Beating blind men

I recently saw a FB post by an outspoken Christian leader. It was politically charged, oozing contempt for those of a different political party than his own. It was meant to be funny, but it revealed a lot about his attitude toward those different from him.

I recognized myself in it. My own tendency toward “righteous anger” against those whose shortcomings I find most personally distasteful. Sure, there are the Ten Commandments, but what really rubs me wrong is when others break the Kari Commandments.

Right?!

Our response to injustice speaks volumes. It is so easy to despise certain sinners while swaggering in our own savedness. 

My friend Jess describes it like this: It’s as if we think it’s “Jesus and me” over here on one side of the line, and our job is to critique the rest of humanity. Ha!

The truth is, only Jesus is on the one side. The side marked PERFECT

The rest of us — all of us — are plopped down in the group marked LOST

The group marked BLIND.

AND, marked MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD. 

Yes? Truth, yes?

Thankfully, despite us, some of us have been saved by His grace. Rescued from the burning house where we were sleeping, completely unaware of the danger. 

But sometimes we forget. We think that just because we’ve been dragged out of the burning house, that somehow we deserve the medal of honor. We despise those still lying unconscious in other burning homes, standing with our hands on our hips, full of “righteous anger.”

There is only One who deserves the medal, the One who dragged us out of the house. And our job now is to earnestly pray that this Great Savior would reveal Himself to others.

To the Left and the Right.

To Democrats.

To Republicans.

To our Presidential Cabinet.

To gays and trans and straights who are sleeping with someone else’s wife.

To abortion providers.

To those addicted to meth and those addicted to shopping.

To black and white, rich and poor.

To every tribe and tongue and nation, to every people group on every square inch of this globe.

And even to the smug self-righteous dude on FB who totally rubs me the wrong way.

Right?!

There are atrocities being committed, to be sure. We cannot cover up indifference by calling it love. We should be grieved, deeply grieved.

But I believe we should fast more than we Facebook. We should weep more than we whip out one-liners. We should PRAY more than we post and I was convicted of that myself. I actually wrote this several days ago but sensed God wanted me to PRAY more over these issues before I SAY more about these issues. 

America, WE MUST PRAY. WE MUST LOVE. WE MUST REPENT. 

At church on Sunday Jeff shared this from John Newton, the slave-holder turned hymn-writer, the one who penned Amazing Grace:

A company of travelers fall into a pit: one of them gets a passenger to draw him out. Now he should not be angry with the rest for falling in; nor because they are not out yet, as he is. He did not pull himself out; instead, therefore, of reproaching them, he should show them pity …

A man, truly illuminated, will no more despise others, than Bartimaeus, after his own eyes were opened, would take a stick, and beat every blind man he met.

Why are we beating the blind?

Why are we not broken, pleading with the God of heaven for mercy, imploring Him to open eyes and save lost souls and set free those confused by the diabolical agenda of the devil.

I know many of you are. But these words are for me first and foremost. Writing to my own soul here, and letting you listen in, just in case this resonates just a tad with you as well. Thanks for listening. Let’s pray and act in meaningful ways that foster reconciliation, not further division. 

Thanks for reading. 

“Our Hope is in heaven…”

I shared here, about Honor, the unborn child we lost through an early miscarriage on March 5th of this year. I wanted to share a little more about her story, about ours, and about Hope. This is personal stuff so if you’d rather pass on this lengthy post, I understand. But I welcome you to come along.

After having Heidi 8.5 years ago, I was exhausted and overwhelmed. I was serving as Women’s Director, speaking at retreats, and drafting up the proposal for Sacred Mundane. Dutch, 2, was difficult and mostly baffled me. I loved being a mom, but felt like a failure most of the time. I wasn’t really a “kid person” and both babies came without trying, so I couldn’t imagine having more.  I wanted a preventative method that was permanent.

Appointment made. Procedure done. Close that chapter. Moving on.

Life was full. We sold our dream house. Moved. Planted a church. Moved again. Lived on next to nothing. Had an assortment of housemates. Wrote a book. Moved again.

Then, a couple years ago, I was speaking at a retreat, and casually sat down with a woman holding a baby. We got to know each other, and she shared that she and her husband had had a vasectomy, but then years later felt that they heard clearly from the Lord to have more children. They obeyed, had a reversal, and now had several more children. She was sitting there, beaming, bouncing her darling little bundle. So clearly happy.

I was horrified.

God can DO that?!

I mean, He had told us to do stuff. We had sold our home. Given money away. Planted a church. But those were gospel-y things. Kingdom things.

Could God tell you what to do with your body???

