Saturday, February 27, 2010

If He Hangs His Guitar In Your Room, It's A Done Deal

I've been married for two months now; we celebrated our anniversary last night with dinner at Five Guys (fun and YUM and who in the WORLD can eat that many fries, anyway?) and a trip to the Apple Store (just looking....)

At our age, we've decided to maximize our time and celebrate every month.

And thus far, here's some of what I've learned:

  • Talking is good. Talking equals communication. Making assumptions can lead to hurt feelings and misunderstandings. Talking can fix that.
  • It's really nice to share the load of stuff like getting up early, washing dishes, cleaning bathrooms, etc. Especially the getting up early part.
  • When kids are raised with grace, they tend to offer it fairly easily. And that is a beautiful thing to watch.
  • It's kind of cool to have a guitar hanging in your bedroom.
  • I'm a better person when I laugh a lot. And being married has led to a lot of laughter. Which was unexpected.
I like being married. Actually, I liked being single, too. But this is different, and rich and rewarding. And every day feels like a gift.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It's Amazing What A Little Whining Will Get You

If you were at PCC on Sunday, you heard our pastor's sad story about his inability to get his hands on the snack food in the house - specifically, the Oreos. After admitting to compromising his integrity and being busted by his amazing wife, apparently some folks felt sorry for him.

This is just PART of his new private stash, thanks to some kind and generous folks who have stopped by to show their love for their pastor. Or maybe it's more like enabling his addiction....

Monday, February 22, 2010

On Giving Up And Bringing Back

It is Monday. The rhythm of my week is such that Monday often brings a welcome respite of a whirlwind of activity. Many of us who lean into Sunday as the highlight of of our work week find Monday as a necessary day of rest and recovery, not only of physical energy but (even more so) of mental and emotional rejuvenation.

However, my schedule has been such that I couldn't take Mondays off. There's too much to do to prepare for the week. This afternoon I have a meeting scheduled.

But I gave myself permission this morning to escape the massive amount of pressure looming around my personal and workplace responsibilities. It's been a quiet day at home, with a few work-related things tended to, but mostly just being here. I was here to braid my daughter's hair and talk about...well, stuff. I was here to get dinner started in the crock pot. I was here to talk to my mom on the phone without feeling rushed. I was here to listen to a recording of my brother's most recent talk at his church, and to find out that he just finished an application to begin seminary studies (that's me you see, the big sister beaming with pride.)

I've been thinking about Lent, and about how little my life changes to observe this season of sacrifice. I cling to the writings of those who practice Lent, but it's from afar. It's not internal. I just watch. I don't think you get credit for voyeuristic Lenten sacrifice.

So I've wrestled with the notion of "giving up" something - chocolate? The internet? Caffeine? Soda?

I decided on none of those things, because, to be honest, my heart is not in it. I would be engaging in the practice simply to keep up appearances. As necessary as it is to cleanse my soul of some things and to make a sacrifice, the frenetic reality of my current circumstances makes "giving up something for Lent" simply another thing to check off on my to-do list. And I am convinced that to offer sacrifice like that renders it pretty much worthless.

But this morning, I balanced these thoughts with something definitive and specific, an action that I took in order to observe the brilliant opportunity of the day and the utter luxury of the time and space around me.

I held to my own time apart. I stayed home, spoke with my daughter. Fixed a meal for my family.

And I was quiet. I turned off all electronics and sat on the couch. When the rain began, I heard it and I noticed.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I fell asleep for a short time.

But somehow, I think that this quiet is exactly what my Sabbath ought to look like.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

You Know You've Had A Tough Week When...

I'm folding laundry, watching old episodes of The Office on Hulu, and bawling like a baby.

Quite irrationally.



Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Freaking Radical

Sitting in Barnes & Noble with my daughter, in something of a holding pattern.

I read this post, and sorrow or something like it enveloped my chest, crawled up through my throat and leaked out of my eyes.

