Monday, May 30, 2011

Loud Sounds, Evil Eye Beams and Truth Telling

By Margot Starbuck

“If I sneak out of church while everyone is reciting the Apostle’s Creed, “ I reasoned, “I won’t have to fake-smile or shake anyone’s hand when we all warmly greet our neighbors.” The congregation had not made it past “I believe” when I shot out of the sanctuary, fighting back tears and leaving my sons looking a little dazed and confused.

I couldn’t find the words to explain my crazed emotional state to my adult palm-gripping pew-neighbors, let alone a pair of nine and ten-year-old boys. There had been no death in the family. No bitter financial crisis. No shocking infidelity. There had been some very aggravating boy-shenanigans in my pew, but not nearly enough to elicit the evil beams that shot out of my eyes at the son who was playing with Lego guys instead of singing praise songs.

Only later, grappling for language, did I decide that the right word was “depression.” The three clinical syllables, though, hardly did justice to the grueling emotional agony which I was enduring. And that my experience was chemical, rather than sensationally situational, felt somehow shameful. As if my very cells were miscreant.

Because I’ve written a memoir, it’s not a big secret that I’ve wrestled with depression. I’m grateful for the support of a gracious Christian community, a gifted counselor who helped me peel off some onion-ee layers and a keen psychiatrist who identified the medication my body needed. Lots of readers know that, about ten years ago, I was at the bottom of the pit.

Not everyone knows I was there yesterday.

They can’t tell just by looking at me that many of the sounds in the environment we share are dangerously loud when they enter my head. They don’t know that I’m driven to tears by a stubborn child. (Or a compliant one who’s really loud.) They don’t know that, after church, I can fall into bed for hours. Not everyone knows that I’m stuck.

Except that some people do.

Though I didn’t have the energy for conversation, I emailed two close friends to let them know I’d hit bottom. When I had to cancel a playdate at my home last week—and could just have easily gone with “I’m not feeling well”—I decided to tell the two other moms the truth. Even over the last few days, when my lips have automatically said “good” when others casually ask how I’m doing, I’ve quickly retracted the “good” and admitted “really not so good.” I’ve told the truth.

Though I’d rather not be that drippy-nosed smeary-mascara woman who comes undone in front of others, over the years I’ve come to believe that it’s really important. Though I’ve clearly chosen to be gentle with myself in large crowds, like church, I’m convinced that authenticity is important for me and it’s important to those around me.

To answer genuine inquiries with a plastic “fine” is to communicate to others that it’s not alright to hurt, it’s not alright to be broken, it’s not alright to suffer. Yet when I tell the truth about my experience, I give others permission to be who they really are. It has surprised and delighted me how many others, inside and outside of the church, have opened up about their own suffering once I’ve cracked the “actually-I’m-not-fine” door.

Who knows, maybe next Sunday I’ll extend a sticky Kleenex-clutching hand to a pew neighbor. You’ve been warned.

Margot Starbuck, the author of three books, is a communicator who lives in Durham, NC. Margot welcomes you to connect with her at or .

Friday, May 20, 2011

Love in a Time of Friendship Challenges

by Lynne M. Baab

It’s 3 a.m. I’ve just rolled over for the fourth time. My busy mind won’t let me get back to sleep. I finally give up trying to find a comfortable position and, instead, try to figure out what’s going on inside.

A friend is on my mind. I cuddle into the warm blankets and review our recent interactions, trying to tease out the problem that’s keeping me awake. After a while, I resort to a tried and true method of analysis. I recite 1 Corinthians 13 in my mind and try to figure out where and how I can show love more effectively to my friend.

I memorized 1 Corinthians 13 when I was a young woman. What a gift it has been to have that passage tucked away in my brain, available for reflection during long waits at stop lights and sleepless nights like this. Paul’s words have shaped me, helping me to grasp deep inside that obsessing about the ways I am not being honored, respected or shown love in various relationships will not bear good fruit. The model of Jesus and the nudge of the Holy Spirit urge me to grow in acting like a friend, which means acting in love.

Gary Chapman’s five love languages have been helpful in learning to show love to friends. My primary love language is quality time, but some of my friends feel loved most profoundly when they receive gifts, compliments, hugs or acts of service. I need to take opportunities to show love in the ways that they prefer.

