I have this nasty habit.  I tend to retreat when I’m overwhelmed by life.  Whether it be from my husband, my friends, and even from God – I retreat into my little world and try to figure out myself how I’m going to survive whatever the latest hardship is.  Mind you, I don’t do this often, or even consciously, but when I’m overwhelmed I tend to withdraw.  But the fact of the matter is that by retreating I am saying that I doubt that God knows what is best for me, or that He sees my need, or that He has my back.  And whether or not I do it on purpose, my withdrawl tells the real story.  The bottom line is that I just am not that great at trusting God.

One of the biggest events that I put on at the church where I work is called Summerfest – our version of VBS.  A few years back we had 600 kids coming to this three day event, with 400 volunteers, and it was the highlight of everyone’s summer.  Everyone but me.


I was asked to be the Director of Summerfest twice in years past and I turned it down both times because I wanted to reduce the stress in my life.  Well, the third year it was “assigned” to me and I was not a happy camper.  This thing takes months to plan, and the stress can be overwhelming.   Are you kidding?…you must be smokin’ crack!

The first steps of planning Summerfest begin with choosing a theme and picking a Bible verse to go with that theme.  Then you have to find lead coordinators for various aspects of Summerfest next, followed by overseeing the planning of activities, and program content for the PK-K program, the Gr. 1-5 program, and the Middle School program.  My predecessor (also the pastor’s wife who was like the pied piper of volunteers) could simply mention a need casually and she’d have people falling at her feet to help.  Me, not so much.

After that there is the coordination of various meetings, constant email communications, and more meetings.  In the midst of all that there is the planning of food for hundreds of volunteers, as well as the pulling together of buses and the pickup of over 60 kids from four different kids outreach programs in the city.  Do you see why I might be a little anxious?  In the midst of all of this I am supposed to be praying fervently for everyone and everything Summerfest.  Oops….I may have fallen a bit short in that area with my eyes focused on my stress.

Then there’s the coordination of a jabillion documents and signage that we use with an endeavor like this, and just that makes my eyes roll back in my head.  We even have a POD that we rent yearly that is packed full of Summerfest supplies that gives me anxiety every year it’s delivered.  Finally, you have to enlist the help of about 300 volunteers to run activities, fill security roles, be group leaders, and feed people.  That also involves writing and rewriting job descriptions over and over again.  This is not my favorite time of year.

But in March for the past two years I’ve half-heartedly thrown myself into the planning of Summerfest – kicking and screaming the whole way.  Not a great testimony of doing something to the glory of God, right?  With dwindling numbers at my church in recent years, I made some program and format changes since it’s been harder and harder to find volunteers and our number of kids has also dropped.  I began to stress and wonder if I was going to be able to pull this off. As if I am the driving force behind this whole schtick.  Summerfest is God’s baby, so whose voice to you suppose I’m listening to?  When I’m looking at the hardships more than God’s abilitiy to overcome them, you know I’ve taken my eyes off Jesus and they’re more on me and my abilities.

I braced myself for what I thought was going to be the worst Summerfest of all time. I was sure the new format would bomb.  I thought I’d get plenty of complaints about changes that didn’t work.  The lower number of kids would surely make things noticeably awkward.  I wish I could say that I was a better example of trust.

By stressing and being anxious (leading to losing sleep and poor health) am I not really telling God that I don’t trust Him to handle my problems?  When the hardships come – and they will – we sometimes think we’re justified in doing our own thing and relying on our own strength.  We spend less time praying and more time trying to fix things.  Then we’re overwhelmed and retreat from people and God, and hope that even in  our disobedience that God will cut us some slack because He certainly knows how stressed we are.  We go our own way, and the stress gets worse.  We shut ourselves inside our refusal to allow God to handle the problem and go into fix-it mode.  But despite our disobedience, if we stop for a moment and invite Him into the equation, God’s quiet voice whispers to us “be still….I’ve got this.”

The good news is that Summerfest 2016 is over.  Praise Jesus!  I’m exhausted and suffering from what I like to call S.F.P.T.S.D….Summerfest Post-Tramatic Stress Disorder.  I need a glass of wine, a good massage and a week on a beach somewhere.  But despite my best efforts to jump on the fix-it train….God, in His grace, has allowed me to seee His work despite myself, and He’s quietly waited for me to catch up with His plans.

