People of Faith, Come Out.

The question why? doesn’t even seem to cut it very much anymore in our world, does it? There is simply no logical answer for it during a week like we are experiencing now. There is evil in this world, so much hate, and in Orlando this weekend, those things combined in one person and compelled him to carry out a sinister act. A deadly one.

I’m horrified, as most everyone is and should be this week, as I think of the lives taken just a few nights ago while I was sleeping safe and sound in my bed. When I learned of it, my heart sank down into my stomach.

So here we are again, and forty-nine beautiful, holy, created-in-the-image-of-God lives, are just gone. More than that have suffered injuries. And even more than that have suffered emotional scars that could take a lifetime to heal.

As a person of faith, I pray for their families. I pray that some measure of comfort and peace will reach them. I also pray for the injured and the witnesses, that they would heal both physically and in time, emotionally.

I pray because I don’t think it’s a waste of time. Our prayers are what connect us to the source of all peace, the something-bigger-than-ourselves, the very love itself that keeps us woven together.

But as people of faith, I think there’s more we need to do right now. More than praying. More than even donating money or giving blood. Those things in themselves are good, and we should do them. But there’s more to be done.

Because a sanctuary was invaded this weekend. A sanctuary not unlike the one in Charleston that was invaded just a year ago. It might not be the place many of us initially think of when we hear the word sanctuary, but our LGBT brothers and sisters certainly understand it to be just that, as they were gathered in this place of joy together.

They were dancing and singing and laughing and being free together. Free from judgmental eyes and hateful comments. They were in a sanctuary, free from the fear of being treated as less-than.

And they should have been safe there. They should have been safe to be themselves and enjoy a night without worrying if they would ever get to enjoy another. They should be safe there. They should be safe anywhere.

But the fact is that they aren’t safe everywhere. In the freest country on earth, an LGBT person is never quite free from the worry that someone will treat them in a manner that is disrespectful or downright dangerous.

So, yes, I want to #PrayForOrlando together with other believers. I want Americans to band together and grieve this completely senseless loss of life that happened yet again on our soil.

But I also want us as people of faith to acknowledge that this was a crime that targeted our gay community specifically. And I want believers inside and outside of the Church to understand that if we don’t specifically acknowledge that, and we skip right past that fact and just start to clamor about political positions, we’ve done a great disservice to the LGBT community and we’ve actually added to their pain. 

To my LGBT loved ones, I want to say that I see you. I can’t imagine how scary this is for you, to wonder if this will happen closer to home next time, or if you or someone you know will be the next target. I understand that this is by far not the first time you have had to be fearful of someone using hate as an excuse to violate you. I am so sorry for that.

I am sorry for the way the Church on the whole has, at worst, treated you as less-than-human, or at best ignored you. I don’t want to do that. I know each one of us are made in the image of God and He loves us all completely and wholly without condition. Every single one of us. I don’t think you need me, some white, straight, middle-class elementary school teacher to validate you in that way. But maybe there are some of you who have just never been told that. So please hear it from me. You are made in God’s image, you are beautifully unique and special and nothing will ever change that. We are all worthy of love and dignity simply because of that. And anyone who treats you as if that’s not true is simply wrong. 

I am so sorry you have suffered at the hands of people who, supposedly in the name of God, have said you are not worthy of unconditional love and respect. And I’m especially sorry for any of the same people who have hurt you outright with words or deeds. Please hear this: That is not what God is about. Anyone who claims that hate can be justified by slapping the name of God on it simply does not understand the overall concept of God.

You are loved by God and by many, and nothing in the universe can ever change that. My heart breaks this week for your compounded grief, as people who are both dumbfounded by more loss of life, and as members of a community who have known far too much violence and hate in your quest for love and acceptance. 

rainbow hearts

I pray my words fall on the hearts of my LGBT friends gently. There is much more to say, but for now, I just want you to know you are loved and seen and heard. 

To my friends who claim the name of Christ: I see you too.

