A New Practice in Remembering Others: Lazarus & the global millennial


I found a Catholic prayer candle at Goodwill a few afternoons ago.

It hadn’t been lit yet, so all prayers resulting from its wick’s glow would be the first.

On the front, San Lazaro, Saint Lazarus, Saint of the Poor.

I took the candle home and placed it on the kitchen window by the sink, the window overlooking our neighbor’s side yard.

Our new home doesn’t have a dishwasher, so doing dishes isn’t just work, but an event, a challenge to keep the kitchen organized and clean.

So I light the candle and I say hello to Saint Lazarus. I remember the story of his life, the way he and Jesus cared for another like kin.

I can hear the boys arguing in the living room behind me, their voices rising and falling again as they move on, playing together.

I scrub the bowls clean and place them on the dish rack to my right, wondering what it means to be poor, to not be poor, to be poor of spirit, to be poor of heart.

I rinse the knives and forks and spoons and say thanks for what I’ve seen and known in my days, but there is Lazarus, speaking to me with his eyes, reminding me that I am not alone, because my people, my generation, my living– it’s not just mine. It’s a global reality.

In a collection of essays by young Syrians, I remembered what Lazarus’s life meant.

I remember the beggar sitting outside the rich man’s house;

I remember the way we listen to what we want to hear and avoid what we don’t;

I remember our obsession with Mercedes and Frank Lloyd Wright and the iPhone-newest;

we are bombarded with sales racks and celebrity gossip and religious piety;

and it becomes easier and easier to avoid the eyes of Saint Lazarus, his presence and his challenge to never forget the ones who are far away and walk a terrifying path.

“The first full day at Saarbrücken was very hard on me. I had to wait in lines for food and papers. But I had to just deal with it. I am no longer in my house. I am not sitting in my kitchen with my family, waiting for my mother to prepare a nice meal. This is my new temporary life now.” —Hassan Jamous, 24.

And so I grab the towel and begin to dry those extra dishes that couldn’t fit on the dish rack, and I see faces this time, hear names and imagine stories playing over and over again in my mind.

I am a millennial– a western millennial, a Native American millennial, a female, mother, partner, worship leader, writer millennial.

But what do generation gaps mean for the rest of the world? I look at the eyes of Zozan Khaled Musa, 25,  and realize that while I sit here and drink my coffee in a coffee shop in Atlanta, she sits in Germany as a refugee, with hopes and dreams for things that are similar to my hopes and my dreams–

a young woman my age who knows wisdom and grace because she has walked so far and so hard to get to where she is today.

Or Rena Khalid Moussa, 29,  a year older than me. I see her, too.

Please read their stories.

Light your candle and remember.

To be better world citizens, we remember that we are not the only citizens, and that we belong to a whole creation of others– every generation coming after the one before, every life marked by sweat and tears and the hope for connection.

It is so good to remember what is beautiful, to look around us and bask in thanksgiving, to give ourselves over to gratefulness every single day.

But a practice is demanded of us, one that has existed for centuries and will never die out as long as there is suffering lurking across the earth–

we practice lighting that candle and we practice stepping outside of ourselves and if we’re lucky, we learn to take our children and our friends and our churches and our everything along with us,

and there the world’s borders are broken, and we find that every refugee belongs to us and we to them,

every brokenness is ours,

every poor heart is our poor heart,

every glorious reality is shared between us,

and the eyes and spirit of Saint Lazarus tell us again that the way we are resurrected day after day is by knowing that life exists outside our tombs and broken places, where we find each other at the light of the new morning.




Work and Non-work: the practice of finding something in nothing


“God is in the body, where we look out for each other.” –Peter Rollins

I’ve had a part time job on top of finishing this book for over a month now, and I find that my mind is cluttered–my brain is literally compartmentalizing itself again, creating new pathways and figuring out new rhythms, and by mid day it is exhausted. And in this, I see a tiny glimpse of the working family’s dilemma to keep up and the need for the body to slow down.

And we’re preparing for another PhD fall semester, and as much as we long for fall and the craziness, it creeps up and takes over and you’ve got to be ready for it.

I’ve noticed that I’ve had a headache for a few days now, a sore throat, less energy and a little more anxiety than normal.

