0 In Beloved Little Souls/ Blog

To Whom Do You Belong?

Lately I have been asking myself this question, over and over: “Margaret, to whom do you belong?” Do you belong to the world? OR Do you belong to God? I get so caught up in “keeping up with the Joneses” or lessening who I am in order to please other people in an impossible attempt to fit an impossible mold in order to justify my existence and my worth. I look to others to justify my worth which only leads to heartbreak and catastrophe when I am inevitably deemed not enough or rejected for who I am (if I get the courage to reveal that woman). I cannot and will not, no matter how much I try to, be enough for a world which demands perfection.

This struggle has led me far from home and has caused me to have an identity crisis. That crisis led me to assess my situation and my heart, ultimately leading me to realize that I have been so desperately trying to belong to this broken and cruel world.

A year ago I felt a call to ministry–and during this last year I have been grappling with that call and working towards being okay with the call God has laid upon my heart. I have yet to fully surrender my life, my control and my fear. On my best days I am willing to believe that God, can, in fact, use me and that I am wired for God; on my okay days I can laugh and admit that I am going to seminary but on my worst days I let fear win and I let myself believe that God’s call is nothing more than a shackle–a burden I am required to bear. A burden that will open me up to even more rejection and ridicule from this world.

And that is where the truth seems to lie, that I would rather choose death than life. I am choosing to belong to the world rather than to belong to God. My actions suggest that I do not want to belong to God–I want to belong to a broken and cruel world. But my heart, oh my heart, it longs to go home–to the One who created it and deemed it good. My heart reminds me, even if only quietly, that I have been deemed good, that I am oh so loved, that I am enough.

Just two weeks ago we celebrated Easter. We celebrated Jesus’ triumph over death and we rejoice in the knowledge that we are saved. But I still don’t believe it, I still struggle to really think that God could ever love me. On Maundy Thursday we ended with Peter’s denial. Ever since Maundy Thursday, I have been clinging to the story of Peter and finding just how much I relate to this disciple. I cling to the fact that Jesus predicted Peter’s denial and yet still promised to show up in Galilee.

Matthew 26:31-35:

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all become deserters because of me this night; for it is written,

‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.’ Peter said to him, ‘Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny my three times.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And so said all the disciples.”

I cling to this story. I cling to the Truth it reveals–that Jesus knows when I will deny him and still promises to meet me in Galilee. God will endure the pain of my denial over and over and over again to only remain faithful to me. Peter’s denial reveals Jesus’ love and faithfulness. God keeps God’s promises. God shows up even when I repeatedly deny God and continue to choose to belong to the world. God is always faithful even when I am not.

In my rereading of The Return of the Prodigal Son, I was struck by what Henri says of Jesus’ two disciples Judas and Peter:

“Judas betrayed Jesus. Peter denied him. Both were lost children. Judas, no longer able to hold onto the truth that he remained God’s child, hung himself. In terms of the prodigal son, he sold the sword of his sonship. Peter, in the midst of his despair, claimed it and returned with many tears. Judas chose death. Peter chose life. I realize that this choice is always before me. Constantly I am tempted to wallow in my own lostness and lose touch with my original goodness, my God-given humanity, my basic blessedness, and thus allow the powers of death to take charge…But when God created man and woman in his own image, he saw that ‘it was very good,’ and, despite the dark voices, no man or woman can ever change that” (Nouwen, TRTPS, pp. 50-51).

I cling to Peter’s story, I cling to the knowledge that Jesus knew he would be betrayed and denied, yet, still promised to meet them in Galilee. When he did meet them, he did not tell them “I told you so,” he greeted them saying “Peace be with you” (Luke 24:36). God still claims us as the Beloved, even when we haven’t been very lovable.

So my dear friends, or rather brothers and sisters, peace be with you all. May you choose life, choose to believe that God will meet you in Galilee–no matter how far from home you have strayed. I know it is nearly impossible to believe in this type of love in this type of grace, but for the sake of our poor hearts why not let us try to trust in it together.

May the Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Peace, Joy, Blessings and All My Love,

Margaret

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Good Friday

We have made our way to the cross. Today is the day, the day that the light seemingly disappears and thrusts the world into a darkness that seems impenetrable. We know the story, we know that Sunday will come so we sort of skip over the dirty bits of the story–the bit, about you know, Jesus dying. We don’t want to focus on that bit of the story but it is important. Jesus was our perfect lamb, the sacrifice that paid the price for the world’s sin–the world he lived in and the world we now live in. So today, I am trying to let myself sit in the darkness and mourn the death of my Lord and Savior, I am trying to sit with the women (especially, Mary the Mother of Jesus) at the cross and allow myself to feel the grief of watching this beautiful human lay down his life for all of our sakes. I have the power of hindsight, I know that Easter will come and our Lord and Savior will conquer death, but today I am meditating on just what the cost was.

Below, I have shared a poem that puts in perspective what God calls us to do and puts into perspective just what it is that Jesus did.

Adrian Plass’ Poem as found in Hearing the Call: Stories of Young Vocation by Jonathan Lawson and Gordon Mursell, pp. 38-40.

“When I became a Christian I said, Lord, now fill me in,

Tell me what I’ll suffer in this world of shame and sin.

He said, Your body may be killed, and left to rot and stink,

Do you still want to follow me? I said, Amen—I think.

