Like all of my human family, my perception of what is true, good, and beautiful has been tainted by sin. In fact, only recently am I realizing how far I have to go to rid myself of all the twists that have shaped my view of even just the concept of beauty. When I gave up on the world’s version of beauty all those many years ago, I didn’t realize that I hadn’t given up some ideal of the “perfect image” in my head. And I’m not only talking about a perfect body, although I held loosely to the idea that such a thing is possible too. I’m talking about wanting to in some way, be perceived as perfect. To put it another way, I’ve always wanted others to think I’m getting it right. This is, I believe, a form of perfectionism. It’s a foolish concept, really, but one I’ve struggled with my whole life, especially with regard to the way I’m perceived. It is ironic, (and quite shameful) that I often care more about whether other people think I’m good, than actually being good. There are countless examples of how this plays out in my life. How many of my littlest decisions are motivated simply by wanting to be perceived in the best possible light. The tape in my head is often shouting, “but what will people think?!”
Please tell me you can relate.
I bring all this up, because at this moment in history, with the widespread use of social media, we’ve each been afforded a unique opportunity to showcase in a public way the images we want to portray about our lives, and indeed, about who we are. We have the ability to project whatever kind of image we want to project, regardless of whether it’s authentic, and to become “known” to strangers we may never even meet. That is, if we have enough filters...and passwords.
As social media has made its way into my life, I have tried hard to portray an authentic and accurate picture of my own life. I’ve also sought to temper my use of social media with ‘real life’, in-person, flesh and blood relationships that reveal my most authentic self. But even so, I’ve also noticed a definite temptation to an over-analysis of other people’s online lives. On the one hand I’m grateful to be invited into people’s personal daily lives. In countless ways my life has been positively impacted because of profound and even vulnerable things people have shared on spaces like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. But at other times, it has also felt like a sort of voyeuristic peek into friends lives -- sometimes they are total strangers even. There have been times when I have managed to get caught up in the fantasy of ‘what their life must be like’, and it can leave me feeling ashamed and lacking.
These feelings have opened up questions in my heart, and have me struggling to decipher if there’s a best (agh...more perfectionism) way to incorporate social media into not only my own life, but even our ministry. I feel like I have a thousand questions, but so far I’m working with these:
Is it possible that by using the lens of what I am willing to share on social media, I’ve been guilty of depicting a fantasy-like image? Could our public sharing of some of the most beautiful, attractive, and well-curated snippets of our lives, actually have the unintended effect of leading another to believe that the gifts God has given them are somehow inferior to the ones He’s given us? And does the responsibility for this fallacy fall more on the person projecting the image, or the person taking the image in? Is my life actually enriched by participation in social media platforms to which I subscribe? Does my use of social media enrich other people’s lives? What even counts as social media?
I don’t have many answers, but even the pondering of these has led me to significantly cut back on my own personal social media engagement, and to focus on the here and now, and love even more freely those people with whom I am currently sharing oxygen.
For now, I do know this much: if our private lives don’t match our ‘public face’ we have room to grow in the proper use of social media. Similarly, if our interior life doesn’t match our exterior social media life, we aren’t on the right path either. The rest is murky, at best, and I’m probably going to have to resign myself to the fact that there’s probably not a way to get it right.
In January, my career sort of went off script. Right away, I scrambled to find the original copy. But it's been useless, it's gone. The script has changed. Lately, my most authentic and desperate prayers have sounded something like, "Jesus, can you just show me a little bit of how this is all going to play out? What should my next step be? Jesus, in your mercy, a little bit of light here on the path could really help!" But, apparently that's just not how He rolls. Jesus... wants it all, He wants all my trust.
"Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me." John 14:5-6
I can relate to Thomas the Apostle. Not having the script is hard.
When we ask for maps and He says "follow me".
When we ask for practical instructions for our mission, He says "love your neighbor."
When we want to know the most important part of being a disciple, He simply says "abide in me."
