Tuesday, September 13, 2016

"It is not that we have lost faith in God, it is that we have lost faith in the church"

What are you to do when you find yourself in a place where you hate the church, but you know in the deepest of ways that you love God? And how do you reconcile the God that you know with the hurt that you see the church bring? It's no new concept after all- the church has been a source of hurt and wrong doing since the very beginning. That is a concept that transcends religion. No matter what God you believe in or what denomination you identify with, where there is a church, there will also be people- perverting God's words and distorting God's will. History repeats itself and it may have been thousands of years ago, but not much has changed since the time that Jesus stood outside of the temple, flipping tables and declaring it to be a den of robbers. The very institution that proclaims to love God and represent Him on earth, has become the same institution that is the pinnacle of earthly wealth and shallow intentions. I am speaking of course of the church in America, I am not familiar with anything else. The churches where the pastor takes an offering and it is not used to feed the hungry or clothe the poor or provide shelter for the homeless or even further "the gospel". No, it is used to pay the mortgage of the house that is too big, to buy the new playground for the children to use once a week, to buy a new drumset so that worship will feel more "alive", to buy more cushioned seats because we couldn't stand to be uncomfortable for an hour and a half, to send the rich american high schoolers to another country so they can see what it is like to not have any material possesions- as if they were going on a vacation to see some far away zoo, except instead of being filled with animals it is filled with people, living real lives and doing real things. 

The word "christian" has been turned into a description of someones character, rather than a statement of their beliefs. To say someone is a Christian is no longer to say that they believe in Christ, it is to say that they are a good person. And in doing so, we have taken something so deep and personal and mysterious and turned it into a shallow, black and white way of living. And I'm sure we all know- not all good people are christians and not all christians are good people. In fact, most of the best people that I have met have not been christians. 

In many ways, it seems that the church has reduced a relationship with God down to a set of rules, of which they are the author and in doing so, have made themselves one of the most trivial, laughable institutions. The church has been so busy criticizing and judging that it has failed to notice the foundation that is crumbling under it's feet. Because when you remove the grey area that is a fundamental part of Christianity, what you are left with is a breeding ground of insecurity and judgement- where  imperfect people are trying their damndest to be perfect and in doing so, have sucked every bit of grace out of the room. 

We judge because we want absolute truths from a religion that doesn't have many absolutes to offer. We point fingers because we can't accept that what tempts you and causes sin may not tempt me. We are no longer looking to God for how to live, instead we are looking to friends, to pastors, to the seemingly "good" christian people around us. And in this, I have found that there is nothing more than sore disappointment. 

So that is where I am left- with my hands in the air wondering what the hell to make of all of it. I have started from the most fundamental levels and so far the truth I have found for myself is this- I know there is a God and I know that I have felt him. I know that things are not as they should be and I know that I am not the only person asking these questions. And of the rest- of my opinions on the church- I do not know if I am right, I do not know if I am wrong- I only know what my experience has been. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

There Is No Safe Investment

"There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. 
Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. 
If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. 
Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; 
avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.
But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. 
It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable."

I think of these words and I think of how easy they are to say and how much harder they are to live. I think of the false security we feel when we hold ourselves back from uncertain investments, and the false realities we create when we take on too many of them. I tend to be guilty of the latter. But whatever end of the spectrum you fall on, the real truth lies C.S. Lewis' first sentence- there are no safe investments. No matter how safe you feel, no matter how vulnerable you are, nothing is safe and nothing is certain. 

As a person who does not shy away at most uncertainties, I feel fine about this. But it's that same appetite for uncertainty that makes me feel less than fine when others play it more safe than myself. To me, I see that and I want to kick and scream and say "see above! It's not safe, it's never been safe, and the safer you try to make your life, the less of it there is to live." And that is where, while I feel like I am right, I am wrong. 

