Being Seen

Jill1Hi. I’m Jill, a writer, speaker, editor, pastor, and all-around person in need of grace. Particularly now, since currently, I’m working on moving my blog and website information over to this lovely and venerable site. But for now, if you’d like to read current or past blogs, please visit me here.

I talk about a lot of things on my blog and in my books and articles. But usually, they focus on a few main topics. Fear, faith, empowerment (particularly of women and the next generation), caring for those less powerful, and trying to live freely the abundant life God has given us.

To let you know I know what I’m talking about with this fear and empowerment thing, let me give you some background.

warriors-together4I’m the kids who refused to step too far into the back yard after dark. The woman who slept with a nightlight when I was twenty. The person who would still rather face a rabid bobcat than walk up to a stranger and begin a conversation. Fear has been a really close acquaintance of mine. For too long.

Yet there is God, telling me to live “adventurously expectant.” To look at each day and ask, “What’s next?” And that enthusiasm isn’t supposed to lessen when today’s “next” wasn’t as great as I’d hoped. Or when we’re terribly certain tomorrow’s will be worse. “Fear not” may be the most common command in the Bible, but fear is also perhaps the most common human emotion. What’s happening here?

I don’t want to live life as a grave-tender, so wrapped in fear of what might be that I lose the time in between. I want to live an adventure for God’s kingdom, and I want to do it with you. I want to know who I am, and I want you to know who you are, because of who He is.

I want us both to know the identity God put in us when he created the imago dei in the garden. He hasn’t rescinded that deal. I want to see you and hear you and know you–and I want you to know He already sees and hears and knows you.

To prove I’m serious, here’s your first story.

I’m terrified of spiders. If you don’t believe this, you’ve never seen me run out of the shower shrieking because there was an eight-legged creation of God on the tile wall. Which is a good thing. No one should see me run out of the shower. Ever.

I hyperventilated if I saw a picture of a spider. But before leading my fist mission trip, I decided, no more. Time to face it. It can’t be as bad in reality as in imagination. Sure it can’t. Totally believed that, except not.

Spider (1)I marched into the pet store (OK, I crept into the fourth pet store, after failing three times) to find a tarantula and–you got it–hold that baby. The very helpful pet shop guy talked me through the traumatic process. He assured me the spider would just sit there. And you know what? It did. You know what else? They’re actually soft. And even cute in a . . . creepy, way-too-many-legs-and-eyes, spidery sort of way.

Seriously, God gave me such a calm that the whole thing was kind of surreal and interesting. Plus, I made sure to get it on video. Because, you, know, this is not going to be repeated on an annual basis or anything.

I’m not saying I’m going to go out and get a bird-eating tarantula for a housemate anytime soon. But–fear only has the power we give it. And I was tired of giving it.

The Lord knows I’d lived through way worse than spiders by that time, anyway.

So, let’s join one another. I can’t wait to see what happens here.


PS– I’d love it if you want to hit the button to subscribe or shoot me an email to be put on my mailing list!

Radio Silent

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When our oldest daughter was little and the adjacent room where she played grew silent, I would call out—“Becca, what are you doing?”

“I’m being very carefully!”

I have no idea why it was always carefully and not careful, but regardless, we knew. Silence meant check—now.

Our middle child was more direct. When we called the same query to her, she responded—“Don’t come in here!”

Silence from small children is bad. Like airplanes, radio silence from kids means something has gone wrong. Terribly wrong.

Silence Means Something Is Wrong

God agrees. The first time his children didn’t answer him, he knew. Silence from his first kids meant something terrible had happened.

Adam and Eve went radio silent on God.

I’ve been preaching through a series called Things God Wants To Know. The first question he ever asked, believe it or not, is one he asks each one of us as well. Every single day. Our answer matters.

God’s first question is seared with pain—for the questioner and the questioned. It leaks with knowledge neither wants and a desire for right that won’t be truly righted for a long, long time.

Where are you?

When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.” (Genesis 3.8-10)


It’s not a question God doesn’t know the answer to. He made the trees. He knows every leaf and branch. It’s like our kids hiding behind the living room chair and then hollering out, “You can’t see me!”

So there has to be another reason he asks.

