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Transformation Begins in Slowing Down

Transformation Begins in Slowing Down

Well, it’s over.

By the time you read this, you might have eaten 6 weeks worth of chocolate or binge watched Netflix or put away whatever spiritual practice you took on. Me? I plan to put Easter decorations away and finish projects that got set aside the hubbub of Holy Week.  

Life will be back to normal, hallelujah and praise be to God.

This is, of course, exactly not the point of Easter. Every year I do this, though–invest all my energy into the preparations so that by the time it’s over I have no energy left for the actual transformation. Someone (perhaps N.T. Wright, although I can’t place it exactly) writes about this phenomenon. They make the point that Lent isn’t meant to be the main show. And yet, year after year, we exhaust ourselves “doing Lent right” or at least “getting ready for the Easter holiday” and forget about living Easter right.

It’s like gorging yourself on appetizers and leaving no room for dinner.

On Maundy Thursday, our church held a service of lament. Using Jesus’ last words from the cross, we cried out our pain and suffering, naming all of the ways our hearts are heavy for this world. We had plenty to cry out. Bombs are being used, water is being polluted, children are starving and the things seem very dark indeed.

We are desperate for transformation–literally dying for it.

So on Holy Friday, I devoted my prayer time to this question: how do I move forward from this place? How do we all move forward into Easter, not just as the celebration of a holiday but as a way of life that can transform the world? How do we keep believing that the world is being transformed, when the news cycles and our personal stories too often point to the contrary?

Per usual, God didn’t hand me The Great To-Do List, with all of God’s plans clearly laid out. This is always frustrating for me but after years of experience with it, I’m getting better at handling my irritation. So instead of leaving Easter with all of the answers to life and death, I’m leaving it with only a sense of longing.

But then maybe this is the answer to my prayer for transformation. Maybe instead of running around desperately trying to fix all the things, we need to get comfortable with the heartache. Indeed, I wonder if our desire for the “quick fix” is the thing standing between us and God’s reign.

Last week, many Christians immersed themselves in a story that quickly move from the cries of a happy crowd to the shouts of a blood-thirsty mob. It’s hard to overlook the fact that a grand desire for expediency drives the entire narrative. We love Jesus as long as he’s promising to take on the empire but our disappointment runs deep and vengeful when we realize his plan involves a lot of sitting around with the poor. And the authorities fall into the trap too–trying to solve a problem too quickly, rushing through late night meetings and ignoring the advice of the more savvy members of their staff and families. Resorting to action that is swift, decisive and violent.

So maybe this year transformation starts with rejecting the quick fix. Maybe it starts with spending more time in prayer and less time in planning meetings. Maybe it begins when we  embrace ambiguity and let go of urgency. Maybe it even starts when we agree to stay small, and make time to see God in other people, and do good where we can.

Maybe transformation happens for us all when we stop looking for our to-do list, and start looking for our center.

I don’t know. These are all maybes. But I do know that the tragedy of fast action and quick decision making has been playing out for at least 2000 years, not just in politics but in personal lives.  And so maybe, just maybe, it’s time we tried another way.

3 Questions for Your Lent Journey (Even if you don’t do Lent)

3 Questions for Your Lent Journey (Even if you don’t do Lent)

So, how’s Lent going for you? Like this?

Hiker on top of a mountain


Or more like this?

Climber struggling to get up mountain

Did you give something up? Take something on? Scrap the whole idea?

I sort of slipped into the season. I got a head start by taking on my spiritual practice a little before Lent officially started. But then things went downhill. By Sunday, I realized I’d already lapsed. Five days in, for those counting.

Naturally, I was tempted to throw in the towel then and there. If I couldn’t make it FIVE DAYS, how was I supposed to do 46? But I didn’t and here’s why:

Lent isn’t a rule book, a test of our character or a mark of our individual holiness. It’s simply an opportunity to experiment. It’s a chance to discover a deeper relationship with God at each stage of our lives. 

Even in progressive Protestant traditions, we struggle to remember this. We either approach Lent as some obligatory stage we have to go through to get to Easter or we throw it out as an archaic, irrelevant tradition. Both approaches miss the real point.

Lent “works” because it makes space for prayerful self-reflection. That’s it. There is no other Lent magic. It’s not about who can give up the most or who can pray the hardest. It’s about practicing something that we think will help us grow in our spiritual journeys.

