Category Archives: Faith

Sacraments

Over the last year I have had the privilege of serving communion alongside my pastor husband.  Each time I do I am overwhelmed and grateful for the experience.  To give you a bit of background that doesn’t tell the whole story, I can rarely receive communion without tears streaming down my face.  I mean, not just a little teary-eyed, but streaming.  God’s grace has always cut to the core of my being that finds it hard to believe I can be so well loved.  I always feel a bit sorry for the servers, they must think something is really wrong with me.  I fear they might usher me aside to a private triage prayer room for me to be able to pull it together.  I want to whisper, “I’m okay, don’t worry, just a little overwhelmed by God’s love right now, I will be fine.” But I know I wouldn’t be able to choke out the words.

I can’t quite explain all of what is going on for me in those moments.  A sense of absolute brokenness – awareness of my own depravity, loss, heartache and imperfection – swirls with awareness of love so profound – pure, undeserved, all-encompassing – that I can hardly bear it.  To receive this physical reminder of God’s love and provision is always profound and I have no doubt of God’s divine presence when receiving the sacraments.

But to serve is another thing altogether.  If I already struggle with the question of “who am I to receive such gifts of grace?” all the more I wonder, “who am I to present them?”  To speak “this is His body, broken for you” or “this is His blood, poured our for you” and hear my husband speak the counter promise beside me is such an honor.  Words more weighty than my wedding vows, that also clenched my throat tight as I spoke them with as much conviction as I could muster through tears of overwhelming gratitude.  Looking each person in the eye, I do my best to speak the weight of these words into each soul.

But God forbid I know a bit of their story, or see heartache or gratitude in their eyes, because then the clenched throat comes and my eyes fill.  It happened today when a fellow mom of young ones dipped her bread in the cup I held strong for her, then her husband who has also known a lifetime of heartache, a new person to our church I’d bonded with only the week before, my long time mentor mom from MOPS who was there with me in during the loss of my baby boy, then her husband who fed everyone at the funeral making sure my plate was full when I was famished.  The newly married couple who are navigating loss and change, and the ones celebrating a decade but fighting to feel close.  The mother of a healthy 2nd trimester baby who’d had too many early miscarriages to have still had hope, and the beautiful single soul who longs to find their life partner.  And the stories in the hearts of the faces that tell me there’s so much more than the smile they return to me.  Who am I, so broken, to bear witness to this sacred moment of receiving of God’s gift of sustenance?

That God would love us so much.

May you have strength for your journey knowing the body broken and the blood poured out for you.


Oh Holy Night!

I am so excited for our Candlelight Christmas Eve Service tonight.  Gathering with family and friends, worshipping the culmination of our waiting, hearing my 7 year old daughter proclaim the gospel, listening to my husband Scott preach his God breathed words of wisdom and hope, cookies, conversations and hugs afterwards – I can just feel the glow of it all and I am giddy as a child on Christmas Eve!

There is so much to this sweet season that can distract us from all that is so very good.  For this day, in spite and maybe because of all the inevitable noise, chaos and clutter, I am feeling so grateful for the mess of it all and the chance to glorify a Baby who has given us everything.

My heart goes to a stable where a young mom and a first time dad wait and work under stars shining bright to birth a baby who will save the world. I think of each of my children’s births, how I have labored through the night with hopeful expectation.  Body full of pain and a heart full of hope that they would breath life into their lungs when I finally got to hold them in my arms, even when I knew deep down one would not. I still hoped, until they came.  God has never taken that hope from me and it is how he has sustained me.  Even when the breath of life was gone, I have never lost hope that all would be well.

I pray this season you may have hope, and love and joy and peace and comfort too.  All those things we write and receive on all those Christmas cards.  Read them, know them, feel them.  We are loved and we have reason to rejoice.

Merry Christmas!

