Mission

Run

My family is clamoring for attention.

“Check this out for me, please?”

“Before you go, can you just look at this…”

“I need you for just a moment.”

My mind can barely process the requests. They tumble one after the other in a hopeless pile of need.

Somewhere in the middle of the tasks and to-do’s my brain finds a clear spot and time stands still: I need to go for a run. Fortunately, we’re staying at a large hotel that has a pre-defined running path, so I slip my sneakers on and head out the door, ignoring one last demand for attention. I’m focused, and I’m going to run.

My run lasts for a strong two miles and I can hardly wait to look at my progress and stats. I’ve got a nifty little device that records the run, the time, the calories. It’s got all the charts ready to be uploaded to my computer, and even as I’m running the last few steps, my mind is anticipating the rewarding feeling of seeing this run add to my mileage. It’s the kick. It’s what I run for.

Before I can get my breathing back in control the family is there reaching out. One grabs my run tracker and resets it without thinking. My run is lost, drifting through oblivion. And before I put on my big girl panties and face life, I think “Well at least you can’t steal the run itself. I went. I did it. I’m good at it.”

Too bad it was all a dream.

I’ve had this dream over and over, and I think I’m finally beginning to understand it. On one level, I want to run. I always have. I’m working on it, slowly. I’ve never had a run like the one in the dream, a run where all systems are functioning and I’m running the way I was made, the way real runners run. But I’m working on it.

Today I realized there’s a second layer of meaning in this dream. Let running be the metaphor for being my true self, doing the things I know I can do and am called to do. Let running be my voice. My unique voice The one that God gave me. From there it’s easy, isn’t it.

I let life crowd out my voice.

I let that happen over and over and over.

But above the clamor, in the midst of it, there is a space of clarity. It’s a calling to my real self, my real voice.

It’s time to run.

Great…now I need Klout!!!

I’ve been using Hoot Suite to post twitters and to follow my social media lately. I love that program! I love to browse freely across my twitter peeps, reading their blogs and connecting with people all over the world.

I love being able to write a blog post, post the link, and then repost it later at a better time. Did you know the average Twitter stream only lasts ten minutes? So Hoot Suite lets me repost links to my blog posts without being tied ot my computer.

So I was feeling pretty good about myself and my new relationship with Hoot Suite.

Until I discovered Klout.

Klout is some rating used by Hoot Suite that measures… well I don’t know what it measures. I presume it measures your standing and your “clout” on Twitter? It’s kind of the credit-rating score of social media. In any case, all-wise Hoot Suite has determined my Klout number.

Immediately I had to see everyone else’s Klout number.

Shoot! I don’t understand why that person’s Klout is higher than mine…they have fewer followers! They don’t even twitter ABOUT anything! How can this be? OK, that person I understand: they are a pastor and have thousands of followers. But her? him? Why not me?

In a matter of seconds my self-esteem plummeted and I was ready to sign off Twitter. Why? Because some unknown conglomeration of numbers judged me and found me wanting. My Klout stinks. Comparatively. Of course there are those with no Klout, but we don’t consider those, right?

Oh it’s vicious, isn’t it? The game of comparing ourselves to others? It sneaks up in a heartbeat. I don’t even have an idea what Klout really is!

Guess what? God gives you (and me) totally different scores. In God’s kingdom, the first are last and the last are first. In God’s kingdom, the children get it and the leaders don’t. In God’s kingdom, the power of one person can sometimes outweigh all the Klout of another. In God’s kingdom, it’s all his Klout anyway!

I’m laughing at myself now, pleased that I saw through another attempt of the world to judge me and make me strive for nothingness.

Life is so messy!

No, this isn't Toby. But it sure looks like him!

There are some phases of life that are all about cleaning up messes. Oh, they are beautiful phases — make no mistake — but they are so messy. Babies create nothing but messes, which is hard to understand since they can’t even move around on their own power! Toddlers expand that mess-making to an artform. As the kids get older, their messes get, well, messier. Your house may stay cleaner, but oh there are so many other kinds of messes. All of them, however, are messes that are important to becoming the grown-up they were meant to be. And as parents, we scurry about trying to clean up the messes and teach the principles that we need to keep life running smoothly. We pick up the toys, we do the laundry, we wipe the bottoms, we listen to the late night chats.

