Sep 192012

There’s a particular 3 year old who loves to come in to my office and inspect the ‘machines’ I have.  He checks to make sure the calculator, adding machine, computer mouse, bicycle pump and leaf blower are all in their places.  We talk about who they belong to and what they are for and if he can ‘have’ them.  He usually leaves my office with the calculator in hand, but, sometimes, he gets to play with the leaf blower.  These are VERY special days.


The first time I watched him with the leaf blower, I was struck by how he used it. Instead of asking to plug it in or flipping the power switch, he pulled an invisible starter cord over and over again. It suddenly became very clear: even though the leaf blower in his hands had no starter cord, he had seen one being started that way and that had become part of his script for using a leaf blower.

The power of observation is strong with this one.

  I know from talking with his parents that this little guy is obsessed with their gardener.  He watches him intently and takes note of every thing he does.

I wonder if that gardener is aware that he is an example, that his actions are being studied and mimicked.

“Be imitators” the Bible says.  No need to tell kids.  They got this.

This brings up two questions: Who is imitating you?  Who are you imitating?

 Posted by at 20:46
Jul 122012

A friend recently tackled the question of fear on his blog.  His question was “What do you fear?”, more specifically, “What do you fear more than God?”  (No surprise, this friend is also my pastor.)

So, what is it that drives you, controls you, and shapes you?  

After thinking and talking about this for a while, I’ve found my answer:
I fear not knowing.


Not knowing what everyone is talking about.

Not knowing anyone.

Not knowing what’s going on.

Not knowing what’s coming next.

Not knowing the plan.

Not knowing what to do.

Not knowing the answer.

Now that I know what I fear (deep irony here), I’ve begun to see how this drives what I do and how I react to different situations. Often it involves a frenzy of activity or double- and triple-checking details.  Queasy stomach anyone?  Sometimes it makes me want to just punch something.  

If I stop and think about it, I remember that God is the only one who knows everything and, really, he’s the only one who needs to know.  But then I forget again.  


Trust is hard.








 Posted by at 07:41
Jul 072012

A few days ago, I wrote a post about The Curious Hieroglyphick Bible and in that post I mentioned that I like new takes on the Bible.  So here’s another one: The Brick Bible: A New Spin on the Old Testament.  That’s Brick as in Lego Brick.

Yup. Lego. Awesome, right?


I bought The Brick Bible for my kids last Christmas and we spent hours pouring over it and marveling at the clever way the stories were represented as well as asking each other “Really?  The Bible says that?”

Some of the Old Testament is really bloody and Brendan Powell Smith doesn’t shy away from depicting the violence. My kids were fascinated.


Here’s the best part!  It’s online as well.  In fact, contains illustrations from the New Testament too.  

How awesome is a Lego depiction of the Last Supper?


From the website: “The world’s largest, most comprehensive illustrated bible.  A sprawling website best suited for those with the maturity to read the entire bible.”  Now there’s a challenge.  I’ll admit that I love some of the illustrations, but others make me squirm.

Smith even tags the stories according to content: N=nudity, S=sexual content, V=violence, & C=cursing.  He isn’t shy about depicting modern day events in order to make a point either.  

It’s a great place to start a discussion…or an argument.  I’m telling you, it’s not for everyone, but it may just get you thinking and talking and reading and learning about God.

 Posted by at 18:23
Jul 042012

I love books – actual books.  The way they feel, how they smell.  I love curling up in odd places with them propped open just right.  They speak to me in a way audiobooks and eBooks never will.


But today’s Teachable Moment is brought to you by… Kindle.  I discovered a treasure called The Curious Hieroglyphick Bible.  I saw it on the Library of Congress list of books that shaped America.  I hadn’t ever heard of it, so I went trolling around the Internet.  No copies at the local library, but Amazon had it and the first chapter was free on the Kindle – instant satisfaction for my curiosity! 


Can I just say “WOW!”?


It’s an 18th century collection of “select passages of the Old & New Testaments” illustrated with nearly 500 woodcuts.  Sound boring?  Not at all!  It’s an incredible work of art and the way it is put together is wonderfully clever.  The title page describes it this way “Represented with emblematical figures for the amusement of youth designed chiefly to familiarize tender Age, in a pleasing and diverting Manner, with early Ideas of the Holy Scriptures.” 

