Boko Haram response, the Pope, and Dracula: God’s Wisdom Woven together

Some days of our lives are thematic.  We don’t know it at the time, but throughout the day we’re learning a single significant life grounding lesson through seemingly random and disparate experiences.   At the end of the day, or perhaps in the middle of the night, we can see that there was one theme played by several instruments, and that if we’ll only have ears to hear, we’ll be changed for the better.  Yesterday was just such a day for me, as it included encounters with Boko Haram, the Pope, and Dracula, all offering the same life giving message….

It began with this remarkable story from Nigeria about learning to love Boko Haram.  “What enemies, precisely, are we to love Jesus?  I mean, there are those who gossip about us, or we find annoying at work.  I’ll get there.  But terrorists?  Be serious Jesus”  Boko Haram has destroyed 278 buildings and 1674 gathering places for Christians in Nigeria.  Monica Dna watched Boko Haram behead her husband and slit the throats of two sons after forcibly entering her home in the middle of the night.  Her throat was cut too and she was left for dead but survived and is one of many survivor voices advocating ‘the way of Jesus’ as response.

There’s been a systematic campaign of assassinations and bombings of Christians since 2009.   What’s less known is that the Christians of Nigeria are overwhelmingly Anabaptist, which means that they are theologically and philosophically committed to non-violence, and as such have had their ideology deeply tested.  It’s one thing to be pacifist in the USA, another thing entirely in 2015  Nigeria.  The stories in the article tell of the profound otherworldly courage which exists in such faith communities.   Sacrifice, prayer, faith, love for one’s enemies, and depth of courage are present here in a way that seems conspicuously absent among those vocally arguing for the right to own guns in the name of freedom.   One pastor writes, “because I was raised Muslim I know how they think and how to calm them down and make peace.  I always treat them as fellow human beings, trying to understand them.”  He then adds, “We take what Jesus said about forgiveness seriously…” as he speaks of a vision to break the cycle of violence through the way of forgiveness and unconditional love of one’s enemies.

I put the article down, convicted and chastened by the example of my Nigerian brothers and sisters, and then turn on the TV to watch while I work out.  The Pope is just being introduced to the US Congress, and so I sit and watch, transfixed as this godly man speaks truth to power.  He’ll challenge our political leaders to value all life, including life in the womb and the lives of immigrants fleeing terror and oppression.  He’ll challenge the crass consumption of consumerist capitalism as a source not only of soul grief, but environmental degradation.  But most significant, he’ll speak of the need for civility and cooperation as the most vital ingredients those charged with governing must exercise in these perilous challenging times.  I watch, grief stricken, as the respective sides of the aisle cheer only when their party’s agenda is vindicated by his words, offering stony silence when chastened.

Here too, I see that the way of Jesus is the way of surrender.  I see that I’ll not get everything I want; ever.  Therefore, if I’m to work of the common good of a culture, I’ll need to work with those who view the world differently than I, and this will require listening, dialogue, friendship, and the willingness to lay down my ideological arms at times in pursuit of real answers that will only arise when people listen and work together.

That this Pope will leave this hall of power and dine with the homeless reminds me that looking like Jesus means not just serving,  actually loving, the vulnerable and marginalized who are in our worlds, and they are in all of our worlds if we’ll but open our eyes.  But this too requires sacrifice, of time, comfort, and personal agendas.

Finally, the day ends at the theater, where my wife and I watch Dracula, a play adaption of the Bram Stoker novel.  Without giving too much away, I’ll simply say two things:

1) If you’re near Seattle, don’t miss it – playing at Taproot Theater now.

2) The play tied the day together perfectly, as it became apparent, one last time, that the dark and destructive powers of this world will always and only be disarmed by sacrifice.  The broken body.  The poured blood,  The crushed grape.  The cross.  The non-violence of the Anabaptists of Nigeria.  The release of one’s fundamentalist political ideology, sacrificed for the common good.

All day long, God was saying the same thing to me.  “You think that power and influence are the fuel of the gospel Richard?  Think again.  It’s always been the same, whether in resistance Germany, or MLK’s south, or present day Nigeria.  God’s weapons are love, service, and sacrifice. “ Take those out of your Christianity and you have words; you have religious systems; you have institutions — but the essence will be gone.

I’m still thinking about all three encounters today, as I look over my sermon notes for Sunday, split wood, and pray for Nigeria, the US Congress, and those stuck in the oppression of addiction and darkness.

O thou Christ

Thank you for speaking into our dark world through the example of suffering saints, speeches to Congress, and dark novels.  Give us not only eyes to see, but hearts that are receptive enough to respond, in order the way might become people of hope and light in the midst of all that’s unfolding in our dark world.  Amen. 

When you Lose a Good Mentor, The Song Plays On

SF Giant fans together!

The call came at 6:30 in the morning from my wife.  “Uncle Earnest died last night” she said, and we launched into a discussion about travel details.  I had a 7AM meeting, then some teaching at 9 and more meetings and reports all day long, so that there wasn’t time to process.  “97” I remember thinking to myself when I heard the news, “is a good long life” and went on with my day.

It wasn’t until the early evening commute to the mountains provided some space to grieve that the enormity of this man’s role in my life hit me.  I’m driving east and the hillside and peaks are a riot of color.  The wild lit greens of cedar, hemlock, and fir are a base, capped by the alpenglow of scree fields above tree line, and then topped by pure cloudless blue.  If creation invites gratitude and contemplation, my music playlist pours gas on the flame.
The distance between the city and home is just enough on a stunning night like this to blossom my soul.  Only now, bathed in the grace of creation, do I begin thinking about the loss of my uncle.  James Taylor’s “Close Your Eyes” lyrics speak of loss and love:
So close your eyes
You can close your eyes, it’s all right
I don’t know no love songs
And I can’t sing the blues anymore
But I can sing this song
And you can sing this song
When I’m gone

A few tears begin, because I realize that, indeed, I’m singing my uncle’s song now that he’s gone, for he’s the one who introduced me to the song that is my calling as a pastor and Bible teacher.   He was the one I called in about 1977 and said, “I’ve made a terrible mistake!  I’ve agreed to teach the high school Sunday school class tomorrow!”

“That’s great!” he said.

“No!  I have no idea how to teach the Bible!”  He asked if I was assigned a text and when I said ‘no,’ he told me to come over to his house right away.

