Heart in the Clouds

Monday, February 26, 2018

Under the Surface

I have been reading a book by Brene' Brown called The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. It's a long title for a concept that should be simple, and it's a huge box (ie. can of worms) I'm opening and unpacking in this season in my life. That's causing me to feel like my emotions are always just under the surface.

Reading it (I'm actually only halfway through) has already given me a lot of food for thought. You know how you may start reading a book, but it's just not the "right time?" Well, I started this book early last year, and it wasn't time. But it feels like now is the time because so many things she's talking about in it are resonating with this season in my life.

We all have those issues in our lives where we think that if we get that one thing figured out, we'll be okay. We'll be worthy. I'm no different. Maybe once I get parenting right, I'll be okay. Maybe once I get my life balance figured out, I'll be okay. Maybe once I learn who I'm supposed to be and start living that life (whatever that even means), I'll feel like I'm in the right place and I belong. I don't compare myself to other people so much, but I definitely compare who I am to the woman I have always thought I should be.

But whomever that woman is, she's not me. She's not at all who God has made me to be. And I have to get used to that being an okay thing...I don't have to be the imaginary me. I have to stop being disappointed in myself for what I see as my imperfections, and just embrace who I really am, at my deepest level.

I'm trying to remember not to should on myself, and to not let anyone else should on me, either.

To many of us, "flawed" has become the new "F-word." In our culture, recognizing, and even embracing, one's flaws is an oddity, but I am one flawed individual, I tell you. I've been learning some stuff in the last few years, but, y'all, my coping mechanisms still leave something to be desired. I give in and let down my boundaries too easily to avoid conflict. I say "yes" or show up when I really don't want to because I don't want to disappoint people. I avoid discomfort in some areas of my life and then seek it in other areas. So often, I let my exterior circumstances dictate my level of inner peace.

But I feel like I'm in a season of UN-becoming--unraveling all the unhealthy expectations I've put on myself, and those I've allowed others to put on me. I'm learning that imperfections don't make me inadequate. I'm learning the importance of boundaries, keeping toxic or draining people at arm's length and not taking on other people's issues. (As an empath, that's really difficult for me.) I'm learning all of that, though, and some of that learning has come from enduring some difficult valleys.

I've shed many tears. I've punched a lot of pillows. I've run a lot of emotional miles. I've lost my temper, and said things I didn't mean. I've hidden myself away when I needed to be present. I have had many moments where I've been a hot mess!

UN-becoming is uncomfortable. If I allow Him, God pulls out emotional and mental weeds at the root. Man, that hurts! While it makes my life more fertile and fruitful in the end, it's certainly is not a comfortable experience. Removing toxins from my life is necessary, but filtering it all out is "no bueno" while it's happening.

I just have to trust God's process, though. I have to trust that He is making me into something beautiful--that He's going to take the crap and dust and toxins and weeds, and use them to bring about healing and peace and wholeness. I am trusting that He will make order from my chaos.

If you're going through this, too, I feel your pain. It's a rough thing, this unraveling. But disillusionment and unraveling are good things, in the end. Illusions are fake, so hold on to what's real and true.

In the words of Lecrae:
"In the middle of the darkest heart is heartless, tarnished carnage
The Master Artist makes your mess a masterpiece regardless"

Sunday, September 24, 2017


"And He walks with me,
And He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;..."

It's been a year since I have really sat down just to write. I keep getting a prompting in my heart to just let words flow, but I notice that when I actually sit and think, my brain shuts down or distracts me with other things. I do better when I let my spirit speak without letting my brain get in the way. That happens so rarely these days.

I'm overwhelmed at this moment, though, so it seems like the perfect time to let my spirit speak. 

I don't know about you, but I'm currently in a mental space where I just feel like things are swirling around me and I can't quite catch my breath. Events, appointments, preparations, planning, relationships, fear, self-doubt, empathy for my friends who are in pain, and even the conflicts in the world around me are like a whirlwind, and debris is flying everywhere. I feel like I've been pummeled, and I'm just exhausted. As what some might call an "empath," it can all feel like too much for me.

A lot of times when this happens, I don't notice until it's all built up to the point where I break. 

But tonight I sat in the upper field looking at the fingernail moon through tears that were beginning to well up, and the old hymn "In the Garden" popped into my head. The part that stuck with me was "And He tells me I am His own." I had the sudden realization that all I need to do is listen as He tells me that I am His, and refocus on my simple faith. 

Three things...do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).

I have a lot of good things happening in my life, but I need to remember that my life is my garden, and even the good things can be too much at times. The "plants" I allow to take root there are the same things that will eventually grow. Plants need space to grow. They need sunlight, air and water. They need an area that is free of rocks and weeds in order to really flourish. If this is supposed to be a picture of my life, this garden needs some work!

What can I remove to make space for the good things in my life to grow? How can I simplify? 
I can remove toxins from the soil--anything that is poisoning the good growth.
I can remove all the weeds, the things that cause my heart to feel burdened, so that there is room for light and life.
I can water the ground with the words of life and freedom that God is constantly speaking.
I can remind myself of all the many things that I can be grateful for because those are the "plants" I should tend to most.

So many parts of life are out of my hands. That's something I've learned through the healing process--I am not in control. In my head, this whole idea pretty much stinks. I want to be in control, in theory. I want to keep everyone happy. I want to make everything better and easier and more "perfect" for everyone, but all I end up doing is making it all more complicated and burdensome and frustrating.

What I AM in control of is the things I let take root in the garden of my life. The more that weeds and vines and invasive plants take root, the harder they are to remove. I want to get better at pulling them out as soon as I notice them, so they don't have time to sprout and get stronger. Anger, bitterness, resentment, and trying to make everyone happy--they all need to go!

So if you're going through something like I am right now, take some time to think about all the things you can remove from your garden. Also think about all the things you WANT to grow there, and how you can tend to those. Keep it simple. You are His. You are a treasure, and you have value.