It reminds me of an early graphic novel.  The Creation story is absolutely gorgeous.   I can see 18th century children pouring over the illustrations for hours. 


Look at the way they represent God and the Spirit at creation:



I’m hooked!  I love new takes on scripture, no matter how old.


By the way, there are only 4 original copies of this book, but you can peek at photographs of the first chapter here. Be sure to click on the Kindle edition. The Print edition can’t compare.



 Posted by at 19:18
Jun 262012

I live in my own world.

I have my own priorities & preferences, tendencies & talents, interests & idiosyncrasies, habits & hangups.

I live deep inside the house of my own thoughts and forget to open the blinds to see what’s going on “out there.”  I depend on others to tap, knock or bang on the door reminding me to engage with the world outside.

I know there are people who throw open their doors each morning and stride out into the world to see how everyone is doing.  They look deep into your eyes when they talk to you and ask just the right, not-too-probing question to start the flow of conversation.

I’m not one of those people.  I wouldn’t mind being more like them, I really wouldn’t, it’s just that most of the time it doesn’t occur to me.

I was thinking about this recently, determining to be more outwardly focussed when I found myself in one of those situations tailor-made to test my new resolve.  I failed.  Miserably.

No, really. Miserably.

My ‘job’ was to make new people feel welcome.  I spotted one person I’d never seen before, marched up to her, introduced myself and then spent the next 10 minutes standing next to her in awkward silence trying to think of something to say.


That little voice inside said, “See? You’re not good at this.”  Humpf.

It wasn’t very long before I was reminded that things could be different.  I found myself passionately singing these words:

“You make me new,

You are making me new.”

Aha!  God doesn’t want to leave me the way I am.  In fits and starts, he is transforming me.

Next time you see me I may be totally wrapped up in my own thoughts, or I may say something totally awkward in an effort to initiate conversation.  Be patient with me, God’s making me new.

 Posted by at 23:03
Jun 032012

The Sara(h) Syndrome.  That’s what I’m calling it: the urge to blog.  It’s true: all of my friends named Sara(h) have a blog as do many other friends and acquaintances.   But writing is not as easy as it looked when they did all the heavy lifting.

Here are some thoughts on why by someone way more eloquent than I am.

It’s long. It’s worth it.

Just start watching. Give it a chance.

You can turn it off if it bores you.

(The end is the best part.)



 Posted by at 20:12
May 132012

*The following post was inspired by a sermon by Lisa Patriquin on John 8:1-11.  You can hear it here.

Condemn: (v) express complete disapproval of; sentence to punishment; denounce; doom; declare reprehensible, wrong or evil.

What an awful word.  Just reading those definitions, I feel my spirit shriveling.  

What a terrible feeling it is to be condemned.  If we’re honest, we’ve all deserved condemnation at one time or another: our actions, words, or thoughts were ‘reprehensible, wrong or evil.’  

Condemning fingerMany people’s concept of God includes a heavy dose of condemnation.  God is watching, waiting for them to screw up so he can zap them.  He is the great, cosmic judge who dooms people to hell.  

Where did this come from?   Somehow we twisted the message of “be holy because I (God) am holy” (Leviticus 11:44) into “be holy, or else”.  What was once an inspiration is now a threat.  

I see the same thing in parenting.  We’ve forgotten the power of leading by example and instead we threaten, yell, and berate.  

The concept of ‘sin nature’ has gotten tangled up in there somewhere as well. If all people are sinners, then we all need to be beaten into submission.  Wrong! This is where Jesus turned it all around for us.  

If all people are sinners, then we all need grace, forgiveness, and a savior who shows us a better way.  

How miserable we’d be if God was constantly reminding us that we could never measure up.  Instead Jesus says to us, just like he did to the woman charged with adultery in John 8, “Is there no one to condemn you?…Neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more.”


But Jesus doesn’t leave us there.  He expresses faith in a better future: “Go and sin no more.”  He doesn’t deny what we’ve done, but challenges us not to repeat it. He doesn’t give us what we deserve because he loves us.

I have a lot to learn here.  How do I deal with people’s mistakes?  Do I condemn?  Do I declare them reprehensible, wrong or evil?  Or do I recognize the mistakes and offer hope?  Am I able to see past the current situation into a better future?  Do I express that?  

