Key to Conquering Anxiety *SLOW Word video* Lectio Divina

 

We live our lives as orphans. We live impoverished and alone.  We walk out our front door, down the sidewalk and completely forget who our Daddy is.

 

At least that’s my story.  

 

When I was ten years old we moved across the country from Maine to Ohio. New neighborhood. New church. New Christian school.

 

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I pushed through the giant metal doors of that jr. high completely intimidated by the painted concrete walls, the dozens of blue eyes staring back. I breathed shallow. I learned to live as camouflage, an iguana that changed colors according to the background. I held my arms tight to my body and wished I could blend in.

 

It was an impossible task.

 

80% of the other children were family, first and second and third and fourth cousins of Dutch farm families who had ingeniously settled that land, drained the swamp and farmed the black topsoil that remained. Their trucks crisscross the country to WalMarts and Meijer stores filling our vegetable bins. The kids in my class picked the lettuce and carrots in the summer alongside their fathers’ migrant workers. They were on their home turf and were made of sturdier stuff.

 

I was a singer, a reader who ate, drank, and breathed Lucy Mond Montgomery, and had an anxiety disorder I would only come to understand after I birthed my first baby. That was decades away.

 

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As the kids teased, I took every arrow straight to the heart. I didn’t know how to deflect the pain, the fear that they might be right. I let them write my new name, carve it across my chest. The lies wormed their way into my blood system and it took years to erase the ink scrawled out: Rejected.

 

I walked through those metal doors into my jr. high stripped of truth. I walked in as an orphan. Abandoned. Devastatingly alone.

 

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This is my story, my fight for healing, and the long hard road of transformation. This was one of the essential keys on the journey right here in Psalm 139: 

Where shall I go from your Spirit?

   Or where shall I flee from your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, you are there!

   If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

If I take the wings of the morning

   and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

even there your hand shall lead me,

   and your right hand shall hold me tight.

 

This is not just theory, all these lovely words. It’s David’s story, a shepherd boy, struggling with fear on the side of the mountain listening to a lion’s hunting growls. He must have wondered if he had wandered outside of the circle of His Presence. And it’s my story.

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Years later this matchstick girl has learned to cling tight. His Presence is no longer ethereal ideology, or some mystic’s fanaticism. Practicing the Presence of God is my life-line, especially during times of transition when my world has been emptied, tipped upside down like a bucket, my comfortable life tumbling out. I’ve learned to open up my awareness to His constant Presence and the Light of the World chases away anxiety’s clinging fog. I no longer walk into rooms alone, sit at tables alone, walk the edge of the water’s surf alone. The perfect love of God is always near, a banner over me. His love, no wait…His present love defines me. I AM adopted. The papers have been signed in blood. I walk with Jesus. It’s the with-God life, and my dears, it’s good.

 

After years of pressing close, years of this renewing of the mind, (Oh the tales of redemption that I could tell!) I no longer function as a practical orphan. I know who I am.

 

I’m His.

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What’s Nourishing Me this Month

1. Ever have a recipe that is so decadent you hoard it just for the oooohs and ahhhs? This is mine. The kids adore it at home but I call it Adult Mac and Cheese when I bring it to parties. It’s always licked clean when I bring it home. Gloriously creamy. Sinfully buttery. Add crumbled bacon and peas and suddenly it’s a one-dish gift brought steaming from the oven.

This is Giada de Laurentiis’ Baked rigatoni with Béchamel Sauce.  I’m guessing from her figure that she doesn’t serve this too often but I’m sure glad she was inspired to grate all that fontina. The recipe can be found on the food channel here.

baked rigatoni2. You know those toxic thoughts that are like a ditch you keep falling into? A trigger pounces and all of a sudden, you’re a ditch dweller for a few days. Sometimes they are lies that were proclaimed over you as a child…sometimes they are steams of thought you barely recognized were holding you captive.  You just like you were living in a cloud of negativity, serving up side-helpings of anxiety.

