How we have white-washed Jesus & destroyed the Gospel

August 30, 2017

I woke up this morning still exhausted. It feels like no matter how much sleep I get, I’m never fully rested. How could we be, with our world where it is now?
The world is so broken and the weight of our shared, strained humanity feels crushing. People are literally dying over fear, over romanticized history, over a majority who refuses to relinquish power. We send money and food and resources to Africa, but perpetuate the myth that those who need help here at home just don’t work hard enough.
We love who we choose instead of who Jesus chose. 
We forget that we are not any better than anyone else. We are not worthy of Jesus either—none of us are.
I spill my coffee all over the kitchen floor and all I can think about is Jesus’ heart and blood and love poured out for us. I could weep now, just thinking about it.
What love that must be—for Emmanuel, God With Us, to come down through the holiness of a woman in the lowliest of places. Even from the very beginning, with a birth in a cave-barn, Jesus began building this upside-down Kingdom he could never stop talking about. A Kingdom where the last will be the first and the peacemakers are called children of God. 
I sip my coffee and trace the words of my tattered Bible with my fingers: The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” What great faith – to be able to recognize Jesus in the mundane moments of life.
Would I have called him Lord?
I pray that God would give me eyes to see Him, and my heart breaks over all of the times we have missed Him at work among us because we expect a King dressed in purple on a throne instead of a rather ordinary carpenter with calloused hands. Sometimes I wonder where we went wrong, but then I remember that we have replaced the gentle, dark-skinned Jesus of Nazareth with a white, blue-eyed Jesus of America.
We have white-washed Jesus and destroyed the Gospel. 
I think maybe the only way to revive the Gospel now is to rediscover the Jesus we read about in the Bible. The Jesus who eats with tax collectors and sinners, who forgives adulterers and speaks to women he shouldn’t, and who stands in the gap between humanity and the Divine.
If I am going to give my life to anything, it will be that. I do not want to follow the rich, white Establishment; I want to serve, knees in the dirt, alongside my Palestinian Savior.
We can no longer afford to continue to seek Jesus in the places we wish he was instead in of the places he promised to be. Instead of in a safe suburban neighborhood behind a white picket fence and locked doors, we find him eating government processed cheese in the homeless shelter downtown. Instead of serving the saved and privileged in a megachurch, we find him outside of the Church with the rest of the cast-outs; the ones who do not look right, act right, vote right, love right. Instead of with power in office, we find him at the rallies in the streets.
The very places the first-century Establishment criticized Jesus for being are the same places we go to find him today, and our own Establishment mirrors the old, favoring legalism and power over Jesus and love. The things being said about those of us standing in the gap between the powerful and the oppressed are the same charges brought against Jesus, and I cannot help but wonder what Bible the Establishment is reading.
Back in the thin pages, I find a mandate: When the two disciples heard him [John] say this, they followed Jesus. One sentence and they are ready. One proclamation of the Lamb of God and they are sold on following this weird Rabbi wherever he may lead them. Oh, to have faith so great – and I hear the Voice stirring within my heart: “Come. Follow Me.”
And so we pick up our signs of Love and walk into the crowds of the protest to protect our family who needs DACA to stay in effect. We grab our tools and head down to Texas to help entire cities rebuild in the midst of intense grief. We finish decorating our classrooms and get ready for a brand new group of students who need, not only education, but grace and compassion. We write tweets and pen books because we know that words and ideas have the power to change the world.
They scoff at us and ask who gives us the authority to speak and we just smile: “Jesus,” we reply and they are not convinced, but we do not need them to be.
“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

Sorting Time: Is the Bible the Inerrant Word of God?

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. 

Give Me Jesus

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

Grace in the Trees

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. 

Sorting Time

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. 

Surrendering into New 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. 

On Limiting God

June 12, 2017

I have a bad habit of limiting God.

Humanity tends to do that. Rational people typically like to learn and reason until we think we have a handle on the Thing we’re struggling with, until we smash it into a too-small box and tire a bow around it, finally satisfied – but then it inevitably pops open, unable to be contained in such a tiny space, within such a fragile container.

I have called out other people and their theology, their Christology, their beliefs about our Creator and who God is and how we came to be. I knew other people limited God, but I thought I was different, I thought I was doing well.

After all, my God parted the Red Sea and rained manna down in the desert, He healed the blind and the sick, He turned water into wine – my God is the God of Miracles and nothing can contain Him.  

Yet, all along, there it was: me trying to wrangle God into what I thought He was, the plank in my own eye that I was ignoring while worrying about the splinter in everyone else’s. I couldn’t see it until I took a step back from the faith tradition in which I grew up. 

