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Jesus is not a teddy bear

Jesus is not a teddy bear.

So, some of you already know my (insert nasty adjective here) feelings about teddy bears. I am not sure if it stems from a bad Teddy Ruxpin or Care Bears experience, or just my internal snark rebelling against their internal fluff. Either way, let’s sum up by saying – I am not a bear fan.

This is not exactly a popular stand – especially among my (awesome) Middle School students. I think they may suspect that there may be something wrong with a girl that doesn’t like a feel-good, warm-fuzzy standard. Like somehow I missed the “how to be a happy-huggy-clown-bear-lovin’-girly-girl” developmental stage and I am now to be pitied, if not medicated. Hmmm. Ok, if you say so! 

As our church marches forward on a tremendous initiative to shift our perceptions and execution of what it means to do church, or rather be church, I have been faced with another “teddy bear”. So often in our celebrations of the grace and unending love of Jesus, we tend to over-fluffify (yep, it’s a word). We are bombarded with images (Jesus Needs New PR) and songs (too many to link) that sugar coat the gospel and the life of Jesus so much that there is significant danger of diabetic coma. Too easily, we hide the grit that a life of following Jesus promises.

This past week in our Middle School small groups, we focused on, in part, the following passage:
For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ Matthew 25:35-36.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t read anything in here about how much easier my life will be. I don’t get from this that I will no longer be heartbroken by all that is so completely wrong with this world. I don’t see prancing ponies, hearts, rainbows, unicorns, or teddy bears anywhere in the words of Jesus.

In fact, I hear the call to nurture our own broken heart while desperately trying to bring a even a bit of heaven to this place wracked with the pain of the fall.

Don’t get me wrong. I do believe and cling to the hope, rescue and comfort of the grace and redemption found in our Savior ( Matthew 11:28-30 and Romans 8:38-39). But I also believe that it only BEGINS there. The rest of the story, our story, the story of Jesus, the story of redemption – EVERY STORY – is more about allowing all of that HOPE to flow out of us and into a dark, dying, and desperate world. It won’t be comfortable, easy, clean, or even remotely fluffy.

And that ain’t a callin’ from no teddy bear, people.

not even close

not even close


Moving through peanut butter…and out of a jam

On my 30th birthday, my body unceremoniously decided that peanut butter (aside from the expected yumminess and protein – in that order) would now be giving me a new bonus: heartburn. Nice. I mean peanut butter? Seriously? My response has been primarily to ignore it, or enable it by drinking milk with my pb&j’s. Whatever. It is still annoying!

So, this morning I started thinking about change. So much of what changes in life is beyond our control – and unwelcome. Like airline reliability, traffic, the peanut butter thing, or worse – disease, loss, etc.

Most of us, if we are honest, have several things in our own lives that we would love to change. And that is more specifically what is on my mind today. Maybe it is due to the onset of fall, but part of that is due some recent inspirational reading. Namely, a post Anne Jackson made on her blog: (I so want to be Anne when I grow up – even tho she is younger than I am) and another tweet I saw this morning about habit changing: But, if you are like me, those areas we would like to change are the areas we are most STUCK.

I tend to be the kind of person that gets bored with status quo pretty easily and therefore relish changes in the way things are done. Especially organizationally. That is probably one of the reasons student ministry is such a happy place for me. One of my ‘teachers’ always says that student ministry is like a speed boat when it comes to change – it can turn on a dime, changing course, mission, etc. easily and without making too many disruptive waves.

A couple recent conversations with people I admire reminded me that all change is some form of loss. Even if the change is necessary, good and wanted – even invited – there is a sense that the old is now gone – that old comfort, that old “known” entity. We knew how to navigate those waters, even if they were a swamp – stagnant and stenchy with loads of toxic pitfalls and life-stealing alligators. We had mechanisms for dealing with the status quo – even when unexpected things crop up in that setting. All that goes out the window with change.

I don’t have a magic bullet answer for what to do with all that. From a practical stand point, the post above on a habit changing worksheet is incredibly helpful. But from an emotional standpoint, even a spiritual standpoint, I don’t have much to offer. I think perhaps it makes sense to acknowledge those reactions – the sad ones, the resistant ones – and put them on like an out-of-season jacket. Not forever, of course, but just occasionally, in the interest of lining up all the parts of our inner selves. The parts hanging on, the argumentative parts, and the forward-pushing parts.

Eventually, there will be harmony. And all of our innards will scream for that movement forward. Hopefully sooner rather than later. I know I have things that NEED to change. I know I need to let go of the comfort of the known swamps in my life. What I need to figure out now is how to shed the out-of-season and move into these changes, breathing new life, hope, understanding and joy into my daily existence. And I need to start today.

So where are your swamps? How will you move forward? And, harder to answer, when?


sympathy for a snake…almost

ok – to fully appreciate this post you have to first understand my fear of snakes. I cannot even remotely abide pictures of the creepy crawly sneak-up-on-u-&-eat-u-alive things. Once, my father-in-law dared me to go thru the reptile house @ the national zoo and being the entirely mature person that I am (NOT), I met the dare – only to FREEZE SOLID in the middle of the building, terrified and hyperventilating.

So, here is my story. I was driving along, making a turn on to the next street when I saw a rather long – probably 4+ ft – black snake in the middle of the intersection. He (i have no idea why he has to be male, but just go with it, K?) was very much alive and I know this because he was moving around. Well, moving is a euphemism. It was more like we was winding back and forth desperately, head in the air, tail flicking back and forth (as I type this, I am breaking into a mild sweat, just so you know). All his energy was clearly being expended, and yet, he was going nowhere. He made zero forward progress. He was literally flailing around desperately trying to get off of the hot asphalt, out of harm’s way, and into the grass (only to lie in wait to kill me I am certain).