I’ve noticed these little things changing inside my mind and heart, and deep down the red flags are going up as an early warning that rest is needed, sooner than later.

And so, I attempt to set boundaries, to non-work, to keep the laptop closed until nap time, to purposefully lose my phone and look at books instead, to intentionally make the morning a slow one.

There is so much something in nothing.

There is so much life in the quiet, so much rejuvenation in the unordinary rest period. So we over schedule ourselves for days and days, and to protect ourselves from completely burning out, we stop while we can–even for an hour–and we do NOTHING.

We turn off the phone and hide the MacBooks and Kindles; we sit by the fire and read, we do puzzles with the kids, or drink our coffee and tea–slowly this time; we talk and we share and we process and we stay in bed a little bit longer, dreaming.


No hurry.

Just rest.

At some point in time, some voice started to say that life needed to be done this way to be a successful one: fast and hard and with money in mind.

And that lone voice was joined with other voices until that chorus began to dictate what regular life became.

But today, we fight back.

We read ourselves, check our vitals, know our boundaries, trust our boundaries.

We use that vacation time that’s been adding itself up over the years and we take a day for ourselves, for our family, for our sanity, for our good.

We are so less useful to ourselves and the world when we are completely used up, so we learn to say no more than yes, to stay in more than out, to disengage what takes up so much of our lives and engage the quiet of our own souls, just for a little while.

We practice eye contact with those closest to us, re-learn what it means to listen and engage, to learn and practice wide-eyed curiosity.

And in knowing ourselves, in caring for ourselves, we know and care for each other.

And there we find God, we find holy, we find good and true.

We hearken back into the spaces we may have abandoned for months, maybe years.

The good news is that those quiet spaces always take us back.


Do not be afraid of the non-work, friends.

It may be exactly what keeps you working in the first place.



To You, the Teacher: the non-linear, everyday work of learning and teaching



One year at the Carl Junction school book fair, I bought a teacher’s kit.

I administered tests to myself, pretended to be the student, missed a spelling word here and there so that, as the teacher, I could give myself a 98% instead of 100% with a bright red ink pen.

I wrote on my little chalkboard and used my apple stickers and recruited my stuffed animals to be adoring students.

As I got older, the desire to teach subsided, became replaced by other passions and pursuits. I got married, learned to lead worship, studied psychology and social work, discovered my love for people and community.

Later, after my boys were born and when they became old enough, I saw this most unexpected phenomenon come about– they could learn anything, anytime, anywhere.

And suddenly my sense of adventure was heightened, and I became someone that I’d left behind all those years ago– that little girl with the school teacher kit who ached for learning and teaching.

Only now, I was honing my craft morning by morning, those two boys guiding my way as much as I guided theirs.

One Sunday in church, our friend Jeremy began our sunday school class with a simple enough introduction– say your name and one thing you could teach somebody else.

The struggle to find the latter seemed to permeate the room as we went around the circle. What exactly am I good at? Can I actually teach something to someone? And am I willing to admit it?

I struggled for an answer, embarrassed that I might be good enough at something to help someone else learn from it, and terrified that I might not be.

But the humbling, beautiful truth of gifting is that every single person has something to give.

And a life lived in wonder engages every opportunity as a lesson, every moment a chance to gain something from the experience.




We’ve told ourselves over the years that learning looks like one thing in one environment, so much so that we fear what teaching would even look like in our everyday moments;

but we forget, then, that life is lived in so many spaces:

at the dinner table, we learn about one another as we explore our day;

on the front porch, we study rocks and birds and know that the world is something marvelous;

at the work desk, we stretch ourselves into new capacities and challenges;

on a short neighborhood walk we encounter and engage with the people around us and remember why the human experience is so sacredly beautiful;

and on our beds at night, we search our hearts and seek to understand who we are in this world.

And so, to teach anything to anyone comes from a heart that learns and seeks to learn. 

It is certainly intimidating to teach as a mother– even more so as a school-at-home mother, but I see with every minute spent invested in learning that teaching is a gloriously natural part of our life cycle.

We teach, we learn, we discover, we teach again, and nothing about it is linear, and nothing bout it is calculated exactly the way we’d expect it to be. 