My children—Where are you?

I get it. Only a couple weeks ago I went to get my child off the commuter train, as usual. Only she didn’t get off. At least, I didn’t see her, and she didn’t see me. I went straight into mama panic mode, calling her and yelling God’s very question—“Where are you???”

Parents understand.

The answer from God’s children was not good—it was the equivalent of “Don’t come in here.” We’re hiding. We’re afraid.


God’ first kids had never experienced fear before, but now they felt its full force. They’re afraid of their father, their maker. The one who created a perfect relationship with them now forever changed by that monster fear.

We’re hiding. Don’t come in here.

Do you have naked dreams? I do. They’re horrible. You’re in a crowd of people, and suddenly, you don’t have any clothes on. In the dream, it’s humiliating and horrifying.

In real life, it’s the same. The first kids feel vulnerable—and they’ve never even known what the meant before now. So they run for cover—in this case, leaves. Leaves are a terrible cover, really, but desperate people do strange things.

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I mean, we do, right?

We run for cover to all kinds of things when we’re afraid.

  • Our bank accounts that promise security.
  • A bad relationship that promises belonging.
  • A new job that promises to fix everything wrong with the old one.
  • A political party that promises to make our country just the way we’ve always thought it should be.
  • Our perfect control of everything that promises we don’t ever have to fear fear itself.

Adam and Eve are not the only ones who know how to hide out in the woods with badly thrown together costumes masking their terror at the future.

Where Are We?

We know the answer to God’s question. We are in mess. We’re stuck in our own selfishness. We’re locked in our own bad choices. We’re crippled by a brokenness of our own making. We’re not living into what we were made to be.

So God calls—where are you? And we let it go to voice mail.

You know it’s true. He calls every one of us every day, every hour.

Where are you?

There are really only two answers.

  1. I’m hiding. Or
  2. I’m right here.

If it’s not the latter, it’s the former. We can’t be in between.

Yet maybe, the want to come out can be greater than the want to stay. Maybe something in our DNA remembers that garden. Knows this isn’t all there is. Wants to open door a crack.

“Remarkably, the phenomenon of self-deception testifies that we human beings, even when we do evil, are incorrigibly sold on goodness. At some level of our being we know that goodness is as plausible and original as God, and that, in the history of the human race, goodness is older than sin.” (John Walton)

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It’s the Deep Magic CS Lewis talks about in Narnia. Sure, what we see every day looks like there is one rule to the universe, and it’s not such a great one, but there is deeper magic. There is a greater, higher, more honestly real way out of hiding and into light. Deep Magic sings our souls the same song — in the history of the human race, goodness is older than sin.

The light isn’t as terrifying as we imagine. After all, it was there, in the beginning, spinning us into being.

The Word gave life to everything that was created,

    and his life brought light to everyone.

The light shines in the darkness,

    and the darkness can never extinguish it. (John 1.4-5)

If we want healing, wholeness, purpose, relationships, we need to stop hiding, step into light, and say Here I am. This is where I’ve been. With you is where I want to be.

“We are incorrigibly sold on goodness.” I love that.

Where am I? I’m right here, Lord.

Right here, waiting for orders. Right here, wanting to know you. Right here, completely, resolutely, incorrigibly sold on your goodness and its triumph.

What will you say, today, when he ask you where you are?

Alternative Olympic Gold

Continuing in the spirit of the Olympic season. Sort of. A post from a couple years ago.

This is Zobrist’s jersey from 2016. At the Chicago History Museum. Because they know what’s really important history.

The Olympics are the only time I am interested in sports. (Except when the Cubs are playing like nobody’s business, of course.) In the spirit of transparency, we are not technically watching it on a TV. We don’t have a TV. So we are streaming Olympics in a complicated mix of totally legal maneuvers which involve Canadian announcers, who are Canadian polite and never get excited about anything. Anything.