There are other phases of life that are all about creating messes. Those are the times we watch our kids step out in a burst of courage to a project that may, or may not, be over their head. They are the times that we feel God stirring in our souls to create something new, and so we try.

Lately, my house has been full of mess-creating. It’s just one of those phases. We’ve added two hedgehogs to our animal repertoire. And a turtle, who has recently disappeared (that’s a long story…well, not so long but still…). On Wednesday my daughter Jillian is expecting the delivery of a micro teacup poodle. All these new residents came with their “STUFF. And we’re also hosting a wonderful graduation party on Saturday for Laurie, the superbly crafty girl who has been living with us while she finished up that degree. Laurie’s party is exploding all around us and onto nearly every available surface, although the OCD among us tend to coral the mess once in awhile so we can breathe. It’s all about making glorious messes.

Today, in church, I was thinking the same thing. As the body of Christ, part of our creative nature comes out in making and cleaning messes, doesn’t it? We try one thing for a season, then sense the Spirit prompting us to switch directions and make adjustments. We give each other the freedom to make a creative mess in our lives and stand in awe when — once in a blue moon — God creates something that leaves us breathless.

Sometimes, of course, we are breathless but more in that gasping for breath how am I going to survive kind of way. And that’s ok, too. We step out and start that Bible study for women we don’t even know only to find ourselves swinging in the breeze hoping someone comes. We let a friend down and realize we need to apologize before our relationship suffers. Perhaps we ( and I mean this in a general sense…certainly not me…) even lose our patience with the messes other people are creating faster than we can clean them up!

In the last few days I’ve come to really appreciate the whole cycle of making a mess and creating. I’m seeing God work out his image in us in ways I never would have been able to plan on my own. I see it in my friends; I see it in my own little family. It’s making me smile.

Life is so messy!

Why can’t I get anything done?

holy-prayer

God, forgive me for completely misunderstanding my purpose in life. Over and over again.

Every day you set in front of me a choice: choose life or choose death. Which will you choose today? How many times I blow it, and choose second best. “I’d stop to drive her to the doctor, Lord, but I have some errands to run and she could call someone else.” But maybe you need me in that car with her. Maybe, for today, that WAS my purpose. I’ll drive, Lord, if you need me to.

“She’s just an online friend, Lord. I don’t even know her in real life. Not even in Facebook. Why would she want to hear that from me?” Because no one else will say exactly the words I’m hearing in my head? I’ll say it, text it, twitter it, blog it if that’s really what you want, Lord. I just don’t get it.

“I’ve had this conversation with her so many times, Lord. She didn’t listen last time. She won’t listen now. There are better things to do with my time.” So I guess you are the original guy of second chances, Lord. I know you said to forgive 70 X 7. Does that mean I pick up and start over that many times? Well, maybe just one more time, if you want me to.

“Are there any stable people in my life, Lord? Why does everyone seem to need me to help? Are you kidding me?” I wonder…is that how we sound to you? Is that how we ARE? Does it ever annoy you? I’m really sorry.

I thought I wasn’t getting anything done. I thought the distractions were distractions. They are the point.

And I get the point. Again.

How to choose where you live

walking_460x285

I couldn’t sleep last night, and this is what I was pondering! Which is an odd glimpse into my strange mind, but never mind that right now.

As regular readers of Coffee Shop Journal know, I am in a constant battle with my sense of “place.” South Florida is a hard spot to be. Now before you rain-soaked, snow-weary northerners jump all over me, this is what I mean: South Florida residents are usually bent on pleasure. They’ve retired, they want to play, they have all the relationships they want. Or they were raised there, in the midst of sunny suburban sprawl with no sense of permanence or home town. Obviously you can make a home there, work for the kingdom there. I have and will. But it isn’t the easiest place to establish community and community relationships. On the flip side, I love the little community in the Boston area where we hang out, and I love the lake community up here in New Hampshire. So when I come up here I always ponder what it is that I’d love to have in an ideal situation.

Here is the list — in no particular order — of the characteristics of a “place” that I would pick if I were just starting out in my life. If my roots were shallow and I was wondering where to go in the kingdom, these are the traits I would look for in picking a community.

