Tag Archives: God’s love

Present and Loved: Meet Margot Starbuck

Being present to life, to loved ones, and especially to God all ends up being connected to deeper issues inside of us. How do we see and know God as God really is? What do we understand about ourselves and who we really are? I’m so excited to invite you in on a conversation with a fabulous writer, Margot Starbuck. Margot is the author of several books, including her brand new title: Not Who I Imagined: Surprised by a Loving God.

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MS_square_photocredit_Scott FaberMargot, can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

Sure. I’m a word nerd; I’m the author of five books and love speaking to audiences around the country. I live in Durham, North Carolina, where I’m a mama to three fabulous kiddos—ages 12, 13, 15. So when I’m not inspiring audiences, I’m yelling at them to pick their stinky socks up off the floor and to stop leaving Flaming Hot Cheetohs wrappers in the den. I can also be found cheering at soccer games, baseball games & volleyball matches.

Untitled-19I love the title and subtitle of your new book: Not Who I Imagined: Surprised by a Loving God. What is it now that most surprises you about God or God’s love?

I’d say the biggest surprise is the way in which God’s love is different than our human experiences of it.

We catch glimpses of God’s gracious face, God’s steadfast listening ear, in the faces of those around us but, by nature, no human being can love us perfectly.

Still, we learn what it means to be in relationship with an “other”—in God’s case, a holy other—from the faces around us. We learn whether we’re worth showing up for and sticking around for. And, unwittingly I think, we project that onto God.

My biggest surprise was discovering—in my BONES—that God’s gracious face, God’s love, is categorically different than what I’d received from humans. It doesn’t mean I don’t see those peeks of God’s face in others, but it does mean that I’ve encountered a reliable presence who does not fail.

This month on my blog we’re looking at the theme “be present”—at how we can live more attentively to God’s presence in our lives and, more broadly, at how we can really be rather than just skate through life. How do you most naturally connect with or experience God’s faithful, loving presence in your life?  Continue reading

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Wings . . . Love

eggs nestEvery so often I lead my kids in singing the Tallis Canon as a bedtime prayer:

All praise to Thee my God this night
For all the blessings of the light!
Keep me, oh keep me, King of Kings
Beneath Thine own almighty wings.
Amen.
 

The other night after singing, my youngest asked, “Does God have wings?” Ah . . . what a beautiful question. And I’m deeply thankful for Scripture’s answer (that I got to explain as we cuddled).

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. . . .
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
(Psalm 91:1, 4)

A bird, from a mighty eagle to a meek chickadee, will nestle its young under its wings — covering them from dangerous weather, hiding them from threatening predators, warming them in a shelter of love. This is the picture painted by the psalmist. God loves us like this. Continue reading

Whole . . . From Broken

In the face of our own brokenness and failings, in the shadow of past trauma or current hurts, in the midst of woundedness or the perpetual swirl of confusion about who we are and what we’re worth . . .

broken glassWhat does it mean to be whole? How does God’s grace, God’s love, God’s healing change us, shape us, bind us up and weave us together into something new, something healed, something integrated, something complete? Into someone whole?

It starts with facing, first, our brokenness. In honest courage, looking squarely at the stain of sin in our lives. Join me in this month’s exploration of wholeness by first considering this excerpt from my Flourishing Faith devotional study Embrace Your Worth (Wesleyan Publishing House):

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“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8).

In your mind’s eye, imagine Adam and Eve, hiding away in the trees of the Garden of Eden. Sin has entered the world—and the immediate human reaction is shame (“We’re naked! Hurry, cover up!”) and hiding.

Can you picture Eve, crouched down, trying to hide herself away from her Maker? Trying to be smaller, to be invisible, to disappear?

Before the fatal choice to disobey God, Adam and Eve walked in confidence and joy and security. But now they’re completely different—isolated, insecure, ashamed.

When sin entered the world, it shattered the self. Continue reading

Joy . . . at Rock-Bottom?

Readers, I’m privileged to introduce you to Karen Beattie, the author of Rock-Bottom Blessings—Discovering God’s Abundance When All Seems Lost. (I damaged my copy of the book in the very best way: dog-earing pages, underlining tons, constantly scrawling notes in the margin.)  Here Karen joins us to talk with me a bit about joy. . . and how (and even if) it fits into life’s rock-bottom seasons.

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Welcome, Karen. Can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

Beattie photoI’m a writer who lives in Chicago with my husband and 3-year-old foster daughter and a needy, geriatric cat. I write about faith, doubt, and, well, life. I don’t settle for easy answers. I write in order to try to understand, or at least have peace, about the difficult parts of life.