As frustratingly dim as the path sometimes is, I'm slowly learning to unclench my fists, and trust the true author of the script. If we want to make a difference in the world, we are going to have to be different in the world. Sometimes the enemy uses the world to script our lives out, to show us the step by step plan of a false fulfillment. But it's not the real thing. Jesus offers us the real thing. Those who follow Him, must trust, not only in the long term big stuff, but also in the smaller things of daily bread. They trust and love in the everyday and in the ordinary, even when it's not part of their original plan.
Going off script is hard. But in order to live a life of joy, we must learn to be interruptible and flexible. A neighbor in need, an unexpected guest, an unforeseen blessing will always interrupt the script. You and I must be willing to be present to it, abiding in Him, and trusting in His ultimate plan, not our own.
I used to complain about all the interruptions to my work until I realized that these interruptions were my work. - Henri Nouwen
God wants my heart more than anything else. When I trust Him with the script, He gets all the Glory.
If you have doubts about your mission, discerning a new mission, or just want to chat about God's plan for your life, we can relate and we want to support you! You can always leave us a message here and tell us all about it. Be encouraged today! God's got this!
peace and good!
This morning God used a refrigerator to speak to my heart.
I’ve been really struggling lately with a severe sense of hopelessness in regards to a couple of special relationships in my life that have been broken, seemingly beyond repair. Though I am certain I am not without fault in these situations, the feelings of hurt, confusion, and betrayal I’ve been experiencing have been very real, and pure grief. I am mourning the loss of some very beloved people in my life, and have felt helpless to know even where to begin to attempt any sort of reconciliation, especially since each of my attempts thus far have come to naught.
As we entered into Holy Week, I found this feeling of hopelessness bleeding into nearly every aspect of my life -- it was beginning to feel like even the most commonplace tasks were just another way for my weaknesses and shortcomings to showcase themselves. Everything from prayer to dishes to laundry to Easter preparations was irritating or sad at best, or just a plain failure at worst. I found myself thinking all kinds of negative things like “why bother fulfilling my Lenten promises, when nothing ever changes anyway”?
All while this is going on in my brain, our refrigerator was acting stupid too. It was still keeping things cool, but the light inside, the ice-maker and the door dispenser were suddenly not working at all. Total “first world problem” of course, but certainly, did nothing to lift my mood. The first repairman declared it an $850 repair, which prompted a second opinion visit, because - yikes! And then it happened. This morning, long before the second repairman was to arrive, as quickly as it had stopped working, it suddenly started working again! My daughter came to tell me the good news, and I admittedly did not believe it at first. (St. Thomas the Apostle, pray for me) But when I saw with my own eyes, my honest thought was, “it’s a Holy Week miracle - thank you Jesus!”
What followed was immediate rebuke and at the same time intense consolation from Our Lord. In a very real way I heard Him speak to my heart, “so you’re that quick to believe that I can heal a freaking refrigerator, but not your own dear heart which I treasure beyond all compare?!” (I know, I know -- Jesus probably doesn’t say ‘freaking’ -- my heart must’ve loosely translated Him)
It was then that I realized I’ve been seeking a human solution to my painful situation. After all it’s very much a human problem. I realized that though I’d brought this situation to prayer countless times, it was most often with the question of “what should I do?” But that question isn’t really one of surrender, is it? It keeps me in the driver seat, when He should be driving.
I won’t pretend that all of my feelings surrounding the loss of relationship or even my own weaknesses have immediately disappeared, but my spirit is now much less disturbed by all the feelings. Ultimately my hope lies in the one whom even the “wind and waves [and refrigerators, apparently] obey” Mark 4:41
God's got this. I have committed my dear friends into the hands of the Lord, and am now much more disposed to wait on the Lord’s refrigerator healing touch.
Our dear friend Audrey Assad has a song on her 2012 Heart album called 'Slow'. It's one of my favorite ballads (I think that's how you would describe it). Hidden at the end of the album, the second to last song is pure poetic goodness detailing the slow steady love of God that moves in the life of a disciple.
