Take chances. Abandon all the rules. Ditch the recipe. Color outside the lines.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hipster Jesus

“The religious leaders of the day had written the script for the Messiah. When Jesus announced he was the Messiah, the Pharisees and others screamed at him, "There is no Jesus in the Messiah script. Messiahs do not hang out with losers. Our Messiah does not break all the rules, Our Messiah does not question our leadership or threaten our religion or act so irresponsibly. Our Messiah does not disregard his reputation, befriend riffraff, or frequent the haunts of questionable people." Jesus' reply? "This Messiah does"! Do you see why Christianity is called "good news"? Christianity proclaims that it is an equal-opportunity faith, open to all, in spite of the abundance of playwrights in the church who are more than anxious to announce, "There is no place for you in Christianity if you [wear an earring/have a tattoo/drink wine/have too many questions/look weird/smoke/dance/haven't been filled with the Spirit/aren't baptized/swear/have pink hair/are in the wrong ethnic group/have a nose ring/have had an abortion/are gay or lesbian/are too conservative or too liberal].” ― Mike Yaconelli
This is one of my favorite quotes from my all-time favorite author.  If you haven’t read the books Messy Spirituality and Dangerous Wonder by him you should go immediately to the nearest bookstore and get them!  I like this quote because I don’t fit the script either. 

The religious leaders of Jesus’s day thought they had God figured out, they thought that when the Messiah came they would know exactly what he should look like, but Jesus was kind of hipster.  He didn’t fit in their box and he didn’t follow their rules.  They tried to trap him with law but the only power law has is to expose sin… and Jesus had none.  They accused him of blasphemy because he forgave sins and announced his equality with God.  They crucified him because he dared to be something different than what they thought God was supposed to look like. 

The religious leaders of our day operate in the same ways.  They think they have God figured out, how he operates, who he blesses, and how he loves.  God doesn’t fit in that box.  When you get people like me walking into the temples of Christianity, who are radically different and speak messages filled with the blasphemy of grace, you will find no shortage of people shouting “crucify her!”  The same pastors who lead the battle cry against the “excessive gracers,” preach messages about the hardness of the Pharisees, oblivious to their kindred spirits. 

I am beyond amazed at how Jesus could look down at these hard hearted people and plead for their forgiveness from his father.  I mean, let’s be honest here, I am nowhere close to being able to do that.  I am filled with anger with those people because I have to follow behind them and pick up the pieces of the broken people they trample on their way to impressing God.  I struggle with my anger even knowing that God loves them just as much as he loves me, he sees them as faultless just like he sees me, and he gives them just as much grace as he gives me. The Peter in me wants to lash out and cut some ears off even though I know Jesus will be right there to reattach them. 

I guess I just have to be patient, keep learning, and keep taking in the reality of grace so that I can be better at giving it out.  I find peace in the knowledge that even though I’m there yet it’s ok and in those moments when I fail horribly at showing grace to those trying the destroy its message, Jesus is right there whispering patient encouragement, “Hey, put the sword down and relax, don’t worry you’ll get there.”  For now, I will keep going off script and coloring outside the lines, not to destroy the Pharisees, but to bring hope to their followers.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I Like Big BUTS and I Cannot Lie

Last night I pulled out my Bible from my junior high and high school years.  As I flipped through the pages, I was troubled and reminded of my inward struggle through those years.  Many verses were underlined with question marks beside them; phrases like “God is so contradictory” and “How can he love and hate me?” scribbled in the margins of the tattered pages.  My mind flashed back to why I started drinking the first place. 

I felt like God was inconsistent, at one moment he was saying he loved us in the midst of our sin and the next he was saying that none of us were good enough.  I didn’t understand how he could be both, and if he was, why would I want to worship someone so bipolar?  I felt for that broken girl that etched her frustrations in between the pages of this confusing book.

Last night I read every underlined passage, every verse I had memorized for the sake of academia but never really understood.  The passages made more sense now.  Where I once found frustration and inadequacy I now saw hope and grace.  So often I read one verse and slammed my Bible closed in anger; I didn’t keep reading the verses right after it that brought peace and hope and life. 

One verse in particular stuck out to me last night because it caused me to have an “ah ha!” moment.  I’ve heard it so many times, read it, and underlined it; but I never knew the power in it until last night.  It’s from 1 Corinthians 6, I think most of you have probably heard it before, Christians like to list off this one to show you how dirty you are. 

“Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And that is what some of you were…” 

Wow, so I don’t know about you guys but I see at least 5 of those that I could be called.  That’s where my underlines stopped and written off to the side was a note, “Will I inherit the kingdom of God?” I’m sad that’s where I stopped reading, I mean, I didn’t even finish reading the entire statement!  Maybe I was too heartbroken by my failure to believe there was more, or maybe I was just indoctrinated to believe that if I tried really hard to stay away from that list then somehow it would all be ok… but I couldn’t.  No matter how hard I tried.  I continued to fail.  Thinking I was losing more of my inheritance with every fall. 

Guess what though?  There IS more!  That’s not where the verse stops!

