Moments In The Story

Taking time to appreciate the journey….


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From One Ragamuffin to Another

The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning…… I’ve read it twice, each time taking a ridiculous amount of time. The words filling each page are so well crafted and piercing. They are the words of a man that had a connection with God that I can only imagine, but long for.  I guess that’s why I have to take the time to patiently study his writing in order to really grasp it. But perhaps reading the Ragamuffin Gospel  took me so long because I underlined almost every sentence.

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After hearing about Brennan Manning’s death, I pulled out my worn out Ragamuffin Gospel book just to reflect once again on how much the truths in his book have spoken to me. I came to the page shown above and studied it for a while. I thought back to when this book meant so much to me. I can remember where I was while reading it, and what was going through my mind during that season of life. It’s one of my treasured books that I would never give away to Goodwill…and I’ve kept it in a certain spot so I would remember to read it a third time. Perhaps that time is now, because as much as I would like to say I understand authentic grace, the reality is I still struggle. I have trouble accepting it and I have trouble giving it. As I went over my underlined passages again, I realized that most of them are about learning to embrace His grace and love…a familiar feeling today.

Brennan said we should start here: “Jesus’ tenderness is not in any way determined by how we pray or what we are or do. In order to free us for compassion toward others, Jesus calls us to accept His compassion in our own lives, to become gentle, caring, compassionate, and forgiving toward ourselves in our failure and need.” (The Ragamuffin Gospel)

It starts with our acceptance, but it must also be given away. That’s the gift of grace.

“Gentleness toward ourselves constitutes the core of our gentleness with others. When the compassion of Christ is interiorized and appropriated to self, the breakthrough into a compassionate stance toward others occurs. In a Catch-22 situation, the way of gentleness brings healing to ourselves and gentleness toward ourselves brings healing to others.” (The Ragamuffin Gospel)

Recently I was humbled and brought to tears as I thought of a difficult forgiveness journey. I thought of the words I have heard so many times when people discuss forgiveness: “We need to forgive for us so that we do not carry a burden and become bitter”. What about forgiving for them? What if our efforts were spent offering the same gifts we ourselves have received in an effort for someone else to see God…and see themselves as loved and accepted by Him. What if it was about them and not us?

“The gentleness of Jesus with sinners flowed from His ability to read their hearts. Behind people’s grumpiest poses and most puzzling defense mechanisms, behind their arrogance and airs, behind their silence, sneers, and causes, Jesus saw little children who hadn’t been loved enough and who had ceased growing because someone had ceased believing in them”.  (The Ragamuffin Gospel)

May I believe in them.

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Starting with Sincerity

“Mama, I just want to play with you”. Believe me – I hear that statement about 15 times a day. And the other day, in particular was a rough day. You know…the kind when both kids are taking turns crying, or crying at the same time all….day….long. And like most days lately, I thought I had broken my record for the amount of times I’d said “no” in one day.  And while I was trying to find yet another thing he could play with so I could take my 5-minute “wash only the important parts” shower, he stopped me in my tracks.

“Mama, I just want to play with you”.

There was a soft tone, his eyes meeting mine, and I really saw him. I didn’t see the “whiney” child who will not obey, or the older brother who knows not to take things away from his younger brother…I saw his sincere need. I prolonged my shower again and sat down to play with my son for a few minutes, but with a calm demeanor and a genuine desire. Just a few positive moments with his mama was all he needed. And I needed it even more. His sincerity brought a unique restoration that our relationship was in need of.

Twice in the past few weeks I have sat across the table at coffee shops from someone I dearly loved as we approached a delicate conversation. In each situation both of us listened and received what the other person had to say. And each of us felt heard. We processed, rather than blamed. We saw it as an opportunity to grow as individuals. And we put the person above the issue. Each situation was different, but one thing was the same – we each chose sincerity.

Now doesn’t that sound nice and simple? Well I can’t tell you how much frustration, hurt and confusion I had to work through prior to these meetings. In one case, I was feeling hurt and helpless…and I was getting ready to formulate my position on paper so I wouldn’t forget my points. I was going to do that right after I whizzed through my Bible reading for that day. As I was skimming through my reading, I saw the phrase “draw near to God with a sincere heart”. I stopped and immediately softened. I talked to God about it and I told Him how I really felt. I sensed His mercy and love for the situation. And I stopped planning and kept praying for His help in communicating and listening through a heart of sincerity.

