Crossing Mexico's Border and Tearing Down Walls


All this week I have been crossing borders. So many.  The hardest border was across an airplane seat-----but the longest border was in Tijuana.  It was just Duncan and I, the two of us on spring break together (Really? Like real grownups?) Driving into Mexico at the San Ysidro border, through San Diego, wasn't even a blink.  No stop. We had our passports in hand and no one was there to stop us anywhere.  We were in the U.S. one moment, then driving along the border wall the next and there we were.

           Coming back wasn't so easy. It took three and a half hours of idling, in a snaking line, waving off gentle peddlers with serapes, aprons and churros at our windows. Waiting for border guards to pull off panels from a truck in front of us.

"Is it this busy because of Spring break"? my husband asked a border patrol guard along the way who looked friendly.

 "It's always like this," he said. 'It's the busiest land port of entry in the world." Later I look it up. 70,000 northbound cars and 20,000 pedestrians cross every day. I’ve crossed borders in more countries than I have counted, and never like this.



But the hardest border crossing was the closest. I was in the dreaded middle seat on a flight from Seattle to California. A small woman with a cane sat against the window. I buried my head in my computer, for so many reasons. It's exhausting talking to a stranger two inches away. And always the book deadlines. But somewhere over Oregon I spoke.  I don't remember what I said, but we ended up talking for over an hour.

            *Sally was a recovering alcoholic and meth addict. "I've been clean for four years," she said smiling. Her face showed the wear.

            "Congratulations!" I cannot imagine the difficulty of this. And I find out that Sally has MS, diagnosed 15 years ago. And there is more. She is recovering from brain surgery.

            We talk about her disease, her surgery, our children, her father. We talk about God. Sally lights up.

            "That's why I'm alive. I wouldn't be here today without God. He's saved me so many times. The aneurysm should have killed me."

            At some point, she takes my hand and guides it to the back of her head.

            "Do you feel that lump? That's from the surgery."

            I cringe with her hand on mine, then my hand behind her head feeling the lump. This is a border I didn't want to cross. Ever. But here I am. Near the end of the flight, when she finds out I'm a writer, Sally tells me, "You can tell my story. I want people to know how good God has been to me."             


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            A few days later I am in line at a Starbucks. A young latino man skips in line behind me. He speaks to me almost without taking a breath.

            "Hi, oh it's a beautiful day, and I'm so happy to be alive, aren't you? I mean look at this, we're all here, alive in this place," and he gestures to the 30 or so people with coffee in hand, poring over phones and books.

            "Yes, I'm happy to be alive too," I smile back. I too have felt this, suddenly looking around wondering if anyone notices that we're all breathing and having these moments together in this place.

            "My name is Angel and I want to be an angel. What if everyone here was an angel?"

            And off we go into a weird labrynth of conversation I cannot begin to recall. The line is long and we talk a long time. I think Angel is manic or high right now, but God is here anyway. We talk of heaven. How we should be grateful for every moment of life. Now he is telling me his favorite book of the Bible and I'm saying mine when a grizzled man in a yellow t-shirt and red hat passes us.

             "I read my Bible every morning. You gotta read your Bible," he admonishes us as he passes holding a bag he pulled from the trash.

            Behind us stands a 6'5" African-American man in a tight beige miniskirt and a long red wig. He smiles at me as I turn. I smile back. I would love to talk with him, to hear his story.

            I order my coffee and pay with a gift card and wait. Behind me, Angel orders. "Just water please."

            I'm about to walk away and I can't. Someone gave me the coffee card I'm using. I know it's not just for me.

            "Angel, order a coffee, whatever you like."

             "Really? Are you sure?" After, with his iced coffee in hand he asks, "Why did you do that?"

              "Because Jesus would."

            We high-fived.


