Of stables, hearts and other bloody messes…

Oh God,

When I think of the Christmas story, where  I see myself in it, I imagine myself the stable. It is a working place Lord, this heart of mine. It isn’t a place where one sits down in quiet often enough, it backs up with the muck. You know it. This heart here, it is bound to wander. Wander out into the cold of night, to leave all the peace and heat inside.
Oh Lord. How you surprised that place! Who could expect to find you there? Shouldn’t we find you in the palace somewhere? But no. You set yourself in the middle of the mess, you choose that to be the place to bend yourself to earth. How could you Lord? Live in this heart? Knowing the back and forth it sways, the extra paths it takes. The detours it chooses over your best. Still. You bend into it. You CHOOSE it. You believe it to be the only true. The stripped away of pretense. The illusions shook out. The heart, at its bloodiest, the stable at its rankest, these you choose. I still cannot fathom it. The sinner at the rocks of the bottom, the heart that looks more like the mire. You choose it. You make it home. You create it and over and over you move into it. My boy he asks me about what is BAD and I tell him the WHOLE world is Yours, You make it…and yet…everything in it we can twist into sin. All the very best gifts you gave us, we can figure a way to contort it into something that looks more like death than life.  We break it till it little resembles your purpose for it. Our worst offense Lord is what we do with the hearts you give us. Allow them to twist and shape shift into nightmares and shadow, the absence of any light.

Still. Here I wait for your surprise. For you to shock and astound and arrive. Here, this heart, that stable, the vacant and broken these you choose to embody. You Lord. YOU.

And these.

God. Be with us still.


Emmanuel. In this WEARY world.



Pursuit Justice is Coming…

There are not that many absolutes I know in life except this:

You are here to do good things.

When you lose the vision of what you are here for, your life becomes small, depleted, maybe even incestuous. You hang out with the same people all the time. You start looking for ways to make your own life easier. You watch out for number one. You get petty. You become the king of first world problems.
Guess what? The satisfaction in your life actually diminishes. If I can promise you nothing else, I can promise you this. You will be bored. You will be boring. I’ve watched it over and over.

The sermon on the mount,where I’ve been camped a lot these last few months, doesn’t tell us to hang out with the cool kids (even though sometimes it is more fun and often is easier). The bible tells us the opposite. Get in there.  Get your hands dirty. Love on the least.

Find out how to bring peace. Find out what justice means. Bring it.

Somehow all the complicating factors in life fall away when we are living for the right things.

Watching porn? Try and watch it again after you learn about human trafficiking…how your sisters ended up in that film…what brought her there? It becomes a different experience.

Feeling like you can’t keep up with the Joneses? Go to Haiti. Find out the Joneses are idiots for hoarding whilst people just a few hours away struggle to survive.

Feeling like you got your crap together? Go to Africa. See how together they have it and how yet, still, the seams are not meeting up.

Your little girl not doing well in school? Guess what? They get to go to school.

Trying to answer all the biggest questions? Stop it. Love your neighbor. Suddenly peace descends and you don’t have time for the trivial things that actually don’t matter. There are answers you will perhaps never make peace with. I don’t know why people suffer like they do, but I for one want to make it better.

Will you join me? Pursuit Justice is coming. We are going to read books that matter. We are going to decide how 5% of the Pursuit Live tithe is spent. We are going to serve our community. We aren’t going to be critics that drive our brothers insane. We are going to be the people of God who seek the good, the best, in every corner of this whole earth. We are going to bless the givers. Give our strength to the weak.

I don’t know what it will look like a year from now. But I hope you will be sitting with me when I find out.

(Our first Pursuit Justice will happen November 5 at 5:30 in the Hope Centre. Join us? I will write it out here too so you can join in the conversation ‘virtually’ as well)

Kick up the dust. Then wash each others feet.

“When kids grow up they face a broken world;

we need to prepare them to contend for the kingdom without fear.” (@JenHatmaker)

They poured out of the bus. Near 60 of them. Junior high boys. High on life and testosterone and each other. I would like to tell you they sat in neat rows and recited scripture to me.