When I stopped going to my evangelical church, I ended up at a progressive United Church of Christ, sitting under high ceilings and stained glass windows, singing hymns of old I couldn’t remember the words to – but my heart remembered the melodies. I sat and I hummed and I waited for God to show up. 

I’m sure He did before I saw Him, but I didn’t recognize it. I was too busy criticizing because this is not where I thought God could move.

It’s a funny thing, wholeheartedly believing and expecting God to show up in one place, among a certain group of people, while being skeptical that He would show up in another way in another place, among another group of people. And why? Because the music is different? Because the pastor wears robes?

We are creations of God, but products of our environment. 

I am evangelical; progressive, perhaps, but I will go to my grave claiming that sect of Christianity as my own. I love literalism. I love reading the Bible, especially the Old Testament, and imagining the stories playing out exactly as the ancient writers describe: The Spirit hovering over the dark primordial waters, creating light and plants and animals and us from nothing. The plagues brought against the Egyptians to make a way out of slavery for the Israelites. David defeating a giant with just a rock and a slingshot.

I love these stories and the first time I heard literalism seriously criticized was by Rachel Held Evans in a podcast and I almost shut it off because I felt my skin begin to crawl. But as I listened more intently, I realized she wasn’t trying to disprove me or disrespect the Bible – she was simply offering another way to find the same Truth. 

I believe God still performs miracles today, but I sometimes get a little uncomfortable with questions about God’s goodness. Somehow, I inherently know that God is big enough to do the impossible, but I still worry that He is fragile enough to break under our questions. 

I grew up with a male God and my hair still bristles a little when I hear God referred to as female.

I come from worship bands with contemporary music and a centrality around Jesus’ death on the Cross for our sins; from pickup dodge-ball games after Sunday service and an indoor skate park built in a barn behind the church. 

In this new church, the pastor is a woman and wears robes, we use gender-inclusive language and sing traditional hymns with the choir, baptism is a sprinkling of holy water and communion is given saying, “The cup of salvation given for you.”

For weeks, I sat in that sanctuary and waited for God, praying that He would show up, all the while skeptical and guarded, using the entire service to build up my case against progressive Christianity, to spew it all out in a rant of how I didn’t feel that my theology was included there. 

And then, all at once, God showed up in all His glory. There’s nothing like a baptism to remind us of who God is and who we are. 

Suddenly, God was everywhere. He was in the organ music bouncing off the walls, in the Cross at the front of the church, in the light streaming in from the high stained-glass windows. I saw Him in the smiles of the people I thought were too different to be friends, in the eyes of the pastor, in the laughter of the children, in the bulletin: a kid who was getting confirmed that Sunday drew the picture of the Spirit in dove-form that’s on the front. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Jesus always shows up. Even if it’s not in the way we expect him to.

If there’s anything I’m learning, it’s that we don’t have any answers. We have faith and questions and wonder and it’s all so good. God is so good. 

So here I am, lost in my questions, still begging God to be big enough to handle them. I am growing used to pastors in stoles and organ music and singing the Doxology every Sunday. I am learning to find rest in the predictability of a more traditional service, of knowing when to stand and when to sit and exactly when all the voices will mix together, boldly praying The Lord’s Prayer.

I’ll admit it: I’m not a progressive yet – but I’ll let the argument pass me by if you question a literal six-day global creation. 

7 Gratitudes: Giving Thanks in the In-between Spaces

May 19, 2017

We hold the key to lasting happiness in our own hands. For it is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.

— David Steindi-Rast, in Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer

I’ve felt a bit spiritually lost lately.

I recently left my evangelical church for a progressive one in the United Church of Christ, and everything seemed to tilt a little.

Suddenly, there were no more praise bands or the raising of hands during bass-heavy songs; no more loud cheering or live-feed video of the preacher on large projector screens.

I looked up and realized I was in a real-life, actual church built from dark stone and rich wood, light streaming in through the high stained-glass windows. The pastor preaches from a pulpit and wears white robes with a bright red stole, simple organ music bounces around the sanctuary and it is beautiful. 

And I still feel wildly out-of-place. 

These in-between places are breath-taking and scary and exhilarating all at once. Every time I find myself here, yet again, suspended between what has been for so long and what will be soon, I begin reaching for anything to steady me. I want to lean into the free-fall, the zip-line ride from one platform to the next, but I instinctively reach for the trees, for tried and true, for the familiar. 

Joy is hard in the uncertain spaces. Yet I’m craving it and, if joy truly comes from gratitude, I will give thanks in everything.

