table on Saturday morning and we heard more about the life of these 20 somethings:

Kelly has just returned from a year with YWAM in Bolivia and Brazil...what's next?
Stan finishes up law school in December and wonders, what's next.
Lindsay reported on life in Atlanta, working for DOW Chemicals.
Skates just got back from touring with a jazz band in Italy and France, and talked about the music he is making and writing.
James is hunting for the next job after interning and working with SoJourners in DC.
Kelsey is finishing up at Hope this year.
Charlie shared his engagement story, and about life on the farm in Virginia with Katie...and then?
Sonja helped us understand her work with Arabella and philanthropists and non-profit organizations.
And Caleb talked about The Table, the new church plant he works with in DC, and Williams wedding in Uganda.

This is an amazing group!  They are each so unique and gifted in such different ways, but they are united in heart and by the Spirit.  They are a Christ Community spread around the United States and at times the world.

These young people inspire me to greater things!  They witness to the wonderfully diverse ways God engages His people in the world.  They challenge me to embrace life in expectation that God has more in store.  They also give me the opportunity to be an Elizabeth in their lives.  Remember how Elizabeth, Mary's older cousin, was given to Mary to mentor and encourage her when the angel came along and told Mary she would carry the Christ child?  Mary needed someone to believe in her when no-one else would.  I believe in what God is doing in these young people!

Not much gives me more joy than loving, and encouraging, and being with young folks.
My heart Leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. PS28:7

Lord, I thank you for the witness of your presence, power and purposes in the lives of your servants young and old.  Expand our vision of what you are and will do in and through each one of us. So be it!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Doing Work

In the month of July we were blessed to have our grandchildren Diedrck and Annika stay with us for three and a half weeks.  At the same time we have been rehabbing a house we are renting out in mid-August, so there were some days that I tried to be there to work with Al while the kids were around.  A couple of days just Diedrick went to help Papa.  When there was a good project for an 8 year old it was fun to watch him do "real work."  He took down a section of fencing all by himself, primed an area in the house that would have been much harder for an adult size body to paint, removed old carpeting from the outdoor porch...real jobs.  As long as he had "real work" he was ready to help, however, when there wasn't anything constructive to do it was not long before it was time to move on.

It was obvious as I watched Diedrick, but it also seemed like a parable of life.  When we know that we are making a difference, are contributing, and have a purpose we have more energy, are motivated, and easier to get along with.

In a conversation with Kaan, the Cambodian young man I talked about in a previous blog, I asked him who had the best job of the people he knew.  He responded, "Charlie."  I asked why it was a great job and he said, "Because every night he can go home and know he has helped somebody."

Kaan wants a job with purpose.  One of the greatest challenges for those of us in midlife and early retirement is to wrestle with the question of, "What will give my life meaning?"  "Where will I find the joy of knowing I make a difference in the world?"  "What have I been created for at this season of my life?"

The statistics on depression, divorce and suicide in midlife as concerning...they all go up.  People are wrestling with their identity, their place in the world, family, church, community.  The world tells us we are becoming less important, but God tells us we are to be becoming more and more Christlike.

Statistics also tell us that as we age we will be healthier and happier if we live a life of meaning and purpose.  It is very easy to stay busy...but are we busy with the things God is calling us to do and be? Jesus said, "I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly!"  He didn't add, "until they are about 65, or 75 or...."  In order to experience "abundant life" we have to be living with all the meaning and purpose God has created us for.

What gives me joy is helping others discover the wonderful creation they are, by the grace of God, and helping them find their God given passion.

Lord, give us good work...real that impacts the kingdom and the world for the Glory of you, O Lord.  So be it!

Holly Skirt

Today I am wearing my "Holly Skirt."  For those who have known me a while you know this skirt.  It is a patchwork, ankle-length wrap-around...all bright colors that are beginning to fade with age.  The shape is a bit droopy, as well, but I love this skirt!  It reminds me of the velveteen rabbit.

Anyway, I wear my Holly Skirt and it reminds me of who I am, and some days that is what I need.  It tells me again that the Spirit inside me loves to dance in worship (though my tradition rarely does.)  It reminds me that my Father enjoys me, which is often easy to forget.  It speaks to me of my freedom in Christ to be all God has created me to be, even when it seems the world does not value what I offer.  I reminds me that my joy, my security, my worth is all wrapped up in something Other -worldly; it's wrapped up in identity that cannot be taken from me as a daughter of the king, a child of the Father, a servant of the most Holy.

One of the things I could really use today is a good dose of,"my girls" and we would sing and sign and worship through songs like Blessed be your Name, and Praise you in the Storm, and Strength Will Rise as You Wait upon the Lord, and maybe even Praise you with the Dance if we can remember the moves :)  "My girls" by the way is a group of now young women who, when they were in jr. and sr. high school, worked with me in Brandon, WI, and we put sign language to music, creating liturgical signing.

I need a splash of color, a swirl around my legs, a song, to lift me up and turn my eyes to my Creator.

Isaiah 43 tells us:  "Fear not, for I have redeemed you;  I have summoned you by name;  YOU ARE MINE."

Lord, for what have you redeemed me?  To what are you summoning me?  Help me to delight in my relationship with you.  I long to be your faithful daughter and servant until my life's end.
So be it!

By the way The Velveteen Rabbit is a children's story written by Marjorie Williams that talks about the process of becoming real by loving and being loved, even when it hurts.  A good read for all ages.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cool it!

We have had our Wisconsin grandchildren staying with us the month of July...hence no blogs recently.  But is is a time of lots of adventures, stories and learnings.  This happens in the midst of a summer of uncertainty as we look for a next assignment in ministry for both of us, work on rehabbing a house, and experience 95 degree heat.  (Sounds like the making of a perfect storm.)

