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There’s a space between words being spoken by one mouth, and those same words being received by another heart. En-route, those words often get misunderstood. This is where imaginations run wild and minds try very hard to fill in the blanks and understand. And all too often, the wrong conclusions are reached. Hurt results, and hearts protectively pull back.

And this is the devil’s favorite playground.

He loves nothing more than to entertain us here. But he’s stealth, and we rarely recognize his presence.

God’s been teaching me a lot lately about just how destructive it is for me to hang out in this place. I quickly get confused and lose perspective. I filter all that was said or implied through my cloudy lens of past experiences and assumptions. I’m apt to attribute motive without all the facts. I assume the worst, and often draw conclusions that are far from the truth. And all the while, the devil claps his hands, delighted to see me watering these seeds of discord with my mental rehashing of all that was said. He knows that the more sad and discouraged I start to feel, the less likely I’ll be to get out in the spiritual battlefield and focus on what really matters.

What is at stake? A lot. There is a hurting world out there that is just desperate for the women of our generation to band together and do something about it. We often feel defeated as we focus on the culture or pending legislation or the mountain of problems. We see these things as the obstacles that are getting in the way of needed change. But I believe the real problem, the thing that really limits the healing movement of God, is the things within us that we ignore and justify. It’s gossip. Lack of forgiveness. Bitterness. Pride. Anger. These are the things that divide us. They weaken us and cause us to quit. They block the flow of the Holy Spirit within us.

This is a big enough deal that it’s one of the last things that Jesus focused on before He walked to the Garden of Gethsemane to face the cross. He prayed, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through [the disciples’] message, that all of them [He meant us] may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you,” (John 17:20-21). He prayed for our unity. I’m thinking this is because it’s a big deal to Him. He sees what division will cost us, and begs us to “not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:27). Not even an inch.

Are you nursing a hurt? Are you rehashing someone’s words that have stabbed your heart? And has it caused you to pull back? Could it be that the devil has you exactly where he wants you because he is afraid of the good you might do if you released the hurt and forgave?

This is how St. Ignatius described the way the devil (the evil spirit) loves to derail people who are pursuing God: “It is proper to the evil spirit to bite, sadden, and place obstacles, disquieting with false reasons, so that the person may not go forward.”

He wants to hold you back. He wants you to be disquieted with false reasons. He bites you in a way that unsettles your heart. He saddens you as you dwell on your hurts. He wants you down for the count and out of his way.

I know this devil talk can seem a little extreme. But the battlefield is real, and the stakes are high. When we pull back and freeze our hearts, a wedge isn’t just driven between two persons. It’s lodged in the middle of the body of Christ. That division repels the very people who most need to see the God of love, the God who restores, the God who heals.

I want to challenge you to make a different choice when the hurt rushes in. Instead of protectively pulling back, draw close. Lean in to the relationship. Take a step towards the one who hurt you. Even though it’s hard, keep communicating and seek to understand. Distance demonizes.

Could it be that you have misunderstood? Is it possible that the other person is wounded, too? Might it be that things look different from his or her perspective? What would it be like if all our inner wounds were displayed on our bodies? Might we deal with one another a little more gently? Could we offer kindness to someone who we thought didn’t deserve it?

There are certainly times when we are wise to pull back. I am certainly not suggesting that anyone remain in an abusive situation. But even when we need physical distance in order to be safe and healthy, we still can forgive.

God asks us to fix our eyes on the cross, and remember how Jesus responded to those who hurt Him. “Father, forgive them,” He said, “for they do not know what they are doing.”

May we lean on God, letting His kindness and mercy infuse our hearts. May we let go of the hurts, and place them in Jesus’ nail-scarred hands. May God give us grace-healed eyes so we can see things from another’s perspective. It isn’t easy to live this way, but His grace will give us all we need to walk in His steps. May we, as sisters in Christ, be knit so close together that there is no room for the enemy to get in and cause God to be dishonored.

