If you had told me when I was younger that I would be involved in women’s ministry as an adult, I would have rolled my eyes and laughed at you. I would have said, “No way. Girls are mean and unpredictable, and can’t be trusted—I’d rather just be around my guy friends.”
Now, as an adult, I could try to laugh off the silliness of that comment and the ignorance of “my youth.” But the truth is, I bet many of us have felt, or still feel, the same way. The wounds of rejection, gossip, and betrayal from women in our lives can be deep and long-lasting. I challenge you to find a woman today who hasn't been hurt by (or hurt) another woman in some way.
Often, the wounds of our hearts can hinder us from being who we are truly meant to be. They can cause us to close ourselves off to new relationships for fear of being hurt again. This is what the devil wants. He wants us quietly suffering, immobilized, and feeling like we are all alone. He knows that when women know who they are and where they are meant to be, they are a formidable force.
Since encountering Walking with Purpose, I’ve had a profound shift in my feelings about the value of female friendships. I have come to realize that deep and meaningful connections with other women are something that we, as women, really need in order to thrive.
For me, this shift came from experiencing firsthand what it looks like to be in authentic friendship and community with other women through Walking with Purpose. I have seen women encourage someone experiencing the loss of a parent , work alongside each other to serve families in need , offer to babysit so that a young couple could get some desperately needed time away , use their gifts and talents to create beautiful spaces and places for women to meet , and weep when an unexpected tragedy occurred and rejoice when a fervent prayer request was answered . These are just a few of the many examples I could share with you from the last ten years of my involvement with Walking with Purpose.
There is something powerful that happens when women come together in an intentional community and encourage one another to live out their lives authentically: women thrive. We thrive because we are given a chance to be heard, to belong, and to be loved. And the result? Confident women with an unshakeable sense of peace and a knowledge of who they are to their core. I’ve seen this happen beautifully through the wisdom and community of authentic friendships in Christ, and I am so grateful for it.
Maybe you haven’t experienced this kind of friendship yet. Maybe you are praying for this right now. Maybe you are struggling with wounds from gossip or betrayal that are years old but still feel fresh. Maybe you have no idea where God is calling you at this moment, and you are just trying to make it through the day. Trust me, I can relate. I can also tell you that discovering the peace and unshakeable confidence mentioned above will only fully come through knowing Jesus Christ and His Church. And that is what Walking with Purpose is all about. We know what it looks like to be broken women in need of a Savior—because that is who we are too.
Take some time in prayer today and ask God to heal the wounds you may have from past rejection, gossip, or betrayal. Ask Him to remove any obstacles you are holding on to, preventing you from living your life to the fullest in Him. This might not be a one-time process, sisters. But trust me that He wants to heal your wounds, He wants you to have authentic friendships, and He wants you to be fully who you are meant to be—starting now.
 Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
 We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. (Hebrews 10:24)
 Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace. (1 Peter 4: 9-10)
 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15)
If quarantine has taught me anything, it’s that there’s no escape. The quick and temporary cure to suffering that the world had so generously offered me in the past (yes, I am talking to you, TJ Maxx) is no longer an option. I have had to learn how to sit in the undesirable a few hours longer than I care to, and in times of distress, I am forced to turn to God instead of HomeGoods. And I suppose I should thank COVID-19 for this needed lesson in spiritual growth. But, if I am being honest, I kind of want to kick COVID-19 in the face.
I miss people. All people.
I miss the unreasonably happy barista.
I miss the crying kids at Mass.
I even miss the aggressive man at the mall kiosk who chases me down with his free sample of hair serum.
And I miss groups of people. Big, loud, smelly groups of humanity. Put me in the Splash Mountain line for eight hours next to the grown man in the Goofy hat. I don't care. I’ll love that guy straight to Jesus, and not once will I make fun of his hat.
And speaking? Evangelizing? Worshipping? Retreats? Being in a room full of like-minded people talking and singing about Jesus? I miss that most of all.
