God Alone is Enough

joanna-kosinska-355782-unsplash.jpg

A few weeks ago, I was having a dilemma (a tiny dilemma, but a dilemma nonetheless). You see, this semester my friend Joe decided to start a Dead Poets Society here at Notre Dame. Every Monday night at 11:30 pm, a group of us meets outside in the woods and everyone brings a poem to read. Honestly, it’s incredibly exhilarating to stand outside under the stars, listen to the poems other people have chosen and enjoy a break from homework. But it is always so difficult for me to pick a poem because there are so many good ones out there!

I don’t remember how it ended up crossing my mind, but the poem I ended up choosing is a very prayerful poem (or I think it might actually be a poetic prayer). It was written by Teresa of Avila, who was a nun living in the 1500’s, and I included the original Spanish below because that’s where you can really hear the poetic nature of it. It goes like this:

Nada te turbe,
nada te espante,
todo se pasa,
Dios no se muda.
La paciencia
todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene,
nada le falta.
Solo Dios basta.

Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
everything passes,
God never changes.
Patience
obtains all things.
Whoever has God
lacks nothing.
God alone is enough.

Wow. Every time I read those words, it resounds with me so deeply because it is so simple and true! The entire prayer is very beautiful, but especially the final line: God alone is enough.

I don’t know about you, but those words challenge me a lot! I can probably think of a few hundred things that I think I couldn’t possibly be happy living without (or at least, would be really, really hard for me to let go of): tea (maybe for you it’s coffee), or my soft pillow, or fuzzy socks, or Snapchat, or listening to music. There are more serious things too: good grades, going to a great college, getting a good job in the future... the list goes on and on. Maybe for you, there are some other things that you think you really need: becoming friends with people who are really popular, getting a lead role in the school play, excelling at playing a sport, etc. And guess what? All of these things are good! It is good to have a wonderfully perfect pillow, and it’s good to listen to music, and it’s good to get into your dream college, and it’s good to make new friends. But the dangerous thing is when we think we can’t be happy if we don’t have one of these things. What if one of these things, especially one of the bigger things, doesn’t happen, or doesn’t work out? Where does that leave us?

This is why, as scary and challenging as it might be, to really believe that God alone is enough. When you really think about how God alone is enough, it is incredibly freeing! You don’t have to be the smartest or prettiest or most talented, and if something you want doesn’t work out, then you still have everything because you have Him!

So how do we live this out? It’s really easy to say, ‘Yes! God alone really is enough!’, but it is much harder to reflect that in the way we live. Thankfully, right now we are in the season of Lent, and this is what Lent is all about! It is about letting go of everything that we rely on if it isn’t God. This is why we give up even things that are good (like chocolate or movies or, for me, bell peppers), because we want something even better, and that is to be closer to God Himself. And so I want to encourage all of you Revolutionaries, whatever you have decided to do for Lent, to keep on fighting and stay strong to make it happen, because our goal is to grow closer to the One who loves us, and that is worth sacrificing everything for.

No Greater Love Than This

freestocks-org-552875.jpg

What is love? Why is love so important? What kind of love do we want?

First and foremost, love is the innermost part of us. It’s our deepest longing and most beautiful desire. God has given us as humans and as His children the absolutely  wonderful ability to love. What a tremendous gift!

However, I find myself searching for love. Although I know I already have it and that God has his arms wide open to me, I search for love where I can’t find it. I search for love in the places of darkness where I think I want an object replacing Jesus. As the saying goes, “putting something else in the Jesus-sized hole” of our hearts. Sometimes I am absolutely sure that those distractions and idols are best for me. But that is only because sin and the devil do a really good job of masking those distractions to look like things I need. My sin is what actually turns my heart away from the life-giving water of Jesus Christ.

When listening to Christian speaker Christa Smith, she talked about how our lives are a bus. We have to take care of the bus and only let certain things occupy the seats. She says, “We’ve been allowing things to ride around and take a seat. But, ladies, you only have so many seats on your bus. So, what you want in your seats are joy, peace, hope, authority, the fruits of the Spirit. And anything that contradicts God’s promise or blessings over your life- you have the authority every single day to say, ‘get off my bus’.”

What Christa says very powerful. The love of Christ is always right there and we want to be able to see it, so we must remove the things that are blocking us from the view and outstretched hands of Jesus Christ.

