I'm "helping" (whatever that means) with the redesign of a website right now, and one of the super-fun tools we're using to do it is called inVision.  Essentially what I'm doing is creating jpegs that look like what we want various pages of the website to look like, and then using inVision's crazy cool magic to link them together so it feels like you're on an actual website - but really, you're not.  They call it a wireframe, and from what I can tell, it's pretty much just a bunch of pictures without authentic functionality.  And as I was working on this project today, it hit me: sometimes we try to wireframe life.

It's possible that if you understand wire-framing on a deeper level than I do, the analogy might not really hold - but think about it.  You get up in the morning, and there's this idea of "this is what this day will hold."  And in theory it's all great.  You go here and this happens.  Move that way, and this other thing happens.

But that's just a wireframe.  It isn't real.

And sometimes we get so attached to the way we think things ought to be that we miss out on what they are - or what they could be.

I don't want live that way.  Do you?

Sabbath Fun

Shara and I went to the Windy City today.  We didn't have a plan for what we would do when we got there.  We mostly just drove around until we found a place to park, and wandered.

We ended up at Navy Pier.  Worked our way slowly thru the Stained Glass Museum.  Learned a few things about stained glass, symbolism, and Chicago history.  Did you know that Chicago is the only city in America named after a food?  (I can't remember whether we learned this before or after I mistook part of a particular stained glass window for a corndog...)

We waited in line for over 1/2 an hour for $10 hot dogs that were almost worth it.  Then we wandered toward the Magnificent Mile.  I'm not sure we ever actually found it.  We got distracted by the Chicago Tribune building, which is decorated by pieces of stone from all over the world.  It was really cool.  We also wandered slowly thru an art gallery and fell in love with $9000 acrylic on aluminum paintings.  Spent some time in Millennium Park, taking pictures, talking with tourists, and respecting the art by not climbing on it.  (There was a sign that said we couldn't.  We did, however, hug it.)

We both came home with new challenges.  I'm going to learn how to paint on aluminum.  Shara's going to figure out how to deep fry mashed potatoes.  And I think we both came home inspired.  I know I was.  We encountered so much beauty and creativity today - from aluminum paintings to stained glass to architecture to creation itself.  The clouds were incredible on this odd October-like day in July.  And good conversation, good food, great company, and time spent creating or enjoying creation are essential elements to a really great Sabbath.  I'm inspired to get back into the habit of planning ahead a little more - even if it's as unplanned as saying, "let's get in the car and go and see where we end up" - so that more of my Sabbath days are packed with moments of unexpected delight.

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 13)

Seven posts in seven days.  No problem, I thought.  I can do that.  So I took Jen up on her challenge and posted a link to my blog.

Good thing I'm a night owl.  And that my dear friend Shara was kind enough to take me up on my double-dog dare to blog along with me.  Fear of mockery Accountability is a powerful motivator.  Welcome to Day 5!  (And be sure to check out Shara's blog: desperate madness.  She's been writing some really great stuff.)

This week has been insanely busy.  "When are you not in a busy season?!" someone asked me this week.  Fair enough.  But one of the things I love about seasons when the pace is almost too fast is how much more I appreciate the moments when things slow down - even just for a minute.  Standing in a driveway, looking at the stars, with some of my favorite kids on the planet.  Playing hooky to go out to dinner.  Reading a short devotional over a cup of coffee on my way out the door in the morning so that I will have something worth thinking about on my way to whatever is next.  Loitering on my way to what's next to talk with one of my best friends.

Life is short.  We need to pay more attention to moments like these.  Busyness highlights that for me in a way that nothing else can.  And reminds me to check my level of activity to ensure that it's sustainable.  If it's not - I need to chill out and slow down and create more moments worth remembering.

If you have not been following Natalie Trust's series on friendships between men and women, you need to start now.  Her last post in the 3-part series is absolutely brilliant, and the conversations in the comments (especially the notes from Aaron and Dan) are icing on the proverbial cake.  Please take a few minutes to read thru it.  This conversation is so important.

I got a text message today from a friend, wondering how she could pray for me.  She had no way of knowing that I'd been (at the very moment her text came) in the midst of a minor freakout about a lot of things.  (Mostly due to the fact that this week has been nuts, and I'm super-tired.)  So we sent a few messages back and forth - about real things - and the rest of the day went so much better, simply because by a text that probably took 5 seconds to send, I was reminded that I am not alone.

