Sabbath Rest

My faith has been deepened by allowing Scripture to engage my imagination. The idea of a Sabbath Rest following the awful events of Good Friday has always fascinated me. I hope you enjoy my thoughts on that first Holy Saturday.

It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment. Luke 23:54-56

Whose idea was a day of rest anyway? She thought. Remembering it wasn’t that long ago that he healed a crippled woman on the Sabbath and in the Temple too. That really angered the priests. The silence in the room was deafening, looking at the other women in the house she couldn’t understand how they all sat so still. The preparations had been made, yet the awful events of the previous day tortured her mind, as did the smell of his blood on her. She had stood near his cross and watched it flow, mixed with some watery substance. It splashed all over her and the group that stood together in disbelief. Then it was warm and fragrant, now it was sticky and itched. The dryness made her rub her arm without thought, some relief. But there would be no relief from the images and sounds that ran wild in her mind, the heavy dark wood, the sound of the hammer pounding, those thorns, the blood. It all caused her to tingle inside. Once the preparations had been made, there was nothing to do but “rest.” The slow movement of the sun kept them caged, prisoners of the ancient rest. Each woman left with her own sorrow to bear. No one had slept. Someone sobbed all night long, she tried to muffle her sorrow, to no avail, they all felt the same deep anguish and silently mourned with her.

She had had many sleepless nights, but the loneliness she once suffered was gone. Although surrounded by faithful friends she could almost hear those cold hollow voices, teasing her again. Would her “darkness” return? Was this new circle of friends enough to sustain her? Had he taught her enough to make it on her own? Could any of them make it without him? How was it that those hypocrites had won? What went wrong? She shook her head to lose the thoughts – Sunrise, the time would pass, and she would be free to go to him and fulfil the ancient customs of preparing his body – at least her hands would be busy and hopefully her mind wouldn’t wander. Being busy might prevent her doubts from engulfing her. The waiting was miserable. They barely got him in the tomb before the sun had gone down. The walk back to the house was wretched – at least they knew where he had been laid. She felt sorry for the men. She had been a witness to what happened, although it was awful at least she had been there for him. Unlike the men who had to hide – but she was a woman, and one that could easily go unnoticed. Finally, her infamy worked to her advantage. It was painful to watch him die, but maybe her presence brought him some comfort. The men wouldn’t have that consolation. For the first time she thanked God that she was a woman.

Her thoughts drifted back to his lifeless body alone in the dark, cold tomb; unprepared, rotting. Nothing could be done until the Sabbath passed. She waited for the sunset. She used to dread the sunset – the darkness, the loneliness. In the darkness she was alone, so much confusion. Hands and faces; strange men and their reproachful eyes. Their sweaty foul bodies near her, on her. The humility, the clicking tongues. The dark voices and shifting shadows, and there always was the overwhelming dread of lost memories. Her days were full of scornful looks and uncertainty of what had happened during the night. But he had delivered her from all that. If she could get through this day, she would have the opportunity to serve him, again, to honor him, lovingly devoted to caring for his body. It was the least she could do after all he had done for her … the way it should be. But now – this insufferable Sabbath rest. It was a torturous episode of constrained mourning, sitting, and thinking. The hunger gnawed her insides, no one had time yesterday to prepare food for this Sabbath. Slowly the sun withdrew its light from the sky, the new day began.

Finally, work could begin again, a chance to bathe. The water was cool against her dry itchy skin. The relief was overwhelming. She felt a quiet sorrow at washing his life’s blood off her, but the clean felt so good. Her thoughts drifted back to his body. She wondered if she could bear to see him dead. It was one thing to watch his life’s spirit leave his limp, broken body, but it would be another to see him, cold and stiff. The other women spoke calmly as they dressed for bed. She wasn’t calm, her body was finally clean but the scratchy feelings inside remained. When he died, her hope died. She began to wonder how long it would be before her “darkness” would overtake her. The voices were returning, although dim, she could hear their jarring. They brought back doubt. No! She wouldn’t give into doubt. She stood up quickly and joined the other women as they packed for the morning, the embalming spices and fresh linen, a bit of flat bread, a jar of water. Each of them longed to see him again; but they all knew this would be the last time.