Later, I drove past the same intersection, and there he lay, dead as a doornail, flat as a flitter (I have no idea what that means – my Great Grandmother use to say it) and crispy as a tortilla. In the exact same place.  He never made it to safety – or anywhere for that matter. As crazy as it sounds, I felt sorry for the dude. Not sorry enough that I wished him well – he is a SNAKE people! – but sorry that he lost the fight. Sorry that all his desperation was wasted.

So, I started thinking. How many people to we encounter in our lives that are like that snake – we want NOTHING to do with them, they scare us and make us sweat. And yet, they are doing serious battle. Something within them is desperately fighting the fact that they are stuck, in harm’s way and cannot make forward progress no matter how much of their precious energy they expend.

Now, nothing on this green earth would have gotten me out of my CRV to help that snake. I am sure he would have just used the opportunity to eat me alive (the constant purpose of ALL snakes on the planet, as I have mentioned). And, it might not have been safe for me to stop in the middle of the intersection anyway.

But when we encounter struggling snakes – the people who irritate, sadden, enrage and scare us on a daily basis – are we avoiding stopping because the intersection of our lives is genuinely unsafe? Or is it because we are not sympathetic enough to wish them well…in the form of extending a hand, a kind word. Is it because we just don’t wanna…and we only realize the selfishness of that when we see the result of everyone else taking the same stance…the crispy remains of someone who just simply lost the fight.

I don’t want to pretend that I now believe in rescuing every snake I see. But I also don’t want to miss those divine appointments with people who maybe are not the most comfortable to me. I don’t want more and more people on the fringes of life to continue to lose the battle for hope of a future…hope of rescue…hope of something so much better.


Feed me…for real…

So I am sitting in line at McDonalds this morning – for coffee (I know – but there’s no Starbucks around my house) – and I had a thought…a rare one for me… “I am not hungry”. Ok it may not sound very ground breaking to most people, but for me, at 7:45am, that was kind of nice to figure out. Then I started thinking. How many times do I eat just because…thinking that I should be eating or I am just bored. Way too many…

Ok – so before this turns into an online weight-watchers meeting, I need to connect the dots. See, this past Sunday in “big church” (that’s what student ministry peeps call the adult gathering), we talked about hearing from God by reading the word of God. And this morning, it occurred to me that often, my approach to reading the bible is the opposite of my reaction to eating. Instead of “eating” (aka reading) when I think I am not hungry, or reading when I find gaps of time in my day (rare though those may be), I seem to avoid it. I justify this with listening to faith based podcasts, worship music, reading theological or ministry books and so on. I tell my self that I am not hungry because I have just been “fed” with these other materials.

But the fact is, my life cries out for wisdom and guidance and hope. Every day I flounder in my own poor choices…or at the very least I run around trying to hang my hat on “the right thing”. Instead of turning to the one place that promises wisdom and guidance and soul restoration, I convince myself that I am not hungry. I am spiritual enough…I am connected enough to God…after all – look at where I work…look at my job title…look at how much I study in preparation to teach…

So, what am I going to do about it? I guess I could insert a bunch of high-minded promises about reading daily and quiet time and all that. And honestly, I do hope to be able to increase my intentional time in God’s word. But more importantly, I really want to become more aware and more honest with myself about when I need to be fed. And, if I am feeling empty, I want to be clear on what exactly will fill me up to satisfaction…not the Twinkies of spiritual reading, but the protein.

So the crazy question then becomes…what if my life became more and more dependent on and empowered by God’s voice instead of my own?



It’s a long drive to Cumberland, MD and back – at least for one day it is. Listening to a kid’s movie from the sound system – one you’ve seen 832 times – can make that trip even longer. But yesterday, something was different in the journey.

Underneath the cartoonish voices of the main characters ran a stream of melodies…changing with the scenes as appropriate. Now of course, we all know that movies come with a soundtrack. And, without the visual to accompany the dialogues, the sounds of each scene became much more obvious. In particular, there was a scene I knew well visually (again – I have seen this film many times) that, when it played, I heard for the first time. Details aside, the key character enters a new phase of life, and the musical score swells with hope. I am not sure how that is accomplished musically…but we all know when it is successful. So, I started listening a bit more intently to the movie. Again, I dismissed the dialogue and sound effects and trained closely onto the score. I was amazed at how clearly the emotion bled through.

I started to wonder…what is the musical score of my life right now? If not my whole life, what about this scene? If I had no way to convey anything vocally or visually, how would an orchestra (or band) play the tune of my emotion…of my spirit?  Would it play what I want people to know or think, or the truth of my state of mind, or the state of my heart? If I am honestly listening for and responding to God in my life, would not the musical score swell with hope, anticipation, and wonder?

Now for the hard part…

It occurs to me that if attitude is a choice, then so must the state of the spirit be cultivated and shaped into an intentional state of health and hope. We must feed our heads, hearts and souls with good food – food that is life-giving, life-affirming, and results in hope pouring out into our world from our own soundtrack. It is up to me to stay tuned to God’s channel of musical score for my life… Likewise, it is up to God to use that score to His glory and to the betterment and healing of the world. I do not have the power, will, wisdom, knowledge or strength to do it alone.

So, let me ask the obvious…What is your soundtrack right now? Is it tuned to the score of hope or are you struggling with static?



Welcome to my attempt at blogging! I am hoping to put to press various thoughts, inspiration, and information related to my journey with CrossRoads Middle School Ministry.  I am grateful and humbled by the leaders and students connected to this ministry, inspired by their generosity, wisdom, hope and authenticity.

Even if you are not a part of this ministry, I invite you to walk along side me – learning and laughing as we go. Just maybe there will be a story or two that will touch you in some way. It is often in the unexpected places that we find joy, isn’t it?

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