 

Yup, I’ve got some of those too.

 

A month ago, I was sitting at Panera when the spiritual director I had gone to see looked at me asked me what dreams I had in a particular area of my life. He smiled when he said it, “What could you imagine God’s dream for this could be?…like in five years.” It was in an area where I felt I was over my head. I hyperventilated. I fidgeted in my wooden seat. I couldn’t dream. I couldn’t ask God what His dream was.  The anxiety felt thick and I know I looked back at him with wild eyes.

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I was being held captive by the toxic thought that I couldn’t accomplish hard things (hard as in stretching or connected to being in the spotlight). That weekend I joined my mom who has had huge transformations this last couple months overcoming toxic thoughts and signed up for this: Dr. Caroline Leaf’s 21 Day Brain Detox. I spent 21…though with sick days and busy days it was more like 30…days with Dr. Leaf’s easy to follow process and began isolating this one particular thought pattern.

 

Do I sound like an infomercial? Do forgive me. I’m just so dang thankful to be getting free.

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Dr. Leaf is a neuroscientist and I’m absolutely fascinated with the way the brain works. She has had articles published in scientific journals but now brings her studies to a Christian audience where she couples it with working with the Holy Spirit and with Scripture. It frankly works much better than my usual process of journaling obsessively for a week and then burning out.  This is the process I always wished I had while working with my beautiful friends in inner healing prayer.  It will not replace the hard work of inner healing but I believe it works hand in hand to extend and bring full healing to the mind.

 

Her work completely jives with the brain science I’ve been learning with Dr. Terry Wardle at Ashland Seminary and Dr. Daniel Siegel, a psych professor and writer from UCLA. And with Scripture.  You know those verses about taking every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5b) and about continually renewing your mind (Romans 12:2)? Who really knows how to do that? Sometimes a thought will get out of control and completely run me over. This has taught me a slow process for interrupting the power of a toxic thought.  No more thinking that the ditch you find yourself in will be your home forever.  With Scripture, with the Holy Spirit’s leading and with Dr. Leaf’s program, you can live ditch-free.

 

I know…infomercial again. Enter swelling movie music and pictures of little girls dancing.

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Here is a short 2 minute video from her blog:

http://drleaf.com/media/you-can-renew-your-mind/

 

This is a much longer (but fascinating) video you can watch while doing dishes or folding clothes (and yes, I know the outfit of the fifty year old woman introducing her came off the rack from an insane rocker chic store…but this is Texas and she completely forgot to contextualize for us.)

 

 

As for my story? God used this process to walk me through a lie I’d held onto for twenty-five years, the “I can’t” lie.

 

I’m learning to live in the wide open land of: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

 

 

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The Dance that Breaks Out When Women Get Real

Women are quick to lift up the mask, paint on the mask…but the truth?

 

The mask can plaster on hard. It becomes a wall between sisters and only the brave take it off. But when the walls do come down and the stories come out and we are dazzled.

 

Maya Angelou tells this story in one of her memoirs, I forget which one. Women and men had traveled from tribes all over Africa for a PanAfrican conference in Egypt and it was culminating in a feast that led to a dance. Men and women were separated after dinner and though Maya was about to quietly slip up to bed, that was when the joy let loose. Across the hotel ballroom were all shapes and sizes and colors worn on the milky coffee to the ebony. There were tall Ethiopian princesses with high foreheads and rounded Gabonese with the wide hips that swung in circles as she walked. The music thumped and the voices soared and the colors swirled, each bringing the gift of their own tribal rhythm.

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One gorgeous mass of a woman slid into the circle and brought out a white scarf, pulling it back and forth on the slight breeze of a body swaying. Maya watched as the others danced around her. When the tall Ethiopian jumped up straight in rhythm to the music, the others raised hands over her, celebrating the unique beauty.

