Rooted

I’m clinging to these words lately.

I feel like I’m about 2 for 1,675 when it comes to actually accomplishing the things I set out to do. It seems I’m always getting thwarted, distracted, worn out, or discouraged – sometimes before I even get a chance to start.

Our culture isn’t always very friendly to those of us tripping over ourselves. I just want to catch my breath, but I’m hunted down by words like momentum, hustle, drive, ambition, and goal-setting. Constant movement and activity. And a lot of striving.

In the Christian world, we like to baptize all of this and call it radical living.

<<sigh>>

A gentle reminder came my way last week. Did you know the word “radical” actually comes from a word that means ROOTED?

Rooted.

As I look around at the frenetic pace of the world, I’m starting to think the most radical thing we could do is Just. Stay. Planted.

Of course this doesn’t mean we don’t pursue goals. And it doesn’t mean we won’t need perseverance and determination. It is gritty, difficult work for a seed to press itself into the dirt and darkness, to take the path down instead of up, to be willing to break and crack, in order to become all it was meant to become. Being rooted is not an easier path.

That’s why it’s radical.

But it does mean that if we strive for anything, we strive first to abide in Christ. It means everything we do is held together and birthed and cultivated and completed for and from and within the finished work of the One who already accomplished everything He set out to do.

“It is finished,” He said.

The most striking part of this phrase, for me, is the tense used in the original Greek language. In one sense, it means something has been accomplished, once and for all. And at the same time, it means the work is still ongoing. We have here a beautiful paradox that means something like “It is finished and will continued to be finished.” So not only did Christ accomplish all He set out to do; the work we have left to do is being done in and through Him still today. He didn’t leave it for us to finish alone.

Being rooted is to stay grounded in this truth. And as we do, the goals we reach for and accomplish – those fruits we bear – will come from a place of humble receptivity to the sun and the rain rather than our incessant effort to make something happen. One is built on grace. The other, on gumption. As a friend and I like to say: this is the difference between organic living and injecting everything with growth hormones so we can make it all bigger, faster.

It might look pretty, but it’s not very good for you.

So, if you feel tired and worn out from the feverish pace of the world, I hope these words are a gentle, cooling breeze.

“IT IS FINISHED.”

Stay radical.

Stay rooted.

The benefit of belief

I was listening to my friend speak last night, and she led us in an exercise to identify lies we tell ourselves – the ones that that keep us in cycles of fear or trauma. I was thinking through my fear of writing and a phrase suddenly emerged with fierce clarity.


“No one will believe you.”


I hadn’t realized this lie had embedded itself into my mind. I hadn’t even identified the phrase up until that point. But the effects have been felt for a long time –


In the ways I feel I have to say things just right so I won’t be misunderstood.
In the energy I spend to build a case, so my conviction will be shared.

We Have Sinned and Grown Old…

I don’t want to tell you. It’s embarrassing.”

My nine-year-old son uttered these words recently as we sat on the couch in my favorite room of our home. I don’t even recall what we were talking about, but he had grown suddenly quiet, and a look of intensity and contemplation came over his face. When I asked him what he was thinking, tears began to well.

It took some gentle prodding, but he finally braved the risk of confession. “When I read my stories, I sometimes pretend that I’m in them.” A sense of amused relief washed over me, and I quickly leaned in to comfort him. But he interrupted.

Read more at An Unexpected Journal.

The Pit

“A good part of a musician’s career is spent in a pit, an orchestra pit that is—for opera, ballet and musical theater productions. The pit—an open space beneath and in front of the stage—varies in shape and size and can be cramped, loud, and dark, especially if it is very deep below the stage.”

I recently read this quote in an article online. From my (VERY) limited experience in theater, this is exactly what I remember. Orchestra pits are usually set well below the stage, and the musicians only have dim lights by which to see their sheet music. That way thy don’t detract from the main performance.

There is nothing glamorous about the pit. It’s dark and gritty down there. Hidden away and plain. There are no captivating costumes, no over-the top makeup. Just the the pure beauty of the music, appreciated only by those with ears to hear.

