What does it mean to live the good life? How can I be happy? What choices will get me there? How we answer these questions has everything to do with the voices we choose to listen to. A life is formed through many small, seemingly insignificant decisions. Bit by bit, we become the result of choices that we all too often make without much reflection.
As summer ends, many of us are feeling that our schedules have heated up. We're jumping back in to life with varied degrees of readiness and are determined to start well. Our focus turns to our calendars, and it's tempting to assume that as long as we are checking off everything on the agenda, we're nailing it. But how are our hearts doing in the midst of the increase in activity? Are we riding the rollercoaster of appointments and check-lists without making sure our minds and hearts are in the right place?
How our day unfolds and feels has less to do with our circumstances and activities than our mindset. While we can't control which events we'll encounter, we can always decide what our attitude will be. Will we filter everything that happens through a lens of gratitude? Will we be kind to ourselves by seeing ourselves through God's eyes? Will we look at suffering as something that always has purpose?
More and more, I am convinced that getting our attitude in the right place has everything to do with how we start each day.
St. Josemaria Escriva coined a phrase that I think is so compelling: the heroic minute. He writes,
The heroic minute. It is the time fixed for getting up. Without hesitation; a supernatural reflection and…up! The heroic minute: here you have a mortification that strengthens your will and does no harm to your body. If, with God's help, you conquer yourself, you will be well ahead for the rest of the day. It's so discouraging to find oneself beaten at the first skirmish.¹
I realize that reading the word mortification probably makes you want to run for the hills. Who wants to start the day with something that sounds unpleasant? But stay with me for a minute. How do you feel when you get up and are behind the eight ball before things have even begun? Your first movements are rushed, requests come at you and require your attention, and all you can think is that you have got to clear your head and get some coffee. It's starting the day reacting instead of responding. It's feeling under siege and not knowing exactly why. It's also entirely avoidable.
Giving God the first minutes of your day will pay dividends later. I promise you He will multiply your time. You'll get more done and have a peaceful heart while doing it.
But it's not just a matter of hauling your body out of bed. Resetting your mind is the critical step if you want your day to be the best it possibly can. Which begs the questions:
Which mindset will best equip me to face the day with inner strength and gratitude?
How do I gain that mindset?
St. Paul talks about this in Romans 12:2, “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” We renew our minds by looking at things from God's perspective. This is something we need to do every day. Otherwise our thoughts and emotions will be in the driver's seat, and the ride will be anything but smooth. The best mindset is God's, and we gain it by listening to Him. While few people hear His audible voice, we all can hear His voice speaking through Scripture.
As you head into this new season, I pray that you will make Scripture reading a high priority in your life. Doing this in the context of authentic community makes it even more transformative. The Walking with Purpose Bible studies are formatted to make it easy to read the Bible each day. Instead of opening up to a random verse, you're guided to relevant passages and questions for reflection that help you apply what you've read. The readings give your mind something to chew on for the day. If you actually apply what you read, you will make significant progress in the spiritual life. What I've written relates to the problems, heartaches, and searching that I've experienced over the years. As I've traveled and spoken to thousands of women, I've had the privilege of listening to them unburdening their hearts. I've found that our struggles are universal. We are not alone. My writing aims to touch the heart, strengthen the will, and enlighten the mind. The goal is transformation- that what we read would impact how we live.
But what if you can't start your day this way? No worries. Just look for the first pocket of quiet in your schedule. It always comes, but we usually don't notice because we've fill it with mindless scrolling through our social media feeds or checking our email. What might change if instead of grabbing your phone, you did a short Bible study? It'll just take fifteen minutes, but the impact of that choice will be felt throughout the day.
Much of what I've written speaks of God's unconditional love for you, and everything I've written should be filtered through that perspective. When God asks us to get moving, or change a bad habit, or do something that feels out of our comfort zone, it is always because He wants what is best for us. He is not a cosmic kill joy. He is a good Father who wants His children to flourish.
May what you read travel from your mind to your heart, going beyond information to transformation. May you meet Jesus in the pages of His Word, and may your trust in Him grow. “Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and for ever. Amen,” (Jude 24-25).
With you on the journey,
¹ St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way (NY: Doubleday, 1982), 33.
“Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” James 1:17
The landscape of our mind will determine the quality of our day. If our mindset is one of gratitude, contentment will follow. In the words of Elisabeth Elliot, “It is always possible to be thankful for what is given rather than resentful over what is withheld. One attitude or the other becomes a way of life.” This requires a refusal to fall into the pit of self-pity.
Self-pity causes our focus to turn inwards, and things get very dark, very quickly. When we allow a litany of our woes to run through our minds, self-defeating thoughts begin to build up and cloud our ability to see anything good. Lies like “things will never change” start to make sense, and we head down the path to despair.
The antidote is cultivating an attitude of gratitude. Even the most miserable circumstances contain an opportunity for growth. We can thank God for this. I have found that this is critical when I feel stuck in a situation I hate. Instead of asking God, “Why is this happening to me?” I ask Him, “What are you trying to teach me?”
I have begun asking God this question in the midst of chaos, and then telling Him that I want to learn every single bit of the lesson this time around so that I don't have to return to the same set of miserable circumstances to try to learn better later. This is one of the reasons why giving in to escapisms gets in the way of our maturity, and does not ultimately result in happiness.
If those hard circumstances return, it's tempting to assume that the original lesson must never have been learned and to become discouraged as a result. But this isn't necessarily the case. If you did learn the lesson- if the trial resulted in spiritual growth and maturity- then coming up against those same circumstances again means that God is doing a deeper healing. It's the peeling of an onion; the growth is going to be more profound.
Every good and perfect gift in your life comes from God. That gift may come in packaging that you don't like, but if you are willing to open it up anyway, the lessons you will learn will be life-changing. It will be the difference maker between you becoming an immature and superficial person or a person of depth, wisdom and maturity.
What are you trying to teach me right now? Help me to learn everything you have for me in my current circumstances. Amen.
“Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord?” 1 Samuel 15:19
If we can't wait to tell our girlfriends about our new favorite Netflix series, you can be sure that when we taste the difference that Jesus makes in our lives, we'll want other people to experience the same. Nowhere is that desire more intense than when mothers want to pass their faith to their children. I'm often asked about good resources for this, and what to do about older kids who have stopped coming to us for advice and who probably aren't listening to us much at all. It would be so simple if the solution was found in a book or a program that I could recommend. But that's not what I've seen to be the most effective. Here's what I think is the total game changer: MAMAS WHO ARE RADICALLY OBEDIENT TO GOD.
In 1 Samuel, we find Saul, a man who stood head and shoulders above all the Israelites. God chose him as Israel's first king, but even with all his accolades, good looks, brawn, and leadership opportunities, Saul had self-esteem issues. We know this from the words of the prophet Samuel, Israel's spiritual leader. In I Sam. 15, Samuel was calling Saul out for not obeying the Lord. Saul was supposed to wait for Samuel to come and offer a sacrifice before a battle, but fear crept in, patience wore thin, and Saul took matters into his own hands and did it himself.
The first words out of Samuel's mouth when he saw Saul was this: “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel.” (1 Sam. 15:17) He then went on to ask Saul why he didn't obey the voice of the Lord after being given clear instructions.
Samuel was basically saying, “Saul, even though you don't think you are adequate or amount to much, God has chosen you for a really important task. He anointed you to LEAD. He told you to obey. So what were you thinking?!”
Saul responded by saying, “I have obeyed the Lord. I went on the mission he sent me on. These are all the things I did do. Why the obsessive attention to minute details? I obeyed in the big things. Isn't that good enough?”
And Samuel's answer brought down the hammer; “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22) Then the news was delivered that God had rejected Saul as king. Obedience didn't just matter in the big stuff. God was concerned with the details.
So back to our kids and our desire to pass our faith to them. There are great materials and programs out there, and we are wise to expose our kids to them. But there is nothing that will have greater effect on our children than our own radical obedience- not just in the big things, but in the little day-to-day decisions that most people in our lives don't see but our children do.
Romans 12:1 says that we are to “present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” This is a picture of us offering everything we have on an altar to God. It's a declaration that we are willing to take our hands off our lives and let God be utterly in charge. It's giving Him the right to call the shots on the big things and the little things. It's committing to a life of prayer where we are in touch with God throughout the day so that we recognize the small ways He's asking us to obey, not just the big and obvious ones. It's committing to radical obedience where we do what He has asked ALL THE WAY, RIGHT AWAY. This is what our kids notice. This is what impacts them deeply.