So no matter how you arrived at this point in the season (1 week down!) embrace it as an opportunity for examination. Give yourself some time to pray, think and ponder. What does this season mean for you? What’s your intention? What do you need to give up or take on in order to experience God more deeply? And how is that working?

It’s the practice of self-examination that will change your life in Lent, not merely the observance itself. The yogis out there might relate this to the difference between practicing yoga as a spiritual practice and doing it for exercise. While both approaches have mental, emotional and physical benefits, the spiritual component comes in when we set an intention for our daily practice. It’s when we take time to set our focus on something bigger than “losing weight,” or “getting stronger” or “havig sexy abs” that we find the practice moves from exercise to spirituality. 

Setting an intention or dedication for your yoga practice acts like a metaphor to translate your practice off your mat and into your life. It is a vehicle that makes yoga an aspect of your lifestyle, rather than something you do just for exercise. Ahlia Hoffman at Mind Body Green

The same is true for Lent. Being conscious of our goals and attitudes is what makes the difference between going through the motions and growing in the season. Here are the steps I find helpful when examining my Lenten journey:

  1. Set your intention each day as you recommit yourself to this experimental season. What are you hoping to get out of it that day? Are you hoping to learn to trust in God by giving something up? To experience gratitude by paying attention to all that you have? To experiencing the commitment of keeping a daily prayer time? Or to being grace-full with yourself as you discover your imperfection? Keep in mind that each day’s intention may change–or not. But simply making the time to check in with yourself will be the thing that anchors your Lent.
  2. Ask God to bless your intention for the day or lift it up to God in some way. Light a candle, write your intention in your journal, pause for a quick prayer before you get out of bed.
  3. At the end of the day, review your Lenten practice. How did it challenge you today? How did it comfort you? Where did you see God in it? Or where was God hard to find? If you journal, it would be fascinating to review the answers to these questions once Easter comes. But even if this doesn’t become written record, it will still guide you into deeper understanding of yourself and God as you move into Easter.

The beauty of this is that it works even if you failed that day. In fact, it might be even more important on the days you failed. Examining what happened for you, what shifted your intention, what caused you to veer from your goal might tell you more about yourself than you’d learn through success.

I, for one, have learned some interesting things about myself and my priorities through the examination of why my commitment to a deepened prayer practice slipped so early. That was hard. And good. May your Lent be blessed with some hard, good things too.

3 Fun Printables for Family Goal Setting

3 Fun Printables for Family Goal Setting

We’ve made it through week one of 2016!  Mine was wonderful–really.  Nothing spectacular, just good ol’ holy ordinary stuff.  I’m getting better at paying a attention to this, a year after starting a blog devoted to the subject.  I’ve never been much of a journal-er but I’ve always been a writer and communicator so it’s been really, really fun and fulfilling (and a ton of work!) to commit to a blog.  I learned so much and met amazing people (Did you know that there is an honest-to-goodness community of bloggers out there?  I only ever saw the back-bitey, snarky side of social media but I have made actual friends this way.)

I’ve also lost sight of some original goals.  My first plan for this blog was to share more practical, down-to-earth ideas for growing spiritually in the family setting.  I kicked off with the “Prayer Project,” which I envisioned would be a once a week idea for praying with kids.  That lasted a good few weeks.  First, I found I really wanted some space just to write about the spiritual life.  I think that became more important because I wasn’t doing a lot of speaking, preaching and teaching about the spiritual life.  I went from a busy schedule to settling into a new community and it took a while to get my groove back.  I also discovered that my format of trying a new prayer practice with my daughter each week and then writing about it was just too much pressure.  First, I had to find something new we wanted to try, then I had to do it, then I had to document the whole experience.  It wasn’t exactly helping me connect with God.

Now that I’m a big expert on blogging, and because I’m back in some physical places where I’m working with children and families, I want to pick that practical spirituality part back up again.  I’d like to commit to blogging twice a week, once with more “spiritual life narrative” kind of stuff and once with more “practical ideas” kind of stuff.  It’s a tentative goal, though.  I’m going to take my own advice and try it through February.  After that, we may be back to inconsistent weekly postings.  Which is, you know, exactly what you shouldn’t do if you’re trying to “GET RICH BLOGGING!” but that was never a goal.

On to the printables..

One of the best things I did last week was sit down with my family and do some goal setting.  You should know that I have said at least once a week for the past year, “Let’s set some family resolutions.”  “Let’s make a family mission statement.”  “Let’s create a family vision board.”  When I suggested that we should each create a personal mission statement last fall, my daughter said, “Your mission is to torture us.”  To which I replied, “Fine, my mission will be to torture us all into better living.”  And that’s pretty much the attitude we went into our Sunday night family meeting with.  Here’s where I get to say, “I told you so, family!”  It was actually fun.  And we all actually did some goal setting, reflecting and Deep Conversation on life.