This past weekend Al was preaching in a church in Illinois.  The lectionary passage was the story of Mary and Martha, so familiar to those of us raised on Bible Stories.  We usually come away feeling guilty about not being more like Mary, right?  Well, Al's ahha for this story was a bit different.  He began by asking all of us to think of three words that describe us.  Then he talked about the three words Martha might have chosen for herself:  industrious, servant, conscientious.  You might choose different words for her, but so went the sermon.  Then he talked about the three words that Jesus used to describe Martha:  distracted, worried, upset.  And by the way, she lived out those words by being a control freak... Not only did she want perfection, she wanted Mary to take up the work to make it happen.  Jesus wouldn't give in to her control.

Al then told the story of a dinner discussion we had the other night with the grandkids.  Diedrick suddenly asked Al, "Papa, were your first words, cool it?"  It was too funny, belly laughing, tear flowing funny.  "Papa, were your first words, Cool it?"  With that kind of response the conversation went on to, "Or, knock it off?"  Or, "Hey, you guys?"  Al recognized the temptation to be distracted, worried and be a control freak.

In a way, Jesus words to Martha that day were, "Cool it, Martha."  You are worried and upset about so many things.  I am in control, not you.  You can let go of your perfectionisms, your obsessions, your worries and cares.  Sit down a bit.  Listen to my words and my heart.

There is plenty of Martha in each and every one of us.  It is hard to let go.  Sometimes a reminder from a child is a very good thing.

Jesus, we come to sit at your feet, to rest our heads in your lap, and be loved by you.  

Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Community House

Once again God has reminded me, "IT"S NOT ALL ABOUT ME!"  

We just bought a second house.  That sounds crazy as I write it.  We own a small house on 20th St. in Holland.  We bought it a few years ago, rented it out until we moved into it last June, and said, "We'll never do a rental again!"  But here we are...fixing up a fixer-upper with the intent to rent it out. 

How did we get here???  Good question!  

First of all there were still some foreclosures still available.  
Second, we wondered if down the road one of our kids, most likely Acacia and Ephraim, would need a US home to base in while working in Africa.  
Third, Al finished up an interim assignment in April and there was nothing on the horizon until late summer/fall.  He needed a project, though maybe not such a big one.
Fourth, we have a seminary couple who were hoping to live in the community and were looking for a rental property.

Back and forth, back and forth...does it make sense?  Can we do it when we are basically incomeless?  Is it wise to use some retirement funds to invest in property?  (We are not very investment savy.)

Should we...shouldn't we??  We prayed, we looked, we talked, we did it.

And once again we realize it isn't all about us!  We are very excited to have seminarians living in the house and hope to be able to provide the opportunity for more families to live in the community in the future.  Angel and Janelle will be able to work off a portion of their rent helping us finish the renovations.  Hopefully a win/win.

Our realtor, Jeanette and husband Jonathan are committed to this neighborhood and are so excited that this property will be improved and have a local landlord caring for it.  That felt good.

This weekend there was a BONUS dimension.  Central Park church has played an important part in a ministry called 70x7, which works with ex-offenders.  Al asked them if they knew of any men who would like to earn some extra money by helping with some dirty reno work.  Caan was recommended and showed up Friday.  YEA!  He is a great young man, not afraid of hard work, and looking for opportunities to learn skills.  We have had some exciting conversations with him already.  He might bring another friend along tomorrow.  God is at work and we get to be a part of not only rehabbing a house, but rehabbing a life, or two, for the Kingdom!!

SO, this is not our house!  It is God's house and we get to play a part in it.  May all those who walk through its doors know the presence of God and the joy of community!


A week or so ago I posted a picture on Facebook of African children sitting in a circle with their feet together.  It represented the story of an anthropologist playing a game with the children in which the "winner" would get the "sweet fruits."  The children, instead of competing, were said to make sure they all were able to share.  When asked "Why?"  They responded, "Ubuntu ( meaning:  I am because we are), and asked the anthropologist, "How can one of us be happy when all the others are sad?"

It reminded me of Haiti.  When we lived there for 8 months in 2001 Americans would regularly bring the mission staff American treats.  One time someone brought a small box of instant chocolate pudding.  Every morning we got a little jar of milk from a local cow.  You really needed to use the milk to make something that would cover the taste of the milk, because it would taste like whatever weeds or grass the cow had just eaten.  Chocolate pudding was perfect.  I took an empty kool-aid container, filled it with 2 cups of milk and the pudding and shook it up.

I gave the container to Lipsia the oldest of about 5 little girls who often played near the mission.  I instructed her to share it with the other children.  When they opened it and saw what was inside there was a whoop of excitement and they all ran off yelling, "Chocolate!  Chocolate!"

Later I asked where they had gone.  Lispia told me they had taken the pudding back to the village so that everyone could have a taste.  "How can one of us be happy when all the others are sad?"  I had no idea what an amazing treat this was going to be.  They had no intention of keeping this treat between just the 5 of them.  Dozens of people would enjoy a taste of this treat.

I don't think we have a clue how counter-cultural "UBUNTU" is in the US.  Recognizing that my happiness isn't just about "me"  is also counter-cultural.    We have taken our "right" to the "pursuit of happiness" down a very narrow and unhealthy path.  I want the wisdom that these children have!

 Lord, save us from our entitled, individualistic way of life!  I pray this prayer with a bit of fear and trembling, because I'm not sure what it will take before we can understand what God desires when he tells us to "Love our neighbors as ourselves."

I want the joy these children have as they live in community, even when there is great need; and I don't want our American values to mess up their world, even as we try to help without hurting .

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Finding My Blog

A few days ago I ran into Jean, who is a member of Southridge Church, where we pastored from 1989 until 1997.  It had been 16 years since our paths had crossed.  We didn't have much time together, but she did comment that she had found my blog and was enjoying it.  This came as such a surprise to me.

It was such an encouragement to me.

I remember 30+ years ago reading the book, Balcony People, by Joyce Landorf.   In it she talked about the voices we listen to and the people who bless us.  Balcony people are those who are in our corner...they see the good in us and help to bring it out.  Balcony people are the ones who come alongside and cheer us on. In the New Testament Barnabas was known as,"The Son of Encouragement."  He came alongside Paul when the rest of the church jury was still out.  He parted ways with Paul when he believed in John Mark, and Paul wasn't ready to go there yet.  He was willing to take a chance when he saw God at work in the life of another, even if that other had messed up pretty seriously.

