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Showing posts from 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. Lu…


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 inf…

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.

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 …

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, …

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 gi…

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 a…

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…

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 ov…

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 examp…

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…

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. 
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 a…

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.  Tha…


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 …

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 stude…