How to Live in the Wonder and Awe of the #Eclipse2017 Every Day

Temperature plummeted. Darkness descended. Jaws dropped.

Yesterday we stood in holy awe of a heavenly display rapt by celestial power and beauty.

A black fireball compelled strangers to erupt in wild applause at the Idaho Falls airport and around the nation.

Whether you watched from behind awkward eclipse glasses or a television screen, the shifting shadows awoke our hearts to divine wonder in 100- to 200- second blast of beauty.

What if you could allow the sense of wonder you felt to come alive in you every day?

Yesterday I watched countless wonders, and the most stunning weren’t in the atmosphere.

My husband Leif and I used airline miles to fly to Idaho Falls, Idaho, to watch totality at the airport. Leif ended up on a later flight. The flight attendant felt annoyed by the “overhype” of the event, but when Leif offered to loan her glasses to watch out the window, she softened.

Within a few minutes, the generosity spread.

Half of the 30 people on the flight carried eclipse glasses. Soon everyone shared and passed the eye shades back and forth. The pilot circled a loop so those sitting on both sides of the plane could admire the unfolding beauty. Everyone landed with a sense of joyous awe.

Wonderstruck by the power of kindness and generosity

As the eclipse progressed our shadows wobbled and distorted in the light. The crescent shadows of leaves dotted the earth.

In a pinch of time, we were reminded of the One who hangs the stars and spins the planets.

Wonderstruck by beauty and splendor

Meanwhile strangers from around the world lined up outside the Idaho Falls airport. A young couple shared cashews, I offered fresh cherries, sunscreen passed among people who had never met. When totality arrived, everyone—including airport employees—began whooping and hollering and applauding at the dark beauty.

Wonderstruck by the joy and celebration

What if the awe and marvel you felt yesterday is meant to extend beyond August 21, 2017 into today, tomorrow and every day?

The wonder of God’s creation continues to unfold. They await in…

the nearest National Park to your home…

the cascading waterfall…

the alpenglow of the mountains…

the moon tides…

the sun perks and splashes during dawn and dusk…

the green flash

the snowflakes and rainbows and artsy clouds…

The wonder of kindness and generosity continues to unfold. They await in…

your readiness to share what you’ve been given…

your willingness to engage a stranger…

your heart to reach out to someone different from you…

your courage to speak up for the defenseless…

your offering of a snack to someone sitting next to you…

The wonder of joy and celebration continues to unfold. They await in…

the time you start the applause with your two palms…

the whoop and holler that release joy into the atmosphere…

the moment you catch someone doing something well and say something…

the gift you wrap to say thank you…

the gathering you host in a park or your back yard…

the candle you press into a cake for someone unsuspecting…

The great gift of the eclipse is the moon and sun passing primed our hearts to live in wonder and awe of God every day.

We are meant to live on high alert for God’s presence and faithfulness and power and might.

When we gather as believers…

When we utter syllables of prayer…

When we flip open the Bible…

When we respond to a sacred echo

When we give what costs us…

When we give voice to those who have no voice…

When we answer the call to live like Jesus lived…

The wonder of the eclipse still burns bright in my heart…

God pitched the tent of His presence with us in the middle of our darkness to bring us great light. 

My hope and prayer is through the upcoming days and months, you will continue to live wonderstruck.

If you’re looking for a fall Bible study, you may enjoy the 6-session DVD Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God.

To watch a preview, click here.

And if you’re leading a ministry or Bible study this fall, we’re hosting a special webinar on Thursday, August 24 at 11am EST with Heather Zempel for you:

5 Best Practices + 7 Pitfalls to Avoid for Your Fall Bible Study or Small Group

Click here to register. 

Now I want to hear from you.. what did you see during the eclipse that left you wonderstruck? 

How Do You Hear From God? … And a Crazy Story

What do you do when you sense God nudging you to action… and you know it sounds crazypants?

That’s why I struggled the first time I met Patton Dodd.

