Winners of Everbloom, the book!

Two happy readers just won copies of Everbloom: Stories of Living Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives from the women of Redbud Writer's Guild.

And the winners, chosen by random. org and the random number generator, are:

  • Michelle Harris
  • Stacy Clegg

If you didn't win, check out samples of some of the essays, including mine, on Dorothy Greco's blog. Or order the book for yourself or for a Mother's Day, birthday, or just because gift for someone you love. Everbloom helps you to write your own redemption story, in your journal or otherwise, with prayers and prompts at the end of each essay.

You can buy a copy now at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, or christianbook.com.

Check out the video our exchange student and I made to promote my essay, "Bittersweet," the story of our adoption loss and the  joy found when we welcomed Isak into our home.

And if you live in the Fort Wayne area, watch for a free workshop I'm participating in titled "Writing Your Redemption" coming in June 2017. I'll post more information later!

Sermon Audio: "Freedom in Community" by Suzanne Burden

Listen to more sermons at 3rivers.church.

My whole life I've been asking the question: What if freedom begins in my areas of greatest brokenness? (Neither of us knew it when we were five or even 10 years old, but I think you've been asking the question, too.)

Along the way, our culture and communities have been moving toward isolation for over 50 years now. But Jesus created us for MORE. The very place I've been hurt the most (the Church) is the very place Jesus has ushered me into unimaginable healing (the Church!)

Hear Paul's words to the church in Galatia, and find yourself in God's big story of reconciliation: just as the vertical beam of the cross reminds us that we are reconciled to God through Jesus, the horizontal beam reminds us Jesus intends to make all things new, including our relationships in community.

Your turn: How does community scare you? Inspire you? Challenge you? Would love to hear from you.

Suzanne Burden is a pastor, writer, and friend. But  most importantly, the Beloved of God. She speaks on a variety of topics, including: Women of the Bible, Allied: God's Intentions for Men and Women, Being Apprenticed to Jesus, and Run Hard, Rest Well: Restoring our Souls through Four Biblical Rhythms of Rest. Contact her here.

Book Look: Incisive Q&A with author Leslie Leyland Fields #CrossingtheWaters

Book Look: Incisive Q&A with author Leslie Leyland Fields #CrossingtheWaters

Don't miss this incisive Q&A with author and fisherwoman Leslie Leyland Fields, as she talks about discipleship, this crazy election cycle, and what frees her to write hard truths in the Kingdom of God. #CrossingtheWaters

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Come to me, all who suffer burnout

I am surrounded by the broken, the bedraggled, the burned out.

Aren't you?

We are all just a step or two away from exhaustion. Some are closer to collapse than others; those who seem to have it all together are often the ones who are disintegrating slowly on the inside.

But enough of all this good news, right? Every day or two someone shares their story of weariness and I look for the presence of Jesus in their pain. Sometimes I just listen. Other times I am the one sharing about my slow recovery from a health crisis, about this or that struggle that threatens to consume my light and my peace, of my longing for spiritual rest.

We are all of us, every last one, looking for a resting place. A place of shalom—the Hebrew concept in the Old Testament that conveys a a meaning of being "complete or whole," of "being sound." We are talking about a wholeness of life or body, as well as a rightness of relationship, a prosperity or flourishing. When used as an adjective, it describes a warm feeling of peace and safety (biblestudytools.com).

I have yet to mean a human being of any age, stage, place, or mindset who isn't ultimately craving shalom, this place of peace. For no matter our disposition and the details of our life, every day is a search for wholeness leading into all manner of trial and error: workaholism, addictive behaviors, isolation, looking for payoff without pain, control and manipulation.

When Jesus said "Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest," I know he said this because he knew that this was our need. Our soul's cry. A reminder of the cry of a baby longing to be held, to be assured that they are OK and well and whole and complete. This longing answered by a gentle touch, gentle words, a soothing connection of presence and protection.

But if I had to ask Jesus to make one thing concise and clear-as-mud for all of us who are somewhat deaf from the chaos of our worlds, I would ask him to say it this way exactly:

"Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you PATHWAYS to peace."

