Jenna poses behind bars in a memorial to Auschwitz

i need a church

IMGP1268It is early morning. Too early. The February freeze won’t loosen its grip and it creeps into this dark, before-the-sunrise home. Its cold, sharp fingers burn as I kiss Jay goodbye. He’s got a plane to catch. Bulgaria. More than half of my heart explodes as he closes the door.

Into the emptiness of the sleeping room, I tap out Ed Sheeran i see fire ukraine revolution and he sings me a song for this generation. A song that seems a prophetic voice for the revolution that is Ukraine right now. There are images of Maidan caressing his smooth voice –

honest, raw. war. our reality. pain. blood and death. fire. ice

This is the global neighborhood that I call home. Continue reading

third space

IMGP1505There is a pink cherub skip-jumping a merry jig down Tkalciceva Ulica. She is anchored to her mum by one chubby hand while the other bounces a fall bouquet. The bounty is no doubt intended for a luncheon with friends but sans anchor, both cherub and flowers would be quickly lost in Zagreb’s sea this Saturday morning.

Buzzing voices marinate with the tinkle of spoons on coffee cups. The smell of expresso is in the street. It all pulls you toward a paradoxical space of intimacy amidst the crowd, if you can find a spot to sit and sip.

And, it seems like Jesus can’t find a seat.

IMGP1498 - Version 2IMGP1507IMGP1556This is not a crowd of tourists having a weekend go in Zagreb. They are locals who have rolled out of their Saturday bed, made an effort to look nice, and trekked to the centre from wherever they live. It’s like a Sunday morning scene that makes a church pastor salivate.

Come and get your Jesus fix here.

IMGP1413 Get rest for your merry souls. Forgiveness for your dirty deeds. Relief for your addictions, and your depression and your loneliness.

But, they don’t.

And the Church can’t figure out why we are empty. In Europe. In North America.


They don’t come. Get fixed. We are empty.

I wonder if it has anything to do with our people projects?

Because fixing people for heaven is a task that you designate and delegate and execute.

I don’t think people want to be executed.

They want to be wanted.

They want to open the door and be greeted with a kiss on both cheeks as the cherub passes the bouquet and linger over coffee because they are important to you. If you want a picture of the quintessential Europe, that’s it, right there.

Simple like that.



PoznanBut sometimes I get the feeling that we, as the Church, lick our lips like a lioness set free to cruise through humanity while they sit and sip their coffee in the kiss of the Adriatic sun.

Maybe they sense the danger, you know?

Because it is one kind of frightening to be swept away in a sea of people and another kind of scary to be counted as a number for an organization.

And that is what church feels like to this generation; an organization counting their number.

IMGP1552 - Version 2Nobody wants to be a number.

Or a project.

As if, with some measured time and the right ‘how to’ manual, I could renovate you and put you on the right track to Jesus.

Ironically, there are churchy articles and books that tell us how to connect with people. And, the problem isn’t that they exist. But, maybe why they exist should cause us to be concerned? Because, it implies that we don’t remember how to connect with people. Have we forgotten how to see someone as more than a countable commodity in our pews?

IMG_2992Three years ago, missionaries made Zagreb their home. 

We don’t have a mega-church.

To be brutally honest, I don’t imagine that we have the kind of church growth strategy that makes it into those ‘how to’ manuals. 

We have a Nazarene family becoming fluent in language and culture, putting their kids into Croatian school, practicing hospitality, carrying flowers into homes and finding seats in cafes.

Just like the Croats on the street below Dolac Market, in the third space, where it is public and intimate and anchored to the sea of humanity.

I like that – the intercourse of our lives birthing a relationship that cares for the other instead of using her. 

It isn’t my space. It isn’t your space. It is our space. Neutral. SharedAnd, we are hosted by the Holy Spirit in the Third Space.

He is that Third Space:

The Holy Spirit filling us, inviting us, to HIs table, and there is no Us and Them, because we are all  lost and lonely and desperate and in need of an anchor.

It sounds like, well, it sounds like what we all always imagined church should be, before Church became about the best outreach strategies.

Back when we saw people as people; not projects, not numbers, not potential Christians, not target audiences, not even people going to Hell if we don’t intervene.

It seems like there might be a table opening up in my life with a friend motioning for me to join her there. There is a place for you too, for all of us; a Third Space, where grace speaks and the coffee flows, and the pink cherub jigs her way down Tkalciceva Ulica.

