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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 [1], work alongside each other to serve families in need [2], offer to babysit so that a young couple could get some desperately needed time away [3], use their gifts and talents to create beautiful spaces and places for women to meet [4], and weep when an unexpected tragedy occurred and rejoice when a fervent prayer request was answered [5]. 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. 

[1] Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
[2] We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. (Hebrews 10:24)
[3] Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
[4] 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)
[5] Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15)

 

I recently picked up I Thirst: 40 Days with Mother Teresa by Joseph Langford, M.C., and this line spoke to me:

“God is eternally fresh and alive. It can happen that we grow stale by force of routine, at which point we need to enter again the freshness and vivid life of God’s call.” [1]

Let me ask. Does God feel fresh and alive in your life? 

As the pastoral co-coordinator of our Walking with Purpose parish program, I asked our leadership team how they were feeling as we gear up for a virtual kickoff; specifically, what fruits of the Holy Spirit could they use a good shot of before we welcome the 100+ women who are eager to dive back into God’s Word? One woman spoke up. “I need joy. I don’t feel joy.”

Can you relate?

For many women, it is the face-to-face fellowship that brings them joy. For others, it is understanding Scripture for the first time. But the reason why Walking with Purpose is so much more than a Bible study is that in encountering Christ through Scripture in community, you inevitably encounter yourself. What do I mean by this? I mean it is only when we come to know Jesus in the way that He lived that we discover our true selves and what He created us for. He created you with a purpose, you know. He has a personal and intimate call for each of us. Even during a pandemic.

I think we can all agree that the last eight months or so have worn us down. We have isolated and sanitized and we have no idea what day it is anymore. As a result, watching Mass on the couch has become easier than remembering to register for a spot at church. The initial zeal for family get-togethers on Zoom has grown old, and there are even those of us who have decided to pass on our favorite Bible study this fall because the idea of meeting virtually makes us want to pull our masks over our eyes and drive into oncoming traffic.

Please don’t do that.
It’s not safe.
Just hear me out.

I am sick of the screens, too. Going virtual for everything, including my beloved Bible study, kills me; not only because I crave human contact, but because I have the technology skills of a dead monkey. Yes, I said dead, because I don’t want to insult the living monkey who can figure out Zoom breakout rooms and screen-sharing way better than I can. And yet, here we are and we don’t have many choices, but this I do know: not choosing to help women encounter God through Bible study will never be an option for me. This is my call. Nothing, not even a pandemic, will mess with that.

Has the pandemic messed with your call? Because if so, I want you to be on guard and pay close attention. It is not the pandemic messing with you. It is the enemy. He doesn’t want you to encounter Christ. He doesn’t want you to lead others to Christ. And he surely doesn’t want you to live out your purpose. He wants to steal your joy.

He has no idea who he is dealing with.

As our fearlessly positive WWP Founder and Chief Purpose Officer Lisa Brenninkmeyer shared with the National Team on our company call, “Could it be that the enemy is panicked because he thought he shut us down in March?” Friend...do not let him shut you down. I am speaking to the woman who is so lost in grieving what day-to-day life used to be, she has forgotten what God is able to do. Our God can move mountains. Our God can part the seas. He can clean the leper, give sight to the blind, heal the sick, and raise the dead back to life. Surely, He can work miracles through our Zoom calls, too. Do not underestimate God. Our circumstances are not an obstacle, but a great opportunity. I believe we will be able to reach more women and bring God’s light to places we never could have before. We may not have an open chair, but we do have an open square. The possibilities are endless.

But we need you on board.

I know what you are thinking. “But this isn’t how it was supposed to be.” You love the pink tablecloths, hugging your participants, and the sisterhood that has saved your life in a million ways. Personally? I enjoyed eating every last cracker and cube of cheese left on the platters as we broke down tables and chairs. I agree. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. But I imagine the disciples felt the same way, staring up at Jesus as he hung on the cross. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. 

Or was it? 

