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

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

4 Things I Learned While Writing My Book

I am writing to you today as a published author! I'm still trying to convince myself this is real life as it is quite definitely a dream come true for me.  This week my book, A Rebel's Religion, officially hit the market and is available for purchase here.  I've been working on this project for almost 2 years now and have learned a lot along the way.  Here are just 4 of the many things I learned during this part of my journey:

[1] Passion and Patience don’t play well together.

Patience is difficult.  I’m sensing that you’re not surprised by this exclamation.  Everyone knows patience is hard; I have never, in my life met someone who said, “Oh yeah, patience, I’ve got that down, that’s easy!”  I’m not even good at being patient with silly things like waiting for my 2 day shipping packages to arrive or for my cookies to finish baking in the oven.  You start talking about things I’m passionate about like helping people experience freedom and faith or creating spaces of rest for people worn by this world; well that makes patience even more difficult!  This process of writing my book and getting it published has taught me quite a bit about patience.  It’s taught me the value of patience and how much greater the outcome can be if only I take time to wait for God.  Passion and patience don’t naturally like to hang out together; but man, if you can get them playing on the same team, incredible things happen!

[2] Leadership is about more than being in charge.

This year, going through the process of not only writing a book but also organizing and speaking at retreats and other ministry events, I have learned quite a bit and not nearly enough about leadership.  I think there’s this really well hidden trap that leaders often fall into; where we get so caught up in making the thing (event, service, set, weekend, etc) happen that we neglect the people it’s supposedly for.  At times I find myself becoming so focused on the task at hand that it’s easy for me to miss the precious unplanned moments of ministry where God completely ruins my plans and creates brilliant chaos.  I’m repetitively learning that leadership, more often than not, is about learning to shut up long enough for God to say something.  At least, that seems to be the case for me.  It’s a rather splendid adventure really!

[3] I don’t know nearly as much as I think I do.

I’m not sure if it’s the excess amounts of stubbornness I was blessed with or my difficulty relinquishing control, but for some reason I have this problem of thinking I have things figured out.   Like, if everyone just listened to me, if God just listened to me, things would go much smoother, because obviously trying to do things on my own has been so successful for me.  I often say that Jesus ruined my life which sometimes catches people off guard and gets me copious “I’ll pray for you” looks.  What I mean is Jesus ruined MY life, the life that I had planned.  The one that I had all figured out.  The one that led me to addiction and emptiness and struggle.  Jesus ruined the patchwork house I’d built for myself and offered me a kingdom.  Learning to embrace that, to take in the reality of that already having taken place, to believe that His path is better even when it looks like He’s getting us lost; well, that’s why faith is so important. 

[4] Vulnerability makes a difference.

There are times when I write things more for me than for anyone else.  You know, just to organize the tangled web of feelings that’s stuffed down in the bottom of some sealed off pocket of my heart.  I put in out here on my blog and I read through it thinking, “Eh, not my best piece of writing but hey it’s where I’m at right now.”  Those are pieces on which I get the most feedback! People send me messages saying how beautiful it was or how much they needed to read it right now and it never ceases to blow me away.  Like, I go back and read it again and think… “This piece?  Are you sure?” 

These reoccurring instances remind me how much people crave authenticity and vulnerability.  Those are rare commodities in this world and people devour them any time they are offered.  Writers have this beautifully terrifying gift of putting struggles into words while revealing pieces of themselves at every pen stroke.   Writers are essentially daring to bare their weaknesses so that others might find comfort in knowing that they are not alone in the emotional nakedness of their struggles.  Humanity needs more of that; we long for it.  Earnest Hemmingway once said, “Write long and hard about what hurts.”  Good advice indeed.  We should all dare to be real, to be vulnerable, to be free. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Land of the Free?

I live in America, the land of the free, right?  Right…

It’s election day here, everyone is visiting their local government office, showing ID’s, filling out ballots and proudly posting selfies of them wearing their “I voted” stickers.  So far, I've decided not to participate in these festivities.  Though, I am admittedly cynical when it comes to matters of a political nature, that’s not the reason I've chosen not to vote.  I've chosen not to participate simply because I don’t support anyone who is running, and I’m just not one to put my name (or bubbled in dot) behind someone or thing that I don’t believe in. 

Today, as my coworkers began trickling in to work, shaking off the rain remnants from the storm outside, my eye caught the red, white, and blue shine of the stickers stuck to their chests.  It wasn't long before the office buzzed with voting conversation.  One of my coworkers excitedly asked me, “Did you vote today?!”  I replied matter-of-factly, “Nope.” What she said next caught me off guard. “Well why don’t you just go live in Iraq then if you’re not going to vote!”

Wow.  I cocked my head and walked away as I chose to distract myself with the pile of paperwork on my desk rather than respond.  I've been thinking about that comment the rest of the day though. 

Correct me if I’m wrong but… isn't what this country stands for freedom?  And am I not exercising my freedom by my choice not to vote?  Isn't it my right as an American to not have to stand behind anything I don’t want to? 

We do this funny thing as humans; we think that if we have the freedom to do something that means we have to do it.  We have the freedom to vote so we have to vote or else we’re abusing the privilege, after all not everyone in the world has that opportunity.   We see a sign at a store, “Buy One Get One Free” and we think, “Well I don’t really need two pairs of shoes but it’s free so I have to take it.” 

This human way of thinking about freedom leaks over into our faith.  I think that’s why religious people get their panties in wad when you start telling people that Christ offers them freedom.  If you want to make them even madder, you believe like I do; that because of Christ’s sacrifice which covered ALL sins, we have the freedom even to sin without fear of punishment as the payment for those sins has already been made. 

Woah now, we can’t tell people that.  If we tell people that they are just going to go out sin all over the place (because they aren't sinning already?)  Why do we think that?  Oh, right, because if we have freedom to do something that means we have to do it?  That’s what Satan wants us to think.  How powerless that kind of “freedom” is.

The liberty that Christ offers us is so much bigger than our humanity’s definition of freedom.  Freedom in Christ means I never again have to meet expectations, worry about demands, fear punishment, or quiet my passions.  Sin tries to put us back in bondage, shackle us to shame, weigh us down with worry, but it has no power here. Sin’s price has already been paid, we have already been freed from its accusations and guilt.

See, when God says we have freedom He doesn't mean IF we read our Bible enough or IF we hang out with the right people or IF we go to the right church or IF we look the right way.  When God says we have freedom He means we have complete, untameable freedom.  Freedom to run to Him or from Him.  Freedom from sin and freedom to sin.  Freedom to have straight collars or grungy jeans.  Freedom that causes life to sometimes be chaotic and unpredictable and messy but also beautifully, intimately authentic.  After all, would His love really be love if we had to clean ourselves up before we could experience it? 

