how bizarro

maybe this could be a great title of a book…
mine
yours
ours.

ever think that you live in a bizarro world…
things are upside down and backwards
and jumbled?

I do.

let me put this out there…and please don’t judge me.
I
am
not
a
comic
book
fan…
and I probably couldn’t tell you
the difference between
DC and Marvel…
don’t be a hater.

but…
I do very much relate to a bizarro world

“The beautiful is always bizarre.”  – Charles Baudelaire

yesterday I participated in the culmination
of perhaps the most
upside down
jumbled
shaken up
bizarro
happenings of the past 5 years

or even of the past 25 years…

yesterday
a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling
was conferred upon me…

the girl who was not supposed to be walking
or taking care of herself

yesterday
I walked across the stage,
feeling like I was being funneled through a conveyor belt of graduates
I
walked
across
the
stage.

bizarro

yesterday
all of the reading
and the writing
and the researching
and the testing
and the memorizing
and the learning how to be a counselor
became official

bizarro

yesterday
all of the miles driven
over the past 3 1/2 years
all of the short nights
and long days
and lack of sleep
became worth it…

bizarro

yes, I actually finished in December
and was licensed in January…
but it finally all felt official
yesterday.

bizarro

yesterday
my family and friends helped me celebrate…
they have supported and encouraged me
and walked this journey with me
my tribe has been rooting for me this whole time…
and the bizarre thing about this?
my mom.

she died before I was even thinking about pursuing
my master’s degree
she didn’t know about…
the long days and short nights
the balancing of school and work…and squeaking in time to spend with people
the long drives
the reading and writing and memorizing and testing and learning
she didn’t know.

bizarro.

yesterday was bizarro.

how was I feeling yesterday?
I couldn’t answer that question when I was asked…I didn’t know

but today…
today I can look back on the bizarre yesterday and
say that I feel
free and hopeful.

even though I am 5 months past being done
am not currently counseling
have experienced rejection and disappointment
and am not sure what is next…

and I am confused about God’s timing
and even His purpose for me, sometimes…
and have questions with no answer…

I feel hopeful.

bizarro

jumbled
upside down
backwards…

and yet
freedom and hope

bizarro

you see…
who would have ever thought this would happen?
who imagined that the lifeless and broken
form that was hooked up to tubes and cords
to help keep her breathing and alive
would
ever
be
able
to
accomplish this?

bizarro

the beauty
and mystery
of God
that He steps into
our lives

the upside down-ness
the jumbled and broken
the backwards and skewed

and sees what we cannot see
and believes what we cannot even fathom

and makes it right.

bizarro grace.

(Inspired by commencement address at ATS by Rev. Efrem Smith)

making sense

I finished watching a
beautifully tragic series on Netflix…

13 Reasons Why

as a mental health professional
and one who is trained in suicide prevention
this hit particularly close to home

let’s remember that this is a fictional depiction
of Hannah Baker’s life…and ultimate death

there are things that the show gets “right”
from a mental health stance,
but there are also points where it misses the point
– at least from my perspective

truth is, this show is widely popular
and people are talking about it
so, let’s have free and open discussion about

starting and perpetuating rumors
slander
accusation
shaming
bullying
objectification
dehumanization
substance abuse
rejection
humiliation
revenge
vulnerability
rape
sexual assault
abandonment
loneliness
love
violence – both sexual and physical
blame
suicide

as an aside…look at Mark 7:20-23
listed are 13 things in our hearts that lead to corruption (dishonesty, unethical behavior, being amoral and unprincipled)

evil thoughts, immoral sex, theft, murder, adultery, greed (insatiable longing), wicked acts (evil or morally wrong), treachery (betrayal of trust; deceptive action), sensuality (pursuit of physical pleasure), jealousy (envy, being suspicious), slander (false spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation), pride (deep pleasure derived from one’s own achievements), and foolishness (lack of good sense of judgement)

these eerily mirror the 13 reasons given in the series..