"Don't be afraid, I've redeemed you. I've called your name. You're mine. When you're in over your head, I'll be there with you. When you're in rough waters, you will not go down. When you're between a rock and a hard place, it won't be a dead end."
Isaiah 43:1 (MSG)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Running with a Guide

"Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go..."Proverbs 3 MSG
There are times I just don't "get it." I don't get people. I don't get why the world is the way it is. I don't get where I fit in the grand scheme of things, or even on a small scale sometimes. I don't get what my purpose is. Lots of times, I don't even get myself and why my mind works the way it does.
But the nice thing about trust is that I don't have to "get it." I don't have to figure everything out (even though I hate surprises and not having things figured out). If I really think about it, what is trust? Trust is allowing myself to let go of the "whys" and the "hows" and the "whens." I'm so not good at that, but trust is a process for me.
I recently saw a video of visually impaired sprinters in the Paralympic Games. Each one had a guide--a person who ran alongside them and kept them in the correct lane as they sprinted full-speed without being able to see where they were going.What level of trust must you have in a person to guide you while you are sprinting in the dark? One of the runners, David Brown, said, "My guide is pretty much my eyes, and he's like the voice in my head." 
The metaphor of the whole thing struck me. I'm going into this race of life visually impaired. I'm trying to see everything through my filter, which is often clouded and dark. I have no idea what's ahead. I have no idea where the finish line is. All I know is the voice of my Guide. All I know is that He can see what's ahead and that He'll guide me to the finish. He's running alongside me, giving me constant gentle nudges and cues, letting me know He's there and that I'm not alone. What happens if I don't trust Him? I don't finish. I don't see the race to its end. I don't go in the direction I need to go.
I'm the first to admit that I'm not good at listening to the Guide. He's always speaking and leading, but I'm not always paying attention. But I want to. I want to be that person who can just sprint full-speed, knowing that God, my Guide, is vigilant and is always there next to me.
So if you're going through a time in your life where you feel like you're trying to feel your way around in the dark, start to listen for the quiet voice of The Guide. Don't listen to the cheering or the booing of the crowd. Don't listen to your fears. Don't listen to the "I can't" in your own head. Trust and start running. You're not alone.

(This is a photo I took of Kim Russell, a hardcore ultrarunner, whom I had the privilege of pacing on the Laurel Highlands 70-Mile Race last year. It was such a lesson to me to watch her keep moving, despite her exhaustion and her body fighting against her in the last miles. She finished under her goal time because she was able to tune out the discomfort. The perseverance required to do the longer distances, pushing past the mental aspect of a long race and your body's desire to quit, is something I hope to learn.)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

On humility

Lately, the news has been full of opportunities for us, as a society, to see a lack of humility in action. 

This American presidential campaign has been rife with finger-pointing, blaming, accusation, fear-mongering, comparison, biting sarcasm...all the things that mirror our lack of humility as a society of human beings.

The Orlando attack was turned into an "I told you so" moment by a political candidate, and also became a debate on guns and Islam rather than a united push to show compassion and love to a people group that must be feeling particularly unloved and fearful at the moment.

So many fingers were pointed at the parents who let their child slip into a gorilla enclosure, or who absentmindedly left their child in a hot car or had to watch the horror of their baby being snatched up by an alligator. 

The news is full of examples of our lack of humility. We are quick to judge and say what we think and point away from ourselves. We are quick to compare, pretending as though we could never make such mistakes or allow ourselves or our loved ones to be victims. We are quick to react, slow to respond. We like to think that our political or moral or spiritual views and how loudly we can voice them somehow makes us right.

The minute we start to point fingers and ardently take what we think is the moral high ground at the expense of our souls and our compassion, it becomes clear that we have lost what it means to be humble and we are massively out of touch with our humanity. We become wrong.

Humans make mistakes. Humans are victims. Humans are perpetrators. Humans start wars. Humans are self-promoters. Humans are greedy and bitter and judgmental and opportunistic. Humans are imperfect. Humans make horrible decisions. Humans are unforgiving and brash. Humans are self-righteous.

But each of us, in our humanity, is loved more than we can imagine. Every victim in Orlando was (and is) loved. Every parent who makes a grave mistake and watches their lives change before their eyes, is loved. Each of our current political candidates (and their supporters) are loved. The people who commit acts of terrorism, though it seems hard to believe, are loved. We are all loved.

What we do with that love, despite our desire to react and spit blame, and how we give out that love is what proves whether we are humble or not. We can channel our opinions and anger away from a need to be right to a desire to be humble.

Humility is serving, not dominating. Humility is lifting others up, not tearing them down. Humility is allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. Humility is washing the feet of the weary and down-trodden and pulling them to their feet, when our darkest desire might be to push them further down. Humility is being quick to listen and slow to speak. Humility is realizing we are fully accepted and loved as we are, despite the fact that we are all wholly undeserving. Humility is allowing ourselves to be transparent, so that Love can shine through. 

When Jesus knelt to wash the dirty feet of his disciples, He was showing them that they were not alone in their struggle. That He understood what it is like to be lower, and to serve by getting his hands dirty. So when we lower ourselves to forgive or to let go of anger or to serve or just to give love instead of our opinions, we show humility. Humility is the ultimate strength. It's making the choice to not have to be right or heard. It's making the choice to turn our self-righteousness over to God's love.

If we are truly humble, that means we truly realize that we cannot pick and choose on whom we allow God's light to shine. We are meant to be glass--clear, transparent, imperfect. By letting light shine through us, even in our imperfect state, we are allowing God to take over. Those imperfections in our glass show a pattern of lessons learned, most likely in difficult circumstances, and each of our patterns is unique and tells a story. Letting other people see those cracks and flaws and wounds and seeing the light shining through us anyway is what it's all about. The purpose of humility is allowing our stories to help others realize that they are not alone in their struggle, that they are known and can be used profoundly by God--the Lover. Humility is being vulnerable.

Today, I read something on social media that truly warmed my heart. I saw a man in my friends list on Facebook who made a post about how he had finally forgiven his father for leaving and not being there for him. He released his father from the anger he'd held against him for many years. 

