Trusting In Advance

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s not difficult to admit that change is good. We do not become who we need to be without altered circumstances, in spite of the pain in the process. It’s hard to believe until we are well past the gate, but change always has the potential to be good. It gives us the opportunity to be better, to grow, to lean forward and dig deeper. Once we’re there, we can nod our heads at our own history, we can acknowledge the results.

But it’s hard to believe, in the midst of the turmoil. My friend Lisa posted this quote by the Philip Yancey (author of one of the most transformative books I’ve read, The Jesus I Never Knew):

“I have learned that faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”

If you live in the paradigm of grace, change triggers growth, resulting in faith.

But it’s hard to see.

There are so many around me who are enduring painful change in this season; difficult medical diagnoses, basic surgical procedures gone wrong, loss of jobs, imploding marriages, changing relationships that change the future. In the chaos of their circumstances, there is pain. It is difficult.

One person I know said, with no small amount of anger, “I don’t want any canned Christian phrases. I can’t even cope…” God bless you. I don’t want any canned Christian phrases either.

I sat down to write this morning about the current season of change in my life; how my three daughters are all living somewhere other than this house this summer, and how my anxiety almost crippled me as I contemplated life without the swirling mass of female energy that has always defined our home life. Like a rushing wind, some weather event of joyful energy, my emotional energy has been fixated on my daughters. There have words – many, many words! – and questions and laughter and tears and let’s not forget the massive amount of clothes everywhere. There’s stuff of the practical, daily living, and matters of the heart, the way that big, broad personalities fill up all the empty space in the house. The way the dynamic of sisterhood brings intense conflict and incredible love. It is big, and it is busy, and loud and emotional. And it’s all I’ve known, for almost two decades.

And now? Change. Quiet. Space. Vision. There’s the general contemplation of what comes next for the girls, as each one prepares for college and work and new relationships and independent living – anxiety on a different level. But also, there are eyes to see (mine) the young men who have lived in the midst of the swirl, space to hear them and settle into silence and uncomplicated maleness. I have a sixteen-year old son. I have a thirteen-year old son. The shade of their sisters gone, they are in my field of vision now, and I am discovering the joy of a more complete and focused love for them, without distraction and unhindered by their role as, simply, The Boys.

I sat down to write about that sort of change this morning, to acknowledge that I have survived, it’s not so bad, and that it has been surprisingly good. I have settled into something that makes sense, and I have discovered that I really, really like being the only female in a house of men; not only the ones who live here, but also the ones that tag along with them, crashing on the floor to eat ramen and drink Gatorade and sleep, arms and legs flailing, on the couch in the midst of it all.

I sat down to write about this good place I am easing into, and of the irony of a 12:17AM phone call last night, from a daughter who had a week’s worth of words that needed room to roam.

Things have changed, and some of what is different still bruised and tender. I miss my girls. I pray for their safety and stave off worry and anxiety over their well-being. My maternal cloak of protection stayed home with me, and I leave them to their good sense and the watch care of God.

Change is painful, regardless of the circumstances and details. I have known the backbreaking pain of the big ticket items; illness and loss and death and divorce and sin and shame. The relatively minor (and somewhat natural) process of releasing my children to independent lives pales in comparison, but change is painful, no matter the details.

Yet the result is always the same, when you look back; the aching may remain, as Andrew Peterson says – but the breaking does not. The cracks are filled in.

Faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Or, as Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message: 

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.

Struggling with current circumstances? I have no pithy phrases to alter your perspective.

But because you cannot see, the paradox of growth is put into motion.

And that’s a good thing.

10,000 Reasons

“…if you wake up one morning and you cannot think of a reason to bring God some kind of offering of thanks or praise, then you can be sure there’s something wrong at your end of the pipeline, and not his” – Matt Redman

You’re rich in love and you’re slow to anger
Your name is great and your heart is kind
For all your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find

We’ve come to love Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” at our church. I know it’s one of our worship team’s favorite means of expression.

