Thursday, December 11, 2014

Belief and Blessing

Blessing--It’s a prayer spoken before a meal.  In our house, it’s a song.  For many, it’s a formality only practiced at Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

Blessings--We’re told to count them. 

Bless--We ask God to bless our nation.  And here in the South we say, “Bless his heart.”  That’s not a remark of sympathy.  It’s similar to, “God, love ‘em.”  Both comments appear to have religious, caring messages; I assure you; they do not.

Blessed--We’re told to “Have a blessed day!”  That’s a nice sentiment; I’m not sure what it means.

We use some form of bless/blessing/blessings/blessed in our regular conversation.  But the Bible has a lot to say about what is BLESSED that goes far beyond our family meals, even our country.

The Christmas story in Luke is a story of blessing.  The chief recipient of blessing is Mary, who is deemed blessed, because she has been chosen to carry the Son of God (Luke 1:42), and because she believes.

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished. Luke 1:45

Mary certainly stands out in human history is THE, SINGLE, SOLITARY person who has been entrusted with the awesome responsibility and honor of carrying, birthing, and nurturing the Son of God.

But that awesome responsibility isn’t the only thing that earns her the title “blessed.”

She’s blessed, because she believes.  She believes that God will do what God says He will do.

That’s it.  It’s a simple concept; it’s a harder reality.  Blessing comes with belief. 

I’m not talking about health/wealth faith, about belief making you rich.  Mary was certainly not wealthy; she had a baby in a manger!  But she was blessed.

If you believe, then you are blessed.  Do you own that?  Could you sing it out for all to hear like Mary?  Do you rejoice in the blessing of knowing that God is Who He says He is, that He will do what He says He’ll do?  What an amazing blessing—to believe in a God who is faithful and true! 

If you find yourself on the other end of the spectrum, feeling like your beliefs are a burden that produce hardship in your life, then may you find blessing in the Christmas story this season.

Monday, December 1, 2014


Believe.  It’s the mantra of the season—from the Elf on the Shelf video (that my kids have already seen at least 10 times since Thanksgiving) to the silver jingle bell in Polar Express.  It’s a word that lights up the side of Macy’s in New York.  I’ve seen it; it’s as breathtaking as it looks.

Believe.  Believe in an elf that flies from your home to the North Pole and back every night to report your behavior to Santa, determining your place on the Naughty or Nice lists.  Believe in an elf that lands in another, new, entertaining position every morning.  (I know the elves freak out some people, but Elfie has already curbed the behavior of my 4-year-old in remarkable ways his first two days back at our house, so I’m a believer!)  Actually, Elfie’s overnight adventures are a fun creative outlet for this mom of two.

Believe in a Santa who picks up children from their homes, without parental knowledge or consent, and transports them on a train, again—without permission slips or insurance information (The Student Pastor in me is righteously indignant about these breeches of basic protocol!), overnight to the North Pole.  Believe in silver jingle bells on Santa’s sleigh that you can only hear if you have childlike faith.

Believe in the goodness of people as you support Make-A-Wish at Macy’s, or participate in angel trees and collections of all kinds.  Believe that donating canned soup and gently used coats will make someone else’s Christmas better.

Believe that 2015 will be your best year yet.


As I prepare my heart for Christmas, I’m reading Luke in the Bible.  It’s one of the two books of the Bible that includes Jesus’ birth, the Christmas event.  Reading Luke is reminding me of what I believe and why I believe.  I believe that “nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)  

In this first book of Matthew, that declaration of God’s power and providence meant that barren couples could have a child.  I believe that this Christmas.  As loved ones birth healthy babies after months in the hospital, I believe.  As I pray for and cry with friends who have lost babies at 8 weeks and 8 months, with friends who are growing older yet remain unmarried, with friends who face disappointment month after month, I believe that nothing is impossible with God.  I’m heartbroken; I don’t understand; I’m frustrated…and I believe.  

What do you believe this Christmas?

I hope you’ll join me as I dive into Luke to discover and to rediscover who, what, and why I BELIEVE

Monday, August 18, 2014

What's your dream?

Yesterday, I continued our church's summer survey of Genesis with a message on Joseph--the coat, (two of) the dreams, the slavery.  (The video archive will be here tomorrow: PCC Video Archive/.)

I presented that God's dreams are dreams of justice and dreams that require suffering.

God’s dreams are dreams of justice--
dreams about the last being first,
about a little brother becoming ruler.
Dreams announcing a baby becoming King,
about a carpenter becoming Lord.
Dreams of a church where addicts and adulterers,
innocent kids and incarcerated felons,
students and seniors,
connect with God and each other.