 

This story appeared simultaneously in the minds of both my mother and I as we sat around a circle of women, sharing stories. It was a night of listening, of quiet, of the privilege of hearing the real.  And after one gorgeous story after another, of redemption and rescue, our first inclination? We wanted to raise our hands over them, glory in the mystery of brokenness made beautiful.

Because our lives are full of broken shards but God makes art with the pieces.

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No one escapes the hammer of a world turned against itself and we live shattered in a million jagged pieces. We walk around cut and try to put together the pieces with a good night cream and a pep talk.

 

The Open Circle was the innovative response of Annette, a spiritual director in training in Sinking Spring, PA, to her church’s desire for a new kind of women’s ministry. Sunday night she invited us to witness. We braved the piles of snow, the steep icy driveway and drove to Koinos Community Church, a Brethren in Christ church plant with a coffee house vibe.  Chairs were pulled up in a circle around the front corner. A simple white candle was lit to remind us that Christ was present.  We warmed hands around paper cups with hot tea and entered into the quiet.

 

Annette drew a circle of safety around the women: confidentiality, respect and the goal of listening, never fixing. Then she invited a single story, a young woman brave enough to pull off the mask, to show the years of scars, to lay out the broken pieces.

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When the young woman told her story, she let the tears flow. But sitting in the chairs around the circle, all we could see was her story through the lens of His Light. We saw the colors swirl in a kaleidoscope. She laid out the jumbled pieces and we saw the veins of the work of God, the patterns in rays of glory.

 

The vulnerable call out the brave in us and around the circle the stories began to slide out one at a time. As she pulled out the broken shards, we all felt brave enough, safe enough to pull out our stories with the pieces that still puzzle. Real stories…not polished and published, not perfect and performed but raw. They had a jagged beauty like the rocks along the coast of Maine.

 

Mama and I, we sat back in wonder. We could hear the whispers of resurrection and it made us feel giddy. From experience, we know that the circle of stories is the setting where healing begins, where prejudice falls off like a shroud, where the Body of Christ can rise again.

 

We could feel resurrection power surging

 

and it made us want to dance.

 

We wanted to grab the tall girl with the textured scarf, the beautiful blond with the black knee-high boots, the Girl scout mom with the bright smile and all the others into a circle. We wanted to celebrate the hard fought stories of surrender. We wanted to raise our hands over the slight one barely raising her eyes, let our celebration rub into her soul. We wanted to delight in the broken made beautiful.

 

We wanted to dance in the lit up patterns of redemption and lift our hands up, worship the Kalaidescope maker.

Unchained-25Photos not from my iphone taken Sunday night were from this post about the Unchained Runway show.

Join me on this thirsty pilgrimage toward God where the broken are being made beautiful?  Slide your email into the CONNECT rectangle on the front page.  Let’s travel these winding roads together.

linking with diana trautwein and together we are pondering the pieces

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Advent, Day 14: When We Are Tired of Being the Walking Wounded

Isaiah 35:5&6 “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped”. “Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing …“

This short recitative takes only 20 seconds, but to those who are being healed, these words mean everything.

 

It has been millennia since the pads of His feet walked our earth and we yearn to spin around in recognition of His voice, to memorize the many emotions that pass over His eyes.

 

This Advent I hear the constant refrain: He is coming, dear Friends.  He is coming.

 

And just like the first time, when He comes again, healing will be in His wake.

 

Isaiah 35:5&6 “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped”. “Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing …“

 

And this is where I live. I spent so much of my 38 years hobbling, struggling with anxiety, bowing to fear that I cry out for Jesus’ healing. I crave resurrection.

 

I crave resurrection surging through you.

 

We have been born smack dab in the middle of the resurrection and the coming again, the now and not yet. His resurrection has swept the land with an earthquake of victory, but still we are limping under sin’s long-fraught consequences.  We live begging for Heaven to come down, embrace our children lying wounded.

 

We wish not just for us to go there, but for Him to transform the HERE.  We refuse to believe that God wanted us to live nested into this earth constantly pining for another esoteric place.