I’m smiling here because of course He can, but it was certainly disconcerting to me to think that God would interrupt someone’s life in this way. Go on a foreign mission? Sure. Give money away? Of course.

Have more kids? Now wait a minute.

I remember going back to my room a bit unsettled. Her story challenged my assumptions of what God would or would not ask of me. Of course I loved my kids. But this was years later. That season was over. I was 35 for crying out loud. Advanced maternal age. Didn’t that have to do special tests for pregnant people my age?

I pushed the thought out of my mind. Too much time has passed. That ship has sailed.

As the next year went by, I thought of that conversation. I also reflected on how very different my life was now that my kids were older. In short, they’re SO FUN. I remember being exhausted during the baby stage, but this … this was fabulous! I loved seeing who my kids were becoming, and I found myself often saying, “If I had known how awesome this would be, we would have had more…”

But we hadn’t. So we didn’t.

I was also amazed that year to hear that a friend of mine, well into her mid-40s, gave birth to her 8th child, with a 10.5-year span between her next youngest and her newborn. My “I’m too old and too much time has passed!” excuse seemed a little lame.

Fast forward to last September. With these thoughts still on my mind, I received an invitation from a friend, asking if we could meet for lunch. She drove 5 hours from her hometown just to meet me, so I was eager to hear what was on her mind. Knowing nothing of my own inner wrestlings, and to my jaw-dropping amazement, she shared her incredible story of how God had revealed that there was an area of her life that wasn’t fully surrendered to God. The area?

Willingness to have more children. They too had had a vasectomy. Closed that chapter. And now, 7 years later, God had led them to get a reversal and be open to having more children. She too was beaming, so filled with the joy of obedience.

I was speechless. I think I muttered something like, “Oh wow, good for you.”

I walked from Cafe Yumm back out to the car and sat in the silence. Just me and the Spirit. I didn’t sense conviction, per se, or some heavy condemnation, as if I had sinned. I just knew that the right answer is always surrender, and I never wanted to have an area of my life where I refused to let God move. Without much passion, I spoke the words into the air,

“Fine. I surrender. Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do.”

A month later, the idea of a reversal still stuck with me. I knew I should at least mention the idea to Jeff, since it kind of involved him. 😉 To my amazement, he was all for it: YES! I’d love to have more kids!

You what??! I was shocked, but happy too. Over the course of the next month the idea grew, specifically in the form of two names. Just as both Dutch & Heidi’s names were clear to me before they were born, I kept having two more names come to mind, one of which was the girl’s name Honor. I loved that name for a girl, and it was as if these were children God had thought of for us that we had yet to hold. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like they were already conceived, as in thought of, by Him, before they were conceived by us. I found myself WANTING to hold them.

The true reversal was of my heart, and God did that completely. Now I found myself, more than anything else, longing to hold these children our Father had for us. 

Now, the decision. We knew that if we were to have more kids, we should probably do more than pray for an immaculate conception.

Obedience usually requires action.

And often, cost. While vasectomies are easily covered by most insurance, reversals are most certainly not. We were quoted $8,000 out of pocket at OHSU. Ouch.

And yet, David said, “I will not offer to the LORD that which costs me nothing.” Sometimes undoing a decision is costly, so we needed to be willing to pay that cost.

But we’re still frugal! We wanted to be wise stewards of God’s money, so we prayed, researched, and while Jeff shared our journey with the church Elders, I was home researching and I stumbled upon a chat thread that mentioned Dr. David Wilson, a Christian urologist in Oklahoma who had a ministry of offering at-cost reversals. He loves the Lord and has performed more than 6,450 reversals at cost, as a generous ministry. Instead of $8,000 it was $1,900. And he loved Jesus.

Yes, please. We bought cheap airfare for a few months out, and kept our secret over the holidays.

Although, it seemed the Spirit was speaking to someone else as well.

Although we had never said anything to our kids, they both began talking about siblings. Dutch wanted a little brother and Heidi a little sister. That seemed surprising, since they’d never brought it up before, in the past 8 years! Then, one December morning, Heidi came downstairs and said,

“Mommy, last night I had a dream that I prayed for you to get pregnant and you did.”

I about choked on my coffee but tried to stay cool. “Hm. That’s interesting,” I responded, and dropped it. But that night she pressed the issue,

Mommy, what about the dream? What do you think about it??”

I smiled. “Why don’t you just pray about it.”

And so she did. I heard from her Sunday school teachers that each week for her prayer request she’d pray for a sibling. I was amazed and silently hoped God would hear her prayers.

