The toddler broke free and raced into the gathering, his face red with tears and scrunched up with his cries for his mom. A childcare worker followed behind, reaching for him, but he eluded her grasp. He reached his parents who had stood to meet him, and his mom carried him out, tears and all, until he calmed down. No one knew why he cried. And no one frowned that he had interrupted our worship service. There were only sympathetic smiles and worry over whatever had happened to his little heart to cause such crying. He was welcome there, even loud and crying and interrupting.

It is phenomenal to be a part of a church that so loves children. To be completely fair, every church we have encountered has loved children. The church where I had my first staff position in Nebraska held a Wednesday night event every week that brought in 100 children from the town. That church was only 110 members, so you can imagine how big that was. They loved children. Then there was the church in Illinois with so few children that they loved whenever a child would come, and encouraged the few children we had to be active in various ways- I even had a teenager who preached a sermon one Sunday to get out of a Confirmation paper! They loved children. Even the last church here in Colorado that had the least amount of children of all my churches- they wanted children to be involved in worship and we even had a curriculum writer/author who would write brilliant children’s sermons for me to interact with the 3-4 kids there. Read the rest of this entry »

When We Can’t Sing

September 4, 2013

I love music. I grew up as a musician and continue to sing as much as I can, though it is harder and harder to find places to do so. My mother is a composer, and she immersed all of us in music from an early age- piano, guitar, harp, violin, flute, voice lessons, choirs, ensembles, casts in musicals- she pressed music into us… hard.

My church growing up loved music too. At least hymns. This was back when they had Sunday night worship as well as Sunday morning. So after a whole morning at church, we would have a few hours to finish homework and eat soup for dinner before heading back to church. I usually did not like going to the Sunday evening service, except once a month they would have a hymn sing instead of a sermon. This I liked. We would get to call out our favorite hymns and I would always try to pick “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” because I liked to hit the high notes: “Oh magnify the pre-cious name of Jeeee-sus, PRAAAAISE (usually a high G) his naaaame!” It was great fun for me, and it meant not having to listen to someone talk for 30 minutes. (Little did I know God would end up calling me to be one of those people who preaches now. He’s got a weird sense of humor.)

Inevitably, for a young girl, the hymn sings would lose their glamour. And as I became a pre-teen, I would find myself bored by singing in church. That’s when my mother intervened. On a rare day when she wasn’t eyeing us with a stern look from the choir loft as we four children sat alone wiggling our way through the church service, she stood next to me as we sang that Sunday morning. I always loved listening to my mother sing. From as young as I can remember her voice mesmerized me. Some of my favorite memories are of laying in bed with the lights out, drifting to sleep to sound of her voice and the piano as she wrote another piece of music.

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Feeling Like a Failure

August 22, 2013

When I left ministry, I left for various reasons. The day after my last day on the job, my son was born- a child we had fought hard to have. And it only seemed right that he have a parent with him for his first couple years of life. That was perhaps the biggest motivation. But I also left because I was tired, wounded, and depleted.

The previous two years had taken its toll. We had lost a child, dealt with cancer, struggled through pancreatitis, was left with thyroid disease, lost 25% of pay, followed by a lay off, and the stress of sudden unexpected infertility. Add to that we were working in a church revitalization project that wasn’t working. And that we had been isolated from any genuine community- a necessary ingredient for our souls- since we had moved to pastor this church.

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Holy Discontent

December 4, 2012

At a gathering of pastors the other day, we had a deep discussion on what we termed “holy discontent.” As pastors around the table struggle with the reality that their small churches could close if they lost only a couple more people, the question came up: What do we do to turn these churches around? These inward, hurting, hurtful, congregations that these pastors deeply love. Read the rest of this entry »

Gratitude is Essential

May 24, 2012

I am not very good at gratitude. I’m great at complaining and thinking about how things should be better. But gratitude is something I sometimes have to work hard to do.

I was on a walk today when I crashed into gratitude. Or maybe I crashed into God… again. Yeah, that’s probably it. I realized (again) that gratitude is not simply essential for life, but for leadership. It is way too easy to look at what’s not working, what’s not happening, what’s not around, and what’s not the way you want things to be. Read the rest of this entry »