“Jesus hates me.”

I have to confess.
I sometimes watch garbage TV.
Let me be clear… it’s trash.
I mean that in no way to be disrespectful to those of you who inevitably love some shows that I probably put in this category. But let’s be real.

I was recently watching one of these shows, Grey’s Anatomy, when I was absolutely disgusted by something that happened. And I realize that as a Christian woman in our culture that the thing that “should disgust me is that on a regular basis there’s a ridiculous amount of unacceptable behaviour, especially adulterous behaviour.
But what actually disgusted me to my core was this:
A character on the show who’s known for being a prude because she’s a virgin, gets drunk on confidence {and possibly alcohol since they were at a bar} and lets it get her on an emotional high where her guard comes down and she chooses to have sex with another character, a guy on the show who we know from previous episodes has slept with at least two other women recently-ish. He’s hesitant when she starts to kiss him and he says he can’t, because she’s a virgin. And she gives him all these reasons that she’s a virgin, that she shouldn’t be anymore and doesn’t need to be anymore, and then they have sex.
And then, he leaves.
And then, they see each other the next day.
And she can’t look at him.
He asks if she’ll never look at him again.
Without looking at him, she says, {and I am slightly paraphrasing because I don’t intend to google it.}
“I was a virgin because I love Jesus. And now, Jesus hates me.
End scene, storyline changes….

I was furious. Oh my goodness… I was so irate at what I saw happen there.
Because it’s the same lies I believed that kept me away from His Love for so long.
I believed that I wasn’t worth loving because I had so many reasons to live in shame.

Today, a dear friend who’s been going to church lately {after not having gone in years and years} asked me if now that she’s going, she should stop sleeping with her boyfriend, the father of her 2 children, who lives with her and provides for her to stay at home with their children… because “God doesn’t approve” of sex outside of marriage.

Man, oh man.
What a doozie of a question for her to ask me.
In a text message, no less!! Haha.
I thought about it.
And thought about it.
And talked to John about it.
And the more processing I did, the more I realized that I’m having difficulty answering the question because I’m trying to answer the wrong question.

See, God created man for woman and woman for man.
He created this beautiful marriage relationship where there’s one mate.
And we’re most connected to Him when we’re living in the way He designed for us to live.
So it’s not that He doesn’t approve of this or that. It’s that He created you with this beautiful design in mind – this beautiful place for you to be connected to Him and walk in a way that you know one another intimately. And when we actively choose to walk in disregard for the best He has for us, we’re betraying Him.

And He’s walking there with us, waiting and hoping for the moment when we choose to walk with Him.

So when we’re faced with these things in our life where we go, ‘should I modify this behaviour so God’s not disappointed in me?’… We’re looking at Him like He’s a school teacher giving us progress reports instead of realizing that He’s eagerly awaiting the moment we choose to run to Him and share our lives with Him, and that He’ll guide our hearts to the place where they actively want to be more in line with how He created for us to be.

 

Being Churched.

Makes me think of the phrase “getting schooled.”
But that’s so incredibly unrelated.
It’s super late when I’m writing this. So you know, I’m delirious.
And I’m high. I’m high on excitement thinking about a passionate idea I have to possibly love a friend well. An idea that gets a community involved to pour love into the life of some folks I adore, and more importantly folks that He calls His masterpieces. Whew, Jesus is so good.

So, being “churched.”
It’s a phrase I’ve often heard within the church, and as with many things, it’s a phrase that’s used to separate & divide. It’s used to say whether someone has been “churched” or to call someone “unchurched.” It sets a line – them and us, or us and them, depending on which side of the conversation you’re privy {or un-privy} to.