Luckily, we are entering into a time of Lent where we have the privilege to have many women and Catholics all over the world supporting us in our endeavors. So, now is the time. We must acknowledge those things on our bus and receive the Lord’s grace. No better time than the present to pursue that Life-Giving Love! There is nothing greater than His love.

Yesterday when I was listening to my pastor give a homily at Mass, he mentioned that God’s love is SUFFICIENT for us. He said that Lent should be a love affair- a deep love affair that changes our hearts and leaves us never the same again! It is a time to rediscover the truths we already knew but had put on the back burner. Like the truth of the REAL and deep power of love, not the half-hearted or weak love that is not sufficient for us. It’s not the love of society, celebrities, magazines, social media… not the “love” of the world.

Sadly, we most often invest in that search for love in the world’s standards and in the world’s ideas. Crazily enough, the world has many definitions for love. The world believes that love is “finding your happiness,” “doing what makes you happy,” “helping others feel loved.” Maybe we have even heard, “feeling beautiful,”  or “feeling” this way or that determines if you are loved.  The incredible thing is, if any one of us were to fully know the power of the life-giving and mind-blowing love of Christ for just a second, we would be blown to smithereens. Why? Firstly, we only know a little of the Lord’s love because we don’t accept it. Secondly, because his love is too great and too powerful for us to comprehend.

If that isn’t exciting, I’m not sure what is!  Now, how do we move forward? How can we keep this love on our hearts and minds, so as to never be distracted? Well, it’s clearly not possible or even close to possible without the Lord. Mother Teresa, a phenomenal example of love, puts it beautifully:

“We have a great deal of worth in the eyes of God. I never tire of saying over and over again that God loves us. It is a wonderful thing that God Himself loves me tenderly. That is why we should have courage, joy, and the conviction that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.”

Mother Teresa, in all her service and in all her work, knew that the Lord loved her tenderly. Maybe you can’t help the sick and dying today, but I figure, if she can see Him in that pain, and can believe in His love, you and I can too. His love is sufficient, adequate, more than enough, and everything we need! It’s hard to imagine, but, there is no greater love. Love itself (God) is doing what He does best and will never fail. He is loving us!

In closing, I invoke you to search for this love wholeheartedly and where you know you can find it. Don’t waste your time on the world’s lies.

I find much peace in this verse and I have decided that when I feel alone, or forgotten, or I can’t “feel” the Lord’s love at that moment, this will be my prayer. I invite you to say it with me.

“Why should I fear? For I am being pursued only by your goodness and unfailing love.”  Psalm 23:6

What Are You Seeking?

mara-ket-504242.jpg

There I was, in my Saturday morning Bible Study, curled up next to my friend Jenny, drinking my tea because I never quite feel like I’ve had enough sleep. My friend Annie, who has a hilarious laugh, was leading this Study, pulling out of the Gospel of John. All seemed pretty much right with the world.

“Welcome, ladies, thanks for coming this morning! We’re going to start by reflecting on the past week. Ask yourself the question: what am I seeking?”

I opened to a fresh page of my PJ and pondered oh so piously. The biggest thing I combat hour to hour and day to day is anxiety about how busy my life is, so I thought about that. What am I always seeking, in my prayers, in my endeavors? I wrote down “joy, peace, contentment.”

Ahhhh, contentment. Good answer, right? That’s what I thought.

There I was, Saturday morning Bible study, about to be CONVICTED.

Because I abruptly realized the right answer was God!

Sure, the Lord grants us these virtues, and they are important, but the scary truth was that I had named these things as the objects of my desire, without a single thought to my Savior, my lover, my Lord and my everything. Scary, scary truth!

I know that I need God. That’s a fact I can’t deny, exemplified over and over in my life. I go to Him for everything, rely on Him as much as I can… but do I love Him?

I see Him as a Healer, as a Provider, as someone who takes care of me and gives me what I ask for, what I think I need. That’s easy enough, that’s obvious…but do I see Him as a lover?

What are you seeking, Grace?

The fruit of the relationship with God…without the love.

Scary, scary truth.