One important note: There are those who, supposedly in the name of God, have spent large amounts of energy trying to convince men and women in the gay community that they are unworthy of love, that they are despicable, or abhorrent. I am not addressing those folks here, because I don’t in any way think they are actual followers of Christ. Nothing even remotely similar to Him is in their speech or their actions, and I do not refer to them as Christians (meaning Christ-followers) because everything they do shows that they are the opposite. They are ideological extremists, exactly like the man who murdered dozens of people in Orlando this weekend.

I am speaking to my brothers and sisters in the faith who follow the person and example of Christ as imperfectly but faithfully as possible, who understand that every single person on the face of this planet was created by God in His image.

To you I want to say that this needs to be a major time of reflection for us. How have we, as individuals or as entire fellowships, participated in this violence? It’s true we’ve never pointed a gun at a homosexual person, but have we fired shots with our voices or our silence? The hurt is the same.

I know you and I truly believe that your heart hurts for this whole situation. I know so many of you are uncomfortable and sickened with the way that the Church has treated many groups, including our LGBT brothers and sisters.  I have spoken with you over coffee and during times of study and I know that some of you don’t understand why this debate is even still happening. You are tired of being lumped in with the “ignorant Christian bigots” because that is truly not what you are. I understand. May I urge you to speak your mind, and to be a bridge for the people you love at both ends of that spectrum? Voice your beliefs and your love and your questions. I predict you will be loved all the more for it.

And I know that there are some of you who love Jesus and truly believe that an LGBT person has personally chosen their lifestyle, and you have a hard time understanding how that fits with what you have been taught over many years. I have grace for you as well, and I understand that you are on a journey of learning and you truly want to be faithful in that quest. May I urge you to tend to this in your own personal prayer life and study of God’s word on these issues (yes, deep study–that means whatever it takes, all the way back to the original languages for every single word if you have to) and to truly develop your own understanding rather than simply accepting what has been repeated to us over and over.

And please, if you have big opinions about the LGBT community but find yourself realizing that you don’t actually spend time with anyone who is gay, let’s just start there. Because I promise you that when you love those who don’t necessarily share your same background or beliefs, you will look at everything in a new light. Because it won’t be about an “issue” or a “culture war.” It will be about you and the right-in-front-of-you folks whom you love. And that changes everything. It no longer allows us to throw around cheap cliches and Christian-y catchphrases, but it forces us to ask what those words might mean to our loved one. That is the journey we must take.

And at every point in that journey, please remember that at no time did Jesus ever hurt people (and especially not entire groups of people) with his words or by ignoring their plight entirely. He was moved, deep down in his gut, with compassion for the masses. He always treated every single person with the love and dignity they were worthy of simply because they were created by God.

He was always on the lookout for those who were hurting, who needed love, and who needed to be reminded of their worth. He gave us the very best example of what it looks like to love in words and deeds. So let’s make that example our focus, and all else secondary to that. Let’s be about the business of standing side-by-side with those who are hurting. Let’s be that Samaritan, who defied all commonly held cultural parameters and looked past it all, seeing nothing other than a fellow human being lying bruised and battered in a ditch and said How could anyone pass this person by without reaching out? And if we become battered and bruised at the same time, so be it.

So yes, more love and less hate. Nothing can undo the hateful actions that happened this weekend in Orlando. Nothing, ever. But we can continue to assault evil with love every time we pray, open our mouths to speak, or encounter another human being. Every single day.

Whatever our personal beliefs are at this moment, there is absolutely no debate to be had over whether or not the people in that nightclub were loved by God and worthy of dignity and respect as human beings. That’s not even a thing. Not even.

But let’s ask ourselves: Will we, as people of faith, mourn alongside anyone who mourns, even if we think them to be different than we are? Will we love God’s people more than our perceptions? Will we come out and speak, take a posture of wanting to learn, and say that maybe this is awkward, unsteady territory but we are willing to go there because we want to love extravagantly like Jesus did?

