How to Boil a Frog

Boiling a frog is not complicated because frogs are…well…stupid. The hardest part will be to find one, the rest is easy. Simply put enough water in the pot (not too hot or cold) so its little head won’t be submerged. Place the frog in the pot and set the flame on low.

That’s it! You don’t need to watch the pot, cover it with a lid, or tie an anchor to froggie’s feet. The frog will not move a muscle. In about twenty minutes you will have tender succulent frog for dinner. You’ll find great recipes online too. (By the way, it really does taste like chicken!)

Seriously. We are so like those frogs!

Or, if the frog analogy doesn’t work for you how about this one:

If you find yourself going through life day-after-mundane-day repeating the same routine to ad nauseum perhaps God is trying to get your attention.

It reminds me of Phil in the movie Groundhog Day.

It’s a funny movie, but it also has a profound message for us. Phil becomes so desperate to be freed from the madness that he begins trying to kill himself every day only to wake up to repeat the day. He is destined to be stuck there until he “get’s life right”. Phil, unlike so many of us, is finally startled into the reality that he’s in a boiling pot (so to speak) that will soon cause his demise. His life then changes dramatically.

WOW!  Do you realize what a great segue this is to the miracle and magnificence of the Incarnation? No? Well, hang on…

We’re in mid-January. By now the decorations are down, trees shredded into mulch, ugly sweaters  returned or regifted, everything packed away for another year. Now we can focus on fixing all the stupid unhealthy things we did over the holidays: drank too much, ate too much, spent too much.

What are you doing right now…okay, you’re reading this. But what were you doing before that, for…say… the thirty or so days leading up to Christmas? What about the weeks and months and years before that?

Wanna know what I was doing? I wasted much of Advent doing nothing that really mattered.

But, I did have an AHA moment thinking about Mary’s preparation to be God-bearer for the world. Consider that for a minute.

Do you think she lived her life like a typical teenage girl today? Polishing her nails at sleepovers; giggling about the little Jewish boy her girlfriend sat next to on the bus; texting and tweeting and posting selfies all the day long?

Do you believe for one minute that Gabriel just popped in on her at the eleventh hour and dropped that bomb, “Guess what Mary, oh favored one, do we have a surprise for you!”

Are you kidding me? Even though Mary may not have known what was coming, you can be sure that God, through the work of the Spirit, spent a great deal of time preparing her for that monumental calling. Her entire life was preparation for it.

Let’s go back a little further – to her parents. They likely had no clue either. But, we can be sure the Holy Spirit guided them to parent her well; to love her and train her as the Spirit molded her into holiness. That was their calling and they were well prepared for it.

The take away for me is that we are all called to holiness; called to use the gifts and talents he has already given us for his kingdom work. But it takes awareness on our part. (I would highly recommend Anthony DeMello’s book by the same name, Awareness, if you need a bit of help climbing out of that boiling pot.)

See the segue now?

I know so many people, and I’ll bet you do too, (perhaps even you yourself,) who just can’t believe God has a plan for them.

Over the years, I have encountered people who don’t believe me when I tell them my story. “Oh, really?! God told you to do that, huh?  Right!”

To be honest, I wouldn’t have believed it myself if God hadn’t gradually brought me to a place where I could trust him even if I had no earthly idea what he was up to. For years there were little promptings that proved to be pretty awesome. Then bigger ones that required more trust, and so on.

God was always present to me and always longing to guide me and grow me into the person he created and called me to be. It was me resisting; me not being present to him; me missing the mystery and majesty that surrounded me because I was just too busy to notice, or more likely, too afraid. So, instead I skipped along trying to drown out his voice, “Lalalalalalalala I can’t hear you!”

We are so enmeshed in things of this world we are missing out on our whole purpose for being here.

Your life has a purpose!

God had a reason for stepping down from his comfortable throne to come into this messy world, and then to die…

YOU!

At least that’s what you should have taken away from the Christmas celebration, the remembrance of the birth of Jesus…

People…you matter that much!

If you have come out on the other side of Christmas and find yourself back in your old routine – going through life day-after-mundane-unremarkable-day. Schlepping through the same routine to ad nauseum; if this is your “Groundhog Day”…STOP IT!

How about starting over. Right here. Right now.  How about starting with your perception of “church”. See if any of this rings true for you:

In some faith traditions we have what is called “Ordinary Time” – basically the times before and after Easter and Christmas. Sadly, there are way too many Christians out there called the C&E people who only attend church on Christmas and Easter and they’re probably not even sure why they go then.

Perhaps the word “ordinary” is the problem. “Hey, I live ordinary, monotonous, mundane every day of my life! Why on earth would I want to get up early, dress up, squeeze into a pew full of strangers and listen to irrelevant “stuff” that puts me back to sleep and causes me to snore and drool out the side of my mouth? Why?

Megachurches have tried to fill the gap with music and light shows that could rival “Jesus Christ Superstar”

The problem is, while we were swinging and swaying and belting out forty-five minutes of music (albeit beautiful music), Jesus left the building to get a good seat on the shuttle bus and no one noticed.

Is it really the church’s responsibility to turn “ordinary” into extraordinary? My own faith which has grown from non-existent to something beyond my imagining; my God-filled AHA moments; the breathtaking adventure God has me on did not develop (sorry) while I was sitting in the pew on most Sundays. Some yes, not most.

Don’t get me wrong. I love being a part of a church community. I love every aspect of Mass. It keeps me grounded and enhances my faith. When we receive the Eucharist we are reminded of Jesus’ words at the Last Supper: “take this bread and never forget what I did for you; never forget how much I love you! Never forget”.

But, there is more that must take place the other six days of the week. We are told by Christ to “never forget” and then, at the end of Mass we are told to “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” That’s what Jesus meant by “Follow Me”. That’s why he never said, “Worship Me”.

Don’t sleep walk through life, it’s too important, and frankly it’s way too awesome to miss!

I’m not going to tell you where or how to worship, or give you a formula or a check list to send you on your way to sainthood. But, I will tell you this: you cannot love and serve others (which is our greatest calling) until you are able to love yourself. And you can’t love yourself by means of any of the myriad of self-help books on the market. You can only do that by growing in the knowledge that you are deeply and passionately loved by the God who created you! And you can only do that by being relationship with him which requires your time.