“BUT you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God!”  

We WERE dirty BUT he washed us.  We WERE sin filled BUT he made us holy.  We WERE wrong BUT he declared us righteous.  We are not any of those things anymore!  We quote and underline a list of things that we aren’t anymore and present that as a reason to live in bondage to laws and commands and rituals.  We try to wash ourselves with our own acts of service when we are already clean.  We need to stop doing things to be holy and start doing things BECAUSE we are holy. 

The frustrated girl that read the beginning of this passage and felt like she wasn’t enough ran away from God, religion, faith, everything.  Because, let’s be honest, what’s the point in trying if you know you can never meet the expectations. 

It took a lot of therapy (not found within the church) and a pursuit of radical honesty that brought that girl to the somewhat less screwed up person that types this out.  The more I dive into the depth of truth in grace, the more I see that those verses I stopped reading in high school have hope after the comma.  I look for the “buts” now that I missed before and I am continually surprised by how many times God reminds me that I will always be enough for him.

*1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Beauty for Ashes

I have always been intrigued by the image of the Phoenix.  This mythological creature that is born from its death moved something within me.  I find it relatable. 

Most times in my life before I have been able to progress something first must die within me.  On my journey to sobriety, my love for alcohol had to die.  Upon discovering grace, my desire for justice had to die.   In my pursuit of honesty, my fear had to die.  There has been much death in my life along my journey; followed each time by the birth of something greater and more beautiful than the deceased. 

We sing songs about beautiful things being made from dust and beautiful things rising from ashes but we are afraid to be dust.  From the very beginning of man God was in the business of taking something crushed, dirty, and unimportant and breathing life into it. 

In the story of the Phoenix, the sun looks down and sees a beautiful bird and calls it out to be his special bird.  The bird worships the sun and vows its undying loyalty to him.  Times goes on and the Phoenix becomes old and worn, tattered by time.  It cries out to the sun to make it new again but there is no answer.  So the Phoenix flies back to its homeland where it first met the sun and it makes a nest and rests.  Then it cries out again to the sun for renewal.  This time the sun hears it and begins to beat down on it with all the heat he can muster.  The other animals run and hide from the harsh rays of the sun.  Through the pain of the heat, the Phoenix stays until finally it burst into flames.  The fire subsides and all that can be seen is a pile of ash.  Slowly, the ashes begin to move and a new, even more beautiful, young Phoenix rises from them. 

Life brings fire, pain, heartache, and we fight being broken.  We fight being reduced to ash, being crushed to dust, not because we can stop it but because we are afraid to let everyone see us as imperfect.  We are even afraid to let God see us as imperfect.  Silly us. 

He looks down at our ashes and sees a brand new beautiful child rising from them.  Where we see dust he breathes life  and makes his chosen one.  We pretend that we are whole because we don’t see our brokenness as being enough for him.  We forget so easily that we were born from brokenness; brokenness that he came in and made perfect, enough for him. 

I embrace the fire more now, because I know it means something new will soon be born from it.  Don’t be afraid to let what is old and worn burn and let the Phoenix within you rise from the ashes. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Growing Pains

It is quiet in my house this morning.  Everyone is off running their own races.  All that can be heard is the clicking of my keys as I type.  I am only accompanied by my mind, racing at thousands of miles an hour, plaguing me with things I've tried to ignore.  I try desperately to turn it off and stop the nagging feeling of not being enough.

For a long time I trained myself in not caring.  Not caring about other's expectations, not caring about God, not even caring about me; it was just easier that way.  Days like today make me wish I could be that way again.

Today I feel ugly, not enough, broken, and captive.  Society says beauty is measured by tiny bellies and long hair and I am pretty much the exact opposite. I think I have moved on from certain hurts and then the pain comes rushing back in.  I am looked down on and treated badly who claim to have the same Father as me.  Today it just feels like all the emotions are hitting me at once.

I don't post most of what I write when I have days like these, mainly because I don't search for pity or sadness from my readers.  Today though, I think it's time for someone to be real.  Living in grace doesn't always make things easier, in fact, sometimes it makes things harder.  Where I would have been able to stop caring in the past, now I find a softness in my heart that sometimes cares too much.

The world outside my grace bubble is radically different.  I walk into churches, hear messages, encounter people, and hear prayers fueled and driven by fear, guilt, shame, and our failures.  Those very people, so shackled to their religion that they can't even see the truth of Jesus, cut down the beacons of grace around them.  It's a battlefield out there and I have been made painfully aware of that.

It's so easy for me to get tunnel vision and forget how much it just really sucks living unshackled in a prison, offering the prisoners keys to their chains only to be met with rejection and lack of desire to be free.  I feel discouraged.  I want people to see how wonderful it is to be free.  I want those outside the church to know that Jesus isn't that judgmental church goer, fire and brimstone pastor, look of disgust, or list of rules.  That's not who he ever was.

For me, I know this, even though I am discouraged in this moment, there is hope.  Though I can't stop caring and become hard, I know I can stop feeling worthless because my identity is rooted in more than my inadequacy on the battlefield.  I am enough because Christ is enough and we are one.