All those things I thought would go wrong – not one of them happened.  Instead I heard things like “this is the best Summerfest we’ve had in years”, and “I love the new format”, and “I like Summerfest with less kids – it’s less crowded.”  Well I’ll be doggone.  I wish my faith matched my words more often.

If I ever have to do this again (and that’s a big IF) I hope that I do a better job of keeping my eyes on Jesus more than myself.  If I can do that, then hopefully I’ll be less stressed and more able to point others to Jesus.  That way I’ll be a a better example of His faithfulness, and I feel like I’ll come  out the other side with a stronger faith.  This is lesson worth learning.

Pass me that glass of wine, would you?


Aging grace

Muir Woods 2

Today is the 30th anniversary of my 30th birthday. How can that be?  There’s something wrong here with the math.  I thought only old people turned 60.  I can’t even imagine being this age.  I think when I was young I thought I’d be dead by now, or in an old folks home, and yet instead, I’m off to play golf today and making plans for softball this summer.  I think it’s my Scandanavian genes.  My latest adventure is that I’m taking up Tai Chi – I’ll let ya know how that works out.

I keep a journal, and in it over the last year I have jotted down a few things that I miss as I’ve grown older.  Here’s just a smattering of them, in no particular order:


  • Climbing trees
  • Bounding up stairs
  • Sliding into home plate
  • Family that have passed away
  • Being able to get up off the floor without holding on to something
  • Smooth skin
  • Being needed by my kids
  • Steady feet to jump from boulder to boulder along a stream
  • Sleeping through the night
  • Turning a double play at 2nd
  • Wearing shoes without support
  • Two piece bathing suits
  • Being able to down an entire plate of nachos in one sitting
  • Sitting cross-legged on the floor
  • A flat belly

Right next to that list in my journal is my list of what I appreciate about aging.  It’s not quite as long, but I think it weighs more than the first list….


  • Becoming wiser
  • Understanding the meaning of grace
  • Knowing what God’s destiny for my life is

Life isn’t about how we start or the mistakes we’ve made – trust me…I’ve made plenty. But your past doesn’t define you.  It’s about the finish.  So if you have regrets….go about the business of looking towards the future and turning those regrets upside down.

So if I were to keep a list of things that I can still do at any age….again, in no particular order, it might look something like this:


  • Pursue the mystery of grace
  • Love others well
  • Laugh loud and hard
  • Take responsibility for my own junk
  • Care for those that are hurting
  • Be still and quiet
  • Put others before self
  • Work hard
  • Celebrate my loved ones
  • Try a food that I thought was icky before
  • Say “I’m sorry” more often
  • Have relationship with the one who created me
  • Read (or listen) to a good book
  • Show I care for others in the little details
  • Listen to someone else’s opinion
  • Be less defensive
  • Fight for humility
  • Learn something new
  • Practice not having to be right
  • Forgive someone who has offended me
  • Ask someone their story – and listen
  • Give myself permission to pamper myself now and then

So you see, if you compare the first list and the last…there are so many more meaningful things on the horizon for me that I can look forward to.  Life doesn’t end with a number.  Yeah, I may not be able to dive head first into home plate anymore, but I can dive into relationship with my Creator.  And I’ll tell you a secret – the first thing on that list above….that’s where that pursuit of relationship starts.  Just sayin’.

Me….I think I’ll focus today on the last thing on that list…cuz I have to keep up the sexy at sixty persona, don’t cha know.   Grace is amazing at sixty, and it’s the best gift this girl could ever want for.


Spring planting


Here in No. California we’ve had crazy up-n-down weather patterns.  When it’s supposed to be cold and rainy…it’s been crazy hot and breaking temperature records.  When it’s supposed to be warm and balmy…it’s pouring down rain and blowing 50 mph winds.  Like I said – crazy!  It’s hard to plant or make plans for seeding a new lawn with such unpredictable weather.

I love green grass.  If there is grass next to a sidewalk, I will choose to walk on the grass.  The feel of it under my feet is divine, and a game of touch football on a lush lawn is nothing short of heaven.  That’s why two years ago when our back lawn was infected with a fungus (I’m just gonna go ahead and say it….there was a fungus-amongus!) and it quickly spread down our sloping back lawn and touched everything in its path – I was devastated.  Soon our entire lawn was dying, with a brown rolling wave of withering grass spreading across the entire backyard.  We finally came to the difficult conclusion that we had to kill the whole dang thing in order to replant and grow it again.  Don’t you hate it when that happens?  When you have to purge the old in order to regrow and reinvent something new?  Something better?  There’s a spiritual message right there (II Cor. 5:17) but I’ll continue on.