Carefully finishing their preparations, the women readied themselves for sleep. Settling in, her mind drifted back to their first meeting. She could almost hear the warmth of his prayers for her deliverance. His voice pierced the hum of cold voices that had engulfed her for years. His hands were strong yet kind and gentle as he helped her stand. She remembered how her body squirmed and twisted and the groans and growling her “darkness” made as it left her body. She lashed out at him in a voice that was not her own, spitting words of defiance. Then – gone, the darkness departed and all she should see was his face, his strong dark face, smiling at her. This memory brought her deep peace and her body finally rested.

The quiet movement of the women woke her. They all knew what needed to be done, they dressed and prepared without discussion. The sky was still dark but there was enough light to see the pathway. The fresh air was filled with so many smells, smells of life, not of death. The long day of waiting was over. The women glanced back and forth at one another, now the dread of uncertainty plagued them. Someone whispered something about the stone. Who was strong enough among them to move it? No one had thought of that, maybe together they could budge it. As they walked their pace quickened. Another woman heard a rumor that guards had been placed by the tomb. In all their preparation, no one had thought of these obstacles, it didn’t matter. Their one thought was the care of his body, a proper burial. It seemed to take an eternity to get there. It was brighter now, and the pathway was clear. As they hurried along the air was suddenly filled with a loud noise. The ground underneath her feet began to move. More noises, as they came around the last curve in the pathway, they could see the tomb where he had been laid. The stone was already moved, the earth’s movement must have shaken it loose. One of the women reached the tomb quickly. Gone! His body was gone. In panic and disbelief, the women began to sob and scream. They dispersed. Her heart was broken; she felt her chest would burst. Could she stand much more torment?

Without thinking she began to run. She knew where his men were hiding. It was time for them to do something. Down the path, into town, she knew they’d still be in the upper room. She thrust the door open. Her voice was shrill, she couldn’t control her anguish. At her words they jumped up at once. A few of them pushed her aside and began to run. They had also been suffering during the long distressing Sabbath, but now they were free, free to act. They ran wildly to the crypt. It was true, his body was gone. She followed them, hopelessly lost in the confusion.

Weeping, she wandered the garden surrounding the tomb, she was alone again. The murky whispers began to return – the darkness teasing at her vision, lost in utter despair, she stumbled to the ground. Her face and hair wet with tears, she saw someone standing near her. Surely, he must have moved his body or at least seen what had happened. She begged him to tell her where the body was, in her anguish she promised to retrieve him no matter where it had been taken to. She needed to finish what she had set out to do that day, to anoint him, to prepare him for his final rest. If she could only do this one closing act of obligation, she would have lived with a purpose. Even if the darkness overtook her, she needed to find his body and care for it. She fell to the ground lost in her mourning, begging for answers. Quietly a warm familiar voice answered, “Mary.”

If you’re interested in exploring how your imagination can deepen your faith, try my Contemplative Exercise for Holy Saturday by click here.

My Scratchy Relationship with Thanksgiving

I have had an odd relationship with the idea of thankfulness. My earliest memories of being thankful came wrapped up in the torturous duty of writing thank-you notes. I know my young mother was trying to instill within me a sense of being thankful. But the task was always tinged with duty and properness. I recall sharply her edits of my thank-you notes, “Write it again.”

Full of childhood spelling and grammatical errors, her rebuke told me that my attempts to express my gratitude were — not enough. I may have only been 9 years of age. The message came through though, my thankfulness wasn’t enough, unless it was perfectly and properly expressed.

My parents caught the tail end of WW2. I scarcely remember ever going without food, I grew up in a nice home, with more than I ever needed. But this was not my parents’ experience. My mother was from a large family with a single mom growing up in east Los Angeles. My father was the only boy in a family of rice farmers in west Louisiana, hard working poor people. They both struggled with hunger and lived a life of general lack.

My childhood was overflowing with the things they never had. And they were going to make sure I knew how blessed I was. Especially at dinner time. The meal was not complete without the command to EAT everything on my plate.

“You should be thankful! There are starving children in Africa!” Along with this was the shameful admonition, “Be thankful you’re not one of them.” It was difficult to reconcile the idea that I should be thankful my life wasn’t as miserable as those “starving children.” So, thankfulness became more about guilt and lip service to parents who lived an experience I knew nothing about.