I think Amen, Amen I think, I think I say Amen,

I’m not completely sure, can you just run through that again?

You say my body may be killed and left to rot and stink,

Well, yes, that sounds terrific, Lord, I say Amen—I think.

But, Lord, there must be other ways to follow you, I said,

I really would prefer to end up dying in my bed.

Well, yes, he said, you could put up with the sneers and scorn and spit,

Do you still want to follow me? I said Amen!—a bit.

A bit Amen, Amen a bit, a bit I say Amen,

I’m not entirely sure, can we just run through that again?

You say I could put up with sneers and also scorn and spit,

Well, yes, I’ve made my mind up, and I say, Amen!—a bit.

Well I sat back and I thought a while, then tried a different ploy,

Now, Lord, I said, the Good Book says that Christians live in joy.

That’s, true he said, you need the joy to bear the pain and sorrow,

So do you want to follow me? I said, Amen!—tomorrow.

Tomorrow, Lord, I’ll say it then, that’s when I’ll say Amen,

I need to get it clear, can I just run through that again?

You say that I will need the joy, to bear the pain and sorrow,

Well, yes, I think I’ve got it straight, I’ll say Amen!—tomorrow.

He said, Look, I’m not asking you to spend an hour with me,

A quick salvation sandwich and a cup of sanctity,

The cost is you, not half of you, but every single bit,

Now tell me, will you follow me? I said Amen!—I quit.

I’m very sorry, Lord, I said, I’d like to follow you,

But I don’t think religion is a manly thing to do.

He said, Forget religion then, and think about my Son,

And tell me if you’re man enough to do what he has done.

Are you man enough to see the need, and man enough to go,

Man enough to care for those whom no one wants to know,

Man enough to say the thing that people hate to hear,

To battle through Gethsemane in loneliness and fear.

And listen! Are you man enough to stand it at the end,

The moment of betrayal by the kisses of a friend,

Are you man enough to hold your tongue, and man enough to cry,

When nails break your body—are you man enough to die?

Man enough to take the pain, and wear it like a crown,

Man enough to love the world and turn it upside down,

Are you man enough to follow me, I ask you once again?

I said, Oh, Lord, I’m frightened, but I also said Amen.

Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen; Amen, Amen, Amen,

I said, O Lord, I’m frightened, but I also said,

Amen.”

May we all hold one another closely as we struggle with the darkness of the day. May we all cling to the hope that, indeed, Easter is coming.

Peace, Joy, Blessings and All My Love,

Margaret

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Palm Sunday

Matthew 21:1-11

“When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey ties, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord need them. ‘ And he will send them immediately.’ The took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, ‘Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and placed there cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.'”

I am not sure about you, but I have a really difficult time with celebrating on Palm Sunday. I guess I just know what the rest of this week is going to bring as we progress further and further along, edging towards Good Friday and the cross. Palm Sunday is the beginning of impending darkness. Yes, we know that Easter is coming, that our Lord and Savior will conquer death and bring about everlasting life, but we cannot get to Easter without first going through Good Friday (My dear friend used this expression today and I had to borrow it!).

This morning I woke up to a text message from one of my news apps, alerting me to yet another bombing–this time of Egyptian Coptic churches. Thanks to hindsight, I know of the impending darkness the disciples and Jesus are about to be met with and I know of the miracle of the resurrection along with the light which cannot be stomped out. But today I look and try to feel the heartbeat of this hurting world and I sense the pain, darkness and loss of hope that is not only coming in the story which leads us to the cross but which also is haunting us this very moment. We all know of the darkness that seems to be swallowing up the light here and now. We have to get through Good Friday to get to Easter morning.

I am weary. I know you must be too. I am saddened anytime I look at my phone. It seems that I am constantly alerted to darkness, pain and suffering. I wonder how much more can this world take? And I think of just how broken God’s own heart must be. Today I read a tweet by Nadia Boltz Weber and she ended it with “Lord have Mercy.” That is all I can utter. Lord, please have mercy. My heart breaks for this broken world and all those in it. My heart aches for those who live every day in fear and grief. I cry for those who are subjected to a life of wandering because they no longer have a home, due to the violence that has ravaged their countries, their lives, their hearts and their minds. And I cry out, “Lord have mercy.” We must endure Good Friday in order to reach Easter. 

I am not sure how long this Good Friday (this period of darkness and suffering) will last, but I cling to the hope that Easter is coming. I cling to the hope that our Lord will have mercy. I cling to the hope that that precious baby who was born in a stable did indeed come into the world to bring peace. That that little baby boy grew up to be a loving man (fully human and fully God), willing to lay down his own life to save each and every single one of us in this broken and fallen world. I cling to the hope that Easter morning will come and we will all rejoice. So until then I will continue to move forward, continue to make my way, alongside all of you my dear brothers and sisters, to the cross. I will try to reach my hands out into this broken, bloody and dark world in the hopes of helping in any small way I can. I will continue to believe that there is still light in this world when it seems like the darkness has swallowed it all up. I will do all of this because I know that this is not the first time darkness has seemingly won. I know that the light will not be defeated and I know that Jesus’ resurrection is a sure sign that the light will never be smushed out.

So today I found it hard to rejoice. I find it hard to rejoice because of all the suffering, pain and darkness that I see present in this world today but also for the suffering, pain and darkness that is coming in the story I know so well. But hindsight also allows me to hope, to believe and to know that the light which is everlasting is coming and has already come. Easter morning is coming! We must endure Good Friday in order to reach Easter morning.