I am held tightly by him on these days of being broken-hearted.  He gently calls me beautiful when I feel unwanted.  I am free even when I feel shackled.  My hope is that one day I might be able to show someone else that they are all those things too.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

There's an App for That

My little brother is really an amazing dude. Right now he writes for the Dallas Morning News as what is called a “Student Voice.”  Recently he wrote an article about iPhone apps that was very relatable on a social level.  Which, got me thinking… the concept could totally relate on a spiritual level as well! 

Almost everyone has an iPhone these days (except for those weird android lovers).  There are apps for everything from games to a flashlight for your phone to easy access to your banking to photo editing.  It’s amazing to have access to pretty much everything right there in the palm of your hand.  Some apps are tricky, though. 

For instance, I want to play Scribblenauts, which is like the best game ever!  So I look it up and… lucky me! It’s a free game!  I start playing it and, of course, the addict in me kicks in and I spend hours upon hours determined to beat the game.  Then… finally, banners wave, confetti flies, and I do my victory dance.  As the confetti clears, I read the words, “To complete the game buy the full version for only $1.99!” 

What?! NO! I thought this was a free game?!  That’s not fair! What a clever trick it is, enticing me with its claim that it costs me nothing and then after I’m caught up in the game… BOOM! Pay up! 

We do that a lot of times within the church as well.  Before you’re a Christian you are lured in with promises of acceptance and reassurances that Jesus loves everyone.  Then the moment you get caught up in the game it’s time to pay up.  It’s almost as if as soon as you come up from the water you are met with a list of do’s and don’ts, rules to becoming a better Christian. 

People like me are confused, but… I thought Jesus loved everyone even in my sin? We are met with answers like “Well, yes but God isn’t happy with you if you’re sinning!  Yes, but, it makes God sad when we sin!  Yes, but, your fellowship with God will suffer!”  Yes, but… NO! 

Jesus brought freedom, not just from death but from law.  Freedom from ever having to be or do ANYTHING to get from God.  We are measured by Christ’s ability within us not our ability to do for Christ.  My favorite verse in the entire Bible says that where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom!  You know what makes that verse ever more life changing? 

If we have accepted Christ then we are one with His Spirit, fused together, permanently bonded as ONE.  That means our spirit and His Spirit are one, and where His Spirit is… there is FREEDOM!  In a world ever progressing in ways to put us in bondage, let us not bring that into our relationship with Christ. 

When He says something is free there is no extra $1.99 payment at the end of the game.  If you feel yourself weighed down by the false freedom found within the church walls, don’t worry, God has an app for that.  It’s called grace.

*2 Corinthians 3:17

Friday, May 24, 2013

Guest Blog- Chance Hays

So today I asked my awesome little brother to be a guest writer on my blog. He has always been such an inspiration to me and has loved me with true unconditional love. Though we are 5 years apart, He has always been my best friend! Tomorrow he graduates from high school and I couldn't be prouder of him than I am right now. He is such a man of grace and love. He will always be Jesus to me.

Discovering Grace

Thirteen years; that’s roughly one eighth of my time here on Earth. It also happens to be the amount of time I spent in school. Not just any school mind you, but the same school for thirteen years. I am graduating tomorrow from the very small stage that I crossed for “kindergarten graduation.” I’ll keep the name of the school to myself, but it’s a Christian school.

Thirteen years in the same Christian school can be a very interesting experience, especially since it is in a relatively small town. Example: my graduating class only includes twenty-seven people. Everyone knows everyone else and their brother. This only added to the ability for a more “Bible centered” education. I grew up hearing a plethora of Bible stories, applications, and lessons in any class. Heck, even my math class began with a fifteen minute devotional. This being said, I was never without pretty high expectations on my shoulders. After all, Christian students must of course be better at all things than regular students in the world. 

This isn’t to say I didn’t receive a great education, but to say that religiously, and relationally, things were much stricter, and the bar was set much higher than usual. As my wonderful sister has put it many times, the two kinds of responses to living under this include either rebelling against it as a result of the revelation that you can never measure up, or following the rules anyways, eventually resulting in depression, anger, and resentment in the acceptance that you haven’t been able to measure up. 

While my sister is a rebel, I happen to be the latter. I followed the rules anyways. As you could imagine, it didn’t really work out too well for me. Either the students hated me because I was the goody two shoes, living up to the teachers rules, or the teachers hated me because I failed to live up to their rules. This isn’t easy to be in. I hated it. I would put on this mask of the almost unrealistic rule-breaking tough guy, but when it came down to it, I would always follow the rules, and almost always end up disappointed. I was fake, angry at everybody, bitter, and frankly, unable to open up. 

I had people in my life that loved me very much, but was so afraid of disappointing them, that I would lie, put my mask back on, and pretend everything was fine. Quite honestly, that’s what living by a list does. It puts you in a place of either measuring up or not measuring up. If you fail to measure up, you lie, you hide it, because the people that gave the list or the people you look up to might be disappointed, and if you somehow manage to measure up to it, there’s another list waiting to be done, leaving an endless loop of hard work until you fail, and are thereby placed on the same low pedestal as the person that failed in the first place. 