Many times we approach conflicts or miscommunications as a battle to be fought. But I believe that our deepest longing underneath it all is to be understood. It’s scary to ask that of someone who has hurt us or is angry at us. I’ve heard people say, “well I’m just keeping it real”. What they are really doing is spewing – but without transparency, and with an agenda. Or there’s the person that postures as if they are listening, but uses deflection, blame-shifting, or “spiritual” reasoning to avoid owning their part of the problem.

I don’t think we even care about receiving an apology as much as we long for sincerity. It disarms us. It takes the angry breath out of our chest. It brings tears to our eyes. Even love without sincerity means nothing. But our words, spoken through the lens of sincerity can love others well beyond even well-meaning, truthful words. When someone communicates with me through sincerity, their words are received in my heart. And when I choose a path of sincerity, I end up speaking truth, being transparent, and avoiding the tendency to manipulate.

Our lives are busy and our days are full. We don’t always have the time to think through how to respond to every encounter we will have that day. We also don’t have the wisdom on our own to navigate through every difficult, even long-term problem with someone. But there is one thing we can do…we can start with sincerity….and see where it leads. Even if the person does not receive our sincerity, we will have a peace because we have been honest in a loving way. And we will not have regrets. Sincerity is the only “real” way to be. It may not lead to complete resolution, but it will lead to restoration – even if that is only for our own heart.

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith…….and let us spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10)


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How To Be Like Mother Teresa

I’ve been deeply touched by a book I’m reading about Mother Teresa’s more private life and thoughts. The book contains some of the letters she wrote to her mentors and spiritual advisors who were praying for her as she answered God’s call in founding the Missionaries of Charity.

I have to admit – I obtained this book because I wanted to know about the heart of this woman, and how she could possibly love so much. I wanted to know what her method was. But as I read the first chapter I was struck with the answer. She didn’t want anyone to know. Apparently Mother Teresa sent multiple requests for her private letters about her life’s calling to be destroyed because she did not want any credit to go to her…but only to God. As her ministry grew, she began receiving requests to be interviewed about her ministry and how “she” developed it. Instead of granting these interviews, she pleaded through various communications with leaders in her church to destroy her letters and documents. Some complied with her request, and others did not.

Here is one of her letters, written 3 years after her original request for the documents to be destroyed.

“Your Grace,

Now that you are looking through the file of our Society – I beg you to destroy any letter which I have written to His Grace – not connected with the Society. “The Call” was a delicate gift of God to me – unworthy – I do not know why He picked me up – I suppose like the people we pick up – because they are the most unwanted. From the first [day] to this day – this my new vocation has been one prolonged “yes” to God – without even a look at the cost. My conviction that “the work is His” – is more than the reality. I have never doubted. It hurts me only when the people call me foundress because I know for certain He asked – “Will you do this for Me?” Everything was His – I had only to surrender myself to His plan – to His will – Today His work has grown because it is He not I that do it through me. Of this I am so convinced – that I would give my life gladly to prove it – “

Two years ago a dear older friend and mentor asked me a question that I will never forget. We were emailing back and forth about a wrong perspective I was struggling with. I shared with her in-depth what I was struggling with, my feelings about it, and what I felt like I needed to do to change it. In her response she gracefully empathized but asked me to look back at my email and count how many times I had written the word “I”. I didn’t need to count to see that it was about every other word of my long email! What a gift she gave me. I started thinking about all those “I” statements and I tried to reword them into “He” statements. It gave me a completely new perspective on my situation…as well as a new hope.

We like the next new book, counseling program, or real-life story. And truly, those can be wonderful things if we ask God what He has for us through them. I think the danger comes when we look for a method to follow. Why don’t we believe that God has something personal for us?