  1. Walkable! Yes, I said  no particular order to this list, but even so having a walkable place tops my list. I would like to live in a neighborhood — whether urban or suburban — where at least some of my day could be spent walking on my way to errands. So many serendipitous relationships are formed when you bump into your neighbors. In Lexington, where our condo is located, we add 10 minutes onto our time frame every time we step out of our doorway, because we bump into our neighbors and chat. And these are neighbors I hardly know!
  2. Demographics. It doesn’t matter what your demographics are, as long as you are aware of them and choose them. If you prefer a more diverse population, don’t live outside a suburban town. On the other hand, if you seem to resonate with a particular group of people, find where they cluster.
  3. Services. Sort of related to the walkable issue, find a spot where services can be obtained locally, preferably within walking distance. Those service relationships are often the start of meaningful friendships.
  4. Culture. Choose your culture wisely. If you are an intellectual, find a place near a college town or an urban center where you can engage in meaningful discussions with others who are also interested in the same topics. A farming community is probably not for you! If you are eco-minded, find a green city so that you have a common bond with your neighbors. We underestimate the value of common interests with the people we live near.
  5. Faith communities. How and where we worship impacts everything. David and I have always attempted to live near our churches because we want to be part of a community, and we want our faith integrated with that. Take some time to find the place you belong, before buying your spot in the community.
  6. Pace of life. Finally, be realistic about your own pace and energy levels. If you are an early to bed, early to rise person, you may not want to live smack in the middle of an urban center. Paces of life vary from region to region, town to town. And I firmly believe that there is no one better way to live: you just need to know yourself.

So just for fun, if I were evaluating these qualities, I’d probably live in a mid-sized city environment at this phase of my life. My children are grown, so we’ve outgrown the yard and pool stage of life. I love to interact with people, sit in coffee shops, walk to entertainment and engage in people watching. I enjoy “culture” but not particularly college/university life. I’m a night owl. I recharge by dipping in and out of people (please give me alone time to read and think, even if it’s in the middle of a coffee shop). I enjoy contemporary worship styles and gatherings of fairly large people. And to me, the ideal escape from all of that is time sitting at the end of my dock on the lake.

Wow. Kind of a revealing exercise for me. I think I need to live in a condo on Newbury Street in downtown Boston! Next to a Starbucks with a Clover coffee machine. Now how does all that fit with South Florida? That’s the mystery and delight of the adventure.

Where would you live?

My daughter’s heart

Today I’m welcoming my favorite guest blogger ever to Coffee Shop Journal! You get a chance to meet my daughter, Kylie, and read some of the words she’s written that have moved me to laughter and tears…all in one paragraph.

Usually I keep most of our “personal” life off this blog, choosing to share those things on Facebook or my other blog (rarely!). But last night I read a note that my oldest daughter wrote in response to a Facebook meme, or tagging carnival. The assignment was simply “Write 25 things about yourself that we might not know.” Kylie could have said, “I used to dip my frenchfries in my ice cream cone.” and let it go at that. But she didn’t. She wrote what you see below. I’m posting it today because I think it is a delightful glimpse into the heart of a girl who is sold out for God, and balanced precariously on the ledge between childhood and adulthood. So with her permission this morning, I’m turning my blog over to my guest blogger, Kylie Saunders!

25 Things About Me

1. I love Disney Princesses! Sleeping beauty is my favorite!
2. I tend to make peoples lives difficult only because they mean the most to me in the entire world. I’m sorry, you know who you are.
3. Only some things in life are magical to me.
4. I am adopted and I proclaim it proudly. Someday, when I’m married, I plan on adopting kids because I have a heart for the lost and unloved.
5. I want to be a part of an earth shattering event but not to say that I was a part of it but to see peoples lives transformed and witness the glory of God.
6. Until now, I haven’t been enrolled in a school since the 3rd grade.
7. My favorite colors are turquoise and the color of the ocean.
8. Music is one of the things that moves me the most and helps me cope.
9. I often say that I miss the beach, but I really don’t like the beach, I miss the ocean.
10. Me and my sister are complete opposites and I love her just the same.
11. I love children, always have and always will.
12. Disney world is my happy place and you can bet that I will be the mother that will be dragging her kids on all the rides.
13. I love to sneeze, it gives me a very temporary rush that I love.
14. I think I have a sleeping disease, I can’t get enough of it.
15. I have never had a “boyfriend” and I really believe God has shielded me from a lot and I can’t wait until Mr. Right comes along.
16. Being this stylish is a burden.
17. I have always adored sailboats for some unknown reason and if I could take sailing lessons and own a sailboat, I would be completely ecstatic.
18. I randomly take off running when I am completely happy and I even have a happy bounce when I taste delicious flavor.
19. I love my roomie and my suitemates! they are the best :D
20. Four years ago today my grandfather died of cancer and I miss him more than you know.
21. I will never fully grow up, and here I am at college.
22. If you think you know something about me, and then tell me, I will probably tell you you are wrong.
23. People are fascinating to me and I often try to figure them out when I first meet them.
24. My parents amaze me and I want to be just like them when I grow up.
25. I love my hair and I am sure none can compete with it.