But I have some suggestions. I feel it is completely unfair that most Olympic events are for the young. And the coordinated. Why can’t we all have a shot at Olympic Gold? So today, I offer to you—

Seven Olympic categories that should exist:

The Summer Vacation Floor Exercise

Contenders must maneuver a grocery store with three kids, each possessing his own mini cart, without losing a child, forgetting one item on the list, or cussing loudly enough to be heard when said mini cart hits her ankles for the fifth time. Then, she must perform five drop offs at different locations at least four miles apart, two of which must be at the same time. Finally, she must cook dinner while simultaneously getting four kids out of wet, sticky swimsuits, wiping all the water off the kitchen floor, making sure some of that “water” did not come from the dog who was not let out earlier, and finding enough money in the couch cushions to go on a decent vacation for one week to somewhere that does not involve a tent.

These feet are ready. The legs, not so much. But the feet are Olympic set.

The Social Media Marathon

Contestants see who can waste the most time on social media without resorting to videos of the Kardashians or dogs gone wild (which are essentially the same thing). Buzzfeed quizzes are strictly prohibited. Anyone can spend hours there—it’s not a challenge. Bonus if at the end you can tell us six different personality types you fit and which Disney animal you are most like. Extra points for burned meals and missed day camp pickups.

The Multitask Decathlon

Athlete must, in one hour: cook dinner, help interpret long division, let dog outside, answer five emails, deliver twelve text messages regarding car pool schedules, grade the seven essays she didn’t get done during her “free” period because two students needed to discuss their parents’ disapproval of their future careers as Pokemon Go guides, schedule repair for the car that is making a “grrriiiiiieeeek” sound again, let the dog in, wash enough forks for eating dinner, and explain to her six-year-old what “you’re an animal baby, it’s in your nature” means and why, no, that boy in her class should not have said it. Extra points for not hitting her spouse with the dinner pan when he walks in and asks, “What did you do all day?”

The Toddler Snatch and Grab

Competitor is first put on hold with Comcast so that she knows putting down the phone risks getting back in the queue for another 35 minutes. Then, toddler is introduced, who promptly undresses, covers her naked little body in Sharpie marker, and escapes out the front door. The person who can present a clean, clothed child and repaired internet within the same day wins. (No one has yet claimed this gold. But it could happen.)


The Chicago Winter Moguls

Driver must complete course which includes black ice patches, unplowed stretches randomly placed, SUVs weaving in and out of traffic, and freezing rain. At end of course, driver must park car in space currently half-occupied by a seven-foot drift of plowed snow and enter arena in heels and dress with no traces of salt or water. Running out of gas is an automatic disqualifier.

Yes, there is a road here. Yes, we were driving on it. We knew by the telephone poles.

The Fast Food Free for All

Competitor approaches drive up window and manages to order six different meals, all yelled to her at the same time from the back seats, each with special instructions, two allergy-free, and have the correct meals given to her at the next window. Fastest driver with no mistakes wins.

Your turn. What is your new Olympic event? What would you like us to petition the committee to add in four years? 

Spetacular Failing

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Since we’re leaving the Olympic season (insert abject crying emoji here) I thought it was time to replay a couple of my favorite Olympic-themed blogs. So—here we go.

I wrote this after Sochi, but it feels pretty relevant for all of us, all the time. Also, since it’s my daughter’s birthday today, I think a post about trying hard things and being brave is appropriate. See this one to know why.

The Olympic Games is pretty much the only time I spend hours watching TV, but for those two weeks, I have meals and mail forwarded to the living room. This gives me plenty of time to muse over deeper meanings of it all, and I found one in the men’s figure skating competition. And no, it has nothing to do with their outfits.

Did you notice something unusual this year? Every single final round athlete in the men’s skating competition this winter fell. Every. One.

Is Falling Failing?

Yet still, three men went home with gold, silver, and bronze, and the world believed they had seen the best skaters alive out there on the ice. Even with all the spills. All the mistakes. All the “could have been betters.”

Which really made me think. None of those men had to do quad jumps. None of them had to push themselves to try impossible tricks and defy whatever had been done before. None of them had to fall.

They could have played it safe and gone home unbruised and satisfied that they had done the best they could. But none of them did.

Every one of them pushed it to the next level, tried, fell, and went home as victors anyway. 

And it occurred to me how absolutely beautiful it is that falling on our faces can be a victorious moment.