Because death did not hold Him, did it? He took the most horrific tragedy and turned it into the greatest victory. He always makes a way for us. Today is no different.

God wants to work big things through us and for us. No matter the season or circumstance, He invites us into His life. Friends, do not let “virtual” get in the way of the Lord’s call on your heart. Do not believe the enemy’s lies that you cannot have intimacy or meaningful conversations through screens. Do not give him permission to keep you from being who God made you to be. Mother Teresa reminds us of what God says to each of us: “‘I have chosen you.’ Never be tired, Sisters, of repeating that sentence. We have been chosen for a purpose: to quench the thirst of Jesus for souls.” [2]

The women are thirsty. I bet you are thirsty, too. And I happen to know where we can quench our thirst. As Jesus says to his disciples, He says to us, too: “Come and see what you were made for: Come and know the love of the Father. Come and see where I live. Come home!” 

It is time to reclaim our joy, sweet sisters; to enter again the fresh and vivid life of God’s call. It is time to come home.

With love from your virtual sister in Christ,
Laura

P.S. We know how creative our Walking with Purpose community is, and that meeting virtually does not mean an end to the hospitality we are known for! If you have a great picture of your virtual kickoff or a hospitality hack, we would love to see it. Please share with us by posting your picture on your social media and tagging Walking with Purpose using our handles on Instagram (@walkingwithpurpose_official), Facebook (@walkingwithpurpose), and/or Twitter (@walkingwpurpose). And don't forget to add the hashtag #wwpcommunity.

[1] Joseph Langford, M.C., I Thirst: 40 Days With Mother Teresa, (Augustine Institute, 2018), p.33.

[2] Joseph Langford, M.C., I Thirst: 40 Days With Mother Teresa, (Augustine Institute, 2018), p.34.

Bible Study

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” Ephesians 5:1

Before I leave the house, my husband always asks if I have my wallet. I forget it all the time, and he says it’s good to have your ID with you so you can identify yourself. He’s right—when I don’t have my wallet, I’m lost, in a sense. If someone asked, I couldn’t take proof out of my pocket and point to who I am.

The definition of beloved is “to be dearly loved” or “pleased with.” From the moment we were merely a thought in the mind of God, each of us were marked “beloved” as the very core of our identity. It’s not simply something about us—it’s our identity. There’s nothing we’ve done to earn it. There’s nothing we’ve done or that’s been done to us that can take it away. Beloved is who we are. And yet, how many of us live our lives out of that truth? 

Five years ago, I was introduced to a book called Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen that changed my life. The book revolves around the idea that every day we’re surrounded by voices. The voices of society, negativity, lies we’ve believed, our peers, etc. What would it look like if we could silence the noise and listen to the voice, that at the center of our being, calls us “beloved”? While reading the book, I realized that instead of owning and living out of my belovedness, I was only owning my mistakes. My journey is far from over, but I work every day to own the truth of who I am.

The problem is, we can be our own worst enemy. Negative self-talk has plagued humanity since the beginning. Too often, all we see in our reflection are the things we’re not, rather than embracing all that we are. Anything can set it off. A bad hair day, how you reacted to a situation at work or school, accidentally snapping at your spouse or child, an interaction with a friend. We own our negative qualities far too quickly, and we allow those thoughts to control our actions and our beliefs about ourselves. Before we know it, we’re beating ourselves up without putting up a fight. If a friend said some of the things to us that we say to ourselves, she would no longer be our friend. And yet we allow our internal chatterbox to persist, often without even realizing it. 

Our identity isn’t based on our accomplishments or failings, what people think about us, or how we view ourselves in the mirror. Our identity is that we are the beloved children of a relentless Father who loves us unconditionally. 

I’m reminded of a stained-glass window in a chapel in which I used to spend a lot of time. The image was of Jesus holding a sheep close to his chest. This is the goal of a Christian. To be so close to the heart of the Shepherd that you hear His heartbeat and can conform your life to that rhythm. When you do this, you’ll go into each day knowing you are loved, not looking for ways to earn it. This is freedom.