This month we’re talking about joy on my blog. What’s the first thing that comes to mind for you when you think of joy? Is it an image? A memory? An experience?

My 3-year-old foster daughter exudes joy. She has been through so much loss in her short little life, but still, she is joyful 90 percent of the time and her giggle is music to my ears. She is teaching me what it means to find joy in difficult circumstances. Seeing her leap and skip down the sidewalk with a huge smile on her face, to me, is the pure definition of joy. She just loves everything—the robins she sees on the sidewalk, the woodpecker we hear in the park, the moon. Oh, to have that child-like joy again!

Your book, Rock-Bottom Blessings, tackles such a critical question: What does it mean to live the “abundant life” when all seems lost? Why did you want to write this book?

Beattie Book CoverIn 2009, like thousands of Americans, I lost my job. That was devastating enough in itself. But it had ramifications far beyond the fact that I had to find a new job in the middle of a recession. My husband was in graduate school, without my income we had to put everything on hold, including an adoption. We were wondering if we’d ever become parents. And it brought up all of my doubts about whether or not God loved me…and if he was even there.

Author Parker Palmer said he became a writer because he was born baffled. I can relate. I was baffled by why all of these bad things were happening to me, and I wrote the book to sort through it all. I also wrote try to discover what I still believed about God, and if there was a God, what sort of relationship I had with him. Some of my old beliefs about God and my faith – such as what it means to be blessed – were not working any more. People throw the word “abundance” around, but what does it really mean to have abundance? In the process of writing the book, my idea of what it means to live an abundant life was turned on its head.

How do you think the idea of “joy” is related to living an abundant life?

I think living an abundant life is about finding deep and inner joy, which is more than finding just temporary happiness. But living an abundant life is also experiencing the depth and richness of all of life’s experiences, including the dark times. I used to believe that the verse in Scripture said, “I came that you might have abundant life.” . . . Well the scripture actually says, “I came that [you] might have LIFE, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). We tend to skip over the “life” part and go right to the word “abundance.” But experiencing life in all of its richness includes the joy, grief, suffering, the boredom. I discovered that during those times when joy is absent and life seems dark—if we look closely enough, we will find treasures. Continue reading

Receive with Gratitude

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31).

Isn’t this so true? The goodness, very goodness, of our amazing world surrounds us. Pause for a minute and look. Listen. Touch. Taste. Drink. Inhale. Receive.

h2oThe natural resources, the abundant beauty, the stunning ongoing miracles uncovered by science, the rich diversity of plant and animal life: the myriad of good, very good, gifts from God surround us. Embrace us. Invite us. Bless us.

This is where “creation care” begins: Seeing this wild and amazing world, the very life in our bones, as God’s good, very good gift to us. And receiving these gifts with humility and profound gratitude!

It is God who made us, and not we ourselves. It is God who made us and we are his.

And it is God who made the rocks and trees and skies and seas – God’s hands the wonder wrought.

And it is God who made tree frogs and humming bees, the mitochondria in our cells and the flaming stars flung across the heavens, the mighty redwoods and the quivering rabbits, the rich and the poor. Continue reading

Discipleship: Live Centered in Christ’s Love

In my last post, I offered the encouragement that in our journey of discipleship we must prioritize time for quietness, for soul-rest, for just be-ing with Jesus. Today, author Keri Wyatt Kent is here to talk a bit more about what it means to grow closer to Jesus in these ways. Keri is the author of many powerful spiritual formation books, most recently Deeply Loved: 40 Ways in 40 Days to Experience the Heart of Jesus.

KeriKeri, welcome back to my blog! Many of us (including me!) are “do-ers.” We tend to approach Christian faith with a focus on action—on what we need to do in order to grow spiritually. But your newest book reminds us to, first, experience and abide in the deep love of Jesus. Why is it so important for a follower of Jesus to center herself in Jesus’ faithful presence and love?

Even if we give lip service to a “saved by grace” theology, it’s easy to fall into a “stay saved by keeping your nose clean” theology. In other words, we can think that God keeps score and requires us to keep the rules. Certainly, obedience is essential! But abiding is the only sustainable motivation for that obedience. When we know we are fully loved, obedience becomes the logical path for us to take, and the most attractive. Sin becomes less attractive. As Dallas Willard wrote in The Spirit of the Disciplines, “Jesus did invite people to follow him into that sort of life from which behavior such as loving one’s enemies will seem like the only sensible and happy thing to do.”