and let’s also have free and open discussion about

truth
hope
love
resilience
friendship
acceptance
respect
accountability
personal responsibility
depression
anxiety
substance abuse
availability of good mental health services
unbelief
having questions
strength
weakness
listening
empathy
support

and let’s be honest
even brutally honest
with ourselves

if we just sit back and talk about this story
and don’t offer hope
what good does it do?

according 2015 statistics
5491 people aged 15-24 die
by suicide every year
at a rate of 1 suicide every 2 hours – QPR Institute

one
suicide
every
2
hours

for every 1 of those documented deaths
there are 8 attempts
so…40,000 suicides
translates into 1,000,000 attempts annually – QPR Institute

so what can we do?
are we just helpless in this fight?

no.
we.are.not.

we offer hope

we see the obstacles and we look past them to possibility.

we get involved
we build relationships

we ask folks if they have ever thought
or are thinking
about killing themselves

we
ask
them.

we help them get help

we don’t take on this responsibility ourselves…
if we are not trained counselors, we don’t try to be

folks
want
to
be
heard

and so,

we listen…
without judgment
without an answer
without a response
we listen…
to understand.

we listen.

and we process our own
reactions
thoughts
perceptions
ideas
with a trained professional.

how do we make sense of it?
we don’t.
there is no sense to be made.

how do you make sense of
hopelessness
and loneliness
and despair?

you educate yourself
you get trained to
recognize warning signs and clues
you get involved
open dialogue
education

eyes
wide
open

personal responsibility
in how you treat your fellow human being
be careful how we respond to tragedy of any sort

personal disclaimer:  I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason.

that statement will not be popular with most folks…

“Sometimes bad things happen for no reason other than we are human beings having a human experience. Pain, heartache, grief, loss, disease and death are inevitable parts of the human experience.” – Christine Suhan

the human experience
did not originally include pain

our current human condition experiences
pain and suffering

let’s walk beside those who are suffering
let’s care about them
let’s be the hands and feet of Jesus…

“You matter to me.”

“I’m glad you’re in my world.” – Beyond the Reasons

“It has to get better.” – Clay Jensen, 13 Reasons Why

let’s be part of that revolution.
and let’s be honest about
the mystery of grace…it really doesn’t make sense

 

for more information: https://www.save.org/13-reasons-why/
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  1-800-237-8255
Crisis Text Line:  text HELP to 741741

 

 

the power of choice

choice

grace

faith

3 words
3 interpretations
3 perspectives
3 power dynamics…
right?

but what if…
what if they are so intertwined
that we confound
the influence they have on each other…
what if.

can we really say
or even begin to decipher
which came first…
choice, grace, faith

right…
at first glance,
I would say choice

in the garden
Adam
Eve
the slippery snake
choosing to become like a god…
choosing to disobey…
choice

but then…
I could say grace

in the garden
Adam
Eve
the slippery snake
and a way was already made
the cross was already the plan
grace

and then maybe…
I could say faith

in the garden
Adam
Eve
the slippery snake
the need for faith was birthed

so…
which holds more power
choice
grace
or faith?
do they have differing degrees of power
or maybe the intensities are different
and therefore the power seems different?

what has become so very tangible
and evident
and self-incriminating
is the power of choice

and what is so disappointing about that
is that
I
don’t
choose
well.

I don’t.

and then I regret the choice
and loathe myself for making the choice
and beat myself up for it
and even…and I even try to justify it.

and what is even more disappointing…
is that I make that same choice again and again.

can I get a ‘me too’?

