Help. Thanks. Wow.

“Help. Thanks. Wow.”

These are three essential prayers that Anne Lamott writes about. And these three prayers perfectly sum up the past year of my life.

Very long story short, I’m in a new season of life. My kids are officially adults now and I’m getting a whole new vision for what I am called to focus on during the next phase of my life. And it’s wonderful! Also scary. But mostly wonderful.

My husband and I have worked so hard to create a strong family and community, and we beautiful & courageous (2)are constantly asking how we might contribute to making this world a little better. What we have discovered is that so many people around us are working hard on the same things and we need to support each other!

Last year, I traveled to Japan. Do you know what everyone I met over on the other side of the world was struggling with? Their relationships — at home, at work, in their communities, churches, and beyond.

I met a woman this past year who was raised in an family of athiests and was taught emphatically that the institution of the Church has ultimately been more harmful than helpful to society, science and progress in general. Hearing what she (and a huge community of others) had come to believe was sobering. Yet she is drawn like a magnet to the love she senses when she is around people who follow Jesus authentically – who aren’t afraid to ask hard questions about how our beliefs are playing out in the current world climate. She has become one of my most treasured friends and her perspective is so helpful as I rethink how to live out the second half of my life.

The missing link with everyone we know who has left the church (or is currently considering leaving) is that they were not loved well by followers of the same Jesus who said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” He repeatedly emphasized that loving God and each other are the most important things we can do if we are following Him.

The longer I live, the more I realize how much I don’t know. And at 48 now, I know less and less all the time. But what I do know, without a doubt, is that the most helpful thing I can do in this world is to love people generously.  I have reached the conclusion that at the end of my life, if I were to learn that everything I ever believed was wrong, I will never regret loving people well.

As people who deeply believe that Jesus is the ultimate example of how to love well, Scott and I have have done a lot of thinking and praying about how we might create conversations that help us learn how to love better in the world in which we find ourselves.

So on March 17, I left my day job of 20 years and we have launched a project at LoveBetter.world with podcasts, blogs and other content that we hope will bring people together who, like us, who are working toward a more loving world. We started Love Better, not because we think we know everything (or anything, really), but because we want to begin conversations that create empathy, understanding, and ways to reach each other’s hearts with the unconditional love we all need. Our lives have been transformed by love and we know first-hand what a difference love can make!

Love Better is for those who aren’t part of the Church, and for those inside the Church. It is for those who need community, for those who need to tweak your relationships, and for those who long to live in a world that values relationships over success, religious tradition, fame or any other force that gets in the way of what our souls need most.

At the same time LoveBetter.world was launched, I published a children’s book that I wrote eleven years earlier called, It’s Hard to Hug a Porcupine.

It's-Hard-to-Hug-a-Porcupine-Cover-for-Web
Available at Amazon.com or LoveBetter.world.

It is a story that teaches kids how to love people better who are difficult to love.

Scott and I, along with the book’s illustrator, Jon Hogge, tell the story of how this book came to be in Episode 3 of The Love Better Podcasts. I hope you will take a listen, especially if there is something inside you that is longing to come to life!  The way this project unfolded was really special and involved a whole community of people who are learning how to love each other better.

I will also mention that at the very end of the podcast we have included a blooper, for no other reason than it was hilarious.  But don’t you worry, the fire trucks didn’t have to come even though they were well on their way.

I want to thank you for hanging in there with my sporatic blogging.  It has been a scary, rewarding and beautiful season of life and I just wanted to keep you in the loop. I do think I will be freer to blog here more regularly going forward, and I’m excited about that.

I would be tremendously honored if you would also join me over at Love Better. There is a free ebook chapter for those who subscribe, and we have lots of podcasts and special content in the works for you so I’d love for you to get in here at the beginning of this project that is so close to my heart.

Until next time, keep praying with me these 3 three simple prayers: Help. Thanks. Wow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough

Do you ever have those days when you’re giving it all you’ve got and it just doesn’t seem like you can meet the demands of your life?  I’m having a string of days like that.  Please tell me you go through times like this.

When I focus on one thing, ten other legitimately important things aren’t getting done.  Deadlines loom, hundreds of actual emails (not spam) come in, yet I can either respond to those or I work on the time-sensitive projects and phone calls that can’t be delayed. All the while I’m planning showers, hosting dinners, getting mission trip updates and attending meetings for the trip I will be taking this summer, texting and talking to family members and friends who I love and want to engage with, and there’s social media notifications and messages popping up all over the place. Oh and I’m a parent, wife, daughter, sister, worship leader, neighbor (a pretty negligent neighbor, but still) and pet owner.  There’s a teeny bit of sleep, exercise, laundry, meal-making, tomato-seedling-babying, prayer, reading, personal writing squeezed in there somewhere.

