Everybody, Always: A Litany on Bob Goff’s New Book

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You may have noticed, if you’ve been reading this blog long enough, that I have opinions. Opinions about a lot of things. Many of them could be classified as “political,” although I prefer to classify them as following Jesus. I believe them to be well researched, thought out opinions.

Opinions and Other People

But the stunning surprise every time for me is—not everyone agrees with me. I don’t even know what to do with that. Shouldn’t everyone see things the way I do?

Not only is that divergence disturbing to me, but it has brought out parts of me that could not be classified as following Jesus. Anger. I do know that not all anger is wrong—anger over injustice is not wrong at all. How many of us, though, stray away from anger over injustice toward anger at people, rather than problems? (Insert raised hand here.)

Frustration. Doubt. Mostly, lack of genuine love for sisters and brothers who are completely on the other side of the issue. I devoutly believe they are wrong—but lack of love is not following Jesus. I don’t like that. Fix it, Jesus.

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Enter Everybody Always

That’s why I wanted to be on the launch team for Bob Goff’s new book, highly anticipated after a couple year’s hiatus from Love Does. He promised that he would tell me how to love Everybody, Always. The subtitle said it all: Becoming Love in a World of Setbacks and Difficult People. I needed that book.

Fortunately, I made it on the team and got to pre-read the first part of the book. When it came out in April, I ordered the whole thing on my iPad, because I needed the rest of the story–now, not in two day Amazon prime shipping. So here is your reason to get the book—if you haven’t already.

I wanted to preview this book because Bob raises the question I am struggling with—how do we really love people who try their hardest to be unlovable in today’s political and religious climate? Bob manages to open eyes to not only how we do that but, of course, how we sometimes are those unlovable people to someone else. His striking humility and hands-on personal testimony about how this works are enough to sell his authority.

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Resisting the Offer

One of my favorite quotes right off was: “I’m trying to resist the bait that darkness offers me every day to trade kindness for rightness.” Knowing it’s many of our struggle, not just mine, was a great start. It’s a daily thing, not a one and done. We have to resist that bait every single day it’s offered. And believe me, it’s offered a lot. Every time we turn on social media. To realize that it’s darkness trying to get me to click, swallow, and react helps make the right choice.

It doesn’t mean I have warm, bubbly feelings for everyone whose posts make me cringe and scream quietly into my Earl Grey. It does mean that sometimes the better part of love is to scroll past them, know what’s being offered, and refuse to take it. Say a prayer for the person and move on. Nothing to see here. Nothing to trade my peace and kindness in for. The people aren’t dark, but the temptation is.

A few of my favorite sections:

What I’ve been doing with my faith is this: instead of saying I’m going to believe in Jesus for my whole life, I’ve been trying to actually obey Jesus for thirty seconds at a time. Here’s how it works: When I meet someone who is hard to get along with, I think, Can I love that person for the next thirty seconds? them. I try to love the person in front of me the way Jesus did for the next thirty seconds rather than merely agree with Jesus and avoid them entirely, which I’m sad to say comes easier to me. I try to see difficult people in front of me for who they could become someday, and I keep reminding myself about this possibility for thirty seconds at a time. It’s easy to agree with what Jesus said. What’s hard is actually doing what Jesus did.

Right???

I love this. What can’t we do for thirty seconds? If we love for thirty seconds, I suspect it gets easier to love for thirty more, because for at least that much time, we’ve listened, heard, and looked at someone with new eyes. It’s hard to go back to anger and hate and dissension after we choose to love for thirty seconds.

Whether we want to or not, we end up memorizing what we do repeatedly. It’s the way we were wired from the factory. Because this is how we’re made, it’s a great idea to pick actions worth repeating. People who are turning into love do this. They adopt beautiful patterns and surrounding imagery for their lives. They fill their lives with songs, practices, and habits that communicate love, acceptance, grace, generosity, whimsy, and forgiveness. People who are becoming love repeat these actions so often they don’t even realize they’re doing it anymore. It’s just finger memory to them. They don’t need anyone to clap for them. They don’t need validation for things they know are inherently right and true and beautiful. They don’t need all the accolades that come with recognition. They also don’t feel a need to criticize people who have gotten a couple of things wrong or hit a couple of sour chords in their lives.

I want this. I want to practice grace. All the time. Until it’s the song that flows from my heart, fingers, and mouth every moment. Thirty seconds at a time.

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OK, this might be my very favorite quote. 🙂

Each day I start with the things I’m certain about and try to land my weight on those things. It always starts with a loving, caring God who is tremendously interested in me and the world I live in. I’m picky about what else I add after that.

