Wednesday, August 31, 2011

pondering growing up

I've shifted from fretful afternoon-drive prayers of, "Please let him have had a good day! Please please please let him have had a good day..." (see previous post for context) to deep breath afternoon-drive prayers of, "Lord, what is already is. Please help me respond as I should. Love him through me. Let me be a help and not a hinderance to what You are doing in his life."

I recognize this in myself, and I can't help but wonder.... which one of us is growing up, again?

(and, just as a postscript ... he really did have a good day)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

pondering bubbles

Last night I was discouraged. Our boys have started middle school, and our oldest (who has a form of autism) is having to ramp up to a new level of expectations.  He's going about it with a really sweet attitude and we are pleased with the team working with him.  But reality is reality.  And so, as I said to my husband, "I'm just so sad."   Sad that he is like a little boy in an almost teenage body.  Sad that it seems no matter how far he comes, the gap between him and what's expected continues to grow wider.  Sad that his talents and intelligence so often fall prey to his limitations and challenges.  Sometimes it all makes me very sad.

Later in the evening, the middle two went off to karate with their dad, so it was just me and the "bookends".  We sat out on the back deck together, where my son was doing some really cool bubble tricks.  That's when I smiled.  Actually I chuckled to myself, because a few years back he couldn't blow bubbles.  He literally couldn't blow a bubble or blow out a candle or sip through a straw, because of low tone in his face and lips.  Meanwhile, all the other kids were blowing and sipping up a storm.  I remember what a big deal it was, how it felt fretting, "Will he ever sip through a straw?  Will he blow out a candle without spitting on everyone?  Will he finally be able to simply blow bubbles like "normal" kids do?"  Of course he's been blowing bubbles for years now, but I do well to take notice and remember to rejoice.

I don't know how all that's ahead of us is going to go.  I don't know if or when or how so many things are going to fall into place for him.  But I do know this.  He can blow a mean bubble!  And that makes me smile.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

pondering hate, love, and God as a Mom

My daughters were being brats this morning.  Complete brats.  I spent breakfast refereeing the two of them bragging, insulting, and trying to one-up one another.

I wasn't trying to be profound when I exclaimed,  "You are being mean to one another and so you are being mean to me. You are hating me."

A mortified nine year old exclaimed through tears, "I don't hate you!"

"When you hate her, you are hating me, because I am both of your mother. If you love me, love her."

It wasn't until the words had left my mouth, that I realized their full weight.  A young man named John was inspired to put it this way ...

Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth....Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit... God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

I suppose now the question becomes, who do you believe to be your brother and sister? Who do you believe to be a child of God?  Who does God love?

Ponder that with me.

Friday, August 26, 2011

pondering the leaps of life

I'm busy writing things not for the blog... so in the meantime, I invite you read something beautiful from some of our favorite people in the world.  I'd go as far to say, if you're a parent or in a parental role of any kind... you must read this. 

Then ponder it for a while.  What needs to change? 

Decide.  And do.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

pondering my INFJ self

I'm in the house alone. I should be writing an article due for the Digest, but it's my kids' first day of school and I'm just too distracted.  I'm especially concerned for my oldest son who has Asperger's Syndrome.  He and his brother are in a brand new school (they are sixth graders).  Obviously I have zero control over what is happening there, but it's hard not to wonder.

So while "not writing" I've been wandering online & found myself re-reading about my INFJ-ness (Myers Briggs).  Not sure why - guess I'm introspective today.  I've been very sick for the past week (long story) and life takes on a different light when you "come back" from that sort of thing.  Or maybe I'm just completely weird and normal people don't give such things a second thought.  (I'm thinking the latter is more true than not)

If you know me, enjoy this...  some of it I actually really like.  Other parts embarrass me.  And some phrases just make me laugh out loud, especially this one:  They are not good at dealing with minutia or very detailed tasks.  Never a truer statement!!

Portrait of an INFJ...