Until I was told I could not be in a group of people, I had no idea just how much I needed a group of people to be in. But not just any group of people. A faith group of people. There is a difference, you know. You see, a faith community is not merely about good coffee and a break from the kids. It is about the literal hand of God uniting us together, leading us to Him. God specifically designed us to not only desire to be in relationship with others but to thrive in it.
Right now? I am not thriving so much. I need my tribe.
Hebrews 10:24-25 comes to mind:
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Why, right now, does everything feel so hard? It’s because we are not living as God created us to live. We have given up meeting together. The words social and distance are in direct opposition with each other, and it has disordered our lives. I don’t know about you, but what I am witnessing in the faces of people is far more concerning than the threat of my contracting this virus. While I may not know all that there is to know about this world or my Catholic faith, I know that a society divided and driven by fear and self preservation is not how the Lord wants us to live. Yes, as a country, we have a responsibility to follow the law and guidelines and keep one another safe. But as Christians, we also have a responsibility to step out in love, to extend real hope, and to get God’s people back together again. And if that sounds risky, well, my friends...welcome to the faith.
I will be honest. Even though I write this, it still feels hard. Even though I know this, I too worry about the risk. And to be totally transparent, I woke up this morning over it all...phoning in prayer with zero enthusiasm to tackle the day ahead. The thought of another drive-by birthday or Zoom call gathering has me weary, because I, sweet friends, am at about 5%. With piles of work and a family standing in front of me, I am desperately trying to figure out where the needed 95% will come from. And then my eyes fell upon 1 Peter 4:8-11:
Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
This? This is why I am at 5%. Not because I can’t go to TJ Maxx, but because I have been separated from my tribe. Keeping fervent in love for one another, and glorifying God in all things, is only possible when we do it together. My community has kept me “sane and sober” for years, and being without them has left an undeniable, spiritual virus that is making me weak. The cure we need does not come from the hand of the scientist but from the hand of God. If we want to get back to life, we need to get back to each other. Community is the cure that we crave.
So, how do we do it?
How do we hold community together, six feet apart?
I am excited to announce that this Thursday night, June 4, we will get the real support and encouragement we need to get back to community and live the way that God intended for us from the beginning of creation. Walking with Purpose Founder and Chief Purpose Officer Lisa Brenninkmeyer and CEO and Board Chair Julie Ricciardi will host a free webinar, The Art of Creating Community. To join us on this Zoom webinar, please register here. If anyone can lead us through this, it is Lisa and Julie. Walking With Purpose was born out of their authentic friendship and a deep desire to see every woman’s hearts open to the love of Jesus; not in isolation, but in community. For years, they have lived out and modeled Romans 12:4-5 for us, reminding us that we are better together than we are alone. I challenge you to find two greater champions of Christ and community than these mighty warriors.
If you are at 5% my friends, I invite you to join me for this night of much needed assurance. I can’t give you a hug or pour you a drink, but I will be there with you in spirit, spurring you on. In the midst of a world that is scaring us into isolation, let us be different. We can do this. Our health of spirit and mind depend on it. Community is where we belong, and it is time that we return.
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1
“I used to believe that prayer changes things. But now I know that prayer changes us, and we change things.” - St. Teresa of Calcutta
Raised in a faith-filled home that affirmed the power of prayer, I also grew up in a family of eight whole-heartedly believing that the Lord had empowered me to be self-reliant. After all, hadn't He knitted me into the bossy, older sister and consummate planner whose family nickname was “Mrs. Take Charge”? I was confident the path was mine to direct, and any roadblocks on the journey were my responsibility. I felt that the Lord was leaving it to me to figure it out, shake it off and get on with it. And so I did through college, career and marriage; keeping God at arm's length as I plotted our path.
Our journey veered off-course dramatically when our second child, Will, was born. He came into the world with an extreme leg length discrepancy and offset right foot. We questioned what this would mean for his life. Would he ride a bike? Run the bases in Little League? Even walk on his own? So I mapped it all out to God very simply-heal his leg. And I prayed. And prayed. Multiple experts told us that other than casting and bracing, there was nothing we could do for 5 years; we'll watch and see, they said, to monitor his growth and analyze what could be done surgically. So I soldiered on, waiting for Him to answer me and bring the miracle.