That took guts, but it also took humility. First, he admitted to feeling angry and bitter, but then he extended forgiveness and love to someone whom he knows doesn't deserve it. When he did that, he released himself from the hold that bitterness had had on him this whole time. This man has every right to be full of anger toward his father, as most of us would in that situation. But he made a conscious choice to extend forgiveness and to not allow himself to be ruled any longer by the effect of the feelings he'd held against his father. I so admired that humble attitude, and it made me a little embarrassed at my lack.

I am still learning humility, I'll admit it. I can be the biggest hypocrite. I'm often reactive rather than responsive. I like being right a little too much. I like to pounce on what I see as injustice and argue my opinions about causes and what can be done, rather than quietly turning my focus upon those who are right in the thick of the experience and reverently reaching to help them. I'm SO in touch with my humanity lately, and it saddens me.

But I have hope that God is teaching me, and that I'll eventually learn the strength that lies in lowering myself and humbling the parts of myself that don't want to be humbled. Falling off a high horse is painful. I only know because I've experienced it more times than I can count. 

We are all in this race together, and while we each will cross the tape alone, the support and love of our fellow runners is what points us to the grand finish, especially when--through them--we are able to see the Love that is waiting for us on the other side. Love is vulnerable.

So please, let's all try to be above the fray. No finger-pointing. No noisy debates that don't change anyone's minds anyway. No more needing to be right. Be the transparent glass, flaws and all. 

Shine on, lovelies.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Back in the saddle again...

I was challenged to get back into blogging by my friend, Joe Conrad, who is a blogger himself. He's a witty guy with lots of interesting stuff to say about church and faith. Check out his blog here. He threatened me with certain death (or at least a swift, imminent excommunication from his blogging family), thus I felt compelled to write.

Really, though, I had been considering writing again, but I often feel like I don't have anything of importance to say. I have a whole file of blog drafts that I've never posted because I talked myself out of them. 

But I'll try today...

I can't sum up the entire last year in one blog post, but I guess I'll have to start somewhere...hmmm...

*taps chin* Well, here goes.

1. I now live on a farm (above photo was taken yesterday)! Holy heck, if you had told me that in 2015, I'd be moving to a place I had always driven by and dreamed about in passing, I'd say you were cray cray. But here were are! Every morning when I walk outside to the pond and see the sun peeking over the hillside that is entirely covered with trees THAT WE OWN, I am still amazed that all of this even happened. No, there aren't any barnyard animals, except four ducks that we have raised from teeny ducklings and, of course, Sedona, our trusty Beagle (who is constantly on guard against groundhogs). But we're thinking about goats. We shall see.

(PS. We're currently in the market for a decent tractor if you know of anyone who is selling one!...and add that to the list of things I never thought I'd say.)

2. I have become a trail runner! At this time last year, I had just completed my third road marathon (a marathon is 26.2 miles/42.2 kilometers) and had caught the distance-running bug. However, something in my runner soul was pushing me to try new challenges. Since I love running hills, my friend, Bob, suggested I start into trail running. So I'm now not only a six-time marathoner, but I'm also a two-time (about to be three-time) trail ultramarathoner. The term "ultramarathoner" sounds far more cool than it is, but it's something I love to do. Running is the life challenge I get to choose for myself. I think it's great to have challenges you take on on your own terms...so that's mine.

3. I'm now the mother of a teenager and a 10-year-old...not only did I turn 40, but my older son turned 13 and my younger son jumped into the double digits, as well. Add those to the list of things I wasn't emotionally prepared for.

4. I've had my ups and downs this year with my anxiety/depression combo. Yeah, that's kind of sucked, I admit. But, through it all, God has shown me his faithfulness. Just when I think I can't go on and I'll never be "normal" again, He reminds me that I'm not alone. He shows me that by being open about my struggles, I not only help myself, but I help others, too. Sometimes you have to feel the feels and then let them pass. I have had some really low "valley" moments in recent days, but I'm thankful that my amazing family and friends and my awesome Father have encouraged my heart in so many ways. Life happens, but I continue to have hope. Plus, "normal" is overrated. So there's that.

Life has some crazy ebbs and flows. I plan to begin writing again and reacquainting myself with my blog voice. I know I have things in my heart that I want to express, so we'll see how they manifest themselves. Currently, photos are the way I express myself, so feel free to follow me on Instagram under @sarahfishcolligan. 

Thanks for reading my thoughts. It's quite possible I'll share more in the near future, so get ready! 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Learning to Love--The Part About Letting Go

But he said to me, 
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power 
is made perfect in weakness." 
II Corinthians 12:9

Well, as I said at the beginning of the year, my only real goal for 2015 is to learn to really love people and God (and myself, if I'm honest). But what I'm learning is that loving people sometimes means you have to let go of them and remove them from your life.

I'm the type of person who likes people to feel included, happy and like they belong. I've always been like that. I want people to be nice and like each other, and I want everyone to feel like they're accepted, despite their issues.

However, there comes a point where people start to refuse to deal with their crap. They refuse to face the facts. They refuse to get help, or deal with addictions or even admit that they have deep issues that they need to address. In their eyes, their issues become everyone else's fault, and they take on a victim mentality. We all have issues, but when those problems we hold on to begin to affect the people in our lives in a negative way and our lives begin to go downhill, it's a sign something needs work. We can't fix people we love.

When a friend or loved one's issues begin to affect you negatively, sometimes really loving them (and yourself) means saying goodbye. When you allow someone in your life to behave badly over and over again, they take it as permission, which it is. But, in all honesty, sometimes that means it's time to let them go.

None of us are perfect. I know I'm not. But truly loving a person is the complete opposite of enabling them to stay where they are. Addictions, bitterness, anger, fear...all of those things are like chains. When we enable our loved ones, we are adding chains. We are locking them into these behaviors because we make it okay, and we even sometimes help them to continue. But love isn't enabling.

The best example of this is God. He loves us too much to enable us to stay where we are. He is constantly reaching for us and ready to pull us up. He could let us wallow in our issues, our addictions, and our failures...but if we ask Him for help, he won't let us get stuck for long. He is constantly providing us with help, in many forms. We just have to accept it. At times, enabling our loved ones to continue in their behavior keeps them from accepting the help God is trying to give them. Enabling and helping are different things.

