Category Archives: By: Laura Callarman

Worth It

By: Laura Callarman

Just under a year ago, an opportunity arose for my husband Rosten and I to attend a house church conference. It was at no charge, I might add, because some already paid for spaces opened up at the last minute. So we went. But I in particular went only begrudgingly. You see, I was burnt out on ministry. Skeptical. Cynical. And oh so weary. Not at all in a good place spiritually. I’ll confess: my main motivation for going was a free trip to the mountains of Colorado to relax and escape the heat of the summer.

Not exactly a promising beginning.

As I entered into a weekend’s worth of putting up with a conference in order to take advantage of the scenery, I would never have envisioned what would happen over the course of those four days—and the many days that have followed.

You see, God showed up and changed our lives. (It’s probably more accurate to say that we finally showed up to God so that God could change our lives.) And the good work that God began in us that one weekend last summer has continued on, day by day, bringing us to some amazing places.

As I entered into that weekend, I would never have envisioned Rosten quitting his full time job as a result of what God was drawing us into. I would never have envisioned living for nearly a year on the minimal income that substitute teaching and a few other odd jobs could provide so that we could have the freedom to go where God called us, whenever God called us. I never would have envisioned us using that freedom to live in a small town in the rural Midwest for a summer. I never would have envisioned being encouraged and even commissioned by our community of believers at home to leave home—to leave them in the midst of some exciting times and some difficult times—so that we could pour ourselves into work half a continent away. And given some of the emotional baggage I’ve carried over the years, I certainly would never have envisioned myself working eagerly with leaders and members of a traditional church, much less a Church of Christ, to pursue Kingdom growth in their midst.

Yet here we are, in Sullivan, Indiana, all of those things having come to pass so that now we find ourselves concluding nine very formative weeks’ worth of time using our own gifts as we walk alongside the amazing body of believers at Westside Church of Christ. The Spirit has done some astounding things in our lives and theirs.

And all I have to say is this: God is good, and it was worth it.

It was worth submitting myself to the possibility that God might have something more in store for me in Colorado than I’d anticipated. It was worth the many times of prayer and conversation Rosten and I shared as we tried to decipher what God desired for us. It was worth every phone call we had to make to our sometimes bewildered parents to tell them about the next step of faith we were taking. It was worth the months of very frugal living and the way we had to humble ourselves with every seemingly meaningless job we had to take, draining as they were. It was worth submitting ourselves again and again to the process of discerning wisdom and God’s calling with our own faith community. It was worth the many challenges of life away from home for two months. It was worth every fear, doubt, and argument, though I’d venture to say there could’ve been far fewer of those if we’d consistently chosen faith and love rather than control and fear.

It was worth it despite these difficulties, for God has again and again shown compassion and kindness to us as we’ve been amply provided for, surrounded countless times by supportive and loving Christian community, and drawn further into Kingdom work that fits who we are. But it was also worth it because of these difficulties, for through them we came to see the reality of ourselves much more clearly and came to know our loving and gracious God so much better.

My testimony, then is this: when, despite seeming impediments and challenges, we have taken the risk of trusting God and going where God leads us, we’ve been blessed by the ways God uses us, grows us, and transforms us—sometimes through pleasure and sometimes through pain. It has all been worth it. And though I can safely say that I have no clue what the upcoming year will hold, I trust that my life and future are safe in the hands of the God who wisely knew I needed so much more than just a relaxing weekend in the mountains.

We Have Hope!

By: Laura Callarman

The following is the manuscript for a sermon that I preached recently for the weekly graduate chapel service in the Graduate School of Theology at Abilene Christian University. It is based upon the lectionary texts for May 4, 2014. (The sermon focuses mainly on Luke 24:13-35, but it also incorporates Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; and 1 Peter 1:17-23.) While the manuscript is admittedly longer than most of our posts here, I invite you to delve into it anyway. I think you’ll be glad you did. May God bless you with the hope of resurrection!

The men trudged along the road. Weary, disheartened… Their shoulders slumped. They barely said a word to each other… What was there to say, really? Rumors of an empty tomb, but what did that mean? Distraught and delusional women, that’s what it meant, nothing more. So why speak of the disappointment, the confusion, the despair? Wouldn’t it just be better to get on with life and leave the past in the past? Leave the discouragement behind them where it belonged and at least try to move on, even if they weren’t quite sure how?