I owe it all to this handy dandy printable from Heather at Moritz Fine Blog Design.  This sheet is fun and inviting to fill out plus it has some greatprompts.  We started by just filling out our individual sheets, then on a total whim we passed out sheets to the right.  Now we had the chance to add something to someone else’s sheet–either a memory or a goal.  Then we did it one more time so that we’d gone around to everyone.  (There’s only 3 of us.  If you try this in a bigger family, let me know how it goes.)  Now we each have a sheet with our own goals, memories and dreams plus some suggestions from others.  Please do keep your expectations realistic.  My sheet came back with a goal from my daughter that I “be nicer,” and a goal from my husband that I forgive his “stupidity” more quickly.  But with an open mind, that’s actually some good feedback.

I also like this printable from Skip to my Lou.  If I was a scrapbooker, I would absolutely have kids do this every year and keep them.  It would also be great in a classroom or a Sunday School.  I am a big believer in taking time to reflect on things and I think we don’t do enough of that as a society, much less with our children.  So this is a fun and inviting way to get kids thinking about successes, failures and the future.

Finally, there’s this one from Spark Parenting.  It’s tucked in a newsletter about family goal setting so go to the back for the printable.  (The bits of advice are great, too!)  This is pretty different from the others–it’s not as fun looking, for one thing.  It’s also a lot more goal oriented, as opposed to memory and hopes oriented.  Now that I’m on board with torturing us into better living, I’m thinking of using this one to work through one specific family goal that we set.  And also using it personally to work through one of my more intensive goals for 2016.

Next up on our family’s plan for January is a vision board.  I’ll see how that goes and let you know.


When It’s Time to Let Go of Old Dreams

When It’s Time to Let Go of Old Dreams

On Sunday I set my family down and made them to fill out cute little new year’s resolution worksheets.  They love it when I do this kind of stuff to with them.  Setting new year’s resolutions is a bittersweet business.  There is nothing like the start of a new year to remind us of what we didn’t accomplish in the old year.  Being faced with putting plans into writing forced me to confront the ugly truth that there are things on my “wish list” that have been on their for years.  (I’ve lost track of how many years “learn Spanish” has been on there.)  I wrote them down and then stared at them.

We all know the statistics.  The vast majority New Year’s resolutions fail.  And of course there are a ton of goal setting tips to help you beat the odds.  Certainly goal setting is part of the issue.  But I think that part of what happens to us is that we get stuck dreaming old dreams.  If you, like me, have been setting the same resolution for several years, then it’s time to ask yourself a question: does this goal fit who I am now?

Sometimes, we stick with a goal because we believe in the good old adage about perseverance.  And sometimes that’s good.  Failure is a necessary part of achievement, after all.  But sometimes, if our hopes keep falling apart over and over again, it’s a sign that a new dream is waiting to be dreamt.  As the uncommonly wise Fred Rogers once said, “When we can resign ourselves to the wishes that will never come true, there can be enormous energies available within us for whatever we can do.”

Resignation of old dreams is perhaps half the battle in creating new ones.  This isn’t a light-hearted prospect.  Rogers goes on to tell the story of a woman who dreamt for years of having children and, upon reaching the heartbreaking conclusion that this wasn’t part of her future, poured her energy and passion into supporting parents.  Sometimes, the dreams that we have to let go of are expensive ones, indeed.

However, there is an equally tragic danger in holding on to dreams whose time has passed: we miss out on the opportunities that are just waiting for us to wake up and notice them.  We pursue a career that no longer suits our passions, or a dream-spouse who was never really the one for us anyway.  Or perhaps the carrot we’re chasing is some hobby that once sounded fun but now feels like pressure.  So this year, as we all envision who we want to be in 360 days, maybe it’s wise to ask not just what we want but what we might need to get rid of.  What dreams, no matter how precious and wonderful they are, need to be set free to make room for new plans?

Many years ago, when my daughter was a newborn and I was exhausted and overwhelmed (as opposed to now, when she’s older and I’m still overwhelmed and often exhausted) I remember an extended time period where I woke up every day with the goal to clean the bathroom.  Every night, I would go to bed with the bathroom uncleaned and feel depressed because I could not accomplish this one, simple goal.  Eventually, one morning I woke up and decided, “Today I am NOT cleaning the bathroom.”  And I didn’t.  I did, however, tackle some other chores.  It seems that taking this one onerous chore off my list suddenly freed up a wealth of emotional energy to do other things.