You are his son/daughter with whom he is well-pleased (Matthew 17:5). Let that sink in.

You have to take the time to read God’s Word, pray, and…BIG AND…

LISTEN

Geeeezzzzz, we’re so bad at listening.

Then, a year from now, on Christmas morning, I pray you will be sitting with me to witness in a new way what a profound mystery we behold there!

God’s peace be with you always!

All You Need is Love – dododododo

The world offers many different expressions of love: “I love mint chocolate chip ice cream!” (Actually, that’s true.) “I love your new car!” “I love shopping!”  Love can be humorous, as when Miss Piggy floats across a field of flowers, heart beating wildly, feeling weak in the knees, stomach all a-flutter, shrieking, “Ohhhhhh, Kermie!”

Love can come with no expectations, or commitments: “I used to love you when you were thin and had more hair!” or, “Well, I could have loved you, but your ex-wife got all your money, and, well, I have needs!” or, “You didn’t tell me I had to love your kids too!”

Love is depicted beautifully in these classic song lyrics, “How can you believe me when I say I love you when you know I’ve been a liar all my life?” Or how about this one?  Come on sing along you know the words: “If you can’t be with the one you love, Honey, love the one you’re with.”

Today’s world tells us that love can be found merely by seeking our own desires, which no one has a right to deny us, and that it’s just as rewarding to love things as people. The if-it-feels-good mentality of worldly love devours childhood innocence, destroys relationships, shrugs off compassion, and muddies the pure waters of selfless love. As long as we seek love from the things of this world, we will always come up lost and empty for all our efforts. The lie will continue to perpetuate the madness.

How do so many of us get it so wrong so often? Perhaps it’s because our meager understanding of love is based on our personal, human experiences. I often ask myself, “Self, what is your problem?  Why do you struggle so much? Why does it seem like a daily battle to love others? Why can’t you let go of your past? Why is it so difficult for you to trust God, accept His love, and your inherent worth? Perhaps my ego has been too big, my fear too overwhelming, and my God too small.

But lately, by the grace of God, I am seeing my failure to truly love and my fear of accepting love in the light of a much bigger God; a God that does not fit neatly or easily into the image I have created. He refuses to patronize me when I cry out, “Lord, Lord!” It’s as though He is saying to me, “Your cries are muted by your deafening indifference, Linda. Your faith is lukewarm, and, need I remind you, how I hate lukewarm?!” Revelation 3:16, “So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

Then, as so often happens, Richard Rohr puts it into perspective for me:

Our failures open our hearts of stone and move the rigid mind space toward understanding and patience. It is in doing it wrong, being rejected, and experiencing pain that we are lead to total reliance upon God….God has let me do just about everything wrong, so I could fully experience how God can do everything so utterly right….

This is why Christianity has as its central symbol of transformation a naked, bleeding man who is the picture of failing, losing, and dying . . . and who is really winning–and revealing the secret pattern to those who will join him there. Everyone wins because if there’s one thing we all have in common, if we’re honest, it’s our weakness and powerlessness in one–but usually many–areas of our lives. There’s a broken, wounded part inside each of us.

If we expect or need things (including ourselves) to be perfect or even “to our liking,” we have created a certain plan for a very unhappy life.

I have recently been reading about Celtic Spirituality. It ‘s fascinating! It was rejected as heresy by the Roman Church and was almost lost. (If you would like to learn more about it I highly recommend the writings of J. Phillip Newell, especially, “Listening for the Heartbeat of God” and “The Rebirthing of God”).

Newell tells us:

Within us – as a sheer gift of God – is the capacity to bring forth what has never been before, including what has never been imagined before. Deep within us are holy, natural longings for oneness….We may live in tragic exile from those longings, or we may have spent a whole lifetime not knowing how to truly satisfy them, but they are there at the heart of our being, waiting to be born afresh….When we love, we bring the very essence of our being into relationship with the essence of the other. God in us adores God in the other” (The Rebirthing of God, p. x, xvi)

Recently, I have been experiencing a great and mysterious intensity. Perhaps that is the longing Newell speaks of. I recall someone else calling it those thin places when we feel God’s presence most profoundly. I can’t describe the emotions except that they are overwhelming. In these moments I know God is working in this messy heart of mine. That’s simply AWESOME!

When I start to make judgments about others I sense God’s tug on my heart to “see” them as He sees them; to look beyond their actions to their hearts where He resides. The peace that brings to my own heart is beyond words!

Though I converted to Catholicism in the late 70’s there was so much missing for me for so long. I don’t feel I was nurtured in the faith, but rather, indoctrinated: memorize the prayers, miss Mass at your own peril, go to confession, and for Heaven’s sake never question the Church’s authority!

In graduate school I began to grow into a different faith, still Catholic, but more in line with the saints I so admired and wanted to emulate. I have no illusions of becoming Saint Linda, but I can strive for the perfection Jesus calls us to; strive to be more compassionate, loving, and joyful in the midst of all my circumstances.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 tells us, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” There are some attributes of love I would like to focus on: “Love suffers long” and “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”.

“Love suffers long”

Okay. We’re already in trouble. We don’t want to suffer; we want the antidote! We want something to fix the problem. As human beings – even if we’re Christians – we really hate to suffer.

Throughout Scripture we are told of God’s deep love and longsuffering for those who turn away from Him. This is not a God who can’t wait to punish us for our sinfulness; this is a God who longs to lavish us with His love despite our sinfulness. God’s longsuffering is manifested for the sake of our salvation, and our own call to longsuffering is for the sake of other people’s salvation, as well as our own. Just as Jesus’ suffering and dying brought many sinners to salvation, and the apostles’ suffering and martyrdom brought others to God, our own willingness to suffer well, whatever comes our way, is a witness to the power of God’s love in a broken world.

I have a good friend whose marriage is terribly difficult. She has often threatened divorce. She told me once that she could easily live in a cave with God, a refrigerator, and a port-a-potty, and be content. But God spoke to the very depth of her heart that it was within her marriage that she would grow to be more like him. It’s easy to love a new-born baby or a tiny puppy or the perfect mother that you’ve been blessed with. But, what about those imperfect relationships and imperfect people? Do you find yourself glaring at that lump of a husband on your sofa – you know, the one who’s guzzling beer and belching show tunes – and wondering where you went wrong? Then there’s that obnoxious neighbor you secretly wish would fall of the face of the earth.

