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April 2017

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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

0 In Beloved Little Souls/ Blog

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