I often wonder why God offers us such freedom, freedom that I have abused so many times.  I’ve asked just as many times why He keeps trusting me with such liberty.  The thing is… even when I don’t have faith in God; God has faith in me.  He sees me as I truly am, covered in the blood of His favored Son, fused in spirit with His holiness.  How could he shackle something He finds so beautiful?  How can He not delight in my flights into freedom?

God works differently than we do.  Everything He gives, He gives without strings.  This world knows nothing of that kind of freedom, that kind of love.  We say we’re the land of the free but just try not paying your taxes and see how free this land really is.  I’m not trying to make a political stand or statement in way; I just want people to know what real freedom is, and I want them to experience in the shadows of their hearts where Satan has tried to shackle them. 

I leave you with this blessing:

May you find freedom from what the world calls freedom.  May you come to realize that a much more powerful liberty has been offered to you.  One that not only frees you from your past and your struggles and your shortcomings, but that also frees you to be the wonderfully unique creature that God sees you as.  And may you wear that freedom with just as much pride as you do the red, white, and blue colored sticker on your chest. 

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
-1 Corinthians 3:17 (NET)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Downpours, Ditches, and Self-Control

In my opinion there are very few things as conducive to writing as rain.  Rain has this ability to drown out all other sound without actually being loud.  You know what I mean?  It’s like nature’s white noise that fills the awkwardness of silence and overpowers the loudness of life.  It’s quite beautiful really, and yet I rarely stop to think about the majesty of it. 

Lately I’ve been feeling like I’m stuck in this ditch on the side of life’s road.  I’ve been so angry and discontent here in this ditch and I’ve found myself letting that anger make me bitter instead of making me zealous, and that’s a dangerous place for me. 

I’m fairly well acquainted with the emotion of anger.  It was the driving force in my life for a long time, giving me this feeling of chaotic control over my life. Sometimes I long to have that control back.  This gospel of grace, this messy spirituality, it’s a radically out of control life.

It’s funny to me when I think about it because, that person I used to be, that anger driven person, that’s the one people thought was out of control.  I got that a lot, “You’re out of control!”  or “You need to learn some self-control.”  But that was the problem, see, I was self-controlled.  My Self was in the driver’s seat and it demanded and whined and lashed out because that’s all Self knows how to do.  Self-control is so self-focused and makes me selfish. 

It’s confusing, I know, because we say it’s a fruit of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, and self-control.”  Our English language screws it up for us and makes us think that living life in the Spirit means that we have to be in control.  So we take off after Christ and our lives become messy and chaotic and we think, “Oh, I must have done something wrong, I must not be living in God’s will.” 

Imagine how the disciples must have felt as talmidim of a rabbi who led them to touch leppars.  Followers who lives were filled with life threatening storms, starving crowds, dead friends brought to life, and triumphant entry on the back of an ass.  These same followers experienced the devastation of betraying their friend, the terrifying calling to spread his message, and the unyielding loyalty to it that resulted in lives wrought with persecution and ending in martyrdom.  Do those sound like lives lived in control?  How often they must have wondered, “Is this really what God is like?”

For some reason we think God should make our lives easier and so we try to tame him.  We plan our sermons and lessons and then we try to fit God into them and call them inspired. We want God to fit within our plan; we live our lives self-controlled and beg him to join us in the blandness of it.

But God is uncontrollable.  He’s untameable.  He wasn’t created by us, he doesn’t answer to us, and he can’t be stopped by us.  Sometimes that’s really unsettling to know and then there are times when I find such peace in that knowledge because you know what, sometimes people suck.  Sometimes people who are supposed to speak God’s message get it wrong and leave his people feeling worn and oppressed.  Even when that happens… God is not shackled by them.  He runs free and wild in relentless pursuit of his people ready to ravish us with his love in the midst of our resistance to it. 

That’s the devastating wonder of following Jesus; that we are recklessly out of control.  It’s a terrifying and comforting truth as it relieves us from having to have it all together all the time but also requires us to live lives entrenched in faith. 

Then there are times, when we find faith frustratingly difficult, and we end up in these ditches. 

And God sends the rain.

Unstoppable, unmanageable, out of control rain, that drenches us in Him.  Rain that silences the noise of our lives with its overpowering pitter patter of God’s love song to us.  A downpour that continues until our lives are flooded with who he is and we are lifted up out of our ditches and swept away in the unpredictable current of life with him. 

May you be encouraged by the knowledge that God is in the midst of the chaos; that he calls us to a life passionately out of control.  May you find comfort in the awkward freedom of life without a plan.  And may you be flooded with the downpour of Jesus when you’re stuck in your ditch.  

Monday, September 22, 2014

Muddy Miracles

Lately I’ve come to realize that I still struggle with something that I thought I had gotten past.  It’s really frustrating, you know, because I thought I had it beat, that I had moved on, that I had finally stopped being a slave to it.  I thought I had it all conquered, only to discover that it had been lurking in the small unnoticed corners subversively taking over inch by inch without me even knowing.  

What is this struggle, you might ask?

It’s the belief that who I am, is just not good enough.  This is a belief I have struggled with for as long as I can remember.  It drove me to arms of addiction, it made me give up on a god who I thought demanded from me, and it made me think that who I was couldn’t touch anything without breaking it.  As I’ve grown in my understanding of God and grace that belief slowly faded as my inadequacy was replaced by the beautiful story of the cross.  

And I thought my “Not Enough” was defeated.

Then, over the past few months, I found myself having these thoughts again—these thoughts that convince me that who I am, just isn’t quite enough.  These thoughts, they don’t come out as blatantly as they once did, no, now they come out in the form of comparing myself to others who seem to have life figured out.  This comparison doesn’t make me dislike them or even want to be like them, it just makes me feel like maybe God made a mistake by calling me his disciple.  

As I’ve become aware of the reappearance of this struggle, I’ve come the conclusion that maybe the problem isn’t my messiness.  Maybe the problem is that I don’t think God sees beauty in my mess.  See, I’ve developed this really screwed up way of thinking that’s made me believe that God is this like clean cut, top button collar, kind of god who expects me to clean myself up before I can really be useful.  

I know that sounds really odd and contrary to all that I teach about who God is and you might be wondering how I can even believe that when I know how unlike God that belief is. Sometimes the belief is so subtle… I just don’t even notice it until I’ve let myself be defined by it and I blame others for calling me names when really it was me all along.  I’ve been sabotaged by my own hopes at holiness.  

