Laura Murray






Thoughts on Life, Faith,


and God
One cannot be met by God and remain unmoved.
April 11, 2022
As I think of Jesus and his path this Holy Week, I am reminded that the path he walked, the death he died, and ultimately the defeat of death was not only to restore goodness and truth to this world but to restore beauty.
Easter is the promise of beauty now and beauty to come.
Restoring Beauty

When we first bought our home 15 years ago, our house was listed as having the most beautiful tree on the street. The realtor didn't lie.

Whether bare, full, or in-between, this tree has been a canopy for my body and soul. Sitting underneath its beauty and branches brings peace and pause to my restless mind and longing heart.

One afternoon, while sitting under its covering, the passing thought came, "what if this tree ever had to be cut down?" My immediate response was a deep sadness. A mourning and grief that surprised me. Tears for a tree?

As I reflected on this deep response, I was reminded this space is a space of beauty. It is where my longing for beauty meets God's provision of it. And if it were lost, there would be great sadness.

We all have these places of beauty in our lives. Under a tree, in a river, with a friend, with a beloved family member, in our work, and so many other places. We long for beauty and God provides it. And at the same time, my passing thought of this tree ever being cut down is a reality many of us have lived. Places of beauty have been broken, cut down, taken away, and remain un-mended. We are heart-broken.

As I think of Jesus and his path this Holy Week, I am reminded that the path he walked, the death he died, and ultimately the defeat of death was not only to restore goodness and truth to this world, but to restore beauty. The beauty of relationship, the beauty of creation, the beauty of wholeness. Jesus is restoring all that was beautiful and broken.

Easter is the promise of beauty now and beauty to come.

And one day beauty will be full and complete.

Until that day, we get to be a part of enjoying and restoring beauty here on this earth. Beauty that heals, beauty that lives beyond words. A beauty that meets the deepest longings of our souls.

This Holy Week, may God meet you with beauty, restore the broken beauty in your life, and lead you to create spaces of beauty for others.

Waiting and creating with you,

January 24, 2022
What can be challenging about spiritual practices, is that they include resistance
Resistance such as the pull of productivity, achievement, and results.
Resistance rooted in shame, lies, and performance.
Hitting Resistance

A few months ago I intentionally slowed down for a few weeks. I slowed down my productivity, my pace, and even how quickly I spoke and walked. Slowing down is a practice I could use more often! It is a spiritual practice that allows us to savor the moments, to see others, and to notice ourselves and God with us.

Along with the ambition to practice slowing down, resistance was close by. Resistance sounded like this:

  • Spiritual Practice: Slow down and savor the sunshine.
  • Resistance: Why aren't you finding more business and income?
  • Spiritual Practice: Slow down and listen to your kids stories.
  • Resistance: Why aren't you picking up their messes instead?
  • Spiritual Practice: Slow down and notice what is going on inside you.
  • Resistance: No one else has this luxury, why should you?
And if you notice, along with this pull of productivity is the voice of shame.

  • You could be doing more. Don't you see how much other people are doing?
  • You can't keep it together. What will people think of you?
  • You don't deserve to slow down. Who do you think you are?
Lovely, right?

What can be challenging about spiritual practices, is that they include resistance.

Resistance such as the pull of productivity, achievement, and results.

Resistance that is rooted in shame, lies, and performance.

Resistance that causes us to:

  • Stop. Flat out not even try.
  • Let our frustration lead.
  • Use our strength to overpower the resistance.
  • Ignore it.
So what do we do when we hit resistance?

We pause and we wonder.

Pause your spiritual practice and ask the question:

"I wonder what this resistance is revealing?"

  • Notice the words that come with this resistance. Do you notice words like those above?
  • Notice the emotions associated. Try to name something other than mad, glad, sad.
  • Pay attention to what your body wants to do. Does it want to curl up and hide? Does it want to hit something? Does it want to move and not sit still?
  • As you notice, name these things and talk to God about them. Ask for reminders of truth. Ask to hear God's gracious voice. Then, re-enter the spiritual practice and keep going.
When have you met resistance in your spiritual practices?
What have been the words, emotions, and responses within?
How might you practice curiosity as you wonder what is being revealed and how God might want to meet you in it?

Resistance is normal. You can expect it. If you find yourself continually frustrated, stuck, or don't know where to start, let me know by sending me an email. I'd love to set up a phone call with you!

December 6, 2021
Laugh away.
Connect with others.
Connect with God.
Leave things undone.
Let the adventures continue.
Fullness of Heart.

My son came back from a birthday dinner where he enjoyed Korean BBQ. As he described his time with friends, the games and laughter, and the baby squid he enjoyed, I couldn't help but notice the measurable difference between his everyday countenance and the post-party countenance. His heart was full.

This fullness of heart led to the following morning as well as the ripple effect of connection, laughter, and adventure flowed into his day. And as I think about our world today, maybe we all need a little bit more fullness of heart through connection, laughter, and adventure. And I can hear it now ...

There is so much that must be done.

I invite you to slow down, pause, and sit with this question:

What can you leave undone?

Take some time to write down some things that you can leave undone. After doing so, slow down, pause, and sit with this question:

And whose story can I enter rather than my to-do list?

Take some time to write down whose story you can enter now that you have taken some to-do's off your list.

Last question:

How will I do so?

Take some time to choose how you will enter another's story. Here are some ideas:
- Slowing down mealtime and staying at the table after finished.
- Reaching out to a friend for coffee or a walk.
- Getting on the floor to play with a child or grandchild.
- Trying a new recipe with someone.
- Choosing to listen more, talk less, and ask questions about someone's life.

This Advent, let go of the list and choose to enter and engage spaces and stories that lead to connection, laughter, and adventure with others. Find fullness of heart through the stories God is inviting you to be present to.

Laugh away.
Connect with others.
Connect with God.
Leave things undone.
Let the adventures continue.


With Fullness of Heart,

Laura
December 1, 2021
A few of my favorite things for stregntheing your soul!
A Few of My Favorite Things.

Gifting is my favorite. I LOVE giving gifts that are a perfect fit. Whether the gift meets a need, a situation, or is simply enjoyable. I love giving gifts. What is most important to me is the thoughtfulness and sharing of the gifts. The amount of money spent isn't as important as the thought put into giving the gift.

Naturally, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite gifts and tools for strengthening our souls. Some cost money others don't. Below are a few of my favorite things. These can be for you, these can be for others. In the spirit of giving gifts, here are a few of my favorite things!

Journaling Bible
These journaling bibles have been a practical and simple tool while reading Scripture, making observations, and asking my questions. There are spaces for note-taking and a small size that makes traveling with each journey easy. All books of the Bible are available in ESV. Here is a link to the Gospel of John.

Lectio365 App
The Lectio365 App is a beautifully created guide through Scripture and prayer. I am not one who loves listening through earbuds or my phone but what I found in this app was incredibly rich, inviting, and nourishing. Check it out here.

Outdoor Spaces and Quiet
This is likely not a shocker to anyone, but outdoor spaces and quiet spaces are an all-time favorite. To give or receive time, space, beauty, outdoors with no agenda or push for performance, is an incredible gift. This gift can be received at a retreat center or even in your front yard. Some friends have gone to these spaces and loved them. However, whenever, and wherever, this gift takes intention. And it is well worth it.

Books
There are books I come back to again and again. Each of these books ministers to, challenges, meets, and strengthens my life, leadership, and formation. If you're going to start with one, start with The Chronicles of Narnia and read them in original release order.

Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Compassion by Henri Nouwen
Working the Angles by Eugene Peterson

Guides
Coaches, therapists, spiritual directors, and mentors. Each one of these guides has a unique call and role in our formation. I have received from all of these types of guides throughout my life and I am SO VERY GRATEFUL. These men and women welcome us, help us notice our blind spots, give us courage, provide spaces of healing, help us listen for and to God, and so much more. If you don't have one or two of these currently in your life, find them. If you want to know how, please email me. I'd be glad to give you some resources.

Retreats
And last, but not least, retreats! We would love for you to join an upcoming retreat as well as one in the new year! Anyone is welcome to the monthly retreats. In addition, retreats can be gifted to teams, small groups, and friends. More information can be found here.

Whether it is a stocking stuffer, book, quiet, or a gift of support through a guide, my hope is that you would have great JOY in giving to whoever God has called you to give.

With joy

November 10, 2021
Digital Hospitality is creating a brave and protected space where people can show up and connect in meaningful ways.
What is Digital Hospitality?

As we all are more familiar with Zoom and FaceTime and wish we would have invested stock in Zoom in January 2020, we were all accelerated into this latest medium of communication - the digital space.

For some of us, this space has always been. For others, this is still an uncomfortable and new space. However you enter this space, we all enter it.

If the digital space is here to stay, how can we connect and communicate in a meaningful way through it?

This is what Digital Hospitality is all about.

Digital Hospitality is creating a brave and protected space where people can show up and connect in meaningful ways. Brave in that it takes courage to show up in the small box on the screen - mind, heart, body, and soul. Protected in that there are persons creating the space and atmosphere, providing guidelines for all who come.

You might still have some questions about this. Great! We are all learning this medium and how to use it well. Here are a few you might have:

Q: When can I use Digital Hospitality?

A: Digital Hospitality can be used and applied in any digital interaction. Whether a board meeting, book club, small group meeting, bible study, one on one conversation, coaching, or a therapy session, digital hospitality applies.

Q: How can hospitality be practiced without a physical space?

A: Great question. Hospitality is more than a place, it is a posture we hold. Hospitality can be practiced and taken anywhere with us, it doesn't have to include a house or even food (though food is good!). You can be hospitable to the grocery store cashier by asking a question and caring about this person. Maybe even a conversation comes up from it. You can be hospitable when you have people in your home. Hospitality is a posture we hold and take with us. Even in the digital space.

Q: Doesn't the Digital Space negate the value of in-person connecting?

A: Every communication medium has benefits and downfalls. For example, in-person limits who can show up. Digital does not limit that. In-person allows us to be physically in the same space with people, recognizing physical presence is important and powerful. Digital does not include this. Both have value and we are learning and practicing which communication medium can and should be used when. (By the way, this is the type of question that comes up whenever any form of new communication is presented: telephone, printing press, cell phones, email, etc)

Q: What is the greatest hindrance to digital hospitality?

A: Ourselves. Just like in-person hospitality, we are the greatest hindrance - our anxieties, the parts of ourselves we close off, our drive to present everything perfect, our lack of clarity. When we bring in our nervousness, people can sense it. When we are inauthentic, people hold back. When we are more worried about perfection rather than being present, people don't feel free. When people don't know what to expect they get nervous and are not free to show up as is.

Q: How can I learn and grow in Digital Hospitality?

A: I am so glad you asked! There are two upcoming cohorts. One is a six-week speed cohort where you will learn and practice Digital Hospitality. The second is a 9-month cohort where you will learn, dig, apply in real life, the practice of Digital Hospitality.

Click here to learn about the 6-week cohort.
Click here to learn about the 9-month cohort.
Feel free to email me with any questions!

Let's continue to learn and lean into this Digital Space, creating brave and protected spaces where people can show up and connect in meaningful ways and for purposeful work.


October 18, 2021
Where does your soul breathe? The space where your shoulders drop, you are not thinking of the next things, the emotions show up, and your lungs expand and rest.
Space for Your Soul.

Where does your soul breathe? The space where your shoulders drop, you are not thinking of the next things, the emotions show up, and your lungs expand and rest.

Maybe it is in one of these places:
  • The outdoors
  • Conversation with friends
  • Good food
  • A cleaned house
  • Slowing down
  • Laughter
  • Being with animals
  • Therapy
  • Spiritual Direction
  • Exploring art
  • Traveling
  • Retreats
  • Intimacy with your spouse
  • Singing
  • ...
Where does your soul breathe?

