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

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.