My sister, a mother to five children, was having a particularly difficult day of parenting. Giving in to the frustration and feelings of powerlessness, she raised her voice at her children, slammed a few doors, and angrily stomped her feet on every step as she made her way down the stairs. And amid her meltdown, she happened to look up. Hanging on the staircase wall was the most peaceful portrait of Mary, the Immaculate Conception. My sister paused, took in a long, deep breath, and exclaimed, “What are you looking at? You had one kid, and He was perfect!”
It can feel this way, can’t it? We can try to make excuses for our sin because Jesus was perfect (and how can we live up to that!), and we could make the same excuse that Mary was also perfect. Surely, if you or I were conceived without the stain of original sin, we would never raise our voices at our children! We would float around the house in a flowy blue dress, hands folded in prayer, wearing a permanent smile while smelling like roses! Unfortunately, Eve messed everything up. My sin is her fault. Not mine. And honestly? Who can relate to Mary, anyway? That’s an impossible standard that leaves me feeling more discouraged and hopeless than I already feel. Obedience to God was easier for Mary.
That’s what I used to think. Until Mary appeared to me.
She didn’t appear in the way that you might think. I didn’t have a vision of Our Lady. She didn’t show up in my laundry room floating on a cloud. And yet, she has been profoundly present. She has been the quiet comfort when pierced with the sword of a life I did not plan. She has been the gentle nudge in the right direction when fear and anxiety tempt me to choose my way. She has been the warm embrace when I find myself staring at another prayer having gone (seemingly) unanswered. She is the presence of something greater to come when life in this world feels weary and bleak. And maybe you are wondering how I can be so sure this is Mary if I have not seen her with my eyes? It’s a good and fair question. And I have a good and fair answer.
Mary, the Immaculate Conception, whose feast we celebrate today, is as Father Peter Cameron writes, “the living, breathing conception of God’s ineffable goodness, truth, beauty, fidelity, compassion, justice, mercy, peace and love.” The closer I grow in relationship with Mary, the closer I grow in relationship with her Son. And this, my friends, is what our faith is all about. Relationship. It is the very thing the serpent went after to destroy in the garden of Eden and what God ingeniously restored through the Immaculate Conception of Mary. The very grace and holiness that God offered to Mary is offered to us as well, and it is through the Immaculate Conception that we are invited back into relationship with God! You might be wondering how. How does one get to this level of grace and holiness? How does one foster a relationship with God the Father and Mary the Blessed Mother? The answer is prayer.
Let me ask. Do you hate that answer? Do you find it unhelpful? Because I used to. I knew I was supposed to be praying, I just wasn’t sure how. Plus, I am a perfectionist and a control freak and wanted some kind of "in my hands" proof that what I was doing was right. And while God doesn’t give prayer receipts to shove in the back of my Bible as evidence, I have discovered something that is even more effective and gratifying than a paper receipt. Prayer journaling. In my closet, I have a stack of over twenty journals filled with the longings, sorrows, joys, and hopes of my heart (give or take a few grocery lists). These empty pages are where I dump it all out—the clutter and the fear and all the things that tempt my mind to wander when I sit down for some quiet time with the Lord. Once I have unraveled my mind, I can be fully present to God, offering Him an open heart, ready to receive. Prayer journaling, which I believe is prompted by the Blessed Mother, has been my guide into a deeper relationship with the Lord.
Why do I say prompted by the Blessed Mother? Because Mary pondered. Mary thought deeply about the circumstances in her life. Mary considered all things and treasured them in her heart. Mary held every situation up against the backdrop of God’s promises, which she knew to be true. This is precisely what happens when I prayer journal! More than a list of wants and needs I hand over to the Lord, journaling allows me to create a sacred space of receptivity. It allows me to sort out the lies in my head, guiding me to the truth of who God is. As Lisa Brenninkmeyer writes, “prayer journaling is how I transition from my perspective to His.” Who lived life from God’s perspective better than Mary?