I wrote the song “Belovedness” first and foremost because I needed to sing it. I needed to remind myself of these truths. When you sing truth over yourself, it releases something internally. My prayer for you when you listen to it, and what I hope you’ll pray for me, is that we see ourselves and others the way the Lord sees us. Beloved isn’t a badge to earn, a club to join, or a gift to withhold from others. It’s our identity, it’s our name, and it’s the strength we need for the journey.

You are beloved. Period. Full stop. There is nothing you’ve done, nothing that’s been done to you, nothing that’s been said to you, no lie you’ve believed, no mistake you’ve made, no sin you’ve committed, no past or future thing that can take away your identity as a beloved child of God. It’s time to silence the chatterbox and allow the truth to grow. It’s time to own our belovedness. 

Belovedness

You've owned your fear and all your self-loathing
You've owned the voices inside of your head
You've owned the shame and reproach of your failure
It's time to own your belovedness

You've owned your past and how it's defined you
You've owned everything everybody else says
It's time to hear what your father has spoken
It's time to own your belovedness

He says, "You're mine, I smiled when I made you
I find you beautiful in every way
My love for you is fierce and unending
I'll come to find you, whatever it takes
My beloved"

Listen to Sarah’s song or watch the video. You can also follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

“I trust in you, O LORD…My times are in your hands.” (Psalm 31:14-15)

These words were written by King David at a time when he was experiencing deep distress. Earlier in Psalm 31 he wrote, “My strength fails because of my misery” (Psalm 31:10). His circumstances were not what he wanted. He was bone-weary. Yet somehow, he was able to trust God.

I wonder how you are doing right now, if you are weary, too. What circumstances are you facing that makes it difficult for you to trust that “your times” are in God’s capable hands? Are you struggling to be content with what “your times” presently hold?

Is it possible to be content when your finances go up and down? Does a family crisis negate the possibility of contentment? Can you be content when you aren’t achieving very much? Does contentment depend on whether you are married or single? Can you be content regardless of how schools will operate this fall? Does your contentment depend on whether or not the pandemic continues to rage? Is it tied to your health, wealth, comfort, or safety?

Trust in God and contentment go hand in hand. When I think it’s all up to me, I feel I need to hustle. I’m discontent if any of my circumstances are not what I had been working for. But when I recognize my littleness and see that I am not the ruler of the universe and am actually in the palm of God’s hand, I can rest. When I rest, I realize that God has not failed me. I am still standing. He is sustaining me. I am able to pray, “You are my rock and my fortress…into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God” (Psalm 31:3, 5).

Because God is who He says He is, and does what He says He’ll do, “even now, there is hope” (Ezra 10:2). This is a truth you can count on—there is always reason to hope. God was not surprised this morning by what popped up in your news feed. He isn’t wringing His hands as He looks down from heaven at the chaos below. God isn’t playing around with your life, dispassionately seeing what you are made of. He is utterly in control, completely interested in the details of your life, and timelessly working in the future so that even the worst things today can be redeemed down the road. 

God loves you with a level of purity that you can’t even fathom. In a time when you might wonder which news, data, and people you can trust, God remains “the same, yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is unchanging, unfailing, and unflinching in His commitment to father you faithfully.

Allow yourself to become little—like a child. Let the pressure roll off. Picture yourself in the palm of God’s hands, because that is where you are. Remember what those hands have done. They are the same hands that stretched out the heavens (Isaiah 45:12), told the sea it could go no further (Job 38:11), and healed with a touch (Matthew 8:3).

Psalm 31:15 says, “My times are in your hand.” This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t hold the whole world in His hands. But it’s undoubtedly sweeter when you see that this is a truth meant for you, personally. Jesus loves you and gave Himself up for you, and your life is in the hands of the one whose hands were nailed to the cross for your sake. May you embrace this truth and allow this reality to be the source of your hope, strength, and security. 

“Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:16)

This post originally appeared on our blog on March 1, 2015.

As I carried the overflowing laundry basket up the stairs, it occurred to me that its weight felt nothing like the heaviness that was sitting on my heart. I had been reading about world news this morning, and article after article brought me to prayer. ISIS, human trafficking, so much suffering…and it was just getting layered on top of the stories that were really the greater issue for me. These are the stories of the people I love who are in the midst of real trials and pain right now, in this very minute, and I feel helpless in the face of it all. The worry feels like it has wrapped itself around my mind and woven itself into the fabric of my heart. It’s a lead weight. It’s sapping me of strength.

Can you relate to what I’m talking about? Have you been waking up in the middle of the night with worry and then can’t get back to sleep? Is it following you around all day and becoming a filter that clouds everything?

How can we get out from under this thing? God has commanded us not to worry (“Do not be anxious about anything” Philippians 4:6), so it must be possible to bring our thoughts under His control. God never asks us to do something that He doesn’t equip us for. In 1 Corinthians 10:13, we’re told, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.” So we’re not alone in this struggle. St. Paul goes on to say, “And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” So that’s what we need to discover. What is the way out for us? What do we have to do to get to the escape door that frees us from the pit of worry?

Friends, I’m preaching to myself here. So lean in as this fellow worrier tries to remember the things that she’s been taught by people wiser than she. And then let’s pray for each other that we would apply these truths.

1. God calls us to live in the present moment.

When I am worrying, I’m projecting myself into the future and envisioning how things could turn out. The problem is, God is not there in my “fantasy worst-case scenario.” The majority of the things we worry about will never happen. The truth is, the present moment is rarely intolerable. What’s miserable is to have your body here, right now, but your mind dwelling in the future. This dichotomy is unsettling and robs us of peace.

If we can get it through our minds that all God is asking is for us to obey Him and love like Christ for these next five minutes, we realize that step by step, we can move forward. It reminds me of the proverb, “Worry is like a rocking chair—it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” Which is really a description of being stuck. Far better to stay in the present moment and ask the Lord, “In this moment, are you asking me to act: to do something specific, or are you asking me to accept: to acknowledge that my current situation is beyond my control and therefore needing to be placed in Your hands?”

2. There is no divine grace provided for our worries.

God provides grace and strength for us to do what He asks us to do. He does not provide grace for worry. This means that when we are dwelling in the land of “what if’s,” we are envisioning an outcome without the miracle, without the inexplicable peace that passes understanding and without the divine strength that enables us to persevere beyond our normal limitations. God is faithful to step into reality and transforms bad circumstances into something beautiful. God does not step into the worries in our heads. When we focus on our worries, the best we’ve got is our own solution to the problem. And if we’re worrying, we’ve probably already realized that our own “best solution” is either out of our control or simply not good enough. As Linda Dillow wisely wrote in her book, Calm My Anxious Heart, “Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” And we need all the strength we can get.

3. The only One who can handle the weight of these burdens is the same One who can fix it all.

Pass the burden over to God. If you have to do this 10 times in one minute, then do it 10 times in one minute. The human heart isn’t strong enough to carry it all. The weight gets to be too much, and the heart begins to despair. Each time we pass the burden over to God, we are making an act of faith. In doing so, our faith is being strengthened. God is faithful to honor your act of faith.

The solutions to our problems do not lie in our heads or in our hearts. God holds the solutions, and only He can see the whole picture. Only He can see the way in which the trial of today is a part of a grander story. If we could see the whole thing, we wouldn’t worry. So let’s pray for one another to trust God with the larger plan that He is utterly in control of—a plan that He promises is ultimately FOR OUR GOOD and FOR HIS GLORY. God is not limited by time or space. He is already in the future, taking all the threads of our lives and weaving them into a beautiful tapestry.

