Second Violin


We are a nation of wannabe leaders.

From the time we are tiny, the voices shout that we must find our thing.

We must be the best.

I’ve hung around the church long enough to know that we church people are no exception.

If we’re going to commit, we want to be seen.

We want to be heard.

We want to be appreciated.

I am not a musician, but when I hear that it’s easy to fill a first violin chair in an orchestra and hard to fill a second violin chair, I am not surprised.

No one wants to play second fiddle.

The verse this morning is about working heartily, but I like this one better.

But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

(1 Cor. 12:18)

Maybe, today, you feel like you are playing second fiddle.

Maybe you feel unseen, like you give your best every single day and no one even notices.

Friend, if you are loving and serving the ones entrusted to you, you are just where you are supposed to be.

Keep loving.  Keep serving.

Don’t grow weary in doing well.

The Creator has arranged you in just the way he wanted.

The body needs you.

We need you.

Go ahead and rock that second violin.

Because in the grand orchestra of this upside down kingdom,

Second fiddle may very well be the most important fiddle of all.


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Well Done

I want to hear it as a challenge.

Three points and an application.

Something I can, you know, do.

We’re talking about talents this morning.

About investing wisely.

About not burying our gifts because we are afraid. (Matthew 25:14-30)

I want to hear it as a challenge.

To give more.  Or to unearth some hidden talent.

Or to somehow be more faithful with the little things.

I want to hear it as a challenge.

But I cannot.

I sit in my seat, bread and cup in hand, and all I hear is affirmation.

Well done.

Again, the emotion takes me by surprise.

(I don’t know why.

I should know by now that I am a big, old sap.)

This is the word today.

Well done.

Not because we’ve run harder or worked longer hours or been more faithful than anyone else.

But because of Grace.

Because when he looks at us, he sees Perfection.

Perfect obedience.  Perfect faithfulness.  Perfect generosity.

So, this week, friends, give generously.

Don’t bury your gifts.

But sit awhile with the bread and the cup too.

With the reality that no matter how faithfully you serve, how wisely you invest,

How passionately you share your gifts,

You will still fall short.

And yet.

Because of Grace,

When he looks at you, he sees Perfection.

And he says

Well done.

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I Met Her Once

We’re reading the story of the widow’s offering this morning (Mark 12:41-44).

A humble one, eyes downcast, who gave her best.

From her poverty, she gave all.

The Greek word can also be translated life.

From her poverty, she gave life.

I met her once, you know.

Once upon a time when I taught in the city.

She was a Little One, all spindly legs and braided hair.

Smart and articulate beyond her years, she came and went from my classroom that year, as her housing situation depended on the day (and, sometimes, on the kindness of strangers).

We shared a name, this Little One and I, and I joked that she was really my sister.

She loved to read, this Little One, and so when I offered a new book each month for just one dollar, she would scrounge together a handful of change and count it out carefully into my hand.

To have something of her own.

With her name inside.

There was a hurricane that year.

So much destruction, so many lives displaced.

We gave from our abundance, many of us.

Writing a check to soothe our conscience.

And then I met her.

Skipping into my classroom one dreary morning, she had gathered not one dollar but two.

Waving them in the air, she flashed a smile.

Ms. Hicks, she beamed.

Two dollars!

One for the book!  And one for the hurricane!

My breath catches in my throat at the memory.

A holy moment.

I do not know how to give like this.

I cannot wrap my head, my heart, my words or my bank account around it.

But I know it when I see it.

And that day, I saw it.

Out of her poverty, she gave life.

I don’t know where her dollar went.  I hope the Red Cross spent it wisely.

I know she did.


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The Thing Nobody Tells You

Little One has started calling me Ma pretty regularly now.

Though I never call myself Ma, I’ve stopped correcting the people that do.

And all of this hurts my heart a little.

Ma, Ma, Ma.  Little One whines, tapping my leg to get my attention.

Friend?  You want Friend? I ask.

This is what my nephews and niece call me.

And it is what I have always called myself to Little One.


I do all the things a Ma would do.

And still

I cannot let the word escape my mouth.

I’ve never slipped up.  The stakes are too high.

You see,

I know Little One’s Ma.

I have looked into her eyes.  Heard a little of her story.  Cried and cried for her.

Prayed for her with as much fire as I’ve prayed for anyone.  Ever.

Because here’s the thing nobody tells you when you sign up for foster care.

Judgment comes easy in theory.