The bridge is the best:
"I heard that faith moves mountains
I know it moves my feet
To follow you
And maybe I'm a mountain
Because it's moving me
To follow you"
Listening to that bridge the other day, it struck me that for a long time I was looking for "my mountains" to move instantly. When I had faith the size of a mustard seed, I saw my big issues, and my imperfections being solved real quick, like "into the sea with you mountain. BAM!". Now I'm starting to realize that my mountains move really slow, because God's love and His grace moves really slow. That dream I had when I was younger, that desire to quickly become a saint overnight by doing all the saintly things, I now know is a scam. It’s a lie that distracts me from receiving His love and letting Him do the work in me. I am never going to get holy quick. Because grace is slow.
If you are beating yourself up today (like I often do) for what you haven’t become yet, let me remind you; You are the beloved... of the Creator. Cooperate with His slow grace, smile with the knowledge that you are right where you need to be and choose “slow and steady” as your mantra. He’s making us all better over time.
Brennan Manning once said that "Faith arises from a personal experience of Jesus as Lord. And Hope is reliance on the promise of Jesus, accompanied by the expectation of fulfillment." In other words, He is who He says He is and He'll do what He says He'll do. Looking back on my life now (39 years, 11 mos and 18 days), I can see that God has been moving mountains in me, inch by inch, ever so slowly. He's accomplishing something in me, I'm sure of it. And I am grateful. Fear tells us that the path to holiness is impossible. Grace shows us that it's just one step after another.
Peace and Good!
"That faith is not a fire
As much as it's a glow
A steady humble lamplight
In the window
And it's not too much
It's just enough to give me hope
'Cause love moves slow
Love moves slow"
- Audrey Assad, Slow
Life is precious. Even mine.
Today, on my fortieth birthday, I’ve found myself reflecting on what it's all been about up until this point — and to be honest, I am in awe. Most days, I waffle between feeling like I should really hurry up and get my life together, so that I can have SOMETHING to show for myself before it’s too late, and a deep, humble gratitude for the truly countless and incredible gifts God has given to me in this life.
That first feeling of inadequacy comes from the very natural desire to be and do and produce something that's worth something, to give something of value to the world — but I'm finding that it’s fulfillment is ironically found in letting it all go, and quitting the comparison game. By opening my hands and heart and receiving the life I already have, I'm finding how truly valuable it is. Today, I'm aware. My eyes are open and my goodness, how precious life is!
I’ve been able to carry in my very own body nine unrepeatable souls and to participate in the miracle of giving birth seven whole times!!! Even though I don't always like my mom bod, it bears the marks of these incredible miracles that God has given me. I'm grateful for the fulfilling, joyful marriage He’s lavished on me. (Ennie and I have now known each other for half our lives!), for parents who introduced me to Jesus, and have never stopped pointing to Him, and for my many deep and lasting friendships, the gift of work and travel and study. Reflecting on all this has me feeling like a storybook daughter of a great King, which I am. I have everything a girl could have ever dreamed of.
Still, I don’t want to give the impression that these forty years have been nothing but roses and sunshine and tequila. I’ve honestly, been struggling this week through the grief of of remembering dear loved ones I’ve lost over the years around and on my birthday — and the sorrow is very real. But in this strange economy of God, even the sorrow has revealed His love to me, and the roses and sunshine remain present there as well. His mercy never ends and tequila is good.
Truthfully, I'm still a mess. And now I'm a forty year old mess. But this life is precious because He gave it to me. I am precious, because I am His, and not because of what I've done. I'm loved and nothing will change that. Today, I'm reminded, as Pope St. John Paul II said, "We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father's love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus.”
I hope you all are feeling this hope in your toes today!
I love you, and am praying for you.
It’s a crazy, divisive, cruel world out there, folks. If we watch too much news, or click around on facebook too much, it can easily get depressing. So much vitriol, so much hate. We all know that there is more to the story, more good in the world than meets the eye, but oftentimes the news only shares the worst and we buy it. As believers, our reactions vary, but usually end up in worry, anxiety and a desire to do something (anything) to combat the "evil du jour". Or we just turn it off, plug our ears and block out the evil, pretending our little communities are the only reality. We ALL want to see God's kingdom come on earth, but oftentimes we don't know the steps to get there.
Here is a crazy thought, what if we defined ourselves by what we were FOR rather than by what we were AGAINST? What if we loved like Jesus rather than adding to the noise and to the division?