The Protector

As an INFJ, your primary mode of living is focused internally, where you take things in primarily via intuition. Your secondary mode is external, where you deal with things according to how you feel about them, or how they fit with your personal value system.
INFJs are gentle, caring, complex and highly intuitive individuals. Artistic and creative, they live in a world of hidden meanings and possibilities. Only one percent of the population has an INFJ Personality Type, making it the most rare of all the types.
INFJs place great importance on havings things orderly and systematic in their outer world. They put a lot of energy into identifying the best system for getting things done, and constantly define and re-define the priorities in their lives. On the other hand, INFJs operate within themselves on an intuitive basis which is entirely spontaneous. They know things intuitively, without being able to pinpoint why, and without detailed knowledge of the subject at hand. They are usually right, and they usually know it. Consequently, INFJs put a tremendous amount of faith into their instincts and intuitions. This is something of a conflict between the inner and outer worlds, and may result in the INFJ not being as organized as other Judging types tend to be. Or we may see some signs of disarray in an otherwise orderly tendency, such as a consistently messy desk.
INFJs have uncanny insight into people and situations. They get "feelings" about things and intuitively understand them. As an extreme example, some INFJs report experiences of a psychic nature, such as getting strong feelings about there being a problem with a loved one, and discovering later that they were in a car accident. This is the sort of thing that other types may scorn and scoff at, and the INFJ themself does not really understand their intuition at a level which can be verbalized. Consequently, most INFJs are protective of their inner selves, sharing only what they choose to share when they choose to share it. They are deep, complex individuals, who are quite private and typically difficult to understand. INFJs hold back part of themselves, and can be secretive.
But the INFJ is as genuinely warm as they are complex. INFJs hold a special place in the heart of people who they are close to, who are able to see their special gifts and depth of caring. INFJs are concerned for people's feelings, and try to be gentle to avoid hurting anyone. They are very sensitive to conflict, and cannot tolerate it very well. Situations which are charged with conflict may drive the normally peaceful INFJ into a state of agitation or charged anger. They may tend to internalize conflict into their bodies, and experience health problems when under a lot of stress.
Because the INFJ has such strong intuitive capabilities, they trust their own instincts above all else. This may result in an INFJ stubborness and tendency to ignore other people's opinions. They believe that they're right. On the other hand, INFJ is a perfectionist who doubts that they are living up to their full potential. INFJs are rarely at complete peace with themselves - there's always something else they should be doing to improve themselves and the world around them. They believe in constant growth, and don't often take time to revel in their accomplishments. They have strong value systems, and need to live their lives in accordance with what they feel is right. In deference to the Feeling aspect of their personalities, INFJs are in some ways gentle and easy going. Conversely, they have very high expectations of themselves, and frequently of their families. They don't believe in compromising their ideals.
INFJ is a natural nurturer; patient, devoted and protective. They make loving parents and usually have strong bonds with their offspring. They have high expectations of their children, and push them to be the best that they can be. This can sometimes manifest itself in the INFJ being hard-nosed and stubborn. But generally, children of an INFJ get devoted and sincere parental guidance, combined with deep caring.
In the workplace, the INFJ usually shows up in areas where they can be creative and somewhat independent. They have a natural affinity for art, and many excel in the sciences, where they make use of their intuition. INFJs can also be found in service-oriented professions. They are not good at dealing with minutia or very detailed tasks. The INFJ will either avoid such things, or else go to the other extreme and become enveloped in the details to the extent that they can no longer see the big picture. An INFJ who has gone the route of becoming meticulous about details may be highly critical of other individuals who are not.
The INFJ individual is gifted in ways that other types are not. Life is not necessarily easy for the INFJ, but they are capable of great depth of feeling and personal achievement.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

pondering copernicus and galileo

Can't get away from this lately... keeps coming to mind.

In 1632 the scientist Galileo (who was a man of faith) dared to support the radical 15th-century idea of Copernicus that all planets, including the earth, revolve around the sun. Immediately, Galileo was proclaimed a heretic by the Pope who quoted Scriptures in his attempt to disprove what science was proving.
Earlier, Protestant heroes had joined in quoting Scriptures condemning Copernicus.
Martin Luther said, “This fool Copernicus wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred Scripture in Joshua 10:13 tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.” John Calvin quoted Psalm 93 in his attack on Copernicus. “The earth also is established. It cannot be moved.” Calvin added, “Who will venture to place the authority of Copernicus above that of the Holy Spirit?”
Melancthon, one of Luther’s closest allies, used Ecclesiastes 1:4-5 to condemn Copernicus. “The sun also rises, and the sun goes down and hurries to the place from which it came.” Then he added these dangerous words: “It is the part of a good mind to accept the truth as revealed by God and to obey it.”
Because Christians refused to let their understanding of God’s Word be informed by science, Copernicus was condemned and Galileo was declared a heretic and placed under house arrest for the remainder of his life. In 1992, 359 years later, Pope John Paul II finally admitted the church had been wrong to ignore science and to interpret the Bible literally.
The Pope said something we must never forget: “Recent historical studies enable us to state that this sad misunderstanding now belongs to the past.” Unfortunately, the apology came too late to relieve Galileo of his suffering. What if the biblical scholars of Galileo’s day had said to Galileo, “We don’t agree with your Copernican theories, but we love and trust you. As long as you love God and seek God’s will in your life, you are welcome here.”

~Rev. Dr. Mel White

Friday, August 19, 2011

wrapping up the global leadership summit

I've now written a series of posts in response to my experience at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. I did not include all the speakers, not because some were not engaging, but for the simple reason that I didn't write down much while they spoke.  Seth Godin, for example, was fantastic, but he spoke so fast and showed so many pictures that I found it was better to just sit and listen, rather than try to write things down.  My takeaway from him was, "Go be yourself and make something happen". The interview with Michelle Rhee was fantastic, but again I found myself wanting to simply listen rather than note-take.  I plan to read her book soon, though, and joined her group StudentsFirstHenry Cloud had us create a thought-provoking chart on how to deal with different types of people, but that is not something I can easily create on the blog (my tech skills are a lot more limited than I let on).