That sounds like fantastic advice to me. It sounds like Jesus advice. What do we continually add to the basic facts that God loves me, God loves all the other people as much as me, and he cares what we do with it all? I want to land my weight on what matters and know that it’s going to hold. All the requirements we add are what makes us bounce off the runway, overweight and unbalanced. I want to travel light with what matters as my baggage, pilot, and landing gear.

There’s much more, told in his storytelling style that makes you want to go out and do half of what he does. (Except the skydiving part. I still have zero desire to skydive.)

I’m not sure how this introvert will manage to be such an active inspiration in peoples’ ives as he is, but at least I know how to start. Thirty seconds at a time.

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Getting Friendship Backward–What Really Goes First?

Community is the word for October. In that spirit, I’ve invited a friend Andrea Stunz to guest blog today. She has a great message about community, friendship, and being totally honest with ourselves. I love it, and I’m sure you will, too.

Live in true devotion to one another, loving each other as sisters and brothers. Be first to honor others by putting them first. Romans 12:10 (The Voice)
Friends don’t care how old you are.

I’ve gotten it backwards for a whole lotta years. Not on purpose but out of just not knowing how to do it right. Not being taught. I do selfish very well. Too well. Don’t we all? I’m just shy of 50 years old and I think God may finally be getting through to me and helping me understand how this whole friend thing works.

First, you have to be a friend. Then you get to have a friend.
Ahhhhh….. soooo….. Well, I’ve been trying that out and guess what? It’s working!
But it’s not easy for this control freak.
I’m putting myself out there more and with a different outlook. I’m trying new things. I’m risking.That’s the hardest part. Risk. Being vulnerable. Knowing that if I truly let myself be a friend to have a friend it might hurt at some point. Knowing that it will most definitely hurt at some point. I don’t like that part. The hardest part for me in all of this relationship business is being willing to be hurt. Because it will happen. Even by those who aren’t supposed to hurt me. They aren’t God. God is the only “person” who will never disappoint me.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” ~C.S. Lewis
Somewhere along the way I decided that risking heart exposure wasn’t worth the pain. What I’m finally learning is that risk is not always worth it but it is sometimes worth it. Love is costly, but anything of value costs. Being willing to be broken is also being willing to accept redemption.
If I let myself be a friend and have a friend then it might just might turn out okay or even better than okay. It might actually be great!
Or how crazy you are.

The thing with friendship is that we can have a lot of them but not all of them have to be bff’s. If we follow the model of Jesus, he had a three “bff’s” in his inner circle. Three that he went all in with. Three that he shared his guts with. Then his circles broadened. As his circles broadened so did the amount of information he shared with them. Not because he didn’t want to but because those he would be sharing with couldn’t handle it or wouldn’t receive it.

I am coming to realize that those who can’t handle me don’t deserve me. That may sound harsh, but this control freak has to have some boundaries. I can still love and share Jesus and share my life with everyone but I don’t have to share my guts with everyone. We’ve told our kids countless times that you don’t have to be friends with everyone but you do have to be friendly. I’ve got friendly down. I’m working on being a friend. Got trust issues? I do! My trust issues include trusting God enough to put people in my life whom I can trust. Then, the onus is on me that once he does that to not squander it. I have to trust and try. Once the loneliness gets lonely enough, we’ll either choose to move out of it or resolve to stay in it. I’m finally in the place where I’m choosing to move out of it.
Relationships are messy and what I’m coming to learn (not having arrived just yet but learning) is that messy = living and living = messy. I’ve gone far too long without really living and then getting all upset because no one else was helping me live it. Ridiculous, right? But it’s true and ridiculous and I’m tired of not living. Life is so much better when it’s lived.
“In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).
There will be strong and unfriendly winds that will make a mess of our lives. On those blustery days, the kindness, prayers, and simple-but-profound ministry of the presence of dear friends will be the anchor to our unraveling, the rescue to our storm.  ~Dr. Leslie Parrott

Those kinds of friends are few and far between. I have a few of those and they know my mess and love me anyway and come to my rescue. Some have known my mess and chosen not to love me and that hurts but there’s nothing I can do about that now. Somewhere along the way I got in my head that people were just supposed to know when I was hurting and miraculously come to my rescue. What I’m realizing now is that I have to let them in. I have to take the risk. The power of the lies of thinking I need control and not trusting because it hurts are a relationship killer. Somewhere along the way I got in my head that if I shared too much or exposed myself they wouldn’t stick around. But now I know that if they don’t stick around then one of us still has work to do. I can’t fix them but I can work on fixing me. I need to be careful and have some boundaries but isolation is not where it’s at.