 

NT Wright preaches over and over until he is out of breath that we have gotten it all wrong.  We have misunderstood the future reality of Christ’s coming. Heaven will not be somewhere out there, he teaches. Heaven will be God come down, the earth redeemed, the very ground seeped and healed and transformed.  When His Kingdom comes, His will is done, the earth will once more echo with God’s: “It is good.”

 

So we pick up the four corners of the cot of our loved one laced through with cancer and beg for Christ’s healing resurrection presence now.  We unwrap bandages from our still open heart wounds and search for a Healer.

 

I walk the streets of the nearby town of Ambridge and the needs of the people are not secured under a mask as they are here in Sewickley. The prostitute leans into the doorway wearing anger like armor. Men stand in front of a boarded up doorway and yell, try to strike the flame of fear with words thrown.

 

But even with the pools of light spilling out of store windows, He can see clearly through our carefully crusted masks. His perfect eyes see the bleeding truth.

 

This is not what He had in mind when He created each multi-faceted jewel to shimmer upon the earth. The pain, emotional and physical, is like a shroud we wear and we are the walking dead.

 

The good news? Our pain makes Him want to fight. He witnessed the widow weeping, her son on the funeral bier and breathed life back in his lungs. The woman who already had been physically healed, her 12 year bleeding finally clotting after touching His robe? He knew the bleeding was continuing from somewhere else. He shocked the crowd, reached out His hand, tenderly touched the unclean, the untouchable.  When He proclaims her “daughter,” He watches her inner heart heal up strong.

 

My greatest joy is working with dear ones with inner healing prayer. I witness Him transform the traumatized with His Presence, His words, His touch.

 

He wants to see you leaping and laughing, friends, your unbound hands raised praising. He wants to lay hands on your eyes, open to you the full light. In the now. And when He returns, the water of healing will wash over us so that we shine and shimmer in His light once again.

 

Advent spiritual exercise:

Take deep breaths, get quiet. Take Him by the hand and lead Him on a tour of your body, of your heart. Perhaps you need a pen in hand?  Invite the Healer to come to each broken hurting place in this new year.  No more pretending perfect. Invite Him to bring His Kingdom come into the highways and byways of your life. Open the door wide for the Healer to come in.

 And just a note: dear one, please stop trying to go it alone.  Independence is one of the greatest spiritual blocks of our Christian existence.  Seek a safe person to come with you to the Healer.  You don’t have to go it alone.  Feeling isolated and fearful of opening your heart? Perhaps you would let me come with you?  Check out the spiritual direction invitation coming soon here to A THIRST FOR GOD.

We’re almost there, friends. We are traveling to the manger together. Don’t miss a day. Enter your email in the CONNECT button on the front page (I’m fiercely protective of them, don’t worry) and let’s pilgrim together toward Christmas.

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For When I’m Struggling with Selfishness: Honoring Mothers

At the same time that I am emptying boxes here in Sewickley, PA, attempting to build a home, on Saturday I helped to tear one down: Andrew’s Grandmother’s. I emptied drawers of tatting threads, carried shelves out to waiting vans and wandered around the garage filled with the overflow of a life.

 

 

She had moved into the ranch house with the gold couch, and the blue and yellow patterned carpet on the kitchen floor the year I was born, 1975.  This was the house where she threw flour on the counter and rolled out countless pie shells.  It was here that she wrapped Christmas presents late for four children who posed for pictures on the stairwell, the oldest holding a candle.  And here she yearly cooked turkeys for children and then grandchildren and then greats and sprinkled cinnamon on her famous orange crescent rolls that never made it to the leftover table.  Here she leaned over missionary cards at the wooden kitchen table and prayed for people she would never meet.

 

It is the daily commitment of one woman to build a home and be priest for a small congregation.

