The Creation of Man by Michelangelo Sistine ChapelToday’s Word: ‘’SOMEONE’ as in… Imagine someone who loves you deeply, cares for you, knows you completely, embraces you fully; someone who laughs with you when life is a circus, cries with you when life is a crisis; someone who adds hoopla-and-hilarity to your breezy life when your life is breezy and walks deeply with you into your deepest questions, your raw doubt, and utter disbelief.

Imagine someone who knows just what to say when saying something is important; someone who will sit in the silence of your not knowing, not understanding, not comprehending; someone who helps you make sense of the senseless.

Bring to mind that person. Safe. Right? Yes. You’re safe.

Now imagine that you’ve come down with a bad cold. Or worse; a serious flu virus.

You’re done. You’re “stick-a-fork-in-me” done. Your temperature is 102. You can’t keep anything down – or in.

Life is miserable.

Yet, with whatever bit of human strength you still have, the next-to-last thing you would do is place the blame for that on the person who loves you. Right? The last thing you would say is that this one—the one who loves you, cares for you, knows you, and embraces you; the one who laughs with you, cries with you, doubles your joy, and divides your sorrow; the one who knows when to speak and when to keep silent—the last thing you would think or say is that this one–the one who loves you gave you the flu–or even worse, that this one gave you the virus in order to test you, teach you a lesson, make you stronger.

And the very absolute very last thing you would say is that your pain, sorrow, heartbreak, struggle is part of some Larger Plan that someone who loves you has for your life.

This reminds me of these ancient words:

“Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, as downright nasty as you’re capable of being, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Whatever Cosmic Plan is in place, it’s only love.





MessageToday’s Word: ‘Message’ as in… Psalm 27.

“Light, space, zest—that’s GOD! So, with him on my side I’m fearless, afraid of no one and nothing.”

Nancy Lee was reading a passage from our late, dear friend Eugene Peterson’s life’s work, The Message. Specifically, Psalm 27.

“Listen to this; this is just captivating!

“Alright, captivate me!” I said.

“Light, space, zest—that’s GOD! So, with God on my side, I’m fearless, afraid of no and nothing.”

Captivating! I grew up with another version:

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

Those Hebrew poets were hitting on all cylinders, for sure, but I’ve just got to tell you, “Light, space, zest” really works for me!

When I think of light, I think of the power of light; what it does. It literally pushes back against the darkness, both physically and figuratively. If you were to walk into the darkest room you have and turn on a flashlight, or the light from your phone, you’d see how the light forces the darkness to the edges of the room. And when you’re in a dark space, physically or metaphorically, you’re probably more aware of the light than the darkness, no matter how dark it is.

Space. I think Eugene was teasing out the word ‘stronghold’ when he landed on ‘space.’ Think of the places in your life where you feel strongest, most confident. Whether it’s a small or a large space, it’s still a place where you are and where God promises to inhabit. Space. Stronghold. It sounds solid, even if I don’t know how much space there is!

Finally, “Zest!” Seriously, Eugene! Zest! Think about those moments in life when we’re full of love, surrounded by others who “get us” know us, love us, care about us. Like on a day like today, Valentine’s Day, when we’re just a bit more aware of all of the love around us. I like to think that’s a place full of light, space and zest!



OrneryToday’s Word: ‘Ornery’ as in… I’m the least ornery person I know. Honest. I oughta know, I’ve lived with me for a long time.

But being ornery and being honest go together. I was blessed with an abundance of positivity. ‘Positivity’ is in my Top 5 Strengths right along with ‘Adaptability’ which means that when I’m up to my eyeballs in “farmyard fruit,” I’m the one saying, “There’s just got to be a pony in here somewhere!”

I’m also an Enneagram 7 which means I’m always bringing the party! At my best, I focus my talents on worthy goals, becoming appreciative, grateful, and satisfied. At my worst, I’ll do what I can to avoid pain.