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Falling Can Be Victory

It’s beautiful that, in this arena, failing at a hard thing is rewarded more than playing it safe and succeeding at something too easy.

You get more points for having the guts to whip a quad out there and accidentally touch down with two feet than for doing a double-toe-loop that you could do when you were thirteen. You’re recognized for attempting something challenging when you could have stuck with the safe and easy touch down.

I love that. Victory from spectacularly trying and equally spectacularly wiping out. And, of course, getting back up to keep skating anyway.

Fear Makes Us Settle for Less than Spectacular

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Maybe, it’s the fear that keeps us from trying new things, throwing it all out there on the ice and possibly falling hard, that keeps us from real victory. Maybe we never get that golden moment we long for because so often we would rather do what we know we can do. Spinning in the air is dizzying, and we’d prefer to do a quick hop and call it our best effort.

But it isn’t. Because so long as we never push it one more level up, never find a challenge just a little tougher than the last one, never seek that one risk we are not sure is within us but we need to find out, we are not giving it our best. We’re giving it our OK.

Gold medals are never won by OK. (Unless all the other speed skaters wipe out in front of you. Then, well, it happens.)

What do you know you need to stretch to try right now? It’s OK to fall. OK to fail spectacularly. OK to put everything you have out there and mop up the mess. It’s just not OK to never jump at all.

Is Friendly Enough?


Welcoming isn’t the same as “you belong here.”

Everyone welcomes you when you’re the new one in the group exercise room. Are they friendly, or are they just grateful that someone in the room is going to look dorkier than they do now? Time will tell, especially when they all politely turn aside when you lose your balance doing side kicks.

Whatever the reason, people welcomed me to the three exercise classes I started attending a couple weeks ago. They smiled, pushed mats over the accommodate me, and asked about my morning. I was going to fit in with this group, despite the fact that they all have grey hair and talk about their grandkids. Who cares? We’re all nice people enjoying our morning together.

But Really . . .

Halfway through the class, we walked out onto the track, and I noticed right away that my celebration had been premature. People paired up. They walked together in twos or threes, talking about whatever concerns life had brought them that day. I’m sure they knew one another’s concerns. I’m certain they walked with the people they were accustomed to pairing with—people who had spent time with them and knew them enough to be used to one another.

No one hung back to walk with me. No one chatted with me about silly nothings or major somethings, either one. I walked alone, while the other twelve enjoyed one another’s company.

Is Our Church “Friendly?”

That’s when i realized the difference that many churches never recognize. There is friendly, and there is welcoming someone into belonging. You can welcome someone to church, but are you welcoming them into the life of the church?

It’s so easy to smile and welcome a person but then turn to those we are used to, the ones who know us, and spend our actual interaction time there. A new person is genuinely greeted with friendliness. We sincerely want him or her there. But then we turn to our accustomed habits. We talk to our comfortable friends. We leave the welcomed person to feel on the outside, finding a friendly people but not finding access to their circle of friendship. 

Being Access Givers

A lot of churches need to work on being access-givers. Often we’ve put a lot of emphasis on ensuring that new people find the process of coming to church seamless and simple, but how much work have we put into making sure they feel like they’ve been to a community rather than an IKEA? How often do we open our small circles and invite someone in who’s standing on the outside?

This is the Church
Photo courtesy of Emptyplatefullheart

I’ve been that person on the outside more times than I like to remember. I can tell you—that person is dying for more than a smile and directions to children’s ministry. Here are five ways to make someone feel like she belongs, not like she’s just welcomed.

  • Open the circle. Literally. Look away from your group of friends and find someone who needs to be pulled in. Go to her. She won’t come to you.
  • Ask questions. She isn’t likely to offer a lot of information. She’s nervous. So make her feel you care by asking about her life. What brought you here? What’s your family look like? How long have you lived here?
  • Find a common denominator. Do you have the same age kids, the same work field, equally annoying relatives? Hobbies/ TV shows? You’ll have to talk a while to find out. There is likely to be something you share that forms a bond.
  • Introduce her to someone. Does she crochet? Introduce her to someone else who does. Is she a mechanical engineer? You might know someone with whom she can talk about those things (I would not be that person. Introduce me to the person who can quote Shakespeare or Dr. Who. Doesn’t matter which.)
  • If it seems right and not pushy, invite her to something else. Lunch after church would be marvelous. A MOPS group. Your Bible study or your planned night out for Margaritas. Whatever. 
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Going for coffee is always good.