But when there is a living, breathing person standing in front of you, compassion wins.

Overwhelming, unexplainable compassion.

Compassion that complicates everything.

The truth is, she loves Little One.

Of this I am absolutely sure.

The rest of the truth is that if I had been born into different circumstances and made different choices,

I could be her.

When I look into her eyes, I see humanity.

I see heartache and struggle.  And hope.

My brain screams the importance of consequences.

It wants to tally the injustices, to keep a record of wrongs.

But my heart cannot go there.

Its stubborn, unyielding allegiance is to Little One’s Ma.

Rooting for her again and again.

I look into Little One’s dancing, hopeful eyes and I see her there.


Friends, it’s easy to judge, easy to hate in theory.

But life is not about theories.

It’s about people.

With real names.  And real stories.

People who are painfully real.  And hard to hate.

Even when compassion complicates everything.


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Single Eye

Y’all know I am a doer.

But the more I’m learning lately, the more I think that faith is so much less about what I do

And so much more about who I believe I am.

Even before the sermon this morning, my mind is drawn to Peter.

Swept up in the moment, eyes locked on his Savior, he jumps out of the boat.

It’s only when he is distracted, when he hears the waves and lets his eyes wander that he starts to panic.

And sink.

We’re talking about money this morning.

I don’t mind this.

But Matthew 6:22 catches me a little off-guard.

The eye is the light of the body.  If your eye is single, your whole body is full of light.

Right in the middle of talking about money, Jesus starts talking about a single eye.

An eye focused on just one thing.

An eye like Peter’s, for just a moment, locked in on a beckoning Savior.

A Savior who says, “I am trustworthy.  I will meet your needs.”

Friends, I believe that God cares about how we spend our money.

But I believe he cares even more about our eyes.

When we are distracted, when our eyes falter, we make decisions out of fear.

Fear that others will look down on us.

Fear that we will not have enough.

But when our eye is single,

When our gaze is locked on his,

We know the truth.

We are dearly loved children of a God who does not hesitate to give us every good gift.

He is trustworthy.  He will meet our needs.

We are free to live abundantly, to give joyfully, to store up treasures in heaven.

Because our eyes are focused on just

One thing.

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The Easter story is not new to me.  I’ve known it just about as long as I’ve known anything at all.

And so the sudden wash of emotion surprises me today.

I hear the Good News and my heart reaches out for it again.

You see, I need this Good News just as much today as I did once upon a time when I was a little girl who said all the right words and meant them in the best way she knew how.

Maybe more.

I’ve loved Jesus for a long time.

And still the voices sing their taunting song.

Work harder.  Run faster.  Do All The Things. 

Then, then you will be good enough.


It is finished.

Because of this Good News, because of Easter,

I don’t have to be good enough.

Pull yourself together.  Say all the right stuff.  Be a good Christian girl. 

Then they’ll all be impressed.


It is finished.

Because of the cross, because of Mercy personified,

There is only One opinion that matters.

And when he looks at me, he sees Easter.

But you are scared.

You have a good game face, but you are always, always scared.

You are a worrier.  It just who you are.

The voices yell this loudest of all, their taunting song ringing in my ears.

But, friends, the Good News speaks louder.


It is finished.

Because of this Good News, because of Easter

I know perfect Love.

The perfect Love that drives out fear

One hundred thousand times.

And then some more.

Friends, he is risen.

And it is finished.

The struggle to be good enough.  The quest for human approval.  The authority of the thing that lies to you about who you really are.

It. Is. Finished.


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The music was super-loud at church today.

Or I am becoming an old person.

Or possibly both.

In any case, the volume was such that no one seemed to mind the extremely loud babbling of a Little One.

Little One always loves the music at church, but today he loved it more than usual.  Clapping and dancing, he yelled at the top of his lungs.


Little One has been practicing lots of sounds lately.

One of the favorites is Da.

There is no Da in our house.

I actually think it means “that.”

Or maybe nothing at all.

Today, I imagine a crowd gathered to greet a humble king.

A celebration of One who upended expectations by embracing sinners and welcoming the marginalized.

I lay me down. I’m not my own.  I belong to you alone.


Break my heart for what breaks yours.  Everything I am for your kingdom’s cause.


That.  That.  That.

I am grateful for a Savior who treasures the Little Ones.

I am grateful for a church that doesn’t mind the loud babbling of a toddler.

Because today, I’m pretty sure DA DA DA means


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