The ABC’s of Building an Inclusive Church

I never considered church scary until I was no longer welcomed in with arms opened wide. I never thought church could be uncomfortable until I walked through the door after being asked to step down from my leadership roles when they found out I was dating a woman. I never imagined church could be anything other than a safe haven full of ridiculously fun games at youth group and fantastic (though perhaps theologically concerning) music.

My church was my home.

Some of my friends tried to tell me. They tried to explain the shame and fear and heartache they experienced in the same sacred building where I discovered restoration. But I couldn’t hear it. I didn’t want to hear that my experience was not everyone’s experience; that my favorite place in the world was someone else’s least favorite. I didn’t want to know that the place where I found God was capable of causing my friends to all but lose their faith–whatever type of faith they had.

Looking back now, I can see how much I hurt others by not listening to them, by insisting church could be good for them too if only they would keep trying. I never realized how painful and detrimental that can be for a person–until that person being broken apart and shaved down in order to fit into a pretty little box was me. Maybe it’s been you too.

Let me be clear: I don’t say this out of anger. I don’t hate the Church. I love the Church–despite our rocky past. I say these things because I still love the Church deeply and I know we can do better. I am not condemning; I am challenging. Challenging us all–the Body of Christ–to be more loving, more radically welcoming; to be more like Jesus.

This is not about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s not about watering down the Gospel or “cherry-picking” the parts of the Bible we like. This is about how to best represent the God-Man we claim to be following. It’s about how to become the true Body of Christ, the one God was envisioning at the beginning of time, the one not at all homogenous but which reflects the glorious Kingdom of God.

It is beyond time to start #MakingRoomOnThePew. Join me, won’t you?

Take me to the first letter! A: Ask Questions

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.

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!

Let’s follow the kids: 3 ways to enact real change

I’m sitting on my couch, staring out the window as I watch the melting snow drip from the tree branches. It’s like the trees are crying, I think. They’re weeping right alongside all of America.

It’s only been four days—how has it only been four days? Four days since 17 children lost their lives in a school shooting. Another school shooting. There have been 18 this year, and it’s only February.

And we have refused to take action on gun reform, so now our children are doing it for us. They’re organizing marches and appearing on national news circuits, showing up and speaking out for what is right. They’re calling out politicians and raising money for victim’s families, refusing to bow to fear. We could learn a thing or two (or one million) from them.

They inherently know what we are trying to forget: it’s all about connection.

Violence happens when meaningful connection is severed, and the kids are banning together while the rest of us are distancing from one another even further.

We are not the real leaders of America. They are.

So the world can keep it’s theories about why gun reform won’t work—but I’ll be following the kids.

Here are 3 ways to stand with the kids and enact real change:

1. Listen to the kids.

Follow them on social media. Watch their interviews. Pay attention because they have important things to teach us.

Start here:

“My generation won’t stand for this” by Cameron Kasky

“We call BS” by Emma Gonzalez

2. Call your legislators.

Demand action. Let them know you will not stand for apathy any longer. We cannot afford to continue doing what we’ve always done while expecting different results.

Find your Senate representatives here.

Find your House representatives here.

3. #MarchForOurLives

On March 24, the kids and families of March For Our Lives will take to the streets of Washington DC to demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end this epidemic of mass school shootings. The collective voices of the March For Our Lives movement will be heard. Join us in DC or march in your own community.

Are you angry? Upset? Frustrated? Scared? Good.

Do something about it.

My Top 5 Books of 2017

I love the end of the year! Or maybe it’s the beginning of the year I really enjoy. Either way, this time of year—as we say goodbye to one year and hello to the new—is one of my favorite times of the year.

One of the reasons it’s my favorite time of the year is because everyone begins posting their “Top 5 Books of the Year” lists. These lists fascinate me! Not only are they are great ways to find new books to read, but you can always get to know a person better by the books they love.

