Archives for September 2015

“Every Little Thing” — A Review, and a Give-Away


When you read a book written by a friend, you can feel a little nervous, you know? What if I can’t get through it? What if it’s tough to find something positive to say? How do I handle it if I really wouldn’t recommend this to anyone else?

Well, my friend Deidra Riggs has written a book that is launching next week. And, yes, I was a tad nervous as I began the rough draft I received as an advance copy (only the format was rough, by the way — not the writing!). You know what? By the first sentence, I was hooked. And also? Relieved and so very grateful.

“Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You are,” is a gem of a book. An absolute gem. Every page glistens with love, attention to detail, lovely writing and thoughtful theology. Yes, theology. Deidra would tell you (and she does) that she is ‘no theologian,’ but I beg to differ. She is the best kind of theologian, in my book, because she takes the truth that she finds in scripture and the truth that she discovers in her own walk as a follower of Jesus and she wrestles with it, distills it, and serves it up with joy and delight. That’s what I call theology. She lets her own experience of the surprising grace of God shine through her words, looking at characters in scripture and telling pieces of her own story along the way.

The heart of her message is exactly what the church needs right now: the beauty of the ordinary, the truth that small acts done in love can change the world, that no one is unimportant to the work and health of the kingdom in this place. “Every little thing” done with heart and commitment is what it’s about, beloved church. Every.Little.Thing.

Not big programs
Not big numbers
Not a business plan
Not even a visioning process.

No. The simple, beautiful truth is that WE — you and I, every single one of us — are the church, the hands and feet of God, the living, breathing presence of grace and gospel good news in this world. And none of us is too little, too unworthy, too insignificant for the task and the joy that is ours. Not one.

Every chapter is rich, but the two on wilderness and breathlessness are simply stunning. And I mean that with everything that is in me. Stunning. And exactly what I needed right now. Maybe you need them, too? If you would like to be entered in the drawing for the beautiful, brand new copy I have in my hands, just leave me a comment and I’ll pick a name from a hat and send it off to the lucky recipient. Last date to leave a comment is Launch Day, October 6th – that’s next Tuesday!


I have six typed pages of favorite quotes from this little book and I’ll leave you with one from each of my two favorite chapters:

“I have to be honest and tell you that a God-sized dream might surprise you because of its smallness. It will push you to the very edge of your comfort zone and right into the desolation of the wilderness. And it won’t always stop there. . . the wilderness is uniquely suited for putting us in a situation where God can get a hearing from us. Without resources, stretched far beyond our abilities, and with hope consigned to the garbage bin, we want out of the wilderness, but God desires to bring us through. And he is right there with us. He doesn’t send us into the wilderness and wait for us to emerge on the other side. No. God walks every step of the wilderness journey with us, and he shapes us as we make our way through.”

“God is in the wilderness. Go there. You can trust him to meet you right in the middle of your wild and worn and weary places. Take off your shoes. Tear off your pretense. Skip over the polite conversation. It’s you he wants. Simply you.”

And from the one on breathlessness:

“Sometimes breathing is the only prayer we can pray, and God hears our sigh and once again breathes the breath of life into us. We exhale, and it seems like such a little thing. But some days, it is everything. It is communion — intimate and more than breathing oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide. It is sacred and it is holy: this agreeing with God that we need God, for all of everything, and his joyful entering into our lives and ourselves and our very souls to make us one with him.”

Yeah, you need this book. You really do. I happen to know and love Deidra. But even if I didn’t – I would be thrilled to send you this book. And if you don’t win? BUY ONE. You will not regret it.


Learning to Bend — A Post for Amber Haines

There are some people you know instantly are kindred spirits. Amber Haines is one of those for me. I have read her blog faithfully for five years, have cried with her over the health crises of her youngest son Titus (virtually only, though I’d have been more than willing to do so in person if she didn’t live all the way across the country!), even won some beautiful Amber-made jewelry several years ago. She has a new book out – a beautiful book which I hope to review in this space very soon. I urge you to order your own copy of “Wild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire & Finding the Broken Way Home.” This piece is one of a long series of guest posts that she has invited, each of them speaking to that broken way home in one way or another. An image she uses in her book is of the cold linoleum floor on which she was found by God one desperate night. And that’s where this piece begins.


That bathroom floor can be a cold and lonely place. I’ve been there, at the end of myself, done in by doing good, exhausted by my own refusal to ask for help, by my unhealthy relationship with food, by my misunderstanding of the gospel of grace. There are all kinds of ways to be broken and I am no exception.

All my life, I have been the good girl — obedient, careful, helpful, the one who takes care of things and people. I don’t think I ever went through a rebellious phase as a teenager. Maybe it’s because I’m an eldest child, maybe it’s the way my mother instilled certain fears in me at an early age, maybe it’s the way I’m wired. I never tried anything on the ‘don’t do’ list, I never quit going to church, I read my Bible and prayed every day, I toed every line put in front of me, generally without complaint. To most people looking in, I was a very together person.

Along the way, however, I never learned much about self-care, about healthy boundaries, about knowing when to stop. And I learned to use food as . . . well, just about everything: a pacifier, a reward, a comfort, a go-to, quick-fix for any emotional struggle, a boredom-satisfier, a crutch when facing a difficult situation, even a subversive way to be rebellious. And for many years, it worked pretty well.

Except for the unfortunate fact that I carried far too many pounds on this large frame. Despite the copious tears that I’ve shed over that truth during the last 40+ years, I now see that that my size was an important part of my story. Somewhere, deep inside of me, I needed to be big. Big enough to meet the needs of all the people around me, big enough to take care of three little ones who came faster than imaginable, big enough to deal with the busy schedule I always managed to set for myself, big enough to get through seminary at mid-life, big enough to handle whatever curveball my pastoral jobs might throw at me. Big enough.