For seven years, Will wore a heavy brace 24/7, and underwent physical therapy 3 times per week. At every hospital scan, I prayed while waiting to see how much the leg length difference had grown, and through decisions to be made as to when to subject him to the arduous surgery and the painful recovery required. And I made my plans; I prayed that the Lord would take this decision from us by growing Will's leg.
When Will turned seven, a sequence of surgeries and ongoing physical therapy were offered. This radical treatment included the insertion of metal rods and screws that we needed to adjust daily to pull the bones apart. My GPS wasn't syncing with my plans, but my prayers had changed.
Along Will's recovery, my prayers for miraculous healing for his bone evolved into prayers for the Lord's strength. I asked for His strength to comfort Will, to encourage a loving father who couldn't bear the painful exercises, to soften the heart of an older brother often overlooked during those difficult years, and to reach out those who stayed away because they found it so hard to witness. I realized that I had turned over my map to the One who had written the plan long ago.
After two more surgeries, the miracles of God's design came into focus. As we read in Isaiah, His ways are so much greater than anything I could have imagined or asked for.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
God's miracle was found in our family's providential move before Will's birth to a sleepy little town a 45 minute drive from one of only three hospitals in the U.S. that offer the radical orthopedic procedure needed. God's miracle was the gift of a pediatric physical therapist who lovingly and diligently worked with William multiple times a week for over 8 years; a seemingly guardian angel on earth. God's miracle was the community who fed us, made Will laugh, and just showed up. God's miracle was the science research that created a way to grow bone 3 inches so a child born with a mangled leg could grow up to play tennis on his high school varsity team.
The greatest answer to the prayers I did not ask is our son's unwavering trust in the Lord and his unwavering faith. Not once did Will ask why he had been born with this condition or refuse to do what was needed-not one day. I asked Will if he'd ever felt abandoned by God for all he'd been through. He pondered a minute, then responded, “Mom, you took care of me, Dad took care of you, and God took care of all of us.” He carries this faith to this day as a college student, through campus ministry and ongoing volunteer commitments that allow him to share his incredible gift to call out and walk alongside those who suffer. While I would love to take credit for this incredible faith, I cannot. I confess that it is a gift I never considered asking for; I was too busy trying to navigate the journey on my own.
I am most certainly a work in progress; I constantly wrestle with my desire to map the route for God when the path winds off-road or becomes overgrown with brambles. But when I am at my weakest, I reflect back on all the ways the Lord has responded to my petitions. I am strengthened through prayers of surrender and buoyed by the sisters in Christ I have since found at WWP.
Through my WWP parish program, I found direction in the Lord's Word, insights in our lessons, encouragement from daily prayer, and welcome from a group who didn't judge me for trying to “take charge” of God. And now, working for WWP, I am honored to work alongside a dedicated team who demonstrate daily their beautiful faith and commitment to help Catholic women and girls across the U.S. to open their hearts to Christ.
For those of you still struggling with your own road map, please know that I am praying for you. And for those of you who now rest in the joy of having crossed the finish line, I pray that you will share the miracles now illuminated.
With love in Christ,
Laurie Baschwitz is the Director of Participant Experience at WWP; leading our expansion, customer support and regional area coordinators to support our parish programs and independent studies for adult women, young adult women and middle school girls. She resides in Westchester County, New York with her husband and two sons.
“How can you all have so much joy when you are going through something so painful?” That's the question the new face at my support group asked last night. Followed by, “I want what you all have!”
As I have mentioned before, this group I attend is not faith-based. Of course, if I were to personally give witness to where I have found such joy, all fingers would point towards God. And yet, there is more to it than faith.
It's also about community.
I have always known that God did not create us to be alone. Genesis 2:18 clearly lays this out for us: “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” But this isn't just about man finding woman. This is about man not having to go it alone.
And we do this, don't we? We try to go it alone. Be it out of shame of our circumstance or fear of rejection, how many of us choose isolation over connection? How many of us stop reaching out, strap on our masks, and white knuckle through the day, relying on our own strength? Maybe this sounds familiar to you. And if so, I ask. How's it working for you?
