A Glimpse of Heaven at Trader Joe’s

It was just supposed to be a quick grab and go. Fridays can be tricky at Trader Joe’s, so I was prepared for an aisle or two of three-lane traffic. What I was not prepared for was the gaggle of senior citizens mingling in every entry aisle and passageway as if they’d rented out the bread & muffin section for an octogenarian birthday party.

In the place where impatience usually rises up in me I found myself instead leaning in. Their wizened faces were alight with joy as they chatted in thick accents. “Russian Jews,” I thought to myself. Russian Jews at the end of life telling stories and smiling and entitled in the best possible way to be clogging the aisles of the neighborhood store.

What could they teach me about slowing down? About recognizing that, in the end, when all the suffering is behind you, that there is nothing else but this: to delight in the company of one another.

Just this morning I had read in the Benedictine devotional Always We Begin Again these words: “Every day carries the potential to bring the experience of heaven; have the courage to expect good from it.”

For a moment they were like icons to me: windows into the realm of the sacred, the holy. Although depression, anxiety, and isolation is epidemic in this country, there were no shadows on these faces. Some were in wheelchairs. Others had walkers. By virtue of their advanced ages, all would have known heartache and illness and loss. The fact that they were all together told me that they had arrived that way, likely a field trip from a local senior center. I reached for a loaf of Ezekiel bread.

“What is that?” one of the ladies asked. She was 5′ tops with a cropped shock of red hair. In a brief conversation, she had confirmed that they were, in fact, all Russian Jews from a local day care.

“Oh, it’s very healthy,” I told her. “No flour. See here. Ezekiel 4:9. It’s the same recipe one of your prophets gave us.”

“Ah,” she said, and smiled.

I continued on with my shopping, carrying inside me a new shade of meaning for “the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4).

I was loading up my trunk when the seniors finally began heading out to a large van. Driving away, I looked in my rearview mirror. On the side of their shared vehicle I saw the words Nazareth House. And smiled.

One of my favorite promises from Jesus is this: “In my father’s house there are many rooms,” (John 14:2). Today I’m grateful to have had a glimpse of this one.




The Glorious Vocation of Vin Scully

So many memories, so many tributes, but his life’s work says it all. Vin was born to do and be the voice of the Dodgers—a voice that at all times delighted in children and families,  captured moments in time that were greater than our own first-hand witness, and always—always—spoke of players, teams, umps, leagues, and the world in a way that upheld the dignity of all.

Here, Kevin Costner recounts a life of vocation in words almost as eloquent as Vin’s.


Who are you?

This is a question I get asked more and more lately. Who are you? How did you get here? Why are people listening to you? One retreat director, who—based on multiple recommendations—was engaging me as the lead speaker at a week-long event for 2017, actually spelled out the confusion,” I mean, you’re not a pastor or a professor or a worship leader or a director of Christian Education.” In other words, how did you become a credible figure without any of the traditional credentials?

I get the confusion. In the Lutheran world where God called me to faith (and out of which He has not yet shown any inclination to move me), I am an anomaly.  Not of the German Lutheran culture. Not a lifelong Christian. And, perhaps most confounding, a woman who talks about theology and culture—both inside and outside of church walls.

When I was working on my MA thesis, I discovered a non-Lutheran, Luther scholar named Gordon Rupp, who said this about a pivotal season in Luther’s development: “you could almost hear him growing in the night, so plain is the growth in maturity, independence and coherence in a few months.”

This idea that a person’s public writing might reveal the fingerprints of God in her life stayed with me, until I came to see that the answer to the question “who are you?” might be hidden in plain sight, in the blogs, books, and talks I’d written over the past five years.

Soon I will be releasing an e-book that will endeavor to retrace the steps of the Living God in my life over a period of profound transformation. It is my hope that in sharing my story, others will be encouraged to pray, listen, and follow His Spirit with boldness and great joy.

Soli Deo Gloria

A Theologian's Diaryr1


In the wake of despair

It arrived in a Facebook message from my husband this morning. I saw that it was a link. Clicking thru I had the surreal experience of reading about a murder-suicide—the sort of thing that happens somewhere else, to people with lives you can’t quite imagine. But this was the story of a man I knew. We had all worked together in advertising years before. I hadn’t heard from him in 20 years until my husband forwarded me a message in December of 2014. It seems he had picked up my book Elijah & the SAT and it was speaking deeply to him. I share this in the hopes that we may begin to open our eyes to the silent pain all around us.

He wrote “It’s 12:30 at night here, and in one sitting I’ve consumed about 33% of the book on Kindle. Now I can’t sleep. Two sleeping pills and a stiff one haven’t knocked me out. I gotta keep reading. I even went up to our library upstairs and pulled out a Bible.”

We exchanged a few emails after that. I suggested he try reading The Psalms. I think I might have sent him a Taize song or two to soothe his soul and help him learn to open his heart to the Living God, the God who brings the peace that passes all human understanding.

The last time I wrote him was to thank him for a lovely review on amazon. He had ended it with these words “I’m glad I’m reviewing it during the holiday season because it’s very motivating. In fact, I plan to go to church for the first time this Christmas in a long, long time.”

I don’t know if he ever showed up at a church, or if anyone would have been able to sense his pain if he did. It’s not always an easy thing to spot, or to heal.

We have finally begun to recognize the epidemic in this country of early death from drug and alcohol abuse, illness, and suicide in working class men, but his was of a strain we don’t talk much about: despair in those who have been successful in media professions and then find that the new world order somehow doesn’t include them.

And now a husband and wife are dead, leaving behind a legacy of violence and despair.

What are we to do with stories like this? With pain like this?

At the very least I hope these tragedies serve to make us more mindful of how misleading a nice house or a car or a smile can be. Of how little we actually know the neighbors we long to love.

May the God this man hungered to reconnect with pour down his mercy on the family, and all those who are crushed by the lie that says we are only as good as our job title, our degree, or our net worth.

Lord have mercy.


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