October 2, 2017
It used to scare me: the idea that God saw everything I did, even in secret.
When I was little, I thought of God sort of like Santa Claus. He knew when I was awake and sleeping; when I was good and bad. As an early teenager, my image of God morphed into more of a Big Brother Eye-in-the-Sky, waiting for me to do something wrong.
Either way, I was scared of God. I thought He was out to get me.
Somewhere in my early 20’s, my idea of who God is radically shifted. I began to long to spend time with Him in the Bible, learning through ancient stories the goodness of God. During that time, I realized what a blessing it is that He sees me, even in my secret places.
For three years, I lived alone as I worked full time and went to college full time. It was easy to get discouraged. No one saw my late nights and early mornings; the 13-hour workdays at the hospital and classes stacked back-to-back on my days off. No one saw my faithfulness in attempt to build a future.
No one but God—and where I once felt judgement, I suddenly found comfort. He knew my pain and frustration, my exhaustion and every tiny success. During this time, I came to realize that I did not need the world to see me; I just needed God to see me.
In Him, I am seen and known and loved—and that has made all the difference in my life.
Today, I made breakfasts and packed lunches for tiny humans who ran out the door and did not say thank you. This afternoon, I am folding laundry and washing dishes, and no one will ever notice how I spent my day. Later, I will make snacks and help with homework and play tag until dinnertime, and it is all just expected at this point. This evening, dinner will be on the table and reading logs will be signed, and no one will stop to say, “I know how hard you’ve worked today.”
And that is okay—because all day long, I am focusing on the One who does see me. In the midst of the mundane, God meets me. He whispers promises to me over endless loads of laundry and I speak praise back to Him, reciting Psalms from wrinkled pages with soapy hands.
There is a holiness in this space of being unseen, except by God, and I am finding myself resting into learning Whose eyes matter.
September 26, 2017
It came right when I needed it most: this story of God’s unending faithfulness.
Katie Davis Majors has been a woman I have looked up to for spiritual guidance and a writer I have read voraciously for inspiration in my own writing journey for years. She first wrote to us in her debut novel, Kisses from Katie, about what she was learning about the relentless and redemptive love of God as she gave up The American Dream and moved across the ocean to Uganda to care for the orphan and the widow, giving up everything to follow Jesus. Five years after releasing that New York Times bestseller, Katie is back in print again with her new book, Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful.
This story still rings with truth and drips with grace but, with less naive optimism and greater faith, allows readers to ask the hard questions Katie found herself asking after unexpected tragedy struck her family: Is God really good? Does God really see me? Does He really love me?
In this incredible book, Katie weave the ancient stories of the Bible into her own. She is Jacob, wrestling with God over the loss of her daughter. She is Abraham as she learns of God’s generous provision, naming the hard places Moriah, meaning the Lord Will Provide. She discovers how God makes even our very little enough alongside Zarephath, and she identifies with Ezekiel, watching dry bones come to life both in her home and in her own heart.
Here is what God has taught me through Katie’s words: He is faithful to the end.
As I read story after story of miraculous physical healing from God, He healed something in me too. He healed something within me that had broken which I could not name. He healed me, pressing into the hurting places in my life as He whispered of His faithfulness.
Hebrews 10:23 became a salve to my broken heart: Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. I wrote it on a sticky note and taped it to my bathroom mirror as a reminder of who God is. I recite it throughout my day, a constant prayer of praise: You are faithful. You are always faithful.
This story spoke straight to my heart, and I know it will for you too. Words matter, stories matter; and if you are going to set aside time to learn from anyone, Katie should be at the top of your list. No matter who you are—a college student, a stay-at-home mom, a pastor—you will find a way to identify with Katie and her story.
I rejoice again in realizing that God provides the things that we didn’t know we needed in the first place. —Katie Davis Majors, Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful
September 15, 2017
August 30, 2017
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” —Matthew 22:36-40
August 2, 2017
For me, the Bible has always been more than words of guidance or a historical document. It has been a way which God has spoken to me; a place to run when I have been sad or worried or just plain weary from life.
The Church taught me that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. I learned from an early age that the Bible is always right, that it always has the answers to our questions – tied up with a neat little bow on top.