With love,
Lisa

Walking with Purpose

This post originally appeared on the WWP blog on Feb. 1, 2014. We are publishing it again for all of our new readers who have joined us over the past six years!

Are you worried about how everyone is going to get along this Christmas? Is there a pit in your stomach because you are dreading the interpersonal dynamics that are about to engulf your family? Does it seem like your family members revert back to childhood roles and behaviors when they get together? Is the cloistered life sounding pretty good to you right now? If this is how you are feeling, you are not alone.

Your family is a mess? Jesus’ family was dysfunctional, too. Just take a look at His family tree. Matthew 1:1-16 lays out His genealogy, and in it we find a liar, a cheat, a woman who slept with her father-in-law, a prostitute, a refugee, an adulterer, and a murderer. I’m not making this up. It’s all in there. These are some messed up people, my friends. God’s Word is meant for flawed families with real baggage and problems.

Could it be that God chose this particular family line for Jesus in order to teach us how He can redeem even the most broken families? What was amazing about the Holy Family is that they allowed God to write a new narrative with their lives, despite what had happened before. Instead of continuing in the same old patterns, they chose to sacrificially love in the hard places. They didn’t shrink back when love became costly. They leaned in. As a result, the pain and wounds weren’t transmitted—they were redeemed.

It’s been said that friends are the family you choose. In the words of Beth Moore:

We form most friendships out of personal preferences, but we’re not automatically the better for it…Many of us have distanced ourselves from extended family because we’ve replaced them with people we prefer. Though some elements of the transition are justified and godly, others are selfish. Let’s face it. Family is more trouble than friendship, and the fear that we might share similarities with some of our members also carries an indictment too strong to face on a regular basis. For one thing, we can drop friends more easily when the relationship becomes inconvenient. Here’s the rub and maybe the help: God chose our family even if we didn’t. Even the challenges they pose can be effective motivation to seek His throne, His help, and His healing (AKA deal with our stuff). [1]

Jesus has factored the dysfunction of your family into His plan for your good. All the garbage, the aggravating habits, the opposing political views, the childhood hurts, the unkind words, the unspoken judgments, the laziness of one and the workaholic nature of the other, the mental illness (yes, even that)… God can use all of it to benefit you and yours. It’s through the rub of our closest relationships that God chisels our hearts to better resemble His.

While friendships we can choose and discard at will may be easier, easy does not always equal good. Very often, good = hard. Nowhere is this truer than with families.

What might change if in addition to issuing gifts to our family this Christmas, we issued a challenge? What if we challenged one another to press in when we want to disengage from each other? What if we challenged each other to stay and love in the hard places, to have honest conversations, to face our demons, and to hold each other during the process? What if we committed to each other that home would be a safe place to let it all unravel… to follow the thread of tears and hurts… inviting the Lord to heal and redeem us each step of the way?

I know this isn’t easy and that most of us would rather numb out or distance ourselves from the dysfunction. But perhaps a better choice would be to encourage each other to go to counseling—calling out any shame under the surface and firmly rejecting it. Maybe things would change if instead of shutting down or being distracted, we said, “Tell me more.” What watershed moment might come if we had the courage to ask for or offer forgiveness?

There is no perfect family here on earth. We all have flaws galore, no matter how well we can pull it together when the neighbors come by. Jesus doesn’t ask us to come to Him when we’re cleaned up. He asks us to invite Him into the mess. Isn’t this the message of the manger? That’s where He first showed up, to the manure, animals, smells, and discomfort. Invite Him into your home and family this Christmas. I promise you—He will come.

Praying for you and yours,

Lisa

[1] Beth Moore, Stepping Up: a Journey Through the Psalms of Ascent (Nashville, TN: Lifeway Publishing, 2007), 155.

Walking with Purpose

Thanksgiving can be the best of times or the worst of times. As was said on the iconic 90’s sitcom, Friends, “It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a little emotional scarring.” Hopefully that won’t be your experience, but when you throw family together with issues simmering under the surface, add a little pressure around what is expected to be a fabulous meal, and things can get a little stressful.