I know the outcome
I remember the anguish
and yet…
the power of that choice
seems to take control…

but grace covers that…

yes.  that is absolutely correct.
grace – getting what I don’t deserve –
does win…always.
the power of grace is not weak

and what about faith…

do I lack faith when I
exercise the power of choice?
maybe…

can’t faith…the power of faith
propel me to choose a different way?

absolutely.

choice…grace…faith

an interwoven mystery
a cyclical pattern of influence
a mass of power

perhaps I over think things
perhaps these things aren’t even remotely related
perhaps it’s not at all about the words
or the meanings…

perhaps this
choice/grace/faith
cycle is what following Christ is all about

What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure. – Philippians 2:12-13 (MSG)

make better choices

Betsy, make better choices.
you know better – so do better.
selfishness doesn’t win

perhaps I give
choice the power and control…

understand the true meaning of grace

getting what you don’t deserve – yes
but what about living because of that
not so that grace can cover it?
Betsy, it already has.

believe that Jesus has your heart on His mind

when you can’t see the way
or feel His presence
or taste that He is indeed good
or catch a whiff of His spirit
or hear His voice…

rely on that belief, that faith
to guide your choice.

He said to me, “My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness.”  I am at peace and even take pleasure in any weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and afflictions for the sake of the Anointed because when I am at my weakest, He makes me strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (the Voice)

forgive me.
help me.
love me.

“I want a lifetime of holy moments. Every day I want to be in dangerous proximity to Jesus. I long for a life that explodes with meaning and is filled with adventure, wonder, risk, and danger. I long for a faith that is gloriously treacherous. I want to be with Jesus, not knowing whether to cry or laugh.” – Mike Yaconelli

 

 

choosing grace…

you good?

so, are you?
and…what does that mean?

does that mean…

healthy
fine
tip-top
strong
virtuous
having integrity
the opposite of bad…

or can it mean…

how are you?
are things going well?
do you need anything?

a certain adorably handsome 19-month old asks this question
a lot…

you good?

truly…are you?
are things going well?

or are you struggling?
are you feeling empty?

You know those places where we’re feeling empty?  Those formless places in us, our family, our year — Right where our hopes haven’t happened yet — the Spirit of God hovers now.  Right where it’s dark & it’s deep, our Divine Helper hovers close.  Right where it’s formless, it’s not ever, ever, ever hopeless — because we have a Father who hovers near, His love spread over us like wings (Gen.1:1-2).
And right now?  Right over our darkest, emptiest, most hopeless, most unspoken broken place — Grace hovers so close, it touches us, lights us.  Grace loves us when we are at our darkest worst — and wraps us in the best light. – Ann Voskamp

you good?

are you feeling lost
out of control
helpless
hopeless

you good?

are you needing…
answers
direction
help

you good?

and God saw that his creation was beautiful and good…

we
are
good…
and beautiful – God said so!

so what happens
from the moment of the declaration
“you are good”
to wondering if we really are or not?
do we get in the way?

when do we become
fearful
anxious
sad
lonely
struggling
empty
out of control
helpless…?
when does that happen??

do we shift our focus?
do we think muchly?

you good?

well, no, not really
if I am honest.
I am kind of struggling
and frustrated
and I have a lot of questions…

you good?

yeah, I’m going to be good
I know that….
it’s just going to take me a minute

 

The Lord is my Best Friend and my Shepherd.
I always have more than enough.

 
He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love.
His tracks take me to an oasis of peace, the quiet brook of bliss.

 
That’s where he restores and revives my life.
He opens before me pathways to God’s pleasure,
and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness
so that I can bring honor to his name.

 
Lord, even when your path takes me through
the valley of deepest darkness,
fear will never conquer me, for you already have!
You remain close to me and lead me though it all the way.
Your authority is my strength and my peace.
The comfort of your love takes away my fear.
I’ll never be lonely, for you are near.

 
You become my delicious feast
even when my enemies dare to fight.
You anoint me with the fragrance of your Holy Spirit;
you give me all I can drink of you until my heart overflows.