Have you had these spaces lately?

We all need these spaces that rest our bodies, slow our minds, allow our emotions to show up, and our souls to expand. And they are different for different people and in various seasons. But, we all need them.

What might it take to have these spaces?
What choices do you have in front of you to choose this space?


My space of choice is my front yard. A huge oak tree provides a spacious and secure canopy. I love this tree and sit under it regularly. My soul breathes here.

I also love a cleaned house. We have made a way to budget a once-a-month cleaning team for our home and I never thought the service and gift of a cleaned home would make space for my soul. But it does.

Where does your soul breathe? And what will you do to make space for it?

Breathing with you,

September 20, 2021
A posture of possibility assumes the limitations of one's knowledge (humility), frees oneself from the expectation of perfection (love), practices curiosity (faith), and receives what comes (acceptance).
Uncertainty and Doubt

When in doubt, try it out. When in doubt, slow it down. When in doubt, _______.


I just made that up.

But seriously,

How would you fill in that last blank?

When in doubt, ___________.

We all have tendencies when it comes to doubt. Trying it out keeps the momentum going. Slowing it down allows for wisdom to enter. And there are other tendencies that help us through our doubts and uncertainties. And arguably there is no right or wrong with these tendencies.

Just as there is not a right or wrong tendency, there is not a one size fits all answer to how we respond. Every situation and each person is unique with complexities and layers of context. One thing we can do to prepare for these opportunities for doubt is to have a posture of possibility.

What is a posture of possibility?

A posture of possibility assumes the limitations of one's knowledge (humility), frees oneself from the expectation of perfection (love), practices curiosity (faith), and receives what comes (acceptance).

  • Humility in assuming we don't know everything.
  • Freedom believing we are loved no matter what.
  • Faith that stays curious as to what might be.
  • Acceptance of reality and that keeps moving.
And just like any type of posture, practicing makes us stronger.

How can we practice this posture?


  • Question your certainties. Practice humility by holding your certainties open to questions. I am not saying to throw out your convictions. I am saying to practice humility.
  • Believe you are beloved. Practice sitting with God and with the words God has for you in Scripture and in prayer. You are beloved, no matter what.
  • Practice wonder. When you encounter something you don't know, be inquisitive. Start with a phrase like, "I wonder…"
  • Accept reality with open hands. Accept what is. This does not mean we bow out of responsibility nor do we ignore our feelings. It means we accept reality and do something (ie injustice, sin, wrongdoing). It also means we accept reality and include our emotions, grief, sadness, frustration, joy, excitement.
I would love to hear about how you enter uncertainty and doubt. It sure isn't fun, but it certainly is there.

With you,


September 13, 2021
When we choose to only read Scripture without being read by it, we are missing out on the possibility of transformation, connection, feeling felt and known by the God who created us.
Stay Open. Listen. Pray.

We all know the feeling of being read. When a person listens to us and can read between the lines of what we're saying. When someone listens and is able to repeat back what we said with clarity. When for a moment, we feel seen and known.

Being read can be a beautiful and bonding moment.

It can also be a threatening moment as we were not ready to be seen or known.

Typically, we prefer to be reading. When we are reading, we are in control. Whether it is a person, a situation, a film, an Instagram story, a book, or anything else with content, we'd prefer to be in power.

In his book for pastors, Working the Angles, Eugene Peterson talks about reading Scripture and being read by Scripture. When we read Scripture, we are deciding when to pick up and read and when to shut it down, and we hold some semblance of control. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Yet, when we choose to only read Scripture without being read by it, we are missing out on the possibility of transformation, connection, feeling felt and known by the God who created us.

So, how can we open ourselves up to being read, to connection, and to transformation?

Practice Voluntary Openness
First, we make a choice. The choice to open up to God. This is a voluntary choice that only you can make. If you're having a hard time with this, it might be worth asking a good friend or talking to a Spiritual Director about this.

Practice Listening
After choosing openness, we practice listening. One way is to listen to portions of Scripture on an App (I enjoy the Dwell App). Practice listening to five minutes of Scripture regularly (3-4 times a week). Listen in a distraction-free environment. Before and after the listening time, ask God to open your ears and heart to hear from him. Notice the words that linger with you, the emotions that come up, and even the frustrations and disturbances. Your questions, emotions, and responses are evidence of being read and something is going on in you.

Pray
What I mean by prayer here is we stay in the dialogue with God. Those questions that have come up repeatedly in your listening, the emotions that are strong and linger, the annoyances or frustrations, talk to God about them. Whatever has come up, stay in the conversation and stay curious.

Let God read you and stay with God.

Voluntary openness, listening, and prayer. This is one way to stay connected to God, to grow in love and faith in the God who spoke the world into being. And who still speaks into our beings.

With you,

Laura



August 19, 2021
This is about much more than how to be a face in a box.
And people want to know and feel that they are more than a box.
Can We Build Community Online?

This question is on the mind of local church leaders and global non-profit organizations. It is also on the mind of both those who are eager to come back to church and those who will not step back into a church building. This question is pregnant with potential and the unknown.

This is about much more than how to be a face in a box.

And people want to know and feel that they are more than a box.

Whether you are hosting a one on one coaching client, a small group bible study, or a meeting, everyone in that digital space wants to matter and for their time to be worth it. So how do we do that?

These past 18 months, my team and I have found ways of connection and meaning in the digital space, through hosting dozens of Digital Silent Retreats. One way is through the Christian practice of Hospitality.

This is why we've created the Digital Hospitality Cohorts. These are spaces to learn, practice, and grow in our welcome of those in digital spaces.

These curated small groups will be a combination of training, contextualized experience, and group feedback and reflection.

These cohorts will:
  • Include up to 8 persons who meet monthly for 9 months.
  • Allow time and space to practice Digital Hospitality in real-time, and in your own contexts.
  • Give times of reflection together on our learnings and the application of those learnings.
  • Incorporate readings on early and current ways of Christian Hospitality - both modern and ancient - and current best practices of welcoming in the digital space.
At the end of the cohort, you will:
  • Personally experience community in the digital space.
  • Have tangible ways to practice hospitality in the digital space.
  • Be prepared to open up, engage, and build community in the digital space.
Our Fall cohort beings in September and we would love for you to join!

To learn more and apply, click here!

If you have questions or curiosities, please send an email!

Gratefully,
August 13, 2021
The Psalms invite us to the freedom of expressing emotions. And even more specifically, expressing them to God.
Here We Go Again.

This past month I had the opportunity to preach through Psalm 40 a few times. How little did I know how much this Psalm would be needed for what we are going through? I have needed this Psalm and my hope is that it has been an encouragement to others.

One thing I love about the Psalms is that they are full of emotion. You will find every emotion in the Psalms. Not only do we find them, but we also find that God does not rebuke them nor does God turn a blind eye to our emotions. There is not a solution to our emotions or a mandate that we cut them short. The Psalms invite us to the freedom of expressing emotions. And even more specifically, expressing them to God. God hears them and can handle all that we bring. For God is a God of emotions.

Going back to Psalm 40, the writer is all over the place. Cries and confidence, desires and dependence, reality and rescue, hope and healing are found in his words. He does not deny the brokenness of the world, the reality of his situation, nor his dependence on God. He lays it all out. And even as God rescues David once, David needs rescue again, and again, and again.

And oh how we can relate to this!

The world is broken and we need rescue.

Here we go again.

David doesn't keep his words to himself, his song to himself, but he tells others about it. He tells others about his cries, his need, his rescue, and the God who met him. As God gives him a new song to sing, he sings and tells it to others. Not a cliche, rose-colored glasses song, but a song that includes it all. He sings his whole song. We need one another, we need each other's stories, and we need spaces to share all we are going through. We need rescue … and we need each other.

My hope is that you can release and cry out to God your emotions and that there are others who will listen to your anger, sadness, frustrations, and more. That we can hold space for one another's emotions as we continue to live in this time and in the ways God is inviting us. With dependence and freedom to trust and cry out.

PS If you are someone who has the strength and sense of call to hold spaces for people in these times and in the digital space, let me know. The Digital Hospitality Cohort might be just for you.

June 7, 2021
What is your first response to the word, "rest?" Maybe you long for it. Maybe you don't have time for it. Maybe you think it is a pipe dream. Maybe you are resistant to it?
Resistant to Rest

"Pace yourself." "Focus on your breathing." "Take a break, Laura." "Rest."

I became familiar with these instructions from my swim coach. He was an Olympic medalist who had coached beginners (myself), amateurs, and professionals. He knew what he was talking about. Even so, there was something in me that resisted his instruction. All I wanted to do is get stronger and faster. I eventually submitted to his words, trusting he knew what he was talking about (and choking on water).

For some of us, we have been hearing similar words. "Slow down." "Focus on your breathing." "Listen to your body." "Rest."

These words are invitations to rest. This invitation from God who sees and knows what he is talking about. This God values you more than he does your strength, your productivity, your performance, or your perfection. What is your first response to the word, "rest?" Maybe you long for it. Maybe you don't have time for it. Maybe you think it is a pipe dream. Maybe you are resistant to it?

We all have a little (or a lot) of resistance to rest. Like a screaming toddler who says he is not tired. We resist rest. Yet God knows us and continues to invite us to resist.

How can we face resistance and respond to God's invitation to rest?

One way is offered below. You are encouraged to take it slow. Trust God's pace in and through it. Consider going through this with a trusted friend, loved one, or someone in your life who listens well.

Facing our Resistance and Resting

- Name the resistance. When you think about rest, are you resistant to it? How come? (Take your time answering this question as your initial response may be but a surface response and something deeper is going on)

- Ask God to reveal to you any pain associated with this resistance. Ask God to reveal to you any sin associated with this resistance.

- Confess your sin and hold fast to the truth that God sees and hears your confession. God meets you in his grace through assurance of forgiveness.
Hold fast to the truth that God sees and hears your pain. God meets you with his grace and comfort.
(This might be an especially important and needed place to have a friend hold this with you).

- Try resting. Each day, for a week, read this Scripture slowly. Notice any word or phrase that stands out to you. Carry that word or phrase with you throughout your day.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Your word might simply be, "Come." You are doing good to come to Jesus.
Your phrase might be, "give you." To believe God wants to give you rest.
Your phrase might be, "gentle." To believe that God is not as hard on you as you thought.
Your phrase might be, "learn." To believe you don't have to be the expert.

However you choose to enter rest, you are always invited to God's rest. You are not alone in facing resistance. Let's rest together.

Resting,



May 17, 2021
We all need rest. We need it in different ways and for different reasons. But we all need rest.
We All Need Rest.

Our family has been watching Marvel movies. It has been fun to introduce our kids to the characters of Ironman, Captain Marvel, Black Panther, Black Widow, Captain America, Thor, and so many more superheroes. In one of the movies, Ironman has found a solution that will restore the world. No one else has found this solution and he tells his love, Pepper,

"I can stop. If you want me to, I can put a pin in it right now, and stop."
She, knowing him very well, wisely responded, "But would you be able to rest?"


We all need rest. We need it in different ways and for different reasons. But we all need rest.

When we think of rest, we most often think of sleep. And for good reason! Our bodies need rest and sleep is a primary way of receiving that rest!

Yet there are other ways we need rest. Rest from making decisions. Rest from the fast pace. Rest from activities. Rest from pain. Rest from social pressures. Rest from pursuing security. Rest from striving for affirmation. Rest from fill in the blank.

Many times our response to our need for rest includes working harder and faster or withdrawing and escaping. Nothing against working hard or pulling away, but when we seek rest through those means, then we miss the gift of receiving rest.

So, how can we receive rest?

Most of us have received rest in our lives. We know what it is to have full rest and to soak it in. Rather than pushing you towards analysis, I want you to reflect and imagine with me.