I was in my early 20s when I participated in a project to provide school supplies to low-income families. It was raining hard the day I delivered a backpack full of new school supplies to a single mother in a town only about 12 miles from my comfortable home. The place was on a small dark street with little parking. I struggled through the dirty rainwater and finally found the home, a tiny back house. When the woman opened the door, I was shocked at the condition of the building. I could see the rain water draining from the larger property under the door’s threshold. I say “threshold,” but there wasn’t much left of it, all broken away with rotting wood. The children standing behind her were full of joy at receiving new things for school. I was overwhelmed and left feeling so selfish that I had complained about my new shoes getting wet in the rain.

There it was again. Thanksgiving enmeshed in the shame of having more and not being one of “them.” Unable to reconcile, I ignored the contradiction. Never taking the time to sort through what it meant or how I should deal with it. Funny how you can avoid reconciling inner contractions until you can’t …

About 10 years ago one of my children was traumatically injured in a terrible car accident. She should have died. She didn’t. As she struggled to recover from a multitude of brain injuries and physical limitations, the “encouragement” came in from well-meaning friends. “Oh, be thankful she’s alive.”

Yes, I know, I was thankful she was alive, but my feelings of thankfulness could never replace the confusion, doubt, and pure grief I was experiencing. As if thankfulness were some kind of magic salve to make suffering vanish. Does one necessarily replace the other? Can’t they exist together? Both components in negotiating the messiness of life? Can we experience gratitude and sadness at the same time? I was thankful she was alive, but at what cost? And how did being thankful make things better? I sat by her bedside day after day trying to reconcile this paradox.

I asked God to help me. I wanted desperately to be thankful that she was alive, but I was also faced with the devastation of her diminished life. As I prayed, I felt directed to look at Scripture and discover what wisdom I could find there.

Down a rabbit-hole I went, which happens often. First, I stumbled upon all the expected definitions of thanksgiving. Acknowledging what has been done for you or given to you. Then the concept of a “sacrifice of thanksgiving.” Something that is offered at the conclusion of a great battle. Thanking God for a victory. I was still waiting for my victory. Yet, this idea was connected to the phrase a “sacrifice of peace.”
A sacrifice of peace. That is what I needed: PEACE. In Hebrew the word for this type of sacrifice is Shelem. That is so close to the ancient greeting of peace, Shalom. I believe they have the same root.

Shelem, noun;
     1. Peace offering requital, sacrifice for alliance or friendship.
     2. Voluntary sacrifice of thanks.

That was it! VOLUNTARY. A voluntary offering of thanks. This offering was nothing required or demanded. Nothing you “should” do, but something offered voluntarily.

This sharpened my understanding of what my mother was trying to do. She was trying to instill within me an idea of thankfulness yet the motivation was all wrong. She aimed at the ACT of thankfulness not the SOURCE of thankfulness. Thankfulness is a response. The interior attitude is the goal. And I’m convinced that it must be within the context of a lived experience. That day in the hospital, my friends offered what encouragement they could. Yet they were not living my experience. How could they understand the devastation that faced me? I quietly began thanking God for saving her life, yet I never stopped pleading with him for a full recovery. I was beginning to understand how these two aspects of honesty could co-exist.

This Thanksgiving I am taking a fresh look at my life, my blessings, and my struggles. Now my offering of thanks as a response for what God has done for me. It no longer is a duty. I focus on the beauty of remembering who I am, where I’ve been, and the multitude of struggles I’ve lived through. It isn’t about the “quality” of my thanks, that they’re offered with well thought out, perfectly spelled words, or even proper grammar. I am free to offer thanks enmeshed in my frustrations and doubts. And these expressions are enough. It is living in the truth that God has been faithful to give me whatever I have needed. Not always what I’ve wanted, but what I needed. Gratitude is something I can experience and express even if weighed down with confusion or sadness. Yes, God saved her life. I’m eternally grateful for that, yet I will live the rest of my life in the tension of this blessing and the multitude of issues she’ll face her whole life. Thanksgiving isn’t something I offer to simply set my mind at rest, no, gratitude is something that can and should exist no matter the situation. It is an interior attitude that steps back from whatever is at hand and says, voluntarily, “God, I thank you for all you’ve done.”


This morning at church, as we entered the “praying” part of the service, the young priest said, “And we offer prayers for those who are in ‘a Season of Sadness.’” He gave a name to something I’m experiencing; a Season of Sadness.

A season to journey through. To accept as a stretch of time, but not to define the rest of my life. Like a spell of bad weather, something to endure, to get through, in anticipation of other seasons.