Some people are problem-solvers, some are problem-preventers. I am a problem-ignorer-until-it’s-too-big-to-handle. And I was cheerfully ignoring the fact that my personal prayer time was all focused on myself and what I wanted from the Lord. I was cheerfully ignoring the fact that I felt the ache of unfulfilled love. I was cheerfully ignoring the fact that something felt so off - that I was so unbalanced from not resting in his presence of pure acceptance.

If the signs are there, don’t cheerfully ignore them. Ask yourself right now:

What am I seeking?

When you roll out of bed and start your day, what is your goal? To straighten your hair perfectly? To finish your homework before school? Even to say morning prayer- but just to check it off the list?

Are you seeking to be beautiful, successful, intelligent, a good Christian? Like my list of what I was seeking, none of them are wrong. But perhaps, they are not in their proper place.

The Lord reminded me on Saturday that our desires should be focused on His love. That what we should be seeking is to be loved by Him, and then to be love for Him. You won’t see that on any conversation hearts in the Valentine’s Day display at Kroger.

Your lover, your sweetheart, your hero, your King, wants you, is aching for you, is missing you, is hanging on your every breath. His passion is so intense that we cannot respond lukewarmly. He eternally pursues us, constantly seeks us – will we seek Him back?

Revolutionary

trent-yarnell-19728.jpg

My first exposure to the word “revolutionary” was learning about the American Revolutionary War in middle school. In case you’ve shoved U.S. History into the dusty corners of your brain, here’s a little refresher:

The story of the American Revolution begins in 1765 with the American patriots protesting taxation without representation following the enactment of the Stamp Act by the British government. The protests escalated into boycotts, eventually leading to the Boston Tea Party in 1773 (que images of men in Colonial era garb tossing boxes of tea off of a giant wooden boat). Shortly thereafter, Britain imposed punitive measures on the colonies. The British’s response prompted the formation of the Continental Congress, which coordinated the colonies’ resistance efforts against the British and served as the governing body during the Revolution. In 1776, the colonies’ militia out-muscled the British, forcing the British to evacuate the colonies. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted for independence, and on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed, giving birth to the country we live in today.

The story of the American Revolution paints a vivid picture of what a revolutionary looks like. The patriots were courageous men and women who boldly stood up in the face of tyranny and oppression, relentlessly pursuing justice without counting the cost. Their revolution was not accomplished in one day or even one year. Rather, the revolutionaries made a conscious choice every day to persevere and to use their time, talent, and resources to keep fighting the good fight.

This year, 2018, is the year of the revolutionary. To live out this mission, the first question we have to ask ourselves is this: “What does it mean to be a revolutionary?”

Being a Be Love Revolutionary means being a courageous woman who boldly stands up in the face of tyranny and oppression, relentlessly pursuing justice without counting the cost. Our revolution will not be accomplished in one day or even one year. Rather, we must make a conscious choice every day to persevere and open our hearts to the Holy Spirit, using our time, talent, and resources to keep fighting the good fight.  

The greatest temptation, and perhaps the greatest threat, to the Be Love Revolution is putting our revolutionary spirit in a box. What I mean by that is this: the temptation is there to only be a Be Love Revolutionary when it’s easy or convenient. It’s easy to be a Be Love Revolutionary when you’re in a supportive environment and around like-minded people. It’s convenient to be a Be Love Revolutionary while you’re on retreat or at a church event.

A true revolutionary cannot be contained.

What if the American Revolutionaries only participated in the revolution when it was easy or convenient? Odds are, if that were the case, we would most certainly still be living in colonies controlled by the British. Our country never would have reached independence if the American Revolutionaries had put their revolutionary spirit in a box.

This is our year, ladies. This is our year to renew our zeal for being a revolutionary for God’s love. This is our year to be courageous and bold, letting our revolutionary spirit out of the box.

I’m ready to be a Be Love Revolutionary, are you?

Everyone Needs Jesus

Photo Credit: Rin Jandernoa

Photo Credit: Rin Jandernoa

          I need Jesus. I know from the depths of my soul that I need Jesus. He is my joy. He frees me from the slavery of being controlled by my circumstances. He invites me to choose the joy of his suffering, death, and resurrection with purpose every day. He is the reason that anything I do matters. He arms me with a hope that sustains when nothing around me gives me a reason to believe that there is something real and worth living for. Before Jesus, there was no way to spend eternity with God, who is without a doubt worth spending eternity with. I know this. I have learned this. I have met him and I believe in him from the calluses on my feet to the shiver that escapes through my head when I am moved by a song.

