What It takes to move people from here to there

Gate Gothic Fantasy Background

(“Best of” blog) This post was written when we moved from Houston, to Columbia, South Carolina almost five years ago. We are still delighted to be in our new church family and home. The lessons in how we can see a new hope and a future and move people there and keep them inspired are still fresh.

After months of transition, job search, selling a home, finding a home, a month of living with delightful, incredibly generous friends while we wait for the new home sale to close, we have finally, actually, irrevocably MOVED. What seemed so daunting and risky and unknown has become, step by step, reality. Actually, God is in the business of moving us all from HERE to THERE. And as Bill Hybels pointed out at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit last week: the essence of leadership is to lead people from HERE, the current reality, to THERE, the much preferred future.

Five ways to have a richer, more joyful vacation

DSC00260Vacation offers the possibility that, for at least a week or two, it really *can* be “all about me.” Relax and indulge in what we want to do when we want to do it.

But, if we were to pursue a vacation with Jesus at the center, might we actually find more joy? What would it look like? Here are five ways you can have a richer, more joyful vacation:

Plan and Pray

Part of the fun of vacation is planning what to do. Even letting the kids help pick out places to see and things to do. It ramps up everyone’s expectations and anticipation of the fun to come.

Are you more known for what you are against, or what you are FOR?

As Christians so often we are known for the behaviors and causes we oppose. But do our Facebook friends and communities really know what we are for?

Here’s part of our problem: We are told that when we give to God we should give in secret. We also want to follow Jesus, who was a portrait of humility. So…much of what Christians do to serve others flies beneath radar.  But sometimes we work as a team. And as a team leader I want to give a shout out to the team and not just tell, but show how our Community Connection Team made a difference in someone’s life.

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One of our team members is a physical therapist. As we considered who we wanted to help on our next Saturday of Service he gave us the name of a disabled widow who lived in the basement of her home because her leg had become so bad that she could no longer access the main floor. She wants to move to assisted living but doesn’t have the help she needs to prepare her home for sale so she could make the move.

On a bright, cool Saturday morning about 25 of us gathered to help prepare this home for sale. We rented a big blue pod and began filling it with boxes of trash.

Ten things you might thank Jesus for this Easter Weekend

Lent, Triumphal Entry…days teaching and healing in the temple, final words to his disciples, crucifixion and today…resurrection. In this season of reflection and entering into the story of how Jesus loved, died and lives again I close my Bible and whisper…this is exactly who I want my God to be. From my thanksgiving journal…Thank you Jesus that…

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…you ride into town… the king on a donkey… the lion-like lamb

…you throw the money changers out of the temple..the lamb-like lion

…you challenge the chief priests, scribes and elders with such courage–in the temple day after day, healing and teaching and disputing with them  in what they think is their house. Telling the Sadducees to their faces, “You are quite wrong.” Always respectful. Always brilliant. Again and again they challenge you and fall quiet at your knowledge of truth and Scripture and your ability to intellectually thrust and parry.

#boycottindiana and YOUR religious freedom: A lawyer who worked the Hobby Lobby case explains what’s really at stake

boycottindiana2Suppose you are an Indian who runs a vegan café in Indiana. (You are Jainist and your faith opposes the taking of animal life.) And suppose a customer wants you to cater their wedding with your amazing vegan creations, but please, just put some chicken wings on the side for non-vegans.

If you refuse this service should the offended customer (backed by the NRA, Ducks Unlimited and the force of government) see you have to shut down your café and lose your livelihood because of the heavy fines imposed? Would it make sense to justify this because you clearly “hate” and are prejudiced against meat-eaters?

Do you really want the government to force you to violate your core beliefs? This is the question at the heart of the intense debate in the wake of this past weekend’s social media campaign as well as last summer’s Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision.

  Engage the Culture Series

On Sunday, April 19th, Pepperdine University Law Professor Robert Cochran will present an evening conversation in Columbia, SC: The Hobby Lobby Decision and the Future of Religious Liberty. Read more.