My husband would have turned 64 on Friday. Today we would have celebrated with our children and friends, as we have done for years. Homemade cake, BBQ in our back yard, obligatory photo-op … but this year is birthday passed in quiet remembrance of what we’ve lost. A few texts and phone calls, but that was it.

Husband, father, uncle, friend. Quick to laugh and quick to fall asleep. Perfectionist to a fault, yet generous and eternally optimistic. His presence is missed, and his absence cannot be avoided.

I could never imagine my life without him, without his warmth, without his ideas, and without HIS strong opinion. My arms are empty, and my bed is cold. We struggle as we adjust, yet he is at rest – peace. The peace he could not find here; demons, history, regrets, failures, all plagued him. Yet in our eyes he was wise, kind, and generous to a fault. Ever present and always ready to do more. My mind drifts to the things we never said, and the missed opportunities. It all makes me very sad.

I’ve heard it said, “It is easier to escape a presence than an absence.” I have found this painfully true. For there is always the grief, thick and inescapable. A cloud that lingers, a mist, or perhaps an aroma. A sudden familiar smell or a favorite color … grief is a thing that defies words, for words are feeble, thin, constricting.

Yet there is a strange comfort in the presence of constant grief – it is a thing you know. It must be invited it into your life, for it will accept no rejection. There have been days where grief has been my only companion. Something “other,” yet my very “self” at the same time … how this is, I cannot explain, I only know this has been my experience. Yet, in deep grief I have found hope, a thing that is also something “other,” yet NOT myself. Hope is a thing that is as equally explainable as grief itself.

Each April, offers writers the opportunity to write an “A to Z” about a topic. You take a letter a day, and blog about it. This year I’m thinking about writing an “A to Z” about grief. A close friend asked, “Really, is there enough to write about grief?”

Oh, yes, my dear friend, there is more than enough to say about this dance between grief and hope. I don’t mean to depress with my writing, I merely want to express my experience, so that another might read and say “Yes, this is my experience too.” And through this connection find peace in knowing that you aren’t alone.

What about you? What is your experience with grief? Have you found hope in the depths of your grief? Send me an email, tell me about it. Together we can create a body of work that will help someone through their own “Season of Sadness.” Thank you for support and I look forward to hearing from you.

~ lisa

It’s Not Even Thanksgiving!

Over the summer I took on a part-time retail job. The benefits are great, and honestly, I’m enjoying the diverse nature of humanity that crosses my register. I haven’t worked retail since I was a teenager. I’m having fun.

Working retail has also forced me to deal with something – the all too early push of the holiday season. In my shop we put up a quaint recycled cardboard Christmas tree on Halloween! November 1, we were selling Christmas Tree ornaments and yummy treats destined gifts for teachers and stockings.

Our Pandora playlist hasn’t served up any Christmas songs – yet – but I’m sure it won’t be long before it does. Through this all, I’ve been musing

“What if I let Christmas come early?”

What if I let go of my judgmental seasonal attitude and embraced on onslaught of Holiday commercialism geared toward my world? What if I let Christmas come early?

I guess there are theological implications for an early Christmas, and the dangers of not being prepared. But, what is wrong with anticipating the joyous birth of Christ a month [or two] earlier?

Historically, we all moved into Christmas together through the “Advent” season, giving proper attention to all the “in-between” thoughts and implications. But now we live in a world saturated with immediate gratification, all that “waiting stuff” is seen as passé. Even to many Christians.

Can we force waiting on a culture that doesn’t see the value in it? Probably not. And still I wonder, can we do both? Can we enjoy the earliness and still appreciate the value in waiting?

I’m not sure, but I’m going to give it a try.

I looked at the calendar this morning, and it’s only SIX weeks until Christmas is here.

So, I’ve decided to set aside my cranky desires for the world around me to WAIT until the proper time to celebrate Christmas.

I’m going to adopt a cheerful attitude.

I’m going to say, “Merry Christmas” as soon as I hear the first Christmas carol over Pandora.

I’m going to be thankful that I still live in a world where I can celebrate the birth of Christ in an open and public way.

Want to join me in this experiment?  I think it will be interesting to discover what happens.