May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

I pray that the Lord hold each and every single one of us in a safe, everlasting, loving embrace. I pray for those who have only known a life of suffering, pain and darkness. I pray for those who have only known a life of instability, violence and fear. I pray for those who are lost, wandering and homeless. I pray that in this world of so much hatred and so much darkness that each one of us is a light that continues to shine. And I pray, with all of my heart that our Lord has mercy.

Peace, Joy, Blessings, and all my Love,

Margaret

0 In Beloved Little Souls/ Blog

Beautiful and Intentional Mess

My last post ended with me asking you to envision this scene:

I want you to take a minute, just pause and let this phrase, “Beloved Little Soul” wrap around your heart and bring you peace. Take a deep breath and let this settle on your heart; imagine I am sitting with you holding both your hands (please forgive my clammy hands!) and looking you directly in the eye and I want you to hear, really hear and listen with your heart what I am about to say to you. “YOU are God’s Beloved. YOU are a Beloved Little Soul! Yes, you! Don’t give me that look–I am talking about YOU. YOU are SO VERY LOVED. Now please, I am begging you–stop believing the lies and trust–yes, I know it is so hard to do so, but trust that YOU are the Beloved–with whom God is well pleased.”

Okay, are you ready now? Or do you need to go back and reread and reimagine that scene? Because I really want to get this through to you, I want these words to pierce your broken, bruised and weary heart. I want them to settle into those dark and dangerous places that hold you captive and make you believe the lies that attack and break you down. So, go back, meditate on those words for a little bit longer. Let them roll around your mind, wrap around your heart and make you all fuzzy and warm–and let yourself trust them and then let yourself really believe in them. As you do this I am going to offer a prayer.

Holy Spirit come. I have heard these words lay upon my heart for so long, I have felt the healing powers they offer as they have wrapped around my bruised, broken and weary heart and I have felt the reassurance they bring when the lies become so easy to believe. I want to share them with all of your beautiful children. Give me the words to share, the words that will offer some healing, the words that will bring about the peace that surpasses all understanding and the words that will point to you. May this bring glory to you. Please give me strength and give me the words that need to be heard (well technically written). My friends, I pray for each one of you as you read these words. Much of this post has been inspired and comes from some of our beautiful brothers and sisters in our family that have offered me comfort. Some words, God willing, will come from my own heart. Most of all I just pray that you hear and feel the presence of God and begin to believe that you are so truly loved.

I have struggled with insecurities my whole life. I, like so many others, have let society and people who I love tell me I am not enough, that I must make myself smaller, be less this and more of that, I need to look like this and I need to act like that in order to be worthy of love and to be enough but not too much. I have talked about this so much, in fact nearly two years ago I wrote a post for a dear friend who needed to hear that she was God’s good creation, it is entitled Precious Ones and was published in July 2015.

Two years ago I began a journey to learn to love myself, to love who I was and to allow myself to become who God was calling me to be. Honestly, the biggest step in that direction was choosing to go to Scotland–Scotland gave me a place and a community of people who allowed me to be exactly who I was and safe space to learn who I am meant to be. I hope and pray that you find a place and a community where you can breathe. I pray that God brings people into your life who simply let you be unapologetically yourself. My journey to Scotland led me to realize so many healing things about myself. I learned who I thought I always was isn’t who I am and I learned to let go. Now, after returning to the US, I have begun to realize that I am a complex creature. Multi-dimensional and I cannot and will not perfectly mesh together like a jigsaw puzzle and that is beautiful and exactly how God intended me and YOU to be. We aren’t suppose to really make any sense. I find this summed up so well in a scene from the book, The Shack. The main character, Mack works in a garden with Sarayu (the Holy Spirit):

“‘I didn’t do that much, really,’ he said apologetically. ‘I mean, look at this mess.’ His gaze moved over the garden that surrounded them. ‘But it really is beautiful, and full of you, Sarayu. Even though it seems like lots of work still needs to be done, I feel strangely at home and comfortable here.’ The two looked at each other and grinned. Sarayu stepped toward him until she had invaded his personal space. ‘And well you should, Mackenzie, because this garden is your soul. This mess is you! Together, you and I, we have been working with a purpose in your heart. And it is wild and beautiful and perfectly in process. To you it seems like a mess, but I see a perfect pattern emerging and growing and alive–a living fractal.'” (WM. Paul Young, The Shack, pp. 144-145).

I  don’t know about you but that scene sends shivers all over my body. WOW! I am a mess but a beautiful one. YOU are a mess but an incredibly BEAUTIFUL and INTENTIONAL one! I love the line, “Together, you and I, we have been been working with a purpose in your heart.” Isn’t that simply lovely? That we are working together with God for a purpose.

Lately, I have witnessed an immense amount of hurt. I have seen the fatal consequences of believing in the lies this world feeds us. Maybe that is another reason I feel so called to write about God’s love for all of God’s children (AKA all the children in world). Haven’t we heard that we aren’t enough too many times, isn’t it time that we simply hear the truth–that God loves us and accepts us exactly as we come.