It was a Saturday afternoon and now that I’m a pastor, I know how precious and restorative Saturday afternoons can be, ought to be.  Yet there I stood at his door, an interruption to his perfectly good Saturday.  He invited me in and with enthusiasm usually reserved for sports fans, said, “you need to teach Joshua 1 – it’s amazing”  The dining room table was stacked with commentaries and we sat down to study together.  First, observe the text.  Then interpret it.  Then apply it.  Then check your books for more insights.   “Keep studying until you’re excited about it” he said.   Being a pastor, I’d entered into his world, and he was thrilled by that.  If I was Luke, he was Yoda.  If Frodo, Gandalf.

“How long will that take?”  I said, overwhelmed.

“It doesn’t matter” he said.  “It will happen if you stick with it.”

And it did happen.  We studied together a bit, and I took all his books home with me to scatter on my own kitchen table.  Observe.  Interpret.  Apply.  Repeat.   It took a while, but by midnight I was excited about Joshua 1, not as a lesson to share, but as life-giving fuel for a kid who’d just lost his dad a couple years earlier and was racked with insecurities.  “Be strong and courageous!” it says, over and over again.  If ever I needed courage, it was that moment in my young life.  Not for teaching only; that was the least of it.  I needed answers, hope, joy, guidance, boldness, vision for the canvass of life that lay ahead.

The next morning I did it; stood before 20 high school students and shared what Joshua 1 meant to me and what it might be able to mean to them too.  I called my uncle the next day to let him know that, as terrified as I was, the lesson had gone well enough that they’d asked me to teach Joshua chapter 2 the next week.
“Can I keep the books for a while?”  He laughed and I taught again, and again, and eventually made my way to seminary because I found that I meet the real living Jesus time and time again when I opened the Bible and I wanted to learn how to study it well.  That would lead, eventually, to a pastoral role on a tiny island and eventually to lots of study, teaching, writing, shepherding, leading, in what we call ‘pastoral ministry’.  Being non-denominational, I had no vast family with whom to share my trials, so my uncle became my mentor.  It was formal, with curriculum and weekly goes, or a fee, the way mentoring often happens today.  It was casual, woven into real life.  At holidays we’d chat about ministry challenges and he’d give advice and pray for me.  He passed books on to me, and one entire set became the basis for my teaching of Genesis that I offered to the Torchbearer community for so many years.  Those books sit on my shelf to this day, published in 1891.
ImageWhen James Taylor is finished, Sufjan Stevens shows up on my play list.  “Amazing Grace.”  Of course.  I can’t go home yet, not ready.  I make my way to the Alpental mountain valley, where I park and wander the base of my naked ski hill as the sun sets and the sky darkens.  “Grace indeed” I say to myself as I recognize how God brought this man into my life who allowed a Saturday interruption to invest in an insecure kid, and then kept allowing interruptions for the next 40 years.
The mountains fade to black, metaphor for the inevitability in all of our stories.  And yet, if we live well, we’ll have the privilege of investing in others.  We’ll allow ourselves to be interrupted.  We’ll encourage and affirm the slightest shred of giftedness and fan it into flame.  And if we do, someone else will sing our song when we’re gone.
Thanks Uncle.  Your songs plays on in my heart, life and ministry

36 Tips for Marriage after 36 years.

Today’s our anniversary, so here are some thoughts on why we’re still deeply in love, deeply engaged in our world, and looking forward with joy to growing old together:
1. You both need freedom to fail.
2. You’ll process faith journeys differently.  Don’t worry about that.  In fact, celebrate it and try learning from each other.
3. There will be dark days and seasons for each one.  Give each other grace; and space.
4. A shared passion helps make the journey much more enjoyable.  Ours is the outdoors.
5. Even in our shared passion, we have different desires and abilities.  Both parties should move a little to make it enjoyable.
6. Pay your credit cards off every month if that’s at all possible.
7. I can’t tell you how valuable laughter is, because it’s priceless.
8. A willingness to follow God’s call into risky territory is priceless too.
9. Confining sexuality to the pursuit of orgasms kills playful touch.  We both agree that’s a bad thing and so enjoy touch often!
IMG_217910.  Keeping physically fit as much as possible helps give you the reserves needed for hard times.
11.  When sickness and injury hits, and they will, it’s time to grow up and put your needs aside.
12. Practice generosity.  Invest in your church and the vast needs of our world.
13. Practice hospitality.  We’ve hosted people from around the world, and it’s been great for our marriage and great for our children.
14. Learn to cook.  We save money by eating at home and cooking healthy meals. Both of us have learned to enjoy cooking, and this has made our life together richer.
15. Celebrate each other’s gifts.  Mine have to do with words, vision, and teaching.  Hers have to do with compassion, details, and hands-on practical duties.  We were once annoyed by these differences.  Now we view them assets, like playing different positions on a team.
16. Learn the love languages of your spouse.  Hers is “affirming words”, mine are “time” and “touch”.
17. Don’t try to settle disputes when you’re tired.  Instead, set a time when you know you’ll both be refreshed and commit to working on it and talking about it then.
18. Don’t be surprised when your spouse rejects your ideas initially.  They’re new to him/her.  Give them space to think, and get back to you with their response.  Insistence on immediate responsiveness and/or closure is a recipe for misery.
19. Details matter.  You’ll need to talk through matters of financial priorities, things about the house, health choices, calendar matters, and broken appliances.  For some, these things seem mundane.  But they are your life together, and how you address them either strengthens or weakens your marriage.
20.  Big ideas matter too.  You should periodically ask where you’re headed in your life together, and how you’re doing in the big things like pursuing your call, and building a life of intimacy together.  For some, the details are comfortable, but these things are scary.  Don’t run from these, or you’ll drift into boredom and mediocrity.
21. Adapt to unexpected turns.  We presently have adult children living in our house, along with my mother-in-law.  Receive these unexpected events as the rich gifts that they are.
22. Be quick to confront, quick to confess, and quick to forgive.
23. Quick to forgive, comes, I believe, from seeing yourself as one who’s been forgiven, both by God and your spouse.
24. Experiences matter more than stuff.  So spend the night at the Ahwanee sometime, or a mountain hut.  Eat out at Canliss sometime, or the Caboose Bar and Grill in Cle Elum.
25. Let the little things go.  I think she has too many plastic containers.  She thinks I need more dress shirts.  Whatever.  We’ve stopped talking about these things long ago; not worth it.
26. Enter the other’s world.  I’ve gone to some musicals.  She’s become a SF Giants fan.  It’s been good for both of us.
27. Vulnerability matters.  When either of us is afraid to be vulnerable with the other, it pushes us into unhealthy space.
28.  Recognize seasons.  She worked for years in order to help our kids with college costs.  Now she stays at home and practices hospitality while supporting her mom and me in life-giving ways.
29.  Together.  We play together.  Pray together.  Sometimes even shower together  :)
IMG_913230.  Solo.  We both have identities apart from being a spouse.  This is important and life-giving for our marriage.
31.  Curiosity.  It’s served us well regarding each other, vision for the future, and discovering opportunities.
32. Gratitude.  I come home to see her staining the deck railings and smile, grateful for her health and her eagerness to contribute to the household economy.  I’m grateful and tell her.
33.  Circadian rhythms.  99% of the time I’m up before her.  This is the gift of solitude for me, and the gift of sleep for her.  Differences are fine.
IMG_869734. Traveling alone.  Sometimes we jokingly tell people that the secret of being happily married is that I travel.  But there’s some truth in that.  Apart, we gain needed space for individual pursuits, and gain appreciation for the other.
35.  Traveling together.  We share a world of experiences beyond the walls of our home, and while not everyone has this as either privilege or call, experiences outside the home are valuable when shared since they shape us so profoundly.
36. Source.  We both believe, deeply, that the reality of Christ in our lives gives us the needed resources to pursue intimacy, forgive when we fail, and stay in the journey for 36 years!


