Focus

I met my husband in the Photography Department at OSU, so I learned how to frame a subject and evoke a certain mood long ago. It is an artist’s work to know how to visually focus on the things that you want someone to notice. Composing a photograph isn’t just documenting what’s there; it is choosing what is most important to focus on.

Recently, I realized that in New Orleans, you could easily create a gallery of photos for why the city is amazing or why it is horrifying. For the first gallery you could shoot brass bands, beignets, Mardi Gras Indians, the French Quarter, Jazz Fest, Bayou Boogaloo, jambalaya, dancing, magnolias, live oaks with Spanish moss dripping off and streetcars filled with warm faces.

For the second gallery you would have to narrow your photos to homeless people and gutter punks panhandling, graffiti, corruption, violence, litter, bullet-proof glass, bars on windows and the hard stares of the perpetually drunk.

I could convincingly make both cases:

1) New Orleans Is Amazing!

2) Run Away!

Perhaps this is why there is a predictable phenomenon here. People know within 6 months of coming here whether they love it or hate it. There is truly no in between. I would venture to guess that their opinion of the city depends largely on which of these two galleries they venture into.

How does this apply to church planting? We have to be showing our church family into the gallery full of hope and grace. People need to see wonder and hope reflected in our eyes. If we are uncomfortable and fearful (or worse yet, whiny- grumbling is loathsome to God- I Corinthians, check it) that reflects on our faith. I am not saying to turn a blind eye to issues of safety, but we must all look for the salvageable, the redeemable, the diamond in the rough and then we will begin to feel like we can make a difference with God’s help. This is especially true when you live in a place where the bleak gallery would be so easy to fill. Please keep it empty. Fill the other one with God’s light and invite the world in.

The moments I like best when people visit us are when I see our city through the visitor’s eyes and they are excited about what they see. It gives me another snapshot. If we truly believe that God can make a profound difference, it will seep into our outlook. The optimistic belief that God is big enough and He cares enough to transform New Orleans drives us.

Why else would we drop everything and move into the neighborhood?

I mean beside the fact that it is what Jesus did and he told us to “Go!” and I for one would not want to knowingly live on the wrong side of God’s will.  Are you open to His prompting? Are you ready to leave behind the comfortable and familiar because you believe that you and God together can make a difference wherever He sends you? Adventure is always more exciting than safety.

I pray God will be glorified through our optimism.

IMG_0675  Bayou Boogaloo with my Boo

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Changing Names

calendar of knowing

I love the quote from Mary Oliver’s poem “Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life” so much that I leaped in and named my blog after it.

I found a sweet friend who had named her blog just the same way, so I will never regret that decision, but it is the leaping that gets me in trouble. You see, I can tell you all day long what I plan to do with my life…and what I am doing to make it happen…but somewhere in there I need the space to let God direct my steps toward what I should be doing.

Then I stumbled upon Proverbs 19:2 last week and it hit me between the eyes.  I mean God made me literally laugh out loud.

Desire without knowledge is not good-how much more will hasty feet miss the way!

It was the ! that got me, because it is a question with a ! so it’s more like ?!?!? As someone who tends to fling myself at projects and throw all my energy toward them, it is such a good reminder that if you don’t stop and pray to make sure you SHOULD be flinging yourself at something, you might miss the thing God has for you to do. I love that other versions have “enthusiasm” and “zeal” in place of “desire” because those are some of my strongest points…until they’re not. Any strength overdone becomes a weakness; confidence becomes arrogance, passion becomes anger and zeal becomes hasty feet that have missed the way.

I do not want that to be me.

Down here in the Big Easy they say “slow your roll” and this shift in semantics is a way to remind myself of that. Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial, or just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Therefore my goal is to stop flinging and leaping and being hasty. I am still a girl with can-do spirit, I just want to let God launch me into action appropriately.

God Moved Mountains Today…

Did you feel it?

Tectonic plates are definitely shifting here in the Rockies because God moved these mountains clear from captivity to freedom, from isolation to community, from despair to hope.

It is nothing short of a miracle.

You see I spent the very worst years of my entire existence in these mountains. They were an inescapable fortress that held me fast to my torment and aloneness. That endless bleakness made me rest in God’s love in supernatural ways way back then, but these mountains have never been anything but a barricade to escape. Since the air is so thin way up here, it’s hard to tell what is asthma and what is dread, but I usually feel a heavy weight oppressing me when I see my former prison rising up from the ground.

But not today.

God has redeemed them. The whole mighty range. I can look and see majesty. I can see God’s workmanship. I can see how the crisp quiet air brings you that much closer to the still small voice. I just spent five days with amazing women of God, church planters’ wives from around the country. We shared our struggles and our joys, but mostly we listened, we laughed and we loved on each other and all the while the mountains outside the window were moving ever closer to the place God wanted them in my heart.

I felt it.

English: Westward view of the Rocky Mountains ...

English: Westward view of the Rocky Mountains from Lookout Mountain. Golden, Colorado (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That…

I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way that you love me.

                                                                                                David Crowder

 

The New Orleans paraphrase would be “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

What are you doing that is a time suck? It accomplishes none of your goals and fritters away your most valuable finite resource- time. I made a list of the things in my own life that I don’t have time for. Ain’t nobody got time for:

Unforgiveness

Self-pity

Self-loathing

Self-aggrandizement

Selfishness

Arrogance

Conceit

Prejudice

Gluttony

Apathy

Fear

Laziness

Hypochondria

Computer games

Excuses

Entitlement

Whining

Snarkiness

Irritation

Gossip

Unrealistic expectations

Jealousy

Regret

Jealousy

Acute emotional sensitivity

Overwork

Bitterness

Hatred

Anger

Stinginess

Materialism

Frustration

Shopping as entertainment

Picking fights

Letting someone else’s outlook/attitude/mood determine mine

Taking responsibility for things that are God’s responsibility

Judging only by visible results

 

What don’t you have time for?

