It doesn't have to be great...
Good morning, friends—deep grace and peace to you this week….
It was a joy last week to hear some of your 2024 words and phrases! Words like RECLAIM, FORWARD, LET GO, FREEDOM, AWE, and more. I found myself so inspired by not just the words, but the stories and graceful grit behind them. It takes such courage to open your hearts and hands to the Spirit in this way. And whether you have a guiding word or not, I hold such hopeful anticipation for how God will be dwelling and delighting in you this year.
As I’ve been reflecting on words and hopes and intentions, I’ve also been reminded this last week of how we don’t live with or toward these things perfectly. And that’s very important. And beautiful. Because otherwise, we might not try.
I’ll speak for myself — I can be my own worst enemy and biggest obstacle to making some changes because my standards for making the change are way. too. high. The all-or-nothing mindset not only keeps me from celebrating progress that has been made, but can make me hide or hold back what I could offer because I deem it not good enough.
A reflection by author Kate Bowler last week really stuck with me. She was responding to some reader questions, including one on how she found the courage to write and publish a book. She shared how as an academic, she spent a lot of years believing the only kind of thing she could write was a history tome. When it came to branching out and writing about her experience with cancer at age 35, she drew upon a different source. She told herself,
It doesn’t have to be great.
Telling herself that, Kate says, “has led me to do things that I may not have had the courage to do from the start.”
Now, it’s pretty obvious that, actually, Kate’s work did turn out really great. But, had she not told herself this (and thus not tried to do the thing), we’d really be missing out. It reminds me of another phrase I found in paging through my old journals….
“B minus work can change lives” (or C-, or D-, I added)…
And my favorite pin from a friend in our world of star student bumper stickers and “best of” all the things….
Our efforts, our offerings, make a meaningful difference, regardless of how close they are to the standard in our mind (or anyone else’s).
And isn’t this exactly the way of God? God sees what we do not ( or sometimes, not yet). God values what we overlook. And God takes what we offer and can stretch it far beyond what we ever imagined. All we have to do is say, “yes,” to even giving it.
I read some last week from the Scriptural story of David, particularly his fight with Goliath. It’s a horrific and violent story which calls for layer upon layer of contextualizing and reflection. But when I take a faith-like-a-child stance, I look at David and see him offering what he knew how to do, and placing that in the hands of a great God.
I’ll close, here, with some more words from Kate Bowler…
“Here’s to mediocrity. May it give us all the courage to begin.”
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From my book, Ash and Starlight: Prayers for the Chaos and Grace of Daily Life, second edition….A reminder we don’t need to be great, perfect, or anywhere in between…
When I need to know I’m held (just as I am!)
Please meet me where I'm at today.
Enfold my heart –
whatever its state –
reminding me you are here,
reminding me I am loved.
I thank you, God,
I don't need to be perfect.
Your grace is deeper,
your love stronger,
your forgiveness broader
than I understand.
Draw me out, Lord.
Shine your light on my secrets.
Send the soft rains of cleansing and
the strong rains of refinement
on my soul's ground.
Please prepare me
for the days ahead,
whatever they bring.
You've given me the Spirit to face it all.
I hand over my worries and joys,
knowing you care even
more deeply than I do.
Please make me an instrument
of your love today, God.
Make me a reflection of my Creator
in what I say,
in how I act,
in the focus of my thoughts,
in the energy I emanate.
Psalm 51:2 * 2 Corinthians 3:18 * Ephesians 3:18-19
“I pray that you…know the love of Christ
that surpasses knowledge, so that you
may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
- Ephesians 3:19
Something that nourished me recently…
*83 days to go….I’m in the midst of training for the Boston Marathon right now. I last ran it on my 28th birthday, April 15, 2013, the year of the bombing. Amid the horror and pain on and following that experience, I carried the quiet hope that someday, I might have the opportunity to run it again. Qualifying standards have become even more challenging and the window to use a qualifying time is narrow. I set out to run my first marathon since the bombing a little over a year ago when I ran the Chicago marathon for the Alzheimer’s Association in honor of my mom. I was fortunate enough to qualify for the 2024 Boston marathon with it. Still some logistics to figure out, but here we go with trust and hope and lots of gratitude. I plan to run it with my brother and sister-in-law, and as it turns out, on my birthday again.
*Speaking of my brother, he sent me these pictures from his homeland of Minnesota’s northshore and I keep looking at them over and over again. Our family loved Split Rock lighthouse, and the hiking grounds around it, after visiting them last summer. Winter has a transformative magic, all its own.
*A pizza stand opened up in our basement, and I’ve become a regular customer.
*This Jon Guerra song, Kingdom of God, based on the beatitudes is one we listen to frequently in our house and always grounds me….
Ash and Starlight, plus other good things…
*SECOND EDITION OF ASH AND STARLIGHT ~ Find the new edition of my book here!
*"Welcome Wednesdays” — Our northern suburb of Chicagoland has received a number of buses carrying migrants in recent months, and our community—like many around us — has been seeking how to best support these sisters and brothers. We have winter clothing drives (among other supplies) happening now. If you are local to Wilmette, you can learn more here. The supportive response has been amazing.
*Another post on this resonant theme of messy rather than perfect came from a wise friend last week. Check it out here.
I wonder what you might do today if you decided it didn’t have to be that great…
God has plans for it.
My love and gratitude to each of you…
Love and Light,
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