Here, again is my favorite hymn of the season 06 – O Holy Night, listen loud, sing it louder.
I posted this last year just after Christmas…

A Thrill of Hope in a Weary World

Oh Holy Night speaks of the dual nature of hope and suffering in life like no other Christmas carol.  It speaks to my heart and gives me reason to praise.  As I seek to sing in a season of remembrance and hope, the lyrics acknowledge I am often pining and weary and hurting.  It says He knows this.  He knows our need.  He knows us! And in knowing Him, our soul finds worth, even in the midst – and maybe especially – when we have trials.  We are loved, valued, treasured – of worth.  I will overcome my suffering, because He will overcome it – all oppression shall cease.  At the top of my lungs, in a pitch I can barely reach, I sing my heart out…
.
.
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angels’ voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim

Worth

I have long been in dedicated pursuit of supporting the absolute and inherent value of all people, and therefore against any belief, system, person or group that might rob, shame or harm anyone in their pursuit of life. Unfortunately, it is the people I dearly love and call my own who have caused some most ravaging damage and have ultimately stunted the potential of women to seek to live out their call to serve God.

I have spent most of my adult years in ministry, one of those was in an official pastoral role at a church, the rest in outreach ministries where I was treated with love as valuable human being. In that one year I gained more insight than I ever hope to see in a lifetime into the misinterpretation of scripture that fosters prejudice, discrimination, shaming, outright abuse and subtle most aggravating mistreatment of women. Really it happened in one specific moment, in a gathering of equals from among the greater community in my same position, all men incidentally, with whom I so naively thought might treat me as one-and-the-same in pursuit of our common goal of ministering to others. I was not so inconspicuously “put in my place,” made to feel small, shamed, as if I had somehow sinned against the God I so dearly loved in wanting so purely to communicate His love for others. It was a moment you may have missed if you were sitting at that table with me and my cohorts, a nearly slight of hand trick that left me confused in the moment, stunned a bit at the nonsense of it all and not until the appropriate response time had passed did I feel the blow to my gut, my soul. I wanted to cry and scream and yell and throw a big fit and say “you are wrong and you are bad for doing what you did” but that would have been too emotional of me, so instead I did was I was told to do. I was speechless, quiet.  This is called a double-bind, an impossible scenario where any course of action will make the situation worse.  It was once believed that a double bind is what caused schizophrenia, it is so crazy-making.  I was left feeling small and ashamed against my own better judgment, am I somehow bad for wanting to serve God in the ways He has given me to serve?

I hope to God my daughters never, ever have to wonder the same. Because you see, if we are somehow bad in God’s eyes for doing His most fundamental work, how can we ever seek to live fully into any other call that is placed upon our hearts that might have any impact in this world where men also live? Is our highest call truly to be subservient rather than wholehearted servants of God?

It still brings a lump to my throat and makes me want to scream to remember that day. And the moment was so small, nothing, so little compared to what so many other women have faced and have been stunted by, not to mention so many others in the world who still face a myriad of injustices. But it hurt, and it scarred me, and it changed me. You may as well cut off my legs if you are to tell me I cannot serve my God in a ministry role. I will be rendered nearly as handicapped if not more. And yet, I still walk with a subtle limp that would take a caring and insightful eye to see, fearful of condemnation, scared to cause conflict, because you see I do not want my life to be about conflict, but reconciliation.  My single greatest calling in this season of life is to encourage relational wholeness that might reflect and allow people to know the love of the One who created them. I dare not admit to be the “f” word, as I do not want to be a ranting anything. I prefer to describe myself as egalitarian, as it is all people I care to value. Nor do I want to open myself up to be shamefully put in my place by the people I call my family. It is hard to stay forever quiet though and try so hard to let my actions only speak to what I believe, and there are current issues I may speak to when I have enough courage, maybe, but for now I just want to share what others have said, who inspired me to write this, and to say thank you to the people at Fuller Seminary who with full reverence and intelligent exegesis of scripture, have long taught all people to wholeheartedly live out what God has created them to do, from pulpit, or pew.

Even more though, I am grateful and amazed that our creative God could so beautifully interweave the truth of his love for all people within words written long before it was anywhere near socially acceptable to be speaking of women as teachers, ministers, prophets, apostles, equals, let alone leaders in any form or fashion. That to me is what is so astounding. If any scripture could be seen in glowing awe of the truth it reveals, it is those that so clearly go against culture and yet remain as if God himself inspired those words and not man.

And I believe He did.

Here are two short articles of inspiration, a sample of what I learned at Fuller after that awful day that gave me hope and conviction for the many times since I have seen or experienced this unfortunate injustice.

