Why I can pray the Lord’s Prayer

You know when you do something questionable (this time in terms of Bible study method) and learn something profound from the experience? You want to share what you learned without sharing the questionable bit…

but after almost a week, I haven’t figured out how to do so, in this case. So here goes, and you may forgive my questionable methods in advance.

The subject of study in my Sunday School class last week was the Lord’s Prayer. I figure that by high school, my students have studied Jesus’ instructions on prayer more than once and decided to skip the “this is what it means” piece. One of my classroom mantras (thanks to Joan Moser!) is “the one who works the most learns the most.” So I wanted my students to work.

We started by writing out the text from Matthew, cutting the words apart (yes, into one-word chunks), and sorting the words. We pulled out the and/but/in/etc. words and grouped the others into pronouns, nouns, and verbs.

The pronouns were profound. All references to us- the pray-ers- were plural, and we were reminded that we pray not only in our closets but also in community, even when physically alone.

Next, we looked at the nouns and saw that heaven and kingdom were the lone repeats. This prayer is all about how to live the kingdom life now, how to let the not yet become more and more reality.

Finally, we worked on the verbs. All in the imperative voice, they demand the attention of Our Father, something we, quite honestly, have no right to do. Who are we to direct His forgiveness in our direction? Yes, I know that the heart determines our posture of prayer. However, looking at these isolated words was a stark reminder that, at least in English, this is a hedge-less prayer. There is no, “Maybe, Lord, if You wouldn’t mind…I hope you get a chance to…if it’s not too much trouble…”

Why can I, unworthy of forgiveness, direction, provision, approach God and ask for His kingdom to come here? Because Jesus made the way. Because He faced the wrath of God, I can come in confidence. Because I am made righteous in His sight, I am invited to pray, with brothers and sisters around the world and throughout time, “Our Father…”

How can I not?

beautiful together

One is beautiful.



But together, the beautiful become much more.

ImageAnd this is how I see my life in the kingdom of God.  

I am called to shine brightly.  But we- the many, the different colored, the different heights- are called to shine together.  

Once upon a time, I thought that the best, the truest way to be a missionary, was to hike into the jungle by yourself.  And for some, that is their call. But for me, for now, I am called to a community full of tall, beautiful lives.  

In the big scheme of things, the lives of these lupines are brief.  In the big scheme of things, my life is brief.  But as long as I’m here, I plan to be here well.


Ephesians 1



Thanks to my friend, Lorina, for her lovely work on these canvases! After spending a formative year with Ephesians 1, I asked her to paint 7 small canvases with key words on them.

So why canvases? Why a photo of a word cloud on a Christmas card?

In short, because my thinking has changed dramatically as a result of God’s gracious work through His Word- literally! Ephesians 1 says over and over again that believers are defined by being in Christ. That’s a message I need to remember everyday and a message that backs up the idea that Christ came to bring joy to the world.

The A-B-Cs of Strep Throat

When I said that I needed more time to write here, I wasn’t exactly hoping for a few days in bed, 102.7 degrees, or strep throat.

And yet, here I am with approximately 22 hours of antibiotic treatment before my contagion ends…just enough time to write.

As I laid on the couch yesterday, I considered how to use my forced down-time.  Using the computer required too much energy; calling a friend to catch up required use of my throat.  My vocal cords only rebelled on occasion, but talking meant swallowing which meant pain.  I’m a wimp.

So I laid on the couch looking for a silent, still activity…and came upon an idea I used when I would swim laps in college: A-B-C prayer.

A- adored

B- beautiful

C- Christ, etc.

I started with attributes of God and finished up with things I’m grateful for.  I don’t think I made it past C on the second one before I was again asleep under the mountain of blankets.

You know what?  God showed up.  In my mushy-brain, shivering-with-fever state, He reminded me that I am His.  That was enough.

More to the story…

There’s almost always more to the story…

As friends and I drove to a women’s retreat on Friday evening, I made a quick comment about the forest- it looked like it had been clear-cut, and I said so. Today as we drove home, we read signs that told the story.

120 mile-per-hour winds blew through the area a few years ago, apparently damaging the trees to the point that they needed to be removed. The forest was replanted the next year, and with closer inspection (through the car window on winding roads- you do what you can!) I noticed saplings.

It reminded me of conversations about people- students and friends- who have mostly-unknown stories. The stories explain why we are what we are and refute the easily-made assumptions about each other.

Stories can’t, and aren’t, always known, though. Between miscommunications, professionalism, and a desire to keep private the stories that are not ours to share, and plain old insecurity, errant assumptions abound.

In the meantime, I sense my own opportunity to shift the angle of my assumptions. What if, instead of assuming I knew, I remembered the incomplete nature of my awareness? What if I assumed that there’s more to the story?

Maybe love would blossom and healing would be fostered. Maybe I could extend grace more automatically and judgement less often.

Maybe the greater Story would be better known.

I wish

I could communicate just how dear, how precious, my friend Jesus is. .
Words could share the sweetness of sitting with Him.
I would remember mystery of His kindness everyday.