You see, I have recognized an undeniable truth. When I am connected to community I thrive. I become inspired and animated. Notice, I did not say, “when life is smooth sailing, I thrive.” My life circumstance is not what controls me. Only Jesus controls me. And when I immerse myself in community; be it a coffee date with a friend, a Wednesday morning at WWP Bible Study, attendance at weekly Mass, or going to my support group, loneliness loses its grip, making way for joy. The truth of “me too” wipes out the lie of “no one understands”, and like a Gospel miracle, I am healed. No doubt, this is the work of the Holy Spirit. No question that when two or three are gathered in His name, He is there. (Matthew 18:20) And in the most beautiful way, this overwhelms me.
If you read this and feel sorrow because you do not have a community to run to, I am here to say...you do. Walking with Purpose is not about selling Bible studies and throwing pretty pictures up on a website. Walking with Purpose is about handing out life vests and anchors to women struggling to keep their eyes above the waves. Women who are swimming into a storm believing they have to go it alone. We are about sisterhood and support and encouraging one another. If you do not have a parish program near you, please reach out to us. Let us help to connect you someway, somehow. And no. I am not working on commission nor was asked to say this. This, sweet sisters, is so ridiculously heavy on my heart, because my Walking with Purpose family is what gave me the strength to walk into that other support group. In her Netflix special, Call to Courage, researcher and storyteller Brené Brown says, “Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage.” I learned how to be vulnerable from my WWP community. And I do not exaggerate when I say, it has saved me.
When searching for Scripture verses that best describe community to me, my eyes fell upon Hebrews 10:24-25, and a smile spread across my face, and truth be told, it is still there. “We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
Something about we should not stay away grabs me. It is how I feel about my support group. It is how I feel about Walking with Purpose. It is how I feel about a certain friend who calls me in the middle of the day to shout, “I know you are writing and I hate to interrupt but I have to talk to you about the Holy Spirit!” When you encounter people who allow you to be vulnerable and encourage you to be the best you can be, how can you stay away? And when you find friends with a common thread, who weep when you weep and rejoice when you rejoice, how on earth can you not be encouraging?
How can there be joy in the midst of so much pain? Because “two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
Praying the Holy Spirit fills us with the desire to step out into community, to supply us with Sisters who are eager to love us and lift us should we fall. Grant, I pray, all our shame of not being worthy be destroyed, as we courageously step into our place, advancing the Kingdom of God.
I remember my first official day of working for Walking with Purpose vividly. I hit the ground running in Chicago, surrounded by more than 8,000 college students at SLS 2018, a young adult conference hosted by FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.
This time was exciting for a variety of reasons, but more than anything, it is etched in my mind because I encountered the excitement of college-aged girls as Walking with Purpose answered a question they have had for years: What resources do you have to help us enter into Scripture and deepen our relationship with Jesus?
For the first time, Walking with Purpose had a response to the one big road block that has consistently planted itself in the way of young adult women seeking to dive into Scripture. We finally had something for the age group that is often left out to wander without much direction.
At SLS 2018, we released our very first Young Adult Bible study series based off of our foundational Opening Your Heart study. This Opening Your Heart Young Adult series is made up of three six-week Bible studies: Beloved, Unshaken, and Steadfast. Each study is meant to help women enter into a deeper relationship with Christ through Scripture and the teachings of the Catholic church.
Throughout the past year, it has been overwhelming to witness the reactions of young adult women when they realize that something has been created just for them. For so many of them, this was an answered prayer.
It is now, with great excitement that I announce our newest editions to the Young Adult Bible study series: The Keeping in Balance Young Adult series. Like the OYHYA series, these studies are based on a Walking with Purpose adult women's Bible studies. Based on Keeping in Balance, these studies, titled Harmony, Perspective, and Exhale, will be released this January, with a special appearance at this year's FOCUS SEEK2019 conference with over 14,000 college students expected.
Each part of this new series speaks to the heart of a busy young adult woman struggling to find balance in a world pulling her in a thousand different directions. I would have done anything to have had these Bible studies when I was in college.
