Your Voice

[The theme of Voice has been dancing about in my head for several weeks. I ran into this post, written by me three years ago. It is so timely for today! I’d love to hear your thoughts – do you feel you have found your voice, or (like many of us) are you “in process”?]

This post is about your voice. And your seasons.

I am going through a season change… are you? Time to get more involved in some things, and less in others. Can you relate? Thinking through priorities and proportions. This is especially challenging because I am, at heart, both an activist and an artist.

Just what is voice?  It can be a somewhat intangible concept, but by voice I mean the free expression of that unique set of attributes that makes you, you! There is your voice, my voice, God’s voice…

We each have a purpose.  God gives us our voice so we can fulfill that purpose.

I enjoy the gradual unveiling of my children’s voices. And every day I pray that they will learn to hear God’s voice… to love and trust it, to navigate through life guided by it, much as the sailors of old relied on the stars in the heavens.

But the aspect of navigating that has taken me years to learn involves my own voice, and a question (you may find yourself asking the same question): Is my voice effective?

We need to look at all our areas of involvement – at relationships and organizations in our spheres of influence – and ask a fundamental question: Does my voice make a difference? Does anybody hear me? Do they want to hear me?

If I am committed, doing my part, and carefully listening to the voices of others, but having no impact and finding no reciprocity, then that is not a fruitful involvement. It may be time for change. There are likely needs or opportunities elsewhere, just waiting!

Or, it may be time to speak more loudly. But no one likes a shouting match. If you’re in a relationship and have had “the talk” multiple times, to be comforted by a “you’re right” and no change, reconsider that relationship. If you have a friendship with someone who has taken advantage of you repeatedly, and you’ve confronted and received an “I’m sorry” only to be misused again, evaluate if it is truly a friendship. If you’re on a board or team and have expressed the same serious concerns multiple times, to be greeted by “great input” and no action, then reality check. Why force others to listen to you, when somewhere else there is a person praying precisely to hear a voice such as yours? Keep the peace, spread the love… and move on!

Of course, I am not talking about giving up when things get tough… Healthy relationships and organizations will always involve dynamic tension. Love and loyalty are key to managing that tension. But even if you are fighting a fierce battle for social justice, or to grow a business or fulfill a dream, you still have to ask yourself the questions above. Time is short. Before you know it, five years will have passed… and your dreams for tomorrow may have become distant bittersweet memories.

Bottom line today – your voice is invaluable, and there is a predetermined place where it is needed and where there is grace abounding for it to be heard. Relax in that knowledge. Listen, think, pray, speak, be thoughtful about your season change. Then watch that last leaf fall and welcome the new season. And as your senses soak in the change, listen for God’s voice and remember – He is listening for yours!

The Gift Within You

I love campfires. We were gearing up for the day. I was making coffee on the Coleman.

The night before we’d had a roaring campfire in the fire ring, and had watched it burn out. Now the kids were poking around in the remains with some sticks. To their astonishment, the ashes started smoking.

Peter went over, and showed them how to blow into the embers that were deep inside the ashes – quickly flames erupted. With just a bit more kindling, once again we had a roaring fire.

I told the kids how cool it is that God helps us do the same. We all have gifts within us, and we are supposed to “fan the flame of the gift of God that is within you…” (that is in the Bible, in 2 Timothy 1:6).

You have some very unique abilities and perspectives. You might be feeling insecure, or be afraid that it is too late for you…

It’s not!

Make a plan, share your dream, take a class, break out the study books, do whatever it takes, but blow on what looks like ashes! It’s up to you, and no one else. Put some kindling in there, and just watch – the embers are still hot, they are just hidden!

You can do it. The gift is within you. The world needs to see your fire.

DON’T PANIC – When the storm hits

One of my all time favorite books is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a five-part trilogy. Douglas Adams wrote such a remarkable book(s) that to try and explain it here would twist my brain just a bit, and being that my brain is already slightly sprained, I’ll refrain. (Oops forgot to uncheck the Auto-rhyme feature in my medulla, however).