Recently, I have come to really love the words messy and broken. I think that it is amongst the mess that is our lives and within the brokenness of hearts and selves that God truly shows up and does God’s best work. A few weeks ago I wrote a post entitled Saved where I talked about how God loves me back to life over and over again. Just this past week I have been loved back to life, back to myself and back to God by God–through the loving acceptance of wonderful friends and God’s grace. Last week I believed in all the lies society tells me to believe. I sobbed on the phone to my dear friend about how I didn’t believe I was worthy of love, how I truly believed I was too much for anyone to actually ever love and all those horrible thoughts made me feel so ashamed. How had I fallen so far from where I was? I am so thankful for my dear friends, and as my friend listened she offered me reassurance that I was indeed loved and I was not too much.

Community is so important. God designed us to be relational creatures. And when I forget that I am not of this world (John 15:19) I have friends to remind me of who I am and more importantly whose I am. I believe, and in fact have been told by someone dear to me, that I was created to love–I think that is my call in this world, to love, defend love and to tell of God’s love for us all. That is why I am writing. Maybe you don’t have a supportive community to reassure you that you are loved, but my loves, you have me to reassure you and to (physically or figuratively) hold your hand when it feels like the world will destroy you.

I want to leave this post with something that I think is utterly beautiful and something that you most likely need to hear. This scene comes from a book that changed my life, Hearing the Call: Stories of Young Vocation; yes, I know I say this all the time, but I really mean it! In the final pages of the book there is a beautiful interaction between an older monk, known to be able to read people’s hearts, and a young man seeking his call in life. I think we all need to let the wisdom that is shared from the older monk to the young man sink into our hearts and bring us peace.

“‘…Your problem is, you don’t know who you are. Let me tell you who you are. You are a ray of God’s own light.’ ‘Sounds a bit silly,’ the young man thought to himself. But he was intrigued, so he said, ‘What do you mean?’ ‘You say you seek God, but a ray of light doesn’t seek the sun;  it’s coming from the sun. You are a branch on the vine of God. A branch doesn’t seek the vine; it’s already part of the vine. A wave doesn’t look for the ocean; it’s already full of ocean. Because you don’t know that who you are is one with God, you believe all these labels about yourself; I’m a sinner, I’m a saint, I’m a wretch, I’m a worm and no man, I’m a monk, I’m a nurse. These are labels, clothing. They serve a purpose, but they are not who you are. To the extent that you believe these labels, you believe a lie, and you add anguish upon anguish…'” (Jonathan Lawson and Gordon Muriel, Hearing the Call: Stories of Young Vocation, p. 108).

You, my dear and lovely friend, you intentional and beautiful mess, “You are a ray of God’s own light. And please don’t ever forget it.

May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Peace, Joy, Blessings and All My Love,

Margaret

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Beloved Little Souls

I have tried to write this post three times. I have prayed for, referred to so many gorgeous sources, looked at my life and my friends’ lives to find the words that need to be said and heard. Recently, I have written about how I am really trying to be honest to God and myself, especially as we make our way to the cross. So, I felt that I needed to introduce this series, Beloved Little Souls with honesty about my life. I struggle and have always struggled to truly believe that I am worthy of love, that I am good enough to exist and that I could ever be capable of doing anything of value. Harsh? Yes. But these are the lies that I have let seep into my heart and soul, these are the dark thoughts that have played over and over in my head, these are the lies that society has fed me and has fed you. Today I was on Pinterest and I saw this quote:

“Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?” (K.W.)

We have been told throughout our entire existence and are currently telling children who they should be, what they need to do to be worthy and acceptable of love and ultimately that unless they do a,b,c they will not be of value in this world. We hear these lies, every single minute of every single day. They surround us, they are shoved down our throats and they come packaged in a variety of ways. Then if we manage to wade through the lies and come to a place where we are capable of saying, “I love myself exactly how I am, I am worthy of love and I matter.” Someone somewhere will see that little light of hope and try to squish it out. They will condemn you as “Egotistical, prideful, conceited.” This attack often spurs us back into square one–back to that place where we believe we just aren’t enough.

That is why I am writing. I am writing for you and I am also writing for me. I want to do what little I can to remind you that in a world that tells you you are not enough, you are unlovable, you are not worthy–I am hear to say: Oh you, my love, you are SO LOVED, you are more than enough, you are not just lovable–you are already SO LOVED and you are worthy of all the beauty and joy that this world has to offer. I need to hear it and so do you.

There are some days that I have to admit that I don’t believe that I am worthy of love and that something is inherently wrong with me–but fortunately I have a wonderful community of people (some are the authors of my favorite books) who are there to remind me of the truth and physically or figuratively hold my hand till I can believe it again. I hope this series of posts will serve as a reminder to you that you are so very loved and that your presence in this world makes it a brighter place–you produce a light that cannot be replicated, so why not just let it shine?

I have chosen to entitle the series, Beloved Little Souls. This title comes from one of my favorite endearments, Beloved, and the gorgeous Hebrew word, Neshume-le, which means “Beloved Little Soul.” Back in September (2016), I discovered The Return of the Prodigal Son, by my man Henri Nouwen. Henri (I feel like he and I are kindred souls and I now consider him a dear friend, so I call him by his first name), challenges his readers, and himself to hear the verse Matthew 3:17, “And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with whom I am well pleased,'” as directed toward Jesus but ourselves as well. Henri uses the phrase: “You are the Beloved, on you my favor rests [or] with whom I am well pleased” over and over again, in a couple of different books.* The first time I read this phrase and let myself hear it within my own heart I felt peace and love. I suspect you not only need to hear it but need to learn to trust and believe in it. I also know I need to be reminded of it so that maybe, just maybe I will truly let myself believe it.