I felt horribly guilty.  Killing something I loved so much so that it could come back better.   However, we quickly learned that this killing thing wasn’t going to be so easy.  Fungus doesn’t go away without a fight.  We had to resort to killing it over and over again for several months because that pesky fungus kept trying to hide amongst the remnants of the good grass attempting to sprout.  Again, another spiritual message there, but all I can say is them fungi is sneaky lil’ boogers.  Finally, just when we were ready to make plans to reseed the lawn, the California drought caused us to initiate water conservation measures.  That meant no new lawn that spring / summer, and we went through the next year with dead grass and just dirt in our backyard.

At first we felt a bit proud of our barren wasteland.  We had vowed our support for the cause, decided to be good sports about it, and made mud pies out of dirt – that right there  was my literary making lemonade out of lemons attempt.  So we set up horseshoes and baggo, and the Yorkies enjoyed a summer of rolling in the dirt and tracking it into the house.  As our second spring rolled around, our hopes for green were once again dashed with the continued water restrictions (we really need water out here, and thank you, Jesus, that as I write this it’s raining buckets outside!) and so we muddled through a second full summer of dirt, horseshoes, baggo, mudpies and dusty Yorkies.  We hardly went out onto our backyard patio because it was so depressing.

There’s always good that comes from the bad, and as a result of all this time it gave me time and inspiration to come up with a great new landscaping plan to divide our back lawn into two sections – one flat with green grass and the other a raised area with a more drought-tolerant landscape.  So Salsa Guy and I began digging up dirt eight weeks ago, leveling the grass area so that we got rid of the slope that let the fungus travel willy nilly , to and fro, and began tilling the soil and getting rid of rocks before it was time to throw the seed out.

Grass seed is a bit like baby sea turtles.  You saw them on the Bachelor  in the Jamaican sand when Ben and Lauren helped the little guys make it from the beach out to the sea.  Wait….what?  You’re too spiritual to watch the Bachelor?  Don’t judge me – remember this blog is about grace.  Anyway, not all those cute little newborn baby turtles will make it out to their destiny in the ocean, and their journey is a difficult one.  After they hatch, they’re very vulnerable and need to be protected.  Some of them can be eaten by birds, some might be eaten by other sea predators.  Not all that are deposited in the sand by their mother will grow successfully into the adult sea turtles they were designed to be.

And so it is with grass seed.  We knew our seeds had a difficult journey ahead of them. Some of those little seeds would get trampled, or fall under little rocks where not enough sun or water would get to them and they’d never germinate.  Spiritual lesson No. 2 (Luke 8:5-8).  If the wind was blowing, some of the seeds might blow away.  And even though we covered the seed with topper dirt, birds seemed to flock to our backyard to dine on our grass seeds al fresco, trying to thwart my dream for a green backyard once again.  Air soft guns come in handy for battling this, by the way.

So three weeks ago, as I stood with seed in hand, my dreams of grass beneath my feet weighing in the balance, I began to turn the crank on the seed spreader that allowed the little seedlings to fly out onto the fertile ground.  This is sounding more like a dramatic novel by the minute.  I’m not ashamed to say I said a prayer for the perfect blend of sun, rain, air and accurate aim.  I felt like a mother blade of grass…”grow little seedlings…. grow!”

And guess what?  Grow they did!  I’m happy to report that a week or so after our inaugural seeding, tons of little green heads began popping up across our backyard.  You should have seen me – I was like a new mother!  I would run out each morning to see how my little seedlings were doing.  I would talk to them, encouraging them to lean into the light.  I checked the sprinkler system constantly, afraid that my babies might get too much water and drown.  I shot at birds with the accuracy of a marksman, and shoo’d the pups off my newborn lawn.  I even asked my small group to pray for my lawn – I believe God cares about the little things.


