This Makes God Smile.

Friends, I’m going to share an excerpt from a new book with you today. But if hearing the words ‘daily devotional’ makes you want to bolt, I understand, because I feel that way sometimes too.

Daily devotionals and I have a checkered history, as they tend to trigger perfectionistic thinking. If I’d miss a day, I’d start to feel bad about myself, thinking, Shouldn’t I be more disciplined?

And at some point I’d start comparing myself to the author, thinking, Shouldn’t I be ‘more spiritual’, more like so-and-so? Then I’d end up feeling like I’d failed at loving God if I admitted that the book was hurting rather than helping. In short, daily devotionals equaled a big mess.

But today I want to tell you about a book that has been a safe place for me to heal from all that. It’s called Journeying Through Lent, and it’s by my dear friend and fellow writer Brooke Adams Law. (You may remember Brooke our Spend It Offering Light series.) The book is on sale at Amazon for $1.99, just in time for Lent, which begins Wednesday, February 18.

If you feel uncomfortable at the thought of reading a devotional book, though, there’s no pressure here. I get it. I would rather you be true to yourself and not read it than pick it up because you feel like you ‘should’.

However, I can tell you that Brooke’s book is different from many devotionals that I’ve read in the past. When Brooke quotes scripture, I don’t sense her trying to change or convert her readers, or showing off how spiritually awesome she is.

Instead, I hear her puzzling things out, asking hard questions and not settling for easy answers. She is willing to talk about her relationships, the state of her bathroom, and her humanity.

Of course, it helps that Brooke is my best friend; I trust her voice because I trust her. But if you love my work, you just might love hers too. As such, I offer you an exclusive sample from her new book below.

Finally, I chose this essay to share with you because – spoiler alert! – the friend she mentions is me. Without consulting each other, Brooke and I simultaneously wrote essays about a difficult time in our friendship.

In my essay, I wrote, “For me, being a bridesmaid in my best friends’ weddings did not go the way it does in the movies, all ebullience and sunshine. The weddings of close friends are characterized by great joy, of course, but they’re also times of dramatic change … and change is difficult for those of us who like to maintain an illusion of continuity and control. The tectonic plates of our friendships shift for major life events like weddings and births and deaths, and there’s often an earthquake or two before they settle down again.”

Brooke’s essay is about one such earthquake moment, and how we rebuilt our friendship afterward. Enjoy!

***

JourneyingThroughLent

Brooke’s new book, on sale now

Be Reconciled

Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.

Ezekiel 18:31 (New American Bible)

Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.

Matthew 5:23-24 (New American Bible)

It’s so much easier for me to do Christian “activities” than to be reconciled to people.

It’s easier to go to church than to ask forgiveness for something hurtful that I said.

It’s easier to listen to a sermon podcast than to have a difficult conversation with a family member about something that’s been weighing on my heart.

But that’s not what God asks of us. Jesus warned against this hypocrisy in the passage from Matthew above. Our gift to God is our willingness to reconcile with people.

Several years ago, one of my best friends made a big life decision very suddenly. I felt confused and concerned. I was very hurt because I always told her everything—as soon as I thought of it—and because I make decisions by talking through my options with the people closest to me.

So when she made this huge decision out of the blue, I felt like she didn’t value my friendship the same way I valued hers. This wasn’t true, but it felt difficult for me to trust her with my truth after that.

But I stayed open. I told her when things she did hurt me, and sometimes I hurt her in return. Sometimes I asked for too much. Sometimes I saw only what she hadn’t told me instead of seeing the hundreds of hours of conversation we’d had in which she had told me true, vulnerable things.

She stayed open to the friendship too, and I’m so happy that we both did. It hurt. It took a lot of work. There were some moments of awkwardness where we realized we had no idea how to keep having a friendship as our lives changed—as we both got married, as we both moved to different states. But we are so close again. And I know for sure that this makes God smile, much more than an empty sacrifice, much more than a large check.

Reconciliation hurts. It’s painful and it’s counter-cultural. We’re taught to maintain the status quo. To ignore hurt feelings until a scab forms over our relationships and one day we’re no longer as close as we once were.

It’s easier to resent my husband for not getting the oil changed in the car than to tell him I’m frustrated. (And of course, it’s easier for me to point the finger at him for not getting the oil changed, when in turn I haven’t cleaned the bathroom this week.)

Lord, thank You for Your willingness to be reconciled to us. For paying the ultimate price for reconciliation. We pray that we might have the courage to be reconciled to one another.

Brooke Adams Law

Brooke Adams Law is a writer seeking God and love in everyday life. Her most recent book is the daily devotional Journeying Through Lent. Connect with her on Facebook.

What’s been your experience with reconciliation? Join the conversation in the comments below!

You Have Permission to Walk Out.

Friends, a few quick notes to start:

A Wish Come Clear celebrated its four-year blog anniversary on January 16! I had every intention of publishing that day, but life got in the way.

In the past week, I’ve faced a host of physical issues. (I’ll spare you the details, but don’t worry, nothing is serious, just unpleasant.) Naturally, I did not appreciate this. Who enjoys letting go of their plans, taking pills, and slowing way down? Not me.

However, there is a silver lining. I’ve had practice letting go of judgment and self-blame and choosing kindness, which is a spiritual workout.

Plus, I’ve realized on a visceral level that I have so much to be thankful for. I mean, I get to write posts that thousands of beautiful, wise people such as yourself actually read! And we’ve been doing this together for four years now … ?! What a gift.