I’ve grown up in church my whole life, you know, and it’s created this skewed way of thinking that I default back to in my complacency.  This way of thinking that we have to have it all together, that God expects that of us.  We may not even ever say those words out loud but think about the environment of the church today.  We dress up and come to our church buildings and we smile and shake hands with the people around us.  We shuffle across new carpet that we can’t bring drinks onto and we listen to our pastor preach a sermon filled with big words and eloquent metaphors.  We get caught up in the ritual and it ceases to be real.  Sometimes eloquence gets in the way, sometimes getting everything right means getting it wrong, Sometimes life with Jesus is about a messy, broken, and radically authentic life.

That’s the beauty of Jesus really; he shows us a God with dust on his feet and callouses on his hands who cares more about showing prostitutes their worth than talking to the religious about their holiness.  Jesus uses mud to do miracles and then bends down to wash the feet of his followers.  He was called a heretic and a party animal because he hung out with the riff raff made scandalous statements that declared they were who would fill the kingdom of God.  No wonder the religious hated him, they expected a God in white robes and clean hands and instead they got dusty sandals and dirty fingernails.  

How often I do the same thing.  I expect him to find my messiness repulsive and forget that he saw beauty to be breathed into dust.  I don’t know, I guess I just think that maybe all the big fancy words and all the well put together sermons, they drive people away because the reality of life is grungy and in church we worry about stains on our carpet.  Maybe we should be a little more like God and see the beauty in dust and the healing power of being a little muddy.  

For me, that starts with believing that my mess is enough for him.  Actually, maybe it starts with believing that my mess is beautiful to him.  After all, maybe I’m just another one of his muddy miracles, and how gloriously beautiful is that?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Power of Words

I thought I'd do something a little different than I usually do here.  I have been working on this piece of poetry for a while now, inspired first by my first attendance at ArtLife Now (which is an amazing event that all artists should attend).  The weeks that followed its conclusion I would sporadically scribble some thoughts down that went along with the idea of words and their power but it just didn't seem complete, no matter how I changed it.

Then, Monday, I went to small group with some of my favorite college girls, and wouldn't you know it, words were exactly what we talked about!  The power they have to make or break a person, the weight they carry in forming identity, and the way that they touch every part of our lives-- these were all things I knew to be true about words but they hit me a little harder as I listened to others talk about the power that words had in their lives.

Sometimes I get really cynical and pessimistic and I doubt if what I write here even matters, like do people even care what I have to say?  Can these measly, scribbled down words really have any power?  But there is nothing measly about words.  And I needed to be reminded of that.

So here is video of me reading a poetry piece I wrote about the power of words.  I hope it inspires you to speak, to write, and to be aware that you have to power to give life with your words.

The very essence of creation itself was initiated by words.
And still we wonder if there's any power in being heard.
We buy the lie that sticks and stones have more power over our bones
But words... They touch our souls, hollow us out and leave holes.

Life and death weaves its way between our teeth
As we try to decide which voice we will be.
Identity we try so desperately to grip
So we settle for the one found on other people's lips

That identity, you know the one I mean
It drives you to the darkness, afraid to be seen
Mouths of those who don’t know you, shoot poison tipped darts
Deceptive toxins make you believe that’s who you are

Soon that poison seeps out of your mouth, your lips, your teeth
Because out of the heart, the mouth speaks
See creation and destruction are tethered
Between these letters we’ve strung together

I know what you’re thinking—That actions speak louder
But where would actions be without words as their founder?
Still not convinced that words have power?
Just try spending a day thinking without them

Our tongues are the sparks that start wildfires
They can incite revolution, ignite passion and desire
Chaos and calm share a home between our cheeks
That’s the beautiful mayhem of a life with speech

One last thing I want to leave you with today
Be mindful of your words, be careful what you say
You may think you don’t matter but people are listening
You have the power to give them what they so desperately need

Hope and freedom are what they crave
It’s time to loose your lips and be brave
Let love be your slogan and you will be heard
Because YOU have the power of creation in your…


Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Church of Unrest

You know those times when you’re completely, dead on your feet, people might confuse you for a zombie, tired?  Like, a kiddie pool full of coffee still wouldn’t be enough to keep you from nodding off at your desk.  Trying to keep your eyes open feels more like trying to pry open an elevator door with a toothpick and your brain slowly starts powering off despite your attempts to focus. 

I’m kind of a doer.  I like to be organized, plan, make schedules, color code things, alphabetize, you know things that compulsive people do.  I like to move through life at full speed, hopping from one activity to the next and taking on responsibilities galore.  Usually after a couple weeks of pedal to the floor living I come to a screeching halt, overwhelmed by a of couple days of that kind of tiredness.  When I start doing things because I’m supposed to, because it’s expected of me, because I don’t want to face what’s waiting for me in the silence, then I quickly become exhausted.  These reasons are without passion, without love, and without desire.  They are energy leaches that suck the life out of you and leave you feeling burned out and worn down. 

But things done with passion… now that’s a different story all together.  Passion changes things.

Sometimes it’s difficult for me to tell people what I’m passionate about. Here's why; people ask me, "What is your passion, Jess?" (As if they can't see it already) and I answer "Grace and Jesus and for people to intimately experience both!" And they say "Oh... You're one of THOSE people..." Now, how sad is it really, that the culture of the church as a whole today is one in which even your remote association to it is met with exasperated sighs from a world weary of being beat with our bibles? How can people ever believe that Jesus is about rest if were exhausting people with our dogma?

I am not, in fact, one of THOSE people. I don't want to picket an abortion clinic or talk politics with you, thumping my bible to drive home my agenda. I am not one of THOSE people that wants to argue with you about why the church you attend isn't the right denomination or that wants to give you a list of things you're doing wrong and ways to make them right. I am not one of THOSE people... And Jesus isn't either.

And really, we shouldn't have to make the distinction. Because if you bear the name of Christ, if you share his spirit, shouldn't you love the people he loves? Shouldn't you minister the way he ministered? If Jesus said "I've come to give you rest" then shouldn't his church be a place of rest for the souls of the broken, weary, and oppressed rather than a place the breaks, demands, and oppresses?

Sometimes we get so caught up in doing our "Christian" things and spreading our "Christian" message that we neglect the most important part; BEING a Christian. We get so busy working for Jesus that we forget to be with him.  I'm here to tell you that if you're so busy working for him that you are never being with him then maybe you're really not working for him at all.  Jesus didn’t come here to make employees he came here to make disciples.  Disciples of a rabbi whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.  See, he only ever came to give us rest.

I have been the employee, so driven by the task that I overlook the people, that I even overlook myself.  Not in a selfless, sacrificial way, but in a selfish consumed with gaining praise for my actions kind of way that leaves me empty, unfulfilled, and so so tired.  I’m just now coming to realize that following Jesus is not about inviting him to speed through life with us; it’s about noticing him sitting at the rest stop.  It’s about doing nothing when you have too much to do.  It’s about being silent when you have too much to say.  It’s about knowing that who you are is defined by what he did and letting that knowledge make you brave enough to stop doing so much and just be. 