I had a parenting day similar to the one my sister had just the other day. I was sideswiped by a child in crisis, and those familiar feelings of powerlessness and frustration got the best of me. I can honestly say I was free-falling fast into despair; my worst case scenario thoughts steering me straight into a brick wall. And then Mary appeared to me. No, not in a vision, but as a gift in my mailbox! The new Walking with Purpose guided prayer journal, Praying from the Heart, miraculously arrived at the moment I needed it. (Because moms are like that. They anticipate their children’s needs.) And I wish we could sit face to face over a cup of coffee and pore over the pages of this journal together, because, my friend, it is unlike anything you have ever seen. If Our Lady were to create and use a journal, this would be it! And on this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, you can bet that my first entry will start with praise and adoration for a God who loves me so much to give me such a mother as Mary. As Father Cameron so beautifully says, “In Mary the Immaculate Conception we are given a corrected conception of the image of God: The Mother takes all our fear away in the way that only a mother can.”
Thank you, Immaculate Mary, for always looking out for me, taking all my fear away, and guiding me to pray from the heart.
 Father Peter Cameron, Mysteries Of The Virgin Mary: Living Our Lady’s Graces, (Servant Books, 2010), p. 17.
 Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Praying from the Heart: Guided Journal, (Walking With Purpose, 2020), p. 4.
 Father Peter Cameron, Mysteries Of The Virgin Mary: Living Our Lady’s Graces, (Servant Books, 2010), p. 17.
“For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh.” Ephesians 2:14
God has answered a prayer I have been pestering Him about for the past three years. At that time, my husband and I made the decision to uproot our family and hit reboot in a new state. We've been asked many times what prompted our move. Most people heard our standard answer: we wanted to be closer to family, it was a better business environment for my husband, and we were ready for a slower pace of life. All true, but not the whole story.
The truth is, God began messing with our hearts one summer as He began to reveal the degree to which the American dream had become intertwined with the gospel in our lives. Quotes like this one by David Platt led us to question the way we were living, “Radical Obedience to Christ is not easy…it's not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things.”
We weren't taking very many risks. And we were too comfortable. Another concern: pretty much everyone around us looked like us, was from more or less the same socio-economic background, and saw life through the same lens that we did. With a desire to decrease our spending and increase our giving, slow down and be more present to people, to move out of the comfort zone and experience discomfort in order to radically obey, we set out.
We've been working on each of these areas, some more successfully than others. But grace abounds, and I have seen God taking our meager attempts to step out of our comfort zones and give us far more in return than we could have expected. One of those gifts was meeting a new friend, the one I had prayed for all these years.
God has brought a beautiful woman into my life who is willing to let me borrow her glasses; to see life from her point of view. It's different than mine in so many ways—she is African American and I am white—yet we are very much alike at the heart level. We met at a dinner and cut to the chase, immediately going deep and talking about the racial divide in our country. I asked her if she would be willing to keep the dialogue going, and send me articles and concerns that are intersecting her life that I might be missing. She has been faithful to do that. Every day she has given me something to think about which has tendered my heart and challenged me.
At a time of such division in our country, she challenges me to not tell her how to feel. To not make assumptions about what it is like to walk in her shoes. Instead, she invites me to lean in and listen. To make room in my heart for her perspective, and to allow what she teaches me to open my eyes.
Lent is a time that we focus on fasting. I've heard it said that we fast in order to make more room in ourselves for God. Following that thought, how can we fast to make more room in our hearts to welcome someone whose perspective on life is different than ours?
What if we fasted from speaking and listened instead?
What if we fasted from the holy huddle and made sure we took time every day to talk to someone unlike us?
What if we fasted from comfort in order to build a bridge of unity across the divide?
Diversity consultant and Inclusion thought leader Howard Ross suggests using the following four questions to engage in dialogue with someone whose point of view is different than yours:
1) Why do you feel the way you do?
2) What is it about the other point of view that frightens you?
3) What are some questions you have about the other person that you want to ask?
4) Is there anything you need to say to be complete? (This is a chance to apologize for and let go of judgments and behaviors that you now see were inappropriate toward the other or the people they represent)
In 2 Corinthians 5:18, St. Paul tells us, “God has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation.” This is our job. The message He has entrusted to us is helping to reestablish a close relationship between two parties that are experiencing a divide. I believe it is time to stop fasting from ignoring this mission, and instead, to take it up.
Could you trade lenses with someone this Lent? Could you fast from your own point of view, and instead feast on what life feels like in someone else's shoes?
This post originally appeared on the blog in March, 2017.