To wrap this up, and to make sharing easier, I'll conclude by linking to each post here.  I'm glad to hear that at least one person has enjoyed this review of all that I took in at the summit (shout out to you, Joshua! see you at Dr. Beck's place!)

pondering meeting my maker (the summit opened with a surreal version of Awake My Soul)
pondering what I heard (on having ears to hear)
pondering wild goose and willow creek (comparing the two experiences, with a Hybels at each)
pondering Len Schlesinger and The Help
pondering Cory Booker's parents
pondering samaria, sexual orientation, and gender identity
pondering Mama Maggie Gobran and my own tough calling
pondering humility with John Dickson
pondering nakedness with Patrick Lencioni
pondering the future with Erwan McManus

(someday I'll learn how to organize this blog more efficiently. for now, thanks for bearing with me)

pondering the future with Erwan McManus

This was the final session of the Global Leadership Summit.  By this point I was exhausted and ready to go home.  I prayed he wouldn't be boring.

He wasn't.

He started out by reading from Ecclesiastes 1, then declaring, "Solomon was wrong."  I chuckled when he talked about having discussions with his wife about how he was sure the Bible was wrong.  She'd shake her head and say, "Fine, whatever, just please don't ever talk to people about this!!"  I could sort of relate to that. ;)

Of course his point wasn't that the Bible is "wrong" but that we read it wrong.  Statements like "there is nothing new under the sun" are not factual, literal truths from God so much as the expression of a man who tried to find fulfillment by using things and people to satisfy himself.

Erwan challenged the way many (most?) apply that "nothing new" statement as God's truth.  Really?  What about Isaiah 43:18-19 where God tells us He is doing a new thing?  What about Jesus telling us we can't put new wine in old wineskins?

We are part of a creative order, not a created order.

Why do we keep waiting for someone else to create the better future?

The church needs to become cultivator of human talent, nurturing people's creative capacity.

There has never been an ordinary human born, but sadly most of us die copies.

The church should must be a nurturer of the human spirit - the epicentre of creativity, freeing and liberating dreams inside people's souls.

There is NO conflict between human talent and the glory of God.

We need to be narrators of the human story. (this is where he really started speaking directly to me)  We've accepted a false narrative.  We need to take back the truth telling power of the narrative of Christ.

Truth is LOST in a bad story.

***We need a revival of great story-telling. Whoever tells the best stories frames the culture.*** (hello!?)

It's not that hard to bring people to Jesus when you tell them a story they can find themselves in.

There's a future to be created, if we return to being the narrators and the poets. (in the margin of my notes here I wrote, "I can't breathe!")

Jesus has come and he makes all things NEW

pondering nakedness with Patrick Lencioni

Patrick Lencioni filled in for Howard Schultz, who opted not to speak at the Summit.  While I find that entire situation unfortunate, I was personally grateful to hear what Patrick had to say about "Getting Naked".  Which is just a provocative way to talk about vulnerability - another topic I was pleasantly surprised to see focused on at a summit about leadership.

He talked about how vulnerability is counter-cultural, life tells us to avoid pain at all costs.  But that vulnerability is especially powerful trait rarely found in leaders today.

He said we don't make ourselves vulnerable because we fear rejection (vulnerability is not always rewarded), we fear embarrassment (we can beat this by celebrating our mistakes, besides they can already see you sweat), and we fear feeling inferior (Jesus washed feet - get over it).

I don't have very many notes from his talk, but the theme impacted me greatly.  Because, in church leadership, the message is often the opposite - if not in word at least in practice.  Don't be vulnerable.  The sheep can't take it.  The elders won't like it. Be careful, for their sake and for your own.  Keep things private.  Lie if you have to.  But don't be vulnerable.

I reject that.  I wholeheartedly reject it.  And I am sad for my friends who still feel they have to live according to that paradigm.  May we create a future church that celebrates vulnerability, not in words only but in actuality.  For without it, how on earth can we expect to encounter grace?

It's seriously time churches got naked together. :)

pondering humility with John Dickson

The speaker for whom I took the most notes (by far!) was John Dickson. As soon as he began I could tell he was completely brilliant, but he's also disarming and quite funny.  A delightful combination.  I could have listened to him for hours.

His session was on humility.  I was frankly impressed to see the summit devote an entire session to humility.  I would not have expected that.  But then again, we've already covered how foolish most of my presuppositions were.

First, some opening considerations...

"The noble choice is to forego your status and use your influence for the good of others."
"Humility is to hold your power in service to others."