Take time to rest in Christ.
Live life driven by passion and desire.
Free others to experience that rest. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Backwards Leadership

I realize that it’s been a while since I posted anything here on my blog.  For the past couple weeks I’ve been feeling like I was totally letting down those of you who keep up with me here.  Then I saw this quote from a writer/blogger that I follow, he said, “When I’m quiet on Twitter that usually means I’m being loud somewhere else.”  I really couldn’t have said it better!  So, just know that when I’m quiet on my blog that usually means I’m being really loud somewhere else and boy have I been!

Over the past couple of months I’ve taken up somewhat of a leadership role within the women’s ministry at my church.  We are 10 weeks into our newest small group, we have had several game nights, and one really awesome retreat!  I feel so incredibly blessed to be able to share time and space with these amazing women and I learn more from them with every moment that I spend with them.

It’s been about a year now that I’ve been legitimately, passionately, can’t-seem-to-think-of-anything-else-ly, interested in leadership and ministry.  A year ago I thought for sure I was ready, I had it all figured out, I knew exactly what being a leader meant! Yeah… about that…

For a long time I thought leadership was just about teaching.  Like if you knew all the right things and you could just convey that knowledge to other people then the world would change.  I mean, that doesn’t sound too hard right?  That, of course, made me think that in order to be an effective leader you had to have all the right answers or, at least, have an opinion about all the hard questions.  What if someone comes to you with a life altering, faith shaking question and you don’t have an answer to it? But… you’re their leader, it’s your job to know those things! At least… that’s what I used to think.

When I first felt “called” to ministry, that sounds so churchy and archaic let me rephrase that, when I first heard God say, “Hey, dude, that whole teaching people about me thing?  Yeah?  Let’s rock and roll with it together!”  I thought he was COMPLETELY out of his mind! “Umm… are you crazy?  Did you dial the wrong number?  This is Jess… Hays… you know, THAT Jess Hays.”  To which he responded, “Yeah, I know who you are, come on let’s do this thing!” 

He was right, of course, he knows who I am, and I’m the one who forgets sometimes.  See, I thought leadership was about having all the answers and teaching all the answers, and I knew I wasn’t the person for the job because, let’s be honest, I say “I don’t know” way too much to be leading people anywhere.  So, I was falling for two of Satan’s cons at the same time.  First, that leadership means having all the answers and second, that I wasn’t good enough to ever meet the standard.  I listened to his whispers of inadequacy and let them defeat me for so long. 

Here I am, FINALLY giving in to God’s invitation for the rollercoaster ride of a lifetime, and guess what?! I was completely wrong about leadership! This whole time I thought it was this black and white, cut and dry, you need to have it down type of thing.  The more time I spend actually in the thick of it the more I’ve come to see this beautiful, paint splattered canvas that it is.  It’s less about having all the right answers and more about having faith that God is good even when you don’t.  It’s less about conveying knowledge and more about connecting with people.  Leadership is fluid and flexible, when your lesson plan becomes more important than the needs of your people, you’re doing something wrong.  I know this because I’ve done something wrong… several times.  Wanna know something wonderful?  Just because I don’t do all the right things all the time, just because I don’t have all the answers, that doesn’t mean that I’m not being an effective leader.  See, because, it’s not about me anyway. 

Maybe that’s what being a leader is really about… being ok with it not being about you.  That’s the way Jesus did it, after all, making himself nothing so that we could have everything.  Maybe leadership is less about being in the lead and more about washing feet. 

How beautifully backwards, the way of Jesus, that the King of the universe would serve us all.  That he would give the keys of his kingdom to a bunch of fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes, and other riff raff.  What a glorious calling that is; to lead like that. 

The more time I spend in the mayhem of ministry the more I fall in love with it, the more I could see myself doing it forever.  I know this all probably sounds a bit scattered and less like my structured attempts at eloquence, but I’m figuring this all out and you know what?  I’m ok with that! I look forward to the adventure!

For all those reading this who might feel that same tug at your heart towards ministry but you find your fears of inadequacy keeping you from running off after it… Jump first, fear later, you won’t regret it! 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Skulls: Beauty or Evil?

“You know skulls are evil, right?”
“What, is it Halloween?”
“Are you one of those emo people or something?”

Currently about 75% of my wardrobe consists of clothing with skulls on them.  That means comments like the ones above are pretty common for me to hear.  Society, filled with “normal” people all with the same thought: Skulls = bad.  Maybe it comes from our history?  A skull and crossbones made you a pirate, a skull tattoo made you a gang member, skulls mounted on sticks marked the land of your enemies. 

Maybe, I’m just weird. 

See, because I think skulls are beautiful.

Do you know what skulls are?  They are the base of our physicality.  The raw, structured, base point of this crumbling thing we call life.  Maybe that’s why skulls scare us so much, because they remind us all how fragile we are underneath.  They remind us how powerless we are to stop the inescapable fate of becoming one, one day.  Maybe they scare us because we see that as our end.  Skulls = finality. 

We think we are bodies that hold a spirit and we fear the end of this brittle being. 

Do you know the name of the place that Jesus died?  It was called “Golgotha” it means, “Place of the Skull.” 

The Place of the Skull, where death ruled.  Where terror reigned as Roman soldiers hoisted broken bodies of the burglars and the battle scarred.  The Place of the Skull where the stench of stagnant blood stung nostrils and the shrill of bereavement’s cry deafened ears.  This… is where Jesus chose to stretch wide his arms and take on the world’s sin. 

There, at the Place of the Skull, when all that were watching thought death had won; glorious, unquenchable, relentless love gave birth to life.  And not just any life.  Not this fleeting, vapor in the wind thing that we call life, but a beautiful everlasting life for all who would choose to breathe it in. 

That’s what I love about God; where others expect death, he births life.  When others see dirt, he breathes life.  When others see a barren womb, he creates life.  When others expect famine, he creates life.  That is just what he does. 

So there at that place, the Place of the Skull, where death had reigned for so long, he defeated it for the rest of eternity.  In that moment, he not only vanquished death but caressed our spirits and brought them to life.  

And now we live, as spirits overwhelmed with life, desperately trying not to burst the seams of this shell we wear, this skin that confines us, this skull that makes us think we are fragile.  It would do us well to remember that we are spirits occupying a body and not the other way around.  Let us remember that, and that we have power, power beyond what we can even begin to comprehend fueled by a spirit infused with the very life of Christ. 

So to me, skulls are beautiful, because they remind me of the delicacy of this body, and that my power on this earth is not defined by it, but by the one who breathed life into me. 

And because they remind me of that place, the Place of the Skull, where beautiful things were made from dust.  