There’s a space between words being spoken by one mouth, and those same words being received by another heart. En-route, those words often get misunderstood. This is where imaginations run wild and minds try very hard to fill in the blanks and understand. And all too often, the wrong conclusions are reached. Hurt results, and hearts protectively pull back.
And this is the devil’s favorite playground.
He loves nothing more than to entertain us here. But he’s stealth, and we rarely recognize his presence.
God’s been teaching me a lot lately about just how destructive it is for me to hang out in this place. I quickly get confused and lose perspective. I filter all that was said or implied through my cloudy lens of past experiences and assumptions. I’m apt to attribute motive without all the facts. I assume the worst, and often draw conclusions that are far from the truth. And all the while, the devil claps his hands, delighted to see me watering these seeds of discord with my mental rehashing of all that was said. He knows that the more sad and discouraged I start to feel, the less likely I’ll be to get out in the spiritual battlefield and focus on what really matters.
What is at stake? A lot. There is a hurting world out there that is just desperate for the women of our generation to band together and do something about it. We often feel defeated as we focus on the culture or pending legislation or the mountain of problems. We see these things as the obstacles that are getting in the way of needed change. But I believe the real problem, the thing that really limits the healing movement of God, is the things within us that we ignore and justify. It’s gossip. Lack of forgiveness. Bitterness. Pride. Anger. These are the things that divide us. They weaken us and cause us to quit. They block the flow of the Holy Spirit within us.
This is a big enough deal that it’s one of the last things that Jesus focused on before He walked to the Garden of Gethsemane to face the cross. He prayed, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through [the disciples’] message, that all of them [He meant us] may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you,” (John 17:20-21). He prayed for our unity. I’m thinking this is because it’s a big deal to Him. He sees what division will cost us, and begs us to “not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:27). Not even an inch.
Are you nursing a hurt? Are you rehashing someone’s words that have stabbed your heart? And has it caused you to pull back? Could it be that the devil has you exactly where he wants you because he is afraid of the good you might do if you released the hurt and forgave?
This is how St. Ignatius described the way the devil (the evil spirit) loves to derail people who are pursuing God: “It is proper to the evil spirit to bite, sadden, and place obstacles, disquieting with false reasons, so that the person may not go forward.”
He wants to hold you back. He wants you to be disquieted with false reasons. He bites you in a way that unsettles your heart. He saddens you as you dwell on your hurts. He wants you down for the count and out of his way.
I know this devil talk can seem a little extreme. But the battlefield is real, and the stakes are high. When we pull back and freeze our hearts, a wedge isn’t just driven between two persons. It’s lodged in the middle of the body of Christ. That division repels the very people who most need to see the God of love, the God who restores, the God who heals.
I want to challenge you to make a different choice when the hurt rushes in. Instead of protectively pulling back, draw close. Lean in to the relationship. Take a step towards the one who hurt you. Even though it’s hard, keep communicating and seek to understand. Distance demonizes.
Could it be that you have misunderstood? Is it possible that the other person is wounded, too? Might it be that things look different from his or her perspective? What would it be like if all our inner wounds were displayed on our bodies? Might we deal with one another a little more gently? Could we offer kindness to someone who we thought didn’t deserve it?
There are certainly times when we are wise to pull back. I am certainly not suggesting that anyone remain in an abusive situation. But even when we need physical distance in order to be safe and healthy, we still can forgive.
God asks us to fix our eyes on the cross, and remember how Jesus responded to those who hurt Him. “Father, forgive them,” He said, “for they do not know what they are doing.”
May we lean on God, letting His kindness and mercy infuse our hearts. May we let go of the hurts, and place them in Jesus’ nail-scarred hands. May God give us grace-healed eyes so we can see things from another’s perspective. It isn’t easy to live this way, but His grace will give us all we need to walk in His steps. May we, as sisters in Christ, be knit so close together that there is no room for the enemy to get in and cause God to be dishonored.
This post originally appeared on the WWP blog on Feb. 1, 2014. We are publishing it again for all of our new readers who have joined us over the past six years!
Last month I managed to do something right. On most days in December, I was able to balance the business of Christmas shopping, decorating, cooking and celebrating with a peaceful mindset focused on His coming. I’ll admit I sometimes didn’t balance the two evenly, and there were days when party prep and presents kept my eyes off the real prize. But I did give more of my attention to Him than I had during past Christmas seasons. I am a work in progress!