Our kids are asking the question, “Is this faith thing for real? Does Jesus really make that big a difference?” And they look to our lives more than our words for the answer.
We hear that call to offer our lives as living sacrifices-to obey radically-and all too often we say, “God, I'll obey you if….”.
Make no mistake. Whatever is on the other side of that word “if” is what we want and worship most. That is what we are willing to sacrifice for. And our kids know it. They see it. We all worship something. Whether it's comfort, a career, a relationship, status… there is something that we will give anything to have and hold onto. God asks that it be HIM. He asks that our obedience not be tied to conditions.
The only way we will ever be able to obey Him in this way is if we see Him as infinitely wise and infinitely kind. We need to know Him in order to trust Him. This is why we delve into Scripture- so that we can know Him better. So that we can see evidence of His wisdom in order to trust in His plan for our lives. In order to hear of His kindness so that we remember He is utterly FOR US.
Where is God asking you to obey right now? What choice is in front of you? Who will you worship in this moment? What is holding you back?
I pray that we can follow hard after God in the big and in the small, because what our world needs is women whose trust in God translates into brave and radical obedience. Being up to date on our social media feeds, having perfectly organized homes, nailing it with deliverables at work- all of that feels great. But the simple acts of obedience CHANGE THE WORLD.
*This post first appeared on the WWP website in February 2017.
This post is for all the people out there who are not eating popsicles or frolicking on the beach this summer.
To narrow it further…
It's for you, my friend, you who are in the middle of a storm of circumstances that make you want to run away.
It's for you, my friend, you who want to scream with frustration, but recognize you need to hold it together.
It's for you, my friend, you who are having a hard time reconciling who you know God to be and how He feels to you right now.
It's for you, my friend, you who feel so alone and so certain that no one understands what you are going through.
It's for you, my friend, you who feel it's all up to you, and think you just might go under if you don't get some relief.
God sees you. He sees that despite all that is weighing on you and overwhelming you, you are remaining faithful and are staying put. He doesn't look at this as a paltry effort. In fact, He, more than anyone, knows what this is costing you.
God is holding you. Your circumstances feel crushing. He is underneath you, holding you up. I know you can't see Him, but I promise you, He is there.
Two things in particular make suffering through a crisis especially hard. One is not knowing why we are having to go through this. If we had an answer to the question of why, there is very little we could not endure. But we usually don't know, which means trust and faith are required. They are needed most when they are the hardest to hold on to.
The second thing that makes a crisis especially miserable is the fact that we so often don't know what to do. If we just had clear instructions, even if we didn't want to do what was required, we could at least force ourselves to move forward. But so often, when our lives are in a free fall, we aren't sure what we can grab hold of. We desperately want someone to tell us exactly how to keep going, yet the uniqueness of our situations prevents that from happening.
I don't presume to know what your crisis entails, but I want to share a few truths that have been lifelines to me when my life feels chaotic and my circumstances are knocking the wind out of me. I pray they are of help to you. They don't answer the question of why, but perhaps they give you some steps to take when you aren't sure where to go and the waves keep crashing over you.
1. Do the next right thing.
You have not been given a strategic plan that addresses every possible obstacle. I get that. I know it would be helpful if you had one. God is keeping you very close at the moment, and only shining a light on the next step. So just do one thing at a time. Just keep asking yourself, “What's the next ‘right thing' to do?” No matter how small the task, if we do it for God, it infuses the day with purpose. When we are in the middle of a crisis, it's not a time to tackle big projects or challenges. But we can do small things and infuse them with tremendous love.
As the Blessed Mother said at the wedding at Cana, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5). Do whatever Jesus tells you. The way he does this is by helping us to identify the next right thing that our duty in life requires. We ask the Lord, “What is the next right thing that you would like me to do?” It might be unloading the dishwasher or calling a friend to apologize. The next step is to do that next thing for God's glory, not our own. And this changes everything.
If the next right thing feels insignificant, say to the Lord, “I am going to fold this load of laundry for your glory. I entrust the results to you.” Suddenly, this simple activity has become an opportunity for you to encounter God. He is present there with you, delighting in the fact that you are doing the next right thing with a good attitude.