And here is the rock-bottom truth lost in the media frenzy: 

The Indiana law doesn’t say anything @ gays and lesbians. 

It says that if the government is going to force people to violate their core beliefs they should have a good reason. Otherwise they should leave them alone.
The law sets up a test for what makes for a good reason. The courts decide.

To further explain this conflict so hurtful to so many I’m honored that Daniel Blomberg has agreed to answer some key questions. Daniel grew up here in Columbia and graduated from the University of South Carolina Law School magna cum laude. He is legal counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and clerked for the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

1. Daniel, what was your role in the Hobby Lobby case?

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: Boomers Take On Aging and Death

(“Best of” blog, review of the original Marigold movie, reposted as the sequel, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel releases)

best exotic marigold hotel“What will you do in the end?” asks the prophet Jeremiah. Sonny, a young Indian entrepeneur has an answer: “Outsource aging to India!” Where they respect their elders and where, instead of a tiny beige flat, your thirty-year civil service pension can afford life in his luxurious hotel.

In this movie seven retirees and widows with different baggage and longings accept the offer and fly off to spend their golden years in India.

OK, so it turns out to be a run-down, covered-in-dust and peeling-paint hotel. Photoshopping your brochure works better for Sonny than his guests.

A fine cast, including Judy Dench, Bill Nighly, Tim Hathaway, and Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton from Downton Abbey, shows us what happens to those who choose to work, love and overcome the losses of relocation and aging and those who choose to stay inside and read a book. What will YOU do in the end? Marigold explores several options. (Spoiler Alert)

Why the Biblical Defense of Traditional Marriage is NOT like the “Biblical” Defense of Slavery

“Evangelicals will more or less come to embrace homosexuality in the next 20 to 30 years,” Jeremy Thomas, professor of Sociology at Idaho State University, predicts. “I would put all my money on that statement.”

They will “grow out of” their disapproval of homosexuality and gay marriage. Just like they like they “grew out of” their approval of slavery based on race. So goes the conventional wisdom.

Bible Defense of Slavery
But there is a vast gulf between the “Biblical” argument to defend slavery and the “Biblical” argument to defend homosexuality and gay marriage. In order to defend the enslavement of blacks based on race, white Southern antebellum preachers had to resort to a tortured theological construct. How tortured?

When we stand before God I would not want to be Josiah Priest (1788-1861). His Bible Defense of Slavery (1843) twisted Scripture and the minds of thousands and helped launch the civil war. For those who equate the “Biblical” defense of slavery to the “Biblical” defense of traditional marriage: read just how tortured…

What we need to know about the threats to our religious liberty

“Proud people claim rights; they have a demanding spirit. Broken people yield their rights; they have a meek spirit.”

Robert Cochran 2It is Lent. And I was just praying this this morning from Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s prayer guide on what a broken, humble heart really looks like. It’s a heart like Jesus’ heart, who even gave up his rights as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to purchase our salvation with his life’s blood.

So does that mean we should give up our rights to religious liberty in America? Or should we pay for contraception that is really abortion? Should Christian colleges be forced to hire LGBT professors to teach Bible or theology? Should my husband, an ordained minister, be compelled to preside over a same-sex wedding? What exactly is at stake?


 Engage the Culture Series

On Sunday, April 19th, Pepperdine University Law Professor Robert Cochran will present an evening conversation here in Columbia at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church about the future of our religious liberty.


As with everything, I believe that when we find ourselves in tension between claiming our rights and giving them up, God looks at the larger context and at our hearts. What are the circumstances? What is our motivation?

What Drives ISIS and How Will We Respond?

ISIS sent a message last week: “Message signed in blood to the nation of the cross.” Twenty-one Christians slaughtered on the beach. Did you see it?

ISIS on beachThey said they were “chopping off the heads of those that have been carrying around the cross illusion in their heads.” That’s me and my family. My church. Their message is for us.