In the first part, Harmony, young adult women will learn how to get a grip on their lives by looking at the importance of living authenticity, setting priorities, managing expectations, and nurturing healthy relationships. Additionally, they will also explore finding a balance between mediocrity and perfectionism so that they can become the women God created them to be without stressing or striving.
Then, in part two, Perspective, young women will learn how to become more content, grow stronger in areas where they've felt as if they failed a million times, and get moving when they feel like settling for the status quo. This part also explores how they can engage the culture as Catholics at a time when the reputation of Christians is at an all-time low.
Finally, in part three, Exhale (don't you just love that title), young women will discover how to establish a rhythm of rest, worship and surrender. For women longing for more simplicity in their life and are ready to order their thoughts so that they can experience inner peace (things we all want, am I right?), this Bible study will both inspire them and provide them with practical steps to make positive change.
As a twenty-two-year-old, I can attest to the fact that learning how to do all of these things while rooting myself in Scripture has been more than a challenge. As a young person, I am extraordinarily excited to dig into these focused studies.
I encourage you to take a moment to reflect upon the young women in your lives. Think about your daughters, granddaughters, nieces, goddaughters, sisters, and friends. Think about your high school students, your college students, and your young adults. Would any of them benefit from studies like these? My guess is that they would!
It has been a pleasure to witness the ways in which Walking with Purpose has spoken to the hearts of this Millennial generation of women over the past year and I am excited to watch them continue to do so. My hope is that you will be jump in and be a part of this.
In Grace and Peace,
P.S.: While the Keeping In Balance young adult studies won't be in stock until January, you can purchase Opening Your Heart studies for young adult women in our store.
Are you feeling the hassle of the hustle while you long for a little rest? Even though it's summertime, do you still feel busyness and pressure?
I get it, and blogged about something we can do to QUIT HUSTLING AND FIND PEACE in my last post. In it, we were challenged to stop trying to prove our worth, and rest in the fact that Jesus already took care of that. Picking up where we left off…
The second thing we can do in order to step off the treadmill and breathe deeper is to…
2. Recognize the True Source of Peace.
We're told where we can find the true source of peace in Ephesians 2:14. It says that “[Jesus] is our peace, he who made the both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh.” The passage goes on in verse 17 to say that Jesus “came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.”
Maybe you are feeling like you're in the camp of those who are far off. You can point out all sorts of people that you figure are near to God. You wonder if the promises about Jesus just apply to them. They don't. Jesus came for those who are far away and those who are near.
Jesus is the true source of peace. If we look for it anywhere else, in our relationships, in our bank account, in our yoga class, or in our own achievements, we will come up empty. Only He can go to the places deep within that need His presence and truly satisfy.
The third thing I'd encourage you to do as you seek peace is to…
3. Show Jesus Where it Hurts
Instead of masking your emotions, stuffing them, or numbing your feelings, show Jesus where it hurts. Take some time, ideally in the morning, to recognize what you are feeling. Bring the myriad of emotions to Jesus in prayer and ask Him to order them—to redeem them. Listen to your body—it doesn't lie. Is it telling you that something is wrong? Don't ignore it.
Don't worry about shocking God with your doubts, fears, depression or anger. None of it takes Him by surprise. He's seen it all. He even made sure loads of emotion were recorded in the book of Psalms so that we would know it's ok to be honest with God. God wants the real you.
Some people do this out loud, others like to journal this type of prayer. There isn't one “right way” to express yourself to God. But the choice to stuff, mask or numb your emotions is never the best choice.
The last thing I'd like to leave you with is this…
4. Don't Try to Go it Alone
The Christian life was never meant to be lived alone. We were created for community—for close and meaningful relationships. When this part of our life isn't in good shape, loneliness and discouragement quickly set in. I encourage you to find a group of women who share your faith. It makes such a difference to be surrounded by women who speak truth into your life—truth about your value being rooted in Christ, about how loved you are, and about how faithful God is even when your circumstances aren't what you desire. Maintain these critical friendships. Find your tribe.
