It has been a strange and at times confusing summer for me.

At the end of May, I got terribly sick with pneumonia (when people got pneumonia on Little House on the Prairie, Doc Baker only furrowed his brow and silently shook his head). I was quarantined in the basement for almost ten days, running a fever higher than 102 most of the time. I cried and was scared. My sleep was sweaty and spotty, laced with incoherent dreams. I coughed up blood (in movies, that is the single, irrefutable sign that things are really, really not going well for you). When you’re that sick, you can’t remember ever feeling normal, and you are certain you’ll never feel normal again. I felt that way forever.

And then, somehow, I slowly got better.

People have stories about spiritual awakenings when they get that sick. Sometimes they’ll talk about how close they felt to God because they felt so desperate. That did not happen with me. I did pray, but it was more like a babble than a prayer. “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me. Have mercy. Have mercy.” I prayed that over and over and over again.

I am better, but not totally. Before I got pneumonia, I could run 8-10 miles pretty easily. After being well for about a week, I went out for my first walk/jog. I ran a very slow mile, interspersed with two or three walking breaks. Now, almost 8 weeks later, I am back up to 6 miles. I do not like these kinds of set backs. But sometimes God’s mercy looks like helping a person who doesn’t really know how to slow down, to slow down.

And there is this beautiful community that I’m leading, called Genesis Covenant Church. We are passionately committed to joining God’s work of cultivating new beginnings in all of us, everywhere. It’s a vulnerable thing to begin anything, because you can’t flip to the last page and see how it turns out. This beginning is a little like the click-click-clicking of a roller coaster on its way up. It is thrilling, terrifying, and we don’t really know what is coming next. We just know that we’re buckled in for this ride, no matter what.

We have a team of people that are committed to praying for us. I love that. They are from all over the country, so I send out updates so they can “know how to pray.” The only problem is, I’m not sure how to pray.

Should I tell them to pray for me because I feel insecure?

Should I tell them to pray that “everything goes smoothly” at our first worship gathering?

Should I tell them to pray that “the right people” show up on Sunday?

Should I tell them to pray that I will slow down?

Should I tell them to simply pray, “Lord have mercy on us?”

Should I tell them just to babble whatever incoherent feeling is on their hearts?

I really don’t know how we should pray. But, according to the Bible, not knowing how to pray is actually a thing! In Romans 8:26-28, we read these comforting, reassuring words:

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good (The Message).”

What does it mean that God does our praying in and for us, because we don’t know how to pray?

It means we can rest. It means when we are present with God, we don’t have to scramble for the right words. It means God knows us and keeps us and holds us and sees us. It means God is present with us, whether we ask God to be present or not. It means the Spirit is praying for us even when we are not praying at all.

I am not sure what kind of summer you’ve been having, but if you have been hearing the click-click-clicking of change, please take some comfort in the reality that God is at work in you, right now, not because you’re getting it all right, but because God is always turning our chaotic and sometimes terribly sick lives into something beautiful and good.

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Thoughts on Sleep

June 25, 2014 — 3 Comments

by Claire Wyatt

Claire is one of the most hilarious people I know, and she writes a great blog. I love her thoughts on this post. Enjoy! You can follow her on twitter here and Facebook here

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PastedGraphic-4A few weekends ago it was gloomy, rainy and cold in Minnesota. While there were grumblings upon grumblings from my fellow citizens of “the land of 10,000 lakes,” I woke up to the gloom and doom of Saturday morning with only one thought, “Praise Jesus. I get to spend the day alternating between watching Netflix and napping.”

And I did. And it was glorious.

The past few months have been busy.

I’m not trying to glorify it; it just is what it is.

I operated with almost zero margin. Things that I usually think are important got sidelined. Relationships, exercise, and healthy eating to name a few.

I also tried to push sleep to the wayside.

Because, successful people don’t sleep right?

There was an article a while back in what I think was the Wall Street Journal. It was profiling this very successful business woman in New York who worked all day, got to bed around midnight and then woke up to do it all over again at 5 am.