"Humility is a reflection of the deep structure of reality."

Then some answers to the "why humility in leadership?" question:

1. Humility is common sense.
None of us is expert at everything. A true expert should nkow this better than anyone because they know how much there is to know.
Alternative?  Competency extrapolation. 
We we don't know and can't do far exceeds what we do know and can do.That's reality.

2. Humility is beautiful.
Story of Sir Edmund Hillary
Presumption diminishes greatness - humility enhances it.
Humility was not valued in history until JESUS - research proves this.
History redefined greatness to fit a cross in, the lowest of the low.
Phil. 2:3-8 - inversion of high and low
Our culture is now cruciform, shaped by a cross - since Jesus, humility is valued as beautiful.

3. Humility is generative.
The proud go away with less than the humble looking to learn.
Scientific theory - great example of humility
The humble place is the place of growth.

4. Humility is persuasive.
Aristotle: Logos, Pathos, Ethos - character of the persuader is most significant
"character is almost solely the controlling factor in persuasion"
***The most believable, persuasive person in the world is the person you know has your best interest at heart.***

5. Humility is inspiring.
When our great leaders are approachable, we get the idea that we could be like them because they are just like us.
We aspire rather than just admire.
U2 story

**The center of everything is a cross.  The cruciform life is a life in touch with reality.**

pondering Mama Maggie Gobran and my own tough calling

Mama Maggie Gobran impacted me most of all, not just because of how she lives among and serves the poor children of Cairo, but because she literally seems to know God - in a mystical way.  She spoke both of silence and solitude and of the necessity to read the Bible through cover to cover, every year of our lives.   But here, I will simply share her words, at least the ones I wrote down:
Anyone who will carry the fragrance of eternity must start by wearing the dark veil of death.

To be elegant comes from inside.  To be elegant is to love.  To love is to give and forgive.

Go'd promotion: leave the best and brightest, go to the poorest of the poor. Who are the poorest of the poor? They are always the children.

Among them the Creator is hidden. The is mystery with the poor.

How to have a pure heart and get to know the Almighty:  complete silence.  The silence is the secret.  To be in silence is to be fully inside your own self.  Discover a taste of eternity.  The kingdom is within.

Silence your body, to listen to your words.
Silence your tongue, to listen to your thoughts
Silence your thoughts, to listen to your heart beating
Silence your heart, to listen to your spirit
Silence your spirit, to listen to The Spirit

In silence we leave the many to be with The One.

When she was finished speaking, Bill Hybels spoke about tough callings - he specifically talked about Jeremiah. I was undone as I thought about the toughest calling I have before me right now:  our youngest daughter.  Adopted at age 5, she is a gift - a joy - and a challenge.  There are so many times we feel completely lost as to what is best to do.  It was good for me to think about that in the context of a tough calling.

At break, I sat with my notebook to journal... I will share some of it here, though it is personal and was never meant for others to read.  I do so because I'm being obedient to the very thing I believe God is calling me to do:  not just write, vulnerably write.

From my notes:

I keep hearing the call to write, but I want to DO (like Mama Maggie) ...

And so of course I say yes.  Yes, but... Sell all I have, move, serve, feed, love on ... I could do that!  You know I could, and you know I would.  Just say the word.

But that is not the word.  The word is SPEAK.  SHARE.  TELL.  I've been hearing it for months now.  The word is WRITE. 

And so I say Yes.

Make the world new through the words You give me.  They feel like nothing real or tangible or helpful.  Sitting in a coffee-shop with a laptop day after day, while children literally starve for both food and love? 

"Mary is starving for love. Love her. She is your tough calling. That is enough.  Your other children and your husband, love them.  And write.  Write about that.  The world needs you to write about that."
Will anyone read it?  Will it matter? 

"Luke 1:37  nothing is impossible"

This is a sacred time.
 Later that day, as we broke for lunch, I heeded Mama Maggie's advice and found silence.  It was golden.

pondering samaria, sexual orientation, and gender identity

I hope this series of posts on the Global Leadership Summit isn't boring anyone, but I process best by writing and rewriting, so transferring my notes into blog posts is helpful for me even if no one else finds it particularly interesting.

The next session was weird for me.  Just before it began, Bill Hybels took the microphone to address the Starbucks controversy and announce that Howard Schultz (scheduled for the next day) would not be speaking after all.  I have already stated that I believe Bill handled the situation in as classy and loving a way possible, given the circumstance ... but I have a lot more to say about the issue in general.  Things I'm not sure how to say.  Things I'm still pondering.  So, for now, I'll just say this:  it left me feeling weird.

Profound, I know.

Immediately following that announcement, Brenda Salter McNeil spoke to us about globalization.  I enjoyed her speaking style, but I confess that my mind wandered a bit because our church has spent months and months driving home the scripture she focused on (Acts 1:8).  I recall poking one of our pastors in the back and whispering to him that all this sounded awfully familiar.