Here’s the books I’ve fallen in love with this year:

  • Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans — This was the exact book I needed this year as I moved from my huge, non-denominational Evangelical church into a small, progressive mainline Protestant congregation. Everything was so confusing and messy and I was convinced that I would never find a home outside of Evangelicalism. With these words, Rachel Held Evans ushered me into a bigger, better world of faith.
  • Glory Happening: Finding the Divine in Everyday Places by Kaitlin Curtice — This book is a game-changer. I prayed it over my house days before we moved in, blessing this new home with Kaitlin Curtice’s powerful words. If you’re looking for God, you’ll find the One you’re searching for in these pages. You’ll start looking and, before you know it, God will be everywhere: in your morning coffee, on the wind, within each and every person you meet.
  • Of Mess & Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life by Jen Hatmaker — I’m not sure I have awaited the release of any other book quite like I did this one. I don’t know about you, but I needed to be reminded how to live this life with joy. Let these words remind you that there is glory and delight even amidst the wild and messy. Don’t let it scare you: we are all full of moxie.
  • Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful by Katie Davis Majors — I had the incredible privilege of being on the launch team for this book, and it definitely did not disappoint! I laughed and cried through the entire thing, learning more about God and God’s character than I ever have from one single work. Is God really good? Does God really love us? If you’re finding yourself asking questions like these, this book is for you.
  • You are Free: Be Who You Already Are by Rebekah Lyons — I heard her say it on a podcast and I knew I needed to read the book: “Anxiety had become my fancy word for fear.” I’ve been looking back on 2017, reflecting and remembering, and the word that keeps coming to mind is fear. This year was so full of fear for me. If there’s anything I want to embrace in 2018, it is freedom. This book is honest, compelling, encouraging—pushing us all to be more fully who we were created to be.

What books have moved, changed, or challenged you this year?

 

 

 

When you need to remember how to dream

December 12, 2016

For someone who finds herself in an anxiety-induced frenzy during the changing of seasons of life, I absolutely adore the changing of the seasons of weather.

I love the thawing of the earth as Winter moves into Spring and new green life peeks through the mud when the rain finally stops pounding the dirt. I love Spring leaping into Summer with magnificent thunderstorms and steamy days spent sweating and smiling and running, determined to soak up every second of sunlight and every minute of the still lengthening days. I love Summer fading into Fall, falling back in time, remembering that sleep is important and watching golden wheat be run down to feed America.

Where I’m from, where people rise before the sun and work straight through lunch and dinner because crops don’t pay attention to the time of day, Harvest is a sacred season. 

There is something beautiful, holy almost, about mowing down still growing life to feed Human Life and it reminds me of a Savior who laid down His life for ours – and I find Love and Grace and Peace in the fields. 

But my favorite season change is Fall into Winter. 

Winter is a quiet season. It makes time and space for reflection and planning and just being. Snow falls thick on the ground and covers the earth like a protective blanket, encasing what creates Life in every other season for a Season of Rest. The dipping temperatures and the low-hanging clouds and the bare tree branches against pale gray skies invite us into a Season of Rest too.

Let the world keep its frantic shopping sprees and jokes about awful in-laws and stressful holidays. Let the world burn with envy if it insists, but give me Rest. 

When Winter blows into my corner of the world, I build a fort to keep me warm and quiet until Spring showers come knocking.

My fort is built of yarn and knitting needles, of twinkling lights and old Christmas records, of blue pens and crinkled paper inked with words that feel too personal to speak aloud, and of hot food cooked in a crock pot and peppermint coffee.

And every year, as I finish my fort and step back to examine my work, I’m reminded that forts are only helpful in the cold and bitter seasons when they are shared. 

So I tidy up a bit and I boldly write the words I want to share large on the walls of my fort. If you were to come visit, you would see them.

Across the door, it’s loud with joy: WELCOME.

Inside, it’s written daringly, scandalously: LOVE RESIDES HERE. PEACE ABOUNDS HERE. GRACE OVERFLOWS HERE.

And I would invite you in. I would wrap you in a hug and a quilt stitched with love from tiny scraps of fabric I found under my bed, like a mosaic of shards from a broken heart sewn into something new. I would stoke the fire and it would roar wildly to remind us that Life does not die in the Winter. 

I would let the tea kettle screech as I whisper the words you need to hear and then pour the hot water into colorful mugs and we would watch the steam curl into the air, like our dreams rising out of the dust.

“Tell me yours,” I would ask, searching your eyes with my own, as if I could use them to peer into your soul. You would whisper softly everything you long for in life and I would smile at your courage.

“Anything is possible,” I would say, daring you to believe.

We would begin speaking it into existence, splashing our dreams bright against the white walls, our voices growing louder and the words coming faster with excitement. We would get caught up in the magic of believing in what the world claims is impossible and suddenly we would look up and see the lives we dream of painted on our hands and engraved on our hearts. 

