The Jesus Filter


Beautiful people,

If you are disgusted, dismayed, and/or befuddled by the goings on in the white house… so much so that the term “evangelical” is one that either you once claimed and now disassociate with completely, or maybe a faith you never believed anyway, yet still arises in you an overall antipathy when you hear it. In order to see things in proper perspective, and place the responsibility for outcomes where they belong, I’m going to suggest separating these two things… White House, and Jesus.

Stay with me.

I offer you my filter. It has served me so well over the years. I call it simply, “The Jesus Filter” and it goes something like this:

“Does it look, sound, taste, and feel like Jesus? Is it lovely and kind, symphonic, sweet, hopeful (always, always, always hopeful) and in your spirit bring about peace and joy and love for all people, animals, and the earth?”

If not, it is not Jesus. Not the one I know, anyway, and that’s the only one I can offer. I won’t say what it is because I don’t really know. I don’t always know much of anything for sure, but I often know what something is not, by running it through this filter.

So go ahead. Give it a go. Tell me how it works out for you. Are things easier to discern? Are you able to take something done in the name of Jesus (or Christianity which are not always the same thing) and separate it from the Jesus who ate, drank, wept and walked with the very ones labeled “outcast”? Who washed the feet of his followers and said, “this is an example of how you are to love”?

The one who said, “‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”?

Stay faithful, friends. Hope is not lost. Set your mind on what is good, true, and noble. Then bring it to earth.

This day.

Love, Val

Seeing Red


One of my favorite things about reading Jesus’ parables is that he spoke in parables on purpose. That we might seek out, for ourselves, what he meant. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle…”

He could have been more clear, right? Like, “rich young ruler dude… if your gold and stuff is more important than what I offer you, you’re gonna have a hard time in this life”.

But maybe “riches” isn’t your giant, and maybe he didn’t just mean wealth. We all have different giants. Maybe it’s people pleasing, or laziness. Those are two of mine. Maybe giants change as we change. The parables ensure our constant reliance upon the Holy Spirit. Why would he ever remove our need for the Holy Spirit? His greatest gift to us? If that were the case, Easter wouldn’t matter, would it?

But the great message of the cross is the life that’s in it. There is resurrection. There is hope. It was a public display that there is no human life that matters more than any other. Perhaps that concept being our largest giant of all.

Maybe that’s why Jesus’ words are in red letters, and not black and white.

This is where I am today. In the red.

Love, Val

brain cache


In Bob Goff’s book “Love Does”, he starts each chapter with a simple comparison. “I used to think this ______ but now I think this _____”

I love simplicity.

I have enough of these comparisons (of which I’ll spare you) to write a whole series, but I do wonder. What happens to the old way of thinking? Is it still there somewhere? Is there a “Brain Cache Folder” that brings up all the crap from years past? All of the old ideas and old way of doing things? The persistent pop up that says, “wait… this is unfamiliar territory… go back here (enter old idea) and you’ll feel better. It’s familiar over here.

You guys. It has been a tough year, and an even tougher week. My cache folder is full, and odds are, yours is too.

But today, I’ll focus on mine, because it’s the only one I have control over, and experience has shown my mind must continue being renewed on a daily basis, or it will kill me.

But that’s me.

So today I choose to empty the cache. To REALLY renew my mind, and not just say it in a “repeat after me”. To fill it with love for all (yes, even the toughest of all). To reboot into freedom. Freedom from the mass amount of opinions and lesson plans designed by self described “experts” that don’t fit anymore.

Freedom from the opinions of those who don’t agree with me.

Freedom from the praises of those who do.

Freedom to love (fully and freely) Jews, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Atheists, Seekers, LGBTQQI, and Jesus. All at the same time.

Freedom to walk in the assurance that God adores me just as I am, and didn’t design me to know it all, but to love all.

Freedom to actively pursue the belief he loves you the same way, too.

Freedom to always seek the truth, and never settle for less or good enough. Ever.

Freedom to let go of being wrong.

Freedom to let go of being right.

Freedom from fear of rejection.