So let’s begin on this journey together. Beloved Little Souls just setting out on a path of, God willing: healing, reconciliation, love, discovery, peace and joy.

I want you to take a minute, just pause and let this phrase, “Beloved Little Soul” wrap around your heart and bring you peace. Take a deep breath and let this settle on your heart; imagine I am sitting with you holding both your hands (please forgive my clammy hands!) and looking you directly in the eye and I want you to hear, really hear and listen with your heart what I am about to say to you. “YOU are God’s Beloved. YOU are a Beloved Little Soul! Yes, you! Don’t give me that look–I am talking about YOU. YOU are SO VERY LOVED. Now please, I am begging you–stop believing the lies and trust–yes, I know it is so hard to do so, but trust that YOU are the Beloved–with whom God is well pleased.”

I am so excited to enter this journey with you and with God. I hope that you will join me and simply let yourself rest in God’s loving and peaceful embrace.

May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Peace, Joy, Blessings and All My Love,

Margaret

*Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming; Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved

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Let’s Be Real

In the last year I have discovered the beauty of being honest with God. Honest about everything I think and feel in my heart. I can assure you, my honest to God thoughts are not always nice, pretty or flowery. Most of the time these thoughts and feelings are blunt, brutal, harsh, selfish and ungrateful. For a long time my writing was brutal and quite dark–it was a reflection of the state of my heart as it processed and reacted to things I was experiencing and feeling. I remember writing a post about how I was angry with God. A year ago I was undergoing an incredible homesickness and personal crisis. I was feeling the strong stirrings of calling, yes, that may seem beautiful, but to the planner that I am–it was God asking me to open my hands so God could take out the plans I had crafted for myself. Pft! I didn’t want God to take away my plans and my vision I had crafted for my life. So I balled my hands into tight little fists and did a lot of stress crying on the floor in my room. (I am super thankful to the beautiful and patient friends [one very lovely lady in particular] who dealt with the drama that is Margaret acting like a toddler).

My writing during that time reflected my heart.  The heart of a woman who was in the dark, who was scared, angry, bitter and resentful. I felt like God had asked me to go back to Scotland, to only abandon me (which isn’t actually what happened–key here; this is what I FELT, God was there I was just closed off to God’s loving and faithful presence) and when God did seemingly show up it was to only take away the thing I really wanted. I was truly lost in the dark and could not sense any clear direction. My writing reflected it and I received some criticism from some of my readers, wanting me to return to my lighter more hopeful self. But the thing was I couldn’t write happy-go-lucky posts because my heart wasn’t in a place to do so. I had to write what I was feeling, because the reality of being a follower of Christ is that it is NOT happy-go-lucky all the time.

My relationship with God is something I am grateful for with every single breath I take of every single day I am blessed with. Relationships are not always easy–especially our relationships with God. I distinctly remember laying on the floor of my bedroom in my apartment in Scotland and telling God to “Bugger off” (I used a much nastier word than “bugger”). Not my finest moment but it is one I tell people about because guess what, it strengthened my relationship with God. God is tough enough to handle me saying “Bugger off” and faithful enough to not actually bugger off. During those dark times I had a vision of God and myself. In this vision I saw myself sitting in a chair enclosed in a box of glass I had created to keep God away, the glass box was in a room where Jesus sat in the corner diagonally across from me. I remember telling the chaplain about this image, he asked “Does Jesus try to come to you?” I thought about it and when I returned to that room again I saw the anguish on God’s face, the anguish I was causing. Jesus was always there, desiring nothing more than to comfort me–the spoiled, bitter, selfish, pain in the butt child that I am. This is the first time I have thought of that room with the glass case in almost a year; that vision brings tears to my eyes. Tears of regret, sadness but also tears of thankfulness.

You see, my faith is not always strong. My heart is not always open, I am a spoiled, temperamental, selfish child of God and yet God shows up. I was hurting God with my actions–I was pushing God away and still all God wanted to do was take me in God’s own arms–comfort, love and bring me back to life. How truly incredible; God wants to love me back to life over and over. How utterly thankful I am for that. I learned during that time it was better to be real with God–to lay it all out, no matter how ugly, nasty and hateful my feelings may be. Honesty is key to healthy relationships, especially a relationship with God.

I am currently re-reading the book that led me to admit that I was feeling a call to ministry. It is a book that was given to me by the wonderful and grace-filled chaplain of the University of St. Andrews, Donald. The book led me to recognize my sense of call a year ago and is now guiding me, again, through the terrifying feelings of discernment. It offers me hope and reassurance about my hesitations and the fears I have with my call. I recently read a section of the book, Hearing the Call: Stories of Young Vocation, that discussed why it is best for us to be honest and open with God-even though God already knows how we feel and think. I think the passage quoted below gets to the heart of what I am discussing:

“Why talk to God about things, when he knows everything already? Barry’s answer is both simple and profound: we don’t just suddenly ‘create’ intimacy. Intimacy comes by sharing ourselves, our whole selves with one another. So talking to God about what matters to us builds the intimate relationship with God for which God yearns.” (Jonathan Lawson and Gordon Mursell, Hearing the Call Stories of Young Vocation, pp. 65-66).