You see, they’d had so much that they’d hoped in, but their hope was now gone. Shattered. Torn to bits, into a million shreds, really. Leaving them with nothing. Nothing but the haunting questions of “What happened?” and “Why?” Hadn’t he been the one? The one they’d been waiting for all their lives? Hadn’t he been the one who was going to set everything right? It sure had seemed like it. Confusing and exasperating as he was sometimes, this Jesus had at least been different. He’d had an aura of promise to him, of hope. But no… that promise had been cut short, and the hope, well, that was long gone. He was dead, you see. And so were the spirits of all who had hoped in him.

“We had hoped.” That was all the optimism these men could muster as they began to explain to the oblivious traveling companion who’d joined them on the road. We had hoped he’d have proven to be as powerful as we thought he was. We had hoped he’d restore Israel. We had hoped that we hadn’t simply been wasting our time these past few years. We had hoped he was the Messiah.

But obviously those things could never be. Jesus was dead and buried. His followers, or what was left of them after the harrowing weekend they’d just had, were disillusioned and scattered. What was the point, after all? Without Jesus, what was the point? He’d spoken in lofty terms about the Kingdom and the restoration of God’s people, but in the end he’d just let himself be killed, leaving his people alone, sheep without a shepherd. So like sheep without a shepherd, they scattered. And these two trudged along the road away from Jerusalem, away from the place that they’d forever remember as a place of hope disappointed and dreams destroyed.

“We had hoped.” These three little words summed up the men’s entire perspective on life, at least in that moment. And we too know the pain of “we had hoped.”

We had hoped that life would have turned out better than it has. We had hoped that instead of only challenges and setbacks we’d experience a relatively easy, abundant time, at least once in a while. We had hoped that this relationship would have flourished rather than falling apart around us. We had hoped that God would relieve the pain of illness and the grief of loss. We had hoped that we’d feel purpose and meaning and direction in life. We had hoped… but it seems we shouldn’t have.

Disappointment, frustration, and bewilderment. An inability to understand what in the world God might be up to—if God cares, or even exists. That’s what “we had hoped” can feel like. And just like the men on the Emmaus road, we each carry our “we had hoped” around with us.

But we don’t have to carry it with us forever, for as these two men are about to find out, “we had hoped” is not the end of the story.

You see, their oblivious traveling companion turned out to be not so oblivious after all. At first they could only wonder that he hadn’t heard about what had been happening in Jerusalem. Who was this guy, anyway? Then he began to teach them from the Scriptures, as though that could encourage them after what they’d been through… But still, whoever he was, his words had some comfort in them. The men wanted to hope, after all; they just didn’t know how to anymore… It wasn’t until this stranger sat down to dinner with them, blessed their meal, and served it up to them that they realized, startlingly, this was no stranger! This was Jesus himself! Raised from the dead! They didn’t know how… They didn’t care how! It was him, no doubt about it. Hadn’t they spent years following him, after all? But then—wait! He was gone! As soon as they recognized him, he was gone… But it didn’t matter. The questions they had, the fears still lurking in the backs of their minds, those paled in comparison to what they had just experienced, and they had to share the good news. Jesus was alive! So despite the late hour and the dangerous journey, they were up and running. Back to Jerusalem, back to the gathered disciples, back to those who needed a word of hope, just as they so desperately had earlier that afternoon. They had to share the news: “We had hoped” was not the final word!

And church, “we had hoped” is not where our stories end either.

Though we may dwell for a time in the realm of confusion and disappointment, that is not our permanent home. Because, you see, this same resurrected Jesus walks by our side too. True, we may not recognize him at first, distracted as we are by the disheartening setbacks of life. But he’s there all the same, speaking words of wisdom and waiting for just the right moment to make himself known. And when he does, it changes everything.

So if you find yourself trudging life’s weary road, take heart. Jesus is your traveling companion. Look for him. Listen to his words, though you may not understand their significance at first. Feel his presence in your life, and find hope in the news of God’s resurrecting power. For while the promise of resurrection does not always look like what we’d expect it to look like, it’s there in our lives nonetheless.

Our other passages for today help us see that promise from a few different angles. Acts 2 — We have hope because we can turn to a gracious God, confessing our sins and seeking out the presence of the Holy Spirit, who is our Comforter and Guide. 1 Peter 1 — We have hope because we have the promise of eternally new life from the living and enduring God. And Psalm 116 — We have hope because we can know that when we call on the Lord, God will hear our prayers and loose our bonds. Yes, there is hope for us, hope that redeems and renews and resurrects all things to abundant life.

