Nothing to Be Ashamed Of

When did you last feel guilty? What did you do, and what did you do with your guilt: confess it and make it right? Hide it and walk away?

What are you ashamed of? It could be related to the same situation if your guilt went unresolved. But shame is sneaky. You likely feel ashamed for things that aren’t your fault at all: body image, not fitting in with whatever group you were made to feel you had to fit in, insults you internalized as a child that reflected more about the person who uttered them than any truth about your character.

Guilt: I did something bad.
Shame: I am bad.

I’m no expert, but it seems to me that guilt can lead to feelings of shame. I did something bad because I am bad. And shame can lead to further guilt: since I’m bad, I might as well act badly. Like Adam and Eve eating the fruit in the garden (guilt) and realizing they were naked (shame over their beautifully created bodies), and hiding from God.

But those things are more easily dealt with than the shame most humans carry through no fault of their own. That requires much deeper, harder work, and I’d wager that most of us don’t want to go there…until for whatever reason we realize we have to.

Peter denied knowing Jesus three times (John 18), just as Jesus had told him he would (John 13). Peter felt guilty, but the way Jesus restored him indicates that Peter may also have been feeling ashamed (John 21).

The real shame expert, Brene Brown, says that if we wanted to grow shame in a petri dish we would add secrecy, silence, and judgment, all ingredients in ample supply.

Even though Peter denied Jesus publicly, it’s not a stretch to imagine that Peter had buried his actions. The other disciples weren’t there, so how would they know? And how would they react if they did? Again, judgment isn’t a huge leap… Oh Peter, how could you? Although, given the circumstances, maybe they would have done exactly the same; or maybe they could have imagined themselves in Peter’s sandals. But Peter wouldn’t know that, since he likely kept his guilt and shame to himself.

Secrecy, silence, and judgment multiply shame. Jesus not only addressed Peter’s guilt, He also obliterated Peter’s shame. This conversation wasn’t just redemption, or restitution; this conversation became a catapult to mission. Without it, we might not have the Church.

I find it fascinating that John chose this scene to conclude his gospel. Peter, who had lived and served with Jesus for three years, denied even knowing Jesus on the night He was arrested. But that doesn’t stop Jesus’ love, Jesus’ forgiveness, Jesus’ mission. John wants us to know that no matter what we’ve done or how unqualified we feel, Jesus will meet us there, gently and lovingly lift us up, and give us meaningful service.

Leave behind guilt. Do whatever hard work you need to do to move beyond shame. Let Jesus love you right where it hurts (especially if you’re not ready to admit that it hurts…that’s where you need it). And then get up and follow Him on the adventure He has waiting for you.

Connect
Share some of the ways you demonstrated love for someone this week.

Study
Read aloud John 21:15-25.
Also read John 18:15-18, 25-27. How did Jesus questioning Peter’s love three times connect with Peter’s three denials?
Even though Peter felt hurt by Jesus’ questions, how was Jesus demonstrating love for Peter?
How did Jesus ask Peter to demonstrate his love (vv15-17)? Why is that significant?
Since Jesus knows all things, why did He have this conversation with Peter? What difference does it make to say the words out loud?
Why did Jesus refer to Peter’s death (vv18-19)?
Why did Peter ask about John, and how did Jesus respond (vv20-24)?
Why do you think John chose this to be the last scene in his gospel (v25)? What does this scene tell us about Jesus and His followers that might act as a conclusion to the story?

Live
How do you define shame? How is it like/different from guilt?
When is shame an appropriate response? When is it unhealthy?
How can safe and loving conversations and an appropriate course of action be helpful in overcoming shame?
If you can, share about a time when Jesus redeemed your shame.
Why is it important to demonstrate love with words and actions?
Are you better at loving with words or actions? How can you grow in balancing expressions of love?
How can you demonstrate your love for Jesus as you love others with words and actions this week?
What is God saying to you through this passage, and what will you do about it?

Pray
Thank God for loving us no matter what and offering redemption from shame.

Family Share Questions
Reflect on John 21:15-19 individually and with your family:
How do you show someone you love them?
How does loving people help you love Jesus more?
Thank Jesus for all the people you love.

For more on shame, watch this Ted talk by Brene Brown.

 

Images by John Hain from Pixabay

Fear & Peace

For two long days last week as my pastor-husband prepared a sermon, I overheard his end of several zoom interviews asking people two questions: What causes you fear? and How have you encountered Jesus at your point of fear?

I couldn’t hear their answers, so I pondered my own responses to questions I’d been asking myself for weeks.