I just think this is gorgeous, God yearns to be in intimate relationship with us. This, my friends, is why I share my heart–all the good and all the nasty, with God. I want God to know everything because that is how our relationship deepens. Sure God knows everything already but I wonder if maybe, just maybe, God relishes the time when we come to God and bare our hearts no matter how ugly our thoughts and feelings may be. I have another beautiful vision about this, I now envision God and I sitting at a table drinking steaming cups of tea. I am usually holding God’s hand and I watch as God’s face lights up when I share my heart. I see God’s face fill with joy when I gush about something that is bringing me joy and I watch God throw God’s head back in joyful laughter when I try to talk myself and God out of things I don’t want to do. It is this image that I have now come to, I am no longer in the glass box. Instead I sit and share the things that lay on my heart, even the things that I know may hurt God. And even though they may hurt God, I ultimately know that God will continue to hold my hand across that table, will love me through these feelings and in the process of sharing my heart my relationship with God will be strengthened.

We are making our way to the cross in a world that is so full of darkness and fear. The pathway isn’t always clear, it isn’t always straight and it almost never is easy but I cling to the hope I have in Christ. I cling to the hope that if God can love me when I am really blunt, harsh, selfish and hurtful that God still loves this incredibly broken world and is present here amongst us–working to love us right back to life. When our journey comes to the cross and we reach the cross where our loving Savior laid down his life–I hope that I am one of the women at the foot of the cross, being present in that moment–trusting that morning will come and we will one day see a world of peace, love and joy.

As we make our way to the cross, as we follow the paths that God is laying before us I pray that we all are brutally honest to God–trusting that when we bare our hearts to our Lord we are deepening our relationship with God, so that we might have the strength to continue on our paths.

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, my beautiful brothers and sisters. May you bare your hearts and souls to the One who knows all and still loves us with an everlasting love.

Peace, Joy, Blessings and All My Love,

Margaret

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Saved

Many of my readers and my dear friends know that in the last year I have been grappling with a strong sense of call. A call to ministry that does not surprise me, yet scares the living daylights out of me. I wish I could write here that I eloquently praised God for this call, but to say that I did would only be a big, fat, ugly lie. I am a bit ashamed to admit that when I began feeling this strong sense of call a year ago I reacted like a terrible toddler. I did not cry out in praise, no, I cried out in grief. I mourned the loss of my big plans and ambitions. Rather than open my heart and hands with joy I curled my hands into tight little fists and tried to make my heart as small and hidden as possible. When I finally faced the reality of what God was calling me to, and released my hands and just a bit of my heart I resigned myself to accepting my fate. I felt as if my life was over, and if we are getting technical–my old life was coming to an end but only to be redeemed by God’s love with the offering of a beautiful new life, living into God’s plans for me. I uttered an “Okay” through gritted teeth and a whole mess of tears.

Since that utterance, nearly a year ago, I have been on a journey. A journey which has taken me to all sorts of new and beautiful places, introduced me to God, this world and so many of God’s beautiful children. This journey has led me places that I never thought I would go; spiritually, physically and emotionally. I have faced some of my biggest fears, been overwhelmed by the pure joy of freely given love, been betrayed and hurt by people I care so deeply for, tasted and seen the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord. This last year has been one of great struggle, grief, fear, beauty, courage, love and joy. This last year has been one of discovery, adventure and learning to believe. This year will forever be marked as special in my life. It is the year that I have recognized how God saves me over and over again.

I was in a really dark place when I uttered “Okay.” I was severely disenchanted with the church; I had seen the hurts the church had inflicted on people I loved, I had witnessed the hypocrisy of the church, I had experienced the pain that comes when the church plays for power rather than love. I had lost hope in the church. Until, I wandered into an Episcopal church tucked into the corner of St. Andrews on a Friday morning in June. I still remember walking up to that front door and before opening it looking up to heaven and offering up a silent prayer of “Please let these people be welcoming.” When I opened the door I was met face to face with Christ. Her name is Sybil, she was petite, white haired and wore purple eyeshadow. She looked at me, welcomed me in, handed me a service outline and when I told her I was Presbyterian she simply stated “Oh that doesn’t matter” and welcomed me to the table. I saw Christ in Sybil and I was invited to share bread and wine. Sybil and the congregation of that Episcopal church saved me and restored my hope in the church.

I mentioned above that this is the year I have begun to recognize how God saves me. I know God has saved me throughout my life, constantly reaching into the mess I make for myself and pulling me out to place me back on the right path. I think Nadia Bolz-Weber describes it best: “God simply keeps reaching down into the dirt of humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves through our violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance, and our addictions. And God keeps loving us back to life over and over” (Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix, p. 174). This year I have begun to pay attention to when I have dug a nice little grave for myself and when God has reached in and picked me up out of that grave. If I think about my life I can pinpoint so many of these moments, thanks be to God! To believe in a God that will not stop reaching in and yanking me out of the grave I dig for myself, even when I tell God to buzz off (I have actually said this in with much nastier words) is incredible.