Today, I say thank you for: 


I feel God most strongly, most steadily when I’m in God’s creation. When I’m wandering through the woods, stretched out on the cool grass, and floating in the water – I can feel God. The Spirit whispers to my heart through the wind in my hair and Jesus comes alive for me in the trees. Sometimes, a fallen tree becomes my alter and the sky becomes my cathedral. 

My literary agent. 

I’ve been working through the first round of edits on my book proposal AND IT’S SO HARD. My agent, Adria, is pushing me and challenging me and midwifing me through the painful birthing of the best work I have to offer. Bottom line: she’s awesome. I’m not sure how editing can simultaneously my least favorite and most favorite part of the process, but it is. (Also, I would like to speak with whoever forgot to tell me that “being a writer” really means spending only 20% of my time writing and 80% of my time researching, editing, and platform-building.) 

The Prince of Peace.

This has always been one of my favorite names for Jesus. After my first few Sundays in this new church, I realized that I wasn’t looking for a better way of doing church; I was looking for a new way of finding Jesus. All I want is Jesus – the One who said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you … Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” 

Peace: the thing we’re all searching for, every day, with every breath. It’s my favorite word (after joy, of course). Peace is quiet, steady, gracious. It gives me security and safety. Assured peace guides me through my days; softening my tongue, giving me the freedom to laugh, roll down the windows, dance in the kitchen just because. It’s one of the greatest gifts in life, and all I can say is thank you. 

Sunshine & blue skies.

Need I say more? It’s finally warming up in my spot on the map, and I can almost taste summer.

People who courageously, gently ask the hard questions. 

In my quest for the end of this in-between space, I found myself asking questions I’ve had for years but was too afraid to ask: Is God really male? Why do we take communion? Is the Prayer of Salvation really necessary to go to heaven? Is it okay to wonder if hell is even real? Does the Bible actually mean THAT? Who translated the Bible anyway? Sarah Bessey, through her book, Out of Sorts, is slowly teaching me that questions are good and God is great. God can handle even our hardest, scariest questions; God is big enough for us all. 

Real-life, stone-and-wood churches. 

I started my church-life in a tiny, one-room Lutheran church sandwiched in on all sides by the fields my family has farmed for generations. In third grade, my parents started taking us to another small church a few miles away and we became United Methodists; here, I learned Old Testament Bible stories and found my own way to Jesus, separate from my parents’ faith. In middle school, we merged with another church in town and built a new, modern church, where we worshiped in chairs set up like pews on a basketball court. In college, I found my way to a non-denominational church which met in a movie theater right off campus with loud music, light shows, and all the passion I was searching for.

By the time I ended up in an United Church of Christ church, it had been over a decade since I had attended church in what I call a “real-life church”. Church is about people and Jesus, I know, not the building – but there is something surprisingly humbling and sweet about walking in large doors and what I can only describe as “the smell of church”, lingering from previous generations. I think I’m finding my way back to Jesus there. 


This is part of a link-up with Leanna over at for the birds. We’re giving thanks every Friday in 2017 because gratitude gives birth to joy. 

In the Quiet

April 20, 2017

I have always loved the quiet.

I suppose that’s partly my natural preference and partly because I was raised on a farm on the outskirts of Small Town, Ohio. My family values life lived well and slow; we take our time and breathe deep on rainy days because the earth smells like worms.

My mom has always been very particular about her quiet time with God. In the summer, those hours are spent stretched out on a quilt in the backyard, soaking up the words of Jesus and the sunshine from the ball of fire God suspended in the sky for our livelihood and our joy. In the winter, she curls up on the couch with a blanket and a mug of hot tea in front of the wood-burning stove in the living room, seeking refuge in the Lord and the warmth of the fire. In the seasons in between, she wanders outside for a walk in the woods while listening to a sermon on her phone or she settles in on the wooden swing under the cherry trees, Bible and journal in hand. She cherishes her quiet time because she knows that’s how she builds her relationship with Jesus and where she hears God best. 

I think everyone has those quiet spaces, the ones that feel sacred and holy.

My dad’s quiet is found in the barn as he takes apart a truck, a motorcycle, a tractor – and rebuilds it, piece by piece. I used to wonder why he never wanted to turn on the radio while he worked, but now I get it.

My grandma is a fan of long walks through the farmland on which she has lived her entire life; through the fields in which her father and her husband and her son and now her grandson have labored for her livelihood, each generation gently, slowly pouring into the next. Farmers are experts at passing down their knowledge. 

My favorite quiet spaces have always been outside.