Happy Feast Day of St. Benedict

I’m a huge fan of St. Benedict! That’s a picture of me in front of the ancient arch way of his Abbey in Montecassino, Italy. I visited in 2006. It was amazing. Their website is amazing too:

I’ve studied and tried to live by the tenants of Benedictine Spirituality for over 13 years. It has changed me, my understanding of God’s expansiveness, and finely tuned my awareness of His constant presence.

His famous “Rule” became the foundation of western monastic life. Based on the teachings found in the Gospels, it is still a powerful code of living.

“Listen,” is the first word of the Rule. Listening is a lost art in this age of information. We think we listen, we certainly “hear” a lot of stuff, but hearing isn’t listening.

We need to spend more time listening to God, to one another, and to our own inner voice. I believe that listening is the beginning of humility. Take a minute a think on that idea … a simple idea for a complex time.

To celebrate his special day, I thought I’d come clean about the beginnings of my association with the Benedictine way of life. If you’re curious, you can read more here. Confessions of a Benedictine Oblate.

Last week I received confirmation that in 2018, I will be leading two weekend retreats and three Saturday retreats at St. Andrew’s Benedictine Abbey in Valyermo, California. More information to be released on that in September. I hope you’ll find some time to join me in this amazing place.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Benedictine Way of life, I’ve got some great book recommendations here.

I hope you are enjoying your summer, it sure is beautiful outside. Keep your eyes up and your ears open, God longs to speak with you.

~ lisa

Summer Gatherings … to Listen

So, something you may or may not know about me, God speaks to me. Weird … I know.

Many people think God stopped speaking in Bible times, but He didn’t. Sometimes His voice is audible, sometimes His voice is a thought in my mind. He speaks to me through the Scriptures, the words of others, and through the physical world around me.

Occasionally, the conversation takes place out of the blue, but most of the time He speaks when I am seeking Him. If you’re curious about our conversations, I’ve written a bit about them here.

Sometimes I’ve wondered, who am I that God would talk to me? Yet, His communication confirms His love for me. I wasn’t designed to independently, go it on my own. I was designed to be in regular conversations with Him.

God speaks to me because I seek Him. And the seeking is an active thing, as the word implies. There is no real secret to hearing God’s voice, and there are tools to help.

In my own Spiritual life, I have practiced visio divina (sacred seeing), and lectio divina (sacred reading) too. Click either link to read about my experience.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me about these practices, so this summer I’m gathering a group to practice listening to God. We’ll meet in north Orange County on Thursdays from 7 – 9pm.

If you are in the area, and you’d like to join us email me and I’ll send you the address. If you aren’t in the area, but you are still interested, email me and I’ll share my resources with you. You can gather your own group!

I cannot encourage you strongly enough to give this a try … God loves spending time with you; there are things He’d like to say. He is just waiting for you to be quiet. These summer gatherings are the perfect opportunity to get the conversation started.

Check my Facebook  Events page for more information.

Threadbare Words – LOVE

My earliest memory of the word LOVE, is listening to my mother sing along with singer/song writer, Jackie DeShannon. “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love. It the only thing that there’s just too little of. What the world needs now, is love, sweet love. No, not just for some, but for everyone.”

This song, released in the mid-60s, was a plea for something that was missing in the culture –love. The United States had just become involved in the Vietnam War, then Robert Kennedy was assassinated. This song became a sort of audio vigil for a country shaken by political violence. A Los Angeles radio station played the song again and again for over 24 hours. It was an old-school “social media” instrument that pulled a mourning country together.

That tragedy, and a whole generation, confronted our country for its lack of love. I believe we still need to be confronted for our lack of love, because the whole world is crying out for want of it!

Not the mushy, emotional, thing we think is love. The thing that demands, “Be this way, or that way. Be what I need, so I can love you.” No, what the world needs is real love, love that has no demands, makes no claims, and is marked by an outward focus.

The meaning of real love, or agapé, as the Greeks called it, encompasses the attributes of acceptance, equality, tolerance, and respect, yet is uniquely focused on the other. Love does not demand these things for itself, it extends them to the other. In its highest expression, true love is selfless love.

Thinking more about the needs of the other person elicits a change in me. As I begin to release my expectations of who the other person should be, accepting them as they are, I am able to really love them.

After all, this is how I want to be loved, as I am. Isn’t this the way God loves us? With. Out. Condition.

Yes, we should always strive to be the best version of ourselves, but love needs to be expressed along that process. The greatest gift you can give someone is to love them as they are, not as you think they should be.