So I followed her example, because I wanted to be like her. I worked, studied late, woke up early and subsisted on copious amounts of coffee.

That lasted for like a week.

I was tired all the time. I was moody, irritable and my performance at work was disastrous. So what if I was working longer hours?  What I was doing in 10 hours probably could have only taken me 4 if I would have been well rested. And the number of times I had to apologize for saying something insensitive?

It’s more than one and less than 100, but probably closer to the later.

I called my Mom one day from work, because I’m 26 years old, but sometimes I still need my Mom, and was sobbing uncontrollably, most likely about nothing.

Her words, “Claire, did you sleep well last night?”

What can I say, the woman knows me well.

So for the benefit of humanity, and my desire to not turn into Mr. Hyde by 10 am on a weekday, I decided to focus on getting 8 hours of sleep.

Since I wasn’t working as hard as I was before I wondered if I would fail. Then, I stumbled across this verse:

“It is vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2).

The paraphrase of my study bible notes are, “go to sleep, stupid.”

Just kidding. That’s not what it says.

It basically says that sleep and rest are ways to give up control of your well being to God.

So, giving up control.

I hate it when God asks me to do that.

But God is good, God loves me, and God wants me to experience rest and sleep.

It turns out that science is behind this whole sleep thing too. Another one of my favorite blogs (besides Steve’s, of course) is Farnam Street, written by Shane Parrish. Named after the street where the headquarters of Berkshire Hathaway is located, as well as the street where it’s CEO, Warren Buffet resides, it is the ultimate blog of capitalism, seeking knowledge for knowledge’s sake, logic, reason, enlightenment, and I’m sure there is some atheist undertone. I’m a champion for different perspectives, what can I say.

In one of his blogs, Shane Parrish wrote on the science of sleep. Biggest takeaway? Nothing, literally nothing, not even food, improves your performance as much as getting a solid 8 hours of sleep within every 24. In fact, the human body innately knows that it needs about 1 hour of sleep for every 2 that it’s awake. It INNATELY knows this! It’s almost like someone created us this way …

So, with the dramatic weight of scientific evidence, as well as God on my side, I’m committed to getting my 8 hours. I revel in the joy of naps and get overly excited about rainy Saturdays with nothing to do but watch “Meet Me in Saint Louis,” and “Jumanji,” dozing in between.


This one is a repost from last year, but I think I need it now even more than when I first wrote it. Enjoy.

So let’s sit down and talk. Knee-to-knee, eye-to-eye. I’m a pastor, that’s what I do. Let’s ask a lot of questions. Questions take us on journeys, ones that help us find what we’re looking for.

Let’s be honest. Let’s pretend we’re in a confessional booth (even though I don’t do that in my tradition). We can tell the truth and no one else has to hear our answers. We’re safe. Let’s talk.

Let’s talk about how bored you are right now in your current, actual life, even though on paper, you shouldn’t be. Let’s talk about how you got what you wanted and it isn’t what you thought it would be. Let’s talk about how you’ve given up desiring anything that would be really satisfying because you just can’t take one more disappointment.

Let’s talk about your marriage, the one that actually is, not the one that should be. Or let’s talk about your lack of marriage. Let’s talk about what is bubbling and brewing beneath those two glasses of wine every night, or the pornography, or the office romance that excites you more than you’d like to admit, since you’re married and so is he.

Let’s talk about finding a way towards honesty. Not the kind of black and white, declarative, ping-pong honesty that is all sound and fury, but the kind of honesty that knocks you down first, and then sets you free.

What makes you angry? What are the news stories that you can’t even watch, because it would cause a forest fire inside of you that would blaze out of control, engulfing you?

What makes you giddy with joy, just thinking about it?

Or let’s talk about how numb you feel, because you can’t find any answers to either of the last two questions.

Let’s talk about how finding your purpose in life is how our culture is currently trying to answer all of those questions.

What’s your purpose in life?

