Laying Down My Rights

Just when ya think you’re in pretty good shape… something comes along and reveals the sin in your own life very clearly.

JP made a mistake this week. A very honest mistake. It ended up costing us $100. Which isn’t the most money in the world. But, it was enough to provoke a reaction in me that I am not proud of.

I got so mad about that $100. I thought some Not So Friendly Thoughts. I wasn’t very nice.

And the whole time I was having the reaction I had, I knew that the root of it all had to be some sin of my own.

I literally was having a conversation with myself in my head (not like a crazy person conversation, but a totally sane inner dialogue) that I knew I was reacting sinfully, and I needed to stop, and then the other part of me was saying I had a right to be angry and offended and to let him know how I felt.

There were a couple of realities at play here.

I know, of course, that my husband is allowed to make mistakes! Neither of our mistakes are going to consistently cost us $100, but this time it did. And that doesn’t change the fact that I have no right to insist on his perfection, because I could be the one making a mistake tomorrow that has a cost to him.

Also, I knew if I had made the same mistake he had, and he had reacted the same way I did (which, by the way, he never would have), I would have been extremely hurt. He wouldn’t have made me feel small. I knew that, and I still felt the desire to assume that I had a right to make my offended-ness known.

The Bigger Picture

Okay, so… here’s the thing.

Here is why I knew so deep down that my reaction was unacceptable, and sinful on my part.

Straight up Truth: My husband is Imago Dei. He is created in the Image of God. And that, in and of itself means he is to be shown dignity, at all times. And it means that he has immense value by virtue of his being God’s Image Bearer.

And I knew that, and I felt myself wrestling inside with knowing that reality and still wanting to claim some right of my own to be offended, and let him know it.

Here’s the other thing.

I have no right to respond in sin, because of my Christian faith.

I believe that Jesus, One who had never made a mistake, had never sinned, who had every. single. right. to claim offense, willingly, and with love, took every. single. sin. of every. single. person. from the entire history and future of the entire world upon Himself.

And he died on that cross, partly because of the sin I committed against my husband over this matter. My sin over this is one of the reasons He hung there. My sin is like one of the thorns pressing down upon His head, and piercing His skull, and causing Him pain.

Jesus never claimed his rights. He who had the most right in the world to be offended, took all of everything upon himself. He never for one moment has given us anything less than the utmost dignity. He never for one moment has given us anything less than perfect love.

Colossians 3 states:

12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and [k]patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is [l]the perfect bond of unity.

I know I was anything but compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, or patient over this matter. And I was slow to forgive. But the real kicker, is the part that says “Just as the Lord forgave you.”

And, at that, I have to humbly surrender. At that, I realize I have no rights. I have no claim to offense. And I need to extend the same grace extended to me, to others. Especially to my husband when he makes a mistake.

How Deep The Father’s Love

I am so thankful for the Lord’s forgiveness in my own life, but it is also so convicting right now. I am acutely aware how I tried to claim something I have no right to claim. And it came at the cost of giving my Imago Dei husband the dignity that is his.

I know I’ll be heading to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation this coming weekend, for this, and other things. And I’ll be looking forward to audibly hearing that unmerited forgiveness from Jesus. I’m also looking forward to my penance. I suspect it might be something I can do to show my husband love and dignity. Which will be just the medicine I need.

One of my favorite hymns of all times is How Deep The Father’s Love For Us.

It’s just such a beautiful reminder of the most beautiful Truth. I can’t even grasp how much Jesus took upon himself on the cross. But I know it means my salvation.

And I know I can, once again, receive the forgiveness that is there for me through my faith in Him. And I can be thankful that He promises to shape me more into His likeness, as long as I continue to allow Him to work in my soul.

I am thankful that I know I don’t have to live in guilt. That I can pick up and move on and work towards better reactions in the future … but it just smarts a bit realizing you’re wrong. Humble pie doesn’t always taste super great.

And, finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention JP. Because I can also be thankful for a gracious husband, who witnessed my struggle, and accepted the apology of his Much Too Quick To Anger Wife, and for the example he sets of patience and grace within our own marriage.