This week, I met a Mom {for the second time} while at the park nearest my house. She was joining our moms group for a walk around the Lake & I was thrilled to have her company as I panted my way around the lake, sweating and wondering why they can’t call them practice contractions instead of Braxton Hicks contractions. Anyway…. This mom & I are talking when she says, “Praise the Lord!” in response to something noteworthy I must’ve said and can’t currently remember…

I’m going to pause to go into a side note here, and will resume the story shortly:
Anytime someone says something that even hints that they know the Jesus that I know, something inside me leaps {and not just the baby in my belly, either}. I get this excited anxious yearning to know if they really know who I know, or if they know someone by the same name who’s vaguely familiar to me, too. I search for ways in my heart and mind to ask the right questions that will draw them out in a way that lets me see what lives inside them… is it Truth or are they bogged down by the lies they’ve been sold?

So she says “Praise the Lord!”
And my inner monologue starts going, wondering who she is and where she met Jesus and if she knows the Jesus I know, and what she’s been set free from. It’s like I’ve discovered that she might be from my hometown, and I want to know if she knows all my favourite places – if she knows the people who I love the most.
So I quickly respond, trying to get a word out over the excitement that’s going in my mind,
“Oh! Do you go to church here in Lakeland?”

She explains that she used to, a few years ago, go to a megachurch I’ve heard quite a few things about… and that she doesn’t go anymore – but she sends her tithe every month.
I realized that I probably made her feel shame.
Because rather than asking her the questions that matter – the questions that draw out who she is and if and how she knows who I know, knows the love that I do, I asked her a question that put her identity in Christ somewhere else.

I wanted to tell her how I don’t actually think that church on Sunday is how the church was meant to live and breathe and grow. I wanted to tell her that I understand! That it’s amazing that she still gives to a ‘church’ that gives no life to her! I wanted to tell her so many things, but I was just. in. shock.
I was in shock that I looked for a way to identify her by something so trivial.

Because, really, since when does going to church on Sunday have anything to do with whether or not you know and love Jesus? Since when is that a measure for your spiritual growth?

I won’t wander into ramblings about all the reasons I think churches are living out what we were intended to be as community when they do it opposite to how our culture does.
I’ll just say that I think it’s a sad thing that the primary measure of someone’s walk with Christ in our culture is whether they go to a church building on a Sunday… where they sit when they’re there, how many other events they attend by that church throughout the week, or any of those superficial, self important, business minded things.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve watched throughout my life who sit in churches on Sunday mornings and don’t know the first thing about what it means to live a redeemed life. People who don’t know the first thing about what it is to love your enemy. People who proclaim Jesus while they fill their coffers with all they can and hate the people around them. People who have no hope, people who by all the measurements I’ve been taught to use by this system would pass with flying colors. But people who I see no evidence of the Truth of the Gospel in their lives.

Similarly, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who haven’t stepped foot into a church in years that have spoken His Truth to my soul in ways I never imagined I’d understand. People I watched the previous folks shy away from. People who showed me what it is to live and breathe in the freedom of His Redemption.

Being “Churched” has
nothing
to
do
with
it.

Being redeemed & living a life changed by Truth that inevitably sets you free and causes you to live in a place of generosity, hope, courage, and love is what it’s all about.

I pray that the next time I’m compelled to ask a question in hopes of getting to know someone’s journey with Jesus, I’ll ask a simpler and more loving question that gives them space to speak in freedom and grace.

Intentions.

I use the word “intentional” a lot.
It’s my preferred synonym of purposeful.
It means, to me, that something was valued enough to put care, thought, intention, and purpose into.

And I’d venture to say that John & I are pretty intentional about a lot of things.
I’d also say that I’m absolutely the most intentional about relationships in my life.

I’m an incredibly relational person. I love to be around people, and though I do like to go to the bathroom alone, there aren’t any other places I can think of where I don’t adore having company.
I love people. I love getting to know people and their stories. And I commit to folks something serious.

And here’s the thing…
{I realized when prompted by someone else’s question that I don’t talk about it much}
I love people for one reason:

He loved me first.

I am convinced that I wouldn’t love people if this weren’t the case. I might do nice things for people. But it would be about making myself feel good. Or from a sense of obligation {still about making myself feel good.} Or to be accepted, or to be loved in return, etc., etc.
The point is, I might still be a generally nice person on the surface, but it would be self-serving.