Most days I’d rather be on the stage in an elaborate outfit, garnering the attention and applause of others.

Or in the audience, offering my approval or criticism from the safety of the sidelines.

The pit? NO THANKS.

Recently, I went to see the Chicago Symphony Orchestra play Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5. As I sat there perched high in my lofty red chair watching the violins, trumpets, flutes, and (of course) the piano, I noticed something.

You know who else is in the pit? The conductor.

For the entire performance, he spent himself for the sake of the musicians, never once taking his eyes off of them. He KNEW the music, and he moved with them, guiding them through the highs and lows of the entire piece. As I watched his hands wave back and forth, purposefully and passionately, I noticed that not a single musician was hidden from his gaze.

But as an audience member, the conductor’s back was to to me the entire time. I never once saw his face.

A stage performer wouldn’t have seen him either. The spotlights are too blinding.

All throughout the Bible, seeing the face of God is spoken of as the highest honor. Revelation tells us we will one day literally see the face of God. One of my husband’s favorite prayers over our kids is “may God make his face shine upon you,” taken right from Numbers. We may think we want the applause of others or to sit on the sidelines…but our deepest longing is to see the conductor’s face.

Because not only does the conductor bring us comfort, he makes us better. There is actually research on whether or not the presence of a conductor really makes any difference. After all, the musicians have their own sheet music. Do they really NEED to watch the conductor? The researchers found that “the more the influence of the conductor to the players, the more aesthetic — aesthetically pleasing the music was overall.” How about that.

I need to remember that when I’m in the pit. When the lights go dim and I feel small and hidden and unimportant. When I question everything and wonder if I’m doing anything worthwhile.

And I need to remember that when I feel like God has turned his back on me. Maybe it’s not God who moved. Maybe I just climbed out of the pit a bit too soon.

A good part of our lives might very well be spent in the dim light of the pit. If you’re there right now and it’s dark and noisy and cramped, I’m so sorry. Look for the conductor’s face. Listen. He just might be turning it all into a symphony.

Hovering Over the Void

Preparing for a talk next week and thinking about this little, homemade xylophone I made with my four year old.

You know what’s crazy? Those wooden blocks wouldn’t make music if it weren’t for the hollowed out box lying underneath.

We all have empty spaces. Gaping holes. Places we feel hollowed out.

Instead of rushing to fill the space with anything and everything, what if we decided to just start listening for the music?

“And the Spirit of the Lord was hovering over the dark waters.” Genesis 1:2

A Reason for our Hope

If you haven’t already, please check out www.anunexpectedjournal.com – it’s a project a few classmates have been working on, and we’re so excited! This is a place you kind find out more about exactly what we have been studying in the MAA program over at HBU.

Here is a piece I wrote on the role of fairy stories in Christian Apologetics.

A Reason for Our Hope: The Role of Fairy Stories in Christian Apologetics

Piece by Piece

My son has been working on this puzzle for weeks now….which means our dining room table is currently host to a thousand tiny, fragmented pieces of Chicago’s Michigan Avenue.

What a picture of life. Scattered. Messy. Broken up into bits. The image of what we are becoming, impossible to see. We focus hard and bear down, trying to put the pieces together and make some sense of the mess. Sometimes, we shove ill-fitting pieces into the wrong places, and the picture gets even more distorted. Other times, we are hollowed out on the inside, nothing but sharp edges on our perimeter. Many times, we live haunted by the pieces that are missing.

Our hope? Knowing we are still in process. Still becoming. Still being worked on. And every once in a while, right in the middle of the mess, we get brave enough to look at the big picture…the completed one on the puzzle box that reminds us who we really are.

And we keep going, piece by piece.

The Untouchables

I’ll never forget the day I walked through the slums of India for the first time. We were working with an organization that provides medical care and education to women and children in need, and the slums are home to some of the most vulnerable – and often overlooked – people on the planet. Of course, it’s very difficult to physically overlook them. These makeshift communities, built from scraps of metal and plastic, are literally everywhere. They aren’t confined to a specific part of town; they’re scattered in and throughout the town, springing up every couple of blocks. People can’t help but look at them, but they don’t always see them.

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