They didn’t.
Instead? There were twenty odd boys in my hot tub, belching the worlds largest, cracking jokes. There were still more playing paintball with the tire rubber slingshots we bought from the roadside vendor in Kenya. Others riding mini bikes or roasting meat around the campfire.

We will send them home to you with dust streaked faces, paintball stained shirts, they will smell like fire.

This ministry we do will never be clean. We serve a God who spits in the dirt to form balm for healing. Who scratches the soil with a stick when the others throw rocks. It was almost like he warned us. Kick up the dust. Then wash each others feet. Use your tears if you must. Get it done. 

I wish life were simple. Cleaner. I wish all the kids in our youth group came from homes like yours. That they didn’t walk in with 100 pound back packs of burdens and pain, wounds gaping wide open in their chests. Sometimes we see it from across the room, those wounds so deep they suck you in.

But. So do you. So do I. Sometimes we are the ones saddling them.

Later in the night I hear a yell from the hot tub, “MAN CHALLENGE”. And a young leader says “this is the year we learn what it means to be men of integrity”. They yell again, change, and start a fire. Start singing worship songs. It was beautiful and in that moment they sparkled.


They are still going to treat you badly some days and still they are going to make big mistakes this year. We will learn about the grace of God together. We will learn that the Grace walk is measured by the forward momentum from two steps back and three forward.

So yes. Expect things to get messy this year.


I for one wouldn’t have it any other way.

(today as I prayed for Pursuit, I realized I was thinking more about where YOU are at with Jesus than where I am at with Jesus. Forgive me. Jesus…my life is yours….Make it sparkle if you want to… also? Make me ok with the mess…mine and theirs. I trust you to sculpt it into something that matters, I submit to the potters hands).


Rabbit Holes and Where You Land

I jumped through a rabbit hole on the internet. I followed it down an ugly space to where horrific murders and drugs lived. I had to shut my computer and step away. I had hoped shutting it off would keep me protected. Set apart. And then…I found myself I sitting on the floor, bare legs stretched out across dirty church carpet. But, sometimes you just need to take your shoes off on holy ground. Sometimes the holiest ground exists in the ugliest places.It wasn’t the message or the worship.

It was joining with the pray-ers this morning, asking how do we step into the brokenness?
It was sitting with a sister who isn’t feeling like herself and so we spent time thinking…praying… into what ‘self’ means. It was watching my husband talk to a young man about what grief means. Giving it room to breathe.

I don’t know what you expect from church, but as I get older, as I watch life a little longer, my expectations have changed drastically. I don’t want you to tell me how to be fulfilled. I don’t want you to glitter and sparkle and tell me how happy you are, how perfect your life.

I want to hear you say…I am broken…Jesus makes me feel like I might stay all together in one piece.

I want to hear you say…I am joining in the work of HIS redemption. How can I stand beside you and make you feel more whole?

I want to hear you say…Life isn’t what I thought it would be…and STILL…I am finding HIS JOY in it.

I want you to say…Church isn’t about what I can get. It is about what HE gave and about how I can also learn to be a giver.

Church…in the midst of this very broken world…a wounded bunch…open to more wounded souls…walking each other home.

When you wonder what you are here for…

My eyes flick open, brain starts spinning, stomach starts twisting.

My skin jumps on solutions and MORE and program and plan. Inputs, outputs, measurables.

But then. I put down my notebook with my own outlines, my own dreams.

This prayer that presses on me heavier than the rest of the weights?

It says.


It says look at me.

It says I WILL be glorified.

To me it says, in spite of you. With you. Not because of you.

It says nothing will rise or fall on account of you.

Breathe deep and go back to sleep.

My spirit left watching the horizon, certain the Son is rising. He is the one who does the work, we are the ones who surrender our hands our hearts to HIS restoring work.


Thankful this morning:

708) For opportunity to join in His redeeming this old world…but not to be in charge of it

709) Grace. Learning to wear it. To walk in it.

710) Quiet family weekend

711) Gods provision even in tragedy. Praying for you Pines friends. And if you want to help with the restoration you can donate here.