Let’s talk about the question that lurks behind that question.

I think the question behind that question is some form of: How can I be ridiculously happy all the time, avoiding all the boredom and conflict and addiction that I currently have, while saving the planet and looking heroic while doing so?

Isn’t that the paycheck we’re hoping to land once we get the answer to that question?

Let’s talk about how “You can be whatever you want to be” is lazy and dishonest, because there are certain things you can’t be and shouldn’t even try to be.

The problem is that most of us look outside of our actual life to find our purpose in life, as if it’s just sitting in someone else’s house, on their cracked leather couch, waiting for us to ring the doorbell, if only someone would give us the address.

Oh, I hope you find where your deep joy meets the world’s great need, as someone once said. But I don’t think that happens by reading lots of books on finding your purpose in life. And I don’t think you’ll find your purpose in life by looking outside of your actual life.

The dirty little secret behind finding your purpose in life is that it’s right there, right in front of you, it’s just buried under the expectation that finding it will solve all of your problems and make you ridiculously happy.

I was standing in the doorway of my four year old’s bedroom this morning. As I was watching Elijah pull out clothes that he would wear that day, he said, “Dad, I love that you’re standing there. I love you.” 

He smiled at me and gave me a gift, and I grabbed it.

Standing at the threshold of his room and the rest of the world, that is my purpose in life. It’s one of them, anyway. Watching him get ready for the world, and sending him out into it, that’s what I will do as a father. Being there when he wakes up, being there when he goes to bed. Being there when he doesn’t want to come home, when he wanders. Sending him out into it when he doesn’t want to go.

Let me be the one to say it out loud, parents: This standing at the threshold stuff will not make you deliriously happy. It’s scary and won’t seem heroic. It will require things that you don’t think you have, day after day, and nobody will stand up and cheer when you do it. But that’s your purpose in life. It’s one of them, anyway.

You don’t have to be a parent, or a spouse, or an employee, to find your purpose(s) in life.

You do have to be awake, and honest, and you have to slow down long enough to see what thresholds you are standing in, right now, and you have to decide what you will say, or be, so that you and others can safely walk through them. This is brave work, standing in thresholds, calling people towards something they maybe can’t see. But when you find yourself in those thresholds, and you can see something that maybe other’s can’t see, you’ve found your purpose, at least in that moment.

That’s what Martin Luther King, Jr., did on that day when he decided to write those words that would become that speech about that dream. He saw how the world was, and what it could be, and he had the courage to stand in that threshold and invite us all into a different way of seeing each other.

It’s what Rosa Parks did when she decided to get up and do something different on that bus that day. She saw how the world was, and what it could be, and she had the courage to sit in that threshold and invite us all into a different way of standing up into who we actually are.

And it’s what you and I can do every day in tiny little ways if we simply notice the thresholds where we find ourselves.

So wake up and notice where you actually are, and see the gifts that are laid out in front of you, and grab them, and be you.

My suggestion is that you maybe do that, instead of asking what your purpose is in life.

And I will do that, too. Then after living that way for awhile, let’s climb back into that little confessional booth, and we’ll talk about it some more.

Sound good?

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leadership_1303_v2I am in a season where new leadership and relational skills are being required of me, and it feels like a steep learning curve. On my journey of trying to find the resources I need, I ran into a book that Warren Bennis & Burt Nanus wrote, called Leaders. After studying ninety of the world’s most effective CEOs, they found that the most important facet in a leader’s effectiveness is what they called emotional wisdom, which reflects itself in the way that these leaders related to others. Leaders with emotional wisdom consistently used five key relational skills:

1. They had the ability to accept people as they are, not as they would like them to be.

Embarrassing Confession: Most of the time, I hope people will change so that it will be easier to be around them, or so that they will do what I want them to do. Ouch. Please tell me I’m not the only one on planet earth who does this. Have you ever stopped to consider how much energy this takes? Accepting people as they are doesn’t mean all behavior is OK, or that there are no boundaries. It simply means you stop trying to incessantly change them so that they become what you want them to be. It means you create a safe place for them to be who they actually are. We wish people would do this for us. Let’s start by doing it for them.