Everyone loses as we continue to tout the importance of personal preferences, and promote the good of the individual, over the good of the whole.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love. But love that is extended, through acceptance, equality, tolerance, and respect. And this love is not just for some, but for everyone.

Threadbare Words is a series of pieces exploring thin, worn-out words. The idea is to examine their real meaning, consider their overuse and, finally take a fresh look at them through the filter of a 21st century mind to discern if they’re still relevant.

If you are enjoying this series, please spread the love, and share on your social media channels with the links below.

Threadbare Words – FAITH

It’s no wonder this word is ambiguous for us today. Once, if you had a faith, you were different, you stood out. Now everyone has a “faith.” I was recently contending with an atheist, (as I enjoy doing) and when I pressed him on some of his vaguer reasons for choosing NOT believing in God, he said, “Well, you know, somethings require a bit of faith.” Yes, I suppose they do.

As I look at a dictionary definition I read: faith 1) an institution to express belief in a divine power, 2) a strong belief in a supernatural power, or powers that control human nature.

Not sure that faith is believing in a power that can control human nature, that kind of negates free-will, but I digress.

So, faith, with a capital F, as in “I’m a Christian” or “I’m a Muslim.” Easy, Faith is an identifier, connecting one with an institution. I think it’s this second part of the definition that we’re after, faith as a “strong belief in a divine power. A divine power that is trustworthy, firm, secure, stable, and certain.

As I’ve spent time contemplating this word, I realize faith, that is a “strong belief” in a divine power, resides in two places. It resides comfortably in my soul, an anchor for me when times are hard. There is an element of trust in this aspect of faith. It is based on my experience with God, and my knowledge of who He is.

“I trust God to bring about a good result, because He has before.”

I feel an emotional sigh almost. The comfort of being dependent on someone stronger than myself, a divine power.

But it has been my experience that faith must also reside in the WILL. There is an element of intellectual ascent that must be present, I must decide to trust. This trust is also based on my experience and knowledge of God, but it does not rest on my feelings.

There are situations where my feelings have betrayed me, or have not been present. In these situations, I must say “I decide to trust that God will help me through this, although there are no signs that this is actually true, yet will I set my mind to believe that I will not be overcome.”

My mind leads, my heart follows.

I thank God for the times I feel uplifted in my trust, and I thank God for the times when I don’t. God’s faithfulness doesn’t depend on my feelings or my thoughts. He is always faithful, for He cannot deny who He is.  And it is in this truth that my faith is grounded.

I encourage you to examine your own faith in God. Does it reside in both your heart and in your mind? Can you join your voice to the psalmist’s?

“Nevertheless, though I am sometimes afraid, yet I will put my trust in Thee.” Ps 56:3

In 2010, I struggled with this issue of deciding to trust. I wrote a longer piece that appeared in our faith community magazine. You may read it here.

Threadbare Words is a series of pieces exploring thin, worn-out words. The idea is to examine their real meaning, consider their overuse and, finally take a fresh look at them through the filter of a 21st century mind to discern if they’re still relevant.

Threadbare Words – Integrity

Integrity is both a “now and ongoing” kind of thing. Something that we should strive for NOW, and something that is part of our sanctification. 

I think we’d all have the desire the live a life of integrity, even those on the fringe of our culture. But this idea seems ambiguous at times, and judgmental at other times. What does it really mean, to live a life of integrity? Walking the Talk? Being morally upright? Or just right?

If your goal is just to be right, and feel right – go for it. True integrity involves more than this. It encompasses both moral soundness and innocence.

I remember parenting during those lovely teen years. Oh, the struggles I had with my children. Their rebellion and disrespect touched broken places in me. My pain was activated, and I lashed and behaved very poorly, hardly living a living a life of integrity. My goal was NOT to be innocence. I was right and I wanted to win!

My husband would ask me, “Why do you fight with them? You don’t need to take their behavior personal.”

Don’t need to take it personal? Wait, wasn’t it personal? Felt personal to me! It was a stressful season, and my anger and furious raging made an already bad season, worse!

Exasperated, I realized that the answer lay with me. I remember God telling me, that the situation would never get better, until ONE person STOPED. And since I was the adult, I was chosen … To. Stop. Fighting. A simple answer to a complex situation.

Interesting that the word “simplicity” is found within the definitions of the term Integrity. Moral soundness, an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality, wanting nothing. Wholeness, simplicity.

