Thursday, July 31, 2014


I'm learning about the difference between technical and adaptive challenges this week. I'm reflecting about all the quick fixes and surface treatments church folk use to deny systemic issues and avoid real loss. Sounds fun, right?

And so I find myself thinking about church while pulling weeds with Jasper tonight. He yanks them out by the leaves, but the roots remain buried deep between the cracks of stones and steps in our backyard. He's eager to make a pile and have something to show for his work.

I don't blame him. It takes time to get at the roots! Your fingernails get dirty and you need tools from the garage. This is slow work, surrounding the stems with your patience and perseverance before a tug sets them free and they head to the bucket. Going deep is hard.

I'm also learning about how to listen to the longings of others who are not yet in church community. I'm learning things I already know, but have had no language for:

People have come to the church in search of their 'belovedness' - affirmation that they are known and claimed and chosen and saved by a God who loves them fiercely - and instead we hand them importance and duties.
Until our longings match or outweigh our fear of loss, we cannot access the new behaviors necessary for saying YES to the Spirit's call.
Good faith leaders help people recognize their giftedness in, but especially beyond, the congregation.  
The largest growing demographic in America is people who have never experienced genuine community before. They are longing to be listened to and told about their belovedness.
Church goers have long been able to articulate the importance of membership, but not the benefits, the transformation, or the joy. In a corporate sense, they are disconnected from the call they received in baptism to Live, Hear, Proclaim, Serve, and Work for the sake of the Kingdom.
I'm learning (again) that it's easy to pull weeds out by the leaves. It's much harder to poke around at the roots: wondering about systems, listening well, asking courageous questions, and casting a vision that might face some opposition. It's much harder to look at people who are comfortable doing church and teach them how to be the church.

We are a bunch of pastors sitting in a room at the Hilton. Our brains are spinning about our leaders, our challenges, our dreams, and our fears. We are inspired, but tired when we start to think about the work ahead of us. Mission development and redevelopment is exciting, but exhausting work.

But then you go home and you sift through your mail pile. And you find proof that the Spirit is stirring up baptismal promises. It is causing a witness to be proclaimed. It has leaders restless and eager and refreshed by the water and the Word.

I cried reading Carolyn and Stan's letters to my children. They are already keeping promises and being the church and going deep by confessing the power of community and sacrament. They are leaning into the idea that baptism is a new beginning for Solveig and Tove, but also for their leadership and faith.

1 Peter says,
"Be ready to give an account of the joy that is within you."

And so it is not about the pile of leaves, the quick fixes, or the sense of importance. It is about the belovedness. It is about listening to each other and then proclaiming that which is beautiful and holy because God is among us. It is about dirty fingernails and a spade gentle and firm. It is about leaders who can

testify to the joy and go down to the roots.

Monday, July 14, 2014


Jasper doesn't nap anymore. 

But he rubs his eyes and his lashes flutter. His pupils roll back and he shakes his head when you ask if he's tired. It's hard running races and playing cars and reading books and dancing all day without slowing down. 

When we plow through the day without pause or rest, it can hit us like a ton of bricks. Or, in this case, like a plastic picnic table.

We spent the 4th of July weekend up north with 14 adults, 3 kids, and 5 babies. Parents were always bouncing or rocking someone to sleep. They were cat-napping when they could. We shushed each other so little ones and sleepy adults could find peace around the clock. Sleep was lust-filled - we wished away fireworks and late night campfires. We dozed on the couch or crept away for something more substantial.

Sleep is illusive with little ones. I wake up every morning eager for 9:00pm, vowing to turn in earlier and sleep harder than the night before. Without good rest I am cranky and distracted, sensitive and very inconsistent in my parenting.

And so I am grateful for the strides we've made this month with the girls. They are sleeping well. They wake up looking rested. Even after those tearful nights of crying it out, they awoke with joyful smiles and warm eyes. Last night they fell asleep at 7:00pm flat on their backs with their arms over their heads. When I crawled out of bed at 6:30am today, it was silent. Our three little ones were still dreaming while we prepared bottles and the coffee quietly dripped.

Teaching another person to sleep - to notice and own the basic rhythms of this world - is so much harder than I thought it would be. With Jasper and again with the girls, it stirs up compassion and vulnerability, frustration and fatigue, self-doubt and hormones. We take two steps forward and one step back. Teething. Travel. Illness. Daylight Saving Time. Thunderstorms. Attitude. But in-between the hurdles, they get it! They learn to self-soothe. It starts to click. And while there are so many more challenges ahead, the house is quiet for a moment and there is hope.

I'm an hour late, but off to bed. Today has hit me like a plastic picnic table and I surrender.