Loving on our Church Work Kids – NYG Edition

It’s almost National Youth Gathering time! Approximately 25,000 Lutheran youth and their adult chaperones, a seas of yellow shirted volunteers passionate for building up youth in our churches, another sea of orange shirted young adults passionately serving Him in New Orleans, it sounds absolutely wonderful to me. I can not wait!

This year, I get to bring my oldest daughter. If you can not tell, this mom is super pumped. I’m sure that some of you remember sharing a “first” faith milestone with a child – the first time they went up for the children’s message, the first time they could speak the Lord’s Prayer, the first time they belted out a song or hymn with the whole congregation of God. It’s exciting when God gives us these glimpses of His work in them. This milestone, my daughter’s first national youth gathering feels like a big one. I’m not sure who is more excited- her or me. 😉

One reason I am looking forward to NYG for her is that she has the opportunity to be swept up in the largeness of the Body of Christ. She gets to see the wider expanse of the people of God coming together. On any given Sunday, Macee only sees the Church from the perspective of our congregation in Northwest Ohio. It is a wonderful congregation, but I want her to understand the full diversity of the church – different sights, different sounds, different people in fellowship, in the Word, and in worship.

For all of us, but for teens in particular, this is a unique opportunity to understand the scale of the church and say,

I’m not in this alone! This walk…we’re in it together.

I have decided that this is particularly important for a PK or other church work kid. There is an ugly factor in the church that these kids see, no matter what protection factors we put into place. There are also occasionally weird expectations for these kids within their home congregations, that they can shake free of at a mass event or program at NYG, in a way they may not be able to at home. For this time, they get to be one of the crowd.

And the crowd…it may seem like a small thing, but it isn’t. At our small church, sometimes Macee is the only one at youth night or her Sunday School class. The crowd is a gift that I can’t give her within our normal life. Even this, this is a blessing for us.

And so, I’m setting out to love on some PKs, DCEKs, DeaconessKs, LutheranTeacherKs, any church work k’s at the National Youth Gathering. It’s part of my mission in life to love on our PKs and encourage them. This builds up our church work families and also builds up our churches. I do not know the statistics, but I personally know countless stories of church work kids walking away from the church or at least the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and if I can do one tiny thing to help them to stay, to share with them the beauty of this Body together, as broken as we all are, to share with them that they are loved and valued members of the body of Christ, I’ll do it, however I can.

Church work kids – find me at NYG! This should be a challenge, given the other 25,000 people traveling the streets together, but I think you are up for it! I will have a giant orange sunhat to identify me. Inside my backpack I have a thank you gift for you from myself and Grace Place Wellness Ministries. This is what we do – support and build up church work families, helping to keep vitality and joy in ministry.


What’s the present??? Hmmmm….should I tell? I can’t decide. My daughter assures me it’s cool. It is consumable and substantial, but easy to carry. Any guesses? 😉

I can’t wait to see you at NYG. I can’t wait to say thank you and take a minute to acknowledge that we’re in this together – all for His glory. Visit me! Pass the word around, otherwise, no one will know I have treats. 😉 If you’d like to be involved in loving on some church work kids this summer, give me a holler.

See you in July!



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.

People are always worth it

Casting Away Stones – Ecclesiastes 3
Week 8 – Ecclesiastes 3:8

Day One: People are always worth it: a time to love
Day Two: The ugly H-word
Day Three: Wars and rumors of wars
Day Four: But now in Christ…
Day Five: Searching for mommy-peace
Heart verse:
In overflowing anger for a moment
    I hid my face from you,
but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”
    says the Lord, your Redeemer.
Isaiah 54:8
Day 1 – People are always worth it: A time to love

The Bible is full of fun and real life instances of love. I am reminded of the time at youth night when we had our Bibles open to the story of Isaac and Rebekah and my husband, who is ever wonderful and goofy, stood up and proclaimed loudly, “Pay attention! This is the one with love at first sight.” He then proceeded to act out the entire story as a one man show with dramatic motions and sweeping arm gestures. We were all in stitches, and if you read the story in Genesis 24, you’ll see why. Note how many times the word “behold” is used. And the intensity of Isaac and Rebekah’s eyes meeting in verses 63-67. The story concludes with “and he loved her.” It’s so sweet and, most importantly, so real.

