The Gospel

God's Not Disappointed With You, Either

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I write for a ministry whose byline is, “God’s not mad at you.” I think about this a lot, but as a new grandparent, I have also been thinking about the truth that he’s not disappointed with us, either.

Disappointment seems to be the universal lament of the child and the grandchild. “I can never seem to please my parents.” “I’ve stopped visiting my grandparents because all they do is harp on me.” From educational choices to jobs to where we choose to live, with whom we spend our time, how we dress, where we worship, what we do with our free time . . . many of us feel that in the midst of it all, we’ve inevitably let someone else down.

Do you follow the Humans of NY Instagram feed? I love that guy. My eyes have been opened to fascinating and compelling stories of women and men all over the world because he’s taken the time to listen to people’s stories and tell them to the rest of us.

But there’s a prosaic thread that runs through many of their narratives: we all seem to think we’re letting someone down.

Just last month one beautiful “human of New York”, created in the image of God, told Instagram that she feels like she can never measure up. “My grades suffered, and my parents were so disappointed. They wanted me to go to university and get a real job. They were Haitian. They knew poverty. And they didn’t want the same thing to happen to their kids. Now I’m working in a hotel as a cleaning lady. I feel like I’m invisible. “

Sometimes, no matter what we do, how hard we try, what obstacles we face internally or externally, we end up disappointing someone. That’s my sorry story, too. I can’t be everything and sometimes anything everyone wants me to be. Mostly, I feel like a big fat disappointment.

It’s not the truth.

In times of self-doubt and redundant internal yarn-spinning, I have to remind myself of the truth. Here it is:

He made us.

[Genesis 1:27]

He knows our frame. He understands our humanity.

[Psalm 102:14]

He doesn’t expect us to be more than Jesus.

[From Genesis to Revelation and everywhere in between]

He gave us Jesus so that we could never disappoint him again.

[1 John 2:1-2]

He kisses us on the forehead in tenderness at the end of a long string of disappointments.

[1 John 3:1-2 does not tell us that he “kisses us on the forehead”, but I think that metaphor is a beautiful way to picture how kind and tender his love is for us, even when he knows from our birth that we will not live up to his expectations.]

God’s not mad at you. He’s not disappointed with you, either. And if I were Steve Brown I’d say, “You think about that.”


What to Do When You Can't Do Church Anymore —> Watch This

What to Do When You Can't Do Church Anymore

If you think you just can't "do church" anymore, this one's for you. I sat down with the crew of Steve Brown, Etc. and Key Life Network to discuss leaving church and how to plant yourself in a place where religious behavior isn't the point. Give it a listen (or a watch!)

My favorite part? “Oh no, Jesus and I are good.”



The Frustration of My Fractured, Distracted Brain

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I used to be someone who could hold it all together or die trying.

Then I had eight kids.

Then I thought homeschooling them would be a brilliant plan.

Then I had to feed them three meals a day and do all the domestic stuff that keeps a household and adult sanity in tact.

Then I began to write and publish and edit for other people because I was bored (just kidding).

And I kid you not, there is a decade of my life in all of this that I barely remember. I have two children whose babyhoods escaped me entirely, as in, I don’t remember them as babies. Before you snap your laptop shut and write me off over that last confession, you have to know that they were born 14 months apart, at the end of the line-up and the beginning of tragedy, and it’s a doggone miracle that any of us had clean clothes.

I suspect that you have had a season very much like this, too, and if not, perhaps you’re not in the Western Hemisphere? Because we westerners and more specifically, Americans, spin plates like nobody’s business. Out the door with the spinning plates flies our concentration, leaving us with a sort of living whiplash.

Just today as I sat down on the living room couch to work on an article due this coming Friday,  child #6 is searching for her make-up brush, child #7 is singing “Radio Gaga” at the top of his lungs and walking through the house looking for a glue stick, child #4 is Marco-Poloing me from college to debrief her Easter weekend, and child #5 needs to discuss her rehearsal schedule. Sometime within the next 8 hours, children #1, 2, and 3 will text me with a question, a request, or an anecdote.

I also have a long-suffering husband who needs dinner and who I married because I really, really like spending time with him. Child #8 hasn’t been mentioned yet because he’s at school, but that’s after a night in which he woke up his dad and me (separately) with complaints of stomach pain and diarrhea, both the result of too many Hot Cross Buns and Easter candy.

Somewhere in all of this I am supposed to be working on an article about the parables and reaching my own readers because I’m committed to helping people leave legalism with their faith somewhat in tact. And a high school lit course I’m preparing to teach. And laundry.

I laugh, painfully and ironically.

And sometimes I’m mad at God about it.

How does ministry happen in a life like this? When and how am I supposed to dedicate my time to study? I can’t recall what it’s like to concentrate on anything because there is never a time when I’m not interrupted by someone or the next door neighbor’s dogs. Focus eludes me.

I read about great Christians who came before me and I’m in awe of women like Catherine of Siena, who spent the first three years of adult life in seclusion in her parent’s basement so that she could commit herself to studying the Scriptures and to her deepening prayer life.

Well, yeah, I think. If I had three years by myself in a basement, I’d get pretty good at prayer, too.

I’m a little bit jealous.

I’m a lot jealous, if I’m being completely honest.

As I was listening this morning to a book about notable Christian women like Catherine, I began to feel like I had been robbed of an opportunity to use my overly curious brain and intelligence for the glory of God and the good of others. Good grief, the distractions in this household!

And then a tiny thought entered into my consciousness and wormed its way in like it had found a ripe, juicy apple.

What if God calls me to the distractions?

Ouch. What if? What if, in all of this whirlwind of never-ending activity and need, there is ministry happening in spite of the distractions? And what if, more to the point, ministry is happening because of the distractions?

What if the ministry is the distractions?

Catherine of Siena was the 25th child born to her parents. Mercy me. During the three years of seclusion, guess who was caring for, walking alongside, feeding, dressing, listening to, guiding, educating, and nurturing all of Catherine’s other siblings upstairs? Her mother, called to the distractions. The point was not lost on me.

Honestly (and let’s be honest), this is not a revelation that has totally changed my life today. I’m not writing this to tell you that my life has been radically changed by the realization that God has given me a poignant ministry opportunity right here in my home. Christendom has been clanging that gong on behalf of its mothers for centuries, and it doesn’t make me feel any better.

Honestly, I will still struggle because of my fractured, distracted brain and the circumstances of motherhood that do not allow me to have solitude, silence, or time. My friend Sallie Borrink has written an excellent piece on why gifted women (that’s me) struggle with the construction of motherhood. Might be helpful if you, too, have a hard time with all of this.

The brain remains distracted. The writing is what it is. The time spent with Christ alone is limited. But here’s the truth I will stand on until the day I die:

He knows this.

All of the spiritual growth born out of hearing and reading the Bible, praying, fasting, and other spiritual disciplines is his work, not mine. The real miracle is that God can take the 8 minutes I spent praying this morning and expand it to reach every person I come in contact with today, including you.

And while I still thrash against the unstructured ministry of the distractions that accompany serving others, I can relax knowing that God has promised to finish what He started.

The lesson for us all? Be still and know that he is God. Our ministry is fed by the knowing, not the doing.