        But what about the people who don’t “need” Jesus? The ones who seem completely fine without him? The ones who move through life with every need met, every problem solved, smiles on their faces, and generous, loving hearts? Those who genuinely enjoy living, purposefully care for others, live with intentionality, and whose lives are generally not falling apart? It’s tempting to accept our differences at face value and live as if every kind of life purpose gifts the same lasting result. But the people who “seem” to not need him don’t need him any less or more than those who “seem” to need to him. In the end, it’s not about how well we are able to walk through this life with good intentions or with a positive outlook. It doesn’t stop there, and that’s not the point of Jesus. The point of Jesus isn’t to give us a bounce in our step, or to only transform the lives of people who have clearly reached the bottom and have nowhere else to turn.

           The point of Jesus is life after death. This is a truth that does not alter from person to person, or from circumstance to circumstance. This is a reality that every person is affected by, whether they realize it or not. This is the most real truth that exists. Although it isn’t tangible in the same way that a steaming latte is, it is actually more real than the latte could ever try to be. A latte provides me with a sweet sensation that lasts for about 35 glorious minutes. But no latte is the cause of my life, and no latte could ever provide the same deep-seeded joy that comes from the opportunity to live with the very essence of life forever. And this opportunity to live forever doesn’t just stop at an opportunity; it is a certainty that we will continue to exist after our bodies are gone. Whether the person next to me realizes it or not, the reality of their eternal existence is just as true as mine. And this is the joy of the Gospel. This is the truth of a God who doesn’t drop us off on some random earth and observe from a distance as he sits in his chair, entertained by the little ants that he watches running around in a daily frenzy.

        While I go through the natural ebb and flow of being more or less aware of my need for Jesus (depending on what captures my focus on a given day), how much I actually need him never changes or alters in the slightest amount. It doesn’t change at all for you, no matter what currently occupies your mind, nor does it ring more or less true for your good friend who knows Jesus well or doesn’t know him at all.

        I need Jesus. Not because I am an emotional wreck without him. Not because I feel lost without him. Not because I’m more patient with him, or my anxieties leave me because he is my best friend. Not because he gives me the ability to be joyful. I just need him. He is the joy. He is the hope. He is the source. He is the way to participate in the Father’s eternal gift of life. Everyone needs Jesus.

 

Song Suggestion: Awake My Soul by Mumford and Sons 

Take Heart

Original Artwork by Iris Rhein

Original Artwork by Iris Rhein

Sin is like Fig Newtons. I hate Fig Newtons. (Okay, hate is a strong word for a cookie; I dislike the taste of Fig Newtons.) It's not a very good cookie. But, for some reason, my taste buds are convinced I love Fig Newtons. I'm a little embarrassed by the number of times I have bought a pack of Fig Newtons, seriously convinced that “No, I'm going to like them this time. I swear I have a memory of them tasting good!”, only to bite in and be severely disappointed.

What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate. - Romans 7:15

St. Paul probably wasn't writing about cookies, but I'm reminded of this verse when I think of my longstanding feud with Fig Newtons. I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.

I sin. A lot. I struggle to be patient and kind. I'm prone to road-rage. Like a fly to a light, I run back to my familiar sins over and over, often knowing I'm just going to get burned. There was a time in my life when I really struggled with resentment and bitterness. I'd been profoundly hurt by someone close to me and it left a gnawing mess of resentment. I knew I ought to forgive them, but I was angry and bitter. The offender was unrepentant, even unaware, of the wound they had inflicted. For months I prayed for the grace to simply desire to forgive them. Over and over I found myself going to the confessional saying, “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. I have been harboring resentment towards ___.” My head might have understood what to do, but my heart remained stubborn. I grew frustrated with myself. Would I ever be able to heal from this?

I do not do what I want to, but I do what I hate.

The spiritual life is a struggle. My desire to do what is good clashes with my desire for what is not good. In the face of my constant failings, it's easy to get discouraged. “I'm always going to confession for the same sins. I'll never change. I should have been able to improve. I'm never good enough, there's always going to be someone better. I bet I'm the only one who can't get over this. I'm not strong enough.”  