To put it plainly, it sucks! I was put in places of vulnerability, unable to be vulnerable. After a long time dealing with this (Which really doesn’t bode well with the junk that goes on in High School) I decided to just give up. There was nothing left to do. I was the goody two shoes, living in an endless depressive loop that left no room for recovery after emotional pain that it inflicted. This is where things get better however. 

You see, those people that I mentioned earlier that loved me? Well they still loved me, in spite of my drawing back, anger, and bitterness. Needless to say, I can now understand what Paul meant when he wrote we were saved by grace. Salvation is thrown around a lot as that verse is commonly mentioned, but I think it’s so much more than that. I was a Christian all those years ago. I knew Jesus died for me, and I knew he was God’s son. I understood salvation (in the simplistic sense) and I thought I knew what grace was. I followed the rules, I did what I was supposed to, and I made every effort to be a good person, and guess what? It’s never enough! 

It will never be enough, because we are small, and we are unable to measure up to God’s perfection by our own efforts, salvation aside. Grace is so much more than just a means to heaven. Grace sets you free from that list, from having to do everything perfect; why? Because it has already been done. All those times we don’t measure up to the list, it has been paid for, and the list itself has been abolished! You don’t have to live by a list. 

To those who react the same way I did, know that it doesn’t need to be that way, freedom is there, and with it, love, peace, joy, and complete and utter perfection in Christ. The sweat has already crossed another’s brow, the pain in another’s hands. Christ has completed the law, and was sacrificed once, for ALL sins; past, present, future. Because of that we can come before God, list gone, done, and completed by Christ, and He will tell us we are loved, we are not disappointing, and we are pleasing to him. 

That’s just Grace. I didn’t live up to the lists, although I tried, and still I have his complete favor.  Well, that’s me, and that what I experienced in my own spiritual life over the past years. I have yet to figure it all out, and I learn something new about God’s awesome grace all the time. 

This I do know however: tomorrow when I cross a stage, get my diploma, and head out to the world, I go knowing who I am. Knowing I am pleasing to God, and have people that love me. Special thanks to my sis, Jess, who asked me to guest write for her awesome blog! Grace and peace be with you!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Honeysuckle and Skunk Juice

The power of smell is amazing and for someone like me who is very sensitive to smell it brings a whole new dynamic to life.  Smell has the power to excite your appetite, turn your stomach, awaken your desires, and even flood your mind with memories. 

For as long as I can remember my Grandma has worn the same perfume; I want to say it’s like Stetson for women or something like that.  To this day any time I smell that perfume anywhere I am instantly transported back to times filled with fishing, pancake eating, playing in the sand, and late nights watching CSI (which I wasn’t allowed to watch at home but at Grandma’s house anything goes). 

When I was little my dad worked at this church and it had all these vines of honeysuckle growing around it.  I remember when dad taught me how to suck the “honey” out of the honeysuckle and would tickle my nose with the flower.  Just the other day I was pulling up to my best friend’s house and the smell of honeysuckle caught my nostrils, instantly taking my mind back to that memory. 

Then there are other memories associate with smell.  For instance, the time mom ran over a skunk and the whole care smell like skunk juice for what seemed like years!  Or the time something climbed in our wall and died and it made the entire house smell like death.  Where I live we have a river called the Trinity River, it smells so awful and every time we drive over it I really just want to puke. 

Smell has a lot of power!  In 2 Corinthians, Paul calls us the fragrance of Christ rising up to God and touching those around us.  How cool is that?!  It’s like God gets a whiff of us and is flooded with memories of His delight in His son.  How could he find anything but beauty in us if we smell like his Son?  The verse goes on to say that to some people we will be a life giving fragrance but to others we will have a smell of death and doom. 

I do think there are some people in this world that I can’t impact because they can’t get passed my smell.  I am one with Christ now, and I think that makes Christ look different than some people thought he did.  They smell Christ but it smells like skunk juice to them. 


Well, for some I think it’s because the people who claimed to be wearing Christ perfume really just smelled like skunks and sprayed them with their religion until it drove them away.  Then there are others who can’t smell their own stink and when they get around genuine people who give off Christ’s aroma they are try to spray them with their skunk juice. 

It’s very interesting to me that this verse talks about two different smells that we can be to others but only describes one smell that we are to God.  People can call you one thing or another; accuse you of being wrong or not enough, but who you are to God… is perfect.  You are a sweet smell to him, laced with honeysuckle and Stetson for women, that fills is heart with joy and pride to call you His.  Don’t let the noses of this world convince you that you are anything less than lovely.

*2 Corinthians 2:15-16

Monday, May 20, 2013

Paper Millionaire

The more I learn about grace the more I become painfully aware of how few people understand and accept the magnitude of what grace is.  For a long time I just really didn’t understand why someone wouldn’t want to accept complete love and freedom without having to do anything to gain it.  To me that was the ultimate deal! 