We talked about faith and writing until the cushions of the wingback chair almost swallowed him. When we got up to leave, I felt a sudden impetuous impulse, a surge of energy I could only attribute to something outside myself to give something to Patton.

Like most metropolitan cities, downtown Denver is full of homeless men and women on almost every block. Rather than hand out cash, which can be used for less-than-stellar purchases, I stock up on McDonald’s gift card—hoping the recipient will enjoy a hot coffee or meal.

I said good bye, but all my thoughts centered on the five McDonald’s dollars crammed in my pocket.

I felt a soul-penetrating urge, Give them to him.

The only thing stronger than the impulse to hand them over was the anxiety of handing them over.

I had more than a hunch that the impetus was from God, but my mind ping-ponged with self-doubt.

This was the first time meeting Patton. I wanted to make a good impression. The last thing I wanted was to come off like a fruit loop. Handing out meager faux money never ranked in the top ten ways to make friends and influence people.

What would Patton think if I gave? What would God think if I didn’t give? The tug-of-war raged as we said goodbye.

As he turned away, I said Patton’s name with of urgency, “Wait, you’re going to need these later.”

“Uh, okay,” he said and disappeared.

What was that? read more…

Charlottesville—Responding to the Hatred and the Horror

The shouting, the slurs, the swastikas, and hands raised in Nazi-style salutes. These types of images instill fear in my heart, thanks in part to the warnings of my Polish Jewish grandmother. Somehow these symbols and images have been resurrected in our time, now targeting not just Jews but also black people and Muslim people and immigrants. How can this be?

Seeing these images emanate not from black-and-white clips of Nazi Germany but technicolor shots of Charlottesville stoked anger inside of me. But the words of the Beloved Disciple rang in my ears: read more…

How to Study the Bible Through a Shepherd’s Eyes

The images and insights still haunt me.

I spent a year with shepherds and beekeepers and farmers and vintners and asked, “How do you read the Scripture—not as theologians—but in light of what you do every day?”

Their answers changed the way I read the Bible forever.

Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).

Spending time with Lynne, a shepherdess, revealed Jesus’ words weren’t just imagery or metaphor, but a daily reality for any good shepherd.

I’ll never forget the first time Lynne led me to her upper field. We slid through a narrow gate with sheep dotting the landscape like fluffy cotton balls.

Then she started whispering.

read more…

The Best Question You Can Ask When You’re Feeling Discouraged

Whenever I’m exhausted or hangry my mind starts spiraling down, down, down.

Small struggles magnify into immense hurdles.

Little discouragements become portals to dark, depressing thoughts.

Minor issues become monstrous.

Maybe you know that downward cycle, too.

The moment I’m self-aware enough to recognize the exhaustion or low-blood sugar hunger, I do everything I can to shut down the downward spiral and tell myself not to think about those things… but what is good, true, beautiful, high-protein, and low-carb.

Scientists have discovered a powerful question we need to ask ourselves whenever we’re spiraling—whether from lack of sleep, lack of food, or too much stress.

What am I most thankful for in my life right now?

Why is this so important?

Gratitude boosts neurotransmitter dopamine much like an antidepressant does.

When you start making a list of what you’re most thankful for in your life, the emerging feelings of gratitude activates the region of the brain that produces dopamine.

Alex Korb in The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time writes:

read more…

This ONE Word Will Change Your Life (Promise)

Do you ever take yourself and your work too seriously?

I’m guilty of this.

When I’m under stress, I become a task-oriented monster. Get it done. Get it done. Get it done. Then super frustrated if it doesn’t get done.

Just last week I had a day where I worked 10 hours and didn’t cross one thing off my list.

Leif said I was “grumpypants” and he was right.

One of the many lessons I’ve learned from being a writer is that when we’re feeling drained, running on empty, or frustrated with a lack of productivity, sometimes we need to take a step back.

And do the exact opposite.

