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Resisting the Urge to Complain

Resisting the Urge to Complain

It’s contagious, isn’t it? The need to complain about every single obstacle in our path, every single setback in our life; to lament every single time something doesn’t go the way we had hoped or planned.

I have discovered this truth again and again, even in my own life: Misery loves company. And if we are not careful, we will find ourselves swept up in the momentum, finding fault with everything and our hearts thankful for nothing.

I am no exception. (I suspect you aren’t either.)

I never meant to be miserable, thereby negatively affecting every other person with whom I came into contact. I never wanted to be that person everyone else tried to avoid because I didn’t have anything good to say. I never meant to become the very Thing I used to despise. But the world is loud and life moves quickly, and all of a sudden, I looked up and realized it had happened: I let the world rob me of my joy in Jesus.

It devastated me, and I knew something had to change as soon as possible. I didn’t know what; I only knew that did not want to live my one and only life without joy.

I began taking intentional steps out of misery toward joy, and it totally turned around my attitude (and my life!) .

Here are five practical steps I took in search of a more joy-filled life:

Continue reading this article over at Pursue Magazine here >>

Practice Self Care & Call It Good

Practice Self Care & Call It Good

I’m not great at practicing self care.

I think that’s why I keep writing about it: to encourage and inspire us all to prioritize what our minds, bodies, and souls need to be healthy. I write about mental health and self care for you and myself. Mostly myself.

If I’m being honest, I don’t practice self care as much or as well as I should because I don’t believe I’m worth it. Not really, not where it counts. I believe that I’m the one who can handle it all. I can endure anything. I’m the one to absorb everyone else’s struggle and conflict and pain because I care deeply about others. But sometimes I find myself so concerned with the well-being of others that I forget about myself. And sometimes I’m so focused on myself that I completely neglect my relationships. Neither is healthy and both are so much more likely to happen when I’m not practicing self care regularly.

I know it’s vital to my well-being, but it’s the first thing to go during a busy week. I can survive anything, I repeat to myself during long work days and frantic grocery store trips and while I’m pretending that the yogurt I tossed into my bag on the way out the door is a sensible lunch. Friends, we weren’t created to simply survive this life. We were created to thrive.

I’ve been learning this lesson over and over again this past year: self care is good and healthy and necessary. I so desperately want you to know this. I want to tell you these things so that you don’t have to learn it the hard way like I did. I want you to be free of the lies so that you can fall headlong into the way of Jesus. Really, that’s what this is all about.

These are the things I’m longing for you to understand:

  1. Self care is not selfish.
  2. Self-denial only leads to death.
  3. Self care is from God.
  4. Self care is a spiritual practice.

So I’m sharing these things over on Our Bible App this week. If you haven’t heard of them, Our Bible is bringing church to your phone and Jesus to your side by way of short, thought-provoking daily devotionals. With categories of devotionals called “Who Was Jesus Tho?” to “I’ve Got My Doubts” to “Mental Health & Spirituality” (my personal favorite!), Our Bible App has something for everyone–and no one’s ever out. We’re all in. After all, it’s just that: our Bible. 

It’s real and raw and meaningful, and the writers featured over there have been breathing life into these tired bones lately. Follow them on Instagram @ourbibleapp and Twitter @ourbibleapp, and download the app on the App Store.

Pull up a chair and join me this week as we talk about self care and what it means for us as Christians. Come on, we’re practicing self care and calling it good.

For There Is No Other Way Forward

7:30 Saturday morning and here I am, with a steaming mug of strong coffee and the Book of John.

I’ll be the first to admit it: it’s still hard to sit here, quiet with the stories spelled out on the thin pages of this ancient book.

It’s hard because I used to believe different things than I do now; scary things, unhealthy things. I used to believe that God was a fiery, angry Eye-In-The-Sky, that I needed to perform for God’s affection and acceptance, that doing more for God made God love me more.

I used to believe that who I am is inherently wrong and evil and an abomination in the eyes of God. I used to believe that I was beyond repair; that I had lost my salvation at 16 years old by being honest.

I believed a whole host of things about the Bible. It was a rule book and if I didn’t do everything it asked of me in the way it prescribed, God would turn me away at the end of time, saying, “I never knew you.” And if I did any of the things it warned me not to, I would surely be damned to the pit of hell, separated from God and all of life for eternity. The Bible always had the final say and there was grace, but only for certain sins. Mine was beyond grace, they said. Becoming something other than myself was the only means of salvation.

I’m not sure what kind of God they were speaking of because my God brings more wholeness, more authenticity; not less.

Looking back now, I’m not surprised I developed an anxiety disorder. It’s no wonder that I have panic attacks with symptoms which mimic heart attacks or that I end up on an emergency trip to the doctor’s office, convinced my airway is closing when it’s really noting more than an inflamed throat from an allergy-induced post-nasal drip. It’s no surprise that I’m terrified of dying for fear of what kind of eternity will be waiting for me on the other side.