Here’s a great look at the story behind the song, along with some specific explanation of some of the lyrics. Have a look, and use this to inspire your worship! Read Matt’s words here. 

And here’s a new version of the song.

What are some of your 10,000 reasons?

Just Enough, Just In Time

Finally started reading Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine: How Creativity Works and I’m inspired. Fascinated, too.

After a compelling introduction, Lehrer tells a bit about Bob Dylan’s early career and the circumstances leading up to the creation of Like A Rolling Stone. This was all new information to me, and very interesting. I won’t rehash what Lehrer wrote (you should read this book!), but it did spark a little thinking in my own brain.

I’m a creative person; I love to write, I occasionally write music, I design services with a focus on flow and connectivity. I respond to creative things and I am creative in many aspects of my life and work. Plus I’m all up in my head all the time. My mind flows on a creative track; I see life as on ongoing narrative.

But there aren’t often measurable results from this creative lifestyle. Mostly, it’s just me, being me. I don’t see the good outflow of being creative, but more the weirdness of me, being me. That’s sometimes just weird.

The first chapter of Imagine prompted me to revisit my most recent burst of tangible creativity. Here’s what happened:

Our teaching team at church prepared messages for a series called Close Encounters a few months in advance. We had manuscripts and plenty of time to think about how to frame a 25 minute message with elements that would enhance the point and offer a valid church experience. When I read John Tiller’s message a few weeks ago, a particular phrase caught my ear. He talked about having “JEJIT” – originally coined by Mark Batterson – which means, Just Enough, Just In Time. 

Just Enough, Just In Time.

It rolled around in my brain. “We ought to write a song for that week,” I told Lindsay. She agreed. And it started stewing….

About three weeks prior to his message, I sat at the piano on the Powhatan stage and played around a bit. “You give me just enough, just in time…” The phrase had a definite jazz feel to it, so I experimented with a basic blues framework; a B flat chord followed by an A flat seventh. I played a few bars, and just opened my mouth to see what would come out. Essentially, the chorus was already written, in my head. It pretty much came out the first time the way it ended at the end.

You give me just enough, just in time
All my needs you satisfy
And I’ve learned to trust you, because I know what you do
Every day, every way you supply all my needs
You give me just enough, just in time
You always come through for me

I sat my iPhone on a music stand and recorded myself singing and playing that much; then I messaged it to Lindsay.

I think I left for vacation or something shortly after that; it went dormant, and I didn’t do anything with the song until I got two return videos from Lindsay, sitting at her piano, singing the chorus back to me with a couple of verses she’d added. The week before the service, I took her words on a piece of scrap paper and went back to the piano. I played it through, and then thought a bit. Tried again, and thought a bit more. After the third time, I realized something just didn’t connect.

I took a walk. A friend was in the room working on a floral arrangement for a wedding; she said, “That sounded nice.” I thanked her but grumbled, internally, frustrated.

I went to the bathroom, walked around the hallway a bit, then returned and tried again. I threw out a few lines, thought about the general concept, decided a little repetition wouldn’t hurt and started rewriting lyrics.

I played what I wrote; then tweaked. Played again, tweaked again.

In twenty minutes, I had the song. I called Lindsay in and asked if it was okay; she liked it. We debated adding a bridge – tried it, and realized it felt like too much. I played it through one last time, we agreed it was done, and then I headed home to record a scratch track.

So, what? Big deal – who cares how we wrote the song?

Well, I learned a few things.

1) Creativity takes time. Gestation is our friend when we’re trying to grow something new. Allowing John’s message to roll around in my my head for a few weeks was incredibly helpful. I think my head had the right environment, the right pieces in place to assemble something that made sense and enhanced the point of the day.

2) Collaboration is awesome. Lindsay gave the verses a place to go; she put legs to the defining emotions. I was able to see the song from her perspective, which gave me a fresh approach. Also, her interpretation was brilliant; as I chose notes for the melody, I wrote for her voice rather than my own. That gave the song a different (for me) flavor.

