Radical Simplicity and a Beautiful, Messy Life

It is Not Well With My Head, or My Heart. But it is Well With My Soul.

The song "It is well with my soul" has always pissed me off a little.

Many years ago I heard the story behind the song. The author, Horatio Spafford, had experienced great loss. His toddler son had died, his financial security was burned up in the Great Chicago fire, His 4 daughters died in a shipwreck while he was delayed with work. And as he traveled to meet his grieving wife, he famously composed this song.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul

It is well
With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

This tale always felt like it existed to shame me and my attitude. Here is a man who had lost everything, and yet he says "It is well". And in my comparatively lesser sufferings I cannot bring myself to that same conclusion. It is not well. I am not well.

I can't be the only one who took this hymn as some pie-in-the-sky ideal of elite Christians.

But friends, I stopped listening too soon. The author doesn't say that all is well. He doesn't claim that it is well with his head or his heart, that he's not grieving or in pain, but that his soul is alright.

That while everything else is in turmoil, while his situation is emphatically not okay, he can rest in the knowledge that his soul is secure in Christ.

Right now, it is not well with my head, or my heart, or my body. But my current reality is not my eternal reality. And my eternal reality? It is well with my soul.

In my brokenness, in my frailty, in my beating of my breast and crying out in agony, Christ has regarded my helpless state.

My every sin, of omission and commission, is nailed to the cross of Christ.  Even my poor response to suffering, my anger and self pity and fear, those things are as far from me as the east is from the west.  

Because as the circumstances of our lives change, our station in Christ does not.  We are His Beloved. I am His beloved.  And my hope is in Him.

All is not well.  But it is well with my soul. 

It's OK to be Just OK

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.

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

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.