 

So Saturday, Grandma Shellhaas, now without dear Grandpa, moved into assisted living and watched her children carry in old furniture and try to fit it into her new life.  I watched her walk around the fresh clean rooms mumbling,“It all looks so strange.”

 

It’s stuff, but it’s not stuff when you have welcomed 100 people to sit on that chair and chat with a glass of lemonade.

 

It’s stuff but it’s not stuff when you have served 100 Sunday roasts on that table and heard right there with a cry of joy and arms spread out that you are going to be a grandmother again.

 

A home after 38 years (yup, that’s how old I am folks,) is full of years and love and decoupaged stories one on top of the other.

 

She built that home and courageously did the hard work of one faithful day upon another and tonight I honor her and the others who build walls around a family.

 

It wasn’t always so, and I’m embarrassed to admit that.  I drank the kool-aid of generations of feminists and spent a decade recovering from the food poisoning. Through my eyes mountains of laundry and grocery lists were interpreted as a missed life.

 

My greatest sadness? I clearly remember one morning mom had come to visit me in seminary and instead of honoring the courage and commitment to build strong children, I spewed my own fear, that my life wouldn’t have purpose, asked her why she had spent all her days building our lives and not her own.  I mistook faithfulness for hiding. And now, with the banging of three pairs of feet chasing through my own house, I’m sick at how I could exchange such grace with my own anger.

 

And what was is it that I feared?  I feared diminishment.  I feared the death of a self-important future.

 

When I brought home my first swaddled little creature, I needed the power of God to turn my narcissistic eyes away from my own self-ambition.

 

That first mother-child bond…I had to pray for it…get on my knees for the desire to mother.  And our faithful God?

 

He forgave, healed, transfigured, resurrected.

 

A bond was forged as I massaged his skinny little arms with apricot oil.  I learned to love with both of us cuddled close with his father, Caedmon on the left side of Andrew’s great chest, myself on the right.

 

But selfishness is shot through my blood stream and there are days I struggle to not turn inward, to pay attention to the needs of four other lives.

 

So tonight I honor the simple hard work of each woman around the world who attempts to build a life within four walls…

 

I honor each woman who invites Love to walk her halls,

 

each woman who faithfully sweeps her home with prayers,

each who creates beauty on the mantle and another nourishing meal

who struggles through the years to make a soft bed for her marriage, pulling clean sheets over their years.

I honor our grandmas and our mothers who showed up each morning to do the hard work and tucked us in every night.

Mother Teresa, when asked what we could do to encourage world peace merely replied, “Go home and love your family.”

And this is what Grandma did so simply, so profoundly and as I clean out the drawers of her craft dresser, this is what I am thinking about…

and Grandma, I pray that when the stories are retold someday this will have been my greatest achievement as well.

Summer Gross

And you, friend, what nuggets have you learned from your Grandma?

linking with the lovely and always honest Emily Wierenga here:

and with Jennifer Dukes Lee, wordsmith and patron saint to writers everywhere:

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Serious Approval Addiction Excavation

So God has his working gloves on.  Really, we both do, shovels in hand.  We’re working around the dead shrubs planted in the front yard of my life… my people pleasing addiction. And friend, this baby has roots that go down way under the porch.  I’m talkin’ extensive excavation with a pickaxe or perhaps a field trip to the lab, untwining the strands of my DNA and picking at the genes with tweezers.

It is time to pick up the magnifying glass…to see what people pleasing really is: sin.

Why?

I say I only worship one God though I learned early how to bow to please the many.

I live, gate closed, fenced in with a graveyard of anonymous false gods.

Now do you see the God-separation in this sin? Not so pretty.

All I know is that He is a Resurrected God and this addiction has already been nailed to the cross, though the roots are crisscrossed in deep.

And so during a Thanksgiving week crammed full of three turkeys and overstuffed with stimuli (caused by all the beautiful people I love and love to please), He led me back to this here realization…the one that screams against the worship of polite, the worship of nice.

Here it is in all its naked glory:

I was created to be a challenge.

