Challenging times

(Note: I shared this with the subscribers on my email list, but wanted to share it with you as well.)

As some have observed on social media, who thought it was a good idea to revisit 1918 (pandemic) AND 1968 (riots for racial justice)?

Challenging times.

You may feel overwhelmed right now. You may be angry or sad or frustrated or wondering where the pause button is because you are tired of thinking so much. You maybe deeply grieving. You may be feeling all of the above daily. Or hourly.

Here are some thoughts for facing such a time.

1. Don't listen to your inner judge.
I team co-teach a Sunday School class at my church, and since we've gone to online services have been doing our lessons as a video (shared with the class, the church and my Heart Callings group.) I really enjoy doing them, and as is the case with anything that we do, some weeks are better than others. The other day I caught myself thinking that I just wasn't doing a very...

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Tired in the wilderness

At first, the children of Israel were ready for the challenge.

We'll flee from Pharaoh, dashing away from our homes (such as they were) before he changes his mind. And when he does decide to come after us, we'll try to outrace the chariots. It's a fools'a plan, but what else can we do? When they get stuck in the mud, our legs that trembled with fear start dancing with joy. We breathe deep the air of freedom and the promise of tomorrow. 

Until tomorrow seems too much like yesterday, all sand and steps and no way to know how far we've come and how far we have to go. Until tomorrow looks like yesterday, and we start to question the whole enterprise.

All of a sudden, Egypt doesn't look so bad. At least we knew. Maybe what they asked us to do was impossible, but at least we knew where we were and how things worked and what our place was in the midst of them. Even if it wasn't that much of a place.

I've been thinking about those wandering children of Israel lately. We've all found...

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How long 'til my soul gets it right?

How long 'til my soul gets it right?

This line from the Indigo Girl song, Galileo, has been going through my mind lately, although probably in ways that the Indigo Girls never intended.

I needed to rename my podcast.

The problem was, just a couple of episodes before I'd introduced my new podcast, changed because of a shifting focus in my online work. I was keeping this new focus (Christians who are seeking, struggling and sometimes straggling along) but my first title wasn't quite there.

It was right enough to get me started, but not quite right enough for the long haul. I liked the new name (Community of Holy Stragglers) very much. But I worried.

I worried what people would think. I worried that I'd be dismissed as flighty or unable to make up my mind. I worried that people would think that I screwed up with my first title, that I didn't get it right.

(I realize that none of you were losing sleep over my podcast name, but bear with me here.)

I finally realized that I had a...

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Does this dress make me look fat?

(Note: Each week I send out a Monday Morning Manna email to subscribers. Today I wanted to share with you this week's email.)

My friend is the queen of Selfies With Famous People. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when, as we waited for the program to start, she nudged me even as she was getting out of her seat.
"She’s over there," she said, pointing to an aisle on the opposite side of the auditorium. "Let’s go."
I tend to be a bit shy in such occasions, but my friend is a force to be reckoned with. Thanks to her, I met, got a picture with, and book signed by one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott.
One of her books that I love is Bird By Bird: A Journal of My Son’s First Year.Lamott was not only a single mom but also a freelance writer, and her book is both funny and unflinchingly honest about her struggles.
In the midst of it her best friend, Pammy, is diagnosed with cancer. Lamott describes an outing with Pammy for...
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Death on our faces

She'd grown up in very traditional Baptist churches, long before most any Baptist church thought about observing the season of Lent. So it was only natural when she saw someone with a smudge of something on their forehead that she took tissue in hand to try to get it off for them.

It wasn't just a dirty spot, of course. They were ashes carefully smudged by some minister somewhere, a reminder front and center of what we usually try to push to the back.

From ashes we come and to ashes we return.

It’s a strange sort of thing if you think about it. People walking around in the midst of the workdays and school days and all the rest with signs of death right there on their foreheads for God and the world to see. 

Once upon a time not so very long ago dying patients were shuffled down to the ends of hallways lest they remind doctors of their failure to cure. In the United States in which I live, we still do a pretty good job of trying to hide death in our culture. When I ask...

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Sometimes you get what you need.