Because here is the reality, we will never overcome evil by simply criticizing it. Not that we shouldn't critique. It's just not going to do us much good unless we create something better. Or better yet, participate in what God has already begun, what He is already creating. At the end of the day, if we are following Jesus, accepting His grace in our lives, we must be the catalysts that move agape love and mercy from a concept that is simply believed and preached in our churches to an actualized way of life. It's not enough to critique hatred, we must actually love. Not just a metaphorical kind of love, a real love, that takes action and moves and does.
Jesus' enemy love is the solution He gave us to heal hearts and a diseased culture. It's His wild, ridiculous plan A. It’s the responsibility of the Church (you and me) to boldly point culture towards that hope that is found in loving others when it seems absolutely ridiculous to do so.
"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." Matthew 5:44-45
Evil says that some people are just too far gone, beyond hope, beyond God's mercy. Love says His mercy is for every single one of us, the pedophile, the racist, the preacher and the politician. Mercy is real the moment we accept it in our own lives and is made tangible the moment we show it to others, especially those who are the least deserving of it. Church, the hour is late. Love of neighbor includes the sinner, the oppressed, and the "too far gone". We can’t combat the darkness by simply criticizing it. It’s gonna take some bright lights. Let your light shine.
"For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others?
Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Matthew 5: 46-48
If you saw our update email a few days ago, you saw that we've got a bunch of speaking and travel to do in the coming weeks. And though we are extremely excited about meeting and serving with new and old friends, it's necessary to check ourselves each time we are asked to go.
So what if I speak to tens of thousands... if I don't have love, I'm just a big noisy cymbal.
Big noisy cymbals... mic'd up... crashing in a church (or arena) with extreme amounts of reverb and echo. I literally can't think of a better image to be used for describing something so damaging to effective evangelism as that. When St. Paul chose those words in first Corinthians, he couldn't have chosen better. It's the last thing I want to be. The last thing we should want to be in a world starving for truth, beauty and goodness and Christ.
And so we pray... God give us love, first and foremost, for each other, our children, our ten-foot radius. Give me grace to consider others better than myself, assuming the best and seeing their potential, not judging my neighbors, lest I am judged. When we are asked to speak on your behalf, let us do so with pure intentions. Your Kingdom come, your will be done. Amen.
Honestly, the Catholic speaker culture makes me feel icky (yup, icky). Cana and I long for a day when it's not necessary at all, when the people of God love their neighbors and their own parishes so much, that it becomes obsolete. But until that day, we'll go where He sends us and preach where we are asked. We just don't want to skip the loving part in the process.
Peace and Good!
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
It’s Ash Wednesday again. And here I am scrambling around, trying to make preparations to enter fully into this Lenten season. I want our home to reflect the change in the liturgical season. I want to make sure we have the appropriate reminders of penance and sacrifice. I want to make sure to stock the right kinds of food. I want all the best prayer journals, even the most beautiful and catechetical coloring sheets for the kids. I want…well, I want to do Lent right, maybe even perfectly for once.
Meanwhile the loving gaze of the Lord is upon me. He’s just here, smiling, loving me. He’s longing for me to quit doing and scrambling. While I am trying so hard to make it look like I really want what He wants, His loving gaze shines upon me, no matter what my Lenten preparations are. He waits patiently for me to be still, to let go, to simply receive His love.
Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted over the earth. Psalm 40:10
I think I’ve often viewed Lent as an opportunity to enter into battle -- and it very well may be. But until now, I may have been confused about who’s doing the fighting, and what or who the real enemy is. I have too often viewed myself, my sinful inclinations, and many imperfections as the enemy against which I alone am fighting. Lent for me has always resembled forty days of self help, in which I’ve sought to do battle against the evil that has taken root in my own heart. And while this might not be the worst way to look at Lent, I think it’s time I approach it for what it actually is. God is doing the work, it’s really just my job to receive.