To conclude the message, I wrote some of my church's dreams (at least, my interpretation of my church's dreams--speaking on behalf of the entirety of PCC is a bit precarious):

We dream…
of a church that kids drag their parents to,
of a church where teenagers won’t be tolerated or entertained, but where they’ll serve and lead, not the church of the future, but the church HERE and NOW.

We dream…
of a church where victims can find healing, hope, and community,
of a church that reaches lots of people on Sunday morning, and still shows up with meals and care for your family when you’re hurting.

Twelve years later, we’re still dreaming…
of a church where people are welcome…no matter what they’ve done, or who they’ve been, or where they are,
of a church where people rally to do whatever it takes to show one more person that God loves them.

Now we partner with other dreamers…
like a church in Belize, Central America that dreams, among gang violence and gunfire, of a youth center, a safe haven, where kids can run basketball drills instead of drug deals
like people in our communities who dare to dream that kids and the homeless can have food, that people can have clothes.  

What is YOUR dream for the local church (not just PCC, whatever local church YOU'RE part of)?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Update on the Anguished Parent

Sunday I told a story about a parent whose teenager struggled through adolescence.  I’ve been asked how the story ends.

Well, the story is still in process (as all stories are), but I’ll give you an update.

The teenager who once got in trouble at church has since contributed their gifts, talents, time, and energy to the church…to the very same efforts that were once marked by poor choices.

The parent who grieved, struggled, and made difficult decisions now shares their story with other parents, hoping what they learned can help another family.

The teenager now attends PCC as a young adult.   Graciously, we were able to maintain a good relationship throughout that ordeal.  Now, the young person attends church at an age when most people walk away.

As we were selecting our closing song, “Our God,” for this past Sunday, I couldn’t help but smile.  The song says, “And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us, and if our God is with us, then what could stand against?” 

It reminds me of this teenager’s favorite Bible verse:

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)

That teenager had much to fear.  The parent and teenager had been mistreated, had been through difficult life circumstances together.  There was reason to fear, but that teenager found hope and promise in the words of Psalm 27 that declare our God is light, our God saves, our God strengthens us, our God gives us reason NOT to be afraid.

If you find yourself in the role of the anguished parent and would like to be in touch with this parent, then please comment or e-mail me:  The parent in this situation is willing to share their story or just to listen, knowing the pain, disappointment, and despair.

You can see Sunday's message on Noah as the anguished parent, not the angry tyrant, here: 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mother's Day

My family thoroughly spoiled me for Mother's Day this year!  My mom gave me chocolates (that a few young men tried to steal from me...AT CHURCH...ON MOTHER'S DAY!!).  My sister gave me a beautiful shirt and card.  My dad mailed me a thoughtful card and a Starbucks gift card.  They are speaking my language.

My husband took the kids on Saturday and went shopping for me.  They filled the bed of his pickup with flowers for me to plant.  While they shopped, I got some things done around the house that had been hovering in my mind, so that I could then go shopping guilt free.  My husband didn't have much money to give me, but he gave me a wonderful gift of lots of time, and I had some gift cards tucked away since Christmas.

So, I got to shop, knowing that dishes and laundry had been done.  I didn't feel pressure to rush home, and that's a pressure I've felt every time I've shopped in the last six years.  I've learned to shop quickly, to make decisions quickly, and to buy only things I really like, because there's no way I'll have an opportunity to return a purchase.

It was wonderful.  

My family is wonderful.

The time was great.  The gifts were great.  The words were mostly great:)  My daughter picked Mother's Day to shout an, "I don't like you!" in my direction.  But she was still feeling bad then, so there was lots of grace.  (She's all better now, and her personality is back to being as strong and varied as always:)  However, if that's what she's like at 3, we can all imagine what's headed our way at 13!)  

Seriously, she showered me in hugs and kisses according to her love language.  She also grabbed my face between her tiny hands and said, "That's one pretty mommy; you're so beautiful and so sweet.  I love you, love you, love you!"  That successfully counteracted the earlier exclamation.

My boy brought home gifts he made at school.  A framed pic of him now sits in my office.  He's holding a sign that says, "I love you because you do nice things for me."  He also completed the following sentences.  If these are all true, then he loves me a whole lot!

Dear Mom,

I love you more than dinosaurs.
I love you more than superheroes.
I love you more than alligators.
I love you more than pizza.
I love you more than Plants vs. Zombies.
I love you more than the movie Avengers.
I love you more than Spider Man 3.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Wedding Season Begins!