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As I’ve written and rewritten this over the past few days, it has dawned on me painfully that I should have said these things long ago. I should’ve said essentially these same things also to my friends of color and of other faiths, who have frequently been targets of violence and hate and continue to be. Sometimes it just feels as if the hatred and violence is compounded all the more by the thousands of competing voices yelling in the aftermath. As if anyone needs another opinion. But I will use my words more often on behalf of peace and on behalf of those I love. -Krysten

It’s Okay to Feel Beautiful

Dear Lady friends,

Do you ever have one of those days where you just feel beautiful? A day when you just don’t fight with the mirror. You’re content, joyful, and you feel whole. You feel all glowy from the inside out. Nothing can steal your joy. There’s just something about the day and about yourself that feels…. well, beautiful. Do you ever have days like that?

Did you just say NO? I can’t really say I’m all that surprised.

And if you thought YES, my bet is that you’d give up your daily coffee before you’d admit that to anyone. I mean, that’s obnoxious, right? Wouldn’t that sound ridiculous to go around and say, I feel so beautiful today!

Weird, right?

What if each of us just climbed up on the roof and shouted I FEEL BEAUTIFUL TODAY!!!

Is it okay for us to feel beautiful? To say it like that? To feel completely unashamed just for one dang day?

Because pretty much everything in the universe tells us that’s NOT okay. Every magazine, every commercial, every billboard, every catcall, every snide comment from a family member, every diet plan, every clothing ad, every single thing tells me that I’m not enough. We even say it to one another in so many ways, don’t we, ladies?

It always seems we always need something more before we can be beautiful. We need smoother skin, a smaller waist, longer hair, whattheheckever. We always need SOMETHING else to make us beautiful.

We’re apparently not allowed to feel beautiful just the way we are, just because we are.

Apparently that’s not okay.

But I think we’ve been lied to. I think we’ve got it wrong.

It's okay to feel beautiful

 

Ladies, we ARE already beautiful. We are created in the image of God, who is Himself Good. He is Love. He is Light.

And if we’re made in His image, we are also those things. Those things reside in us and we have the capacity to bring good, to bring love and light wherever we go.

Is that not beautiful?

And more than that, each one of us brings our own individual beauty with us wherever we go. We bring our big, beaming smiles. Our eyes hold wisdom and wonder and that little sparkle of mystery. The little crow’s feet developing around our eyes give a peek into days we stood in the sun, soaking up life. In-the-moment, right-now life. That line between our eyebrows tells of some nights we stayed up worrying and praying about our wayward child. Those little wrinkles that are starting to triple on our foreheads tell of the surprises that have been shared with us, and the amazement of learning something new.

We carry all the colors of the Earth in our skin: caramel, coffee bean, light sand, peachy pink. We bring every glorious texture– smooth, straight, curly, zig-zaggy, wavy– in our hair. The curve of our bodies tells of our unique design, and the way we’ve run those miles and the times we’ve enjoyed dessert. The way life has been brought through us into this world straight from Heaven.

Our lips are pursed in truth-telling, instruction and character-building for our babies, and encouragement for every single person we mother with our love.

Our hands turn the pages of books, create delicious meals that nourish, reach out offering help and kindness, and create art that’s never before been seen in the world, including our little ones.

Tell me something that is more beautiful than all of that.

Women, we are the crown of creation. God created everything, including man. And it wasn’t good for him to be alone, so we were made. And whoa.

Then God was finished. Everything was perfectly in place with us reflecting all his qualities that couldn’t be reflected fully in man.

Through us He brought the life and the beauty that man couldn’t bring.

We. Are. Beautiful. It’s okay to feel it.

It’s okay to look at yourself in the mirror and speak to yourself the same way you would speak to a loved one, instead of firing off arrows of shame and condemnation. It’s okay to be pleased with what you see there, because our Creator most certainly is.

