Less Than or Greater Than


Dearest Children,

Movies are funny things. We use them to entertain us, sometimes to help us forget our workaday world. Good storytellers beckon us from the opening scene, reel our hearts and minds in, catapult us into a world of adventure, and boldly take us where few have gone before. Then the soundtrack fades away, the houselights temporarily blind us and there we sit, legs cramped from sitting still too long, a little dizzy from the dazzling multicolor pixels, and so very grounded to this earth.

Remember that symbol you learned in math? < . Less than. Sometimes when I see a movie with a hero ten feet tall on the big, big screen, that’s how I feel at the end. < . My little, little life does not compare to the wonders of the heroes of old. Or even the achievement of the heroes of new. Already I am 40 years old and I have not discovered any cures for grave diseases, invented technology to simplify daily life or turned around the economic outlook for a community. < .

Those same 40 years of life, however, have taught me something else–a different definition of important and brave. Let me tell you a story that no one will ever make into a movie. I was a teenager once. I know. Hard to believe. Every day I drove to school and drove home. I was a good student and a generally nice kid who got along with most everyone. Every day as I drove down the street just outside that 3 story ancient brick building I saw a girl walking alone. I had met her at the beginning of the school year at an Honor Society function I think. Something inside me felt a little bad each day seeing her walking alone. Alone is a really hard place to be as a teenager. Mostly the unspoken goal during those years is to never be by yourself. Many fifteen year olds pay dearly in ways they never thought they would just to avoid being alone. And there she was, EVERY day alone.

One day it was raining. Not the light sprinkle of a daily tropical palm watering in Florida. Pouring down rain. Windshield-wipers-racing-to-the-left-and-right-and-still-losing-to the-raindrops Michigan downpour. Turning out of the parking lot cautiously, there she was. Walking home alone again, in the rain, without an umbrella. This is when the still, small voice inside spoke. “Offer her a ride.”

I waffled. “I don’t know where she lives.”

“Does it matter?”

“It is so embarrassing. I don’t know what to say.”

“Offer her a ride.”

“I can’t remember her name.”

“She doesn’t remember yours either.”

I negotiated long enough to pass right by her. But the still, small voice was right. And I knew it. I turned around at the light, turned around at the next light, and pulled up beside her.

“Can I give you a ride home?”

So began a friendship, a deep friendship, that lasted only a year before we both went away to colleges far away from each other. We wrote a couple of letters after that, then went on with our separate lives.

17 years later, I was walking through your one-story, aging brick preschool building. A mother with two young children trying to figure out how to manage little people hour after hour. Adjusting to a very small circle of people. Grieving the loss of a child not yet born who had already left us. Disappointed at how unimportant my life felt. Having a < (less than) kind of year. A familiar voice trailed down the hall. My friend.

One of the very first things she said to me that day was, “I was just telling someone about you the other day.” Really? 17 years later? Suddenly I knew, knew deep down in the most important places of my soul, what courage meant. Courage, my children, is listening to the still, small voice and following it. It is not always comfortable. It is not always exciting. Maybe “they” will make a movie about you (who are “they” anyway?), but “they” will probably never even know you exist. Courage won’t matter to all of “them” but it will matter to one of “them”.

Later on in the story, you will see that the still, small voice knows exactly what it is talking about. It has picked out a story of bravery that is made specially for you. Living that story, no matter how big or small, famous or hidden, is an adventure only you can experience. And you will realize you, and your courageous choices, and the still, small voice are > (greater than).




Photo of a statue in Eglise La Madeleine

Not alone


Change comes. People scatter. The Father stays. See that tiny cross on the top of that tower? It is Jesus’ sacrifice affixed on the steadfast tower of God the Father’s love. For God so loved the world that He will never leave me or forsake me. We will weather this change and the next one and the next…together.

A tower of Sacre-Couer taken from the top of Sacre-Couer overlooking the city of Paris

The Way


This picture taken in front of the Church of Saint-Sulpice. The first time we walked over these stones we were frantically looking for the entrance to the church. The front doors were obviously closed and the visiting hours were almost over. I thought I saw a sign of direction but pressed for time we took off around to the left looking for an entrance. After walking/jogging around almost the entire building we found the entrance on the opposite side about as far away from where we started as we could be. After our visit we walked back to see the fountain out front. I decided to run up and look at that sign. Sure enough it directed us to the right to find the entrance. How often do we rush through life finding our own way instead of looking for directions from the one who can see the whole thing? Look to Jesus, He knows the way. He is the way.