Reflect and Imagine

- Reflect on a time you felt most rested.

Maybe it was after a good meal with friends. Or a night of interrupted sleep. Maybe it was when you finished that one thing that kept you awake. For some of you, it might be an extended time in nature or a slow walk in the woods. It might have included solitude and silence or maybe robust and meaningful conversation.

Reflect on that time. Don't analyze it, just reflect and take yourself back to that time.

- Imagine yourself back in that time.

How long has it been since you felt this way? A few days, weeks, years?
Friend, how long has it been?

- Now, imagine receiving this type of rest and space for rest in the near future.

What does it look like? What will it take to make space for it? Who do you need to ask to help you or be part of it?

- Then, receive it. Enter into the time and space and receive the rest God has for you.

As you rediscover and welcome rest back in your life, I'd love to hear about it. It is a joy for me to hear your stories and learn from you! As you rest, I pray you rest deeply and with a fullness of joy. Rest well, friends.

Resting with you.
April 30, 2021
"You will learn to be gracious towards others when learn to be gracious to yourself".
Be Generous ... to Yourself.

"You will learn to be gracious towards others when learn to be gracious to yourself".

These were the words of my supervisor during my chaplain internship at the public hospital in town. Her words still resonate and repeat, 10 years later.

For the past year and a half, one of my daily practices has been a form of the Practice of Examen. Each morning (with some missed days), I bullet point things I am grateful for, those things I am sad about, and how I want to be generous that day. My paper and pencil journal literally looks like this:

Date:

  • Gratitude:
  • Grieving:
  • Generous:
Having done this practice with others as well, one thing stands out —- 50% of the time our "Generous" category is towards ourselves. Half of our days we find ourselves saying that we want to be generous and gracious with ourselves. Over and over again are the words, "be gracious and generous to myself".

There really is something about receiving generosity, of receiving grace that we need. That our generosity is rooted in receiving.

I wonder if it is the reason that Scripture often talks about receiving salvation, working out our salvation, and that our salvation is a strong foundation for us. And learning or giving grace to ourselves is based in the ability to receive the greatest grace and generosity offered - life in Jesus.

How might you receive God's generosity today? And how might you be generous towards others?


April 26, 2021
Generosity has never been about us. It has always been about reflecting the heart of God. And the heart of God is enough, it is limitless, and it can do it all.
Generosity.

Generosity is a value rooted in my family of origin. There was enough food for the unexpected guest, a readiness to share home-baked bread with those living on the streets, and a regular posture of giving. We didn't necessarily have a lot of things, but what we had was shared.
As a child, this would sometimes frustrate me. The unexpected guest interrupted my world. The sharing of bread meant that I didn't get to choose who the bread went to. My posture was not necessarily one ready to give, but it was the posture of my parents.
I haven't done the work to figure out what gave my family this posture, how they developed it, or why it eventually trickled down. What I have seen is that generosity is dependent on receiving.

Generosity is dependent on receiving.

Sounds strange, doesn't it?

When you think about generosity, what do you think of first?

Maybe you think ...
What will it require of me?
How much do I have to give?
What does the world need?

When you think about generosity, what do you think of first?

What we think about first often reveals what our generosity is based on.
If we think about what it will require of us, we base our generosity on our ability to and extent of sacrifice.
If we think about what we have, we base our generosity on our resources.
If we think about what the world needs, we base our generosity on the needs of others.

These are not bad things.

But if we based our generosity on any of these things we will find ourselves never enough, with a scarcity mindset, or a savior complex.

Never enough. I am not enough.
Scarcity mindset. I do not have enough.
Savior complex. I cannot do enough.


Generosity has never been about us. It has always been about reflecting the heart of God. And the heart of God is enough, it is limitless, and it can do it all.

And that is why generosity is about RECEIVING first. Our ability to be generous is based in the limitless love and resources of the God of the universe.

In Jesus, we are enough, we have enough, and we do what Jesus has called us to do.

Receiving with you,



April 12, 2021
Interruptions are inevitable. Interruptions might be intentional.
How is God inviting you to respond to the interruptions?
Interruptions.

I am not a big fan of interruptions. In fact, I might go as far as to say I hate them, especially when I am on a mission. Don't stand in my way, edit what I am doing, or slow me down. Let me finish the job.

It is not a pretty picture.

This post-resurrection story provides a different picture for us.
Let's take notice.


After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you."
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Matthew 28:1-9
(NIV)


As I read the story, I cannot help but be struck by the women's response to the interruptions. (Admittedly, the guards' response is quite hilarious).

First response - they don't become like dead men.
Second response - they follow the angel's instructions.
Third response - they worship.

These women stand in stark contrast to my natural response to interruptions. What do you imagine your response would be?


Put yourself in the story:

How do you imagine you would respond to this interruption?
What might you be thinking or feeling if you were interrupted during the task you were completing?


Now imagine your present reality:

When has God interrupted you lately? What was your response?
Did you push through, telling God to wait?
Did you avoid God's interruption because you didn't want to slow down?
Did you stop and listen, welcoming God's voice?
Did you worship?


Now consider what Jesus is inviting you to:

In the interruptions, might there be an invitation?
Maybe it is an invitation to listen? To rest? To consider someone else? To consider God?
How might you open yourself up to considering interruptions as invitations?



Interruptions are inevitable. Interruptions might be intentional.
How is God inviting you to respond to the interruptions?

Growing with you


March 22, 2021
When Jesus calls us to confession, he doesn't do so to meet us with shallowness or shame.
He meets us with his strength.
Meeting Confession with Strength

For years I wrote the corporate confessions used in the liturgy of our worship services. It was always curious to me why this assignment fell to me. It wasn't a curiosity of "what do I need to learn from this?" as much as it was a curiosity of "why me?" As I continued to lead, I continued to learn. I began to see the great vulnerability that is required as well as the incredible freedom it brings. And I began to see the ways we have mishandled and misshapen this most tender of spiritual practices. It is with great tenderness and conviction that I write this post.

Ever since our first mother and father met the crafty serpent and disobeyed God, we have been prone to shallowness and shame. Not only prone to it but wired to it.
(We are also prone to blame and hiding, but we'll leave those wonderful realities to another post).

What I encounter so often in myself, in others, and amongst Christians is that the practice of confession is often met with shallowness or shame.

Shallowness, when we hear "it is okay!" when it is really not okay.
Shame, when we hear (in our heads or from another), "you should have known better" when in fact we did know better yet we couldn't do better. Our sin is not okay and we do not have the strength to do better.

When Jesus calls us to confession, he calls us to honesty, sorrow, and freedom. Honesty to name our sin and the reality of its effects. Sorrow for the wrong that we did. And freedom from the guilt of the sin, the hold it has on us, and the strength to live differently. In confession, we find that we do not have the strength, but Jesus does. In confession, we are met with grace, forgiveness, and the power to live rightly. In confession, we find that it is not okay, and we respond in humility as Jesus did.

Jesus does not meet us with shallowness or shame.

He meets us with his strength.


Jesus responds with the words, "You are forgiven".

Jesus responds to our confession with his strength.

In the same way, we also respond to others with the words, "you are forgiven." We respond with the strength of Jesus.

In Christ, you are forgiven.

These repeated words and truth give us the courage and confidence to continue to confess, each and every time. Because friend, there will be another time.

As you practice confession and receive confession, do so with honesty, sorrow, and trust that in Christ, you are forgiven.



March 15, 2021
Whether external or internal, when invited to stillness, we respond. We can reject it, avoid it, or embrace it.
In the stillness, is God good?
In the questions and our fears, is he good?

A Holy Stillness.

A year ago the world stood still. As it did, we started shifting, we adapted to new practices, and it was pretty uncomfortable. In this stillness, we responded in different ways. Some of us took on new practices and started gardening, renovating, and make sourdough bread. Others retreated further into their homes, families, as all that was happening overwhelmed. Some embraced the stillness, slowed down, and looked to learn from it. I say this not to offer praise or critique, but simply to say, we all responded to the stillness.

The obvious stillness we were invited to this last year was external. We stayed home, worked from home, school was at home, we sheltered-in-place, we didn't go to stores, we didn't travel, and so much more.

Another stillness we were invited to was one of inner stillness. We started noticing our divisions, the pains of people, the gap between rich and poor, and the character of our leaders. And we all responded to this as well.

Whether external or internal, when invited to stillness, we respond. We can reject it, avoid it, or embrace it. Likely it is a mixture of all those responses. At the foundation of these responses are beliefs and questions. Some of them might include:

  • If I am still, I will miss out on getting ahead.
  • If I am still, no one will take care of these problems.
  • If I am still, that means I am weak.
  • If I am still, will I see something I can't do anything about?
  • If I am still, what if I hear something that overwhelms me?
  • If I am still, what if something comes up that I don't know how to handle?
  • If I am still, what will people think of me?
  • If I am still, can God be trusted?
  • If I am still, …..
And it is God who meets us in these questions, our beliefs, and thoughts when we are still. It is God who invites us to know and see him in the stillness. It is God who says, "I've got good gifts for you, I cannot give anything but good to you."

In the stillness, is God good?
In the questions and our fears, is he good?


It is one thing for us to say it and another thing to believe. To believe it more and more each day.

As we move closer to Holy Week and Easter Sunday, I want to invite you to a Digital Silent Retreat on Easter Weekend. Spots are available for either Good Friday or Holy Saturday from 9-12 CST. On this retreat, we will be together and we will be still. We will accept the invitation to a Holy Stillness as we trust that God meets us with his goodness and love.

Please join us. We'd love to have you.

Trusting his goodness,

March 8, 2021
Jesus often asked these types of questions. Ones that pierced through our excuses, our defenses, and our hearts. Questions that showed care and gave us clarity.
The Questions that Pierce

I woke up to a WhatsApp message from a friend that read, "Laura, what are you saying yes to in this season of your studies that is overburdening you?" Followed by, "How can you lighten the load on yourself to have more time and capacity to enjoy your studies and the work related to it?"

I had just shared with her how I am not looking forward to the reading lists for my coursework coming up. Thus, her response.

My response: Ugh.

Two questions that I didn't want to hear. Here were my reasons:
- I thought I was doing a good job of saying no to things!
- I want to stay in this feeling of annoyance.
- I cannot imagine what CAN BE let go of right now.

I didn't want to hear these piercing questions from my friend.

Yet these questions were exactly what I needed to hear.

Skillful questions that cut to the heart and through my excuses and defenses.


Once I could get past my initial response I could see the gift of these questions. She offered them out of care and for the sake of clarity. Don't we all want friends like this who care about us?

Jesus often asked these types of questions. Ones that pierced through our excuses, our defenses, and our hearts. Questions that showed care and gave us clarity.

What are some piercing questions you have heard lately? Do you allow yourself the discomfort of hearing them? Do you have people in your life that ask the questions? Are you one that is bold enough to ask them?

How will you allow others and Jesus to ask the questions that pierce?

March 1, 2021
What do we do when our stillness shows us just how loud the world is around us?
What do we do with all we see and hear?

Birds and Squirrels.

It was a year ago Craig and I took our last airplane flights. Little did we know we'd be grounded for weeks and months to go. We weren't going to as many places, we weren't eating out, we weren't spending time with family and friends. We were grounded in our homes and neighborhoods. This grounding led to a stillness.

As we shifted and slowed down we started noticing things. The birds around us were a lot louder and more abundant. The squirrels were braver as they scampered between our chairs. Neighbors existed that we never knew, and so many dogs! In the stillness we gained sight. In the stillness we noticed the world around us.

And as we were grounded, the stillness began to ground us. To ground us in things that mattered - people, creation, and the pains of the world. We were grounded, yet the stillness was grounding us. It was grounding us more into the heart of God.