3) It was relatively quick. From the time I initially sat at the piano, I probably only spent 45 minutes actually “writing” the song. It was, essentially, already written. My brain just needed to be uncorked.

4) Movement helps. A trip to the bathroom did wonders for getting verbally unstuck.

5) It wasn’t earth-shattering, but it worked. I get hung up a lot because I don’t want to write drivel. There are a gazillion songs out there. I don’t write worship songs because all I hear are worship songs, all day long, and it seems like there’s really nothing new to say with four chords, a pre-chorus and a bridge and an octave jump when it’s time to build. I choke myself before I start because I feel I’ve got nothing new to say. But I do have something to say, and maybe if it works – whether it’s earth-shattering or not – I should just say it.

Here’s the song as Lindsay delivered it last week. You can certainly watch the entire service, but the song I’ve been writing about begins at 56:20.

Damaged Goods

ME: “I’m in a funk.”

TONY: “Why? What’s going on?”

ME: “blahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahb….etc…..blah….whinewhinewhinewhine…blah”

TONY: “Ok. Do you feel better?”

ME: “No. But I went to work out yesterday, when I just wanted to go home and eat chips and ice cream and chocolate. I worked out instead.”

TONY: “Ok. That’s good.”

ME: “And then I came home and had nachos for dinner. And then David asked for a milkshake and so I made him one, and I figured since I had the blender out, might as well make two at one time.”

TONY: “So you had a milkshake, too?”

ME: “Uh…yes.”

TONY: “Why would you eat chips and a milkshake after you went to work out?”


TONY: “Are you still in a funk?”

ME:  “Yes.”

TONY: “I think you are CHOOSING to be in a funk.”


And then I stabbed him.


No, not really. But I am in a funky place. Circumstances, questions, brain chemistry. I don’t know. It is what it is. I had a tough day yesterday, one that included backing my car into a work truck in the church parking lot. No damage – at all – to the other guy, but a broken tail light and lovely scrape on my car.

I’ve been driving this car – an Audi, the nicest car I’ve ever had – for several years, since it was given to me as a gift (gentlemen, giving the girl a car with a big bow on it really works.) The second week I had it, I scraped the rear fender against a tree while trying to back out of someone’s driveway. It was devastating; I hated to tell my husband. But I did, and he forgave me.

A few months ago, I scraped the other side of the rear fender while backing out of a driveway at a retreat house.

Last night, I backed into the afore-mentioned work truck.

Obviously, I have a backing problem. And it’s a solo thing; I’ve not had any issues with other moving vehicles. Mostly, I just seem to bump into things. Trees, retaining walls, and yesterday, some sort of winch-thing that was attached to this work truck’s rear bumper.

I bump into things, and the result is scratches and dents on this beautiful car, which was immaculate when given to me.

I should have been more careful, in every case. This car is the nicest thing I’ve ever owned. I’m mostly a cheap girl – I’ll shop at Target before Macy’s. Nordstroms? Ha. Never. (Okay, there was that one time, but that was underwear. And a long story.) I don’t own nice things, really; mostly, it’s stuff on sale from somewhere or something somebody gave me.

I have nice people in my life, and often they give me nice things; but I just don’t have that much quality stuff. 

And yesterday, I thought to myself, “Well, duh. You can’t take care of nice stuff. You keep running into things.”

Then I got this wonderful text message: “…I love you way more than any car on the planet.”

That’s nice. And I know it’s true.

But I find it depressing. I’m not sure why.

I suspect it has something to do with my pride. That’s an ugly truth, but there it is. I can tool around town in my fancy car and imagine that I’m special. The outside hides whatever might be going on inside, because it’s a pretty German car. Now, with various scrapes and dings and dents, the truth is leaking out; the car (like the driver) is just another messy thing, scraped and dinged and dented.