There always seems to be someone anxious to make messes in our lives. Can’t we do something to make him or her pay? Don’t we have the right? The answer is a simple but emphatic No!” God will handle that person, not us – definitely not us.

“Love Bears all Things; Believes all Things; Hopes all Things; Endures all Things”

When your wife comes home drunk…again; when your child is arrested on drug charges; when your cancer returns; when your aging parents make continual demands on you; when you can’t lift your head off the pillow to face another day – how do you bear up, believe, hope, and endure all things? When you cry out to God in despair but receive no answer, how do you go on?

You have to believe, truly believe, that the God of mercy, the God who sacrificed His only Son for you, loves you immeasurably. Nothing you suffer is lost to God’s watchful, loving care. No part of your life is without purpose. In the book of Genesis, Abraham was called by God to slay his beloved son Isaac. Could I have trusted God that much? There’s no anonymous tipster in this story whispering, “Pssst, Abe! Just go along with it. He’ll stop you at the last minute. Trust me.” Nope, it didn’t happen that way. Abraham completely trusted God.

Paul continually calls us to faithfulness and courage: “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). He also reassures us that “God…comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God”Paul was persecuted, jailed, abandoned, and martyred, yet he gave thanks and praise to God: “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you…” (Colossians1:24). He praised God, in fact, even though he had been given a “thorn in his flesh” and had pleaded three times for it to be removed – until God spoke to him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness”(2 Corinthians 12:9). Then Paul understood: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

We can find incredible stories throughout history of people who have suffered persecution and abject loss. Countless people have survived the unthinkable. But how? They’ve survived by knowing and believing in God’s promises and trusting in His love. From the darkness of despair comes the dawn of grace. When we can’t see God or hear Him in the midst of our pain, we need to trust that His love for us is at the core of our being and to do that we need only go to the foot of the Cross. “Blessed are those who suffer well and hope for things unseen, for theirs is the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 13:13). In suffering, we are comforted by God. In suffering, we learn how to comfort others.

What if Jesus’ story had been different? What if He had gone to the cross kicking and screaming? He certainly had the right. He was being persecuted relentlessly. During His life on earth, He had done nothing but love His Father and all of humankind, and for that flawless behavior He was crucified. He could have retaliated with an army of angels, but He didn’t. Instead, He healed the sick, brought hope to the hopeless, and forgave the sinner. He was stripped, spat upon, mocked, and killed. He could have cursed his enemies to Hell, instead he prayed for them – as his Father quietly wept for the love of his only Son.

The world repaid Jesus’ love with hatred in the form of a cross. The nails didn’t hold Him there, however; his love held him there. His last words could have been shouts of bitter vengeance, but he chose to forgive in his final act of mercy: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).  

Jesus’ final hours speak volumes about my rejection of atonement theology. Many believe that Jesus had to come and die to atone for our sins. I’m sorry, I don’t buy it. I believe too many of us to this day subscribe to the belief that God’s anger over our sins required his son’s death. Doesn’t that create an image of a God who punishes; who rules with an iron fist; who can’t wait for us to screw up? Not my God. No thanks. Where do we find in Scripture that Jesus stomped around grumbling about his fate and shaking his fist at us pathetic humans? Where? Show me. You can’t because it’s not there.

GOD IS LOVE…PERIOD. And because we were created in his image, we are to be that love to others as well (and by the way, to ourselves, because we suck at that too!).  Jesus’ last command to us was to love. When did he tell us to hate and judge and flip off that jerky neighbor? The last words out of Jesus’ mouth were to forgive not to condemn.

My mother-in-law (God rest her beautiful soul) could offer you a perfect example of why God calls us to love. Forty-three years ago, I stood before her in a short skirt, a long wig, a seven-year-old daughter by my side, and a heathen attitude in my heart. I was self-centered and demanding. I resented the occasions when my husband would stop to see her after work. He spent so much time with her, in fact, I was jealous.

For those and other reasons, she could have done what everyone else in my life had done: she could have rejected me or struck out at me. I would have understood that reaction: it was what I was accustomed to. Instead, she chose to love me in spite of myself, and soon I could feel myself being drawn to her. She had something that I wanted and I didn’t even know what it was. But after being in her company and experiencing firsthand her selfless love for others – and for me – I was hooked.

Unwittingly, my wonderful mother-in-law took me to the foot of the Cross, and that was where I began the long journey of change. She bore the pain of losing a younger sister to cancer and the death of a beloved son. She struggled through a difficult marriage and other challenging relationships. Yet she continued to reach out to others and to love them.

If I hadn’t witnessed her faith and hope in the midst of suffering, I would most likely still be self-absorbed and wearing those dreaded short skirts (probably not a good idea for a sixty-eight-year-old grandmother!), and here’s the beauty of it…I would have missed the blessings that God has poured on me and she would have missed the blessings God had prepared for her. I can imagine reunion with God, “Come on in, Catherine. I have reserved this special place for you for so brilliantly dealing with that mess of a daughter-in-law of yours! Well done, my good and faithful servant…well done!” (Matthew 25:23)

There are many other lost souls out there. Have you touched one lately – or have you turned them away?

“The Greatest of These is Love”

C. S. Lewis had this to say about love:

 The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell (Lewis, C.S..The Four Loves. New York: Harcourt, Inc.. 1971).

 Scripture tells us the value that God places on love: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). Yes, the greatest of these is love. “Love” at its most compelling is a verb. It’s an action word. We can’t just give lip service to God’s commandment to love one another. If the action doesn’t match the words, it’s a lie, regardless of whether we’re talking about love for God or love for our neighbors. When Jesus died on the cross, he went beyond telling us that he loved us, he showed us – and he expects us to do the same.

How about 1 John 4:20 for a wakeup call? “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” No doubt we all know someone else like that, but could we be accused of the same shortcoming?