But, church, as much as we each need this message of hope in our own lives, since we all find ourselves on the Emmaus road from time to time, renewal of hope in our own lives is only part of the good news. The other part, arguably the more joyous part, is this: the hope that we have received, the hope that we can now live because we know the full story of Easter, is hope that is for all people. It is hope we can extend to others.

We read in Acts 2 that “the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” Everyone whom the Lord our God calls. And I won’t speak for you, but I’m pretty firmly convinced that that means all people, without exception.

So if instead of trudging the weary road, you find yourself sitting at the dinner table, your heart burning within you because you’ve seen the resurrected Jesus, because you know he’s alive and well and at work, then what are you waiting for? Get up! Get back out there on the road! There are people who are still waiting and wondering, people who need to know! “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to me!”

Because we know the end of this Emmaus story… We have the perspective to see that the promise of Easter is a promise that has the power to transform—and therefore needs to be shared—on all days, in all situations, and with all people, no matter how hopeless they might have seemed. The promise of Easter is a promise of renewal, of hope fulfilled, of lives transformed, and of all things set right under the reign of a loving, redemptive, resurrecting God.

So as you go from here today, whether that’s into the promise of a fulfilling vocation after grad school, into a slower paced summer, into another long and difficult day, or just across the street for lunch, may you find hope from the assurance that Jesus walks by your side, and may your feet be quick to carry the good news of that hope back to those who need it. Carry the promise with you to all whom the Lord has called. Proclaim joyfully, as you go, that “we had hoped” is not the final word… Rather, with both your words and your lives, declare with confidence to everyone you encounter that because the resurrected Jesus has appeared to us and brought renewal to our lives, “We have hope, and so can you!” And that, my friends, simple as it may be, is good news for all of us!

Vulnerability

By: Laura Callarman

I know a very wise man who often says that “the pathway to intimacy is mutual self-disclosure.” Over the years I’ve scoffed at this idea and rebelled against it in a variety of ways—largely because (often subconsciously) I didn’t always want to take the risks necessary to gain intimacy. But in the end I’ve come to believe so fully that he’s right. The pathway to intimacy is mutual self-disclosure… Or to say it my own words, in a way that perhaps fits the context of what I’ll say here a little better, I believe that it is vulnerability that sustains us.

Vulnerability is the foundation for intimacy, for relationship, for community, and for growth—whether that’s with God, with others, as the church, or even just within ourselves. I’ve seen this at work over and over again in various contexts in my life, and I’m guessing you have too. My relationship with God is only as strong as I’ll allow it to be by opening myself up—the good, the bad, and the ugly—to God’s healing power. My relationships with my husband and my family thrive when I show my true self and wither when I don’t or am not invited to. Yes, it’s clear to me that vulnerability—particularly vulnerability well received—is at the core of what it means to be healthily human.

We see that all throughout Scripture. “We have this treasure in jars of clay.” (2 Corinthians 4) “My power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4) A father welcomes home his wandering son. A shepherd searches for his lost sheep. The body gives honor to its weakest parts. We rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn…

And yet too often we live in a different reality, one in which we avoid acknowledging our weakness or sharing our true selves. Too often our relationships are shallow, skimming only the surface of what’s going on in our lives. The standard and expected response to “Hey, how’s it going?” is quite simply, quite blandly, “Fine. How are you?” “What’s up in your life?” “Oh, not much. You?” If our marriages are struggling, our relationships with our kids or our parents are empty, and our churches are places of rote religiosity, it’s because we’re not connecting at the heart level. If those relationships are flourishing, if true community is being strengthened wherever we find ourselves, it’s because we know each other—deeply.

And knowing each other deeply comes from a willingness to be known deeply. It’s this mutual self-disclosure thing. That’s how it works. I can’t demand vulnerability from you, ever. Period. Demanding is not the way to go. But I certainly can’t even reasonably hope for you to be vulnerable with me if I’m not willing to show vulnerability myself. And that’s scary. Because I know who I am. I know my own failures and faults and sins, and I want to keep those hidden. Sure, people say they like me, even say that they love me, but if they knew what I know, they’d turn their backs and run. How many of you have ever thought that? If my church knew that my marriage is falling apart… If my friends knew that I’m an addict… If my professors or my students knew how much of a fake I feel like right now… If I actually told God about my doubts… If… If… If… Fill in the blank. So many things that I want to keep hidden because it feels safer. So I don’t open myself up, and you don’t open yourself up, and we wonder why our relationships feel so anemic.