 
So why would I fear the future?
For I am being pursued only by your goodness and unfailing love.
Then afterwards – when my life is through,
I’ll return to your glorious presence to be forever with you! – Psalm 23, the Passion translation

 

grace that is good…

 

 

ain’t that a shame

 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately

about the words people say…
and how they cut like a knife, leaving scars

about the lies I believe…
and how they morph into truth as they are processed in my head

about shame…
and the damage that is left in its wake

 

at the age of 8, she joined weight watchers

ain’t that a shame

she got cut from the 7th grade basketball team

ain’t that a shame

she was almost top of her graduating high school class

ain’t that a shame

she never dated in high school or college

ain’t that a shame

she didn’t have a back-up plan after getting her degree

ain’t that a shame

youth ministry didn’t work out for her

ain’t that a shame

everything she stood for and the very essence of who she was came under scrutiny

ain’t that a shame

she had a bachelor’s degree but was working in food service earning just a bit over minimum wage

ain’t that a shame

she almost died in a car accident

ain’t that a shame

she ran a failing business

ain’t that a shame

she was bankrupt at age 33

ain’t that a shame

she turned 39 and lost her mom not long after

ain’t that a shame

she needed to see a counselor

ain’t that a shame

 

she continues to doubt her choices

ain’t that a shame

 

ain’t that a shame

but what I hear is…
you aren’t good enough
you are too fat
you are not smart enough
you will be alone forever
you didn’t plan well
you obviously didn’t hear God correctly
you are living a lie
you will never be able to earn more than minimum wage
you were careless, maybe even reckless
you are a failure
you should be grieving
you should be able to handle all of this on your own
you have nothing
you are not enough.

“You are not a mistake. You are not a problem to be solved. But you won’t discover this until you are willing to stop banging your head against the wall of shaming and caging and fearing yourself.” – Geneen Roth

I know that all of that is faulty thinking…
that those thoughts are not sourced from Truth

shame is an ugly monster.

it tells me that I am those things

not good enough, a failure, careless, too fat, not worthy

“The voices of condemnation, shame, and rejection can come at you, but they don’t have to reside in you. That’s your miracle in the mess.” – Lysa Terkeurst

my miracle in the mess??

yep…I can proudly say that I have that experience
not only physically

I spent 24 days in a coma and had to
remember how to walk, talk, eat, write, read
you name it, I had to remember how it was done

but I can also say that I don’t let those things live inside of me.

to be honest and fair to myself,
I do allow those things to sign short-term leases
I go through moments
where I feel extremely sorry for myself
and it seems easier in those moments to believe the lies
(part of me sees the truth in them)
than to fight it.

I’m just being honest.

shame
has
a
hold
on
me.

it does.
and it is something that I truly have to fight
every
day.

“Shame is a soul eating emotion.” – C.G. Jung

“Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” – Brene Brown

“Shame works like the zoom lens on a camera. When we are feeling shame, the camera is zoomed in tight and all we see is our flawed selves, alone and struggling.” – Brene Brown

“Is shame just a negative emotion and a skewed mind-set, or an actual parasitic force that drains life, takes life, and keeps us from the life God has always intended for us?” – Ann Voskamp

 

isn’t that what I am fighting against?

aren’t we absolutely capable of change?

hasn’t shame feasted long enough on the very core of my being?

can I get a “me too”?

“God can take what Satan meant for shame and use it for His glory. Just when we think we’ve messed up so badly that our lives are nothing but heaps of ashes, God pours His living water over us and mixes the ashes into clay. He then takes this clay and molds it into a vessel of beauty. After He fills us with His overflowing love, He can use us to pour His love into the hurting lives of others.” – Lysa Terkeurst

this journey with shame…
it continues.

but…
shame does not have to punch in the
GPS coordinates
it does not get to tell me where to go
how to think
what I can and cannot do
shame does not have that power over me…

oh yes, my friends, I have certainly relinquished that freedom
to this ugly monster.
I have allowed shame to be the reflection I see in the mirror
or the image I see on the camera screen
shame has dictated
for long enough
how I see myself…

ain’t that a shame

yes…
but that doesn’t mean that I am
a shame.

that does not mean that I am not enough

I’m still working on all of this…
filtering out the lies
and grasping the truth.