The next time you feel like you should pray for someone, do me a favor - drop them a text or an email or a FB message or a tweet or SOMETHING - just to say that you are.  It could change their entire day.

I have been completely hooked on this song for two weeks.  And I have no idea why.  I think it might be the poetry and paradox of the lyrics combined with the catchiness of the tune itself - but the video is amazing.  So incredibly well done.  Love the artistry of this piece.  In spite of the fact that there's that one line in the pre-chorus that reinforces ridiculous relational constructs.  Oh, and that one guy's haircut (or lack thereof).  (And ... who's the guy with the nice haircut, the one who looks like he ought to own the letter jacket?)

My sister says this next one is "right up my alley."  Welcome to my alley.  (It has a kitchen.  Complete with lemon juice.)

And while we're on the subject of kitchens being a source of excellent musical instruments....

It is now on my bucket list to learn how to play a cup.  Who knew dishes could be so awesome?  Oh, wait.  Rich Mullins did...

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

delighting in the Sabbath

"If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
     and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
     and the Lord's holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
     and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the Lord,
     and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
     and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob."
          For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
                                                     - Isaiah 58:13-14

I've been thinking about these verses off and on for years.  It's an "if"... "then" situation: IF you do these things, THEN you will find joy, etc.

What does it mean, really, to "call the Sabbath a delight"?  What does that even look like?  It doesn't really sound like just taking a day off to do nothing...  (Tho there are days when that sounds utterly delightful...)  And does it look (or have to look) the same for everyone?  I don't think so.

But if there are things we need to do in order to find joy, and calling the Sabbath a delight is one of those things, I think it's logical to assume that calling the day a delight might actually involve something more than looking up from your book and saying to the Sabbath, "oh, hi, Delight - how are you?" as she strolls through the living room on her way to the kitchen to get a snack.  No, to truthfully call something delightful means that it needs to be and is actually delightful - and creating a day that qualifies may take some intentionality and forethought.

God created the Sabbath; let's imitate Him and create them, too.


There's an exercise I've been doing off and on over the pass few weeks as part of my physical therapy.  I'm sure it has some sort of technical name, but let's just call it the yoga ball pass.  You lay flat on the ground with a giant yoga ball between your feet, lift your legs (without bending them) straight up in the air, take the ball from between your feet and touch the ground behind your head with it (as you lower your legs, without bending them, to the ground), and then you reverse the exercise to pass the ball back between your feet and onto the ground again.  I'm supposed to be doing this 30 times a day.  (It's not happening yet.)

Here are the following things that can go horribly wrong while attempting this even just once:

  1. You can drop the ball on your face.
  2. You can fail to grasp the ball firmly enough between your feet, resulting in the ball (which can be very bouncy) escaping.
  3. You can fail to grasp the ball firmly enough between your hands, again resulting in the ball escaping.  (This is particularly bad if there are other people doing physical therapy on the floor anywhere near you, and/or if you are exercising in or near a hallway.  Tho I can see how being near stairs could be even worse.)
  4. You can lose count.
  5. You can forget to breathe while every muscle in your core is sending a message to your brain informing you that they do not want to be doing this exercise.  At all.  Ever.
But here's what's happening while all of this often awkward, painful, relatively amusing (to outside observers) activity is going on:

  1. You are strengthening your core muscles - the muscles that hold the rest of you up.
  2. You are teaching your core muscles better habits.
  3. You are burning calories you didn't really need anyway.
  4. You are developing perseverance and endurance.
  5. You providing yourself with fodder for a spiritual twist on a blogpost that could have just been a funny story about that one time at the chiropractor's office when you dropped the yoga ball on your head and it went bouncing down the hallway.

Who you are at your core matters.  So what is it you need to do to strengthen yourself?  What needs to go?  And what habits do you need to form?

"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."
- Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)

Paper Cranes

Paper Crane
photo edited with Vintique

I learned how to make paper cranes today.

My grandfather used to make them all the time.  Oh, how he loved them! And I'm not sure why.  Maybe making them just gave him something to do, or was a creative outlet of some sort.  There is something rather mesmerizing about the process - all those folds that need to be made just so, and the intricacies of the folding process.  It's really fun.

