fbpx
mm

About Monica La Rose

Monica (Brands) studied English and Theology at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois, and completed a Master of Theological Studies degree at Calvin Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In October 2019, she married Ben La Rose, a musician and electrical engineer. She and her husband treasure time with friends, family, and their two crazy cats, Heathcliff and Mystique.

God’s Help for Our Future

By |2022-09-27T02:33:12-04:00September 27th, 2022|

According to psychologist Meg Jay, our minds tend to think about our future selves similarly to how we think about complete strangers. Why? It’s probably due to what’s sometimes called the “empathy gap.” It can be hard to empathize and care for people we don’t know personally—even future versions of ourselves. So in her work, Jay tries to help young people imagine their future selves and take steps to care for them. This includes working out actionable plans for who they will one day be—paving the way for them to pursue their dreams and to continue to thrive.

In Psalm 90, we’re invited to see our lives, not just in the present, but as a whole—to ask God to help us “number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (v. 12). Remembering that our time on earth is limited can remind us of our desperate need to rely on God. We need His help to learn how to find satisfaction and joy—not just now, but “all our days” (v. 14). We need His help to learn to think not just of ourselves, but of future generations (v. 16). And we need His help to serve Him with the time we’ve been given—as He establishes the work of our hands and hearts (v. 17).

Humility Is the Truth

By |2022-08-09T02:33:19-04:00August 9th, 2022|

Reflecting one day on why God values humility so highly, sixteenth-century believer Teresa of Avila suddenly realized the answer: “It is because God is the supreme Truth, and humility is the truth . . . nothing good in us springs from ourselves. Rather, it comes from the waters of grace, near which the soul remains, like a tree planted by a river, and from that Sun which gives life to our works.” Teresa concluded that it’s by prayer that we anchor ourselves in that reality, for “the whole foundation of prayer is humility. The more we humble ourselves in prayer, the more will God lift us up.”

Teresa’s words echo the language of Scripture in James 4, where James warned of the self-destructive nature of pride and selfish ambition, the opposite of a life lived in dependence on God’s grace (vv. 1–6). The only solution to a life of greed, despair, and constant conflict, he emphasized, is to repent of our pride in exchange for God’s grace. Or, in other words, to “humble yourselves before the Lord,” with the assurance that “he will lift you up” (v. 10).

Only when we’re rooted in the waters of grace can we find ourselves nourished by the “wisdom that comes from heaven” (3:17). Only in Him can we find ourselves lifted up by the truth.

The Key

By |2022-07-27T02:33:05-04:00July 27th, 2022|

In his classic book The Human Condition, Thomas Keating shares this memorable tale. A teacher, having lost the key to his home, is on his hands and knees searching through the grass. When his disciples see him searching, they join the hunt, but with no success. Finally, “one of the more intelligent disciples” asks, “Master, have you any idea where you might have lost the key?” Their teacher replies, “Of course. I lost it in the house.” When they exclaim, “Then why are we looking for it out here?” he answers, “Isn’t it obvious? There is more light here.”

We have lost the key to “intimacy with God, the experience of God’s loving presence,” Keating concludes. “Without that experience, nothing else quite works; with it, almost anything works.”  

How easy it is to forget that even in life’s ups and downs, God remains the key to our deepest longings. But when we’re ready to stop looking in all the wrong places, God is there, ready to show us true rest. In Matthew 11, Jesus praises the Father for revealing His ways, not to the “wise and learned,” but “to little children” (v. 25). Then He invites “all you who are weary and burdened” (v. 28) to come to Him for rest.

Like little children, we can find true rest as we learn the ways of our Teacher, who’s “gentle and humble in heart” (v. 29). God is there, eager to welcome us home.

Trustworthy Love

By |2022-06-20T09:06:06-04:00June 20th, 2022|

Why can't I stop thinking about it? My emotions were a tangled mess of sadness, guilt, anger, and confusion.

Years ago, I’d made the painful decision to cut ties with someone close to me, after attempts to address deeply hurtful behavior were merely met with dismissal and denial. Today, after hearing she was in town visiting, my thoughts had spiraled into hashing and rehashing the past.