This year is a big year for weddings.  I will perform my first wedding as a solo officiate.  I will be my twin sister’s Matron of Honor.  For a few former students, I will read Scripture, pray prayers, say a few words, and even, by the power vested in me by the Commonwealth of Virginia announce them as husband and wife.   

I guess that’s what happens when you do student ministry for over ten years.  The teenagers become 20-somethings, and they get married!  The 20-something youth pastor becomes a 30-something Reverend and gets to re-enter the lives of beloved students at sacred moments.

My heart is full and eyes brimming with tears in anticipation of the holy moments that await me in coming months.

The first such wedding is four days away.  A girl I met May 2001 is getting married.  I can’t believe 13 years have passed since that girl, too young for youth group, hung around the edges, begging to be included.  She looked like a teenager, she talked like a teenager, but she was still a girl. 

Now she’s a bride.

Belize Mission Trip 2007
As Saturday’s ceremony approaches, I find myself nostalgic.  I barely know the beautiful, confident woman who will become a wife.  But I knew that teenager so well.  I watched her go through the country girl phase and the girl jock phase, the bad student phase (with its infamous AIPs) and the good student phase, the rebel phase and the pastor’s kid phase.  I cradled her as she sobbed; I heard her confessions; I kept her secrets.  I watched a steady parade of young men vie for her attention and affection.  I watched her make great choices, and I worried and prayed as she made not-so-great ones. 

She was my guinea pig as I learned how to be a pastor.  She suffered through my learning how to stop talking and start listening. 

Manassas Mission Trip 2006
I watched her grow up from kid to student to small group leader.  She watched me grow up from college student to seminary student, from adamantly single to married, from all about teenagers to all about my kids.

I’ll never forget the day she called and said, “Hey, can we get together for ice cream?  But this time—we’re burning my gas in my car, and I’m paying.”

She was at my wedding, encouraging people to sign the guestbook.

In a few days, I’ll be at her wedding, speaking holy words over her life one more time.

And, I’m so proud. 

I’m so thankful for God’s protection over her when she was hell-bent on making stupid decisions.  I’m so thankful for the gift of watching her wrestle, struggle, and emerge into the woman she is today.  I’m so thankful that God intertwined our lives 13 years ago.  I’m so thankful that out of the parade of young men who fought for her attention, one emerged victorious—one with whom she seems to be most fully Mary Ashleigh. 

I love you, Mashy.  I can’t wait to see you as a beautiful bride and a wonderful wife.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

How to Lose 15 Pounds in a Year

Since I've been bragging about reaching my weight loss goal on Facebook, several people have asked how I did it.  So, I'm hoping to do a blog post or two about my journey for the last year or so.  First, I must say that I am a wife, mom, and pastor, NOT a fitness or wellness coach.  I only know what worked for me, not what will work for you.  AND, what worked for me was an inconsistent perseverance, because I am still a wife, mom, and pastor.  Life is busy and full; upending my lifestyle for personal fitness just isn't an option.

The title of this post is a key.  Reaching my goal meant a relatively small amount of weight, and it took a long amount of time.  Patience and perseverance win.  And grace, lots and lots of grace.

2013 found me at 130 pounds with high cholesterol and blood pressure.  The last time I'd reached 130 pounds was my third trimester with my daughter, Lily.  I was 123 when I got pregnant with both of my kids.  I took care of myself while pregnant, and at six months pregnant with Lily, I weighed 129.  So, when I got on the scales last January and saw 130, that was a rude awakening.  And it was time for changes.

The change I've made most consistently is breakfast.  I've always been a breakfast eater; I LOVE breakfast.  But breakfast usually meant cereal with milk (carbs and sugar), or things less healthy like biscuits, muffins, or bagels.  Instead, my breakfasts now are usually a piece or combination of the following:  fresh fruit, low-fat vanilla yogurt (I can't do the Greek kind, although that's all the craze in healthy living.), protein-laden granola, eggs (I LOVE eggs; I've eaten LOTS of eggs!), smoothies, and oatmeal.  I also cut down on the milk.  I love milk, and I thought water for breakfast sounded gross.  But, I got used to it and actually got to where I craved ice cold water in the mornings.