I don't know why it struck me so powerfully. Perhaps because I am in a season of walking through a land that is littered with dry bones and carcasses. Maybe because I have a deeper sense of the fragile hold we have on the simplest of things, like just making sense of life. Maybe because I've had the painful privilege of holding hands with some friends and family members through a broken, desperate time.

Maybe because walking through my current book study on the crazy, relentless, all-powerful love of God, my eyes are being opened to glory of a magnitude that I have never considered.

Whatever the factors, I know this: the faith I have in God continues to deepen. I do not have to imagine or invent it. Something literally has taken hold in the deepest part of me and is rooted, immovable. It is intrinsic to my life.

It is a mystery to me.

I speak occasionally of the fact that the God we celebrate on Sundays is mysterious and supernatural. There is some definitive power in Jesus that is beyond our understanding and, to some degree, beyond rational thought or reason.

Milton Brasher-Cunningham wrote about the transition from Epiphany to Lent, about "our picture of Jesus moving from the One Who Came to the One Who is Going to the Cross." And it just shredded me.

Not long ago we celebrated the birth of the baby, the iconic, helpless infant who was somehow part of Creation and key to Redemption. And in the liturgy of the structure of Christian faith, we are quickly swept along through the season, from Christmas to Easter, to the horrific, tortured death of that same baby.

Brasher-Cunningham writes:
"...moving into Lent moves us from rejoicing in the compassion of God in human form to the somber reality of Jesus’ example of what it means to be human calling us to our own more authentic and dangerous existence. Long after Magi and mangers, we are left with a Messiah who is a freaking radical."
I think this resonates with me today at the core of my maternal heart, which - after five kids and a lifetime impacted by my role as a parent, is the deepest, most definable part of me.

The concept of a baby growing through childhood into her "more authentic and dangerous existence" hits my tender spot today.

Brasher-Cunningham ends his post with welcome anticipation of what kind of "glorious damage an untamed God can do." It is not without pain, tears, and gut-wrenching sobs. But, in God's hands, it is glorious indeed, and the violence to our bodies done by the wild mercy of a freaking radical is bearable.

Because in the end, love wins.

By the way, Milton blogs at Don't Eat Alone. Every year, he writes a disciplined series of posts through Lent. It has been a consistent part of my faith journey for a few years now. I encourage you to read him, daily, from today through Easter. Find him at You can start today.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Strength For Today

Your servant doesn’t know left from right.
Even now I don’t know which one of your hands I am in.
Whether I am in the left or the right, it doesn’t matter.
I am in your hands.
That’s enough.

HT to Chris at Enchanted Oak for this, which she's had on her refrigerator for eight years.

Monday, February 15, 2010

No One Will Remember You

A while ago, I mentioned here that I'm leading a small group through Crazy Love by Francis Chan.

We're on Chapter 2.

And reading this, I find myself pretty much slapped.

Frankly, you need to get over yourself....God has allowed hard things in your life so you can show the world that your God is great and that knowing Him brings peace and joy, even when life is hard...To be brutally honest, it doesn't really matter what place you find yourself in right now.

In about fifty years (give or take a couple of decades), no one will remember you. Everyone you know will be dead. Certainly no one will care what job you had, what car you drove, what school you attended or what clothes you wore. This can be terrifying or reassuring, or maybe a mix of both. - Francis Chan (emphasis mine)

In the same chapter, he unpacks the utter arrogance of worry and stress for somebody who says they believe in God.

Well, then.

This is a hard book. But growth is hard.

I hope I'm growing.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day 2010

It's different this year. I'm married.

We have some history, and our Valentine's Day celebration allowed us to revisit some things.

A great meal at a favorite restaurant. Homemade cards. Great conversation.

And then he went to bed. The man is TIRED, I tell you! He works hard, seven days a week.

So I'm up, winding down the day, hanging with the kids. And thinking about love and Valentine's Day. Interesting how the joy of a love that is grounded and secure widens a heart to love even more. I'm thinking about that.

