Choosing your story

Choosing your story

This week my family was riding in the van. My oldest had a complaint of some sort or the other. She is going through a growth spurt (of which I have no empathy, I never experienced growing that fast) Her legs and arms often ache and she, much like my husband, doesn’t deal well with pain.

The youngest starts singing at the top of her lungs, “Life is Hard. Hard. Haaaaarrrrddd.”

Because that is pretty much my response to most of life’s difficulties. Because if life isn’t hard, it is almost impossible to see the absolute beauty in it.

Then this morning I went out for my run. The clouds in the distance were swollen and heavy. But to the right of me the sky was light and shades of blue poked through. I put my money on the wrong clouds and  two blocks from my house the skies opened and released its torrent.

I hate running in the run.

The refrain, “Life is Hard. Hard. Haaaarrrrddd.” echoed through my head.

We get to choose how the story plays out. Rob Bell calls this Anakephalaiosasthai. When suffering happens, we choose the next step. We choose to believe God’s redemption was always there or we can choose to believe grace skipped us. We can live in to: Joy. Redemption. Reconciliation. Or we can choose: bitterness. Anger. Pain.

Our stories are told the way we want them to be told.

Almost ten years ago I was diagnosed with cancer. And for about a year it leveled me. Not just the treatments, but my story. I was so angry and bitter it happened to me. It wasn’t fair. I didn’t want that life. I wanted everything to go back to the way it was.

Somewhere along the way my story changed. Cancer no longer became the thing I wish I didn’t have, but the catalyst for change in my life. My healing wasn’t only physical, but emotional and spiritual as well. What I say about cancer now is, it was the best worst thing to ever happen to me.

Life is hard. But it is so freaking beautiful at the same time.

What is the story you tell about your hardship? Do you have broken relationships? Chronic illness? A bad marriage? A difficult job situation? Where does your story lead you? Is the path rocky, bitter, and full of anger? Or, is that rocky path beautiful and full of life? Do you turn your face to the rain and accept refreshment? Do you marvel at the pain in your body as generating new life?

(Paraphrasing Rob Bell) The thing about stories is, if you can tell it, you’ve already lived it. You’re through the other side; it didn’t destroy you, so why live like it has? This life we have is precious and beautiful and so short. The hard things in life ARE hard. They bring us to our knees. They change us. But every hard side has two retellings. Don’t waste your life telling the wrong story.

Choose today to live into: Hope. Truth. Grace.

And do yourself a favor and listen to this RobCast that explains it so much better than I ever could.

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Compassion is . . .

We need more compassion in today’s world. When I open my news feed and see people debating whether gay rights is biblically right or wrong, I want to answer with compassion.

When I see faces stretched in anger, hurt pouring out of hearts after centuries of racism and segregation, I want to answer with compassion.

When I see families arguing. Friends fighting. People who forget they are loved, I want to answer with compassion.

Compassion starts with hearing and listening. It begins when I stop arguing with the person in front of me and open my head, ears and heart to his hurt. Her brokenness. The world’s injustice.

We say we fight for justice in this world, but often we mean human justice. One that answers discrimination with arguments about state’s rights. One that answers a negligence of justice with rioting and riot gear.

Our justice is not true justice. Because the only true justice in this world begins with compassion. It starts with looking at the person in front of you with dignity, love and respect. No matter how different they are from you. No matter how they may have hurt you in the past. Compassion says I will stop following my own hurt and focus on us. On our relationship.

On reconciliation.

Compassion says I might lose something I thought was important, for what is important.

Love

Hope

Redemption

We all have people in our lives who need compassion and often we, ourselves, need compassion. Dialog happens when we let go of “fair and equal” or “I deserve.” Often those are code words for this is mine and I will do anything to keep it. Nothing good comes from such a scared place. Instead, if we look at the person in front of us and remember she hurts as much as I do, he is as afraid as I am or she doesn’t feel loved; kindness emanates from that space. Patience rolls in like fog, dampening our anger. We remember her light comes from God as much as mine does. If I lay down “my side” and focus on “our side”compassion becomes the common language instead of anger.

I want this world to burst with compassion. I want hurt to be answered with love. Anger to be answered with kindness. Fear answered with hope.

And above all, I want us to love each other recklessly and fully; with gentleness and peace; with hope and longing for complete restoration of relationship.

1Peter38

Jesus challenged the rich young man to lose his life. Lose his life for what is eternal. Today, lose you life for what matters. Let go of something you thought you couldn’t live without in order to bring about restoration of relationship.

Let grace and compassion run wild in this world.

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Sunday Reflection: Grace

“Because we religious types are really good at building walls and retreating to temples. We’re good at making mountains out of our ideologies, obstructions out of our theologies, and hills out of our screwed-up notions of who’s in and who’s out, who’s worthy and who’s unworthy. We’re good at getting in the way. Perhaps we’re afraid if we move, God might use people and methods we don’t approve of, that rules will be broken and theologies questioned. Perhaps we’re afraid that if we get out of the way, this grace thing might get out of hand. Well, guess what? It already has.”

Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday

What if today, you baptized yourself in grace?

What if today, instead of accepting the human call of death, darkness and sin you heeded God’s call of life, light and grace?

What if today, you didn’t look in front of you for affirmation, but up to the One who loves you recklessly?

What if today, you ignored the human rules of worth and accepted you were already redeemed and worthy?

How would you live different? How would you love different? How would you change the world?

Today, on this Sunday

Let-grace-run-wild

Let it run wild in your heart, in your mind and your world. Live into that truth, today and everyday.

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Resurrection Sunday

he-is-risen

 

You’ve put on your Easter clothes. You’ve piled into the car with a smile on your face. You greet your church family with Happy Easter!

This is how it goes, right?

Then we go home, eat a big meal with family, put away our Easter clothes and go back to life. Until next year.

But. What if we lived each day, like it is Resurrection Sunday? What if we didn’t think of Jesus’ sacrifice once a year, but every single day? What if, we felt God’s incredible love with every morning breath we take in, and every exhale before sleep.

What if we truly lived every moment as a resurrection moment?

Because when confronted with the absolute love and sacrifice of God, how can we live any other way?

This Easter, don’t put away the story for another year. Live into the promise of that cross, each and every day, and remember:

I-am-known-I-am-loved-I

 

Happy Easter, friends. Carry that message of hope out into the world, wherever your feet carry you.

 

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Friday Encouragement: A Hard Beautiful Day

Good Friday is a hard beautiful day. Jesus on the cross. Our sins laid bare. Dying for us. For the people who get it wrong so often.

Yet, in that hard space, where the sky darkens and the earth shakes, we are transformed. IMG_3429

 

We know he lives, he rises, he loves.

 

 

IMG_3430

Death doesn’t get the final say.

Garden of the Gods

 

God does.

 

Remember in the hard times there is a God who is unshakeable. When death knocks on our doors God gathers us in his arms and dries our tears. When you don’t feel worthy God loves you, exactly how you are.

Today is hard. But it isn’t the end.

It is the beginning.

 

 

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We all get a happy ending

I am a sucker for a happy ending.

When I curl up with a book, I want to read about someone who triumphs over the hard times. The movies I watch are people fighting to keep joy when the world tells them it isn’t possible. I like the news stories that tell the hard truths so we can see the beauty underneath.

I don’t like happy endings because I want the world to be perfect, I like happy endings because that is where creation is heading.

This week is a busy week in the Church. We started out on Sunday full of joy waving palm branches and singing. Then we stand in confusion with the disciples. The holiness of the last supper. The heartbreak of Christ’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. The betrayal by Judas. The denial by Peter.

We lay weeping with the sky at the devastation of the cross.

But.

That isn’t the end of the story. Three days later, Christ rises and appears to the women. Appears to the men on the road. Appears to the disciples.

He rises. He lives. He ascends.

Our happy ending is knowing the world doesn’t win. Our human condition is set right with Christ’s resurrection. God is victorious. We are no longer separated from our Creator.

Christ’s love brings us into God. Right here. Right now. With every breath.

It isn’t something we have to wait for. It isn’t a far off day. He is with us. And He is with God. We are with God.

So no matter what happens, we live in the certainty that we rest, work, and live with God. Not when you are perfect, but right now. Not when the world catches up, but right now. Not at the end of our lives, but right now.

We-all-get-our-happy

Even in the hard times. The times we aren’t so good. The times that bring us to our knees. Because of the resurrection, we are, every single minute, with God.

Sometimes Christianity gets it wrong. We say because we’re so bad, Jesus had to die on the cross. I used to think that way, and it led to religiosity and not joy. Now, I see that God loves us so much. He wanted to give us our happy ending now.

And that is the hope I live into each day.

God loves me so much. He loves you, so much. He couldn’t wait until the world caught up to Him.

And that is my happy ending. That is the story I will tell people I meet. The promise is already here.

He is risen.

He is risen indeed.

This Easter live into our happy ending. Go in peace and tell the world.

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Friday Encouragement: You are Beautiful

The world is loud with voices telling you who you are, who you aren’t and who it thinks you should be.

But, you? You are beautiful.

Exactly the way you are. The eyes you don’t like, or the body you fight, or the heart you doubt. All of it is beautiful. You are good. Your heart is good. Sometimes we lose our way to goodness but at the center of all of us is God. When we stop arguing with the world and accept the holiness of our being and the transformation already inside, love wins.

Every time.

It takes the pressure off, doesn’t it? Knowing you don’t have to do anything. Just be. That is the power of Christ. That is what we should show the world as Christians. God doesn’t separate himself from any of us and if God is in all of us and, if all of us believed in the ultimate holiness of our being,

The world would be bright with God’s love.

Go out today in the peace of Christ and the God who already loves you and say to yourself, to your family, your friends, your spouse,

You-are-treasured-You

 

That is life-giving. That is life-changing. That is Kingdom changing.

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