In this world, knowing our worth and feeling our beauty are priceless, extraordinarily brave things. Freeing things.

When we are unashamed, when we feel beautiful, we are being brave. And we are opening up space for others to do the same. Now that’s a thing of beauty, to be sure.

Ladies, let’s feel our beauty today. Look closely at yourself. Do you see it? On the outside, yes, but also what exudes from the inside.

You don’t have to wait to feel beautiful. You don’t have to wait until you cover your gray or lose 20 pounds or get that next miracle face cream.

You are beautiful right now, just the way you are.

Be who you are. Created, loved, unashamed. Feel your right-now beauty.

I promise you, it’s okay.

Lady Friends, would you be so brave as to share how you’re feeling your right-now beauty today? How you’re opening up space for others to feel beautiful? Would you share one thing you love and appreciate about your own beauty, so we can all share in your beautiful brave moment? 

 

Come With Me: Beyond the Invitation

Don’t you just love opening an invitation?  Lovely, thick stationery with an embossed seal takes a little effort to tear open, but it  carries so much excitement inside.

Not only does an invitation reveal something very special, such as an upcoming wedding date or a chance to shower some love on a new mother. But it communicates something to you as the recipient as well.

You are important. You are loved. I chose you for this. I want you to be part of this monumental moment.  It just wouldn’t be the same without you. Please say you’ll be there; I want you to experience this with me. Come with me and become part of my history.

In Suzie Eller’s just-released book, Come With Me, she reminds us that every single day, we have a chance to hear those words of invitation. Not only to hear them, but to accept them wholeheartedly.

Come With Me Release Day

Suzie journeys alongside the original 12 disciples of Jesus, and plants herself firmly as the 13th disciple. Throughout the book, she leans in to what they may have been thinking and feeling as they heard Jesus’s words, witnessed His miracles, and walked with Him daily, never having the benefit of knowing how His story continues even today. They didn’t have the luxury of hindsight, of being able to look back over thousands of years of scholarly analysis and see the nuances in what He might have been saying.

They were rough fishermen and despised tax collectors. They were Regular Joes. They went about their daily business of mending nets, reeling in the catch, balancing the books, squinting to record figures.

But they got an invitation. One by one, Jesus said Come with Me.

He had no sales pitch. Nothing at all that would indicate they were ablout to live a prosperous, carefree life. In fact, many of Jesus’s words would indicate the exact opposite.

But they each accepted the invitation. Leaving their jobs. Their families. Their positions. Their very identities in society.

Unlike the invitations we get in the mail today, Jesus’s invitation didn’t list a location, a dress code, a meal preference. You know, the things that help us be prepared for the big event. Nothing of the sort.

So why would these individuals say yes, knowing nothing beyond the man who was standing in front of them?

It didn’t make sense. They literally had no reason to open themselves up like that at first. No guarantees of any sort. But when Jesus spoke those words, they knew something more, something bigger than they’d ever dreamed of, was right there in front of them.

I doubt they knew it at the time, but by accepting Jesus’s invitation to Come with Me, they actually acknowledged that they were chosen.

It was an invitation alright. To put faith into practice. To understand forgiveness and mercy. To see with different eyes and hear with new ears. To be fully known and absolutely chosen anyway.

This exact same invitation Jesus gave to the twelve is the one we still have today. For some of us, it sits unopened in a pile of other important things, but we fear opening it because then we will have to make a choice to RSVP. For many of us, we have opened the invitation and accepted, but somehow thought it was about what to wear or what to buy to take along with us, missing the bigger picture entirely. And yet for some of us, we’ve been part of something bigger but the memories have faded.

This book is for all of our hearts. It’s about the journey we take when we decide not to just accept Jesus’s invitation, but to go wherever He leads. Out into deeper waters. Into unknown places. Into the darkness to carry His light.

That sounds all fine and good, but isn’t that a little scary? Can’t we just be happy with RSVPing and showing up for that one thing and just calling it good?