Admittedly, this past year has been quite overwhelming. The pains of the world are really loud. Maybe they were always loud but now, for the first time we can hear them. And maybe that is what is needed right now. For us to see and hear.

So what do we do?
What do we do when our stillness shows us just how loud the world is around us?
What do we do with all we see and hear?


The Three G's:

At the beginning of 2020 I began a Practice of Examen I have coined "The Three G's". This is a simple, steady, and daily practice of writing and praying the following:

Gratitude: Thank God for the awareness and sensitivity to see and hear. What a gift to see and hear the things that are close to the heart of God.
Grieving: Allow yourself to feel, cry out, and long for more on behalf of the brokenness you see and hear.
Generosity: Now that you can see and hear, how is God inviting you to love? Choose to move in these ways of love.

This past year God has given us many opportunities to be still. As you sit in stillness, what might God then call you to give?

PS If it has been a challenge for you to be still, I welcome to you to one of the upcoming silent retreats. In this space you will have a framework and freedom to be still.

Sitting with you,



February 22, 2021
And I don't have answers for you. If this past year has taught us anything it is that answers will not suffice. Yet there are practices we can live.
Trauma Tired.

I honestly don't know how to begin this post. All I know is that so many are tired. Trauma tired.

Stories such as:

  • A violence protection shelter for women being flooded and over 120 women and children needing to be moved safely.
  • Asian Americans being attacked because of their ethnicity.
  • Millions without power and water for over three days.
  • Lack of access to an ICU bed because the hospital doesn't have the power it needs.
  • Moving hundreds of the most vulnerable only to have the threat of a roof that might cave in.
  • Inability to be with a dying family member because of COVID travel restrictions.
And these are only a few things I have heard the past week. Many of you have heard similar stories and more.

For the past 11 months our planet and people have experienced repeated hits. So much so that just as we try to begin to recover or find a new normal, we are hit again. AGain disoriented, with attempts to steady ourselves and recover from a new wound.

And I don't have answers for you. If this past year has taught us anything it is that answers will not suffice. Answers will not solve, heal, or stop the hits from coming.

Yet there are practices we can live.

  • Rest and receive. There are others who are not as tired as you are. I promise they are out there. When someone offers help and space, receive it and rest from problem solving, jumping in to help, and figuring things out. And if no one offers, seek it out and ask for help.
  • Ask God the Questions. All those questions, tensions, anger, and contradictions in your head - ask God about them. Doubt does not mean you are far from God. You might be quite near. Cole Arthur Riley says it best, "The world is enduring mass death and trauma. To believe is to risk. Doubt doesn't alienate you from the divine, it often means you're approaching it." Ask your questions. God is ready to listen.
  • Let things go. When I was a chaplain in a public hospital my supervisor told me, "You will give grace to others when you learn to give grace to yourself." That has stuck with me especially when I am exhausted and ready to attack others. You cannot have it all together. No one can with what we're facing. Give yourself grace.
If you are looking for a space to rest and receive, to ask those questions, and to let things go, I'd love for you to join a special retreat on March 13th (details below). You will have space for Lament - a way of living that God has given us.

He has not left us alone in our world. And I would love for you to see, experience, and know this.

With you,


February 11, 2021
When I think about hospitality I think about two things: being prepared and having a posture.
The Posture of Hospitality.

"The paradox of hospitality is that it wants to create emptiness, not a fearful emptiness, but a friendly emptiness where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free; free to sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dances; free also to leave and follow their own vocations." - Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out

A while ago I had lunch with a friend in a beautiful and well kept setting. The welcome and space was beyond my imagination. The table next to us had the fireplace spot. Even so, when the guests got cold they asked for a warm blanket to put over their legs. The attendant quickly came with plush, folded blankets for their guests. The hospitality and readiness to provide all the guests needed was quite evident.

When you think of hospitality, what do you imagine? Do you imagine a place like this? Does the space look a certain way? Feel a certain way? How about the hosts? What are they like?

When I think about hospitality I think about two things: being prepared and having a posture. I have most felt welcomed and received when the hosts are prepared and have a posture of welcome. This posture includes many things and one of the things it includes is spaciousness. Spaciousness of pace, conversation, and to receive.

One of the pillars of the Digital Silent Retreats is hospitality.

Hospitality as a posture more so than a place. A posture that provides welcome, gives space, and framework for someone to enter and expand. To take deeper breaths and receive the gifts of the space. To be filled through rest and find what is provided is what they needed. To grow enough to be able to walk back into their worlds with increased strength and courage.

This hospitality is offered on every Digital Silent Retreat through trusted and caring guidance. And my hope for you is that on retreat you will receive what you need to go back into your worlds with renewed strength and courage to live, love, and give.

In future emails, be on the lookout for retreat dates as well as well as additional members to the facilitation team. These facilitators are trusted guides who have been places of hospitality to me and it is a joy to share them with you!


January 25, 2021
Bellies up, on our backs, half-dipped heads and arms out.
We float.
Deep breath. And float.
Just Float.


I went to bed Friday night so excited to lead the Digital Silent Retreat Saturday morning. The space was full and two retreaters had recently been married. We were going to start with celebration!

Then Saturday morning hit. Bickering children, hurt feelings, and a dog that wanted to chase bunnies through the mud. All before 7 am. Not quite the quiet I would soon be inviting retreaters into.

It took a while to settle internally. Then it took some discipline to get out of a warm bed that held comfort away from the chaos. It made me chuckle at the phrase "the calm before the storm". What I longed for is the "calm after the storm"!

For many of us, the storm(s) continue. Both acute and global. The world-wide pandemic with its crashing and calm waves as new strains of the virus enter and vaccines continue. The chaos of our complex political powers (whatever country you reside it) and the comforts we look for in them. And just when we think we can take a breath, another news story reminds us that we are still gasping for air.

We all long for the calm after these storms. The peace that comes from quieted waters. We want them to be over. And yet they continue. What do we do?

We float.

Bellies up, on our backs, half-dipped heads and arms out.

We float.

Deep breath. And float.

In this most vulnerable position we float, we rest, and we trust. The position any young swimmer is taught to return to when in danger. On your back and float.

Maybe you need to float. As much as you long for that perfectly quiet space and place (and may it come!). For now, you need to float.

Loosen up, let go, and trust.

Deep breath. And float.

Rest, play, and retreat. Put aside the to-do list, slow down the day, enjoy the presence of others. Listen to the stories of Scripture, in books, of others. Loosen up, let go, and trust.

The choice is yours. How will you choose to float?

On the water with you,

January 18, 2021
Community gives us courage.
Courage. Community. And Cake!

I love learning about things, especially if it involves CAKE! I recently discovered that King Cake is not only for a day, but for a SEASON. Epiphany through Shrove Tuesday, before the Christian liturgical season of Lent begins is when you eat King Cake. So naturally, I went and bought a King Cake and wish I could share it with you on this MLK, Jr. Day.

Years ago, my kids also made a cake on MLK, Jr. day. They even included his mustache in the candy-created portrait of Dr. King. As we enjoyed the delicious cake, we talked about Dr. King and discussed what they were learning about him in school. We reflected on his work, story, and the character qualities he exemplified.

One character quality I cannot help but reflect on is Dr. King's courage. His courage to go against the orders of his day. The courage, like the Three Kings in Jesus's story, that went against the orders of the king of that day. How did he do it? How did they? How do we? While there are many ways, experiences, and learnings that are a part of courage, one to highlight is community.

Community gives us courage.

In community, we do things we would never do on our own. In fact, it was a member of King's community that encouraged him to tell the people about the dream that launched him into his "I Have a Dream" sermon. Click here for a clip on that history.

Courage. Community. And Cake.

What is God calling you to be courageous about? And who has God given you to do it with? Whoever and whatever it is, do it courageously and with some cake!
January 11, 2021
When change happens TO US it requires a surrender we weren't expecting and griefs that catch us by surprise. We respond in a variety of ways. And it is really hard to answer the question, "Is it worth it?" And at some point we might find ourselves asking God the question, "Is it worth it?"
Walking in Change
Out our front window I am watching a home be deconstructed. The machinery, the workers, the pieces of wood and metal been torn down and emptied into a dumpster truck. The deconstruction is loud and I imagine quite messy. The owners of the home are not there, they have found another place to stay for a bit.

As I watch, I cannot help but think: "Is it worth it?" All the mess, the being displaced, the time, energy and resources, "is it worth it?". Our neighbors have raised their children and now have grandchildren. They have worked hard, giving of themselves faithfully. They are choosing this because they can. When change and deconstruction are a choice, the "worth" can be clear. When it happens to us, the "worth" is quite hazy.

I continue to hear stories of people who have worked hard, served faithfully in the church and given of themselves. They have poured themselves out to the work of the church … but the church is changing, and they are being deconstructed.

Why does it have to change?


The difference between my neighbors and us? My neighbors chose deconstruction, they chose change. Many of us who find our faith in deconstruction did not choose it. It is happening to us.

When change happens TO US it requires a surrender we weren't expecting and griefs that catch us by surprise. We respond in a variety of ways. And it is really hard to answer the question, "Is it worth it?" And at some point we might find ourselves asking God the question, "Is it worth it?"

So, what do we do in the mess? In the uncertainty? In the unanswered questions?

How do we trust in the midst of change?

What have we been given to walk in this time?

  1. Anchors
  2. Conflict
  3. Community
#2 is not a typo. Yes, anchors, community, and even conflict. If you are in a time of deconstruction, you are not alone nor is your faith failing. In fact, you may need a bit of rest, some reminders, and others (including the Holy Spirit) to carry some of the work for you.

There are various spiritual practices to walk in in this time of transition and change. One of these is Spiritual Direction. If you are curious about it, please reach out. I'd love to hear more from you and share more about this spiritual practice.

As we walk in change, my hope and prayer is that you have others to walk with, trusting you are not alone nor is your faith failing. And that our Anchor, Jesus, holds you in it all.


January 6, 2021
In these three men we find ourselves: those who long to follow the way of Jesus, to offer Jesus our gifts, and in the meantime tempted by evil or sin - whether we know it or not.
The Three Kings and Discernment

I confess I am an amateur when it comes to the church calendar and a novice when it comes to Three Kings Day. Growing up, we celebrated this day by eating fish and a dish called Kuku, neither of which I enjoyed. In my mind it is spelled "coo-coo" because only crazy people enjoyed it! In the past years I began to learn and engage the church calendar. And in 2020 I leaned deeper into Advent, Christmastide, and Three Kings Day, growing in the beauty of identifying with those who were so near the Christ child.

A few of these people were the three wise men, also know as three kings, also known as the Magi. Matthew 2:1-12 tells the story of these men following a star to visit the Christ child, Jesus. Their story tells of the account of following this star, and having a secret meeting with a deceptive ruler, asking them to report back the whereabouts of the child. These men found Jesus, worshipped him, and gave gifts, but they did not report back to the ruler. They disobeyed his order and they went back home another way.

They disobeyed the king of that day after the worshipped the King of all time.

Why? And how did they know? The story doesn't describe some top-secret knowledge, or the use of their own intellect, or resources. It was through a dream these men were told not to return. And they obeyed. They changed direction.

In these three men we find ourselves: those who long to follow the way of Jesus, to offer Jesus our gifts, and in the meantime tempted by evil or sin - whether we know it or not. Sometimes these temptations are straightforward and other times deceptive. Whatever they are, they are temptations that we find ourselves facing and we need discernment to go another way.

How do we learn this type of discernment?

To be able to notice these temptations and to go another way?

One way is through the practice of Spiritual Direction. Spiritual Direction is a space that you and another/others pay attention to the voice of God in your life. This ability to recognize the promptings, nudges, echoes of the Spirit in whatever situation you are in. To be able to discern something is off and not right, and to go another way. And we learn this with one another! In Spiritual Direction, you journey with others.