Being friendly is something you can get from a Walmart greeter. Making someone feel they belong is the art and the work of Christian community. Let’s do it to his glory.

“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.” — Romans 15.5-7

Level One

CFL course, NASWI, Fitness
I look just like this in class. Exactly this.

The class is called Strictly Strength. The title and description intimidated me right off. I am not strong, strictly or otherwise.I imagined kettle bells and giant weights and me, collapsed on the floor, begging for the water bottle I inevitably forgot to bring.  Being sick a couple years back took all the muscle I had away, and strength has been a bit elusive since that point.

So while the sound of it was terrifying, the promise was worth the risk. I jumped in as the class newbie.

Level Up?

Surprise—there are levels to being strong. For just about any move the instructor taught us, she explained that there was a level one and a level two—or even three. There are options! There are large weights, and there are small ones. There are heavier bars and lighter bars. (And now I know I have to get there earlier if I want a lighter bar.) There are moves that test your further than other, easier possibilities. I did not have to walk in the room and lift a kettle bell above my head on the first day. Thank you, sweet eight-pound baby Jesus. That would have been ugly.

The most important thing I learned right away though—

There is no shame in staying at Level One.

Oh, I want to be at Level Two. I want to do the harder twists, the longer planks, the tighter crunches. But the part of me that is tired of injury remembers that is why I am doing this—to avoid hurting those parts of me that have gotten bruised, pulled, and pained by doing too much.

So I keep it slow. And steady.

Other people can do the full planks. I stick to the hands and knees ones. Someone else may be able to do double leg lifts. I will happily do them one at a time. Maybe one day I will do those harder things, but right now, I’m at Level One. And that’s an OK place to be.


Church Has Levels, Too

Some of us show up to church at Level One. We don’t know the songs. We aren’t comfortable singing in public, anyway. We get part of what the pastor’s talking about, but some of the things are fuzzy, and we’re not sure how they apply to our situation. We don’t want to volunteer, because we’ve been burned out, and we’ve been called out by the person who felt we just couldn’t get it right. We don’t understand the unspoken cadence of the service that informs everyone else to stand up, sit down, or dip the bread in that cup rather than drink the juice.

Everyone else seems to be at Level Three, at least.

We want to be. We want to pretend we know the lingo, act like we’ve got our life together. But then we remember why we’re there—because we want to stop the hurt that happens when we are fake. We hate the bruises, pains, and sprains in our hearts over trying to be what we’re not.

Maybe church is a place where it’s OK to be at Level One. At least, we hope so. We long for grace for those who aren’t quite ready for the heavier lifting. We pray there is kindness for the ones who need the lighter weights, and we wish for others who can bear more to offer us their shoulders and their lighter burdens. We hope that, if anyone notices we can’t do what the seasoned attenders can do, they will not point that out but treat us as if there were no differences at all.

There is no shame in staying at Level One.

Searching for Sunday

Church should always welcome the Level One folks. Partly, because Jesus told us to. Partly, because we were all Level One at some point. Party, because they have something to teach us.

If you’re trying church for the first time, or if you’re back for the first time since something there hurt you immeasurably, don’t push it. Don’t expect to be lifting the 25-pounders your second day. Don’t think you have to know all the moves in order to fit in. Embrace awkward. Know that you don’t know and that it’s OK. Know that sometimes you can’t manage whatever task it seems everyone else is taking on, and that’s OK, too.

Level Two will come.

It doesn’t really matter how long it takes. I makes not one bit of difference how long you have to keep doing one leg lifts. You’ll get there. You’ll grow stronger. Maybe one day you’ll see that person who doesn’t seem to know the steps and you’ll say to yourself, “Oh—I remember that. I’m stronger than I thought. I think I can be a shoulder for her.” That day, you’ll be the grace someone else needs to poke her head in the door and say, “Maybe I’ll try this. It’s scary, but maybe it’s just what I need.”