I think there's something inside of each of us that knows when it's time to let go. It's scary to let someone go, even if there truly isn't anything you can do for them. It's admitting that they are out of your control (and their own). It's admitting that you don't have all the answers. But it's also admitting that you--your emotions, your heart, your mind, your life--are valuable and worthy.

It's okay to let people go. If your heart is broken repeatedly, let them go. If you have become the focus of their unwarranted anger too many times, let them go. If you know that their behavior has reached or will reach a point where it becomes dangerous for you or them, let them go. If you've permitted their addiction or their illness to infiltrate your life, and they refuse to see that they need help, let them go. Give them into God's hands. He's far more capable.

If you constantly carry a child around, refusing to let her touch the ground, she will never learn to walk. She will never learn to pull herself up. She will never learn what it's like to fall and then get back up. Enabling is carrying around someone you have no business carrying.

If you feel like there's someone in your life whom you need to let go of, start to think about it and be honest with yourself. Seek counsel. Pray. Then, in the best way you can, let them go...really let them go. God is more able to care for the person than you are. He knows them and He created them, and He loves them even more than you do. Letting go is admitting God is stronger.

Monday, December 22, 2014


Yesterday, I wrote a great blog post about this past year, my struggles, my triumphs, my ups and downs. It was also about my goals for the coming year--the ways I want to challenge myself and things I want to learn.

But I didn't post it.

It didn't feel like what I really wanted to say, and it really wasn't that great.

So tonight on my 4-mile run in the dark, I started thinking. This past year for me has been about simplicity and getting rid of the junk in my life--physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. While I don't think I've succeeded fully, I've definitely made good headway. I've come out the other side of a bout with depression and anxiety. I've gotten rid of some toxic emotions--unforgiveness, anger, fear--obligations that have been draining me and even some physical junk that's been filling up our home. I've accomplished some goals. I'm more "myself" than I've ever been.

Yeah, I'd say 2014 has been pretty good to me, all things considered, and I've been pretty good to it. 2011-2013 were some of the hardest years of my life, in so many ways. But this year I started to feel a restoration in my heart.

While I was running tonight, though, I thought about this coming year and all the things I wrote last night. But I realized that all those things I wrote were just more "blah, blah, blah" to complicate my life. They're things I'd like to do and new goals I'd like to accomplish, but nothing that really spoke to the core of what I feel in my heart that I need to learn.

Then it dawned on me. Love. That's what I want to learn in 2015. I've simplified a lot in 2014, so I've opened up a lot of space in my heart and my mind.

To start off my 40th year, I want to start to learn what it means to love with my whole heart, out of a simple faith. I want to love like God does--without expecting anything in return. I want to love people whom others may consider unlovable. I want to be able to give my heart fully to my friends and family, without fear or reservation. I want to be like Mary (Luke 10:38-42) and sit at Jesus' feet and just listen--forgetting my self-imposed obligations, others' expectations and the tasks that I think need to be done. I want to make His love my focus and allow Him to teach me.

I want to be a person people know they can trust. I want to be a person who epitomizes what it means to live out the heart of God. To do that, though, I think I need to refocus. I tend to be a little scattered, but I feel the time is coming for me to focus myself on this one thing.

When we know we're loved, we realize our significance doesn't come from people's opinions. It doesn't come from what we've accomplished. It doesn't come from what we do, what we say or how we act. God loves us just as we are, imperfect and flawed. He loves us despite the darkness that lives in each of us.

Romans 8 reminds us that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Our sin and our walls can keep us from receiving it, but nothing keeps him from constantly giving it. I want to live that way--loving, whether people can receive it or not.

In the past few days I've been thinking about the aspects of real love. I want to be able to measure what I'm learning about it with the way it is defined in I Corinthians 13:4-8 (I'm liking the Amplified version at the moment). As you read through this passage, take the time to think about how you give and receive love. Maybe, like me, you'll want to make 2015 a year of learning how to love.

"4 Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.
It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].
It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.
Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].
Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]." 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tuesday Thanks

We are all a part of each other, and it deeply saddens me to see people struggle. It's horrifying to know that right now other human beings in different parts of the world are being tortured and taken from their families, or they are dying from diseases that could be preventable, given the right medicine. I hate injustice and corruption. I hate fear. I hate that depression or addiction can overwhelm people to the point that they feel their only way out of the hole is to take themselves out.

Having gone through different levels of depression and anxiety myself over time, I know (even in a small way) that feeling of hopelessness--as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel and there will be no one to help me. Seeing others struggle unsuccessfully with that same feeling hurts my heart. I wouldn't wish that emptiness on anyone.

But, in the middle of all the world's chaos, my anchor "within the veil" is God and my gratitude for all He is doing that I can't always see. I can keep my eyes up and find God's hope in the world's darkness by being REAL with Him, with myself and with other people, and being truly grateful, knowing I always have Someone to thank.

Hiding behind any mask is harmful, especially the masks of religion and pride. Masks separate people from each other, and they separate us from the joy God has for us. Over time, He's taught me that there really is nothing to hide, and there is no fear when I step into the light and just BE who I am, flaws and all.

You are loved completely, just as you are, and there is no fear in Love. People will either judge you or they won't, they'll either accept you or they won't...but who cares? Take off your mask. Life is too short to hide. Let it all hang out, baby!

Simple gratitude strips away the "protective" layers we've put up around ourselves, revealing who we are at our core. I've learned that the best thing I can be is me--real and true, for better or worse. Years ago, God helped me learn to differentiate between trustworthy and untrustworthy people, and when I am listening to Him I can easily separate the two. The trustworthy ones will accept me as I am, build me up and encourage me. Learning simplicity has allowed me to love myself and to receive love from other people, but also to not accept less than authenticity from others.

Be your real, true self. There is no reason not to be. Don't be ashamed of your flaws or afraid to show when you're struggling. The act of sharing yourself may help someone without you even knowing it.


1. I'm grateful for the fact that I got help. The struggle of depression and anxiety is real, and every day we see the sad effects of shame or self-medication. If you are struggling, there is help out there. My life made a 180 when I reached out. Go get help now if you need it.