If the next right thing is something that feels overwhelming, say to the Lord, “I am going to step out and do what feels difficult for your glory. I entrust the results to you.” If it goes well, the glory goes to God. If it doesn't go well, the results of it rest with God. Neither the success nor the failure rests on you.
2. Make no changes.
When we are in a crisis, our desire for relief can cause us to question all sorts of previous decisions. We have thoughts like these:
“Why should I keep praying? It doesn't seem to be making much of a difference.”
“Why did I volunteer to help in that way? Forget it. All I can do is take care of myself.”
“Why am I working this wretched job? I can't take it anymore. I'm quitting.”
“Why did I marry this person? I have got to get out of this. I'm leaving.”
When these are our thoughts, we are playing right into the enemy's trap. He is literally jumping up and down with glee and whispering into our ears, “Do it. Get out of it. Quit. You've had enough.”
Here's my advice (which I actually got from St. Ignatius of Loyola in his Discernment of Spirits): DON'T MAKE ANY CHANGES. Stay steady at the wheel. Just get through this chaotic storm. When things calm down, that's when you can re-evaluate your decisions. But not right now.
3. Amp up your spiritual disciplines.
I know this is the last thing you want to hear, but this is critical. We have to fight back. If we lay down like we're already dead, the enemy will be emboldened and mess with us more. If you do more spiritually (just a little bit more- nothing crazy), he will flee. He is a coward. He is weak, and a defeated foe. Get up and fight back. If you previously prayed ten minutes a day, pray fifteen. If you normally go to Mass once a week, go an additional time. If you feel like frowning at everyone you meet, smile instead.
4. Practice gratitude.
Even if it's not what you are feeling, write down what you are grateful for. Do this every day of the crisis. Fill an entire page with gratitude each morning. Type it if your hand gets sore. If you run out of big stuff, thank God for the warm water in your shower. Thank Him for the fact that you don't have malaria. Unless you do. Then come up with something else. The point is, keep thinking until you find things you have that you would be sad if you did not.
God may feel cruel to you right now. I promise you- He is not cruel or capricious. He is a tender and kind Father. He is holding you, and what is crushing you is pressing you closer to His chest. This too shall pass. THIS TOO SHALL PASS. Consolation will come. This will not last forever. “The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are underneath you.” (Deuteronomy 33:27)
With you in the storm,
For someone who likes words and lots of them, editing a book can be hard work. After pouring over each sentence and getting to the point where you love them all, no author wants to hear that she has to cut hundreds of words. But that is exactly what a writer is told and tends to be reluctant to do. When I was in the midst of that very process, I received great advice from an editor. Surprisingly, it applies to Holy Week. She said, “You have to kill your precious.” To the writer, every word seems golden. But unless you “kill your precious” and get rid of the parts that are unnecessary, the finished work won't be as concise or impactful.
Holy Week offers us opportunities to kill lots of precious. It's the home stretch, the last incline of the journey of Lent. It might be tempting to just switch gears and start focusing on Easter Sunday, but if we skip over these key days in the Church calendar, we'll miss out. The spirit of sacrifice is hard for us pleasure-seeking people, but a few more days of focused effort can make the celebration of the resurrection that much sweeter.
We all have those sins that we like to justify. The ones that we hide and don't think matter much. I struggle in this way too. It makes me think of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings and the way he called the ring that he coveted “his precious.” This was something he had possessed that wasn't actually good for him, but he longed for it nevertheless.
What is it that you reach for when you are longing for security or comfort or an escape? Maybe it's attention from someone who doesn't belong to you. Perhaps it's too much wine. Maybe it's shopping and spending money you don't have. It can be porn, or Netflix, or eating food to try to fill a void in the heart...anything that distracts or diverts. Maybe it's your ego that needs to die a death. Instead of a hearty dose of accomplishments and accolades, you are actually needing to grow in humility. Even as I write this, it all sounds quite horrible to me. I suppose it does to us all, which is exactly why we reach for these things. They feel so good in the short-term.
God is asking us to “kill our precious,” not because he is out to spoil our fun, but because He knows that's the very thing that is holding us back from the life that is truly life. He is asking us to have a long-term perspective. He wants my eye not just on the reward of Easter Sunday but on the ultimate reward of being in His presence in heaven. Which do I want more, short-term gain or long-term glory?