No one promised us that God’s way would be easy. The Bible depicts a love unlike the worldly version: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friend” (John 15:13).  How many people would you consider dying for? Hopefully: your children, your spouse, possibly other relatives (except crazy Uncle Bill), and most likely your dearest friends. But, those friends would have to be your dearest ones, though! Fair-weather friends wouldn’t make the cut. How about an enemy? How about that crotchety neighbor you’ve had to contend with for years? How about that lying sneak of a co-worker who managed to get himself promoted to a job that was rightfully yours?

Jesus died for all of us even though we still sinning against him. He made the ultimate sacrifice for love – a love that we struggle, and fail, to comprehend. What God revealed in the resurrection was his radically unconditional love for his Son, and for us. And though that love is freely given, it longs for a response. Today, in a world that is laden with mistrust and fear, we’re focused on taking care of “number one.” We have been made in the image of God, created anew by the resurrection, and empowered by the Holy Spirit – and that is good news! But we as Christians are called to take that good news to the world.

If fear holds us back, it masks who we really are. Fear clings to the old self, refuses to relinquish control, and attempts to tie the hands of the Holy Spirit.

However, God’s sacrificial love is meant for everyone, and “everyone” means everyone. We as Christians have no monopoly on God. We don’t own him and we don’t have exclusive rights to him. This isn’t a private club.

We are to be instruments of God’s love, or our response and our faith are inadequate at best, sinful at worst.

I would like to end this very long post with a quote that I read over and over again. It comes from a most powerful sermon on Job once given by Archibald MacLeish. He says:

Man depends on God for all things; God depends on man for one. Without man’s love, God does not exist as God, only as creator, and love is the one thing no one, not even God, can command. It is a free gift or it is nothing. And it is most itself, most free, when it is offered in spite of suffering, of injustice, and of death….Only man can prove that man loves God.

So…what are you waiting for?

Are you ready to prove it?!

 

 

Members Only – Keep Out!

Can we look honestly at ourselves in the context of our faith for a moment?

Wait! Don’t leave…

If you leave when you’re afraid your faith may be called into question perhaps a good look at what you believe may be in order. If you want to bolt, cover your ears, send a few choice words my way, or kick the dog (don’t do that!) something or Someone needs your attention…

Probably God

Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan Monk and one of my favorite authors writes often about mature faith. See if this speaks to you:

At this point, you are not tied to believing that your religion is the only one that gets people to God. You can see God in all things, everywhere, and easily in people outside your own religion. They did not change, your doctrines did not change, but you did! You have met the Formless One, so the mere forms of religion are not so important now. Still, you do not throw out any of the previous stages; you now know that people need to go through all of them. You do not waste time opposing the rituals, the doctrines, the hierarchies, the scriptures, or the belief systems that got you on this path; but now you know they are all just fingers pointing to the moon; they are not the moon itself.

 

So, the question becomes: are we maturing in faith or do we stay stagnant out of fear of what lies outside the immovable brick walls of our belief system? Walls that separate us from those who are not like us. Walls that keep God at a safe distance. Walls that violate the very essence of our being. Are we so busy projecting our own piety and greatness that God sits in our shadow?

I am reminded of the parable about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke’s Gospel (18:11-13), “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ (He’s got his daily check list: I fasted, I tithed, I didn’t cuss or lust, I didn’t kill anyone – okay, I wanted to – but I refrained myself) But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’”

The tax collector knew what we so often fail to accept about ourselves: we’re ALL sinners. All of us. Romans 3:11 is a sobering reminder of that truth, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” There are no exceptions. None.  So, we simply make ourselves exceptions just like the Pharisees. Do I detect a bit of a HUMPH slipping through those clenched teeth? Huh? Come on, were you doing that? It’s okay you’re in good company.

I’m going to seem to wonder off topic here, but just stay with me a minute. No matter where you live in this huge world, you must be aware of the violence that has inundated our lives. Because of the Internet we have been exposed to images of mass murders and genocide throughout the world.

If you need to be reminded go here.  I have no doubt the images will sicken you as they did me. Each time we are subjected to new images of the mass murders in the Middle East and Africa by the violent forces of ISIS or ISIL (or whatever name they are called by), or the killings by Assad of his own people in Syria, we are appalled. That violence has visited America and Europe as well.

Of course, if you read scripture you know that brutality against humankind has existed since the beginning of time. We don’t even get through the first book of Genesis. God does His best work and creates Adam and Eve. Then He tells them, “Go on now, have some beautiful babies and fill the earth. Spread the love!  They have two beautiful bouncing baby boys: Cain and Abel. Just two chapters later Cain kills Abel.

It’s nothing new. It’s just that now we can see it! We cry out, “How could anyone perpetuate such evil and violence against other human beings?”…and then we turn off the news or computer screen and go about our business, pronouncing to God, like the Pharisee, “ I thank you, Lord, that I am not like them!” But is that true? Come on, don’t get all huffy again. Hear me out because it’s important to really look at what underlies acts of violence.

Violence does not begin with a vicious murder, it begins in the heart. None of us want to hear that, but every one of us has the potential for evil. John Phillip Newell tells us that “there are angels of light and angels of darkness in us all.”

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” This is critical to understand because the potential for good or evil flows from the heart of everyone. Now, you could probably puff out your chest and proclaim that you have never murdered anyone and you likely never will. But how about this: do you hate anyone? Do you reject or shun anyone? Do you gossip about your friends, make fun of someone who is not like you, avoid the homeless man on the street or even that loathsome neighbor of yours? Need we be reminded of 1 John 4:20? “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar (no ambiguity there); for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”

Remember when Susan Boyle walked on the stage of Britain’s God Talent? Watch again how people, especially the judges, react to her before she belts out a most beautiful song and stuns everyone there to dumb silence.

Isn’t this what Jesus is speaking about in Matthew 25:44? “Lord, when did I make fun of you, reject you, ignore you, gossip about you? When did I fail to recognize you in the face of my brothers or sisters?”

Jesus spent much of his time debunking that “holier than thou” mindset of the elites, and raising up those cast aside, rejected, unworthy by the world’s standards.

We as professed believers must change first in the depth of our own hearts, if the world is going to change. We must take off the blinders and look honestly at the faith we declare. Religion begins and ends with dogmas. Spirituality moves beyond that checklist mentality. Religion stupefies the love of God and proclaims that if you’re not like me, you don’t matter one whit. If you don’t believe what I believe, if you don’t profess what I profess, sorry for you, you’re destined for hell. Have a nice trip.

