Month: April 2015

A City Broken Open

Baltimore. Another city in the trenches of heartache. A heartache that could no longer be contained in her chest. Another young man, dead at the hands of those who have sworn to serve and protect. Another reason to doubt the system. Another reason to look out for yourself.

But, what is right? What is wrong? And in this moment, is that even the question we should be asking?

I don’t think so.

No, I think we should be sitting down with humans who have experienced different lives than us. We should be meeting them out in the streets. We should be asking what life is like for them. What breaks their hearts? What makes them feel safe? Loved? Valued? What makes them afraid? Angry? Insecure? What have the ones, who are not like them, done to hurt them? And what can we do to help them…to help each other?

Because in truth, we are like them. We have different experiences, different cultures, different insecurities. But we all fear. We all bleed. We all want to know that our world values us. If you are like me, you have had plenty of chances to speak all of that into the world. “I’m here and I have something to offer.” But not everyone has had that chance. And some who have, have not be given the tools to seize it when it comes.

You and I are not better than. There is no us and them. At least, there shouldn’t be. But there is, right?

Jen Hatmaker posted this video on Facebook and as I watched, I wept. I wept in wonder at the men and women moved to action in brokenness for their city. I wept in wonder at the words spoken, admitting that the church has failed. I wept, wondering if I would have the courage to do the same should it be my city. Would I leave the safety of my pretty church walls to link arms with the angry, hurting, brokenhearted? Would I place myself between the “us” and “them” and be an ambassador of peace? Or, would I wonder if the wisest thing to do would be to move to someplace where everyone looks the same and the chances of us and them are slim?

This video is long, but I am pleading with you to find time to watch it in its entirety. It is important. It matters. Don’t turn away.

I live in the suburbs. Truth is, I can’t get much further from this reality. But my faith should move me toward the brokenhearted, not further from them.

To the clergy who gathered that day to be in the midst of the mess, you were most like Jesus on that day. You left the comfort of home and stepped into the middle of a battle that was yours only because you chose to make it yours. You were willing to walk alongside those who do not think as you do, who do not act as you would wish, and to say to them…no, to show them that you love them no matter the cost. Thank you for teaching us what it looks like to be present, to be The Church God intends, in the midst of a messy conversation about race and trust.

And to those of us who claim Christ as our Lord. We cannot call Him Lord if we are not willing to do what He asks. I cannot say it any better than Jen Hatmaker. Here is her heart for the church in the midst of this insanity. “Church, this is what we do. We come together like this, we SHOW UP. These spiritual leaders are not at home condemning the desperation and anger. They are walking the same wounded streets, hand in hand, mourning with those who mourn while demonstrating peace and unity. I am both moved and broken open by it.”

How will I show up? If I’m honest, I’m trying to figure that out. But I will not look away. And I will ask, when the opportunity arises, what it is like to be you. In fact, I want to know. Please share. Leave a comment…a novel even. What is it like to walk in your shoes?

And now, how about you? How will you show up?


In this post we touched on the idea of writing down the victories for the days that criticism buries us alive. In the days since, that idea has been percolating in my heart. Here’s why…

As we acknowledged in the aforementioned post, there is no shortage of criticism. The fount of those who point out our failures (real or perceived) is ever flowing with boundless opportunities to practice self-control while the fount of those who have come to thank you for your hard work is an intermittent drip from the faucet. If I had to guess, most of us, if asked, would be able to list 15 ways we’ve been discouraged this week, 15 negative words spoken to us,15 areas where we aren’t seeing results. But how many of us could list even 3 victories we’ve had in the last month, much less this week?

In my typical approach to life, I would be in the camp of those who could easily tell you my faults, places I’m failing at work, at life. And most of that would be based on how I perceive how others perceive me. My natural bent, my factory setting, is to not be satisfied with anything less than something better than this. There’s a problem there, because “this” is always changing. Even if “this” is a million times more effective and successful today than it was a year ago, I am still not satisfied. And if the critics are louder than the supporters (which is usually the case), I take out the magnifying glass and find the errors. We, most of us, human beings as a creature, are fixated with improvement.

Don’t misunderstand me. Improvement is a great thing. Working toward better physical health, deeper relationships, increased effectiveness is an honorable and necessary endeavor. However, when we constantly are striving for better than “this”, without stopping to check in, we may just be killing our effectiveness unknowingly.

Consider Orthorexia Nervosa. No, it’s not a spell from the wizarding world of Harry Potter. It is an unofficial (for now at least) eating disorder. What starts out as a desire to make wise choices in one’s diet, turns into a fixation on the quality, quantity, and purity of food. According to Dr. Karin Katrina, for those who struggle with this obsession, any failure to stick to the rules, any moment of bending to temptation, leads to self-punishment. And this…THIS is what really gets me about this disorder….

“Eventually food choices become so restrictive, in both variety and calories, that health suffers – an ironic twist for a person so completely dedicated to healthy eating.  Eventually, the obsession with healthy eating can crowd out other activities and interests, impair relationships, and become physically dangerous.”

Eventually, the desire to improve oneself, to be healthier, make wiser choices, without stopping to assess what is and isn’t working, what progress has been made, actually becomes more harmful than helpful. Telling, isn’t it?

Just like we need regular physicals, or dental cleanings (which we all know means appointment for dental judgment), we need to have those moments in every aspect of our work and personal lives as well. And while those check-ups serve to bring to light the areas where we still need work, they should also serve to point out what is going well. And unlike physicals and dental visits, these check-ups need to happen often. Daily even.

So, I’ve been trying to make it a point to celebrate the victories. They may be small. They may not seem like victories to anyone else but me. There may even be some who would tell me my victories are actually failures. But with all respect, and rarely out loud in real life, I tell them they are wrong and they don’t get to define victory for me. Much like the medical world may tell a woman who is 5’3 that the goal waist measurement is 25 inches. And women everywhere answer back with a resounding “HA!” and begin to define healthy goals as something besides inches and pounds. Experts have all sorts of ways to measure our lives. But you are an expert in you. You know what success is for you. You know what is cause to celebrate.

Here’s what I’ve been celebrating lately:

  • Students trusting me enough to tell me they don’t believe in Jesus or sharing their pain and mistakes with me
  • Parents knowing that they can call me and will be heard, and even asking me for advice about parenting even though I don’t have kids of my own
  • Ten first time participants in our High School mission trip
  • Seven 5th-7th graders going on their very first overnight mission trip
  • Being brave enough to say yes to some scary opportunities
  • Taking a class that is life-giving and discovering ways to put to use what I’m learning
  • Losing 12 pounds
  • Not having a soda in 25 days
  • Finding the floor of my closet

Some of those may seem silly. In your life, maybe it’s no big deal. But in mine, those little victories deserve a party. And so I’m breaking out the confetti!

What are you celebrating these days? If you don’t think you have reason to throw a little party, just slow down long enough for a check-up. Great things are being accomplished. Don’t miss them.


Photo by Amanda Tipton (No changes have been made to the photograph)