And there’s so many more stories of romantic love, both beautiful and painful, in the Bible.
Jacob and Rachel’s love amidst family scheming…

Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” (Genesis 29:18)

Leah always seeking Jacob’s love and approval…
Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore his name was called Levi. (Genesis 29:34)

Hannah’s husband asking, “Aren’t I enough?” (1 Samuel 1:8)

The friendship love –
Of David and Jonathan…
Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. (1 Samuel 18:3)

Of Jesus and John…
One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side (John 13:23)

Of God’s love for his people –
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. (1 John 3:1a)

Even in anger –
    I hid my face from you,
but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”
    says the Lord, your Redeemer
(Isaiah 54:8)

Love is not optional, as an objective thing or as an emotion. It is a gift from the Father, with the Son and the Spirit, that we can not live without. We were designed to receive it and to give it. We need it like we need air and water. It is the sustenance of life.

It is the first and greatest commandment. And the next is like it.
And he said to him,“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

Are we on the same page?
We need love. Biblical Truth.

But in our Ecclesiastes passage this week, there are three little words in front of love that change our discussion a bit. Let’s look and see. Read the passage and fill in the blank below in relation to the word love.

a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”

_____ __________ _______ love

Atime to love…

This passage would insinuate that there is a time not to love, and indeed if we look at the Ecclesiastes 3 context, there is, in fact, a time to hate. Yikes.

Here is my take on it all. We know Jesus, so we are always filled with His love and always called to love. The difference is that it may look a whole lot different than we expect in different seasons.

God is love (1 John 4:8). He lives in us, by His Spirit, so we are never without love. Living in a season without love is just not our New Testament reality. But our experience and expressionsof love in life may not scream love the way the world would understand it.

There will be times in love when we feel lonely. There will be times when we feel lost and sad and left behind. There will also be times that we will be called to love in a way that looks a whole lot like expressed anger and frustration, and a removal of time and energy in a relationship. Our experience of love may look a lot like “a time to love, a time to hate” woven together. Not in a willy-nilly, hap hazard throwing around of emotions, but a casting out and pulling in of relationship in order to care for those who need to be cared for at any given time. To share life in a real and legitimate way, instead of an inauthentic love that smells of flowers and chocolate.

It’s exhausting to discern. Relationships always are. But we have an inexhaustible God, who lives in us, and frees us for the challenge.

I was telling my tale of relational woe to a friend the other day and her words stopped me in my tracks, “Well, it’s like you always say…
‘People are always worth it.’”

I didn’t even know I always say that! But evidently I do. And there’s a reason.

In this life, that is the dance of love and hate and struggle and joy and seeking and receiving during our short little time here on earth – people are always God’s primary concern. And so they will be mine.

Through the pain and sorrow of figuring out relationships, to the sharing of love by hugging and laughing or hating idols and toppling them in one another’s lives, I’m all in. I’m not going to be halfway in, protecting a corner of my heart where no one gets in. I have an all-in Savior, with an all-in love.

Isaiah 54:8 from earlier speaks the truth of this in our lives…
In overflowing anger for a moment
    I hid my face from you,
but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”
    says the Lord, your Redeemer.

Love poured out in a face hidden. This may look so different than we would normally label love, but it doesn’t change the truth of it.

When have you been forced to express love in a different kind of way? Has God ever taken you through a season of loneliness or sadness to show you the depth of His love? Where are the dark places you can show love, by toppling idols that don’t belong?

It’s a challenge, but I promise you – 
People are always worth it.

Discussion questions:
When have you been forced to express love in a different kind of way?
Has God ever taken you through a season of loneliness or sadness to show you the depth of His love?
What dark places can you show love by toppling idols that don’t belong? (Think about issues like abortion and human trafficking, or individual relationships like speaking up against someone’s affair.)
What are other alternative expressions of love that you can think of, that the world would deem unloving or even hateful?

Christians don’t shake hands, Christians gotta hug!

Day 3 – Christians don’t shake hands, Christians gotta hug!

Many people would call me a hugger. Gracious people sweetly have described my finer points as being warm and enthusiastic. I have heard things like bubbly and energetic and full of joy…most of the time at least. Don’t worry, I stay humble as a person way to quick to speak, impatient, and almost always late.
I do like a loving touch, a hand on the shoulder, a touch to the arm, but I am just plain awkward with a hug. I can never figure out when to offer them?
I spontaneously must hug you if you are sad.
If I see you after a long time, that seems hug worthy.
If you share something personal and deep and I can see the vulnerability written all over the conversation- hug.
Small children- they are definitely huggable.
Professional relationships that involves ministry – maybe a hug???
Narthex chatting on any given Sunday – to hug or not to hug?
Random acquaintance/friend in the grocery store, who says “Hi!” with gusto – hug? Yes? No?

You can see my dilemma. Am I the only one? Please say no.