Which reminds me: since I’ve been publishing less frequently here while I’m writing my next book, I’ve been posting more mini-stories on Facebook and Twitter. I invite you to like and follow and join the conversation.

But if you do click over, don’t forget to come back and read the story below … I’m sending it your way with love.

***

I’m not proud of this, but here’s the truth: I waste a lot of time gripped by false guilt. 

Last month, for example, I felt guilty that my husband Jonathan and I spent $11 on ornaments for our Christmas tree. I felt bad in part because I am naturally frugal, and in part because I was taught by my childhood church that Christmas trees were ‘pagan’ and off-limits to true believers.

As Jonathan and I stood in the check-out line, I said, “Um … should we really buy these? Maybe it’s too much. I feel guilty. I could put them back … ?”

Jonathan paused. We’d agreed to shop for ornaments, so he had every right to be annoyed. Instead, he thoughtfully replied, “It seems like you feel guilty about a lot of things unnecessarily. So maybe guilt isn’t a reliable indicator of whether or not you should do something.”

BAM. He was right. My guilt gauge is overly responsive. It goes off at the slightest ‘infraction’, so I can’t look to it for a true reading. Instead, I can acknowledge false guilt, then make a deliberate choice about what I want to do.

Christmas 2014

We did get the ornaments after all!

This takes a lot of practice, but it’s worth it. One recent Sunday, I arrived late to church and felt – you’ll never guess! – guilty. But I coached myself:

You are allowed to be imperfectly punctual – even your pastor says so! (This is one of the many reasons why you love her.) Remember, it was hard for you to come here today, since you’re feeling vulnerable. So instead of being hard on yourself, maybe you can give yourself credit for showing up at all.

In short, I tried giving myself grace rather than judgment, and it worked. I was able to relax into the worship music and even dance a little.

As I’ve shared before, dancing in church is both delightful and difficult for me. When I was young, worship meant singing hymns with my hands at my sides and my feet planted on the ground. When this early patterning collides with the more spontaneous norms of my current church, I feel … conflicted.

But here’s what’s been helpful for me: to I accept that I am probably going to feel (momentary) guilt no matter what I choose. I will feel guilty if I feel like dancing (because I’m disappointing those old voices of religious authority), and I will feel guilty if I don’t feel like dancing (because then I’m not joining in with others around me).

So I just acknowledge the guilt, then go ahead and do what feels right on a given Sunday. On the day I walked in late to church, I did choose to dance, and it felt great.

But then another musician started singing, and his voice rose to shouting levels.

Intellectually, I knew that the singer was just being intense about the music, just doing his thing. I love being part of a church that invites authentic expression. I am so fortunate to have found this church, these people; they have welcomed me just as I am, and I know that I am safe and loved there.

In the moment, though, those truths didn’t register emotionally. Instead, I felt deeply uncomfortable. There was just something about me sitting in church, as a woman, and ‘getting yelled at’ by a man in a position of authority … something about that scenario triggered fear and shame in me.

Though the singer was calling out words of love and acceptance rather than judgment, I couldn’t stop feeling like I wanted out. But then – wait for it! – I felt guilty about that desire to leave.

I tried to reason with my scared self: Caroline, it’s OK! You know this guy! He’s a good guy! He is not trying to shame or oppress you! So can you please stay put and get over it?!

Alas, these mental admonitions didn’t quell the fear.

church

Church, Washington DC

So although it felt risky, I decided to do something different: to let the feelings come, to honor the frightened child within me.

Small children can’t hear reason when they’re afraid. They need to feel safe before they can process anything rationally. So I took my small-child self in my metaphorical arms. I got up and walked out, as quietly and unobtrusively as possible.

It felt deeply subversive, but also great.

I stood in the hallway, taking deep breaths. Soon, I was calm. And I went back in for the rest of the service, soaring on a feeling of freedom.

When I finally took care of my vulnerable self – when I stood up for her, literally and figuratively – I felt God cheering. It was a lovely surprise to realize that God never needed me to feign invulnerability. That was all my own pride. Instead, God was proud of me for being honest.

As Anne Lamott writes in Plan B:

“I assumed Jesus wanted me to forgive [her], but I also know he loves honesty and transparency. I don’t think he was rolling his eyes impatiently at me …. I don’t think much surprises him: this is how we make important changes – barely, poorly, slowly. And still, he raises his fist in triumph.”

That’s how I felt after I walked out: as though I’d made an important change – barely, poorly, slowlyand that Someone was raising a fist in triumph.

***

How about you? What important change might you make, barely, poorly, slowly?

Tired of Rushing Around? Read This.

Here’s the truth I need to share with you today …

When we when we move through life at a breakneck pace, it adversely affects us, and other people.

True emergencies aside, many of us have a real problem with pace. We find ourselves moving frantically through our days. Even so, we’re haunted by the knowledge that life’s most beautiful gifts – like real relationships and lunches with life-long friends – just can’t be rushed.

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You Are Meant to Rise Again.

“This is not a competition,” the TEDx organizer told us.

“We’re calling this Salon an audition for TEDxBirmingham, but remember that this is your TEDx talk … and one or two of you may be invited to present at the larger event.”

I nodded, feeling a blush creep up my cheeks. I’d been caught red-handed, thinking competitive thoughts. Taking a deep breath, I reminded myself that it was a tremendous honor to give one 4-minute TEDx talk.

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