Freedom from fear of you. My brother. My sister. My neighbor. My friend.

Freedom to do what I believe is right because I believe it is right.

Freedom to believe your relationship with God is as valuable as mine, and vice versa.

Because as we sit and discuss and fight amongst ourselves, my Jesus has left the building. How do I know? Because women, children, and oppressed people, young and old still need an advocate, and that’s who my Jesus is, and since that’s who I follow, I must keep moving forward.

If you’re still in the struggle, and you just know you’re right please remember, everyone else believes they are too. Then take a breath and look at the photo of my dog in a chicken hat.

See you on the highway. Cache emptied. Kumra out.

Love, Valerie




Saying Goodbye to Happy


This morning we said goodbye to our sweet little dog, Happy. We’ve known it was coming for a few days as his spinal issue accelerated rapidly.

I picked up Kai from school yesterday. Bella put aside her homework to come with me so she could hold Happy in the car.

When Kai got in I said, “would you like to hold Happy”?

“No, that’s okay, Bella can hold him”, as he takes out his phone.

“This could be the last time you hold him in the car”, I said.

“Really? Then yes. Give me Happy” and he puts his phone away.

I had 24 hours knowing they were the last 24, and the rest of the family had 18.

What an unbelievable dichotomy. Gratitude for another 24 hours to say goodbye, and ungodly pain and sadness of knowing it’s the last 24 hours.

I don’t really know which was more grief filled. Those 24, or right now. Too soon to tell.

But I don’t know what to do with it. These hours afterward. I’m not “good at grief”. So I’m writing.

Rescued as an estimated 3 year old from the pound 9 years ago, he slept by my side longer than anyone besides my husband. He was always with me. So much so my family would refer to Cozy as the family’s dog, and Happy as “mom’s”. When I traveled he wouldn’t eat, and would sulk around the house.

He was my good and loyal friend. He was in unbearable pain with no relief in sight and looked to me to do the right thing by him. I have to trust I did. But it doesn’t make it easier.

As with most pets his name evolved into this wonderful array of nouns and adjectives, and I’ll share them with you because they make me laugh.



The Hap

The Hapster






It’s such a cliché to say, “live each day as if it were your last”, “be present for those in front of you for you may never see them again”, or whatever the reworded phrase of a general principle of the moment is, but it’s exactly what we did yesterday, and everything seemed different.

We were kinder to each other.

We include all 3 children.

We were gentler. Quieter. Without demand.

Phones were silenced.

Dinner was in our bed around Happy (although nobody ate)

We spent as much time as possible together. With Happy.

We were just… I dunno… aware.

A new 24 hours lay ahead. What will these be like? I don’t really know, but I’m discovering a few things along the way.

I can be all spiritual and tell you it’s worth it to have loved an animal deeply, and been loved so unconditionally for so many years, but I don’t have that right now, even though it’s most likely true. All I have right now is this:

Grief sucks. I miss my little friend. I want a do-over.

Love, Val

Jesus wept.


Have you ever been reading a book and thought, “what just happened” because you were 24 pages in and had no idea what just took place? Suddenly some dude that was paralyzed (last you read) is healed and everyone is pissed off and you realize you missed something important.

So this happened to me a few days ago, only I’ve “missed it” for 33 years. I know it’s 33 years because I remember what grade I was in when I learned the shortest verse in the Bible.

“Jesus wept.”

Yeh, so everyone knows that right? No big surprise. So anyway, I was looking at that passage recently and for the first time saw the contrast in the crowd. So here’s this dead guy, Lazarus, right? Jesus loves him, and he even knows he’s not going to be dead for long (he won’t even say he’s dead, just “asleep”), so there’s no reason to be upset. But the women are weeping over their dead brother, and so…


Jesus wept.

So here’s the thing. The crowd? They’re split. Some are looking at the weeping Lord and they say, “look how much he loved him”.

Wow. They see him.


The others? “If he had only gotten here sooner, he wouldn’t have died!”