Otherwise, I just tried to do better.  I don't know what "better" looks like for you.  I didn't turn into a health food nut or that person who's rude at social gatherings and (im)politely refuses all the yummy food prepared for them.  I just did "better":

  • I ordered a small hamburger at the drive-thru, minus the mayo and sans french fries, with water instead of sugary tea or lemonade (never been much of a soda drinker).  Added tip--it's much cheaper this way!
  • I kept almonds or walnuts in my office and car for my crunchy, salty snack cravings.  That's my biggest craving; I'm not a chocaholic, but I do love some salt and carbs! 
  • I bought and ate more fresh fruits and veggies.
  • I gave myself permission NOT to clean my plate, even if I'd worked hard to make or to buy the food on the plate.

Even when I stuck to my eating better plan well, I allowed myself one freebie a day--a latte, pasta, chips and salsa.  AND I gave myself one free day a week when I ate whatever I wanted. 

Here's how it worked for me:

  • The beginning was hard, and I did feel hungry much of the time.  I hate healthy amounts of food, but I was used to portions too big for my 5'2" small frame.  
  • I went to bed feeling hungry, but I wasn't really.  My body was just used to a bedtime snack; it didn't need it.  And going to bed feeling hungry often meant going to bed ticked off; I was mad about it!
  • It took a while to see results.
  • Eventually, even on free days, I didn't want lots of trash, and I couldn't eat all the junk food I'd dreamed about all week.  My body changed.
  • I fell off my plan A LOT.  I'd have two or three weeks of success, and I'd fall off the wagon for a week.  Then, I'd extended myself some grace, and climb back up.  That's the real story of the last year.  Two steps forward, one step back, two steps forward, one step back, over and over and over.  I just kept going.

I'll do another post about the exercise side of this, and the story about me behind this journey.

January 2013 I weighed 130.  April 3, 2013 I weighed 125.  March 27, 2014 I weigh 114.  I'm not worried about lowering the number on the scale anymore.  I'm not the picture of fitness; there's plenty of room for toning.  But I'm happy with the way my clothes fit; I'm back in pre-Tristan pants.  I haven't had my cholesterol or blood pressure checked yet; I'm hopeful those numbers are better:)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tackling Toxic Words

Yesterday I posted about our student retreat and the toxic words spoken into our students' lives.  
I want to write about how we tried, and continue trying, to combat those.  We can't erase the memories of those words from students' minds.  We can't erase the impact on their hearts.  But we can do something.  Here's what something looks like for us:

1.  At our retreats, each participant has an envelope with their name on it.  Throughout the weekend we encourage participants to write each other encouraging, fun, funny, affirming notes.  At the end of the weekend, each participant takes his envelope home to read their notes.  I've heard from several parents since we returned from the retreat, expressing their gratitude for these notes.  Nothing combats toxic words like true,  life-giving words.

2.  Saturday evening of the retreat we discussed the toxic words.  That's when students wrote them and laid them at the altar.  But we didn't leave it there.  We gave students an opportunity to go to an adult leader standing in the back of the room.  It could be their small group leader, a young adult they admire, or someone they had just met the day before.  The students could approach those adults, and the adults would speak and pray affirming words into their lives.  

This was a powerful moment for those who participated.  You see, our church is blessed with committed adults who plan lessons, lead Bible studies, and manage chaos for ninety minutes every week.  And sometimes those adults wonder if they're getting through, if all the hard work is resulting in any spiritual growth.  Saturday night, we all got to witness the powerful ways in which God is using these small group leaders.

I stood teary-eyed with pride and awe as I watched lines of students approach their small group leaders.  I saw teenage guys and girls cry on the shoulders of their pastors.  I saw small group leaders cry as they hugged and spoke truth over their students' lives, and as they saw that all their hard work has made a difference.  I watched adults I've known for years compassionately and confidently pray with students.  I watched adults read words from the Bible over their students' heads.  I watched young men for whom I was pastor be pastor to teenagers.

3.  During breakfast the last morning, I noticed all the young male chaperons were missing, and they don't often miss meals:)  I found them standing in front of all those envelopes with participants' names.  One by one, they were laying hands on the envelopes, praying truth over every single student and chaperon.  They had spoken words to students the night before, they had written encouraging notes and placed them in the envelopes, and now they were going to God with words on behalf of these students.  Parents of teenagers in our ministry, I hope you appreciate the impact of these young male role models for both our guys and girls.

4.  I also encouraged the students to write 50 positive statements about themselves.  I don't want our students just to be victims; I want them to go on the offensive with words.  I want us to fill them with healthy, positive, life-giving words.  But I want them to speak life-giving words into their own lives, too.  I want them to own and to believe that they are worthwhile, important, sons and daughters of a loving God who made them in His image.  I want them to write down those words in a list that they can re-visit when toxic words are thrown their way, so that they can remember what is true versus what is trash.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Toxic Words

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” and we all know that pithy saying to be crap. 