This is where the Bible study program, Walking with Purpose, can make all the difference. Women come together, often with differing views, but all with the desire to grow spiritually. An environment is carefully created where all are free to come as is- with doubts, fears, baggage. Masks are checked at the door. A judgment free zone reigns, and competition and comparison are kept at bay. Instead of allowing the discussion evolving into self-help or advice giving, trained small group leaders let Scripture do the teaching. Women blossom in this environment, and true spiritual transformation occurs on the heart level.
If you are a WWP participant, consider bringing a new friend to Walking with Purpose this fall so that she too can grow closer to Christ and experience the spiritual transformation that you have found at WWP.
If you don't have Walking with Purpose in your community, then I encourage you to pray about creating one. It's easier than you would think. We take your hand, and lead you every step of the way with our Leadership Development program that offers training, promotional materials, tools and mentoring.
The hustling never delivers on its promises. But Christ always does. Go to Him for peace, and you will never be disappointed.
With love and prayers,
Founder and Chief Purpose Officer
Walking with Purpose
It had all started out like a Norman Rockwell painting. We had just moved into a new neighborhood, and after living on a busy street for years, we were so grateful to be able to head out the door and take an evening walk. Charlotte was a new baby, and Bobby was a bright-eyed five-year old. Our trusty dog, Bailey (yes, the one of Super Glue fame), needed a little exercise, so she got to come along, too. We set out, and I breathed in the fresh air, so grateful for this simple and satisfying moment.
Bobby wanted to hold the dog leash, insisting that he was big enough, and since Bailey was walking so calmly by our side, I handed it over. All was well until we got to the top of a hill. Bailey saw a squirrel and took off at breakneck speed. It happened so quickly…Bobby's little legs couldn't keep up…he waited too long to let go of the leash…and he took a fall that threw me into a total panic.
I raced to him as quickly as I could and gathered him up in my arms. Between gulps and tears, Bobby looked into my face with fear in his eyes and asked, “Am I dead?” Of course, I assured him that he was not dead, that he would be ok. And he was. Scraped up? Oh yes. Many bandaids and kisses were applied. But he would fully recover.
In his book Safe House, author Joshua Straub makes the case that emotional safety is the key to raising kids who live, love and lead well. He writes, “Our children's brains are wired for relationships that provide an emotional safe haven when they are stressed (that is, hungry, angry, tired, injured, lost, alone, ill, feeling threatened, and so on).” Even in the face of danger, our children need to know that no matter what happens, broken bones or not, there is nothing to fear. They are emotionally safe.
Parents of this generation are called “helicopter parents,” and this isn't meant as a compliment. It's said that we hover and do all we can to protect our children from discomfort, disappointment and dismay. We are right to want to protect them-that's one of our primary responsibilities. But what if in the process of protecting, we are making them fearful? Don't we want to raise children who are brave and strong? This will only happen if we take some risks, and risk-taking means they will fall sometimes.
When they do, what they need to know is that they are emotionally safe. The core part of who they are is untouched by physical distress. They can take risks-they can step out and try new things, and falling is not the end of the world. Falling and failure doesn't spell death-it is something we recover from.
Bobby looked into my face for reassurance that everything was ok. Whenever possible, I want to be there for my kids when they fall. I want them to be able to look into my eyes and see my calm confidence that they can and will stand back up again. That this is not the end of the road. A fall is always an opportunity to learn.
At the heart of Bobby's question were ones that we all ask-children and adults alike. “Am I emotionally safe?” “Am I secure?” “Is everything going to be ok?” When this is what we feel, we can turn to the face of our heavenly Father for reassurance. He will acknowledge the pain involved in the fall, but He will quickly assure us, it is well with our souls. No matter what obstacles we face-regardless of the depth of the disappointment-even when everything seems to be bottoming out-our souls can rest secure. Who we are remains unaltered because of whose we are.
Let's keep our eyes on the face of our Father
What profound truth is found in St. Irenaeus' words: “The glory of God is man fully alive.” This statement is pregnant with hope. Isn't it incredible to think that as we come fully alive, it gives God glory? He so longs to see us flourishing, thriving, truly living, that His own glory is connected to it. His Fatherly heart is so tender towards us.