Our Ecclesiastes passage today tells us that there is a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. We’ll get to the refraining tomorrow, but today, let’s settle on the embracing.

Read Ecclesiastes 3:5 to refresh your memory:
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;”

What a beautiful word – embrace. Maybe circle it. It’s such a good word. It exudes so much more meaning than our word for hug and there’s a reason for that. The rich Hebrew root word certainly means to hug, but it can also mean to clasp or, my favorite, to fold.

Have you ever had that person that just folded you into their bosom?
I bet your remembering or imagining it right now.

My Aunt Sheila was a tall and regal woman. She was beautiful. She had prematurely grey hair my whole life. For many years her hair was long, and as a child, I imagined her spending hours combing it. When she hugged me, I felt like I became part of her. She wrapped one arm around me and drew me in. Her hair settled on my shoulders and face like little caresses. It felt safe and warm. I wanted to live in that embrace, away for the scary world.

There are times for embracing. Even when we’re not hugging people. Can you sit back and think of a few of those times? Who has held you and kept you safe from the world for even a moment? Who has offered an affectionate embrace at just the right time?

There is a woman in the Old Testament longing for another kind of embrace. Her story is both sweet and heartbreaking. It’s a long passage, but I promise you, it is oh so worth it! Please read 2 Kings 4:8-37.
One day Elisha went on to Shunem, where a wealthy woman lived, who urged him to eat some food. So whenever he passed that way, he would turn in there to eat food. And she said to her husband, “Behold now, I know that this is a holy man of God who is continually passing our way. Let us make a small room on the roof with walls and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that whenever he comes to us, he can go in there.”
One day he came there, and he turned into the chamber and rested there. And he said to Gehazi his servant, “Call this Shunammite.” When he had called her, she stood before him. And he said to him, “Say now to her, ‘See, you have taken all this trouble for us; what is to be done for you? Would you have a word spoken on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?’” She answered, “I dwell among my own people.” And he said, “What then is to be done for her?” Gehazi answered, “Well, she has no son, and her husband is old.” He said, “Call her.” And when he had called her, she stood in the doorway. And he said, “At this season, about this time next year, you shall embrace a son.” And she said, “No, my lord, O man of God; do not lie to your servant.” But the woman conceived, and she bore a son about that time the following spring, as Elisha had said to her.
When the child had grown, he went out one day to his father among the reapers. And he said to his father, “Oh, my head, my head!” The father said to his servant, “Carry him to his mother.” And when he had lifted him and brought him to his mother, the child sat on her lap till noon, and then he died. And she went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God and shut the door behind him and went out. Then she called to her husband and said, “Send me one of the servants and one of the donkeys, that I may quickly go to the man of God and come back again.” And he said, “Why will you go to him today? It is neither new moon nor Sabbath.” She said, “All is well.” Then she saddled the donkey, and she said to her servant, “Urge the animal on; do not slacken the pace for me unless I tell you.” So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.
When the man of God saw her coming, he said to Gehazi his servant, “Look, there is the Shunammite. Run at once to meet her and say to her, ‘Is all well with you? Is all well with your husband? Is all well with the child?’” And she answered, “All is well.” And when she came to the mountain to the man of God, she caught hold of his feet. And Gehazi came to push her away. But the man of God said, “Leave her alone, for she is in bitter distress, and the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me.” Then she said, “Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me?’” He said to Gehazi,“Tie up your garment and take my staff in your hand and go. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not reply. And lay my staff on the face of the child.” Then the mother of the child said, “As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So he arose and followed her. Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the face of the child, but there was no sound or sign of life. Therefore he returned to meet him and told him, “The child has not awakened.”
When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed. So he went in and shut the door behind the two of them and prayed to the Lord. Then he went up and lay on the child, putting his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands. And as he stretched himself upon him, the flesh of the child became warm. Then he got up again and walked once back and forth in the house, and went up and stretched himself upon him. The child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. Then he summoned Gehazi and said, “Call this Shunammite.” So he called her. And when she came to him, he said, “Pick up your son.” She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground. Then she picked up her son and went out.”

Here is this woman. She prepares a place in her home, she opens her heart to this stranger, this man she knows is of God, from God. She has no expectations. She simply serves with her whole heart. Elijah asks her, “What can I give you for all you have given me?” (My paraphrase.) Elijah’s servant has to share her need for her. Praise God for the people in our lives who are speak up for us in those moments, who notice our needs!

Elijah’s prophesy is so beautiful to me. It is not that she will conceive and bear a son, or that she will simply give birth to a son.
At this season, about this time next year, you shall embracea son.” (v.16)

This prophesy cuts to the heart, so much so that the woman sits in the place of trust-distrust that we so often sit with God.
I know you are True, God. I know that you are grace, God.
But this…this thing, do not lie to me.

