Today’s Word: ‘REMODEL’ as in… when our hearts get remodeled, there’s more room for gratitude. We have a house guest with us these days. We’re in the midst of a small “up-do” on a couple of small spaces and we’ve got a new friend doing some remodeling; turning an older space into a new space. Sometimes when people remodel their homes, much more than the home gets changed. I sure experienced that! Last weekend, our house was full of hoopla and hilarity: a sleep-over with the Hoonies. We were on our way outside to play when our remodeler arrived. It was a fascinating few moments trading introductions all around. “Ruby Grace, Ryann and Emily, this is our new friend! He’s doing some work for us, and he’s going to be here with us all day!” The girls said hello. Then our friend said “hello girls” to them, and that’s when they heard it: a Russian accent! When he said “hello girls,” the house was filled with sunlight, color, and poetry! Nancy Lee asked if our friend would share a phrase of the Russian language with them, and without skipping a beat, he asked if he could pray for us. (Again, just go back and reread that last sentence. I’ll wait for you here.) “Absolutely!” And once more, the house was filled with the most remarkable, poetic, artistic, lyrical, mouth-full-of-beautiful-sounds that I’ve heard in a long time. I had my eyes closed, but I’m sure everyone was smiling. When our friend came to the end, he said something that sounded a lot like “Amen!” We all chimed in with our “Amen.” He then told us that he was giving thanks for the new day and for new friends. He asked for safety as he worked and as we played. And he asked God to bless our home and the people in it.” In that very moment, I realized that some important remodeling had taken place inside me. My whole heart had expanded to hold a lot more gratitude for a moment like that, and for a new friend like this.



UnexpectedToday’s Word: ‘Unexpected’ as in… you just never know.

Ivy and her husband Don had made dinner plans with some friends, but the normal frenzy of the unexpected changed everything. With a “To-Do” list which included cleaning the house, picking up toys, and vacuuming Cheerios off the couch, this was just the beginning. Don was stuck at work, so Ivy had to pick up the boys, return home to feed them, and then get ready for their guests.

Ivy was just heading the table with “meatloaf-peas-and-corn” when the doorbell rang. On her way to the door, Ivy realized that her youngest wasn’t wearing his diaper and in the excitement of the moment, decided that right there was as good a place as any to illustrate that fact. Ivy quickly cleaned him up, then went to the door to greet a young woman.

Thinking she was part of the guest list, the boys yelled, “Come in!” Ivy was desperate to tend to her dinner plans, but what else could she do? Her name was Marta, and she was selling kitchen cleaner. Feeling compassion, Ivy invited her in as the two boys asked, “Are you going to eat with us?” Ivy shuddered, but in a bold and unhindered moment, found herself asking, “Can you join us for dinner?” Ivy recalls, “There we were eating warmed up “meatloaf-peas-and-corn” on a table set for three, in a messy house, expecting company from out of town in less than an hour. And my crazy, loving children had invited this stranger to dinner.”

Long story short, Marta did stay for dinner. The boys asked if Ivy was going to pray, and in another bold and unhindered moment, Ivy simply prayed,

Dear God, thank you for new friends. Amen.”

As it turned out, it was a beautiful dinner! Marta and Ivy talked for an hour until Don came home and found them talking about life, family, cleaning products, and laughing like they had known each other forever. Just as Marta left, skipping down the sidewalk, the other dinner guests called to reschedule. You just never know!



TuneToday’s Word: ‘Tune’ as in… it’s so important to be in tune in order to play well together.

The room was filled with remarkable music! But as the brass choir and the pipe organ launched into the stirring introduction, and the grand piano added beauty from at least five different octaves, and several hundred stood eager to sing, it was Matt who caught my eye. Matt was tuning his instrument, using a little device that measures the frequencies produced by vibrating strings on his guitar.

The device, a tuner, then aligns those measurements with the corresponding notes in the scale. As Matt fine-tuned each string, the tuner displayed the name of each note on an LED display. Voila! The guitar is in tune! I was sort of geeking out that Matt was able to accomplish this with all of the other music going on in the room, but that’s another subject.

As the room was filling with some truly extraordinary music, two thoughts occurred to me. First, how truly amazing it all sounded. And second, how in tune it all had to be in order to sound that amazing.

For a moment I wondered what this would have sounded like if no one paid attention to the tuning. It would have been a mess; it would have been a wall of sound that made no sense, had no distinctive quality, and was far from appealing.

Another life lesson!

It’s safe to say that in life, when we’re in tune with one another, when we’re aligned with things that make for peace and justice, when we’re supporting efforts that benefit those who don’t have a place in the choir, or even a voice, or don’t have any food, or even a seat at the table, then we’ll probably create some really great music together.

In that beautiful musical moment, Matt reminded me, as I watched him tune his guitar, how important each voice, each string, each key, each pedal, each stick, each individual part is, and how, important it is to be in tune in order to play well together.



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.