As I struggled to calm my thoughts, I heard a song playing on the radio. The song expressed not just the anguish of betrayal, but also a profound longing for change and healing in the person who’d caused harm. Tears filled my eyes as I soaked in the haunting ballad giving voice to my own deepest longings.

“Love must be sincere,” the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:9, a reminder that not all that passes for love is genuine. Yet our heart’s deepest longing is to know real love—love that isn’t self-serving or manipulative, but compassionate and self-giving (vv. 11–13). Love that’s not a fear-driven need for control but a joyful commitment to each other’s well-being (vv. 11–13).

And that’s the good news, the gospel. Because of Jesus, we can finally know and share a love we can trust—a love that will never cause us harm (13:10). To live in His love is to be free.

Engraved Grief

By |2022-05-10T09:06:03-04:00May 10th, 2022|

After receiving the devastating diagnosis of a rare and incurable brain cancer, Caroline found renewed hope and purpose through providing a unique service: volunteering photography services for critically ill children and their families. Through this service, families could capture the precious moments shared with their children, both in grief and “the moments of grace and beauty we assume don’t exist in those desperate places. In the hardest moments imaginable, those families . . . choose to love, despite and because of it all.”

There’s something unspeakably powerful about capturing the truth of grief—both the devastating reality of it and the ways in which we experience beauty and hope in the midst of it.

Much of the book of Job is like a photograph of grief—capturing honestly Job’s journey through devastating loss (1:18–19). After sitting with Job several days, his friends wearied of his grief, resorting to minimizing it or explaining it away as God’s judgment. But Job would have none of it, insisting that what he was going through mattered, and wishing that the testimony of his experience would be “engraved in rock forever!” (19:24).

Through the book of Job, it was “engraved”—in a way that points us in our grief to the living God (vv. 26–27), who meets us in our pain, carrying us through death into resurrection life.

Past the Boundaries of Knowing

By |2022-03-29T09:06:02-04:00March 29th, 2022|

It was a hard day when my husband found out that, like so many others, he too would soon be furloughed from employment as a result of the COVID pandemic. We knew that we likely had no reason to fear that our basic needs would not be met, but the uncertainty was still terrifying.

As I processed my jumbled emotions, I found myself revisiting a favorite poem by sixteenth-century reformer John of the Cross. Entitled “I Went In, I Knew Not Where,” the poem depicts the wonder to be found in a journey of surrender, when, going “past the boundaries of knowing,” we learn to “discern the Divine in all its guises.” And so that’s what my husband and I are trying to do during this season, to turn our focus from what we can control and understand to the unexpected, mysterious, and beautiful ways God can be found all around us.

The apostle Paul invited believers to a journey from the seen to the unseen, from outward to inward realities, and from temporary struggles to the “eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Paul urged this, not because he lacked compassion for their struggles. He knew it would be through letting go of what they could understand that they could experience the comfort, joy, and hope they so desperately needed (vv. 10, 15–16). They could know the wonder of Christ’s life making all things new.

Choosing Celebration

By |2022-02-28T08:06:04-05:00February 28th, 2022|

Writer Marilyn McEntyre shares the story of learning from a friend that “the opposite of envy is celebration.” Despite this friend’s physical disability and chronic pain, which limited her ability to develop her talents in the ways she’d hoped, she was somehow able to uniquely embody joy and to celebrate with others, bringing “appreciation into every encounter” before she passed away.

That insight—“the opposite of envy is celebration”—lingers with me, reminding me of friends in my own life who seem to live out this kind of comparison-free, deep, and genuine joy for others.

Envy is an easy trap to fall into. It feeds on our deepest vulnerabilities, wounds, and fears, whispering that if we were only more like so-and-so, we wouldn’t be struggling, and we wouldn’t be feeling bad.

As Peter reminded new believers in 1 Peter 2, the only way to “rid [ourselves]” of the lies that envy tells us is to be deeply rooted in the truth, to “have tasted”—deeply experienced—"that the Lord is good” (vv. 1–3). We can freely “love one another deeply, from the heart” (1:22) when we know the true source of our joy—“the living and enduring word of God” (v. 23).