Don’t worry, Suzie understands. That’s why she encourages us in this book to “whisper yes where no wants to take root.” Throughout the pages, she shares ways that Jesus drew her closer by taking small baby steps of faith. Notice that I said Jesus drew her closer, but Suzie makes it clear that she also had to move closer each time she felt that stirring.

My life became hinged on Jesus nearly 14 years ago. The thing I continually learn is that He is always and forever choosing me. No matter what, He wants more of me. More of my heart. More time with me. He is the ultimate pursuer. No matter how inadequate or stagnant or unlovable I might feel, He is always reminding me of His invitation.

No expectations. No prerequisites. No list of improvements that have to be made before I can accept the invitation. He says Come with Me. I just have to whisper yes and allow Him to walk me through the rest.

Friends, Suzie’s Come with Me book officially released today! This is one you can read on your own or with a group, allowing Suzie to be your guide into a new adventure with Jesus.

My copy is already a little ragged, with multiple dog ears and notes scribbled in nearly every margin. It’s one I will revisit again and again along the way. Be sure to check out Suzie’s blog and some of her other beautiful books, such as The Mended Heart and The Unburdened Heart.

 

 

 

Welcome! {Just this one thing}

What do I want in this life?

That’s a question I ask myself often. Sometimes to actually figure it out, and sometimes to just to weigh everything against my purpose to see if I am on the right track.

I’ve thought for years about a mission statement. A personal one for my life. I’ve even started to write one out a few different times, but it always seemed a bit too contrived, like I was trying to say all the right things to myself. To give myself a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy to nod my head at.

It never really worked.

Then during this past year, everything has been turned upside down a bit in my world. It’s made me look at everything and everyone a bit differently. Life has forced me to look at everything through a new lens of self-preservation, which has been both good for me and painful all at the same time.

But I realized these feelings of self-preservation have really been self-care, which I’ve neglected for entirely too long, and that’s not a good thing. So where am I to begin?

My faith in Jesus is the center of my life, so I want to follow what He says. He boiled everything we need to know down to a couple of things to focus on, which we refer to as the greatest commandment.  I am learning that to carry out the greatest commandment, to love God and to love others as I love myself, I have to actually love myself.

I’ve been thinking about what that means. What does it actually look like to love God, love myself, and love others as myself?

I could almost feel the light bulb warm up and begin to buzz.

It looks like freedom.

Evaluating every area of my life: physical, spiritual, emotional, relational…the way I want those parts of my life to play out are rooted in freedom.

Freedom is the yardstick with which I want to measure my life. The degree to which I experience joy is determined by the level of freedom I have in each of the areas of my life. The degree to which I have a right view of God, myself, and others is in direct correlation with the amount of freedom I have in my world. Experiencing too little freedom or distorting what freedom means in my life causes heartache in my relationships, in my work, my communion with God, and the way I view myself.

For me, everything comes back to freedom.

What do I want in life? I want to be more free.

I’ve been a writer all my life in some capacity. No one is paying me to write books or articles. I write because I must. It’s how I think and process. It’s how I share my thoughts in hopes that they help someone else feeling the same way. I’ve written for six years at praythenlearn.com and by sharing there I’ve already become just a little bit more free.

But it’s time to center everything, even my writing, around my goal of being more free. It’s a reality that in this life, we can never be completely free. As long as we live in these bodies we will be subject to pain, injury, illness, and death. While we walk this earth, we will live among evil, lies, and deception. There is no freedom from all those things right now. When we leave this world and go on to our eternal life, we can be completely free, as we were meant to be.

That is why to be more free is my goal. To be more free in each area of life. To be more free than I was a year ago or even yesterday. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free, so I want to be about the business of having more freedom in my daily life.

Jesus said:

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.-John 10:10

This is what I want out of life. To have it to the full. Free, abundant life.

Will you join me on this journey toward more freedom in our everyday lives? To live as Jesus wanted us to live? As free individuals, making the most of every area of our lives and every moment while we are here on earth? To know what it means to love our God, ourselves, and others in freedom?

