Kara’s Collection: Proudly on the Naughty List!

From an article originally posted December 5, 2013…

When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.
— Brennan Manning

I have been quietly struggling with the paradox of the American holiday we find ourselves in the midst of today. I do not wish to enter the Santa-no-Santa debate. It is one Jason and I have wrestled through and come to a comfortable peace in our home. The debate is intense and often unkind;  it’s almost as unkind as the political conversation in our nation. For that reason, I have backed away. But I will comment on a heart to the holiday that I think is troubling.

First, let me say, we watch all the holiday movies. We laugh, love, and enjoy the many shows that celebrate this holiday. We may watch some solely for entertainment, knowing we are watching a story, a pretend, a whimsy on the season. But with new commercial inventions, children are being tied in so many knots of behaviorism which hurt my heart, and hurts the heart of Christmas. A little guy telling your deeds, reporting, checking. The lists of good and bad deeds, the expectation to believe, perform, behave.

As a couple left our house the other day, they admonished my kids to “be good” because Santa is coming. I inwardly winced a bit. Later, I gently explained to my kids, in our hurting household, good is simply not the target we are aiming for. All of our hearts are desperately hurting at the pain of our reality, and when a child doesn’t know the words to express pain, good behavior is not often the fruit. We have decided to meet our children in that place, not add to their burden in expectation of “goodness.” We simply can’t live there.

So why did the lowly babe have to come? Because I could never make the good list. Why did God have to come to us? Because my heart could only make its way to the naughty list. That is good news. The grace that in our ill manners, weak faith, horrible behavior, presents will make their way under the tree! Maybe even BECAUSE OF those poor attitudes, this will be a beautiful grace in the midst of our terrible ugly.

So children, proudly wave your naughty flag, wave it high! But also wave the enormous, unbelievable, amazing grace flag, THAT YOU ARE STILL LOVED! That no record of wrongs are kept, no counting of good, no manipulating with stuff, but simply you are loved for exactly how God made you. And in this painful season of our now, you are being encouraged to take the heavy load that is today, present it before the Jesus of grace, and be free. Free to love from the place you are recklessly loved.

I have been re-reading Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel, and it is deeply loving my heart right now. Where I am, hurting, angry, a little lost and wandering, the sweet reminders of grace are undoing the knots I have placed myself in today. His words are a balm to the disappointments I’m facing. He is pointing me miraculously to my own needy heart, and a Jesus that is crazy about me.


To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means. As Thomas Merton put it, “A saint is not someone who is good, but who experiences the goodness of God.”

Oh blissful great news, in my darkness, I am met by life. I can disrobe from the pretending, the performing, the fake okay and be where I am right now. I am met. I am embraced, no need to pretend. That is great, good news!

Jesus sat down at table with anyone who wanted to be present, including those who were banished from decent homes. In the sharing of a meal they received consideration instead of expected condemnation. A merciful acquittal instead of hasty verdict of guilty. Amazing grace instead of universal disgrace. Here is the very practical demonstration of the law of grace-a new chance in life.

I love this. In my weak faith and fear of my tomorrow, my tests, my cancer, I’m invited to dine with a King. I’m not asked to check my troubles at the door. I’m asked to bring them to the feast, enjoy the host, share my burden, and know true love. Love that has nothing to do with my ability or wellness. He brought me to my lowly state to look into His face of grace and receive great, amazing love and grace in my deep hurt and weakness. That is the good news of this holiday season. That is the great news of my today, my every moment, every breath!

The Good News means we can stop lying to ourselves. The sweet sound of amazing grace saves us from the necessity of self-deception. It keeps us from denying that though Christ was victorious, the battle with lust, greed, and pride still rages within us. As a sinner that has been redeemed, I can acknowledge that I am often unloving, irritable, angry, and resentful with those closest to me. When I go to church I can leave my white hat at home and admit I have failed. God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to him. I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness.
— [Excerpts taken from The Raggamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning]

Do yourself a favor this holiday season—get this book. Sit down with his beautiful perspective, hear the beautiful words of true grace spoken over you time and again. I came to the first chapter with a desperately hard heart, not even through the first chapter my heart was beautifully broken. I once heard Brennan speak at a weekend retreat; I could not get enough of the words he spoke. They were a balm from heaven reminding me of my True Love. I miss you Brennan, but I know you don’t miss us. You are drinking deeply of the grace you proclaimed in heaven.