I don’t really have a whole lot more to say about this other than:

It’s okay you guys. It’s gonna happen. It happened to Jesus and it’ll happen to you, and maybe sometimes you’ll even be one of the ones who blame. It happens, and it happens within the same crowd.

So chill.

Pass out grace like water at a marathon, because at some point, you’ll need some, and if you find yourself in a crowd, questioning how you should respond: Look at Jesus for how he demonstrated the heart of God in pretty much any situation, and do lots of that.

Weep with those who weep. Mourn with those who mourn. Choose to love instead of blame. Even when the rest of the crowd says, “if he had only…”

Love, Val

get it off me!


White Jesus held a place in my childhood. His big white peaceful profile hung in a huge gold frame in our living room. Why wouldn’t I think he was white? But I don’t anymore.

I don’t think he’d wear a cross around his neck, either. This “aha moment” came when I saw a junior high school kid dressed as Jesus on Halloween. He had a big wooden one around his neck, and ever since then this whole concept has seemed so weird to me.

I think he would freak people out with his inclusiveness and have a never-ending table. He might even play the “last person to touch your nose is the one who prays for the meal” game so everybody had a chance.

I think he would laugh a lot. I think he would rather sit outside than in a pew any day of the week.

I don’t think he’d attend a worship night that cost $10, but might be found close by loving people who didn’t have $10. Maybe he’d be at the Greyhound station.

I think he would like the fish tacos at La Texanita.

I know he would never shame anyone, ever.

I don’t think he would have killed Hitler, or the Ayatollah, or even Pontius Pilate. He was more about raising the dead.

What do you think he would wear today? Certainly not robe and sandals, right? Maybe jeans, and a tee shirt? Birks? Converse? Would he make his own clothes like Shane Claiborne?

I don’t think he’d really put a lot of thought into it, but who knows.

Would he have a beard, or long hair? A man bun? Maybe.

Would he boycott Girl Scout Cookies, or fly the rainbow flag?

Does anyone know for sure?

Would he cut off all of these issues and let his life of love speak for itself?

At the unveiling of The David, another artist asked Michelangelo how he created the masterpiece. “It was simple”, he said. “I just chipped away everything that wasn’t David”.

I think I’ve been doing this with my faith. Slowly chipping away at what doesn’t look like Jesus, and somehow finding him, along with myself, underneath it all. I imagine I won’t ever be able to describe it as “simple”, and it will most likely take my lifetime. But that’s okay.

At least it’s real.

Love, Val


LoveManifestNexGen 2016


In 8 weeks from today we head back to India with 6 adults, and 8 high school students in our LoveManifestNexGen program allowing them to connect with the people they have been working toward for the past year or more.

Have you ever served meals at a shelter during Christmas or Thanksgiving? We’re behind the table serving food we won’t be eating… the table becoming a clear and present barrier between “us and them”? Of course it’s unavoidable. The table has the food on it! We are there to serve! This is the way it has always been done.

Oh so close! We are so close, you guys! But there is more for us all!

Our visits to India are like leaping across the table, grabbing a chair, sitting our butts down, fellowshipping with our brothers and sisters, and feasting together. As family. In communion.

While our mission in India is always face to face love and connection, with the exception of what is a very fun and interactive “serving of lunch” to our LoveManifest Home & School” students, the “service” portion is done here in our part of the world before we board the plane. Every “job” in India is done by Indians. Every student has a special gift they chose to offer which has been driving them: the clean drinking water they are providing through hand pump bore wells, and care for our i35 special needs children. Every one of us is looking forward to a special visit to see our family in the Leprosy Unit of Sagayamatha Hospital. A place we have not “provided anything” but feel deep kinship.

As I watched our teens sit quietly with their parents at our meeting yesterday I had to laugh (inside) at the contrast of who they were right then, and who I have experienced them to be.

I’m not sure it changes whether your 6, 16, or 46, when you’re sitting there with a parent, you’re “a kid”. Because you’re their kid. This will never change. They didn’t talk much, yet they are talkers. Some real speed-talkers!