Right now, in ten minutes, tomorrow morning standing over the coffee pot, is a moment asking to be noticed, and if we remember who we are and what we are wired for, that moment becomes something monumental, something holy and good in our day.

To you, the learner, I say:

Learn and do not be afraid.

And to you, the teacher, I say:

Learn more and teach, and do not be afraid.

And on and on ’til Kingdom come and then after,

may our perpetual learning be lead to perpetual teaching, glorious transformation meeting us at every turn.



The Displaced Soul: finding home again

I think that perhaps many of us underestimate what it means to be displaced.

We hear stories of war, of families ejected from their homes.

We see apartment evictions and job loss.

But there is also displacement that happens slowly, over time, trickling into the spaces in which we live.

Sometimes the season we find ourselves in is raw– emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally– and we find that we ourselves have become lost to what once tethered us.

We just moved out of a two bedroom apartment into a three bedroom house in a coveted neighborhood at the center of our city.

We do not quickly forget the grace of God that brought us here, and because of that kindness, it’s not quite real that this is ours for a season.

We’ve been here a week, but somehow we are still expecting to go back to that apartment at the end of the day.

But with every morning we wake up and go to the front window to see bird feeders and blooming flowers, we realize that this is truly our space.

And suddenly we realize that while we so needed that little apartment, we were a little displaced there, waiting for something else to come along and bring us home.


We forget that where our bodies go, our souls go, too–

and we leave an imprint on the walls of that apartment, on all our past spaces.

We leave those imprints for someone else and we acknowledge that his new place is for everything that we are and everything that we hope to be, the culmination of stories and hard work and dreams holding themselves within its walls.

Not everyone has the luxury of hand-picking a home, but we all choose what we bring to the home we have.

We choose simplicity or busynesss; we choose which broom to sweep the front porch with; which room will carry the home’s heart; what music will play while we do the dishes at the kitchen sink.

Our children choose where they will read their books and imagine that they are flying into outer space; they will choose how to sleep in bed every night and how long morning cuddles should last.

And so, every choice made is tethered to who we are, giving life or taking life away; giving grace to our souls or telling them that they have some things to work on.

It may not take a physical move to change us, to remind us of the grace around us.

It may simply mean looking, seeing what we thought wasn’t there before.

So we plant a small garden, we watch something grow, we get to know the neighbors we already have, we engage community and tether ourselves to something, remind ourselves that we are alive and well.

In all things, the way we inhabit decides the way we will live and move and have our being.

So for now, for us, that means morning coffee by the hummingbird feeder, a few moments every now and then to rest instead of hurrying along.

It means a place for my husband to work and think and dream by an open window overlooking the garden.

It’s an art desk for my oldest, Eliot, to color and imagine the world as bright as can be.


It’s a cool, red wood floor for our husky to sprawl out on and rest in his old age.

And it means a front lawn where my littlest one takes his Goodwill-bought toy lawnmower and walks back and forth, back and forth, clearing space for new living to begin.

And if we cannot find our souls here, we will have a hard time finding our souls anywhere.

So let us place ourselves when we find that we were once displaced, and let us lean into grace, into peace, into the glorious good where it finds us in our everyday living.


The Everyday Body Language of Prayer


When I was young, I felt guilty about how little I prayed.

And my baptist childhood friends and elders would gently remind me during sunday school, would you ignore your best friend everyday? or communication is what keeps relationships alive, and it must be two-way.

And while some of this is true, of course, we forget an important space in relationships— we forget the nonverbal, the body language, the work of being in the presence of another, sharing space without the pressure to speak anything at all.

I think about that late night at the dinner table, Jesus and his friends sitting together, sipping and eating before everything became quiet.

“That’s my blood, and that’s my flesh,” he said.

And they looked at each other. They uncrossed their legs and sat up from reclining and put their elbows on the table and stared deeply into the faces around them and their language became quiet, consumed by deep truth and unanswered questions.

And in our churches and homes we take that communion bread and wine again in the quiet, and we remember what it means to breathe prayer, to move and let God hear us in our motion.

So that’s where I am these days, postured toward God with the movement of my being, with the work I do and the rest I partake in.

Words now mean something different than they did back then, and so the Mystery of God finds me in experience, in communion, often in the wordless, often in the quiet action.