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In Which Mary Charlotte Receives the Sacrament of Baptism

There’s a story in the Gospel of Luke about a man who was paralyzed. Jesus was speaking in a house nearby, and the man’s friends carried him there. It was so crowded that they could not get in the door. However, they did not give up. They carried their friend up on the roof of the house, opened a hole in the roof, and lowered the man down so he could meet Jesus and be healed.

The paralyzed man could not get there on his own. He needed others to bring him to Jesus.  Today, we acted likewise and brought our infant daughter, who can’t yet speak for herself, to Jesus through the Sacrament of Baptism. That story provides such a beautiful parallel to what we do when we baptize our infants.

And now our work has just begun, as we live to raise her with a strong Catholic faith. Soon enough, she will begin making her own decisions about growing in her faith as we support and guide her, and model for her what it is to live this life as a Christian. But this Sacrament is an amazing way to start her off on that journey, and we are so thankful, once again, for the gifts of the Church, and the Sacraments that help to guide us.


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Some thoughts on suffering

Death and taxes. Two things that are famously known for their certitude. But, I suggest that death (and some might argue taxes) is merely a form of something else- much more frequent and just as certain. And that something else is Suffering.

That’s why I fully reject the idea that Christianity is some sort of free pass to comfort or prosperity. All the evidence is clear. This life is not a cruise. There is no “smooth sailing” to our final destination, in the sense that we can get there by avoiding pain. God isn’t some magician whose purpose is to send checks in the mail and provide big ole’ houses for those who just name it and claim it with enough faith. We aren’t owed material wealth. And I might argue, that comfort might not be super good for us.

Jesus promised us an abundant life. But the world is feeding us lies about what abundance means. Abundance doesn’t mean yachts and sprawling mansions and millions of dollars in the bank. In fact, people who put the value of their identities in material abundance are, even, according to Jesus, the most poor. The most lacking. We need to define abundance by God’s standard, not HGTV’s, or Elle Magazine’s, or billboards along the highway.

Facts of Life:

At some point, everyone we know will die. Either before or after we do.

At some point, our lives will be touched in some way by chronic illness or cancer, whether ourselves or through someone we know and love.

At some point, unexpected things will happen that cause stress.

At some point, we will need to make difficult decisions, that don’t have a black and white answer.

At some point. At some point. Something will happen that causes us to suffer.

Help Number One: He Knows

Out of all the world religions that take themselves seriously, an interesting fact is that the Christian God is the only God who has actually personally known suffering.

Many people have unease or misconceptions about why Catholics have Jesus on the crucifix, when many Protestant churches have the empty cross. It’s not that we don’t believe in, or celebrate the resurrection. If you think that, check out an Easter Vigil Mass sometime. That thing is sweet. It encompasses the movement from death to life, in everything from the use of lighting, to the scripture readings, to the tone of the music. Catholics most certainly believe in the Resurrection.

Part of the reason Jesus is on the cross on the crucifix, is because it is a reminder to us of how our Savior intimately knows and understand suffering, and that becomes an immense comfort to us, as we face the different struggles of our own lives. This idea is called to mind in the Jeremy Camp song, “He Knows.”

The crucifix isn’t about keeping Jesus on the cross. It’s about identifying our suffering with His own, and receiving the comfort that comes from that. And whether or not you use that tool in your own faith walk, all Christians can take comfort in the fact that our God knows immense suffering.

Help Number 2: Suffering Isn’t the Worst Thing

I think humanity, in general, seeks to reduce our discomfort. When my daughter fills her diaper, she cries to let us know its time for a change. When my older children get an “owie,” the first thing they do is run to me for a kiss to “make it better.” From the earliest age, we seek to eliminate discomfort… we seek to eliminate our own suffering.

But, interestingly, the Christian faith teaches us that, in fact, our own personal suffering is not the worst thing! I recently read an article about people of faith who put a radical trust in God. It told the story of a pastor tortured for his faith in China, and after he was tortured, he was put into a very small box, just a few feet tall and wide and deep. Instead of praying for his own freedom, he prayed for a Bible. He didn’t pray for his own physical suffering to end- he prayed for a Bible (and received one, by the way!). Because he knew the ultimate truth. That suffering, even to the point of death, isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person. Sin is worse. Not being able to share the love of God with others, is worse. Not knowing God, is worse. The priority is not on relieving suffering, the priority is on holiness. And if being in that box meant that this pastor was able to share God’s love with his captors, then he was more content to be there than he was desirous of freedom.