Mother Teresa’s secret was simply being with the Father and saying “yes”. There was nothing magical about her. I’ve also learned that she lived a life of saying yes to God immediately, once she knew it was His will. Some criticized her for that – they said she didn’t think things through enough.

Well, before I try to turn this post into a formula….let me just say this – it’s about Him, and not me. And it’s a relief. Thankfully, Isaiah 41:10 doesn’t say this:

“Do not fear, for you are with you;

Do not be dismayed, for you are your God.

You will strengthen you and help you;

You will uphold you with your righteous right hand”


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Don’t Just “Get Over It”

I have heard many people describe experiencing God the most when they went through a significant trial or trauma. In that place of grief, God met them there…and they sought Him fervently. It reminds me of September 11, 2001…when people were brought to their knees in prayer. Even our nation’s leaders were praying and singing, in an effort to experience the kind of comfort only He can give.

When I was 16, I lost my grandfather. Usually when I tell people about him, I try my best to describe the history of my relationship with him and the reasons why he was more like a parent than a grandparent. I almost find myself “justifying” why he meant so much to me, and why my grief over losing him rocked my world. Even now, tears fill my eyes when I look at his picture…the one of him laughing. It’s still in a frame on display in my house. I’m 38…how can this still affect me? How can the raw emotions of a 16-year-old still rise up in that “place” in my throat? Perhaps it’s because at 16, I had no idea how to navigate through grief. Perhaps if something like that happened now, I would be stronger….

Yet all of my feelings of grief could never compare to the grief of someone who lost their father or mother, right? Or their child, right? Of course you cannot compare those types of losses. And that is my point. We have this tendency to compare our pain to the pain of others. We may feel like our hurt is so small when held up next to someone else’s tragedy….so we minimize our pain and tell ourselves to move on. And often others do the same. They also secretly wonder why we can’t just “get over it”.

In this world certain losses and tragedies are greater than others…and they have greater long-term effects. But I don’t think our hearts always know the difference. And instead of taking our “little pains” to God, we ignore them and turn to our own coping mechanisms. I believe God cares about the small stories, which include the small pains in our lives. I believe these are just as important as the big tragedies in our faith-journey with him.

When Job asked God about the tragedies he had faced, God responded with four chapters describing the “big” things about Himself.…as well as the “little” things. Obviously we have noticed the big things about God (Job 38-41): His creation of the earth, stars, and sea; His control of the wind, snow, rain, ice, lightning and hail; His power; His glory; His knowledge; the amazing animals He created and His attentiveness to their every need.

What are the “small things” God cares about? (Job 38-41): He provides a path of rain to water a land where no man lives, and a desert with no one in it…to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass (38:25-27). He hears and provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God (38:41). He counts the months until each mountain goat and doe give birth, and then He takes the time to watch the birthing process (39:1-2). God describes the intricacies with which He created many of His animals – how their wings flap, how they lay their eggs, and whether He endowed them with fear, pride, or wisdom (throughout chapter 39).

I would remain speechless if I weren’t still writing a blog post. Why on earth would we not think God cares about the small stuff in our lives? What would our lives be like if we chose to take the little things to Him and ask for help with the same fervency as in the case of tragedy? What if we saw the “little pains” in others and walked alongside them?  I believe grasping this aspect of God’s love could change our lives, our relationships, and ultimately our relationship with Him.

An important piece of redemption in our lives is found in the hidden and unseen places….and thankfully we have the powerful love of God to meet us there. May we boldly bring to Him what we have withheld the most!

© Kristin Gordley and Moments In The Story, November 2012.


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Pursuing People

Ten years ago I began hanging out with my husband as “friends” shortly after he moved in across the street from me. He hadn’t dated anyone for about five years, and I hadn’t dated for a year due to a long string of bad relationships. So we were a perfect match for one another and each of us had absolutely no baggage to bring into the relationship!

Although we were only “friends” and this is what I told everyone I wanted…I began to feel confused. We had hung out in many settings, and talked a lot…but as time went on I wondered what the heck we were doing. I kept waiting for him to “pursue” me – you know….ask me out, tell me he was interested…sweep me off my feet. I waited for this, just like I waited for it in past relationships. It was my way of seeking redemption in the areas of my disappointment. We always get into trouble when we set up a plan for what healing should look like, and decide that a human being will be that plan. So I waited and waited…and waited. Just like in the past.