It was the final-say, the last-word, the end-all. What the Bible says goes, regardless of the interpretation being presented: women are to be submissive to men, homosexuality is just the devil trying to keep me from Heaven, children are to honor their parents regardless of the reason or methods being used to prove authority.
I couldn’t question the Bible because it was the truest display of who God is – and who can question God?
So, here I am, a lifetime of being force-fed what the Bible is and who God is, finally cautiously stepping out of the shadows to put my questions into words.
Despite being taught that the role of the Bible is to teach the rules of God, it has not been the place where God and I have done our most serious work. During the times in my life where I have been the most stubborn, the most unwilling to learn and to change was in a very real, very intimate and personal way. During the times the only way God was going to get me where I needed to be was by gently pushing me down the path, all the while me kicking and screaming, He did not ask me to read confusing passages. He did not ask me to sit in silence and know He is God while awaiting an answer. He did not make it ambiguous.
He showed up as a Friend in holy conversation.
You know that dream you’ve been cultivating since you were 8? It’s time to talk about that: Write a book.
“I don’t want to. I’m unqualified. I don’t have the time. People won’t read it anyway.”
Okay, then get ready for all of the pieces to start falling into place so much so that you cannot ignore Me.
“I’m so exhausted, God. Why am I so tired all of the time?”
Because I never called you to all of this. You kept saying yes to so much more.
“But I have to do all of this right now. I can rest later.”
No, you need this now and I’m plucking you up out of this situation. Here, rest.
“I feel so isolated and alone. God, why do I feel this way, even with all of these people in my life?”
You have been unanchored for so long. You have forgotten how to invest in people, how to cultivate relationships. You are always searching for the next thing – to move forward, to grow – and you never stay put long enough to put down roots. It’s time to learn the hard and holy work of staying put.
“Well, that’s because I don’t know where I want to settle down and stay for a long period of time.”
Well, you need to learn this, so here’s a family who loves you, a church who needs you, and a job who values you. Stay put.
I have heard God in these very real conversations reveal things to me not necessarily recorded in the Bible. He has shown me a better way forward than the ways the flawed human beings in the stories and who transcribed the stories that are preached to us. He has affirmed things in my heart and mind still up for debate (or off the table for debate altogether) in communities of people who always read the Bible literally.
I’m not ready to completely abandon literalism, and maybe I’ll never be.
But maybe it isn’t necessary either. Maybe the Bible isn’t the Word of God; maybe Jesus really is the Word that was there in the beginning with God. Maybe the last-say, the end-all is Jesus instead of a collection of Spirit-inspired (but not quite inerrant) ancient stories. Maybe the Bible is a lens through which we see God, but not the only way to find Him. Maybe we put God in a box when we limit Him to a Book.
And maybe tomorrow I’ll have a different answer – and that’s okay.
Sorting Time: This summer, I will be sorting through my own faith – keeping what I love, discarding what no longer serves me – as I journey from Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism into progressive Christianity.
July 26, 2017
God has been stretching me lately – pulling on loose threads of faulty theology and coaxing me into the ancient world of the sacraments. That one loose thread unraveled my entire theological viewpoint and I grabbed for the trees during the free-fall – anything to steady me. I have been learning how to light candles and pray the hours; returning to hymns of old to which I cannot remember the words. I have tried to be faithful in the new-to-me, ancient-to-the-world and it has been good.
But this morning I got up early after a restless, anxious night and I had no capacity for challenges. Some days, we just need to sit in the glory and grace of the Good News of Jesus.
I made my coffee a little stronger than usual and opened my Bible to the Gospels. I needed Jesus, God-in-flesh, down in the dirt with me this morning.
Something magical happens when we tell stories. Since the beginning of time, humanity has been doing this: telling the stories of our people to remember who we are. We learn about our history and our culture, about massive losses and huge victories. When we talk about how we have seen God move, we give hope to the others still waiting, hoping, praying for Jesus to show up.
That’s what happened for me this morning.
I read about Jesus calming the storm on the lake in Capernaum and the storm in my own mind subsided a little. I read about how the woman with the issue of blood was healed and my faith that my own heart-illness can be healed as well. I can hear the powerful words written in red being spoken over me: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
These words invite me to sink into Jesus.
It’s true: some days require challenging and stretching because we are called to be ever-growing, ever-evolving in response to an ever-steady Christ. But other days are created for rest and Jesus—The End.
