What’s Making Me Happy This Week

pexels-photo-106223Well, folks, you win some, you lose some.  In the past 8 days, I failed to post not 1 but 2 scheduled blog entries.  There is no dramatic circumstance to explain my failures.  It was just good-old-fashioned imperfection.  

My natural instinct to failure is to withdraw or isolate.  Ask any of my close friends.  Ask my husband.  Ask my dog.  Failures, big and small, paralyze me with shame.  This is not a healthy response.  This is not a Christian response.  

The blog, however, has challenged me to change my response.  It has forced me to move forward, regardless of my setbacks, regardless of my shame.  And, since “shaking it off” isn’t my first instinct, I’m trying to make it my habit, instead.

So, today, I’m back at bat.  Some of what is below made me happy last week, but I hope it brings you a smile just the same.  And, if you’re holding on to any shame that is keeping you from smiling, consider giving yourself a little grace… God already has. 

What’s Making Me Happy (Last) Week

My husband and I spent some time at Madeira Beach recently.  In addition to visiting Bubba Gumps (perhaps my favorite chain restaurant of all time), I devoured the past few issues of Vanity Fair.  It was amazing.

The Dave-Ramsey-Love-Bug recently bit my husband, and he passed it along to me.  Thanks to Dave, we have already had some really important conversations about our money and our marriage.  I’m so excited to see where this journey leads up both financially and spiritually.

This is the best (only?) commercial for insurance I’ve ever seen.  If you’re looking for some warm-and-fuzzies, watch this video of a little girl dancing joyfully and carelessly around the house.  She makes me want to do some dancing of my own.

Where my married ladies at?  Politics aside (and, believe me, I ramble on for days about Trump-Pence politics), I admire the Vice President’s the strong commitment and close connection to his wife.  Andrew Exum’s recent essay in The Atlantic thoughtfully examines the pro’s and con’s of the so-called Billy Graham Rule. 

Finally, the last week has seen a lot of depressing news about the environment (even the Pope is upset!).  Manatees, however, just came off the Endangered Species List, so let’s cling to that happy news and keep the hope.  #seacowsmakemesmile

Wishing you a weekend full of faith, hope, love, and wine.

The Radical Relief of Repentance

pexels-photo-54566Today, millions of men and women around the world will begin preparing for Easter by celebrating Ash Wednesday.  Christians from both the Catholic and Protestant traditions will line up to hear the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” They will close their eyes as the minister scratches a cross of ashes onto their foreheads. They will acknowledge their weakness and ask God’s forgiveness.

As anyone who has ever celebrated Ash Wednesday can likely attest, the service is surprisingly popular.  Its appeal, I think, lies in its counter-cultural message.  It shares with us a truth that we are desperate to hear.  It tells us that the God who created and controls the universe is good.  It tells us that the world does not rest on our shoulders alone.  It tells that we are unconditionally loved.

Modern American culture, as described by David Brooks in Bobos in Paradise, tells us something different.  It rewards us according to our accomplishments.  It values us according to our achievements.  Any failures can be catastrophic.  Failures don’t just threaten our social or professional standing; they threaten our very identity and dignity. The result is a generation of men and women low on self-worth and high on anxiety.

As Ash Wednesday attests, however, there is room for imperfection in the Christian tradition.  In fact, there is an assumption of imperfection.  

Ash Wednesday is a reminder that no accomplishment or failure can add to or subtract from our God-given worth.  

For those of us caught up in the relentless pursuit of perfection, Ash Wednesday offers immense and immediate relief.  We can to admit our shortcomings without risking our dignity.  We can confess our sins without losing God’s love.  

Acknowledging our weakness and asking for forgiveness does not mire us in guilt.  It washes us in grace.  

Repentance, as epitomized in Ash Wednesday, does not destroy; it heals.

The Ash Wednesday service I attended at noon today was crowded.  People were packed in the pews, standing and squeezed into the foyer.  Some were in suits.  Some in police uniforms.  Some in scrubs.  People of various ages, of various races.  All burdened by the pursuit of perfection.  All worried their worth was lost.  All seeking salvation from their sins.  And, in one voice they echoed the words of the Psalmist, “have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love.”

Amen.

 

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