It is amazing how little it takes to brighten someone's day, encouraging someone's heart.  Jean did that for me Friday in a simple statement.  She was a daughter of encouragement for me.

I wonder who is the last person who blessed you with a word of encouragement.  I wonder who God has placed in your path, hoping you will fuel their journey.

I want to ask a blessing favor of you.  It would encourage me so much if you would click "Follow" when you read my post.  It would also bless both me and other readers if you would share your comments, stories or reflections occasionally.  I would love to be surprised and encouraged by finding out that you are following the blogs.  (Add where you are from to add to the fun.)

Luka Wanted Me

Last Thursday night Cory called to see if we could Skype.  In the background I could here Luka say, in a whiny voice, "Grandma...grandma."  Cor explained that Luka had a cold and didn't feel well, and when he saw Cory on the computer he started calling for me.  Did I have time?

Well, on top of it all, this was the first time Luka, who is not quite 2, was able to say "grandma" without prompting.  My heart was all aflutter...Luka didn't feel good and he wanted me, from half way around the world!  So we skyped, of course.  I talked to him a little and began asking him what he was going to do that day.  I asked him about toys that were behind him, which I could see.  He showed me and began playing with them.  He had a train track he was putting together, and every once in a while he would show me something.  The whining stopped as he got engaged in his playing.  I told him I was going to say goodbye, so he ran up close to the computer and I gave him my Michigan to Australia blessing and we blew kisses.

As I pondered this "grandma moment" it seemed to me that this is a pretty good picture of prayer.  Cory's call came at the unexpected time and day, with a whiny cry on the other end.  We usually skype early on their Saturday morning, but Luka wasn't feeling good and wanted me on Friday.  He was whiny, needed comfort, and wanted to see my face and hear my voice.  Once he was comforted a bit he got back to life, to his work of playing, but he knew I was watching and would stop every once in a while and show me what he was up to.

Sometimes I whine when I come to my Father in prayer.  I don't feel good, or things are out of sorts.  Maybe life isn't happening the way I had planned, or someone hasn't treated me the way I had hoped.  Who knows what's causing the dis-ease?  And so there are times I come to God needing a little comfort, assurance of God's love and presence, even when I can't touch him.  David, in the Psalms, assures us over and over again that He hears my pleas, and listens to my cries for help.  He, in fact, is very willing to get those whiny calls so he can comfort and encourage us to get back to living, back to work, back to being and doing and listening and loving, all the while knowing His presence.

Abba, Abba, I want you!


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Rounding First...and to Second

When Caleb, our youngest was a baby his big brother Cory adored him.  Cory was 11 years older and had been waiting for this brother a long time!  Cor spent much time playing with and caring for Caleb.

One of the games he would play with him from the time he was just a couple of months old was baseball.  In those early months Cory would take his baby legs and pump them as if Caleb was running and say, "He hits the ball!  He's rounding first rrrrrrr, he's running to second, he rounds second rrrrr, he's running to third, he rounds third rrrrrr.  He's heading home.  He slides.  He's safe!!! And he would wave his arms over Caleb with the umpire's signal for safe.  Over and over again, this scene was played out.

This morning as I was reading in a devotional book by Richard Rohr I ran across this paragraph:  "Faith, for me, is letting go of the images(and expectations).Then you will feel like nothing.  Faith is so rare---and religion so common--because no one wants to live between first base and second base.  Faith is the in-between space where you're not sure you'll make it to second base.  You've let go of one thing and haven't yet latched onto another.  Most of us choose the security of first base."

He continues by saying, "Yet faith happens in the in-betweens, the interruptions, the thresholds."
That often means we feel out of control...uncertain and scared.  Most of the time scared is not our preferred state of being.  On the other hand, there are times when we don't have a lot of choice, and realizing that these are the times when we can most expect to grow, expand our horizons, and seek God's face, may help us see this state of being is exactly where we need to it or not.

Jeremiah 29:11 is a favorite verse for many of us.  "I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you  and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."  (Continue the next few verses.)  We can choose to live in faith, taking chances on God and living in obedience when he calls us to "letting go" places.

So whether you are on to second, or third, or heading for the home stretch I pray for your in-between times, those times of faith growing letting go, and choosing God's preferred future.  That could be letting go of a job, relationship, routine, expectation, long held perceptions, false images of who our God is...  Have courage, my friends, God will bring you safely Home.  

Friday, May 31, 2013

Cup of Jo to Go

In December 2007 I came across the question, "If you look at your life 3 years down the road and nothing significant has changed, what do you least like about this picture?"  I immediately knew the answer to this question.  The scene that came to mind was stopping at the local gas station to pick up a cup of coffee before heading out to make afternoon visits on some of the elderly in our church.  These were dear sweet people that I truly came to care about, but I knew that I couldn't keep on grabbing that coffee to stay awake in 80 degree apartments to hear the same stories (in many cases) that I had been hearing the past 5 years.

It was a surprising realization for me.  It was a major part of my job description.  These people deserved so much more.  I had built good relationships with many of them, but I knew that it was time to quit. It was confirmation that God was calling me to something else, but what exactly would that look like?  And would I dare to leave the security of my "job" to explore my "calling."

Last week I shared this story with people going through the process of developing a mission statement for their "second adulthood."  I saw a look of surprise on one man's face.  Later as he shared his mission statement he talked about his joy in leading worship services at retirement homes, his love for hearing their stories, and his desire to move into that ministry in great depth as he nears retirement.  I understood his look of surprise.  What I had lost my passion for, he was discovering was his area of passion in his "second adulthood."

It reminded me that we have to stop, listen to the Spirit and explore what God is calling us to in different seasons of life.  God is continually creating us, reshaping us, transforming us into all God has created us to be.  This is quite a journey.  As soon as we figure we have learned all we need to know, and become all we need to be we are in dangerous territory.  God has so much more purpose and meaning for us.

Ecclesiastes 3:1  There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heaven.