The only reason I ever make it past the point of self serving in my relationships with people… to the point of never losing hope, of being patient, kind, humble, any of that… is because HE gives it to me.

And I’m not quick to explain that, necessarily. Maybe because I don’t want to freak out my friends who don’t know Jesus by being all, “Hey, I love Jesus so I want to love you.” And have them run in the other direction. Of course, I would hope that they all know by now what I’m all about.

The thing is… I don’t pursue these friends because I want to convince them that they need Jesus.
I want to pursue these friends because  they were created by Jesus. Because He calls them His masterpiece.
Because even in all the brokenness of all the people around me all the time, I see His beauty. I see His glory shining through. And because He wants to know them. And He wants people to want to know each other. And that’s why I pursue people. That’s why I want my door to always be open. That’s why I struggle to say no anytime people invite me into any part of their life {be it real relationship or just a party.} That’s why I find it incredibly difficult to let go of relationships AND why I find it incredibly difficult to not be honest with people in relationship.

The thing is, I desperately want all my friends to know the beautiful freedom that comes in knowing Jesus.
Because it saved me.
Because He set me free from all the things that were binding up my soul and keeping me in darkness.
Not that I don’t obviously have my moments, but the general direction of my life and my heart is in the way of contentment, joy, and LIFE.
I want that for everyone I encounter. But I don’t necessarily wear a t-shirt that says it. I don’t necessarily tell anyone that at our first meeting, or even at all. I do want them to want to know me, too, and hey, they don’t necessarily have the love of Jesus as their motivation to want to do so.

I do, however, make it my intention to go about showing them that in everything that I do… and telling them that with my words whenever they give me the opportunity to.

Like Heaven?

Just recently I finished the very controversial book LOVE WINS by Rob Bell. Lee Anne had read the book and mentioned things that got me intrigued. Took me a while to start the book and even longer to actually finish it. In the book Bell seeks to open a discussion for anyone interested on the often misunderstood and heated topic of heaven and hell. My struggle with these ideas started early in life, largely due to my tendency toward using stories to understand life. Our understanding of these “places” and the stories they create in our hearts do a lot to arrange the way we live.

Heaven and Hell: these two words bring to mind everything from babies with wings to large hairy biker guya.

Is this heaven or hell?

When driving the other day (ok I drive a lot every day) a song came on and for some reason I got this vision of humanity having a HUGE dance party with singing and music. A wedding cake style stage was rotating with children of all colors, nationalities and ages singing with the kind of enthusiasm that kids have when they love the person they are singing about. Circle upon circle of break dancers and pop-lockers surrounded the stage, all doing the kind of moves reserved for the Red Bull final rounds. Then instruments from saxophone to guitar marched around the whole event, hitting every note to the rhythm of the dancers. From out of view, came old men running into consecutive hand springs and flips across the front and back of this dancebration.

Without reason I turned, in my mind, to the right and caught the Messiah watching this whole thing with me.

He was smiling.
I was crying.

Then it struck me, this whole thing. All of humanity celebrating and creating this blend of musical dance party was the ONLY appropriate response to what He did for us. And He loved every moment, His smile was like seeing all the best moments of your life – only much, much better.

Could this be like Heaven?

Giving thought to heaven and what it means that our Savior said the Kingdom of Heaven is here makes a HUGE difference in the way everyday life is lived.

Attacked

We are pursuing a life of love by paying off debt then moving into a season of serving (over seas or stateside). Our mission as a family is to bring the love of our Creator Savior to every place we go and every person we encounter.

Love is dangerous. The Simple Way makes us long for a time when people are valued but the way of this world overvalues money, products and all kinds of intangible selfish desires. These lead to a life of apathy and so often our days get swept into busy apathy. We run around doing nothing while we complain about being exhausted.

We long for focus and purpose but we embrace distraction and confusion.