So now here comes the spiritual application – if we’re talking in gardening terms (and Jesus often did), we all need a little opportunity for a “do over” along our journey, don’t you think?  Perhaps getting rid of the old – some withering branches or infected lawn – or perhaps it might be the old way of doing things, and trying a new direction.  Turning away and taking a new path.  God is in the business of recreating us, trimming a little off here to allow for new growth, and even sometimes asking us to change a habit, or a way of thinking, perhaps a sin or even an attitude that is doing us harm.  It’s called pruning (John 15:1-11). But the ultimate payoff is that we grow stronger….better than we were before.  Isn’t that gracious of Him?   He wants us to grow and be better than we were.  Rebirth.  Regrowth.  Renewal.  We don’t often find that in all other relationships, but a Father who loves his children will do that for their benefit.

So we’ve had a successful Spring of planting seeds.  We now have a beautiful green lawn coming in thicker by the day, and Salsa guy and I enjoy just sitting on the patio, looking out over our green kingdom, and sipping special lemonade with our air soft guns in-hand.  How are your seeds doing?  Seeds of change?  Seeds of friendship?  Seeds of patience?  Seeds of kindness?  Seeds of grace for another human being?  Seeds of grace for yourself?  Be sure to care well for those newly planted seeds, because grace is lush and nothing short of heaven when it’s nourished.

Making Space

Making space.png

Life can be messy sometimes.  Sometimes we have to make space in our lives for things and people who are different than us.  The quirky.  The odd.  The broken.  The struggling.  The “but for the grace of God go I” people who cross our path.  Because underneath it all we are all the same – struggling with something ourselves and wishing we were better, and wanting to be known.  Wouldn’t we want someone to take the time to offer us a cup of cold water…. or the gift of their time?

When a broken person crosses our path, we have the choice to either make space for them by jumping into the chaos with them, or passing them by.  Obviously, that decision depends on where you are in life, and what kind of time you have to offer.  But there is great joy found in helping someone who is broken come to life again.

God’s been convicting me lately about certain people who cross my path.  I can be fairly kind and loving to others, but don’t tell anyone – I can also pretty righteous sometimes. I know…hard to believe, huh?  NOT!  There have been a handful of folk that I bump into in ministry that I just don’t want to bring myself to connect with because there is some trait or characteristic in them that makes me feel uncomfortable.  So, I make the truly mature decision to avoid them.  I’m not hurting anyone by doing that, am I?  You know the type – faces that might hide pain or suffering, disabilities or disorders.  Or they might be mega talented, or creative, over-sized or scrawny, a little needy, confident or bumbling.  And why, for heavens sake, did they make me feel weird?  Could it be possible that what made me uncomfortable with these folks is the reflection of myself – past or present – that I see in them?  Oh Lord, you are up to something now!

We are all broken and needy.  Our relationships with others around us are sometimes like a mirror to show us where we need fixing.  When I taught school it was the kids in my class who were silly, and couldn’t focus, or wanted a lot of attention.  Why….because that was the kid that I was.  We sometimes see our own traits in others and want to run from them…or fix them….or tell them they need to change.  Or you can go about it another way and love them, and value them, meet them right where they’re at.  Maybe remind them that God is crazy about them just the way they are.

So I’ve been trying to be better at making time and space to love those people who rub me the wrong way.  Validating them – stopping to talk with them which translates into letting them know that who they are and what they have to say is important.  Ugh….I just hate it when God uses my own words to hold me accountable.  It’s so disruptive.

Following Jesus can be disruptive.  He can be a speed bump at times – slowing us down – sometimes making us stop to look at something we’ve not taken the time to think about. But I’m learning to listen better to who and what God intended me to be.  Not bound by my misconceptions, but trying to be better at opening up and risking relationship with broken people just like me.  Making space in my world for those that He might want me to care for….even if just for a season.  So I’m going to fight for a soft heart and a right attitude and a kind spirit towards people who are different than me.  Because wouldn’t I want you to do that for me?  It’s not just making space for one of God’s beloved, it’s making space for grace.

How to respond to the work of terrorists

This is simple…but appropriate for today….

A sign you’re growing in grace:  your peace from the occupied throne of heaven trumps your unrest from the work of terrorists“.  ~  Scotty Smith

I’d be interested in hearing what you think that statement means.  To you.  In how you maneuver through a messy world. To those around you.

~ Kris

P.S. – A friend sent me this post that Sheila Walsh put on her blog about the Brussel’s bombings.  It has great insight….