We are His beloved children, and so when we trudge through life weighed down by negative thoughts, or race through our days with stress as our main fuel, or simply exist because we don't know what more is available to us, God grieves.
When He sent Jesus to offer the ultimate sacrifice to purchase our freedom, He didn't want us to simply replace slavery to sin with slavery to performance. Nor did He intend for us to spend our lives trying to clean ourselves up so we'd be worthy of love. Scripture tells us that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Do you see yourself through that lens? Or are you consumed with thoughts of your inadequacies, limitations, and faults? That mindset train wrecks the heart and stands in the way of experiencing the life that Jesus died to give us.
It makes me think of Moses' words to the Israelites just before he died. He begged and pleaded with these words:
Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life.
Oh…that you would choose life. This is the plea. This is the offer of Christianity. To fully live.
So then…why are so few of God's children really experiencing this?
I don't want to respond to that question with a pat answer. I want to wrestle with it. I want to explore it and spend time delving into why it is that so many of us are just surviving. There is a life of freedom on offer to us, and I want us to experience it in its fullness.
I don't have all the answers, but I have learned that sometimes this means allowing God to let some wounds come to the surface…to acknowledge that they need tending, and that the healing is going to take time. It means saying some hard no's so that we can say yes to the journey towards wholeness.
Sometimes it means believing that God places dreams into the hearts of His children, and He wants us to taste the rush of being used by Him. It's scary to step out of the comfort zone, and messy, and full of imperfections. But ignoring what we were made for means we become sterile, abbreviated versions of who we were created to be.
I know that being fully alive requires hands to hold. We weren't created to walk this journey alone. Sometimes we need the hands to pull us a little higher-to support us while challenging us to stretch and grow. Sometimes we need those hands to hold us back when our pace has become unhealthy. Sometimes we need those hands on our cheeks along with the words “you are never alone.” We need each other.
The whisper of shame will always try to lure us back into covering up our wounds (what would people think if they knew?). It will cause us to be self-conscious of our dreams (who do you think you are?). Shame tells us to stay silent and not reach out for help (you can talk about anything, but not this. If you speak these words, you will be misunderstood. It will be unbearable.)
Jesus wants to restore us to what man once had in the Garden of Eden - nakedness - vulnerability - without shame (Genesis 2:25). Jesus longs to break those chains that tether us to a life of existence instead of a life of abundance.
He does this for us, but it isn't just about us.
Writer Ashley Abramson expresses it well in her Tapestry magazine article, Naked and Unashamed, “God doesn't free us from shame merely for our own comfort, so we can relish in our newfound glory; He restores us to the way things were meant to be, that our confidence in Him and what He's done for us would woo His people back to Him.”
Sometimes has been stirring in my heart for a number of years, and it has everything to do with these musings. I have longed for us (that means you), to gather together in a setting that is relaxed (think jeans and yoga pants). I've dreamed of us having time to rest, laugh, grow, worship and experience the strength and encouragement of our community.
I've longed to delve into the theme of freedom-of what it means to be fully alive- and to explore what holds us back.
And God, in His goodness, has provided the space and time for us to do just that.
We have a year to pray and plan, because something truly special is on the horizon…
Walking with Purpose™ Women's Retreat
April 28-30, 2017
Please mark your calendars and plan to join us. We are throwing the doors wide open in hopes that you will come and bring your sisters, mothers, daughters, friends, neighbors. This women's event is open to all. Because don't we all long to truly live? We were never meant to live grey. We were created to soak in glorious beauty and fullness of life.
Jesus promised us, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5) May we reach out- hands empty, arms outstretched, hearts open-and invite Him in.
As we walk into a new year, I pray that you feel as free as a fresh, unmarked calendar page. I pray that your relationships are healthy, authentic and satisfying. I pray that your connection to God is strong and your faith-based optimism is high. That's what the mountain top feels like, and every so often, it all comes together at the same time.