Could you bring some flowers, if you come?


fish stories

IMGP9293 The Naz had a storyteller once upon a time. Harmon Schmelzenbach had his Swazi fish and he wove them deep down into the centers of our bellies and tugged. Somehow, Mr. Schmelzenbach helped ears to get beyond our heads and our troubled lives and our pressing needs and to remember that the soul and the stomach rumble in a painful unison.

He who has ears, let him hear.

I love it that Jesus said that because, who doesn’t, really? Have ears, that is. It is the paradoxical Jesus speaking. The one grinning while sea water drips from his beard like tears drip from the soul of humanity. Continue reading

balkan beauty

IMGP1234Amidst the goodnight chatter of JJ and Emma preparing for bed, the teeth brushing and the hugs, and the last minutes of coloring a picture crayon red, I post a photo of Sara and I smiling in the Zagreb sunshine.  Jay writes ‘Balkan beauties’ in the tag line and my heart swells likes the bread dough that rises through the night and spills onto the counter by morning.

Balkan.I know what that feels like.

It feels like walking through the colors of Europe’s oldest continuously operating open air market.

It feels like picking out your vegetables and watching the woman measure her income in a dizzying dance of weights that have known more years than you can count.

It sounds like the toothless grin of an apple vendor who calls to you, ‘Хей Българка’, (Hey Bulgarian woman) because he heard the Bulgarian nudge its way into your conversation about how to cook the Japaneese pumpkins.

It smells like the fresh meat hanging from hooks and the meaty butchers smiling as they sharpen their knives.

Balkan. It is the real, the authentic  sway and swell of home spilling into the cobblestone streets of centuries of life.

Ahhh. Balkan beauty.

the conflict that kills

Conflict happens like that. It lunges, leaps, accelerates from a spark into a flame faster than expected; leaving your heart pumping and your mind racing, effectively ineffective endorphins flood your blood stream. IMG_1673

They were rough, homeless perhaps. In a big city, you start to not notice them; like moving, breathing tiles, they blend into the landscape. But suddenly and quickly, the skirmish was escalating. One tile threw a punch. Hair pulling. Screaming. Punch. Punch-punch.

There is a guard at the corner grocery, ‘Police,’ I asserted and in my haste, Bulgarian came out because years taught me how to express panic, cry for help, get attention in that beautiful language.  He understood and he followed me out of the door.

There we stood, the two of us, watching two women beat each other up. Punch. Punch-punch. Punch-punch. Kick. Ineffective bystanders. He refused to help. Refused to speak.

My mind began working, “Call. Police.”


I pulled the words from a locked room and made them speak in Hungarian, sticking my phone in his face. “Call. Police.” more strident now because the blonde woman was on top of the dark haired woman, strangling her.

In my panic, I could not remember how to dial the Hungarian police. At the moment I most needed help, I was helpless. It is a sinking thing to watch a woman’s face grow a blood shade of red as she fights for oxygen.

And, I am not sure that this post needs closure because the story certainly does not have it. We expect bloggers to wrap up posts with home-spun wisdom and story-tellers to create endings and journalists to craft a conclusion, and preachers to pray a prayer, but our world does not operate that way. Real life throws a punch and bleeds. And sometimes fellow humans stick around and watch, helpless, or apathetic, or paralyzed with fear. The woman on the ground struggled for breath while the other woman wrapped her fingers around a throat and squeezed.

Some kids are going to die today somewhere on this planet while I eat a panini in GoaMama on Kiraly Utca in Budapest.

And that is why I hate Auschwitz. It makes me face my greatest fears. Without God, this place is hell.

We do enough good things that we come to believe that we are essentially good. But, history and a street corner on Kiraly Utca bleed a different kind of truth. Remove the perimeters that define our morality, destroy the safety nets and make us desperate, feed our hunger with fear, and the punches crush jaws and the heads topple, and the body gushes blood.

Casting Crowns asks ‘If we are the body, why aren’t his…?’ I love that song.

GoaMama’s Panini was good but it left my body hungry. Ironic, is it not?

tenacious love




grace flow



Our community recently suffered a tragic, tragic loss. The following are but words, but words that flow out of sorrow in death and tenacious hope birthed in community that is grounded in our faith. To the One who taught us how to live brokenly whole.

a mother heaves and shrieks and groans into being
that she did not knit together
and yet, somehow, she did Continue reading

turkish toilets


A view from the couchette.

I have heard it recently related that the wife of an important person was hesitant to visit our part of Europe where the toilets may be Turkishly challenging and life is a little raw. She preferred the westernly ordered, pristine shopping boulevards of our European neighborhood. I have to smile at her loss as I ping pong down the narrow corridor of the train in search of strong Romanian coffee. Continue reading