So here we are at the start of a new year, and once again I feel compelled to make a New Year’s resolution. Doing so might be a waste of time since I’ve never stuck to any resolutions I’ve made in the past, but it doesn’t hurt to try.
Putting God first every day of the year (not just during Advent-Christmas) would make for a great resolution, right? But, I am a full-time employee of Walking with Purpose, and the act of working for a ministry of Jesus Christ keeps Him front-and-center daily. More than that, He and I are in cahoots here in my home office. I pray each day for the Holy Spirit to guide me in my work, and He certainly responds.
I already know He’s Priority Number One.
Which brings me to Priority Number Two, and my resolution for 2020. I got the idea from Matthew 22:37-40:
[Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Christ says the second most important thing is to put others next, in the #2 spot to God. Not ourselves. Thinking about this, I realize that there are people in my life who really should be elevated to that #2 spot. People who, sadly, I sometimes ignore. My aging parents and my husband come to mind.
But then, the self-centered part of me that worries about my sanity takes over my thought process. Really? It says. You’re going to give more of yourself to your parents, even though it is always you who visits them and not the other way around? They are the retired ones, after all. How in the world are you going to fit more two-hour-long road trips into your packed schedule?
That selfish voice also has a problem giving my husband second-to-God status. You both work full-time yet it is always you doing the laundry and cooking meals. When’s the last time he made you dinner? Why do you eat Doritos while he and the kids enjoy the steak dinner you prepared for them?
(Side note: I’m a vegetarian, and the rest of the household are big-time carnivores. However, the time it takes to make two dinners each day is time I just don’t have.)
The WWP Bible study Keeping in Balance has a lesson all about putting people “next.” In it, author Lisa Brenninkmeyer reveals the key to actually making it happen. She writes:
“The principle of ‘loving your neighbor as yourself’ works only if you treat yourself well. Do you habitually neglect yourself, forsaking prayer, rest, good nutrition, exercise, and healthy emotional boundaries?...Do you agree that this is a necessary first step in order to love others well?” 
You can’t effectively love others if you don’t love and care for yourself first. Which I think means I need to stop eating Doritos for dinner.
It looks like I might have two resolutions for the new year: Providing more TLC to my “neighbors,” and to myself. I’m going to try like heck to stick to this because of something else Lisa writes in Keeping in Balance:
“At the end of our lives, God isn’t going to ask about all that we have accomplished. He will look at how we’ve loved. This is the true measure of significance.” 
 Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Keeping in Balance (October 2018), 32.
 Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Keeping in Balance (October 2018), 33.
“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence.” 1 Peter 3:15-16
We all have people in our lives that we'd love to see experiencing the love of God in a dynamic, transforming way. It might be someone who has lost all hope, sees no way anything will ever change, and is stuck in the rut of destructive habits. Or maybe it's a friend who feels empty and lacks purpose. Perhaps your loved one doesn't see his or her need for God at all. Life seems good as it is. Yet you know that something critical is missing.
But most of us, if we're honest, hope that we don't have to be the one to bring up the sticky issue of religion. We'd rather do just about anything else. We don't want to offend by sharing faith with others. We don't know what to say. So we figure, “I'll just quietly live out my faith through my actions, and that should be enough.”
But then we're reminded of Jesus' words in the Great Commission: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19).
These words weren't just meant for the early Church. They are directed at us today. In his first homily, Pope Francis I said, “We can walk all we want, we can build many things, but if we don't proclaim Jesus Christ, something is wrong.”
In 1983, St. Pope John Paul II spoke of the pressing need for us to pass on the gift of faith in Christ. In speaking of the New Evangelization, he said, “Entire groups of the baptized have lost a living sense of the faith, or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church, and live a life far removed from Christ and His Gospel.”
What is the “new” evangelization? Sharing the Gospel with the people God places in our path. We can't assume that just because someone attends Mass, or is a baptized Catholic, she experiences the transforming love of Christ. How many of us grew up in the Church, yet never heard the Gospel explained in a way that really resonated and impacted our lives in practical, relevant ways?
Our churches have many, many people that are not experiencing all that God has for them. Will you reach out by sharing faith with others? Will you point them toward the resources that will help them to experience the life-changing power of a friendship with Christ?