The more I thought about it the more I realized that people who have spent their lives in service to the system, doing things to earn favor from God, always staying within the lines, and of course judging those outside their lines, don’t see their need for grace.  I mean think about it, if you don’t think you’ve done something wrong, why should you accept a pardon over punishment? 

Imagine if you had spent your entire life working and saving and storing away your money because your dream was to become a millionaire.  Then, finally, after all your hard work you reach your first million and are filled with pride and joy at what you have accomplished.  However, an evil government takes over and announces that all money is obsolete and they will only accept payment for things in the form of chocolate bars.  You think to yourself, No! I’m a millionaire! I’ve worked hard for what I have! You might even try to buy things with your paper millions but you are continually met with the disappointment of its worthlessness. 

I think that’s why those who find power within the Christian duty driven system see no need for grace. The cling to their millions of good deeds, accomplished quiet times, souls won for the cause, tracts passed out, and hours volunteered to services thinking that is somehow what gains God’s favor.  Did you know that in Galatians it says not to set aside God’s grace because if you could earn righteousness then Christ died for nothing? 

How silly we are to think our “great” acts of service could even compare to Christ’s sacrifice for us!  Yet, every time we wade deeper into the waters of duty driven religion we push his sacrifice aside as if what we have to offer is better.  Then we go before God and we say, “Look, I’m a millionaire!  Look what I’ve earned!”  All he sees is paper piles set before him and he responds with, “No, but look, here I’ve given you the biggest chocolate bar ever, all you have to do is take it and you will have all you will ever need!”  Still, we refuse trying desperately to cling to what we think is worth more. 

It saddens me to see some many paper millionaires within the church walls, making more millionaires just like them.  It saddens me because of the bondage it puts them in when there is so much freedom and peace to be experienced in grace.  There is so much greater to be found when you realize that you are already made PERFECT! Accept the worthlessness of your millions and discover that there is something much more life changing than being a millionaire.

*Galatians 2:21 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Heart Tattoos

I really love tattoos! They are just so fascinating and intriguing to me especially to hear the stories behind them.  I have four tattoos all of which mean something special to me and mark a time of remembrance in my life that is important to me. 

It’s a big decision to get a tattoo, I mean, it’s on your body until you die.  That is a pretty big commitment!  Then, of course, there is dealing with other people’s comments or judgments of you because you have this permanent alteration on your body.  For me though, tattoos are just another way to express myself. 

There is also this depth to tattoos that I think a lot of people miss out on, in my case anyway.  When I’m getting tattooed with this marking of memorial to my life, there is a depth of connection or release that I feel in that moment that really is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.  Even now, looking down at the “Destemido” etched across my wrist as I type this, the emotions of what it means to me come rushing back. 

So, then today I was thinking about a verse from 2 Corinthians. 

“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone, revealing that you are a letter of Christ, delivered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on stone tablets but on tablets of human hearts.”  

We are Christ’s Spirit tattoos inked on human hearts.  Now that… is cool! There is another verse in Romans that talks about the dangers of living by the law and the inability to measure up to it and it says,

“They show that the work of the law is written in their hearts, as their conscience bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or else defend them.”  

The power of this verse to me is amazing because of the immense amount of truth that I find in it.  When you live by law your thoughts will either accuse you, plaguing you with guilt every time you fail, or they will defend you, making you feel entitled and cause you to look at others with the attitude “well, I’m not as bad as they are…”  All that law can do is expose failure; that was the whole point of the law in the first place! 

Law tattoos are like tattoos of your ex’s name forever embedded on your arm, every time you look at it you are filled with disgust and shame, trying desperately to hide it.  The difference in a Spirit tattoo is that it brings life with it, it brings that deep connection I was talking about earlier that evokes joy and memories and desire to show it off. 

I am proud to have been tattooed by Christ and that now I can be the ink that he tattoos other people’s hearts with.  It is one tattoo that will be with me even after I die and I have a feeling that when I meet Jesus he will have “Jess” tattooed across his heart too, in big red letters.

*2 Corinthians 3:2-3 (NET)
*Romans 2:15 (NET)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

One Second Nail Polish

Most of you who have followed my blog know that I wasn’t always an accountant clicking away at my computer, balancing spreadsheets, and collecting paperwork.  I actually went to school and got a degree for Athletic Training.  Yeah… big change there!  My days used to be spent taping smelly football ankles, setting up for games, and arguing with coaches.  I did love it.  Many people ask me why I didn’t want to do that anymore. 

Growing up my dad was a youth pastor and a teacher and a coach which sometimes left little time for him to be a dad.  I saw him constantly going, constantly working, and consistently exhausted by the time he came home.  I never felt unloved by him by any means, rather he always made me feel like I was his princess I know he would gladly take a bullet for me.  There were times when I felt like work was more important than me though.  I don’t hold that against him because I know he was just doing what he had to in order to support our family but I remember how sad it made me in the times of his busyness. 