So what can we do to increase the odds that the day will be a good one? In Colossians 3:12-17, St. Paul gives us 4 steps that can start us off on the right track. 

1. Wear the right outfit.

No, I’m not talking about making sure we’re wearing yoga pants so that we can eat whatever we want. I’m talking about the attitudes we need to take off and the ones we need to put on in order to welcome the people that God has placed in our lives on this particular day. In the words of St. Paul, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:12-14).

Instead of just stuffing our emotions and doing our best to fake fine, let’s take a moment this week to get alone with God and journal about any hurts we are carrying to the Thanksgiving table. Perhaps there will come a time when we’d benefit from a face-to-face conversation with the person who hurt us, but we don’t need to wait until that opportunity to get rid of an unforgiving, bitter attitude.

Begin this time with the Lord by remembering who you are. Choose to define yourself as God’s beloved daughter. Look at your good qualities. Look at all the gifts you’ve been given. Allow your heart to be filled, not with self-pity but with gratitude. What will result? Freedom. This will clear a path for God’s love to transform and heal you. Because of His healing touch, you’ll be free to offer forgiveness to others.

It is only as our hearts are filled with gratitude that we’re able to forgive. This truth is addressed in the book From Anger to Intimacy: How Forgiveness can Transform Your Marriage: 

No matter what has happened, you are invited to forgive just as God has wholly and fully forgiven you.  Where do you find that kind of forgiveness? Through the person of Jesus Christ. Matthew 10:8 says, “Freely you have received, freely give”...If you are not a forgiving person, if you have unresolved anger, bitterness or resentment in your heart- and you do nothing to get rid of it, then you have not yet experienced or realized the forgiveness you have received.¹

Do we truly appreciate the forgiveness that Christ purchased for us? Or have we become callous to its reality? Do we take God’s forgiveness for granted? 

2. Facilitate life-giving conversation

Paul goes on to encourage us to “let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15). One way to avoid tension filled conversation is taking control of what’s being discussed. Our daughter Charlotte’s favorite thing is to put conversation cards by each person’s plate and then discuss them over dinner. You could make up your own questions or use some of these suggestions to direct conversation toward a deeper and more positive sharing of hearts, hopefully avoiding topics that lead to sharp and unkind words:

“Describe your perfect weekend.”
 “If you were going to give me a tour of the town you grew up in, where would you take me first?”
“What is bringing you joy right now?”
“What’s saving your life right now?”
“What’s on your bucket list?”

3. Get your heart in the right place.

There is nothing that changes my attitude like music. This is why I really pay attention to what I listen to. I almost always listen to praise and worship music—not because I am so holy, but because without it, I am so weak and prone to complaining. I encourage you to pay attention to which lyrics are filling your mind and how they are altering your mood. If you want to follow St. Paul’s advice, then you’ll “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16). 

To help you get your heart in the right place, check out our Thanksgiving Spotify playlist

4. Focus on the audience of One.

It doesn’t take much for us to feel sorry for ourselves because of how much work is expected of us over the holidays. Listening to good music can do a lot to keep our hearts in the right places, but we might need a little mind reset, too. St. Paul challenges us to keep our eyes on the One we are serving. Sure, some of the people at your table might not be expressing the gratitude to you that they should, and they may not be helping you in the way that you wish they would. If this is your situation, instead of turning inward and growing bitter, imagine Jesus sitting at your table. Prepare the meal for Him. “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).

Praying for you this Thanksgiving, and thanking God for you!
Lisa

Walking with Purpose

¹ Dr. Gary Smalley and Ted Cunningham, From Anger to Intimacy: How Forgiveness can Transform Your Marriage (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2009), 137-138.

In November, I enjoyed a girls' weekend away with friends from grammar school and high school. Yes, we sat around drinking wine in our PJs, swapping stories about our families. But something else was discussed in far greater detail than whose husband snored the loudest, and it dominated the weekend's chatter, and it was all about getting our kids into college.