But perhaps you are heading into 2016 feeling down in the valley. Looking around, you see countless examples of what could be and what should be. The change needed may be related to your personal life. Or perhaps you are feeling a burden beyond that. Do you wrestle with the what should be of your church, your community, your culture, your country?
What is it that frustrates you so deeply that you inwardly leap off the couch when you see it on TV, thinking, “Somebody has got to do something about this?” What gets you in the gut? What fuels your passion? What situation can make you so mad you could just cry?
There's a lot out there that is wrong. Brokenness, injustice, moral decline, serious lack of balance that's destroying our families, churches struggling to remain relevant and obedient, and people increasingly isolated and disengaged. We all encounter this myriad of problems differently, and some things bother one person more than another. That's how God designed us. If we were all equally passionate about the same thing, there'd be a whole lot of good that would never get done.
The thing that is tearing me up inside currently…no, if I'm honest, it's been a lot longer than just recently…is the state of our beloved Church. I see so much goodness, an enormous amount of richness, and the healing and restoration that she offers. And I see apathy, a reluctance to do things differently, self-righteousness, and voices that are so strident and certain they are right that those who need to hear the truth are completely turned off. I get just desperate for the sleeping giant of the Catholic Church to wake up - to not settle for surviving, but to thrive and blaze new trails of renewal and salvation and hope. I sometimes think I just can't take it if I encounter one more Catholic who hasn't had the opportunity to hear the gospel of grace in a way that he or she understands.
It's at this point that my husband sits me down and reminds me that it's not my job to save the Catholic Church. In that spirit, he gave me a hilarious birthday card this year. The front of it said, “Once upon a time, a very special person was born who was destined to change the world.” Although it seemed to be overstating it rather a lot, I was quite touched by the sentiment. Then I opened it and read, “Calm down. It's not you. It's Jesus. I think he'd want you to have a happy birthday, though.”
And my husband's right. Fixing all that's broken inside and outside the Catholic Church is ultimately God's job. Total restoration comes from Him, not us. But we are invited to cooperate in the process. So where do we begin? We find the answer in 2 Chronicles 7:14.
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
There's a lot we can learn from this verse. When God spoke to His children about the need for forgiveness and healing of their land, He wasn't focusing on what the outsiders were doing wrong. He didn't start by saying, “Get out there and tell those sinners to get their act together and get in line.” He began with in-house family talk. His first words were addressed to the ones called by His name.
The very first thing He said we needed was humility. This means we start with ourselves. We pray and seek His face, because it's only when our eyes are on Him that we can see how far off the mark we are. We compare ourselves to others and we can look pretty good. We look in His eyes, and realize that we could be loving and obeying at a whole other level.
He then asks us to turn from our wicked ways. I'll be honest, as I wrestled through this verse, I started looking for a translation that had a little softer way of delivering the message. Wicked is such a strong word. It seemed a little gentler to talk about trying hard but sometimes falling a little bit short. And then it occurred to me. This is the problem. I look at my own sin and justify that it really isn't that bad. Then I look at others, and want God to call a spade a spade and make them change. And I don't think I'm alone in this. Collectively, this behavior does not do us any favors. In fact, it gives the Church a reputation of being hypocritical and judgmental.
But here's the hope. The ball is in our court. There is nothing stopping us from humbling ourselves, praying, seeking God's face, and turning from our wicked ways. No amount of social decline can prevent us from doing what God asks us to do. What did God promise if His people did this? Forgiveness and a healing of their land.
Is this what you want to see? Do you long for a new season of revival, healing and restoration in our Church? We begin with humility and we begin with prayer. To this end, I would like you to join me in seeking God's face from our knees.
Call for Revival 2016 is an opportunity to join together in prayer, asking God to bring revival and healing to our church. On January 29th at 9:30 AM, I am inviting you to a Rosary Conference Call for the intentions addressed in this post. I'll be leading the call and the prayers, and really hope you will lend your voice and your heart as we humbly seek God.
Conference Call #: 641-715-3580
Access code #: 978-013
All are welcome on the line. Together, our prayers can make a difference.