Sitting here this morning, I think about just the Cardinal Newman High School seniors (in the photo above) who I’ve known for the shortest amount of time (one year or more), and whom this blog is about. I know only a little, but I think about their character right now. Not only as who I’m being trusted to take into India, (HUGE) but whom I am trusting to take into India? It’s an enormous responsibility to take someone else’s child to another land. Parents have high expectations of me. As they should! I would too! But I’m no tour guide. I also have high expectations of their kids. Not in what they “feel” or how they “react”.  This is always unique to them. I’m trusting them to be responsible, respectful of the culture and the team, participatory, positive, in unity, on time… many things.

I don’t expect them to act like adults. That would be lame. But they are expected to act responsibly and with maturity.

A lot to ask? Maybe. Maybe. But I don’t think so.

So this morning, contemplating these wonderful young people, and all God has planned for them, I wrote their names, and one by one listed the qualities I already see in them. I gave myself 15 seconds on each person. I would like to share the combined list with you.

Deep. Thoughtful. Introspective. Light. Joy. Compassionate. Kindness. Interested. Honest. Enthusiastic. Consistent. Affectionate. Energetic. Loving. Strong. Eager. Respectful. Adventurous. Funny. Participatory. Listener. Considerate. Encouraging.

LoveManifest is anti-poverty tourism. This is at the top of our core values, and non-negotiable. Each student knows this in advance. If they had made no sacrificial gift of their own, there would be no visit. Each has demonstrated their willingness to work and provide a substantial contribution to better the lives of their fellows based on their own gifts and talents to the people they will meet AND not to be overlooked… attitudes of grace, openness, and acceptance of what they are about to journey through together.

These sound like young people I can trust. Young people I feel good about investing.

Please join us in praying for this team.

Love, Valerie

Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.

1 Timothy 4:12

Where is Jesus?


I’ve been looking at this photo for the last hour. This beauty’s name is Teresa (pronounced Teressa). She has leprosy, and we met her when we were visiting the leprosy unit of the hospital in India. This is actually the second time, so we are old friends now. It’s one of my favorite places in the world.



I look at this photo and I see Jesus.

Do you?


I know you see Him. Everybody does. All the time I hear people say they see Jesus in this photo (or any number of similar photos of the leper, the orphan, the widow, the helpless). You can’t miss Him.

Except that you can.

I invite you to look again.

See Him?

Jesus is Teresa.

I go to the leprosy unit not to be Him, but to seek Him. When I do, I always find him waiting for me, and we hold onto each other, and He heals me.

You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. – Jeremiah 29:13



I don’t eat anything with a face. Or anything that has an attachment to it’s mother. Or anything with a capacity to love. A more accurate (but less descriptive) way to say this would be: I don’t eat animals.


Often I get asked why, and in the same breath the inquisitor hunkers down for a pedestal speech, but mine is a simple answer.

I had a moment with a cow.

That’s pretty much it.  It was 2008 at the Sonoma County Fair, and I was just walking along the  rows of 4-H stalls and stables, minding my own business when a cow…

She looked sideways at me with one great big eye, and I was drawn in. We stood there making eye to eye contact for what seemed like (and could have been) 15 minutes. Have you ever looked into a cow’s eyes? They’re very, well, human, and her eyes told me a story.

Standing eye to eye with this baby cow in silent conversation affected me deeply. We connected, and my meat eating days were over. Just like that. Boom. Done.

There were attempts earlier in my life to cut out meat. To lose weight, that kind of thing. It would be good for me to cut it out, that was true, but this reason would work for about 6 hours before I’d order a quarter pounder. I tried to cut it out after reading a book about how if an animal was afraid when it was slaughtered, then I would be eating “scared food” and become fearful. Yet fear of fear didn’t do it either.

None of these reasons stuck. It was only my connection with this living, breathing, loving creature that transformed me, and not only did I stop eating these animals, I couldn’t even if I wanted to. I also developed a very real compassion for all living things, and their proper care.

In a moment. With a cow.

I wonder if this is why God wants us to connect with people. All people. To look into one another’s eyes and share our stories.

If we did, we might lose the desire to devour each other. Even if we could.

Love, Valerie






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