Immigration and the Better Shelter

“when the raft in the ocean is safer than our home, we’ll go”

With the train station closed in Budapest, over 70 dead in a truck on the side of the road in Austria, millions in refugee camps, and talk of building a wall between the United States and Mexico, perhaps one thing the entire world can agree on is that we have an immigration problem.

Consensus ends there, however, as robust debates unfold in both the EU and USA regarding what should be done with the ocean of suffering that seems to be pouring into these two geographies.  These are important conversations, and difficult.  Solutions are costly, no matter your stance, and divisive.
Christ followers are called, of course, to represent the heart of Christ in the matter, and this demands that our response be driven by a fundamental belief that every person in this sea of suffering is made in the image of God.  Some of God’s image-bearers are angry, militant.  Many, most even, are children and mothers.  All are made in God’s image and people of faith are invited to not only view “the problem” in its philosophical/political consideration through this lens, but to see people, individuals who are hungry and frightened.  Immigration resettlement ministries, such as this one, go a long way toward opening our eyes, at the least, to the humanity of the problem, and until we see this as a human problem rather than a political one, any solution will fall short.
On the other hand, it’s equally important as Christ followers to see the folly of believing that there’s a policy solution out there that’s the magic pill.  There isn’t.  A little historical perspective might help here.
1.  People have always fled towards sanity and safety.   In the 30’s in Germany, it was Jews getting out, in search of safety.  In the 19th century it was the Underground Railroad, with slaves seeking free states.  It was the flight of Tutsis to the Congo during the genocide, and Cambodians to refugee camps in Thailand during the reign of Pol Pot.
The darkness of principalities and powers is real, and this means that no government or kingdom has ever been wholly just.  But just as important, it means that in a world where nothing is perfect, there are kingdoms and reigns which are exceptionally evil and violent, places where safety utterly evaporates because not just one or two citizens, but whole cities and people groups are targeted for overt, intentional, oppression and destruction.  When that happens, as one refugee poet writes (my paraphrase), “we’ll risk fleeing, because the risk of drowning at sea is safer than the risk of staying home.”
Overnight, architects, medical professionals, artists, teachers, willingly displace themselves when insanity reigns.  And then what?  They don’t know what’s next; only that the present is too unbearable to continue.  This is the way of it, and bastions of sanity, precisely because they have a good measure of justice and compassion, are where people will go.  We know for certain that becoming uncompassionate isn’t the solution.  We know too, that there are physical limits to any nation’s capacity to absorb, and when insanity reigns more and more, the crisis we presently see will become bigger and bigger.
2.  Sanity and Safety are never absolute.    Read about the suburbs of Paris, and various places in England, and you come to see that relocation and receiving social services is no magic bullet.  Seething racism and xenophobia can often incite a downward spiral of mistrust and anger that erupts in deep cultural fissures as the new normal in the very place which was supposed to offer hope.  Whether its Chinese laborers in San Francisco in the 19th century, migrant farm workers today, or refugees unable to find any employment at all, it turns out that simply opening the doors at a political level is never enough.
Let’s remember, too, that bastions of sanity don’t stay sane forever.  The Republic of Congo that offered shelter during the Rwandan genocide is now a place of violence and uncertainty.  Even in more seemingly stable situations, predators, racism, and the commensurate angry and often violent response, evaporate any notion that simply a change of geography will be the answer.
While some will accuse me at this point of spiritualizing, I’ll be quick to add that this isn’t solely a physical/economic issue.  People move to the San Juan Islands, or Shoreline, from Seattle, in search of “something better” whether its free parking, less crime, a slower pace, whatever.  It’s always “out there” somewhere, this promise of more and better.
As a person who’s been privileged to be a pastor in some of the most beautiful landscapes in the Pacific Northwest, I’ll let you know that infidelity, domestic violence, addiction, loneliness, and all the other marks of emptiness, are fully present in the midst of dripping fir trees, stunning green, coastal views, and stunning sunsets.  As one friend said to me once, “I didn’t realize when I moved to Friday Harbor, that all my (emotional/spiritual) baggage would walk on the ferry with me”  That’s a good way of saying it.
This, I believe, is one of the reasons Jesus said “the son of man has nowhere to lay his head”.  While it may have been true at a physical level, as Jesus wasn’t a homeowner, it was true at a different level as well.  Jesus knew that his kingdom was “not of this world”, that neither Rome, nor the EU, nor the USA would ever get it fully right.  That’s not an excuse for pietist disengagement.  It’s just a reality.  Oppression, Katrina, fires, laws, and our own failures conspire to make nirvana unreachable.
There is a shelter however.  His name is Jesus.  
In my years of blogging and writing, I’ve noticed that when I approach controversial political topics like gun control and homosexuality, thousands are interested in reading and many respond, often with ugly rhetoric.  We really seem to care about these hot cultural topics.
Companionship with Christ though?  Statistics tell me people don’t care, though they may.  But as I grow older I’m starting to see that I’ve been wrong in dividing issues and putting them in bins of politics and/or spirituality.  Christ is inviting us to know him as the foundational shelter, the first shelter, the shelter in whom we can have confidence so that when the floods come, we won’t be shaken.  We’re afraid to say it, because it makes us sound as if we don’t care about Syria.  Rubbish!  Our Syrian friends need water, food, safety, and the assurance that there’s a better foundation for the future than France, England, or the USA – there’s one sure foundation, one lasting companion.  It’s high time we started believing it, preaching it, and living it.  