To worship a God who continually runs after me, welcomes me home with a big embrace and loves me despite all the nasty things I do is a wonderful gift. This season of Lent is challenging me and my faith in a number of different ways. God is asking me to trust when all I want to do is rely on myself (we all know how that works out for me). God is asking me to lay down my life and let God fully in when all I want is to let God have only a little bit of my heart. Giving my life to God is an everyday practice. Giving God everything that I have is so difficult but it is what we are all called to do. I guess I, like everyone else, have an incredibly difficult time believing that someone could love me as much and as well as God does. So as we make our way to the cross this season, I am trying to bare my heart and soul to God and myself, to open up my closed hands and heart, to trust in God’s love and promises and to believe that when God calls God will provide and go with me.

Wherever you are on your own journey, I hope that you recognize where God is reaching into your mess and pulling you out. I pray that you recognize Christ in the people who are in your life and see how God is working through them to help you. I pray you all meet, get to know and love your own Sybil and I pray that you are a Sybil to someone. As we make our way to the cross let’s be honest, let’s be courageous, let’s give all we have, and let’s love with all of our hearts our wonderful God and our neighbors.

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Peace, Joy, Blessings and All My Love,

Margaret

*The woman in the picture is Sybil. She is truly a gem!

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Tears

Crying is deemed a weakness in our society. Those who cry are stereotyped as incapable of handling their emotions and overly sensitive. Just last night I was speaking to a friend who claimed that he will not and does not cry. This baffles me because I am a cryer. If you have followed me this is quite obvious, the phrase, “I am a cryer” constantly makes an appearance. What can I say? I cry a lot.

I always tell people that my tears are a sign of me processing my emotions; whether they be happy, sad, angry, hurt, joyful, overwhelmed, or stressed–tears are how I express my emotions and process them. Tonight, as I sat in the Ash Wednesday service at my church and was reminded who I am and whose I am–I felt the hot tears fill my eyes and roll down my cheeks. As the tears made pathways down my cheeks I realized that with every tear that fell my heart was emptied. As the tears fell freely my heart became more and more empty of all the stuff that separates me from God. As my heart became empty I felt God’s loving presence begin to fill me up (which clearly only made me cry even more).

I just recently read The Shack (I am super excited that the movie is coming out this weekend!) and in this book there is a scene where the Holy Spirit, known as Sarayu in the book, comes to the main character Mack and collects the tears he cries. In Psalm 56:8 I see where this image must have come from:

“You have kept count of my tossing; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your record?”

Every tear I cry, God collects. What a beautiful thought.

We are now in the season of Lent. In the sermon on Sunday, I listened as the pastor said, Lent is a time for honesty and tonight I was reminded it is also a season to be brought home. I have strayed, again, far from home. I have let my fears, my desire for control, my pride, my ego and my negativity lead me further away from home and further away from God.

During Lent we often choose to give up something that distracts us from our relationship with God. Or, in recent years, I have learned you can choose to put something on; to put on a practice that will serve to bring you closer to God. This year I think that I am going to give up focusing on the negative by practicing gratefulness. I also want to make time to spend with God (what I call Jesus or quiet time). As we make our way to the cross I want to draw closer to the One who looks at me, knows me by name and calls me Neshume-le (which means Beloved Little Soul). And I truly hope that you want to do the same. You are God’s beloved child with whom God is well pleased (Matthew 3:17 and Henri Nouwen’s Paraphrase which can be located in many of his books but especially in The Return of the Prodigal Son).

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

And may you remember: In Life and in Death We Belong to God.

Peace, Joy, Blessings and All My Love,

Margaret

 

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Open Hearts

I found this quote in the February 2017 issue of Skirt Magazine

“Love wasn’t put in your heart to stay. Love isn’t love until you give it away.” (Unknown)

We have just had one of the most romantic and love centered holidays this week, Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is a holiday people either love or love to hate, personally I love it. My mom is a kindergarten teacher and always taught me that V-Day was just a day to tell all those you love–you love them. I cannot express just how excited I was to write and send out my Valentine’s, just sending out a little love to people who are all over the world put me in a better mood.

I think about love, a lot, 99% of my posts are about love, it is the central theme of my faith and it is truly the one thing that I believe makes this world go round. One of the saddest realizations for me has been that one of my biggest fears is to let love in, to open my heart and allow it to be vulnerable–and I find that this fear is not just reserved to me, I talk to people all the time about how they are scared to open up their hearts because they may be opening it up to love but they are also opening it up to the possibility of hurt.

The quote above was at the very end of a monthly magazine I read, Skirt. This month’s issue was all about, you guessed it, love and Valentine’s Day! Although the quote is simple, it packs a punch, “Love wasn’t put in your heart to stay. Love isn’t love until you give it away.” The thing about hearts is, they don’t really fully function without receiving love and they don’t fully function without giving away love. I know my heart feels more at peace and I personally feel more like myself when I give love away. However, the flip side is to give away genuine love, my heart must be open and my walls down.