Because I can't tell you how to love and I can't tell you how to feel  and I can't tell you what to do in the face of uncertainty and it's not my job to make those calls for anyone but myself. But I can love, and I can continue to love, knowing that there is no safe investment and that nothing is certain, but that its worth it in the end because to feel that much means that I'm alive. And while it may not change anything, when has the world ever been worse off because there's a little more love in it than there was before?  

Thursday, June 9, 2016

"It is not the critic who counts; not the
man who points out how the strong man
stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could
have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually
in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and
sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who
errs, who comes short again and again,

because there is no effort without error and
shortcoming; but who does actually strive to
do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms,
the great devotions; who spends himself in a
worthy cause;

who at the best knows in the end the triumph
of high achievement, and who at the worst, if
he fails, at least fails while daring greatly..."

Theodore Roosevelt

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Disruptive Reality

She asked me if he had beaten me, and without blinking, 
the word "Yes" came out of my mouth. 

I had never lied about that night before, and I don't know why, after two years, I lied. I don't think that I meant to. I don't even think I knew what was coming out of my mouth when I opened it to speak. I had lied to myself about that night plenty of times, but never to another person. But there was a certain tone to her voice that I had picked up on, and my instincts took over; convinced that in order for her to believe I had been raped, she needed to believe that I had been beaten too. 

And to be honest, there was a sick part of me in that moment that wished he had hit me*. There was a part that wished I had been knocked unconscious, because then I would have been taken to the hospital and I would have the proof. I would have earned the scars that society needed for me to earn in order to believe that I had been raped.

What does it take after all? A black eye, a bloody nose, bruised hips? What does it take for society to give it’s approving nod that legitimizes what happened to me? How many disgusting details do I have to share to convince you that night changed my life?

And here in lies the problem with rape, with abuse, with sexual assault. People don’t want to believe what is right in front of them. They don’t want to entertain the idea that their brother, their father, the funny guy in the friend group, the respected church member would ever be capable of something so terrible. It's too inconvenient, too disruptive to believe the facts. But as a victim, I didn't have the choice to prevent the facts from inconveniencing and disrupting my reality.

Because the man that raped me became very un-funny, very un-nice, and very un-good after that night. And to be honest, so did a lot of the people around me. It was very un-good of my friends to continue to hang out with him. It was very un-nice of a family member to tell me that it was my fault. It was very un-funny when his pastor did nothing after being given all the facts. 

It’s time to wake up.   

I stand by the words “Until it happens to you, you don't know how it feels”, and I hope you never know how it feels. But just because you don't know how it feels doesn't mean that you don't know how to see what is right in front of you, on the silver platter of misfortune that is ungrudgingly assembled, and do something about it.

(*I by no means want anyone to think that those words are meant to be derogatory towards other victims, and it is not my intent to discount anyone's experience. It was my intent however to be honest and raw in what my experience was. I do have a support system, and the worst of my experience is behind me, but the shock of how this issue is dealt with still stings as much as it did two years ago. I was blessed to be spared what many victims are not, and for that I am very thankful.)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the Law. 

His praise is not from man, but from God.

| Romans 2:29-30 |

I read these verses and I think of myself and I think of my friends, and I cringe because I see the lies that we've all been told and how far from the light they have led us, all the while we thought we were doing exactly what was asked of us by God. I think of myself growing up and all the of the praise I received and all of the praise that I sought and all of the confusion I felt because I was doing all the right things but I felt so empty. I think of myself the past couple of years and I think of all the praise I did not receive and all the praise I did not seek and all the shame I put on myself because I was doing the opposite of what I thought was right. And I think of myself now and I think of all the thanks I feel  because I can see that God is there and He loves me and He is listening and I can see that He has always been there loving and listening, I just wasn't looking for Him. 

 We are told to attain to high standards, to behave in a way that makes society smile, to have regular church attendance, to do a daily devotion, to pray about big life decisions before we make themWe are told that these things make us good people and they make us Christians and they give us a good life. But if you've lived for a minute, you know that they don't.