Scot McKnight Speaks on Women in Ministry

Women in Ministry: Consistency and Balance

My senior year at Whitworth University I had the honor of traveling across the United States for a month studying prejudice and discrimination, with fellow students and Dr. James Waller .  One of the lessons that most stands out to me is more poetically said by the singer-songwriter Jewel who wrote the lyric “Where there’s a man who has no voice, there I shall go singing.” This resonates with my soul as I know it those who are not directly impacted by injustice can often have a more powerful voice on behalf of those who are. I believe it is my purpose to speak on behalf of those who aren’t heard where I might impact positive change. Those too, are other blog posts to be written. For now, I want to say thank you to these men who give voice on behalf of women who’s voices are not always heard, especially to the late Dr. David M. Scholer, (you can read about him by clicking on his name) my professor of “Women the Church and The Bible” at Fuller Theological Seminary. He did a good work with his life.


A Pastor’s Wife’s Response to Loss

Let me invite you into a discussions my husband and I have had over the years in response to the loss of our baby boy. First I encourage you to read the post he made on his blog http://looktothenorth.wordpress.com/ about Emotion Focused Therapy here and then you can see the response I added to his comments, or return here as it follows. It is a little glimpse into how we can see things a bit differently and still have a solid relationship, solid faith, and ultimately survive such a horrible loss.

My response:

As said marriage and family therapist wife, I must say that I love this piece! I love that my pastor husband would attend this Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) conference with me – something he’s been hearing me preach about for over a decade since I was first exposed to the theory at Fuller Theological Seminary. That made me feel loved!

One thing I see a bit differently though, the part that says “… that gave us the courage and strength to not have to question God either.” We’d both say our faith was strengthened in that time in different ways. He because he didn’t need to question, me because I had to.

I was in a bible study in the year that followed our loss where the question was asked “Do you think you have grown in your faith and understanding of God over time?” My answer was yes and no. After facing significant loss, my faith in God was more solid than ever. He cared for us in minute and miraculous ways that could never have been humanly construed. Jesus was more real to me than ever. At the same time, I felt I understood Him much less. With most of an M.Div degree earned, I had spent a majority of my adult years in ministry as Young Life staff person and Chaplain at Fuller and SPU and thought I had a lot of pretty solid answers. I suddenly felt like I had no answers. The nuances of my belief system were turned upside down in that time, though my faith was solidified beyond measure.

I did, and still do question God. I feel safe bringing those questions to Him and even disagreeing with my understanding of Him at times, knowing our love is secure. Just as in a solid attachment relationship, as EFT supports and prescribes, I have so much faith in my relationship with God and His love for me, that I know He can “see” and “know” all of me and still call me his beloved. One things that stood out clearly was that I did not have to “be” anything in particular for God when I had nothing to give, or “do” anything to earn His love when it was all I could to to wake up and breath each day. I could be an imperfect shattered human being of infinite worth. That was the most profound lesson of loss that came for me. I was left with so many more questions, but far more faith.

I am thankful God allowed Emotion Focused Therapy to light up my heart to help others years ago, knowing I would need it so clearly in my own marriage. Thanks be to God.


Presence of Place

Coinciding with the last day in our home, after long days of packing and moving and unpacking and still surrounded by so much work, we took relief in attending a Good Friday service at our home church. It was a beautiful reprieve to be able to sit, quiet, contemplative in the dark and remember the sacrifices of my savior that gives me a life I don’t deserve. To be able to worship, fully, as if alone, and to let floodgates of tears break free, as I used to most every time I worshiped in this place, as I needed to and could, it had been so long.

The places we live and breath and go to matter, they contain the life we live and give structure to it. But I know, as with everything else on this earth, they are temporal, and not the true things of this life. We attended this place, this new sanctuary and the old just across the street, for 7 years, a significant little lifetime. Now that my husband pastors the satellite campus, we no longer come here to worship and I miss it, the way I will miss our home, also a place of knowing God, of worship and nurturance, of so many memories of the rich life we had here. I carry in my belly what we believe will be the last of our children, our 5th, (unless twins) and I am remembering our pregnant beginnings here when parenthood would be brand new. It was my first of many winter pregnancies and I remember sitting in the old chapel, where we used to have church when the numbers were smaller, it was cozy and glowing with candlelight and I was immersed in identifying with Mary’s hope and awe for a child who would change the world. We were new to Seattle, pregnant for the second time, the first to last, and expectant of all the wonder and love that lay ahead. We’ve had 4 children since while in this building, devoted 3 to the Lord in dedication services we take as seriously as our wedding vows, grieved and mourned and wailed the loss of one whose middle name was Samuel, same as the son of Hannah who’s story is shared with each dedication – he was going to change the world too, in leaving us he did.