And I thought he was amazing for being able to make them.  I didn't know anyone else who could.  I also didn't know anyone else who had parakeets, or old-fashioned printing presses (he owned a print shop, so it was at least somewhat logical - but they were so cool...).

Making paper cranes today brought up so many memories.  The time we went fishing and Grandpa was waiting til he caught a fish to eat lunch, and the seagull who flew by and um... left something on his sandwich, just as he was about to eat it.  The time he went to the beach with my Dad and my sister to feed the swans, and a swan chased him 1/2 a mile down the street to our front porch because it wanted more bread.  The way he looked in his suit on his way to church on Sundays.  And the way his eyes twinkled when he'd catch us sneaking sponge candy from the candy dishes on top of the piano, and would sneak a piece himself.

I don't know a lot of his stories.  As a painfully shy kid, I lived mostly with my nose in a book, and I rarely thought to ask questions.  But what I do (and did) know, is that he loved me tremendously, and was always glad to see me.  He was one of the first people who modeled God's love to me - and while I didn't understand it or see it at the time (and I'm not even sure he would have thought of it in those terms, either) - I am so grateful for it now.

Do you know that God loves you tremendously?  Because He does.  And He is ever so glad to see you when you come to Him - no matter what this day held.

This Deep But Dazzling Darkness

         There is in God, some say,
A deep but dazzling darkness, as men here
Say it is late and dusky, because they
              See not all clear.
      O for that night!  When I in Him
      Might live invisible and dim!
                      -from The Night, by Henry Vaughan

I have loved these words from Henry Vaughan's poem for more than half my life.  It was Madeleine L'Engle who introduced me to them when I was maybe 12, in her book A Ring of Endless Light.

There is something so beautiful and incomprehensible and mysterious about God.  I love the way the Voice paraphrase of Scripture puts it in 1 Corinthians 13:12: "For now, we can only see a dim and blurry picture of things, as when we stare into polished metal.  I realize that everything I know is only part of the big picture.  But one day, when Jesus arrives, we will see clearly, face-to-face.  In that day, I will fully know just as I have been wholly known by God."

"When Jesus arrives."

O Lord Jesus, come soon...  This deep but dazzling darkness is wonderful - but oh, how we long to see Your face.

wearing the glass slippers

A good friend of mine dropped me a note shortly after I preached last month, and one of the things he said was, "I think it was the first time people got to see you onstage.  You seemed very comfortable with yourself and your message."  It struck me as a little funny...  I mean, who was I the last time I preached?!  But I know what he meant.  I've changed a lot over the past year and a half - and I was more confident and more vulnerable onstage than I've ever been.

It's been a crazy journey, this thawing of my inner ice princess to becoming what my pastor refers to as "Sunshine Happy."  It's required a fair bit of courage and vulnerability and relational risk - but every minute of it, no matter how difficult, has been worth it.

I came across an article a few weeks ago about Cinderella and her glass slippers.  The author contrasts the glass slippers - a gift from her fairy godmother - with Cinderella's character - just as Cinderella remained sweet and kind and caring in the midst of trying circumstances, so the glass slippers remained intact through an evening of dancing, and even being dropped on the ground as she ran from the palace.  The prince, the author said, surely saw Cinderella's beauty, but he did not go looking for the beautiful girl with whom he had danced.  No, he scoured the kingdom for the girl who could wear glass slippers without breaking them.

We were all of us - men and women - given a gift from God when we were created: the privilege of being image-bearers of God in the world, showing the world what God is like. And as we grow up, we encounter a variety of messages from our families, our friends, our teachers, our churches, our cultures, etc. about how to do that, about how to be who we are.  Some of "the rules" seem innocent enough.

Boys like blue.  Girls like pink.  Boys like to get dirty and run around.  Girls like to have tea parties and wear pretty dresses.  We are taught to observe and adopt a myriad of social and gender constructs - without being taught to question them.

But what if I like playing in the mud and am more comfortable in blue jeans than in a skirt?  What if I can't decorate a cake, but I love to climb trees or go mountain biking?  We have a word for that: "tomboy" (which has an interesting etymology).  So... I'm acting like a boy. And the implication is that this is bad, because I'm a girl and I'm supposed to act like one.

Over time, whether we are conscious of it or not, we end up with a list of (sometimes conflicting) rules about what men and women are and are not like that we use as a measuring stick.