Obviously not all of our goals are as straightforward as bathroom cleaning.  Some of them will be genuinely heartbreaking to give up.  Like the favorite jeans we hate to get rid off, some of our goals hang around because we’re not sure we’re done with them.  “I might need it/want it/return to it someday,” we think.  “It just needs a little more perseverance,” we tell ourselves.  “This is the year I buckle down!”

This is the tricky bit.  When faced with our own un-realized dreams,  sometimes it’s not at all clear whether we need more discipline or need to let go.  There are two possible ways to go when you’re stuck in that decision-making place.

  1. Set it aside for a year. Decide that in 2016, you’re not writing a book, starting a business, adopting a child, going back to school, or whatever worthwhile goal you’re wrestling with. Determine to talk 2016 to just see what it feels like NOT to do that—on purpose. See if this frees up energy for other areas.
  2. Give yourself a deadline. A month is usually more than reasonable. If, by Feb 1, you haven’t made clear progress on your goal, give it up. Let things lie for a bit and see what passion emerges for new things.

Letting go of old dreams is never easy.  But it is often necessary.  Released from the cumbersome sense of obligation to our past selves, we might find ourselves free to step into amazing new things.  We might just find that there is more in store for us than we dreamed, and we only needed to be open to accepting it.

I’m excited to be linking up with the #wholemamas again this week.  It’s been a while!  Hop on over to Erika’s blog to check out Esther Emery’s post for this week’s word: envision.

Reaching Across the Edges (at The Mudroom)

Reaching Across the Edges (at The Mudroom)

It was the heartbreak I was after when I called a local hospice on a crisp winter day and asked if they needed volunteers…

There is sometimes a sense of unease that finds it’s way into our hearts. It’s a vague unsettling, a feeling that something is missing. This is puzzling when a quick life inventory reveals that things are really pretty awesome. I know I’m not alone in this. I hear so many men and women looking for something more. Not more money, more status, or more possessions but more danger, more risk, more giving, more love. Today I’m thrilled to be over at The Mudroom blog talking about this. Come by and say hi, I’d love to see some familiar faces!

While we might seek out rest and quiet, carefully grooming our lives to be as painless as possible, the places of unrest–the edges–are the ones in which we grow. Those painful, heartbreaking places are the ones in which we discover ourselves and, if we’re lucky, discover others. It seems that our connections to each other become stronger when we’re forced to hold on through the uncertainties of life–to make space for quiet in the disquiet, rest in the unrest, relationship in the isolation.

Learning to Leap

Learning to Leap


Julia Foote believed in a dream.  Literally, a dream.  One apparently induced by fever.  Her dream was that God had told her to preach.  In mid-19th century America, this was a pretty outlandish claim.  Women weren’t preachers.  The obvious thing happened.  She woke up from her fevered dream, told her friends, husband and pastor about it and was promptly reminded that it she was delirious.

In a wonderful post over at SheLoves Magazine, Joy Howard tells the story of Julia and her band of sisters, the ones who supported her through and through, believing her crazy story and urging her forward.  They became a “hallelujah chorus,” the people saying “I believe in you.  You can do this.”

Oh, how we need those people around us.  Friends, if you do not have those people in your lives, get them—and fast. 

But there is another thing at work here and it’s some mysterious blend of faith and inner resolve.  In people who succeed at wildly improbable things, there is a common ability to take risk.  They do it not because they believe that they can’t fail but because they don’t see failure as the end. 

In educational theory, it’s called it a “growth mindset.”  People who have a growth mindset believe that they grow and change.  This is harder than it sounds, especially for adults who tend to get stuck believing we’re done being made.  It’s easy for us to see that a child must fall in order to walk.  It’s hard to apply that to our own adult falls, no matter how many quotes about courage we read. 

The other day, a friend of mine described an ache in her gut, the desire to live her life differently.  “It’s just that I realized I’ve been living a pretty safe life,” she said.  This is, of course, the dilemma for almost everyone.  We feel a tug towards something more but we are afraid to fail so we choose safety. 