Somehow, if we’re going to be the people that God has called us to be, the cycle’s got to change. We can’t have true community without it, and without true community our faith will suffer.

So one part of this cycle changing is obviously each of us deciding to be courageous with our vulnerability and open ourselves up to others. Another part, perhaps a little less obvious, is each of us deciding to receive vulnerability well, with tenderness and love rather than dismissiveness, judgment, or fear. Recently my own church has identified some of the strengths of our community, and perhaps most significant among them was that we are safe people for one another. We invite vulnerability by displaying it and by honoring it. We protect and serve one another’s weaknesses rather than preying upon them. And because this is the environment we cultivate, it makes it much easier for us to share our vulnerability, thus drawing us into closer relationship.

Take a few minutes to do some reflection with me. Close your eyes, if you’re willing, and think of a time when you felt appreciation for how someone received your vulnerability in a way that was more protective than predatorial, when they showed God-like tenderness to your weakness… Relive that moment. Experience it as you did then, and I’ll have a few questions for you as you do…

What did you feel at the time? What were your emotions? … What did this person do well in receiving your vulnerability? … What did you do well in sharing it? … How did the experience affect your relationship?

I would guess that if we were to share those experiences we’d find some common denominators among us, one of them being that vulnerability being received well brings joy. It brings joy by strengthening the bonds of relationships, by helping us recognize that we belong, that we are loved, that we matter.

And you do belong, you are loved, and you do matter. In case you’re interested in some further personal reflection on vulnerability as something that can sustain us, I have a few more questions for you to contemplate. Close your eyes again, and think and feel through these things with me.

Where or how do you feel most vulnerable right now?

Who are you sharing your vulnerability with? Is the response one of love and tenderness?

Is vulnerability part of your most significant relationships? Your church? Why or why not? How could you encourage it?

What opportunities do you have to build community and strengthen faith by sharing your own vulnerability and thus inviting others to do so as well?

What might God desire for you as some next steps into healthy vulnerability?

Think of these things as an invitation, not a requirement. They are an invitation to intimacy that is challenging, without a doubt, but so beautiful and so sustaining that you’ll wonder how you and your faith ever survived without it.

Essential

By: Laura Callarman

Trust me when I say I’m as big of a fan of house flipping shows as some of the rest of you. Not everyone understands the excitement that can build around the practice of taking something old, outdated, and falling apart and restoring it so that it’s fresh, beautiful, creatively designed, and truly functional, but I do. I do so much that I’m halfway contemplating the idea of getting into the house flipping business myself (with some much needed partners and attention to a steep learning curve, I’ll admit).

So when I found myself watching a couple of episodes of HGTV’s “Love It or List It” this past weekend, it was in large part an enjoyable experience. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the show, it follows a family who are living in a space that for whatever reason simply isn’t functioning well for them anymore. A designer and a realtor compete for their loyalty, as the first remodels portions of their current home to better meet their needs and the second finds alternate properties that fit their expectations. The designer tries to get them to “love” their current home with its updates, and the realtor attempts to convince them to “list it” and move into the new home he’s found for them.

The creativity displayed in this show stirs something deep within me, a God-given passion for beauty and delight. And for that I rejoice. But the show also has some other, less positive effects. And it sparked a variety of thoughts, one of which I’d like to share with you briefly.

As fun as it can be to watch, “Love It or List It” betrays attitudes of excessive consumerism and self-absorption that are rampant—and destructive—among us. Here these people are having their already nice homes remodeled and spruced up by a professional, seeing absolutely gorgeous alternate options with all the amenities, and yet they are never satisfied. They can always find something to complain about, usually many somethings to complain about. I won’t go into the details (or even touch on the hyper-marketing in the commercials), but suffice it to say that in the midst of such creativity and wealth, all they choose to do is complain about the color of the carpet, the size of the closet, or the fact that they can see their neighbors from the back yard. After watching a couple of episodes, I found myself feeling downcast, cynical, and even angry.