Help Number 3: The Fruit of Suffering

This one, also probably doesn’t always feel that great, at least at the outset. Catholics use the term “Redemptive Suffering” to describe how the fruit of suffering can actually be a good thing, if we allow God to work through our pain. It allows for the very real possibility that through suffering, can come immense beauty. We see this most easily in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. The death Jesus experienced was cruel, and painful, and one of the worst ways probably possible to die. But, had He not gone through that pain, we would have no Easter morning. We would have no celebration of all that He conquered precisely because he did suffer. We would have no salvation.

We have another saying that goes “offer it up.” We can allow our suffering to become redemptive, useful, and helpful to ourselves and others if we refuse to wallow in the pain itself, but instead seek out the purpose in why we are being allowed to suffer, and to offer our own suffering back up to God for the good of others. In my own life, having experienced Posptartum Depression/Anxiety after the birth of our son has allowed me to support several other moms in my life who are going through it. Going through PPD was, in my experience, a bit like hell on earth, but God has allowed me to go through that, in order that some others will not feel quite so alone. And that has helped to redeem my own experience, and give purpose to the pain that I went through during that season of life. Redemptive Suffering on a small scale, in my own life.

We can waste our suffering, or we can use it. It’s a choice each one of us has each time we face any of our own pain. And we have the best example in our Savior, who used His suffering for the ultimate redemptive purpose.

Concluding Thoughts

I think it’s important that we as Christians work to grow in our ability to see suffering as an essential and sometimes necessary component to our lives. Christianity by no means promises comfort in the sense of ease. If you were able to ask any of the original apostles if their decision to live life following Jesus meant ease and prosperity for them, or comfort by a worldly standard, I’m fairly certain the answer you would get is ‘no.” Especially since nearly all of them were martyred for their faith. However, walking through this life with Jesus promises comfort and prosperity that isn’t tied to the standards of the world. And sometimes, some of our riches are necessarily born through pain. Riches like compassion for others, understanding of someone else’s experience, humility, sobriety, empathy, and mercy. Sometimes suffering teaches us lessons we wouldn’t otherwise have learned.

If only we let it, suffering can be redemptive.


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Mary Charlotte

We have been so thankful to welcome Mary Charlotte Savaryn into the world on December 26th! The whole end of pregnancy while working full time with 2 other kiddos didn’t leave a lot of time to write, but it did leave a lot of time for reflection, so this post has been a long time coming.

Mary Charlotte, just after being born.

Prior to becoming pregnant with Mary, I was full of fear. Because of my traumatic pregnancy with August, the idea of getting pregnant again was terrifying, and my husband and I were not wanting to go through that again. I already wrote a bit here about how this pregnancy has allowed for such healing in our marriage in how we were able to handle the challenges of pregnancy differently this time around, which has had much to do with our Catholic faith.

But on a more personal level, just seeing God’s faithfulness in bringing me through the physical challenges of pregnancy this time, and knowing that He was sustaining me through the nausea, through the growing pains, through the discomforts at the end, and all the way through to a very healthy and healing natural delivery, boosted my own personal faith in countless ways.

I know that God had willed for us to have another child, and being open to life again was a big step of faith. And through it all I never felt abandoned… I could kneel in Mass and feel nauseous and know that Jesus, who asked this of me, was there, literally, sustaining me, right there in the Eucharist. I could kneel in Mass and feel the weight of my child inside me this December and know that Jesus, who asked this of me, was still, right there, always, in such a concrete way, a way I had never had access to prior to becoming Catholic. I knew that He has such a plan for this life, and that He was pleased with our faithfulness in being open to another child. Receiving Jesus each Mass was something I looked forward to and was grateful for, many times through tears, throughout the more difficult stages of growing this babe.FRAMED_OLG_SAMPLE.jpg

I also had the blessing of being very pregnant during the season of Advent. I was able to study and contemplate the journey of Mary at the end of her pregnancy, anticipating the birth of her own child. The discomfort she must have felt to be so pregnant on such a long journey, her own wonderings at when her child would be born, her own feelings and emotions as the time drew near, her faithfulness in the (much greater) task that God had set before her. And this Advent, due to my new relationship with and appreciation of the Mother of my Lord, I drew more comfort than ever that Mary knew what it was like, especially since she had so much more at stake than I did. And she was so faithful. And if she could be so faithful, then I knew I could as well.

