Lifestyle Creep

I wrote this 9 years ago. When the economy crashed in 2008. It’s good food for thought still. Each year I hope my life gets better, and that has nothing to do with how much stuff I have! Less can be oh so much more!

Journey in the Dark

I’ve been thinking alot about our “lifestyle” lately. I guess because of the economy and everyone talking about how they are cutting back. I’ve read things like “no more eating out every week, no more Starbucks, less travel, fewer gadgets.

20 years ago my husband and I with two kids were living on his post-doc salary. It wasn’t very much. We did great though. I never felt poor at all. I got used to spending very little. Once he got a real job we bought a house that forced us to keep living at the same standard for several more years.

Then it happened. Some great friends of ours joked and called it Lifestyle Creep. Like a frog in water that’s heating up. Little by little the lifestyle goes up…eating out more, buying more expensive food for “special”, a new TV – bigger screen, more cool gear for camping (that’s…

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Settling my heart: Election 2016

Everyone agrees, it’s been a strange week – unsettling, emotional, confusing. I was too busy to unpack what I was feeling, but all week long recurring thoughts kept landing on words from the Bible. Things like – “He sits on the throne forever, God so loved the world, His word endures forever, Be still and know that I am God.”  Experiencing my roller-coaster emotions, I kept thinking that this is a time to stay focused on my calling as a Christ-follower. No circumstances change the fact that I am to love God with my whole heart, and love my neighbor as myself.

Today I had time to reflect. I thought about the prevailing emotions that I feel, and also see all around me. I read familiar passages in scripture that address them. Now I feel a bit more settled, more trusting, more curious, and more able to get up each day and attempt to walk in the Spirit. I am sensing that this is the time for my faith to be strong, to be active, and to show love in new, and perhaps more challenging ways. And I hope that, by God’s grace, I will be made more like Christ.

So this is for my friends and family who are struggling as I am. Sorry I am too lazy to put in references, but you can find them if you search NIV.

For my friends and family experiencing FEAR for themselves, their families, their friends. For those who fear impulsive decisions, who fear for the future of our country, who are afraid of more racial unrest, of more hate, more disparity, more pain for the marginalized, and those who have found refuge in our country:

  • Do not fear for I am with you, (said too many times to count!)
  • God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea….Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
  • He who keeps you will not slumber, he how keeps you will not slumber or sleep.
  • For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, either height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

For my friends and family who are ANGRY, with politics, with polarization, with those who voted differently, with our government and leaders of any party:

  • Hate what is evil, cling to what is good
  • Bless those who persecute you, bless and don not curse…as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone
  • Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. Human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
  • In your anger, do not sin.
  • I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.

For my friends and family experiencing HOPE. Hope that this will bring possibilities for more economic growth, help for those living in poverty in our vast rural areas. For those who hope this will be an opportunity for their Christian values to be represented by Supreme Court Justices, who now have hope for sanctity of unborn life. And for my friends and family who are feeling HOPELESS. Who fear for the future of our world because as temperatures rise and they know there will be dire consequences, or who are afraid that voices will not be heard with unbalanced partisan power.

  • Be strong and take heart all you who hope in the Lord,
  • Do not put your trust in Princes, in human beings who cannot save.
  • It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.
  • The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.
  • Yet this I call to mind, therefore I have hope; Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail, they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.
  • Command those who are rich in this world, not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
  • May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

And lastly for my Christian brothers and sisters (all of them of every viewpoint) who know that we serve the same God, and yet have different ways of working out our faith. For those who would love to experience UNITY in Christ, but wonder if it is even worth moving toward:

  • How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head…for there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forever more.
  • If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: It is mine to avenge, I will repay says the Lord. On the contrary overcome evil with good.
  • Love is patient, love is kind, It does not envy, it does not boast it is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
  • May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus. So that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.