And then, in January, without telling anyone what we were doing (not even my parents, who were watching the kids, ha!) we flew to OK and had the procedure done. When we arrived in Tulsa, the car rental place explained that even though there were only 2 of us, they needed to upgrade us to a minivan. Ha! We winked at each other (“It’s a sign!”) and hurried on our way.

It was a great trip. We enjoyed the time away, loved Dr. Wilson who prayed with us, played worship music in the surgery room, and encouraged us along our journey. However, we knew the chances were still slim, since so much time had gone by since the original procedure was done.

We didn’t know if I’d ever get pregnant.

But 3 weeks later I did.

We were stunned. Thrilled. Over the moon excited. It worked! This was happening!

The few friends who knew our journey were celebrating with us. God is faithful! Hallelujah.We told the kids.

“Heidi! God answered your prayers!” She was thrilled. We rejoiced.

And then I miscarried.

Now I was stunned, in a different way. I knew that this was not uncommon, but Dutch & Heidi’s pregnancies were so easy, uneventful, uncomplicated. I’d never had a moment of doubt or worry with them.

And now, just like that, this child was gone.

The swell of momentum and joy and hope and excitement … was over.

Now it was just pain, and recovery, and explaining to the kids and all the shocked people who didn’t understand how on earth we could have even been in a situation to have a miscarriage.

So much explaining.

Not at all how I pictured “the blessing of obedience” would be.

But there was Hope.

As I was going through the miscarriage, I sensed God saying that this child, this tiny barely-formed child, was Honor. I was losing Honor.

But I still knew that God had put on our hearts to have two children we would hold, so I cried out to Him, in tears,

“Then God, please, give me another name. If I’m losing Honor, speak to me, who do you have for me instead?”

As clear as an audible voice, into the darkness:

“Hope.”

Yes. Hope. Of course. I knew Romans 5 — suffering produces … hope. And hope does not disappoint. This suffering would produce Hope and I would hold onto her. Hope would be the child who would remind me always of God’s good work through suffering.

I looked forward to Hope.

The months ahead brought up more stuff. Disappointments do that, they bring things to the surface that should have been dealt with long ago, but the pain or discouragement drags it up, so then you get to deal.  It was a hard few months. I was surprised by how long the recovery took, the ups and downs and hormones and swings.

But I held onto Hope.

And around May 5th, I felt like myself again. The winter was over. Spring! Hallelujah, spring.

A month later, during one of our church prayer meetings, a good friend felt led to pray specifically that I would get pregnant immediately.

I did.

YES!

This is Hope.

Yes! What redemption! God’s promises are sure! We can count on Him! Hope does not disappoint! We waited longer to share the news, but each passing week seemed to solidify the surety of this child. My first appointment was scheduled for 11 weeks, and we couldn’t wait. Morning sickness was in full swing, I gained 6 pounds right off the bat, and was already rounding out quite nicely.

I just couldn’t wait to hear Hope’s heartbeat.

And then.

A couple days before the appointment, the pain began.

No. Fear threatened. No.

I will hold onto Hope. I prayed, prayed, all day, under my breath, in my mind. Through that night. Through the next day. Sunday morning I came to church still in pain, but holding onto Hope. As I walked into worship practice, my sweet friend Christine was singing the worship lyrics,

“Your Name is Hope inside me, Hope inside me…”

Tears welled up as I sang out with all my heart, praying through each twinge of pain, singing for Hope, holding onto Hope.

That afternoon it began in full force.

It was horrific, to me, so I don’t need to share details. I didn’t realize how different a later miscarriage was than the one I’d experienced earlier. I passed out three times from loss of blood. Jeff was a hero, carrying me, holding me, through six hours of horrendous labor-like loss.

I prayed constantly for hours, holding onto Hope, and then, in a crystal clear moment, in the darkness I heard in my heart,

“Our Hope is in heaven.”

Through my blurred eyes I pulled up the verse on my phone–did it really say that? Yes. Colossians 1:5,

… the hope laid up for us in heaven.

Hope was laid up for us in heaven. 

You’ve probably been there before. When the waves of grief just wash over you, like the relentless waves of labor contractions, and the physical pain seems endless and it all feels overwhelming, but there’s peace too.

The physical process continued in all its mercilessness, but Jeff carried me, and somehow heaven seemed so real and suddenly there was so much there.

I was just so grateful. All I could think about was how grateful I was.

To be alive. To have a husband who stayed up all night holding me. For two beautiful children, alive and asleep in the other room. For our home, for this land that is green and lush and gorgeous. For grace, for life, for Jesus and for all He’s done and is doing and for our friends and amazing family, and for HEAVEN.

The hope of heaven. Whatever the worst is this world can do to us … it’s got nothing on heaven.

Heaven wins.