My relationship with Mary has only started to grow, but I also felt her sustaining me throughout this pregnancy. Our daughter carries my grandmother’s names, one of which is also the name of our Holy Mother, and that was no coincidence.

It is my utmost goal to raise my children strong in the Catholic faith, so they can grow to be Saints in this world by following Jesus with their whole lives. This journey to motherhood for the 3rd time was particularly special, and healing, and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for this little life that he chose to bless us with, and through whom He already has provided such healing in my marriage, and in my soul.



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You Say That I Am

Have you ever wondered what Jesus meant by something he said? Me (JP)? All the time!

In my most recent encounter with this, while I was listening to the Gospel of John on audio I got to the scene where Jesus is on trial. On a couple occasions, Jesus’ accusers ask him who he is. Ultimately, they want to hear him claim to be the Messiah. If he claims this, they’ll be able to convict him: they’ll argue that he can’t really be the Messiah since he didn’t keep the Sabbath day laws, and possibly other reasons too, I’m not sure. But I do know they wanted to hear him claim to be the Messiah.


Now, what struck me is Jesus’ reply to their question. They ask: are you the Messiah? Alright, here we go, what are you going to say Jesus? Sounds like I should expect a “yes” or a “no”. Instead, what he says surprised me. He says: it is you that say I am. …. What? These are the Pharisees. They don’t ‘say you are’. They have decided that you are not. What do you mean? Jesus, what do you mean???  

I reflected on our Lord’s response and wondered if he means that, like it or not, through their actions they are in effect ‘saying that he is the Messiah’. It’s their actions that are doing the talking.

Jesus’ life story was written before he lived on earth. That story, found all throughout the Old Testament, included his suffering and his death. To suffer and die included accusers, nay-sayers, those who did not believe he is who he says he is – God. Thus, by putting him on trial with the intent of killing him, the Pharisees, the accusers, the nay-sayers, they were playing out what had been predicted long ago. The sad part is that they didn’t have the eyes to see it.

Let us not be blind as those who put Jesus to death were. Let us remind ourselves who he really is – God. Then let us obey him. He created us. He wants us to become the best versions of ourselves. That requires our cooperation. That requires that we obey him. … And what is it that you command Jesus?


-John Paul

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Oh Child, I Have So Much Good in Mind for You – If You Would Just Obey


In reading the Gospels lately, there is a common theme in Jesus’ teaching that jumps off the page at me (JP). That theme: if you believe I am Lord, then do what I say. I really am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and I’ve come so that you can have life to the fullest. But, having that life requires obeying me!

Being a parent has granted me the gift of understanding our relationship to our heavenly Father in better ways than ever before. Look at a scenario many parents are familiar with: parent wants what is good for the child, child doesn’t trust parent… But why?

Because sometimes what’s good for the child requires some element of suffering for the child.

The child can’t see past the short term suffering – giving up the toy to the younger brother, turning off the T.V. when mom asks, coming inside when told, …. etc. Since the child only sees the short term suffering, he/she has a hard, if not impossible time, believing that the parent has the child’s best interest in mind. But, the parent pleads with the child – if not explicitly, at least implicitly, subconsciously – to trust, just trust. “Child, if you’d just trust that I have your best interest in mind and obey what I tell you to do, life would go so well for you. I love you unconditionally, I take care of you, I want nothing less than for you to become the best version of yourself!”