2. They had the capacity to approach relationships and problems in terms of the present rather than the past.

I had a conversation recently with a good friend, and he said something that triggered something from my past, and it threw the whole conversation into a tailspin. We went down an unhelpful road and it was really hard to find our way back. It takes intentionality to remain in the possibility of the present moment, believing that new realities can emerge which are not carbon copies of the past. But this is the only way hidden solutions make themselves known.

3. They had the ability to treat those who were close to them with the same courteous attention that they would extend to strangers and casual acquaintances.

Ouch. Why do we treat the ones we love the most, the worst? We can say it’s because we feel safe around our loved ones, but if we’re constantly bitter and irritated, I think the safe thing is a cop out. It’s not okay to treat those closest to us poorly simply because they’re safe. What if we had kindness foremost on our minds with those we love the most, even when we have hard conflicts? This seems like it would be a game changer.

4. They had the ability to trust others, even if the risk seemed great.

Trusting someone means that you’re willing to give them a chance with something that is valuable to you. Trusting is always risky. What if we gave up our need to control things, so that others could have a chance to show up and do something significant? Or fail spectacularly? We don’t have to be miserly with our trust.

5. They had the ability to do without constant approval and recognition from others.

This is one of the hardest ones for me. I’m embarrassed to admit how much I crave approval from those around me. But similarly to #1, when you stop to realize how much energy this takes, constantly wondering where you are in the polls, or what people think about your project, your sermon, your blog post, it’s staggering.

Which one of the five relational skills is most compelling to you? In it together, friends.

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Looking for Good

June 18, 2014 — 4 Comments

by Heidi Haines

Heidi is a photographer, writer, mom, wife, and a good friend of mine. I love this post – it makes me want to live differently. Please check out Heidi’s website, follow her on Facebook, and make sure to look at all her amazing photographs on Instagram. Enjoy!


Photographs are my favorite. There is something special about capturing beauty and being able to share it with others. This world is fabulous and I never get tired of seeing its beauty. I also love to be able to see via social media that my friend Amy was at the hospital with her baby girl. A beautiful photograph of the father of her child and Person of her life, holding the sweet baby girl as she woke up from surgery, it speaks so much more than words. Amy captioned the photo, “Can I just take a moment to say how very much I love this man and his tender heart toward our girls? We are blessed.”

And I wanted to say, yes.

Please do.

But that seemed like a weird response, so I didn’t post it.

What I really want to say is: Please take a moment to notice your Person. Please take a moment to see the good in that Person and to acknowledge it, to yourself, to others, but mostly to that one you chose. Taking a moment to see to the good in your Person and believing it is part of what I think becoming One is meant to be.

My husband Steve and I have been married for eleven years. Out of those eleven years we have been happily married for four of them (the past four).The first six or seven years of our marriage we couldn’t figure out how to love each other well (Steve would agree with me on this). It’s not that we didn’t love each other. But marriage is really hard. We even got to a point where we could not figure out how to live happily together. We talked about divorce. Ultimately we wanted things to work out, but we were both so unhappy that we wanted to quit too.

We decided to give marriage counseling a try, to be able to say that we really had tried everything and it really wasn’t going to work out after all. However, after a few months of counseling and lots of intentional hard work, we started feeling hopeful. We also started to study Jesus more and what his life was like while he was here. We learned that loving like Jesus meant ascribing worth to yourself and others, believing that you are loved and valued and then offering that to those around you. Loving like Jesus means trying to see everyone through his eyes, through love.

It also turns out that loving like Jesus looks a lot like believing the best in someone. This led Steve to actively try to believe the best of me, as much and as often as he could. Which, one, meant that he would see the good things in me and then acknowledge them out loud, and two, he would chose to believe them. Even when we argue, which, of course, we never do…except when we do. But even as we would slip into arguments Steve would stop and purposefully think, “I love Heidi, and she loves me. Heidi is a good person, and she believes good things about me. I am going to believe good things about her too.” But even when things were fine and it was just a normal day Steve would still think about these things.