New Balances


Once upon a time I wrote what I thought a brilliant short essay on balance being the key to life. My first essay to turn in to a new professor. It would impress her for sure. When the essay was returned, it had just one sentence at the bottom. “The key to life is not balance, it is obedience.” Twenty years later, I am a believer.

The balancing mobile pictured above represents a piece of that reality. It is a balanced piece of artwork but it bends and sways and moves with the wind. The pieces are not all the same size and shape and sometimes it dips deeply to one side or another. Life is not a static balance in which every part of my life gets equal measurements and it holds steady on both sides. The wind changes. The needs shrink and grow.

Most beautifully, I have a Guide who lives in me so that I do not need to be controlled by every wind that blows through. This guide takes all the factors into account and guides me to find the balance of this moment. I have discovered that Jesus in me is a good, good shepherd. When I follow, I find new balances, new ways of interacting with my world. I find joy.

Artwork: Alexander Calder, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris

Take Heart


“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

This is probably my favorite picture from Paris. Even a full on shot of this Jesus mosaic does not do it justice. This angle reminds me how Jesus often shows up in my life. I will be walking around in the alternating dimness and color of everyday life when suddenly Jesus shows up. It is not yet time for him to be fully revealed but a glimpse of his face sets my heart soaring again. Reminds me that he has been walking by my side and at the end of it all I will know even as I am fully known.

In the meantime I weep, wade, wait and sometimes even wander but I do so with the peace that passes understanding.

I go with Jesus.

Inside Eglise de Sacre-Couer, Church of the Sacred Heart

Big Picture


This was my first bird’s eye view of the city of Paris and first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. Seeing Paris first from the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral, a gargoyle by my side, still seems a bit surreal. We climbed hundreds of winding steps to get to this spot. I couldn’t help but marvel that hundreds of years of people had climbed those very stairs and touched the same rocks around me. And someone so long ago designed and built this magnificent place to worship the same God I worship today. At the end of a day, this big picture, long term view helps me take a deep breath and trust the God who never sleeps.

True Confessions

Sometimes I am wrong. I imagine the way I think it ought to be and it doesn’t work out that way and I rage (not necessarily showing it on my face but feeling it in my heart).

Many of our church people helping with the Rummage Sale for Reo Elementary School spent a lot of time checking the weather report for Saturday. The plan was to have the sale in the parking lot. We have an amazing location with lots of traffic and we figured all the stuff outside would draw the crowds. With the weather report changing every time I checked it, I know I had decided that God was going to blow the rain away from our little place on the earth. But that was not what happened. We hauled tables and tables of items outside from 7-9 am. By 10 am the rain had started and the outlook looked worse. Our tent almost started flying and we realized we would have to move inside. But let me tell you while I was asking God in my heart why we had to do this, the Central crew made things happen. Chairs were moved. Systems were made. And all that stuff moved inside in a way that was still possible for people to walk around and shop. 

I confess that I worried though. I worried that the crowds weren’t big enough. I worried that all that work wouldn’t be worth the little amount we would make. I worried that our efforts would feel wasted.

Effort is rarely wasted. Worry, though? Worry is always wasted. Especially when God is in the equation.

The rain fell. The people came. The stuff left. And the money came in. At the end of the day I saw the best part of a bunch of people. I saw teenagers to retirees working slow and steady, problem-solving, and generally doing whatever needed to be done. I heard no complaining and saw hard work. I saw a bunch of people with all
kinds of backgrounds working together for a purpose bigger than themselves.

We made over $1200. A bunch of money we didn’t have last week to make the outlook at a struggling school a little bit brighter. And in the end I give all glory to God because somehow he took our efforts and the people who did show up (some who gave much more than their item was worth) and the rain and the building and the chaos and he made something beautiful. That is his business you know: redemption. Taking one thing that is a mess and shining it up, filling it anew, transforming the broken pieces and making it all brand new.

I got a front row seat to the God at work production and it was good. It was very good.