---

I often think of courage as another word for strength. A courageous person, I imagine, is like a wall. They stand tall and strong. Unmovable and unshaken, they exude strength and sheer willpower- like a firefighter rushing into a flaming building, a soldier gritting his teeth and trudging along, or knights charging headfirst into a sea of spears.

But I think, as women, we have a kind of courage that is soft. The root of the word "courage" is cor, or heart. Often courage is translated as "take heart." But whose heart am I taking?

Courage starts with acknowledging my own littleness. I am broken. I am sinful. I fail, over and over and over again. I am weak. But in the midst of my brokenness, Christ comes and offers His heart. When I am tired of failing over and over and over again, Christ is there with His strength. It is in Jesus that I can stand tall and proud. It is in Jesus that I find the strength to persevere; the courage to continue on.

So yes, I struggle. I still think Fig Newtons taste good. I still wrestle with discouragement.  But if discouragement means to lose heart, courage means taking the heart of Christ and letting Him be your strength. So, courage! Courage my dear sisters! Take heart.

The Miracle of the Here and Now

blog1.10.JPG

Every year, after Thanksgiving and Christmas are over, and the excitement and magic of the holidays has passed, the following months (that are without any breaks or holidays) can seem never-ending and overwhelmingly boring. As I trudge through the cold, gray Michigan days, I have the tendency to focus on the next big thing that’s happening, with the mentality that once I get to that next break or vacation, then I will be happy and peaceful again. Many of my friends and I often say, “I just need break to come!” or “It can’t come soon enough!” Sometimes I am so focused on what is coming next in life that I forget to be present where I actually am.

Right now, as I think about the next couple of months, part of me wants to fall into discouragement, because my next break from school isn’t until March, and I have so much work to do before I get to that point. I can easily lose sight of the beauty in the present moment and all of the people that God wants me to love where I am right now!

The Lord doesn’t call me or any of us to live like this! As Christians, we are filled with the Holy Spirit by the nature of our Baptism, and in St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians he tells us, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) With the Holy Spirit working in our lives, we can live every day full of joy and peace-both the exciting and the mundane, the happy and the difficult. The Holy Spirit can help us to see that every single day is full of many small miracles and exciting ways to spread the love and joy of the Gospel. I think that we, as Be Love Revolutionaries, are especially called to spread the love and joy of Jesus Christ-even in the difficult or boring times of life. Small, intentional acts of kindness can go a long way to bring Christ’s love to the world.

A priest once gave me the advice to try to walk around my college campus without looking at my phone or looking down, but to try and look up, look at people, and smile as they walk by. When I do this intentionally, my day is always brightened by the smiles of others, and I am often able to pray a little. This little habit has helped me to relax, let go of those things that are worrying me and occupying my mind, to be more present to those around me, and to pray in between classes during a busy day.

How many miracles do we miss by being too caught up what is coming next, instead of living in the here and now? It could be the miracle of a beautiful sunrise, a good laugh with a friend, or an opportunity to spread the love of Christ with someone who needs to be loved. This year, let’s strive to be more present in the moments that God has given us, and remain ever-watchful for the miracles that God gives us each and every day. With this mentality, the next months don’t seem so daunting or exhausting, but beautiful and chock-full of exciting opportunities to be a revolutionary of love! Let’s start right now!

I am praying for each of you every day!  

A Resolution

ben-white-181778.jpg

Happy New Year Be Love Revolutionaries! I hope your 2018 is off to a lovely start!

I’m sure you’ve been hearing and thinking about resolutions for a couple days now and are probably reading this thinking something along the lines of… “Oh great. Here comes another idea for a resolution that I probably won’t keep and then feel kind of like a failure when I realize in the middle of February that I forgot about it.” If you are thinking of that, then I get where you’re coming from. I’ve often thought the same thing about resolutions. I always make them in the beginning of the year with these high hopes and then promptly forget about them a few weeks later.

Well this year, my fellow revolutionaries, I present to you yet another idea for a resolution, but this time, I intend to keep it and I invite you to join me. I invite you to join me in a resolution to choose hope, choose joy, and choose love this year.