With love and prayers for you,

Lisa

My confessor admitted to a common theme he’s hearing among COVID-19-related confessions: no more patience. I think Mother Angelica hit the nail on the head when she said, “We’d all be perfect if it weren’t for people.” Quarantining with the same people, day after day, will certainly challenge one's holiness, don’t you agree?

But here’s the thing. I was struggling with people before COVID-19. And by people, I mean my family. I am just going to come out and say it at the risk of you not liking me, because up until now you had no idea how selfish I was, but here it goes: why do I always have to be the one to go first? 

The first to make the coffee.

The first to ask, “Can I get you more coffee?”

The first to do the dishes.

The first to say sorry.

The first to put others first.

Why can't you go first?

This, sweet sisters, is a toxic weed that we need to pull at the roots. Nothing kills a relationship faster than a tally chart in your head and a stone of pride in your heart. And yet, nurturing the weed is easier than lovingly serving our husbands or friends, especially when it requires putting our own comfort aside.

If we look to Scripture, there is no denying that to “go first” is what we are called to do. Matthew 20:26-28 says, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” And in Philippians 2:3 we are commanded, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Try preaching that one at your next cocktail party. 

It’s tempting to follow the world instead of Christ. The world, after all, would support my complaint. The world would see nothing wrong with the bitterness I harbor and anger I justify when, once again, I have to be the one in a relationship that goes first. Have you ever experienced this feeling? Have you ever been in a relationship that was dying a slow death because you couldn't let go of the resentment for always having to go first? If so, I’d like to offer you one small piece of practical advice; a little something that works for me when resentment invites himself into my heart, and I reach for that tally chart.

I turn to Ephesians 6:5-8:

“Slaves, be obedient to your human masters with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ, not only when being watched, as currying favor, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, willingly serving the Lord and not human beings, knowing that each will be requited from the Lord for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.”

There is a sentence tucked neatly in the middle that jumps out at me. Did you catch it?

“Do the will of God from the heart, willingly serving the Lord and not human beings.”

How do we do this? How can we willingly serve God as we struggle with wanting to be served? How do we see God in all of the human faces that we have been staring at for the last three months? I have an idea. And listen up, because I am not saying this is easy but nothing worth gaining heaven ever is. The next time you are called to go first, and something in your heart starts bubbling up, and it is so not love...ask yourself this:

What if...

This cup of coffee I serve, I serve to God?

These dishes I clean, I clean for God?

That loving response I offer, I offer to God?

This is how I have been slowly transforming my heart. Ridding it of the bitterness and anger, and replacing the desire to be served with the desire to be the servant. And not just any servant. But a servant of Christ. Because here is the thing. I do love Him. And I don’t want anything to get in the way of that love.

Just this week, as I grabbed myself a cup of coffee (coffee that I made; one check for me on the tally chart!) and settled on the couch with my Bible, I opened up to begin my morning prayer. The reading was from the First Letter of John, and was not a coincidence:

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

And so I got up, threw out my tally chart, poured a second cup of coffee, and lovingly brought it to my husband. You see, when we ask, “But why do I have to go first?”, we must remember...we don’t. God does.

God did.

God went first.

Love,
Laura

P.S. If you relate to this struggle, I highly recommend watching the Opening Your Heart Connect Coffee Talk 4: Priority Three Marriage (Lesson 14: Marriage - Transformed By Grace in the study guide). You can watch it for free over at the Walking With Purpose website!

Bible Study

This post originally appeared on the blog in July 2017.

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 first way in this post, and the other three in the next.

If you want to quit hustling and find peace…

1. 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

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

Walking with Purpose

I am an Audible junkie. Seriously, my favorite day of the month is the 20th, when my Audible subscription renews and I can dive into the life of a different historical figure whose story is often stranger than fiction. Last month, in the middle of the COVID-19 lockdown, I decided to listen to the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor who was executed for his involvement in the conspiracy to take down the Nazi regime. He was a deeply faithful man who left us beautiful writings such as “The Cost of Discipleship,” and “Life Together.”