At our student retreat this weekend, we looked at Toxic Words for one of our sessions.  We watched a video by Craig Groeschel who distinguished between words as truth or trash.  Some words spoken to us, at us, and about us are truth.  But many words spoken to us, at us, and about us are trash.  They are toxic.  They hurt us in the moment, and they often continue to harm us for days, weeks, years, or even the rest of our lives.

I asked students to write down some of the toxic words that have been said to them.  I encouraged them to lay them down on the altar.  They did.

And yesterday I read them.  I read them not to invade privacy, but to be informed of who I’m trying to pastor, to teach, and to lead.

After more than a decade in student ministry, it takes a lot to surprise me.  I wasn’t particularly surprised by the words, but reading them was overwhelming.  Seventy-seven people were with me on that retreat.  And reading through their enormous pile of toxic words left me still, silent, and heartbroken. 

A teenager should never hear, “You are the worst son ever.”

A teenager should never hear, “You are a detriment to our family.”

A teenager should never hear, “I hate to see you every morning.”

A teenager should never hear, “You shouldn’t have been born.”

The most common toxic words our students wrote were, “stupid,” (23 times) “fat,” (18 times) and “ugly” (20 times).
Word art from students' responses

And these are average students from average families in rural and suburban areas of central Virginia. 

These words are toxic to our students.  They are at a life stage where they are forming their identities, and some of them are forming their identities around these words.  If you have influence in a teenager’s life, then please realize that the words you speak wield a lot of power.  They can become a teenager’s identity, and they can inform their future.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

It's Your Day!

My twin sister is getting married in June!  Check out her words of wisdom for a great wedding and a great marriage.

It’s not my wedding.

Everyone says it’s your wedding with the best of intentions—they want you, usually the bride, to be happy.  And they mean it sincerely, until they disagree with one of your decisions, and then it’s said more like this:  “Well, it’s your wedding,” probably following a question like one of these:  “You’re having a wedding of 20 people?  You’re not having dancing at the reception when you’re a dancer?  You’re walking yourself down the aisle?”  (People don’t know that yet, but I might as well throw it in here; surprise!)  Their promise to uphold your wishes for your day turns into their condescension and disapproval.  The real question then is not whether it’s your wedding or not (clearly it is, YOU are getting married).  Yes, it’s my wedding, but it’s not just my wedding.  It’s definitely his wedding, but it’s also their wedding.  Let me explain.

For example, if it were just my wedding, I would not send invitations.  The twenty people invited are in our phones.  I’d have made personal phone calls with all the details.  But the invitations matter to a family where this is the first wedding of any of their kids, so we have samples sprawled across the table that we move in and out of the yes and no piles.  It’s their wedding, too.

I would not have any kind of showers or registries.  I’ve been in my house for 10 years, and so I do not need much of anything.  But people want to show their happiness for us with gifts, and so we’ll register for a few things.  Likewise, I do not expect my friends to buy me gifts, but I would treasure a day with them, and so we’ll use my wedding as an excuse to enlist the husbands for kid duty so that we can be just girls again.  You see, we’ve done life together since we sang camp songs up and down mountain trails, curled up on beds together in Cairo and Danville for late-night talks, told each other the truth when we wanted to hear it and when we didn’t, and shared each other’s joy, grief, loss, and celebration.  It’s their wedding, too.

Sometimes it’s not a matter of foregoing my preference but of seeking and choosing theirs.  My little buddy wants “to be a stud,” and so he’ll wear a tie like the big guys.  It’s his wedding, too.  She wants a princess dress that twirls, so she’ll get the best spinning dress we can find.  It’s her wedding, too.  She tries on all of the dresses in that color to see which one best reflects her beauty, and that’s the dress she’ll wear.  It’s her wedding, too.

The little details, especially with food and decorations, matter as much to her as to me, and so she’ll accompany me to every tasting, to every shopping trip, and get a sneak peek at all of my plans.  And she’ll get the dress that makes her the envy of other mothers-of-the-bride.  She’ll be stunning, and so will the one who looks just like me, and her little girl will likely steal the show.  And I wouldn’t want it any other way.  It’s their wedding, too.

This doesn’t even include the people who’ve sacrificed more times than I know for my happiness, who love me more than I can fathom, and who are excited filet mignon is on the menu.  It’s definitely their wedding, too. 