Join others watching the horizon at A Holy Experience, the ordinary days for signs of the ways He is with us…

Marriage Letters: Serving Together

Participating in a letter writing challenge at “the Run A Muck”…”because we believe that when we bless our own marriages, we bless the marriages of others. When you go hard after your marriage, I’m encouraged to go after mine”. Hope this letter serves to inspire you to fight for yours.

This week the challenge is on the concept of ‘serving together’. 

Dear Joel,

Mercy and marvel. It is a testament to the grace of God in a marriage, that we survived our first few years. And by survived, I don’t mean that we didn’t get a divorce (though I guess that could be considered miraculous too). No I mean actual survival…neither one of us died. Yeesh. What a ride.  I knew what I was getting into when I married you. While I thought you were going to be a teacher I also knew you had visions. I vowed it, right there on our wedding day, I flat-out said that I would support your visions and dreams and do all I could to make them real. I just couldn’t have known how many you would have, how big they would be, that they would lead to SUCH challenging and interesting adventure. These steps have taken me so far out of my comfort zone, to the end of the rope.

Turns out that is where Jesus lives. The other side of the end of myself.

Serving with you has been the best and worst part of our marriage. We build well together. I am the nitty-gritty, the small and tiny, to your big and beautiful plans. It’s all I see. The small pieces. You meanwhile see the biggest picture, and don’t notice if the small are there or not. At least back in the beginning. Logistics are old hat to you now….nothing gets left out. But when we began, I was chasing after your vision with a one hundred point map. We drove each other wild.

We also fell wildly in love. 

But not in the way the world falls in love. No not that. I saw your integrity lived out plain. You saw my jagged edges raw. You started calling me GI Jane for the way I kept throwing myself in harm’s way. It was an adventure to say the least. In our first six years of marriage, stress had shown every crack we bare. We learned that the truest love is looking out the same direction, not always just staring at each other. We learned that one vision keeps you going the same way, even if you don’t always arrive at the same time. Since then? It has been a struggle to maintain that tension. Some seasons you have stared off into the distance and I felt left behind. Other times I stared too intently at you and dared you to look away, wanting to be the whole of your vision and I found I didn’t like it…I lost interest in you.  Sometimes we’ve struggled to keep one vision between us…neither one catching fire and going out alone. It looks different now, the way I had to pull back my reigns. To nestle quiet with the kids. It has been an extraordinary gift to both of us. The way God filled the gaps for us in ministry. The way serving together looks much more like making a home now. The way I was delighted to find I didn’t miss the other things too much. That serving in our home and when youth come over, living family and Jesus-chasing well before them is plenty for me. More than, some days. The vision though, OUR whole life for ONE single purpose remains just as true now.

I am pretty sure there is no one else on earth who would have a vision big enough to capture my imagination. And for all my bluster and opposition I hope you always know that truth (you just scare me sometimes…and by now you must know that my fear is always dressed for the corner of a roof). I would follow your dream to the dark side of the moon if you asked me too…18 years later I believe more than ever that you are the man who could take us there.

Ever thankful to be serving with you;



Dear Church: A love letter to the body and the bride (I couldn’t make one metaphor stick)

Beloved Bride,

I watched you tonight. I sat in the car with sleeping littles while you passed Hope Centre windows en route to family dinner.

There goes that girl I met after she attended camp for the first time. I remember hugging her the week after her mother died. I remember watching her grow into this beautiful servant hearted woman, amazing leader.

There goes one of our seniors. Her grandchildren brought her back for bigger and better once. She put a clown costume on and fearlessly came onto stage, winning the team prize for best trade.

When the kids wake up and I walk in and I am greeted by the children from two of my favorite families. I feel the warmth of community deep and strong.

Later I will stand in the back of sanctuary and listen to you sing. I feel so in love with you that I cannot breath. There are young men and women who I have watched grow from angry or troubled teens. I see the anorexics healed. The anxious soothed. The prideful humbled. There on stage the kids I watched grow into these marvelous, wise and gifted parts of our body. There are people who love on my kids. People who serve with my husband. People that bring us food when babies are born. The ones that pray for us. It is too much for my clumsy mind…this lame blog.