Last night we asked our community to join us as we journey into a season of focus and purpose. The prayer, Bible sharing and discussion was refreshing and stirred our hearts to action. We are blessed with passionate people. Then the enemy attacked me in my dreams, trying to bring sexual dissension to our marriage. And I awoke knowing that He is for us but the enemy is relentless.

We will not stop until Heaven comes. He has already won the victory, we are following Him into the simple way of life and love.

Arranged

Stories are powerful.
They are the stuff by which decisions, both big and little, are made.
They form in us a sense of worth, value and purpose.
They fuel a voice in our minds that is never silenced.

Each time we see a billboard, TV commercial, advert in a magazine or even just the label on a food item, there is a story being told of what that item might bring us in happiness and contentment. In fact, many times these stories can turn our days into an endless pursuit of “just one more _____” and THEN we will be satisfied.

Beyond these more recent stories are the bigger stories of how we got here as a person, family, country and even all of humanity. Evolution and it’s many cousins, is the story of how all of this (world, plants, humans…. everything) became all this. What made all this stuff? And why? Or who?

When’s the last time you asked someone how they made the choice to start breathing?
Might it be that we don’t often think about all of the “why”s because there is so much in life that just happens or put simply “life just is”?

Looking at the history of humanity, the stories of each culture revealed so much about who those people were and what shaped their lives as individuals. The mythic origins of Rome tell the story about one brother crushing another to form this Empire. When Rome went down in flames it was largely from the royal family’s conflicts and corruption over the course of hundreds of years. Each culture has similar stories and each one shows clearly where that culture is headed. Of course, we don’t know the future, but we can look at history and see how the creation myths dictated much about the rise and fall of empires.

So what about us, the people not in power?
Can the story of how we got to where we are mean much to us?

Here’s a story:

Once there was a being who had power and creativity without limit. This being set out to make a world that would last forever and regenerate itself using a dependency and connection to its inhabitants and its creator.

Then this being created animals of every kind with plants of every kind. All of this for no other reason than the simple pleasure of creating and engaging this creation. At some point in time this creator being made humans. Creator being used hands, and breath, to bring them into being in a way that reflected this being’s own existence. They were given the whole world to enjoy and a creative task to do: name each animal with a sound that emerges from your mouth.

All this creative being desired was relationship with these human beings but they wanted more than just relationship, more than food (and a complete lack of need for shelter), more than the limit of doing the creative work set up just for them.

So they grasp onto this idea: we want more options. We want to know what is good and what is bad. We want to decide for ourselves.

Brokenhearted, this creator being gave them what they wanted. They would need clothing to cover their naked bodies, of which they were previously unaware. They would need to know that pain would come in ways appropriate to man and woman. They would need to be cut off from living forever so that the pain would end someday.

Now this creative being did something beyond what is sensible, reasonable and logical. The being pursued these humans for thousands of years. Trying again and again to be in relationship with them as it was in the beginning. Since the disconnection, the humans couldn’t grasp being connected to a being so big and beyond their small lives. So this being did the unthinkable. Born into a human family, this creator being became limited like the created beings. Then, as a human man, the being died for the humans and came back to life so that one day the creator being and the created beings might enjoy creation in harmony once again.

Forever.

Now, how is this different for a teenage girl with an abusive boyfriend and a serious eating disorder? Could this story change her mind about her own worth? Would it captivate her imagination knowing that the Creator of all this stuff wanted to be lovingly connected to her? Can the story that she is a random occurrence of atoms have the same affect? Does it matter? Do we matter? To whom?

Stories arrange us. They put us somewhere and connect us to an idea of reality that shapes our life EVERY DAY.

What story is guiding your life today?

I was wrong.

Everyone knows someone who’s unreal.
I guess it’s somewhat hard to describe, so bear with me…
{I feel like I say that a. lot. Thanks for your patience.}

What I mean is this:
“The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” – Saint Irenaeus

{The rest of that quote is “… and to be alive consists in beholding God.”}

When I think about ‘being fully alive,’ what most comes to mind is vulnerability.
God created us to be in relationship with Him & the people around us. We build relationships by opening ourselves to someone else.
That’s vulnerability. That’s what builds closeness {or intimacy}.