I’m still a work in progress…

I just finished my master’s degree
and am a licensed professional counselor
with skills

I believe
truly believe
that none of what I have endured
will go to waste…
I believe that I can “pour into the hurting lives of others”
because of what God has done.

The Spirit of the Lord, the Eternal, is on me.
    The Lord has appointed me for a special purpose.
He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to repair broken hearts,
And to declare to those who are held captive and bound in prison,
    “Be free from your imprisonment!”

God has sent me to give them a beautiful crown in exchange for ashes,
To anoint them with gladness instead of sorrow,
    to wrap them in victory, joy, and praise instead of depression and sadness. – Isaiah 61:1, 3 (the Voice)

this.
all.of.this.

that is not shame.

that is honor.
that is life.
that is victory.

Oh Your amazing grace
I’ve seen and tasted it
It’s running through my veins
I can’t escape its grip
In You my soul is safe
You cover everything – We are Messengers, My Victory

no shame in grace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a matter of life and death

hope

being able to see

obstacles
roadblocks
mountains
things which hold me back
hurt
despair
brokenness
disappointment
questions…

and then…
then being able to see past those things…
to

possibility

hope.

isn’t that what this day
this resurrection day
is all about?

being able to see
being able to hear
being able to taste
being able to smell
being able to touch…
life?

right?

moving from
death to life…

as my journey of turning Lent upside down
winds down…
maybe that is what I have gleaned

every day is about living
and being alive
and feeling alive…

I remember being in a high school
computer programming class…
no, I didn’t have a distinct interest in
computers or program design, but it was required.
and in that class, we learned about the importance
of an if..then loop

if this happens
then this is the result

makes sense, right?
choices — if this happens
consequences — then this is the result

natural occurrences
conditional statements…

how super cool is the
if…then statement surrounding Easter

if you put Me to death
I will rise

if you deny me
I will still love you

if you betray me
I will die for you

if you die to yourself
because of Me, you will live

the old is gone, the new has come

becoming
doing
changing

repentance
mystery
freedom

connecting
emptying
restoring

resilience
redemption
hope

what if all of this?

because…isn’t it a matter of life and death?

I was breathing, but not alive
All my failures I tried to hide
It was my tomb
Till I met You

You called my name
And I ran out of that grave
Out of the darkness
Into Your glorious day – Glorious Day, Kristian Stanfill

and no matter how your Resurrection Sunday played out today…
if you were disappointed
if you were discouraged
if you were deeply wounded
if you were sad or lonely or depressed…

the “then” is still the same…
the “then” is always constant

simplified…
if you…
then God…

even if you…
then God will still…

grace – truly a matter of death and life

 

 

 

what’s your story? when life is hard…

we all have a story worth
hearing
telling
embracing…

“Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.” — Robert McKee

our life’s narrative…
can we change our story?
do we have a different narrative when
things are going well
and life seems easy….
compared to
when life is hard?

I don’t know about you,
but I find that life is hard…
most of the time.

maintaining relationships
carving out time for people and things
accomplishing daily tasks
and job-related duties
providing for a family
loving on that family
(fill-in what is hard for you…)

life.is.hard.

this statement is not meant to
be hopeless
or fatalistic
or a statement of despair…
for me, it is truthful and accurate.

period.

but…
does that change my story?
how is my (your) story affected by circumstances
and people?
is there some sort of consistency in the story line?

have you ever wondered
why bad things happen to good people
or why crap happens at all?

could it be that all the crappy parts of your narrative
add to the powerful meaning of your experience?
could it be that life is hard by design?
we are born
we die…
isn’t that the outline of a hard life?

let’s think for a moment about an easy life…

not necessarily filled with things or toys
but with the qualities that really matter
love, justice, humility, mercy
would we have to break a sweat when we worked?
would we complain about what we don’t have?
would we be content?

would we rely solely on ourselves and
have no need for faith or trust?

if that is the case…I don’t want an easy life.