You see, I came away with the realization that most of us, myself included, don’t know the first thing about what truly is essential. We’ve lost the meaning of the word. We get so caught up in what we want and what we think we need (whether that’s a second bathroom, an attentive spouse, the perfect job, or just a sense of ease and happiness), and we start believing the lie that what we have—and what we have in God—is not enough. So we work harder and harder, using up all our time and energy in an attempt to find comfort, pleasure, or (perhaps most elusive) meaning. All because we think these things are, in one way or another, essential.

Yet all the while, Jesus has been beckoning to us, inviting us into the one and only thing that truly is essential: attention to him. (Luke 10:41-42)

Yes, of course we need to eat. And sleeping with a roof over our heads is nice too, perhaps even necessary in certain climates. It’s not that I’m saying we can get along just fine without things like air and water and human attention. God designed us to require those things in order to function well. But we were also designed to require connection to God in order to function well, in order to even function at all, I’d say. And compared to that—that deep connection with God from which all true life, all purpose, and all other good things flow—everything else seems insignificant indeed.

My point here isn’t to say that you need to simplify your life to the point that you have, literally, nothing but the clothes on your back (though there certainly is a great deal of room for most of us to consider greater simplicity and the freedom and joys it can bring — see Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess).

My point is that instead of allotting so much of our time and energy to pursuing the things of this life that are so transient, perhaps we should turn our attention to the one thing, the one thing in this life that truly is essential: God. Let’s seek the Kingdom first, seek God’s presence and desires for our lives first, seek first things first, and let everything else fall into place as it should (Matthew 6:25-34). I, for one, am convinced that if we do, the beauty, the creativity, the restoration, and the true life that we’ll see as a result will make even the most exciting of the house flipping shows pale in comparison.

He Lived His Life Alive

By: Laura Callarman

Laura Blog

The Moore family, a few years ago — Michael and Michelle, with Joshua and Elizabeth

Yesterday—November 1, 2013—the world lost an amazing young man. You see, Joshua Kyle Moore, a bright and extremely kind 16-year-old, went out for a run one night and never came back home. Just a few minutes into his run, he collapsed on the side of the road, his heart stopped. Two nurses discovered him there, and the CPR that restarted his heart also punctured one of his lungs. As far as I know, he never regained consciousness. After three heart-wrenching days of attentive hospital care, countless prayers, and rising and falling hopes, his family, friends, church, and the world said an unwilling goodbye to him and let him go from this life.

I cried a lot last night, mourning our loss. I cried a lot, and I hardly knew the kid. Because, you see, what I do know, even from my regrettably surface-level interactions with him over the years, was that he smiled. And he laughed. And he was mischievous, like any average 16-year-old. And he loved his church family. And he loved God. What I do know is that, even though his life was that of an ordinary young man, he was a bright place in this world, offering hope and love and faith in quantities beyond what we’d (probably unfairly) expect from him in his 16 years. What I do know is that he was a witness to the powerful love of God, that his life was full of God’s grace. What I do know is that simply by his presence he impacted my own life, mostly in ways that I didn’t even realize until just a few days ago. Oh, of course, like all of us Joshua had his imperfections and sins, things that—praise God!—he is now free from. But I can also tell you one more thing: even in the midst of his inherent human limitations, Joshua Moore was, in the words of Philippians 2:15-16, a “child of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which he shined like a star in the universe, holding out the word of life.”

You, I am guessing, did not have the privilege of knowing Joshua. But even in death, he continues to shine like a star, holding out that word of life and light to me, to you, and to all of us. You see, his death is a reminder of how powerful life is, even a short life. And his life is a reminder that every single one of us can shine like a star, no matter our faults or limitations or situation. Perhaps at least a part of Joshua’s legacy, then, is that a life well lived—a thoroughly gospeled life, as I’ve been calling it here—points us back to God, even if it seems short or ordinary from our own perspective. Yes, this 16-year-old boy reminds us that the gospel knows no bounds and is displayed even in the most ordinary seeming places. He reminds us that God is in our midst here and now, everyday, and not only through the three persons of the Trinity but also through each and every one of us, for we each reflect the image of God and together we are the body of Christ. And perhaps most powerfully of all, Joshua challenges us, the ones he’s left behind, to live our own lives—however ordinary they may be—alive to these important truths that his own short life taught us.