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            Some flights and some days I'm cranky. Sometimes I build a Trump-sized wall around myself. Sometimes I need to. But when I pull the wall down, one small word at a time, I have found people who need to be seen and heard. Who maybe need a coffee and even a hand behind their head to feel the lump.  And in those minutes, whether we find our way to God or not, I am (mostly) happy. Because Angel is right. Here we are all alive together and breathing together, all of us created in the image of an incredible God and maybe if we cross the borders past our own thick skin, we can bless one another? I need it as much as they do.

Many in our country want to build more border walls. I want to tear mine down.


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Dear Friends——Have you torn down a piece of a wall lately? Would you bless us all and tell us about it?

As the Nations Rattle and Roil


Friends, hello again! What news this week?  I flew into Kodiak for a couple of days. We skiff for 25 minutes to the village of Larsen Bay, the home of our cannery, Icicle Seafoods. Then fly out on a bush plane. 

It was a minus tide that day. All week we've been in the highest and lowest tides of the year, from -5.8 to 21.6, a tidal range of 26+ feet. We walked our luggage (always in boxes) across the ocean floor only rarely exposed. I feel shy and illlicit, as though I am treading on the undergarments of the sea.


I love the cannery at Larsen Bay. We meet old friends here, fellow fishermen. We eat ice cream. We talk weather, fishing, politics. The day Trump and Putin met in Finland, I was here.

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I don't have radio at fishcamp and internet is limited. I am unplugged from the world news mostly. But suddenly I hear the news. The radio is on. The screens are flickering.

There is disbelief. Anger. Outrage. Defense. Attack. Surely it's unprecedented, the words spoken then denied. What a wicked new world! we say as we shake our heads and our fists at our politicians, our heads-of-state, the media, whoever we are blaming.  

But listen, nations come and go. Leaders come and go. America is not very great right now, and it shakes my faith not at all. America is not very great right now, and in truth, my faith is stronger. I'm not gloved up in the ring of the Culture and Politic Wars fighting to make America Christian again, no matter the cost. I'm not interested in trying to recover or create a "Christian nation." I am more interested in what Jesus was interested in: living and enacting right here the great good news of another country, another kingdom, another king, who rules by Love. And Justice. And Mercy.

Who is this king? A king who counted his life as less than mine. Less than mine. And less than yours. And who were we when this King hung up his life for us? We were slaves, ragmen, washerwomen. Prisoners. We were nothing. But not to Him. He counted us worthy. He counted us worthy when no one else did. 

As the nations rattle and roil, I am not shaken. Remember this?

 Why the big noise, nations?
Why the mean plots, peoples?
Earth-leaders push for position,
Demagogues and delegates meet for summit talks,
The God-deniers, the Messiah-defiers:
“Let’s get free of God!
Cast loose from Messiah!”
Heaven-throned God breaks out laughing.
At first he’s amused at their presumption;
Then he gets good and angry.
Furiously, he shuts them up:
“Don’t you know there’s a King in Zion? A coronation banquet
Is spread for him on the holy summit.”
 Let me tell you what God said next.
He said, “You’re my son,
And today is your birthday.
What do you want? Name it:
Nations as a present? continents as a prize?
You can command them all to dance for you,
Or throw them out with tomorrow’s trash.”
So, rebel-kings, use your heads;
Upstart-judges, learn your lesson:
Worship God in adoring embrace,
Celebrate in trembling awe. Kiss Messiah!
Your very lives are in danger, you know;
His anger is about to explode,
But if you make a run for God—you won’t regret it!

(Psalm 2, The Message)


My message this week is simple.

As our nation shakes and totters, we need not be shaken.

Because we're with Him.

We're living in His kingdom now. Already.

And if you're not, the doors and gates and window are open to you

Now. Already. Just enter.

(And listen to this version of Handel's "Who is This King of Glory?" Can you keep your hands from rising?)




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How do YOU stay grounded, sane and loving in the midst of political turmoil?

Missing the Eclipse & What the American Church Needs Most


I missed the eclipse. Entirely.  My son came in from fishing saying, “Wow, did you see it? I watched the eclipse form the boat, through the clouds! It was really cool!”