We dread days like this.
We turn on the news and hear of another devastating terrorist attack. Our hearts ache as we see the frantic faces of men, women and children running through acrid smoke, trying to find a place of safety.  As I began to pray for those involved and those who are yet to discover that a loved one is gone, the Holy Spirit directed my heart to the book of Habakkuk.

How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen!
“Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save.
Must I forever see these evil deeds?
Why must I watch all this misery?
Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence.
I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight.
The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts.
The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.
Habakkuk 1:2-4 (NLT)

It’s tempting to believe that these words are as true today as they were to the prophet Habakkuk thousands of years ago. As followers of Christ we cannot live there. We must hold onto the Lord’s reply to his prophet,

Look around at the nations; look and be amazed!  For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.”  (1:5)

Either God is sovereign or He is not.
Either God is completely in control or He is not in control at all.
We have to live differently in these difficult days. We have to live as those who have hope when hope is a rare commodity. This was the plea of the apostle Peter when he wrote,

In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
1 Peter 3:14 (ESV)

These days could be the Church’s finest hour if we will rise up with love and mercy, faith and hope, courage and gentleness.

We’ll pray, we will weep with those who weep, but we will not give in to despair because God is on the throne and we are His signature of radical love in this world until He comes again.

Preach it, Sista!

Christmas Comfort Zone


Every year Christmas seems to be changing for me.   It has been taking on a different feel – but not  in a bad way.  I use to stick to traditions and routine, even down to decorating the tree the same way each year.  The traditional way.  Our Christmas tree was always in the living room window (so passerby’s could gaze upon it’s beauty) and my mom put three balls and a bow together as her ornaments on her Christmas tree so that’s how I did it too.  Sort of like the birch tree scam that says three birch trees must to be bunched together for them to be beautiful.  Why, when I wanted to buck my parents authority in so many ways as a young woman did I find it so important to hold onto this piece of them?  Do you suppose my fear of getting out of that Christmas comfort zone came from a subconscious feeling that if  things were changed then that meant the old was lost forever?

When I dug a little deeper and peeled the cellophane off the cheese ball, I  think that train of thought reflects the loss I feel now that I no longer have a parent that walks this earth with me at Christmastime.  As if changing how I hang my Christmas balls has anything to do with the way I maneuver through family relationships and memories.  Ohhh… now we’re getting into some deep psychotherapy.  Can the old and the new co-habituate the same celebration without loss? Does the color of my Christmas wrapping paper truly mean a final goodbye to Ruth and Vic?

Well, whatever the case, in the last year or so I’m learning to lean into change.  Bend a bit with the new and the possibly more fun.  For pity sake – it took me 4 years to be OK with the new lime green and red Christmas colors they use for the latest wrapping papers and decorations.   Ask my friend Robyn…she embraced the new look with gusto, but as we stood in front of her tree a few years back I told her I was very uncomfortable with the new unconventional colors.  It seemed so un-Christmassy. So non-traditional. However, we’ve had a break though and I am proud to tell you that just today I bought new lime green and red Christmas wrapping paper and bows.

My mom, Ruth, was a Christmas bow Nazi.  They had to be hand tied and “just so” (“Tina…you can’t just tie a bow and slap it on a gift!  You have to fluff the bow and work with it”!).  I’ve given myself some bow grace in the recent past and much to her chagrin Ruth would be disappointed to know that I now do just that – I buy the store bought bows and I DO simply slap them on each gift.  I’m a big fan of bow grace!

This year I’ve bucked the system entirely and decided to move our tree to a different room completely (what a rebel I am!) and I made all new Christmas ornaments of burlap and wood.  Not a Christmas ball to be found on the Glass tree this year.  Give me time and I can change the world!!!

Last year was the first real stretching and pushing back of my holiday comfort zone when our Christmas morning together started later mid-day.  Usually our tradition was to gather together around the tree in the morning with some of my husband’s scrumptious coffee cake, sparkling cider, with eggs and bacon.  Never let it be said that we don’t eat well at the Glass house at Christmas!  We would take our time and open our gifts together and it would be about a three hour extravaganza.  However, newly married B&S were going to have their own Christmas morning together, stop by at her sweet grandparents for a quick appearance, and then head over to our house around noon. I was able to give everyone the impression that I was completely gracious and OK with the change, but the reality was that I found the change  to be to my own benefit because I got to sleep in on Christmas morning.  It’s all about me, don’t cha know.

