January 13, 2017
It's OK to be Just OK

It's OK to be Just OK

January 13, 2017

It has happened to me a lot lately. Someone asks me how I'm doing and I shrug and smile and say "I'm okay"

"Just okay?" They ask.

It happens often enough that I've got some answers ready. "Sometimes okay is an upswing." or "After the year I've had, okay feels like a win."

OK, in one of the folk legends surrounding it's origin, stands for zero killed. Fabled shorthand between wartime pilots stating that a mission had been accomplished with no causalities. It has become a staple in our communication. And some days it fits.

I'm not great. I'm not thriving. I'm not kicking life's ass today. But you know what? It's not kicking mine. I'm OK. literally and figuratively there are zero kills in my life right now.

Friend, there is nothing wrong with just okay. In fact, I am convinced that as our sick heads and battered hearts drag bodies of death through a world of grief, sometimes "okay" is a pretty big win.

Once on a family bike ride my young son's bike slipped on some gravel at high enough speed to do some damage. The bike went one way, and he went the other, skidding across a gravel parking lot without a moments notice. As his father and I dismounted our bikes and ran to his aid he bounced up off the ground, a little dusty and scraped up, and shouted "I'm OK. " He wasn't great. He wasn't peachy keen. The gravel had hurt. His small body had collided with the earth in an audible thump. But he was OK. He was ready to get back on his bike and continue the journey. What better outcome could we have asked for than just ok?

Sometimes life is bright and gratitude comes easy and all feels good and right in the world. Other days are more of a struggle. Sometimes we hit the ground with an audible thud and the dust burns our eyes and the best and bravest thing we can do is keep moving forward. Sometime just ok is a win.

Please don't ask me to put on a happy mask and pretend things are great if they aren't. And don't ask one another to always be on the mountaintop and never in the valley. That's not how this journey called life works.

Let's give each other the sacred space to experience whatever we are experiencing today. Let's allow one another to be good or fine or just ok. Or amazing or awful or holding on by a thread.

Friends, it is okay to be just okay.

And one more thing, in case you need to hear this today: it's also okay to be not okay. To sit uncertain for a moment while the dust settles and then reach out for someone to help you to your feet.

Wherever you are today, however you are feeling, whatever your truest response to "how are you?" would be, there is space for that.

Will you take a moment to follow me on facebooktwitter, or instagram? And thank you for reading my words, I'm honoured.

January 3, 2017
Why I'm Taking Morning Devotions off My Good Christian Girl To-Do List

Why I'm Taking Morning Devotions off My Good Christian Girl To-Do List

January 3, 2017

I've so often felt like a bad Christian for skipping morning devotions.  Can you relate?

I had bought into the guilt laden messages I'd heard early in my Christian walk.  "God has given everything for you, surely you can give a few minutes of your morning to him."  I felt like I owed that 5, 10 or 30 minutes to God and that I was somehow stealing from him when my feet hit the floor running in the morning.  It was one more thing in my life where I was a failure, I didn't measure up.  One more article of shame to wear through my day.

And when I did do my devotions?  It was a crossing off of a to-do list item. I was fulfilling my good-christian-girl duty.  It didn't matter if I was being transformed by God's word or if I was finding what I need in Him, only that I did my christian duty, earned my place in the pews.

But I was so mistaken.  When I don't take time in the morning to read scripture and pray or do a morning meditation, God is not robbed. But perhaps I am.

In a world that is constantly telling us how we don't measure up, that we are not enough, that if we only try harder and do better we can earn the space we take up in this world, it is a sacred and divine act to stop, to push back against the demands and expectations for a moment, and meet God.  It is an act of radical self love to return to the source of our identity, to remember who we are and who He is.

Not shame.  But love. Love for the way God has made us.  Acceptance that we can better do His will when we've stopped, breathed slowly, and sat in the quiet with our Lord.

I am coming to believe that recognizing God for who He is, and seeing my place in Him, is the great work of my life.   Morning devotions are not a to-do list priority of elite Christians, it is not an extending of an olive branch to win over a God who is mad or disappointed in us.  It is a basking in a God who already adores us, as our whole and honest selves, laid bare and weak and accepted.

As I write this, we are only a few days into a new year.  A time when so many of us make resolutions to do better, to be better.  To embrace the fresh start that a new year seems to bring. And some of us have recommitted to morning devotions. Maybe for the umpteenth time.  And that is not a bad thing.   But friend, will you believe me when I tell you this?  There is nothing you can change this year to make yourself more worthy of Love.  Nothing you do or don't do will make God like you more.

Our God does not carry a cosmic checklist, awarding us gold stars for remembering our daily devotions.  He does not offer us a way of life, a series of empty striving to be made acceptable before Him. He gives us His very self.  He gives us his presence.  He longs for us to be satisfied in Him.

