Generosity and Grace

I’ve been learning a lot lately about allowing myself grace. I have, for a number of reasons, chosen to take this summer to slow down. I’m being more strict with myself about taking a full day off every week, and am trying to figure out, as a workaholic, how to do this “rest” thing. Similarly, as much as I hate the term “people-pleaser,” I draw way too much of my perceived self-worth from being helpful and useful. I’m learning how unhealthy these tendencies are, and I believe it all comes back to worship and love.

When asked about what the top commandment is, Jesus gave two: love God and love others. However, I think I at least have a tendency to separate them too much. The second is an outflowing of the first. When a couple is in love, they are always learning more about each other. Similarly, as we love God, we grow in our understanding of who God is; it is by knowing and trusting in who God is that we are able to act in love towards others. A part of that trusting God, though, is trusting what he says is true about us. That’s the part I struggle the most with.

God is love, and it is through learning more about Love that we know what it looks like to truly and purely love another.

I’ve heard it argued that in order to “love others as ourselves,” we must learn to love ourselves. While it is true that it is only through healthy self-respect and boundaries we can love others (Brené Brown has some great resources on this), healthy self-respect doesn’t come because I focus on myself. We are healthy when we believe what God says about us. Though I may decide that I want to work harder all the time, God says I am made to have a sabbath. I have to decide to trust what God says over my own voice. It comes down to worshiping God, not myself, and trusting that God is good.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (NIV, Matthew 7:11-12)

I don’t always know what is best for my life. Like a child, I have to trust that my Father knows what is best for me and will give me good gifts. I love these two verses; Jesus goes straight from saying to trust God’s goodness to the “golden rule,” the second of the two most important commandments. I’ve been struggling with trusting in the goodness of God regarding myself and my future; perhaps for others the struggle is in a different area of trust. However, I believe it is only by trusting that God is a perfect father who gives good gifts that I will ever really love those around me.

What do you think? Do you struggle to trust that God is good? How have you found your view of God to affect how you love others? I’d love to hear from you!


From Worry to Wonder

What if we worry because we are asking the wrong question?

Worry loves to drag us down, convince us that we are drowning. Many things can be said about worry and its varied causes and symptoms. I think we try to make worry more complicated than it really is, often sadly (at least for me) in an attempt to excuse and rationalize our worry. However, choosing faith and trust over worry is far from easy, and perhaps those topics that are simplest yet hardest require the most unpacking.

One area where I struggle with worry is planning for my future. I (like most) had a dream when I graduated college. For me, it was to get a steady, good paying job, to make a home, and to spend free time and vacations learning and traveling. For a few years, it seemed like I was doing a great job of making my dream come true. Then life took a sharp turn that caused me to change my plans and reevaluate my priorities.

I question what I’m doing with my life. I crave some assurance my life is making a difference, that it matters.

All around me, the world asks, “What are you doing to get ahead? What is your 5-year plan, and what is your 10-step plan to get there?” Now hear me, I fully believe in actively working towards goals; I just think life progresses more slowly, more gradually than our pristine 10-step plan allows for. Personally I think that’s God grace towards us. I also think the path is messy and indirect, and that’s what’s so scary. However maybe that’s also God’s grace to us. Jesus instructs us saying,

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:31-33)

We are supposed to not worry about our needs, but rather seek God’s kingdom and righteousness trusting God’s goodness for meeting our needs. The problem is, I’m not sure we understand or too often forget what God’s kingdom is and what it means to seek it. See, I believe we each have a purpose; a unique way we impact the world in a way no one else can. But what if seeking God’s kingdom has less to do with what we do, even with impacting the world for God, than exploring who God is and who God created me to be?

Impact is the byproduct of seeking God’s kingdom, not the method.

Worry, then, asks the wrong question. I worry when I ask “Will I get to the place I picture myself being in 5 years?” When we seek God’s kingdom we ask “How do the hopes and dreams you are giving me reveal who you are, God, and who you have created me to be?” That is a question I am willing to spend the rest of my life wondering and dreaming about.

What do you think? Does this resonate with your life and areas where you worry? Do you agree or disagree with my definition of seeking God’s kingdom? I would love to hear from you!

Photo Credit:  used under Creative Commons.

Dancing with a Good Father

Fear. The chains that bind the heart. Whispered lies that say that it’s safer to stay than to risk. Over the years I have used fear as a refuge far too often. However, from a very young age, my lifeline has been the presence of God. God who is love. God is perfect love, and perfect love casts out fear. As I have grown, God faithfully draws me closer, and my role is to let go; to let go of fear as my refuge. It’s a journey. It’s a dance, God leading, me learning the steps as God sings a love song over me.

A couple of months ago, with the help of community, I was able to surrender just a little bit more fully to this dance. To believe a little more deeply of the goodness of my heavenly Father. As I talked with God that day, he gave me a new song. As with every song God sings over us, it spoke of love and truth, identity and destiny. I knew it was time; I needed to make a public declaration of who I am in Christ.

A few weeks ago I celebrated my baptism with friends and family! It was a wonderful day, and am so thankful for all who have played a role in my journey thus far. However, the dance is not over. I am excited, for I know the best is yet to come. At the same time, fear continues to call to me, to whisper lies that try to distract me from the song God sings over me. So my prayer is that this act will forever be a lamppost, a guide to the truth of God’s love.

Below is a link to the testimonies of those who were baptized that day; a special thanks to Leo for pouring love and energy into making this monument of divine love.