Monday, June 16, 2014

Daddy Loves ME Best!

I have a little brother named Chance.  We are 5 years apart and two COMPLETELY different personalities, which made for a childhood that was never boring.  Chance is the softer one.  He always enjoyed art and drama and movies where all they do is sing through the entire thing (I’m pretty sure that is against the 8th amendment).  Me, I just liked to hit things, throw things, and sweat a lot. 
Our parents are also two very different people.  My mom enjoys doing artistic-y things with Chance and dad and I sweat together.   Dad and I, Mom and Chance, that’s how it’s always been.  When Chance and I were younger we would get in arguments, as most siblings do, and he would say, “Well dad is just taking your side because you’re his favorite!” and I would come back with the height of wit that was, “Well, you’re mom’s favorite!”

This was silly, of course, because they each loved us both equally and completely.  Still there were times when I would think to myself, I’m special, dad likes ME best! 

Now you may be reading this thinking how silly and childish we were, but don’t we do that exact same thing within the church?  Don’t Christians in general do that among themselves?  No, you don’t think so?  Really, because I’ve seen quite a few things during my lifetime of growing up in church that suggest otherwise. 

What I see is group of people that are so determined to win an argument that they drive people away.  We argue about denomination, predestination, baptism, clothes, music, politics, tattoos, hair lengths, movies, and pretty much anything else that can be argued over.  And don’t think that I write this free from guilt because let me tell you, I am the queen of arguing.  I once went to a camp for 2 weeks dedicated solely to the purpose of teaching me how to defend my faith against anything that would stand up in opposition of it.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is anything wrong with knowing what you believe and why, quite the contrary actually, but if your goal becomes drawing lines in the sand you should know that you are probably going to end up alone on your side of it.

We are so focused on making other people agree with us, think like us, be like us, that instead of bringing people to the God that we say we serve we drive them away because all they see is us.  Not just that but, instead of being united as the brothers and sisters that we are, we pout off into a corner and say, “Fine then, I’ll just start my own church, Daddy likes me better anyway!”

We become whiny, abrasive children living our lives to please a Father whose favor we already have.  No wonder the world wants nothing to do with us.  How can we bear His name if He is love and all we do is hate? 

I used to believe that I was innocent of this; that I was open minded and accepting, but we all have our areas where we would rather argue than discuss, where we would rather burn bridges than admit to not having the answers.  I think that comes from a belief that we even have to have all the right answers.  A belief that makes us think any kind of doubt or questioning will lead to God being upset with us.  A belief that roots our identity in being right.  A belief that turns our focus on us instead of the cause we claim to be calling people to join.  A belief that is false.

See, because the truth is, Daddy does like you best.  All of you.  You are his favorite creation.  He loves you so much that He became nothing so that you could have everything.  He became broken so that you don’t have to be.  He became sin so that you could be perfect.  So that you don’t have to have all the right answers.  So that you can free others from having to have all the right answers too. 

He labored for you so that you could have rest.

So rest.

Be at peace with one another.  Love one another even when you disagree.  Embrace one another.   Show kindness to those that you think are wrong, because no one has ever changed their belief from losing an argument.  And because that’s not our purpose anyway.  Know that you are enough for your Heavenly Father and live a life to remind others that Daddy loves them best.  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


This is my 5th time to sit down to write this article.  Fifth.  Four other times I have sat here and stared at this page, fingers clicking away as I filled it with labored words calling for something I wasn’t experiencing.  Four weeks spent writing, declaring something that I desperately wanted but couldn’t grasp.  Four times I clicked that red “x” and opted to “continue without saving.”  Four times I chose authenticity in silence over empty words. 

So here we are, number five, and I can finally finish this time.  I feel free today. 

Do you ever let your past drive you?  Do you ever pull away from a person because people have hurt you?  Do you avoid church because of that one Christian whose side glances of disdain made you hate God?  I do.  More often than I’d like to admit, I do.

In those moments, I readily relinquish control of my life to fear.  I happily hand over the wheel to a monster that drives, speeding, down the road of depression as it shouts at me, “You are broken!  I know what you’ve done!  All you do is screw things up! You don’t deserve happiness.”  I slump, dejected, against the passenger’s seat, powerless, because I believe all of those things. 

Over and over again the past plays through my mind, the man who broke my heart, the women who broke their promises, the God who felt so distant, the addict that I was, the life of depravity that I thrived in, all projected on my brain telling me how little I deserve from life.   For so long I’ve believed them.  For so long I’ve played victim to my past, trading happiness for self-pity and being CONTENT with the trade!  What the hell is wrong with me?!  What satisfaction is there in that?

None.  Not one bit. 

So, you know what?  I’m done accepting what my past defines me as.  I’m done walking the path that fear chose for me.  It. Ends. Now.  Right now. 

Four times this article didn’t get written because of these four things that I’m now refusing to hold onto anymore:

1)  “Hello, my name is, Jess and I’m an alcoholic.”

I am NOT an alcoholic anymore.  Though, I will always be in recovery for my addiction, my name is no longer addict, I don’t answer to that anymore.  I am not ashamed of that part of my life and it will always be part of my story, but I am defined by what has been done for me not by what I did in my past.

2) Love Lost

I have been deeply, madly, passionately in love, and I have had my heart broken.  Never in a million years would I forsake the love if it meant that I could prevent the heart break, but I’m not going to cry over it anymore.  I’m not going to let it keep me from pursuing joy in relationships.  I’m not going to let fear sit me on the sidelines of the dating world just because the possibility of pain is out there!  Of what worth is love if it doesn’t hurt you to lose it? What is the value in something that it’s easy to live without? 

3) Unforgiveness/Hidden Hurts

I have this aunt, she invested in my life, pursued a relationship with me, and then decided she didn’t want to be associated with my family anymore.  All because of something that happened when her and my dad were kids, something that after experiencing the freedom of grace he wanted to make right.  Now, we have an awkward missing member at family occasions as we play pretend that it’s all ok, that this is normal. 

Every time we sit down to a Holiday dinner my need for authenticity gnaws away at my soul as the air of suppressed feelings falls heavy like the summer humidity.  I wish we could just talk about.  I wish we could just face the problem, but my wishes have no power here.  So I choose this:  to forgive her.  To live my life free from hating her.  To be real and talk about my pain even if no one else will and be ok with them choosing not to.   To let go of the possibility of things with her ever being like they were and to be so thankful for the beauty of my life without her. 

4) Women Issues

I’ve never had strong lasting women influences in my life.  My mom and I are stronger now than we’ve ever been but growing up it wasn’t nearly the same as it is now.  JJ was an amazing woman who changed my life, when she passed away my senior year of high school it crushed me beyond words.  Women and me… just never seemed to click.  I am always so quick to say that.  The thing is that now I have so many wonderfully strong women in my life.  Ones that push me to greatness, inspire me to chase my dreams, and teach me what womanhood really looks like.  It’s time I let go of what I didn’t have in the past and enjoy what I have now!