Adventures Toward Delight

By: Laura Callarman

You and I, my friends, are on a journey. For some of us it began long, long ago. For others, not quite as far back. For some of us it’s entailed a lot of love, excitement, joy, and possibility. And for some of us it’s entailed heartbreak beyond words, pain, disillusionment, wondering, and lots of wandering. It’s probably safe to say that each of us has experienced some of both sides on this journey. And it’s probably also safe to say that no two experiences of the journey are the same. But the one thing that is the same is that it’s a journey toward God, in one way or another.

I have a good friend who likes to put it this way: “In the beginning, there was delight. In the end, there will be deeper delight. And in the middle is the amazing story in which we now live.” That’s the journey I’m talking about. The amazing story in which we now live, the one that leads us eventually, even if by a very winding path, to deeper delight—both our delight in God and God’s delight in us. You’ve heard me talk about this journey in terms of “a thoroughly gospeled life” before, but even if the terminology’s a little different, the idea’s the same. It’s all about everything we are being permeated by everything that God desires for us. And let me tell you, that can be quite an adventure!

You see, God isn’t content to leave us the way we are. Even those of us who’ve know more gladness than heartache in our lives still aren’t experiencing the deepest delight of God and still aren’t fully permeated by God’s good news. There’s so much more room for fullness and abundance in all of our lives! And God desires that for us!

But the path that leads us further into God’s delight and good news is always a challenging one simply because God asks of us everything that we are and everything that we have. There are no half measures. Now it’s not that this isn’t a wonderful path to be on, for an adventure like this with God is the most marvelous experience you could hope for. And it’s certainly not that this journey requires perfection. No, as I’ve said before, one beautiful aspect of God’s good news is that it emphasizes redemption over and above perfection. And even the redemption that’s at the center of it is something that God does, something we simply benefit from and participate in. Yet this journey is still an adventure, because it entails submitting to God’s love and learning to love God back with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:28-34) — essentially with your whole being. And that, my friends, is not for the faint of heart.

So with all that in mind, my question for you today is this: how will you choose to live as you continue on this journey that we call life? Knowing God’s desire of an abundant, delight-filled, gospeled existence for you, both now and in the end, what will you do? Who will you be? Will you surrender your heart, soul, mind, and body to God’s transforming power and endless love, to be formed and used as God knows best? Will you dive unreservedly into what God is asking of you, acting on your conviction that God is worthy of your trust?  I certainly do hope so. Because while I can safely say that it will surely be challenging, I can also promise you that it will be the most amazing and blessed adventure you’ve ever been on!

true beauty is in redemption

Perfection-is-imperfectBy: Laura Callarman

I have a confession to make. I know it probably won’t surprise you too much, but it’s got to be said nonetheless, so here it is: Much as I might have sounded and even been utterly convinced of what I wrote in my last post about “a thoroughly gospeled life” and what that entails for me, I have a really hard time living into that ideal much of the time. You see, my life is not thoroughly gospeled. It’s not full to the brim with God’s good news. I’d love to be able to say that it is, but if I did, I would not be speaking truth.

The truth is that I am scared. I am self-protecting. I am arrogant. I am sanctimonious. I am selfish. I am proud. I am broken. The truth is that my heart needs a lot more gospel in it if it is to be considered a passing reflection of the good God who created it.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t see good in myself too. I’m smart. I’m thoughtful. I’m passionate. I can claim a decent amount of self-control and kindness, and those are even biblical “fruits of the Spirit,” right? God has done good things in me. It’s just that I have a long way to go — as do we all.

But here’s the thing. I don’t know about you, but far too often I get stuck focusing on either the good or the bad I see in myself and forgetting the bigger picture. Sure, it can be helpful to be able to take stock of where you’re at once in a while. And of course God’s got some hopes and plans for each of us that entail a lot of growth and even ever-increasing perfection on our part.

But the point of a thoroughly gospeled life is not that it’s perfect. That’s a lie that I’ve believed for a long, looooong time. The point of a thoroughly gospeled life is that it’s gospeled. You see, God’s not nearly as concerned with perfection as with redemption, and that’s what the gospel, the truly good news, is all about: redemption, restoration, and renewal, all of God’s doing.

I forget that far too easily, believing that God’s intended beauty is found in the perfection of an identity or a life or even a good “Christian” spirit, perfection that I frequently assume I have to attain based on my own willpower. In believing these things, I turn my attention to myself, concentrating on what I think I’m required to do in order live up to the expectations I suppose God has of me. And in doing so I turn my attention away from what God is actually up to — away from the gospel that is bringing light and life to everyone who has ears to hear or eyes to see.