Approaching my junior year of college I began to see that I had followed in his footsteps.  I was busy all the time.  Too busy for friends, family, God, or even myself.  I would purposely do things like take 20 hours worth of classes while working 60 hour weeks.  I would definitely not recommend that unless sleeping really isn’t your thing!  That’s when I realized that busyness had become my new alcohol. 

See, if I never had time to sit still then I could never be plagued by my problems.  It was a genius plan!  However, it led me to the point of complete exhaustion and a massive panic attack which forced me to have to be still…. And think. 

It’s interesting how we classify things as destructive habits and other things as just part of life.  I’d dare to say that addiction to alcohol and addiction of busyness are just as destructive.  Honestly, busyness is almost worse!  Alcohol might destroy your liver and cause you to dance around with a lampshade on your head but busyness addiction will cause your marriage to fall apart, your friends to drift away, your kids to lose touch, and your heart to be heavy with loneliness. 

It’s so extremely common in our world today!  We have instant access to information, phones that can do everything, and email that can let us work from anywhere.  We even have nail polish (which I may or may not possess) that you can put on in one second! I’m not kidding that is a real thing, I will put a picture on here just to prove it to you!  I mean, I get it because the 30 seconds it takes me to do my nails is WAY too long! 

There is also this new social app (also which I may or may not use) called “Vine” that allows you to only share 6 second long video clips because that is, apparently, how long the human attention span lasts.  It’s no wonder that Jesus would say, “Come to me you who are weary and I will give you rest.”  Or why we are told to be still and know that He is God. 

We have to take time away from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives to just rest.  Not to sit and ardently study our Bible, unless that is where you find rest, but rather to just be still.  Just take a breath, lay back, and be held.  It’s hard, especially for people like me who always like to be out with friends or doing something productive.  I am finding though, the more I take moments to rest and be poured into by God, the easier it is for me to pour into others without any thought of getting something back.  I rest now so that I can create spaces of rest for those around me.  So today, find a moment to just be still.  It’s amazing what can be heard in the silence.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Kneading Something New

My grammy makes the best homemade bread and cinnamon rolls known to man!  She makes it completely from scratch which, of course, makes it even better!  When I was little I thought it was the coolest thing ever that the bread would rise by itself.  I remember sleep overs at Grammy’s house and running into the kitchen the next morning to see the bread in a huge balloon spilled over onto the counter and I thought to myself, “Grammy is magic!”  Then she would gather it all up and squash it down and beat it into submission so that she could roll it out and add lots of butter, sugar, and cinnamon (you know all the good stuff) and make us some delicious treats.

I’ve been thinking this week how that relates to life.  Many times in the church I think we try to put bread dough in a bowl and expect it not to rise.  You have people who don’t fit the mold, who push the boundaries, ask questions, and spill over onto the counter.  Then we want to come in and knead those people with spiritual discipline, moral guidelines, duty, and guilt that we use beat them into submission.  That’s great for bread… but people aren’t bread. 

Jesus didn’t really fit in the bowl of spirituality in his day either.  He preached on mountainsides instead of synagogues, hung out with fishermen instead of scholars, partied with prostitutes instead of priests, and loved instead of judged.  The Pharisees tried to squash Jesus and make him fit in the bowl but instead Jesus had something to say about their dishes. 

“But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Didn’t the one who made the outside make the inside as well?”   

Man Jesus straight called this guy out who was judging him because he didn’t wash his hands before he ate.  So many times inside the church walls we worry about how the outside looks, how well behaved our kids are, how many attend our services every week, how abstinent our youth are, and how well our members can quote scripture, and we forget about the nastiness on the inside of the cup. 

It’s interesting because we jump to believe that those who don’t sparkle on the outside must by just as dull on the inside as well.  This causes the innovators to remain silent and those who were born to stand out to run and hide.  I am proud to say that I’m pretty sure God added a little extra yeast when he mixed me because I find myself, more times than not, spilling over onto the counter creating a mess. 

The more I take in the wonder of grace the more I spill over and cover the people in my life with this messy wonder of Jesus.  So my challenge to you is this, don’t try to fit in the bowl.  Don’t try to make others around you fit in their bowls either.  Free them to make a mess and watch a revolution rise to take over the counter. 

~Luke 11:39-40 (NET) 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Your Mom!