Shelter-in-place brought on an anxiety I couldn’t control or explain. I felt uncomfortable, awkward, ashamed. What is wrong with me? I wondered. Not in a high risk category, I’m not really afraid that I’m going to contract COVID-19. And, at least on the surface, my life hasn’t changed that much. So where are these Big Feels coming from?

  • Sleep immediately flew out the window for me and our kids. “Bedtime” suddenly shifted to 3 am, which meant we also slept half the day. It took about a month to settle into a healthier sleep rhythm.
  • The loss of routine. Our family doesn’t easily set our own routines, meaning that we rely on external structure to organize our days.
  • With everyone at home all the time, there’s no solitude, little silence, and regular interruptions, which makes it hard to concentrate, to write, to be creative. I have been less able to plug in to my natural outlets.
  • The obvious loss of social outlets. ‘Nuff said.
  • I’m not working, and I don’t know what work will look like in the future.
  • The comparison game at which I keep losing: others claim to be living their best life, developing new skills and side gigs, while I want to crawl in a hole and cry, or at least, hole up with a book or three.
  • The fear of the unknown: how long will this last? And all the swirling questions: how long should it last to keep us all safe?
  • And the big one: I fear that others aren’t taking this seriously, that they’re not truly sheltering-in-place, they’re not social distancing, they’re going out too often and letting their kids hang out with others. And by not taking it seriously, they’re invalidating my taking-it-seriously actions.

So where is Jesus in all this? Sheepishly, I asked Guy if anyone had dared to answer that they didn’t know…or that their fear was not having heard from Jesus during this time. Good for them, but no, no one answered that way.

I know Jesus is with me, but He hasn’t exactly been dramatic about announcing Himself. So I keep doing what I do to cultivate an environment for peace: I persist in my daily gratitude hunt. I find joy in exercising with my dogs. I’ve rediscovered a yoga practice that I can maintain at home long-term. And I write Bible studies where Jesus helps me craft questions as He speaks to my heart.

As the days plod along, slow and steady, I am grateful for faith in His gentle presence in the heart of our home. Even when I feel less than peaceful, I trust He’s here with peace in hand.

Connect
Name one of your biggest childhood fears. Alternately, share about something that currently makes you fearful.

Study
Read aloud John 20:19-23.
Put yourself in the room with the disciples before Jesus shows up (v19). What are you thinking and feeling?
How does Jesus’ greeting also address the disciples’ fears (v19)?
Why did Jesus show them His hands and side (v20)?
Why did Jesus emphasize peace (vv19, 21)?
How are peace, the Holy Spirit, and forgiveness connected? Why are they important for the ones whom Jesus sends?

Live
When do you feel most peaceful?
What does it look like for you to receive Jesus’ peace?
If you can, share about a recent time when you felt afraid and how Jesus showed up for you.
In the midst of fear, how can you actively put your trust in God?
How does a sense of purpose help one deal with fear?
What is God saying to you through this passage, and what will you do about it?

Pray
Ask God to meet you in your fears and fill you with peace.

Family Share Questions
Use these questions to reflect on John 20:19-23 individually and with your family:
What are you afraid of?
How can Jesus help you feel peaceful?
Ask Jesus to help you trust Him when you’re afraid.

If you’d like to hear Guy’s sermon based on this passage, you can watch here. The Scripture reading followed by the sermon starts at 13:32.

Image by Raheel Shakeel from Pixabay

Unexpected

How are you holding up during the pandemic? I don’t typically experience anxiety, but I have during the five weeks the San Francisco Bay Area of California has been under shelter-in-place (SIP). Some days, or at least some hours, I’m fine, and others not so much.

I do typically seek out gratitude, and this discipline has become even more important these days. It has helped to hold me steady. So the unexpected feelings of anxiety have me looking for unexpected things I can be grateful for during this extremely unexpected experience.

Unexpected things I’m grateful for during SIP (beyond things I’m regularly thankful for, like walkable neighborhoods and blooming spring flowers):

Not having to rush everywhere
Our church has learned how to broadcast services and Sunday school resources, and folks who haven’t been attending church have been finding their way back
All the people we meet face-to-face (at a safe distance) while walking
Cleaning out closets, the pantry, the fridge/freezer, vacuuming under the bed, etc.
Family projects–both kids worked with their dad to create/update pet habitats and Q15 has a new live edge redwood desk with redwood legs
People rediscovering the art of correspondence
Also, rediscovering playtime–puzzles, games, hobbies, toys that had been outgrown and tucked away have been pulled out
New cooking/recipe groups on social media and time to try new recipes
Bartering–a friend swapped me two bottles of wine for homemade hummus and granola
Artists and musicians sharing their gifts and humor freely, and amateurs dabbling creatively
My overflowing (and occasionally crazy-making) bookshelves + our local online library service + more time to read and I will never run out of new material
Technology meeting the demands of new restrictions and reminding people that we can be connected even if we’re far apart
People have been leaving whimsically painted rocks along the trails and roadsides for others to find–like discovering Easter eggs all spring!

