Could soul care save your September?

September is looming. 

There is much to look forward to as autumn approaches. Many would join me in declaring it a favorite season. The hope of the leaves, temperatures, football games, smells, and tastes headed my way makes my heart do a little dance.

soul care questions

However, holding hands with that hope is angst. The free-flowing schedule of summer is about to be taken over by responsibilities, kick-offs, homework, and sports. I am overwhelmed in anticipation of all there will be to do and manage. Maybe for you, that day has already come. I have a few days left before it hits me.

The start of the new school year can feel like a Mack truck: it carries wonderful things in its trailer, but also threatens to run us over with its speed and weight. We too often stumble into November battered and bruised, wondering how we will make it to Christmas.

I've been thinking about what we can and should do now in order to be prepared for this onslaught. Parts of me want to cut anything and everything that is not essential so I have room to add in what is coming. But I think there is a better way.

This is the time to ask soul care questions.
What fills my soul? Could I do more of that?

What drains my soul? Could I do less of that?

Maybe its time to say no to an activity, even if it's been done before, because your soul will not be able to hold it and stay healthy. Maybe its time to say yes to an activity, even if you don't know where it will fit, because it will give you the strength you need to keep going.

This is the time to be discerning and courageous. This is the time to give yourself grace upon grace as you figure out how to move to this next season.


For my part, I'd like to offer you two gifts that I hope might help.

First, a video. Yup, like a crazy person, I made a YouTube video even though I don't know how to edit or follow any of the other rules of that genre. I just felt like something I experienced would translate better to talking than writing.

Last week, in part because of these coming changes, I was caught in some swirls of anxiety. What helped me make it through was a beautiful conversation we had at a Socratic Scripture Study. I wanted to tell the story of how God kept bringing the words back to me. I hope it might be a short thing you could add that could be a little soul care for today.

Second, an offer. (If you made it through the video, you already know about this.) I have encountered God in unique and powerful ways through Socratic Scripture study. When people gather with questions, authenticity, and love around these ancient texts, I believe the Spiritspeaks to us. So, I want to make it easy for people to experience it for themselves as they enter a season when soul care might be especially needed.

So, all my studies are free in the month of September. This is offer is probably only helpful for those of you who are local to Minneapolis, but anyone is welcome. See my Socratic Scripture Studies page for more information and to register.


Whatever you choose, I pray you can find hope and strength for your soul to thrive in the coming season. I love the encouragement of Jeremiah 6:16,

“Stand at the crossroads and look;
    ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
    and you will find rest for your souls."

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In the Chrysalis

There is nothing in nature that compares to the transformation of a butterfly. It is magical to think of that which was once confined to crawling on branches and ground now soaring through the air on delicate wings. 

All it takes is a little time in the chrysalis. 

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I imagined the chrysalis to be a period of waiting. Knowing the caterpillar spends the entire beginning of its life struggling to eat enough, then the next part of its life furiously working to create space for transformation, I thought, perhaps, the chrysalis provided some respite. As if the butterfly wings poked their way through the caterpillar's skin while it was sleeping, making themselves ready to be stretched and exposed to the breeze once the caterillar awoke.

That's not really true. I don't think I ever believed it was quite that easy. But in the mystery of not seeing and not knowing, I did make an assumption. I figured the process was a lot of work, but not all that much pain.

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Christians like to talk about transformation a lot. We are made into the image of Christ! We are changed! We are new creations! 

We tend to make a few mistakes in the ways we talk about this change.

The first is to speak as if there is only one metamorphasis: the transformation when we make a decision to believe in Christ and our lives are forever altered.  

Though this is true, that moment is one of many. Christ invites us not only into a transformed life, but a life of transformation.  

The second is to talk about the end product of metamorphasis without acknowledging the process. 

The caterpillar does not one day eat a magic leaf and suddenly become a butterfly. Transformation takes time in the chrysalis. 

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If you were to crack open a chrysalis before a butterfly was ready to emerge, there is a good chance goop would ooze out from within.

In order to be transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillar has to digest itself.

Let that sink in. 

The only thing that lasts through that process are a few groups of cells called imaginal discs. The caterpillar was born with these discs, which carry the pattern for future eyes, wings, and legs within them. Imaginal discs then feed on the goop that once was the caterpillar in order to grow into butterfly parts they were designed to become.

In the chrysalis, there is not just waiting. There is death. 

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Last spring, I marked the back of my neck with a tatoo of flying butterflies. I've always loved their symbolism, and I wanted to remember all the ways I'm a different person now than I once was.

The tattoo came near the end of a difficult season. I think in some ways, I was hoping it would help me fly away and be done with the struggle.

But now, I am back in the chrysalis. I am in a space where I can see new ways I have to die in order for more butterfly wings to grow.  

It hurts. But it is the food for what I was designed to become. 

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In Greek, the word for soul is the word for butterfly.  

Our souls are transformed in the chrysalis.

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Come and Deny, Follow and Rest

  Is there anything in this world that calls us to deny ourselves?

 

We buy what we want, fight for what we don’t have, and clamor to make it to the top. The more we have, the happier we will be, right? Doesn’t true contentment come with the fulfillment of our desires?

 

The problem is, our desires are insatiable. And we exhaust ourselves trying to fill up on them.

 

I have struggled with my weight my entire life. I have never been thin, and have cycled between overweight and average-sized as I have walked through different seasons. When I have been on the larger side of that spectrum, I have looked at pictures of the smaller me and been filled with “if only” thoughts. If only I could be that size again I would be so much happier.

 

But when I was that size did I actually feel happier? No. I wanted to be smaller.

 

When we achieve what we desire, we only become more aware of the next lurking hunger. Contentment often waits just outside our grasp, taunting us to reach further in order to find it.

 

The story is told that when John D. Rockefeller, one of the wealthiest men that ever lived, was asked how much money was enough, he replied: "A little bit more."

 

Enter the words of Jesus,

 

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24

 

In the context of our me-centric world, this call sounds so radical. And it brings with it a question:

 

Is it worth it?

 

What if following Jesus makes our lives miserable? His demands are too high. It seems like too much.

 

But then I think of something else Jesus said.

 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." -Matthew 11:28

 

What if we intertwined these verses? This call to come and this call to follow? Would we see the give and take a little differently?

 

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

– Matthew 11:28-30 and Matthew 16:24-26

 

Our souls are lost. Drifting and weary from the burden of looking out for ourselves.

 

There is a peace found in the confidence of letting go. When we trust in a God who became one of us in order to demonstrate the depth of His love.

 

strivingWe can stop striving. And worrying. And clamoring. And pushing others down. And working ourselves to exhaustion as we try to prove that we are good enough.

 

We are loved. We can rest in that and focus our energy on loving others.

 

When we follow Jesus, we can deny ourselves not because we should, but because we want to.

 

Counter-intuitively, the burden of living for Jesus is lighter than the burden of living for ourselves.  This light burden does not mean our life will always be easy. This is not a promise of happiness, but of peace.

 

It is possible to find rest for our souls.

 

Jesus Said Lent Series ButtonA series to honor the Lenten season by reflecting on various teachings of Christ. Let’s think about who He was and what He came to do by talking about the words that came straight from His mouth.