The Welcoming Prayer

My daughter gave me a copy of this prayer last week. I have found it so helpful. I’ve realized as I ponder this how often I struggle to accept reality. I have such a strong sense of how things should be. How I should feel, or act. How other’s should feel or act.  I don’t listen to the moment, the person, or God. Instead I just project what I want to be true onto others, and struggle with myself and others instead of having a gentle acceptance. Grace brings freedom: freedom to fully accept the truth in myself, other’s the world around me. I am free because it is all okay; because a perfect God whose love for me is boundless is in complete control. Image

Welcome, welcome, welcome. 

I welcome everything that comes to me in this moment because I know it is for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations and conditions.
I let go of my desire for security.
I let go of my desire for approval.
I let go of my desire for control.
I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person, or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and the healing action and grace within.

––– Mary Mrozowski 1925-1993

Are you anxious or stressed out? Me too!

ImageI was born with the anxiety gene. No doubt about it. Recently I’ve been watching a friend go through cancer, chemo, surgery, radiation, the whole nine yards. She has amazing faith. I have more anxiety about many trivial things in comparison.  Wow, how does she do that?

Watching her and spending some time on my own familiar anxiety coping mechanisms, and in God’s word I have a new strategy for dealing. 

Step 1: Write down or say out loud all the things you are stressed out about. I recommend writing. Get them all on paper so you can really focus on them.

Step 2: Now worry about them as much as you possibly can for 5 minutes. Name the what ifs, the How Can I’s, anything that means worry to you. I almost guarantee you’ll stop before 5 minutes, but try to keep it up.

Step 3: STOP worrying. Make a boundary in your head…you’ve done that already. And say this out loud

“Where does my help come from? It comes from the Lord


Shout that part and think about it. What kind of help are we getting here?

 Step 4: Now say this

When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
Your love O lord supported me. 

And take deep cleansing breaths picturing God’s love pouring in.

Then say this:

When anxiety was great within me,
 your consolation joy to my soul. (Psalm 94)

Take another deep breath and relax asking God for consolation and joy. Sit there and relax, breath, calm yourself.

Step 5: The rest of that day, when it comes at you again say, “Help, Lord!” Take a deep cleansing breath and calm yourself.

At the heart of all of this is knowing that the Maker of the Universe loves you, has everything in the palm of his hand, and the hope of his full restoration of all things is sure. SHALOM.

 As my friend with cancer has faithfully declared: since her diagnosis.

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14)

I Need Thee Every Hour

A young friend posted this amazing hymn today. Wow…

Hymns can be so moving. When you consider the time that they were written and the story behind them. When I sing them I often get a chill realizing how many different times in history a song has brought people into God’s presence. This one was written in 1872 as a poem by Annie Hawks:

She wrote:

One day as a young wife and mo­ther of 37 years of age, I was bu­sy with my reg­u­lar house­hold tasks. Sud­den­ly, I be­came so filled with the sense of near­ness to the Mast­er that, won­der­ing how one could live with­out Him, ei­ther in joy or pain, these words, “I Need Thee Ev­e­ry Hour,” were ush­ered in­to my mind, the thought at once tak­ing full pos­sess­ion of me.

After writ­ing the lyr­ics, Hawks gave them to her pas­tor, Ro­bert Low­ry, who add­ed the tune and re­frain.

In No­vem­ber 1872. Some years lat­er, af­ter the death of her hus­band, Hawks wrote:

I did not un­der­stand at first why this hymn had touched the great throb­bing heart of hu­man­i­ty. It was not un­til long af­ter, when the sha­dow fell over my way, the sha­dow of a great loss, that I un­der­stood some­thing of the com­fort­ing pow­er in the words which I had been per­mit­ted to give out to others in my hour of sweet se­ren­i­ty and peace.

As you listen, may you enjoy the strength and peace that Annie’s daily life in Christ inspired, as so many across history have.

Two Years of Traditions!