2. I'm grateful for the breath in my lungs and the power in my legs that I never knew I had. Running has saved my life. I truly believe it.

3. I'm grateful for laughter and the gift of truly funny people. Laughter has been medicine for me all my life, and I so appreciate "sparkly" or funny people. They are a gift to the world, whether they feel that or not.

Even when you feel alone, you're not alone, so...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Three things...

"He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?"

If you look at the top of my blog page, there's a little Scripture reference on the bottom right of the header. Micah 6:8.

My favorite verse has been coming to my mind again. It usually pops up when I start to notice I'm over-complicating my life or my faith, and filling it with too many unimportant things. It's like God's little whisper to remind me that my goal for this year is simplicity.

I'm grateful for this little reminder. Amid the expectations I pile on myself, the obligations I accept from other people and the desires I have for more life and meaning, I can lose the knowledge that simplicity is best. More isn't better.

It's a process. Simple isn't a destination, it's a journey. Gradually peeling off layers of junk from my life is not easy, though. It's a cleansing of the mind, of the spirit and of the emotions. It's a refiner's fire. For me, "simplicity" has meant cutting off toxic relationships and cutting back on bad habits. It has meant throwing out trash and clutter, even some things I had deemed "important." It has meant cutting out the noise of the world and the voices in me and around me. It has meant losing some of the mental and physical weight that had held me back from seeing some of the true potential of my imperfect human body.

When I gradually start to fill up my life again (and the lives of my family) or get religious, I hear a little whisper, "Three things."

Do justly.

Love mercy.

Walk humbly with God.

The rest of the stuff doesn't matter.

It's a big eye-opener when I remind myself. It's the measure for my behavior, my thoughts, my attitude, my spirituality.

I feel like true gratitude brings these three things to the forefront and forces us to see and appreciate what's important--all the little, quiet moments and opportunities we might miss in the noise and clutter of a busy life. It cuts through the messes and the obligations. It separates the meaningful from the irrelevant.

So while you're going about your life, stressing about the expectations put upon you or those you put upon yourself, or you find yourself over-complicating your faith, breathe and remember...three things. Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Change begins...

Remembering to feel and experience and live gratitude is going to be something I have to remind myself to do daily because I've gotten out of practice. But so far I'm off to a good start.

Today was a good day.

I spent time with my older son, just the two of us. I spent time with friends. I finally met (in person) an online friend I've had for years. Lots of moments to smile about!

Today I'm grateful for...

Blue sky. I needed to see it, and it was there.

Wisdom. I needed to use it, and it was there.

Confidence. I'm learning to live in it and to help bring it out in other people.

Knowing when to keep my mouth shut. Sometimes maturity is about knowing when to keep thoughts, feelings and opinions to oneself, even more than it is about sharing exactly what's on your mind. That's something I've had to learn the hard way, in some cases, but I'm grateful for the many opportunities I have to put it into practice.

Imperfection. We all have our faults and issues. We all have our insecurities and fears. But we are beautiful in our imperfection. In our weakness, His strength is perfected.

Firsts. My younger son had a big first today--his first day at Cub Scout day camp. He was nervous about being without his big brother, but I have wanted him to have opportunities to find himself and have fun outside the family bubble. He loved it and can't wait for tomorrow. He's taking more steps into the world and growing more confident each time. I love him and can't wait to see the man he becomes...even though I'd sometimes love for him to stay my little boy a little bit longer.

Waiting for his ride on the first day of camp...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I woke up this morning...

and I immediately thought to myself, "I need a change." Do you ever get the feeling that you're stuck in a rut, it may be a happy, mellow rut, but it's a rut nevertheless? No big highs or lows, and you're just happily putzing along?

There are times when I'm stuck in a rut and I don't notice it, usually meaning things are moving along fine, but I'm not really connected with my life. Yesterday, I noticed the days are flying by. Before I know it, a week has gone by and I have nothing I can say that has really moved me or made me think or put me in awe.

Part of it, I'm sure, is my medication. I am SO happy to be on meds...oh, you have no idea! They're not for everyone, but they have turned me around. My anxiety was overwhelming, which was causing me to be depressed. That has turned around for sure. But medication also has the ability to mellow me out to the point where I get comfortable and I coast. 

If you know me at all, you know I don't just like to coast. I want to feel. I want to move. I want to know that what I'm doing and how I'm living has meaning, and I want to give off a positive light in the world. My light has been pretty weak lately, if I'm honest with myself. Not much fuel in the fire. I'm just "here." A comfortable lump. While I love my comfort zone and would probably stay in it forever if I could, I need to give myself a swift kick in the hindquarters now and then.

So this week the training period for my second marathon is beginning (Columbus in October--woo hoo!). I'm already a few days in, and will be making physical changes, obviously, and eating less sugar, drinking more water, and sleeping more. But along with that, I am wanting to make some other changes, emotionally and spiritually.

Gratitude has long been a theme in my life. It's obvious to me that when I'm recognizing the people and circumstances that God has put in my path and the little things that I often don't take time to notice, I am more connected with this journey I'm on, I'm more "in the moment" and I find joy in the small things. I'm able to pay attention to what people are saying with their hearts, more so than what they're saying with their mouths. I'm able to have compassion when I would have only had judgment. I'm able to speak blessings, where I might have only spoken curses. I'm more focused on what I truly desire (God), and I'm not brought down easily.

So I've decided to reconnect with my gratitude. Not sure how it'll look, but I'm going to do it, as part of training for my life, not just my next marathon. 

If you look at your life, what is a change you'd like to make? Something positive you can incorporate into your daily routine that will connect you more? I encourage you to think about it. It's easy to be negative or just coast along. Being a positive light is a lot harder if you don't have the emotional and spiritual fuel to keep it bright. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

On gossip and the power of words

"A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, 
and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. 
For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of."
Luke 6:45

Recently, there was a little thing going around on Facebook where a person would write a certain number of things about himself that people probably didn't know, and he would then challenge whomever "liked" his post to write a number of things about themselves. One of my friends challenged me to write 14 things about myself, so I did.