The “ALL ARE WELCOME” sign is something you will see on the front of many churches. I wonder if they mean it…the “ALL” part in particular. Or are they secretly saying, “You are welcome to become one of us. We are here to share our truth of salvation and save your wretched soul from damnation”?

Let’s use Christianity as an example. Gandhi said that if Christians had acted like Christians, as Jesus taught, the world would have been transformed long ago. He said, “Christianity became disfigured when it went to the West.”

For example: here in the West many “Christians” like to think that going to church on Sunday and getting their card punched is all that’s required. You know don’t you that Jesus never said, “Believe in me” he said “Follow Me”. But that’s harder isn’t it? That requires touching the leper. It requires getting out of your comfortable pew and getting down and dirty in the trenches.

If we Westerners don’t loosen our grip on our narrow-minded belief systems tucked into the stone walls of our churches, the divisions we experience in our lives and our communities will only deepen, as we entrench ourselves in our self-righteous piety. A piety not born of faith, but of fear.

Father Bede Griffiths was a British born Benedictine monk (1906-1993). It was said of him that “he honored the sacredness of every person because he believed so deeply that each person is a unique image of the divine.”  His life and teachings are worth a look:  http://www.bedegriffiths.com/bede-griffiths/

Father Griffiths lived much of his life in India. He spoke and wrote often about what he called the “fossilization of Western Christianity”.  John Phillip Newell, in his profound book, “The Rebirthing of God” says that Father Griffiths believed (as he does) that Western Christianity “had become isolated from other great religious traditions of the world and ossified in its dogmas, paralyzed in the trappings of infallibility.”

If Jesus had started the Christian church himself (lest we forget he was a Jew, and a faithful one at that!), do you believe in your heart-of-hearts that he would have made it an exclusive club?

If that were true then why does he say, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31)

Did you know that Gandhi once considered becoming a Christian? Yeah, he read the New Testament and fell in love with Jesus. So, one day he went to a Christian Church in India, but they wouldn’t let him in! He since said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” That should shame every one of us, and cause us to look deeply into our own hearts and ask ourselves if we are Christian in name only. It should send us to our knees!

What does Galatians 3:28 mean to you? “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Nostra Aetate is a declaration made by Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965. It is titled, God’s Love for People of All Faiths. Here is the part pertinent to what we are talking about here:

 We are all created by the same loving God, and we are all oriented toward God as our ultimate destination.

The Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, or Nostra Aetate, a major document of the Second Vatican Council.

From ancient times down to the present, there is found among various peoples a certain perception of that hidden power which hovers over the course of things and over the events of human history; at times some indeed have come to the recognition of a Supreme Being, or even of a Father. This perception and recognition penetrates their lives with a profound religious sense. (Nostra Aetate, a. 2)

As Christians, we believe that this “certain power” or “Supreme Being” is best understood within the context of the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6), and human beings find the fullness of life in him. Having faith in Jesus Christ does not mean that we can disregard or disrespect other religions. On the contrary, the Church has said that other religions, though different from our own, often reflect “a ray of that Truth” which enlightens all human beings. (Nostra Aetate, a. 2)

 

Is it any wonder, I, like so many others, love and are drawn to the Eastern faith traditions, and why we as Westerners would do well to learn from them? When Jesus said “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one” (John 17:22), he didn’t mean one faith tradition that has all truth! No one faith has exclusive access to all truth. We all have something to bring to the table, and those of no faith, yes, even those, are welcome too! When we shut the door in their faces how can we claim, at the same time, to be bearers of God’s love? You do know that is what we are called to be, right?

How can we go on pretending we have some kind of VIP membership to the right hand of God; that we have the Penthouse Suite awaiting our arrival when we refuse to acknowledge our own sinfulness against our brothers and sisters?

 

 

 

If Not Us…Then Who?

O Jesus…

We seek you in places you have already left,                                                      and fail to see you when you stand before us.

You interrupt our comfort with your nakedness;                                                            touch our possessiveness with your poverty.

You challenge our smugness.

You came so we can touch you with our hands,                                                                  yet we refuse to touch the hands of those you love most deeply.

You are at once, sign and hope and stumbling block.

Your persistent call disturbs our settled lives.

May we neither cling to the fear that holds us back,                                                      nor refuse to embrace the cost of serving when it is required of us.

O God…

You drive us into the desert to search out your truth.

You are outrageous and unrelenting LOVE.

You disarm our judgments with your radical mercy.

Stir us to new vision and uncover our injustice and arrogance.

You urge us beyond all reason to love our enemies.

You are gift; you are hope and joy meant to be taken to those who sit in darkness.

Help us to abandon our stubborn refusal to follow you.

Because…

If not us…then who will go?

Give up yet Linda?!

Surrender

I have a confession to make—I think.  Perhaps it isn’t necessary, but I am not leaving anything to chance.  My website and/or my book may or may not give the impression that I have successfully and completely transitioned from a struggling, out-of-control misfit, to a living, breathing, saint. If that is the impression that I have given even one person, shame on me. That said, while I definitely haven’t been canonized, I have gained new insights, and a realization of just how far I have to go.

How Am I Doing So Far?

I never want to hear God say to me, “Woe to you, hypocrite!”  So with great trembling I daily ask Him to keep me in line, tell me when I am messing up. He cheerfully obliges. Sometimes it’s not pretty. But that’s ok, because my heart is gradually accepting that He loves me, I mean really loves me!  I don’t have to play games with Him, I don’t have to make excuses, and I don’t have to try to impress anyone. That creates the freedom that comes from knowing that I can do nothing to gain God’s love and—alleluia – nothing to lose it!

First Date Phobias

Do you know what a life that is not surrendered to God reminds me of? Think of when you first begin dating. You may have to go back in time, but you remember, right? This is a person you have been dying to go out with; you have dreamt of, and suffered the pains of hair-waxing for. You know the first few dates are going to be sheer hell. You have to choose carefully what you wear, weigh everything you say, eat like a bird, laugh at their jokes, impress the skeptical friends, and possibly grandma (if you get that far).