When we know with all our heart that He is not even capable of a lie. Trust-distrust.

When your arms are empty, when you are too afraid to pray it or dream it or hope it…whether that looks like miscarriage, or infertility, or loss and grief, a diagnosis, divorce, a broken relationship…any of it…God promises He enfolds us. He embraces us.
He knows, when we just do not.

And then when dreams come true and the world still shatters around us. Hold fast.
This Shunammite woman. She has been there.
Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me?” (v.28)

But in this story there is another kind of embracing. The healing of this precious child is so personal, it makes me catch my breath. Elijah lays on the child,
mouth to mouth
eye to eye
hand to hand.

When we are in that place of trust-distrust. Or we are in need. When we feel lost, alone, and maybe even a little bit bitter. Maybe we simply feel overwhelmed. He sends His people to physically show us Himself. The Body of Christ fold themselves around us and pray and feed and remind us of who He is, holding it up before us.

Sisters, I can’t think of anything more like an embrace than that.

And maybe it isn’t a desperate sort of time for you. Maybe the warmth of an embrace in this season is fun and spontaneous and not because of burden, but a way to communicate affection and connection. Maybe you are the aunt who folds a frightened child in your arms, or the friend who invites someone to clasp your hand. Whatever the style or season, know that it is His work, any genuine love we receive. That is the Lord at work in His people.

Jesus, you are in the hugs, you are in the warmth and caring, you are in the words of affirmation and edification we receive in one another. May we ever be a source of Your genuineness, Your caring, and Your kind embrace. In Your Holy name we pray, Amen. 
Discussion questions:
Who has offered you memorable hugs in this life?
Have you ever experienced a season of emptiness or deep longing for something?
Do you have any current hopes or dreams? Do you feel like God is asking you to embrace them or do you feel it is a time to step back and refrain?

(All Bible quotations are used from the ESV

Finding ourselves a Solomon

Day Five – Finding ourselves a Solomon

Dave and I are big fans of the show, The Middle. I like the idea that there are other families struggle to get it together, to care for each other and find meaning in the day, when so many tasks need to be done and life keeps coming at you full force.
Our favorite episodes have to do with the Heck family’s experiences in church. On one particular episode the mom, Frankie, was especially energized by a sermon while visiting a friend’s church. The message of the sermon left with the hearer was that we need to “Get our business done!” Frankie spends an entire episode trying to figure out what her business is and how to get it done. You can imagine why it might be comedic. Clearly, the business the preacher was imploring had to do with the message of Christ, but sometimes it’s not all that clear what that looks like in our specific place and time. This trouble can be multiplied when we are a) not in the Word regularly and b) not gathering with His people.
In Ecclesiastes 3:11, Solomon states:
“I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.”
We all have business in this life, tasks to do, vocations to fulfill. Solomon tells us that He has seen the tasks and the toils of daily life. He’s been there and He knows  what joy and vexes come from our business. He knows that we all have different work, and in v. 12 and 13 He encourages the hearer to “do good” and “take pleasure” in their work on earth.
In fact, Luther encourages us to all to find a Solomon in our life. He tells us in His commentary on Ecclesiastes that we all need people who will exhort us, people who acknowledge our lives as they are and the meaning and God’s work in that, people who will sit with us in the day to day, people who will encourage us through our tasks, and those who will be witnesses, to not just the truth of life but help us “view (our life) with the lens of God.”
What kind of people do you have around you in your life? Who is wise and shares the God lens with you? Do you have a Solomon?
Like Frankie Heck, we all know we have some business to do, but figuring out what that is can be the challenge. What would God have us spend our time on? What is our task for the given day, for our families, and for our Kingdom work on earth?
We need people in our lives who will help us sort this out, around the Word of God, and in prayer. We need our husbands, our sisters, our churches to help us sort through and we in all of that we will find a few Solomon’s who will help us discern the God things and the good things, and the good things from God to spend our time on.

We will have an eternal impact, girls, because God is in us. His Spirit reigns in our hearts and so His legacy is not lost in the midst of our business. Change those diapers, teach that class, love that husband, turn in that paperwork. All of it we know is good, in God.
And when we feel a bit lost in all of it, sit across from your Solomon with a cup of coffee or a juice, and seek some discernment.

Getting’ our business done! He will do it, sister. He surely will do His business in us and through us.

Heart verse:
I perceived that what God does endures forever

                                                               Ecclesiastes 3:14a