Take the world, but give me Jesus. — Fanny Crosby, 1879
July 5, 2017
I have a tendency to get stuck.
Sometimes, when I’m overwhelmed, I become paralyzed. There are too many thoughts swirling in my brain and I just can’t not think about all of the things which are not perfect in my life. I drop a cereal bowl, it breaks, and suddenly I cannot stop thinking about how, after six years of full time school, I still haven’t managed to graduate college. I can’t find a shirt and I end up in a puddle of tears on the floor because my home isn’t clean enough.
I turn molehills into mountains. I let my thoughts control me. I catastrophize sometimes.
The past few weeks have been marked by tears, overreactions, and dreaming up debilitating disasters over mere speed-bumps. I spent too much time in my head. I drove everyone crazy and I exhausted myself.
Today, I went on a walk and soaked in the sunshine. I took my vitamins and drank the recommended amount of water. I turned my phone on silent. I listened to music and I filled the pages of my journal with fears and anxieties, thanksgiving and dreams. I used my essential oils. I drank another cup of coffee and I painted my toenails. I took some deep breaths and reoriented myself.
The disaster is still there: the stress, the fears, the anxiety. It hasn’t gone anywhere. But it’s all different now.
The disaster is still there, but so are the trees.
And so am I.
And this is where Grace lives.
July 3, 2017
Out of Sorts: a state of being in one’s heart or mind or body. Often used to describe one’s sense of self at a time when you feel like everything you once knew for sure has to be figured out all over again. — Sarah Bessey, in Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith
“I think it’s interesting what you have decided to hold onto from Fundamentalism,” she said. I looked down at my hands, folded in my lap, and then back up again as my gaze moved from her eyes to the television and back again.
Last week, we were watching a documentary called Jesus Camp. This film explores the childhood, practices, and theology of those raised Evangelical and Fundamental Christian. Most of the families were very extreme cases: homeschooled, children being harshly called to repentance of their sins, 10-year-olds witnessing to others through tracts at a bowling alley. My experiences weren’t quite so damaging, but also not dissimilar.
Truthfully, the theology was mine: Rooted in Humanity as evil, people are born already corrupted, in desperate need of salvation through Jesus’ death on the Cross. God wants to work in and through us so we better straighten up and listen, lest we want to be sent to Hell with the blood of the world on our hands. Magic is the work of the Devil; Harry Potter, leading children away from Jesus one chapter at a time. Over and over, it was displayed on the screen for me to see: the worst of the theology I grew up believing.
And yet it’s true: I still have one hand very tightly around Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism. I cannot seem to let them go.
I still sing contemporary Christian rock songs full of faulty (or at least questionable) theology when I’m alone in the car. I still set aside my “quiet time” to read the Bible and pray. I still long to go forward to the altar in the middle of church services. I still pray in tongues when I’m home alone. I still have very real conversations with God, which sometimes end in my giving the Creator an ultimatum or, at the very least, my begging Him for a sign. I still believe that God cares about my health and my finances and my writer’s block all with the same amount of love and tenderness and passion. I still believe that the God of Miracles was not lost in ancient times; that He is still redeeming souls and healing bodies even today.
I thought I would leave all of that behind when I walked out of that church, only to one day look down and realize I simply packed it all up in the suitcases I’m now toting around with me.
In one: The earth was created in a literal 24-hour, 6-day period of time and the earth is only 6,000 years old. There is a possibility that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time and micro-evolution is the only form of evolution that makes any sense with the creation story outlined in Genesis. There was a real flood that covered the earth, a real giant which young David slayed, and the rest of the stories actually happened as they are recorded in the Bible.
In another: Jesus was fully human and fully Divine and, born of the Virgin Mary and having never sinned, he nonviolently absorbed all of the evil and sin of this world, which was destroyed when he died and rose again after three days of darkness. God still speaks to us today in a very real and exciting way, He pours certain spiritual gifts out upon each of us for us to discover, and He calls us to bring the Good News to every corner of the earth.
These bags are weighing me down, finally forcing me to take notice of what I have been dragging around my whole life. I’m sure I will want to keep some of it, but I’m also certain that other things can be laid down with my faith still in tact.
It is sorting time.