The wise men were not alone and I am so grateful. They heard God's leading through a dream, then they obeyed, leading to good. As we long to live and love in this world, may we do so with our eyes on Jesus, ears on the Spirit, and with one another, going another way and doing good.

If you are interested learning more about Spiritual Direction, let me know. I'd love to chat!



January 1, 2021
Change requires both a willingness to move and a willingness to surrender.
It requires a position of readiness and a posture of receiving.
And this is the space of transformation Jesus invites us to as we follow him.
Open to Change.

For several years I would choose a word of the year. This was a word which I focused on throughout the year as a way to be intentional with my life. Words like courage, kindness, grace. Inevitably, my word would "change" part way through the year. As a result of living life, my word would change and the new word would surface. A deeper, richer, more purposeful word. A word that was within and needed a way of coming out. My focus at the beginning of the year gave way to see this other word, and this invitation to live into it.

Sometimes this is how change happens. We set out with some type of way forward, try it out for size, then notice there is some shifting and adapting that happens. Even as we set out to change, change also happens to us. And this past year had obvious evidence of that!

Change requires both a willingness to move and a willingness to surrender.

It requires a position of readiness and a posture of receiving.


And this is the space of transformation Jesus invites us to as we follow him.

One of the ways to walk into the space of transformation is through the practice of retreat. As precautions and pandemic continue, our digital silent retreats continue.

You will find more details on the resources page here.

I'd love for you to join me on retreat or check out any other resources available to you as you begin this next year. Try things on for size, and see what ways God is inviting you into transformation this year!

With great anticipation,
Laura
December 20, 2020
Jesus' first arrival reminds us that hope can come from the most unexpected places and people, that God makes a way against impossible odds, and that our willingness to surrender to the unimaginable gives way for the goodness of God.
Arrival and Wonder

Advent 4 - Week of December 20
Luke 2:1-20

Jesus' arrival on the earth began a new era of restoration that he will complete when he comes again. We are in between this First Advent (his birth) and the Second Advent (his coming again). Along with a new era of restoration, Jesus' first arrival brought with it a hope filled and not yet full, an invitation to wonder how God would do this work of restoration of the world and how we can be part of this work.

Jesus' first arrival reminds us that hope can come from the most unexpected places and people, that God makes a way against impossible odds, and that our willingness to surrender to the unimaginable gives way for the goodness of God. Read the story here.

As you read the story of Jesus' arrival, imagine yourself in the story. What would it have been like to be a shepherd and to hear the message of Jesus' arrival? What do you think your response would have been?

The shepherds were quick to respond, run, and find this baby the angel told them about. And after finding him just as the angel said, they told others the story of his arrival and their experience, and continuing to give God glory for fulfilling his word to them.

When a truth of God is spoken to you through Scripture, through a friend, through a song, what is your typical response?

Do you stay curious and investigate?

Do you step away with caution?

Do you ponder it and its implications?

Has there been something you have heard from God lately that he has asked you to respond to? How can and will you respond in curiosity, wonder, and faith? And when he meets you, how can you then tell the story of his faithfulness, giving glory to God?

With wonder,
Laura

December 13, 2020
Mary was not receiving a guarantee of how life would be, but she was given an identity by the one who knew what she would need in life. Mary would need this strengthened identity to face the ridicule of having a child out of wedlock, a government threatened by her child's gender, and eventually watching her son die. This identity would give her strength in her circumstances.
A New Name

Advent 3 - Week of December 13
Luke 1:39-56

It takes time to take on a new name. Consider how many times a newborn's name is spoken over him until he recognizes his name. Or the number of times someone writes their previous last name after they have changed it by marriage. It takes time to take on a new name!

Not only does it take time to get used to a new name, it takes time to replace an old name. A name that has been spoken over you that is not good or true. Old names don't die easily. Taking on a new name takes repetition, courage, and community. When God speaks a new name and identity over us, it takes a while to believe it and live into it. Whether you have many false identities to replace or only a few, living into a new name takes repetition and courage. It also requires others to speak that new name over you, reminding you of this new identity.

As I read the interaction between Mary and Elizabeth I cannot help but notice the number of times Elizabeth calls Mary, "blessed". You can read the Scripture and story here. Over and over again Elizabeth calls Mary, "blessed", with an overwhelming joy and gratitude for Mary and her identity. It is later in the passage that Mary calls herself "blessed" and praises God.

We do not know that Mary was replacing an old name with this new identity, but we do know this identity was repeated for her over and over again and then call herself blessed. One of the gifts Elizabeth offered Mary was the repetition of this name and the affirmation the angel gave Mary earlier - "highly favored".

This identity of "blessed" means "favored, given privilege by God's grace" and Mary's "blessedness" was the favor of carrying, loving, and mothering Jesus. What is interesting is that "blessed" does not mean "easy". "Favor" does not mean "free from hardship". Mary was not receiving a guarantee of how life would be, but she was given an identity by the one who knew what she would need in life. Mary would need this strengthened identity to face the ridicule of having a child out of wedlock, a government threatened by her child's gender, and eventually watching her son die. This identity would give her strength in her circumstances.

And I wonder, if Mary needed this strength of identity, one that would hold in any circumstance, do we not also need this strength of identity, that will hold in any of our circumstances?

And who are those that will remind us of our identity in Jesus?

Who do we need to remind of their identity in Jesus?


And how might this new name be the name you need to do what God is calling you to in this world?

Joining you as a beloved daughter,
Laura

December 6, 2020
The way of surrender is a moment and a process. Included in this process is discernment.
Interrupted and Unexpected

Advent 2 - Week of December 6
Luke 1:26-38

Interruptions and the unexpected could be a mantra of this past year. As we continue to live in this time of not knowing what will come and the continued interruptions, many of us want to know what to do. There are things we cannot do, and those have been made clear by the interruptions, and there are things to do. What do we do?

Even as we try to answer this question, we have despairing thoughts such as "why try, something will change or interrupt me again?" Or maybe more defiant thoughts such as "no other interruption is going to stop my plans." We may naturally lean one way or the other, and no matter which way we lean, we often move between despair and defiance. How can we respond to this constant sway? This swinging back and forth between two places that are not ways forward?

Mary, the mother of Jesus, lives out a way, and this is the way of surrender. The way of surrender is a moment and a process. Included in this process is discernment. In the Scripture passage here, notice Mary's responses and interaction with Gabriel. Pay attention to how she moves from response to response as she receives more information. Notice where she lands and what she decides to do.

Is there something God is calling you to surrender? How do Mary's actions and movement invite you deeper into discernment as you consider this way of surrender? How can this young mother minister to you today?

With love,
Laura


November 29, 2020
We have all felt the waiting and grown weary. And we are not the first nor will we be the last. And we are not alone.
Weighty and Weary

Advent 1 - Week of November 29
Luke 1:5-25

This year has revealed the weightiness of our world and the weariness that comes with waiting. The world has been waiting for the end of this pandemic, a miraculous rescinding of a virus that has touched every country and continent, every neighborhood and city. We have collectively been waiting.

As everyone has been waiting for the end of the pandemic, many of us have been waiting for burdens that go beyond this year. Racial injustices, systemic poverty, generational disease, infertility, and more. As these burdens are carried, the weariness that comes from waiting chips away at hope of these things being made right and whole.

We have all felt the waiting and grown weary. And we are not the first nor will we be the last. And we are not alone.

Over 2,000 years ago there was a couple who had been waiting for many things. For a child, for the Savior. This couple was highly respected in the community, they were leaders, faithful to God and their work. We can only imagine what it was like being in the public eye and weary from waiting. To lead and to lament.

As you read their story here, put yourself in the story. Imagine what it would have been like to be one of them. Read or listen to it a few times if you want to get more into the story. After this time of imagining, reflect back on their story and your story through the questions below:

- Is there a longing or a hope that seems long past possibility?

- Because of your circumstances, is there a promise of God you have questioned?

- Have you been able to continue in the good works God has for you to do?

- What is it like to continue in good works and grieve a lost hope?

- How does Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John's story encourage you?

- How can the following Scripture serve as a way to trust God's promise?

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

May you be strengthened and encouraged in your waiting, our waiting, as we wait together.

In Hope,
Laura

November 27, 2020
Yet each Advent season reminds us that we wait for the second coming of Jesus, when he will heal every broken heart, bind up every wound, and will eradicate death, making all things new.
Advent Waiting

"Liminal space is an inner state and sometimes an outer situation where we can begin to think and act in new ways. It is where we are betwixt and between, having left one room or stage of life but not yet entered the next. We usually enter liminal space when our former way of being is challenged or changed—perhaps when we lose a job or a loved one, during illness, at the birth of a child, or a major relocation. It is a graced time, but often does not feel "graced" in any way. In such space, we are not certain or in control…The very vulnerability and openness of liminal space allows room for something genuinely new to happen … Liminal space is where we are most teachable, often because we are most humbled … It's no surprise then that we generally avoid liminal space." - Richard Rohr

Liminality. I first heard this word my freshman year of college, when I was taking a philosophy course beyond my my abilities. I did not come to understand this work until years later. And when I did come to understand it, I didn't like it. I am not sure that I like it now, but I do know that it is a real space, a space we find ourselves more often than not, and a space that we live as Christians between the First and Second Advent of Jesus.

And liminality is what we are reminded of each Advent season. We are not waiting for the first coming of Jesus, for he already came. We celebrate this.

Yet each Advent season reminds us that we wait for the second coming of Jesus, when he will heal every broken heart, bind up every wound, and will eradicate death, making all things new.


This Advent season of 2020 we are more aware of our waiting, of this liminality between what has been and what is yet to come. For liminality acknowledges the unknown and the uncomfortable. It is relentless in its reminders of the world as it should not be. It recognizes the pain of the past and the hope of the future, while calling us to live in the present. So, how then do we live? Not only how do we live, but how can we live that others might also live? For it is not about saving our lives, but losing them, and in losing them, allowing the new life in us to bring new live to the spaces and places in our worlds.

Join me these next few weeks as we look at the First Advent as a way for us to live and wait for the Second Advent to come.

Waiting with you,
Laura

November 1, 2020
Our life is the story that will provide the foundation and history for future stories. And I want the story I live to be as good and holy as possible.
The Stories We Live

My personal history in the United States doesn't include ancestors, those who fought in wars, or for rights. It doesn't include land that was taken, nor a land that I was taken from. It doesn't include mistreatment, injustice, and abuse for the color of my skin.

I don't have a long history with America, but many of you do. Your ancestors fought in wars, lost lives, and gave up so much for the land we live in. Your ancestors repeatedly bore the brunt of injustice and dehumanization. Your history is what has made this land.

And your history is now my story. In fact, all of our histories are now our stories. Our life is the story we have lived, are living, and will live. Our life is the story that will provide the foundation and history for future stories. And I want the story I live to be as good and holy as possible. I believe God does as well.

This past month, God invited me deeper into the practice of confession. Through meditating and praying Psalm 32, a silent retreat, the coaching gifts of a friend, and so much more I was able to see one of my ugliest sin postures - the desire for and dishing out of punishment. I have a long history of punishing people. People who have hurt me, people who are from the representative group that have hurt me, and even innocent bystanders in life. When I want to, I punish them in various ways. I hope for their worst, I imagine them getting what they deserve, I lash out in anger, or even withhold something good from them. It is ugly and has been pervasive. As hard to admit and as ugly it is to see, I am so grateful to be able to see it now. And I am especially grateful that I do not love or cling to this sin anymore but am truly sorry for it. This sorrow isn't possible apart from the work of the Spirit —- and I am so very grateful for it. (Major understatement). Now that I see it, have confessed it, and am sorry, I long to live into the freedom of forgiveness and to choose to refrain from this sin. Thank God for this freedom and desire!