I was created to be a challenge.

 

No need to crawl up small and play elevator music to satiate moody crowds.  No more patting the hand of sin to make it feel better.  No more Nice as if nice was god.

I was meant to be a challenge, arms lifted in boxing gloves, unwilling to give up my soul to the masses who demand puniness.

 

I am shielded behind the Lion’s roar. 

And resting behind His opinion, His judgment, His Truth, I can walk with muscled purpose. 

 

Light does not ask Dark for His opinion of her skirt. 


I will not bow to the many who try to judge the few into obeisance.

 

I choose to listen to Your Voice.

I choose difference. 

I choose challenge.

I choose a substantial Life.

As I said, God and I, we are jumping on shovels together.  This one’s deep, but here’s a clue to the hard work we are about.  Miss Beth Moore spoke right to my heart in these highly practical talks, 15 min each about stronghold excavation with the Word.  Worth every second.

And friend, if you are bone-tired from the hard work of excavation, You are not alone.

Here’s the hope: God is more fierce for your freedom than you are!  And dear one, with your permission, He is coming in after you.  He is all about the divine surgical mending of your broken heart and tearing down the prison walls which have been constricting the air out of your life.  Confession and nailing that sin down is the first step to healing.

Your eyes will soon peruse a new land: wide-open freedom.

How do we know?  Because here’s Jesus’ mission statement:

(Eugene Peterson says to let the scripture roll around in the mind like a slowly melting lozenge. This one certainly deserves that kind of hmmmm, slow rocking-on-the-porch meditation.)

Isaiah 61:1-4

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.

(Tattoo photo from Pinterest, amazing birdcage photo I bought for my sister a few years ago? here)

This is obviously a repost (Ahem, thanksgiving?) but, oh, I seem to need it again as we live with mom and dad (who I adore with all my heart but who I long to please) for a few weeks during this transition: I am meant to be a challenge.

And you friend, do you wrestle with approval addiction?  Where do you find your strength? Oh do share.

(I’m linking with the fabulous Jen Ferguson who today has a review on what looks like a wonderful book on friendship and authenticity.)

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When Fear Squeezes

Tonight it was the chocolate sheet cake, the one with the thick fudgy frosting Andrew’s mom taught me step by step. It’s THE “birthday cake” around here because no one can imagine desiring anything but a large rectangle of this warm, chocolaty goodness.

So tonight as I mixed up the frosting for Andrew’s birthday cake, ran my finger around the icing in the bowl and brought it up to my lips (because really, none of it should ever be wasted), again I thought, at least we will have this when we move to our house/apartment/townhouse next month. Because although the forms get more clear, we still don’t know exactly where we will be landing. After hyperventilating a bit, I do know this: I know what recipes I’ll be pulling out onto those stainless steel/laminate/granite countertops. I’ll get out the control journal I made a few Christmases back filled with recipes covered in plastic sheets and smeared with a hundred memories here in South Haven.

 

There’s comfort in that.

 

I don’t know where we will sleep, but I know what we will have for dinner.

 

I know I’ll still dump Hunts tomato sauce cans in a crockpot along with ground beef, garlic, onions, a bay leaf, and a light blanket of Italian Seasonings and it will smell like home for hours. Then, on warm nights when we grill, I will still slice the Vidalia onions thin, mound them up in a frying pan and caramelize them for an hour. Andrew will then fork them up on his burger and moan with the joy of all that golden buttery love.

 

I know that on Saturday nights I will still add a large spoonful of ricotta cheese and zest an orange into pancake batter and plop frozen blueberries into their centers hearing them sizzle on the griddle. We will then stop with that first forkful, and chew slow, blueberries warm and bursting in the mouth. Then we will all pile on the couch to watch some Mary Poppins-like film and sing along on movie night. No, that’s not quite right. I will sing along and they will beg me to stop but I can’t because I have a dead on perfect Julie Andrews impression.