That is what our relationship with God is like continually when we haven’t bought into his unwavering, unconditional love for us. It is us trying to impress and excuse our bad behavior, all the while trying to keep control of our messy lives.

Surrender frees us from all that superficial nonsense. It brings us to the reality that, surprise, God knows us inside and out. He knows every flaw we try to hide, and every misstep we try to cover up. Imagine having a first date like that! 

And if that weren’t enough (drum role please!), what surrender is not is a once-and-finished event. It took me a long time to realize that, which is why I felt I could never get it right and labeled myself a miserable failure. If I hadn’t, someone else would have. There is always someone eager to point out our faults to us.

I can tell you, there will always be moments in my life when that ugly twin returns with a vengeance from the dark recesses of that black hole I thought I had sent her off to. I shutter to think that she is still hanging around. Those are moments when others just stare at me in disbelief: “What were you thinking?” You know, they do that head wagging that says loud and clear, “Poor thing, you’re hopeless.”

Yep, I used to think that too, until one fateful day when I read a scripture verse, one I had read hundreds of times before and one I am sure you know very well.  But this time I got it!  Luke 9:23 says, “…If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”  Do you see it? He didn’t say, “Get it right the first time or else.” He said, “Yes, life is hard and you will struggle and make mistakes, and fall, again and again and again (you can throw in a few more “agains” for me).  But through my strength, and only my strength, you will pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and begin again…and again.”

I am a new creation in Christ, and so are you, every single day! Praise be to God.

God’s richest blessings to you and those you love,

Linda

Starting Over Sometimes SUCKS!

What you are currently reading is one – count ’em – one – post.

Once upon a time, there were five years worth of postings (awesome postings I hope) here. But, in the blink of an eye they all disappeared into cyberspace when I changed host providers…

There insued the initial shock and bout of granny-like cursing:

Then it was time to get down to the business of rebuilding my Website and Blog. Keep in mind that I am a dinasauer when it comes to ANYTHING technical. So, this could take a while.

The posts I did have the wisdom to save I will repost and try to do that in order (don’t hold me to that…please!) And, if I’m lucky I won’t drop dead before it’s done.

So, there you go.

New Years’ Resolution Number 4,372 – and Counting!

It’s almost time for my annual New Year’s Resolution. I am probably at year number forty-two of making em’ and breaking em’ – often in the same day. Aren’t I a piece of work! Might as well call it my daily resolution, which – wait! – that’s actually Biblical! (More on that later.)

Here are the simple resolutions I am skilled at procrastinating through the entire year:

  • Lose weight: Excuse – Wasting food is a sin. Gotta finish up all this holiday food first. Lent! Yeah, I’ll fast for 40 days during Lent! Oops. Well, vacation is right around the corner I’ll lose weight for the beach! Shoot! Last chance… weddings – I don’t know – someone should be getting married this year. I will diet to fit into a new dress! Crap!
  • Exercise: Gotta lose weight first so I can fit into my spandex!

Now, these are the resolutions that matter and really are time sensitive:

  • Spend more time with loved ones: They might not be here next year, or next week for that matter.
  • Make a difference in the world: You might not be here next year, or next week!

Imagine God making New Year’s Resolutions! “YeahHa, 2017 is going to be my year! I’m SO behind with all these prayer requests, world peace initiatives, and love-on-your-neighbor rallies. Gonna get it all done!

“Can I get some help here?!”

So….what are you waiting for?

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?” Martin Luther King

I believe, like Esther, we were made for such a time as this. There is a hurting and lost world out there. If we have experienced the love and healing power of God, those are stories that must be told; stories that have the power to change lives. If your story begins and ends with you then God’s glory and majesty do too. That’s why we are called to be the hands and feet of Christ.

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” ~ Teresa of Ávila

1 Corinthians 12:27, “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”

1 Peter 4:10, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”

John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

1 Peter 4:10, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

What is your story? How have you overcome hurt and pain? How have you hurt others? How have you reconciled those relationships? How have you prevailed over life’s disappointments?

What do you think? Are you willing to risk possible ridicule, humiliation, or rejection from others? Hum…isn’t that what Jesus did for you?

Perhaps that story isn’t written yet. To what depth will you go to resolve to change in areas of your life where you struggle most and then to walk alongside others on their journey?

Dare we look honestly at ourselves through God’s eyes…?

Dare we contemplate the story God tells in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and fully understand what our challenge is if we believe that story…

Daily I am called to live, not merely believe. As Catholics, we learn that the Pascal Mystery is the source and summit of the life of the Church, lived out in our ordinary day-to-day lives. Sadly, we may forget there are three acts to that play, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Though it is a vital part of the story, we cannot be satisfied with a faith stuck in the past with the historical Jesus. Likewise, we cannot hang around Calvary when everyone else has left. Jesus is a living, breathing presence among us, and calls each of us into his service to, “Come, follow me.” He never said, “Worship me.” He never called us to attend church an hour on Sunday to get your card punched and ignore him the rest of the week.

The disciples left everything to follow Jesus until their fascination with him turned to fear for their lives. He went to his death and they went south. It could have ended there, they were certain it did, as many of us are today. We can then relegate him to the status of a great Prophet of long ago—irrelevant and undemanding today—nice story though. The disciples could have gotten away with it too, had Jesus not returned. That was the key to their transformation, and should be to ours as well. But I resist – it’s too hard, too risky. This, I believe, is the source of the indifference I am challenged with on a daily basis. It flies in the face of the “living” Christ I am called to follow and imitate.

I have no idea what difficulty my “yes” will cause in my daily choices and my relationships. There have been many times when I have known full well that God is calling me to serve or to let go of fear or anger or unforgiveness. And yet Jesus has shown me that it is within these struggles and relationships that I will learn to be most like him. I don’t always get it right. Like the disciples, I have many moments of failure and attempts to hide. But I cannot imitate Linda, imitating Christ. I have to be Linda imitating Christ.

The resurrection reminds me that Jesus is alive and well, and challenging me daily to reach out and actually touch the hurt of others. And that “daily” challenge should be our resolution. Not a “New Year’s” Resolution that we so easily fail to commit to. We need to be reminded every morning of God’s mercies, love and forgiveness.

