The Big Thing

I would insist that the foundation of Jesus’s social program is what I will call non-idolatry, or the withdrawing of your enthrallment from all kingdoms except the Kingdom of God. This is a much better agenda than feeling you have to attack things directly, or defeat other nation-states, the banking system, the military-industrial complex, or even the religious system. Nonattachment (freedom from full or final loyalties to man-made domination systems) is the best way I know of protecting people from religious zealotry or any kind of antagonistic thinking or behavior. There is nothing to be against, but just keep concentrating on the Big Thing you are for! (Think Francis of Assissi and Mother Teresa.) Paul’s notion of sin comes amazingly close to our present understanding of addiction. And he thus wanted to free us from our enthrallments with what he considered “mere rubbish” (Philippians 3:8), which is not worthy of our loyalty. “If only I can have Christ and be given a place in him!” Can you hear Paul’s corporate understanding in phrases like that?

The addict, or sinner, does not actually enjoy the world as much as he or she is enslaved to it, in Paul’s understanding. Jesus had come to offer us a true alternative social order here and not just a “way to heaven” later.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 197-198

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 13, 2021

Pockets of Relief

You are not betraying your grief by feeling joy. You are not being graded, and you do not receive extra credit for being miserable 100% of the time. Find pockets of relief, even happiness, when and where you can.

KEEP MOVING.

— Maggie Smith, Keep Moving, p. 38

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, December 2, 2020

Fire and Growth

I wish I could go back and tell the fearful young person I was what I know now about fire and growth. What would I say to her? Even if you do not feel brave, practice bravery. There will be times in your life when you feel as if life is burning down around you, but know that renewal is in its wake. Trust in what will open, what will grow, after something else has burned away, even when the landscape is charred black. And trust that one of the things guaranteed to grow — time after time, fire after fire — is you. Possibilities, like seeds, are being released into the air.

— Maggie Smith, Keep Moving, p. 94-95

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 6, 2015

A New Story

For much of my life, this guilt, pressure, and fear of exposure had left me fairly exhausted. But I am slowly but surely walking into a new story, gradually but most definitely jettisoning those things that don’t ring true anymore and traveling much lighter. My reverence for God has never been greater, my wonder never more full, my desire to know my Maker never stronger. The difference is, I now see God through the lens of one who is beloved, not one who is beloved with conditions. Life now is not a test to try and reach God, but an opportunity to notice God. I am seeking Jesus more deeply than ever — not to escape punishment, but to discover life as it is best lived. My faith is not about fleeing something horrible, but running toward something beautiful. I am daily responding in gratitude for the beauty of the gift of this world, not in the hope I can eventually escape it. I come to the Scriptures now not as divine dictation, but as the journal entries of those who came before me and who have walked this road of asking, seeking, and knocking.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 164

Photo: Rocky Mountains, January 7, 2020

Work in Progress

Accept that you are a work in progress, both a revision and a draft: you are better and more complete than earlier versions of yourself, but you also have work to do. Be open to change. Allow yourself to be revised.

KEEP MOVING.

— Maggie Smith, Keep Moving, p. 22

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, December 6, 2020

Triumphing

Consider all you’ve outlived — including the life you thought you would have. You are durable, adaptable, resilient; just being here is a triumph. Hour by hour, prove the voice inside wrong — the one that says you can’t do it. Do it.

KEEP MOVING.

— Maggie Smith, Keep Moving, p. 16

Photo: Centreville, Virginia, February 7, 2010

A Generous Lens

Your story differs from the ones my mom and I tell, but the courage and perseverance you’ve drawn on just to survive are beautiful too. You can continue to connect with those parts of yourself that are brave and strong. That is the beauty of cowriting a new story with God: We get to choose what to cultivate and what we must learn to forgive in ourselves. I encourage you to see your story through a generous lens. Where are the nuggets of goodness for you to mine? Don’t forget these treasures.

— Aundi Kolber, Try Softer, p. 222

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 6, 2015

Being Gentle with Ourselves

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

Our Needs Matter

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