My oldest child (Jack) is just 14, but I absorbed every word of this complex subject, fascinated by the lengths to which many parents would go to get their son or daughter into a “good” college.

Honestly? Some of what I learned was just downright crazy, but before I knew it, I had jumped right on that college crazy train.

It became my mission in life to get Jack's grades up, which you should know is about as easy as launching myself into space, since Jack is by no means a scholar and he Just. Doesn't. Care. About. School.

I should qualify that by saying Jack does just fine in the subjects he enjoys (theology and English), but he doesn't give a hoot about his other classes.

And the more I'd push Jack to pay attention in class, and focus on homework, and study for tests, the more frustrated I'd get, because my pushing wasn't paying off (I may have even completed a number of ninth-grade Biology assignments, because we don't need any more homework zeros now, do we?).

In between all the pushing, I allowed myself brief moments of daydreaming about the college sticker on my future car; the sticker from the prestigious university attended by Future Jack. Uppercase block letters in the center of the rear window. That sticker had become my Holy Grail.

My husband was not riding the college crazy train with me. He wasn't having any of the pushing, helping or college-daydreaming. To punish Jack for not trying hard enough in school or to let him fail were the two courses of action my husband would consider.

What, seriously, should a parent do with a kid like Jack? Punish? Accept bad behavior? Pray for divine intervention?

Last Fall I joined an Opening Your Heart Bible study group. Opening Your Heart is the Walking with Purpose foundational Bible study, and often as I progress through the lessons, answers to questions like these emerge from the pages, to my great joy, and relief.

A few weeks ago, my small group was reviewing Opening Your Heart Lesson 8, “What is Grace and What Difference Does it Make?” I'll admit that I was a little fuzzy on this topic going in. How grace worked exactly, and the role it had in our lives was hard for me to grasp as a Catholic newbie. But Lesson 8 taught me two things:

  1. “Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives to respond to His call to become children of God...” (1)
  2. “He offers us His grace, and asks us to offer it to others in turn.” (2)

Takeaway #1: I'm pretty sure that me writing Jack's biology labs isn't the “free and undeserved help” we're talking about here.

Takeaway #2: The grace I need to give to others, to my children? I think it is the infinite love, support and forgiveness that I give, even when they don't deserve it.

Something else from this lesson that jumped out at me:

“The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God.” (3)

Merits - our abilities and achievements - are pure grace. I was really happy to come across that Catechism Clip when I did.

The artistic renderings that Jack sketches on his tablet in lieu of listening to a bio lecture? The piano songs he composes instead of finishing his math homework? Art and music are, for Jack, gifts from God that I was completely overlooking in my quest for a high overall GPA and a college bumper sticker.

Jack's merits don't stop there. Over the years I've watched this son of mine win home-run trophies, sing solos at baseball stadiums and earn cross-country medals as well.

That Opening Your Heart lesson on grace? For me it was a game-changer. It was God saying through the pages, Stop doing ninth-grade biology homework, forgive your son, and watch where his God-given talents take him.

When solutions to my personal problems reveal themselves from the pages of a book, it's a beautiful thing. But this Bible study offers so much more than practical parenting lessons. Opening Your Heart is an incredibly effective guide to lasting transformation of the heart, and to a deeper relationship with Christ. I look forward to meeting Future Jen when she has completed this 22-lesson study 🙂

In Peace,

Jennifer

 

1 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1996

2 Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Opening Your Heart (2010-2018), p. 95

3 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2011

 

As our hearts reel from an acute awareness of the sin in our beloved Church, the call for each one of us to become a saint rings loud and true. I don't know about you, but when I think of the needs that I see in our time, I am honestly overwhelmed. The needs are sometimes more than I can bear to look at. It seems that sexual sin is everywhere- in our church, and if we are honest, in our homes as well. As we try to make sense of it all (wondering if this is even possible), we're also aware of the fact that we live at a time when calling certain sexual acts “sin” causes doors to close, labels of “close-minded” to be given, and efforts to evangelize to be blocked. Sides are taken, and even at a time when we all agree that what has occurred is heinous and repugnant, we are slaughtering each other from within because of our differing opinions regarding how the Church should proceed.