As you consider the story you are living, are there ways God is inviting you to live into goodness and holiness? How does the life of Jesus inform, shape, and lead the postures you will take? What practices do you need?

The postures and practices we take now, will impact generations to come. And these postures and practices all gather together to create the history of the future. May we be men and women who live out the goodness of God, that it might be a strong foundation for generations to come.

Grace to you as you live your story,
Laura


October 8, 2020
Play gives us rest. And this rest gives us joy, freedom, creativity, and strength for the hours and days to come. And play keeps Sabbath.
Play as Sabbath.

A few weeks ago I sat on a blanket at my daughter's soccer practice. Other parents were sitting as well or they were coaching the team. My son had come with me to play with a friend but found himself playing by himself at one end of the field. As I sat there, waiting for time to pass, doing nothing, I made myself get up from my comfortable position and walked towards my son. I asked if he wanted to play together. To my delight he said yes and off we went kicking, catching, and playing. As we punted the soccer ball back and forth I was reminded of the gift of my body, the strength of my left leg, and the joy of movement and playing with my son. It seemed so simple, yet I had to choose to get up and play.

Play has been a luxury these past months. Increased work, kids at home for school, the exhaustion of all the crises in our world have led to extremes of lethargy or anxious activity. There has been no room for play. And yet play is exactly what we need. To get out of our heads, from off of the screen (big or small), to let our hearts rest from carrying the burdens of others as well as our own. Play gives us levity, laughter, and a reminder that hope is not hopeless. Play gives us rest. And this rest gives us joy, freedom, creativity, and strength for the hours and days to come. And play keeps Sabbath.

Play keeps the thing that God told us to keep.

Play receives the gift that God has to give us.

Play keeps us human.

And if this time has shown us anything, it has shown us our humanity. And God invites us to rest through play. God invites us to Sabbath.

How will you choose play in this pandemic? How can play be the rest God invites you to?

How will play be your Sabbath?

Let's rest and play!
Laura

August 17, 2020
In these times, where regular routines have been stripped, where our normal spiritual practices are hindered, we can get creative, try new things, and be rooted and receive a steadiness of soul like never before.
Steadiness of Soul

Keeping steady has been quite the feat. The outside world has been unsteady, full of unknowns, with the threat of virus, injustice, and racism continuing. In this increased unsteadiness, our usual ways of remaining steady have been stripped - corporate worship and fellowship, physical presence and conversation with others, the expected routine of summer and school schedules. And these regular routines continue to be stripped. And we have responded in various ways.

How have you responded?

Maybe you can connect with one of these:

Go-Mode: You have moved into "go-mode" - hyper-managing the details of your world to keep the outside threats at bay. You now find yourself on edge about everything and you are exhausted.

Withdrawal: You have retreated - withdrawing from reality and waiting for all the chaos to go away. Your lethargy and apathy have increased and you find yourself caring about only yourself or those close to you.

Rooted: You have found your footing - you are able to see reality, to engage it however you can, and rooted while the waves come and go.

Is there one you identify with more than another?

In these times, where regular routines have been stripped, where our normal spiritual practices are hindered, we can get creative, try new things, and be rooted and receive a steadiness of soul like never before.

Key words: Rooted and Receive.

Rooted in God's love, sovereignty, and in reality. Receiving a steadiness of soul that only the Holy Spirit can give and produce in us. (Psalm 1, Isaiah 26:3-4, John 15, Ephesians 3:14-19)

How do we root ourselves that we may receive this steadiness of soul?

Spiritual practices root us while we are strengthened and we are given steadiness of soul. Below are a few suggestions.

Scripture Meditation - Allowing Scripture to roll around in our minds and hearts, to think upon God's Word, and to receive from God whatever God wants to give to you through Scripture. This can be done through listening to the Psalms or the Gospels at a pace that God wants you to go. No need to rush this practice.

Confession - A posture of humility that sees, names, and asks for God's transformation in the places of our hearts, minds, and actions. This can be done with God and with others and involves being reminded of the grace that God unconditionally gives.

Examen - A daily morning practice of gratefulness, grief, and generosity. These combined practices name realities and move towards action for others. It is recommended you keep a journal with these written down and prayed through.

If you are curious about these practices or others, let me know. I'd love to journey in this time with you!

May you find steadiness of soul in these unsteady times.

Standing with you,
Laura

July 20, 2020
Safe is being redefined every moment and restricted in every facet of life. And if safe is so volatile, then what is safe? Where is safe? Who is safe?
Safe Spaces

These last few months have changed the places we have known as safe spaces. Stores, school, cities, countries - where is it safe from the Coronavirus? For our Black, Native American, POC friends, we are being reminded and shown the lack of safe spaces for them. Media - social or otherwise are not safe spaces of information. Even our churches and communities are not safe.

Safe is being redefined every moment and restricted in every facet of life. And if safe is so volatile, then what is safe? Where is safe? Who is safe?

Just one of these areas of volatility would send a person into a tailspin, and we are faced with many areas of volatility. And as we are, we are coming face to face with the fact that our safety is being stripped, we are not in control, and we are not safe.

Being exposed like this strikes straight to the heart of what our first mother and father taught us to do - cover and hide. We were taught to cover and hide.

And they (man and woman) heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?" And he said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself." (Genesis 3:8-10 ESV)

All of us have the tendency to hide (not only physical hiding). We hide who we really are. We hide our dreams, our ideas, and ourselves. We hid because we are afraid.

Yet we have a God that still looks for us, that calls out to us, "where are you?" It is up to us to respond. Our first parents did respond with honesty.

God then covered and protected our parents. Yes, there were consequences to deal with, but then he took care of that through Jesus as well. Jesus came into our world, he did not hid, and was stripped naked. And in coming to the most unsafe place for him and dying on our behalf, he gave us the greatest safety in the world - life with him.

In your life with Jesus, where are you hiding? What safe spaces have you created for yourself as other safe spaces have been stripped?

Where do you hear God searching for you and calling out, "where are you?"

As God gives us himself as a safe space, he gives us others as well. He does give us community, family, and friendships. Has God offered you new or deepened safe spaces during this time?

As God has been calling out to me, "Laura, where are you?", he has given me new friendships that are safe spaces. These are spaces where I am seen, heard, allowed to be me, quirks, blemishes, and all. In these spaces, I can say, "Here I am! With my friends!" And not only am I with my friends, God is with us, in our midst. In this space we are safest for we are who we are, with others as they are, and a God who longs to be with us wherever we are.

With you, my friends,

Laura

June 22, 2020
One of the ways we love others in their suffering is that we learn how to walk in our own suffering. When we do this, we are all human. When we do this, we are all equal. When we do this, we learn to receive grace, mercy, compassion, and comfort that we might do so for others. This is why lament is not selfish.
Lament Part 5: Is Lament Selfish?

It seems I get this question in one way or another as I talk with others. Often what is said is, "my struggles are nothing compared to this other person" or "I have a lot of blessings so I really haven nothing to complain about." I hear this comparative suffering often and this diminishment of personal suffering. I believe it comes from a desire for humility (a good thing!) yet what it is is a denial of one's humanity (not a good thing!). When we ignore our suffering, we ignore our humanity. When we ignore our humanity we cannot see the humanity of another. Lament requires we see our humanity.

We all carry grief, loss, suffering, brokenness. We all do this because we are in a world of brokenness amongst people who are broken as well. To deny or diminish what is happening to us is a denial of what it is to be human. To suffer and to experience pain is to be human. It is why the person of Jesus is so significant for the Christian faith. In being fully human, he experienced suffering and pain.

If our desire is to operate from humility, then we begin with our humanity.

We begin with the fact that we will experience suffering.

(Disclaimer: this fact does not diminish or stop any of the good work we are called to do in the world - to do justice, to heal the sick, to feed the hungry, to protect the vulnerable and exploited, to fight on behalf and for those suffering and more.)

We will experience suffering. To be human is to experience suffering. We share this in common. Now, some have more sufferings than others. Many have repeated sufferings. To not recognize this would be ignoring reality. And to not do our work in this world to care for others would not be the way of Jesus.

What I want to focus on is the reality of suffering and how our lament helps us walk with others in their lament because we do all suffer.

One of the ways we love others in their suffering is that we learn how to walk in our own suffering. When we do this, we are all human. When we do this, we are all equal. When we do this, we learn to receive grace, mercy, compassion, and comfort that we might do so for others. This is why lament is not selfish.

When we lament, we receive the freedom and rest that God provides. With that freedom and rest, we then are able to be a place where people find freedom and rest. We provide space for them, for their cries, for their questions, and for their longings for answered prayer.

In his book, Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer says, "Anything one can do on behalf of true self is done ultimately in the service of others."

When we lean into lament, we lean into our humanity, and we lean into the One who is full of the mercy, grace, compassion, and hope we need. As we do this, we then hold this for another, extending love through mercy, grace, compassion, and hope.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort." 1 Corinthians 1:3-7

So, no, lament is not selfish. Lament is needed. To lament is to be human and as we live into our humanity and the gifts God has given us, we then meet others in their humanity and lament. We extend the gifts of God to them.

Human with you,
Laura

June 1, 2020
How? How am I complicit to the brokenness that leads to death? How have I refrained from doing good in this world? How have I sought to protect victimizers rather than victims? How have you?
Lament Part 4 - Why's and How's

As deep breaths were granted me this past week, I was starkly aware that breath was taken from a man, an image bearer of God.

Why is someone given deep breaths for life and another has theirs taken for death? Why was there not anyone to stop the murder? Why did God not intervene for his life? Why does God intervene for mine? For yours?

In this brokenness, injustice, and death, we ask the question why?

These are the questions and cries of lament.

And then another set of questions comes. How? How am I complicit to the brokenness that leads to death? How have I refrained from doing good in this world? How have I sought to protect victimizers rather than victims? How have you?

These are also the questions and cries of lament.

You see, we are both victims and victimizers.

We are victims and victimizers.

And as crying out is part of lament, so is confession.

As crying out is part of lament, so is confession.

The Book of Lamentations weaves lament from the personal, corporate, individual, and communal perspective. It moves back and forth between 1st and 3rd person. Within the cry of "why" there is the admittance of "how". This is how the people are complicit. This is what their sin has led to. Confession is a part of their lament.

Fast forward to the present. We are also complicit. We are not only complicit, we are active in the brokenness of our world. And some of the answers to the "why's" are because we did not. Confession must be part of our lament.

And this is why we need a Rescuer.

You and I need a Rescuer.

We need a Rescuer to restore, make right, the brokenness of this world.

We need a Rescuer to restore, make right, the brokenness within me, within you.

As you reflect back on this past week, this past year or even years, where do you need our Rescuer, Jesus, to make things right in you?
Take some time to reflect on this. Go for a walk. Maybe allow the quiet of an early morning to make way to hear from God. In prayer, ask the Spirit to show you what needs to be made right in you. Take your time.

Confess what the Spirit makes known to you. Ask God for the grace to confess anything else. Maybe there is someone you need to confess and ask forgiveness from.

As you receive this forgiveness, ask God for the strength and confidence to live in light of the forgiveness you have through Christ. We do not live in guilt or shame, but we do trust AND LIVE in light of the confidence that in Christ we are forgiven.

Trust that the Holy Spirit is at work in you and is leading you to life. Life for you and life for others. How will you now bring breath and life into our world?

May 18, 2020
To lament is to turn towards (face) God honestly with our cries, our fears, and our longings, while holding on with hope and confidence in who God is.
Part 2 - Elements of Lament

As we continue in our series on Lament, we will look at elements of the spiritual practice of Lament.

To lament is to turn towards God honestly with our cries, our fears, and our longings, while holding on with hope and confidence in who God is.
Lament includes honest emotions, thoughts, and requests. It includes hope and confidence in God's character of love and goodness. It includes others as we hold one another through the spaces of lament.
Lament has movement. This movement includes a surrender to God for the pace, the process, and the progress of lament.