One day my wise father handed me two tickets to a Broncos game and suggested I ask Andy to go. He said that maybe Andy just needed me to make the first move…give him some encouragement. So against my nature, I asked him and he said yes. And I got to see him with his shirt off as he had to take it off due to the heat that day. And we relaxed and had fun as a wall between us disappeared.  The next weekend he asked me to go roller blading, so we made a day trip and found a great path. He showed me how to roller blade, and while he was demonstrating how to use the brakes, he tripped and fell.

This was only the beginning of our story, and my need to be pursued is still a struggle for us today. My expectations in this area pop up at times, but I’m so thankful that I did not marry someone who would meet those expectations. Our relationship was cultivated because I chose to pursue Andy, but I continue to be challenged to live this way in our relationship as well as the many other relationships around me.

Whether it’s the beginning of a love story, a conflict, a deep hurt, or preference….I dare say that most of us have the tendency to wait to be pursued by someone else. In some circumstances, we even have the “right” to be pursued by someone who has wronged us, or we have our “reasons” why we just can’t put ourselves out there. I’m not talking about being a people-pleaser or doormat; there is a place for healthy boundaries in our lives. What I’m talking about is going against the grain…taking the narrow path…loving in secret. We may never be acknowledged by the person. We may not get anything in return. We may never feel pursued in a way that makes us feel safe. But nothing in my life has challenged me or grown me more than choosing to love first.

In the study book, “Experiencing God” (by Henry & Richard Blackaby and Claude King), Blackaby states, “God always takes the initiative in our love relationship…no one seeks God on his own initiative”. I believe this…I believe it is much more comfortable to be pursued then to pursue. It’s not just tolerating someone, it’s actively showing love to them.

It doesn’t take much – calling the friend you had that conflict with long ago; not to re-hash everything, but to have breakfast with them; contacting the person who never calls you…the one you always make the effort with first; staying in the friendship you probably have the right to walk away from. You persevere, you choose to love, and you do it because someone much bigger than us all did it first. And we wouldn’t be the same without HIM.

Jeremiah 31:3 – “I have loved you with and everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness”.

© Kristin Gordley and Moments In The Story, November 2012.


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Driving with God in My Little Red Sports Car

It’s kind of ironic to think about the role of perfection in how we view the world and each other. I have spent most of my Christian journey focusing on my weaknesses, my sin, and my striving to be a good person (notice how many references to me were just in that one sentence – “I”, “my”). I’m not saying that all Christians do this, but for some reason the way I’m wired is to seek perfection. Even if I never achieve it, the fact that I’m seeking it somehow makes me feel better (a lot of “I’ms – goodness!).

So where has God been in this equation? “Well”, says most-of-Christian-life Kristin, “He helps me”. Oh…so he helps you be perfect, you ask? Good question. I don’t know the answer, but I do know that awhile back I saw John 10:10 in which Jesus says, “I have come that they might have life and have it to the full”. Deuteronomy 30:19-20 says, “Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life”.

I think this means that when I choose God, I choose life. He wants me to live life to the fullest, and He wants to do it with me. Umm…laugh at the things I find funny? Sit and watch that movie with me instead of watching me journal memory verses?

It’s interesting how as Christians we can be about earning our way into relationship with Him. We are uneasy about the vacuum between our efforts and His acceptance. We don’t believe He could really want us to be happy, to enjoy our lives, to relax. We fill our lives with duty and the Christian walk becomes all about what “I” do, rather than what “He” has done, can do, and will do with my little ole day changing poopy diapers.  What if all that agony over trying to figure out what He wants me to do for Him is not Him at all? What if the silence is His way of telling me I’m trying to do religion, and involve Him in something that’s not what He is about.

I’m not trying to down-play the importance of reading His Word, trying to get to know Him, and involving Him (um, finally some “Him” words). But to journey with Him means to drive on the road of life in the same car with Him. And He has to help me want to…I can sing for 3 hours, pray for 4, journal for 10…but if it’s about me earning something to feel more perfected, it’s just a waste. I’d rather have 10 minutes in the car with my rowdy boys yelling in the back… but my heart really talking with Him, like you would with a friend over coffee.