Hour 8 of the 22 hour biography tells of Bonhoeffer’s attendance at a youth conference in Fano, a small island off Denmark. It was 1934, and Christian leaders had gathered together to pray and discuss how the Christian Church should exist in Germany as it was falling under Nazi control more and more each day. As the author described Bonhoeffer's time at the youth conference, he commented, “What made him stand out to some as an inspiration, to others as an oddity, and to others as an offense was that he did not hope that God heard his prayers but knew it.”[1] 

When I heard this line, I had to stop my household chores and rewind the audiobook. I listened again. Bonhoeffer lived through the darkest times his country had ever seen and he would eventually become a martyr. Through it all however, he knew without a doubt that God heard him.

I felt like I had been found out. I asked myself, “Do I pray because I believe as a good Catholic I am supposed to or do I pray because I have full confidence that the living God hears me and responds in my everyday life? Do I know that my life, lived in the folds of Christianity, actually makes a difference in my life and relationships, now, and forever? Or, do I live my life as a Christian because I made the choice out of passion years ago and I am now cruising on autopilot?”

I have to confess that I am not even sure that I answered these questions before just shrugging and moving on. Life is so busy after all, but in my heart of hearts I knew the answer. While I know somewhere deep down that God hears and answers prayers, a large part of me doesn’t believe it. While I know somewhere in my heart that my actions as a Christian make a difference, my daily behavior suggests otherwise as I make excuses and tell myself that it doesn’t matter all that much. 

As a result, I sit down to pray and talk myself out of asking for the big stuff because well, it’s just me in my house, this problem is too big, and God is going to do what God is going to do. Too often, I talk myself out of a simple kindness because I am too busy and I don’t think the gesture won’t matter anyway. Too often, I talk myself out of sharing the truth that knowing Jesus Christ has been the greatest thing that has ever happened to me, because I don’t want to be perceived as a weirdo and it won’t change a life anyway. These are all lies that I subtly believe, and they keep me from fully participating in the type of prayer and action that helps redeem society. How smart of the devil to take my passionate conversion and quell it into moderate belief divorced from action, because at the heart of it, I just don’t think it makes a difference.

Two Saturdays ago, all of this changed as I sat down to pray. I, like everyone else, have been shaken to my core from all the tragedies of 2020. From the angst and uncertainty of the lockdowns, to the horrifying death of George Floyd, and the division, hurt, and misunderstanding that has followed, I forgot to remind myself that my prayers don’t matter and I cried out to God for the big stuff, out loud, for a long time. In the middle of my lamenting, the Lord reminded me that He hears me. He hears the cry of His people and weeps with us. His heart breaks with ours at the reality that things are not as they should be and He answers us even when we can’t see it. Our actions also make a difference now and in eternity, even the small ones, even those little acts of kindness that we pass over because we think they aren’t enough to change anything. They do bring about change. They will be enough. 

Pastor Bonhoeffer knew that God heard him. It shaped the way he prayed, and it shaped his actions in such a way that he had an impact everywhere he went. As my former youth minister used to say, “Someone who is on fire with the love of God can’t help but leave a spark everywhere they go.” Bonhoeffer’s love for God changed his friends, his family, his jail inmates, and even some of his jailers. 

This is what the Lord wants for us. No matter where we are or what we are doing, He wants us to live as though our relationship with Him makes a difference. Every single prayer and act of kindness is an offering that He can use to change a life, or possibly even a society. Where are you today? Are you scrolling through your social feed wondering where we go from here? Are you wondering how you could possibly make a difference? Put down your phone, close your computer, and get on your knees. Ask God for the biggest things you can possibly imagine and expect to see Him working. Follow through on those acts of love that you dismiss when they enter your mind. They make a difference.

[1] Mataxas Eric, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet Spy (New York: Thomas Nelson 2020) Audible edition

 

We had a perfect plan set in place. We were ahead of the game. And we felt really good about it.