This weekend is the 2 year anniversary of “Traditions.”I have the privilege each week of serving as a “venue pastor” to this gathering of saints. We began this venue to provide a worship space on Sundays for those in our congregation who love the hymns, creeds, and a more traditional style of worship. Over the last three years I have come to love this community and the gathering we have each week.

A_Cross__A_Candle____A_Prayer_by_redJAZZangel7021There are about 100 who meet in the gym, Not exactly a traditional space, but that doesn’t really matter. We have a cross, light a candle to invite Christ’s presence, worship in music, scripture reading, prayer, and enjoy the teaching of gifted pastors via video from the room across the hall. Some might feel it is all to stiff, old-fashioned, “low energy” which may be in comparison to the other worship spaces. But I have come to love the space, the quiet, the people, and the power of knowing these same songs, creeds, and scripture have brought people of various centuries and circumstances before our unchanging God.

As you would expect, many who chose this worship experience are mature, both in age and in their spirituality. At 57, I certainly qualify in this category as well. There is a strength in the room that comes from these folks who know suffering, comprehend God’s faithfulness, know they are not in control, and have discovered the “peace that passes understanding.” Some who stood with us a year ago are now with the Lord. Their spouses are greeted and hugged each week, and memories are spoken of their beloved. We all miss their presence and that itself is a comfort.

We have lots of “aids” for walking, sitting. I had foot surgery a while back and my knee roller fit right in! All are reminders to me each week that we are weak, but these in these faces it is evident that He is strong. Almost every hymn ends with a verse that tells the hope of our future that is sure, secure when all is made right. Those verses are sung with gusto. For that future is the next season of life for many in our community.

But not everyone is old. I love the young people and families, though few in number, big in heart. They too love to celebrate the roots of our faith. And I know they draw strength from those who have gone before, both present with us and centuries earlier. For God is faithful, the same today as yesterday, and you sense it in our celebration and our reflection.

I think the best part of Sunday’s for me is right after the benediction when we sing the doxology together and I look out at the faces. We are a community who gather to proclaim, to love, to embrace truth and practice. And we send one another in praise of the God from whom all blessings flow.

Our gathering is such a blessing to me and I think to others. Three years ago I would not have guessed that I would enjoy this so much. I love all kinds of worship. But  “Traditions” has become my place of solace from the pace and craziness of the rest of my week. And it’s people are my heroes as I watch them age with grace, continue to be faithful, and love one another, and God with all their hearts, souls and minds

Who’s problem is this?

Who’s Problem is this?Image

I recently heard Colin Powell speak at a leadership conference. A story he told hit me right between the eyes. He told of a very tense time as Secretary of State when things were heating up. He went to speak with the President and they met in the White House Garden. (Now this is my recalling his story, so it may not be completely accurate, but you will get the point!)

Colin was very stressed and upset. The President said hello and began commenting on the garden. “Watch these squirrels. Aren’t they something?” Colin is wondering how in the world the President can be enjoying the garden when things were so tense. He says to the President, “President, we have a problem.” The President looks at him and says “ No, Colin, YOU have a problem. How can I help?”

A few days later in another setting things were again very serious. The President was in charge and fully engaged. “Mr. President, now YOU have a problem.”

This was a story of both boundaries and empowerment. And it sure hit home with me. I am such a problem solver by nature. And my tendency is to make every problem “my problem.” Just asking myself this simple question “Whose problem is this?” could save me a lot of duress. And other’s would probably grow more, learn more, and have more fun around me.

It’s also great to share problems. Sometimes there is an “our problem” but most of the time you actually need someone who “owns” the problem, or “our problem” can become “nobodies problem.”

As a parent of adult, married kids this is a great lesson for me. How can I be encouraging and supportive without making their problem mine? I think I would be way less annoying.

And at work, I think it’s even harder for me. It’s so hard to focus on the problems that are squarely mine, and give other’s the space and encouragement to solve their own.

And all of this makes me realize there are way too many problems out there, and if I make too many mine I will never enjoy the garden!