Mother’s day is this weekend so I thought I’d take some time and write a little something for my mom today.  My mom and I haven’t always had the best relationship.  I wasn’t the little girl who wanted to be a princess and play dress up.  I was more the convinced I was going to be a cop and I much rather dig in the dirt than have tea parties.  I know she wanted a little girl and she got more of a tomboy.  I remember getting in fights with her because I wanted to wear baggy shorts and wear my hair in a ponytail and she wanted me to wear girl clothes and wear my hair down all the time.  When I was in high school I kind of felt like I was a disappointment to her because I just wasn’t that girl she wanted me to be.  It was my own view through the eyes of bitterness that made me see things this way.  As I’ve grown up we’ve gotten closer.  It’s really amazing to me to see how grace has changed both our lives in different ways.  I’m becoming more aware that she is and always has been proud of me.  She’s so strong.  I look back at all I’ve put her through as I traveled down my rough roads and realize how truly supportive she has been through it all.  She has always been willing to take the blame for things that never really were her fault.  In the past my anger would never let me see her love but now I do.  She doesn’t let people see how truly soft hearted she really is and that is something we do have in common.  I think in her past when she has tried to be real with people she’s been hurt and I can definitely relate to that.  People should give her more of a chance.  She loves deeper than anyone I have ever met and she still stands by me no matter what.  She holds our family together in times where I was sure we would fall apart.  Even in her times of deepest hurt she is still the one to reach down and comfort us when we are hurting.  We are so very different in so many ways but I can honestly say I can’t imagine having a better mom than her.  As many times as I’ve let her down, broken her heart, and betrayed her trust, she has never given up on me.  Now I have tattoos, spiky hair, and wear rock star jeans and even though I know she rather see me with long hair, heels, and dresses I know she thinks I am beautiful just the way I am.  I wouldn’t be able to be who I am without her that is for sure!  I’ve come down a long road of brokenness to finally find healing and she has held my hand this whole way.  She is the most beautiful, caring, loving, smart, kind, understanding, strong, and meek woman I have ever met and I am so proud to call her my mom!  Mom, thank you for being a true woman of grace and how deep the Father’s love is for me.  I’d be lost without you.  I love you with all my heart, thanks for being you!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Waffles and Forgiveness

I work for a company in Dallas, one of the joys of which is getting to carpool to work with my mom who works right down the street from me.  I actually do really enjoy our time together on the way to and from work, however, we do not have the same tastes in radio programs (I’m sure that’s just a HUGE shocker to everyone).  So we have a deal where she gets to listen to her talk shows in the morning on the way there and I get to listen to my music on the way home. 

She likes to listen to political conservative talk shows and, despite the fact that I definitely am not a conservative, I do get some insight from listening to good ole Mark Davis in the mornings.  This morning however I found myself bothered.  Mark Davis was talking about some politician who cheated on his wife and who had come out with a public apology asking for forgiveness.  The part that bothered me was Mark Davis’s comment afterwards almost in passing as if it was common knowledge.  He said, “Well, of course I believe there’s a place for forgiveness if it’s been earned.” 

My response was a grunt of disapproval which was answered by my mom saying, “Oh, he’s just talking about in politics!”  Which eased my frustration as I found myself agreeing with her.  For some reason though that stuck with me… he’s just talking about politics. 

It’s interesting to me how I compartmentalize things sometimes.  I think well grace and forgiveness is free in normal life but when it comes to those who have hurt me, nope they have to earn it!  In this case it was thinking that it’s ok for people to have to earn forgiveness in politics.  It reminded me of breakfast food. 

I like waffles, they are wonderful, especially if you have a Grammy like mine who makes the best waffles known to mankind!  I’m not a huge syrup person but my dad likes to fill every single little square with syrup and have it overflowing onto the plate!  I think sometimes our lives can be like waffles and grace/forgiveness can be like syrup. 

We build up walls and hold our forgiveness in one little square of our lives not letting it leak over into the rest of it.  When, in reality, it should be like my dad’s waffle, where God is pouring it into us and we let it fill up every square and spill over onto the plate of others. 

Forgiveness isn’t just for the people who have done enough to get it, if that were the case then none of us deserve it.  We have all been liars and lied to, we have all been heart breakers and heart broken, we have all been sinners and sinned against.  How can we determine who has and hasn’t earned forgiveness.  Jesus even went as far as to say that we should do good to our enemies.  Honestly, I’m nowhere near that point in my life where I could lavish love on those who have deeply hurt me.  I am getting to the point though where I am able to hear their names and not be filled with anger, which for me is a big step in the right direction! 

I think for all of us it’s about retraining our minds to be givers of grace rather than demanders of justice.  Let God load down your waffle with syrup and create a big sticky mess of grace that covers those around you.  You might just find that forgiveness frees more in you than you thought was captive.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Good News... I Guess?

Are you prepared to have your spiritual brain challenged? I never really am but hanging around my friends and having the awesome friend and pastor that I do it seems that I am constantly being enlightened.

I grew up in the church so I know a lot of Biblical facts, verses, and history.  I have the academics of Christianity down.  On a side note, if you think that knowing facts about Jesus will change your life or even save you take it from me… you will be sorely disappointed with your life.  Anyways, the more I dig into the Bible myself, the more the truth of the gospel of grace reveals itself to me. 

I heard the word “grace” a lot growing up but it always seemed to be a onetime occurrence in the lives of people around me.  God’s “grace” saves you.  For some it’s more than once but it’s something that is earned, worked for, and hard to gain. 

Grace is so much more than that.  Grace is the COMPLETE favor of God.  It is ours apart from anything we have done or ever can do.  Christ was the ultimate and final sacrifice that didn’t get rid of the law but rather FULFILLED the law.  This is a hard concept to really get across to people so I will try my best to explain it using a story. 