DON’T PANIC is a phrase that appears on the cover of the Guide. DON’T PANIC is the most vital advice for a perplexed, frequently-in-danger galaxy traveler.

It’s good advice for us too. A couple of posts ago we spoke about how to deal when life blindsides you. Staying calm is the first key. I will not pretend to be an expert at this, but I have had plenty of practice at being blindsided.

How to stay calm? These steps may seem simplistic, but they work for me:

  • Breathe – yes, literally, breathe. In and out, slowly. Breathing deeply has many beneficial effects. It also gives us time to slow down and not react immediately. Take in the news, however bad it may be. Consciously, as you breathe, reject that feeling of panic that is trying to rise up in your gut. If someone is speaking to you, pressing you for action and/or answers, calmly make them wait until you are ready. This may take some minutes or even some hours.
  • Think – yes, think. Your first reaction may or may not be correct, so move it to one side temporarily, and think through all the ramifications. Is the situation really as serious as it first appears? Can you call on some other people/perspectives to get the bigger picture? Who will be your support team as you navigate and overcome this situation? Always, as you think, avoid despair – you will overcome, and good will come out of it.
  • Remember – remember that you have probably survived other equally difficult challenges. Remember that even if you personally have not experienced such a hard situation before, surely other people you know have. Things do have a way of working out. Here it is so important to have already programmed your brain with memorable and helpful truths – and that is where the word of God is key. We will talk about this in another post.

I can promise you – based on what God says to us – that no matter how desperate or unthinkable a situation, you can survive it and eventually thrive as a stronger person, one who has even more to offer to the world. Here is a taste of what the Father wants us to know:

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Is. 41:10)

Dear friend, DON’T PANIC.

[PS – Okay, I can’t resist. Here is the basic premise of the book:
One Thursday lunchtime the Earth is unexpectedly demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass. For Arthur Dent, who has only just had his house demolished that morning, this seems already to be more than he can cope with. Sadly, however, the weekend has only just begun, and the galaxy is a very strange and startling place. Seconds before the Earth is demolished, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out of work actor. Together this dynamic pair begin their journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide “A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have” and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers. (from]

A (Bridged) Chasm – guest author

This post is for leaders! Our guest author is a young leader, a grad student near to my heart, who likes to wrestle with issues.

Turns out my brain was not quiet enough to let me sleep. In fact, what must amount to a discordant symphony of thoughts have been rolling around in my head for the past three hours. And so, in the interest of sanity, I am attempting to drown out the noise through the quiet clatter of my keyboard.

I have been thinking about my faith and my religion, and the enormous chasm that sometimes seems to separate the two. I think it has become a bit of a theme in these “notes” of mine, but I haven’t written about it in awhile, so why not at 4 am on a Tuesday? As good a time as any…

Not quite sure what has triggered this round; perhaps it is the fact that Ted Haggard is surfacing in the news again, amid new allegations and an HBO special. All other issues notwithstanding, an HBO special? Did he honestly think HBO would paint him in a positive light? The stupidity astounds me.

I’ve tried to figure out what kind of Christian I am, which denomination I fit into. The first part of that question is easy for me: Protestant or Catholic? Protestant. And then it gets complicated. I don’t understand theology much; I have spent many mornings with my parents at the breakfast table discussing how things came to be and which groups believe what. The truth is, after awhile, theology confounds me. While I know it’s important, I reach a point of sheer frustration, because, in the end, WHO CARES? In a world where millions of children are dying (more from relatively easy-to-fix, lackluster issues like diarrheal diseases than from the sexier issues like HIV/AIDS), who cares about the difference between a Methodist and a Lutheran? Jesus basically said, “Get off your lazy tush and DO SOMETHING!!!” So, in my view, if you claim to be a Christian and are doing nothing, I really don’t want to waste my time with you, regardless of the technicalities of your beliefs. (Is there a such thing as the DO SOMETHING!!! denomination? If there’s not, there should be…)