Tonight we sat hand in hand tucked in the back of the sanctuary through the whole service, something I no longer get to do with my husband and more than simple memory scenes came over me, as they have in our home these past few days, but the cumulative emotions of everything we experienced here was overwhelming to me. Again, so good to sit in the dark, to cry at a somber service that allows me to remember my savior’s death, see scenes of my son’s death, of births, of faces I love and have loved me, remember faces that are gone and realize so much here has changed too. I feel the hope that Easter is coming. It will be the first morning in our new home. It will be new life for us.

So much is unknown, it is hard to remember sometimes that I know of the resurrection, that this death is not final. I know the pain of change, that the days between Good Friday and Easter are short lived, and that He is present beside me in all of it. But I want to hold on to everything I hold dear, I want change to happen, but I want things to stay the same too. And when I repeat that it is “everything I hold dear” that matters, I know full well that everything I hold dear comes with me. In these days of tears, of remembering so much that was so good, and so hard which is meaningful too, I have been so aware of the fullness of life I have with the people who live and are welcomed in these walls. In the carpool or a park or mundane places like Costco, I have been sweetly reminded that it is my little (some would say big) family that gave any life at all to the walls and the rooms and the yard of our house, and it happens everywhere we go together. Similarly, as we have been intentional about having last gatherings with dear friends to say our goodbyes, we’ve exchanged mutual reassurances that the relationships will not go, even as we do.

He will come too, He is already there. When I am not always sure the why or the what of the path we seek to faithfully follow, I take comfort in knowing He is with me, and that His life gives everything that matters to my life.


A Thrill of Hope in a Weary World

Oh Holy Night speaks of the dual nature of hope and suffering in life like no other Christmas carol.  It speaks to my heart and gives me reason to praise.  As I seek to sing in a season of remembrance and hope, the lyrics acknowledge I am often pining and weary and hurting.  It says He knows this.  He knows our need.  He knows us! And in knowing Him, our soul finds worth, even in the midst – and maybe especially – when we have trials.  We are loved, valued, treasured – of worth.  I will overcome my suffering, because He will overcome it – all oppression shall cease.  At the top of my lungs, in a pitch I can barely reach, I sing my heart out…
.
.
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angels’ voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.
Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim

Treasure Immeasurable

There is a time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

On this day, as with many, we laugh and we dance.  Today we celebrate the first birthday and precious life of our baby girl.  Born 1 year and 10 days after the birth and loss of our baby boy, she was born not in the shadows of that loss, but in the light of her own precious life.  At 4:00 a.m. she took her first breath at the break of day, arriving at the fisherman’s hour when first light is about to hit the waters.  My fisherman husband was proud of her hour of arrival.   We were both overjoyed she was with us – healthy, alive, real – grateful beyond words for our treasure of immeasurable worth.  On the year’s longest night, she is our bright light.

“Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the highest heavens.  You have done such wonderful things.  Who can compare with you, O God?  You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore  me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth.  You will restore me to even greater honor and comfort me once again.  Then I will praise you with music on the harp, because you are faithful to your promises, O God.  I will sing for you with a lyre, O Holy One of Israel.  I will shout for joy and sing your praises, for you have redeemed me. “ Psalm 71: 19-23


On With Life

I had a tough time with my most recent birthday, feeling like 35 was more near mid-life if one pays attention to averages than any other age and in all honesty suddenly feeling “old” in many ways.  The physical being the most obvious and lament worthy, the wrinkles, the grays, the aches and the pains are more pronounced than ever.  I started doing tri-athlons this year (isn’t that crazy?) and each time I trained and for days after, I HURT.  I also started playing soccer again.  After 15 years away from team play and 6 plus years of pregnancies, I started up again, and it hurts.  I grew up playing soccer!  I love soccer!  In my mind I thought I’d have so much going for me with all that childhood and adolescent experience behind me.  The reality is, I have to work hard to run fast and when I do I usually pull muscles.  (Luckily it is fun and I play with really nice people that I care to spend time with.)