“Godspell” – Musings on the power of Art in God’s World

Godspell_Ext_emailbannerI saw Taproot Theatre’s spectacular version of Godspell last night and wept through a couple of the songs because they took me back to the two  darkest years of my life, and remembrances of my first encounter with Stephen Schwartz’ inspired musical.  Back then, lonely, unhealthy, uncertain of the future, one song in particular stood out, and when I heard it last night I closed my eyes and was transported back in time…
I’m 19 and a good friend had landed the part of Jesus in Godspell, so he invites me to see him on opening night.  It’s been two years since my dad has died, and this winter of my 19th year is the winter of my discontent.  I’m lonely, because high school’s over and my cadre of friends have scattered.  My future’s radically uncertain as I’ve applied for admittance to architecture school, but only one in six students will get in.  Since my self confidence is in the toilet, I’m certain I won’t be accepted and there’s no plan B.  The stress of living at home, a choice a made to help walk through my mom’s grief with her, is taking it’s toll.  All of these elements together have conspired to make my unhappy, unhealthy, and uncertain about this God I grew up learning I was supposed to love and obey.  “For what reason?” was the question I’d asked countless times in that dark era… “so that God can kill my dad?”  I’d heard sermons about rejoicing and giving thanks, but lately they’d pretty much bounced off of me as pious nonsense – good for little kids maybe, but not for the real world.
And then the music of Godspell begins.  There’s something about the masterful interplay of text and music that draws me in, so that by the time she sings the “Day by Day” prayer, I’m not only humming along, I’m wishing I had the courage to pray that very prayer.  “What would it be like” I remember thinking, “to love God in a real way?”  When the song ended, I began to see the possibility of loving God because the Jesus on the stage was lovable, mostly because he loves.  The text between the songs was almost wholly drawn from the words of Jesus himself in the gospels, and yet the words took on new life, became almost believable, in spite of my doubts, fears, unhappiness.
Then it happened.  With a guitar and a recorder, as setup, a man sings a thanksgiving song called All Good Gifts.
We plow the fields, and scatter the good seed on the land,
But it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand.
He sends us snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain.
All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above.
So thank the Lord, O, thank the Lord for all his love.
We thank thee then, O Father, for all things bright and good,
The seedtime and the harvest, our life our health our food,
No gifts have we to offer for all thy love imparts,
But that which thou desirest, our humble thankful hearts.
All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above..
So thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love..
I really wanna thank you Lord!
All good gifts around us
Are sent from Heaven above..
Then thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all his love..
Oh thank the Lord…….
By the end of the song, back in 1975, I’m in tears, struck as no sermon had ever struck me, nor Bible study, nor Young Life talk, nor words at any funeral, party, or dinner conversation, that God is good because God is the source of all that IS good.  With eyes closed, I’d see the snows of my nearby Yosemite, the ripe fruits of my central California Valley, the rich bounty of harvests in my little corner of the world.  And more.  I recalled the bounty of friendships.  The joy of the family into which I’d been adopted.  The reality that God had, in spite of my dad’s death, taken a rather inauspicious beginning and, like a grain of wheat, turned it into something good.  “Yes it’s winter.  Yes there are things I don’t understand.  Yes, when this musical ends, there’s still no plan B”  But in spite of it all, I found myself recalling previous blessings and singing along, “I really wanna thank you Lord”  because I really did want to back then in Fresno, 1975, in my emptiness and frustration.
The song ended.  I dried my tears, which flowed again with the lyrics of Psalm 137 about weeping by the rivers of Babylon.  I knew my Bible well enough to understand that this song was a reminder:  There are lots of things in life that you don’t really love and appreciate until they’re gone.  And of course, in that moment, that was my dad, who was there for me in sport, in challenging me to rise to my best effort in study, in exemplifying teaching and gentle leadership, and in exemplary suffering.  I don’t think I valued any of it deeply until he was gone, and by then it was too late.  During the song, Jesus is saying good bye, knowing what’s coming.  His disciples?  Clueless like the rest of us, until darkness covers the earth.
IMG_9132And then hope.  “Long Live God!”  Only last night, August 20, 2015, did I realize that I left the theater a changed young man in the winter of 1975.  I’m reminded of Jacob in Genesis 28, on the run from his brother; alone; afraid; sleeping in the desert.  It’s there that God meets him and gives him a boatload of promises, causing Jacob to say, “Surely the Lord was in the place and I didn’t even know it.”
Surely indeed.  The Lord was in a tiny theater in Fresno in 1975, and seeds were planted then that would germinate a year later while studying architecture.  By the fall of ’76 I’d change majors, change schools, and change states.  Little did I know that as a music major back then, I’d be playing percussion for a Seattle Pacific University musical about John Wesley called “Ride Ride” starring none other than Scott Nolte, who founded  Taproot Theatre Company with his wife Pam, both of whom are now some of my closest friends.
That’s why I wrote, during intermission last night, that Taproot had become a worship service for me, as I celebrated God’s relentless faithfulness in my life.  Seeds were no doubt planted last night that will sprout in a new generation.
And yes, “I really wanna thank the Lord”
 (tickets are still available for Saturday’s 2PM showing.  Worth.  Every.  Minute.)

Identity Theft – It’s not what you think. It’s worse.

Have you ever had this experience?   You look back at yourself after some moments on the far side of an argument, or the far side of dipping your toe into the waters of an addiction from which you thought you were free.  Not only do you not like what you see, but you think to yourself, “I don’t know who that person is, but it’s not me.  I don’t throw things at my spouse, or swear and hit the wall, or gaze at porn, or get drink just because I’m sad…” or whatever it is that you did just 24 hours earlier.

But now here you are, seated and in your right mind,  wondering how it happened that you were a different person yesterday.

The answer’s simple:  identity theft.   You became, for a period, someone other than who you are, or at the very least, who you’re meant to be.  When we do this (and all of us do it from time to time, though our failures vary in degrees of both privacy and social acceptability), we step right into Romans 7 in the Bible.   Paul the Apostle shares this struggle when he writes, “I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”  He articulates the universal struggle that there’s a gap between our actions and our ideals.  We want purity, but struggle with lust; want humility, but are prone to arrogance; want contentment, and yet are driven by insatiable appetites.  Paul ends his diatribe about this struggle with the timeless question:  “who will deliver me from this body of death?”  It’s a great question, and unless there’s an answer, we’ll continue to feel ourselves hijacked by ourselves the rest of our lives.