But. Its been a ride these last years hasn’t it? Sometimes I’ve felt we’ve been more like a battered woman than a spotless bride. The layoffs, departures, conflict, drama. We’ve lost some dear ones and we still feel those phantom limbs just below the knee cap. Sometimes it aches. There have been transplants too and we are waiting to see if we can weight bare on them or not. There has been healing but we still limp. We’ve donated our kidneys to other churches, sliced off a piece of our liver to grow somewhere else.

My brother-in-law calls his wife ‘the bride’; always. It was when I knew I was going to like him. He calls her that no matter what. 20 years later, after everything he knows of her, he chooses to think of her as spotless bride.

Can we do the same? Can we look through the lens of what Jesus is doing in all of us, how He sees us? Can we trust that there is a method in this sometimes madness? Can we believe really deeply that devotion and dedication are hard; perhaps the hardest things. We are a terribly broken bunch, I have to tell you it is the whole point of the cross; of this church. Can we REALLY believe that it is what we do with our sins and missteps that shows how deep Grace has drilled? Do we believe that he is ABLE to be glorified in this? In spite of this? In spite all the ways we, the church, do the wrong things with right intentions or the right things with the wrong intentions. All the times we act without prayer or speak without grace. All the violations I’ve imposed on others by my self-righteousness and lack of love. All the times we’ve glossed over wounds in others rather than face them. All the times we’ve not pursued His peace with fervency. I know it goes so much deeper than all that…

We get things wrong. We are trying to get it right. It is the process of working out our faith and learning to walk in humility. No, we’ll likely never get it all right…but in the baby steps to righteousness may we make reverence, humility, love, grace and peace our footholds.

Still, I ask for your forgiveness in advance.

Even my baby steps have a tendency to step on toes.

But still. This love for you rages.


Linking with: The Wellspring

Thank You!

Do you ever get just a little bit discouraged?

"...a small gift from my creative world to yours" she said.

Certain as you were a month ago about something you were to do, now, it seems laughable. I had one of those days last week. I was moments from quitting, giving up, never dreaming a particular dream again. It is all just so ridiculous.

But then. My husband came in and presented me with an anonymous gift left in his box at church. An amazing gift. Words with the perfect degree of encouragement and grace. I was overwhelmed with the timing of it. I sat, eyes all blurry, and stared at that card for a long time.

Thank you friend, whoever you are, for the amazing gift. Your obedience to spirit prompt has been a miraculous gift to me (and Emily and I have been cooking up a storm!).

Bless you!

Country Chronicles: Barn Raising & Learning to Do Community

There have been points in my life in recent years that I put up strong and impermeable fences around the borderlands of my family. I thought the way to keep us strong together was to keep others out. I believed that if we spent energy on others, we would run out of love for each other. We have found the opposite to be true as we are experimenting with expanding the boundaries, inviting others in. I want to do community better.

I’ve sat next to people thinking we were going deep only to find out just days later that their world was shattering, heart all broken up. I’ve thought I was loving people well only to find out later that I wasn’t. I’ve not been at hospital bedside, holding hands, when I should have been. I’m terrible at phone calls but I want to do community better.

My mamma said to my daddy last weekend “whatever happened to an old-fashioned barn raising? When everyone comes and they get a barn up in a weekend? That just doesn’t happen anymore…”I thought that is true but then this weekend, my husband built a fence, and young men kept finding their way up our mountain and digging ditches. He didn’t call any of them and they built a fence to keep my children safe. I gave them ham sandwiches and we heard about a couple of love stories in the making and they called it ‘the property’ (instead of Joel and Melissas house) and it was good. We also got a new truck except it is old. A dear one gave us a Jeep a few years ago. We gave our Pathfinder to a guy who needed it. He gave it to another friend when he could afford better. He passed it to another who kept it for a while until the gas was too much. It came home today. We trade around vehicles again because one truck is better than another and one needs a different kind and I think this is how church is supposed to work.

There is so much for me to learn on this. Much of the time community, authentic and true, scares me. People in the flesh make me nervous. But then, there is this new fence. It is permeable and it creates safe places for gathering and life building.

And friends? This is something we just have to get right; people are lonely and broken and have needs right next door to you. We have to do community better.