And so my Hope passed from this world to the next, just like that.

Sure, I know my God works miracles here too. Jesus clearly shows us that. He heals bodies. He parts seas. He feeds thousands. He opens eyes.

But that isn’t all He does. Ultimately, our Hope is in heaven.

And I know God’s good will isn’t miscarriage. He’s shown us that too (Exodus 23). But no matter what this busted, messed up, broken world can beat us down with, heaven wins. 

And then, afterwards, the gratitude couldn’t help but grow because God’s people are amazing and who can grumble and gripe when there’s gorgeous flowers filling my countertop and the kindest words poured out on cards and gifts and love that leave me speechless? When friends show up with my favorite treats, and Clear Mind kombucha flows like water 😉 and when I don’t know what on earth to do for dinner the housemate comes up with steaming hot spaghetti and then the husband walks in with brownies dropped off by a friend, and, and, and …

How can I complain of pain when there’s still so much beauty in this world??? 

There is still so much beauty in this world.

Of course there is still grief. And I know two miscarriages is nothing compared to some of your pain. You who are battling cancer or fighting for little one’s lives or grieving loss that’s beyond my comprehension. But I know this:

He wins.

The worst this world can do is death.

Oh death, where is your sting? It has been swallowed up. You know by what?

By victory.

And so, that was this Monday. 🙂 And now I’m unplugging for a bit, laying low with my feet up and I hope you have a great week. Just wanted to share a bit of our journey with you.

It’s not over.

{Thanks for reading.}

The one right way to do church…

I still remember the pastor’s patient smile when Jeff and I, over-eager 20-somethings, approached him with our “concern.” 

We explained. We cited sources. We felt so strongly.

He smiled. He’d been around the block a few times, and he simply responded,

“There are a lot of ways to do church.”

He wasn’t being dismissive or condescending, I think he just recognized our youthful zeal and earnest desire to do things right. And I think he also had spent enough time in prayer to know that wasn’t the path God was leading him on. He gave us freedom to disagree, without deviating from his course.

Now, ten years later, I recognize his wisdom, and have taken that route a time or two myself. I have smiled, listened, and said,

There are a lot of ways to do church.

I wrote last fall what 100 churches have shown me, reflecting on all the variations I’ve seen and enjoyed within local churches. But this struck me afresh in a whole new way while reading Sacred Privilege, a book for pastor’s wives written by Rick Warren’s wife, Kay.

First off, the book is great. If you are a pastor’s wife, it will be a healing balm to your heart and give you the hope and strength to see your role with newfound joy. I so appreciate her honesty, humility, transparency, and straightforward wisdom. She’s not trying to win friends or make a name for herself, she’s pouring out her heart on pages for the sake of other women. Thank you, Kay.

But on another level, it was a powerful reminder: there are a lot of ways to do church. It is so easy to look on from the outside and criticize. It’s so easy to take God’s clear leading of us, and immediately assume that’s God’s will for everyone.

I think it might be impossible to overestimate how prone we are to this!

For example, I’m not a fan of spending millions of dollars on church buildings. In my perspective, that money could be better spent. However, I know God-fearing, Spirit-led leaders have clearly heard from God to purchase land for various causes. Who am I to decide that God does or doesn’t want churches to own land? Is there a clear scriptural mandate one way or the other?

I personally love the house-church model. I appeals to me as simple, low-cost, and familial. But when we planted Renew, God led us to ask Him for the Revival Building, an old run-down building in our city. We could never have afforded it, or event wanted to, but over the course of 6 months, as we prayed circles around it, a series of amazing circumstances gave us access to it every Sunday for a remarkably low price. We’re still there, and so grateful.

Jesus preached in synagogues, in open-air, and in homes. How beautiful is it that the Body of Christ can gather in homes, schools, movie theaters, dedicated church buildings, granges, strip malls, and amphitheaters? What a lovely expression of the variety of God’s creation when we can gather in various forms, at various times, an in various ways. I think as long as He’s truly the center–and not our own egos–He’s probably pleased.

The same could be true of church methods and models. Could it be that the best method for any particular church is the one that best suits its members and its calling? That is, the one that reflects the unique spiritual gifts of its leaders and members, the one that fulfills that church’s unique calling within its unique community? Of course we are all called to make disciples, but the variety with which we fulfill that calling is vast, perhaps just as vast as the individual disciples who fulfill it!

Friends, let’s be very careful before we criticize another Christian’s earnest attempts to make disciples, further the Kingdom, and establish Jesus’ Church on the earth. The longer I minister the more I see the manifold wisdom of God displayed through the manifold variety within the local church.