What I have found very helpful is to kneel before the altar with that “precious sin” on my mind. I picture holding it in my hands. And this is what I pray: “This is the sin I am wanting to play around with. This is what looks so good to me in the short-term. But I want to be a saint more. And I want to be free.” Romans 6:16 tells us, “You are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”
I wish that our desire to grow closer to God meant that the enemy of our souls would just give up and leave us alone. But nothing scares him more than people who know their true identity as beloved children of God, and he is terrified of the ones who take their faith seriously. The more committed to God we get, the more the enemy will tempt us to settle for mediocrity. Let's resist him with all we've got- especially during this Holy Week.
Our lives are too short and our calling too great to play around with sin. We're in the home stretch, the final incline in the marathon of Lent. Let's finish well. Let's fling aside those sins that entangle and cling so closely. Let's ask God to kill our precious, and do all we can to stay on the path of holiness.
A risk we all run when we love others lavishly is neglecting to take care of ourselves. What begins as a passion of the heart-a pure desire to help-can actually place us in a dangerous position where we find it hard to stay faithful. When we coast on the fumes of a life that lacks spiritual discipline, we can find that we begin to blend in, and are no longer offering hope and a better way. We're just like everyone else-no different.
Years ago, I was driving home from my parents' house with my daughter. Barreling down the highway at 70 mph, we noticed smoke billowing from the hood. Just in time, I pulled over, as our engine blew up. We couldn't believe it. The car had shown no signs of any trouble up to this point. Imagine my mortification when I realized that the engine had blown up simply because I had failed to EVER change the oil. I guess I just got busy with life and forgot. I didn't take seriously how essential it was to follow the basic directions for taking care of the car.
In that same way, we can be lax about the importance of spiritual discipline. We can coast through life, much as I was in my car, thinking that things that were done in the past were going to keep us going indefinitely. We can have heart and passion, and still lose everything if we ignore these practices.
What does this look like?
It's going through life, too busy to pray.
It's having a schedule that is so full of activities and appointments that there is no time for meaningful relationships and a connection to a faith community.
It's getting up and getting going in the morning, without taking time to read Scripture.
It's having priorities out of order, so that no time is taken to protect and nurture important relationships.
May God bless you with a daily dose of all that you need to love and serve well,
This blog post originally appeared on the WWP website in March 2013.
I think so many of us are working overtime to hold it all together for ourselves and our families. We desperately want to be enough, and wonder if we are. All the while, we have our own needs to tend to, and all too often, they are put on the back burner.
My newest Bible study, Grounded in Hope, comes out in January, and I've written this study for the women I know who are ready to let go of the “try hard” life and figure out how to run this marathon with grit and grace. These are the women who want to know Christ in a deeper way and are ready to grow. It's based on the book of Hebrews which contains some of my favorite passages in the whole Bible. It was a privilege to write it for you.
Hebrews contains some of the most beautiful passages you'll find in Scripture. It will comfort you and challenge you. Every word of it has a treasure to mine, and those who are willing to make the effort will be richly rewarded.
Never have I been more convinced of the importance of women being grounded in hope. There is much in the world that discourages us, but frankly, there are just as many things within our families that wreck our hearts. Most of us are doing the best we can to love, serve, and take care of the people close to us, but heartache and despair still steal in through a crack in the door. I don't know about you, but I can get pretty tired from the effort to hold things together.
Hebrews reminds us that it isn't all up to us. Yes, we have our part to play, but ultimately, God has got a grip on those things that feel out of control. I know this, you know this, but this study of Hebrews will give us a bigger view of God that will help us believe it. Hope springs up when we see that all the threads are being woven together by the master artist. We are not disintegrating. We are being built.
We need to be grounded in truth as well. Our postmodern culture works like carbon monoxide; we don't notice that we're breathing it in, yet it's slowly but surely killing us.
We all look at life through a certain lens. This is our “worldview”- the lens through which we see the world. It's the set of assumptions that we hold, consciously or subconsciously. Depending on the glasses that we are wearing, we're going to have a very distinct way of approaching the big questions of life. Currently, one of the most pervasive worldviews is postmodernism. Because this is such a popular worldview right now, seeing life through this lens is appealing, acceptable, and won't cause you to stand out.
What are the distinctives of the postmodern worldview? These are some of its main aspects:
An alternative lens is the Christian worldview. The same issues and questions come into play, but the answers are very different. The Christian perspective says:
Here's the problem. Just because a certain worldview is the most pervasive way at looking at things today - just because these lenses look good to the general public- doesn't mean that we are seeing things as they really are. And if we get it wrong on these main issues, we get the whole thing wrong. We get what matters most, wrong.
We need to put on the oxygen mask of God's Word to keep our head straight in the midst of total confusion. We need to know our story. When the postmodern culture tells us that “there is no grand narrative.” something in us should make us pause and say, “No. That's not right. There IS a narrative that actually makes sense out of all the crazy things that go on in our world. There IS a story - there IS an eternal plan.” And we have a key role to play in this epic tale, if we are willing.
So let's dive into this rich and dense book in the new year and see what God has to say. We will not be disappointed.
Grateful to be running beside you,
Founder and chief purpose officer
Walking with Purpose
Feast of Christ the King
Everyone worships something. Whether or not we issue an intentional invitation, something or someone sits on the throne of hearts. Whatever we consider most important, worthy of sacrifice, and critical to our happiness and well-being is given that place of importance. We get to choose what we worship, and what we pick will determine the trajectory of our lives.
Today is the Feast of Christ the King and in our first reading, Daniel receives a vision of Jesus coming on the clouds of heaven. It must have taken his breath away and I'm sure he was never the same again. This is what he recorded afterwards:
As the visions during the night continued,
I saw one like a Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven;
when he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him,
the one like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship;
all peoples, nations, and languages serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away,
his kingship shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)
What a gift Daniel received. For the rest of his life, this image remained in his mind and filled it. By contrast, most of our field of vision is full of the things that our culture says have the highest value. Our eyes constantly are fed airbrushed images of celebrities that tempt us to think that nothing is more important than outward appearance. The news cycle would lead us to believe that the well-being of our nation isn't dependent on our morality; it's measured by the Dow, NASDAQ and S&P. We seek security, significance, fulfillment and purpose and bow down to whatever promises to supply it.
We were made to worship. We'll worship whatever we decide we can't live without. What can't you live without? Is it a child or a husband? Is it a thin body? How about financial security? How about a good reputation or social status? How about fruitful ministry for Christ? The things we worship can be good things. This is where it gets tricky. We check our motives, and think that what we're pursuing is good, or really for our families or other people, or really isn't harmful. And we continue down the path to nowhere.
What we believe we cannot live without we will make the supreme good in our lives. We'll pursue it with all we've got. We'll panic at the thought of losing it. Sometimes we'll compromise and break the rules if we're afraid that it's going to be taken away.
Whether we're doing it consciously or not, we have placed something on the throne of our hearts, and we're worshipping it with all we've got.
This issue isn't anything new. God talked about this to the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel and described it as “idols in our hearts.”(1) Anything that we love more than God is an idol. We think of an idol as a statue and picture people bowing in front of it. An idol can be that, but more often, it's not something physical that we can hold in our hands. But we hold them in our hearts, and that's just as dangerous.
So what do we do? How can we stop wanting these things so badly? How can we want God more?
The vision of God has got to so fill our minds and hearts that there isn't room for competing gods. They try to get in, but we're already full of God. We're feasting on what really, truly satisfies. The things the world offers to entice us - the pursuit of beauty, prosperity at any cost, self-made security - feel like too much cake for breakfast. We can see that there's an appeal, but we also recognize that filling up on those offerings will make us sick.
It was my longing for a fresh vision of God that led me to write the nine-week Bible study, Beholding Your King. I was tired of cake and wanted meat. Do you feel the same? Are you longing for something more? Do you look ahead to the Advent season and wonder how you are going to keep your focus in the right place? If that's where you find yourself, this Bible study is just for you. I wrote it to help fill the void left by superficial living, replacing it with a fuller view of God and His glory.
