keep love as your goal

What then is essential? Your purpose is love, pure and simple. Bind yourself to my Son, follow his ways, and live with integrity. Keep love as your goal. When you find yourself wandering away from love, come back again. Be cautious about chasing theological rabbit trails; too often, the motivation is pride. You use theological knowledge to make yourself appear better than others. Instead, remember who you are and who I have called you to be–a vessel of my love.

1 Timothy 1:5-6
Letters to the Beloved

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God desires our wholeness

Listen, Beloved: I have not destined you for wrath, but salvation in my Son. I direct my anger against things that ensnare and seek to destroy my image-bearers. I hate sin because of the way it fractures people. To restore wholeness, I will unleash my anger against all things that threaten to disintegrate you. Keep encouraging one another, remember that I am doing what is necessary to make you whole.

1 Thessalonians 5:9-11
Letters to the Beloved

a fire in my belly: reflections on being an enneagram 1

“Ones are idealists, motivated and driven on by a longing for a true, just, and moral world. They are honest and fair and can spur others to work and mature and grow. They are often gifted teachers who strive to go forward, setting a good example. They have a hard time accepting imperfections—other people’s and, above all, their own. Only when they are focused and at rest can they accept living in a (still) imperfect present and trusting in the gradual growth of the good (in Christian terms, the kingdom of God).”

-Richard Rohr, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective.

As a one on the Enneagram, this week has been exhausting. I have been weary a lot recently. As Rohr suggests above, ones want everything to be perfect—others, institutions, the world, and especially, themselves. We have definitive ideas about setting things right and feel compelled to share, even if others are not interested. We can be frustrated and disheartened by imperfection. Ones are commonly described as idealists, perfectionists, or reformers. Some of the most influential reformers in history were probably ones, including Martin Luther, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and the apostle Paul. They were great agents for change, but they all faced a great deal of pushback and criticism. I suspect these four all wanted to throw in the towel more than once, but still they persevered.

I believe they persisted through incredible heartbreak and sorrow because they couldn’t do otherwise. Consider Luther’s famous dictum, “Here I stand. I can do no other.” My belief may very well be my projection because that is the burden I feel. I am aware that I have written many controversial things over the years. Still, it has never been from a desire to be a provocateur but out of a passion for wholeness in myself and the world. Sometimes, despite trying to exercise the utmost care in writing (because, of course, for ones, everything must be perfect), I am misunderstood, or I unwittingly hurt others because, as Rohr also wrote, “Ones can become obnoxious fault finders.”

Yesterday, I was wrestling with deep sorrow and shame, with the belief that I should not even be allowed around other people because they will inevitably get my crap on them. It is much easier for me to accept imperfections in others than within myself. However, there is a deep desire for wholeness regardless. I have also been working with two people who are helping me process my own story. I am learning to befriend even those undesirable parts within myself and listen to what they are trying to tell me without judgment. It is in acknowledging the good, moral, and just parts and the broken and immature parts that I can continue to move toward wholeness.

is it too much to ask?

Larger Story’s book of the month is  Becoming a True Spiritual Community, my favorite Larry Crabb book and the one I have probably read most often. His honest wrestling was one of my favorite things about Larry. In BTSC, he wrestled with what genuine spiritual connection looks like.

One of the traits I share with Larry is that of a restless spirit. He was rarely satisfied with accepting the status quo when it came to Christianity, a truism that resounds through his books. He pressed into his challenging questions, always from a desire to know the true God more completely.

I, too, have wrestled for a long time with seeking to know God better. The battle has intensified in the last few years. I am dissatisfied with the church in America. If I am honest, I don’t want to go to “church.” In many cases, we Christians don’t represent Jesus very well. I have no doubt some consider me a bitter cynic, maybe even an apostate. You may be right. God knows.

Here’s the thing: We talk about the importance of church attendance, but can we honestly say that our church rhythms model those things that Jesus valued? We gather in groups of tens or hundreds or thousands, all facing forward to listen to an “expert” in the Bible tell us what we need to know, which leaves little room to listen for God’s Spirit or share what is happening in us. Numbers of bodies, volunteer hours, and dollars determine success. Nevertheless, not a week goes by without another story of how some pastor or religious group has abused power.

I long for something more profound, but I find myself in the unfamiliar place of not knowing precisely how to put words to my longings. Still, here are some fragments:

I want to gather with people who are trying to understand and live an integrated life. A few years ago, I was involved in a weekly “integration” meeting. People from multiple backgrounds would gather for lunch and have lively conversations that mattered. Sadly, they are no longer scheduled when I can attend, and it is a considerable loss. I want to hear from people who think as I do and those who do not about how we live in a world that feels increasingly fragmented. What does it mean to live whole and holy lives?