Welcome to ToBeMoreFree.com. I hope to see you again soon.

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Forgive and Get

So there was this dude from back in the day. He’d gotten himself into some pretty serious debt (the equivalent of millions of dollars) by borrowing from the king of his land, and on budget-balancing day, the king decided he wanted everything settled up. As you’d guess, the guy didn’t have the funds to pay it back. So, as was the custom of the day, the king ordered that everything this man had be sold so the man could make good on his promise of repaying the debt. This included the man and his whole family being sold into servitude to settle the account.

The man in debt, clearly distraught over this, fell to his knees and begged the king:

“Please master, Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.”

The king, even though he had every right to demand repayment, was filled with compassion toward this man, and made a decision. He decided to let the man go free, not just to have more time to pay back the debt, but to be completely free. He released him and canceled his debt completely. The man’s debt had been erased. He owed nothing. He was free.

So, of course, this man lived a long and happy life, forever grateful for this freedom, and extended the same grace to others that had been extended to him, right?

Um, not so much.

That dude went right on out, came across a guy who owed him some money (the equivalent of a few thousand bucks) and grabbed him by the throat, demanding he pay back the money this instant. This man also couldn’t pay back the debt, so the dude had him thrown in debtor’s prison.

Some folks heard about this, and knowing he’d JUST been forgiven all his debts, went and told the king about it. The king was irritated to say the least. He summoned the forgiven man and asked him WHAT IS UP WITH THAT??!! He said “You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?”

You might recognize this as a parable that Jesus told, as recorded in Matthew 18. (Retold here in the Krysten paraphrase.) 

This parable was told in response to Peter asking Jesus “How many times should I forgive someone who has sinned against me? Up to seven times?”

Oh, Peter, you’re so adorable. You thought seven times was a lot. I’m with you. 

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”

Jesus said the Kingdom of God plays out like this parable. God is the king. We are the ones in debt to Him because of our state of sin. He has fully and completely forgiven us, no matter how much of a mess our credit history is. So when we go out into our world, He expects us to transfer that mercy to others. He expects us to remember our great debt that we couldn’t repay, and to offer the same forgiveness to others.

But there’s one thing this parable doesn’t tell us. It’s the part we figure out for ourselves when we put in to practice what Jesus said to do. It’s the hidden gem that we get from obedience to this practice of forgiving. When we free someone from their debt, we become free as well. In fact, the freeing is more for us than for them!  Unshackling someone from us by forgiving their betrayal, their insensitivity, their part in our abuse, their coldness, their poor parenting, their lack of love and understanding… Whatever the case may be. Releasing them in your heart and mind releases us as well. We get to live more freely and move forward with what God has in store for us.

Forgiving is no easy task. It’s not a one-time deal. It’s a choice we make over and over to extend freedom as it has been extended to us. It’s a process of renewing our minds to allow God’s truth about us and our situation to permeate every place in our lives, so we can really live. It doesn’t mean forgetting. It doesn’t mean acting like nothing every happened (in fact, the very act of forgiving someone means that there has to be an offense that needs forgiven in the first place.) It doesn’t even mean reconciliation with the person in every case. But it does mean freedom.

This week has been a tough one. I’ve been working through this process of forgiveness toward someone that, quite frankly, doesn’t really “deserve” my forgiveness. This person did something terrible to me, on purpose. They treated me in the worst way a person possibly could. And they’ve never once said they were sorry. They haven’t even acknowledged their wrongdoing. They’re just going about their everyday life as if nothing ever happened. And chances are, I will never hear an apology from this person as long as I live, even though I certainly am owed one, and much more.

My life has been changed by the way this person has done me wrong. It’s been devastating. Life-altering. It’s cost me hours and hours of distress and thousands of dollars in counseling. It’s created anxieties in me that I’ve never had before. It’s made me act like a person I’m not, on more than a few occasions.