Here is an example: I love my children. I would do anything for them. Steve knows this to be true, but he also sees the times that I struggle, that I don’t always have enough patience, that my love for them is not perfect. Yet, I would hear him say to me, “I saw the way you were today…good job. I noticed that you said [that] instead of reacting because you were mad…I’m proud of you. I see you making good decisions, the choices that you want to make.” He purposefully looked for the good in me, the good that I wish were true all the time yet often is not, and started speaking it to life.

He loved me this way relentlessly. Instead of judging me based on my failures, he loved me in spite of them and believed that my heart was good. Often times I would tell him, “I don’t believe you,” because I did not love myself enough. But he didn’t stop, seeing the good and saying it out loud, until one day I started to believe him. This made me feel so loved and valued; I wanted Steve to feel the same.

However, giving my thoughts a voice was honestly very hard for me. I grew up in a stoic German family that did not show much emotion besides stubbornness, much less say the words, “I like you.” But I saw good in Steve, the same good that made me say “I do” all those years ago. I wanted him to know that I knew it was still there, so I practiced saying it out loud, even when it was difficult.

Now we are living love as a practice instead of a feeling, and this is one of the ways we practice loving each other. As we try to live more like Christ we are trying to see if we can be more gracious, have more mercy, speak more softly, listen more clearly, forgive more easily, and give more freely to each other. We fail sometimes and succeed other times. Marriage is not a destination, but a work in progress.

God intended for there to be a special relationship between Adam and Eve, but since then adding one sinful person to another sinful person in marriage does not result in beautiful, unified Oneness. We have to work at becoming One. Just as we are born as sons and daughters of God we also become children of God. Become, as in actively doing so right now. I have found that all meaningful relationships take work, and just because I got to choose Steve doesn’t mean he is always the easiest person to love. But when I am actively and purposefully choosing to love Steve every day I am seeing him less selfishly. It becomes less what he can do for me and more about what can I do for him.

I think part of becoming One is searching for the good in your Person, because good exist because of God. And dare I say that since we each are created in the image of God that each time you see good in your Person you get glimpse of God? And wouldn’t it be beautiful if that is what part of marriage got to be about, just to search out and find the glimpses of God in each other?

So, anytime you want to tell me about the good you see in your Person, or anyone else for that matter, I will gladly listen. I want to know, I want to hear how you get to see the image of God, up close and personal, shining out of one of his creations. That’s the beauty in the world that I really love to see.

The Meddlesome Question

June 10, 2014 — 3 Comments


There were six or seven of us surrounding nearly empty plates (and not quite as empty wine glasses), leaning back in our chairs. We were busy taking those last bites that you do not need but cannot resist, when someone asked a question.

What spiritual practices are helping you these days?

It was a meddlesome question.

After a few deep sighs and furrowed brows, we began to share. I think someone mentioned silence, a few probably talked about bible reading, but there was only one answer that I remember, its simplicity and beauty piercing me.

“Before I email someone, I picture their face, and I hold it in my mind. I close my eyes and smile as I think about that person, remembering what it is that I love about them. Then I write the email.”

Email can be dehumanizing. We sometimes write things we would not say in person. Tone is lost. We either write way too much or far too little. Mostly, email is just a black hole. What if practicing email in this new way was a way of practicing the presence of God during a very ordinary, sometimes annoying daily routine?

Try this:

  1. Set some time blocks to go through email versus trying to respond to every email as it comes. My experience is that when I am opening up my email throughout the day at random, it depletes my energy. Give email shorter, scheduled bursts throughout the day.
  1. Before you read an email from someone, if it’s someone you know, stop and picture their face for 5-10 seconds in your mind. If unpleasant emotions come with that face, invite Jesus to stand in between you and that person. If pleasant emotions come, stay with those emotions. Studies show that our sense of contentment and joy grows as we intentionally linger on positive memories.
  1. Before you respond to the email, once again, stop. Picture the person’s face in your mind, speaking words of peace and blessing to that person, very simply. No need to get super wordy. This doesn’t need to take more than 15 seconds. God, I place this person in your good care is a great prayer.