 The other key idea is joy. We all deeply desire to be loved. Jesus offers us love. What kind of fools are we if we reject that offer or try to earn it with little accomplishments or rule-keeping? Imagine if someone gave you a birthday present and you pulled out your wallet and tried to pay for it. That’s what we do when we try to earn God’s favor. Just take the gift and relish it with gratitude. Celebrate the relationship that you have — that he would give you such a gift. That’s what practicing his presence does.

deeplylovedWhen we think about this month’s theme of discipleship, for many of us the first things that come to mind are Bible study and prayer. Your book, Deeply Loved, invites readers to experience discipleship practices we might not think of right away, such as Sabbath rest, practicing God’s presence, silence and solitude, and Scripture meditation. Why do you think practices like these are so important for a follower of Jesus?

Growing up in a conservative tradition, people would ask me, “How’s your walk with Jesus?” It’s a pretty invasive question, if you think about it, but it was part of the culture. And I’d answer based on whether I had been consistently “doing my quiet time” — that is, reading my Bible and praying. The fruit in my life didn’t factor into my answer, just whether I’d checked off that daily practice more times than not that week. And if you think about it, even though “having a quiet time” is helpful, the emphasis was on what I did. Continue reading

Meet My Friend . . . Keri Wyatt Kent

Author Keri Wyatt Kent speaks my language. Her books deal with the deep longings of our souls — intermixed with an honest view of the hectic reality we sometimes find ourselves in. She encourages us to make choices that draw us into a right rhythm with God and with others. I’m so grateful she popped in to speak with us today about a topic that is really, really important and also really, really tough to figure out sometimes: Sabbath. Keep on reading!

Keri, can you tell my readers a little about yourself? 

I’m the working mom of two teens, and for the past year or two, God has given me the opportunity to serve as our family’s primary breadwinner—although God of course is our primary provider. Last year, I had four different book projects published. Despite these pressures and workload, I took every Sunday off to rest.

The title of your book, Rest, simply draws me in. What an inviting — and needed — word in our lives! What motivated you to write it?

I had written about Sabbath (and other spiritual practices) in a previous book, Breathe. Many people seemed interested in the practice of Sabbath, many of them had an interest that centered on debate—thinking that it was impossible. So it was a subject that needed a more extensive explanation.

I know that for you the idea of Sabbath-keeping has been a journey. So how have your views and practices changed over the years? Continue reading

Faith-Filled Moment: Five-Thousand Freckles

My new book Faith-Filled Moments is releasing October 1, 2009 from Wesleyan Publishing House! It’s a collection of all sorts of ways parents like you can use games, recipes, outdoor experiences, crafts, science experiments, and more to help your child connect with God and love him more. So…I thought I’d give you a taste of what the content in the book is like. This one is especially great for preschoolers! If you like this, you’ll love the 80+ unique moments that you’ll only find in my upcoming book. COMING SOON to this site: Info on how to pre-order a signed copy of Faith-Filled Moments!


Five-Thousand Freckles

Count your body parts together and meditate on God’s detailed knowledge of and care for each of you.

Supplies: mirror, magnifying glass (optional)

Experience

Invite your child to practice his math skills with you by counting his body parts while you count yours. Start out with some that are very easy to count, asking, “How many ears do you have? How many noses do you have? How many eyes do you have?” Then move on to slightly more challenging parts by asking, “How many toes do you have? How many teeth do you have?” (You can prompt your child use a mirror at this point.)

When you’re ready to tackle some even tougher ones together, ask questions that are nearly impossible to answer, like, “How many freckles do you have on your face? How many wrinkles do you have on the palm of your hand? How many hairs do you have on your forearm? How many eyelashes do you think you have?”

Last, move to the truly impossible by asking, “How many hairs do you have on your head? How many do you think you have on your entire body? (if applicable: How many freckles do you have on your entire body?)”

Connection

God knows everything.

What an amazing, overwhelming thought! Often our first reaction to this truth is to think of the big picture: God knows all of history, he knows the name and location of every star and planet, he knows all future events, he knows all the people in the world! And naturally kids sometimes wonder if God is “too busy” running the universe to care about the details of their lives.

Use this fun activity to assure your child that God’s knowledge and care also includes the “little picture.” Scripture assures us that God knows and cares about even the teeny, tiny details of our lives. Share this truth with your child by telling him, “You are so special to God that he knows every single detail about you. He knows the location of every freckle. He knows exactly what makes you smile. The Bible even tells us that God knows the exact number of hairs on your head (Matthew 10:30; Luke 12:7)!”

Exploration

You may want to ask your child questions like…

  • Did you realize that God knows the exact number of hairs on your head? What other details in your life do you think he knows about?
  • Sometimes people worry that God is too busy running the universe to really care about them. Do you ever wonder about that? Why or why not?
  • God cares about the important issues in your life. But how does it make you feel to know that God cares about the “little things” in your life too?
  • How important do you think you are to God if he cares about even the tiniest details of your life? Explain.