But there is, thank God, an answer.  “The Victory” Paul says, “comes through Christ.”  Yes friends, life in Christ is that practical.  It’s God’s intention that each of us move inexorably toward the life for which we were created, which is a life of joy, peace, wisdom, hope, generosity, justice, and strength.   Here’s why identity theft is so damning and thus why identity in Christ is so important.

I.  In Christ, you’ve become a new person.  – This is what we’re told, and what it means is that Jesus, mysteriously but nonetheless actually, is joined with our human spirits to give us a new essence, a new identity.  This changes everything, because it means that Christ now resides in me, so that all of his joy, hope, and power, are available to find expression through me in unique ways.  But more than just available – the reality is that I’m called to be the presence of Christ in my daily living.  This is my identity:  a light bearer, bringing hope, healing, and joy to the world.

II.  Though new, the “old files”  are still embedded.  I still hear ghosts, sitting in the shadows, telling me, not that I’m a light bearer, but a loser  – telling me I’m unloved because my parents abused me, or that I’m unworthy, because a past failure caused a life implosion, or that life’s unbearable without a hit from sex, or drugs, or alcohol.  All of this is what Paul calls, “the old man” which is a euphemism meaning “this is who you once were”  – Once you self comforted via compulsive drinking, or one night stands.  Once you dealt with conflict through rage, or seething bitterness.  Those “old files” are still there on the computer that is your soul, just waiting to be opened.

III. The Liar’s Specialty – Diverting You from Your Identity.   Satan delights in opening the old files.  You take a look at them, and if you believe them, you’re stuffed.  That’s because your belief empowers them and they rise up and change your behavior.  “I’m unloved, or unlovable, or unappreciated” becomes, “so life’s not worth living”, or “so I’ll prove I’m worthy” or “so why not have another drink?”  Soon you’re living in ways that contradict your own identity, if only temporarily.  Then you wake up and say, “what happened?” and you realize that your identity has been hijacked.

IV. The Way Forward – Looking at Jesus’ temptations at the hands of “the liar” in the wilderness, we can see that Satan’s key strategy has always been to divert us from our truest identity.  He says to “the Son of God”….  “IF you are the son of God, make these stones become bread” as a means of getting Jesus to move into a distorted identity.  Jesus’ answer?  “I’m more than just a material person, so though I’m hungry just now, I’ll not let my life be defined by the pursuit of bread.  That’s not my identity.”

Wow!  When I’m hungry, it’s overwhelmingly easy to think that my life is about getting bread.  When I’m lonely, it’s about companionship.  When I’m feeling neglected or overlooked, it’s often about proving myself.  When I’m in pain, it’s about self comforting.

It’s easy, in other words, to allow our identity to be hijacked by the whims of various trials that are blowing through.  Allow ourselves to be hijacked though, and we’ll “act out”, only to look back, on the far side of our failure, and ask, “Who was that?”

The answer:  That was in imposter.  Send him/her back to the tombs because though the files are still on the hard drive of your emotions, they’re corrupt, and corrupting.  You have a new identity:  in Christ.  And that changes everything.

Here’s a helpful list of verses about your identity in Christ.  When you read something here and it doesn’t seem true, or feel true, you’ve met your battleground.

I’ll be speaking on the Temptation of Christ at Bethany Community Church on Sunday, August 2nd.  Tune in for a live stream of our worship here. 

How “I can’t” became “I can” – and why it matters

IMG_9132The last time I’d actually spent time climbing was just about two years ago, just before my son’s wedding.  It was on that trip that both elbow and shoulder started bothering me, with little aches and big ones, annoying enough that by the end of the day the rock had stopped being fun.

And so I’d stopped being on the rock.  Weeks became months, became two years.  The whole time, I banished thoughts of climbing because “the last time I did it” wasn’t pleasant.

Negative experiences are like that.  You have one, and it takes over, preemptively disqualifying you from all future attempts as the ghost of the past imposes that negative experience on your future.

“I tried running and got injured.  If I do it again, I’ll just get injured again”

“I tried to find intimacy with Jesus but my prayer life sputtered; life got hard and I quit.  Not worth the effort…”

“The last time I was honest with my spouse led to a big blow up.”

“I submitted an article, but never heard back from the publisher.”

“I hit a snag learning that language and set it aside… it’s too hard.”

“I’m sick of succumbing to my addiction, but sicker still of trying to beat it and failing… I surrender”

All these scripts are lies, because they’re all rooted in the common deception that tells us:  “Past behavior is the best indicator of future results”  HR departments roll this little line out when interviewing people, reminding us that transformation rarely happens, that who we’ve been in the past, is who we are destined to be.

If I believed that, I’d have quit my job as a pastor and Bible teacher  long ago.  I’ve kept going because I believe in transformation, because there are endless stories of movement in both the bible and history as –

1. Judah moves from the jealous, hard hearted, hating brother, to the one willing to lay down his life for his youngest sibling.

2. David moves from a posture of catastrophic failure to confession, hope, joy.

3. Peter moves from fear and arrogance, to bold humility.

4. Zacheus moves from greedy to generous.

5. The Samaritan woman moves from despised outsider to friend of Messiah.

6. The woman caught in adultery moves from the death sentence to worshipper of Jesus.

7. Abraham Lincoln moves from multiple losses to extradorniary president.

8.  Esther moves from obscure woman, to savior of Israel.

9. Lindsay Vonn moves from horrific ski injury to amazing comeback

If the gospel is true, then these important statements are also true:

I am not my failures

I am not my injuries, emotional or physical

I am not the script handed me by my culture to keep me an insecure little consumer, always looking for the next purchase for comfort.

Who am I then?  I’m new in Christ.  I’m complete in Christ.  And I’m on a journey of transformation in Christ.  This transformation piece includes, at various times, body, soul, and spirit – and my presumption that who I was yesterday is who I will always be is the lie that needs to be exposed.   This will require faith, and the risk to try again.

Last January I undertook the one hundred push up challenge, and pressed myself toward the goal of being able to do one hundred push-ups in a single set.  That process, I think, strengthened by arms, but I still hadn’t done any climbing, presuming that if I did, I’d replay my last climbing experience.