This practice strikes me as simple, enjoyable, and repeatable. It also strikes me as revolutionary. Instead of muddling your way through your inbox, grinding your gears until you just get it all done, what if it became an exercise of peace and prayer? What if you felt more full and more whole after 30 minutes of emailing?

Let me know how it goes.

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by Ben Lindwall

Ben is a longtime friend, who leads people on pilgrimages which help them cross thresholds into new beginnings in their life. Enjoy his post below, and consider attending this extraordinary experience, Pilgrimage for Change.


Iona Sunrise

How did I find myself on a remote island in Scotland, with a rock in my hand, and tears pouring down my face? The rain and wind were driving as I stood where St. Columba landed centuries before, bringing the light of Jesus to a new world. It is a place now known as the Bay of New Beginnings and it was a culminating moment for me as I came to terms with my past, more deeply accepted myself, and caught a glimpse of a fresh way of living.

Before arriving to the tiny Isle of Iona, I was exhausted, scared, and feeling very alone. My wife and I were five years into owning a home in one of the most violent zip codes in the country. As young and committed evangelicals, we originally had a grandiose vision of bringing healing and justice, possibly even winning a Nobel Peace Prize for our efforts. Instead we were blindsided by systematic racism, vicious cycles of poverty, marginalization, and horrific violence. Our home was broken into, a pit bull tried to attack me, a child two-doors down was brutally beaten by his mother’s boyfriend with an extension chord, and a neighbor was gunned down in the street a block away. We also found ourselves new parents to two beautiful young children and we were forced to confront our fears in a deeper way as we looked at the world we had brought them into.

On top of all of this, I was realizing that my fundamentalist faith upbringing was not working for my actual life. As I found a firm “NO” to an exclusive, empirical, and fragmented theology, I struggled to find anywhere to place a “yes”. I felt spiritually isolated and lost. It seemed that my inner transformation changed my politics, changed the way I understand church structures, and directly impacted my relationships as a result. Nevertheless, I continued to pay attention to a continued connection and fascination with Jesus Christ—this man who the early Celts knew as “the truly natural one.”

When I gathered with others from around the world on Iona for the first Pilgrimage for Change with the Celtic scholar and author John Philip Newell and his wife Ali, it really was a time of New Beginning for me. There were activists, educators, clergy, therapists, and folks in that in-between place trying to discern next steps. We were passionate, exhausted, full of life, and at crossroads. All of us needed this: to pray, to walk, to be together, and to find a fresh way forward.

As I listened to John Philip and Ali Newell teach and speak of a faith that is deeply connected to the earth, seeks relationship with other wisdom traditions, and compassionately and actively engages injustice, suffering, and oppression, I knew I had found a new home. We chanted words from sacred Abrahamic texts, sat in silence, practiced tai chi, and walked the island. It was liminal space that I continue to draw from today.

There is a tradition in The Bay of New Beginnings where you pick up a rock, symbolizing something you are letting go of and you toss it into the sea. I found one the size of a baseball, perfect for maximum distance and I put all my force into it. Then you pick up another one for keeping, which symbolizes something to which you are saying “yes”. I still have my tiny rock– a little picture of that turning point where I came home ready to reclaim my past, re-engage my neighborhood, and know Jesus in a new and deeper way.

This summer John Philip and Ali will be hosting a weekend-version of what I experienced on Iona, this time right here in Minneapolis on August 1-3. I hope that many others can get a taste of what happened for me back in 2011. Whether you’re exhausted, at a crossroads, or simply looking for something more… please join us as we pray, walk, learn, and find a fresh way forward together.



