Just show up

My friend Rachel started a small book group at a local coffee shop. We met for the first time to talk about Christmas books. It was a random choice and I truly believed it would be just her and me, chatting at the coffee shop, but then something wonderful happened…

People showed up.

I went home excited and came back the next month with my book in tow, But I steeled myself, again ready for a chat session between just her and I. I mean, once was nice, but surely no one would show up a second time??? That would be crazy talk, right?

Then it happened, again. People showed up.

It sounds like such a small thing. Showing up. In this giant universe, me showing up is relatively insignificant, don’t you think? But it isn’t it does matter.

I’m not saying you need to fill your calendars with social engagements and wear yourself down trying to show up for everything and anything. I’ve walked that road. It’s not fun and it’s definitely not doable for long.

In fact, last night, I was the person who didn’t show up. I skipped book group. I needed a moment. My husband needed a moment. My family needed a moment. And that’s ok.

But, I want you to know that showing up really does matter.

I have rarely felt so encouraged as when I left those book groups. It’s that satisfying sense of knowing that someone else thought something mattered as much as you did. Someone valued time with you, with the community that gathered, and the thoughts that were shared. Time has value and when we give it to people, we say,

You matter. You are valued.

Let’s take this conversation to church. Showing up.

Tiny, seemingly insignificant, but the most powerful thing you can do in the Body of Christ.

Show up.

Amazing things happen in the act of showing up.

  • You ignite and grow relationships. You are fed, you are loved, you leave ready to love on others.
  • You say to the person sitting next to you in the pew -“Jesus is worth my time. You, my friend, are worth my time.” Who else in their life is saying that to them? Maybe no one. Don’t ever take that for granted.
  • You encourage your pastor in the very best way. Words of affirmation are nice, gift cards and thank you notes are wonderful, but if you really, really want to encourage your pastor, be there to hear the Word. It tells him that he did not prepare in vain. It shows him that God is at work. It reminds Him that the Word does not return empty and God called him to this work for a real reason and purpose- namely, you.
  • In real relationship, we get life together. Need help with your moving van? Call on the body of Christ! Is someone in your family struggling with mental illness? Call on the body of Christ! Lost your job? Call on the body of Christ! Cancer, weddings, graduations. Life torn to shreds and life flourishing. This is real life together. You do not know what you are missing until you experience it. No one should every go through any of it alone. God created us for more. He created us for one another.

    God has called you to your own arena of showing up. Showing up for your kids, showing up for your spouse, showing up for your neighbors, showing up for your church, showing up in the hard, and showing up in the magnificent.

But just do it, in His grace. Just show up.

Noisy, messy crying

Ecclesiastes Week 4 – 3:4

Day One: Noisy, messy crying (A time to weep)
Day Two: Chuckles, giggling, and other fun things
Day Three: Mourning what is worthy of mourning
Day Four: Keeping the party alive (a time to dance)
Day Five: Why I need to stop crabbing at my children chanting away…


Heart Verse –
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.
                                                John 11:33



Day 1 – Noisy, messy crying (A time to weep)

Several years ago, while my sister was visiting from Iowa, some friends stopped by and we decided to watch a movie. It was the kind of night, where all the stars align and small people go to bed on time and you think, “You know what I could really go for? A blanket, some popcorn, and a good movie.” We sat down to watch the latest new release, “7 Pounds”, with Will Smith. It was a well filmed movie. Good characters, creative plot, interesting dialogue.

And absolutely depressing.

We all watched the movie, completely riveted. When the closing credits began to roll, I woke up from my movie stupor to the sound of sobbing. In about 4 seconds, I realized the sound was coming from me. Wait, no, it’s coming from Dave…and our friend…and our other friend…and my sister. Our living room was filled with dazed and confounded individuals crying their eyes out, noisily. Messy. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. There was also snot running out of noses and slobber rubbed onto shirt sleeves, and sobs bursting out from weird facial convulsions. It was bad. Ugly cry bad.

Days later, I was still analyzing our universally embarassing, no holds bar reaction to this movie. The film was great, but the reality was the topic was disturbing and frustrating and left you longing to help, but nothing could be done. These people were actors on a screen, but all of us had the startling revelation that people think like that. The plot may be fiction, but the mindset encapsulated in the movie is far from it. People misunderstand law and justice and grace so much, that they can miss eternity for want of finding it. It was the truth of our culture spoken in technicolor –
There are many who don’t know Jesus, who need Jesus. They long for healing and rescue from heartbreak. Not a single person on the road of searching in this movie, not one, told the main character what he longed to hear…grace, redemption.

All of us, sitting in that room, noisy crying, were left wondering if we had so utterly failed someone in our own lives. Our cries were prayers for God to fill in the gaps where we are weak. To send His Word into the lives of those around us, when we are silent.

The Hebrew root word for weep, found in Ecclesiastes 3:4 –
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

“Bakah” – is phonetically pronounced bawkaw. Sound familiar? The immediate phrase that came to my mind when I heard it was “to ball.” That’s the way my Dad always referred to the noisy, messy crying when, as little kids, one of us was just completely inconsolable, or “balling our eyes out.” This kind of crying, or weeping, as Ecclesiastes calls it, is a kind of emotional release.

