Raining on the Sunny Side

In a stormy situation, my daughter recently asked me to pray for her for the best, most desired outcome, rather than simply for God’s will to be done. She reasoned, “God’s gonna do what God’s gonna do, so we might as well pray on the sunny side.”

When I listen, I learn from Carly. We are different–in all but determination–as her brain moves at lightning speed.  While I chased around this curly-headed toddler, she’d shout gleefully, “Mama, I’m messing with you!”


Mural in Narberth, PA

Then my own sweet mama would try to reassure me,

“You only have to stay a half-step ahead.”

As if I could. Ever.

Now that Carly is studying south of the equator, her view of the world is turned upside-down. In a foreign land, her wisdom and heart are both moving and growing at the speed of light. Mostly without me. Leading our kids, while humbling us, also whacks us upside the head with lessons about leading others.

Richard Hester and Kelli Walker-Jones, in Know your Story and Lead with it, write: “Organizational leaders need to maintain an attitude of ‘relentless optimism,’ the theological view that God is always at work in our stories to bring about God’s kingdom. We need to tell the stories that acknowledge and express problems, but our stories must also reflect God’s ‘persistent, compassionate presence,’ if we are to lead effectively.”

That’s hard to do.  Especially when others suffer and all we can do is listen as they moan. We can’t even begin to fix it. With optimism, loved ones may accuse us of being too cheery. But life becomes even worse if we join in their pity party. What to do?  What about the can-do message Abileen gives the child she cares for in The Help:


Or try this version,

” You are brave.

You are loved.

We are in this together.”

A wise king who faced incredible enemies, suffered betrayal, and failed more than once at leading while he climbed heights of success, wrote, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.  Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” Psalm 37:4-7, NIV 

Back to praying on the sunny side. I think God actually gifts us with many of the desires we have in our hearts as we trust and delight in him. And even when we don’t.


Photos of the Vatican Wind Rose directional markers in St. Peter’s Square. Top of page is Northwest marker depicting the cold, powerful wind that blows storms into our lives. This Southeast marker shows the warm, gentle winds we prefer.

It’s okay to pray for what we desire most.

We’re being honest.

God can handle that,

including our anger at not getting

what we want.




Sometimes when we suffer misadventures or setbacks,


The Grinch who Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss

a Grinchy view of God creeps into our hearts in the middle of the night, ready to steal our joy with empty sacks and a wicked smile. Grinchy God is not biblical. God is not trying to steal all the joy down in Whoville from the big and the small. 

What does the psalmist promise? As I am still, as I trust, as I do not fret, and as I wait, God will act. God will do. God will bring dawn. 


And God can and does make our

“small hearts grow three sizes that day” through the process.

My newest friend Victor from Egypt once asked a student, “Which is faster the speed of sound or the speed of light?” She answered him, “The speed of God.”

God has a light-up the world plan for His good creation that is moving ahead at the speed of God, even when we can’t see a glimmer yet. So what do we have to lose by praying–and leading–on the sunny side?


“May God give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” Psalm 20:4


Impacting Generations Yet-to-Come

My faithful, Scottish, great-grandparents prayed daily for the unborn generations of our family–and for their spouses. Powerful prayers, now impacting the fourth and fifth generations of our family in profound ways. In a Pentecost sermon at Narberth Pres, I share this challenge and how it is playing out for us.  Click Link for “Out of This World Encounters” on 5/15/16.11891100_10206281780916465_5790979975412851679_n

Much of our immediate family is pictured below. (not pictured: Ken, Kari and Brendan.) While four of us are in full-time ministry with Young Life, the PC(USA), or counseling, all serve in unique ways according to God’s good gifts: writing books, mentoring students and small business owners, photographing orphans in Haiti and YL Capernum dances, building houses in Mexico or El Salvador, raising our families, working with women caught in trafficking, teaching dance, producing videos, serving on boards of churches, camps, missions, and youth organizations. Davis, the first great-grand, has the ministry of cuteness–and all share the spiritual gift of entertainment. I love watching  each flourish and grow!McLennan Family Retouched FINAL

Busted! Again. But for Praying?

DSCN5226I got into big trouble my first night volunteering. Again. I always do. I wanted the kids to engage, interact, so we moved out of the closet assigned to Kids Bible Club and started throwing paper airplanes in the upstairs hall. Prayer-planes! We’d talked through our days and listed all the things we could pray about:
• Not wanting to get out of bed
• Who to sit with on the bus or at lunch
• I have good friends to hang out with—hooray!
• That bully named Dash who is NOT incredible
• What to do when the girl next to me steals someone’s tots at lunch
• When that kid acts out and then blames me when he gets in trouble
• Should I tell on someone or shouldn’t I?
• Getting all my homework done when I have cheerleading AND church
• Sweating over that hard quiz
• Zipping through that easy quiz
• That I have good food to eat at dinner with my church friends
• That it was a thumbs-up day
• That it was a thumbs-down day

I was a guest teacher and I’d just met these third to sixth graders five minutes before. But they wanted to be listened to, to tell me all about their thumbs-up or thumbs-down days. No sign of the too-cool, preteen malaise I hear about on blogs. Sure they talked over one another, and were a little rude and insensitive:
“You worried about that quiz? It was easy. I’m gifted.”
“Well, you’re bragging.”
“Are you gonna give us candy soon, pastor?”
“ Can I go get a drink and take my friends with me?”


But it all stopped when we wrote our prayers down, folded them into airplanes, and started sailing them through the air to God. Sure, the kids were competitive, but also cheering one another on. They were teaching each other the best folding techniques. They were chanting each other’s names. And learning about sending prayers up to God. Awesome, right?

Yep, you guessed it. That’s when I got into trouble. That church lady (you know the one) came out of the downstairs parlor and shouted up the stairwell, “Hush! We are trying to have class down here! We are trying to learn something!” She huffed, “There’s only six kids? It sounds like one hundred of you out here.”

Why do we think our kids should sit quietly in church? That they learn as well in a cold closet as in a gym space? That they should pencil in the blanks when they learn better by moving around?

I’m so glad it sounded like one hundred of us out in the hall. It turns out we grasped our Bible verses better through paper airplanes than with paper worksheets: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:4-6