One of the things I wrote about was my hatred of gossip and about how I automatically don't trust people who constantly gossip about others. And that's true. But I don't hate it because I'm somehow above everyone else and never gossip myself. I do. I sometimes gossip when I'm feeling hurt or attacked, or I feel the urge to lash out or belittle someone in the eyes of other people. 

I think the real reason I hate it so much is because when I gossip it exposes something dark in me that I despise. Plus, it also exposes my massive insecurities.

For me, personally, recognizing that darkness in myself makes me want to avoid situations and topics where I'm prone to gossip. Not everyone feels the way I do about it, and that's totally okay because it's a personal thing. In my own journey, though, I have come to realize the hard way how powerful the spoken and written word can be.

Things people (even friends) have said about me have often gotten back to me without their knowledge, so it stands to reason that things I say about someone else could easily get back to them. It really hurts when you realize people you thought cared about you have said mean, sarcastic or belittling things behind your back. It's a big trust-breaker for me. In my heart, I know I don't want to cause lasting hurt over my momentary feelings, so I have decided to try my hardest to avoid gossip. Like I said, it's a personal thing.

There are things I've said about people in the past that I truly wish I could take back, but we all know that words can't really be taken back. Once they're out there, they're out there. I seem to put my foot in it fairly often and I've offended more people than I know, I'm sure, with the overflow of my heart coming out of my mouth (or out of my written words).

I've begun to try to really take the above Scripture to heart--not just in the area of gossip, but also in every other area where my words can have an effect. I have stopped posting about politics (because I generally don't have good things to say about anyone in that arena), and generally about most of my negative feelings. Taking the overflow of my heart seriously also makes me more aware of what I say to my kids and my husband out of my frustration, too. 

In the coming year, as part of my "resolutions" (hate that word), I really want to work on what's in my heart and having as much love and kindness in there as I can, so that whatever flows out of it will be as anger-free or hurt-free as possible. Words are powerful. We've all experienced their power in positive and negative ways. Positive definitely feels a lot nicer, though, don't you think?

"The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences."
Proverbs 18:21

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Divas Half Marathon--DC's Wine Country (My long, in-depth review)

I was really looking forward to this race because not only was it my first half marathon, but it was also going to be girl time, centered around running. My kind of fun! It was going to be the Divas organization's first race in the DC area, as well, so it sounded awesome.

After about a four hour drive, we arrived at our hotel, met up with a friend and drove together to the Divas race expo that was held at nearby Lansdowne Resort to pick up our packets. The resort didn't have enough parking for all the Divas, though, so we had to park on the street. The expo itself was around the size I expected, but the race had a lot fewer sponsors than most races that size do, so it didn't have a lot of shopping or selection available unless you really liked headbands. What they had was decent enough, though. The "stores" there didn't have much selection, though, and we had gotten there in the afternoon. I wonder what was available for those who came in the evening!

Picking up the bags that contained our shirts and bibs was pretty easy and straight-forward, but I was really surprised at how few freebies came in the bag. I've been in many other races half that size (and half that price--we payed $97, including the price and all fees) that have at least some samples--a bottle of water, an energy bar and a lip balm. Something! What did we get? Our bib, the race shirt and...safety pins? For just under $100? Boo. Thumbs down.

After we explored what there was of the expo, we went to dinner and hung out at the hotel. We had a great time together and we laughed a lot!

The next morning, we woke up before 5am to the sound of elephants stomping overhead (probably fellow Diva racers getting up and ready), so we got up. Once we were dressed, we realized that the hotel fridge was broken, so all of our expensive food that we were going to eat before the race had spoiled. Thankfully, Chick-fil-a was open, so we grabbed something quick and headed to the winery. The Divas coordinators had said that getting to the winery early would be a good thing because of traffic, so we left more than an hour to get the 8 miles to the winery. However, we sat in traffic FOREVER and we barely made it there for what would have been the 7:30 start. And there was still a massive line of traffic from both directions waiting to get into the winery. The winery is surrounded by tiny two-lane roads, so it would have been impossible to get all the 3,500 runners and the spectators into the parking area in enough time. Poor planning on the organizers' parts, but they've vowed to rectify that problem next year.

After parking in the field, we made our way quickly toward the entrance. There were four port-a-johns there, but there was also a long line of ladies waiting to use them. There were ladies running into the woods near the parking field because the race was supposed to start about 10 minutes after we arrived. However, someone told us there were more johns down by the starting line, so we headed there. When we got down the hill to the starting line area, there were a lot more bathrooms available, but there were also a lot more ladies waiting to use them. The number of bathrooms wasn't enough to handle the flow (no pun intended) of runners who were arriving late (because of the ridiculous traffic) and needed to use them.

After we finally used the bathrooms and quickly got to our time corrals for the start of the race, there was an announcement saying that the start would be delayed about 20 minutes to allow for more runners to arrive. However, the announcer implied that it was the runners' faults for not heeding the warnings by the coordinators to arrive early...pardon us for thinking an hour was enough time to get 8 miles! The roads around the winery were part of the race course, so they couldn't start until all the cars were gone. Meanwhile, the bathroom lines were backing up again because the start time was pushed back once again. Ladies were getting out of the lines, going behind the potties to squat behind trees or running up the hill into the woods again.

The start time kept getting pushed back until it was announced that the race would begin AN HOUR AND A HALF AFTER IT WAS SCHEDULED TO START! Great. Whatever. At least more runners had the opportunity to arrive. The race started and we finally got going.

Most of the course was made up of country roads that wound around big fields and it was a beautiful view of the local countryside. Plus, the weather was gorgeous, cool and dry, so it made the whole thing even prettier.

The organizers also directed the race through a few neighborhoods, which was nice, but I kind of felt badly for the people living along the route because they'd have to wait an extra hour and a half to get out of their driveways than they had already planned to. But people in the neighborhoods were out cheering for us...and some letting people use their bathrooms, apparently.