Before you accuse me of revising Scripture, hear me out. When Jesus says to take his way of life and learning on us, he is inviting us to actually do something. The Message Bible paraphrases his conclusion this way: Come to me...[and] learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

Jesus is inviting us to come to him and to do what he did, to employ the spiritual practices that caused him to abide in, stay connected to, his Abba-Father who loved him. To pray. To practice 24-hour Sabbath rest one day a week or as many hours as we can to start. To go away in silence, stillness and solitude. To study and meditate on the Scripture. To practice love of God and neighbor while he changes our heart to resemble his own more each day.

To reflect on and internalize his love until the voice of love and shalom, and the very realness of it, becomes louder than our shame, our busyness, our self-obsessiveness. Until we realize that all is well in Christ, that we are held.

Here is where shalom rustles in, quietly, almost imperceptibly, yet tangibly. These are the pathways to peace we so desperately need. But they mean making the hardest of choices. Saying no all the time to less than the best. Saying yes to the voice of Christ and inviting conversation and communion with him in stillness.

Come to me, all who suffer burnout, and I will give you rest, he says, with a smile in his eyes. Choose these unforced rhythms of grace. We are invited to actually do something, to be coworkers with God in pursuing a life of wholeness and peace.

For excellent resources on this topic, I recommend two resources that are impacting me these days:
Hearing God through the Year: a 365-day Devotional by Dallas Willard
• The Emotionally Health Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team, and the World by Peter Scazzero

Your turn: Are you burned out? Recovering? Pursuing a pathway of peace? Share your story here and encourage someone else.

The singular power of my spiritual intention

This is the truth as I know it: we are so loved.

There isn't a day that I don't testify to the love of Christ for the ones he has created. I realize pastors are supposed to do this, but I also believe people who have received the love of Jesus are supposed to do it. I know from experience that Jesus can give us Spirit-directed eyes to see his love for the crustiest of folks. 

But here is my truth: I don't always believe Jesus loves me without reservation. 

It is so much easier for me to have relationship with others and to visibly be moved by Jesus' love for them than to believe that he is crazy about me. I realize this indicates something is broken in me, that healing is needed, and I so I have plunged into the deep end this summer. I have begun to receive spiritual direction.

Right from the beginning, my spiritual director asked me to consider writing a spiritual intention on an index card. This was so helpful for this first-born people pleaser and doer, because it was an action I could take. I wrote out this little mantra, stuck it in my journal or on my bedside table, a little intention filled with all I know about God's furious love for me. 

It contains Scriptural truth, reasoning, experience, and is informed by everything I have ever witnessed about our Jesus and his heart toward us. Behind the words there have been years of struggle, depression, physical disability and brokenness, faulty ideas about God, and the rubble of dashed dreams mixed in with the glorious hope of the resurrection.

And, my, how it heals to put the truth in front of your eyeballs consistently. 

It has been 1 1/2 months now. My heart is growing lighter. There are days when I see good happening around me, movement in people and beauty, and I want to say to people I meet, "Did you know Jesus is making all things new?" But in order for this thing that I know so well to be my truth, I also need to be able to say:

"Did you know Jesus is making me new?"

I imagine myself doing it with a bit of a laugh and a twinkle in my eye.

Neither childlessness nor a real struggle to be a woman in ministry nor church loss nor relational losses nor physical disability can have the last word. The story is not over. Jesus lives. He will do what he said he will do in setting things right again. And wonder of wonders, he is already doing it. In me!

Words on paper are only a singular step in our healing journeys. But they are an important one, I think. So feel free to steal mine to start. Or better yet, let my words inspire you to write on your own little index card. And keep it close. Along the way, I believe you will start believing it, too. 

Your Turn: What are a few things your spiritual intention might say and why?

If Jesus Attended the 2016 Olympics

Would Jesus attend the 2016 Olympics? Or even watch them on television?

I know my TV  has been blaring Rio #Olympics this week . . . but if Jesus had a TV, I am not so sure.

Yet in the sense that I believe Jesus is King and reaches out to each person he has created, Jesus is at the Rio games. It's hard to picture, him, though, being truly excited about the NBC coverage. I am sure he is glad at the sight of each one competing with excellence, these ones that he loves. I am also quite sure his heart is torn up about the conditions in the city and for the poor in Rio, whose future is wholly uncertain. I believe his heart would still be grieving for the 11 workers who were killed while building the Rio structures and projects. (What are all of these lives worth?)