One of my favorite points was when she said that we need to go, not to help but to learn.  She got an amen from me with that one!  (and she was fishing for the amens - seems the GLS crowd was a mild audience compared to what she's used to)

But there was one thing really bugging me.  As Rev. McNeil spoke about challenging cultural barriers, I couldn't help but wonder... isn't there an elephant in the room?  She was focused on racial and socioeconomic divides and language barriers, all vitally important, but what had Bill just spoken to us about?  Dare we approach the cultural barriers of sexual orientation and gender identity? 

My recommendation for the GLS is this: next year invite Tony and Peggy Campolo to speak.  They've been bravely talking about this issue together for over 20 years.  That's leadership worth learning from.  Because Rev McNeil is right,

"Samaria is the place where people who differ from us gather. And if we sit down by the wells there, we just might have a life-changing encounter."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

pondering Cory Booker's parents

Still reviewing my notes from the Global Leadership Summit.  Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, NJ was definitely a favorite of mine. 

He said his family asked him, "Are you gonna grow fat and happy feasting on the banquet others (meaning his parents & grandparents) have prepared for you, or are you going to metabolize that into action for good?"

LOVE that!  So many of the influential speakers pointed back to their parents raising them with an attitude toward making a difference, creating a better world. That inspired me as a mother!

His parents told him, "You are the result of a grand conspiracy of LOVE. Now what will YOU do?"

He said, "Everyone is born an original but most die copies." (I think he was quoting someone but I didn't catch who)

"The world you see outside you will always be a reflection of what you have inside you."

"Let life be or make things happen."

"The Bible says we shine like stars in the universe... many of the stars we "see" have long since gone out, but their light and energy are still making their way to our sky."

"Are we evidencing our Truth?"

For me, the most compelling thing about Cory's talk was the power of the parent.  His parents planted in him deep seeds of love, faith, power, gratitude, and responsibility for the other. I'm challenged by that... and hopeful ... and frankly, proud.  He made me proud to be a Christian, proud to be an American, and yes (even though my husband told me not to put this in), proud to be a Democrat.  If more public servants from ANY political affiliation shared the core values he expressed to us at the GLS, our country and our world would look very different than it does today.

I'm praying for Cory Booker to stay the course and for more like him to rise up and lead.

pondering Len Schlesinger and The Help

First and foremost, Len Schlesinger has nothing to do with the book or movie, The Help.  Last night I saw The Help with 23 women from our church (yes, 23!)  And this morning I'm going over my notes from the Global Leadership Summit.  Which is where Len (president of Babson College, America's top ranked school for entrepreneurship) and The Help (a movie about black maids working in the '50s) collide.

Len told us,

"You can't get THERE without pointing out the unacceptability of HERE. This annoys comfortable people."

Yes!  Now, what he's talking about regarding entrepreneurship, I'm sure I don't know - I've never felt remotely entrepreneur-ish  But what I do know is that's what we writers are called to, if we are to do as Skeeter did and write about what matters to us. 

I was challenged and inspired by Skeeter's tenacity, by Aibeleen's courage, by Minnie's sass ... and I was especially moved by Skeeter's mother.  It took reading about life in a well written book for her eyes to be opened to her own reality. 

Their book created a different future.  And that's pretty damn inspiring for a writer who dreams of a new world.  

"Believe in the future by creating it firstAction trumps everything."~Len Schlesinger
"Change begins with a whisper." ~The Help

Monday, August 15, 2011

pondering the gift of a fall

Today I took the kids to the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC, where they asked to try the climbing wall. Of course my answer was, "Go for it!" The older three scrambled right up, but our youngest was panicking as soon as her feet left the ground. She spent the next 20 minutes fretful, frustrated, and exhausted...

Until something happened.

She fell.

A whole one foot down, but still, she fell!  As she did, she felt the rope "catch her" - felt the sensation of being lowered in a controlled, safe manner.

And that was all it took.

Panic no longer consumed her.  She was free.  Free to take her time, to concentrate on where to place her feet, to search for the next hand hold. Free to gain confidence. Free to enjoy the climb!  Within minutes she was halfway up the wall. I warned the guys running the place that she'd never been that high before and might panic, but she kept  going... all the way to the top! Complete strangers were applauding.

What changed?

She trusted the rope.  We'd been telling her she could trust it, but she had to experience it - had to feel it - had to know it in a way that truly mattered.  Once she did, there was no stopping her.  She was free to live out what had been true of her all along:  that she is an amazing climber!

Panic cripples.  Trust frees.  And sometimes ... a fall is a gift.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

pondering Wild Goose and Willow Creek

In three months time I've see Lynne Hybels


In many ways, the two experiences couldn't have been more different. At Wild Goose, it was hard to distinguish the famous from the ordinary. Sessions were more like conversations than lectures. Authors, scholars, and musicians - all with names you'd recognize - used port-a-potties and pitched tents just like the rest of us. We all stunk of sweat and bug spray. And it was beautiful.