What season are you in?  What is your passion?  And how is God calling you to live a life of greater purpose and joy?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Peaches and Pruning

Last week Al and I went down to Bangor to visit good friends Ron and Shirley Bush.  This is always a blessing.  Ron has been a significant part of our life's journey for 24 years, initially with his first wife Jo who died of cancer, and now with Shirley, his second wife.  Once again heartache looms as Shirley struggles with ALS.  Once again they demonstrate what love really looks like.

On this visit we were strolling through their orchard.  They have numerous cherry and apple trees of all varieties, and 9 peach trees.  As we checkout out the peach trees Ron showed us the buds where baby peaches were hatching.  Then he told us that in order to get a good crop of peaches you have to pick off most of the young peaches, because there is supposed to be about 6 inches between each peach for them to have the room and get the nutrients to grow to a good size.  "Last year," he said, "I picked off 6000 peaches.  It was so hard for me to do, and I probably didn't pick off enough."  I've been thinking about those peach trees all week.

Last night I was leading a small group working through developing a mission and vision statement for their "Second Adulthood."  The peaches came up again...  We talked about how a mission statement works as both a harness and a sword in our lives.  I learned this from Laurie Beth Jones' book, THE PATH.  It works as a harness to keep us focused and going in the right direction with our lives.  It works as a sword because it cuts away those things that hinder, distract, and don't fit us well, as we discern who God is creating us to be, and the purposes to which we are called.

Like the peach order for us to produce good fruit we need to cull out those things that hinder growth, that divert our energy and the nourishment we need.  They may be good things, but are they things for which God has created and called us?

A good mission statement means I can say "no" to those things that don't fit me well, because I am fully engaged in the things, people, causes, for which God has given me a passion and purpose.

I don't want to find myself complaining about being sooo busy I don't have time for the things God calls me to be invested in.  Some of the peaches have to go...even though it is hard and they look good.
What may I need to let go of, say no to, in order to be free to...............?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bird Watching and Spotting God

It's May and this is the season to get out there and look for the birds that are heading north after our long winter and slow coming spring.

It was about 6 springs ago that my cousin Maria introduced me to the joy of birdwatching.  At the time Caleb was still in high school and loved to tease me about heading out with my binoculars and bird book to scour the forests and swamps in the area.  He considered it a "Senior" interest.  Maybe he's right and we finally have the wisdom to realize what we are missing by not noticing the beauty that surrounds us.

Anyway...birding has become a devotional exercise for me.  Especially on those first excursions I was amazed at how God spoke to me through the process of watching for the birds.  I hesitate to tell you what I learned because I want to you to try it and see what God says to you.  On the other hand, perhaps if I share a couple of things you can add to my learnings by sharing yours.

One of the first things I noticed as we walked through Horicon Marsh, outside Waupun, WI, was that there were so many birds who were not in the trees, or flying through the air.  Instead of looking up to the heavens I was scouring the grasses and branches of bushes, very close to the ground.  I sensed God saying, "Don't assume you have to look to the heavens for me either.  I am right here...on the ground... in the grass and ordinary places of life.

As I began watching for the birds I learned to "scan."  You don't start by using binoculars.  You scan the grass, the trees, the sky.  You look for movement, flashes of color, and you listen.  When you see the movement, see the color, or hear the song, then you zero in and use your binoculars.  It again seemed to me that God was saying, "Watch for me!  Scan the horizons.  Look for the movement in the grass.  Listen for my voice, and hear my song.  Look for flashes of the Spirit.  I am all around.  Don't miss me, and when you see me at work focus in.  See what I am up to.  Listen long enough to understand.  Take time to learn to spot me.  I desire to be found."

God is so good.  God wants to be found by all of us.  I wonder why I forget that sometimes.  Why do I rush around, refusing to BE STILL AND KNOW that God is God, and God loves to spend time with us.  For me it is time to get the binoculars out and go for a walk with God.  That works for me.  But I am really curious...what works best for you?  I would love to hear how you best spend time with God.  Where do you find and hear him?

A Fuzzy and a Cup

Delight of delights...we spent last week with our Wisconsin grandchildren, celebrating Annika's birthday.  Of course there are many stories to tell, but I will spare you most of the grandma bragging.
However, there was one of those silly but powerful comments in which God seemed to laugh with us.

On Saturday morning, before the big party, Annika was taking her bath, when she announced to Acacia, "I don't have anything to play with."  Acacia asked her if she wanted some of the tub toys, but Annika responded, "No I just need a fuzzy and a cup."  I asked Acacia what in the world that was about, and she proceeded to tell me about the previous bath when there was a fuzzy in the water and Annika spent ages chasing and scooping the elusive fuzzy.  "That pretty much explains why it is so hard to buy her presents.  She would just as soon play with a fuzzy and a cup."

I've been thinking about that a lot the past few days.  It reminds me of the pure fun that kids in Haiti and Uganda have playing with the littlest things.  It also makes me wonder about "Fuzzy in a cup Lifestyle." God in that simple story seemed to be telling me to relish the simple things in find joy in the be happy with the real blessings that surround us every day, and NOT to fall for the lies of this world that tell us that we will be so much happier...:"IF ONLY..."  "If only" rarely carries the weight we expect of it.  The lies of the world simply keep us in a world of whining and comparing, and wondering why we don't have what the Joneses have.

Freedom in Christ on the other hand, not only sets us free from our sins, but sets us free to believe the promises of God.  God is our source. God will provide.  God knows the plans God has for us, and he is faithful!

We are in that waiting time to see what God has in store next, and it is easy to "Fret" as Al's mom used to say.  But I was once again reminded that God knows our needs, and maybe all we need right now is a fuzzy and a cup.  God loves to bring us joy, has a plan, and wants us to live into it with peace and patience.

By the way, Annika loved her 2 goldfish and a bowl.  It will give her hours of delight as long as the cup stays in the bathtub.