 

 

I know we will still buy Brownberry whole wheat bread for our sandwiches and make hot buttery cinnamon toast before bed.

 

And there is comfort in this.

 

What’s harder for me to remember is where my living Bread will come from. I wake up anxious, fearing a Bread shortage on the other side of following the Uhaul truck through Michigan and across 80 in Ohio and into Pennsylvania. I fear moving will clamp shut all the channels through which God has come to feed me Life.

 

 

And then I remember whose responsibility Bread-giving is and take a deep breath and pray this litany I learned from my 16 week healing care curriculum written by Terry Wardle. This prayer is how I slowly turn my face toward the One, towards the Bread-giver. These words are me holding out my hands empty. They are the way hope creeps up slow because as I pray these words, His Presence comes and slowly untangles the choking fear.

Yes, there is bread here, but Summer, manna will still fall there. Remember, Summer: Bread here, Bread there.

Litany of Core Longings

Lord, I need a safe and secure environment

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need constant reinforcement of my personal worth

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need repeated messages that I am valued, unique and special

And I can only get them from You.

 

Lord, I need unconditional love and acceptance

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need basic care and nurture

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need encouragement to grow and develop my personal gifts and talents

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need a pathway to fellowship with You

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need a sense of belonging

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need to feel useful and needed

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need a hope and a future

And I can only get it from You.

 

God loves me unconditionally and wants to give me all this.

 

And you friend, which of the phrases of the core longings litany connects with you?

(oh and by the way, I found the bread image from wikipedia and the pancake photo here.)

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He is risen! Happy Easter Friends

The baskets are stuffed, the Easter outfits laid out on the dining room floor, and the lily’s perfume fills the living room where I am sitting.  Quiet.

 

Quiet is pure gift in a clergy person’s home during Holy Week, especially where there are young children.

 

This year? Xavier fell asleep heavy in my arms during the Maundy Thursday service and Andrew and I passed him back and forth from shoulder to shoulder.  I preached, he celebrated.  He washed my feet.  I washed his.  We both washed the feet of Madeline and Caedmon.  Warm water splashed while her cowboy boots and his soccer shoes lay empty in a pile next to us, their eyes mesmerized on mom and dad’s hands cupping the water, caressing their feet. Xavier didn’t wake up until we arrived home.

 

Good Friday we follow the cross in the dark doing Stations of the Cross and readers have book lights and the Station’s modern art sketches are lit by candles.  This year Xavier got through two stations before he started doing jerky-looking calisthenics and we took a walk.  Progress.  Maybe next year we will get through number 3.

 

Nana and Grandpa Steve have added to the richness, flying in from far away and walking this Holy Week with us, sending the children into a constant sugar-high joy.  These children play and joke like they know they are loved.  We all sponge painted eggs and the children lost interest after coloring a few and ran to the sink to wash sticky fingers.  It was the adults who lingered at the table happy to do something creative and simple.

 

And I just can’t get over the gifts, the small graces that make up this life and His large gift that makes it all possible.  Because without His dying and taking on my death, I would never be able to drink from this heaven on earth.  I would have wriggled free of this Eden and bent, struggled into hell.  I know this because I almost threw it all away years ago before His wounds started healing me.

 

I’m thankful the pervasive evil (when did we get so fascinated with television about vampires, zombies, serial killers?) will never have the last word, that He already WAS the last word and that it is spreading forward and back, saturating and healing the earth.

 

So very thankful for these gifts and friends, honestly, I’m so very thankful for you as well and the family that is building here at a thirst for God, where we catch glimpses of “His hand at work in the world about us.”

 

Happy Easter to you my friends.

 

If you have time, check out this contemporary song based on St. John Chrysostom’s Easter hymn: here.

 

Maybe you, like my little Xavier, will lift your hand straight up toward the sky as you listen to this Matt Maher song and know, He is risen and miraculously, the Risen One is among us.

 

He is risen.  He is risen indeed.