Remember we were meant to be in community. Don’t isolate yourself. Insulate your heart but don’t isolate your body. ~Patsy Clairmont
God has been faithful to show me the way. I’ve forced myself to become more involved in a few things at church – which really is not bad at all once I’m there. I’m purposely asking old friends and new friends to lunch or coffee and just letting whatever happens happen. It’s mostly been wonderful. Not easy and not without some anxiety and heart palpitations but wonderful. I also signed up to get some email tips from (in)Courage on “how to be the friend you wished you had.” God is lovingly but clearly telling me that I need to figure out how to be a friend before I can have a friend. I’m getting it. Slowly, but I am.
So in all of this, I’m still learning. I’m still growing. I have not arrived. I’m trying to be brave. I’m willing to risk. I think…
God help me. Amen.
~Andrea
“I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.” ~Maya Angelou

Andrea is: “A homemaker, a traveler, a seeker, a writer, a pilgrim. I love cooking and sharing good food with others who love good food. I take pictures that tell a story, my story, God’s story. An almost empty nester. A fellow struggler. A fellow stumbler. In need of God’s grace. Oh, and coffee. Grace and coffee. Then I’m good. Oh, and a sunrise. Grace, coffee and a sunrise. THEN I’m good. Oh, and my grandson. Grace, coffee, a sunrise and my grandson. … you get the picture. 🙂 I have many favorite scriptures but my “go to” scripture which seems to encompass all I may be stumbling through or rejoicing in is always this: “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17

This was originally published on Andrea’s blog, here. Check out the rest of her writing while you’re there!

(Don’t) Clean up Your Mess

Hey, what’s wrong with messes? We look great, right?

The more I live with people instead of just coexisting in proximity, the more I recognize something—there are a of of messed up people out there. Even more messed up than I am. Yes, true story.

The other thing I’ve come to recognize is that being messed up is not necessarily a bad thing. Neat lives are often a sign of lives so carefully curated that they are museum dioramas, not lives. And the thing about museum dioramas? They’re full of dead things. Stuffed dead things. This is not appealing to most of us as an environment.
A little bit of mess signals a life that’s lived in, like a couch with graham cracker crumbs welded to the underside of the cushions. That life has taken risks, known joy, and has the stains to prove it. Some messes are dangerous, toxic spills that needs to be cleaned up out of our lives. But others? We need them to prove we’re alive.
I never wanted or imagined the mess of a loved one with mental illness and attendant self-destructive behavior. Given the choice, I’d have picked the carefully curated life. Having chosen that, I would have missed out on a lot that has made me alive.
I had no idea I was living amid dead things.
Sometimes messes just mean something better is coming.

Because of that experience, I’ve been able to share a lot with people whose lives are broken in various ways, and similar variations on a theme keep returning. It’s hard. It hurts. But we have learned so much. When you’re in the slime and mud of the mess, though, you really want to know what exactly people have learned. What could possibly make this worthwhile? What could anyone tell me to make me appreciate this wrenching time of uncertainty?

I’m not sure. I suspect that when people are slogging through those times is not always the best opportunity to offer sage advice. Most of us aren’t ready to hear it when the pain is shrieking louder than the wisdom. But people ask. What do you find out about life, and yourself, when your world is a mess? How do you even survive?
The answer to the second question is easy: God’s grace and insistent love. Nothing more or less.
The answer to the first could go on a while. But here are a few thoughts.

I learned that grace was a choice I didn’t make often enough. 

I had theoretically believed in grace, but operationally, I extended it mostly to those who didn’t look like they needed it. For those with rough edges and incomprehensible, annoying behavior? Maybe when they got themselves together. My reality of grace was not even close to God’s dream of it for me. I had no idea that grace looked a lot more like hugging a drug addict than praying for lunch at Panera.
Grace got out of hand the moment the God of the universe hung on a Roman cross and with outstretched hands looked out upon those who had hung him there and declared, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ Grace has been out of hand for more than two thousand years now. We best get used to it.” (Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday)


I never understood that before. I didn’t really want to. Now, I don’t want anything else.

I learned that love is always a good thing to decide. 

You might get hurt. You will be taken advantage of. But love reserved for those who deserve it and won’t tamper with it is not love at all. It’s a calculated investment. CS Lewis said, To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.”
I didn’t understand that until I had to choose to love not only my loved one in a mess but the people it brought into our lives. It seemed God put them there despite what I wanted, so the only real choice was to love them. And they did, indeed, break my heart. But broken hearts are the best kind for letting others inside.   . God’s dream for me was to lavish unconditional love, as He did. My reality had been fearful half loving.