And I am tired of living that way. Having a bitter undercurrent just below the surface of your life is no way to live. And honestly, nothing this person could ever do or say would really take away the hurt that has been imposed on me. It’s forever affected my world. 

So rather than waiting forever to get the apology I’m owed that will never come, (and wouldn’t really help much if it did) I’m working on being obedient to this command of my King. For my own sake. For freedom. 

  
I begin by recalling a debt that I owed, that I couldn’t repay. I remember how I have been forgiven of that massive debt. How I could never make it right even if I tried. And I decide to forgive my debtor as I have been forgiven. 

This doesn’t come easily. But with God’s help, I start by transforming the way I think of this person. In a very practical and tangible way, I write down everything I think about the person (everything—no holding back. God knows anyway.) And then I search the scriptures and  write down the truth about this person, as God sees them. As he sees all of us. 
Then, I say the things out loud. This is the hardest part.  My own thoughts first…filled with hurt, bitterness, pain:

______ is an awful person. _____ doesn’t deserve forgiveness for this. How could someone do that to me?  To anyone!?

Then the truth of God’s word, canceling out my unforgiving thoughts: 

______ is made in God’s image just like I am. _____ has fallen short of the glory of God just like we all have. _____ has sinned against me, but while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us all. (Genesis 1:27, Romans 3:23, Romans 5:6,8) 

I don’t have to like this right now. I don’t even have to believe 100% that these things are true about this person. Yet. But I will. Because God’s words ARE truth, and truth will win every time. I will continue reviewing these thoughts vs. God’s truth (and the many other pairs such as this that I’ve written down about this person I’m forgiving) and trust that I’ll be transformed by the renewing of my mind. 

I’ll make the decision to release them from this debt they owe me, because I want more freedom. And forgiveness is the way to go about getting it. 

 

Love: Join Together & Get Creative

I had the opportunity today to contribute to the #loveis series over on the Facebook page for Sweet to the Soul Ministries . So thankful to share alongside some lovely ladies who have taken time this month to consider what the scriptures say about this thing we call love. My focus was on Hebrews 10:24:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…

The entire book of Hebrews has something to prove. The author was worried that his audience was waffling in their faith. He implored them not to go back to the old, comfortable way they’d always known, approaching God by routinely making sacrifices, checking off a spiritual box. He went to great lengths to show that Jesus is our high priest and no other sacrifice is needed.

God is really really smart, y’all.

He knew that even when we came to understand that Jesus is our center, it would only be a starting point. Our faith is a lifelong process of trusting and learning to love like Jesus did. He knew we would get discouraged easily. He knew we, too, would waffle back and forth in our faith at times.

He knew we would need some strategies for sticking with it, for moving forward in our faith when life got harsh. For when it seemed too difficult to center our lives around a Savior who was all about showing love in practical ways.

So what did God give us as an answer to these difficulties? Two things stick out to me from Hebrews 10:24:

First, He gave us other believers. The verse says: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Us. We. One another. The words used here don’t signify any of us being an island. We need each other to keep the momentum of love & faith going. We need to encourage each other to put God’s love into action.

The second thing God gave us is creative minds. Other translations of Hebrews 10:24 tell us to “think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” and to “see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out”.

Oh, I love that. What a challenge! He wants to see just how out-of-the-box we can get in demonstrating love toward others.

So friends, let’s take on that challenge. Let’s just get all kinds of creative in how we show His love today. Forget about how we will be perceived because of it. And let’s not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by how difficult life may feel at the moment. God knew it would happen, and He’s given us one another to figure out how to creatively persevere in showing His love to all people.

I’d love to hear what you think about this. What comes to mind when you think about God asking us to be inventive and creative in love? Who is a person in your life who spurs you on toward love and good deeds? How do they do this? Tell me about all it! Your thoughts will spur even more of us on toward encouraging love and good deeds today.

Tell Somebody

I guess I’ve always been a writer.