But the child needs to do more than simply give mental assent to this claim from the parent – the claim that the parent has the child’s best interest in mind. The child actually needs to obey the parent! Without obedience, there is no growth. In obeying the parent, the child is participating in allowing the parent to shape him/her into the person the parents want them to be. And they want them to be a certain way only because the love them so very much! They want the child to be happy and they know what brings happiness and what doesn’t.

How similar have I been in my relationship with God to how my kids interact with me. Yah, yah, yah, God, you came and died for my sins, I get it. Jesus is God, I get it. …. 30min later when stuff is getting hard in the house, kids are screaming, dishwasher is broken, rain water is coming in the window, … whatever, I choose to sin, I choose not to obey Jesus’ commands in those moments. But if I really believe he is who he says he is, then the answer to all life’s greatest challenges is to do what he says! And what does he say to do?


That lead to the next logical question: what is love? How do I love as Jesus commands? Love is to will the good of the other. Love, which is what God is, is self-giving, indifferent self-giving. Love is giving of self regardless of the circumstances, regardless of what you will get in return. This is what Jesus came to show. He showed us what that looks like. And then he gave us the answers to all of life’s greatest troubles: do what I tell you – love others as I love you – and you will have life to the fullest. You will be free to freely give! Not to even begin to mention the endless grace he pours out on us when we make room in our hearts for him. If we just trust our Father in heaven has our best interest in mind and do what he says, we will have life to the fullest.

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” -John 10:1

– John Paul

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Knowing Jesus

About a year ago, during what I (JP) refer to as my re-conversion to Christianity, I read a book called “Knowing God” by J.I. Packer. It was a wonderful book. It got me very quickly to realize how small I have traditionally made God out to be. But it also got me to realize how far from actually knowing God I was – although I was beginning to know things about God, I wasn’t necessarily coming to know Him. But I wanted to! But the book didn’t give me those answers. It did tell me that God was spirit, and that he is limitless, and all-powerful, but it didn’t give me the answers to my heart’s growing and burning questions: “God, what do you look like?” “What do you sound like?” “What do you feel like?” “Can you please reveal yourself to me? I want to know you.”

A month or so went by after this, during which time I was praying fervently that God would reveal himself to me. I was also reading the Holy Scriptures, seeking to know God as best I could. But all the while, I was calling out “God, please reveal yourself to me. I just want to know you!”

And then it happened. One night on one of my many commuter train rides home from Northwestern – this time it was the 11PM train after teaching a night class – I found myself asking God again to reveal himself to me. And then I heard it, inaudibly, but I heard it, or better said, I just knew. It was an epiphany moment. It was a light bulb going off. I describe it as God telling me. All of a sudden, in answer to my plea “reveal yourself to me,” I heard “I already did. Jesus.” Whoa!     Whoa!      Whoa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jesus, I Trust In You

I hope you can imagine my sheer joy, my awe, my satisfaction and peace, my adrenaline and energy, all wrapped up in one simple little moment on the commuter train with people and life going on all around me like a typical 11PM train ride normally contains. But in that moment, in my seat, my life just changed forever. I was thrilled. God had answered my prayer. I raced home and rapidly typed out a long e-mail to a couple of my prayer group friends who had been hearing me pray this request to God for at least a few weeks. I couldn’t contain myself. I had just fell in total love with Jesus, and I hardly even knew him yet!

Since this all took place, I have not been able to keep my eyes off Jesus. I am fixated on him. Like Mary in the story of Mary and Martha, all I want to do is sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to him speak. When I read the Gospels I join the crowd as one who is there in the first century AD, and I just watch Jesus work. I watch God act, speak, move, and love as a human being. It is the most fantastic and precious gift we could ever ask for. For all those asking the same question I asked – “God, what are you?” – here is the answer in Jesus! Jesus is God. Incredible, nearly. A mystery, yes. Does Jesus say this about himself? YES! Why did I miss this my whole life? I think I know.

I’ve heard it said that until someone is asking the question, the answer is un-impactful. That applies to my story here. Even growing up a Christian, it wasn’t until my heart was pleading with God for him to allow me to know him that I realized the depth of the gift he gave us by becoming man. Now I can know him. Now I can know God.

And what I have even more recently come to appreciate is that Jesus is still alive today!

Oh to know him deeply.

-John Paul


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