In this definition, we find these elements:

A posture of facing God.
A recognition of reality.
A confidence and hope in God.
An inclusion of others.
An expectation of movement.

Okay, that's a lot.

Deep breath.

Let's begin.

Lament has a posture of facing God. It is not a posture of turning our backs on God nor is it a posture of maneuvering around God. When we lament, we are facing God. This is bold, this can be scary, and this is welcome by God.
Throughout the Psalms and many of the prophets, you find this posture of facing God.

Lament has a recognition of reality. Lament does not hold back. Lament is descriptive in thought and feeling. Lament can sound like attacks with its harsh words and deep wounds. Lament does not deny the realities, which includes thoughts, actions, and feelings, of the situation or world the person or people are facing.
Within this reality is the expression of longing and desire. Out of these places of grief, pain, sadness, anger, we have desires for things to change, for things to be made right, to be made new, to not be as they were. In lament, there are expressed to God, no matter how big and impossible they seem. Lament recognizes reality and asks for God to intervene.

Lament includes a confidence and hope in God. Almost every Psalm of Lament includes confidence and hope in God. This is the strange space of Lament - that we can be in harsh reality and have hope. This hope does not replace our realities but meets them. It meets them because our hope is Jesus and Jesus meets us.
This hope is not based on what we can see but hopes for what we cannot see. We cannot see how God can make good out of this, we cannot see how things will change, we cannot see how God will intervene. That is a part of hope - that we cannot see, yet we hold onto hope because God has acted before and he will act again. We surrender our timeline and our ways to him as we hope.

Lament includes others. We do not grieve, ask, or hope alone. We cannot do this alone and we were not meant to. We need others to hear our cries, to speak when we cannot, and hope when we struggle to hope. Even if our laments are unique to us, we include others. We lament together because God has given us the gift of one another and when one hurts we all hurt. We weep together, we cry out to God together, and we hope together.

Lament has an expectation of movement. In Lament we expect something to happen. In Lament we expect God to do something, to change something, and to move. And maybe, just maybe, it is we who are moved. We are moved on this inside and out. We are moved to compassion, we are moved to the care and protect of others, we are moved to be the hope of Jesus in our world. We are moved as the Holy Spirit moves in and through us.

Take a look back at Psalm 13 and see if you notice these elements throughout the Psalm. If you would like, go exploring in the book of Lamentations or other Psalms of Lament (google is really helpful here).

Wherever you are, however you are, the practice of Lament is available to you.
May 11, 2020
Lament is a spiritual practice found throughout generations of peoples, cultures, and times. A way to live with God in the midst of the unknown, the pain, and the longing for things to be made right.
What is Lament?

As we continue in this space of global pandemic, unknown futures, and unexpected pivots we hear words like loss, fear, anxiety, pain, grief, lament. Not only in the space of a global pandemic, but the reminder that racism is far from gone, and brokenness and pain still pervade this earth. For some more than others.

What does God have to say to us in these spaces? Maybe a more pressing question is, what do we have to say to God?
If you could say anything to God about your fears, your pain, your grief, what would you say? If you knew that you could turn to God with WHATEVER you are thinking and feeling, would you? Why not?
God's invitation is for us to bring ALL that is going on within us to him. Our cries, our anger, our grief, our questions, our disappointment - ALL OF IT. This is called Lament.

Lament is a spiritual practice found throughout generations of peoples, cultures, and times. A way to live with God in the midst of the unknown, the exhaustion, and the longing for things to be made right.

These next few weeks we will dive deeper into Lament. Today, let's begin with a definition:

To lament is to turn towards God honestly with our cries, our fears, and our longings, while holding on with hope and confidence in who God is.
Lament includes honest emotions, thoughts, and requests. It includes hope and confidence in God's character of love and goodness. It includes others as we hold one another through the spaces of lament.
Lament has movement. This movement includes a surrender to God for the pace, the process, and the progress of lament.


Sit with this definition for a bit. Ask questions of it and explore any curiosities you have. If you want an example of Lament, go to Psalm 13 or read the book of Lamentations.

How incredible to have a God that listens and is our foundation for hope. Thanks for joining me! More to come next week as we dive deeper into Lament.

PS I have a couple more spots for the May 15 Silent Retreat that will focus on Lament. Let me know if you want to join!

PPS I am working on a Mini-Series focused on teaching and practicing lament in community in June. More to come on this ...

May 4, 2020
Hospitality does not require a particular space, home, sanctuary, or venue. Hospitality is a posture of the heart.
Hospitality … Digitally

Zoom. We have all been on it. We have had business meetings, family calls, celebrations, and intimate conversations. Zoom has become our homes. The screen has become our places of connection. Full of interruptions, talking over one another, voices and screens breaking up, connection being lost, and more, this has been our space. It seems this will continue to be our primary space for connecting with others for a while.

Even as we have lost so much not being able to be physically present with one another, we have not lost the ability to be hospitable. Hospitality does not require a particular space, home, sanctuary, or venue. Hospitality is a posture of the heart.

When you think about the times you have experienced the greatest hospitality, what comes to mind? I often think of the setting - warm, wide open, and welcoming. I then think of the hosts - prepared, curious, and focused on the guests. The space and the hosts need to be prepared.

So how does this translate digitally? How can you practice hospitality via Zoom or another digital space? A few tips:

- Prepare yourself. A prepared and uncluttered heart and mind is able to welcome others into a space, to focus on them, and to bring forth peace and calm. This might mean being ready 15-20 minutes before the meeting and using the time before the meeting to pray for the time, for the person, or to let go of anything that is consuming or swirling in your heart or mind. Sometimes a walk can help settle and prepare you, shifting gears to focus on who will be coming into the space. A prepared host is ready for any interruptions that may come along the way, handling them with calm and continuing to provide gracious space.

- Provide needed details in advance. Provide details for the call in advance, including links and passwords. Test these out in advance as well. Also, invite others to join a few minutes before the call for a little space to get settled and work out any kinks and decrease interruptions or issues.
Also, as in any practice of hospitality, interruptions will come. Expect these so you are not surprised and move through them with as much calm and correction as you can.

- Keep conversation steady and slow. Doing this creates space, increases calm, and invites a restfulness into the conversation. We are all feeling frenzied and the digital world only increases this sense of frenzy. The slower pace mitigates the frenzy.

Gracious hospitality can carry through these unique times and digital spaces. Begin with the posture of your heart, provide the details needed, and slow down the pace.


April 19, 2020
Worship does not require a particular sermon or stage. Worship requires the Spirit. Worship requires a people.
Ways of Worship

This morning, we had a choice of how we would worship God. In our family, we all connect and worship in different ways. My husband prefers the word preached, I prefer music. My husband values corporate worship, even if at a distance and via a screen. I also value corporate worship, even if within our family of four. Our children wanted to create and lead us in worship, especially our daughter. So, we came up with a plan. We would worship as a family, as our daughter led (our son decided to not lead), and then we would be together as my husband listened to a sermon preached by the church we have been a part of.

Our daughter created the order of worship, chose the music, and the story in Scripture. She had a plan. We laughed as she gave us a moment to chat amongst ourselves and our son asked the question "where were you last week?" Even with her karaoke microphone and adapters not working, and not knowing where a Scripture passage was, she led us in worship.

We never got to the recorded sermon my husband wanted to listen to. Yet we worshipped with depth, in beauty, and joy as we watched our daughter lead us to see and worship God.

Friends, we always have a choice of how we worship God. What matters is that we choose to worship. Screen, no screen, large group, small group, music, spoken word, sermon, prayer, and more. Worship does not require a particular sermon or stage. Worship requires the Spirit. Worship requires a people. A people willing to see that the Spirit moves in and through all spaces and places. A people willing to imagine the God is greater than our structures and strategies. A people willing to worship in Spirit and truth.

Holy Week
We walk in the weightiness of Holy Week and the weightiness of our world.
Resting in Love

I need to take a deep breath even before this week begins. How about you? In past years, we have walked the weightiness of Holy Week, with Easter in mind. We have walked with the celebration of resurrection in mind.

This week we walk in the weightiness of Holy Week and the weightiness of our world. We still look towards Easter Day, yet we do so knowing that April 12, 2020 will not be resurrection day for COVID-19. (At least from what we can see). We do not know when the day of defeat will come for this virus.

And so we enter this week trusting in resurrection AND living into the waiting of resurrection, healing, life, and hope. It is actually no different than previous years, but this year, we feel it acutely as we continue to stay distant, worship virtually, and eat our Easter meal with those near. This year, we wait and we hope, even as we continue to hurt. All things have not been made new … yet.

A favorite Psalm of mine reads:

"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord. In the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord." Psalm 27:13-14 (NASB)

As we wait, we take courage and believe. We hope because all we have comes from God's love. We persevere in hope because God's gives us strength. Our hope is not in vain because God's love is how it all began.

Our hope begins because God loves.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." Romans 5:5

Our hope begins because God loves.

The weeks to come, as weighty and weary as they are, hold hope. They hold hope because God's love holds us.

And one day hope will be fulfilled. All will be made new. Our hope will not be in vain.

This week, receive and rest in God's love by entering into this week fully, as you are, however you are. Rest in the goodness of God the Father. Rest in Jesus' sacrifice. Rest in the gift and power of the Spirit. Through these things, persevere in hope.

Listening to Scripture

As you enter into Holy Week, listen to these Scriptures as a way of receiving and resting in God's love.

Monday - John 12-13
Tuesday - John 14
Wednesday - John 15-16
Maundy Thursday - John 17
Good Friday - John 18-19:37
Holy Saturday - John 19:38-42

Easter Sunday - HE IS RISEN! - John 20:1-18

Fifth Week of Lent
We need strength outside ourselves. We need a steadiness that comes from something other than the news. We need hope.
Strengthened in Suffering

As we shelter-in-place, our minds and hearts stay anywhere but "in-place". They are all over the place, wondering about what is to come, what will be, how will things change, and what will they settle into. Our sufferings vary from person to person and family to family. Yet many of our questions are the same. Will we or someone we know get sick? Do I already have it? How long will this last? How will we survive this and what will be on the other side?

We need strength outside ourselves. We need a steadiness that comes from something other than the news. We need hope.

What we are walking through is universal. There is no country, culture, race, or gender that will be untouched by this. As we are all walking through it we can be strengthened by it. For those who look to Christ, our strengthening leads to hope.

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Romans 5:1-4

I have to be honest. Most times in my life I have simply wanted to survive suffering. Great or small, I did want suffering to produce anything, I wanted it to be OVER. I didn't have it in me. It was too much. The suffering overwhelmed me, so I simply wanted to survive it.

Yet what Scripture says my "work" in suffering is to glory … to have a rejoicing confidence in it.

My work and your work is to rejoice confidently.

God will do his work in and through us. Why again? Because God is our ultimate strength. He is the one who makes anything good in us happen. And what God gives us in and through this is hope. A hope that will not disappoint. A hope that will not be shown to be a false hope. A hope that is a person. A hope that is Jesus.

Here we are, in that strange place of rejoicing in the glory of God and rejoicing in our suffering. We can confidently rejoice because our ultimate hope in Christ will disappoint. He will not disappoint.

Practice Rejoicing Confidently through Examen

Let's try rejoicing confidently together. There are many ways to do this and one way is through a daily Examen. We have been doing this as a family and individually through writing and talking about what we are:

Grateful for
Sad About
Generous Towards

We do this anytime in the day. You can do it once a day in the morning or in the evening, or during midday. The intent is that you practice it regularly.