And when words do come, they are soft and sweet and heard in pure light.


I taught VBS last week, singing and dancing with kindergarteners through fifth graders throughout the morning as they learned about five different ways God cares for them.

And in between sessions I was wondering what they were retaining from it, what they were carrying back home in their hearts.

I was wondering if they were ready to take on the world outside that demolishes its own and terrorizes anyone who is other. 

But at the the end of the week, I was trying to see into their eyes, trying to read their faces to understand if they really understand.

And so, on the fifth day, I sent them home with a sticker on the palm of their hand, and told them to take it as an ebenezer, to find something, big or small, to hold onto.

The ebenezer is the silent prayer, it is the memory and the hope and the body language of knowing God is here with us.

And so they took with them the memory, the sticker, the sight of God however they found it.

I remembered for myself, remembered that I know God right now in packing boxes so that we can move, in trying to love my toddler boys through their tantrums and learning, in stepping into new seasons and new jobs and new adventures in rock climbing and gardening.

And in all of it I can be quiet and move and be, wipe the sweat from my brow after a good day’s work, hug my boys after a fight, tell jokes at the dinner table and sweep the balcony floor clean again.

There was no need for a thorough conversation to take place as the woman wiped her tears and oil from Jesus’ feet with her locks of hair.

And so, there is no need for me to fill the air when I can be still and know, when I can move to the rhythms God gives me, when I can rest in the presence God grants me.

We move and breathe and having our being, don’t we?

And so we move and breathe and live as sure as God lives, as sure as God breathes within us.

So when we pray, we practice the body language given to us at birth, and we speak without speaking, Come, Kingdom, Come. 


One of The Church’s Greatest Mistakes: to those for whom there is no room


There’s a story about a laboring woman and the baby inside of her, a story about how far they journeyed together to find a safe place to rest, a suitable place for a birth.

They travelled and travelled and finally the innkeeper said to them, “Sorry, no room,” and they found their way alone.

And today, a lot of people– a lot of churches, a lot of Christians– have taken up the mantle of telling the “other” the same thing.

No room, no room.

No room for the woman who seems impoverished, waiting for her daughter in the church building;

No room for the socially awkward or outcast to find community;

No room for those who have made mistakes and wish to be redeemed;

No room for the Native Americans to keep their own land and find God in it;

No room for the women to lead;

No room for the curious, for the people who ask questions and admit that they seek God outside the church walls;

No room for the children to be children, their little voices heard and considered.

No room. 

And as the privileged voices become louder and the marginalized become quieter, they say, “Speak up, we can’t hear you….No room, no room inside of me for you.”

Maybe those marginalized voices have been speaking, reaching, trying to break glass ceilings and enter the in-crowd for decades.

But still, no room.

And Jesus said, “Those who have hears, let them hear…”

But maybe today He says,”Those who have always had ears and means but haven’t really been listening to anyone but their own…close your mouths for a second.”

And then He looks us in the eyes and says, “Because someone told my mama once, ‘no room, ma’am,’ and she birthed me in a cave.”

And so today, new voices shout from the street corners and church parking lots, “No room! No room for displacement, prejudice, hatred.

No room for xenophobic social circles and secret gossip clubs.

There is no room for the one-person agenda,

No room for the top-down scheme.”

And with every breath of Kingdom, that man who was born in a cave says, “Room…there is room at this table and plenty to eat…

…Come with your questions and let us journey together. Let us make room.

And there, the new church is born.


Hallelujah and Amen.

Mending our Mess & Finding Community: the wildernesses of the churched and unchurched


I believe in transformation.

I believe in ending grudge-matches,

in pursuing community ties.

I believe in Mystery,

in the essence of God in the created world.

I believe in the human journey,

in the winding process that eventually leads us to each other and Kingdom good.


When I was young, I took to heart those bible verses that told me not to hang out with non-Christians or to date anyone who might try to kiss me.

I had a deep love for those outside my church body, but I was afraid of them, afraid of the dark, afraid of the unknown that could stain me.

When my legalistic hardness softened a little, when I re-understood the words I’d read for so long in the church pew, I inched outside of myself bit by bit.

I saw the world outside the conservative Christian lens, and lo and behold, God still called it good.