And, if all that isn’t enough. How about this sobering thought:

“Hell begins on the day when God grants us a clear vision of all that we might have achieved, of all the gifts which we have wasted, of all that we might have done which we did not do.” Gian Carlo Menotti

OUCH!!

Okay, there you go. Now, go tell your story and take this truth with you:

Deuteronomy 31:8, “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

May you and your family have a blessed New Year!
Linda

 

9/11 – Is it Time to Forgive?

I have spoken so often about forgiveness as it relates to my own experience. It has not been easy for me to forgive, but I knew I had to, not to just survive, I could have done that without bothering to forgive. I could have continued to laude it over those I so often felt didn’t deserve to be let off the hook so easily. No, I knew if I wanted to thrive I had to begin by forgiving.

What first prompted this post was a quote by Kathleen Berken, “Forgiveness is abandoning all hope of ever having had a better past”.  I couldn’t get that quote out of my mind, and then, amazingly, or not so amazingly if you realize how God so masterfully guides our steps, I was brought face-to-face with two of the most powerful examples of forgiveness I have ever considered: The 9/11 attacks and the murder of five Amish girls in 2006.

Here’s what I would like you to prayerfully consider:

Today is the anniversary of the September 11th attack. I’m sure we will all, at some point in this day, reflect on it. Here are two links that have been such a powerful reminder to me of what is truly the response we are called to if we call ourselves people of faith – as hard as it may be:

As stated on the Website, “The vision for September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows was born when a small group of family members of those killed on 9/11 became connected after reading each others’ pleas for nonviolent and reasoned responses to the terrorist attacks”.

Here’s the link 

And, if you believe war was the only reasonable response to 9/11, then perhaps you have not considered that there were other innocent lives lost and families destroyed when we went to war.

Here’s that link

The second consideration I offer you is this:

I can’t imagine there is anyone…anywhere…that does not remember the senseless murder of the five Amish girls in their school in 2006. But, did you know about the response to the Lifetime movie, Amish Grace?

LOS ANGELES, CA (March 29, 2010) – “In its Palm Sunday world premiere, Lifetime Movie Network’s Original Movie Amish Grace broke network records in multiple demographics, becoming its highest rated and most watched original movie ever. In addition, Amish Grace became the second highest rated original movie in Lifetime Movie Network’s 12 year history.

 Amish Grace also produced impressive traffic on myLifetime.com where it generated the second highest day of premiere page views of any original movie for both Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network for 2009 and 2010. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765643095/Amish-school-shooters-kin-Horror-then-healing.html?pg=all

There has been some controversy concerning the accuracy of the movie. That aside, it is simply astounding how the world is drawn to the kind of faith that is not merely professed but is actually lived. We don’t’ know what to think of it. We don’t know how it’s possible.

One of the tenants of the Amish faith that distinguishes them from other Christian faiths is that they don’t evangelization, rather, they simply live John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”.

They did not respond in faith to the tragedy of that day because they forced themselves to. They had prepared for it all their lives by their daily growing in spiritual strength and holding firm to God’s promises. They daily loved and served and sacrificed. They lived fully what they believed. And when the terrible time came that tested their faith, God was glorified. People responded in amazement and disbelief because that kind of forgiveness SO RARE in our culture.

Even when we profess to be Christian and claim to know the love of God, one person, just one person can say something negative or cruel about us and it throws us over the edge. One minute we’re dancing in the light of God’s love, filled with the love of friends and family, and then one nasty comment, or “undeserved” action comes our way and we melt in a pool of self-pity and retract back into our shell. That person could be Attila the Hun, it wouldn’t matter. In our weakness they have defined who we are. Where does violence stop if not within our own hearts?

I pray that we all will know the peace of Christ that can only come from a heart big enough to accept the brokenness of others because God accepts ours.

I’m going to leave you with this quote from Saint Mother Teresa:

Underwhelmed by God

I am a nominal Christian. There I said it. Perhaps that is the beginning of change, like someone who goes to AA. They have to admit they’re an alcoholic first. I have wanted God on my terms because I never really trusted him. How could I? I have not been able to trust the most important people in my life. Why would he be any different? So, in the name of self-preservation, I created my own box. One that was safe, or at least, one that I imagined to be safe – and I put him in it.

God wanted to be the most important thing in my life, but I kept him at a comfortable distance. He wanted to show me how much he loved me, but I refused to accept his love, reasoning that he was trying to trick me. He had to be. He wanted me to trust him, to surrender my life to him, but I wouldn’t be fooled by his cunning. I was smarter than that! Sure, I played the game when it served me. But, I’m not sure my “playing” was believable to others and God certainly knew!

do have moments of sincerity; moments of longing, that God latches onto. He doesn’t miss an opportunity. When the door is opened, even just a crack, he zooms in with lightening speed! One example recently, was when I was struggling in relationship with someone very important to me. I felt a “loving confrontation” was necessary to resolve the issue once and for all.

Now, I don’t handle confrontation very well, so, in a rare moment of submission, I turned to God first and prayed for his guidance. I wonder if he’s gotten over the shock yet, especially considering that I actually waited for his response! That’s nothing short of a miracle.

A few days later, I went for a run about 10:30 in the morning – not my usual time to run. I turned on my MP3 (that’s right, shocking, huh? I don’t have an iPhone, an iPad, or any I-want-what-you-have gadget. But, somehow I manage to hobble through life). I turned on the radio instead of my playlist – also not usual. (As an aside, we have an amazing Christian radio station – 99.1 Joy FM that is completely paid for by its listeners! You can stream it from anywhere if you want to. It’s awesome!) Anyway, as soon as I turned it on the woman announcer was talking about a book she was reading, “Unoffendable” by Brant Hansen. As soon as I got home I downloaded it on my Kindle. I couldn’t put it down. Honestly. It was amazing and just what I needed. Not just for this situation, but for all time. He is so spot on and so incredibly funny. (He says he’s not, but he is.)