I am caught between what-was and what-will-be. I feel like I’m wandering into the Wilderness. I keep finding glimpses of the familiar within the unknown, but I’m feeling wildly uncertain, uncomfortable, entirely out of sorts.
All I can think about is what I’m walking away from because I have no idea where I’m even going – and maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. I don’t want to start the journey because it is going to require some stretching, a little repentance, a lot of hard work. And yet, I know that I must.
Maybe this will be make me stronger, more certain, more Christian. I don’t know. Maybe one day I won’t get into a debate about how old the Earth is (because who can really trust carbon-dating?). Maybe one day I won’t cringe hearing God referred to with female pronouns and traditional liturgy won’t seem so stiff, forced, unholy. Maybe one day I will have more answers or maybe I just won’t need them anymore.
Or maybe I’ll still be here, sitting on my porch and listening to the birds chirp, still wondering why so many people don’t like atonement theology or why dinosaurs couldn’t coexist with humans.
Maybe I’ll just be asking questions my whole life.
June 22, 2017
God has been calling me into a new space these last few months. He is leading me somewhere I have never been, into a new way of living. Everything is brand new and scary, and some days it’s all I can do to put one foot in front of the other.
It all started because of Shauna Niequist. Her book, Present Over Perfect, is what began my demise to the bottom of the well. She gently nudged me over and over again, with each chapter, closer to the edge until a Holy Wind blew me right down into the uncertainty. What I’m learning now, the more time I spend down here, is that this is where Jesus is.
I fell headlong into the well of living water Jesus told the Samaritan woman about: this space is where the water which becomes in us a spring of water welling up to eternal life flows.
I have experienced an exorbitant amount of change this year: new state, new job, new church, new car, new role in my household. I signed with a literary agent in April. I became responsible for two tiny humans who suddenly rely on me most of the time most days. I am learning in which areas I will serve within this new church. It has all been exciting and exhilarating and so good.
And it has also all been done with a bit of fear and trembling. It has all happened among the terror of a barrage of “what-if” situations from me and even more grace from God.
Shauna Niequist writes about how activity – any activity – that keeps us from feeling becomes a drug. Not only is it alcohol and other drugs; it is also our careers, television, housework, music – even ministry. Even the things to which we are called, even good and true things, even that which makes us, well, us can become the very thing that destroys us.
I let my determination, my refusal to fail, my work ethic destroy my soul.
She goes on to say that the best thing we can offer to this world is not our force or energy, but a well-tended spirit, a wise a brave soul.
I believe that we are called to live like this: Intentional. Compassionate. Loved. Wholehearted.
I have been living the opposite: Rushed. Stressed. Anxious. Fearful.
I know that this is not what God has called me to and yet I continue running full-force down this path because, what if?
What if I miss something I was supposed to do?
What if I fail?
What if I cannot make this work like I should be able to?
What if I make a mistake?
What if I find myself in new, uncharted territory?
And all the while, God is whispering: What if you miss what I am calling you to because you’re too busy with everything everyone else has asked of you?
What if we miss the forest of God’s legacy for the trees of the world’s approval?
I sat on my porch last week, praying, reading my Bible, seeking God—hoping He would show up. I don’t know why I’m still not convinced: He always shows up, every single time. So I asked God what I’m called to, I begged Him to make clear to me to which corner He has commissioned me in His Kingdom on earth.
His answer was very clear and His answer is very hard. I know what He is asking of me and I would rather say no. I would rather do this my own way because I am stubborn and strong-willed, and I think I know what’s best for myself. But I have tried that before and it didn’t go well.
So I begin surrendering: Stress. Anxiety. Wasted time. Past mistakes. Shame.
In exchange for my unhealthy coping mechanisms, this is what I receive: Grace. Peace. A quiet mind and a settled heart. Jesus.
When we surrender ourselves, we receive Jesus, in all his glory.
It is hard and messy and confusing. Most days, I still want to plop down on the couch and binge Netflix with a glass of wine in hand because it is easier. But it is not better.
And each day, this space becomes a little more like home; the darkness becomes a bit lighter, the quiet seems a little less deafening.
I can hear the birds chirping and I can feel the wind through my hair and I can finally hear that still, small Voice within again—I haven’t heard Him in a long time.