It's easy to stay in the holy huddle-sharing faith with others who affirm our beliefs. It's hard to go out into the zone of the unknown and connect with people we don't know. Research shows that the longer a person attends church, the fewer interactions she has with people who believe differently than she does. The circle gets smaller. Our circle of friends tends to be just like us, and as a result, fewer people hear the Gospel.
The gospel is most effectively shared when we walk alongside someone who sees what a difference Christ makes in our life. Friends see that it's not all rosy, but that when the trials come, Christ gives a strength and peace that surpasses all expectations. Fewer people see this witness when our circles are small.
I'd like to offer you three suggestions for ways that you can try sharing faith with others.
1) Develop friendships
Purposefully expand your circle of friends to include people who don't believe what you believe. Reach out to your neighbors. See family functions as great opportunities to be the hands and feet of Christ. Look at people the way that Jesus did; see their potential. What might this person be like in a transformed state? Look deeper-speaking to their need instead of to what appears on the surface.
2) Discover stories
Intentionally discover people's stories. Learn what life has been like for them. What do they dream about? What is going well in their estimation and what needs work? Learn to ask good questions. Be a safe place for a friend to share what's really going on. One day, the opportunity will come to share “the reason for your hope.”
3) Invite a friend to Walking with Purpose
We're coming to the point in the year when registrations are beginning for Walking with Purpose this fall. If Walking with Purpose has made a difference in your life, who could you invite to join you on this journey? Pray and ask God to reveal to you the women in your life who would benefit from WWP.
Grateful for the opportunity to walk with purpose by your side!
*This post first appeared on the WWP website in April 2013.
A risk we all run when we love others lavishly is neglecting to take care of ourselves. What begins as a passion of the heart-a pure desire to help-can actually place us in a dangerous position where we find it hard to stay faithful. When we coast on the fumes of a life that lacks spiritual discipline, we can find that we begin to blend in, and are no longer offering hope and a better way. We're just like everyone else-no different.
Years ago, I was driving home from my parents' house with my daughter. Barreling down the highway at 70 mph, we noticed smoke billowing from the hood. Just in time, I pulled over, as our engine blew up. We couldn't believe it. The car had shown no signs of any trouble up to this point. Imagine my mortification when I realized that the engine had blown up simply because I had failed to EVER change the oil. I guess I just got busy with life and forgot. I didn't take seriously how essential it was to follow the basic directions for taking care of the car.
In that same way, we can be lax about the importance of spiritual discipline. We can coast through life, much as I was in my car, thinking that things that were done in the past were going to keep us going indefinitely. We can have heart and passion, and still lose everything if we ignore these practices.
What does this look like?
It's going through life, too busy to pray.
It's having a schedule that is so full of activities and appointments that there is no time for meaningful relationships and a connection to a faith community.
It's getting up and getting going in the morning, without taking time to read Scripture.
It's having priorities out of order, so that no time is taken to protect and nurture important relationships.
May God bless you with a daily dose of all that you need to love and serve well,
This blog post originally appeared on the WWP website in March 2013.
I always knew I would have a traditional Catholic wedding. It was what we did. My parents got married in the Catholic Church. My sisters got married in the Catholic Church. I, a cradle Catholic, would obviously get married in, yup...you guessed it... the Catholic Church. And so we attended pre-Cana, chose the readings, brought the family-friend priest in from out of town, and an incredible Catholic ceremony happened on a beautiful fall day on the Upper East side of Manhattan. And just like that, we became husband and wife.
We were so in love.
And yet, we had no idea what true love was.
Why? I think it's because I always held tight to this one moment in the courtship stage of our relationship. When I surprised him at the hotel where he worked on my way home from my job, his face would light up, giving birth to a smile that stretched deep and wide; I swear, in that instant, I had never felt more wanted for being just who I was. Surely, this was true love. This being seen and joyfully embraced for doing nothing other than just showing up, it was all so easy that it must have been love.
But beware of falling into the trap of believing that love is a feeling.
Be sure to ground yourself in something greater than how someone makes you feel.
It took being anchored to nothing and drifting away to wake up to truth; that love is not a feeling but an intentional action, a choice. That love is not about how much I can gain, but how much can I give. It is not about how much you fill me, but how empty can I be. And because I have chosen to love you in all times, then I will also choose to die to myself and invite Jesus into this relationship without delay, because a marriage without Jesus in the middle is just as good as bringing your boat to dock and never dropping the anchor.
