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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.

Seeing a Future of Hope

By |2024-06-28T02:33:07-04:00June 28th, 2024|

After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans worked to slowly rebuild. One of the most hard-hit areas was the Lower Ninth Ward, where, years after Katrina, residents lacked access to basic resources. Burnell Cotlon worked to change that. In November 2014, he opened the first grocery store in the Lower Ninth Ward after Katrina. “When I bought the building, everybody thought that I was crazy,” Cotlon recalled. But “the very first customer cried ‘cuz she . . . never thought the [neighborhood] was coming back.” His mother said her son “saw something I didn’t see. I’m glad [he] . . . took that chance.”

God enabled the prophet Isaiah to see an unexpected future of hope in the face of devastation. Seeing “the poor and needy search for water, but there is none” (Isaiah 41:17), God promised to “turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs” (v. 18). When instead of hunger and thirst, His people experienced flourishing once more, they would know “the hand of the Lord has done this” (v. 20).

He is still the author of restoration, at work bringing about a future when “creation itself will be liberated from its bondage” (Romans 8:21). As we trust in His goodness, He helps us see a future where hope is possible.

A Creator We Can Trust

By |2024-05-02T02:33:12-04:00May 2nd, 2024|

The “monster” in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is one of the most widely known literary characters, captivating our cultural imagination. But close readers of the beloved novel know that a strong case can be made that Shelley actually portrays Victor Frankenstein, the delusional scientist who created the creature, as the real monster. After creating an intelligent creature, Victor denies him any guidance, companionship, or hope of happiness—seemingly guaranteeing the creature’s descent into desperation and rage. Confronting Victor, the creature laments, “You, my creator, would tear me to pieces and triumph.”

Scripture reveals how different the true Creator of all things is—with unchanging, tireless love for His creation. God didn’t create on a whim, but out of love created a beautiful, good world (Genesis 1:31). And even when humanity turned from Him to choose monstrous evil instead, God’s commitment to and love for humanity didn’t change.

As Jesus explained to Nicodemus, God’s love for His creation was so great He was willing to give even what was most dear to Him—“his one and only Son” (John 3:16)—that the world might be saved. Jesus sacrificed Himself, bearing the consequences of our sin, so “that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (v. 15).

We have a Creator we can trust with our hearts and lives.

United Diversity in Christ

By |2024-04-24T02:33:05-04:00April 24th, 2024|

In his essay “Service and the Spectrum,” Professor Daniel Bowman Jr. writes of the difficulty of navigating decisions about how to serve his church as an autistic person. He explains, “Autistic people have to forge a new path forward every single time, a unique path that takes into account . . . mental, emotional, and physical energy . . . alone/recharging time; sensory inputs and comfort level . . . time of day; whether or not we’re being valued for our strengths and accommodated for our needs rather than excluded for perceived deficits; and much more.” For many people, Bowman writes, such decisions, “while reorienting people’s time and energy, likely will not undo them. Those same decisions might well undo me.”

Bowman believes that the vision of mutuality Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 12 could be a healing solution. There, Paul describes God uniquely gifting each of His people for “the common good” (vv. 4-7). Each is an indispensable member of Christ’s body (v. 22). When churches come to understand each person’s unique, God-given wiring and gifting, instead of pressuring everyone to help out in the same way, they can support their members to serve in ways that fit their giftings.

In this way, each person can find flourishing and wholeness, secure in their valued place in Christ’s body (v. 26).

Rewired by Gratitude

By |2024-02-04T01:33:37-05:00February 4th, 2024|

After being diagnosed with a brain tumor, Christina Costa noticed how much of the talk around facing cancer is dominated by the language of fighting. She found that this metaphor quickly started to feel exhausting. She “didn’t want to spend over a year at war with [her] own body.” Instead, what she found most helpful were daily practices of gratitude—for the team of professionals caring for her and for the ways her brain and body were showing healing. She experienced firsthand that no matter how difficult the struggle, practices of gratitude can help resist depression and “wire our brains to help us build resilience.”

Costa’s powerful story reminded me that practicing gratitude isn’t just something believers do out of duty. Although it’s true that God deserves our gratitude, it’s also profoundly good for us. When we lift up our hearts to say, “Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2), we’re reminded of the countless ways God’s at work—assuring us of forgiveness, working healing in our bodies and hearts, letting us experience “love and compassion” and countless “good things” in His creation (vv. 3–5).

While not all suffering will find complete healing in this lifetime, our hearts can always be renewed by gratitude, for God’s love is with us “from everlasting to everlasting” (v. 17). 

Drop by Drop

By |2024-01-21T01:33:24-05:00January 21st, 2024|

“In everything / we look for pleasant ways of serving God,” writes sixteenth-century believer Teresa of Avila. She poignantly reflects on the many ways we seek to stay in control through easier, more “pleasant” methods than total surrender to God. We tend to slowly, tentatively, and even reluctantly grow to trust Him with all of ourselves. And so, Teresa confesses, “even as we measure out our lives to you / a bit at a time, / we must be content / to receive your gifts drop by drop, / until we have surrendered our lives wholly to you.”

As human beings, trust doesn’t come naturally to many of us. So if experiencing God’s grace and love were dependent on our ability to trust and receive it, we’d be in trouble!

But, as we read in 1 John 4, God’s love for us comes first (v. 19). He loved us long before we could love Him, so much that He was willing to sacrifice His Son for us (v. 10). “This is love,” John writes in wonder and gratitude.

Gradually, gently, little by little, God heals our hearts to receive His love—drop by drop, His grace helps us surrender our fears (v. 18). Drop by drop, His grace reaches our hearts until we find ourselves experiencing showers of His abundant beauty and love.