Whatever their love language, everyone likes to be heard. In today’s myriad of communication options, it takes a conscious effort to learn how best to listen to friends. Some of my friends don’t return my email messages, but they are active on Facebook. In order to “listen” to them, I need to look at what they are posting on Facebook and comment with affirmation and affection, or perhaps phone them in response to what they have posted there. Other friends are dedicated bloggers, and “listening” to them includes reading their blogs and responding to the thoughts and concerns they post.

In today’s ever-changing world, people of all ages use a variety of means of communication to go deeper with friends. Often depth comes when we show love. The love passages of the New Testament, (such as 1 Cor. 13) encourage us to keep our focus on our commitment to show love, rather than stewing about the ways people do (or don’t) show love to us. When friendships get stuck, sometimes the pattern can be shifted by the choice each of us make to show love in meaningful ways.

Lynne M. Baab’s most recent book, Friending: Real Relationships in a Virtual World has received strong endorsements and reviews. Lynne is the author of numerous books, including Sabbath Keeping and Reaching Out in a Networked World. Visit her website ( for reviews and other information about her books. She is a Presbyterian minister with a PhD in communication from the University of Washington, currently a lecturer in pastoral theology in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Friday, May 13, 2011


By Elisa Morgan

Can I ask you something?

Are you in a ditch? A what? A ditch. You know, a rut – whether within an existing road to a known destination, or just off the shoulder of such a road. A ditch.

A few weekends ago I filled in for my ailing pastor and preached for the four services. My topic was “Broken Families.” The big idea of my sermon was that I come from a broken family…my family is still broken…we all come from a broken family…because God’s family is broken. In each service, God poured healing and hope out on families of all shapes and sizes. I was humbled to participate. (You can catch the audio of this message at and the video at

After one of the services, through the winding line of folks waiting for prayer and to be anointed with oil, an elderly woman hobbled toward me with the aid of her cane. Her shock of white hair was every 70-year-old’s dream shade of wisdom and came not from a bottle but from life. Her eyes shown with brilliant emotion.

I tipped my tiny bottle of oil onto my finger and reached to her forehead where I anointed her broken family in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I prayed that God would hallow her broken family, hold her broken family, help her broken family and heal her broken family. She accepted the blessing and then opening her eyes, she took my hand and said, “Elisa, God wants to heal the little girl that is you as well.”

I met her gaze of love and nodded. I knew. I’d known for years. Through multiple seasons of therapy, prayer, Scripture application and life, I’d experienced layers of God healing my “little girl”, the one that was so frayed from my original family. But in this woman’s choice of present tense: God wants to heal, I understood that while God has healed, he still wants to heal me. In fact, in the months preceding that weekend of the broken, God had been gently peeling back a new layer of release in my soul – one where I was accessing his love for me without platform, place or title. His “just because” love.

In our lives: our relationships as friends, wives, moms and workers, we tend to fall into the same ditch over and over again. Motoring along toward our planned destinations, we note the traffic signals and adjust our speed to the traffic around us. When all at once we find ourselves on the shoulder of the road, stuck in the very familiar ditch of a past definition, in the rut of a scar from an historic wound.

So stunned that we here – again – we stare down at ourselves as the injury reopens and pulls us in. A sinking stuckness surrounds us. Eventually we come to our senses and realize while we’ve been here before, we’ve also found our way out before. We remember. We look up and God comes and offers – again – a hand up and out.

We are wounded, broken folks who were and are in the process of healing. We get stuck not when we remember this, but when we forget it.

Need a hand up?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Intentional Miracles

By Shayne Moore

There is a slogan in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous): “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.” How often do I find myself at point A with the goal of getting to point B but feel paralyzed?

One summer I went hiking. At the time my youngest child was an infant and my family was on vacation in Colorado. Road tripping across the country with three small children had been full of laughter, chaos, and, well. . .work. In fact, the whole thing was beginning to feel like anything but a vacation.

One afternoon I got away. I took the chair lift to the top of the mountainside and followed the rocky path, trekking on foot to the bottom. I am from the Midwest. The Colorado vistas, the clean air, the wild flowers perfectly placed were all pure joy to this suburban girl. With each step the inner room in my soul settled down and expanded. Internal things seemed to be tidying up – certain issues placed on their proper shelf, others slid back out of sight until they could be attended to, some items which had been pushed behind clutter climbed back on the top of the pile. . .