In the pages of Beholding Your King, we're reminded that God sits on the throne as the supreme authority. There is no one higher. As the Creator of all, the One who sustains our every breath just because He feels like it, He is the One in charge. We can choose to ignore it in the same way that children sometimes act as if they can get away with anything, but the truth remains. We can fight against it all we want, but God sits on His throne, the authority over gravity, tsunamis, fire, water, the ground beneath our feet, and the air we breathe.
There is no law greater than Him. There is no love more powerful than Him. He says it best in Isaiah 46: 9, 10: “I am God, there is no other; I am God, there is none like me. At the beginning I declare the outcome; from of old, things not yet done. I say that my plan shall stand, I accomplish my every desire.”
What do we think would be a better authority to bow to? Ourselves? Another imperfect person? Money that can be gone in an instant? Beauty that is guaranteed to fade?
Nothing but God is worthy of our worship, and He should take our breath away.
May the vision of His glory fill our hearts this Advent season,
1. Ezekiel 14:3
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-
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.
Are you tired of your list of good intentions that never translate to action? How many times have you made a resolution (and really meant it) only to fail within a few short weeks?
We've all been there. It isn't that we aren't aware of the ways we need to improve…but actually making the changes can be overwhelming. In her book, Girl Wash Your Face, Rachel Hollis talks about this very issue. Sharing about how she has changed her own patterns and behaviors, she explains that she decided to establish a rule in her life that she would never break a promise to herself, no matter how small. And that changed everything. She writes:
If you choose today not to break another promise to yourself, you will force yourself to slow down. You cannot keep every commitment, promise, goal, and idea without intentionality. If you recognize that your words have power and that your commitments carry covenant weight, you won't agree to anything so easily….You'll slow down and think things through. You won't just talk about a goal; you'll plan for how you can meet it. 1
But which promises are the truly important ones to make and keep? We don't have time to achieve every goal on our list. We have to say a lot of no's to say the best yes.
What I'd like to propose to you is that our most important goals are the ones that impact eternity. There are loads of worthy resolutions and self-improvements that no doubt make life more enjoyable. But if we don't make our primary focus our spiritual lives, then our success will be superficial and short-lived. I don't know about you, but one day when I am standing before God giving an account of the choices I've made, I do not want to have a bunch of frivolous, self-centered accomplishments to be all I've got to show Him. God doesn't care how much you weigh, how perfectly decorated and ordered your space is, and how far you got in your career. But He cares big time how you have loved- how you've loved the people He's put in your life, and how you've loved Him.
God also cares about how you love yourself. There's a lot of talk about the importance of self-care, and I am all for it. But true self-care should be more than a band aid; it should address how your soul is doing. Your heart matters to God. He doesn't just want you to believe the right things or behave in a certain way. As a truly good Father, He wants your heart to flourish.
God never intended for us to navigate the spiritual life in isolation. His plan for us has always involved community. We need sisters around us who are encouraging us and challenging us to value the right things, and we need to be fed truth to counter all the lies we're surrounded with.
So who is walking alongside you?
Who is challenging you to grow closer to Christ?
What is helping you know Him better right now, and what is helping you to understand His will for your life?
How is your heart?
Changes in these areas don't just happen automatically. We have to make it a priority to cultivate these kinds of friendship, and then get our eyes off our phones and into God's truth. It means we make a promise to ourselves to put the most important things, the eternal things, on our calendars, and then we follow through. We'll plan for how we're going to get to our goal. The perfect time for this is now.
If you don't know where to start, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Opening Your Heart, our most popular Bible study. It meets you right where you are and offers game-changing, practical Biblical teaching. You'll learn new ways to love yourself and others well. Commit to going through it with a girlfriend to increase the likelihood that your best intentions will turn into real change. Look for a parish near you that is offering the study and get to know even more women like you who are ready to kick-start real change in their lives.
I'm challenging you to move from good intentions to real change. Do you struggle to get your priorities in order? Do you have questions about your faith that haven't been answered? Do you sense that there is something more to the Christian life than what you have been experiencing? Then come on over and dive in to Opening Your Heart. It's tailor made for you- a safe place to come with your questions, confusion, hopes and dreams. I promise you, you won't be the same person by the time you finish the study, in all the best of ways.
Click here to order your copy of Opening Your Heart!
With you on the journey,
1. Rachel Hollis, Girl Wash Your Face (Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2018), 17.