Ben Lindwall

Executive Director | Heartbeat



I grew up in the post-Vietnam, pre-Reagan seventies. We had a 1972 Dodge Van, which was General Lee orange, emblazoned around the middle with a thick, white stripe. It got four miles to the gallon when it was coasting downhill, and we drove it everywhere, even during the gas crisis.

This was before mini-vans and seatbelts. When I was a kid, bench seats were the norm in cars, and mostly, everybody just sat up front. I think most front benches could comfortably seat thirteen across. It is stunning how quickly my mom could pump the breaks while simultaneously stopping her three kids from catapulting head first through the windshield, all with her superhuman right arm.

When I was seven, our family spent two weeks driving up the California coast, with no reservations, and no plans, in that 1972 Dodge Van. My mom was about six months pregnant with my youngest sister. Those were the days when pregnant women wore cotton shirts with the word “baby” hovering above a stitched arrow which pointed towards their bellies. The seventies were not known for their subtlety.

That trip was magical. I remember choking down cheap pancakes at dollar diners, and swimming in hotel pools (it is an irrefutable fact that no matter where you take your kids on vacation, they really only want to be in the pool). We slowly wound our way up Highway One, the sun cutting the ocean into a hundred million diamonds, just for us.

We went all the way up into Washington, but we promptly turned around at the border, and I’m still not sure why. Perhaps we ran out of energy, or money. Perhaps we had no interest in the Space Needle. I don’t remember much about the way back. A picture tells a story of a time that I fell, scraping my hands and knees on the rocks while hiking. I can still see that picture in my mind, though I’m sure it’s been lost for years. I’m wearing cut off jeans (very high on the thigh, with the white pocket sneaking out from underneath the frayed edge of the blue denim), knee high socks, and a blue skateboarding shirt with white piping on the sleeves. My mom is standing next to me, wearing (not kidding) her pregnancy shirt with the arrow on it. I am proudly showing the camera my bloody hands while my California 1970′s afro frames my face, the Redwoods towering in the background, telling their stories in whispers and groans.

I remember another trip in that van, when my parents kidnapped us from school one Friday morning, and drove us 90 miles south to Anaheim, where we checked into another cheap motel (and, of course, we swam in the pool until our feet bled from the concrete pool bed). At night, we went to the Angels game, where I saw Rod Carew hit a blistering line drive into the stands, striking an older gentleman and stopping play for several minutes. The next day, we stayed at Disneyland until very late at night, arriving back home in the early morning silence of Junewood Court, the sleepy street on which I learned to ride my bike. My parents scooped us out of our blanket cocoons,  and snuck us into our beds without us making a sound. We’d wake up the next morning wondering if it was all a dream, until we felt the bottoms of our feet, still blistered from the motel pool. We’d smile and know that for a day, we were immortal.

These are the memories I have as a kid: I grew up with parents who thought it was perfectly normal to kidnap us from school to drive to Anaheim, and to drive north up the coast without a plan. In the eighties, my dad would sometimes come home with the newest Atari 2600 cartridge (Space Invaders, Asteroids, Missile Command), which I thought was for us kids, until I realized they played it late into the night after we were asleep. I have other memories, of course I do. It wasn’t all giddy and care-free in our house. But those trips in that van are the memories that cascaded over me today, as I remembered the boy that I was, and the man that I am.

I am the child of adventurers. Those memories come into my consciousness like the tide, rising and reminding me who I am and what I need to do with my life, when I am not sure anymore.

And so I wanted to say thank you, mom and dad. For not following the rules. For taking us past the boundaries. For teaching us to stretch and grow and become more than we thought we could.

Thank you.



So let me tell you how a professional photographer is going to take gorgeous pictures of you and your family, and how 100% of the proceeds are going to help our beautiful little church plant (Genesis Covenant Church) get on its feet.

The early stages of planting a church are actually quite simple: you merely set up eleventy billion coffees with people, where you pour out your soul, your vision, and your passion, and then you ask people if they want to join you in your risky adventure, either with their presence or their finances.