And thinking about the male species. Valentine's Day seems extraordinarily unfair to them, in some ways. Lots of expectations. My friend Scott wrote a great essay on that topic that you ought to read.

Anyway, thinking about guys. Watching my eldest son grow older and taller, listening to his voice deepen and marveling at what happens to boys as they turn into men. Watching him interact with a special girl who seems to have captured his attention. Thinking about how weird that is.

And thinking about my dad.

He was always my hero. He could fix anything (though my mom might argue about who actually did most of the home repairs). He rebuilt the engine of my first car, a '67 Mustang (which I think, in retrospect, might have been more for him than me - but what a SWEET car!) He taught me how to do an oil change. He rolled his eyes when I called him from college - six hours away - because I had a flat tire and needed him to come help me. He talked to me about budgeting and relationships and music and sales and half the time I fought everything he told me.

Of course, now that I'm all grown up, I realize how incredibly wise he was.

He's been a shoulder to cry on throughout the worst times of my life. He's been a champion for my kids when they needed it most.

I love my dad. I get so caught up in the busyness of my life that I don't take the time to tell him enough. But here's what I know:
  • He loves me. I've never doubted my daddy's love.
  • He loves my mom. They're working on fifty years of marriage. Isn't that amazing?
  • He loves God, and he loves his church.
  • He loves his family - all seven grandkids and everybody else.
By all rights, it's a miracle that my dad is alive in 2010. Just a few years ago a rogue blood vessel burst in his brain. We lost him for a while, to the tubes and machines of the ICU.

But we got him back. He's here, alive and kicking, rocking in his Papa chair, watching Antique Roadshow and keeping me updated on all the things that I need to know.

He still loves me.

And I love him.

Happy Valentine's Day, Dad.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Called Up

Unbelievable to me how things come together.

I have this huge heaviness in my heart for Haiti.

Our church donates thousands of dollars for earthquake relief, all of which we sent to Haiti via the Virginia Baptist Disaster Relief Fund.

Today, my dear, awesome and amazing friend Jackie texts me with some incredible news about Haiti.

"Guess what? As part of the disaster relief team, I have been called up for Haiti. As long as I can get my flight money together, I leave Feb 22."

I feel like I'm part of something amazing.

Not that this is all about me, but what other perspective do I have?

All I know is that everywhere I look - under, over, sideways - I see grace. The grace of purpose and redemption, healing and hope, forgiveness and future.

And people who are willing to go to the ends of the earth to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

You can help. Contact me to find out how.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Love Song For Haiti

I once heard Bill Hybels say that artists had to speak, sing, dance, write, paint, sculpt - CREATE - to say for all of us what could not be communicated any other way.

This feels like the way my heart often has ached for Haiti.

Don't Forget

The Haitian government estimates approximately 230,000 died in the quake

It estimates a further 300,000 people have sustained injuries

An unknown number of others have died from untreated sepsis, illness, and injury

One million remain homeless

Fifty thousand families have received tent-type emergency shelters

Tents donated by the Cirque du Soleil might soon house the Haitian government

More than 500,000 children are orphans

More than 20,000 children under the age of five are severely malnourished

The Miami-Dade School District has enrolled 1,000 Haitian children

Most of Port-au-Prince's schools are planning to reopen

Doctors have treated more than 100,000 people, performing 2,000 to 4,000 amputations

More than 7,000 babies have been born

Eighty percent of Port-au-Prince remains without power

One thousand planes are waiting for permission to land at Port-au-Prince's airport

Haiti's airport, under the direction of the U.S. Air Force, is landing 100 airplanes a day; prior to the earthquake, it handled three to five

Cruise ships continue to dock in gated zones in northern Haiti

The drive from the Dominican Republic, which formerly took six hours, now takes 18

Economists estimate the earthquake impacted half of Haiti's GDP

International donors have committed at least $3 billion to the rebuilding effort

The United Nations Development Program has started an initiative to pay Haitians $3 a day to clear rubble and help rebuild, to infuse cash into the economy

Nearly half of American families have donated to Haitian disaster relief organizations

The United States has caught the first ship of 78 Haitians attempting to immigrate into the United States illegally -- it sent them back

The United States might cut non-Haiti disaster programs by 40 percent, possibly leading to smaller programs for Congo and Sudan.