I learned to honestly believe that He loves us. 

He loves our messes. Really.
He can handle them.

Driving with a loved one to a potential prison sentence is about as messy as it gets. Until in the middle of praying you hear those words on the radio, “If His grace is an ocean we’re all sinking; oh, how He loves us so.” And you realize for perhaps the first, or at least the most profound, time that they are true. Not just for you but for the person sitting next to you. And all those other persons out there who have messes in their lives and need that grace like an ocean. He loves. Beyond our imagination.

He takes care of the messes, beyond our imagination. All the worries and terrors and anxieties about them do nothing helpful, while putting the mess in His hands and leaving it there always does. Because He Loves are the most needed and true words you will ever hear, and they are bedrock when life feels more like a mudslide than a picnic.
I don’t know if you’re feeling messy right now, and I don’t know if it helps to be told those things. Maybe you have to learn them yourself in the fire. I think, though, that at least it helps to know someone else has been in that mess, and it has not won.
Something better is still coming.
We still have not finished this mess.

Have you seen the sign some people hang in their kitchen that reads “God Bless This Mess”? Yeah. That’s about right. Ask Him to. He will.

I’m Not Tolerant

Kids don’t need to be told how to do this.
On November 16, the UN urges people worldwide to celebrate and observe the UN International Day for Tolerance. The point? To foster understanding and education between peoples of different origins. (That’s my summary, not theirs.)
While I love the idea of celebrating differences, I’m not so sure of the name. I know tolerance has become the buzzword of the 2000‘s. If you’re not tolerant? You’re a bigoted, uneducated jerk. Basically. That’s the edited version. Whose version of tolerant? Well, it depends. To steal from Orwell, it does appear some people are more tolerable than others.
But I refuse to be tolerant.
Tolerance” is such a feeble word. I tolerate creaky knees. I tolerate cold weather and slow checkout lanes and JW’s at my door. (Although to be honest, I usually hide from them.) I don’t love any of those. I don’t even like them very much.
You know how the online dictionary defines tolerance?

To allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference. To accept or endure (someone or something unpleasant or disliked) with forbearance.”
Tolerance only asks that I endure you. I can continue to dislike you intensely, but if I deal with you like I would a root canal, I’m a good person. As long as I allow your existence, I’m on moral high ground. You see what a weak ideal we’re celebrating here?
Now, I realize that allowing someone else’s existence would be a significant step up for people like ISIS. It’s a steep enough goal if you’re the UN, so what they’re doing is great. But for most of us? I’d like to think we could aim higher.
Jesus said “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Pray for your enemies.” He told stories of racial strife healed by a Samaritan salving a man’s wounds and putting him on a donkey. He rebuked the unjust treatment of women by refusing to throw a stone at one.
Then he showed us how it was done by forgiving those who murdered him even as they cheered about it. That “Father forgive them” was not an act of tolerance. It was a declaration of love.
It was a gauntlet thrown down in the name of a new Kingdom where love, not mere tolerance, would reign. It was a challenge for his followers to take up.
In contrast to tolerance, witness the definition of what Jesus meant when he told us to love our neighbor.
Agapeis selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love, the highest of the four types of love in the Bible. The essence of agape is self-sacrifice.” 

That doesn’t sound like the kind of feeling I’d have toward a root canal.
The day we, literally, sat down for tea with a Chinese communist.
And we had a great time.
I have a challenge. Skip the tolerance. Go right to the love. Put away the name calling, the labeling, the Facebook posts about “those people” and how dumb they must be. Stow your “right” to be angry and your certainty that yours is the only reasonable outlook.
Sit down for tea with someone you disagree with on however many levels. Someone from a very different background. Not to argue. Not to convince him or her you’re right. Just to talk. Mostly to listen. See if you can’t hammer out more than a simple tolerance by the time you’re done. I’m serious about this—do it. This is not just a theoretical challenge.
If those who claim to have accepted Jesus’ declaration of love for themselves cannot, read that will not, lavish it as unconditionally as He did, we’re not even tolerating. We’re just plain failing. Fortunately for us, he just keeps offering that love, and power, to improve our record. 
I need that power. I fail at the love thing. I need power every day to turn away from what I think I deserve and how right I think I am toward “selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love.” But tolerance? I want to fail at that. I don’t want to endure those with whom I disagree. I want to love them. With whom are you going to have tea?

