Yes, the new book is out!

WhyGodCallsUs_COV-sqAnd yes, I’m excited!

I started writing this book because my editor at Moody Publishing asked me to. It was as simple and inauspicious as that. Yet as soon as I began working, I knew God was leading.

This book is no easy read. It looks honestly as the cost – a price paid in trauma and loss. Then steps into the heart of God. It’s drenched in love, faith, and a deep and abiding hope shared by all who’ve walked in dangerous places with Christ and those who’ve loved those who have gone.

I’m excited, it’s true. But it’s an excitement fueled with conviction. I’m convinced that when you read it, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

This book is for all who go, for all who love those who go and for all who send.

It’s no rah-rah, isn’t this great. Instead, it’s a deep tear-soaked hallelujah. It’s a celebration of a holy God who laid aside His privilege, stepped into our darkness, and suffered for our sake.

It’s an invitation, not to an expensive Christianity, but to one properly priced – one that understands the astonishing love of God and chooses to love with God.

Yes, I’m excited. The book is out in the world. May it reach each person to whom God desires to receive it. And may all who read it meet God in the stories of Scripture and the experiences of those who’ve walked in dangerous places with Him.

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Where is Jesus today?

I love scripture. I love it when I find myself in the stories. I love the way God meets me.

What do I mean?

Take the story of Jesus walking across the water. It’s such a rich, full, thick story. So much going on. But what does it mean to me, today?

Consider this…

One day I’m sleeping quietly, unaware, at rest…Jesus walks across the water toward me. I don’t know it, but he’s coming. He’s not in a rush. Maybe he’s walking along, admiring the stars, feeling the soft water beneath his feet and enjoying the sweet anticipation of reaching me at just the right moment.

Perhaps another day and I’m wide awake and full of yearning for his presence. I peer into the darkness but I can’t see him. My heart is full of questions; where is he? How will he come to me? And again, he’s walking across the water. He’s taking his time. He sees me looking for him and he’s coming. He knows he’ll reach me. And he knows that the longer I wait, the excited I’ll be to receive him.

Yet another day and I am frightened. I’ve seen something I don’t understand. Something I can’t explain, like a ghost on the water. I can’t make sense of what’s happening around me. I’m scared. Then I hear his voice. “Don’t be afraid. It’s me you’re seeing.” I’m confused, but slowly my heart calms. I understand. Oh, I’m seeing God in a new way, but he’s still God and I’m okay.

And then there’s the days when I’m full of boldness, courage and excitement. “Call me. I’ll come.” And he does. I jump from the safety of my boat and walk out on the impossible. Joy. Excitement. Anticipation. Astonished and full.

On yet on another day, I have walked off the edge. The safety and comfort of my life is long past. The world crashes around me and I am afraid. “Help. Help me!” And his hand grabs me. Suddenly, I am safe. Back in my security and he is with me. “Don’t be afraid. Have faith. I’m here.”

Where are you today?

Where is Jesus?

That’s the question, isn’t it?

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Is complaining always sin?

I grew up believing complaining was a bad thing to do. When I became a Christ-follower, I learned it was a sin.

I thought perhaps I’d made that up, so I did a little research. Yep, the consensus is clear. One site summed it up well. “Clearly, as believers we are challenged not to grumble or complain (Philippians 2:14-15; 1 Peter 4:9)…” ~Got Questions Ministries

Imagine my shock when I sat down to meditate on Acts 6. I noticed the Hellenistic believers complaining against the Hebraic believers! How could they do that? Complaining is a sin, isn’t it?

Here’s the way I see it happening; the widows realize they’re not getting anything to eat. They’re hungry. They’re powerless women so they complain to their men. The men are also powerless, so they do the only thing they can. They complain. They complain to the people who can actually do something about the problem – the apostles.

At that point in the story, there’s a whole lot of complaining going on and probably some anger, frustration, and maybe even fear. After all, people are starving.

The apostles react. They come up with a plan that satisfies everyone. Problem solved.

The complaint led through strife to a resolution that honored everyone.

Perhaps what we really need is to learn how to complain in a way that honors ourselves, others, and the Christ within and among each of us.

Today, as I prayed, I asked God to show me how to complain well, both for myself and for others. Here’s what I came up.

  1. Be clear about the problem.
  2. Be clear about the solution you want.
  3. Go to the person or people who can solve the problem.
  4. Present your case patiently and firmly. (In other words, let your anger energize you but don’t burn others with it.)
  5. Seek resolution and embrace it when you find it. When you don’t, walk the path of forgiveness.

There’s a difference between complaining well and grumbling, whining, and hurling curses or judgment. And there’s a difference between selfishness and justice.

How do you view complaining? Do you think there’s a place and way to complain well?

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What’s your uber-story

How would you tell the Story? Not the little stories, but the big one, the uber-Story? The metanarrative?

Seriously, if all you had was 30 seconds to tell a person what you believe the Bible is about, what theme would you highlight? What words would you use?

Go ahead, pause here. Think for a minute, but come back because it’ll take more thought than a minute.

Would you start with; creation, with human beings, or with God? Would you jump immediately to Christ? His birth? Death? His resurrection?

Would you focus on sin and guilt or shame and broken relationships? Would you speak of God as parent and we as orphans, homeless, trying to find our way home?

What’s your uber-story, the one that speaks directly to your heart?

In Afghanistan, I had to figure mine out. After all, I was constantly responding to the question, ‘what do you believe?’ My neighbors wanted to know what it meant to me to be a Christ follower.