And this leaves out the people who sat around a table at Eat ‘n Park after late nights at the Dairy Queen and a long-time roommate who shares, among other things, matching horse heads with him.  It’s their wedding, too.

We are getting married.  At the end of the day, we’ll embark on our life journey together, and it will matter very little which cake flavor we chose and if we danced at the reception.  What will matter are the vows we exchanged and the hearts they represent.  It will be our wedding—mine, his, theirs, ours, but most importantly, His.   
(As an English teacher might I note that it all comes down to pronouns in the end.)

So ladies, make it a day you love; I am.  I will wear bright green heels, they will wave program fans with games to play while they wait, we will leave for Europe the next day, and there will be details all throughout the weekend that will be exactly what I want.   It will be my day, and I will be honored to make it their day, too. Resist the lie society tells to make this the most selfish day of our lives.  Instead, honor the people who love you, honor each other, and honor God.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Dream of a 7th Grader

Last month, countless students across this country penned their own, "I Have a Dream," speeches.  My sister's students were no exception.  Her students wrote, delivered, and recorded their speeches.  As the class watched the compilation of dreams, one speech left students with jaws open, eyes teary, and prompted a class of 7th graders to stand and applaud spontaneously   With the permission of the author and his parents, I share his big dream.  I hope this encourages you about our future and inspires you to dream big again:

I Have A Dream
“You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.” - Matthew 5:13 and 5:14. These things, salt and light, are not rare, extraordinarily special, or particularly valuable. However, they can have a huge impact: a single match can make the difference between utter, smothering darkness, and a warm, gentle glow. Salt, likewise, made the difference for many ancient people whether a slab of meat would feed you for a day or a month. Kindness is comparable to these in terms of significance and impact, and so I call upon the world: “Be the kind deeds of your people.”

I have a dream that one day this nation will lay down the sword of hatred, of bitterness, of spite, and take up instead the balm of gentleness, compassion, and love.

I have a dream that one day all men shall let the light of kindness shine in their hearts and deeds, that it may guide others, light their paths, and shield them from the dark night of solitude and despair.

I have a dream that one day the chains of apathy will be left behind by humanity, and that thoughtless acts of anger, that mindless taunts and jeers, will be swept away like a dike of cruelty shattered and overcome by a mighty flood of compassion.

I have a dream that all should choose to expend the effort to be kind, that none should do otherwise believing in the insignificance of their deeds. Does not a blizzard consist of many small, harmless flakes of snow? Does not a forest consist of many trees? Does not a nation consist of many individuals? Truly, then, a whole group is greater than the sum of its parts, and apathy due to the smallness of one’s acts is counted among the gravest blows one can strike against this glorious cause of mankind.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the power of words and convictions will be used to build people up like artisans crafting a statue instead of tearing them down like a tapestry being torn and burned, with those responsible wallowing gleefully in the ashes.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day all people will be able to rely on their fellow humans for support, rely on them to encourage them and fill their day with the bright sunlight of compassion rather than the dark, rumbling stormclouds of malice.
This is our hope: with this faith we will be able to fight the evil in this world, to be kind enough to aid the fight against the atrocities of hate and apathy, to conquer poverty, hunger, homelessness, and a countless multitude of horrors with the springboard of kindness.

This will be the day when the night of spite will be driven away by the dawn of kindness. This will be the day when the wounds of malice shall be cured by the potent medicine of compassion. This will be the day when the ramparts of the fortress of hatred will be stormed by the forces of love. This will be the day when the throne of evil shall be cast down. This will be the day when the greatest flaw of humankind will be vanquished. This will be the day when a new age shall dawn for the earth, when the race of men shall be one step closer on its journey to perfection.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What's All This Talk of Lent and Ashes?

Growing up, I never celebrated Lent or Ash Wednesday, and I didn’t know anything about it.  My only Lenten memory is spending a Friday night at my Catholic friend’s house and it being a big deal that we ate fish. 

My first Ash Wednesday experience
It wasn’t until seminary that I even heard much about Ash Wednesday.  I was interested, so I tried an Ash Wednesday Bible study with my student small group.  It was a wonderful experience, and I subsequently continued the tradition for years.  

A few years ago I gave up something for the first, and until now, only time—chap stick.  It was a dry, cracked, bloody experience.  It reminded me all day every day that Easter was coming.  The small sacrifice prepared my heart for Easter.  I have never been as excited to gather at church and worship the living Christ as I was that Sunday.  I stood up front and worshipped loudly and proudly, because I had so greatly anticipated this moment—the worship and adoration of our God who came to earth to be with us, suffered horrific torture and death, and then overcame death!