Somewhere in elementary school (I think 3rd grade) there was an essay contest. The prize was the most famous Care Bear of all, Tenderheart Bear. The topic was something along the line of telling about someone who loves you a lot. That was a no-brainer.

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Tenderheart Bear

 

I wrote about my mom. I wrote my essay about how she was simply the best mom ever. Not just really great like regular moms, but over-the-top great because she was both mom and dad to me. I told about how she did all the jobs of a mom and dad and she did them all well. I wish I had a copy of that essay now. Those written words are long gone, but the feelings behind them are exactly the same. She was the very best mom any girl could ask for. She raised 7 children, most of them with a not-super-helpful husband, and the rest of them without one at all, after he passed away when I was very young.

I remember the way the tears were perched precariously inside the rims of my teacher’s eyes when she explained that I had won the contest with my essay about my mom. In a matter-of-fact way I told her, “I knew I would win! I have the best mom ever. And now everyone knows it.”

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My momma and birthday cake. What could be better?

I had my picture taken at school with that Tenderheart Bear. He’s gone somewhere now too. But I will never forget that day. I felt proud. I felt important. But not really because of my essay or because I won the contest. I felt proud that even though I didn’t have a mom and a dad, my mom by herself was super amazing. And I was getting the chance to tell somebody about it. Everybody.

 

Today, my amazing momma would be 80 years old. EIGHTY. It’s been exactly four years now that I got the sudden call telling me she was gone. Just like that. My amazing momma was no longer part of this world. No longer part of my world.

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Easter 1983. The only time I recall ever going to church with my mom.

 

It doesn’t matter at all that I am a grown-ass woman. I am a little girl every single time I think of my momma. Every year on this day—her birthday and the day she left us— I cry my ever lovin’ eyes out. I suppose it might always be that way.

I do cry because I miss her, but that’s not the main reason. I cry because I wanted to be a better daughter. I didn’t see it then, but looking back I really can’t think of that many times when I did something lovely just for her. For no other reason than to make her happy. I can’t think of many times that I just told her with words or deeds how awesome I really thought she was. She deserved to know. She deserved to actually hear it while she was still around to let it sink in. She deserved to hear the words I love you a billion times more than she ever did.

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Seven Kids. The first college graduate. That’s one proud momma. Big day for both of us.

 

I don’t feel like I talked about my mom very much when she was still around, either. I should have been telling someone–everyone– how amazing she was all the time, just because it was true.

I look around at kids treating their moms like complete crap, and I think, man, you will regret that so much when she’s gone.

I see husbands and wives ignoring each other in favor of their phones all the time. Like, ALL THE DAMN TIME. What the heck is so important that you can’t bother to even look at the person you are with? You’d rather stare at a screen and fake-talk to other people somewhere else?

Sometimes I go for several days without talking to a single one of my friends. In the course of a few days, can I truly not spare a few minutes just to call or email one of them to let them know how much they mean to me? Of course I could. This is simply a personal failure.

I want all those moments back that I wasted.  But I can’t ever, ever get them. I can’t go back and tell my momma how she’s the absolute best and how I would never be anything without her. I can’t go back and make her laugh anymore, or buy her some peach-pink roses for no reason. I can’t surprise her with gyros for her birthday lunch or help her peel way too many potatoes to mash ever again.

The best I can do is to tell somebody. Tell somebody how much I loved her and how wonderful she was. That’s a start.

But even better than that, I can tell somebody how wonderful they are. Somebody who is still here—right here with me on this earth, right now—what I see in them and how they affect my life. I can tell somebody else the great things I see in them.

And I can hope that by telling folks how much they mean to me, it will inspire them to do the same. Because believe me, no one wants to be thinking of a loved one on what would have been their 80th birthday, wishing they’d spoken more into that person’s heart while they still had the chance.

Do you love someone? Do you see something wonderful in a person?

Tell them. Tell somebody. Tell everybody. Today.