My eyes went wide. “You’re joking! We’re not supposed to be able to see it in Alaska. I’ve seen the maps! Oregon is the furthest north to see it!” Now I am slightly angry. I love all things celestial and seeing this eclipse would have soothed my earth-and-politics-ravaged heart.

“Well, I saw it!” 

I conferred with nearby experts, my nephew and his wife, both science-smarties and sure enough, they watched it too, but safely, through a pin box.

I felt betrayed that I had missed it.

But that night, that very night,  the sun went down in flames, torching every mountain and sea around my island.  I grabbed my camera and for an hour, I breathlessly tracked its path across the beaches, up on the hills, on the cliffsides, over the water. 





I wish everyone I know and love had been there with me. And I imagine people gathered by families and communities to watch the eclipse together. What is better than this, for all of us together to tip our heads skyward, to remember we are creatures under the same sun who spin in the same orbit of the same planet. We are people who get wet under the same rains and who parch under the same summer sun. When we take our eyes off our hysterical screens and look at each other and peer together beyond our tiny roofs to the canopy of heavens above us-----maybe we will remember who we are.



Maybe I have been burned by last night’s gold fire, but I hope for so much more than this. Because I must. Because otherwise I will despair.

I spent the last 3 years writing Crossing the Waters ----about following Jesus. This last week a film company flew up to Harvester to film a 6 part study based on the book. With multiple cameras in my face, I was immersed in those Scriptures, those moments when Jesus called those twelve men from their occupations, from their families, from their politics (Simon the zealot, who wanted to overthrow the Romans through violence. Matthew, through tax evasion.)

Again, I traced Jesus’ life through the gospels----from storm to feast to crucifixion to resurrection to his last words to us all: “Go and make disciples of all nations.”

Are we doing this?

While the (amazing) 5 person film crew was running circles around me, Charlottesville happened. After the week of filming, I felt deeply Holy-Spirit moved to say something. I joined my voice with thousands, millions of Americans exposing racism, neo-nazi-ism and white supremacy for what it is (here) because any form of any of these is in violent opposition to the gospel.      

But there was blowback on this basic human affirmation---from fellow Christians. Everywhere I see this: the drawing of lines, jutted chins, defiant gestures. From Christians.

Our obsession with politics has divided the Church and stolen our mission, and it worsens every day. Right now, we are not making disciples of all nations, we are losing disciples.

But a divided church is not new. It  happened in Paul’s day too:

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”;another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 


 Paul’s rhetorical question should be ours as well: Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Was President Trump crucified for you? Was Hilary Clinton or Barak Obama or Joel Osteen or any other religious or political figure crucified for you? 

There is only one man who went to the cross to defeat sin and death. There is only one name that will drop every body and soul to its knees at the end of time. There is only one man worthy to open the scrolls of judgment at the end of the ages. There is only one man sitting at the right hand of the father.



Those who love and follow this Savior bear His name: We are Christ-ians, “Little Christs.”  Our identity is not as republicans, democrats, liberals, conservatives. We are not Americans, Russians, Cubans, Koreans.  We are not Trump-ians, Clintonians, Reaganites, Sanderites or anything else. If we have been “baptized into Christ,” then “there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

I am praying the Church would be unified---around Christ, and no one else.

I am praying that we would remember our calling to disciple-making.

I am praying most of all that our anxious divided hearts would be overshadowed entirely by Christ.


That's the total eclipse I am praying for.

Would you join me?



After the Debate: Beauty and Truth Still Win!

Friends, I’m going to start not with politics, but with beauty, because that’s how God began the world: with sheer wondrous beauty, and it surrounds us still. This world is real, present, miraculous, still unfolding. Don’t forget this in the midst of our human messes.