But much confusion abounds around Lent.  My church has a lot of people who were raised Catholic and who have since left the Catholic Church.   Some of them have fond memories of Lent and wonder if they can still observe it; others have negative memories of all things Catholic, and they hope they don’t have to observe Lent.

Others are like me, they don’t know much about, or why they would consider observing, Lent.

If you’re like me (clueless), then this blog might help.
If you’re looking for ways to observe Lent for the first time, or to revisit Lent from a different perspective, then this blog might help.
If you’re looking for an overall explanation, albeit a long one, then this blog might help.  

If you want to observe Lent, but aren’t sure how, then there are lots of options and resources.
  • Many people give up something for Lent.  The possibilities are endless.  Popular options include Facebook, chocolate, soda, and alcohol.
  • Some people do something instead of giving up.  They encourage someone every day or volunteer to serve.
  • Many people read a Lenten devotional or Bible plan. 
    • (and the app) offer several Lent reading plans.  
    • Susan Hughes is doing this Bible reading plan.
    • Search for “lent devotional” on Amazon and peruse the options.  A quick search brought such fantastic Christian thinkers as Bonhoeffer and N.T. Wright to the top of the list.
How are you observing Lent this year? 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Election Eve

Twas the night before the election…

The kids are in bed.  The dog has been fed.  Sammy’s washing dishes (Wives, be jealous.  Husbands, take note.).  And I’m thinking.

I’m thinking about how proud I am that Sammy’s running tomorrow.  Honestly, when I first told Sammy about the special election, I was considering making a run for the School Board seat.  My step-dad, Danny Henderson, was on Powhatan’s School Board, and I was attracted to the idea of following in his footsteps to lead the community we both love so much.

But Sammy expressed interest before I ever voiced mine, and I thought, “Oh, that’s even better.  He’d be better.  In fact, he’d be fantastic!”
Now, I’m entirely biased as his wife, and I don’t apologize for that.  If your spouse can’t be biased in your behalf, then who can?!  But Sammy and I share more than a last name, a home, a mortgage, a family, a car, a truck, and a dog (the cutest yellow lab puppy you’ve ever seen).

We also share a calling, a vocation, and an office.  That’s right; we live together, and we work together.  It’s a good thing we like each other.

So, as Sammy’s biased wife, partner in everything, and colleague, here’s why I think he’d be great:
  •  He’s brilliant.  It hurts my pride to admit how intelligent my husband is.  His brain has a capacity for cataloguing and storing information that I envy.  He will soak up all the information he can gather about our school system, sort it, store it, and recall it at just the right time, in just the right situation.
  • He thinks deeply.  Sammy and I are both on the senior staff team of our church, and when our team faces an issue, Sammy sees not just the issue, but what’s behind it, under it, in front of it, and throughout it.  He sees the big picture, the implications, and the precedents that accompany the decision. 
  • He is passionate.  Sammy is passionate about our community, about understanding our culture and where it has gone awry, about our kids, about education, and about doing what is right and just.
  • He makes the team better.   I think Sammy could bring to the School Board what he brings to our senior staff team.  Sammy listens well, but also speaks up boldly when he questions a decision.  Sammy asks questions—hard questions, complex questions, the right questions.  He’s comfortable being the dissenting voice, but he also knows how to work with a diverse team and  how to make it effective and efficient.
  • He is wired for strategic planning.  In recent years, Sammy has combined his mathematical mind and his leadership experience to become an effective strategic planner.  He can plot a path from here to there in broad strokes, and he can break it down to infinite detail.  He sees where the organization needs to go and how it can get there.
  • He cares about people.  He wants to hear from people—when they’re happy with him and his organization, and when they’re not.  He handles potentially difficult conversations with upset people as well as anyone I know.  He appreciates affirmation and craves constructive feedback.  He wants to hear the truth of people—their hopes, their fears, their successes, their frustrations, and everything in between.  He would listen to District 4 and listen well.

Good night, this night before the election.  If you're in Powhatan, please vote tomorrow--for whomever you think will best represent you and lead our county forward. 

Friday, January 31, 2014


It was 10:00 on an August morning.  I had just sat through my first college lecture with my twin sister by my side—roommates, sisters, and students pursuing the same degree.  Dr. Ausband dismissed the class, and then pointed to us and said, “Could you two stay after for a minute?”

We had never gotten in trouble at school, and we were being asked to stay after our very first college class ever?!

When the room emptied, Dr. Ausband asked where we had completed our freshman years of college.  We explained it was our freshman year of college, and that we had AP credit for freshman English.  Then he asked, “Where did you go to high school?”