I am not so sure he would be attending every Michael Phelps event as his first choice, either. Rather, I can picture him gravitating toward the events featuring the beautiful team comprised of 10 refugees—a small representation of the 65 million (staggering to even type this number, as 65 million lives and souls are behind it) currently displaced refugees in the world.

As the U.S. television coverage triumphantly hails their best and brightest, gleefully announcing the dominant U.S. medal count every minute or so, I can picture Jesus turning off the television and gathering people from the fringes around him—people of every tribe, nation, and color. I picture him showing up at the events that will never be seen on television or reported on the internet. People who literally have almost no one to cheer for them, whose future holds insecurity because the place and the land they come from faces great insecurity.

I picture him asking inappropriate questions that expose power and privilege. I picture him telling stories called parables that illuminate the hearts of the hearers—that is, if they have ears and hearts to hear. I picture his eyes jumping for joy when someone considered the underdog competes and wins; I picture his eyes filled with tears and acceptance when they lose.

I see him surrounded by female athletes without a hint of self-consciousness as he engages them in substantive conversation. He does not comment on them talking like they are at the mall; he doesn't define them by whether they "swim like a man"; he has no interest even in defining them by their husband or their children. He invites them, instead, into a spiritual family—one that both honors and trumps the physical family. I picture these women whom he created as "strong powers"/ezers (Hebrew word in Genesis 2:18) completely at home in his presence.

Then again, Jesus may never have made it to the female Olympic athletes, because he might have been preoccupied with the injustice of sex slavery on BR-116, known as the "highway of exploitation." At over 100 truck stops, thousands of girls as young as nine sell themselves or are sold by others by report for as little as $4, all to put food on their families' tables. As sure as I am sitting here typing, I picture Jesus overturning some of those trucks in righteous anger and leading these girls to safety in his own name.

As Jesus is not an American God, I picture him disappointing the media and offering joyous news to the broken, the bedraggled, and the lost on the streets of Rio. The Kingdom of heaven is near, he would say, and you are invited into it! The true scandal would be not that he kept seeking out the last and the least, but that his heart beats for every last person he encounters:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it! Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. (The Message Matthew 11:28-30).

Those drawn to him like a moth to a flame, those who are open to exploring their need and the world's need for such a Savior and King, these are the ones for whom he would have come to Rio to invite to his table: to party, to laugh and cry with, to love.

For the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. Even when the world takes no notice.

Your turn: Have you been watching the Olympics? Based on what you know about Jesus, how would he act at the Rio Games?

Revisiting #ReclaimingEve: Cara Strickland's story

cara

Personal Note and update: The book Reclaiming Eve: The Identity and Calling of Women in the Kingdom of God and the Small Group DVD continue to stimulate discussion and impact both individual lives and the Church as a whole. Cara's story was posted over a year ago, but for some reason my new squarespace blog removed it. Her story touched me, because gender reconciliation has been and is such a huge area of first pain and now healing in my own story. Read an update to her ongoing story here.

The whole series of can be found here. And many thanks to Cara, who shines light today on those aha moments that lead us to go about reclaiming Adam even as we are reclaiming Eve. Cara Strickland is a writer, editor, and food critic in Spokane, Washington. She writes about singleness, food, feminism, and the way faith intersects life (among other things) on her blog Little Did She Know. Come say hi to her on Twitter. She likes making new friends.

What would it take for me to believe that men are the beloved of God?

When I started reading Reclaiming Eve, I didn’t expect to be confronted with complicated feelings about the Eden story. I’ve always felt a certain compassion for Eve, and I clad myself in these feelings as I flipped through the pages. There was only one problem. I might not have a problem with Eve, but I do have a problem with Adam. 

I’ve been through a long journey, through many kinds of churches and theologies. I was uncomfortable with female leadership in church until late in my college career before slowly picking up pieces of the beautiful heart God has for women, and finding freedom in how I saw myself and other daughters. But though I had started attending a church whose senior pastor is a woman, and begun to find healing from many hurtful ways of thinking I’d gleaned in my youth, I still hadn’t forgiven Adam.

In those churches from my formative years, I was taught that men were there to protect and defend women. I learned that women were weaker and smaller and slightly less important. But in Eden, I saw no sign of that sort of man in Adam. He didn’t even seem to be the main character in the story of the fall, and he certainly wasn’t looking out for Eve.