The latest in this brutal crash course on stretching me out of my Christmas comfort zone is that I learned just the other day that Christmas day at the Glass house is going to take on an even more different look so kids and spouses could share more in festivities on both sides.  That means I won’t see my kids until much later on Christmas Day. Ugh!  The Department of All That’s Fair is screaming “What is this nonsense? I HATE LEARNING TO SHARE!!!  It’s so…(what’s the word?)….stretching!  I HATE STRETCHING!”   Can you just picture me sitting in the sandbox with my poochy lip protruding?

On the UP side…as I think about it – not only do I get to sleep in on Christmas morning – I also now have time to wash my hair and do my makeup so I can look like I have it all together for the annual Glass Christmas photo.  Not a trace of the early morning bags under the eyes and you’ll actually be able to see my blond eyelashes and eyebrows!  Sigh…this selfish vs. grace thing can get ugly sometimes.

Are you stuck in the Christmas comfort zone of bucking any change or new direction your holiday seems to take?  Are you afraid the old will be lost in the new traditions and styles of the holidays?  Don’t you worry – if it’s anything like bell bottoms or tie-dye – just give those old traditions and colors a little rest and you wait and see…they’ll come back around again in your lifetime.  Or are you like me – focusing your eyes on yourself so that when writing a blog about grace you run head-on into the reality that grace doesn’t come naturally to you….hmmmm….then you might have some hard work still to do.  Oh wait!… Christ did that work on the cross 2015 years ago!

Yep….the good news is that although grace doesn’t come naturally to me, I still am changed…and I am already a new creation.  That happened when I was 14 years old – now I just have to patiently trust Him to work that out within me.  It starts with knowing that I am complete in Christ.  That I am righteous right now because of who He is in me.  This allows me to extend love to the wounded and the angry and unlovely (except maybe when I’m tired).  Ugh.  It allows me to live out WHO He made me to be.  I already know He is pleased with me – no matter how I perform.  It’s a messy process and my sweet family gets the privilege (NOT!) of seeing the real me as I bumble through this adventure of learning how to emulate grace more often.  But I am safe here…in the Glass family…warts and all. And I’m not in a hurry to be perfect!  That’s the theology of grace for me this Christmas.

I hope you find it too.  MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

Gathering Grace


Where did you and your family gather this Thanksgiving?  Was it around the table with a house full of family?  Maybe just the two of you gathered in the den with TV trays and watched football over a turkey sandwich?  If you’re like us, we have no family in the area other than our kids, so we make an effort to invite folks who cross our path who also don’t have a place to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal.  This year we had the five of us, plus three friends we know from church, but we grew from there the last few days before Thanksgiving.

I have the distinct privilege of acting as host at our church now and then to a lovely group of folks who are down on their luck and find themselves homeless.  They come to us through a non-profit organization called The Gathering Inn that is based out of Roseville, Ca. which my pastor, David George helped get off and running many years ago.

What I love about TGI is that they offer a warm meal and a place to sleep for the night during the cold winter months with the help of over 60 local churches.  These churches are part of a rotating schedule that offer the homeless a safe place to sleep each night of the week, and the host church cooks for them.  Our guests sleep on mats and a lot of thought goes into providing for their physical, mental, and spiritual needs.

Some of our guests are alcoholics, some have other addictions, but some simply, as I said, are down on their luck.  I once met a young man there who just a year prior had a successful construction business, a local home, one in Hawaii, two cars, a boat, and a motorhome.  Then when the recession hit and people stopped building, he lost everything.  It’s eye opening when you realize some of us are just one paycheck away from the possibility of being in his shoes.

This past Monday was my night to host, and I was asked to also share a message with our 70 guests.  I am known as The Sports Lady at TGI, because I usually do a little shtick of updating the guests with the latest standings in the NFL, NBA, or MLB with a hint of humor and sarcasm and “smack talk”.  Once I was asked why I didn’t update them on the Iditarod….and my response was “because no one gives a rip about the Iditarod“!!!  Last week, since the 49ers  STINK this season, I chose to just touch briefly on sports, but then to share some thoughts on Thanksgiving.

Talking to the homeless about reasons to be thankful can be challenging.  It was a gamble, but I chose to be honest and real…with just a touch of humor…and I spoke about how we often want to blame God for our hardships.  How God’s purpose  never was to be a “fix it” man here to make our problems go away.  That the promise never was that life wouldn’t be without suffering, but rather the promise was that God would walk beside us, show up in the midst of the suffering, and offer us amazing comfort – should we choose to accept it – for the hard times.