It will drift away.
As did mine.
But because God loves nothing more than stepping into our brokenness, if we let Him. He rescued me from my “quit and stay” attitude towards my marriage. And He didn't lead me down a path of rose petals lined with scented candles. He didn't gently place me down on a soft lounge chair, beachfront, with a tropical drink in my hand. But He took my hand and He walked me to the foot of the cross. He led me to the wood that my own hands nailed Him to, the thorns that pierced His head, and He showed me that…. THIS. THIS is love. The betrayal, the scourging, the beating, the heavy carrying, the nails, the unfairness, all that He endured for me, was endured out of love. And He reminded me that while none of that felt good, while not a moment of it was easy, all of it, every single bit of it, was fueled by love. A love so deep, so life giving, that not even death could not destroy it.
I am still learning about this love. And it has not been through romantic dinners, or exotic getaways that my husband and I have come to know love. It has been by the cross we have been chosen to carry. The necessary hardships we have been entrusted with. The long suffering placed upon us. And it has been by His grace upon grace, that we receive it as a gift; a way to minister and intercede to and for those who walk the same path, who yearn for relief, who have been burdened by a similar cross. And in this sharing and uniting, we get a glimpse of the sorrowful heart of Jesus; the indescribable love that is let loose and takes over; the very thing that by its beating and breaking, miraculously holds us together.
You know, I hear my young girls talk about love. The world is trying to redefine it for them. Music lyrics write love off as an emotion, something you can throw away, a gift that's totally dependent on your looks and body. Social media wants them to believe that without a boyfriend, they are undesirable, alone, never complete. And they chase after this secular love…this lie...and they believe that love is something that will only make them happy, feel wonderful, and will free them of any pain, anxiety, worry, or problems. It is all so wrong and upside down and couldn't be a more inaccurate definition of what true love is.
You see, real love is messy, painful, hard, and risky. I pray that my children, in witnessing how their parents have lived through hard times and yet held tight to Jesus, recognize that the glue in this relationship has nothing to do with the occasional bouquet of roses or heart shaped box of chocolates, but everything to do with the cross. Feeling in love is great, for sure. But if you want to feel great, go and eat a piece of cheesecake or watch Nacho Libre. But if you are seeking true love, run to the foot of the cross. Point your children, who are dying to be seen, known and loved, in that direction as well. Offer Him everything you are and have and invite Him into your heart. Hand Him your loved ones. Trust Him with your very life. Anchor yourself to Him, who is love; to Him, who joyfully embraces you for doing nothing other than just showing up.
With all my love,
Get your copy of Harmony, Part I of the Keeping in Balance Young Adult Series, here!
Are you feeling the hassle of the hustle while you long for a little rest? Even though it's summertime, do you still feel busyness and pressure?
I get it, and blogged about something we can do to QUIT HUSTLING AND FIND PEACE in my last post. In it, we were challenged to stop trying to prove our worth, and rest in the fact that Jesus already took care of that. Picking up where we left off…
The second thing we can do in order to step off the treadmill and breathe deeper is to…
2. Recognize the True Source of Peace.
We're told where we can find the true source of peace in Ephesians 2:14. It says that “[Jesus] is our peace, he who made the both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh.” The passage goes on in verse 17 to say that Jesus “came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.”
Maybe you are feeling like you're in the camp of those who are far off. You can point out all sorts of people that you figure are near to God. You wonder if the promises about Jesus just apply to them. They don't. Jesus came for those who are far away and those who are near.
Jesus is the true source of peace. If we look for it anywhere else, in our relationships, in our bank account, in our yoga class, or in our own achievements, we will come up empty. Only He can go to the places deep within that need His presence and truly satisfy.
The third thing I'd encourage you to do as you seek peace is to…
3. Show Jesus Where it Hurts
Instead of masking your emotions, stuffing them, or numbing your feelings, show Jesus where it hurts. Take some time, ideally in the morning, to recognize what you are feeling. Bring the myriad of emotions to Jesus in prayer and ask Him to order them—to redeem them. Listen to your body—it doesn't lie. Is it telling you that something is wrong? Don't ignore it.