Thanks, Kylie! And for all you bloggy readers out there, statement 25 is so true. She has great hair!

A very long day and a sunset at the beach in Santa Barbara, CA

The view from my balcony at the Harbor InnLoving the architecture, the cool weather, the shopping, the views

Joy comes in the morning. 3:30 in the morning. That’s the time I had to get up this morning in order to catch my 4:30 ride to the airport. David, Jillian and I are off to Santa Barbara, CA for a family wedding. Now I have to tell you, my attitude on this wedding was less than stellar. I am tired, ready to sleep in my own bed, and NOT ready to fly across the country. Last week I complained to my friend Jody about this trip (yes, I dared to complain about a trip to an ocean-side resort in Santa Barbara. Just go ahead and send me a virtual slap in the face). Jody wisely said, “You know, when you’ve prayed about your life and put it in God’s hands, sometimes he plans surprises for you when you least expect them. Like at a family wedding you are too tired to appreciate. Maybe he has a gift for you there!”

Thank you, Jody.

The pictures are blurry until I get my uploader out (does anyone else get blurry pics from their Macbook Air?), but you can see where I am sitting. Looking at the ocean, walking to a marina to eat in an outdoor cafe, driving up State Street and discovering shoppers paradise, hanging with family I rarely get to see. Oh yes, God brought joy in the morning, and unexpected refreshment in the evening. Maybe that’s the secret to living in the Kingdom: balance seasons of intense ministry with seasons of intense healing, sitting in Papa’s lap drinking up the joy.

Who do you need to thank?

I have three posts lined up to write and I can’t write any of them. It has been such a long and such a confusing day that there’s no room for anything else. Yesterday I wrote about crying with others, and today I was given the opportunity to practice what I preach.

There are days when I feel that my life is filled with the mundane tasks that serve no purpose, that ministry is what happens to other people. Not today. Today ministry was the gut-wrenching stuff of life. By the time I hit breakfast-turned-into-lunch at 3:00 PM, I was used up by three different situations involving many different people. David and I wandered into Jeremy’s Starbucks, and that’s when God gave us a smile.

I sat texting in my own world when my friend, Garry Williams, a missional pastor here in town, sat down opposite me and said “God brings good things into our lives. In all the dysfunctions of life, he reminds us of the big picture.” Then he prayed over David and me. He didn’t even know what kind of a day we’d had. He didn’t know that God was asking me to cry with so many different people in my life today. But he knew that God had taken a random meeting in a Third Place and given him a job to do. And he did it. The rest of the day wasn’t any different, but my heart was.

Thank you, Garry. I don’t think you read this, but thank you anyway.

Can you cry?

Can you cry other people’s tears?

It doesn’t take long sitting out there where life happens before you realize that the process of moving through this world can be painful. It rubs us raw. It’s hard enough to bleed when it is our own wound we are processing, but the commitment to community means we bleed when the wound is not our own. We’ll find ourselves crying when the pain is across the coffee cup. We read posts from the International Justice Mission and we feel anger over injuries that happen a world away. We read, we hear, we hurt.

Without that commitment to carry each other’s burdens, true community can never grow. In fact, I believe that commitment has to be in place even before the weepers have noticed our arms around them. It is a decision made in times of joy to stand with one another in times of pain.

Life is pretty good. Whether I am sitting on my back porch or skimming across the water on the lake, life looks pretty good from my spot. But I know the tears are coming, and it’s my duty and joy to help share them. I need to share them with the people I meet out in the community, or even the people I’ve never met and never will. I share them because by HIS stripes, I was healed. Healing comes through community.

I know this is not my usual post, and not my usual thought process. But this week I’ve realized that some of the pain in my heart isn’t even my own: it is the load I’m hoping to help carry in whatever small way I can. I don’t know if I’m always willing to pick up that load. And yet I know it is the very essence of the kingdom. Load carrying.

And so I am left asking this question:can I cry other people’s tears?