C. S. Lewis wrote:

“Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

The second to last sentence brought tears to my eyes. I cannot imagine a worst fate for one’s self and one’s heart, to have a heart that is unbreakable, impenetrable and irredeemable. We don’t fear love, our fear is that we will be hurt. Love is beautiful, healing and brings us to life but the fear of being hurt is crippling. Yes, when you open your heart and allow yourself to become vulnerable there is a real possibility that your heart will be hurt and even broken; those we love often hurt us, some mean to while others do so accidentally. However, every time our hearts are broken, chipped at, sliced at and even stabbed–something wonderful does happen, they still beat and eventually they will mend and you will discover that your heart has the capacity to allow in a little more love and to give a little bit more love away. After being hurt, you must remember how it feels. We all get hurt but there are times when we are the ones that do the hurting. So when you have to break another’s heart, remember what it felt like to have yours broken and be gentle with it. Hearts are fragile and if you ever truly loved or cared about another person, you won’t want to inflict unnecessary pain.  (I think there is a quote along these lines, but I cannot seem to find it)

Too often we believe that our scars make us somehow less human. The world we live in places a heavy emphasis on appearing perfect, hiding our emotions (crying is seen as a weakness but I know it is one of my biggest strengths. I prefer to call it “processing my emotions”) and trying to make it seem like nothing really touches us. If we don’t feel then we cannot get hurt, but I don’t think life is about avoiding the collisions that will leave us with scars and bruises. In fact I found a quote that addresses this:

“Maybe life isn’t about avoiding the bruises. maybe it’s about collecting the scars to prove we showed up for it.”

I want you to think about your hearts, think about the wounds that have been inflicted upon it, think about the healing process and all the bandaids that were laid upon your heart. Now think about what your heart looks and feels like after the bandaids were removed, it may not look pristine and perfect but think of it this way–your heart wasn’t untouched, it was used. It is incredibly painful when people we love hurt us but I will never regret loving them. I will never let the pain cause me to regret giving my heart away, opening it up to let love in and let love out, because my scars mean I showed up.

So I am going to leave you with words of wisdom from the incredible Maya Angelou:

“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Peace, Joy, Blessings and All my Love,

Margaret

*I wrote a similar post, nearly two years ago, entitled Brokenhearted

 

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I Am Blessed

The other day I was in a foul mood. It felt almost as if my heart had been stabbed with a knife and I was too emotionally exhausted to pull it out so I made the decision that I would simply leave the knife in and let the wound fester. Fester it did, my heart ached in a way that I thought it might just be best to simply rip the thing right out of my chest. I let the wound and my mood fester until I felt numb and the hurt, anger and pain was only a throb. As I let myself wallow in this pain and this misery (dramatic, right?) I also allowed myself to throw a major temper tantrum with God–I mean I acted like a two year old in the midst of her terrible twos. I let myself vent, do a little yelling and a lot of blaming– then promptly rested myself against the cold, solid numbness of my once destroyed walls rather than in the warm, solid and loving embrace of God.

However, God uses many people, some very much alive and some who have passed on. God used a woman I respect greatly, love dearly and sorely miss, although I haven’t ever met her–Maya Angelou. Maya Angelou died in 2014, but this incredible woman’s glorious words and wisdom live on in her numerous books, articles and poems. So on Monday, as I was throwing myself a little pity party God used Maya Angelou’s words to break through the walls of hurt.

Monday morning I drove myself downtown to the Charleston County Public Library, where I got to use my brand new library card (I cannot express how excited I am about that little piece of plastic) and checked out three books: Letter to My Daughter and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings both by Maya Angelou and Strength to Love by Martin Luther King, Jr. I began with Letter to My Daughter, the back of the cover read: “I gave birth to one child, a son, but I have thousands of daughters. You are Black and White, Jewish and Muslim, Asian, Spanish-speaking, Native American and Aleut. You are fat and thin and pretty and plain, gay and straight, educated and unlettered, and I am speaking to you all. Here is my offering to you.” As I perused the shelf filled with Angelou’s work, picked up this work and read the back I decided this was a book I desperately needed to read; I managed to finish the book all on Monday. It is in this colorfully bound book that I found just the bit of advice that my heart and mind needed to hear.

In Chapter 11: Porgy and Bess Angelou recounts a story when she felt that she was going crazy:

“I told him I was going crazy. he said no and then asked, ‘What’s really wrong?’ and I, upset that he had not heard me said, ‘I thought about killing myself today and killing Guy [her son], I’m telling you I’m going crazy.’ Wilkie said, ‘Sit down right here at this table, here is a yellow pad and here is a ballpoint pen. I want you to write down your blessings.’ I said, ‘Wilkie, I don’t want to talk about that, I’m telling you I am going crazy.’ He said, ‘First write down that I said write down and think of the millions of people all over the world who cannot hear a choir, or symphony, or their own babies crying. Write down, I can hear–Thank God. Then write down that you can see this yellow pad, and think of the millions of people around the world who cannot see a waterfall, or flowers blooming, or their lover’s face. Write I can see–Thank God. Then write down that you can read. Think of the millions of people around the world who cannot read the news of the day, or a letter from home, a stop sign on a busy street, or…’ I followed Wilkie’s orders and when I reached the last line on the first page of the yellow pad, the agent of madness was routed.” (Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter p. 66).

I found myself feeling just as Angelou did. I didn’t want to talk about and think about my blessings, much less write them down. But I decided to listen to Wilkie’s instruction and pulled out a pad and pen and began to, begrudgingly write down the things I was thankful for. I get so caught up in the things that hurt, the things that I don’t like, the circumstances I don’t have any control over that I lose sight of how blessed I am, how much beauty is right in front of me and how simply lovely it is to live in the here and now. So as Angelou ended her chapter, I will end this post with: “Today I am blessed” (Angelou, Letter to My Daughter, p. 67).

May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all!

Peace, Joy, Blessings and So Much Love,

Margaret

P.S I hope everyone had a lovely, love filled Valentine’s Day!