Friday, May 3, 2013


What memories come to mind when you think of dandelions?  I know...strange question.  Here are a few that come to me:

1.  The huge field of dandelions that announced spring every year when I was in high school.  It was just west of CWC and was a solid field of yellow, until of course it turned ungly as it seeded out.

2.  All the dandelion bouquets that our kids brought into the house, with such excitement each spring.

3.  The constant work of dealing with yards filled with those yellow heads.

4.  Blowing the seed heads not realizing you were sowing bad seeds :(

Last week I was babysitting Lorena and Miriam on a beautiful spring day.  We decided to go out in the back yard to "work" on the yard.  The girls are 3 and 5 and more than willing to help.  We had just had several of the rainy days that caused flooding in so many areas, including our basement.  The ground was well saturated, and in my raised flowerbed I decided to tackle the dandelions.

Miriam would help by standing on the spade and then tipping it back so I could grab the dandelion and pull it out by the roots.  Oh my goodness...some of these dandelions must have been grandpa and grandma dandelions.  They had roots that went done for over a foot.  Others would have about 6 long roots that looked like skinny carrots.  Because the ground was so wet they would pull out without breaking off.  I felt victorious!!  I was rooting these things out!!  If one broke off I would attack it again, looking for the remaining tips.

I got to thinking about those dandelions.  They are deeply rooted...and frustrating!  I have to admire them.  Mowing the tops off means nothing...they will return.  Drought doesn't seem to phase them.  You won't drown them out.  They can be amazingly pretty in their fresh spring state.  They seem to grow anywhere.  They are very low maintenance.

I've wondered why God thinks we need so many dandelions.  Come to think of it, that was one of the questions that really got me thinking about what God wants me to do with my life in this season and beyond.  Someone once asked, "Why does God want so many old people around?"  Statistics say we will be a very large portion of the population.  God is the one who numbers our days, so I am determined to figure out what he wants me to be doing during those days.

I wonder how my roots are doing?  Do I have grandma roots yet?  Roots that go down deep, that spread out wide?  Roots that reach down to what nourishes me?

Like dandelions, do I delight children?  I hope so;  I think that is a good sign.  Do I frustrate adults?  You know, I guess I do that too sometimes.  Maybe that is okay.  Maybe I don't do it enough!   Jesus frustrated a lot of adults!  The more the adults thought they were right the more Jesus frustrated them.  The harder they tried to get rid of him, even killing him on a cross the wider he spread his seeds, his fields.

The girls told their mom how hard we had all worked, and how long it would have taken me if I didn't have their help.  We got those dandelions!

This morning I went back out to the flowerbed.  Wait a minute!! Where did all these come from???  Lord, give me dandelion tenacity when it comes to Kingdom living and Kingdom loving.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Spirit Danced

I just returned from New Jersey, where I spent some time at the Crossroads retreat for RCA women of that region.  What a beautiful, diverse, energized group of Sisters in Christ!  My time with them was short,(see my previous post) but good.  I also led a workshop at Brookdale Reformed Church on Sunday.

Morgan was my highlight!  Morgan, dressed in a white leotard and flowing skirt. Morgan, so petite. Morgan, who looked to be about 14 years old. Morgan danced with all her heart and soul at the Saturday retreat.  As she danced she was transformed into this beautiful representation of the Spirit, leading us all into worship.  I saw Morgan with her mom, and only talked with her a little to thank her for leading us in worshiping on Saturday.

Sunday morning, as my new friend Deborah and I arrived at Brookdale for worship, we discovered Morgan was there.  She was putting the numbers for the hymns up on the board, getting out the bulletins, and helping prepare for worship.  I had the opportunity to talk with her and found out she had just had a birthday.  Morgan had turned 31.  Morgan also has some developmental disabilities.  At the workshop in the afternoon she shared that one of her frustrations is that people think she is a child and don't think she can do anything.  They are so wrong!

God packages his gifts to the Body in so many unique ways; and way too often we miss the gifts they are.  And often those uniquely packaged need to be affirmed that God has filled them with his Spirit and is working through them to touch lives.  Morgan and Christina were the two youngest at our workshop Sunday afternoon.  It gave me much joy to look them in the eyes and affirm from the bottom of my heart that God loves them and has a plan and a future for them: to affirm that I see God in them and at work through them.  I hope I get to hear the stories of how God continues to work in them.

We all struggle with those times we can't believe that we are a gift to anybody.  Times when we can't imagine why God has created us the way he did.  We also look at others and see them for what they don't have, rather than looking for the gift they are.  God tells us we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:14).  Can we claim that as the psalmist did?  I KNOW THAT FULL WELL!  Wow, that is a challenge, but we honor our Creator when we believe it and live into it.

Sitting On My Hands

When God starts to teach you a lesson you had better watch out!  If you haven't read my previous posts about learning from my art teacher friend about watercolors you should go back and read those first.

At a retreat 2 weekends ago she walked us through an art lesson on watercolors and the need to recognize that you have to let go and let the water go where it will.  As we were painting our pictures someone would groan in frustration and Kathy would call out, "Sit on your hands!  Don't try to fix it.  You will just make it worse.  Work with it."  Another person would sigh and she would call out, "Sit on your hands! Don't try to control it."

We applied this metaphor to trusting God and letting go, and SITTING ON OUR HANDS.

So last weekend I was scheduled to fly out of Grand Rapids at 6:30 pm on Thursday for Newark, NJ.  Direct flight...not so much!  Between a weather system making its way across the country and a mess up by a ticketing agent I ended up with an overnight in Cleveland, and arrival time in Newark of 8:00 am on Saturday, where they proceeded to lose the luggage I had gate checked in Cleveland.  They did find it about an hour later.  Because everyone else had already arrived at the retreat center 15 hours earlier I then took a taxi for 90 minutes down to Long Beach Island.

During this whole 2 hour trip turned into 38 hours I kept saying to myself, "Sit on your hands.  See how the picture develops.  SIT ON YOUR HANDS!"  It was an amazing experience.  It didn't seem like anything very spiritual happened.  I met some nice people who were also frustrated.  I got to talk with my Haitian taxi driver for 90 minutes about life in Haiti.  I arrived at the retreat center smiling and ready for whatever God had in store.