And better yet, how do I deal with my own mistakes?  Do I feel doomed or hopeful? Do I label myself as a ‘screw up’ or determine to do better next time?

Today, I am thankful for a mom who did not condemn me for the mistakes I made.  She helped me recognize them and inspired me to move on.  I’m even more thankful for a God who does the same.

 Posted by at 18:13
May 122012

Another guest blog today because this one should be read every Mother’s Day.  This one is from another friend named Sarah – Sarah Tacoma.  She blogs here.  Get the tissues!

19 Weeks Pregnant – that’s a magical time in a pregnancy. You’re almost half way done, you can feel the baby kicking AND you get to finally have the ultrasound where you can find out the sex and really see the baby. I had an exciting date with a 3D ultrasound.


As the doctor started the ultrasound – he first told us it was a boy!


He moved the paddle around some more and then the doctor told us that the baby had a calcium deposit on his heart and that was a marker for Down syndrome and did we want to get an amnio. Shock. Sadness. Fear. Dread. I went ahead with the amnio and was numb as I paid the nurse extra money for the fish test so we could find out in 24 hours. The next afternoon – I got the call that – yes our baby had Trisome 21. I told the lady thank you, hung up the phone and started screaming. 


There is an enormous grieving process that you go through finding out your child has Down syndrome. Retarded. Special Needs. Cognitively Delayed. Disabled. Different. I lost a child that day. I lost the baby I thought I was going to have. I lost the life I thought I was going to have. And really felt my son Quinn had lost the sibling I had so pictured for him.


As the weeks went by and the depression continued I really felt that I couldn’t connect with the little boy inside me, who had no idea how sad I was because of him. And one day at about 23 weeks I decided that I needed to name him – so maybe I could start bonding with him. So one morning I called my husband at work and said – I want to name him now and I just know his name is supposed to be Gideon Michael. And God bless Mike – he took this surprise phone call in stride – and said “okay then, that’s his name.”


Two weeks later we were sitting in church and to be honest I just wasn’t paying attention. The minister was reading a Bible passage “blah…blah and the Israelites…. blah.. blah..and then Gideon….blah blah blah.” I sat up straight and whispered to Mike – did he just say “Gideon?” And Mike nodded. Now I have attended church most of my life and not once up to that point had I heard a sermon on Gideon. Briefly – This is the story of Gideon – The Israelites were at war with the Midianites and losing big time. And God came to Gideon and said you are going to lead the Israelites to victory, but you have to reduce the army of 22,000 men down to only 300 soldiers. Gideon did not understand how he was going to win with so much less at his disposal, yet he followed God’s orders and did indeed lead the Israelites to victory. As soon as the Bible passage was done – the Pastor, who really had my attention now, said “Well this story is about a man who had a huge disadvantage. God took away from Gideon. God gave Gideon less. God gave Gideon less to work with than other men. And yet Gideon overcame, because God was with him.”


Less? Disabled? Disadvantaged? Maybe, but with a little faith on my part I was pretty sure God was telling me that it wouldn’t matter. 


When we first got the diagnosis, it was a string of negative adjectives that tried to label a baby we hadn’t even met yet. And initially I dwelled on the negatives of his diagnosis and not the vibrant portrait of the beautiful, quirky person that Gideon is growing into. At 2 years old Gideon’s first full sentence was “Ma! I La You Ma! And like most little boys Gideon loves to zoom anything that has wheels – cars, trucks, trains & airplanes. At 3 years old he has more ASL signs (100+) than I do. He adores his big brother and does his best to imitate him. He’s super polite and says “hi” and “bye” with enthusiasm to anyone coming and going. And my favorite – is that when I walk in that front door – Gideon stands up and cheers that I am home. Ma! Yeah Ma!


So here are the words that REALLY describe him. Exuberant. Joyful. Determined. Stubborn. Practical Jokester. Smart. Affectionate. Loving.


Nine out of ten babies after diagnosis of Down syndrome are aborted.


90%! I’ve been in that black hole of grief when that decision needs to be made. Gideon and all the other kids with Down syndrome that I have had the privilege of getting to know LOVE their life. They live it with, quite frankly, a zest that is unmatched by the rest of us. I truly believe THAT is the measure of a worthy life. THAT is the identification that truly maters.


gideon.jpgAnd my Gideon, the boy who God gave less to, well he overcomes again and again and he does it with the biggest smile and lovingest heart I have ever experienced. 

