The text I received from Ella* was bleak. She couldn’t sleep, hadn’t eaten for ages, was angry with God and other Christians. She had had enough of feeling so dark.
I’m not a trained mental health professional. I have neither the ability nor the responsibility to “fix” Ella. But as a sister in Christ, I want to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15) and help bear the burden of another (Galatians 6:2).
Parking in a grassy field, alongside dozens of other cars, I stepped toward a rustic barn where Nate and Anna’s wedding reception had already begun. Having opted out of fancy dress shoes, I adeptly navigated the terrain in my daisy-painted Doc Marten boots.
I grew up in church, so I learned early that “I’m praying for you” was the appropriate response to just about anything anybody shared about their lives. But in my early 20’s, I was challenged: I’d better not say “I’m praying for you” unless I was actually going to pray for them. Or else I’d be lying. Prayer had to be a spiritual action, not just a socially appropriate platitude. I knew right then that I would need to develop some new habits in my walk with God. Prayer had to become a discipline, and I needed to be a disciple...
My son called on an early morning in June to tell us he and his wife—in labor with their first child—were blocked from entering the hospital zone because of some huge disaster down the street. The huge event was the mass shooting at a nightclub. A security guard had killed 49 people and wounded 53 others at the popular gay club on Latin night...
Some things just seem easier to learn as a kid. Whether it’s how to swim, or ski, or speak a new language - kids seem to absorb new skills so much faster and more naturally. I learned how to hula hoop, dance, and ride a bike as a kid, but one thing I didn’t learn was how to pray.
I’ll admit it: I wasn’t sure if it would work. Few of the women on our retreat had heard of this idea known throughout church history as Lectio Divina. Latin for “divine reading” and a structured way to pray in quiet moments, I felt sure introducing Lectio Divina to my fellow churchwomen could invite them into a deeper place with Jesus. It was intentional, structured and—did I mention?—quiet, a refreshing alternative for busy Christians.
At a time of year when we roll out all sorts of ambitions and plans of things we hope to do, hope to be, and hope to accomplish; the teacher of Ecclesiastes (a veteran in life-changing plans and projects himself) reminds us that these things are destined to be fleeting, unless we find our motivation and comfort in knowing God and being known by him.
Tis the season for candles and school concerts, crowded shopping malls and (incomplete) grocery lists. Braved with intentionality, December concedes few holy moments for considering the birth of God. Still, the holy moments are fewer than we wish—the hassles, despite our planning and preparation, more frequent. December dumps us into January with exhausted resolutions to abandon franticness.
I don’t know if you’re like me, but now that I’m in my thirties, I reflect on the passion I had for Jesus in my youth with fondness. The whole world was ahead of me as I planned my future - every bright and shiny promise in my Bible highlighted in yellow pen and emphasized with a big exclamation point.
The question of when to stay and when to leave a church is complex. It does not have a one-size-fits-all formula. Although there are clear reasons to leave—such as abuse, or a church’s departure from basic historic Christian beliefs—church members exit their churches for a myriad of other reason - some valid, and some less so.
I put my faith in Jesus as a teenager, and soon came to realize that my own sense of wanting to put the world right was in fact an echo of God’s deeper call for justice. God will finally put the world to right when Jesus returns, but until then, I needed to have confidence in what I couldn’t yet see (Hebrews 11:1) and lean into doing justice and loving mercy. Here. Now.