Slowly, with time and experience — much of it difficult and painful — I am learning to lean into the biggest truth I’ve learned: it’s okay to be small. In fact, it’s necessary to be small — to recognize our own inability to ever be big enough, strong enough, good enough, devoted enough, loving enough, capable enough, sturdy enough . . . enough . . . unless . . . we learn how to bend.

Come along over to Amber’s place to read the rest of this and to join the conversation.


To Dance with One Another — SheLoves

It’s my Saturday at that great women’s magazine, SheLoves. The theme for September is ‘held,’ and this small vignette was what came to me. Sorta surprised me, to tell you the truth. It’s about dancing — how I never do it anymore but I still dream about it from time to time.


We don’t dance in our house. And I miss it. Not that I was ever a ‘dancer’ — I can’t follow choreography of any kind to save my life. Believe me, I’ve tried. Jazzercize? Nope. I trip over my own feet trying to figure out whether that last move was to the right or to the left.

But when I was in junior high and high school, I went to school dances and I enjoyed moving around on the dance floor. I could do a few of the simpler dances of the day when the music was up-tempo, but slow dance? Now, that I could really do. Because I was a singer and enjoyed music in my home all the time, I knew how to find the beat, and I discovered I quite liked moving to that beat while being held by someone else.

There is something sweet and natural about moving slowly to music, held in the embrace of another. I can’t explain it, I just know it to be true. I didn’t date a lot, but the boys I did go out with all knew how to dance, some of them quite well. And if the lead dancer is good, the weak dancer is home free. I quite enjoyed being home free.

I met my husband, God’s greatest gift to me, when I was a first-year college student. I loved his big brown eyes, his sincerity, his sense of humor and his commitment to his family.

But he did not dance. And he was quite clear about that. Quite.

I didn’t get it. He was supremely well-coordinated, a gifted athlete. Why not at least try it?

That was a great big NO.

It took me a long to time to ferret out the reason why. He told me it was because he never learned — his family and his church frowned on it, so he was never taught how to move to music. But my parents came from a similar background, so neither of them knew a lot about dancing, either. Yet my mom wanted me to know how, so she asked our next-door neighbor to show me, to provide a few simple lessons. That small gesture made it possible for me to jump over the gigantic hurdle of adolescent self-consciousness and go out there and try it.

No one ever did that for him. And the self-consciousness ran deep, deep, deep. He cared what other people thought about him. He knew he was a good athlete and he was unwilling to take the risk of trying something new to him, something physical that he might not excel at. A 4-letter jock all through high school, the embarrassment factor was simply too big a hurdle for this good man. . .

Come on over and join the conversation at SheLoves, okay? Just click on this line.

The Surprising Nature of Grief

He was in his late 50’s, I’m guessing. Salt and pepper hair and mustache, thick black shoes, Bermuda shorts and the usual bright red apron. I was at Home Depot, purchasing something or other for the work we’re doing on our new home, and I noticed him, cheerfully helping customers through the checkout process.

He was kind, with a peaceful, even happy expression on his face. I could see him from where I stood waiting in line, and I remember thinking, “That guy is one of the good ones. Yeah, the shoes with the shorts are a tad nerdy, but what a sweet man!”

I dug into my cart, laid my wares on the conveyor belt and he quickly moved to the end of the island, getting ready to put my purchases into a bag for me. I handed over my credit card, signed my name and turned to thank him as I got ready to exit the store. And that’s when I saw his name tag:


Big black letters, larger than life. And as I saw them, I was startled to hear a great gasping sob erupt from my mouth. The next minute, tears were streaming down beneath my sunglasses as I made my way back to the car.

I had been blindsided by grief, deep and wide.

Kenneth was my youngest brother’s name. The one who died in 2009. A man I’d never met called me early in the morning of October 2nd; he was the manager of Ken’s sober living residence. He’d found my number in my brother’s cell phone and told me tearfully that Ken passed away in his sleep. He was 53 years old.

Oh my, such a sweet man. Troubled, broken, sick and tired, but such a sweet man. I’ve written about him elsewhere, detailing his life of struggle and pain. But that day — that instant in the Home Depot — my thoughts were these:

This could have been my brother.

He would have been so good at a job like this.

Oh, how I miss him! Oh, how sorry I am for all the turmoil he endured! Oh, how I wish I could change it somehow.

But I cannot. I cannot go back in time, much as I might wish to do so. I cannot change one second of his life.

This much, though . . . this much, I can do:

I can acknowledge my own sadness about him.

I can make space for the grief to surprise me, again and again.

I can thank God for Ken every day.

I can pray for his sons and daughter-in-law.

I can remember the best pieces of his story.

I can pay attention to those I meet who remind me of him in some way — size, demeanor, struggle.

I can not be ashamed of the sobs, the tears, the sadness or him. Instead, I can remember him with love and gratitude, accepting him for who he was, warts and all, and rejoice that his suffering is over.

Grief comes in waves, they say. Who knew the tide would still roll after this many years? Sometimes I think I’m ‘used’ to all the death and dying we’ve experienced in our family circle. But I’m not, and — thank God — I never will be. Though it often comes disguised as blessing, especially after a long, difficult illness, death is always our last enemy, a reminder that our time in this sphere is limited and finite. Ah, Lord, I thank you that Ken’s dying was gentle, though his living was harsh.

I miss you, sweet brother of mine. I truly do.