But as I feel the frailty of words and the limitations of explanations,
It seems the best thing to do is just

Mercy for the Independent

Independence…it’s a good thing, right?

I’d like to think so.  My natural tendency is some odd combination of fiercely independent and people-pleasing rolled into one.  Neither option is healthy or God-glorifying, unfortunately.  (Oh, how I wish they were sometimes!)

Isaiah 30:18 has been one of my favorite verses for a long time.  As is normal for me, I returned to this chapter to let it sink in more; as is normal for God, He encouraged me through His Word.

The rest of the chapter is not exactly birthday songs and party hats.  God’s people had forgotten/ignored Him, tried to solve their own problems, and experienced trouble because of their choices.  Their biggest problem may have been their ardent desire to be independent.  He is still God, though.

“Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you,
And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.
For the LORD is a God of justice;
How blessed are all those who long for Him.”

In the midst of their independence and consequential trouble, God’s people heard truth based entirely on God’s character in the face of their abundant issues.

Maybe the reason this verse gets to me is the overwhelming kindness of God expressed here. In the face of my issues, His character remains.  He is gracious, compassionate, just, and patient, and He is the One I need!  Where I desire to be independent, He longs to be gracious. Where I want to have it all together and not need help, He is compassionate.  When I want things done yesterday, He blesses those who wait for Him.

Maybe dependence is a good thing…

All truth…

is God’s truth. So I love to read different (usually highly-recommended) books and see how God’s truth and spiritual principles pop up in random places.

One of my latest reads, Good to Great, is actually about business and how to make a company great.  However, a few paragraphs on the motivation behind great leaders struck me as pertinent to life outside an office.  This quote begins with a sub-quote.

‘We’re just never satisfied.  We can be delighted, but never satisfied.’

Those who built the good-to-great companies weren’t motivated by fear. They weren’t driven by fear of what they didn’t understand.  they weren’t driven by fear of looking like a chump…

No, those who turn good into great are motivated by a deep creative urge and an inner compulsion for sheer unadulterated excellence for its own sake.

What if that excellence is the glory of God?  What if the deep creative urge is the expression of God’s character in His image-bearers?  What if I was consistently motivated by passion instead of fear?

Thankfully, God has been revealing where I am motivated by self-induced pressure and fear instead of joy and passion for His name.  The freedom in revelation and restoration bring delight and excitement for the future!  While there is a measure of satisfaction, as I’ve written elsewhere, it’s complemented by deepened hunger and anticipation.

(Re-) learning

“Do it again, counting out loud.”

“This time, play it staccato.”

“Again.  Keep counting.”

“Now, add your left hand.”

Teaching piano involves some explanations, some demonstrations, and some evaluation.  Today it included all of the above as well as some directed practice.

The old adage says that “practice makes perfect.”  Some say practice makes permanent, and perfection depends on how you practice.  It’s true for playing the piano, and it’s true for thinking.  Repetition of the wrong notes or the wrong timing makes it easy–natural– to play the passage wrong.  In the same way, unhealthy or untrue thoughts become more and more entrenched as I rehearse them.  Unhealthy and untrue beliefs follow quite naturally.

My Teacher offers a better way- He speaks life.

When habit dictates perfectionism, my teacher Jesus whispers, “Peace.”  When fear of failure looms, He calls me beloved.  Instead of “do, do, do,” He says, “Come.”  And when I see years of practicing wrong and get discouraged, He reminds me that there is no condemnation in Him.

“Redemption’s now the story of my soul.”

Perfect Peace

You never know what you’ll find in a doctor’s office.  My visit to the otolaryngology clinic at UW yesterday led to the discovery of this labeled cabinet in the exam room.  I didn’t get a button (thankfully!!), but I did snag a picture while the doctors and speech pathologist were chatting about me somewhere else.

You never know where God’s going to surprise you with a reminder that you’re not in control.  It’s true; I can mentally acknowledge that I am completely dependent on God’s grace and provision for everything in life.  Somehow, though, when it comes to not being able to do something I’m supposed to do, that restful dependence disappears and in its place comes the burden of self-decreed failure.

Along with it comes the all-to-common resignation that something is wrong with me.  In this case, it was something wrong with my personality- a drivenness that apparently makes me “the kind of person that this happens to.”

I sat in the speech pathologist’s office as she told me to do things with my voice that I couldn’t do and she couldn’t teach me to do.  About 7 minutes passed before I bursted into frustrated tears- frustrated that I couldn’t do what she wanted me to do and frustrated that my muscles tried to maintain my voice and just made things worse.

Thankfully and somewhat mysteriously, my voice recovered while she was assisting a surgeon in another room.  I am quite glad to be talking again and not taking a moment of speech for granted!  That said, there’s a lesson in everything, and this one might take awhile to sink down deep.  (I don’t want to keep re-learning it…but maybe that’s part of the issue, too!)  

There’s nothing quite like working really hard to do your best…and having your best be the opposite of what you should be doing.  That’s where Jesus’ offer of perfect peace comes in.   Isaiah 26:3 is clear in Laura Story’s song, “Perfect Peace.”  Enjoy!