The Two-Way Street of Thanks


31 Days of Philippians 4:8

Some things are just hard to throw away, like a treasured collection of particularly-meaningful thank-you cards that have come to me over the years–cards reminding me that somewhere along the way, in one manner or another, I’ve made a small difference in someone’s life.

Yet last night at parent conferences, when I went out of my way to tell the art teacher how much my daughter appreciates her class, I was struck afresh by the deep sense of joy I experience in expressing gratitude to others.

I didn’t really need to visit this teacher, but it occurred to me that her room probably wasn’t of high priority for many parents. Their most urgent business, more than likely, was with teachers of more academic courses–or with teachers of courses that were threatening to irreparably damage their kids’ GPA’s. But my daughter had mentioned her fondness for this class and for the teacher, and I wanted to pass on the gratitude. After all, I figured, who wouldn’t want to know that they’re appreciated?

But I wasn’t prepared for the response my few little words evoked on the face of this particular instructor. I could tell she was touched, and knowing I’d added just a bit to her happiness gave me a deep sense of fulfillment as well.

Whatever is right…pure…excellent.

Thankfulness–it’s the right kind of mindset.

And thanking those who bless us–it’s a pure, excellent thing to do.

That Admirable Expression of Love

31 Days of Philippians 4:8

I’m pretty sure my dad set a record with the number of care packages he sent my way during my college years.

He’d send snacks of all kinds and numerous odds and ends to facilitate life or brighten my day. Enclosed would be a brief note that always ended with the words “Let us hear from you.” And to make it easy for me to stay in touch, he kept me equipped with one of those calling cards we all used back in the day.

I always had illusions of following in my dad’s footsteps, of being that same kind of faithful, attentive parent once my kids headed to college.  But my son’s been away for more than a year now, and while I’ve mailed him a couple of boxes, the care package thing hasn’t gone quite the way I’d envisioned.

Today, though, I’m renewing my efforts, because I remember how loved and cared for I used to feel when I’d find a package notice in my Biola mailbox. I’d join the line waiting at the window and then head eagerly back to the dorm, anticipating the novelties I’d find nestled inside the box so thoughtfully put together by my dad. And almost always, I’d receive a few envious looks or comments from friends who weren’t loved on in quite the same way as my dad loved on me.

So as my son gets ready to turn 23, I’m sending a few treats his way, hoping that the same affection showered on me in that thoughtful, tangible way so many years ago will be felt in turn by this young man I love so dearly.

Whatever is Lovely, part 2

31 Days of Philippians 4:8


The mixture of friendship and nature is one of the most delightful combinations on this earth, and when that friend is Jane (Lundgren) Sirianni–the very first person I met at Biola–and the view of nature is one found along Pacific Coast Highway in Big Sur, well, my heart is beyond happy.

The amazing thing is that this friendship is just one of several that I’ve seen rekindled of late, and the blessing of reconnecting with these friends from long ago has brought me much unexpected joy.

Here’s to renewed friendships, road trips, and memories old and new.




The Fragrant Offering

31 Days of Philippians 4:8


Over the years, church has been a place where I have been loved on and prayed for—and a place where I have been wronged and offended.

It’s a place where I have encouraged and served people dear to me—and a place where I have hurt those very same people.

It’s a place where I have been embraced with unconditional love—and a place where I have been pierced by harsh, judgmental attitudes.

It’s a place where I have received forgiveness—and a place where I have been called to forgive.

Heeding this call to love and forgiveness is integral to my participation in the mystical body of Christ because—need I say it?—not one of us is perfect. We’re all human. We fail, we sin. But in Christ we have a deeper call—that of living out what Paul tells us in Ephesians, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children, and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Just as the sacrifice of Jesus draws me to new life in Him, the way of love lived out by my brothers and sisters in Christ is a fragrant offering calling me to continued communion and community with people dear to my soul. Theirs, too, is a sacrifice that has spoken volumes to this heart of mine–

through the forgiveness freely given by women I’ve wronged by speaking thoughtless words or repeating idle gossip.

through the prayers of those who have helped me fight temptation and persevere through dark nights of the soul.

through the laughter and tears shared with dear friends as we have rejoiced over and lamented the things life has thrown our way, learning to believe that God’s got a purpose in all this, that He’s not abandoning us.

through the faithfulness of my pastors, who practice what they preach, consistently modeling how to love God and love people, who listen to the deep yearnings of my heart, who see patterns and offer suggestions on how I can open up my soul to the life-giving grace of Jesus.

through the hospital visits made by brothers and sisters in the Lord throughout my daughter’s illness and eventual death.

through the ministry of presence, through gifts of time, food and even money shared with my family when life was at its hardest.

For me, these examples of love in action are what God talks about in the book of Hosea. “I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.” These cords are strong. They tie me to God and to my brothers and sisters. For when I see this kind of sacrificial kindness, I’m seeing God, I’m seeing Christ. I’m receiving His love while learning from the examples of those around me. And I, too, am giving, serving, forgiving, loving.

May the aroma created by such kindness, compassion, and forgiveness play at least a small part in drawing people in all corners, in all communities, into God’s fold.


Whatever is true…

31 Days of Philippians 4:8

When I think of all that is true, one thing that comes to mind is the loyalty of canine friends. In fact, my brother–who’s occasionally known for waxing philosophical–is always reminding us of the unconditional love of pets. And so in honor of our Aussie, Logan, here are a few images that remind us of the true nature of his friendship over the years.