Four things that are powerless.  Four things that are finished.  Four new paths of freedom. 

Maybe you have four parts of your past that are holding you back.  Maybe you just don’t believe you deserve any more than the brokenness you live in right now.  Maybe you have more things than you can count that name you as not enough for a life of freedom.  Whatever the case may be know this; you are loved by a God who would rather die than let you live a life separated from Him anymore.  That would rather be tortured than for your relationship with Him to be defined by your past.  That would rather be betrayed by the people He loved than for His blessing to be dependent on your actions. 

He offers you a new identity.  He offers you freedom.  He offers you all that He has.  All you have to do is take it. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"That's Not What God Looks Like!"

My latest project is a new lesson series that takes a fresh look at Jesus, this has required me to go back and read through the Gospels.  I think this may be the first time I have actually sat down and read the Gospels in their entirety, it’s most certainly the first time I have since discovering the extremity of grace.

As I read through the book of John, I found myself being pulled in line by line as I became even more enamored with the Jesus that I thought I had figured out.  I found the way He related to people enchanting and His compassion inspiring.  Constantly, He is being accused, pressured, questioned, conspired against, and called names.

People loved Him for what He could do for them but forsook Him when they thought He was powerless.  The men who should have been on His side, the ones that were supposed to be close to God, instead spread rumors about Him.  Even His own family, his hometown, and at times His best friends, were ashamed of Him.  He was different and people are afraid of different. 

See, Jesus didn’t fit the mold.  He didn’t look the way that God was “supposed to” look.  He didn’t act the way that God was “supposed to” act.  Religion painted God as demanding and ruthless with a swift hand of judgment.  Jesus came and said things like, “the Father does not judge anyone, but has assigned all judgment to the Son” and “If anyone hears my words and does not obey them, I do not judge him. For I have not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” 

The religious leaders said, “No, He can’t be God, that’s not what God looks like!”

So often I hear the same words coming from different mouths, shouted from behind pulpits instead of through temples.  They waft through the air polluting our churches and poisoning our people as they all begin to believe in a god that Jesus looks nothing like.  The same words slither their way towards me every time I:

Wish my gay friends congratulations on their wedding.
Go to a strip club to lead worship for a small church meeting in it.
Support a pregnant teen, still living unwed with her boyfriend.
Dare to tell youth students they don’t have to read their Bible to be pleasing to God.
Declare my finding of worship in a classic rock song.

All are answered with, “No, that’s not what God looks like.”

Really?  Because I’m pretty sure that’s what Jesus looked like.  Then again, religion said the same thing about Him.  The age old tradition continues, that those who think they are in the light live bound in their shadowed corners lashing out at those who expose their depravity for what it is. 

Jesus knew this would happen, that those who bore His name, who spoke His message, would face hatred and pain and rejection.  In His last moments of freedom, shortly before He would be handed over to His death, He prayed this prayer over His disciples, His best friends. 

John 17:6-19 (NET)
 “I have revealed your name to the men you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have obeyed your word.  Now they understand that everything you have given me comes from you, because I have given them the words you have given me. They accepted them and really understand that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.  I am praying on behalf of them. I am not praying on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those you have given me, because they belong to you.  Everything I have belongs to you, and everything you have belongs to me, and I have been glorified by them.  I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them safe in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one.  When I was with them I kept them safe and watched over them in your name that you have given me. Not one of them was lost except the one destined for destruction, so that the scripture could be fulfilled.  But now I am coming to you, and I am saying these things in the world, so they may experience my joy completed in themselves.  I have given them your word, and the world has hated them, because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.  I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but that you keep them safe from the evil one.  They do not belong to the world just as I do not belong to the world.  Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth.  Just as you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.  And I set myself apart on their behalf, so that they too may be truly set apart.”

I have read the above verse at least 10 times this week.  As I read it again I can’t help but be brought to tears as the sincerity of Jesus words clench tight around my heart.  I can’t help but read this as His prayer over me, His desperate desire for my life, for all of our lives.  His unquenchable desire remains for us to experience joy, to know truth, to know that we are set apart, to know we are one with Him, and to know that we are held, safe, in arms that loved us before we even knew they were there. 

THAT is what God looks like.

Be encouraged this week.  Know that even if you look different, are trampled on, are broken, or are living in sin right this second; Jesus is praying that very same prayer over you.  You are loved when you are full of hate.  You are embraced when you push away.  You are accepted when others reject you.  You are healed in the midst of abuse.  You are treasured when you feel worthless.  You are pure though others call you a whore.  You are enough even when you have nothing to give.  You are a leader even if others call you a rebel.  You are a hero even if some think you an outlaw.  You are passionate though others call it imbalance.  You are a light even when darkness tries to snub it out.  You are His and you are a beautiful victim of a grace that you could never earn and will never lose. 

That… is what God looks like.  That’s what Jesus looks like.  That’s what you look like.  

Friday, April 11, 2014


I’m a pretty honest person.  Ok, that may a bit of an understatement.  I am an EXTREMELY honest person.  I am often the first person to share my failures, to offer up the not so pretty parts of myself, and tell the straight forward truth (even when it’s not always asked for).  I tend to be slightly unrefined and sometimes tactless, which aren’t traits I consider attractive about myself and why I am often in need of loving reminders from those close to me that, “maybe there’s a nicer way to say that.”

All that being said, I’m not always forthcoming about the softer parts of who I am.  Actually, frequently the harshness of my honesty becomes my shield that wards off those not brave enough to face it and see deeper than it.  I wear my differentness like an armor, protecting me from those who can’t see past the surface.  I think this makes people think that I am only calloused, with a hardened heart and no capacity for gentleness.  It’s not their fault they see me this way, it’s the way I present myself – hard, rough, and unyielding. 

So, for today’s blog I’m doing something I’ve never done before.  I’m going to tell the world about my soft spots, because I think it’s time that one of us hard-shelled people was brave enough to do so. 

I absolutely do have feelings.  In fact, I have intensely fervent feelings. Why do you think my armor is so thick?  You don’t protect something that’s not sensitive.  My feelings run deep.  I don’t do shallow when it comes to how I feel. I am an all or nothing kind of person.  If I love you, it’s with ferocity.  If I trust you, it’s with undying loyalty.  If I care for you, it’s with sincere devotion.  This means that the people I love the most, have to greatest ability to hurt me. 