Because Christ did not ask us to do any of that and He did not die for that. He did not die so that we could pretend like we have it all together; He did not ask us to have it all together. He does ask us to leave everything behind and follow him and in exchange He doesn't make us feel like good people, He makes us complete. He looks at us and knowing that we are far from perfect, loves us anyways. He realigns our thoughts from thinking about here to thinking about Home. He opens our eyes to see the bigger picture, to feel our purpose, to experience and to share love and grace and redemption in an undeniable and infectious way. He prepares us for Home, and He invites us to help prepare others. And when we see that, when we see what Christ has for us and we see that He is not looking for our checklist, but for our love, the opinions of men become laughably insignificant. When we can stand in confidence in what He has for us, 
the expectations of our peers, of the Christian culture, of society, they all shatter, 
because in the face of God they have no voice. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks 
for early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses 
in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rivers 
that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and 
all the good things that a good God gives.

| Ann Voskamp |

This season has been one of thanks. There's been lots of good and there's been lots of learning, and I am filled with thankfulness for it all. Thankful for all that God has been doing, thankful for seeing His hands in everything. Thankful for being given open eyes and an open heart that wants to seek Him. Thankful for wanting to be present in life. Thankful that even though it's been a long past couple of years and in spite of everything that has happened, God has brought me here, to this place, in this moment, where I can see that it wasn't for nothing and that there is a purpose behind it all.  

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

You are so loved and you matter more than you could ever know.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

An Ode to the Ache

"Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage"

To anyone and everyone who has ever shared their story with me, this is to you.

At 21, I have seen and felt more hurt and loss than I thought I would have. But the older I get and the more people I meet, I appreciate the strength of the human spirit more than ever. I am amazed at how much we are able to overcome. Hurt and loss that should not have to face, but that we do face and then go on to operate as seemingly whole hearted beings in a world that does not allow us to do so. But at the end of the day, what breaks my heart and what stands out the most is the need that we feel to be so strong during the times of hurt and loss. We all know and have felt these things, yet we do not want anyone to see our weakness in the midst of them. We close up and walk tall as if everything were as it should be, all the while we are coming apart on the inside.

In thinking about all of this, one particular experience from a couple years ago always resonates with me. I was a few months into what felt like a ridiculously long time of loss and hurt, when a mentor that I had in high school reached out to reconnect with me. I met with her and when she asked what was going on, I candidly told her everything, as if I was talking with her about the weather. I didn't need her pity and I was doing just fine accepting that sometimes shit happens. It wasn't even a second after I finished speaking that she gave me a hug and then looked me straight in the eyes and reassured me that I did not have to be "okay". She gave me permission to grieve and to be angry and to face all of it for what it was. I don't think it was until that moment that I gave myself permission to grieve and be upset about the things that were happening in my life. I will always be thankful for that meeting we shared.

To the person who is still hurting, you do not have to be strong. True strength comes as a product of experience and is not self imposed. To be strong in the midst of hurt is to be numb, and there is not life on the other side of that. You are not alone. There are many things in life that we have to face alone, and grief is not one of them. We all have experienced too much of it to not be able to lend a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. There is a season for everything and sometimes the season is sad and painful, but better and brighter ones will come.

To the close friend or the relative or the loved one; show up. It feels uncomfortable and comes with a long list of doubts... "I don't know what to say.",:What if I'm smothering them?", "What if they want to be left alone?" The list goes on, and despite how insignificant you think you are, it took less than a minute for someone that I hadn't talked to in months to help me more than any counselor could. I'm not sure that we realize how much weight our actions carry and the potential benefit they mean for those around us.

The point I'm meaning to make is that we must not mistake grieving for weakness and strength for numbness.  In order to properly grieve and in order to properly support the grieving, we have to let ourselves be seen by those that we love. We have to get comfortable with vulnerability and trust those closest to us, whether it is with our truths or with our help. In the words of Brene Brown, vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.