Looking back now, thinking through all those things I was told growing up queer in conservative, Midwestern Evangelicalism–it’s no wonder.

I don’t believe those things anymore, but they still have a hold on me. The fear is still there and very real, even crippling at times. I feel very progressive and evolved, deconstructing and discarding that old religion to grasp onto a new, grace-filled faith–but that old fear just won’t loosen it’s grip on my mind and heart.

So now this is a daily spiritual practice: spending time with Jesus. It’s bringing me into a whole new level of faith, a whole new relationship with God, asking God to help me call out the old, fear-based beliefs and replace them with new, Jesus-centered ones. I’m slowly learning that I don’t need to be afraid because love is all around and grace abounds for us all. Even me. Even you.

If you had asked me ten years ago why I do “Quiet Time”, why I read my Bible and pray, why I make Jesus a priority, I would have told you I did it because it’s what God asks of us. It’s what the Church demands of us. It’s just something we are supposed to do, I would have said.

Today, I do these things because there is no other way forward. There is no new day without Jesus, without listening to who he says I am. Because if I’m not listening to the God-breathed truths about who I am, I’m listening to the world’s lies. And that only leads to Death and the old way of life. It only leads away from the freedom we are promised in Jesus.

So here I am, reading my favorite stories about God-with-skin-pulled-on, reminding myself what he says about me and listening for those whispers of truth: You are loved. You are worthy. You are enough.

Yeah, I decided a long time ago I wasn’t believing those lies I was told in church anymore. Sure, the church may be the house of God, but it’s still made up of imperfect people. So instead, I’ll be over here, putting all my trust in the Word of God, the One in whom there is Life, the Light of the World.

After all, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ, and I see no other way forward.

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. –John 1:17

 

5 Ways God’s Creation Can Connect Us Back to Him

God's creation connects us

“Nature is but a name for an effect, whose cause is God.” -William Cowper

I grew up on my family’s farm in rural Ohio, spending more time outdoors than indoors most days. I knew the land so well I could find my way around the hundreds of acres my family farmed even in the dark of midnight. My childhood was spent building forts out of saplings, swimming in the pond, and digging my toes into the warm, silky soil during Planting Season. I watched sunrises and sunsets and talked about how so very good God must be to create a world as beautiful as this.

It was as if the earth of Psalm 96 was coming alive right before my eyes:

. . . let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the LORD . . . [Psalm 96:12-13b, NIV]

I somehow instinctively knew it: God’s creation makes us happier.

Continue reading this article at Pursue Magazine here >>

 

When I’d rather be in bed instead of church

I woke up that cold and rainy Sunday morning and I knew it right away: the last thing in the world I wanted to do was go to church.

We had moved to a new town the day before and I just wanted to stay in bed. We were supposed to have an extra-long choir practice in preparation for Christmas and all I could think about was taking a long bath.

I closed my eyes and thought of what I could do instead: Sleep in. Watch television. Eat breakfast in bed. Stay in my pajamas all day long. I even thought about faking sick to be able to do just that.

Instead,  I got up and put on a dress. I did my makeup and squeezed my feet into heels and showed up on time for choir rehearsal. I did everything I was supposed to because I thought I had to.

Halfway through the service, I realized that, surprisingly, I was so thankful I did not skip church that morning. Going to church is similar to going to the gym: there are many mornings I do not want to go to church, but once I’m there, I never regret it.

Once I’m there, surrounded by the Body of Christ, I forget why I was so hesitant to show up in the first place. When the music begins playing, I smile and I’m thankful to be in the pew, and by the time the Eucharist is passed, I’m praising God that I get to be in communion with God and the whole wide, diverse family of Christ.

I am slowly (but surely!) learning it: it is okay to be uncertain and uncomfortable and even a little bit skeptical of the Church. It is an institution created by people and it is inherently flawed. But God is redeeming all things–even the ones we cherish, even the ones we swear are not broken. God has a better plan, a better way, and the Spirit is breaking through, whether we are ready or not.

Who decides what a significant life is anyway?

All I wanted was a donut.

On a rainy Saturday morning, Sarah was attending an association conference for the United Church of Christ and I decided to tag along, thinking that we could spend some extra time together (hello, Pastor’s Wife life) and then go out to lunch afterwards. We ran the block from the car to the church’s front door, shaking off the cold rain as we stepped inside. After signing in, we wandered deeper within the church as Sarah stopped every few feet to hug someone, always asking, “How are you?” (and she actually meant it every single time).

We finally made it to the table filled with coffee and donuts and my eyes lit up. (Early Saturday mornings are obviously not my idea of The Best Weekend Ever.) As I reached across the table for a sugar-encrusted donut, a man appeared next to me. He introduced himself and I recognized his name from stories Sarah had told me about him. I shook his hand, greeting him warmly. We made small talk as we stirred cream into our coffee and then came the question I always dread most when meeting new people: “So, Bailey, what do you do?”