May we rise each morning to meet God is a powerful way.  Not out of duty, not to assuage our guilt, but in order to connect with the source of our one true identity, to fuel up in an awareness of who we are and where we stand in this world in the sight of a perfect and mighty God who delights in us. Morning devotions are not something we ought to do, to earn our maker's love or our place in the pew, but something we get to do.  A privilege we are free to enjoy.  An opportunity to come before the almighty God, to sit boldly in His love and acceptance before walking out into a world that that tells us we will finally be enough if we just do this, be that, or buy those things.

No, I will no longer let my morning devotions be a place of guilt and failure.  Instead, they are a divine appointment with the maker of my soul. An opportunity to put down my striving and vain attempts to wrestle acceptance out of a God who has already redeemed and accepted me.

And if I miss that appointment?  Friend, fresh starts are always available. He doesn't bury me in shame. He just beckons me to come to Him.

December 28, 2016
17 (Mostly Christian) Books I Plan to Read in 2017

17 (Mostly Christian) Books I Plan to Read in 2017

December 28, 2016

Books shape us.  They inspire us to think and feel and pray and love in whole new ways.  They remind of us what we know, draw us into knew knowledge, and inspire us to act on what we've learned. I love books.

So, I've made a list of 17 Books I plan to read in 2017.  Books that I feel will lead and inspire and challenge me in the right direction.  Here are 17 books I plan to read in this new year:

1) The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski
Burnt out and discouraged, a motivational Christian speaker sets out on a journey to spend a year engaging in sacred practices, both ancient and modern, including simplicity, creativity, solitude, protesting, and many more.  I can't wait to read about the sacred in the ordinary and meeting God in a myriad of sacred practices.

2) Choose and Choose Again: The Brave Act of Returning to Gods Love by J. Kevin Butcher
A collection of stories, mostly from Hope Community Church of Detroit, of people finding God's healing love in their places of deepest despair.  It sounds like an encouraging read that can help me move my understanding of Gods love from my head into my heart. 

3) The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows by James Bryan Smith
What we believe about God shapes how we live and feel.  This book invites us to examine the narrative we have surrounding God and compare it to scripture to keep what is true and discard what is not.

4) Attributes of God, Volume 2: Deeper into the Father's Heart by A.W. Tozer
I read the first volume this year and it was honestly life changing.  Each book identifies 10 characteristics of God and explores them in detail.  Like I did with the fist volume, I plan to take this book slowly, reading a chapter and then letting it sink in for a few days before moving on.  I believe that the greatest work of our lives is to come to understand God more clearly as He is, and then to respond accordingly.  This book will help us to do that. 

5) The Lord and His Prayer by N.T, Wright
I am part of a support group that uses the Lord's Prayer to end nearly every meeting, and the words have become tired and worn by familiarity and habit.  I hope this tiny book will help to reawaken this prayer of Christ and restore the depth and meaning lost to familiarity and repetition. 

6) The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms by Timothy Keller
The psalms were my lifeline to God in 2016.  When the rest of scripture felt dry and empty, the psalms spoke to me deeply and intimately about a God who meets us in our pain.  I'll be using this devotional through the psalms for my daily devotions in 2017.  And Tim Keller wrote it, so I know it will be good. 

7) Divine Rebels: American Christian Activists for Social Justice by Deena Guzder
Divine Rebels chronicles the extraordinary efforts of American Christian activists who agitate for a world free of racism, patriarchy, bigotry, retribution, ecocide, torture, poverty, and militarism. And the forward is by Shane Claiborne, so I fully expect this book to challenge, convict, and inspire me.

8) Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz Weber
A book about what happens when ordinary people share bread and wine, struggle with scripture together, and tell each other the truth about their real lives. Plus it's written by a tattooed, foul mouthed preacher, which is a win in my mind!

9) Living Faith: How Faith Inspires Social Justice by Curtiss Paul De Young
Christian ethicist Curtiss DeYoung profiles three of the most dynamic and influential religious activists of the 20th century: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Malcolm X, and Aung San Suu Kyi - each from a different generation, a different faith community, and a different continent.

10) Exclusion And Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation 
by Miroslav Volf
Addressing the sin of exclusion, this book calls us out of our comfortable circles, to embrace the "other" in the same way that God has embraced us. This book has shaped the hearts and ministries of some people I really respect, so I feel like it would be a great book to add to my must-read list.  

11) Finding God in the Ruins: How God Redeems Pain by Matt Bays
I need this reminder, that our God is big enough to not just comfort us in our pain, but to redeem it. Just the title of this book gives me hope.  I can't wait to dig in and read it. 