At the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, speakers stood before a packed sanctuary at least three balconies high, while simultaneously being streamed live to hundreds of thousands of people across the globe. We were handed a new shiny pamphlet every time we walked into the room. We were served by warmly smiling volunteers who seemed to literally come out of the woodwork, offering us water-with-lemon or iced coffee. Everyone looked and smelled lovely and there were definitely no port-a-potties.

And yet ... God was there, or as Billy Jonas sang to us at Shakori Hills, "God is In". He was there in the woods and He was there on the giant screen. He was there for the "beer and hymns" and he was there in the water-with-lemon. Not only that, the themes - the message - while communicated differently, were surprisingly similar. Worship. Justice. Peace. Activism. Leadership. Art. Creativity.The pulse of something new.

Of course, some differences were stark. I plan to post soon about how the gay question was handled in both places, and how I personally respect Bill Hybels for some seriously classy leadership in a very tough circumstance. Because it's not about agreement, it's about Love. And his Love was undeniable.

Lynne and Bill, Wild Goose and Willow Creek ... not pitted against one another but literally united in Love (in case you live under a rock, they're married). Both of them using their giftedness, living out their passions, creating a new and better world, often in radically different ways.

I've learned, though, that these worlds aren't so different after all ...and I feel personally challenged to the hard work of walking what sometimes feels like a knife-edge between the two. I'm inviting my Wild Goose-y friends and my Willow Creek-y friends to join me. Poke the boxes (to quote another amazing Leadership Summit speaker) you've been placed in. Challenge whatever your status quo is. Refuse to be pegged as "one of those people" and refuse to be cynical about "those other people". Keep folks guessing (trust me, it's fun!) If we do, I believe the knife-edge will become a wide open space of freedom, where we meet our Maker afresh and invite others to do the same.

Friday, August 12, 2011

pondering what I heard at The Global Leadership Summit

The Global Leadership Summit was amazing. I am humbled, truly humbled, at the hesitancy I felt at attending. I am quite foolish at times.

I assumed it would mostly be about how to have a bigger church - something I have zero interest in. Hear this now: I. WAS. WRONG. Very wrong. This summit was FANTASTIC. I can't imagine having not gone. I'm so thankful my church allowed me to go, paid for me to go - I'm humbly grateful. It will be a while before I've processed all I gleaned from the various speakers, but for now I want to focus on one aspect: having ears to hear.

As this summit began I offered up an open heart and open hands, and I asked for ears to hear. Now, God knows me. He knows my history. He knows I fight cynicism about certain things. He knows my language, and He knows how to break my barriers down. And over the past two days He continued to bless me with little gifts, treasures that were specific to me and kept my ears open.

I've already shared about the Mumford and Sons song yesterday. That, frankly, would have been enough. But this morning's opening scripture was my favorite passage from Colossians 1. I was trying to stifle a huge grin while my friend knowingly poked me from behind.

Later in the day, I found myself broken and spent after listening to Mama Maggie Gobran talk about the tough calling. With my head in my hands I gasped when I heard the team begin to sing yet another song I'm intimately familiar with, a song that's been set to "repeat one" often the past six months:

All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found?
Could a garden come up from this ground at all?
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

Hearing songs and passages that have been uniquely instrumental in my life lately ... it felt like whoever put this summit together had their finger on the same Pulse that I've had mine on. And that was an electrifying feeling! I don't know if I'm expressing it well, but it's incredibly affirming to realize "I'm not the only one" and "maybe I'm onto something after all". Such revelations blow fresh wind over the burning embers of your heart.

Finally (and I hope to expand on this more later), the last speaker made it clear - as if he'd pulled out a prescription pad, scribbled out words straight from God, and handed to me - that my role in making the world better, in literally creating the future, is to write.

It's that simple.

I asked God for ears to hear and I asked Him to speak.

He did.

"Write the damn book already!"


So with a shout out to the boy in the WAY too tight pants, I hereby declare myself a ditch digger. My shovel is a pen. Or actually (though less poetic), a keyboard.

*post-script ... to top off the past couple days of God-gifts, there's a fullish moon shining brilliantly above our backyard tonight. which you'd appreciate if I told you my moon story. but I've gotta save something for the book :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

pondering meeting my Maker

Back in June, we went to THIS concert...

I don't know if you can tell from the video (not shot by me, I was down on the floor singing at the top of my lungs with my hands in the air) but this was a seriously intense God-moment. The energy in the room, the looks on the group's faces as they listened to all of us singing THEIR WORDS written from THEIR HEARTS, the passion with which they played their instruments, the intensity with which we ALL sang, the palpable presence of something Bigger than any of us smiling on and in and around us... it's hard to articulate how special it was.