The women there had been praying that I would be safe and arrive soon, or at least sometime.  My role at the retreat was minor, so it didn't impact the great things God was up to because I was 17 hours late,  but many of the women commented that I was smiling, and looked relaxed.  So I had numerous opportunities to share with them what God was teaching me about "Sitting on my hands," and trusting him to paint the picture he intended to paint.  It was a very good but short weekend.

The trip home was indeed at direct flight and all went well.

Then came Monday, and I felt like God upped the ante a bit.  Monday afternoon I got a phone call that a major event I was planning on for mid May was being cancelled.  Now this would always be frustrating, but Al is an interim pastor and right now he is between positions, waiting to see what God has in store for us next.  This conference in May was going to be a big part of our income for the month.  Once again I heard God say, "Sit on your hands."  God also drew me back to a Scripture He had given me a couple of years ago from Isaiah 48:4  "But I said, "I have labored to no purpose;  I have spent me strength in vain and for nothing.  Yet what is due me is in the Lord's hand, and my reward is with my God."

I'm sitting on my hands.  So what "mistakes" and "surprises" have been happening in your life?  I wonder what picture God is trying to paint.  I'm trying not to make a mess by fixing what needs to be worked with.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

God Likes a Good Story

I love it when things come together and you know God has been speaking. 

Remember my last (way too long ago) blog?  It was about my friend teaching me about watercolors.  Well, last night I was coaching someone around the all too familiar themes of wrestling with time, family, finances, while trying to live in our "Sweet Spot." 

We had been talking for over an hour, but before I closed in prayer I told her the story of Kathy leading a watercolor class at a retreat this past weekend.  I explained how the challenge of watercolor is that you have to let go of control of your picture.  You have to trust the water and the paints to create the picture.  If you try and fix the picture you just mess it up.  See where the water takes you...let

When I finished with my story she said, "You are not going to believe what my daughter talked to me about today."  Her daughter had turned in an art project too late,  She had tried to "fix" her watercolor and it had to be redone.  Her daughter was telling her all about what it was like to work with watercolors. 

My "coachee" said, "I don't know if I've ever had a conversation about watercolors before, and today I've had two."  I think perhaps God was telling his parable about trusting the living water once again...both for her and for me.

She then looked down at the doodling she had done during our session and realized that without consciously deciding to do it she had been doodling HOPE in many shapes and styles.  What was so powerful is that she knew God had chosen to speak to her at that particular time, and in that particular way.  She knew God loved her and could be trusted to paint a beautiful picture in her life.

Enjoy listening for the voice, looking for the signs and feeling the embrace of the One who created and loves you.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


On Monday I had coffee with my friend, Kathy.  She is pretty fun and amazing: teaching art to pre-schoolers through middle school, going to India each summer for several years on month+ long mission trips, leaving an established congregation to become part of a new church plant.  This lady has passion.  Oh, and she teaches Christian yoga, to stay focused.

She asked if I was interested in having her help with a session of an upcoming retreat.  She has this great idea about everyone learning to use watercolors as we seek to become more fully all God has created us to be.  She began to tell me about her idea, and a parable began to unfold.  "When you use watercolors," she said, "you have to give up control of the picture you are painting.  The water will make its own way.  You can't control it.  To do a beautiful watercolor picture you have to watch where the water flows, and work with it.  You can't try to change it, cover it, or fight it."  This is so good!  It sounds like surrender to me.

As I thought more and more about Jesus being the living water it took on profound meaning.  As Jesus flows in, through and around me I need to surrender to the picture Jesus wants to paint.  I can't force the picture to look "My way."

Al and I are once again in this "waiting season," not knowing where God is taking us, or how the picture will unfold for life beyond April 15.  One of the lessons God has taught us is that when you are called to this interim lifestyle you better get good at living with uncertainty, or you will go crazy.  So once again we are forced to give up day by day, knowing that the One who calls us and claims us will provide and has something more beautiful ahead that we could ever paint or imagine.

In my "faithfilled" times that is exciting and just fine.  In the moments when I'm not at my "faithfilled" best it can get a bit scary.  So Kathy's parable about the watercolors is sinking deeply into my soul as I seek to watch where the water is flowing today, and leave the Master Painter in charge of the picture of tomorrow.  

I wonder what kind of picture Jesus is painting in you.  I'd love to hear about it!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Continuing the theme from the last post...God continues to teach me!

As I was preparing the sermon last week on hunger an unforgettable image came to mind.  A few years ago we lived and ministered in Haiti for 8 months.  One day I was walking down a path between two small villages.  On the path a young woman was sitting by the side of the road.  As I approached her she rubbed her stomach and said, "Grungu," which means hungry.  I had no money or food with me and communicated this to her.  She responded in English, with a gentle voice saying, "Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, or her, 'Go I wish you well: keep warm and well fed.' but does nothing about her physical needs, what good is it?"  She then got up and moved on, as did I, knowing that I had just heard a powerful sermon on real faith. (See James 2)

Several weeks later there was a woman from her village who was pregnant with twins.  When it came time for her to give birth she couldn't deliver them, so our family ended up getting her to a hospital in Port au Prince.  We also helped provide extra food for the family and contacted a church about helping build her a house.  (There is so much more to this story, but this is the short form.)

Back to the young woman on the path...I saw her one day when we were back in the village checking on the babies.  She said to me, "Ou bon moun," which means "You are a good person."  It was like she was saying, "You are my sister.  Now I have seen your faith in action."  I am also reminded of how wise and discerning our Haitian brothers and sister are.  They are watching when we come down as visiting "missionaries."  They are looking for faith and love.  They may be physically hungry, but there are many ways they feed our spiritual hunger from their riches.

We are called to be witnesses of the gospel.....the good news.  God loves us!  God is faithful!  God will provide!  God is sufficient!  God calls His people to "Do justice, Love mercy and walk humble with our God."  Micah 6:8

How do we live in such a way that we proclaim the Good News every day.  Truthfully, it is much easier in Haiti.