I want to know and be known by the God of steadfast love, the one who is reconciling all broken things. I want to hear from others how they experience God and to know where they meet God. I want to share my doubt and confusion with others who are willing to share in return. I am not interested in neatly packaged answers but in acknowledging that the world is a muddled mess and that God is still bigger.

I want a community that fosters self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-compassion. Too often, well-meaning Christians reject these ideas, but healthy spirituality does not neglect loving ourselves. I want to be reminded that there is a God who loves me “without condition or reservation,” as Brennan Manning would say.

I want a community that practices love for others, especially those who are often on the fringes or even outside neatly labeled biblical boxes. I want them to know, as I want myself to know, that God loves them and to demonstrate that truth not only in word but in deed. I long for a place of radical welcome and acceptance. I want to feast around a table where people of different worldviews and mindsets aren’t trying to fix or convert one another but celebrate their shared humanity and belovedness.

I want to honor and celebrate all of God’s good creation, to look for and celebrate beauty and goodness wherever it may be found: in late-blooming flowers and early falling leaves, in gently falling snow and torrential rains, in the warmth of the sun in a blue sky and the cool of a cloudless night. God called creation very good, but sometimes I think we’ve lost sight of that truth. God invited us to be creation’s caretakers, but we have instead abused it for our own ends.

I long for wholeness. I desire goodness, truth, and beauty. I want to honor each person’s unique journey and remember that we, the human race, are traveling together, and every one of us brings something needed by the whole group. I long for fellowship with those who long for integration, wholeness, and reconciliation.

Is that too much to ask? 

step into the peace of God

I invite you to step into my peace. When it seems like everything around you is crumbling, and you feel overwhelmed, come and rest with me. Take a deep breath and lean into me. Listen to me tell you how much I love you and that no earthly problem can ever snatch you away. My steadfast love seems incomprehensible when everything seems to be falling apart, but I will never fail you. When it feels like your thoughts and emotions are getting the best of you, look to the cross.

Philippians 4:7
Letters to the Beloved

love is true holiness

“If I had not come and showed them the Father and the Messiah’s identity, they would have remained ignorant, but I have shown them, and still, they hate me. They have no excuse for their hatred now. Those who hate me hate the Father. I performed many works before them, things no one else can do, and even so, they reject me, revealing their hatred for the Father and me. Their rejection was also prophesied by the psalmist who wrote, ‘They hated me for no reason.'”

People do not want to accept the way of Christ, preferring religion built around performance, power, and position. My Son’s extravagant grace reflects my character, and still, they hate him. When you proclaim a message of love and belonging, you too will be a threat to the status quo. Many will brand you as a heretic and outside the pale of orthodox belief, but love is true holiness.

-John 15:22-25, Letters to the Beloved

eternity begins now

To often, I look around at those who profess to follow my Son, and their lives seem joyless. They bide their time in misery while hoping for heaven someday, but even their hopes are gray and colorless. Listen, eternity begins now. Start practicing joy-filled living. Have fun. Be creative. Let your true colors shine. You honor me when you are faithful to who I have created you to be.

Letters to the Beloved

Pharaoh’s son

I once had a pastor tell me, 
"I know your problem;
You lack courage,"
though it was clear he misunderstood.
I was setting out on a journey  
into an unknown desert,  
leaving behind all of the things 
that fed my false selves 
the influence,  
the accolades,  
the security,  
the easy community,  
the utterly familiar. 
I walked away from the promise 
of being Pharaoh's son 
because I could not do otherwise.  
I ventured into the desert 
of darkness 
of uncertainty 
of loneliness 
of suffering 
of death 
because the only way to find myself 
was to lose myself. 

all things

“All things the Father gives me will be reconciled in me, never to be broken again. I came here at my Father’s will to do his redemptive work. His will is that I lose nothing that he has placed in my charge but restore everything on the last day. It is his will that everyone who sees me believes in what I am doing and will step into eternal life in our eternal kingdom.” Beloved, if you think back to John’s opening words, you will remember that I created all things through my Son. In celebrating my Son’s preeminence, the apostle Paul said that not only were all things made through him but for him. I honestly have all things in mind concerning my Son’s healing work. Shalom will reign once again as he reconciles heaven and earth. Do not limit your vision to small things; my kingdom’s realities are far more impressive than you could imagine.

John 6:37-40
Letters to the Beloved