Sometimes when I feel the most stuck, I’ll plan a wild caper. Do something I’m dead-dog afraid of doing. Attempt something I thought I’d never do. Explore an area I’d never consider knowing.

That’s why this weekend, after a frustrating week, Leif and I took time to go on a “Beeftastic” experience.

We said “Yes” to a 4.5 hour butcher class where we learned about raising cows, cuts of meat, and where the hamburger really comes from. (Eicks!)

Vegetarians beware: Graphic pictures of meat are about to appear. read more…

How to Overcome Perfectionism with Shauna Niequist

When my mom was young, my grandfather inspected her room on the holidays in search of anything out of order. Mom and her siblings called these “Hollerdays.”

As a child, my parents continued the practice of room inspection.

Clothes cascaded out of my dresser like a waterfall. Art supplies left uncapped and untidy across the floor. Three half-empty glasses of water on my nightstand. I’m always thirsty in the middle of the night.

I’d clean my room until I passed inspection.

That was 30 years ago. Yet I still wrestle with anxiety whenever someone comes over to our house—as if I must pass their inspection.

And whenever my parents visit, I feel like I’m living on high alert for smudges, spider webs, clutter and dust.

Perhaps, like me, you can find traces of perfectionism from childhood.

The way you were raised.

The reactions of your parents or grandparents.

The words that were unleashed on you.

I’m a recovering perfectionist, but on far too many days, more perfectionist than recovering.

Perhaps that’s why for me, Shauna Niequist’s, Present Over Perfect felt like such a fount of healing and renewal. I asked Shauna to give us insight on perfection and how we can overcome it. She talks about how she does it in her writing…and in the process, teaches us how to overcome perfectionism in every day life.

Lean into Shauna’s wisdom and words…. read more…

How to Live in Harmony When a Relationship is Out of Tune

Friendships are one of life’s greatest gifts.

They’re like treasures—you never know what you’re going to discover about yourself or someone else.

Friendships bring us joy and comfort, and contribute to our overall health and wellbeing.

A recent study found that just spending time with friends can help reduce stress and produce a calming effect. If that wasn’t enough, one study found that having friends can contribute not only to a happier but a longer life.

Not having friends or people you can really talk to can be as detrimental as smoking to a person’s health. Fact.

Despite all the great benefits and delights of friendships, it’s easy to find ourselves too busy to nurture strong relationships. Worse, we can allow petty grievances to slip into our relationships and eat away at our common bond.

Philippians 4:2 says:

“I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.”

Why does Paul call out these two women by name in a letter to an entire church? Because…

read more…

Why You’re Not As Close to Someone As You Thought You Were

Do everything with love….

Do everything without complaint….

Which do you find more difficult?

With love or without complaint?

I struggle with the everything.

In Overcomer: 4-Weeks in Philippians, we’ve discovered that the Apostle Paul loves that word everything.

“Do everything without complaining.” (Philippians 2:14)

“Bu-bu-bu-buttttttttt,” I protest.

Why does it feel so good to let it out to someone?

What if that feel-good moment comes at a cost?

What if the very thing that you think is making your relationships closer is tearing them apart?

That’s what I discovered in this week’s Facebook LIVE teaching in Philippians—a book that teaches us how to be overcomers in our relationships.

Modern science confirms what Paul—trapped in prison with a 1000 reasons to complain—teaches… read more…

How to Find Freedom From What Enslaves You

If we’re honest, we all are enslaved to something. Whether enormous or tiny, illegal or socially acceptable, we all have temptations that won’t stop whispering.

Danielle Strickland knows this all too well.

As a Captain in the Salvation Army, she spends her days scouring the streets to find drug addicts and pray with them and visits brothels to minister to prostitutes.

Yet addiction isn’t just something those she serves struggle with…it’s something she struggles with.

Her new book, The Ultimate Exodus: Finding Freedom from What Enslaves You, (NavPress) calls us to greater freedom than we’ve ever known before… listen to her words: read more…

Meet Margaret