Halfway down the mountain something unexpected surfaced in my inner room. It was a thought that suddenly demanded my full attention. I tried to ignore it. I took several more steps and deep breaths to push it back where it belonged. Buried.

Was it a stubborn thought or a divine command? Whatever it was, it was determined and I heard audibly, “Write.”

Involuntary tears came to my eyes making the path blurry. I was irritated at this directive interrupting my peaceful walk. This was my only alone time. I was not going to spend it crying. I wanted peace and serenity.

“Write.” It said again.

More tears. I was breathing hard as crushing thoughts of self-pity raced through my mind. “Yeah, okay,” I complained out loud. “My world is tiny children, ABC books, diapers, laundry and chores. I have no influence.”

“Write.” It persistently said again.

Now I was just angry. “Write to who?!” I yelled with disdain.

“Write to Me.” It replied.

This conversation happened eight years ago. I can’t say I got off that mountain and immediately started writing. Rather, I got off the mountain and continued changing diapers, grocery shopping and potty training. But something happened to me when I paid attention to my inner room – to my deepest self. I let myself be heard. Or perhaps I created space for the divine purposes for my life to be heard.

I was at point A, and even if it was intimidating I now knew I had a point B. I had no idea how to get there. I didn’t know any writers. I had never written for an audience and I had no idea how to find that community, skills or opportunity. Over the years that experience would replay in my mind and it kept my heart and eyes open to going down new paths, nurturing new relationships, and taking risks.

Today I somehow have arrived at point B. It seems I intentionally got here -- and yet if feels nothing short of a miracle.

Shayne Moore is a wife, mom, active ONE member, co-founder of Redbud Writers’ Guild and the author of Global Soccer Mom.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Giving Up Control in Leadership

By Angie Weszely

I always love Easter Sunday at church. I expect to be caught up in worshipping God for the gift of Jesus and his death and resurrection. I don’t expect him to speak to me about an area where I’m “stuck” in my leadership, but that’s exactly what he did this past Sunday.

My pastor was talking about Mary at the tomb, and that fact that she didn’t recognize Jesus at first. Could it be that she was so caught up in seeing things through her own lens that she couldn’t see God’s bigger picture? She was grieved by Christ’s death and was coming to prepare a dead body for burial. She had no place in her mind to take in a resurrected Lord.

Then my pastor went on to say that the crux of the Easter message is that we need to surrender control of the way we think things should be in order to enter God’s bigger plan. There were even white strips of cloth on every chair to symbolize the white flag of surrender. Of course I wasn’t thinking about myself, but kept praying, “This is such a cool symbol for people who don’t know you yet. Lord, I pray they understand and see you…”

At the end of the message, we all took time to sit before Jesus and ask him to speak to us about an area of our life where we need to surrender control. So I asked him, not expecting to hear much, but I felt in my spirit an immediate answer: “Surrender control of Caris.” I’ve been leading this organization for five years now, so I know that God is really the one in control. I’ve seen too many miracles and things happen that were way beyond anything I could orchestrate. I’ve taken huge steps in my faith journey.

But I sensed God gently saying that I haven’t been acting like he is really the one in control. We’ve been walking through an intense season of growth, challenges and setbacks. I love the growth, but I wasn’t prepared for all the challenges and setbacks. This didn’t fit my view of what it should look like when I’m following God trying to lead an organization. And I’ll be the first one to admit that I have been stressed, confused, and grumpy. I sat there Easter Sunday morning and admitted that I’m tired of trying to lead like this. I need a new way to understand what it means to allow God to be in control of Caris.

So when we were asked to do so, I was one of the first people walking to the front to tie my white strip of cloth on the wooden cross. And I asked Jesus to show me in a fresh way how to continually surrender control to him. It’s only been two days, but I started by carving out three hours of my Monday morning to spend time with him, asking him to guide me and laying all these big needs before him. I’m writing this blog as a sort of memorial to myself, to remind me to stop and do this much more often. I believe that if I do this, many more good things will happen at Caris than I could ever orchestrate, and I’ll be a much nicer leader to be around.

How about you? How do you balance your responsibility as a leader with giving control to God?

Angie Weszely is President of Caris Pregnancy Counseling and Resources, a Christian organization providing hope and support to women facing unplanned pregnancies. Angie is passionate about offering holistic and innovative solutions to the divisive issue of abortion, and about mobilizing Christians to be a compassionate voice for both women and children.