I am an accountant so I deal with money, book balancing, and invoices all day long (I know it sounds boring and I look nothing like an accountant but I bring a little rock and roll to the office).  So let’s say one of our clients owes us 150 bucks for cleaning their microwaves every night, we give them a bill right? When they pay that bill does it make the bill disappear? No, it just completes it and I get to file it away in a nice shiny filing cabinet in the office. 

Christ came and paid the bill of the law.  He completed it and we don’t owe it anything anymore!  It would be silly for our client to keep sending us money after they have paid their bill!  How often do we do that though? We keep sending God measly payments on a bill that has already been paid for us! 

How many of you have felt as if before you were a Christian the church preached a message of love and acceptance but as soon as you joined their ranks you were presented with a list of do’s and don’ts that you have to live your life by in order to gain blessings from God?  That’s not who God is.  How can we call this Good News?! Every time we do that we send in another payment to a paid off bill.  That is not what my Jesus stood for.  That’s not what He died for. 

Last night I read the following verse:

“I hope you will put up with a little more of my foolishness. Please bear with me.  For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ.  But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.  But I don’t consider myself inferior in any way to these “super apostles” who teach such things.  I may be unskilled as a speaker, but I’m not lacking in knowledge. We have made this clear to you in every possible way. Was I wrong when I humbled myself and honored you by preaching God’s Good News to you without expecting anything in return?”  

I don’t know about you but I was always taught that verse was talking about different religions or evil prophets.  That just doesn’t make any sense to me.  The verse says they are people coming in the name of Jesus preaching the Gospel but it’s not the truth.  Great men of faith even, “super apostles,” preaching a message contrary to Paul’s, to truth.  Is this beginning to sound familiar to anyone else? 

There are churches in America, in your town, coming in the name of Jesus and preaching a false gospel.  The Bible has more to say about those people

 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are following a different gospel— not that there really is another gospel, but there are some who are disturbing you and wanting to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we (or an angel from heaven) should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be condemned to hell!  As we have said before, and now I say again, if anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let him be condemned to hell!  

That is heavy stuff!  I’m not saying that anyone who thinks or believes differently than I do should be condemned to hell and I really don’t think that’s what Paul was saying either.  I just think we should be careful not to be looking so intently for false prophets outside the church walls when one could very well be standing behind our pulpits. 

I used to think God was dull and demanding but the more I search for myself the more I find him partying with prostitutes, embracing the handicapped, using lepers to deliver his messages, raining bread from the sky, and laughing with children.  My Jesus is one with embracing arms not a pointing finger… and that is good news!

*2 Corinthians 11:1-7 (NLT)
*Galatians 1:6-9 (NET)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Shattered Glass and Plastic Cups

This week has been a crazy week in the Jess world!  Many changes and opportunities have kept me on my toes along with some heaviness for a few people that I love.  One such person at the top of my love list has faced fire this week. 

He works in a place where the system of doing more to earn more reigns supreme which makes things tough for Gracers like us.  A couple nights ago we talked about his struggles in that system.  When you live in a word driven by performance there really can’t be an absolute truth.  See, because your worth is determined by who is judging your performance.  One person might think jumping three feet is good enough while another thinks really you should be jumping six.  The standard is set by others around you and is constantly changing with every person you come in contact with. 

Another thing about living this way is the inability to be real with anyone.  If your worth is determined by how successful you are then you can never admit your failures because then you lose your worth.  It’s sad really, you see people clinging to the facade of perfection when everyone knows it’s just not possible in the real world. 

That system also misses out on the innovators.  Innovators push the box, get outside comfort zones, and make mistakes on their way to learning new ways to be effective.  In a world structured in performance innovators are hidden, squashed, and forced to conform. 

I grew up in this system and (shocker) I didn’t fit the mold.  I pushed boundaries, colored outside the lines, doubted, and asked difficult questions.  So I was told I wasn’t good enough.  Let’s face it; I wasn’t.  Not for that system.  I never will be and thank God for that! 

Jesus was born into that system too.  He spent his life breaking the rules, crossing lines, answering the doubters, and embracing the broken.  Jesus was about being real.  He didn’t tell the prostitutes, tax collectors, and zealots to get their lives together before he hung out with them.  No, he came to them and his overwhelming love changed their lives.  Then he did something that no list of rules, no Christian duties, nor works of the law, could ever do.  He died and covered ALL sins.  Not just yesterday's, not just today's, but tomorrow's and next year’s sins too. 

Now my worth is determined not by what I do but what has been DONE for me.  I live a life a liberty.  I am surrounded by people who live in liberty as well.  If you come hang around with us you will find innovators trying to find new ways to relate to others and embrace grace.  You will find people not afraid to ask the difficult questions even if there are no answers.  You will find broken people being embraced and doubters being answered. 

We are admittedly a rag tag band filled with religion junkies, strippers, former actual junkies, divorcees, rebels turned into revolutionaries, and tattooed recovering alcoholics like me.  Despite our broken lives Christ makes us whole without a scratch to make us any less than priceless.  So my challenge to you is to be a broken glass that is made faultless again by the excessive love of Christ rather than a plastic cup which, though impossible to shatter, really isn’t worth much.  Let yourself shatter.