I paused, chuckling, because I never know how to answer this question. Which part of myself did I want to highlight this time? The Bailey who works in a third-grade classroom with kids who have behavioral concerns? The Bailey who still doesn’t know what she wants to major in at 25 years old? Or the Bailey who is in the midst of hustling for her dream, working full-time while writing two books?

But this time, I didn’t even get a chance to choose.

Interrupting me as I began drawing out the first word of my sentence (“well…”), he chose the narrative of my own life for me.

“It’s okay if you aren’t doing anything of significance.”

It took me by such surprise, I barely responded. I was astonished by the level of assumption and the condescending attitude.

As the conference began, I found my way to my seat, still seething. The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. Sometimes, it feels like all of my whole life is being narrated by someone else. And I’m over it. SO.OVER.IT.

Friends, we are all significant, and I need this space to tell you this:

The single mom working three jobs to feed her children is doing significant things.

The elderly grandfather who watches his grandchildren every day while his daughter goes to work is doing significant things.

The 22-year-old college graduate who is finally leaning into the call of God on her life as she moves into an apartment down the street from a seminary is doing significant things.

The young father taking time off from work as he brings home his newly adopted son is doing significant things.

The aspiring writer who is fitting her dream into the margins of an already too-busy life is doing significant things.

The nurse working 13-hour shifts and literally saving people’s lives is doing significant things.

The stay-at-home mom whose work is never done is doing significant things.

Significant is a relative term, and no one can tell us whether what we do is significant or not. We are all doing huge, life-changing, significant things. And don’t you forget it.

What huge, significant things are you doing these days?

Drop me a comment below!

Holy Saturday: The Waiting Period

Holy Saturday: The Waiting Period

This morning, the church sanctuary was filled with a chorus of Halleluiah!’s as the choir rehearsed for tomorrow’s Easter worship. Joy was nearly tangible, as violins soared through scales alongside bold trumpet blares. Children’s squeals of delight rang through the air, floating in from outside where they were hunting brightly colored Easter eggs stuffed with sweet treats.

This is it, I thought. This is what church is: Jesus manifested in joy and life and love.

But then I looked out across the pews and remembered–not yet. It’s still only the day after Good Friday. Heavy black cloth still hangs over the windows, blocking out the array of rainbow-colored sunlight that should be scattered across the crimson carpet. Jesus is still laying lifeless in the tomb. The world is still dark and quiet, grieving a separation from God.

We are still in the In-Between, in the Not Yet. We are still in the Waiting Period.

I found myself asking it then, as I sang Handel’s Halleluiah: What does it mean to live on Holy Saturday? There are no sermons given today, no pastor is standing up to explain to us what we do here in the waiting. Instead, we go on Easter egg hunts and have dinner with those we love. We don’t know what to do with this extra day, so we just start the Resurrection joy early.

And it feels good, but it separates us from those first-century followers of Jesus who did not have the understanding of this day that we do. We rehearse with trumpets and take pictures of our kids with the Easter Bunny, but they were in agonizing pain.

Having just seen the worst thing they could think of happen right before their eyes, some of them even participating in it–the betraying kiss, the three denials–I imagine joy was far from their emotional vocabulary. I can see them, huddled around a small table in one of the Twelve’s home, tears blurring their vision. I can hear them, asking it softly: “What do we do now?”

The worst has happened and they don’t know what is coming. It feels like the whole world is holding it’s breath, feeling the weight of Jesus’ death all around.

And we, too, know this feeling all too well. The breathlessness when a loved one draws their last, the white-hot anger of a community when the police shoots an unarmed black man in the back 10 times, the confusion when a woman is told to shut up and sit down (in nicer words, of course) because 2,000 years ago Paul said she was unfit for leadership.

Oh, yes, we know it. The fear of the LGBTQ+ community of being beaten to death in the name of Jesus if they walk into the wrong church, the fury in the remembering of indigenous people’s land stolen by the Colonizers, the injustice of an innocent person executed at the hands of the State.

We each have our own story of how this darkness has crept into our lives, don’t we?

Just like the disciples, we can’t see past our suffering yet. It’s only on Sunday that Friday makes sense, and it will only be someday that today makes sense.

Maybe we forget this dark, grief-filled day so easily because it feels just like every other day. Perhaps we have gotten so used to the pain that our tolerance has risen. Maybe we don’t need one day each year designated to sit in this nearly unbearable pain because we feel it every single day, whether we want to or not: fear, death, the worst of humanity on display.

If we are honest, most of our lives are Holy Saturdays. Most of it is lived here in the in-between, waiting with baited breath to see if Good will win out over Evil. This day is for Jesus, and for all of us. This day honors our suffering, whatever that may look like, gently reminding us that we are bound together through pain just as much as joy.

When I look at it that way, I don’t want to rush through today quite as badly. I’m okay to sit in the quiet darkness–just waiting upon Jesus. Each of us stands in our own form of the gap of darkness that bridges old life to new. We stand, exhausted but hopeful, waiting with outstretched arms raised to the heavens–crying out for our Savior.

And today, that is enough.