Being Gentle with Ourselves

December 15th, 2020

Trying softer isn’t about knowing or doing the right thing; it’s about being gentle with ourselves in the face of pain that is keeping us stuck. Because no matter how hard we try, we can’t hate or shame ourselves into change. Only love can move us toward true growth. This is the love given to us by a gentle, kind, compassionate, good God — and the love we are invited to give ourselves too.

— Aundi Kolber, Try Softer, p. 193-194

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, December 13, 2020

Soul Stuff

December 10th, 2020

Real love is contagious. It is infectious. When something is purely of God, it can’t be contained within the walls we fashion for it. This kind of love always yields a fruit that can’t be managed or manufactured or scheduled. Jesus said this was the expectation-defying, unpredictable activity of the Spirit that would characterize his people (John 3:8). This was the movement of the early Church, a movement that grew exponentially in a way that modern churches all want to replicate but rarely can because we’re all trying to engineer man-made miracles. We craft baptism events, we schedule worship nights, we plan revivals. We so love to talk about following the Spirit’s leading, but in practice we really want to run the show and get God to work for us. One of the most freeing lessons I ever learned as a pastor is that I cannot do spiritual things; I can only do physical things. I can only respond in flesh and blood to what I believe God is saying, and then rest in the results. God is the only One who can do soul stuff. My most pressing job as a pastor is often to get out of the way — and it ain’t easy.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 153

Photo: Gundersweiler, Germany, December 1999

The Present Moment

December 6th, 2020

Focus on who you are and what you’ve built, not who you’d planned on being and what you’d expected to have. Trust that the present moment — however difficult, however different from what you’d imagined — has something to teach you.

KEEP MOVING.

— Maggie Smith, Keep Moving, p. 9

Photo: Bremen, Germany, November 28, 2003

Dearly Loved By God

December 3rd, 2020

The more I’ve studied the doctrine of Universal Reconciliation, the more I’ve started to notice something about those who embrace the view: they tend to be more loving and accepting of those who are unlike them.

Maybe it’s because when you realize that everyone is equally loved by God and that God is really intending to bring everyone to repentance, and that, one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will gladly confess that jesus Christ is Lord, well, you kind of relax and enjoy being alive.

See, instead of seeing people as “saved” or “lost,” and grouping everyone you meet into the “Christian” or “non-Christian” category, you may start to see people as simply people.

Not only that, but you also begin to see them as God sees them. You slowly recognize that everyone you meet — regardless of their beliefs or spiritual condition — is someone who is dearly loved by God. You also start to understand that everyone you meet is indeed your brother or sister, and you realize that we all have the same Heavenly Father.

This really starts to change the way you treat other people. It starts to bear good fruit in your life. It even makes it easier to love others as Christ has loved you, without conditions or strings attached.

Eventually, you begin to recognize that God loves everyone much more than you could ever love them; even your own family members who may be far from faith in Christ as the moment. You start to realize that God has a grand design in motion to draw everyone to Himself, eventually. We get to take part in that, if we can learn to abide in Christ and collaborate with the Holy Spirit in the process. But, we can also enjoy a newfound sense of ease with this process. Because now we’re not fighting the clock or worried about closing the sale. Instead, we’re trusting in God’s ultimate victory which is inevitable and unstoppable.

— Keith Giles, Jesus Undefeated, p. 155-156

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, December 2, 2020

Our Needs Matter

November 28th, 2020

Because our brains are shaped around what we notice, self-attunement helps us become better and more effective at listening to the heartbeat of our own humanity. And here’s what I truly love about the way we are designed: As we do our own internal work, we quite literally develop the capacity to listen to and love others more fully than before. Now it’s worth saying that we don’t do our work only so we will love others better — although it’s a beautiful benefit. Nope, we are invited to connect to and respond to our internal world because we are deeply valuable and loved by God; and because that is true, we can rest in the fact that our needs matter.

— Aundi Kolber, Try Softer, p. 133

Photo: Chateau de Chillon, Lake Geneva, Switzerland, November 2000

Visible Compassion

November 25th, 2020

Christians are meant to be the visible compassion of God on earth more than “those who are going to heaven.” They are the leaven who agree to share the fate of God for the life of the world now, and thus keep the whole batch of dough from falling back on itself. A Christian is invited, not required to accept and live the cruciform shape of all reality. It is not a duty or even a requirement as much as a free vocation. Some people feel called and agree to not hide from the dark side of things or the rejected group, but in fact draw close to the pain of the world and allow it to radically change their perspective. They agree to embrace the imperfection and even the injustices of our world, allowing these situations to change themselves from the inside out, which is the only way things are changed anyway.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 148

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, November 7, 2020

A Bigger God

November 18th, 2020

This is almost always the by-product of expanding the table: God is right-sized. Rarely, if ever, do you do the work of hospitality, authenticity, diversity, and agenda-free relationships and encounter a smaller, more selective God.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 149

Photo: Skyline Drive, Virginia, October 14, 2020

A Working Heart

November 15th, 2020

Stop calling your heart broken; your heart works just fine. If you are feeling — love, anger, gratitude, grief — it is because your heart is doing its work. Let it.

KEEP MOVING.

— Maggie Smith, Keep Moving, p. 8

Photo: Leithöfe, Germany, November 1997

The Father

November 11th, 2020

The overall testimony of scripture is that God is the Father of all humanity. God’s love for everyone is expressed in the sending of Christ who told us that God is like the prodigal son’s father who never stopped loving his child, even when he lived a life of rebellion and tried to run as far away from him as possible.

God never disowns us. God never stops being our Father. We never stop being children of God. Even on our worst day, God’s love for us is based on who God is, not on who we are, or what we do.

Yes, we can reflect our sonship or daughterhood more clearly whenever we love others, serve others or forgive others. But, even if we fail to do this, it doesn’t change the fact that God is our Father, and that we are loved and forgiven. Based on our behavior, it may appear that our father is the devil, at times. But this is not the reality. It is a perversion of the reality. God is our Father, and we are all His children. If we reflect the character of Christ, then we are starting to look like our Father more and more. This is the way it’s supposed to work.

— Keith Giles, Jesus Undefeated, p. 111

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, November 8, 2020

Hunting for Beauty

November 10th, 2020

When we hunt for beauty, we learn to pay attention. We keep our eyes open for goodness and for cracks of light.

— Aundi Kolber, Try Softer, p. 129

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, November 7, 2020