There are a few church things Scripture’s clear about: qualifications for elders and deacons, how to handle disciplinary issues, and the priority of the Word and prayer. It’s even quite clear on sexuality, male-female relationships, the priority of family, financial provision for clergy, praying for the sick, and how to exercise spiritual gifts within the context of congregational worship.

But we don’t get specific instructions regarding children’s classes, membership, buildings, preaching-methods, or worship style. And yet we continue to argue ad nauseam about these things. 

What I appreciated about Kay’s book was that she wasn’t trying to sell us on her model, her methods, or her way of ministry. She was selling us on Christ’s faithfulness to carry us through the highs and lows that are the life of a pastor’s wife. She’s essentially saying,

There’s one right way to do church:

Humbly.

Amen.

Thanks for reading. 

10 years ago today… {Don’t just “be a good _____.”}

Ten years ago today, I birthed my words into the world for the very first time. 

I was in a dark season, nursing a fussy baby and living with my parents. It was smack dab in the middle of the 50-month season of silence I discuss in Sacred Mundane. Jeff knew I needed something, an outlet, a way to express my angst and process my feelings.

He bought me karipatterson.com for $13 and told me I now had a blog. 

I had never heard of a blog. At this point people had MySpace accounts, and that didn’t interest me. A blog sounded even less desirable–like a mix of a slog, a bog, and a log. None of those were appealing, but I did believe with all my heart that I was called to write.

At that point it had already been about seven years since I first heard “Sacred Mundane” whispered to my soul. I knew I was meant to live first, and eventually, write a book by this title, but I may as well have been called to walk on the moon, the distance seemed so vast between where I was and where I hoped to be.

Jeff opened the window on my browser, showed me how to click the “Publish” button, and told me to write every day.

So I did. I began with our love story, When God Broke My Heart, and went from there. I didn’t know how to add pictures or share posts (I didn’t even have a FB account). I think I had two subscribers–Jeff and my mom.

But it was a freeing place to play with words. It was fun to experiment with expression, to attempt to articulate complex emotions, conflicting feelings, confusing situations. I enjoyed the regularity of writing every day, whether I felt like it or not, knowing no one was probably reading it anyway so it was okay to just be raw and real. I wasn’t trying to wow anyone, I just enjoyed words and played with them until they best expressed my heart.

Then I tried my hand at some magazine articles. Not one of them were published.

They were awful because when I wrote them I was trying to be a good writer. Anything I’ve written while “trying to be a good writer” has usually turned out terribly. Even as I edited Sacred Mundane and revisited portions written several years ago, I could easily identify, “Oh, I was trying to be a good writer right there. Delete it all.”

Why is “trying to be a good writer” such a detriment to great writing? I believe it’s because it puts the focus on self, and nothing is more off-putting than reading a book that draws unnecessary attention to its author. Superb writing draws attention away from itself and onto the beauty of the idea expressed.

When I stopped trying to write a good book, and began loving, praying for, and caring about the people who would turn its pages, I began to write something a little more worth reading. When I stopped trying to “be good speaker” and started pouring out my heart and giving myself for the sake of the souls in those seats, then maybe I began sharing something a little more worth listening to.

Most of my time here on the blog has been rather mundane. I learned early on that in order to write well I’d need to write some trash as well. This too was freeing. But over the course of these ten years I’ve written thousands of blog posts, adding up to more than million words. For several years I wrote a new blog post every single day, as a discipline. Now I’m slowing way down, as I focus my energy more on raising my kids and (Lord willing) writing more books.

My point is simply this: What is it that you are called to do that may as well be walking on the moon, for how far away it seems?

They say it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. Of course that’s not always true, but it doesn’t hurt to try. I’ve probably spent close to that many hours writing, and certainly haven’t mastered the art. I’ve spent more than that many hours parenting, and still feel hopelessly under-qualified at times.

Whatever the aim may be, I encourage you: Don’t focus on “being a good _____” (writer, parent, teacher, speaker).

Focus on the people you’re serving, loving, raising, communicating with. Focus on the glorious God who gives good gifts of words and stories and wrack your brain on how to draw attention to Him. Don’t settle for just “being a good” whatever … look beyond you to them, the ones who will read, receive, enjoy.

And remember, God’s pleasure over you does not rise and fall with the Likes, Shares, follows, or reviews you receive.

My work hidden in the shadows is just as valuable as that done in the spotlight.

What is worth ten years of your time? I’m very grateful for these ten years of tapping away on these keys. It’s been good for my heart, and I hope, in just a little way, it’s been good for yours too.

Thanks for reading. 

Have you snagged a copy of Sacred Mundane?? Amazon has copies on sale now for only $11.59!