Lord, How do you want us to meet the hunger of those all around us, in whatever form that hunger may take?  Lord, help us to recognize where we are hungry, and what we need.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

This has been a very interesting week, in terms of a reoccurring theme.  You know how God tries to get our attention sometimes, right?  So in this past week I finished reading, 7: an Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, by Jen Hatmaker.  The title gives you a good idea of the theme of the book.  She talks about excess in food, clothing, possessions/stuff in general, media, waste, spending and stress.  She writes with humor, but watch out...she will convict you!  Now I need to figure out what to do about the conviction...hmmm.  I'd love for some of you to read it and share this struggle and journey with me.

So the book...then I ran across this statement by James Alison as he was talking about the people of God in the wilderness, "The One who wanted to give them more kept finding them addicted to less."  Remember? God is leading them out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, giving the 10 commandments, feeding them with manna and quail, headed for the promised land....but they keep whining and wanting to go back to Egypt. So I am wondering, "What am I addicted to that keeps me from the MORE that God wants to give me?"

So the book...the quote...and then an invitation to preach at a nearby church, with the theme for the day being "Hunger."  The Scripture passages are Isaiah 58:6-12 and Matthew 25:31-40.  Isaiah challenges us by asking ,"What do you think God really wants from His people?"  Then Isaiah goes on to propose that God wants us to:
    Loose the chains of injustice
     Untie the cords of the yoke
       Set the oppressed free
        Break every yoke.

     Share our food with the hungry
      Provide the wanderer with shelter
       Clothe the naked
        Do not turn away from our own flesh and blood.

The Matthew passage is the familiar parable of the sheep and the goats, where Jesus says, "If you do it unto the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you do it unto me."  What is that again...Oh yea, feed the hungry, give a drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned...

It has been quite a week.  So I am wrestling with, "What am I addicted to(the less) that keeps me from the MORE that God wants to give?" I know our God is generous beyond measure, and Jesus came that we might have abundant joy.  Do we really believe God any more than the Israelites did in the wilderness?

Isaiah says the MORE looks like this:  "Your light will break forth like the dawn..your healing will quickly appear..........when you cry for help the Lord will say:I am here...."  Is. 58:8-12

Sorry this post got a little preachy, but it is what God has been working on in me...just thought I'd share it with you.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Crazy Fool?

This week I had breakfast with a new friend...Yeah!  In our conversation she mentioned to me, "You are so self-confident.  I am not."  I've been processing that this week.  Did she say this remembering the Sunday morning I skipped around the church with the kids during the children's message, or was it because during congregational prayer on Sunday I invited our non-kneeling congregation to kneel with me for our prayer? (After all, Ephesians 3:14-20 was our guide to prayer this week, and it begins, "Therefore, I kneel before the Father..."  It seemed so appropriate.)  Or maybe she thought this simply because I wear my little black hat with my red coat, even though Al looks at me with this little grin that says, "Really?"

As I've been thinking on this I've come to the awareness that it doesn't have as much to do with "self-confidence" as it is all about FREEDOM in CHRIST.  I remember my first taste of this the summer after high school when I was introduced to Camp Manitoqua, and I encounter all these college kids who were a little crazy and in love with Jesus.  This was a side of Christianity I had not experienced, and I wanted it!  I even remember "Uncle Harold Korver" telling us as staff that part of the job was being, "A fool for Christ."  What an incredible, freeing experience that was.  I went home determined not to be captured by the "What will people think?" mentality.

Now as a midlifing woman of 60 I look back and recognize it is a life-long journey. There is progress made, mountains climbed, valleys traversed, new vistas ahead, but always a need to stay close to and very intentional about looking to Jesus for my source of identity.  When I do a Midlife Momentum retreat and ask people what they like most about this season of life, invariably someone in the group says, "I don't worry so much anymore about what people think."  Midlife wisdom, often learned through a faith walk with lots of ups and downs.

My freedom in Christ was birthed the summer of Manitoqua, but it has grown, deepened and been a tool for aiding others in gaining freedom as I have experienced more of life.  Sometimes the Evil One tries to pull me down, throw all kinds of weaknesses in my face, and generally beat me up, but he is the loser, the liar.  My confidence is not in me, but in the One who seeks me, saves me, lives in me and frees me.  Lord help me always to remember this!!!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Run to the Darkness (Part 2)

Walking in the mornings has taken on a fresh meaning for me.  What will I find on this walk?  Who will I meet.  Ever since the glory invaded the darkness my expectations have risen.

Getting up and out of the house in the darkness has never been easy.  My bed is warm!  Michigan mornings take a long time to arrive.  I need incentive, and so knowing that my walking partner is waiting on the corner motivates me to "move it."  Once I am up and moving I am so glad I'm out there, but the next morning there is the same struggle.  Why, Oh why am I such a slow learner.  I know I will feel better.  I know I love that time when the world is waking up.  I know that God might surprise me with GLORY.

Actually this sounds like a lot of the disciplines that it takes to be a growing, effective follower of Jesus.  Ever since the morning of the glory snowfall I think about not only my partner waiting for me on the corner, but also that Jesus waits for me on so many corners of life.  Will I meet him as I open the Scriptures?  Will I meet him as I share breakfast with a friend?  Will I meet him when I talk to someone on the phone for the Center for Women in Transition?  Will I meet him in worship?  If I don't get up, take the first step through a new door what will I miss?

I know Jesus is waiting for me.  I know I'll feel better if I head out to meet him...even if that means heading to the table and opening the Bible.  I know life is so much richer when I take a chance.  So as I head out in the morning I look toward the street light down the road.  Where do you want to take me today, Lord?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Run to the darkness?

Wednesday morning I left the house at 6:50am to meet my walking partner a few blocks away.  It is still dark in west Michigan at 6:50.  It was about 12 degrees and I looked out the window to check the wind before leaving the house.  How many layers do I put on? The flag hung limp at the school across the road. Yes!