If you've been reading along in this blog or receiving my weekly Monday Morning Manna know the the last months of 2019 were challenging for me. One of the very hardest challenges was going from a two dog household to a dog-less household in four short months.

Suddenly, my house seemed much too big and much too quiet. I was surrounded by the kind of support every grieving pet owner should have, but still, it was hard.

I told myself that it would make sense to get another dog In the spring.

You know how that goes.

I saw Bear's picture, following along with rapt attention while a little girl read to him. I talked with the owner of the rescue that had pulled him from the shelter. His short two years of life had been filled with the pain of abuse and the suffering of heart worm treatment.

And yet,, Bear just loves everyone. From the cashiers in the pet store to the children who live across the street, Bear approaches everyone with the same question: Can I love you? 


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Blessed By Butter Boy

An odd thing happened yesterday. 

I put butter on the counter, turned my back to get something else and returned to find… the butter was still there. This hasn’t happened in my house for a number of years.

Because of Ralphie, also known as Butter Boy. He loved his butter. He loved to steal it off the counter to eat it. And to bury the container in the yard only to dig it up and bring it back in later. 

It wasn’t just butter he buried. He didn’t care much for the dog food I got him not too long ago, but he swiped the cleaned-out can from the recycling and carried it for a couple of days like the Holy Grail. He then buried it, only to dig it up a few days later and deposit the can full of dirt on my freshly vacuumed rug.

It wasn’t just butter he loved and stole. Pretty much anything was fair game for him. I’d barely adopted him when I heard the swoosh of a rotisserie chicken being nabbed from the counter and taken through the dog door....

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Longing for Advent

So what are we to make of Advent? 

We light the candles and talk about hope and peace and joy and love. In churches using the lectionary cycle of scriptures, ministers wrestle with how to fit a wild and fiery John the Baptist into a culture already moving to fa-la-la-las. 

We are more attuned to wish lists than longing. 

And yet, it is longing I feel most keenly in this season. I feel it in our beautifully crafted worship that has somehow given word and music to deep places of my soul. Come now, Prince of Peace, make us one body.*


In the American culture in which I live, we don't much allow ourselves to get to the place of longing. There's always something to fill that space - some TV show, some food, some un-winnable  internet argument to distract us. If you want something that you don't have there are no less than fourteen self help books designed to help you get that very thing. 

Except soul longing doesn't lend itself to smart goals and lists of...

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Let me be upset.

Uncategorized Oct 09, 2019

Following up with my doctor, I was trying to explain my month or so sojourn through an unnamed virus and two bouts of pneumonia. "I wasn't surprised when I got sick,"  I said. "The day before it started I'd put my 14 year old dog down." 

And it was the truth. I'd been stressed for weeks, trying to honor my promise to her not to keep her here too long but not being able to let go of a dog who greeted me with a smile every morning. Grief can hit us, body and soul, like a sledgehammer so I was completely unsurprised to wake up the next morning with a fever and sore throat.

"Yes," he said in response. "We tell ourselves not to be too upset about such things but we just can't help it."

I tell you God's honest truth: I had to fight with all the self control I posses not to go all Julia Sugerbaker on him.  In no way did I expect myself not to be upset, nor did I want to have a stiff upper lip. During a visit last Christmas my sister-in-law innocently inquired about...

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"I learned to look at the pain, rather than hide from it. When I refused to look at it honestly, it grew like a shadow in a childhood bedroom. My pain seemed to sense fear; fear was the fuel it burned in order to run through me. To disarm it, to look at the pain honestly. took time. I had to learn to inhabit my body. It's a difficult thing to sit with pain and just be. To sit beside it, acknowledge it and be whole in its presence. to experience pain in that way, I had to constantly remind myself that it wasn't me. It was just a sensation.  I was bigger than the pain and I could withstand it, it wouldn't kill me. I would survive it." Dr. Rana Awdish, In Shock

I've been reading this exceptional book, In Shock. An ICU doctor,  Awdish was pregnant when things went horribly wrong. It's telling that I'm about halfway through the book. Awdish has been through critical illness, has been actively dying and now, after a very long journey, has returned to work. She still...

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