When Hansen says we Christians are the worst examples of always being offended and reacting with “righteous anger”, sadly, he’s right, and I am the worst offender of all. And, folks, that is why I have to admit that I am a nominal Christian, no matter what else I do to try to convince myself otherwise. Hey, I tithe generously, I fast, I pray and go to Mass. Wait! Who do I sound like? This guy in Luke 18:13 who stood humbly before God and prayed?  “He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’” Not hardly. More like this guy in verses 11-12: Looking around to make sure everyone was listening he says, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’”

When I consider my “righteous” anger in the context of my relationships, I have to understand that I am making a statement about my faith and about God. Every time I try to one-up someone I am showing them a false image of God; of Christ. I imagine them saying, “Oh sure, Linda, you have planted within me a burning desire to run to God with arms stretched out. Longing for His tender embrace –”

NOT!

What I am actually doing is turning others away. There’s a scripture verse for that and it starts with WOE TO YOU knuckleheads! Check it out all through Matthew 23. It’s not an affirmation! Okay, he doesn’t use the word “knucklehead”, what he does use is worse!

So, back to Hansen’s book. I was looking through it for my favorite quotes, but there are too many. And the scripture verses he quotes are too numerous to mention. Just get the book and fasten your seat-belt!

After reading the entire book without taking a breath (I’m not kidding!), I prayed, asked God’s forgiveness for my pride and self-righteousness for seeing myself as the savior of the world, and then I finally let it go. God’s timing is impeccable considering Good Friday and Easter Sunday or right around the corner!

The Pascal Mystery is relived for us every year because we too quickly forget! Our tears of sorrow on Good Friday turn to tears of joy on Easter Sunday and dry up on Monday. If God is lucky we might make it to Tuesday. If our promised surrender to God was something tangible it would end up on Craig’s List, like the treadmill from a New Year’s Resolution with the heading, “Like New – Rarely Used”

Being a nominal Christian does not have to be my fate. I no longer believe surrender to God is an instantaneous, magic wand moment or nothing at all. In Matthew 4:5, it was the devil who tempted Jesus to jump off the cliff with a promise of great reward, not God. God doesn’t give us an all or nothing ultimatum.

If we will just start somewhere in our messiness to trust him; to give up something we are clinging to, he will show us what he can do with it. He will reveal to us the peace and joy we long for in our hearts that can only come from turning loose of our need to control.

This can be the time for us to sit at the foot of the cross and “see” with our very hearts what is right before us.

What do you see there?

Do you see a God to be feared?

Do you see a God trying to trick you into submission?

Do you see a God who will betray your trust?

Or do you see a God who loves you         THIS MUCH!?

God is not a nominal God and we are not called to be nominal Christians. We are called to take his love into a hurting and broken world without fear; knowing he goes before us.

Are we in or out?

(By the way, that confrontation I told you about never took place because I felt God’s gentle nudge to let go of the need to “fix” other people).

Glorious Imperfection

Jesus called twelve misfits to join him in his ministry. They dropped everything to follow him. All along the way their imperfections were screaming, “Loser”!

Jesus knew they were all a piece of work. He could have complained to God like Moses did, “Oh, Father, far be it for me to question your judgment, but isn’t there someone, anyone, else you could come up with for this monumental task? If I’m going to be babysitting these whiners and complainers for the next three years, how am I possibly going to get anything accomplished?” But, he acquiesces, “Not my will but yours, Lord.”

I’m not sure, but I’ll take a stab at his reasoning. Jesus likely called them in particular so they couldn’t boast about how awesome they were, because they weren’t. Of course, it doesn’t seem as though they were aware of that until after Jesus died. Then you see a lot of their teachings in scripture about not boasting. Like 1 Corinthians 1:31, James 4:16, and Ephesians 2:9, just to name a few.

We don’t know why the disciples so readily followed Jesus. But, I’ll take a stab at this one too. Off Jesus goes into the great unknown with twelve guys likely hoping for a shot at greatness. Surely by now they heard of the crowds he was drawing. He was charismatic and charming, and, WOW, those miracles…impressive huh? That’s why I think they went. After all, this Jesus seemed different than most of the powerful leaders of their day. He could sure draw the crowds! He seemed like a winner they could get behind. Perhaps they hoped for a management position. Of course, what do I know? I wasn’t there. But, it seems possible.

Thinking in terms of the culture today, Jesus might have hordes of people lined up around four city blocks hoping to be chosen, as if it was a shot at some reality TV show, or like they were waiting to buy the newest iPhone! Okay, maybe not.

Anyway, we know the disciples faith and trust in Jesus waxed and waned throughout his ministry. Except for Judas Iscariot, who committed suicide, it wasn’t until after the resurrection that their passion caught fire; a passion that would take them to their deaths.

Think of the difference between the guys who scattered when their fear got the best of them and the guys who became faithful and fearless in spite of their schlepping along an uncertain path. That should give us all hope. Why? Because if we are honest with ourselves, we too are misfits, doubters, seekers of power and acclaim, liars, and cowards.

Alrighty then…well…that makes me eager for Judgment Day. How about you? As for my sorry imperfect self, I want to run and hide! My imperfect body makes me cranky. My imperfect faith makes me scared to die. My imperfect emotions sometimes look like fireworks on the 4Th of July. My imperfect mind likes to stay awake at night reminding me of what an idiot I am – or what a moron someone else is.

Brene’ Brown, in her awesome book, The Gift’s of Imperfection, tells us it’s okay. How is that possible? She says:

Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness….I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.

Brown tells us that the gifts of imperfection are courage, compassion, and connection. When we have the courage to own our own worthiness, then, and only then, can we reach out to others and use our God-given gifts to make a difference in this broken world we live in. The darkness needs your light. The doubts and fears of your neighbor or coworker need your courage. The hopelessness of the world around you needs to know the reason for your hope (1 Peter 3:15).

So, there’s your challenge and your call to use the gifts God has given you to take into this broken world! Now is not the time to question or doubt that you are called to serve, that you have anything to offer, that you can make a difference.

NOW is the time to jump!

It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. You don’t have to cure cancer or win a Nobel Prize. Just give your lonely widowed neighbor five stinking minutes of your precious time! Smile at a teenager you don’t know and act like you’re not afraid they’ll mug you. Take flowers to that crotchety grocery clerk you’re always judging.

And then, for the love of everything holy, don’t start skipping off patting yourself on the back and singing your own praises! (Matthew 6:1)