They beheaded 21 Egyptian Christian brothers as an act of Worship to Allah.
And the 21 died with prayers on their lips to Jesus. “Lord Jesus Christ,” they called out. “Yeshua!”

And we can feel powerless. Our military might ensnarled in tribal rivalries and ancient disagreements over the legitimate successor to Mohammed (Sunni vs. Shia).

I heard Bill O’Reilly sign off of an interview with Rev. Franklin Graham, head of Samaritan’s Purse, saying, “Yes, I hear you saying we need prayer…but we also need power.” And once again he called for more military intervention in the situation.

As you watch the horrors of ISIS unfold on your TV, do you look to military might to end them? Are we praying? Are our churches praying? How should we pray?

Fifty Shades of Blue

Last Sunday at the 2015 Grammy’s our friend Brooke Axtell appealed to women trapped in abuse to raise their voice and escape like she did.

Brooke at Grammys

When the man she loved began to abuse her she said, “I was stunned…I believed he was lashing out because he was in pain, and needed help. I believed my compassion could restore him and our relationship. My empathy was used against me. I was terrified of him and ashamed I was in this position. What bound me to him was my desire to heal him.” The Grammys audience erupted in applause as did The Washington Post, ABC News, Time magazine, Salon, Slate and many more news outlets. You can watch the one-minute video here.

Not a week later 50 Shades of Grey opened in theaters across the nation. Do you have a friend or a daughter who is intrigued by the movie? Or maybe you are…Ask them or take one minute to watch the video of Brooke’s speech and compare it to this paragraph from the New York Times review:

We cook. We eat. We bond. And the IF: Table questions are the secret sauce

Last weekend IF: Gathering again rocked Austin and thousands of women around the world. Last year I reviewed the Gathering here. This year, whether you attended IF: or not, I invite you to roll out the IF: experience each month around your own IF: Table–6 women, 4 questions, 2 hours.
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 IF: God is real…”Take the land!” by simply setting a table. In his famous description of the armor of God in Ephesians 6 I really think that the apostle Paul should have included a knife and a fork—so powerful is the opportunity for bringing God’s kingdom at a dinner table.

In today’s culture where we feel stressed by work and caregiving and meals tend to be hurried or ignored, where we are painfully aware that our table pales beside HGTV, it takes a bold stroke of Spirit-led intentionality to make space for cooking and serving. But the rewards are rich.

Our friend Brooke Axtell made an eloquent appeal last night on the Grammys to women trapped in abuse

Please join me in spreading this video and Brooke’s story within your circle of influence. And praying for women to be set free. Also, please pray for Brooke as she stands against powers of great darkness.

When Brooke was seven her Mom, Mollie, was hospitalized with a severe reaction to environmental poisoning. Her Dad traveled extensively for his business so they decided to put their two sons and Brooke in the care of a series of nannies.

One, a seminary student they thought they could trust, repeatedly sexually abused Brooke, even trafficked her to other men, as she recalled in a piece titled “What I Know of Silence,” written for an anthology of women’s writing in 2012. She was so ashamed it was years before she shared her experience with her family.

Last night, after a clip by President Obama on the subject of violence against women, Brooke briefly shared her story of another, more recent episode of sexual abuse by her boyfriend.

Deep thoughts on the heart of Valentine’s and a simple way to celebrate

Girl Blowing Red Hearts To Her Lover For Valentines Yes, Valentines is a celebration of love, but what is at the heart of love? And what clues might it give us to the best way to celebrate?

On the phone with my mom last night, a true introvert and a tiny bit of a loner, she said, “I just need a hug.”

“I’m so sorry, Mom, that Dad isn’t well enough to hug you anymore. And I’m sorry that I’m so far away.”

“Yes, you know there’s a lady here where I live and she gets to feeling the same way. So we’ve agreed that, if ever we need a hug, she can just come to me and I will gladly give her one. And she’ll hug me if I need it.”