Then, two weeks ago here in Austria, I went out with the leaders for their training day on the rocks.  And climbed.  Injury free.  I did it again yesterday, this time with the students – and I’m not even sore!  The entire experience has me thinking long and hard about the reality of transformation in our lives, and how often we subvert our own progress by simply self selecting out of the arena where our best life is meant to be lived.

Here, then,  our my own take aways:

After failure – learning and recovery.   This is a necessity because if we keep doing the same things over and over again, we’ll likely see the same results.  This doesn’t matter if it’s a running injury, and a dysfunctional marriage, or broken staff at your job.  When there’s a problem we need to become learners, and change the input that lead to the problem.  In the past year I’ve been learning to do this as a leader, as a runner, and now as a climber.

If you’re too proud to admit you have a problem though, then you have a problem than can’t be fixed, because your denial will entrench you in your bad habits.

If you’re too complacent in the midst of your problem to look for a solution, then you also have bigger problem than your problem.  You have a deplorable lack of curiosity, and that too will entrench you in bad habits.

But if you fail, and then learn, and then do the hard work of recovery (one hundred push up challenge in my case), then what’s happening is called the miracle of transformation.  It requires, though, this inexorable belief that tomorrow’s carries with it the possibility, even the hope, of transformation.  Can you believe that?  I hope so, because that’s the story God wants to write in your life.

After learning and recoveryTry again  (don’t skip watching this video!!)

Downhill skier Lindsay Vaughn suffered a ridiculous crash, at the downhill world cup, about 400 meters from where I’m sitting as write this.

vonn-red-bull-thumb-560x560I once watched a documentary about her recovery from that injury.   In it she offers us a line that applies to all of life.  “Crashing is part of my sport… if you can’t get over it, you should probably stop skiing.”   Crashing is part of preaching, part of leading, part of climbing, part of loving, part of parenting, part of everything worth doing.  “Risk free” is becoming one of my least favorite phrases in the world, because the only thing that’s risk free is the inevitability of our decay.

Every thing worth doing has risk.   So if you fall  but you’re called to walk, get up and try again.   If you’re called to love, but you got hurt.  Learn by all means, but risk loving again.  Risk climbing again.  Risk generosity, joy, truth telling.

IMG_9150 I climbed yesterday, fell often, failed to make it to the top of a climb I thought I’d complete.  But I climbed, and while I was on the rock, I was reminded that this is part of who I am, but that it’s a part of me I’d let atrophy because the ghosts of failure sat on my shoulder and whispered words of doubt.  Those ghosts died yesterday, and I’m grateful.


While you were living…the unconscious nature of transformation

After a week of meetings in Germany with Torchbearers Missionary Fellowship, my wife and I made our way to Schladming for a little bit of rest before I head up to England for a week of speaking at Capernwray Hall.   The week is a break in the midst of what has been a very busy time, both at home and on the road.

Because I’m here without obligations or responsibilities, I hadn’t anticipated that the Spring Bible School students would still be here, but as it turns out, today is their last day.  What this means is that they’ll spend their morning worshiping, praying, and sharing together the things God has taught them during their time here.

Though I don’t know them at all, Donna and I sneak in the back to listen just a bit and it’s there, in that space, that I remember my time here twenty years ago, in spring school 1995.   That spring I spent my free time filling out an application for the role of senior pastor at Bethany Community Church in Seattle because, after speaking there for a week earlier in the spring, I’d been asked to apply for the job, a job I wasn’t sure I wanted, but was certain I didn’t want to miss, if it was God’s will.  I remember writing answers to questions, printing the whole thing and faxing it to the church office in Seattle, fairly convinced that my lack of large church experience (I was leading a house church at the time) would disqualify me from consideration anyway.

I was wrong, of course, as I often am when I presume to know the ways and mind of God.  By the fall of that same year, Donna and I were packing up our things for a move to Seattle where, on December 1st, we began our five year commitment to the big church of 300 in the big city of Seattle.  After a year, 300 had grown to 225.  After five years though, we said no to some other opportunities, convinced that there was another chapter for us in Seattle and Bethany.

Five years has become twenty.  225 people have become 3500 people.  One location has become six.  And all of this represents the faithfulness of God in changing one life at a time, one step at a time.  The church in Seattle has changed profoundly.

And here in Austria?  New facilities.  New staff.  New leaders.  Larger Bible Schools.  A sailing ministry in Greece.  Yes… God’s been at work here too, and all the outward signs are but the most visible outward displays representing countless changed lives, now scattered throughout the world like so much life giving seed, making Jesus visible.  This space has also been a place of change.

All these thoughts are swirling as I run through the mist hanging in the alps this morning.  I’m mindful that the church I lead is changing in good ways, as is this school in Austria.  New leaders.  New locations.  Changed lives.  It’s good stuff!  So I ponder, as the rain falls – “What practices and attitudes help create positive changes?” Though there are many, these ___ seem foundational:

I.  Vertical Connection –  Jesus said it:  “Abide in me and you’ll bear much fruit”  Those eight simple words are at the core of the work God wants to do in the world.  This is because God’s desire is to express nothing less than the life of Christ through the likes of you and me.  When it works, his joy, peace, power, wisdom, love, patience, generosity, forgiveness and hope are poured out through us, watering thirsty souls.

Foundational as this is, it is also the most elusive piece of the puzzle for many.  We’re raised to believe that we have what it takes to make a grand difference in the world, and that with enough planning and projects, metrics and media, goals and objectives, we’ll reach the promised land of fulfilled vision, or meaningful work, or perfect children.

Um, no.  That’s not going to happen.  To the contrary, the story that God will write through any of us will, in the end, declare that it’s those who are mindful of their own thirst and need for the reality of Christ that God will use to express God’s life to the world.

Our thirst for God and for the enjoyment of Christ’s real presence in our lives are the most important realities we can pursue and experience.  They’re as vital as air and water, critical resources for the kind of life Jesus invites us to live.

II.  Patient Expectation –  My techno watch tells me two things while I’m running this morning.  First, it confirms the glad news that I’m running at pace that keeps heart happily ticking along between 130 and 140 beats per minutes, sort of a sweet spot for my running.  Second, I lean the even better news that I’m travelling faster in this same sweet spot now than I was last summer when I was here.  Same heart rate; faster running!  How did that happen?

Gradually.  In his book about training for alpine adventures, Mark Twight introduces the acronym: TINSTAAFL, which means “There is no such thing as a free lunch”  It’s his way of saying that nobody can compress the time it takes to get in shape for a big climb, thinking that a few cross fit sessions where your heart pumps and your muscles ache and you feel like throwing up will never be able to do the job.  “Gradualness is the only way aerobic adaptation is gained” is the essence of what he says.