Last week I had the spectacular opportunity to ‘swoop’ my daughter after work and head to our favorite caffeine palace. With Chai lattes in hand, we talked about our day. Actually, I talked about my day. And, dang, was I ornery! For seven minutes, I dumped the good, bad and ugly, but left out the good. So it was just bad and ugly. When I finally stopped to take a breath, I realized what I had done. For seven minutes I’d dumped a whole load of “farmyard fruit” on my sweet daughter. And because she and I have always felt completely safe and understood with one another, I even sprinkled in a few colorful adjectives that she and I picked up from watching Blair Witch Project years ago. At the end of my rant, I apologized.

That’s when she said the most lovely, transformational thing to me: “Papa, you don’t have to apologize! Thank you for trusting me with that! Really, I feel very loved and honored that you’d be willing to be that honest with me. It reminds me that you’re like me; I feel that way at times, too! We don’t ever have to hide that stuff from each other!”

Marvelous! (You sweet girl, of mine…) Simply marvelous!

Healthy relationships bear the weight of our honest life experiences.

And at the end of the day, we can certainly be ornery. But let’s also certainly be honest.



DwellToday’s Word: ‘Dwell’ as in… we get twisted into emotional knots avoiding the reality of pain when the most human thing we can do is just dwell in it.

In 2010, Brene’ Brown presented a TED Talk entitled “The Power of Vulnerability.” It’s safe to say that one TED-Talk launched a thousand different conversations (okay, millions!) around the planet on the difference between empathy and sympathy. To date, there are over 13 million views of Brene’ Brown’s powerful talk.

Sympathy says, ‘I see your pain. Want a sandwich?’

Empathy says, ‘I feel your pain, I’m here with you. Sandwiches can wait. In fact, right now, search for “Brene Brown Empathy Video” or click the link above and watch it.

Go ahead, watch that now. It’s that good. I’ll wait.

In some recent conversations about our general disdain for and discomfort with entering into one another’s pain, we identified some choices: We try to “fix it,” “fight it,” or “flee it.”

First, we try to “fix” the pain. We often do this is by trying to cover it up, pretending it’s not there, hiding it. It’s like using a Band-Aid which is a quick and temporary solution to a problem which calls for more in-depth caring and problem-solving. When we try to “fix” pain, we never get close to the heart of it, or even understand it.

Second, we try to fight pain. If pain hurts us—which is by nature what it does, we’re naturally conditioned to fight against it. But fighting pain always takes an enormous amount of energy. It actually takes less energy to simply be in it; to dwell in it!

Third, we try to flee from pain. Someone says, “I can’t talk with so-and-so about their loss. I’ll cry. So I’m not going to try.”

But sitting with someone who’s in pain, and sharing tears with them is one of the most human things we can do! Pain has so much to teach us if we’ll just let it. We get twisted into emotional knots avoiding the reality of pain when the most human thing we can do is just dwell in it.



PainToday’s Word: ‘Pain’ as in… entering our own pain allows us to enter into other’s pain.

The next time you’re playing Trivial Pursuit and you get the question, “What’s the shortest verse in the bible?” You’ll know the answer, right?

In most English versions it’s “Jesus wept.” But this is certainly anything but trivial. There’s far more going on here than simply a rabbi weeping over the death of a dear friend. This is a profound teaching moment about what it means to be honest about pain and suffering, about brokenness.

The story that gives us this poignant look into the heartache which drove Jesus to tears, and probably to his knees, was the death of his friend Lazarus (in John 11). What does it mean to be a community of faith that weeps? As long as most of the human race is dealing with at least one heartache a day, we might want to understand this.

One of the core insights is that to be a community that’s able to weep with others, we need to be able to weep ourselves. If I’m not able to be in touch with, or express my own grief, I’m not going to be any help to you. I can’t enter into the honesty of the brokenness of in your life if I’m not honest with my own brokenness.