Five things to always apologize for

Love means often having to say you’re sorry.
Just not for this.
Last week I declared a moratorium on ten things I’ll never apologize for again. (See that post here.)


It’s freeing to realize we do not have to apologize for a lot of the things we’e spent too much of our lives apologizing for. But hold the reins. Or whatever analogy suits you. I, personally, don’t really do horses. I think it has something to do with the one that tried to knock me off her back with a tree branch when I was eight. Still have equine trust issues.

So—insert your metaphor here that means—wait a minute.

There is such a thing as too free. For instance, feel free to run around your house alone in whatever state of dress you prefer. But gong to Target like that is another matter completely. (Walmart–now there you might be able to get away with it.)

Contrary to inexplicably popular 70’s movies, love does NOT mean never having to say you’re sorry. In fact, love means saying it often. Over and over. Because loving people up close means we’ll have conflict and miscommunication, confusion and badly applied good intentions, and mornings without enough caffeine before opening our mouths. And we’ll have to apologize.

So a new list this week.

Five things I hope I will always apologize for.

Because there is always time to chaperone a class
trip to Orlando. Always. And there is never one
more baby of the family to do it with.

Telling people I’m too busy. With what? For what? What on earth am I doing that’s more important than that person who wants my attention or presence? The Bible says to store up our treasures in heaven (Matthew6.19-21). You know what is in heaven? People. Not our job, our computer, or our zumba class. PEOPLE. They are our treasure. I need to act like it.


It’s too easy to put my agenda first without even hearing what someone is asking. Hearing sometimes requires pulling away from me and listening at a level beyond words. Life will be too busy until you die, but only if you let it be .

I can’t I can’t possibly. I just…can’t.
Oh wait. I can.

Saying I can’t. Yes, I did say just last week I would no longer apologize for not explaining why I can’t do something. But this is different. What I’m talking about is saying “I can’t” when what I really mean is, “I don’t want to take the time.“ “It’s a bother.” “I’m too afraid.” I may not choose to explain why I can’t do something, but I always want to think about why I don’t believe I can.


Because sometimes, I can. And I’m sacrificing something or someone to cover up for my fear or apathy. It isn’t so much, “I’m sorry but I can’t.” It’s “I’d rather think about my own selfish self right now, thank you very much.” Ugh. I’m tired of my own selfish self. That person isn’t very good company. I want to say yes more than I say no  .

That talking without thinking thing. Did I mention I can be a trifle . . . sarcastic? In fact, most of us do think before we use words that are hurtful. Then we go ahead and do it anyway.

Because of the latest Supreme Court decision, I’ve already read several diatribes this week using hateful, cruel language to describe people who don’t agree with the writer. They have to know some of the people they call “friends” belong in the group they’re describing–and hurting. But personal opinion and need to be right trump those feelings.

I need to say “sorry” for the times I disregard those feelings in my need to say something witty, or right, or judgmental. It’s not OK just because I believe it.

It’s easy to say, “They were only words, and they’re probably forgotten.” But probably not, because words burn themselves into our souls, and words like “I’m sorry” can tweeze hurt out and heal the scar . Why is it so easy to launch verbal Laser Weapon Systems and so very difficult to say “I’m sorry”?

Because sometimes, life is messy.

Being a bad example. Too many years of my life got spent trying to be the shining example of perfect mom, wife, and Christian. Time I could have saved by admitting earlier I couldn’t even manage a glimmer some days much less a shine. 


You know when my ministry with other people really begin to matter? When I started saying things like, “I seriously screwed up! You too? OK, why don’t we put our messes together and see what God can do to redeem it all?”

Could I please go back and apologize to all the people who saw the “I know what I’m doing all the time and, also, I know what you should be doing and how you should be doing it” woman and tell them I’m really, really sorry? And could someone smack me the next time I slip into that?

Playing the Please-Blame-Anyone-But-Me game. You know what? It’s so much more work to figure out twenty ways someone else is at fault. It takes real effort to manipulate why I’m not really responsible for the thing I clearly am. I wish I had figured this out a long time ago.

It takes three seconds to say, “Yep, I should have known better, I’m sorry” and about three days to keep defending myself with many, many creative maneuvers. It’s only scary to think about saying, “Sorry—my fault.” It’s not so bad to do it. And be done. People respect you more, too. Trust me. People know when you’re making up excuses. They really do.

Your turn again. What have you learned that we really do need to say “sorry” for? And keep saying it? And not be afraid to?