Our Walking With Purpose parish program was set to wrap up in April. By March 1st, our fall courses had already been chosen, next season’s registration was getting ready to roll, and the details for our final luncheon were set. With everything falling neatly into place, I dared to exclaim, “At this rate, we will be done with ministry planning by June!”

Stop laughing, God. I can hear you.

Whether you are a WWP co-coordinator or not, chances are, you too were in the midst of planning for something when everything shut down. And so we are left in this weird space of...what now? How do we continue to plan for a future we cannot predict? For the type A, control freak, live by my planner kind of folks, this space can feel like torture, am I right?

And yet, isn’t this precisely what God longs for from each and every one of us? Confidence in Him, not in our plans. Perseverance in the race—not because we can see the finish line but because we can’t.

The world shutting down does not give us the excuse to give up doing what we do for God because it doesn’t look like what we had planned. COVID-19 is not an obstacle to upbuilding the church, encouraging one another, and offering consolation. It is an invitation to find another way. Christian author and speaker Priscilla Shirer remarked in a virtual conference, “How do we see personal dilemmas? As a hiccup in our plan? Or as an opportunity to glorify God in another unique way?”

In today's first reading, the Acts of the Apostles 16:22-34, Paul and Silas are stripped, beaten, and thrown into the innermost cell with their feet secured to a stake. Why? Because as they were going to a place of prayer, they were “met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by soothsaying” (Acts 16:16). A Catholic definition of divination is “The art of knowing and declaring future events or hidden things by means of communication with occult forces.”[1] This girl, as told in Scripture, followed Paul and Silas for many days, and was super annoying. So Paul finally turned and said to the spirit, “I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her” (Acts 16:18). And it did. The owners of this slave girl were not happy, as this meant their gain was gone. No more seeing into the future. 

I have never sought out a fortune teller, or even desired to have my palm read. I’d like to say it is because I trust and follow God’s commandments so perfectly and wouldn’t dare seek out any more light than that for my next step ahead. But honestly? I don’t care to know the future because the present moment is often terrifying enough! And yet, while I do not intentionally seek out divination, I have prayed that God would tell me as clear as day what the heck He wants me to do, exactly how long will my suffering last, will my loved one who is ill make it out of this okay, and should I or should I not plan to have my Walking With Purpose parish program back up and running on my church campus this October? I admit it. Knowing what the future holds would be nice. You know, for planning's sake.

Which brings us right back to that weird place of “what now?”

Thankfully, Scripture has the answer.

“But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and every one’s chains were unfastened.” (Acts 16:25-26)

Amazing. They didn’t complain. They didn’t get angry. They didn’t cry. And they didn’t give up. They found another way, by praying and singing to God...and the prisoners listened.

As we navigate our way through our own inner cells, what is the message we are sending to those who are listening? Are we spreading a message of hope or despair? Are we sharing the good news of the Gospel or the toxic news of the media? Are we pulling chains loose or tightening them? You see, we may not be able to get back to things as usual, but maybe usual is overrated and not meant to get back to.

What if this weird space is not weird at all, but a divine invitation to stay where we are, praying and singing? If you are a visionary with huge ideas for Jesus like I am, this sounds insanely hard, doesn’t it? If you are a Walking With Purpose co-coordinator, this almost sounds reckless and unproductive, am I right? But hear me out. The prisoners are among us and trust me, they are listening; waiting to see and hear the way the believers respond when they have been stripped and beaten and their pink and green tablecloths have been taken away. Listen, our feet might be fastened and our doors may be shut, but the God that rescued me is a God who has no problem shaking foundations, swinging doors open, and unfastening chains.

This, my friends, is what “what now?” looks like. It is not about knowing what we will do in the future, but about trusting what God is doing in the present. What now is about new opportunities. What now is about glorifying God in a whole new way. What now is about showing the world that we do not need pink and green tablecloths and large group gatherings to edify the Church, Amen?!

You see, the slave owners were mistaken. They thought that in not knowing their future, their gain was gone.

But as slaves of Christ Jesus, we know better; it is precisely in embracing the unknown that our gain is found.