In the midst of all that breaks our hearts and causes us to weep, we say the darnedest things, don’t we? When trying to console someone whose lost a loved one, why would we say, “Well, they’re better off now!” or “God needed another ‘fisherman, grandparent, or baseball fan in heaven!”

Really? Does God look around and think, “You know, we could sure use someone who loves dogs ‘up here’ because all dogs go to heaven!”

If God could create the Grand Canyon, then certainly God is more creative than that.

The truth is, we say these things because we’re uncomfortable with weeping and grief.

How about you? What keeps you from walking deeply into another’s pain? Why is grief difficult to share?



ProcessToday’s Word: ‘Promises’ as in… we speak our promises to out loud and then, however high and lofty they may be, we walk into them with our whole selves.

“I take you to be my wife/husband/spouse/partner in life, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to care for, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn promise.”

Over the past 35 years I’ve stood with over 400 couples who have made these, or sometimes similar, or sometimes even wildly different promises. It’s always a profound moment: the couple turns toward each other, takes each other’s often times trembling hands, and having either flipped a coin, or rock-paper-scissored themselves into deciding who’s going first, launches in:

“In the midst of our families and friends, and in the presence of God, I commit myself to you as your spouse. I promise to love you and to be supportive of you as we both continue to grow and change. I promise to help you achieve the goals that you set for yourself and for our marriage, and I promise to give you the freedom to be all that you were intended to be. I promise to be faithful to you, to join with you in both sorrow and celebration, sharing all that is to come until death parts us.”

And every time I’m astounded at how remarkable daring these promises really are! And that’s the point!

Making promises isn’t a static endeavor.

Making and keeping daring promises is a dynamic and daily adventure!

We make promises and then live into them with our whole selves every day. We speak them, then we walk into them. We say them out loud, then give our whole selves to making them a reality. We speak our promises to out loud, we state our plans, we articulate our purposes, we craft our goals, we say our vows and then, however bold and daring they may be, we walk into them every day with our whole selves!



Yi'rahToday’s Word: ‘Yir’ah’ as in… the Hebrew word for fear. And awe, respect, and admiration!

Okay, so I have an equation for you: R÷T+F÷C×A+C=D.

That’s not fair. I admit it. You simply do not have enough information.

Let me help you: Risk ÷ Trust + Fear ÷ Courage × Adventure + Confidence = Discovery.

Now we’re getting someplace!

I know a guy who spent a year preparing to hike the Superior Hiking Trail from Canada to Duluth. He collected all of the best and most essential gear: boots, clothing, trekking poles, first aid, compass, maps, tent, food, sleeping gear, bug juice, waterproof matches. He had considered and planned for everything except what would happen if he slipped off the trail, fell down an embankment and had to lay there for hours until someone happened to hear him yelling—in one of the most remote sections of the trail. On Day #2.

Talk about fear of the unknown!

The Hebrew word for fear is the is the same word for awe, respect, and admiration! The Hebrew language has far fewer words than the English language, so when we encounter a word in Hebrew, there’s naturally room for imagination, creativity, wonder, and amazement. The English language has too many words for the same thing.

I don’t have many fears, but I have great amounts of awe, respect, and wonder. I don’t fear bears, snakes, or squirrels, but I do have a healthy respect for being careful.

In an ancient Genesis story, God told Abraham and Sarah to leave everything safe, secure, and known and head toward a completely new and unknown place. Embracing God’s promise of provision, they took off. They must have had great fear for what lay ahead. But they went. They must have been in awe of what was to come. They went anyway!

Risk divided by Trust plus Fear divided by Courage multiplied by Adventure plus Confidence equals Discovery.

They discovered that God was with them leading them into Risk, trust, fear, courage. So, what Discovery will you make by taking some calculated Risk?

What risks will you say “yes” to this next week? What Risk ÷ Trust + Fear ÷ Courage × Adventure + Confidence will equal Discovery for you?