The rainy season has just started, soaking Port-au-Prince, collapsing many temporary homes, and increasing risks from water and sewage-borne illnesses

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Vastness of Everything

"God found great pleasure to take a lowly thing in the eyes of the world and show truth."

There are so many things in this world that do not make sense. At least from our perspective. But most of the time our perspective is all we've got. It takes some effort to see things from a distance, from a greater height, from a more informed vantage point.

I'm walking through Francis Chan's book Crazy Love with a group of friends. This takes some effort. Chan leads an intellectual and emotional journey of discovery - the vastness of our universe, the incredible detail of creation, the remarkable intricacies of life itself. He connects those immutable facts with the spiritual experience of believers and scripture. In light of the scientific facts, the exploration of a vast universe, the brief glance at a galaxy from a hundred million light years away, a simple human life seems unbelievably insignificant.

(Don't have the book? Check out Just that much will blow your mind.)

And here, in a nutshell, is the irony and mystery of the faith of one who follows Jesus. Somehow, we don't matter at all - and yet, we matter.

The God of the universe exists in a time and space that is beyond my understanding. The universe is vast beyond the stars, to quote one of my favorite songwriters.

We don't matter.

But following Jesus compels me to believe that regardless of my appreciation or understanding, there is life and purpose within me.

We matter.

Biblical teaching and preaching does well to reinforce this, to offer proof and evidence. But tonight, my daughter Shannon and I listened to the story of a family that, while heartbreaking, is about the best I could offer to say that faith matters.

Life is unfair. Earthquakes destroy cities and kill thousands. Parents watch adult children die far too young. Pain comes at the hand of a trusted spouse. Cancer robs and steals life. Lungs refuse to function. Blood vessels explode and demolish plans for the future. Children are born with devastating diseases.

Somehow, in the midst of the most unfair, the most devastating, the most heart-breaking situations, there can be hope. Even the most tenuous foothold of faith can dig into the mystery of the divine God of the universe who somehow, in the midst of the vastness of everything, has a connection with us.

It is impossible to understand. It is often difficult to believe.

But it is faith that sustains and makes sense of the most ridiculous, unfair and difficult circumstances life offers.

Perspective is everything. This short film altered mine. Grab a Kleenex, and let it alter yours.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Forgiveness Cake

This is a Forgiveness Cake.

Because sometimes, circumstances dictate that somebody needs to make it, and somebody needs to receive it.

And the bonus? Everybody gets to eat it.

And that's all I'll say about that.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

God And Dog

Of all the great things that have come out of today's PCConline service, I think this might be my favorite. Not only because of what it is - which is incredibly creative and clever - but also because of how I heard about it.

A Twitter-er who goes by the g00g01p1ex tag watched with us last week. I'm not sure how she heard about the service, but she did. She came back again this week, and Tweeted me a link to this video in response to the grace-filled talk that Brian gave today.

Take a look; if you heard today's message, do you see the connection?

Thanks, Leslie....

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Just Enough Strength To Live For Today

I'm freaking out about the weather, because apparently we're going to get hammered with another snow storm. We had a stroke of good fortune and holy inspiration last weekend when we stumbled upon a way to broadcast a PCC service live via ustream. It was fun and exciting and lots of folks tuned in and we were glad we didn't have to miss church completely.

But here we are again - maybe - and it's not feeling quite so fun this time. Why? For starters, we want to do a better job than we did last week. We've got a little bit of a learning curve to make some improvements on the experience we can offer online. I'm feeling the pressure - from myself - and it's going to require some serious work over the next two days, if the weather is as bad as predicted.

Also, we miss church! We don't WANT to miss another weekend of services!