We don’t just look before we leap, we study the fall.  We focus on the bottom, make sure we have a plan, a back-up plan and a soft landing place.  By the time we’ve done all that, we’ve forgotten why we were making the jump in the first place—suddenly, the other side doesn’t even seem like the goal.  We’ve become convinced that avoiding failure, not achieving success, was the goal all along.  And of course, the easiest way to avoid failure is not to make the leap in the first place.

We have to learn to leap.       

If we make our lives primarily about safety, we will spend all of our time analyzing, strategizing, dreaming and never really doing.  Plans, goals and hopes only take us so far.  At some point, we have to take a risk.

Here is a comfort, though: God is too big to fail.   You might fail.  You might will make a mistake somewhere along the way.  Things will probably be harder and take longer than you thought.  But even then, God will go on, probably even weaving your mistakes into some beautiful new tapestry that was bigger and better than you’d imagined. 

I don’t know what dream is on your heart, what hope is waiting to be born in you.  But I do know that when we act with love, we act with God.  And there is no act of love that is too small (or too big) for God to use. 

So go ahead.  Love deeply.  Live deeply.  Grab hold of a dream and see where it takes you.

Living On Purpose: A Short Guide

Living On Purpose: A Short Guide

living purpose
Last week on my Barefoot Facebook page I shared this lovely illustration:


It caught my attention because I’d done a few posts on discernment, aka “figuring out what the heck we’re supposed to be doing with our lives,” a while back.  Also, because that is hands-down always one of the most popular topics when I’m speaking or teaching.  And mostly because I am constantly trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with my life.
So here’s what I like about this illustration: it takes a couple fuzzy ideas and makes them easy to understand.  It had the full effect of an “a-ha” moment for me, lightbulb over my head and everything.  The difference between vocation and mission?  Passion and career?  Yes!  It’s a framework I’ll hang onto.  
Here’s what I don’t like about this handy-dandy Venn diagram on steroids.  That little star in the middle labeled “purpose.”  Now that little star in the middle has to be labeled something because it is obviously a Big Deal.  Actually, some other versions of the diagram label the center “the sweet spot.”  Which makes more sense because it would be, obviously, a sweet spot.  Getting paid to do what you love and are good at and the world needs?  Hallelujah!  It makes my heart beat faster just thinking about it.
And it’s fairly unrealistic.  I know, I am always throwing water on the fire of hope that we can live the perfect life.  

I’m one of those nuts who believe that discipleship means making sacrifices.  

It’s not all living in a dream home, saving the world and getting paid for it.  And more often than not, I really believe that looking for this perfect life–this amazing place where all of our hopes and dreams come together, starred in the middle so we can’t miss it–holds us back from living with purpose.  

Now I’m not just picking on the poor person who adapted this diagram.  (I feel bad that someone’s feelings might be hurt, even on the internet by some lady they don’t even know and/or care about.)  It’s not really about the diagram, it’s about some bigger, human yearning that we’ve somehow tried to mash into a culture of status and consumption.  It’s like we’ve taken the very best of what’s inside of us, this desire for Something More, and tried to wrap and package it for easy use.  
Instant Purpose
Instant Purpose
Case in point: we talk about having a purpose.  Having it.  Like it’s something we own.  And maybe that’s the problem right there.  Maybe it’s time to stop thinking about “purpose” like it’s a commodity.  Maybe, instead, we could think about purpose as something we do, a series of choices that we make.  Maybe a life of purpose is built second-by-second.
Now here’s where it gets a little bit tricky because if a life of purpose is built second-by-second, then every second matters.  And that sounds like a whole lot of pressure.  There’s a downward spiral that starts with “making every second count” and ends with “never taking a break,” or “berating myself for those 5 minutes spend on Facebook.”  Neither of those takes us down the path of fulfillment.  So let’s hold that idea loosely so as not to make ourselves crazy.
What we might realize, though, is that there is power in this idea, too.  We might realize that it frees us up to make a thousand small, purposeful decisions rather than frantically trying to nail down the One True Thing that makes our life worth living.
Now, this does mean that we have to make choices in line with our priorities.  I know, right?  This sounds so obvious.  But it’s one of those principles that bears repeating because we are so bad at it.  (Ok, I am so bad at it and I’m assuming some of you are too.)  If you walked up to me today and asked me to name my goals right now, one of the things I would say is “I want to learn Spanish.”  Now, ask me how I spend my free time.  “I’m on season 4 of Murdoch Mysteries.  Also, I am desperately waiting for the next season of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries to come out.  Hey, did you know there’s a new trailer for the upcoming series?”  
Now, watching every period mystery series ever made does not make it onto my list of priorities but sometimes I find myself living as though it’s my most important task.  And I do it with big things too.  I will rant and rave about the importance of taking care of the poor and walk right by the homeless person at the intersection.  I can cite chapter and verse about letting the children come and fail to make time for the children living right in my own neighborhood.  Sometimes the problem isn’t that we don’t know our purpose(s), it’s that we aren’t carrying them into daily life.
You know what?  I don’t think that’s just because of laziness.  I think sometimes that’s because we don’t really believe that it matters.  There’s this thing that happens to me when I’m faced with a really dirty house.  It’s called Dirty House Paralysis and it should be diagnosable because it is a real thing.  I look at my dirty house and I know it needs cleaned and I can’t figure out where to start.  I’m not making this up.  It is so totally overwhelming to me that I turn my back on the whole thing.
Sometimes we suffer from Broken World Paralysis.  We look around and we truly believe that we can’t make a difference.  There are so many needs and our hands, wallets and purses are so limited.  So we turn our backs on the whole thing.  