I have experienced heartbreak.  Life altering, faith shattering, heartbreak.  I love with all I have which makes hurt more excruciating in the face of betrayal by those I thought I could trust.  Callouses form from a place a pain.  If you’re reading this, and I love you, you know it because I’ve told you.  Over and over again to the point where you’re probably tired of hearing it because I want you to know how much you mean to me, how deep you touch, but I never know how to say it.

People think that I’m fearless.  They call me brave because I share my failures but they don’t know that I hide behind them.  I’m not fearless.  I am afraid.  Afraid that people will see my softness and take advantage of it.  Afraid that the people I love most will walk away.  Afraid to trust… to really trust people to see me for all that I am, to see the scared little girl hiding behind that armor studded with strength.  I crave fearlessness.  That’s why I have it tattooed across my wrist, because I desperately want to live my life unshackled by fear.  I want to free the soft skinned girl inside chaffed by its bonds. 

So I write this, for all those like me, whose skin has been hardened by the harshness of this world and whose tender heart aches to be caressed.  I write this to say that, though we are strong, there are delicate parts of us.  We are gentle and kind.  We love with a passion that few are lucky enough to experience.  If you happen to be one of those lucky few, know that it is not fleeting, it not easily escaped from, and it is seldom extinguished. 

I am not going to end this with a call to join me.  I am not going to give you a verse that says you should live without fear.  I’m not going to ask you to expose your softness.

I am just going to stand here, armor stripped, naked, and vulnerable.  With fear and multiple second thoughts about posting this, and I am going to believe that the naked soft girl that I am, is enough.  Is loved.  Is accepted.  Is treasured.  Is beautiful.  Is His. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Hope for the Hurting

I refrained from writing anything publicly this past week as both the anniversary of the death of someone I loved dearly and my sobriety birthday came and went.  Six years seems like such a long time when I say it out loud, but as I sat Sunday night and thought about that time all those years ago, it seemed like it was just yesterday.  Then I spoke to someone this week whose current situation is reminiscent of that time 6 years ago.  I looked in her eyes and saw her pain and I wanted to hug that broken girl hiding behind it.  She told her story and I was reminded of that 18 year old kid I was.  That girl with broken hands and the aroma of alcohol veiled behind her lips that spoke of God like she knew Him.  Wanting of rescue while clinging to pain.

Pain is a very real part of our lives.  It weaves its way into our memories, hides in the shadows of our addictions, and hunkers down in the corners of our failures.  It’s so tangible, so visible, so very real; that at times it becomes hard for us to see anything outside of it. 

Pain hollows out these nooks in our scars that bitterness makes a home in.  It gouges valleys in our hearts where regret and feelings of failure build cities fortified by the words of the broken people who touch us.  And we feel helpless, broken, without hope. 

It’s hard to remember God in those moments.  It’s hard because pain has convinced us that we are not good enough for him.  That we are too broken for him to want.  That who we are can’t possibly be loved by someone as glorious as Him.  Worse still, pain may have even convinced us that Jesus couldn’t possibly understand our pain.  Our pain taunts us with whispers of, “He’s perfect and you are not, He never hurt the way you hurt.”  And we believe the whispers because it makes so much sense. 

I heard recently this quote from someone much smarter than myself:
“The key to understanding Jesus is in His humanity not His deity.”
So often we focus on the power of His deity; His touching death and bringing life, His commanding of storms to silence, and His glory in resurrection.  We miss his humanity.  We miss his loud sobs at losing a friend.  We miss his anxious bloody drops of sweat as He pleaded for rescue from His purpose.  We miss His tender care of desperate people looking for some kind of relief from the same pain that haunts us.

So great a God we serve, that not only did He speak us into existence with one breath, but also He slipped into skin and walked among us.  Who Jesus was in His humanity is God’s tangible picture of who He is and how He relates to us. 

Our God is not a stranger to the sting of pain, to the sting of our pain.  We hurt and is there with us, see because, we are one now. 

It’s OK to hurt, to cry excessive, over dramatic sobs.  It’s ok to be heart broken and fall apart in the midst of the darkness that pain brings with it.  But don’t let pain make cities.  Don’t let it define you.  Don’t let it convince you that God doesn’t understand you.  Don’t let it drive you to hopelessness. 

You are held by One who understands your pain.  You are comforted by One who relates to your struggle.  You are cradled on the chest scarred by the hatred of this world.  You are loved more than you could possibly imagine. 

Hurt and be comforted.  Cry and be consoled.  Want and be loved.

Friday, March 21, 2014

3 Things Every Dad Should Tell His Daughter

For as long as I can remember I have always been a daddy’s girl.  When I was younger we spent evenings wrestling, watching Diagnosis Murder, and storytelling.  As I grew up we enjoyed talking about sports and going on daddy daughter dates that inevitably consisted of basketball plays drawn out on napkins and him constantly encouraging me to do my best at anything that I touched.  We’ve only grown closer as I’ve grown into adulthood, our passions now intersecting more than ever and our conversations being filled more with excited exclamations of our new discoveries about grace than etched out sports plays. 

I realize that a relationship like ours is a rare thing and recently I have been thinking about how lucky I am to have such an amazing father, not only for who he is as my dad but for the picture of God that he is to me.  This reality left me thinking about 3 things that my dad has said to me and that I think every daughter deserves to hear from her dad.

1- “You are beautiful no matter what.”

When I graduated from high school I enjoyed my new found freedom to be me.  This included (but is not limited to) me cutting all my hair off, getting tattoos, and gauging my ears.  All those things make me look... less than normal when it comes to femininity.  Most days I love it, being different, but some days it is discouraging to be defined as “not pretty enough” by the rest of the world’s standards.  One such day, after getting my hair cut especially short, I drove home worried.  Dad is going to hate my hair, I thought to myself.  I walked in the door and quickly asked him, “Do you hate it?”  He responded, “You are absolutely beautiful, no matter what!”

Every girl deserves to hear that from her dad.  Every girl deserves to know that what the world defines as “normal” or “beautiful” or “good enough” does not define who they are.  Every girl deserves to be able to be her own kind of beautiful.

2- “I am proud of you for who you are, not what you do.”

Just this week, I made a major screw up.  One that will end up costing me quite a bit of money and was a result of my extremely poor planning and forethought.  I was angry and disappointed in myself. 
How could you be so stupid, Jess?!  I thought to myself.
Dad wrapped me up in a big bear hug, as only a dad can do, kissed my forehead and said, “I’m proud of you.”

“I’m not proud of me.”  I grumbled.

“Are you defined by what you do, or by who you are?  I am proud of you for who you are, not for what you do.”  He answered softly.

He was right, as he is most times, I am not defined by my actions, but by Christ’s actions for me.  So often we forget that, so easily we reject it, how desperately we need to be reminded of it.