I’ll be honest- this last year was a bit of a toughy for me. There were a lot of amazing blessings, but also a lot of challenges and trials. Jesus was with me through them all, and I am so grateful for His loving presence, but I’ll admit that I’m really looking forward to a new year and a fresh start. Even if January 1st is just another day and really no different from December 31st, I like to take every opportunity to look at things in a new way, or to give myself a chance at starting over.

When I was praying in Adoration the other day, I really felt a call to look at this year as a year of choice. A little background information… I have a tendency to look at the negative things that could happen in life- or the worse case scenario- and worry about how I’ll be disappointed or hurt or challenged. But that’s not how Christ calls us to live. He calls us to be like little children, and little children have hopes and dreams about the future that are full of laughter, joy, peace, and love. If He is our loving, caring, and doting Father, then why do we fear that the future will hold anything but what is good for us, His children? “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:17)

When we encounter difficulty in life- whether big or small- we have a choice. We can choose to look at the ways things could go wrong, or we could choose to look at everything with eyes of hope, joy, and love. For example, say you find out that you did poorly on a big test that you thought you would do well on. Instead of thinking, “Wow. I bombed that. I thought for sure I had it in the bag! Ugh. That probably means that I’m going to do poorly the rest of this year too,” choose hope! Remind yourself that one mistake doesn’t mean everything is ruined forever, but that you can get back up from a little bump and still look to the future with joyful anticipation. Maybe that bad test grade was the motivation you needed to study harder and get A’s on the rest of the tests all year.

No matter what last year held for you, look at this new year with the eyes of faith. Think about all the ways that God will surely bless you and look forward to them with the expectancy of a child. Be excited about 2018! God is a “good, good Father” and we are “loved by Him”, so you know that there will be many proofs of His love in this year. There will surely be challenges too- but that’s when you get to make your choice.

So I’m going to ask you to make your first choice right now: will you join me in my resolution to choose hope, joy, and love this year? Practice making that choice right now: do you choose to envision this year as a year when you will succeed in sticking to your resolution: choosing hope, joy, and love in even the toughest of situations or will you resign yourself to another “failed” resolution? (Although, even if you only remembered your resolution for a few weeks- you still gave it a shot, which is better than nothing at all!)

I’m even going to suggest another tool to help you keep to your resolution: accountability. If you feel called to join me in this resolution, let’s keep each other accountable. Find a friend to make this resolution with and encourage each other to choose hope, joy, and love. With someone else to support you, you’re much more likely to keep to your resolution, so take advantage of the wonderful gift of friendship and community that the Lord has blessed you with (and yes, you do have friendship and community- right here in the BLR!).

So will you join me? I’m hopeful that you will.

On Being Little

aaron-burden-71495.jpg

My Dear Friend,

Merry Christmas! I hope that, wherever I find you right now, you are well.

Currently, I’m sitting in my room under my blanket and a cup of tea that long ago turned cold sits next to me. I’ve spent a long time staring at this page in prayer, asking the Lord what He wants me to say to you.

In my life recently I’ve felt so little. (It doesn’t help that I’m 5’2”.) But more than physically little, I’ve felt spiritually little. I can’t quite describe the feeling to you, but it's one I’m not shy to. The feelings of weakness and helplessness are also felt deeply in my littleness. It’s hard in a world of “being big” and self-reliant to feel little and weak and, well, broken.

But as I’ve been praying and meditating on Jesus’ birth, I’m realizing that maybe this littleness I’m feeling isn’t such a bad thing.

In the song Winter Snow, by Audrey Assad, she sings:

[You] could’ve come like a mighty storm

With all the strength of a hurricane

You could’ve come like a forest fire

With the power of Heaven in Your flame

 

But you came like a winter snow

Quiet and soft and slow

Falling from the sky in the night

To the earth below

Jesus was born in a cave. There were animals that smelled and only scratchy, prickly hay to lie on. His Mother had no one but Joseph to attend her in the birth of our Savior. It was cold and unnoticed and LITTLE.

Jesus is God. He could have come as a grown man, on a mighty horse, waving a banner. He could have come riding on a lightning bolt in the middle of a storm. He could have been born a king in a palace with warm blankets and a bed. At the very least, He could have been born in a house.

But He didn’t.

Jesus chose to come little. A little baby. A little stable. With very little notice. Jesus came for the little. In fact, his first visitors were shepherds who had nothing to give but themselves.

He came little to give you permission to be little.