If you’ve battled Dirty House Paralysis, you know that the same solution applies to Broken World Paralysis.  Start anywhere.  I was greatly comforted to have this thought pop up in my email recently:  

It’s important to do something even though we find it difficult to imagine how our small contribution can have any impact at all on this immense and hopelessly complicated problem.  Leave that to God.

Br. David Vryhof, Society of St. John the Evangelist

You know what’s really funny?  I hear people all the time talk about feeling like they don’t make a difference with their lives.  I hear them say that they don’t feel talented or worthwhile enough to do something.  And every time, every single time, I am astonished.  “What!?  You!?”  Because to me, it always looks like those people should be walking around in complete assurance that they matter and they can do amazing things.
So I feel confident saying this to you–the ones I know in person and the ones I don’t–you matter and you can do amazing things.  Start anywhere.
Living with Purpose_ A Short Guide1. Start

linking up this week with #wholemama

On Stars, Talents and Light Pollution

On Stars, Talents and Light Pollution


Sometimes, if you’re standing in a city at night you will look up and realize that you cannot see the stars.  They’re crowded out by all the other lights–lights that appear bigger and brighter.  These street lamps and house lights seem to be lights that really do light the world while the stars just softly twinkle in the distance, providing a little bit of atmosphere but otherwise not doing very much for anybody.

I sometimes worry about being a star trying to shine in a brightly lit city.  I sometimes worry that anything I could offer to the world will be overlooked due to the brightly shining lights of those around me, lights that appear to be bigger and brighter than my own.  It’s like light pollution of talent.  How can my small little twinkle compete with the brilliant shine of a halogen bulb or a meteor shower?  Sometimes the question plagues my days; sometimes it even keeps me awake at night.

The story goes that Jesus once reminded his followers that lights do not belong under baskets.  Lamps are to be placed on lampstands, where they can provide light to an entire room.  The meaning is clear: it takes courage to provide light in a dark place.  It takes courage to stand out and let your light shine, as the children’s song goes.

I’m discovering that sometimes it also takes courage to let your light shine in a place that is already populated with shining lights.  Sometimes it can feel like your little light (emphasis on little) is too small to matter at all, not because the world is too dark but because it’s too light.  It’s so easy to become convinced that our talents or contributions are just too small to matter when people are curing ebola and fighting hunger in big, newsworthy ways.  For those of us who care deeply about the world and the things God is doing in it, this is a singularly depressing feeling.  It is enough to make a person want to turn off all those other lights so that we can shine through just a little.

Of course, we know that’s ridiculous.  We know that no good comes from running around blowing out other people’s candles.  We know that when Jesus said not to hide our lights, he also meant that we ought not smother and discourage the lights of those around us.  The kingdom of God is not Game of Thrones.  We do not want to be the kind of people who can only shine in competition with others.

So perhaps the only answer is just to keep shining no matter how big or small we may feel.  Whether my light is distinguishable from everyone else’s may be beside the point.  Whether my light shines as I masterfully prepare dinner for 500 in the local shelter or shines as I smile and gently hand a dollar to the hungry man standing on the street corner, it is still a light in a hurting world.  Perhaps in our earnest desire to do good in the world, we put too much emphasis on letting our light shine when the emphasis is on letting light shine.  Maybe the goal, after all, is for a pool of light to spill out, blending together with no sense of where it begins or ends until we are all illuminated and illuminating in one giant display of radiance.

Wherever you are today, may you have courage to let your light shine.

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