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

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.