And we can surrender comparison when we remember who we really are—beloved members of “a chosen people, . . . God’s special possession,” “called . . .  out of darkness into his wonderful light” (2:9).

Perfect Like Christ

By |2022-01-29T08:06:03-05:00January 29th, 2022|

Perfectionism is one of the scariest words I know,” Kathleen Norris writes, thoughtfully contrasting modern-day perfectionism with the “perfection” described in Matthew. Modern-day perfectionism she describes as a “a serious psychological affliction that makes people too timid to take necessary risks.” But the word translated “perfect” in Matthew actually means mature, complete, or whole. Norris concludes, “To be perfect . . . is to make room for growth [and become] mature enough to give ourselves to others.”

Understanding perfection this way helps makes sense of the profound story told in Matthew 19, where a man asks Jesus what good he can do that will be rewarded in the life to come (v. 16). Jesus responds, “Keep the commandments” (v. 17). The man thought he’d obeyed all of them, yet he still knew something was  missing. “What do I still lack?” (v. 20) he asks.

That’s when Jesus identifies the man’s wealth as the vise-grip stifling his heart. “If you want to be perfect” (v. 21), He responds—whole, open to giving to and receiving from others in God’s kingdom—then he must be willing to let go of what’s been closing off his heart from others.

Each of us has our own version of this—possessions or habits we cling to as a futile attempt to control. Today, hear Jesus’ gentle invitation to surrender—and find freedom in the wholeness that’s only possible in Him (v. 26).

Great Wisdom

By |2021-12-28T08:06:02-05:00December 28th, 2021|

“The shepherd needs great wisdom and a thousand eyes,” wrote the beloved church father John Chrysostom, “to examine the soul’s condition from every angle.” Chrysostom wrote these words as part of a discussion on the complexity of caring well for others spiritually. Since it’s impossible to force anyone to heal, he emphasized, reaching others’ hearts requires great empathy and compassion.

But that doesn’t mean never causing pain, Chrysostom cautioned, because “if you behave too leniently to one who needs deep surgery, and do not make a deep incision in one who requires it, you mutilate yet miss the cancer. But if you make the needed incision without mercy, often the patient, in despair at his sufferings, throws all aside . . . and promptly throws himself over a cliff.”

There’s a similar complexity in how Jude describes responding to those led astray by false teachers, whose behavior he describes starkly (1:12–13, 18–19). Yet when Jude turns to how to respond to such grave threats, he doesn’t suggest reacting with harsh anger.

Instead, he taught that believers should respond to threats by rooting themselves even more deeply in God’s love (vv. 20–21). For it’s only when we’re deeply anchored in God’s unchanging love that we can find the wisdom to help others with appropriate urgency, humility, and compassion (vv. 22–23)—the way most likely to help them find healing and rest in God’s boundless love.

Labrador Angel

By |2021-11-21T08:06:09-05:00November 21st, 2021|

In 2019, Cap Dashwood and his sweet black lab companion, Chaela (“la” Dashwood’s abbreviation for “Labrador angel”), accomplished something remarkable: reaching a mountain summit each day for 365 consecutive days.

Dashwood has a moving story to tell. He left home at sixteen, explaining simply, “Bad family life.” But these past wounds led him to find healing elsewhere. He explains, “Sometimes when you’re disappointed by people, you turn to something else. You know?” For Dashwood, mountain climbing and the unconditional love of his black lab companion has been a big part of that “something else.”

For those of us, like myself, who deeply love our animal companions, a big piece of why we do is the sweet, utterly unconditional love they pour out—a kind of love that’s rare. But I like to think the love they effortlessly give points to a much greater and deeper reality than the failures of others—God’s unshakeable, boundless love upholding the universe.

In Psalm 143, as in many of his prayers, it is only David’s faith in that unshakable, “unfailing love” (v. 12) that tethers him to hope in a time when he feels utterly alone. But a lifetime of walking with God gives him just enough strength to trust that the morning will “bring me word of your unfailing love” (v. 8).

Just enough hope to trust again and to let God lead the way to paths unknown (v. 8).

Go to Top