I will say that there were a fair number of EMTs in golf carts (and a couple of ambulances) patrolling the route, so it seemed that the ladies who needed medical attention actually got it. Two things that were definitely lacking on the route were extra bathrooms and food/fuel options. I, for one, had to pee in the bushes in someone's front yard around mile 7 because there weren't bathrooms close enough and I was in pain. Because the race was delayed so long, a lot of runners had to "go" again once the race started and they were already hungry again because the food they'd fueled up with had already digested. I, personally, was starving by around mile 6-7...I mean, my stomach was literally growling.

Now I've heard a number of runners who felt underprepared because there were a lot more big hills in the course than were advertised. I believe they advertised it as "some rolling hills with a big hill near the end" but it was a lot more than that. I, personally, didn't feel upset about it because I didn't even pay attention to the map on the website. (Actually I very rarely do that for any race anymore. I made the mistake of worrying about the hill in one particular race that everyone was ended up not being bad at all...after that, I decided not to look anymore and just take each hill in each race as it comes.) But I DO understand why people were upset! If I would have expected one type of race course and gotten another, I'd be pretty ticked, too, especially if I were trying to use my time for this race to qualify for another race. Again, the Divas organization has vowed to rectify this issue, as well, by changing the course.

By the time I reached the end of the race, there were already runners leaving, but because there weren't many routes out of the finish area they had to walk ON the course. So runners were having to run around the people who were walking out. Not great. The finish line area was a little confusing, too, and they didn't end up giving out the champagne they had promised when people first signed up. (They did mention that before the race, but I still didn't like that. Don't advertise something if you're not going to deliver.) Also, I think the tiaras/boas could have been passed out AFTER runners crossed the finish line. That caused a little clogging in the course near the end. But I know lots of ladies were happy with the muscle men at the finish line who handed out the medals.

Overall, aside from a few major annoyances, the race was decent. The weather was beautiful and I was running with a bunch of other chicks, so I was happy. I was also running injured, though, so I wasn't in it to break any land speed records or get any PRs and I'm okay with my time. Will I be running a Divas race again? Probably not. I don't like the fact that you have to pay so much for so little. If I'm going to travel again for a race, I'm going to make sure I get my money's worth.

I give it 3 stars out of 5.

The roomies! (I'm in pink.)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thoughts from a gurney...

While I was lying in the ER earlier this week, waiting for the doctor to figure out what manner of incredibly painful craziness was occurring in my kidneys, the person in the curtained room next to mine died. Over the next hour or so, I watched the person's loved ones file in. I heard sobbing. I heard praying. I heard laughter. I saw people hugging each other, smiling while wiping tears. I saw a woman on her knees on the floor, unable to stand in her grief. It made me wonder who this person was and what had caused their death. But less than 15 minutes after their loved ones left, the room had been cleared and cleaned, and there was a new person in the room, with an emergency of his own, waiting to be seen by the doctor. Life moves on, and how quickly its direction can change!

As I lay there after watching this situation unfold, I thought about the odd mixture of circumstances that have recently been visited on my life and the lives of people I care about. I thought about the ways I've seen God's hand working and the ways I may not have even looked for His hand, and it occurred to me that I generally seem to trust God pretty well except in a couple of specific areas.

Many of us have areas where we don't really trust that God is on our side. Maybe it's finances. Maybe it's relationships. Maybe it's a career. Maybe it's more vague or more specific, but everyone has something. If a person says they fully trust God in everything, they're lying.

The most faith-filled people I know have had many of their own moments of fear, anxiety and doubt.

That thought helps give me peace. None of us is "there" yet. I'm not less of a Christian because I have doubts or fears. Denying your doubt is the first step to becoming religious, and not in a good way (if there IS a good way). A real relationship with God means asking questions like a child. There's one question our little ones (and sometimes bigger ones) ask more often than any other...Why?

That's the human condition. We need to have a WHY behind everything. Why is the sky blue? Why are the clouds white? Why do innocent children die of starvation every day? Why do bad things happen to good people?

In Matthew 5, right after Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (yeah, I know), He says that the sun rises on the evil and the good, and the rain falls on the righteous and unrighteous. Great things happen to good and bad people. Terrible things happen to good and bad people. It's part of being human. In many ways, we are subject to our humanity. We are subject to the laws and desires of other people. There isn't always a WHY.

There are corrupt governments that withhold resources, funds and medical care from their people, causing widespread starvation and disease. There are people who plan to hijack airplanes and use them to kill as many people as they can. There are cells in our bodies that have the possibility of mutation and the ability to kill us. Being subject to all of those things is part of being human.

God doesn't promise us an easy path. The fact that we have faith doesn't make us exempt from life's ills. But having God means we have a hand to hold through the struggle--the hand of Someone bigger, stronger and so far beyond our timeline of mortality that we can have a peace that makes no sense. But He's not only far beyond our mortality, He's closer than our next breath. That's the comfort of knowing a loving God. He's here. Right here. He's behind us and in front of us and above us and below us.

I know He's here, even when I don't feel Him. I'm one of those people who can't look at the world and all the beauty and the creativity expressed in it and believe that it just "happened." I can't. I've tried. 

Life moves quickly and things can turn on a dime. One minute you're alive in the hospital, waiting to see an expert to tell you what's happening to you. The next minute your body shuts down and your loved ones come and go and grieve. The next minute your room is cleared and another person is lying in your bed, waiting for help. But the unconditional love of God is the blessed assurance that adds a layer of peace and permanence under all the craziness and the sense of impermanence.

Why did God send Jesus? He sent Jesus to be the answer to our questions and our fears. He came to show us that we are fully loved and accepted by our Creator, and all we have to do is believe that He is who He says He is. Jesus endured rejection, love, anxiety, joy, loneliness, persecution, pain and death so that you and I would have no reason to say that God hasn't been where we are or felt our pain. He has, and more. He endured all of those things, taking on humanity, because He loves US!

Using John Mark McMillan's words, Jesus is God's way of giving us a "sloppy, wet kiss" and of breaking the barrier that lay between God and man. The curtain that separated us from God was torn, allowing us to see His LOVE face-to-face in Jesus, the One who traded His life for ours. The fact that He destroyed all of those constraints on our humanity by his death is what gives us hope for a future. There are moments in life where all you can do is "wholly lean on Jesus' name," and you can do so with the confidence that comes from knowing you're loved and that He'll never let go.