yes, I think life is hard.
yes, I love Jesus.
no, I don’t think
I love Jesus less
or He loves me less
or that my relationship with Him is some how
faulty
or messed up.

my story matters
my life-is-hard story
has shaped me into the woman I am today

your story matters…
and maybe yours is a story
with not as many
hard times
or struggles
or questions as mine…
that.is.ok.
embrace it.
own it.

today
the day before Easter
I sit and ponder…

what was
what is
what will be

and I wonder
how it was for Mary and Martha
for John and Peter
for Andrew and James…
life was hard
I am sure.
imagine being there…
witnessing the accusations
the torture
the beating
the death

the fulfillment of what was
seeing the bloodied body of the One whom you loved hanging on a cross
hearing cheers
smelling death in the air
and not fully being able to see past the cross
to Sunday morning…

life.is.hard.

but…
as we sit in the tension
what was
and what is not yet…
we are able to alter our stories a bit…

will life still be hard?
maybe.
will life still go on?
surely.

Behold His holy Son
The Lion and the Lamb given to us
The Word became a man
That my soul should know its Savior – Behold, Hillsong

the story of grace.

 

what’s your story?

 Each person has his or her own burden to bear and story to write. – Galatians 6:5 (the Voice)

every life is a journey
every person has a story to tell…
if we would just listen.

what’s yours?

what has filled the pages as a result
of turning this season of Lent upside down?

have you taken a moment to examine your own stuff
your own thoughts and perceptions?
have you thought about the anticipation of Easter?
have you felt the heaviness
the brokenness
have you been able to determine where you are – the starting point – and been able to gather clues?
have you been able to identify who is there – even though you can’t see?
have you thrown up your hands in defeat and disgust?
have you asked questions?
have you participated in
connecting
emptying
restoring
have you been able to do the next thing – and redefined what that is?
have you been able to release and come home?

have you rewritten your story?
have you started to know what your story is?

have you allowed yourself to be broken during this season?

“I hold the broken Last Supper in front of me, a Jesus with broken hands. What did Jesus do after He gave thanks? “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them.”  He took it and gave thanks. Eucharisteo. Then He broke it and gave. How many times had I said it: “Eucharisteo precedes the miracle”? Thanksgiving precedes the miracle—the miracle of knowing all is enough. And how many times had I read it—how Jesus “took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people”?  Eucharisteo—Jesus embracing and giving thanks for His not-enough—that preceded the miracle. But why hadn’t I been awakened at the detonation of the revelation before? What was the actual miracle? The miracle happens in the breaking. Not enough was given thanks for, and then the miracle happened: There was a breaking and a giving—into a kind of communion—into abundant filling within community. The miracle happens in the breaking.”  – Ann Voskamp

have you experienced the miracle in the breaking?

But You are a Savior
And You take brokenness aside
And make it beautiful – All Sons and Daughters, Brokenness Aside

life is a journey…
and we all have a story to tell.

what’s yours?

The Lord is my Best Friend and my Shepherd.
I always have more than enough.

He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love.
His tracks take me to an oasis of peace, the quite brook of bliss.

That’s where he restores and revives my life.
He opens before me pathways to God’s pleasure,
and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness
so that I can bring honor to his name.

Lord, even when you path takes me through
the valley of deepest darkness,
fear will never conquer me, for you already have!
You remain close to me and lead me through it all the way.
Your authority is my strength and my peace.

The comfort of your love takes away my fear.
I’ll never be lonely, for you are near.

You become my delicious feast
even when my enemies dare to fight.
You anoint me with the fragrance of your Holy Spirit,
you give me all I can drink of you until my heart overflows.