I weep over this Church that I have come to love so deeply. Having been a hard sell…my conversion to Catholicism didn't come easily or without an interior fight…I now feel shaken. I think of Peter walking on the water, but then looking at the waves and sinking. For me, the waves are hopelessness (a feeling that things will never change), powerlessness (a sense that nothing I do can make any difference), and fear (worry and anxiety that it all is going to get worse).

This has caused me to ponder Father John Riccardo's quote, “Saints respond to the needs that they see in their time.”(1) I do not believe that focusing on needs is the same thing as focusing on the waves. The waves threaten to take me under. The needs focus me and motivate me to rise and take my place for such a time as this. They challenge me to engage culture, not just critique it.

What are the primary needs I perceive in the Church today? They will likely be different than the needs you see (that is exactly why we need the entire body of Christ to be engaged and active), but this is what is pressing on my heart:

1) A need for the Church as a whole and us as individuals to be honest and bring sexual sin into the light, regardless of the consequences.

2) A need for cleansing and healing from that sin.

3) A need for people to come to know Jesus personally in a way that transforms everything in their lives.

4) A need for tools so that people can be led into a process of discipleship- a clear plan for growing in holiness.

5) A need for mentors and companions on this faith journey for accountability and comfort.

6) A need for tools so that adults can pass the faith on to the next generation.

I care deeply about all of these things. But I feel God is asking me to fix my eyes on what Jesus is asking me to do about #3, 4, 5, and 6. This is the call He has placed on my life. This is the heart of the Walking with Purpose mission. Choosing to throw my energy, heart and time into these endeavors does not mean that I do not care about the scandals currently facing the church. It does mean that I am not going to shirk my duties, shift my focus, or give in to despair, no matter how disturbed I feel. I commit to stepping into the battlefield, going straight to the area where God has called me to fight, and remaining there.

God looks at each of His children as individuals. In the words of Father Jacques Phillipe, “For God, each person is absolutely unique. Holiness is not the realization of a given model of perfection that is identical for everyone.”(2) His calling and purpose for each person is also distinctive and hand-picked by Him. We all need to do the work of discerning what God is asking of each one of us, and our journeys will look different (this is one of the reasons why comparison is such a pointless activity) .

But many principles and teachings are true for us all. One of those truths is this:

Imbalanced people do not make effective apostles.

It was in that spirit that I wrote the Bible study, Keeping in Balance. Covering topics like surrender, self-discipline, priorities, contentment, rest, service and worship, it draws attention to areas of our lives that need to come under the control of the Holy Spirit. We need to stop settling for making comments and arguing on social media, and instead commit to genuine action, inner transformation and restoration. That's the path to sainthood.

The Bible study concludes with lessons on how to engage culture- how to bring restoration right where we are. Within the pages of Keeping in Balance, we are challenged to pursue deep relationships, live with purpose and meaning, commit to serving others, and strive to be faithful to God in all areas of our lives. If we will do this, we will collectively paint a picture of what each soul longs for and provide hope to our fractured, aching world.

Are you ready to be better equipped to help restore the brokenness within and around you? Is it time for you to dive deeper into these topics?

Shop the WWP online store and let God's Word instruct and strengthen you on the journey.

In surrender to the Lord, but never status quo-

Lisa

1 John Riccardo, Heaven Starts Now: Becoming a Saint Day by Day (Frederick, MD: The Word Among Us, 2016), 10.
2 Jacques Phillipe, In the School of the Holy Spirit (New York: Scepter Publishing, 2007), 18.

Dear friend,

We live in a world where information, expectations and needs come at us like a tennis ball machine set on turbo speed. Women tend to be expert multi-taskers, and we can keep a lot of balls going at the same time. But it's costing us. Never have we been more addicted, exhausted, numb and depressed. The more we hustle, the longer the list gets. Too many of us feel like we are running down a road that leads to nowhere, and we are desperate to find another path. This can be as true during summer vacation as it is during the Christmas season. 

Many of us are trying to figure out how we got here. We think, “Maybe the problem is my weight. If I just lose those unwanted pounds, my life will feel different. Or maybe it's my marriage. If my husband would just change, everything would feel better.” Some of us look to the gym to solve our feelings of lethargy and flabbiness. Or we go shopping. Or we keep accumulating accomplishments in areas that matter to us. But deep soul rest and serenity seem just out of reach.

Could it be that we are looking for peace in all the wrong places?

In this two-part blog series, I'm going to look at 4 ways we can get off the treadmill, quit hustling, and find peace. We'll cover the 1st way in this post, and the other 3 in the next.

If you want to quit hustling and find peace…

Stop Trying to Prove Your Worth.

In an interview with Vogue magazine, Madonna said the following, “My drive in life comes from a fear of being mediocre. That is always pushing me. I push past one spell of it and discover myself as a special human being but then I feel I am still mediocre and uninteresting unless I do something else. Because even though I have become somebody, I still have to prove that I am somebody. My struggle has never ended and I guess it never will.”

However you may feel about Madonna, you've got to hand it to her for her authenticity. In her desire to measure up, to be somebody, she pushes and measures herself continually. And many of us are doing the same thing.  We wake up in the morning determined to count, to be considered enough, to stand out or at least fit in. Just because you don't drive yourself or hustle for worth doesn't mean this isn't an area of struggle. Many of us appear unconcerned about people's approval and outward achievements, but inwardly are full of self-doubt. The “I don't care” attitude can actually cover up a heart that desperately wants to matter and be seen, but is afraid to even try.

So many of us head into each day, hoping that our performance will earn us the verdict: GOOD ENOUGH. Every morning we are, in essence, getting ready for the trial we think we're going to face. In this tribunal, we have to prove that we are enough- young enough, smart enough, pretty enough, successful enough, holy enough, thin enough. Some days we feel we nail it. Other days we don't. A new day dawns, and the proving just starts all over again. We never quite get to that place where we can say, done. The result of this yo-yo life? Insecurity and exhaustion.

But a game-changing event took place over 2000 years ago, and it changed everything about this tribunal. When we forget this, when we relegate this fact to a part of our lives just reserved for Sunday, we miss out on the peace we are promised. We are looking for peace in all the wrong places. 

What happened when Jesus died on the cross all those years ago? He entered the courtroom on our behalf. He stood trial for all our sins and shortcomings. When the guilty verdict came in for what we have done, Jesus took the punishment in our place.  What did He say on the cross just before He died? It is finished.

So when we choose to go into the courtroom each morning, ready to be on trial for our worthiness, God waits for us to turn and notice that He is there, with something to say to us. Sometimes we rush by Him. We're so busy with so much to prove. But when we take the time to pause, when we turn our face to His, He tells us, “You don't have to go in there. The trial is over. The punishment has already been meted out and was paid for. You are free to go and live differently.”

There is nothing to prove when we know that we are forgiven.

There is nothing to prove when we know that we are unconditionally loved.

There is nothing to prove when we know that we are accepted by God, not because of anything we have done, but because of what Jesus has done.

We read of this in Titus 3:5, “he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy.”

 It's already been decided. The jury is in. You have been declared ENOUGH, not because of any righteous things you have done, but because of Jesus and what He did. Lean into  this truth and exhale. There is nothing you can do to make God love you more, or make Him love you less. You are worth everything to Him and are utterly adored.

Praying you will experience His peace that surpasses all understanding-

Lisa

Lisa Brenninkmeyer
Founder and Chief Purpose Officer
Walking with Purpose

Note: If still you are looking for peace in all the wrong places and you're ready to quit hustling, read part 2 here.

“There are those that speak a stabbing sword, but the tongue of the wise heals.” Proverbs 12:18

There's a space between words being spoken by one mouth, and those same words being received by another heart. En-route, those words often get misunderstood. This is where imaginations run wild and minds try very hard to fill in the blanks and understand. And all too often, the wrong conclusions are reached. Hurt results, and hearts protectively pull back.

And this is the devil's favorite playground.

He loves nothing more than to entertain us here. But he's stealth, and we rarely recognize his presence.

God's been teaching me a lot lately about just how destructive it is for me to hang out in this place. I quickly get confused and lose perspective. I filter all that was said or implied through my cloudy lens of past experiences and assumptions. I'm apt to attribute motive without all the facts. I assume the worst, and often draw conclusions that are far from the truth. And all the while, the devil claps his hands, delighted to see me watering these seeds of discord with my mental rehashing of all that was said. He knows that the more sad and discouraged I start to feel, the less likely I'll be to get out in the spiritual battlefield and focus on what really matters.

What is at stake? A lot. There is a hurting world out there that is just desperate for the women of our generation to band together and do something about it. We often feel defeated as we focus on the culture or pending legislation or the mountain of problems. We see these things as the obstacles that are getting in the way of needed change. But I believe the real problem, the thing that really limits the healing movement of God, is the things within us that we ignore and justify. It's gossip. Lack of forgiveness. Bitterness. Pride. Anger. These are the things that divide us. They weaken us and cause us to quit. They block the flow of the Holy Spirit within us.

This is a big enough deal that it's one of the last things that Jesus focused on before He walked to the Garden of Gethsemane to face the cross. He prayed, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through [the disciples'] message, that all of them [He meant us] may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you,” (John 17:20-21). He prayed for our unity. I'm thinking this is because it's a big deal to Him. He sees what division will cost us, and begs us to “not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:27). Not even an inch.

Are you nursing a hurt? Are you rehashing someone's words that have stabbed your heart? And has it caused you to pull back? Could it be that the devil has you exactly where he wants you because he is afraid of the good you might do if you released the hurt and forgave?

This is how St. Ignatius described the way the devil (the evil spirit) loves to derail people who are pursuing God: “It is proper to the evil spirit to bite, sadden, and place obstacles, disquieting with false reasons, so that the person may not go forward.”

He wants to hold you back. He wants you to be disquieted with false reasons. He bites you in a way that unsettles your heart. He saddens you as you dwell on your hurts. He wants you down for the count and out of his way.

I know this devil talk can seem a little extreme. But the battlefield is real, and the stakes are high. When we pull back and freeze our hearts, a wedge isn't just driven between two persons. It's lodged in the middle of the body of Christ. That division repels the very people who most need to see the God of love, the God who restores, the God who heals.

I want to challenge you to make a different choice when the hurt rushes in. Instead of protectively pulling back, draw close. Lean in to the relationship. Take a step towards the one who hurt you. Even though it's hard, keep communicating and seek to understand. Distance demonizes.

Could it be that you have misunderstood? Is it possible that the other person is wounded, too? Might it be that things look different from his or her perspective? What would it be like if all our inner wounds were displayed on our bodies? Might we deal with one another a little more gently? Could we offer kindness to someone who we thought didn't deserve it?

There are certainly times when we are wise to pull back. I am certainly not suggesting that anyone remain in an abusive situation. But even when we need physical distance in order to be safe and healthy, we still can forgive.

God asks us to fix our eyes on the cross, and remember how Jesus responded to those who hurt Him. “Father, forgive them,” He said, “for they do not know what they are doing.”

May we lean on God, letting His kindness and mercy infuse our hearts. May we let go of the hurts, and place them in Jesus' nail-scarred hands. May God give us grace-healed eyes so we can see things from another's perspective. It isn't easy to live this way, but His grace will give us all we need to walk in His steps. May we, as sisters in Christ, be knit so close together that there is no room for the enemy to get in and cause God to be dishonored.

With love,
Lisa

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