So lying there on my gurney, I thought about all of these things, and I felt a sense of peace because I looked for it. For once, I looked for it.

If you're going through craziness right now, whether you're lying on a gurney or not, realize that there's a layer of God's peace somewhere under all of it. Look for it because it's there. Dig it up and drink it in. God is with you and you're not alone. Life is fleeting and it's hard, but God is good and there's hope beyond what we see now!


One of my favorite hymns was written by a man named Horatio Spafford who lost his daughters in a shipwreck. He wrote the lyrics as his ship was sailing over the spot where theirs had gone down. If you read the lyrics, you'll understand why it's one of my favorites. For a person who suffers with random bouts of anxiety, it's a good reminder that no matter what happens, God is with me and "it is well with my soul."

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
  2. When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well, with my soul.
    • Refrain:
      It is well, with my soul,
      It is well, it is well, with my soul.
  3. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  4. My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  5. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
  6. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  7. And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

I'm thankful for the blessing of the good men in my life--my husband, my dad, my brother, my father-in-law and my brother-in-law, and the many friends with whom I have had the opportunity to share a lot of laughs and great life experiences. You're all such a blessing and I'm thankful for all of you!

Bono on Jesus

I've seen this interview with Bono circulating on the Interwebz for the past few days and I really connected with it, so I thought I'd share it. In fact, it was a big part of our discussion at church this past Saturday (in our church we sit together and have discussions instead of having sermons), and it made for some good food for thought and gave me some things to chew on for a while.

I've seen the interview in a few different places, so I'm just going to post the link from the most recent place I've seen it.


While I don't really look to rock stars for opinions on faith, I have to say I wholeheartedly agree with Bono's feelings on grace and whole point of Christ and the cross. Check it out and see what you think of it. In some ways the things he says remind me of some of the teachings and writings of the late Brennan Manning. I'm interested in what you think after reading it, so please feel free to comment.


Bono on Jesus

From the Amazon page:
“Bono’s career is unlike any other in rock history. As the lead singer of U2, Bono has sold 130 million albums, won fourteen Grammys, and played numerous sold-out world tours, but he has also lobbied and worked with world leaders from Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to Nelson Mandela on debt relief, AIDS, and other critical global issues. He has collaborated with the same musicians for nearly three decades and has been married to his childhood sweetheart since 1982. His life, at all turns, resists the rock star clich├ęs.
In a series of intimate conversations with his friend Michka Assayas, a music journalist who has been with the band since the very beginning, Bono reflects on his transformation from the extrovert singer of a small Irish post-punk band into one of the most famous individuals in the world; and from an international celebrity to an influential spokesperson for the Third World. He speaks candidly about his faith, family, commitment, influences, service, and passion. Bono: A Self-Portrait in Conversation is the closest we will come, for now, to a memoir from the iconic frontman of U2.”
What follows is an excerpt from the book where Bono talks about Jesus Christ:
Bono: My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don’t let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond [sighs] in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that’s my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now that’s not so easy.
Michka: What about the God of the Old Testament? He wasn’t so “peace and love”?
Bono: There’s nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that’s why they’re so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you’re a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.
Michka: Speaking of bloody action movies, we were talking about South and Central America last time. The Jesuit priests arrived there with the gospel in one hand and a rifle in the other.
Bono: I know, I know. Religion can be the enemy of God. It’s often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. [laughs] A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing discipleship. Why are you chuckling?
Michka: I was wondering if you said all of that to the Pope the day you met him.
Bono: Let’s not get too hard on the Holy Roman Church here. The Church has its problems, but the older I get, the more comfort I find there. The physical experience of being in a crowd of largely humble people, heads bowed, murmuring prayers, stories told in stained-glass windows
Michka: So you won’t be critical.
Bono: No, I can be critical, especially on the topic of contraception. But when I meet someone like Sister Benedicta and see her work with AIDS orphans in Addis Ababa, or Sister Ann doing the same in Malawi, or Father Jack Fenukan and his group Concern all over Africa, when I meet priests and nuns tending to the sick and the poor and giving up much easier lives to do so, I surrender a little easier.
Michka: But you met the man himself. Was it a great experience?
Bono: [W]e all knew why we were there. The Pontiff was about to make an important statement about the inhumanity and injustice of poor countries spending so much of their national income paying back old loans to rich countries. Serious business. He was fighting hard against his Parkinson’s. It was clearly an act of will for him to be there. I was oddly moved by his humility, and then by the incredible speech he made, even if it was in whispers. During the preamble, he seemed to be staring at me. I wondered. Was it the fact that I was wearing my blue fly-shades? So I took them off in case I was causing some offense. When I was introduced to him, he was still staring at them. He kept looking at them in my hand, so I offered them to him as a gift in return for the rosary he had just given me.
Michka: Didn’t he put them on?
Bono: Not only did he put them on, he smiled the wickedest grin you could ever imagine. He was a comedian. His sense of humor was completely intact. Flashbulbs popped, and I thought: “Wow! The Drop the Debt campaign will have the Pope in my glasses on the front page of every newspaper.”
Michka: I don’t remember seeing that photograph anywhere, though.
Bono: Nor did we. It seems his courtiers did not have the same sense of humor. Fair enough. I guess they could see the T-shirts.
Michka: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?
Bono: Yes, I think that’s normal. It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.
Michka: I haven’t heard you talk about that.
Bono: I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.
Michka: Well, that doesn’t make it clearer for me.
Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics; in physical laws every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.
Michka: I’d be interested to hear that.
Bono: That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.
Michka: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.
Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled . It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.
Michka: That’s a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it’s close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world’s great thinkers. But Son of God, isn’t that farfetched?
Bono: No, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you.
And he goes: No, no. I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this. So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was the Messiah or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we’ve been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had “King of the Jews” on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched
Bono later says it all comes down to how we regard Jesus:
Bono: If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s— and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.