We are trying to figure out why people are leaving the church, and our ministry-minded brains find it difficult to swallow that we may not be giving life with every warm welcome and small group meeting, that our efforts to engage and save the world sometimes fall short.

And people leave the church and we are sure they are gone forever.

But the truth is, we all walk the wilderness, whether we are “churched” or not.

And the truth is, the Mystery of God holds meetings with the stars and spends time in the campfire glow.

The Mystery of God speaks in the ocean depths and mourns every heartache we never knew existed.

People find God in their yoga classes and favorite restaurants,

in a drink with a long-time friend

or at toddler story time.

They find God at the climbing gym,

God in the garden bed.

And so the church does not work because of us;

the church is God, and God is in the wildernesses of our short lives,

at the Sunday Farm Burger table and the Tuesday morning board meeting.

If we truly believe that God is in our midst, we believe that God is inside and outside the church building,

walking around the farmer’s market with the children, faces painted with ocean waves and iron man colors.

The church is for community, for healing, for rebirth and reminders that we are all called good.

So maybe we need to relax and lean in,

engage the quiet of our hearts,

the stillness in our homes,

know ourselves,

understand our own journey,

and let that lead us to

gracefully holding

the journey of others

as sacred.

Perhaps there is some more rewiring to be done,

perhaps, years later, we still have to unplug from the legalistic mindset

and remember that God finds us and holds us

precisely when we feel far away,

exactly when we feel that we are right where we need to be.

And so we pray,

God, be God,

and let us dwell

in and

with you,




we most

and least

expect it.


A Home Terrarium: not HOW, but WHY


We are re-structuring, re-arranging, re-organizing to get ready for this summer move from an apartment to a house, but in the meantime, we need some life to sustain us right where we are.

I bought this little glass home from my dear friend Hannah, and when we brought it home all I could think about is the little beings that might fill it.

I searched terrariums online and quickly discovered vivariums, something I’d never heard of before.

vivarium: an enclosure for living creatures under semi natural conditions for observation or study

And something about it seemed beautiful to me, the way curiosity can be sparked anytime we choose observation or study. We do it everyday, whether we’re aware of it or not, looking at the world around us and wondering how it all came to be and what it means for us every time we take a breath or make a choice between the trash can or recycling bin.

What I realized and my boys echoed early this week is that we need life around us. I’m reading parenting books about nourishing the soul and understanding the brain, and if I can’t slow down enough to observe what happens when those things are working together or separate from each other, I’ll miss it all.

We’ve got a few months left in this space that we’ve called home for nearly two years, two beautiful years of writing and examining and re-wiring and learning how to be loving humans day after day.

And at the end of those days, it never hurts to have a few extra living creatures around to remind us of who we are, someone else’s beauty to observe and notice when we need a quiet second to breathe.

So can we possibly ask for more?

More life.

More mental space.

More spirit.

More giving.

More noticing.

More tenderness.

More genuine curiosity.

And I’d say those things bring us closer to Kingdom, closer to ourselves, closer to that spark that began inside of us the day we were born, when we stretched our arms up to the sky and out to the world asking for that world to teach us something good, to give us something to notice, to let us observe her absolute beauty especially when it’s a total mystery to us.

After all, we are the living vivarium, a case of worlds and galaxies and creation in which we live in almost-natural, not-quite-perfect conditions.

And we are observed and cared for with loving Creator-hands, spoken over and encouraged to grow and thrive and be exactly what we need to be in the space that is ours until Kingdom finally does come to take us on.

Until then, I will wake in the mornings and sit in the sunroom and say good morning to my new friends, seeing my own reflection in them, saying good morning to the Mystery that holds my life and theirs together in a glorious and abstract harmony.

Hallelujah for the observable life.


[ If you really want to make one, I’d encourage you to! And here’s a tutorial. All the materials for ours cost about $40. And make sure you bring your little ones along, they thrive in the creative joy of the process. ]



The Soul Explorer: a summer adventure series

“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold. Faith alone defends. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”  –Helen Keller


When I was young I was afraid of a lot of things.





But the one thing I looked forward to time after time was the seasons’ change.

Every fall leaf, every winter flake, every spring blossom and summer afternoon reminded me that the world was working the way it was supposed to, that things were being held together for a beautiful purpose, that life was being recreated over and over again around me.