To the handful (okay, probably more like two handfuls) of you that have inspired this entry, know how thankful I am for you.You are the bravest people I know, with more strength than I knew was possible. You have helped me get through things that were by no means easy. You listened to me tell you about the not so easy things and helped me work through them. You opened yourself up to be honest and vulnerable with me. You trusted me to know your hurts and your losses. You inspire me to cherish human connection and embrace vulnerability everyday and you will always have a very special place in my life and my heart.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The New Year

"These are whole-hearted people, living from this deep sense of worthiness. 
These folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. 
They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, 
because, as it turns out, we can't practice compassion with other people if we can't treat ourselves kindly. 
And the last was they had connection, and this was the hard part 
as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were"


My last semester of college starts in two weeks and what a journey it has been.
The nostalgia has opened my eyes to evaluate it all.
There's been lots of good and there's been lots of bad, but thankfully my regrets are few.

I wish I had loved the people in my life better.
I wish I had loved myself better.

But most of all I am filled with so much thanks. 

Thankful for the people that have been put in my life
Thankful for learning that it's okay to not have it all figured out
Thankful for the grace I received among all of my mistakes
Thankful for all that I have learned about myself through those mistakes

and the thing is, there is not one wish or one regret that I have that has not taught me something. 

Not loving the people in my life as well as I could have showed me how valuable it is to treasure your friends and your family and how terrible it is to push those people away. 

Not loving myself showed me how important it is to be patient and gracious with yourself so that you can be patient and gracious to others, because without that it is a miserable existence. 

 I look forward to what this last semester holds and the fresh perspective that I have gained.
I look forward to staying in more nights.
I look forward to finding ways to show the people in my life how much they mean to me.
I look forward to finding the courage to be true to myself, to be authentic.
In the words of Brene Brown, I look forward to learning how to let go of who I think I should be to be who I am

And today, I am thankful for the regrets, for the lessons, and for the looking forward to's

Cheers to the New Year!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Powerful Play

What’s the only thing in Heaven that’s the same as it is on earth?

 The wounds in Jesus’ hands and feet


Easter weekend I was able to see the film adaptation of the book, "Heaven is for Real". I was not particularly interested in seeing the movie, but that day I walked out of the theater asking myself 

"is Heaven for real?"

If I really believed in Heaven, then my current approach to life was going to need some serious rearranging. 
God doesn't care about whether or not I have a prestigious job, 
how well I am liked among my peers, 
how "good" of a church member I am, 
how much money I make. 

Everything that I  am told to attain, God could care less about. 

So is Heaven for real? Because if it is, then all of these mile markers I have for myself seem pretty useless. My job is not going to get me into Heaven, my faith is. And what does that even mean- "my faith"? My faith in Jesus? My belief that He is God and He is in control? That's not looking so strong considering that I consistently freak out when all of the little things in my life go the least bit wrong...but I know I am a Christian and that I love Jesus. I know that I do. I think I am so used to giving the sunday school answer about Christianity to myself and others that I have forgotten what they really mean. 

If Heaven is real, then that is what I should be working towards- not my education, not where I want to live, not trying to lose weight, not even trying to make friends because none of that is going to help me get there. 

Deep breath, wide eyes... 
What am I doing then, God? 
Because everyone else seems to think that all of these things are pretty damn important. 

They are important. 
It's important to be engaged in the world. 
It's important because it gives you experiences that teach you about yourself, 
teach you about God, 
and teach you about why you need Him. 

It's important because without all of these different interactions you would not have the exposure to all of the people that you are now able to call your friends. 
It's important because it gives you a chance to care about people and care about their souls. 
It's important because it ultimately gives you the chance to impact the maximum amount of people for the better. 

I think the problem is when I focus on the little things and that's when I forget about Heaven. 
That is what causes me to ask myself, "Is Heaven for real?". 
This moment, 
today's frustrations, 
tomorrow's expectations-
they are all a chance for us to see God and share His love. 

"The powerful play goes on, that you may contribute a verse..."

I want my verse to be one that makes the next life filled with more people than it otherwise would be. 

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