Their overall response to the message was one of thankfulness – for the reminder of all they did have, and gratefulness for God’s love.  As I spoke, my eyes glanced about the room (because every good speaker knows they need to speak to all areas of the room) and they landed on what I thought was a familiar face.  Was this woman I thought I recognized someone I knew?  Hmmm…I just couldn’t put my finger on how I could have possibly known her, because surely I wouldn’t know someone who was homeless!

Being middle-aged and having no memory cells left in my brain, I did the cowardly thing and asked a friend to go over and start a conversation with her and find out the woman’s name.  Somehow the letter “P” stood out in my cell-less mind….Pricilla?  Penelope?  Paula?   Hmmmm….no, that couldn’t be….I must be mistaking her for someone else.

My friend came back and like a sleuth she had a lovely conversation with this gal, and found out her name was Phyllis.  YES!!!   That’s it!  PHYLISS!!!   I know her!!  As it turns out, Phyllis had gone to our church 15 years ago, and she and I had been casual friends.  Her husband died of cancer at the age of 36, and left her and her 10 year old triplets to fend for themselves in this life.   Phyllis was a survivor, and 15 years ago she was doing well – had a good job, and a place to live, was paying the bills and life was good.

I went over and re-introduced myself and she remembered me.  As it turns out, life in the last few years had taken a different turn.  She is now on disability because of mercury poisoning from fillings in her teeth, and 4 months ago they had been evicted from their rental home over a miscommunication between the new place she and her kids were planning on moving into, and the notice she had to give to her old place.  Unexpectedly, they found themselves homeless.

I immediately invited Phyliss and her kids to come share our Thanksgiving meal with us, and what a joyous time we had.  From the cranberry salsa, to the playing with the Yorkies, to the delicious food and wine, to football, to my chair breaking at the head of the table in the middle of our meal and me landing on my patootie, and to the yummy desserts that followed – a grand time was had by all.  There was wonderful grace found in this Thanksgiving gathering.  Grace for Phyliss and her kids…and grace for our family.

So now Phyllis and her family need a roof to gather under.  She has an income, and her kids all have jobs.  One is out on her own.  They just don’t have a roof over their head.  She has money in the bank to put down as first and last month’s security on a place, but finding a place that will rent to her with an eviction on her record is nearly impossible.  I’m praying for a gracious landlord that will rent to her regardless of what it says on paper.

Grace can be found in the hard.  And grace was truly found in this gathering at the Glass house this Thanksgiving.


Arguing with the Gospel

Stapler & pencilThere are certain things in this life that I somehow feel like I’m entitled to.  Things like sharp pencils.  Or a fully stocked stapler.  Nine times out of ten when I go to staple something it makes that empty “kerpunch” sound that tells me (once again) there are no staples in my stapler.  Ugh!  Evil stapler! Or that my adult kids would still need me.  Or that we could live in a world where beloved friends aren’t ripped from my life unexpectedly by disease. Is that too much to ask?  Am I being needy to want for those things?

The reality of the gospel is that we’re not promised any of that.  I hate that – I really want sharp pencils at my beckon call.  Some might think that if the gospel is to be believed, then we should be able to live lives that are free of inconvenience, frustration, pain and suffering?  Don’t shoot me – I’m just the messenger….and I hate to be the one to tell you, friend – but what I’ve learned is that this was never the promise. Why, then do I get so frustrated when these little expectations aren’t met? When I don’t get to see my kids as often as I like?  The gospel is telling me that although there’s nothing wrong with those desires, I need to do away with believing that they are “due” me.  That’s when it translates into neediness.

In Tim Keller’s book Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything he states…

The gospel, if it is really believed, removes neediness – the need to be constantly respected, appreciated, and well regarded; the need to have everything in your life go well; the need to have power over others.  All of these great, deep needs continue to control you only because the concept of the glorious God delighting in you with all His being is just that – a concept and nothing more.  Paul is saying that if you want to really change, you must let the gospel teach you – that is to train, discipline, coach you – over a period of time.  You must let the gospel argue with you.  You must let the gospel sink down deeply into your heart, until it changes your motivation and views and attitudes.