Dance Like We Just Don’t Care


I went to three exercise classes last week. You might think that is normal. You are just not me. Three exercise classes is more than I have gone to in approximately three hundred years. I don’t do group classes. I don’t like them. I am not peppy or muscle-y, and I am barely scraping the edge of social. I went anyway, because a body that works when I want it to is becoming more important to me than my preference for private exercise. (By which I mean, no exercise at all more often than not.)

And wouldn’t you know, it occurred to me during the course of the hour, that exercise class is a lot like church. How, you ask? Well, let me tell you. 

Observations on a morning of exercise class:

Observation One: I love exercise classes where I am the youngest member.

Because I work at home, I am able to go to classes in the morning, after the overflow of committed enthusiasts who go before they get behind the wheel for their commute. Those people are scary. I have been at the gym at 6:00 am and seen their classes with accompanying blaring rock music. How can anyone endure that eardrum assault so early? I have watched them race onto the track and actually run, putting feet together in a coordinated, fast motion at that hour.

This is not possible for normal people. They are clearly the spawn of aliens.

But the 10:00 am classes? Filled with retired folk. Do you know what is glorious about an exercise class filled with people over 65?

They Do. Not. Care.

They don’t care how they look. They don’t care if they get every move right. They don’t care if they can’t stretch as far as that girl next to them in the designer purple yoga pants. They do not care the tiniest bit. They dance like they don’t care.

I love it.


Church people care.

They care if your kids are crazier than theirs. They care if you volunteer as often as they do. They care if your opinions line up with theirs. They care if your clothes are nicer/not nicer/less modest/less expensive/more expensive/more outlandish/more casual than theirs. They. Care.

Not everywhere. Definitely not at our church. But at many.

So the lesson from exercise class? Find a place that doesn’t care or, better still, make a place that doesn’t care. Go to church and pretend you’re a 70-year-old woman doing yoga.

  • That other mom’s kid can’t seem to stop running through the hallway? High five her and tell her she’s doing great at a tough job. I mean, motherhood is kind of like trying to stretch your foot behind your ear while breathing properly (or breathing at all). Those kids’ souls are what matters—not any mess or noise they make. Old ladies doing yoga just don’t care about what doesn’t matter.


  • Go talk to that teenager wearing pajama pants to church. Welcome her. Ask her about her day, year, life. High five her for surviving being sixteen. That’s like me managing an hour of swing dancing when I’ve barely got the endurance level of a three-toed sloth. I bet she’s got a lot to share.


  • Find the single guy who only shows up every month or so. Ask him what his dreams are. Find out what he’s good at. High five him for wanting something deeper in his life enough to get there when he does. Kind of like showing up for strength training class when currently you’ve got the muscle mass of a hummingbird.

There are dreams and wishes and hurts and yearnings we know nothing about swirling in the hearts of the people right next to us.

It’s freeing to be among a bunch of people doing aerobic foxtrotting with glee and no shame at all. It makes it OK to make mistakes. It allows for someone to not know what comes next. It forgives. It offers a chance to dance with glee yourself.

It makes me want to come back.

What if we were the people who offered those things to the ones who walk through the doors of our church?

It’s OK to make mistakes.

It’s fine not to know what comes next.

It’s beautiful that you have doubts.

It’s great to see you whatever you look like.

I want you to dance here, with joy.

“So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free. Use your freedom to serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5.1, 13)

Make your space a just don’t care zone. And I guarantee, from my experience, people will want to come back.

The Good Stuff


My husband has worms in the basement. (He also has bees in the backyard and frogs in the dining room. He’s a odd duck, but he’s my odd duck.)

We faithfully save our table scraps and those items in the crisper drawers that have been there ever so slightly too long. (As in, I really can’t identify that green slime, but I believe it was once related to lettuce. Or parsley. It’s a tough call.)

We toss them in the compost bucket by the sink, and he feeds it to the worms. Worms do what worms do, which is basically absorb and poop, and lo and behold, we have beautiful, fine soil to add to our garden beds in the spring.

It’s a strange process, but it works.

Jesus’ story of the soils. We’ve covered the hard soil that refuses to be vulnerable and so never allows others to affect their lives.