Which brings me to the chasm. How dare you seek respect and legitimacy for your cause, to claim to fight for the purification of an institution, when you were the one that initiated the deterioration? How dare you seek forgiveness, and then seek profit? How dare you allow petty disagreements to cloud your vision, flaring tempers to disable you from fulfilling your destiny? It is not that you have shaken the foundations of my faith and broken my heart, along with the ones I care most deeply about. It is that you have lost sight of the purpose. Where is the fruit? Do you not realize that every second you waste, someone suffers; every minute you let escape, another person dies. Not because of an incurable disease; BECAUSE THEY DO NOT HAVE CLEAN WATER TO DRINK!

Which brings me to the bridge. Leaders with vision! Individuals living their lives with purpose, determined to make a difference. DO SOMETHING!!! Christians. I appreciate you more than I can express. And here’s the most important part: the world will feel your impact.

What’s So Bad About Racism?

Peter and I got married only one year after the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, in his native South Africa, was repealed. Had we married one year earlier, he could have been arrested, on arrival at the airport, for marrying me.
We have thousands of words stored within us when it comes to racism.
Eventually we’ll share more with you. For now, we’ll begin with my three word answer to the question of what is so bad about racism:

Racism misrepresents God.

How do you think it misrepresents God? Does that statement make sense to you?

How would you word your reply to the title question?

The List – Vote Now!

Here is what we have all been waiting for!

The List
  1. Book reviews (The Shack is the latest)
  2. Family misadventures
  3. Family life, child rearing, etc.
  4. Marriage (next month it’ll be 23 fresh adventurous years!)
  5. Thoughts on class distinctions/inequities
  6. Remembering Simplicity – what really matters?
  7. Hearing the voice of God
  8. Gems and devotionals from Scripture
  9. Our story – a love story started in Chile, carried on to Brazil, nurtured on a ship…
  10. My story. “I was born during the ash rain…”
  11. God’s faithfulness
  12. Ministry challenges – as a couple, as a family, as an individual
  13. Leadership development
  14. Opportunities to help around the world
  15. Race relations
  16. Social justice issues
  17. Women’s issues
  18. Heroes and people making an impact today
  19. Random pictures with simple lessons learned!

These are topics from my Journals. With so many, they might seem scattered – but there is always a common thread. In everything I write, I ask God to help me communicate my Personal Passion Statement (a work in progress). May my writing always encourage others to know and believe:

  • That every human life on this planet, no matter race or creed, is cherished by God.
  • That a life passionately committed to God has explosive potential.
  • That God expects us to use every gift He has given us, by living out these two truths, so we can help fix a broken world.

It’s up to you! Which top three topics from this List are you interested in? (Okay, more than three if you like… and you can add your own!).

Not The Apprentice

What a blessed day I had yesterday! Staff Day.

It started at 12:01 am. We had a bootcamp in the parking lot, under the stars, until 3 a.m. Slept about 2 hours, then met my team back to prep and join the other teams for breakfast, with activities to follow non-stop until the evening.

The details and lessons learned will surely make it into future blog posts. Suffice it to say that it felt like a mini-Apprentice reality show – with a glaring difference: the teams were all “for” each other!

Don’t misunderstand. The competition was fierce. It was fun to see these pastors/leaders with that fire of rivalry in their eyes, determined to out-do the other teams, and tapping the creativity of team members to try to prevail. They do not like to lose! Victory was sweet for the winning team.

But the Big Picture, thanks to inspired leadership, is that, ultimately, we are all working together toward the same goal! We want all of us to succeed, collectively. Not one winner and several losers, like the Apprentice. All winners, all facing the next year of challenges together.

This world is a rough place. We only have Us. Let’s be “for” one another!

“Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.” M. Williamson