3- “Jump First. Fear Later”

I want to say I was about 12 or 13 when dad first gifted me a Mike Yaconelli book.  He was one of dad’s mentors and, at that time, an innovator in the world of grace.  I have read his books so many times I think the pages might be falling out of some of them!  In his book, Dangerous Wonder, he writes this quote, “Jump first. Fear later.”  A call to take a chance, dare to risk, chase down your dreams, passions, desires, and jump off the cliff into something new and unknown. 

It became something dad and I would say to each other when we were in need of motivation.  Every time I would share with him some crazy idea or farfetched passion he would respond, “Jump first. Fear later.”

Dads should be the encouragers of dreams.  They should be the cheerleaders of their daughters’ passions.  They should be the founders of her belief that nothing is impossible and even if she fails, that doesn’t make her a failure. 

I feel incredibly lucky to have a father who tells me all of these things, but if you don’t have a dad like that, be encouraged that your Heavenly Father is whispering those words of endearment in your ear, all you have to do is listen.   To the dads out there reading this:  be the beacon of grace and love to your daughters.  Remind them who they are, how loved they are, and how much you treasure them apart from their actions.  Be her super hero, love her without condition, and point her to her Savior.  

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Abiding Place

Abide (v.)
1. accept or act in accordance with

2. (ing) permanent; enduring

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” –John 15:9 (NKJV)

So much to get excited about in those 14 words of Jesus!  I use to really dislike this verse, which seems silly when you read it at face value there, but it’s located after the passage about Jesus being the vine and us being the branches.  In this analogy Jesus says that God prunes those who are not bearing fruit and tosses them into the fire.  Which, of course, is what pastors always focused on when preaching about this passage, and to me always sounded like God was going to toss me aside if I didn’t achieve enough for Him.

Not only that but most translations of the Bible translate this word as “remain” which makes it sound, to me, like any time I run from him, I’m in danger of being cut off.  That was never great news for me, who even when trying my best to run towards Him, felt most times like I was moving backwards.

BUT this verse is not saying that at all!

It’s saying something much bigger that I’m pretty sure the disciples totally missed at the time (because I certainly did).

Let’s just start out with Jesus’ statement of “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you.” Woah! Wait, what?  Hold on a second there Jesus, are you saying that just like your Father, the God of the universe and sculptor of the heavens, loves you, his perfect, without fault, only Son, that’s the way you love me?!

Surely, you must be mistaken!  Have you even met me?  Don’t you know what a mess I am?

Yeah, that’s right, “As the Father loved me; I also have loved you.”

Broken you.
Messy you.
Unqualified you.
You are PERFECT to me.

That right there… that would be enough.  If Jesus had just done a double chest tap and said peace out after that, it would have been a big enough statement; but, of course, it doesn’t end there.

Jesus says, now that you know that, now that you know how much I love you, abide in that! Accept and act in accordance with it.  Believe and act out of it.  Endure struggles knowing it.  Nail down stakes and set up camp in it. 

Abide. In. My. Love.

See, Christ’s love for us, has absolutely nothing to do with us.  We have no control over it; we can’t escape it; we can’t run far enough that it can’t reach us; we can’t even do anything to lose it because we did nothing to gain it. 

Our only power is in how much we decide to believe in a love that we already have.  Our choice is only whether or not we want to hang out in that one way love or if we’d rather trade it for the piss poor substitute that the world has to offer us.  Even then, our choice doesn’t diminish or amplify his love, only how much we enjoy it.  He is limitless source and we are ravenous need.  The river is always there, our choice is whether or not we drink from it. 

Set up camp in Christ’s love this week.  Let it overtake and overwhelm you in the heights of triumph and the depths of failure.  Be treasured.  Be loved.  Abide. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

10 Reasons I Suck at Doing Church

Ok, so maybe the title should be amended to read “10 Reasons I Suck at Doing TRADITIONAL Church” but for those of you who are long time readers I think you already knew that.  I am child of ministers so I’m fairly certain that I spent more time in a pew than I did at home for the majority of my childhood.  I've heard just about everything when it comes to “church rules” and conversely have tried to break as many as possible.  Now life and love and the wonder of grace has led me down a new path that leaves me free to worship God how I choose (which is pretty fantastic) but just for kicks, I thought I’d write something about why I’d really suck at church if I hadn't found that path.  So, here you are, 10 reasons I suck at church:

  1. I am really bad a quiet times.  This may have something to do with the fact that I am just not good at quiet in general.  Even when I’m still (which is rare) I have music playing or a TV show on in the background.   Also, I've found that I learn much more studying the Bible as it pertains to certain doubts I have rather than studying a workbook.

  2. I don’t like being put in a box or labeled by a denomination.  Don’t ask me to sign a church constitution, this isn't 1776.

  3. I’m no good at prayer.  Well, normal church type prayers, that is.  If you ask me to pray know that it will sound more like a conversation than a somber address to a higher power.  I am definitely going to move around a lot and I don’t close my eyes.  God and I are one, why should I have to talk to Him any differently than I do to everyone else?

  4. I’m not very good at masking my emotions.  I don’t play the “I’m fine” game when I’m at church.  If I’m not ok, I don’t hide it.

  5. I curse too much.  Hell, ass, and damn are in the Bible, which means we can use them, right?

  6. I've never been good at following the rules.  If you tell me I can’t get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the sermon it just creates an unstoppable urge to pee.  Also, if coffee is not allowed in your sanctuary then your service shouldn't start until after 10:30, just saying!

  7. I create a mosh pit of one during worship.  Music just gets me going! I tend to be the one up front head banging to Marvelous Light and have been known to throw the “rock on” sign to the worship leader.

  8. I don’t do dresses.  Dresses are just awkward! I never know how to sit in them and if I drop something I have to use my Jedi mind powers to pick it back up without showing everyone my sexy Wonder Woman underwear.  My femininity isn't defined by my attire.  Also, to tack on to this, I am a fan of women being leaders in the church.  Don’t tell me just because I have boobs, I can’t preach.

  9. I like living out of balance.  I have this ongoing conversation with a friend of mine about balance versus completion.  I don’t want to live a life mixing a little bit of grace with a little of my efforts.  I don’t ride the fence and I am not watered down.  I don’t think God is either.  He loves in excess, forgives in extreme, and gives endlessly.  He’s a one hundred percenter- 100% grace and 100% truth, not a mix of half and half.  We were 100% sinful and now we are 100% righteous, completion not balance.

  10. Ain't nobody got time for that! Really, I just don’t have time to sit and argue over religion or meaningless theology.  I love Jesus and I know that He loves me and gives me ALL of His favor ALL the time.  That’s really all that matters to me, the rest… it’s just fluff. 

What about you?  How do you suck at church?

Aren't you really glad we don’t have to be good at “doing church” to hang out with God?