I read about the ezers on an airplanethe Hebrew word used for Eve indicating she is a strong power—and as I did so, I wept. Step one, for me, has been learning that women are beloved by God. Step two seems to be learning that men are, too.

My father is not a terrible man, but he learned to parent from imperfect people. As a result, I learned from a very early age that I am too much or not enough. For a time, my father was also my pastor, further confusing my young mind about how God felt about me.

Over the years, I have dated people who were a lot like my impression of Adam: not quite the main character of the story. I have looked and hoped for a wonderful man to partner with in marriage, and have been disappointed many times. As I read about the way adams and ezers are meant to ally, I realized that I haven’t believed that this was possible. I have given God credit for making the daughters of Eve full of potential and Image, but not for doing the same with the sons of Adam.

I’ve spent many dark nights crying out to God, wondering why I’m single still, after all this time hoping. I’m beginning to think that the hurt I felt as I read this story again might be why.

I have spent time frustrated by my feelings of being on the outside as a single, childless woman. Those panes of glass often exist, of course, but the wives and mothers are not always putting them up by themselves. After all, they have chosen to love and partner with people that I have difficulty trusting. That makes it hard to trust those women, as well.

This all leads back to God, as everything does, sooner or later. I don’t know what to think of a God to whom I attribute the creation of the sort of Adam I imagine. I cry out for a lovely man to partner with, but I haven’t believed that one exists. This is the tragedy of the fall. Not only did sin alter the way the sons of Adam thought about and treated the daughters of Eve, but it changed the daughter’s of Eve’s perception of the sons of Adam, standing in the way of the partnership God intended, trickling all the way down to me, so many years later.

Since I read them, these words have been continuing to resonate in my mind: “For him [Jesus] if something were to be perfect, it would fulfill the purpose for which it was created.” (87) I let out a deep breath at that, reaching all the way to the bottom of my perfectionist soul. For so long, I’ve been trying to do the right thing, to check all of the boxes. It is easy to think that it is the failure to do these things which stands in the way of the life or relationships I want. It is not so great a leap to think that those imperfections are keeping me from my vocation, from my purpose. If only I always said lovely and affirming things, then I might be considered worthy to be a wife. If only I were more traditional, or nurturing, or soft-spoken.

But I have a few ideas about the purpose for which I am created, and it looks a lot like the easy yoke Jesus describes in Matthew. I sighed because though I’ve read similar things over the years, they haven’t ever struck me like this. The freedom to be exactly who I am, turns out to be exactly what I need to remind me that God dreams of that freedom for everyone, woman and man.

On #

ReclaimingEve

: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”

— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author,

Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church

Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece.

Order here

.

Easter Monday maintenance

The other day someone in my church office said I was a very organized person, and I didn't take the time to tell her: sister, I am not all that good at maintaining things.

Instead, I am telling the whole world through my blog. Go figure.

I have google calendar, and I have a paper planner, and I have file folders, yes. But I also have way too many pictures and file folders on my macbook. And some stacks of books on my office floor. I have a business to-do list on my home office wall that is taking too long to get to. I bought an ebook on Evernote (the program that saves your articles & notes & stuff) and have been planning to read it for 4-5 months. 

In January, I made my list of intentions for the year: 

Live loved.
Practice rhythms of rest.
Create.

As far as maintaining those goes, it's funny:

Jesus keeps me broken enough that I'm always listening for his voice of love. As a pastor, anytime I preach or teach or serve Communion to someone at the hospital, I am always pointing back to our Belovedness. I simply cannot live without this realignment, thank God.

Rhythm? Rest? For a month or more, I was working 6-7 days a week, without a real Sabbath Day. I knew this had to end, that I had to grab a few hours when I could to connect with God, and so this crazy season is now ending and opening up into the next one. I am longing for my rhythms; I am leaning into what my new spiritual director calls "noticing God with you" as you do all of the things that make up your days: loving, teaching, preaching, exercising, serving communion four times during Holy Week (!), writing, cooking, cleaning, calling your mother, biking with your husband and your French-teenager, texting a friend when you really, really want to call but have no margin at all. Yet. Oh, how gracious Abba-God is to bring us a bit of rest even when life feels like too much. 