It’s exciting. Seeing people come alive and catch what this new beginning is all about makes me giddy. But it’s also vulnerable and tiring and it can feel like I’m out there pounding the pavement alone.

That’s why the unsolicited gifts that have come along the way have been so beautiful. Betsy Wall is a friend who also happens to be a stunning professional photographer (all of the photos on this post are hers). She has offered an evening of mini-sessions as a way for Genesis to raise funds to cover some of our start up costs. What? Who does that? One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to Genesis. Boom.



Here’s how it works: Check out the details below, then email Betsy to set up a 15 minute session at one of the times & location listed below.


The mini sessions will happen on the evening of Thursday June 19th, 2014, at West Medicine lake Park in Plymouth (1920 W Medicine Lake Drive, Plymouth, MN 55441).


5:40pm; 6:00pm; 6:20pm; 6:40pm; 7:00pm; 7:20pm; 7:40pm; 8:00pm


The cost is $199 with 100% of the proceeds going to Genesis. That includes a 15-minute session, and you can bring up to five family members (pets are welcome as well). You will get access to a 14-day online gallery with full-resolution digital files available for instant download, along with a minimum of five digital files with license to reprint. Prints, albums, and other keepsakes are sold separately.

If you’re interested, please email Betsy to make an appointment!

Thanks everybody!

And for those of you who would simply like to make a tax-deductible donation to Genesis Covenant Church now, you can do so by clicking here. You will be directed to the web page of The Northwest Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church, who is processing our donations currently. Thank you! After you’ve donated, please email me. I’d like to thank you personally.



There is a kind of praying that asks for rough roads to be made smooth, for mountains to be leveled, and for valleys to rise up to meet you in your walking. I think it’s good to pray this way, because sometimes the path that you are walking is too difficult, and you’re broken down on the side of the road begging for a miracle. God loves to help beggars.

I have prayed prayers like that for my friends and my family, and for myself. I will keep praying that way when anyone is starving on the side of the road and cannot get up. Sometimes, the path needs to change in order for us to keep walking on it. I remember when we plodded along the cheerless road of infertility. We hated that road, every inch of it. Many times, we prayed for our road to change, for the valleys to be filled in. God heard every one of those prayers.

But there is another kind of praying. A new friend taught me a new prayer last week, and it has lingered in my mind, settling down into me, inviting me on a new journey.

“Lord, give us the right feet for the path.”

It is an ancient rabbinic prayer, and it reflects the Hebrew mind, shaped for endless generations by the terrain of the Holy land. In Israel, roads are made not by leveling mountains or filling in valleys. In Israel, roads are made by reverencing the natural terrain. Every valley and peak becomes a part of the road, a story to be told and a journey to be walked. Anyone who has ever made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem knows what it means to ascend the holy mountain. You cannot get to Jerusalem unless you are willing to climb.

The Romans, my new friend told us, made roads by leveling the natural terrain. Their roads are wide and flat, and many could travel them. They’re efficient and predictable. By contrast, roads constructed by Hebrews are narrow, and are traveled only by a few. They can be treacherous and difficult. They follow the terrain of the land, as it winds and climbs and falls, like life itself.

“Lord, give us the right feet for the path.”

These days, that prayer is the right prayer for me as we walk the road of church planting. Already, we have experienced some dizzying heights and dangerous valleys. This particular road is winding, with joys and challenges as it bends around life’s natural curves. As our feet are adapting to this new terrain, we are learning to be patient with ourselves and with each other. Every day of this journey, something new meets us.

“Lord, give us the right feet for the path.”

“We journeyed through dangers,” we read in Psalm 66:12 (The Voice Translation), “through fire and flood, But You led us finally to a safe place, a land rich and abundant.”

There are times to pray for the path to change and for the dangers to disappear. But there are also times we need to journey through the dangers, through fire and flood, in order to find out that God does finally lead us to a safe place, when the time is right and when the journey is over.

May God give you the right feet for the path, and may you learn the wisdom to know what you need on your journey.

Photo Source