“Sounds like you need to look her up tomorrow.”

“Yes, I think so.”

Whether it’s a sudden disruption or a long slow drip, trouble and pain bring clarity. They help us discover, what really matters most? What is our greatest treasure? The answer is not success or accomplishment. Or a closet full of clothes or a trip to the beach or the mountains or “going to Disneyland.” It’s the tender presence, even the touch, of someone who cares about us.

A Christian Response to Those Who Question God’s Judgment and Heart

Exodus Gods and KingsAnother week, another new big-budget Hollywood movie that condemns God as unjust and uncaring. And it’s not just Hollywood. We hear it more and more in schools. In the marketplace. From unbelieving friends and family. How do you respond?
It hurts my heart. God is such a Treasure. I wonder how people can miss it. But clearly they increasingly see themselves as more moral and compassionate than the God of the Bible. How might we respond?

Why the Gospel is Better than the World of Norman Rockwell

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Before the “conquest of cool” Norman Rockwell celebrated good relationships, hope, kindness, trust, respect and family. As he put it, “Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed.” Yesterday we took in both the lecture on his life’s work and the exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art. His work is powerful and the world he created is richly beautiful (and fun!). I loved our walk through the archives of American optimism–so many childhood memories. But something even richer and more powerful seemed missing.

Rockwell didn’t just paint pictures, he told stories. He used models as actors, directing them to assume poses and convey certain emotions and facial expressions.

Five Ways Unbroken will Enrich Your Life–the movie and (even more) the book

UnbrokenFor all Lauren Hillenbrand’s in-depth research and narrative craft and Angelina Jolie’s movie-making chops, only God could create the story of Unbroken on the canvas of Louie Zamparini’s life.

Our little family did our part to make it #2 at the box office this past weekend (second only to the final Hobbit movie), but I first heard of the book four years ago when my friend Rosie, who reads stacks of books and rewards only the best, grabbed me by the shoulders; looked me in the eyes and said, “You have got to read Unbroken.”

This was now the fourth friend endorsement (and definitely the most physical) for Laura Hillenbrand’s World War II saga of the Olympic runner, Army bombadier and Japanese POW. So a group of us gathered together to read it.

How do we speak from failure with integrity?

WorldproofingWe who follow Jesus have a high calling. And often a high privilege of telling others about him and his way of life, equipping or simply encouraging them on their journey. But we are all sinners, desperately in need of God’s saving grace. So when our lives haven’t aligned with the way of Jesus how do we decide if we still should speak (or write) about following Jesus in that way?

For example, How can we best honor Jesus and speak with integrity to our children about sexual purity if we were not sexually pure?

Or should we counsel and minister to other couples about how to have a strong marriage if we’ve struggled in our marriage or been separated or divorced? What if we’ve committed adultery?

Should we counsel others on how to help their children love and follow Jesus when our children have not followed him? Do we have anything to say? Should we keep silent? If not, how might we speak with integrity?

I probably have as many questions as answers on this so I’d love for you to think and engage with me on this topic…even give me your advice.

An Open Letter to the New York Times Editorial Board: Maybe there is a “why” to evil and ISIS?

The Times editorial board and some of its columnists have no explanation for the evil splashed across the internet and the pages of their own newspaper. But the kids in our church and the people in Rwanda do. What does it mean when your worldview cannot account for the real world?

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From “The Fundamental Horror of ISIS” 10-2-14:
“Comparisons are meaningless at this level of evil, as are attempts to explain the horror by delving into the psychology or rationale of the perpetrators…as Roger Cohen, the New York Times columnist, wrote in a recent piece about ISIS, there is no “why” in the heart of darkness.” —New York Times Editorial Board  (“Yet, in the end, there is no why to the barbarism of ISIS. There is no why in Raqqa. Evil may adduce reasons; they fall short.”–Cohen)

Dear Editorial Board,