I put a lot of value on that beautiful car; it represented a gift, one that was above and beyond anything I’d ever been given. That car said (to me), “YOU ARE WORTH THIS.”

And now it’s killing me that I keep damaging it.

And it’s messing with my soul that I think I’ve gotten way too attached to what I imagine that car said about me, in its perfect state.

Because if it used to say, “YOU ARE WORTH THIS” while in mint condition….what does it say now, when it’s damaged goods?

Not sure I want to go there.

This spiritual formation stuff goes on and on and on…I know that I know that I know that I find my identity in other things, in the One who made me, in all the good things in my life. But there’s always a place to slip, always a reminder that I’m not yet out of the woods, not yet fully enlightened, not yet what I am to be. And there’s always some remnant of that ‘stinking thinking’ that my counselor called out several years ago. I think I’ve outgrown it, matured, moved along, and then BAM, there we go again.

And that, my friends, is life. 

Moving On; Thinking About Aurora

We’ve heard the news; the information is being inhaled and regurgitated at an alarming rate on the news channels.

But there is much to process, much to contemplate and consider as we now live in a country where innocent people get shot in movie theaters.

Here are three excellent, insightful posts regarding the impact of Friday’s horrific events in Aurora, CO. First, from a respected local pastor who dug deep for his message today. Sammy Williams writes about the shooter’s “deep downward climb” into darkness, and what might have made for a different story. Read his short post here.

Sara Kelm says she “has no answers for the madness of the world” – but still, her post offers hope and encouragement and something beautiful. And cookies. Read her words here.

And finally, my pastor – currently away on sabbatical – wrapped his thoughts around a story that tore through my heart and, ultimately, challenged me in a profound way. Brian has a way with words. You can read them, here.


Do We Really Need These Weapons?

I was in a theater Thursday night / Friday morning, one of the thousands who saw “Dark Knight Rises” on its opening night.

We actually went to a marathon; for $25, we got all three Batman movies. And a small popcorn.

It was a great family fun night. I loved each movie (hadn’t yet seen them!) and was very impressed by the whole experience.

Driving home at 3AM, I pondered the unique experience I had; sharing a theatre for nine hours with a crowd of people I didn’t know (save Marc behind us and Lenny and Lindsay up front). We entered as strangers; we left as strangers, still; but with a shared experience that somehow united us.

It was fleeting, for sure; but there it was. I watched three brilliantly made movies, and I was moved emotionally, and I felt like I wasn’t alone. It made me want to go see movies more often, like that weird commercial they play before the previews with the shrinking screen. Maybe it really is better together, this movie experience.

I went home satisfied, by the artistic experience, my reaction to it and the fact that I was part of a tribe of people who were willing to spend $25 and nine hours to see all three Batman movies.

And then I woke up Friday morning, and I saw a blurb on Facebook, and I thought, “What?”, and all my satisfaction swirling down the drain in a peculiar mix of disgust and sorrow. My experience was tainted because some other tribe – somehow part of my tribe as humans simply watching a movie – these innocent folks were assaulted and destroyed. Even those who escaped with their lives now were destroyed, because how do you sit through something like that and ever be the same again? Some part of you has to wither, some part of your soul, the place where you do simple things and know you’re safe, the place where anxiety stays under lock and key because it’s just a movie, for God’s sake, and everybody goes to the movies.

Everybody goes to school.

Everybody goes to college.

It troubles me, it disturbs me, and I know there’s nothing we can do, the guy had issues, he was crazy, whatever.

But I can’t help but wonder why the guy with issues was able to walk into a movie theater – everybody goes to the movies – with a semi-automatic weapon able to fire 100 rounds before he had to stop.

I’ve never stood on a soapbox to spout my position regarding gun control; I’m not about to do so now. I just want somebody to explain this to me. Somebody tell me why people in this country own semi-automatic weapons. 

I’m serious. Tell me, because I honestly don’t know. What do you hunt with a weapon that has this kind of firepower?

Other than people?