I just focus on staying between 130 and 140.  It’s my body, and the magic of health and exercise that make me faster.  My own attempt to go faster nearly two years ago resulted in a strained Achilles, the result of which was a total ban on running for about a month.  Faster?  My attempts at self improvement were in the toilet.  It was then that my physical therapist said, “you’re going too fast – keep your pulse under 135″  My first days on my urban running path were an exercise in humility.  As person after person passed me, I wanted to shout, “I’m faster than this!!” but I kept quiet and kept doing my turtle thing.

Slowly faster.   I’m  convinced that those who want to look more like Jesus need to find out what it is that Jesus wants us to actually DO, and what he promises to do in response.  This is where my II Corinthians 3:16-18 favorite stuff comes in.   That’s where I’m told to “behold his glory” and that if I do that, I will be transformed, slowly, yet relentlessly, ‘from glory to glory’ – so that I look more like Jesus.  Little by little, hope will evict despair, light will overcome darkness, love will overwhelm hate, and the whole complex thing that is your personality will be infused with a hope, quiet confidence, and joy that I can’t be made in any self improvement program any more than the guys who make potato chips can fabricate, a butterfly.

Our transformation, you see, is divine handiwork.  We are his workmanship, we’re told.  So we can all just relax bit, drop our program of self-branding and building a following, stop worrying about what the other moms think of our recipes and living rooms, and simply make getting to know Jesus as a friend our chief aim in life.  Then he’ll do the changing while we focus on other stuff, just like my body produces whatever it makes so that i run faster now than a year ago, not because I’m trying to run faster, but because I’m showing up more consistently.

No single devotional, or utterance of gratitude to God for a sunrise, or receptivity to what Jesus is saying through that difficult person – none of these things are deal breakers.  The sky rarely opens up and pours out fire, or doves.  Instead, like mitochondria multiplying in response to the stress of running, little unseen things are happening, just because we keep showing up.

Then one day, we open our eyes and realize that, in spite of ourselves, the years have given us more joy, more contentment, and more grace, than we’d every have hoped, surely more than we deserve.  When that happens we’ll not only thank God for the work God has done, we’ll realize it happened in spite of ourselves, while we were living.

O Lord Christ…

You promise to change us, starting with the gift of rest, if we’ll just relax and learn of you.  But we’re religionists, busy, striving, making ourselves holy for you, or effective for you, or at least less guilty in hopes you won’t destroy.  Forgive us Lord, for the image we’ve made of you is an idol, and our souls are parched because of it.  Staring now, we pray, may you be our pursuit, our joy, our companion.  Teach us this, so that we’ll keep seeking you… and then we’ll simply thank you that, without a lot of perception on our part, the deepest changes of our soul needs will ripen.  We’ll wake up some day, see the changes, and give thanks. 





“Not Burdensome”…. musings on the ease of obedience and self-denial


Is self denial a burden?

In the coming days, I offer some thoughts from my devotions in Jeremiah.  It’s been too long since I’ve written, as life’s been full of house sales and meetings, travel and teaching.  Jeremiah, though, has been a good friend during these days, and I want to write some things I hope will help you navigate both your own personal waters, and the waters of a culture in upheaval as shootings, racism, and political posture seem to continue unchecked.  I write in hopes of helping you become a person of hope in the midst of  it all… cheers!

Tucked away at the end of Jeremiah 23, there are two verses that give me pause.  In v33,34 God says to Jeremiah, “When one of these people, or a prophet, or a priests asks you, ‘What burdensome message do you have from the Lord?’ tell them, ‘You are the burden, and I will cast you away.  I, the Lord, affirm it!  I will punish any prophet, priest, or other person who says, ‘The Lord’s message is burdensome…”

God is mad that people think God’s message to humanity is a burden.   This is a point worth pondering, because with just a little bit of reflection, if the truth be told, all of us at times consider God’s commands to be burdensome.   Self denial is burdensome when I want to sit on the train, rather than surrender my seat, or when I want the larger piece of salmon, or the job that pays the most money.  Generosity is a burden when I write a check to help.   Compassion is a burden when I work hard to shut off my narcissism and enter into the suffering of another.   In fact, encouragement can even be a burden when the default would be to jump on the bandwagon of negativity that’s in a room, or a meeting, or a culture.

Not burdensome?  Oscar Wilde speaks for many when he disagrees with God as seen here:

What is God thinking about when God says the commands and way are not burdensome?

What God’s thinking about is the big picture.   When Jesus utters little sayings about crosses and self denial, and also says his yoke is easy and his burden is light, he’s not contradicting himself.   Rather, Jesus is opening the door to two important truths

There’s usually a lag time between action and reward/punishment.  This is one of the most important truths in the universe.  You can eat trans-fats for years and not know the difference, but eventually they’ll kill your heart.  You can enjoy a one night stand, or two of them maybe, but each time you do that, you’re diminishing your capacity for genuine intimacy, and enslaving yourself to appetites.

Conversely, giving, service, obedience, and self-denial will likely all be challenging in the moment, but in the end, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 

The best meals are eaten when we’re hungry because we haven’t snacked our way through the day.  The best sex with our spouse comes on the far side of conversation, service, waiting, and foreplay, rather than shallow “intimacy on demand” that does nothing more than feed our lusts.  The best learning comes through slow reading, and practice and conversation.  The best fitness comes through little imperceptible gains that are made simply because we denied our desire to stay in bed and went walking instead, or denied our desire for ice cream and ate a carrot instead.

You do these hard things, and you don’t necessarily enjoy the results immediately, which is what makes them feel like a burden.  But in the end?  The real burden is born by those with sexual addictions, or health problems, or a greedy narcissism that has destroyed their capacity for joy and intimacy.  They chose that which seemed easy in the moment, but paid the price over the long haul.

God calls this the law of sowing and reaping in the Bible, and we’d do well to take our cues from farmers.  They do tons of work without seeing any rewards on the day they do the work, because their eye is on the harvest.   In a culture of instant gratification, learning the law of the harvest is vital because we suddenly see that the self denial of the moment isn’t some sort of vast burden.  To the contrary, what we’re denying in our self denial is that very part of our nature that needs to be denied anyway.  Our self denial feeds and strengthens the spirit, and the more we do it, the greater our joy.  Our self indulgence feeds the flesh and the more we do it, the greater our enslavement.

Christ’s motivator was joy!