“Powhatan?  Where is that?”

We explained the place that had been home since we were six-years-old, the town about an hour west of Richmond.

Dr. Ausband replied, “I’ve never heard of Powhatan before.  But I won’t forget it.  I’ve never seen two students so prepared for this sophomore English course; I wouldn’t have guessed you were just out of high school.”

We walked back to our sweltering dorm room on the third floor with no air conditioning in Virginia in August, proud of the hometown we already loved.  We thought of the teacher who had earned us most of Dr. Ausband’s compliment, Kay Meredith, our junior honors and AP English teacher.  But there were so many others, teachers from all subjects—English, chemistry, calculus, French, history, physics, algebra—who had invested in us, challenged us, celebrated with us, cried with us, encouraged us, and taught us very, very well.  The investment went all the way back to Powhatan Elementary School, with notable teachers like Mrs. Payne and Mrs. Burruss.

My sister and I attended Powhatan County Public Schools first grade through twelfth.  My sister and Sammy Frame were in the same first grade class at Powhatan Elementary School, and they went on to have classes together every year until graduation.  

Sammy and me the day we graduated PHS
Sammy and I started dating our junior year at PHS; we’re one of those couples with a sickeningly sweet story of high school love, college separation, and a reunion resulting in marriage.  Sammy and I completed grad school together, walking across the stage to grasp our Master’s degrees the day before I went into labor with our son.  That son is now a kindergartner at Powhatan Elementary School.

We are proud to be raising our kids in the community that raised us.  We look forward to the day that our kids will go to their first college classes and astound professors with their PCPS educations.  We are committed to being part of their educations and their schools.  We would love the opportunity for Sammy to represent our district on Powhatan’s School Board.  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Come Thou Fount

I’m not good at having nothing to do.

I’m very good at getting stuff done.

“Just sit and relax,” is much harder to hear than, “I have a big, stressful job for you.”

As I’ve transitioned roles at church over the last year, I’ve become more hands off of the hard work that gets done day-to-day, and my arms now stretch widely over large areas of ministry that extend across our four campuses. 

I first experienced this change last fall as I sat in my living room recliner while a team of adults and students prepped a bonfire event at the church—a mile from my home.  It was horrible.  I held my kids on my lap and hugged them tightly, because my muscles needed something to do, and I needed a reminder that I still had important work to do.  Not being there was much harder than being there.  Sitting at home itching to be there was much harder than running around like an Energizer bunny with an adrenaline shot for three hours. 

Tonight was similar.  Tonight I simply attended a fundraiser for a student mission team.  I didn’t lead it, plan it, or advertise it.  The other leaders did it all, and did it exceptionally well.  I sat.  I ate.  I enjoyed the show.

And a few quiet tears rolled down my cheeks.

I wasn’t needed.  And that made me feel like I didn’t matter.

I suppose that reveals the pride and self-centeredness of my heart.

Then, three young men came up to close out the evening.  As I watched two of them, Elijah and Travis, I was seeing clear flashbacks in my brain of two high school boys walking through my front door for small group.  Tonight they sang about how God makes beautiful things, and at the risk of sounding like a really creepy 30-year-old woman talking about 20-year-old guys, I thought of the beautiful things God had created in front of my eyes.  I looked at those two young men on stage and saw the beautiful worship leaders God’s made those high school boys into.  And I was proud.  And my insecurity continued, because if I don’t do the day-to-day work with guys like that anymore, then what do I do that is important?  That was clearly important work.  I can see the results of that.

But those three young men also played a version of, “Come Thou Fount.”  I first worshipped to that song March 2001.  It was my first mission trip, and the worship band played that song.  That trip is a marker on my spiritual journey, a turning point.  I raised my hands in worship for the first time.  I prayed more than I’d ever prayed in my life.  I saw God work in and through me, and others did, too.  I got in the college van to depart from campus that Friday morning a wreck—spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  I returned the following weekend a different person, a person God was calling close to Him, a person whom He would soon call to ministry.

Tonight, God reminded me that I’m still prone to wander, and that He still seeks me when I do, just like on Spring Break in Panama City Beach in 2001.  This blog post reveals the wanderings of my heart into pride.  I think God also reminded me, with timeless words and familiar voices, that He still has work to do in me and through me.  It may require as big a change within me as was required on that first mission trip of mine—how fitting that the reminder would come at a fundraiser for a student mission trip.

I’m thankful for streams of mercy.  Lord knows I need them.