I’m also grateful for the opportunity to write Bible studies like the one below, in which Jesus showed up to His grieving friends. I’m grateful for the reminder that I don’t have to have it all together for Jesus to be with me, to love me just as I am.

Connect
What unexpected things have you discovered you can be grateful for during shelter-in-place?

Study
Read aloud John 20:1-18.
What did Mary, and then Peter and John, expect to find at the tomb (vv1-3)?
What different responses did Mary, Peter and John have as they approached the empty tomb (vv1-9)? Who do you most relate to in this scene and why?
Why do you think Peter and John went back to where they were staying while Mary remained at the tomb (vv10-11)?
Why didn’t Mary recognize Jesus (vv9-16)? What did it take for her to recognize Him?
Describe the interaction between Jesus and Mary (vv15-18).
What instructions did Jesus give Mary, and why is it important then and now (vv17-18)?

Live
How do you typically expect to approach and interact with Jesus?
How has Jesus recently surprised you by bursting beyond your expectations?
When coming to God, are you more of a “clean it up first” or “bring the whole mess” kind of person? Explain.
What does it sound like for Jesus to call your name? How do you respond?
How has Jesus met you in the grief and disappointments of life?
What difference does the resurrection make to your life today?
What is God saying to you through this passage, and what will you do about it?

Pray
Pray for eyes to see the Lord.

Family Share Questions
Use these questions to reflect on John 20:11-18 individually and with your family:
What makes you sad?
How can Jesus comfort you when you’re sad?
Pray for eyes to see Jesus.

If you’d like to hear a sermon based on this passage, my husband preached a grace-filled message for our church today. You can watch here.

Cover Image by TC Perch from Pixabay

If Only…

Pre-pandemic pause, we said:
If only…we weren’t so busy.
If only…we had more time.
If only…the family could do more together.

During this pandemic pause, we say:
If only…this had never happened.
If only…I had my own space.
If only…we could go back to normal.

[Please note: This pandemic hasn’t thrust us into the same boat, but into the same storm. So, truly, people say lots of different things to express their experience from their perspective in their boat in the storm. All valid.]

If only…we could wish ourselves out of whatever situation we’re in.

Instead, how about being present, whatever that means, no matter how hard. Let’s fully experience it, feel the feelings, do our best, and move forward to the next right thing, whatever that might be?

After the crucifixion, the disciples did their best. Confused, they did their next right thing. And the resurrected Jesus met them there, in their “normal” as fishermen, because that’s what they knew how to do.

Whatever you do. Whatever your “next,” do what you need to do.

Jesus will meet you there. Always and forever, He loves you. He can’t wait to be with  you.

In case one of your “next right things” is spending time with Jesus, here are some questions to guide you…

Connect
When recently have you said, or heard someone say, “If only…”?

Study
Read aloud John 21:1-14.
Why did Peter decide to go fishing, and why did the others go along (vv2-4)?
How did “the disciple whom Jesus loved” recognize Jesus (vv4-7)?
Why did Peter get dressed and jump in the water (v7)?
Why do you think Jesus helped the disciples catch fish (v6) and asked for some of their fish (v10) when He already had fish (v9)? What might that tell us about Jesus? About us?
How do you understand the disciples’ reaction to Jesus (v12)?

Live
What regular activities do you do to distract yourself from feelings of “If only…”? Do they help?
Share some of the healthy ways you deal with negative emotions.
How do you recognize Jesus when He shows up?
What have you heard Jesus saying to you during shelter-in-place?
If you can, share about a time when you witnessed Jesus do something remarkable.
Where in your life would you especially like Jesus to show up?
What is God saying to you through this passage, and what will you do about it?

Pray
Pray for God to do more than you can ask or imagine.

 

Family Share Questions
Use these questions to reflect on John 21:1-14 individually and with your family:
What miracle does Jesus do in this story? How do you think the disciples felt about it?
What miracles would you like to see Jesus do in the world today? In your own life?
Pray for God to be powerfully present in your life.

 

Image by jürgen Scheffler from Pixabay

Easter Sunday 2020

“Jesus isn’t dead anymore!” [the angel] said. “He’s alive again!”
And [the women’s] hearts leapt. And then the angel laughed with such gladness…

Jesus Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Hallelujah!

For those who want a fresh take on Luke’s familiar resurrection account, I offer some questions to guide you.

Connect
Reflect on a favorite Easter celebration from your childhood.
How will/did you celebrate Easter while sheltering in place?