In this unsettled world, many of us are not behaving with integrity. Let’s admit it – life is complex, and nuanced. The “old school” right and wrong don’t appear to apply anymore. We are all so very attached to our opinions, we treat them as truth. Behaving with integrity sets us apart from the world. The goal of integrity is not to be “right,” the goal is to be like Him.

Here it is in the words of Isaiah: “Listen to me, you who pursue integrity, who seek God – consider the rock you were hewn from, the quarry from which you were cut.”

WHO is the rock we were hewn from? Christ. He set the example for us! He was kind, forgiving, and always 100% present to each person He spent time with. He was extremely gentle with those living in the lowest ranks of their community, and patient with those who had deep questions and those who held conflicting viewpoints. The only people He treated harshly and judged, were the religious leaders who were misusing their power and authority.

Integrity, is more than being right, it is remembering the example of Christ. Our goal is to emulate that example, remembering the Rock we were hewn from, and the Quarry from which we were cut.

Threadbare Words is a series of pieces exploring thin, worn-out words. The idea is to examine their real meaning, consider their overuse and, finally take a fresh look at them through the filter of a 21st century mind to discern if they’re still relevant.

Threadbare Words – BLESSED

What is it about this idea or word? For many, the use of the word BLESSED, scratches someplace inside. I’ve spent some time this weekend reading and contemplating why the phenomenon exists, and why many of us struggle when we hear others use the term.

Maybe it’s because it sounds like bragging? Or that it implies that an abundance of material possessions is a measure of God’s favor, and by extension, a scarcity in material possessions a measure of God’s … non-favor … hummm. It gets a little confusing and the logic breaks down.

I think when people say they’re BLESSED, they really mean they feel good.

“I’m blessed at my job.” Means, “I like my job”
“My children are a blessing to me.” Means, “My kid is doing well in school.”
“God blessed me this week.” Means, “I have an abundance of money or things”

Saying “I’m BLESSED,” is a way to say, “I’m happy,” or “I feel good.” But these are modern ideas of being BLESSED don’t really match the concept of BLESSED in the Bible. I’m not really sure that “good feelings” came into play much.

Abraham, was BLESSED! And in Him all nations were/are blessed! Not because he had great wealth, or even wisdom, but because although his marriage was childless, God would bring about the promise of a great number of decedents. Yet, he experienced many struggles, and I’m sure didn’t “feel” happy most of his life.

Jacob, was BLESSED! Because of his diligence in work and planning, his household expanded. Even to the point of flowing over to his extended family and neighbors. An abundance of material possessions, but Jacob’s own life was full of struggles, and frustrations. Exiled, he lived in fear for years. And there was a lot of strife within his large family.

Mary, was BLESSED! The only one in Scripture to claim blessedness for herself. “All generations will call me blessed.” Chosen to bear God’s Son, but oh, the sorrow and deep anguish. A mother’s deepest sadness, to watch her child die.

Jesus taught about real BLESSEDNESS. He tells us what type of people ARE blessed, and what is the highest best in the human condition.

Blessed are the poor in Spirit, those that mourn, and the meek.
Blessed are those that hunger and thirst after righteousness.
Blessed are the merciful, pure in heart, the peacemakers, and
Blessed are those that are persecuted for righteousness sake.

Wow, doesn’t talk about material possessions as a demonstration of God’s favor, does it? Clearly, being BLESSED has nothing to do with feeling happy.

I struggled in a troubled marriage for several years. Someone (trying to encourage me) said to me, “Don’t you think God wants you to be happy?” I really don’t think God is concerned with my happiness. God is more concerned that I do what is right, and live my life with a clear conscience.

Being BLESSED is:
Having your Hope in eternal things,
Allowing the Truth to be a real comfort to you,
Understanding and practicing the reciprocal nature of Mercy,
Experiencing God, and living a life that demonstrates that relationship.

Next time you’re tempted to say you’re blessed, try saying what you really mean. Say, that you’re happy, or you feel good, or you’re thankful.

Material possessions will come and go. Good times will come and go. The ground of our “blessedness” is not tied to these things, the ground of our “blessedness” is tied to God.

Threadbare Words is a series of pieces exploring thin, worn-out words. The idea is to examine their real meaning, consider their overuse and, finally take a fresh look at them through the filter of a 21st century mind to discern if they’re still relevant.