But there’s another kind of beauty: the beauty of truth. I want to speak truth about Monday night’s debate. (Even if you didn’t watch it, no matter. This is still about all of us.) Who won that night? That debate was the most unsettling peculiar even ugly presidential debate in the history of our country. The lamentable human condition was in full display on that stage, just as it has throughout this election season. But listen, the Scriptures are littered with this same condition! I recognize it, because I’ve got it too, and maybe you? Maybe all of us?



Remember the mother? The mother of two fishermen, James and John, who was ready to do anything for her sons! Anything! Even fall to her knees and plead for their promotion. Not just any promotion. A heavenly promotion! Kudos to her for her extraordinary faith, in believing what others did not yet---that Jesus was just who he said he was, and he WOULD reign over ALL! But I cringe at the rest because I understand it too. “When you come into your kingdom, please let my sons sit at your right and your left, in places of honor? Of course. She wants her sons to be great! (Don't we all?)

Remember, too, the day that twelve men walked a dusty road, arguing? They were famous. They could touch a broken leg and heal it, they could pray over an afflicted woman and stop her hemorrhage. They could restore a little boy’s hand, burnt in a fire, back to wholeness. They could even touch a dead body and lift it to life, on occasion. Big stuff. Crowds followed them. They were wildly popular. People hushed when they spoke, cheered when they healed.

They kept a record, each one of them, secretly: how many healings, how many exorcisms, how many hands shaken and babies kissed and cripples running races. But they couldn’t keep it quiet.

“So, how many you got there, John, buddy? I’ve had three raisings from the dead. Not to brag or anything, but that’s pretty great, I’d say. ”

         “Really? I took a poll in that last city and I’m definitely on top. They wanted to make me mayor!”

“Mayor! That’s nothing!” scoffed Andrew. “The Zealots want to make me president! I cured a whole colony of lepers!”

And so it went.

In their bickering and bragging, they even forgot about Israel, which was why they got into this campaign in the first place. They were all looking for a Messiah who would set Rome on fire, who would rout their political and religious oppressors and restore Israel to power and supremacy again. “Make Israel Great Again!” That was what they signed on for.



But, full of miraculous healings, pride and applause, even that heady slogan was lost. Ultimately, it came down to them. To each one of them vying against the other.

Aspiring to “Greatness” does that.  

When such words and debates fail, there are other tactics.  When Jesus healed and fed a whole mountainside of people out of one tiny lunch basket, someone had an idea. He got up and whispered to another, who grabbed another into their circle and soon a whole mob of them knew what to do. They would capture Jesus and make him a business offer he couldn’t refuse---he would be their king!! But they had a plan B too. If he refused, they would FORCE him to be their king!  THEY would be the king-makers! They’d make this miracle-man feed them; they’d make him overthrow their enemies. Yes! Israel would be great again!




They were wrong about everything each of those days. Jesus didn’t come to do any of that. The power Jesus granted was the power to forgive, the power to humble the proud, the power to be as pure-hearted and dependent upon God as a child. The little girl or boy he pulled into their midst made that clear. Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus didn’t end there. He clarified what aspect of that child we need to emulate: “ . . . whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

And later, "Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant."

But people didn’t want to hear that. Nor do we want to hear that now. We want our leaders to be "Strong Men," "Mighty Women," with strength and power in their fists and voices.


 I tell you, I don’t care about living in a country that’s “great,” particularly when it’s been downgraded to mean Clinton’s “values” and Trump’s economic prowess rather than the moral or ethical good. Nor do I want a president who crows about his or her own greatness and accomplishments. A “great” president of the “greatest country on earth” is less likely to seek God for wisdom, to listen to the people who elected him or her, to listen to the sage counsel of others.

But I’m not giving up hope. I pray that whoever is elected, under the incalculable weight of responsibility, will change and become like that little child----lowly and utterly dependent upon God.

And I pray for us that we too would change and become like little children who are known not by our aspirations to “greatness” but by our servant-hearted goodness, no matter who’s in power.

If we can do that, then we all win. And maybe our nation could again be called “America, the Beautiful and Good.”



Friends, who do you think won?

And---what did I miss in this?