 Posted by at 08:12
May 062012

Today’s Guest Post by my 16 year old son.  The following is the text from his faith story that he told in church this morning. You can also watch it here.

It was a Sunday unlike any other. It was sunny, and the birds were humming the echoing sounds of the last hymn as I sat waiting in the pastor’s office. Sitting next to me was my best friend, and we both had stood up in front of the whole church, as 7-year olds, and said we believed in Jesus, and were ready to be baptized. Coming from a Covenant church, that was how it was done. As soon as I jumped in that tub, I held my nose and closed my eyes, only to hear, “not yet, kid”. But what happened there was a transformation that I wouldn’t realize, unfortunately until much later in life.

Next Sunday, I sat in Children’s Church feeling unchanged. All these grown-ups were congratulating me and I had no idea why. And like a machine I, for what seemed like the millionth time, answered all of the leader’s questions about the bible story correctly, and got to play on the playground; same as the week before, and the week before that.

Then, in 6th grade as I was sitting down to lunch with a friend of mine, he proceeded to tell me how wrong and stupid I was for believing in any religion. Up to this point I had thought everyone was a Christian, everyone believed in God, and everyone was a nice person. I stood up for my faith, sitting on the edge of the bench staring him in the eyes while my other “friends” sat there and watched. But he shut me down; he essentially ripped my power cord out of the wall. I was distraught. Then began the doubt.

Fast-forward about a year, and flip my life on its head, and that’s where I was when I moved to Glendale: new town, new school, new just about everything else. I remember thinking as I first stepped into Glendale Presbyterian Church, “I don’t want to be here. Why is my mom making me go through this? Why am I walking into a building I have no memory of ever being in?” Then all of a sudden, I got a holy smack across the face; during the benediction I hear a little something down the row. I turned my head and saw my mom crying. Us kids thought this was weird: we had never seen my mom cry in church before. That benediction just happened to be: “You go nowhere by accident, Wherever you go God is sending you….” I only today realize the significance of that.

Whatever God did it must have worked, because here I am today. I stand humbled before you… relatively unscathed, and ready for a next step. Today is the day that I am replanted in good soil.  Growing up in love and Christ.  Growing up stronger than ever.  Since that moment, God has called me to various service opportunities that have changed lives, most importantly mine.

Jesus became my big brother, guiding me when I had no idea who anyone was. Challenging me, confronting me, checking up on me, teaching me, and no matter what he had my back, even when I told him to his face that he didn’t love me and he was just as fake as an Elvis impersonator. One thing that to this day I want to do is emulate what Jesus did, in the big brother sense, to my little brother the best I know how, and to the best of my abilities.

My faith started like many who grew up in the church. What became an easy say-the-right-answer, monotonous hour before I got to play with my friends has, over the years, turned into a radical lifestyle that I would not give up for the world. That’s the beauty of the gospel. Isn’t it? That omnipresence of God in time and space: what happens one moment may be the fuel you need to carry on later in life. 

 Posted by at 14:38
Apr 292012

In his book, Radical: Taking Back your Faith from the American Dream, David Platt contrasts Christian worship services in Sudan and America.  He describes the Sudanese as people who listen to the sermon in order to translate it and teach it to others.  Americans, Platt says, are generally listening with a different purpose – to better themselves.  No wonder God’s Word rarely makes it outside the doors of the American church.  

So here’s the challenge: listen and learn in order to share.  Let God’s Word pass through me rather than hanging on to it.

And so I pass this on to you:
Jesus has just fed the 5,000 by breaking up a boy’s lunch and passing it around.  The crowd recognizes that Jesus has miraculous powers and is “ready to force him to be their king”.  (John 6:15) Jesus, knowing there is a better plan, literally heads for the hills.

Don’t we still try to force Jesus to do what we want?  Politicians use him to promote their agendas.  Business people use him to appear worthy of trust.  Broken people hide in churches in order to seem whole.  

What if, instead, we let God be God?  What if we start the long process of letting Jesus’ death on the cross change us?  

But how?  When all else fails, go back to the source: see what the Bible has to say.  The book of John is a good place to start.  

More thoughts on the topic can be found here.

And if you learn something, pass it on!

 Posted by at 14:14