I stumbled for a long time. It wasn’t just that I had to translate my thoughts into another language. It was more that I didn’t know the metanarrative. Or at least, I didn’t know MY metanarrative.

I could fall back on the 4 spiritual laws or the Roman road, but those were formulas. And, they didn’t belong to me. It’s not that they aren’t truth. It’s that, as the postmodernist that I am, I’m aware that they aren’t MY TRUTH. They’re not the truth that stirred my soul, awakened me, drew me toward Christ, and keeps me in communion with God.

Each of us enters God’s story in a unique way. We are drawn and enveloped personally, not theologically.

I’m not asking about the youth conference at which you heard the gospel. I’m asking what happened in your heart. How did God draw and enveloped you? What is it that keeps you in Him?

Don’t pause yet, this blog’s not over.

When I figured out how to tell the uber-story, the one that drew, enveloped, and keeps me still, the reality of my relationship with God became stronger, deeper, purer – unshakable.

That’s why it’s worth figuring out. The bonus is you get to share it and when you do, people will hear truth.

So, what’s your 30 second uber-story?

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God’s blessings on your work

Here’s a thought… Everything you do, every meal you make, every document you write, every product you sell, is a gift to the world. Each person brings their gift and electricity flows into houses, cars carry people to work, teachers educate students and the world is a better place.

Imagine, if everyone stopped working. The ramifications are obvious. Life, as we know it, would spiral into chaos.

It’s easy to think about our work as a gift when we’re in the “helping professions”. A first responder knows their gift when they have the privilege of saving someone’s life. A counselor knows their gift when wholeness comes to a client. A caseworker knows their gift when a hungry family is fed.

But what about the editor whose name never appears on the book? Is their work a gift, also?

Since I’m a writer, I know that it is!

The gift isn’t measured by public recognition. If we took away all of the hidden gifts, where would we be? And it isn’t measured by the size of a paycheck. If it were, homes would never be cleaned.

Work is hard and sometimes the rewards are few, yet each person’s work is a gift.

That’s something to think about when we’re sorting mail, digging holes, or balancing books.

The ancient Christian Celts understood this. They spoke blessings over everything they did from churning butter to weaving cloth. Somehow, they recognized that even the most difficult or mundane work is a gift to others and one that God has empowered them to give.

I’m thinking about this as I write this blog. My little post is a gift and so as I write it, I offer it to God and to you. I ask God to bless the words that I write and pray that whatever is of value might be received by those who read it.

It’s something to think about when you go to work tomorrow.

Imagine if you paused as your computer boots, and offered your work to God. Would your prayer help you understand of the value of what you do? Would you do your work better? Would you celebrate the purpose you find an even the smallest tasks?

Our work’s a gift. I want to remember that.

How about you?

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Lord of this…

“Lord of all, all seen and unseen things.” I just love that. My heart soars when I sing it. But when I return to the terra firma of my daily life, the sentiments of the song seem so far away, other worldly, separate even from the ‘real world’ in which I live.

I thought of that this morning and the realization led me to action. Try it with me…

Lord of all…

…of my computer and the internet…

…of the music in my speakers and the musicians who created it…

…of the dogs who compete for my attention…

…of the cars passing outside…

…of the clock and the time that passes…

…of each member of my family and the relationships we share…

…of my strength and knowledge, desires and fear…

…of the night that’s passed and the day that lies before me…

Lord of all!

And now my heart settles into quiet, peace, and trust.

Try it yourself, for just a little while, maybe 10 minutes or an hour. Don’t separate yourself in your prayer closet. Walk through the activities before you just as you did yesterday and will tomorrow. But this time notice, consider – Lord of all and Lord of this…

If you try it or already do it, I’d love to hear what it’s like for you.

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Excuse me, is this church?

When I lived in Afghanistan, I gathered with less than a dozen other foreign believers in my community to pray, worship, share the Scriptures and sometimes celebrate communion. We didn’t have a pastor or a sound system or air-conditioning. There were months on end when we sang a cappella because we didn’t have a guitarist to accompany us.

What we did have was community. We were a small band of believers. We drew strength and encouragement from our times with one another, but it was more than that. We were few and vulnerable and deeply committed to one another.

We expressed our commitment in very practical ways; when a member’s child nearly cut her finger off, my team rushed back from the mountains so that our doctor could tend the wound. When one of us returned from a long trip, we threw a party. And when newcomers came, we welcomed them, got to know them, and called them ‘us’.

Imagine my shock when I returned to America.

One of the 1st churches I went to had the sound system turned up so loudly that I couldn’t hear the voices of the people beside me. That church even had colored lights for the band. At another church, everything was seeker friendly – all designed for comfort. Yet another church had fantastic teaching but I was completely invisible. Oh, then there was that strange church of some 15 members who did 5 altar calls after the sermon. I almost went forward just to make them feel better.

I was lost!

I recently found a quote that resonated in my heart: “When the church throws itself into entertaining us, we walk out. And in return, older generations are left frustrated by the shallowness of the Sunday morning service.” ~Carson Nyquist

Ah, I thought, that’s it. Entertainment. The cool churches have it and the rest wish they did. (Fortunately, I’m exaggerating wildly.)

The truth is, not everyone wants to be entertained. There’s something in us that aches for authenticity, for community – with Christ and with one another.

I wonder if this is core to what it means to be a Christian; that we are part of the body of Christ. We’re family. Not like a nuclear family, but like a big messy extended family. Still, we belong.

I’m musing. How do you see church?

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