We would grow quiet again and marvel at the beauty of where we are and where we’re going.

“I can see it!” you would exclaim in surprise.

“So can I,” I would reply, a smile stretching across my face. “This is why Winter comes around every year. To remind us how to dream again.”

Five Truths We Need to Hear When We’re Depressed

I am honored to be over at Pursue Magazine today talking about the truths we need to hear when we’re in the depths of despair.


The Psalms are full of times where David pleaded with God to relieve him of the darkness which threatened to overtake him. He talks about his heart growing faint (Psalm 61:2) and about proverbial waters of despair nearly drowning him (Psalm 69:1). And if we are honest: we sometimes feel that way too.

It’s comforting to know we are not the first ones to experience intense fear and anxiety in the depths of despair.

For us, it may look like…

pervasive sadness we cannot seem to shake.

deep apathy for things we used to love and find joy in.

sleeping much more or less than usual.

intense feelings of guilt or shame.

eating much more or less than usual.

 an inability to get out of bed some days.

Whatever it may look like, there are five truths rooted in Scripture we can cling to in times we feel like we may not survive the week, the day, or even the moment.

Continue reading this article at Pursue Magazine here >>

Glory Happening (in my kitchen)

I got it in the mail the week before we moved from our tiny, cramped one-bedroom apartment into our new three-bedroom house: a book full of the exact words my soul was longing for.

glory trees

We were moving from the little apartment Sarah had agreed to rent without ever even having seen it as she had tried to coordinate a move across the country two years ago. That apartment had welcomed me when I moved from the state I had been born and raised in to a new place, full of promise and hope, joy and love–and also of fear and too much expectation. Those walls kept me safe as I navigated a new job, new friends, new culture of the northeast.

And now, suddenly, we were moving into the house we had been longing and hoping and waiting and praying for.

Days before we moved and settled into this new, seemingly-huge space, I sat on the cold hardwood floor in the empty dining room and prayed for our life in this house. Pulling my sweater close around me, I took from my bag the book I’d just received in the mail: Glory Happening by Kaitlin Curtice. Her words were like a balm to my fragile heart in this tumultuous season and I soaked in them.

At the end of each chapter, there is a poem-prayer and I recognized it as I continued to read: these were the prayers I wanted to bless this new house with.

I began in the kitchen, where I believe life is lived best and where I am drawn most often. “Lord, help me to nourish people well here,” I prayed. I stood at the sink, imagining the walls painted yellow, and begged God to remind me here that communion is not only given at the altar. My voice joined Kaitlin’s as I prayed her words: Jesus, It will take us our whole lives and all of eternity to understand how exactly you came to be the bread and the wine–and our hearts beat together, yearning to know God more.

I moved to the living room and smiled at the thought of all the traditions we will begin here–Rummy, maybe–the ones that will remind us that, though the world is dark, we can be human to and with each other in this sacred space.

I slowly meandered the hallways, asking God to show us how and where and when to find rest and truth and peace.

I knelt on the floor of what was to become my study, my little space in the house to think and pray and read and write, the room Sarah insisted I use to write that book I’ve been talking about, and nearly lost myself in the hugeness of this dream. “Free me from a life ruled by fear,” I cried to Jesus as I flipped back to the chapter called Laboring, the one about hiding in our fear, avoiding the uncomfortable, and read Kaitlin’s words aloud, claiming them for myself: Lean us into our pain, lean us into our strength, lean us into spirit and soul and life.

In the basement, I sunk to the cold cement floor and begged God to show Himself to me even here, among the peeling paint and dust: Gather yourself into the corners of our homes, into the spaces we inhabit every day.

Tears welled in my eyes and my soul marveled at the ways I have found myself and God in the words of another woman in another state with another life story whom I’ve never met. I found her on Twitter and now she ministers to me in my living room in the evenings. Her words remind me that we belong to each other, all of us together, and I find Jesus in that realization. I want to tell her what she wanted to tell the people who ushered God’s presence through the written word into her own life: God speaks through books filled with prayers.

God is so good and His glory is everywhere–if only we can learn how to recognize it.


Glory Happening is out today! Find Kaitlin Curtice‘s first book here. (Trust me, you want it.)

Glory Happening