As an adult, a lot of those fears have held tight to me, but slowly and surely I am breaking free from them with the help of my family, who craves constant adventure.

In the face of our fears, it’s not enough to pretend that they aren’t there.

It’s not enough to cover up the scars that come from that fear.

We must do some reversals here, we must find the benevolence that is planted in our lives, where there is actually no room for fear to take root.

For me, it looks like a summer of exploring the beauty of Georgia with all my boys, a summer of stepping into so much newness–

a new position at church as the worship leader;

a new deadline to finish my upcoming book;

a new house to settle into;

the upcoming adventure of homeschooling two toddlers;

and finishing my bachelor’s degree online starting in the fall.

The other day I asked some friends on Facebook to tell me their favorite places to explore here in Georgia, and the list I’d made for our summer went from three places to twenty three.

Everywhere I’m looking these days, I’m being pointed back to the importance of soul work and exploration.

Even the story of Jesus and the four kinds of soil says something about the importance of journey, of honoring every person in every season of life while paying attention to our own journeys.

If I need an afternoon of slinging mud at the Chattahoochee, so be it, if I can break away from my fearful self.

If it is a Saturday morning at the Farmer’s Market downtown, I will go and rest in the presence of a group of people who make their life’s work about growth and life and creation.

One day we will visit the Etowah Indian Mounds an hour’s drive away, and I will remember my own roots, ask them to speak something to me, to teach me something new about my own journey.

And little by little, fear scales away and we are left courageous, adventurous beings.

And in the meantime, my children see their mother grow more bold everyday, and my deepest wish is that they find that soul-boldness themselves, held safe by the goodness of God in a beautiful and often broken world.

It is the way of our children to force us out into the world, isn’t it?

It may take me years to learn, little steps forward and back again, but I do not journey alone.


“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable,” said Helen Keller.

And if Helen can say that, you and I and the rest of creature-kind certainly can say it too.

May the exploration of our hearts turn us away from fear and toward the light of a new day, a new season, a new reality of Kingdom here in our tiny corner of existence.




The New Church Revival


A few weeks ago someone on Facebook invited me to their church revival, an event with a picture a little white, midwest church.

Now this revival could have been a lot of things, but judging from the atmosphere of where I grew up, it was probably centered around a little hellfire and brimstone, a little fear to get people to the pearly gates.

That’s the God I used to count my tallies toward, the guy with a white beard, the Zeus-like man who closely resembled King Triton from The Little Mermaid. 

I’ve shared here before about the hurt that I carried from that view of God.

Seven years later, I’m still shedding the skin of that pain, still trying to re-configure the image of God for myself– and in reality, all I can come up with is great and loving Mystery.

Richard Rohr calls it benevolent love, and that’s exactly it– some sort of out-of-world goodness.

The purpose of a revival is to bring out a heart change, to renew the soul and point all lives toward Heaven.

But somewhere along the line we’ve lost something, maybe misunderstood Kingdom.

Jesus is as much here as He is there; the Mystery of God is as much present as it is future-eternal.

And so maybe we need a new church revival, the kind that transforms communities out of the overflow of love instead of fear.

Maybe we should revive ourselves in a different way–

a revival in the way we tip our waitresses and support local farmers;

a revival in the way we participate in protecting and restoring the environment;

a revival in the language we use toward those who are different than us;

a revival in how we care for the broken and marginalized;

a revival in the animosity-talk of church and national politics;

a revival in the way we value our children and their role in the church and our families;

a revival in how we define ourselves as human beings instead of separate nations scattered around this earth;

a total revival in the way we see the extreme love of Jesus for every living creature.

We’re asking why people leave the church again and again, and maybe this answers a sliver of that question.

For years, the revival has been a weekend or weeklong event, staged to bring a dramatic change to a community– and we’ve certainly seen it happen.

But this kind of work, this re-defining of the church, a re-defining of ourselves, our language toward each other–

this may take a while.

And the good news is that we are not abandoned, waiting for the sting of armageddon.

We are present to the Kingdom of Jesus, to shalom, to this benevolent love, and that is the restorative-revival-life that we are meant to lead everyday in our lives.

Hallelujah for the lifelong revival work.