Ah HA!  So that’s whats been going on in my life these past 20 years!  I’ve been arguing with the gospel.  When I think MY way is the best way, the Holy Spirit gently walks me through a conversation of why my thinking may not be the best for me. The gospel has been coaching me all along…and when my heart goes into default mode I argue with it – butting my head up against what frustrates me about the world and about truth.  But my heart’s desire has been to be different than I used to be.  To be changed from the person I use to be, and so through the arguments and the wrestling with the gospel I am coming out the other side a new person, and understanding the grace of God just a little more than I did going in.

Yes, God is crazy about you.  Yes, God delights in you. Yes, God wants His best for you. But the gospel can be a real pain in the patootie.  My spell check doesn’t recognize that word, and I could spell it another way to make it easier to understand – but I’ll refrain.  The gospel is disruptive. When it’s little feelers start penetrating your heart and soul, it messes with every aspect of your life.  How you drive.  How you talk to your kids.  How you interact with the people you work with.  How you maneuver through marriage.  How you get rid of your dirty laundry.  Even with the guy with the sign on the street corner asking for a hand out.  “Get a job” might have been your go-to response in the past to one such as he – now the gospel argues with you to do something different.

When we yield to this transforming discussion with the Holy Spirit, a peculiar thing happens.  We begin to store up deposits of grace for others.  And grace for the long haul.  And grace for the worst of the disruptive times in your life.  Like when a dear friend unexpectedly dies and gets to go home before you do.

That’s what has been happening to me this past season.  My dear friend, Tom, died two months ago from the ugly effects of cancer, and my pastor, David George performed the service.  Then two months later we were sitting in the same place, at David’s funeral when he died unexpectedly from a rare form of pancreatic cancer that took him in three weeks.  He was my spiritual father, a mentor, and a dear friend.  He even read my blog regularly.  How could I not love the guy?  Now another dear friend, Rob, is giving all he’s got to kick lung cancer’s butt, but it’s a tough battle.  Sigh.  I don’t get it.  I just don’t get it. As David would say….”I wonder what God is up to?

The truth is it’s not my job to “get it”. It’s my job to rest in the knowledge that God is sovereign and the author of all their stories….and I’m grateful to have been able to walk in & through their story lines.  God is faithful…God is just….even though MY story line would look way different than what the kingdom’s story line sometimes is.  But ultimately His ending really has the very best ending.  I can’t see the why, and even though I’d like to kick and scream and shake my fist at heaven, I choose to trust that Jesus does.  And He’s the reason Tom and David and Rob’s future is secure.

David George was most certainly the most influential man in my life.  All three of these men are extraordinary.  But now that two of them are gone and another in the battle of his life…how do I pray?  I desperately cry out for Rob’s healing, and am in an argument with the gospel over this topic of healing.  However, when I do this arguing, I also have to pray that I wouldn’t doubt His goodness in whatever His answer is – no matter what the answer looks like.  I understand that healing can take on many forms.  David and Tom WERE both healed…just not this side of Heaven, but I found it a very difficult prayer to pray all the same because I wasn’t in control of the outcome.  But grace flows out of our grief and our anxiety and comforts us right where we are.

So I challenge you – even if you don’t have someone as extraordinary as these three gentlemen in your life…there is One that longs to be extraordinary to you.  So pursue God, argue with the gospel, and go out there and change the world with joy.  BE extraordinary!  Be extraordinary by showing grace – even when undeserved – to those around you. Be extraordinary by serving others before self. Be extraordinary in humbleness.  Be extraordinary by “taking it” when misunderstood. Be extraordinary by showing up in the lives of those around you. Be extraordinary by caring for those that might seem quirky, or different, or unlovable. Be extraordinary by caring about what’s important to those around you. Be extraordinary by bearing the burdens of those who God brings across your path. Be extraordinary by being kind…because it truly does matter. Be extraordinary by loving your neighbor and choosing their good over your own. Be extraordinary by enduring the mundane and long battle we walk. Be extraordinary by choosing life!   Be extraordinary with your life…your story…because what’s going on in your story is not the final chapter. The good news is that the ending has already been written and we know its a good one.  How do I know?  Because I’ve peeked and read the last page of the book.

The hard will end one day, my friend.  That’s the grace in all this.  The unmerited love of God promised to us.  Today.  Tomorrow.  At the end of our journey.  Meet Him in this place of grace today…. after you’re done arguing with the gospel.