Sometimes we need to cry. We need to move our internal emotions to the external, because they are just so much to bear. Tears and, even more so, weeping give us the ability to express the inexpressible. To unload the messy anxiety and emotion stuck inside us. It does not necessarily have to be a negative experience of difficult emotion. It is about the strength of the emotions contained inside our persons, welling up and over. It is a cry that is mostly between us and God. We cry out in a sacred prayer, hidden in the depths of our sobs,
    “It’s too much, Lord. It’s too much.”

Joseph experienced this kind of emotional overload in Genesis 42:1-24, when his brothers arrive in the midst of the famine. Joseph creates a plan for discernment and handles the situation, from the readers perspective in a well thought out manner.

Then it happens. He overhears his brothers make a confession. One little sentence, that they think he can not understand…

Read Genesis 42:21-24a,
Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” They did not know that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them. Then he turned away from them and wept.”

Joseph sat in the same prayer, “It’s too much, Lord. It’s too much.”

I’m guessing at this point in the family drama, Joseph is overrun with emotions. Joy and dread and fear and childhood trauma; of a soul hungry for vengeance but whispering grace and restoration.

When it’s all just too much.

In John 11:32-35, we read a tiny piece of the Lazarus story.

 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus wept. He hears the cries of a heart tender with grief and is moved to not just tears, but weeping as well. God himself has wept as we have wept. He has lost friends. He has shared grief. He has had His soul overwhelmed with sorrow, as a man. Will He not hear us when it’s just too much? Yes, He will!

When we feel the need to cry those messy tears, let us do so unashamed. We can present them to Him as an offering:
“Lord, it’s a lot. I lay this burden on You. The one who is fully capable of bearing the load. In my weakness, Your strength. You invite me, saying, ‘Hand it here, child.’ The burden is mine to carry.”

Messy tears, snot pouring out, unattractive sobs escaping…all a part of a life fully lived, abundantly lived in the One who collects my tears and holds me while I weep.
Discussion questions:
Read Revelation 5:1-5. What promise does God hold in these verses for weeping and crying?
When was a time you remember having a messy, noisy cry? Was it warranted?

A burden that builds

Day 4 – A burden that builds


One thing I remember clearly about living in Haiti was the sound of construction. So much constructing! It was a wonderful thing. Daily we would walk in the village around our guesthouse and greet a myriad of neighbors and workmen laboring away on a home. 

The sounds of construction are more than the sounds of hard work. They are the sounds of a life being built. A family being born. Of hope and of good health and the stewarding of God’s resources. Constructing means action and planning and progressing to something else, another season, another chapter of life.
When you look at building in the Old Testament, you will find many passages about building altars, homes, or a city. It is beautiful that all these primary structures still focus on connection and community among people. Through time, God has sustained his people as a people….together, connected, needing and blessing one another, through community.
Perhaps, one of the best examples of this is found in the Book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah had a dream. A God sized dream. 
Well, actually, first, Nehemiah had a burden. 
A God-sized burden.
Nehemiah 1:3-4 –
“And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” 

Nehemiah’s heart broke for those experiencing shame. His heart broke for the people and the city and the weight of sin that brought the present situation. Nehemiah’s burden did not go unnoticed. God opened a door through King Artaxerxes. He received supplies and people and headed out on a mission. A mission to build.
Smooth, you say? Not so smooth. Building up, although prompted and blessed by God, is not without its challenges, Nehemiah found out.
Read Nehemiah 4:1-6 –
“Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!” Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders.
So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.”

A giant paragraph of bullies…but a prayer before God and a mind to do the work was a game changer the bullies never expected. Nehemiah and the people built anyway. They built with eyes fixed on a God, who is the very foundation of anything we even dream of building up.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 tells us that we fix our eyes on what is unseen, but is anything but temporary. We’ll look at the NIV for its clear word picture –

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Nehemiah and the people built one another up by fixing their eyes, not around them, but above them. Nehemiah and his compadres went through a life changing move, jeers and mocking, a tender heart put to the test, and actual life danger.
But in the end, all that mattered was God’s faithfulness lived out, in hands ready to put hammer to nails and hearts to prayer.
Nehemiah 7:66, tells us that Nehemiah’s project built up over 40,000 people in the Lord. I’m not sure Nehemiah had that great a number in mind. He was just a guy with a burden. 

A God-sized burden.
Because of God’s work lived out in Nehemiah and the people, the Feast of Booths was created and celebrated, the Law was read to these 40,000 people in a way that they understood it (read Nehemiah chapter 8, totally worth the time!), and eventually the temple was rebuilt, God’s presence with His people once again.
What is your God-sized burden? It need not be a city wall to be built. Maybe you desire for your precious child to follow Christ with their whole heart, or your husband to be filled with renewed joy in his work, or people to gather in your home for Bible study, or nursing home residents to be given a tiny gift of comfort. 
Ephesians 4:15-16 tells us that building is the work we are given in the Body of Christ –
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
Go and build, dear one. This is God’s work in and through you. This is the church on earth at work, together. Driven by one God-sized gift…Love.
Nehemiah loved God and His people. He allowed His heart to be weighed down and stretched out, so that God’s ideas and God’s love could fill it up.  Building a home, building a family, building up the church. May He bless your God-sized burden for Him today and always.

Discussion questions:
What burden have you carried or are you currently carrying for His work?
What challenges do you face in carrying out this work?
What do you pray when you come before God about this burden?