May you experience Him, laugh with Him, and drive with Him!

© Kristin Gordley and Moments In The Story, November 2012.


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Only God Can Clean My Coffee Mug

Two years ago I went to a great conference. There were a few speakers and each one seemed to thread the theme of humility into their talks – in different ways. After a bit of stammering, I surrendered my thoughts a bit and started to realize that in some areas of my life I lacked humility and teach-ability. I also recognized that I had gone to such great lengths to avoid accepting this truth because it was not an easy thing to discover about myself. Then I had a picture in my head of being like the Pharisees who Jesus referred to as “cleaning the outside of the cup” but paying no attention to the inside. Just when I was about to try and come up with some happy thoughts I instead found myself asking God to help me understand it better. Then John Maxwell spoke and shared a story that really touched me.

Many know of him as a world-renown expert, writer and speaker on leadership. He is also a teaching pastor at a large church. He described a time (in recent years) when he made a leadership decision that was challenged by several people in his congregation. As he was preparing his sermon one week, he decided he needed to give a message to them about humility. His intent was to convict them and show them he was right. After all, he was an expert on leadership. As he reviewed the sermon over and over he felt more and more justified in his position and he was excited to give the sermon. He even decided to practice on his wife and show her the great words he had created. His wife listened, and when he was done she asked if he really felt that was the kind of message he should give to his congregation. After taking some time to pray, John felt God was saying that the sermon was meant for him…not for his congregation. He re-read his words a few times and the truth began to set in. He read it as a message God was giving him and was overcome with humility. He realized he was wrong in not taking the time to listen to people, and he realized he had pride in his heart. He decided to give the sermon to his congregation that Sunday, but he told them the message was for him. Afterward he cried and asked for their forgiveness, and asked them to pray for him.

John also pointed out that as a leader he had to wrestle with the question: can I lead myself? While we are not all “leaders”, I think we all have to wrestle with a similar question: are willing to do what we expect of others? – as parents, workers, spouses, family members, friends…oh, so I guess pretty much every one of us has someone in our lives we influence.

Recently I’ve been reading small chunks at a time of A.W. Tozer’s “The Root of the Righteous”. That guy didn’t sugar-coat anything – phew! But I’ve been challenged by the premise of his book, which (using the analogy of a fruit-bearing tree) describes the danger in only seeking the outcome others have achieved (the fruit in their lives) without learning from the character-building struggles they chose to endure (developing roots). Here is a quote: “Today we write the biographies of such as these and celebrate their fruit, but the tendency is to ignore the root out of which the fruit sprang. Our fathers looked well to the root of the tree and were willing to wait with patience for the fruit to appear. We demand the fruit immediately even though the root may be weak and knobby or missing altogether. Impatient Christians today explain away the simple beliefs of the saints of other days and smile off their serious-minded approach to God and sacred things.”

This is hard-hitting stuff, but I guess it’s not supposed to be easy when you look at it this way. In my zeal to develop more character in my life – woo hoo – it didn’t take long to feel discouraged. How do you change a lifetime of self-centeredness? Well you don’t. It’s only in seeking a relationship with Him – developing roots – that you even start to have a consistent desire. Only He can even give you the “want to” to change. Then it’s one step, one choice at a time. Sometimes it means failure. But you shove that root back into the ground…and you do what it takes to keep it there. You wrestle with God about it. You do what it takes. Instead of picking up the bag of oreos (and who would EVER eat a whole bag at one time??), the drink, or turning to whatever else is your escape….you decide to do business with God. Of course it’s not easy. It means doing it over and over. It means choosing something different than what you have chosen before…and all for fruit that make take years to see.

But what do I really want? And will I waste more years posturing and cleaning the outside of the cup while the inside is filled with nasty coffee stains? No! I root myself in Him and the inside becomes like a new stainless steel mug all on its own.

Jeremiah 17:8: They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

© Kristin Gordley and Moments In The Story, October 2012.