So it goes without saying that Mumford and Sons' music means a lot to me. Especially this song. I've listened to it a lot the past few months, as life has been uncomfortably uncertain, in ways. Owning my questions and outing my beliefs, opening my heart WIDE for anyone and everyone to see, has brought some difficulty. The entire album, and specifically this song, has spoken to me in very real ways. I've sung it at the top of my lungs with my kids, laughing when they misunderstand the lyrics (Mary thinks the "har har" is about Jesus living in your heart, how precious is that?) I've sung it while mowing the grass, which I do when I'm mad or frustrated. I've fallen asleep listening to it.

Then we come to this morning. This morning I attended the Global Leadership Summit at a local satellite location with others from my church. I'd been invited and I agreed to go, even though - to be honest - I wasn't sure I should. I wasn't sure I "fit". To confess, here, I'd actually called the Well of Mercy - I was considering bailing at the last minute and going for a solitude retreat instead (since I'd already worked out child care). The sweet Sister informed me they were completely booked. I took that as a sign: humble thyself, and go to the summit.

I love the people I'm attending with, don't get me wrong - genuinely love the dear people from my church who came along. But as things got started I was still fighting this feeling that I didn't actually belong there and really shouldn't have come. I held this feeling up to God with open hands in prayer, asking if He'd meet me - regardless of whether I was or wasn't officially part of this or that group or team. Just meet me - me.

Meet me, please.

I literally prayed these words.

Then something truly surreal happened. A black gospel singer started to sing words I am intimately familiar with, but which sounded foreign coming out of her mouth... there was a praise team with her ... the words were:

How fickle my heart and how woozy my eyes
I struggle to find any truth in your lies
and now my heart stumbles on things I don't know
my weakness I feel I must finally show

I literally jumped upright! I looked around myself. Is anyone else hearing this? Anyone?! It was like two separate worlds had collided into one strange, twilight-zone moment. Oh, what I would have given for my husband to have been with me or one of our friends from the concert, but none of them were there. No one "got it". But that didn't matter... I got it.

Even though it was admittedly quite weird and almost laughable listening to a black gospel praise team trying to do the "har har"s, I could barely contain my excitement when I sang along:

Awake my soul

for you were made to meet your Maker!

It was literally like He lifted my chin, looked me in the eyes, and said, "I see You. And yes, I will meet you. You were made to meet Me. And you belong here."

I'm told that hundreds of thousands of people watched/listened to today's summit all over the globe (hence the name) but I can't deny - I won't deny - that that very song was chosen just for me.

As Sara Groves sings,

They want to know what I'm thinking • What motivates my mood • To spend all night in the backyard • Staring up at the stars and the moon • But maybe this was made for me • For lying on my back in the middle of a field • Maybe that's a selfish thought • Or maybe there's a loving God • And maybe I was made this way • To think and to reason and to question and to pray • Or maybe that's a foolish thought • But maybe there's a loving God •

There is a loving God. He sees me. He knows me.

I was made to meet Him.

And so are you.

Lend me your hand and we'll conquer them all
But lend me your heart and I'll just let you fall
Lend me your eyes I can change what you see
But your soul you must keep, totally free
har har, har har....

pondering motive

It's been said that, "You can't see a motive."

I'd have to agree. And yet, it's so common for us to assume we can? Makes me think about how Jesus told us that we are blind for the very reason that we won't admit we ARE in fact blind. Definitely the case here.

We judge what we can't see. What we can't know. All the time denying we are in fact blind to others' motives, to their hearts, to their stories.

Case in point: the kids and I spent yesterday in Julian Price Park on the Blueridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC. We were creek-walking, and my oldest was out ahead. He has Asperger's Syndrome - a form of Autism. To say that he does not think before he acts would be a gross misstatement. He does think. He thinks all the time. He just doesn't think the way you or I do.

If you or I were walking in a creek and saw a watermelon in the water, we'd assume that someone put it there because they wanted to keep it cold. If we didn't arrive at that conclusion, we'd probably at least walk past, leaving it alone. I'm guessing.

Not him. His thought process is mostly visual images, but if translated into words it would go something like this:

"Watermelon in creek. Watermelon does not belong in creek. Watermelon belongs in store, in fridge, on counter, on table, in bowl - places I have seen watermelons before. This is clearly an unattended watermelon - if it had a caretaker it would be in a logical place for watermelons to be. I've often dreamed of smashing a watermelon just to see what would happen, but every watermelon I've previously encountered has been overseen by someone who had other plans for it, and thus, smashing would result in a negative experience for me. This watermelon is obviously not being overseen, otherwise it would be in a logical place. Not lying in the creek. I shall smash it."
Now, I came upon the scene later - when my son had moved on. An elderly man approached me, quite angry. He was missing some teeth and seemed to be, as my mother likes to say, "two sheets to the wind". Still, neither of these issues made him any harder to understand.