I have sat for hours perched in a pine tree in the backyard, balancing high off the ground, creating entire worlds in my mind and my notebook. I have walked along a bubbling creek as I poured out my heart to God. I have read my Bible and asked hard questions beside the pond, watching the wind ripple the water, begging God to move in me. I have spent hours in the horse barn, brushing dark coats in circular motion or untangling manes and tails, mucking stalls and just sitting in the dim quiet as I talked to Jesus. 

I used to call my hometown sleepy, but maybe a better word is quiet. There are quiet streets and quiet fields of corn swaying in the wind; a quiet post office and an even quieter library. 

Sometimes, in the quiet is where we find the truth our hearts are longing for. 

I think Jesus was a fan of quiet.

We read miraculous stories of Jesus’ ministry and it’s easy to hear exclamation points where he may have used a softer tone. 

I used to have this image in my mind of Jesus in front of crowds, shouting Truth and Love like a Southern preacher at a tent revival. Certainly, there were times this would be an accurate portrayal. I’m sure there were times Jesus got a little too excited and shouted a bit.

But Jesus also whispered about Love and Life greater than we can imagine in smaller, more intimate spaces – even from the very beginning. 

God chose to make himself lower and came to us in a burst of water from the holy space of a scared young woman who said yes to Him. In a cave-barn, among the animals, Jesus made his debut – a quiet hello to a world he didn’t have to know in this way; a quiet yes to a world he didn’t have to save.

Jesus taught Nicodemus in the middle of the night as he explained what it means to be born again, to be baptized in both the water and the Spirit. The Son came to give those who believe eternal life, Jesus told him.

In the middle of Samaria, Jesus spoke with a woman at the well, giving her hope and telling her about the water from him that becomes in us a spring welling up to eternal life.

The day after the disciples saw Jesus walk on water in the storm, they found him on the other side of the body of water where he told them about the bread of life. In me, you will never go hungry and you will never be thirsty, he explained to them. There is everlasting life for those who believe.

Just before the Passover feast, Jesus gathered the disciples and began telling story after story, revealing to them truth after truth. I have to go now, he said, but I’m making a way for you to come with me later. Do not be afraid, I’m leaving my peace with you. Love each other. I have overcome the world, Jesus said, have peace. 

And then Jesus died for three days.

But even when he rose again, even during the event that would change the world forever and would save all who were in the world, he did it quietly. 

Early in the morning, he appeared to Mary, speaking only a few words and sending her on a mission. That evening, Jesus found the disciples in a room, the doors locked in fear of the Jews, and showed them the nail scars in his hands: “Peace be with you!” 

A lot of my favorite stories of Jesus happen in the quiet, in the unexpected places. It’s where we listen best. 

Quiet is holy and sacred. Quiet is often where the Truth lies. 

On Good Friday

April 14, 2017

It was the darkest day in all of history. 

The God-Man who had been dwelling on Earth for a little over 30 years was no more. His heart-wrenching question still rang through the minds of those who had been there, at the foot of the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

They could still smell the vinegar which had been offered to the Prince of Peace on a sponge at the end of a stick raised up to his lips.

The Bible tells us that Jesus gave up his spirit then and the curtain of the temple tore in two from top to bottom. Matthew wrote that the earth shook and the rocks split open.

Surely, people had started realizing this was different than any other crucifixion at this point. Certainly they had felt the overwhelming darkness that flooded the earth as God died for a while.

The Gospels tell us that, when Jesus drew his last breath, the centurion and the others guarding him cried in terror, “Surely he was the Son of God!” 

The women stood in the distance. Exhausted from following Jesus to care for his needs on the way to his execution, I’m sure they wept, buried deep in grief.

Still caught up in their love for God-on-earth, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary followed Joseph, one of Jesus’ disciples, and watched as he wrapped the limp body of their beloved in clean linen and carefully placed it in the new tomb Joseph had cut out of the rock, just for this purpose. He rolled a large stone across the opening of the cave and left.

The women stayed, sitting on the ground there, just to be near Jesus a little while longer – even if it was only his earthly body leftover. 

I’m sure the darkness felt like drowning in the sea.

I can only imagine the suffocation of the realization that all hope was lost. I can hear the women and the disciples whispering through tears, “What do we do now?”

Jesus told them he would rise again, but did they understand him? Did they lay in bed, head spinning and heart racing, trying to remember the last words Jesus had spoken to them? Did they fully understand what was coming in just a few days?

I’m sure they were confused and scared and their hearts had been broken open. 

All they could do was wait. 

Today, we do the same. Each of us stand 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. 

When the darkness is too deep to wade through…

When the hopelessness feels like a rope snaking around our necks…

When we are certain there is no future for us…

We wait upon the Lord.

Resurrection is coming.