That Good

January 25th, 2021

We all need to know that God does not love us because we are that good; God loves us because God is good. Nothing humans can do will inhibit, direct, decrease, or increase God’s eagerness to love.

— Richard Rohr, Eager to Love, p. 188

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 29, 2016

Changing Our Minds, Not God’s

January 24th, 2021

As John puts it, “He will show the world how wrong it was about sin, about who was really in the right, and about true judgment” (16:8). This is what Jesus is exposing and defeating on the cross. He did not come to change God’s mind about us. It did not need changing. Jesus came to change our minds about God — and about ourselves — and about where goodness and evil really lie.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 151

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, February 21, 2015

God Is Not Out to Squash You

January 23rd, 2021

One of the great comforts in my travels to build a bigger table and to right-size God has been a simple reality that I’ve embraced, one that I hope seeps deep into your heart whatever your theological leanings are: God is not out to squash you. This is an incredibly difficult truth to claim if you’ve experienced religion through the lens of fear that told you otherwise.

I grew up believing that God loved me dearly. I also grew up believing God was very angry with me. I was taught that God personally created me and yet was immediately displeased by my sinfulness. So my very earliest identity was forged in the crucible of this unsettling duplicity: I was both adored and resented by my Creator. As a child I lived in the tension of being the object of both the wrath and the love of God simultaneously. As I grew, I was told I needed to find and do and believe what would tip the scales from punishment to reward, from damnation to salvation, from abandonment to blessing. I had to remove the massive barrier between myself and God, to bridge the wide expanse between the two of us — which somehow was me. For simply being, the problem was me. Apologize for my inborn transgressions and I earned the right to be God’s child. One wrong move, one doctrinal deviation, one errant belief, though, and I would be toast. Living always in paradox, I learned that I had a tender, caring Maker who knit me together in my mother’s womb, numbered every hair on my head — and was never far from destroying me for the birth defect I’d inherited somewhere in the process.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 161-162

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, 1/23/21

New and Improved

January 20th, 2021

Revise the story you tell yourself about starting over. Consider not only how terrifying change can be but also how exhilarating. Consider this time an opportunity to make a new and improved life.

KEEP MOVING.

— Maggie Smith, Keep Moving, p. 12

Photo: American Library Association Annual Conference, Washington DC, June 22, 2019

Not Cast Off Forever

January 18th, 2021

If Lamentations 3:31-33 is an accurate description of God’s nature, then God’s nature is best understood as unfailing love towards all — a love which does not cast off anyone forever. Though God might be compelled by love to cause grief, God derives no pleasure from it. God ultimately only causes grief as part of a long-range plan to bring God’s lost children back home. The arc of God’s judgment, while perhaps having to last ages upon ages, nevertheless ultimately bends back towards restoration.

— David Artman, Grace Saves All, p. 23

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 2, 2021

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