This Lent I’m giving up negative self-talk and it honestly feels like an impossible feat. But, I’m okay. I’m choosing to recognize that I am utterly powerless to win this battle against my own depravity. Instead of trying extra hard this Lent to crush my own weakness, I’m giving my feelings of inadequacy to Him. When I fail (because I will) I’ll seek to hear His loving voice instead. And instead of arming myself with a bunch of extra spiritual practices, I’m choosing to put on the full armor of God, and to hide myself in His power -- in order to slay not only my weaknesses, but also the true enemy who has LIED to me for so long about what those weaknesses mean!
I suppose it could kind of sound like I’m kind of wimping out on Lent this year, and maybe I am. But I think the reality is, I’m just in a place of utter surrender right now. I’m realizing that if I ever become holy, it will be His good work in me, not my own self help.
Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm
against the schemes of the devil. - Ephesians 6:11
It sounds cliche to say "it could be worse". But, it's true. It really could be worse, but dang, that orange juice hit the floor with a fury and splashed onto every surface possible. And it wasn't even the giant puddle that put me over the edge. It was the millions of tiny sticky droplets splattering the cabinets, the tile, the refrigerator, the table legs and the dishwasher. On my hands and knees with a wet rag, holding back curse words, I was annoyed. Really, really annoyed. I had to find every drop before my wife got home.
It’s not the first annoyance this week and it wasn't the only one yesterday. They happen all the time. Wifi is down, someone took your parking space, forgot your umbrella, your child locks themselves and the keys in the car, a massive zit on your forehead, the list goes on. Right? Our days are filled with these small inconveniences that if piled on, can really pull us into misery if we let them.
I think it’s too easy to say that things will get better. Because sometimes they don’t. And if it does get better, for how long? So rather than strive for a life devoid of annoyance, I think we ought to simply choose joy. Joy, because the Gospel is way bigger and way stronger than the things that are bugging us.
And the greatest gift of all?... when we accept these little pesky annoyances with joy, they can become for us small daily workouts that strengthen our virtue muscles and make us ready for even bigger trials in the future.
Few of us are given the gift of great trial. Most of us will become saints by enduring great annoyance.
I'm starting to think that when they write our biography, or eulogize us at our funeral, maybe it's not the worst thing if it's our ordinary discipleship that they talk about. Maybe loving God and loving people in our ordinary states of life, enduring small annoyances with grace, and celebrating life as it comes to us, is enough. Perhaps it's in this simplicity and smallness that we are made holy.
"Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4
I lost my cool today. I mean, I really lost my cool. My six year old son was careening through the house yelling like a banshee with a light saber pointed straight at his four year old sister, who in turn was screaming like a slightly higher pitched banshee. I had already asked nicely, say maybe a bazillion times, for them to stop playing so rough and so loud, and this was the last straw. I can only imagine the ugly and distorted look on my face, as I neatly clotheslined the kid, ripped the light saber out of his hand, and yelled at the top of my mom lungs. “ENOUGH!!”
Cue great big tears and even more unbearable noise than either one of us had yet made. I’m ashamedly certain that the only message my son received loud and clear from my rant in that moment was “I’m so sick of y’all”. Period.
Thankfully, that wasn’t the end of the story. I was able to apologize. I asked for forgiveness for losing my temper, and being so physically forceful. Forgiveness was freely given. Before long, the two of them were happily playing once again, and I was left alone to contemplate my own weaknesses, and the strange economy of our God.
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
2 Corinthians 12:9
This is His economy. So why do I operate on the regular as if, when my weaknesses rear their ugly heads, the Father is up on his throne somewhere, throwing his hands in the air saying, “I’m so sick of you!”
I’ve lived too many days as if this were the case. Too many nights laying awake regretting that I’m weak and vulnerable and imperfect.
Friends, His mercies are new every morning and those mercies extend into the deepest cracks of our identities. He loves us! Just as we are. As a loving Father He desperately wants for us to walk in the freedom of who He’s created us to be. His forgiveness is so freely given.
If I want Him to make and mold me into the mother, spouse, woman I’m supposed to be, I must renounce the worry and regret, and hear the gentle, loving whisper of His voice as he gently calls, “ENOUGH!’ Enough running, enough hiding behind the pain of your weaknesses, wounds, and imperfections. Open yourself to receive, and I will make you whole. My power is made perfect in your weakness.”
"I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10