The true thoroughly gospeled life that beckons to me and to you, though, is permeated by God’s good news. It is soaked, steeped, saturated, and overflowing with what God is up to. And because it attends to God, it’s also a life that is changed. A life that is renewed. A life that is redeemed — the good, the bad, and the ugly all redeemed. It’s a life that doesn’t idolize perfection because it realizes that true beauty, true gospel, is not found in perfection but rather in the redemption of all that we are and all that we are not for the sake of God’s kingdom. And that, my friends, truly is good news!

 

A Thoroughly Gospeled Life

By: Laura Callarman

A few short months ago I sort of haphazardly stumbled upon what I might venture to call a sketch of my life’s mission and purpose statement. I remember the moment clearly. I was sitting in the school cafeteria (five dollar all-you-can-eat lunches being the staple of a grad student, after all), weighed down by the multitude of assignments demanding my attention as my master’s degree drew to its long-awaited close, and I was vehemently bemoaning the severe case of writer’s block that seemed to have settled into my life for what I could only imagine would be at least through the end of my graduate career if not longer. Yet knowing that I had dozens of pages to write in the immediate future, even if I had no earthly idea of what the content of those pages would be, I settled into a solution: I would stop caring about the quality of my writing and I would simply write. Get it done. Be finished, once and for all. (This attempt at apathy was, as you can probably guess, essentially a delusion on my part. An impossibility. But that’s a subject better left for another time.)

So I began to write, or rather, I began to rant. This was a reflection on my ministerial identity that I was so frustratedly trying to compose. And in this meandering tirade of a reflection somehow one worthwhile sentence emerged. (The rant was seven pages long, mind you.) In venting my bewilderment about a path forward and whether or not that might include doctoral studies, I wrote that “choosing a program and an academic focus proves a bit difficult, for there’s not exactly a box to check on PhD applications for ‘garden-growing, bread-baking, sustainable-food-eating theologically trained thinker, writer, and conversation partner who believes her passionate, balanced, God-inspired life is her witness and therefore is her ministry.’”

And there it was—my ministerial identity in a nutshell. A little rough around the edges, perhaps, and far from exhaustive, to be sure, but the fundamentals were suddenly there right in front of me. “Garden-growing, bread-baking, sustainable-food-eating theologically trained thinker, writer, and conversation partner who believes her passionate, balanced, God-inspired life is her witness and therefore is her ministry.” No wonder I couldn’t easily name my own path forward. Granted, my brain badly needed rest from a four-year journey through grad school, but at the moment all the respectable options I could conceive of felt far too constrained. Too narrowly defined. They would allow part of me to flourish but not all of me, for, they implied, I was too scattered in my focus.

Yet as I lay here in my front porch swing, letting the cool breeze (okay, coolish breeze —I am in Texas in the summer, after all) and the sound of rustling leaves roll over me, as I breathe deeply of the tantalizing scent of chicken stock bubbling away in the crockpot inside, I can’t help but wonder… Perhaps there is a path forward for me that will allow me to be all of these things at once and in somewhat equal measure. If not a position to fill, then perhaps a life to lead. A thoroughly gospeled life. A life in which my chicken stock and my squash plants and my reflections on identity, vocation, and the good news of God are all inextricably intertwined. And if not a box to check, then perhaps blog posts to write.

And that is where you, my friends, come in. You here at Neo-Restorationists are some of my fellow journeyers. You have your own ways of pursuing a thoroughly gospeled life, just as I have mine. And what better way to experience the gospel than to share that? Over the course of our time together, then, you will hear me share from my own stumbling attempts to pursue a life that is permeated by the good news of God. I am not perfect, that is the one thing I can promise you. But I will share with you my successes and failures, my insights and intuitions, and, above all, the work that God is doing in and around me, at least as I can perceive it with imperfect vision. You are welcome to share the same with me. I pray that God blesses our journey together and that we are more thoroughly gospeled as a result of it.

[Husband’s note:  Wife wrote this Thursday night.  It is now Saturday night.  After a couple of days of cooking down all of the chicken stock, wife just walked through our bedroom and said, “I’m tired of our house smelling like chicken.”] Like I said, I’m not perfect.