If you told me about your week you could likely tell a similar story or crazier.  I have dear friends whose child has been in and out of the hospital with health issues and trust me, they’ve had a far more demanding few weeks than mine.  Yet they wouldn’t trade their load for anything.  Neither would I.  Even when it’s all good stuff (or most of it) – stuff we willingly signed up for – we can only do what we can do.

This is why I love the story in Luke 5.  When the crowds were pressing in on Jesus, he got into a boat and floated out into the water to teach them.  (Way to create a boundary, Jesus!  May I learn from you.)  Then, after Jesus was finished teaching, he told Peter to go out deeper and put his nets down.  What Peter says in Luke 5:5 is classic.”We worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing!”  But then he adds, “But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down.”  And wasn’t he glad he did what Jesus told him to do when those nets were so filled with fish, they started to break?!

Peter’s best wasn’t enough to catch a single fish the night before.  But when he went deeper and obeyed Jesus, he couldn’t have imagined the blessing that followed.  Peter and Jesus remind me that I can’t be my best self when I’m trying to it all in my own strength.  I need to listen for the voice of Jesus, go deeper, and just do what He asks.

Jesus doesn’t ask us to do everything everyone else wants us to do, and he doesn’t even ask us to do all we wish we could do.  We just have to listen for the things He calls us to do and He will multiply our efforts to accomplish more than we could do in a hundred years without him.  That’s a relief to me, and I hope it helps you if you feel overwhelmed.

Take a deep breath. The people around you may not understand how hard you are trying, how much is coming at you, or how defeated you feel when your best doesn’t keep all the plates spinning perfectly.  But were we put on this earth to make everyone else happy?  (No, we were not.)  Remember the One who knows your heart and loves you whether or not you do all the things; He is ready and waiting for you to row to deeper water and listen for His voice.

 

My burden is light -- matthew 11-29-20

“Their Leaves NEVER Wither…”

Tree planted by water-Ps 1-3

I’ve recently embarked on a 40 day prayer journey and during this experience, this passage – Psalm 1 – that I memorized as a kid has come to life in a brand new way.  When I memorized Psalm 1 (at least 30 years ago), I could not quite relate to the metaphor of withered leaves like I can now.  I don’t mind admitting that there have been a lot of days since then when I’ve felt my leaves curling up around the edges.

On days when I get discouraged by the state of our world, or when I’m bone tired from depending on my own limited skills, or when I feel misunderstood, undervalued or overwhelmed, I question whether or not I will ever have what it takes to bear good fruit. As a writer, human and time limitations could easily turn blogging into a struggle no less daunting than drawing water from a stone.

The truth is, I don’t have what it takes to thrive by myself.  When I am depending on my own resources or human logic, my leaves wither faster than a pansy in July.  If you know me at all, you know I am a hot mess without constant help from the Mighty Mind that dreamed me up. I now see that when my leaves withered I was not fully pressing in to the fertile soil that keeps me grounded or being nourished by the water that quenches every thirst. The strength that comes from being watered by The River of Life cannot be overestimated.

Every day, I recognize the familiar signs of withering all around me when I go out in public, or when I watch the news.  This week’s tragedy in Brussels, threats at a local high school here in my community, broken marriages everywhere I look… these things tear at our hope.

Psalm 1 was written long before Jesus was born, so if it was true then it’s all the more true now.  On this Easter weekend, I can’t help thinking how Jesus died on a tree that was chopped down and separated from its roots to buy back life for us. We never have to be apart from the kind of love that pours life into the lifeless…and wins every single time. Sure, evil is strong; but the Hope of the Ages is stronger!

On this weekend of so many mixed emotions, we can celebrate the hope that Jesus not only existed, but He came so we can tap into the same power that raised Him from death to life.  (That truth keeps blowing my mind.)  We are given an open invitation to live our lives rooted deeply in that One Great Hope.  This isn’t a temporary promise, like clever marketing campaigns assure us will satisfy our longings.  We are talking about the kind of hope that is steeped in unfathomable, sacrificial love. It doesn’t wax and wane from one day to the next.

No matter how deeply we allow our roots to sink into Him, we will never reach the limits of Christ’s love, His Father’s wisdom, or the power available to us through His Spirit.  There is always more love, more hope, more power to overcome the things that threaten to wither our leaves.  When we stop following cheap substitutes for Him, we free ourselves to be planted what is eternal.  Rooting our thoughts, ideas, prayers and actions in the flow of His goodness allows us to thrive with healthy roots.  It really is possible to produce season after season of abundant fruit, but we simply can’t truly prosper in the truest sense of the word without Him powering everything.

Friend, I hope this Easter you will just take a moment to consider all that is available to you simply for the asking.  You don’t have to be perfect, or jump through any hoops. You simply get to say “yes” to love, forgiveness, and so much hope.  And here’s an added bonus…when we’re all drawing our strength from the same River, we’re deeply connected to one another too. This network of connectedness to Him is our only hope in a world full of trees with withered leaves.

 

 

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