Building Up Goodwill

By |2023-12-02T01:34:31-05:00December 2nd, 2023|

When we think of best business practices, what first comes to mind probably aren’t qualities like kindness and generosity. But according to entrepreneur James Rhee, they should. In Rhee’s experience as CEO at a company on the brink of financial ruin, prioritizing what he calls “goodwill”—a “culture of kindness” and a spirit of giving—saved the company and led to its flourishing. Putting these qualities central gave people the hope and motivation they needed to unify, innovate, and problem-solve. Rhee explains that “goodwill . . . is a real asset that can compound and be amplified.”

In daily life too, it’s easy to think of qualities like kindness as vague and intangible, afterthoughts to our other priorities. But, as the apostle Paul taught, such qualities matter most of all.

Writing to new believers, Paul emphasized that the purpose of believers’ lives is transformation through the Spirit into mature members of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:15). To that end, every word and every action has value only if it builds up and benefits others (v. 29). Transformation in Jesus can only happen through daily prioritizing kindness, compassion, and forgiveness (v. 32).

As we grow closer together through Christ’s Spirit, we daily learn anew the true, priceless value of God’s goodwill living in us.

The Skill of Compassion

By |2023-11-28T01:33:14-05:00November 28th, 2023|

“A thorn has entered your foot—that is why you weep at times at night,” wrote Catherine of Sienna in the fourteenth century. She continued, “There are some in this world who can pull it out. The skill that takes they have learned from [God].” Catherine devoted her life to cultivating that “skill,” and is still remembered today for her remarkable capacity for empathy and compassion for others in their pain. 

That image of pain as a deeply embedded thorn that requires tenderness and skill to remove lingers with me. It’s a vivid reminder of how complex and wounded we are, and of our need to dig deeper to develop true compassion for ourselves and others.

Or, as the apostle Paul describes it, it’s an image that reminds me that loving others like Jesus does requires more than good intentions and well-wishes—it requires being “devoted to one another” (Romans 12:10), “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (v. 12). It requires being willing to not only “rejoice with those who rejoice” but to “mourn with those who mourn” (v. 15). It requires all of us.

In a broken world, none of us escape unwounded—hurt and scars are deeply embedded in each of us. But deeper still is the love we find in Christ; love tender enough to draw out those thorns with the balm of compassion, willing to embrace both friend and enemy (v. 14) to find healing together.

Under God’s Wings

By |2023-10-31T02:33:27-04:00October 31st, 2023|

There are several Canada goose families with baby geese at the pond near our apartment complex. The little goslings are so fluffy and cute, it’s hard not to watch them when I go for a walk or run around the pond. But I’ve learned to avoid eye contact and give the geese a wide berth—otherwise, I risk a protective goose parent suspecting a threat and hissing and chasing me!

The image of a bird protecting her young is one that Scripture uses to describe God’s tender, protective love for His children (Psalm 91:4). In Psalm 61, David seems to be struggling to experience God’s care in this way once more. He’d experienced God as his “refuge, a strong tower” (v. 3), but now he called desperately “from the ends of the earth,” pleading, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (v. 2). He longed to once more “take refuge in the shelter of [God’s] wings” (v. 4).

And in bringing his pain and longing for healing to God, David took comfort in knowing that He had heard him (v. 5). Because of God’s faithfulness, he knew he would “ever sing in praise of [His] name” (v. 8).

Like the psalmist, when we feel distant from God’s love, we can run back to His arms to be assured that even in our pain, He’s with us, protecting and caring for us as fiercely as a mother bird guards her young.

Slow-Fashioned Grace

By |2023-10-09T02:33:20-04:00October 9th, 2023|

Have you heard of #slowfashion? The hashtag captures a movement focused on resisting “fast fashion”—an industry dominated by cheaply made and quickly disposed of clothes. In fast fashion, clothes are out of style nearly as quickly as they’re in the stores—with some brands disposing of large quantities of their products every year.

The slow fashion movement encourages people to slow down and take a different approach. Instead of being driven by the need to always have the latest look, slow fashion encourages us to select fewer well-made and ethically sourced items that will last.  

As I reflected on #slowfashion’s invitation, I found myself wondering about other ways I fall into a “fast fashion” way of thinking—always looking for fulfillment in the latest trend. In Colossians 3, however, Paul says finding true transformation in Jesus isn’t a quick fix or a fad. It’s a lifetime of quiet, gradual transformation in Christ.  

Instead of needing to clothe ourselves with the world’s latest status symbols, we can exchange our striving for the Spirit’s clothing of “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (v.12). We can learn patience with each other on the slow journey of Christ transforming our hearts—a journey that leads to lasting peace (v. 15).

Openhearted Generosity

By |2023-08-24T02:33:33-04:00August 24th, 2023|

No one ever died saying, ‘I’m so glad for the self-centered, self-serving, and self-protective life I lived,’ ” author Parker Palmer said in a commencement address, urging graduates to “offer [themselves] to the world . . . with openhearted generosity.”

But, Parker continued, living this way would also meaning learning “how little you know and how easy it is to fail.” Offering themselves in service to the world would require cultivating a “beginner’s mind” to “walk straight into your not-knowing, and take the risk of failing and failing, again and again—then getting up to learn again and again.”

It’s only when our lives are built on a foundation of grace that we can find the courage to choose such a life of fearless “openhearted generosity.” As Paul explained to his protégé Timothy, we can confidently “fan into flame” (v. 6) and live out of God’s gifting when we remember that it’s God’s grace that saves and calls us to a life of purpose (v. 9). It’s His power that gives us the courage to resist the temptation to live timidly in exchange for the Spirit’s “power, love, and self-discipline” (v. 7).  And it’s His grace that picks us up when we fall, so that we can continue a life-long journey of grounding our lives in His love (vv. 13–14).

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