12) Twenty - Piece Shuffle: Why the Poor and Rich Need Eachother by Greg Paul
When I first read Greg Paul's previous book, God in the Alley, I read it in about 2 days and highlighted half of it because it was so beautiful and insightful and honest.  Greg Paul is the founder and director of a community and church in downtown Toronto where those in poverty and those with economic resources meet together and become family. 

13) Rid Of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault
by Justin S. Holcomb and 
Lindsey A. Holcomb
I bought this book sometime ago, but haven't been able to read past the first few pages.  It doesn't mince words or avoid the pain, which causes me to slam it shut and scroll through facebook instead. But it's time to read it.  Because I'm confronting pain these days instead of avoiding it.  Because, as Robert Frost famously wrote, "The best way out is always through".

14) Living into Community: Cultivating Practices that Sustain Us by Christine Pohl
I read Christine's Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition a few years ago and it literally changed our lives by inspiring us to create a room in our house to welcome in whoever God sends our way (and God proceeded to send the right people our way, at the right time, and blessed us immensely through the process) so I believe that God will use Living into Community in my life in a powerful way as well.  It focuses on 4 key practices that cultivate community: gratitude, promise-keeping, truthfulness, and hospitality and the theological dimensions of these practices.

15) The Cost of Discipleship by Deitrich Bonhoeffer
A classic book on the difference between cheap grace and costly grace.  It's been many years since I've read this book and it's time to read it again.

16) Rising Strong by Brene Brown
I may be the last person on earth who hasn't read any Brene Brown yet, but everytime I come across a quote or video of hers, I find myself nodding yes and being encouraged.  Rising Strong is about leaning into discomfort and regaining our footing in the midst of struggle.

17) Belonging and Becoming: Creating a Thriving Family Culture by Mark Scandrette and Lisa Scandrette
I knew when I saw the title of this book that I was going to need to read it.  I desire to raise my kids in a home where they know they are embraced, where they feel that they belong, and where they are free to develop fully and authentically into the person God has made them to be.  

I am excited for the ways that these books will shape and mold and grow me this year.  What books do you plan to read in 2017?  Have you read any of the ones I've listed?  Which ones would you recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

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December 22, 2016
To The Christian Who Isn't Feeling it This Christmas

To The Christian Who Isn't Feeling it This Christmas

December 22, 2016

The lights and sparkles and gingerbread lattes aren't doing it for me this year.

Guys, I'm in a dark place this Christmas. I know I'm not the only one. This season seems to swell those broken and empty places inside of us.

But isn't Christmas a celebration of a God who meets us in our dark places?

I keep trying to prepare my heart for Christmas, to stir up some sort of peace and joy. But they didn't scrub up the stable for the King. No. Our Lord was born into a dark and filthy barn, in a dark and desperate time, into a world that didn't have room for him and welcomed him with a mass infanticide. Let's not sanitize it with nostalgia and the tame comforts of a familiar story. Our Lord was born into a shit-filled stable, and things pretty much went down hill from there.

Friend who is suffering right now, Christmas isn't all about joy. It's about a God who stepped into our suffering and chose to suffer for us.

Isn't that the remarkable thing about our faith? That we don't have a God who sits safely on a throne and takes pleasure in his distance from us, but a God who stepped into our pain and mess and isolation, and suffered so that He can be forever with us, both in the grief of this world and the joy of the next.

The babe that was born in that stable two-thousand years ago grew up to tell us that we are blessed when we mourn. That when we are broken-hearted we are truly blessed because we will be comforted by the all mighty God. And then He carried our sin to the cross and went to prepare a room for us. We had no room for Him in this Kingdom, but He is making a room for us in His.

Our Christmas celebration is not about seeking to possess some sense of joy or peace or comfort, but to be possessed by the spirit of God. God did not send us some warm and fuzzy feeling in the name of Christ, but the very Christ himself.

Friend who is suffering, whatever you are feeling in these final days before Christmas, there is space for that in Christ. His love is big enough in length, in height, in depth and breadth to contain all of your pain and all of mine with room left over.

Our pain is so often the sacred space in which we meet the Holy God. It is where we hurt the most that we will later build alters and remember the Lord's presence among us. Allow yourself that sacred space this Christmas. God is not calling us to some empty and strained expression of joy, but to rest in the safety of His enduring grace.

Friend, I invite you this Christmas to lay down all your expectations of merry and bright and just rest in the knowledge of God's abiding Love. And I pray that for a moment, your weary heart and mine, will rejoice at the fierce and present love, the incredible mystery, the unending grace, of a God King Baby who was born into a filthy stable for us. 

If not merry, I wish you a sacred Christ's Mass.  May you be acutely aware of Christ's presence in your pain. 

If this post touched your heart, will you share it? And thank you so much for reading my words, I am honoured.