He taught and exemplified loving enemies, going the extra mile, service, generosity, and sacrifice.  In the end he was betrayed, arrested, beaten, executed.  And yet he said his commands were not burdensome!  Is this some sort of Buddhist koan, some Jedi nonsense?

Not at all.  We’re told that he did it all for the joy that was set before him.  Paul took this and ran with it, when he speak of the “light aflliction” which produces in us the “weight of glory”.  We’ve switched that in our culture, making any affliction a weighty burden.  I’m convinced part of the reason is because we’ve never really tasted raw glory.  One taste though, and we’re hooked.  When that happens, the suffering is endured, yes… but even the endurance, when we’re at our best, comes to contain some joy.

A trillion choices of indulgence over self-denial, scattered throughout history has created a world awash in oppression, addiction, destruction, environmental degradation, and loneliness.

And we think God’s commands are burdensome?  Maybe we should reconsider.   After all, it was the suffering one who said, “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly!”

To suffering.  To self-denial.  To service.  To life!

I welcome your thoughts….



20 Years Our Home… and a time for everything

It was just over a year ago that my mom-in-law came to visit, and some health matters made it clear it would be best for her to stay with us.  This set in motion a series of events that led to my wife and I moving east of Seattle a bit, up into the mountains, where we’d planned to move eventually anyway.  The self contained apartment has become my mom-in-law’s home, and she’s pure delight to have with us.  We’ve rented a tiny place next to the church in the city so I can skip horrific commutes and be “down” (as we say at the pass) on a regular basis,  but selling our “big house” was the obvious next step.  My lovely wife’s been preparing it for market with paint and care this past week.  Of course, each brush stroke brought memories.  Here are her thoughts….

Little HouseYes, these walls can talk.  As I find myself sitting on the hardwood floor with mahogany inlay, painting the baseboards of my Greenlake house in Seattle, I’m hearing the sounds of Legos being spilled out, the vacuum cleaner chasing dust bunnies, tap dancing on the indestructible 1920’s kitchen flooring, violins and piano echoing off the lathe & plaster walls, drums pulsing from the basement, thumps from the climbing wall in the attic.  As we prepare to sell our home of the past twenty years, the flood of memories is at times overwhelming.  I always said that this little house had “good bones” but my family have been the ones who have fleshed it out and given it life for these past two decades, coming and going, filling it with laughter and joy and questions and tears and decisions and major life events of every kind, mostly documented in photos at the front door before heading out on another adventure.

We found the house on a Sunday in December 1995, the FOR SALE sign having been put out the night before.  Richard turned one street too early for the café he was headed that morning but that “wrong turn” led him past the house that was to become our home later that day.  We made an offer an hour after seeing it and moved in within a month.  It was a house like no other we had lived in; hard wood floors, white plaster walls, tiny kitchen, treeless back yard, neighbors within hearing distance on all sides.  Over time, we learned to lower our indoor voices and wash dishes by hand.  We planted trees in the yard that grew into our own forest retreat and discovered many, many special friends in the surrounding houses.

Around year five, I ventured into adding color to the walls and have since painted every room and hallway in the house.  And they’re not neutral colors.  Most are bold and bright.  They’re not of the same color palette so they may be puzzling to potential buyers or new owners.  But for me, the matriarch of this home, they are telling me story after story of the inhabitants of each room.  I know, that under this freshly painted “guest room” in the basement, there are lovely blue walls with fluffy white clouds near the ceiling, carefully sponged on by our oldest daughter in her room where she filled journals with creative stories.  The bright yellow room on the main floor has always been bright yellow, just like our bouncy youngest daughter who covered most of the walls with drama production posters and pictures with friends (hence needing to be repainted once we peeled the paint with each removal.)  The dark forest green room belonged to our equally artistic son who choose to glue his excellent black and white photography masterpieces to the walls (in addition to a pastel mural drawn on one wall that never quite washed off as expected) but fresh paint repaired all that.

The Paprika red basement family room housed many late night slumber parties and “Basement Club” meals and movie events as well as hundreds of college students who found their way to our house for the Final Four Basketball Championships for several years.  The bright green living room-turned dining room hosted our oldest daughter’s wedding rehearsal dinner, hearing stories of how this group of thirty people happened to gather from all around the world to celebrate this special event.  Birthday parties, holiday meals, ordinary meals, small group gatherings, meetings of many sorts, fill the dining room with stories.  I’ll always remember my mother-in-law sitting for hours at the front window, reporting on all the comings and goings of the neighbors or my dad who was the last one to bring order to my workbench in the garage, many years ago.

The attic was what sold us on the house twenty years ago.  The top floor became our master bedroom, our place of intimacy and “retreat” after long days.  The same friend who built our indoor climbing wall also paneled the ceiling in knotty pine to match our log bed that was clamored upon every Christmas morning by our three children, no matter how old they became.  We hung an Austrian cow bell on the front door to alert us when the kids came home and I’ll never forget the sound of the door opening to the stairwell while waiting for them to come up and check in.  Sometimes there were long conversations, perched at the foot of the bed, about the event from which they had just returned and sometimes it was just a kiss goodnight, but always, a feeling of relief that they were home, safe and sound.

photo(2)And then there is the kitchen.  It was a difficult adjustment when we moved in, being about one third the size of my former kitchen.  It has a smaller than average refrigerator and no automatic dishwasher and yet I’m proud to say that I managed to raise three very responsible adults from this kitchen.  I’m fairly confident that potential buyers will see my woefully ill-equipped kitchen as a liability, but they will be mistaken.  I think our step-saver kitchen has been our greatest asset.  It taught us all to be creative.  It taught me contentment.  It always became the gathering place for conversation while chopping vegetables or stirring at the stove or scooting someone aside to open the oven door.  And I’ve also discovered that there is something magical about soapy dishwater, lending itself to camaraderie and honest conversation.  Yes, it’s an old-fashioned kitchen with old-fashioned values but the cabinets have a fresh coat of paint and shiny new knobs that may very well get pulled out by new owners, but they served our family well and the many guests whom we were privileged to host.

I know it’s silly to get sentimental about a house, but I’m going to just let the tears flow and pray that the next family is blessed by the stories imbedded in these walls.  Thank you, sturdy little house, for protecting us from storms, within and without, for rooting us deeply in this neighborhood and in this city, and for filling our lives with tremendous memories.  May the next occupants be sheltered well by your walls, making our sturdy little house a home once again.  


Moving towards wholeness and hope – step by step