The Bumper Sticker Problem

I often kick myself for not writing.
There is so much to say and so many interesting ways to say it. As soon as I commit to a topic it drags three or four friends along and I lose focus. Perhaps not wanting to look back and wince at my word choice or uninformed viewpoint (as close as I will ever get to perfectionism) plays a role. But at its base, I believe it is deeply related to my dislike of bumper stickers.
Hear me out.
How many times do you pull up behind a car at a stoplight, see a person’s bevy of bumper stickers and think “I know who’s driving that car.” You see expensive private school and exotic vacation locale stickers on a nice car you make a diagnosis of snotty, privileged and out of touch. You can suss out kooky cat ladies, stoner musicians, militant feminists, whiny patchouli-soaked college kids, soccer moms, gung ho hunters, hardcore fitness buffs and political diehards in much the same way. There you have it, that driver is sorted and tagged forever to be labeled with that slice of themselves that they chose to advertise.
Tattoos have the same problem.
You are what your forearm says you are…every day.
What pithy saying, logo, sport or institution do I want to support daily?
I know what is important to me and I want to share that, but I want somebody to know me well enough that they don’t dismiss me along with one idea.
You see, I get pigeon-holed way too much as it is. Who needs an aquarium of ichthus fish on their car when the label of “preacher’s wife” will pretty much sum you up to the outside world?
I am married to a pastor, it’s true, but that stereotype, that expectation, that’s not me! God knew what He was doing calling Eric into ministry after we were married. He knew I would have balked at the title and the responsibility.
Putting me on a pedestal is like putting a cat in a bathtub.
It is not going to happen without a fight.
A sweet girl called me First Lady once and I can assure you she never made that mistake again. I want to be respected, yes, but I am uninterested in the facade.
If you know me at all, you know I believe there are two types of people in the world: Those that don’t care if it’s pretty, as long as it’s real and those that don’t care if it’s real as long as it’s pretty.
You must understand that I have two feet firmly planted in the real camp.
I am madly, deeply in love with my husband, my Savior and my sweet, little church, so much so that I will not have any of them reduced to a glib stereotype that can easily be dismissed.
God calls me to grow more in His likeness each day.
I yearn to be more tomorrow than I am today.
But, at some point, you run out of future.
Some things need to be said.
Now.
Like, if your life is a mess and you can’t figure out what you keep doing wrong, get still, think about what you really want out of life- love? community? peace?- then pray earnestly and listen. See if you don’t figure out the first steps of how to get there with a little help.
For me, it is to write anyway.
People will disagree with me.
Write anyway.
People will dismiss everything I have to say because of some minor offense.
Write anyway.
There are achingly eloquent writers doing a better job than me.
Write anyway.
For that is the only way to get better. That is the only way to get past the glib, the trite, the cliche, the insincere and find buried truths that I accidently hid away in moments of pain or anger. Each word is another step in the path toward being a great writer.
Is it that simple? No. Not by a long shot, but you will have begun.
Perhaps that is my bumper sticker:
Be still. Listen. Begin.

My Forehead is Famous…

I woke up this morning wanting a kick in the pants for a fervent faith and decided to check in on Francis Chan.

He is a hero who keeps throwing off his cape and pointing at Jesus. I love his heart and I actually got to tell him that at Exponential last year. His wife is just as ready to go where they are sent and it makes them a great example of faith walking…which is what I told him right before he spoke. I was in the second row and apparently someone on stage took his picture while he was speaking with a shot of the audience. I may be mistaken, but I am pretty sure it’s my forehead under the title bar on the front page at francischan.org

How about that?

Quote from him:

“Our greatest fear as individuals and as a church should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”

Any New Year’s resolutions?

Just What I Needed

Have you ever had a day when you forget who you are?

A day when you start listening to what other people say about who you are and stop believing the things you hold sacred about yourself?

I was having a day like that yesterday. I sorted out the contents of my mind like I was dumping an old, unfamiliar handbag on the floor for proof of what I believed to be true of myself. It was not pretty. In fact it was snot cry ugly, but it was necessary. You see, I had a nomadic childhood where the only constant was God and a mother who, by her own admission, is an unreliable narrator. I can check in with individual people to attest to the veracity of individual events, say the 8th grade spelling bee, but nobody watched me grow and mature throughout that time but my mom, and she had a lot of other concerns. That leaves me to sort the timeline, determine relevance, chart character growth, feel pride or shame and cast aside the meaningless. I was wishing for a “remember when…” friend right as our little church’s worship service began. It was mostly a tactical wish’ I wanted someone to help me sort my baggage, but I must admit it had the taint of self-pity.

As we started to sing, I looked up to see the cross with the ASL sign for “I Love You” on it suspended from the ceiling. Now, we share space with a deaf church; that sign is always there. But last night, it was there for me. You see, when my boys were little, especially if they were heading off to a school day they’d been dreading. I would always make eye contact with them as they got on the bus and flash them the “I Love You” sign and they would smile at me and flash it back. I knew that being reminded that they are loved and that they belonged to somebody who thinks they are fabulous would help them through that bad day.

God went and flashed me the “I Love You” sign on my bad day. He reminded me that I have always belonged to Him and that He thinks I’m pretty fabulous, too. In cleaning out my mental clutter, I forgot to check in with the most reliable narrator in the universe. The one who designed and created me to be just like I am. Extra emotional is extra passionate 9 days out of 10, and my enthusiasm has buoyed me through this life bringing many others up to the surface along the way.

It was a great way to end 2011. That and the hours of karaoke and silliness with all the Hope people without New Year’s plans.

Yes, I know who I am.

More importantly, I know whose I am.