Study
Read aloud Luke 24:1-12.
Who went to the tomb, and why (vv1, 10)? What do you know about these women (see also Luke 8:2-3)?
What did they find/not find (vv2-7)?
Summarize in your own words what the angels told them (vv5-7)?
Why did the apostles not believe the women’s testimony (vv9-11)?
How did Peter respond, and what did he find at the tomb (v12)?
Why do you think the angels appeared to the women but not to Peter?

Live
On a practical level, what does the resurrection mean to you?
Do you think people still “look for the living among the dead,” and if so, how?
If you can, share about a time when you told someone about Jesus and they dismissed it as nonsense. How did you respond?
What about Jesus and the resurrection still causes you to wonder?
What will you do this week to live out the reality of the resurrection?
What is God saying to you through this passage, and what will you do about it?

Pray
Praise God for His gift of His Son, praise the Son for His gift of Himself on the cross, and praise the Spirit for the power to live as God’s people.

 

Family Share Questions
Use these questions to reflect on Luke 24:1-8 individually and with your family.
What good news have you heard recently?
Why is it great news that Jesus rose from the dead?
Thank God for Easter!

 

During Lent 2020, I read and reflected on The Jesus Storybook Bible.You can purchase it here. Please note: as an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases.

And special thanks to my loyal readers who encouraged my heart each time they read and liked one of these Lenten blog posts, especially to Robin Leann & Simply Wendi!

Lent 2020: Maundy Thursday

“My body is like this bread. It will break.” Jesus told them. “This cup of wine is like my blood. It will pour out.”
“But this is how God will rescue the whole world…. So whenever you eat and drink, remember,” Jesus said, “I’ve rescued you!”

My husband just popped dinner in the oven (a frozen veg lasagna he bought when he braved the grocery store this morning, restocking us for Easter + two weeks) and brought me a piece of fresh rosemary focaccia bread to nibble as I type.

The bread is soft and delicious, a little chew from the crust and a salty-herby punch to its flavor. He only brought a small piece; it’s enough to make me want to get up for more.

Does every “taste” of Jesus make me want to get up for more? Do I eat mindlessly, or do I notice the delicious and nourishing taste?

I love to cook. I love to serve my family nutritious, tasty meals. I follow several cooks online, always on the hunt for new recipes. During shelter-in-place, when suddenly lots of people have opportunity to indulge their culinary efforts (or not, at least their good humor), I’m in additional “whatcha cookin” type groups.

And still. It’s easy to just eat. To mindlessly put food in my mouth to satisfy my hunger and/or my anxiety. To mindfully serve my family and yet forget to remember and thank the Source of all good things.

Today is Maundy Thursday. We should be going to church. But even on Sunday, Easter, we will stay home. The world turns upside-down…

Jesus, help me to remember–when I eat and all the time–that you allowed your body to be broken because you came to rescue us. Your body saved ours. Your love infuses our blood. Now as much as ever, we need your rescue.

During Lent 2020, I’m reading and reflecting on The Jesus Storybook Bible. If you don’t already have it, I highly recommend it. You can purchase it here. Please note: as an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases.

Lent 2020: I Pray…

“Did you know that God is always listening to you? Did you know that God can hear the quietest whisper deep inside your heart, even before you’ve started to say it? Because God knows exactly what you need even before you ask him…. So when you pray, pray in your normal voice, just like when you’re talking to someone you love very much.”

Well, that’s really great news, Jesus, because we hear so much bad news. The world, our lives, have filled up with so much uncertainty that we don’t always know what to say. We don’t always know what to think or how to feel or even what to do next.

I’m so grateful that God is always listening. I’m grateful that He knows the quietest whisper deep in my heart. I am grateful that He knows what I need, because I’m not always very good at knowing what I need.

Jesus, I pray for all those who are sick; comfort them and their loved ones. I pray for those who serve the sick. Thank you for the helpers. Keep them well so they can continue helping. I pray for those who feel anxious. I pray for those who have lost jobs. I pray for those who are working from home, especially if they’re also caring for little ones. I pray for parents who are suddenly cast in the role of school teacher. I pray for students who feel the weight of isolation, doing their best to learn using new formats. I pray for the bored and confused children cooped up at home instead of playing on playgrounds. I pray for the scientists working on cures, and I pray for world leaders to be wise in their recommendations.

I pray for peace. I pray for unity. I pray for the whole world to feel your presence. I pray for your Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love to reach every person and fill up every heart.

Amen.

 

During Lent 2020, I’m reading and reflecting on The Jesus Storybook Bible. If you don’t already have it, I highly recommend it. You can purchase it here. Please note: as an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases.