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Above my bed hangs a couple of one hundred-year-old pictures: one of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the other of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I love them. I love that they hung on someone’s wall going back to the early 1900s. I love how they remind me that the Catholic Church spans across the world and throughout history. And I like to look into Jesus and Mary’s eyes as I go about my day—except when I am working out. With four tiny children, a gym membership is an impossibility, so my bedroom is also my gym. Whenever I hit the play button for my forty-minute exercise video, those pictures that I dearly love spark accusations in my mind. When I look at them, I hear: Why aren’t you using this time better? Couldn’t you be reading and studying for ministry? Shouldn’t you be meal planning right now? Yes, I probably should be meal planning. And I immediately feel the desire to hide. It becomes difficult for me to look into the eyes of the portraits even though I am fully aware that the accusations I hear do not come from the real Jesus or Mary that the portraits represent.

And it’s not just my workouts. Sometimes, I have a hard time looking at the tabernacle during Mass; because I am so busy chasing my almost-two-year-old, very few prayerful thoughts enter my mind. When I finally glance at the tabernacle, I shamefully think, Jesus, I am trying. Other times, I find myself wanting to walk into the adoration chapel with sunglasses on so maybe I can pray without being noticed by the Blessed Sacrament. 

Although these moments don’t happen often (well, the workout one does), they happen enough for me to ask myself why. I know that God loves me and even likes me. I know that He is a good Father. I know Scripture tells me that I am chosen and precious in His sight. So why is it that even after learning all of this, I still believe in my heart of hearts that what God really wants is the cleaned-up version of me? After all this time, I act as though God’s love depends on my ever-wavering behavior instead of His steadfast goodness. 

Do you ever feel this way? Maybe you know the Truth about God’s love and have experienced His love and His mercy again and again. Perhaps you recite Bible verses and battle the lies in your mind with the truth of Scripture, but in the everyday hustle, the remnants of those lies persist. They say, “God will love you more when you can get a grip at work, or stop nagging your children, or finally kick that sin, or become better organized, or get married, or have a better attitude about your tragic situation, or (insert struggle here).” 

Why do you think those lies get at you? Why do you think you still have a lingering desire to hide from the God who loves you so much? I have done some searching in my own heart and have found an answer that might help you as well. 

I realized that when reading the Bible’s descriptions of saintly living, I read them as though one day, if I try hard enough, I will finally possess what it takes to be holy. I don’t approach Scripture from the perspective that God has already given me the qualities of a saint simply by making me in His image. I fail to take joy in the fact that God sees me as good and is using that goodness to lead me further down the path of holiness. Instead, I think He sees me only as a project—not His daughter. This is a lie. 

Recently, I finished watching season 2 of The Chosen, a series about the life of Jesus. If you haven’t taken the time to watch it, I highly recommend it. The finale of season 2 depicts Jesus preparing to give the “Sermon on the Mount” to a crowd of thousands. Throughout the episode, Jesus practices his sermon with Matthew, who eventually tells Jesus that He needs a better intro (keep in mind, this is a fictional portrayal of a real-life event). Jesus spends all night in prayer with the Father to complete the introduction to His sermon. In the morning, Jesus approaches Matthew and recites what we know as the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-11). But as He does it, He thinks of each one of His disciples.[1]

When He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” He thinks of Nathaniel. 

When He says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” He thinks of Peter and Andrew. 

When He says, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth,” He thinks of Thaddeus and James. 

When He says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled,” He thinks of James and John. 

When He says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy,” He thinks of Mary, His mother. 

When He says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God,” He thinks of Thomas. 

When He says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God,” He thinks about Phillip. 

When He says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” He thinks of John the Baptist.

And when He says, “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you,” He looks lovingly at Matthew, who is writing down the sermon, unaware of the Master’s loving glance.

At this moment in the episode, I realized that when Jesus spoke about what it means to be holy, He did not speak about impersonal attributes in imaginary people. He spoke about what He already saw in those closest to Him as they unknowingly reflected God’s goodness in their everyday life. He was already pleased with His disciples. Despite their failings, they were already on their way to sainthood. 

Does this not reveal God’s heart toward us? Those slight accusations that you and I hear are not from Him. When we allow them to stew within us, they keep us from recognizing just how much goodness is already within us. They keep us stuck—continually hiding from God who sees everything and still takes deep delight in who we are. 

So the next time you are reading about how to live a holy life, I challenge you to read it as though God is looking directly at you and calling out what He already sees in you. Can you be better? Sure. But God has already placed Himself within you. Own it. Throw away any desire, however small, you have to hide from God, and let Him love you with abandon. Despite yourself, you are a delight to him, and that, dear friend, is enough. 

[1] The Chosen, Season 2, excerpt from Episode 8, “The Beatitudes,” Youtube, 3:27, uploaded July 13, 2021, https://youtu.be/02hbIq7rFDs.

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.
Deuteronomy 30:19

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…

Living Free

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.

Blessings,
Lisa

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