Create. The word stares back at me from the list on the wall and I sigh, and I wonder why I was given this word this year in this season. Create now? Father, you have directed me to this word, but I do not think it means what I think it means. In all seriousness, I have come close to crossing out the word multiple times, telling myself it would be easier to replace it with "Delight." Delight I could handle. And yet. Out of the rubble of so many dashed dreams, new words and ideas are springing forth. Some come out in sermons and Bible studies; some are shared on a podcast; others rise up over the dinner table with my husband and the 16-year-old exchange student; and then there were the three book ideas that I wrote down within the space of a week—right in the middle of working 6-7 days a week.

I tell myself that I can only create when I can get away to a secluded place. That I can only make something good when I have hours to allow God to speak to my mind and heart, to make sense of all that is happening. I have used the excuse that I don't have enough time to read, so how could i write intelligently? I am waiting for just the right clarity to dawn. 

Except that I am not waiting anymore at all. The other night I was wrapping up our church's Reclaiming Eve Bible study—the one where 30 women showed up, desperate to commune with each other and to grow in their walk with Christ.

A week ago, I looked out over their faces. I listened to their testimonies of going from "I am not worthwhile" to "I am gaining so much strength by realizing how much God values his daughters" and "I now see Eve and women in a different light," several of us ended up in tears, and I read Ephesians 2 out of The Message Bible over them.

I am part of creating a home in which God himself can dwell. I was reminded of this as I read Paul's words in paraphrase, those beautiful words that reminded the church in Ephesus that BOTH Jews and Gentiles were in on the action, that the dividing wall of hostility between all of us was torn down in Jesus, that something beautiful is being built through us:

 "That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home."

Brick by brick, stone by stone. You and I, the Jesus-followers, are watching it take shape each day. We are part of this creating. And so, somehow, out of the overflow of the abundance of the Kingdom, I create.

I may not create all that I want to or others think  I should. I may choose to create things of Kingdom-value which seem insignificant in the eyes of others. My productivity is not measured by the number of words typed, the number of articles or books written, or even the number of people I can love and disciple through our little church.

I am creating because God is building us into something bigger, the bigger story of the reconciliation of all things.

I am creating because I long for others to know the goodness and the abundance of the Kingdom of Jesus.

I am creating because I cannot be silent; I cannot leave the agency God gave me as his imagebearer unused and untested; I don't want to flicker out of this life without marking it with the goodness and glory of God. 

This is my Easter Monday maintenance. To recognize that all of the moments I offer to God are redeemed somehow. To circle back to those moments of rest. To count all of the moments as part of the process of creating; to rest in knowing for sure that I have been given all of the energy to do all that God has called me to do on this one day.

I may not be all that good at maintaining things. But the Risen Christ is with me; he goes before me and behind me. In him, all things hold together. Even my list of intentions. In this knowing, I can rest.

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church

Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece; great for group studies! Order here.

 

Read my article on a Dutch couple who saved 60 Jews during the holocaust

This last week, my December 2015 feature in Christianity Today magazine went live on their website. So now there's no excuse: you can read Diet Eman's and Hein Sietsema's inspiring love story—a story that led them to stand up against the Nazis and rescue Jews during WWII all because of their devotion to Christ—right here.

On a personal note, it gives me great joy to see this story shared with thousands around the world. Just as Diet scrawled "Lo, I am with you always" into the wall of the Schevingen prison during the war, I have been challenged to acknowledge God's steady presence and help during the hardest of times in my life through meeting her. And now, I've been challenged by 95-year-old Eman to memorize Psalm 27, which sustained her during the war. She quoted part of it to me in early December, testifying to God's sure and steady help even today. Will you join me in memorizing this Psalm in 2016?

"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?"

***

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church

Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece; great for fall studies! Order here.

Your turn: How did Diet and Hein's story impact you?

The Brutally Honest Truth about Christmas

The Brutally Honest Truth about Christmas

I AM EXPERIENCING THAT BOUNCEBACK NOW. TODAY, SOMEONE TOLD ME I AM A PERSON WHO SEES THE GOOD IN THINGS, WHO IS HOPEFUL ABOUT LIFE. SMALL WONDER, I THOUGHT, AFTER REVIEWING THE LAST MANY YEAR'S CHRISTMAS NEWSLETTERS AND FINDING WE HAVEN'T BEEN FULL OF WHAT I WOULD DESCRIBE AS HAPPINESS SINCE 2010.

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