Don't worry about shocking God with your doubts, fears, depression or anger. None of it takes Him by surprise. He's seen it all. He even made sure loads of emotion were recorded in the book of Psalms so that we would know it's ok to be honest with God. God wants the real you.
Some people do this out loud, others like to journal this type of prayer. There isn't one “right way” to express yourself to God. But the choice to stuff, mask or numb your emotions is never the best choice.
The last thing I'd like to leave you with is this…
4. Don't Try to Go it Alone
The Christian life was never meant to be lived alone. We were created for community—for close and meaningful relationships. When this part of our life isn't in good shape, loneliness and discouragement quickly set in. I encourage you to find a group of women who share your faith. It makes such a difference to be surrounded by women who speak truth into your life—truth about your value being rooted in Christ, about how loved you are, and about how faithful God is even when your circumstances aren't what you desire. Maintain these critical friendships. Find your tribe.
This is where the Bible study program, Walking with Purpose, can make all the difference. Women come together, often with differing views, but all with the desire to grow spiritually. An environment is carefully created where all are free to come as is- with doubts, fears, baggage. Masks are checked at the door. A judgment free zone reigns, and competition and comparison are kept at bay. Instead of allowing the discussion evolving into self-help or advice giving, trained small group leaders let Scripture do the teaching. Women blossom in this environment, and true spiritual transformation occurs on the heart level.
If you are a WWP participant, consider bringing a new friend to Walking with Purpose this fall so that she too can grow closer to Christ and experience the spiritual transformation that you have found at WWP.
If you don't have Walking with Purpose in your community, then I encourage you to pray about creating one. It's easier than you would think. We take your hand, and lead you every step of the way with our Leadership Development program that offers training, promotional materials, tools and mentoring.
The hustling never delivers on its promises. But Christ always does. Go to Him for peace, and you will never be disappointed.
With love and prayers,
Founder and Chief Purpose Officer
Walking with Purpose
It had all started out like a Norman Rockwell painting. We had just moved into a new neighborhood, and after living on a busy street for years, we were so grateful to be able to head out the door and take an evening walk. Charlotte was a new baby, and Bobby was a bright-eyed five-year old. Our trusty dog, Bailey (yes, the one of Super Glue fame), needed a little exercise, so she got to come along, too. We set out, and I breathed in the fresh air, so grateful for this simple and satisfying moment.
Bobby wanted to hold the dog leash, insisting that he was big enough, and since Bailey was walking so calmly by our side, I handed it over. All was well until we got to the top of a hill. Bailey saw a squirrel and took off at breakneck speed. It happened so quickly…Bobby's little legs couldn't keep up…he waited too long to let go of the leash…and he took a fall that threw me into a total panic.
I raced to him as quickly as I could and gathered him up in my arms. Between gulps and tears, Bobby looked into my face with fear in his eyes and asked, “Am I dead?” Of course, I assured him that he was not dead, that he would be ok. And he was. Scraped up? Oh yes. Many bandaids and kisses were applied. But he would fully recover.
In his book Safe House, author Joshua Straub makes the case that emotional safety is the key to raising kids who live, love and lead well. He writes, “Our children's brains are wired for relationships that provide an emotional safe haven when they are stressed (that is, hungry, angry, tired, injured, lost, alone, ill, feeling threatened, and so on).” Even in the face of danger, our children need to know that no matter what happens, broken bones or not, there is nothing to fear. They are emotionally safe.
Parents of this generation are called “helicopter parents,” and this isn't meant as a compliment. It's said that we hover and do all we can to protect our children from discomfort, disappointment and dismay. We are right to want to protect them-that's one of our primary responsibilities. But what if in the process of protecting, we are making them fearful? Don't we want to raise children who are brave and strong? This will only happen if we take some risks, and risk-taking means they will fall sometimes.
When they do, what they need to know is that they are emotionally safe. The core part of who they are is untouched by physical distress. They can take risks-they can step out and try new things, and falling is not the end of the world. Falling and failure doesn't spell death-it is something we recover from.
Bobby looked into my face for reassurance that everything was ok. Whenever possible, I want to be there for my kids when they fall. I want them to be able to look into my eyes and see my calm confidence that they can and will stand back up again. That this is not the end of the road. A fall is always an opportunity to learn.