Jesus is calling to you and me: “Come! Come in your littleness! Come in your weakness and brokenness and shame. Come and bring everything you are, your best and your worst; what you’re proud of and everything you’re afraid to let anyone else see. Come as you are!”

Dear friend, I challenge you to bring your littleness to the manger this Christmas season. Let our big God who chose to come little meet you there and love you. Let Him be your strength. Let Him be big for you. There, by the manger, may you find peace and joy and strength.

With love, Abby

Following the Wise Guys

adria-berrocal-forcada-465768.jpg

When we think about the Christmas story, I think some of the most underrated characters are the three wise men. Have you ever stopped and thought about what they did or how random they were? In recent years, my only encounter with the wise men on Christmas was through the cheesy Justin Bieber Christmas lyrics, “The wise men followed the star, the way I followed my heart, and it led me to a miracle”. I know, not a great thing to associate with the wise men. But this year I’ve been intrigued by the role of the wise men in the nativity.

So, what exactly do we know about these guys? Tradition holds that three Magi (wise men), saw the Star in the sky and followed it all the way to the baby Jesus, where they worshipped Him and offered Him gifts. Matthew discusses the wise men in his Gospel:

“Ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.  On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:9-11).

St. Augustine tells us that the wise men most likely followed the star for 1,000-1,200 miles, a journey that would have taken at least three to six months on camel. He also points out that they would have needed to prepare extensively for this kind of journey, and that when all was said and done, they probably would have reached Jesus a little over a year after first seeing the Star. To summarize: these guys spent over a year following a star in the sky to an unknown location, unsure of exactly what they were looking for, and made it to the newly born baby Jesus.

In this Christmas season, I’m particularly convicted and called on by the wise men. The faith and trust it took to follow that star is often unnoticed. I want to lay out three lessons we can learn from the wise men this Christmas:

  1. Prepare for the Journey: The wise men saw the star, and spent at least six months preparing for their journey to follow it. They packed food and gathered all of the necessary items for a successful journey. While during Advent we journey toward Christmas, it is only a part of our larger journey toward Heaven. How we receive Jesus on Christmas helps to keep us strong and nourished for the entire journey. So how are we preparing for the Christmas journey and how are we continuously preparing for our heavenly journey? Just as the wise men gathered food and survival items, we need to nourish ourselves with daily prayer, the Word of God, and participation in community life.

  2. Follow the Star with Renewed Faith: Through our entire lives, and particularly throughout the Advent and Christmas season, Jesus provides us with lights in our lives to find Him in new and more powerful ways. But, how often do we feel like we are following these lights blindly? How often does the journey of faith feel unending and arduous? (Not unlike riding across the desert on a camel for six months with no sense of where you are going.) But in our case, we know the destination of our journey: an encounter with Christ, and ultimately Heaven. This Advent season, Jesus gives us our own stars to follow to His manger and deeper into His childlike heart. The wise men were convicted that the Star was leading them to the Savior, even if they didn’t know what that looked like or what to expect. Are we convicted that the stars that Jesus gives us to follow are really leading to Him? If not, let us renew our faith, and follow these lights with haste, conviction, and certainty that they lead to our good, our salvation, and our Savior.

  3. Offer Everything to the Baby Jesus: In the passage from Matthew, it describes the wise men worshipping Jesus and offering Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh- all things of great value. It may seem strange that the wise men offered these gifts to a baby, after all, what could a baby do with these things? But these offerings represent Jesus’ desire for us to give Him our most valuable when He is at His most vulnerable.

Jesus comes to humanity as an infant - a helpless little child - the most unassuming way for the King of the universe to approach us. But He comes this way on purpose. He comes to us as a baby so that we may approach Him, so that we may be drawn in by the smallness and vulnerability of our God. He makes Himself small so that we feel comfortable and safe bringing our most valuable possessions to Him. And for each of us, the most valuable thing that we have is our hearts. Let us follow the example of the wise men and approach the baby Jesus with adoration and complete self-gift. This Christmas, don’t hold anything back from our Lord, pour your heart out before Him, for He has been born to receive your heart.

The three wise men provide us with a unique example of faith, perseverance, and intense and humble love. With what is left of Advent, let us model ourselves after the wise men, following the guidance of Jesus with complete faith and trust and receiving Him with adoration and love.