 

Summer Gross

Pictures were from two years ago, an oh so warmer year.  

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Day 32: Vulnerability Is Key

It wasn’t until she chucked the seventh time yesterday that I thought to reach for the healing oil.  (Aren’t you glad you are reading here today?) And now I can feel it, the guilty mom/priest feeling rising up.  Yes, I’m a female Anglican priest and yes, I stash healing oil in my trendy red and white striped clutch which I carry everywhere I go.  You never know when someone may need the power of God and besides, I lose things all the time, better keep the bishop’s blessed best super close.

 

Then, shocker.  After the prayer? Healing.  Then today, Xavier too, after the prayer, healing flooded in and then came perkiness and asking for food.  Sound familiar?  (Below? Madeline nursing Xavier, keeping him company reading to him.  So proud of you baby girl!)

 

But, the honest truth is that I waited…I waited to come before the power of the Universe who has promised to be always present.  I waited for that which should always be first…prayer!

 

The truth is that God’s healing shocks me. every. time.  And it just shouldn’t. Ask my grandpa about his dad’s conversion, he would have preached to you about healings.  His mother? Healings.  I have a row of books upstairs literally about family healings…but the question is, why did I get passed over with the faith gene?

I’m getting vulnerable here and this is where my aha moment cross-pollinates with the subject of good news bringing. My own faith struggles can be a strange sort of opening for those around me struggling toward faith.  When we present a perfect image, people smell out a mask.  Authenticity is often a bigger door to Christ for our unbelieving friends than anything that was typed into an apologetics book. (I’m sorry, Josh McDowell).

We can share the switchbacks of our own faith journey while still pointing to the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Our mess takes nothing away from His Perfection.

 

Vulnerability is absolutely key to becoming a safe person to journey with.

lent

Summer Gross

Hi friend.  So thankful you are here journeying with me.

This is a part of the series: cross-shaped evangelism. You can find the rest here.

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My Redemption Story

Meet Lynn Johnson.  I’m guest posting over at her site today with this, my messy and unglamorous (though no less victorious) redemption story.  And you, friend, you’ve just got to get to know Lynn.  She and her husband and seven kids lived in a red brick house a block over and our families grew and intertwined and did life together for three years. She sings with a rich, powerful gospel voice and has a testimony to match.  Lynn, Mama Lynn as my family calls her, came in the middle of a blizzard a few years ago from the Detroit area to give a talk at a town-wide women’s Christmas gathering.  She had us weeping into kleenexes as she shared about her years of struggle and then she led us out into praise, giving us glimpses of Jesus.

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And here, dear friend, is my story:

I lived a double life:  One with a morning prayer closet and a love tank full and a pink and white striped bedroom, and the other in the sterile halls of junior high where daily I worked to be accepted and daily I was taught the lie, you are not enough.  My Jesus, held tight each morning as I stepped out of the minivan vanished slowly as I walked down the wide grey hall floor.  Daily I lost trust, daily lost faith.  Daily I stood, feeling abandoned by secure Love.

 

Jr. highers throw judgments around until they hit people and little people who feel small try to stand on other people’s toes, crush what is vulnerable.  I feared new until I trembled at judgment in every unknown room.  Four years of lies.  Four years of walking into the carnival hall of mirrors and untruth built a ditch in my mind every other thought would slingshot towards.  Every day I tried to run at peer relationships new: laughter at myself and at the jokes one day, silence the next.  Some days I tried to force bonds with compassion.  I lived anxious, pretending happy.   Each day I contorted myself so as to avoid the teasing.

 

Four years and I unlearned every authentic voice God had poured in.

 

At the same time, I was another Summer at church apart from peers.  Real Summer singing from deep passion for God, courageously unguarded.  Love-tank-full Summer exploring cultures and peoples and teaching about missions at youth gatherings.

 

I began walking beside myself.

 

Please click here and read the rest over at Lynn’s.  It gets better, I promise!

Summer Gross

 

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