He is working in the waiting, and those doors will soon swing wide open. Until then, wherever you are, sing and pray loud with me, dear sisters! You never know who is listening.

With you in the waiting,
Laura

Go to our events page now to learn about two wonderful opportunities to gather remotely with your friends and all of us here at Walking with Purpose! WWP Founder and Chief Purpose Officer Lisa Brenninkmeyer will lead a free webinar on June 4 that you won’t want to miss: The Art of Creating Community. What’s more, our Instagram team will kick off a virtual summer Bible study on June 11. Click here for details on both, and to register for the webinar.

[1]  CatholicCulture.org. (2020). Catholic Dictionary: Divination. https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=33143

Bible Study

My 77-year-old mother is a model of efficiency. When she has news to share with her three children, rarely will she make three phone calls. If you ask my mom, email is sufficient for most communications. She also seems to doubt that group texts actually work. But group email? That’s her game. And the most recent email she sent to my brother, sister, and me read exactly as follows:

“The doctor called. I have the virus. Quarantined for 14 days after symptoms go away. Mom.”

Unfortunately, this was not the first piece of news I had received informing me that COVID-19 hit close to home. Over the past couple of months, a steady stream of texts and phone calls has revealed to me that someone tested positive, someone else was hospitalized, someone else passed away, and so on. I live in the NYC suburbs, and I need two hands to count the number of close friends and family members who were seriously affected by this virus. 

However, the email from my mother was the first piece of news that kicked my anxiety into full swing. It was the first time in my life that I had to come to terms with the possibility of losing a parent.

At the same time, my high schooler was completely ignoring his remote learning, my husband was stressed out at work, and thoughts about Walking with Purpose had been keeping me awake at night. COVID-19 cancelled all the WWP spring events and impacted Bible study sales, and as the director of marketing, I’m constantly thinking about what I can do to support the ministry.

By late April it was clear to me that absolutely everything in my life was out of control. But friends, you will be relieved to know that I didn’t try to control it. If there’s one thing I learned from the Walking with Purpose Bible study Opening Your Heart, it's that God is in the driver’s seat.

But what to do about the constant anxiety? Yes, we can give up control and hand our struggles over to Christ, but I seem to have feelings of panic and worry that come on quite suddenly, triggered by stressful moments, no matter how much control I give up. When the Director of the CDC announced a week ago that a second and more difficult wave of COVID-19 was coming this fall, I uncorked a bottle of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc faster than you can say quarantine.

Clearly, I needed better coping techniques.

In the Walking with Purpose Bible study Keeping in Balance, there’s a lesson that talks about anxiety as a barrier to contentment. It is such a helpful lesson that Walking with Purpose sent it out as a PDF to our email list last week (you can find that PDF here). In this lesson we are asked to reflect on 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, “Take every thought captive to obey Christ.” What I love about WWP Bible studies is how author Lisa Brenninkmeyer makes scripture passages easy for newbies like me to understand. Lisa says the way we take a thought captive is by “replacing the worry with a truth that builds [our] trust in God.”[1]

That right there? That is an action item I can turn to (in place of the wine).

Here’s the truth I came up with to build my trust in God: Christ is present in humanity’s compassion, and that compassion is so clearly EVERYWHERE these days!

COVID-19 has unified humanity into the most massive force of good that I think this planet has ever seen. Millions around the globe are doing whatever it takes to fight the virus. From philanthropists pledging billions to speed the development of a vaccine, to medical professionals risking their lives to save COVID-19 patients, and school children collecting canned goods for food pantries, people are overflowing with kindness, and I recognize God in them.

As I finish writing this blog post, I’m singing in my head, “...every little thing, is gonna be alright.”

PS: I’m sorry to keep you hanging about my mom. She battled the virus quite easily, actually, and pulled through quickly. Thank you for all of your prayers!

Love,

Jen

[1] Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Keeping in Balance (Walking with Purpose, July 2019), 151.

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