So why would I fear the future?
For I’m being pursued only by your goodness and unfailing love.
Then afterwards – when my life is through,
I’ll return to your glorious presence to be forever with you! – Psalm 23 (the Passion translation)

attentive grace.

here’s how: coming home

connecting
emptying
restoring…

reaching out…for the thing(s) we can’t see

trusting without the use of our senses

connecting…

letting go…of what we can see

touch
taste
smell
hear

emptying…

giving…of ourselves

to those who need it
maybe even if the one in need is us

…stewardship of our words – how we talk to and about ourselves
…stewardship of our time – how often do we take care of ourselves physically and emotionally and spiritually and mentally
…stewardship of our resources – time, talents, gifts, abilities, finances

returning to the basics of our faith

restoring…

stewardship – the task of taking care of something

restore – to bring back

come home – changing direction

 

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” And Jesus replied to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for others].’ – Matthew 22:26-39 (AMP)

 

unselfishly seeking the best,
better than what we have
for others…
do I do that?
could that be at the heart of giving
and serving
and restoration?

It points to giving freely, for in almsgiving one gives something to someone from whom one does not expect to receive anything in return. Gratuitousness should be one of the characteristics of the Christian, who, aware of having received everything from God gratuitously, that is, without any merit of his own, learns to give to others freely.

Today, gratuitousness is often not part of daily life where everything is bought and sold. Everything is calculated and measured. Almsgiving helps us to experience giving freely, which leads to freedom from the obsession of possessing, from the fear of losing what we have, from the sadness of one who does not wish to share his wealth with others. – Pope Francis

what would giving freely look like in my life?
giving freely with
my time
my words
my finances

giving, not out of a sense of obligation
or duty
but out of a deeply rooted
love and sense of who God is

what would that look like?

radical thinking
scandal of grace
the Gospel

Can we get back to the altar?
Back to the arms of our first love
There’s only one way to the Father
And He’s calling out to us – Ryan Stevenson, the Gospel

what would it look like to
come home?

“You’ve wandered around this mountain long enough. Turn north…” – Deuteronomy 2:3 (the Voice)

beckoning grace.

here’s how: release

connecting
emptying
restoring

reaching out
letting go
serving, and being served

prayer
fasting
giving

Lent.

Prayer is reaching out after the unseen; fasting is letting go of all that is seen and temporal.  Fasting helps express, deepen, confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves, to attain what we week for the kingdom of God. – Andrew Murray

when I think of letting go
I think of surrender….and not always in a positive light
right?

what is the “posture” of surrender?
hands in the air
defeated
choice-less

but
what
if

the posture of surrender
embodies
me making a choice
the responsibility lying with me
letting go
surrender
emptying
release…

what if that?

what if
by surrendering
I am gaining something
instead of losing?

what if
by releasing
that “thing” no longer
has control over me?

what if
by emptying
myself
I make room for something
greater and better…
far beyond what I could hope or imagine?

what if
release is freedom?

“Whatever Satan is using to bind you, Jesus came to free you. Free from…and

free to. I can’t say that enough. For far too long we’ve looked at freedom

only in terms of what we are free from. But freedom encompasses so much more

than a shedding of chains. Jesus set us free to live the abundant life by being

all He has created us to be and accomplishing all that He has planned for us to

do.”- Sharon Jaynes

what if
release is actually freedom
from
and freedom to…?

so…
what stops us from
surrendering
from emptying
from releasing?

what is it?
fear?
shame?
having to face the fact that we don’t have it all together?
losing a sense of control?

but really…aren’t the things which we don’t let go of really in control anyway?

realizing that we need God?
selfishness?
not wanting to lose our “freedom”

what if our freedom is really our prison…

isn’t this all part of the journey of Lent
of looking at things from a different perspective?

connecting  reaching out
letting go  releasing  emptying
giving  serving and being served  restoring….

why have we complicated things so much?
when did Jesus become not enough for us?

seriously…when did that happen?

what if
our posture of surrender
of release
of emptying ourselves
becomes not so much of a
“oh no – I’ve been caught”
thing
but more of
hands up
wanting more than what we have
willing to take responsibility
and do better
and be better
and wanting to experience freedom?

what if release
is at the heart of that?

Drench my soul
As mercy and grace unfold
I hunger and thirst

unfolding grace…

 

 

 

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