"You better do somefin bout dat boy a yers, he dun smashed dis here watermelon we was fixn to eat, and I'm *$^&* mad about it too! Mad, I say! You better do somefin bout him! You better do somefin, I say!"

I wish I could say this was a new and unusual experience for me, but it wasn't. My son is almost thirteen, so for at least twelve years now I've run interference between him and the non-autism-world. I'm developed a certain... unflappable-ness, shall we call it? Even this guy couldn't rattle me.

"I'm truly sorry. I'll ascertain what happened and get back to you."

More yelling, swearing, and chest thumping from tipsy toothless man as I calmly walked on, wondering whether he had the slightest idea what ascertain meant.

Thankfully, a woman who appeared to be his adult daughter intervened. I looked back and told her that I'd be sure to take care of the situation. She smiled a patient smile; in a way this made us kindred spirits.

I walked on and found my son jumping into a swimming hole. I pulled him over and asked what had happened with the watermelon. He related to me nearly word for word what I've already shared above (honesty is his strong suit). When I explained that a family had put the watermelon in the creek in order to keep it cool, he was mortified. He'd had no idea it belonged to anyone. He wanted to apologize.

I imagined him trying to apologize to drunken denture-needing man, and decided against it.

I returned to the scene of the crime and addressed my explanation to his adult daughter. She smiled and said it was no big deal. What neither of us said, but what passed between us all the same, was gratitude. I was grateful she'd been patient with my son. She was grateful I'd been patient with her father.

That's when it sort of struck me... this man had misjudged my son's motive, but who was I to judge his motive? Maybe watermelon was a luxury for him. Maybe he's been mistreated by spoiled boys who have nothing better to do than pick on old men. Maybe he's sick or mentally ill. Maybe he has a neurological difference that was never treated when he was young: Asperger's like my oldest son or agenesis of the corpus callosum like my youngest daughter. Who could know? Such things are invisible. I can't see his motive.

Turns out the only motive I can even begin to see is my own.. and often, that's iffy.

I'm guessing this is why Paul directs us to believe the best about people. And why Jesus reminds us to treat others the way we want others to treat us ... or our sons ... or our elderly fathers.

A final thought here ... while it isn't possible to see a motive, motives are knowable. But not with blind eyes. Only with open ears and open hearts. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear", Jesus said (a few times, as I recall). His brother James wrote, "Be slow to become angry but quick to listen." A good listener gets to hear the stories behind the motives.
A good listener gets to know. That inspires me.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

pondering the orthodox heretic

My Galatians-Girls group talked about this parable from Peter Rollins earlier this summer. I continue to ponder it... would love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, August 8, 2011

pondering writing

This blog is practice. Some of you respond well to what I write, how I write... THAT I write. That helps me. Because this is all practice.

A year ago I read these words by Frederick Buechner:

Write about what you really care about. Write about what truly matters to you - not just things to catch the eye of the world but things to touch the quick of the world the way they have touched you to the quick, which is why you are writing about them. Write not just with wit and eloquence and style and relevance but with passion. Then the things that your books make happen will be things worth happening - things that make the people who read them a little more passionate themselves for their pains, by which I mean a little more alive, a little wiser, a little more beautiful, a little more open and understanding, in short a little more human. I believe that those are the best things that books can make happen to people, and we could all make a list of the particular books that have made them happen to us.

The writers who get my personal award are the ones who show exceptional promise of looking at their lives in this world as candidly and searchingly and feelingly as they know how and then of telling the rest of us what they have found there most worth finding. We need the eyes of writers like that to see through. We need the blood of writers like that in our veins.

I knew when I read that, that I have to write. Really write, as in a book. As in bookS. I've taken steps in this direction: last year I participated in an Artist's Way group, for example. But I busied my schedule with too many things and so I didn't actually end up really ... writing. Now? Well, now it is time. Events and relationships of this past year have enriched the story even more, so that I don't regret waiting. I am eager.

My husband bought me a little netbook laptop thing that is so light and tiny, and ALL MINE. I won't share it with kids. It can come with me on bike rides. It will go everywhere with me. And while they are in school each day I will hold up somewhere-not-at-home, get comfy, and by golly ... I will write.

What will I write about? What kind of books?

Why, the kind Buechner spoke about, of course. The kind that make people more human.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

life lessons from mountain biking with my boys

fear ruins the ride-if you brake on the downhill you wont have momentum for the uphill

the secret to crossing narrow bridges is to pedal through

walk it when you have to, just dont stop

its a lot cooler under shade trees

that guy who said to take the road less traveled isnt always right

if somebody goes down, yell "are ya hospital hurt?" if not back up & try it again

at the end sing "we are the champions!" at the top of your lungs

**forgot one: always carry Bactine :)