The problem is that sometimes our measuring sticks are anything but accurate.

Jonalyn Fincher, in the introduction to her book, Ruby Slippers, likens the problem for women to trying to wear corsets we were never meant to wear.  We allow "the rules" and expectations to shape us, focused on achieving an image we think we want, hoping, as Jonalyn says, that "the hooks don't bust open and reveal who we really are." (p.15)

But it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  (Galatians 5:1)

One of the reasons I was able to truly be myself onstage a few weeks ago is that I've spent a lot of time over the past few years loosening corset strings, finding better measuring sticks, and becoming more comfortable with who God created me to be.  I am so grateful to the women in my life who have shared so openly and honestly their struggles with trying to be what my friend Erin calls "the better Christian woman" - this paragon of a person we've created in our heads that no one could possibly be anyway.  Their stories have helped me look more closely at my own story and begin to find some of the freedom God wants for me.  Freedom to simply be myself without so much fear of what other people might think of me.  Freedom to explore what it means to be a woman of God in this day and age and culture.  Freedom to extend grace to those who would seek to shame me back into the limiting corsets of rules not found in Scripture.  Freedom to live with bolder boundaries in my friendships.

And the freedom to embrace my femininity as a part of why God is calling me to write and speak and lead, because it is at the core of who He created me to be.  It is the glass slipper that fits.  And in the arms of the King who gave me these glass slippers to begin with, I can be confident that I am at least becoming the kind of girl who can wear them without breaking them.

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol.12)

--- 1 ---

I had the privilege of teaching at Torch Church last Sunday as part of our #shine series.  Jesus left us a new command: to love one another.  But what does that really look like?  Where do we get it wrong, and how does that affect the way the world views Jesus?  And what can we do to better love one another?  You can check out the video or download the podcast here.

--- 2 ---

There is some great conversation going on over at Natalie Trust's blog this week.  She wrote a post (the first of a series, yay!) called Of Friendships Between Men and Women: Dealing With Fear and Shame, as a response to Dan Brennan's book Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions: Engaging the Mystery of Friendship Between Men and Women.  One of the things that strikes me every time I read a post like this is the profound relief in the responses of so many who comment.  I love seeing this movement of God to restore our broken ideas about how we ought to relate to each other as it's surfacing in so many places, and it's so interesting to me the way this conversation is happening not just in the church but in our broader (Western, at least) culture as well.

--- 3 ---

I was listening to a podcast yesterday of a talk Alistair Begg gave at Biola University in April this year.  One of his sub-points caught my attention - I'd never thought of it this way before.  The phrase "carpe diem" - "seize the day" - is one that has worked its way into our cultural philosophy, but at its root, that phrase expresses the idea that you ought to seize the day because yesterday is gone and you might not get tomorrow - and that's kind of depressing when you really think about it. But with Jesus, the past has meaning and the future is promising, and that is why today matters.  It's a subtle shift in thinking, but one worth considering.

--- 4 ---

I read so many great things worth sharing this week.  Here's one - a post from Seth Godin entitled Thinking About Money.  Great perspective, and good reminders.  Well worth your time.

--- 5 ---

Here's another, from Kathy Escobar a few weeks ago, on dealing with our inner Pharisee.  I absolutely love the ending: 7 prompts towards things to consider when we're aware that we're being judgmental towards someone and need to pray our way out of it.

--- 6 ---

I'm sure I'm not the only who experiences this, so I'm just going to own it: sometimes coming up with 7 things for 7 Quick Takes is a little challenging, especially on weeks when not much of report has happened.  It was a week with a holiday, so there could have been fun stories - but I had the flu, so I've been home doing not much of anything except reading and sleeping for the past two days.  And does anyone really want to read about that?

--- 7 ---

Here's something exciting, tho!  There's a movie coming out soon called Ragamuffin: The True Story of Rich Mullins.  Rich Mullins' music was incredible, and his love for Jesus so visible.  (I still remember something he said that so profoundly impacted my own walk with God - he was talking about the passage in the gospels where Jesus is calling His disciples for the first time, and it says that Jesus called those He wanted.  "Anybody can be used by God," Rich Mullins said in that interview.  "But to be wanted..."  That's pretty incredible, knowing that God wants us).  I'm so looking forward to seeing this film.

(For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!)