We need to soften our hearts with vulnerability to tell a good story.

We’ve covered the rocky soil that refuses to commit and so stays shallow, never allowing Jesus to get in and make changes.

We need to deepen our hearts with involvement to tell a good story.

We’ve covered the weedy soil that refuses to prioritize and cut out some of the clutter.

We need to declutter our hearts with focus to tell a good story.

Now, the good stuff. The fertile soil.

“Other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

Someone had worked to clear that soil! The weeds were cut down and their roots pulled. The rocks were thrown to the side. The soil was tilled and turned and dug deep just waiting for the seed.

That heart was ready for God to get to work.


Fertile soil is rich and deep. It’s filled with nutrients. It’s been carefully worked so that it’s not too sandy, not too much clay. In our yard, fertile soil doesn’t just happen. We’ve got solid Midwestern clay. Hence, the worms.

It takes buckets of compost, faithfully saved. A watering system that maintains a careful balance in our seasons of drought and regular gullywashers. (If you don’t live in the Midwest, perhaps you don’t know what a gullywasher is. But it is a rainstorm to behold, let me tell you.) It takes weeding and prepping and care—but when it’s ready?

You should see the crops of beans and peppers.

“The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” (Matthew 13)

A heart that is ready for God to work is a heart filled with life. Is that who we are?

Fertile soil just aches to grow things. It’s its only reason for being. Fertile soil has no interest in hanging out with nothing to show. Fertile hearts have heard and paid attention to Jesus’ story. They respond. They know you have to make growing good things a priority for it to happen. They’ve done the hard work of softening their hearts in vulnerability, deepening their hearts with commitment, and decluttering their hearts for focus. They’re ready for that seed.

But How Much Fruit?


A funny thing happens at this point in the story. The seed sown on good soil yielded different amounts. That’s the way it works when we open our hearts to God. He knows the maximum we are created to produce, and he asks only that we grow to our own best. It’s pretty great that God isn’t standing there in the field saying, “Hey, you grew way more than that other guy. But you—you are such a failure. You only returned ten times what I gave you. Loser.”

Nope. He doesn’t do that. He rejoices over everyone’s return, no matter how much. He knows what we are designed to do, and his only desire is that we bear the fruit we were made for and make it good. We don’t need to worry about how much. We just need to make that fruit so good people will want to taste it.

In fact, when we start to compare our fruit to the person next to us who had a hundred times return on the seed, you know what happens? Those weeds start coming into our plot of land. The rocks end up back under the soil. All the worries we weeded out come right back in, because we took our focus off of producing good fruit and started to compare how much other people were doing to what we were managing.

God is overjoyed at our return. Not the size of it—the fact of it. He celebrates the people who returned ten times as much exactly the same as he celebrates the ones who returned 100 times. He says the same thing to both—the same thing he says to the servants in another of Jesus’ stories.

“Well done good and faithful servant. Come celebrate with me!” (Matthew 25.23)

The hard soil doesn’t get to celebrate. The rocky soil doesn’t get to celebrate. The weedy soil doesn’t get to celebrate.

The fertile soil celebrates like crazy—all together, all celebrating one another’s return. Because that’s how it works in God’s crazy kingdom. He loves when we rejoice over one another’s wins. He rejoices, too.

So here’s the question, after all this.

Will we take the risk to cultivate our soil, digging deep and plowing up? Will we make the sacrifice to change priorities and seek the kingdom first of all? Will we make the commitment to put those roots deep, coming to God in the every day rather than saving him for emotional highs and lows? Will we rejoice over others’ successes?

Will we love him with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind? Will we tell a good story with our life?

Then we’ll bear fruit worth getting excited about.

Good stories change us for the better.

People who are changed tell good stories.

How do we tell a good story?

We need to soften our hearts with vulnerability to tell a good story.

We need to deepen our hearts with involvement to tell a good story.

We need to declutter our hearts with focus to tell a good story.

We need to fill our hearts with life to tell a good story.

Are you ready, in this season of the greatest story of all? We’re celebrating the most epic sacrifice ever, God’s willingness—no, his utmost joy— to put our needs first and come to earth. He’s already told the story. What part in it are we going to play?