I stepped outside and immediately was surrounded by glory.  The snow was gently falling in large beautiful flakes; the yellow street lights catching each one floating in the air or lying on the ground.  I was awestruck.  I met my walking partner a few minutes later.  She greeted me, "It's like walking on diamonds!"  Glory had invaded the darkness. 

My world has been turned a bit upside down the last couple of weeks.  I've taken the training at the Center for Women in Transition.  It involves 21 hours of training over two weeks.  Training to be an advocate for those living in a world of domestic violence and sexual assault.  I really didn't know what I was getting myself into.  I've come alongside women who have been in abusive relationships before, but the magnitude of the needs, seeing the different facets, and recognizing how prevalent it is was eye opening.  It touched me on a deep level.

I preached on Christmas Eve about Jesus, the light of the world.  I focused on the line, "Carry your candle, run to the darkness." from the song, "Go Light Your World."  I hadn't put it together that volunteering at CWIT would be how God was calling me to live out what I had preached.  Run to the darkness?  We have been taught and socialized in our Christian culture to avoid the darkness.  We are better at huddling together to share our light with each other, protect each other's lights from going out.  But, run to the darkness? 

Somehow being surrounded by the diamonds floating from the sky, and realizing it was because the light was piercing the darkness that glory showed up, also touches me at a deep level.  I may not be ready to run, but...


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why do you love me?

It was the first weekend in May, 1997.  My brother, Dave and his wife Dianne, came with my dad and mom to Michigan for Acacia’s graduation from Hope College.  Dad wasn't driving long distances anymore; he was getting weaker.  He had been fighting type 2 diabetes for a long time, and his heart had sustained a lot of damage. 

The graduation was held outdoors and it was pretty cool, so mom and dad skipped the actual graduation ceremony, but were a part of the dinner celebration after it.  We had a great weekend of family time, playing cards and celebrating Acacia’s accomplishments.

As they were packing up and heading out the door to return to WI I hugged Dad and as always told him I loved him.  But this time he didn’t just receive my hug and declaration of love; instead as soon as I said it he responded with a one word question, “Why?”  I was taken back a bit, and said, “Why do I love you?” “Yeah, Why do you love me?”

I hugged him again and said, “Because you are my dad, and you are such a good one.”  It seemed to satisfy.  We continued on with the process of them getting into the van and leaving.

That was my last conversation with my dad.  A week later he died in his sleep on the night after Mother’s day. 

I have relived that brief conversation so many times.  It still brings me to tears today.  I’ve regretted that I didn’t say more, that I didn’t give him a long litany of all the reasons he had given me through 45 years of life to love him.  I’ve regretted I didn’t say more on a hundred other occasions.  But, I’m also thankful he asked, and I did get to say that much.

In my devotions today I read the story of Mary anointing Jesus feet at the home she shared with Martha and Lazarus.  As I read the familiar passage in John 12 I noticed:
            Martha served…and loved Jesus.
            Lazarus fellowshipped around the table…and loved Jesus.
            Mary worshipped…and loved Jesus.

In the chapter before, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, so of course they loved him.  But, they loved him before that.  I wonder what their response would have been to Jesus if he had asked them, “Why do you love me?” 

Why do I(you) love Jesus?  How do we choose to demonstrate that love?  And, who else needs to know why we love them?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sweet Fellowship

Charlie and Katie were in Michigan visiting Charlie's family between Christmas and New Years.  Charlie and Katie are young, in love, and Caleb and Sonja's friends.  I snagged them for a 9:30 brunch on Saturday morning, inviting Charlie's mom, Pat, to join us.

Acacia and kids were also visiting us.  Charlie was Caleb's best man and Katie stood up for Sonja, so we were all together a year ago for the wedding.  In fact, that was the beginning of "Charlie and Katie."  The reunion was great fun.

We sat around the dining room table sharing our stories, getting to know each other better and enjoying sweet fellowship.  The house was Christmasy, the music on, the food simple, but good.  I had imagined everyone would be busy and have other places to be, so I was thrilled as we lingered over food and memories of the year.

As time passed I realized I was practicing a new art of mine.  I was raised in a good Dutch home.  Normal for us was to finish the meal, women get up to clean the table and kitchen, men retire to the TV room to watch football.  I have been working for the past few years to change the mealtime culture to include more rest, more story telling, more sweet fellowship around the table.

On this particular morning I realized I didn't want to move for fear of breaking the spell of sweet fellowship.  Getting up to take dishes to the kitchen might signal the need to move on.  The grandkids were, by now, busy with the craft box making us things, the adults content to sip coffee and relax.  So we sat around those dirty dishes and the warming milk for two and a half hours.  When we finally moved Katie and Charlie washed the dishes, Al put things away, and I continued getting to know my new friend, Pat.

This was a morning kissed with the presence and peace of Christ.  A gift on Christmas Saturday.  And a success in my journey of making mealtimes sacred times of sharing and sweet fellowship.  God is good!


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Eyes to See

For ten days following Christmas our daughter Acacia, Diedrick(7) and Annika(5) were with us in Holland.  Joy!

One of the best times we had was going to Fredrick Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids.  This beautiful  garden was filled with Christmas trees decorated as they would be in  dozens of countries around the world.  There was also a desert garden, a tropical garden, and a garden through which a wonderful train runs around replicas of buildings in the GR area.

Oh the joy of watching children's faces, eyes and hands as they explored all of these treats.  The desert garden took us the longest time as they were amazed by such wonderful creations.  "Oh, look at this," and "See that, Grandma?"  So much to see, so much wonder!

They loved it so much we went back 3 days later to show Uncle Caleb and Papa, and they got to share the wonder.

The Grandparent membership was my Christmas gift from Al.  So on this first trip I received the gift of watching wonder happen.

I wonder how much joy it gives God when we have eyes to see the wonders God has wrought.  I wonder how many times each day we miss the beauty God has created for our benefit.  I wonder if we saw the newness of the coming of the Light this Christmas season, and if we had our eyes focused on the wonder of the Christ Child come into the world to reveal how much God loves us.

Lord, give us eyes to see and the discipline to seek all your have for us.  So be it!!