At the heart of Bobby's question were ones that we all ask-children and adults alike. “Am I emotionally safe?” “Am I secure?” “Is everything going to be ok?” When this is what we feel, we can turn to the face of our heavenly Father for reassurance. He will acknowledge the pain involved in the fall, but He will quickly assure us, it is well with our souls. No matter what obstacles we face-regardless of the depth of the disappointment-even when everything seems to be bottoming out-our souls can rest secure. Who we are remains unaltered because of whose we are.
Let's keep our eyes on the face of our Father
What profound truth is found in St. Irenaeus' words: “The glory of God is man fully alive.” This statement is pregnant with hope. Isn't it incredible to think that as we come fully alive, it gives God glory? He so longs to see us flourishing, thriving, truly living, that His own glory is connected to it. His Fatherly heart is so tender towards us.
We are His beloved children, and so when we trudge through life weighed down by negative thoughts, or race through our days with stress as our main fuel, or simply exist because we don't know what more is available to us, God grieves.
When He sent Jesus to offer the ultimate sacrifice to purchase our freedom, He didn't want us to simply replace slavery to sin with slavery to performance. Nor did He intend for us to spend our lives trying to clean ourselves up so we'd be worthy of love. Scripture tells us that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Do you see yourself through that lens? Or are you consumed with thoughts of your inadequacies, limitations, and faults? That mindset train wrecks the heart and stands in the way of experiencing the life that Jesus died to give us.
It makes me think of Moses' words to the Israelites just before he died. He begged and pleaded with these words:
Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life.
Oh…that you would choose life. This is the plea. This is the offer of Christianity. To fully live.
So then…why are so few of God's children really experiencing this?
I don't want to respond to that question with a pat answer. I want to wrestle with it. I want to explore it and spend time delving into why it is that so many of us are just surviving. There is a life of freedom on offer to us, and I want us to experience it in its fullness.
I don't have all the answers, but I have learned that sometimes this means allowing God to let some wounds come to the surface…to acknowledge that they need tending, and that the healing is going to take time. It means saying some hard no's so that we can say yes to the journey towards wholeness.
Sometimes it means believing that God places dreams into the hearts of His children, and He wants us to taste the rush of being used by Him. It's scary to step out of the comfort zone, and messy, and full of imperfections. But ignoring what we were made for means we become sterile, abbreviated versions of who we were created to be.
I know that being fully alive requires hands to hold. We weren't created to walk this journey alone. Sometimes we need the hands to pull us a little higher-to support us while challenging us to stretch and grow. Sometimes we need those hands to hold us back when our pace has become unhealthy. Sometimes we need those hands on our cheeks along with the words “you are never alone.” We need each other.
The whisper of shame will always try to lure us back into covering up our wounds (what would people think if they knew?). It will cause us to be self-conscious of our dreams (who do you think you are?). Shame tells us to stay silent and not reach out for help (you can talk about anything, but not this. If you speak these words, you will be misunderstood. It will be unbearable.)
Jesus wants to restore us to what man once had in the Garden of Eden - nakedness - vulnerability - without shame (Genesis 2:25). Jesus longs to break those chains that tether us to a life of existence instead of a life of abundance.
He does this for us, but it isn't just about us.
Writer Ashley Abramson expresses it well in her Tapestry magazine article, Naked and Unashamed, “God doesn't free us from shame merely for our own comfort, so we can relish in our newfound glory; He restores us to the way things were meant to be, that our confidence in Him and what He's done for us would woo His people back to Him.”
Sometimes has been stirring in my heart for a number of years, and it has everything to do with these musings. I have longed for us (that means you), to gather together in a setting that is relaxed (think jeans and yoga pants). I've dreamed of us having time to rest, laugh, grow, worship and experience the strength and encouragement of our community.
I've longed to delve into the theme of freedom-of what it means to be fully alive- and to explore what holds us back.
And God, in His goodness, has provided the space and time for us to do just that.
We have a year to pray and plan, because something truly special is on the horizon…
Walking with Purpose™ Women's Retreat
April 28-30, 2017
Please mark your calendars and plan to join us. We are throwing the doors wide open in hopes that you will come and bring your sisters, mothers, daughters, friends, neighbors. This women's event is open to all. Because don't we all long to truly live? We were never meant to live grey. We were created to soak in glorious beauty and fullness of life.
Jesus promised us, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5) May we reach out- hands empty, arms outstretched, hearts open-and invite Him in.