Beyond the physical, I am taking stock.  A year and a half ago I lost my son at the end of my pregnancy and plunged into the depths of grief that has fundamentally changed how I experience and perceive life.  That is another story for another time, but for this time it influences my “mid-life” birthday in such a way that I feel I must get on with doing the things I hope to do with my life, because it will pass, too fast and there’s too much I want to do.

1. Slow down

Funny this would be my first goal after stating “there’s too much I want to do” but that is why it must be first.  A therapist of mine once said “you like to live a full-life, I see it as a pouring out of your intellect and creativity.”  I loved that!  What a positive spin on my active life.  That was before kids though, and there is no possible way I can pursue all my passions and still be the mom and provide the life for my kids that is nurturing and honoring of them.  I must set those things aside, for a season, in pieces if I am to be the mom I hope to be.  I must slow down, slow us all down (my husband and kids like adventure and experiences too) and make space for us to play, tickle, read, nap, go for walks, have conversations that matter.  If you have practical advice in this area, I would love to hear them.

2. Listen and Respond to God’s voice

So often I wonder what God might have me do in a particular situation or season of time and wish the map was clear before us because I swear I would follow it, free will and all.  As a little girl I prayed every night “Lord, help me to be the girl you’ve created me to be” and still I hope above all that I am living out God’s purposes for my life.  The problem is, He’s not always clear, there isn’t a formula and the magnitude of love He has for us comes in giving us many options.  I am a planner, so I contemplate and I worry, I fret and I weigh all options.  I am a slow decision maker and the concepts of God’s will and our freedom of choice can feel like some mysterious equation that I must work hard to solve.  Lately, though, I have heard God speaking, loud and clear, about some things, and felt Him pointing me in certain directions in more pronounced ways than usual.  My hopes, in this new year of my life, is to create space to listen – through reading and studying my bible, praying and times of silence – and be bold enough to respond, actually doing what God is telling me to do.  That is always scary and exhilarating for a worry wart like me.

3. Pursue Passions

In order to be the mom I want to be, I need to do a few things, outside of mothering, that feed the other areas of life that interest me.  So often inspiration will hit me, and then I look around at the dishes, the laundry, the stack of papers that perpetually piles up in my kitchen, and then a child comes into focus and there is ALWAYS a need to be met and I set that idea aside, swallow it down, hoping for a window of time, later, to pursue it.  When days go by and the time doesn’t come I get discouraged and wonder why I allow myself to hope to pursue these bits of inspiration anyway.  I can’t give up hope.

God laid it on my heart a few years ago to write.   There is so much going on in my head and my heart that I want to get out in a meaningful way.  Looking around, I realized I write all the time; I keep journals for each of my kids highlighting special moments in their lives or simply writing letters to them as they grow up,  I write in a hand full of personal journals, one in response to sermons, one for my life in general, one in my purse in case an idea or thought hits me on the fly and then there is the myriad of post it’s, receipts, random word documents that I jot down and idea or trail of thought before I lose it.  So really, it is something I already do, I want to put purpose and priority to that.  This blog is part of that.

3. Love Like Crazy

Yes, it is a sappy country song I heard the morning of my 35th birthday, but my aha moment was in the lyrics.  In losing my son I felt a huge numbness come over me that was part normal response to grief and part coping with feelings that could sear me if the numbness didn’t take over.  In grief therapy we talk about layers of our loss, and the loss of the easily excited, exuberantly hopeful parts of myself was a sad layer of my loss.  In grief therapy, I would ask our counselor when I was going to feel like “me” again and she would say that I would feel something similar, but I am forever changed by the death of my son.  This new self can is full of goodness too, but definitely different.  A piece of me had become a bit guarded, fearful I guess, of loving anyone so much that it would devastate me to lose them. This year, when I come up against the fear and numbness that stifles feeling of big huge love and joy, I will remember to love like crazy.  I invite you on this journey with me