Whatever is pure…

31 Days of Philippians 4:8


There are few things so pure and joyful as a mother’s love for her babe–unless it’s this same love in triplicate!

Jen and Mavria, Emily and Teddy, Shara and Dignan–all were spreading delight at church today, bringing smiles to our faces and bursts of joy to our hearts.





Whatever is noble–take 2

31 Days of Philippians 4:8

The news is full of stories headlining tragic examples of humankind’s depravity and the devastation that lies in its wake.

Yet always, in response to that devastation, brave and noble souls can be found reaching out to those caught in the crossfires of greed and corruption.

One such person is Kelly Connolly, the daughter of a college friend. Her compassion for people who’ve been marginalized and victimized as well as her passion for demonstrating the tender love of Jesus have struck a chord deep in my soul. Her writing conveys a sensitivity and wisdom beyond her years. I’m fortunate to have come across an interview done with Kelly while she was ministering to refugee families on the Greek island of Lesvos. Take a look–you’ll be amazed and grateful that God is raising up such humble, prayerful, action-oriented servants as this young woman of faith.

It’s been an absolute honor watching the Body of Christ come together to actively engage the crisis by joyfully serving the refugees in Lesvos. Never have I (personally) seen an instance of the global Church operating in so much unity. Worshipping and praying alongside believers from all over the world, who have pressed pause on their lives back home to come to Greece and love their neighbors has been so inspiring. It’s given me a glimpse into what heaven will look like—a beautiful, multifaceted representation of the world surrendered, submitted, and in awe of Jesus and His Kingdom.

You can find this powerful interview at:

A related interview with Kelly and her coworker Laura Pennington can be found at:

At Kelly’s suggestion, I also looked up info on a group called i58. In Kelly’s words, “i58 is an American based group that has had a steady stream of volunteers in Lesvos since last fall — they are the most humble, honoring people I worked with. Their care, cross-cultural commitment to honoring and dignifying the people they’re serving, and love looks more like Jesus than almost anything I’ve ever seen.”

While pursuing the organization’s website, I read one of the articles posted on its blog. While I’m unsure of the writer’s name, the compassion and sincerity in this author”s voice as she expresses her heart to a young refugee leave me amazed and encouraged.

But Zaina girl, as I sat there with you and your parents, I was happy to realize that even in the middle of this overcrowded camp, you are loved. I see it in the way your parents delight in you.
They gave up all they knew to give you peace. Ran from war so that you would be safe.
I know they must struggle to know how they ended up here in an over-crowded transit camp. This place that’s so full that you could slip out of sight among the crowd and disappear in a moment…

and then…

Zaina girl, I wish that I could protect you from all the pain of this broken world. I want to shield you from realities of war and hatred attached to the headlines in the news. I want you to be able to grow up in a world of peace…But more than that, I want you to come to know the peace that passes all understanding…A peace that can live in our hearts even in the middle of war.

What more can really be said–except perhaps that thinking on noble endeavors such as these can provide an impetus for us as we seek to live out the light of the Gospel in the warmth of Christ’s love.

[i58] is a volunteer organization assisting refugee relief in Greece. Every day, we are encountering the overwhelming humanitarian crisis that is devastating Syria and surrounding parts of the world. To us, this crisis comes to us in human faces—the countless refugees we meet and serve everyday, the faces of broken families, hurting children and the vulnerable elderly. We exist to bring help and hope to each of them.

You can read more about i58 on their website,

Whatever is praiseworthy…

img_0616-2 img_0935

 31 Days of Philippians 4:8

Although this jumble of teacups could definitely be more artfully arranged, the fragile beauty of each unique vessel evokes memories of my mom, a woman beautiful in character and in compassion, faithful and tenderhearted toward those hurt by the world. She was my first example of kindness in action, and I’ll forever aspire to be as thoughtful and considerate as she. Oh, to be able to sit and share a cup of tea with her today!


Celebrating a quiet, beautiful, admirable life

31 Days of Philippians 4:8


Verla Hanson  will forever live in my memory as the embodiment of faithfulness, kindness, and goodness. Her patience and gentleness in caring for the little ones of our church (like Melissa Moore, above) endeared her to parents and children alike, while the twinkle in her eye hinted at a deep sense of joy bubbling beneath her quiet, calm exterior. In her later years she continued to faithfully drive to the city to congregate with our little body of believers, inspiring us with her example of perseverance and hope. Verla is now home with her Savior. Service details will be shared as they become available.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Philippians 4:8


If Anything is Excellent…

Okay, let’s be real. I’m not actually going to meditate on my excellent smoothie and it’s healthful ingredients.


photo by Wendell Benedetti

But I am going to give kudos to an excellent local hangout, With Live Market & Cafe, and the delicious smoothies created there. My favorite is the Mint 2 Be, a concoction featuring kale, pineapple, apple, mint, and lemon. I’ve made my own variation, but it in no way diminishes the delight I take in their refreshing version, which I can enjoy while relaxing in their loft and working on projects or conversing with friends.

Plus, a visit to the cafe affords me the opportunity to chat with the owner and employees and hear about their current community programs (cooking classes for adults and kids, writing class for teens and young adults, weekly yoga, the list goes on). These guys are about so much more than making money as they seek to have a positive impact on the surrounding community.

And the fringe benefit of being “in love” with this place?  I’m now just a tad bit more mindful of maintaining healthful eating habits. That’s an excellent development, to say the least.