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

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?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Sermon from the Shower

I posted a status on my Facebook last night about a tendency I have to preach in the shower.  Yes, that makes me kind of a dork, but it’s absolutely 100% true!  There is this well-known, and often joked about truth out there that all deep thought and life reflection happens in the shower.  This is mostly true for me as that tends to be the only place where I’m completely alone with no distractions. 

Thus, the shower sermons are born out of my reflections on life.  I fervently preach them to my audience of shampoo, shower head, and suds as if I were speaking to a church full of people.

Last night I was thinking about grace and how I am ever learning more about it as time goes on, and the fact that it never ceases to surprise and amaze me, as it ignites more passion right when I thought I had reached maximum passion levels.  In that moment I was reminded of a common question asked again of me recently:

“Why do you believe in such radical grace?”

The answer is simple really.  I believe in it because I tried everything else and it didn’t work.
I tried living up to religion’s standards and it made me a failure.
I tried living without rules or morality and it made me empty.
I tried making people happy and it made me a liar.
I tried pleasing only myself and it made me an addict.

Then I tried grace and grace made me enough.
Grace made me perfect.
Grace made me loved.
Grace made me free.
Grace made me RIGHTEOUS!

Everything else in this world, every other path it has to offer, even those paved with religion, do nothing but destroy us from inside out.  I know because I’ve walked them.  They destroy us and then try to convince us that this new road, this unknown narrow road called grace, will do the same to us if we venture down it.  So we cower away.  We dare not take the chance of trading one broken road for another so we just sit there in our brokenness and cry about how much it hurts.  I know because I’ve done that.

And we miss out on the glory of grace for the fear of failure, the agony of emptiness, or the possibility of pain.

We sit there and we see others who live radically and we ask them, “Why, why do you believe what you do.”  But really what we mean is, “How?  How do you believe it?”

And for that question I don’t really know if there is an answer.

I don’t think there is always an instruction booklet when it comes to life, and definitely not when it comes to belief.  Sometimes you just have to go off script, ditch the recipe, and jump off the cliff.  Most times that jump is absolutely terrifying, so we try to stop the fall.  We grasp desperately for something along the side of the cliff to slow our decent into uncertainty.  Soon we discover that nothing holds us as we look down to bloody knuckles, burned palms, and dust between our fingers. 
We say, “God look what you did to my hands! I knew I shouldn’t have jumped!”

 And we forget that we’re the ones who tried to stop the fall, because we were afraid of what was at the end of it.  Our broken hands are not a result of the jump, but the resistance of it. 

See when you resist grace, when you live a life contrary to it, attempting to be good enough on your own, all you can find is brokenness.  Brokenness not as a result of God’s wrath but of our efforts.

Our efforts that amount to nothing but emptiness, failure, pain, loneliness, and everything we are trying so desperately to avoid.  Our efforts that, at the end of the day, just leave us grasping at dust.

I have a secret to tell you.  A mystery to reveal, as Paul calls it.

I know what’s at the end of the fall.

Want to know what it is?

Love. Joy. Contentment. Acceptance. Healing. Righteousness. Peace. Holiness. Adoption. Friendship. Wholeness. Freedom. Kindness. Unbelievable favor. Oneness with the Creator of the universe. Perfection. Forgiveness.  Jesus.  Every single positive thing you’ve ever craved from another person, it’s there, He has it, and it’s yours!  All waiting for you.  At the end of the fall.

How?  How do you believe it?

Just jump.

It’s that simple and that complex.

Jump first.  Fear later.