This practice has a way of steadying us. It acknowledges the reality of where we are presently as well as the glimpses of goodness we see that are evidence of what is to come. It also gives us a way to share outward through gifts of generosity, however they come.

As you rejoice confidently, may God strengthen you, give you endurance, Christ-like character, and hope.

Fourth Week of Lent
We are walking through this strangeness as a world. To hold both the grand and the specific is a strange space.
The Strangeness of this Time.

Last week I read an update from a friend in Italy who is in the heart of the COVID-19 crisis there. He shared about the strangeness of continuing their days at home and hearing the stories of friends who have already lost loved ones. In the midst of homework for kids, working from home, watching a show, eating a meal they hear of parents lost, without ever getting to say goodbye, without being able to have a funeral. He shared about the strangeness of then going back to "normal" with the reality of the suffering just a text away.

We are walking through this strangeness as a world.

This strangeness is also found throughout history, in the lives of other generations, and in the life of all, no matter their faith. Interesting that the Scripture pre-selected for this week's Lent devotion is Romans 5:2-3 alongside 2 Corinthians 4.

In the latter part of verse 2 and the first part of verse 3 we see the word "rejoice" or "boast" used of two very different realities.

"…we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings…"

Strange, right? Rejoicing or boasting or another way of putting it: "a rejoicing confidence". We confidently rejoice in the hope of the glory of God which is VERY large and culminates in the future AND we confidently rejoice in our sufferings which are different sizes and happening N-O-W.

(Note: the language is not that we confidently rejoice FOR our sufferings, but in them. There is a difference. We're going to pause in the strangeness for a minute and next week we will get to why we confidently rejoice in our sufferings.)

Sit for a minute in this strangeness. Our hope is that one day we will all be part of the glory of God … this means God will make ALL THINGS NEW. Everything will be whole and right and good and we will know God's glory in wonderful ways. We hope in this day that is to come.
Presently, we sit in our reality. The reality of suffering in our world. Whether it is the current pandemic or the realities we were already facing: chronic pain, cancer, disabilities, emotional and mental anguish, persecutions, death, and more.

To hold both the grand and the specific is a strange space.

2 Corinthians 4:7-18 provides a way to live in this space:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, "I believed, and so I spoke," we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

A way to live this out is not to ignore the strangeness of the space, nor to give in to our present realities, forgetting what is to come, or linger too long in the future so that we ignore our present sufferings. We hold both and the way we do is we practice lament.

Practice Lament

Lament is a practice of coming before God as fully as we can with our thoughts and feelings AND expressing hope and confidence in our God and what is to come.

Pray the Lament Psalm below by praying it our loud and pausing at any verse you would like to add expression, words, thoughts, or questions to. Then continue praying the Psalm out loud and again pausing and adding your prayers as you go. I have included suggestions of where to pause if you would like to use those suggestions.

Psalm 13

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?

(pause and add your prayers here)

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

(pause and add your prayers here)
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

(pause and add your prayers here)

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,

and my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

(pause and add your prayers here)

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the Lord's praise,
for he has been good to me.

(pause and add your prayers here)

Amen.


Third Week of Lent
We are all on this trail, and it is a trail of trust … and faith. As Christians, we are on this trail with a faith that is grounded in Jesus … in a God who holds all things.
Standing on Grace.

Our current world situation is offering anything but steadiness. The onslaught of information, the pressures in decision making, the unknown of knowing when this will end. The world has always been unsteady, and we FEEL and KNOW its unsteadiness during these times. In these times, I am reminded on what we stand ON.

A couple weeks ago, my husband and I went on a new adventure of snowshoeing. This wasn't even on our radar as we live in Texas, where snowshoeing is severely lacking … as our hills and mountains and snow. Our friends who were familiar with such lovely things took us to a lodge where we found snowshoes to rent and trails to hike. Off we went!

As we snowshoed, we were grateful for marked trails. Every once in a while a couple of us would veer off the trail, but we always came back to it. Some of us enjoy the twists and turns of the trail as well as the adventure of creating our own! Others of us like to stick with the markers on the trail.

In our current world, Currently, I do not know many people who are excited about this trail we are on. Yet, we are ALL on this trail and it isn't disappearing. We are incredibly dependent on others for our mile markers and these markers are being created as we go.

We are all on this trail, and it is a trail of trust … and faith. As Christians, we are on this trail with a faith that is grounded in Jesus … in a God who holds all things.

As Jesus holds all things, he holds us. And grace is what we stand on.

Romans 5:2 says, "Through him (Jesus) we have also obtained access to faith into this grace in which we stand…"

This grace goes beyond our salvation. It goes beyond getting us to heaven. This grace gives us the ability to stand right now, on earth, trusting our God has ALL THINGS in his hands.

Grace does not waver whether in the unknown or on an uphill. Grace is what stands and it is what we stand on.

As Christians, we take the trail together by faith and we stand on grace.

Because we stand on grace, our steadiness is solid, our steadiness is Jesus.

Now is a time to continue standing and walking because Jesus gives us the grace and strength to stand.

As a church we have this to offer others right now … the steadiness that is grounded and rooted in the One who holds all things together.


Let's stand on grace and practice generosity this week. May we do so unwavering as we stand with the strength of the One who never wavers.

Practice Generosity

This week, take time to practice generosity. Generosity can be practical, creative, large and small. Generosity can be local, global, near and far. Our generosity is rooted in the generosity of our God who did not hold back to give us the life we needed.

A few ways to practice generosity:

Be generous with your intellect and mental energy. Rather than absorbing repeated information to make sense of it, read and research places and people that need help and respond with generosity of time and resources. Be generous with your creativity. Come up with ways to work within our neighborhood for kids staying at home from school or those isolated from others. Write notes, have outdoor breakfasts, open your front yard for play. Be generous with your resources. Unsalaried workers need your financial support - think of restaurant workers, artists, musicians, small business owners, and so many more I am not listing here. Considering giving a donation, a gift card, or another way of being generous. Be generous with your prayers. Pray for the most vulnerable according to the cries of the Psalms or other Scripture. Be generous _________ (fill in the blank!)
Second Week of Lent
Maybe this is what Jesus meant when he said we must come to him like little children. That he holds us. He holds us and our salvation. We never held ourselves.
Rediscovering Rest

Growing up, my favorite place of rest was snuggled up next to my dad. Whether he was reading or watching television, I could come to him and be held.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped coming to him for rest. These times of being held grew fewer and fainter. It wasn't until he was dying of cancer that I longed for one more hold. I struggled to ask for it. Then the day I was leaving town, in desperation, I launched myself next to him for one more hold. I was held again.

Somewhere along the way, many of us have lost the ability to be held. We have learned we must hold ourselves up. We have relied on our strength and our supposed security to hold us up. To ask for it or even welcome it pushes against the belief we must hold ourselves up. We have forgotten we need to be held. And we have forgotten we have always been held. You are held.

Maybe this is what Jesus meant when he said we must come to him like little children (Matthew 18:2-4). That he holds us. He holds us and our salvation. We never held ourselves.

Yet many of us continue to work as if our salvation depended on it. We work to prove we are worthy of this rest and being held. God's invitation and his reminder to us is that we are held. You are held.

God has given us peace and we can rest in it. As we meditate on Romans 5:1 and the truth of our peace, allow the work of God's word bring you to a deeper resting place. The spiritual practice of Centering Prayer invites us to let go of our hard work and bring ourselves to a posture of openness towards the Spirit. Practice receiving rest from the Spirit this week.

Practice Centering Prayer

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 5:1

Set a 10 minute timer, with a quiet alarm, and sit in a comfortable position. Read Romans 5:1 a few times. From this verse, choose a word or phrase that stands out to you. Keep this word/phrase in mind as it will "center" you in prayer. Put down the Scripture and do not return to it.

The rest of your time will be spent in silence and quiet. As your mind gets distracted, go back to the word/phrase and repeat it again as a way of centering your mind on God's truth. Continue in silence and centering for as long as the timer goes.

When the alarm rings, take a few moments to come out of the silence, reflecting on your time in Centering Prayer. Maybe something came forth during your time and maybe it did not. There is not pressure for an epiphany. Simply rest in the time you had.

As you continue this practice, pay attention to anything that arises in you during both the time of Centering Prayer as well as throughout your days. Express gratitude to God for speaking to you, treasure his word in your heart, and let it transform your mind in its time. Rest in the work that God has done for you.

First Week of Lent
The generosity of God is beyond comprehension yet we doubt his gifts of peace, grace, love, and hope.
Receiving and Resistance

There are gifts that God has given all of humanity. Gifts such as life, love, others, work, and creativity. There are gifts that those who believe in Jesus have received. Gifts such as peace, grace, more love, and the Holy Spirit. These gifts are distinctive to the Christian life yet we fail to remember and recall these good gifts. Each time we remember them, we read about them, we receive them in new ways. As we do, we are strengthened in faith, grow in trust, and live out our work in courage and confidence.

Yet we resist these good gifts. With questions like, did he really say that? Does he really mean that? Can I believe him? The generosity of God is beyond comprehension yet we doubt his gifts of peace, grace, love, and hope. We resist very good things!

As we reflect on Romans 5, looking at what we have received, we also recognize where we resist. The spiritual practice of gratitude allows us to enter both of these spaces, receiving and resisting, so that we strengthen in receiving and the power of resistance decreases.

Practice Gratitude

Romans 5:1-5 says, "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

Reading through Romans 5:1-5, make a list of what those who have faith in Jesus have received. After making this list, choose one or two gifts to focus on in prayer. Tell God thank you for these two gifts and what they mean to you.

Now, take a few moments in quiet prayer and ask God: Am I resisting something from you?

If possible, name the resistance. Maybe it is his goodness, his truth, or his conviction, and grace. What is it?

The steady practice of gratitude meets our resistance and strengthens our receiving. Practice gratitude by writing 3-4 things you are grateful for. Do this daily around the same time of day for the next week.Throughout your day, continue in gratitude as you offer thanks and appreciation to co-workers, family, and others today.

Ash Wednesday
We grieve our own sin, our own harm to ourselves, and to the world. This is the grief of Ash Wednesday. This is the awareness that we are not perfect. These are the ashes that mark us.
Lament and Re-Imagining

We arise fully aware of the world we are walking into. Sleepless nights, jolting mornings, unknown outcomes, and our own brokenness. This world is not as it should be, nor or we.

This is the grief of Ash Wednesday. This is the confession of our hearts. You and I will break something, hurt someone, fall short of loving imperfectly. We will respond out of selfishness, self-protection, jealousy, and pride. We will offer to humanity less that perfection and less than how we were first created. We will fall and others will fall too.

This is the grief of Ash Wednesday. This is the awareness that we are not perfect. These are the ashes that mark us. We grieve our own sin, our own harm to ourselves, and to the world. These ashes mark us.

As these ashes mark us, so does the hope that is to come. A hope that will unfold before us as we live life. A hope that tells us we do not have to be perfect because this Hope is.

Ash Wednesday begins this season, yet Ash Wednesday is not the beginning of our story. Our story begins with goodness and perfection. Our story begins in perfect harmony with the One who created us, with one another, and the creation around us. Our story began in a flourishing garden and will end in the garden of a city, with God, others, and creation.

Our life does not begin with the trouble we bring but with the Creator of Life. Life is what we are after, life is what we offer, and life is what we are to live. Death is a part of our story, but it is not the beginning nor the end of it. Death does not win. Love does.

Practice Lament:

Portions of Psalm 51 read, "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight … For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."

Trusting that God will not despise a broken spirit, what brokenness and sin will you offer to God today?

Practice Re-Imagining:

Psalm 139 reads, "For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them."

Take yourself back and re-imagine your entry into the world. Meditate on the Psalm above and the joy of God creating you, weaving you together, and knowing the days ahead. Write down words of goodness, love, and hope that come from this time of meditation.

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