Lastly, we're hurting. If indeed we have to cancel weekend services, it'll be the third time we've done so in the past eight weeks. At the risk of sounding crass or offending somebody - nobody ever likes to hear church people talk about money - I've just got to be honest and say that it's killing us financially. I heard a great leader say today that "it is a noble thing to give money to a work that God is doing through the local church." True, that; but when folks don't have the usual opportunity to give, the impact is huge; more than you might imagine. We hope people will give online, via the mail, or catch up later - but it's not happening yet and we are facing a difficult situation.

That is stressful.

However, I am learning something new in the midst of this, and it's been really cool. It's not necessarily a spiritual thing.

It's about the weather.

My friend Scott pointed me towards a new resource. I've always been comfortable watching the local news and getting the info I need - or maybe checking out But this forecaster takes the time to explain the most basic, rudimentary information - and it's fascinating! I'm not only finding out what is going to happen (according to his predictions), but why.

And that kind of knowledge is a good thing.

The spiritual application might be a bit of a reach, but it's a common theme. Struggling through finances, revenue, service planning - it can certainly preoccupy my thoughts. Cause tension and stress. Become an obsession.

And when it does? Time to remember a few important things. Look through new eyes. See a different perspective. Step back and think about the why behind the what. And remember the how.

Joy unspeakable that won't go away
Just enough strength to live for today
So I'll never have to worry what tomorrow will bring
'Cause my faith is on solid rock - I am counting on God

FYI: As of right now - Thursday evening - we are still planning on church at PHS on Sunday morning. If the weather does not cooperate, we WILL stream a live service again. News will go out via email, the website and Facebook. Stay tuned!

ADDITIONAL FYI: If you are a regular financial supporter, please continue to give; support what God is doing through the local church so that we can continue to focus on our mission.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Crazy Love

For the past two years, I've hosted a small group in my home on Monday nights. It's been a wonderful opportunity to meet people, to learn together and to do life. I've made some great friends and been deeply impacted by the power of community.

I made a change this year and decided to open up my Monday nights for my family. A new marriage was a great motivator, and so far it's been a good move. But I do miss my small group...

In lieu of Monday nights, I decided to lead a study of Francis Chan's book Crazy Love. I dug into this book during my study break last year and was really blown away by its deliberate focus on GOD. Sounds like a "duh" moment, but Chan takes a different approach than many current cool and trendy Christian books (at least the ones that I've been reading) and offers a perspective on theology, the nature and character of God and our resulting place in the world that is focused and fresh.

We're meeting on Tuesday afternoons at the Powhatan Library. There's room for a few more folks, if you're interested in joining us. Shoot me an email at beth {at} powhatancc {dot} org and let me know. I'd love to have you join us.

(And I don't know about you - it's me, showing my age - but every time I think about this book, I hum a little Poco....)

Life, Going On

Three weeks after the earthquake in Haiti, help and healing are happening.

Check in with the Livesays here. And don't forget to pray for the country and the people of Haiti.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Snow Days

Here's a few snapshots from behind the scenes of Sunday's online church broadcast.

I'm revisiting the event. I have a lot to process, you know...thinking about what we did and how it worked...and wondering what we would do differently next time.

I'm thinking about that a LOT.

We're sitting under 13" of snow right now - school cancelled today and tomorrow for most of the area. Expecting more precipitation tomorrow.


When I lived in Ohio, this was a way of life. But here? The Old Dominion can't seem to cope.

And I'm beginning to wonder what we might have to do NEXT WEEKEND if we can't get into the high school to have church services...

So - here's my question to those of you who witnessed last week's episode of PCCOnline:

What are two things that we could do to improve your
live, online worship experience?
Your comments are welcome below....

Our neighbors - Shelly, Macy (the most incredible reading genius ever!) and April - and me, doing some tech cramming at the last minute...

Brian, doing a last-minute read-through of the message...

Our neighbor Chad, who ran the camera and kept the tech part together.

The "congregation" - at least the part that we could see - which consisted of all of our kids.

Sarah and Andy leading worship.