It’s scary to be vulnerable with others; it’s scary to receive vulnerability from others.
It can be scary because there’s another human being about to share their brokenness with you, or it can be scary because you’re about to share your brokenness with someone else.

That’s our commonality {our least common denominator, if you will} in humanity: brokenness.

What confirms that a fear should exist is when your vulnerability is met with nothing from the other side.
When you’re talking to someone & perhaps you’re sharing that you really struggle to be patient with your child.
Or maybe, you’re really struggling to be diligent with your finances.
You share this thing… this place where you’re willingly displaying your brokenness..
And on the other side of the relationship, is a person who acts like they’ve just never imagined such a travesty. Like, they can’t fathom what it would be like to lose patience with their children.
Or that they’re completely on top of their finances.
Or simply, and most often, that everything in their life is just dandy. Perhaps they imply that they don’t struggle with anything.

It’s like the scene you’ve seen on TV where someone’s preparing for a job interview & they’re asked what their weaknesses are & they say, “I work too hard. I pay too much attention to the details. I care too much about my teammates.”
You laugh at these scenes because these people are being unreal. They’re acting as if they don’t have things that they struggle with. That they aren’t broken.

And that disconnects us from each other. It leaves no room for growth, and it’s disheartening for someone who’s trying to be in a relationship with you & wanting both of you to grow together.

Confession is refreshing. It lifts a burden from our souls and it’s such a basic form of vulnerability.
There’s something so radically different about the moments of confession in my marriage with John – the place where one of us comes to the other & humbly admits that we’ve been wrong. And the moment before the other person reacts. The fear that there might not be acceptance, and the reassurance that this is a relationship of unconditional love. That forgiveness is foundational here. That connects us in a way that’s so different from anything else in our lives. It’s beautiful. It’s humbling, honest, raw moments that bring us closer together & connect us deeply. And it always leads to more closeness {or intimacy}.

We live in a world that doesn’t value vulnerability.
I can’t tell you how many times & how many different ways I’ve heard it said.
Our culture says, “always put your best foot forward,” “never let your weaknesses show,” and so many other things that tell us that showing our humanity is going to destroy us.
We live in a culture that hushes you when you cry, that suppresses your expressions of your emotions because they’re viewed as weaknesses, “and no one wants to see that.”

But if we think about the most moving moments in our lives, it’s where people are being vulnerable.
Where they’re risking something {be it rejection or something far more intense} to share truth & pursue growth.

We have this practice in our home which came from something we heard Ted Sinn over at New City in Orlando share before we were married, and it radically changed the way I think about apologies… If you think about it, we’re so quick to say I’m sorry. ‘I’m sorry to hear about your ….’, ‘I’m sorry that you’re having a bad day,’ ‘I’m sorry that you’re sick,’ and so on. The phrase ‘I’m sorry’ no longer has any relation to a person’s responsibility for their actions. And we use the same language when we are apologizing to someone & are supposed to be responsible for our actions. We push our kids to ‘tell so-and-so that you’re sorry for hitting them,’ and we say ‘I’m sorry for this or that,’ or even just ‘I’m sorry.’
But how radical is it to replace that phrase with, “I was wrong.” So when I go to John, I have to say, “I was wrong for being disrespectful to you. I was wrong for responding in anger. I am wrong for putting my agenda before you.”
And that sets your heart in such a different place. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being wrong. I especially don’t like telling John {or anyone else} that I was wrong.

Using that language gives the other person the opportunity to put you down & say ‘you were wrong, and you’re stupid and I hate you,’ {preferably more mature language than that, but you get my point…} or to let you know that you’re unconditionally loved, forgiven & that you are worth knowing, even when you’re wrong.

So, I challenge you to be real. Be vulnerable. Be willing to say, “I was wrong.”
Because it’s powerful. And it’s the stuff that builds deep relationships.
That vulnerability is what makes us more fully alive.
And that’s a place where God’s glory shines so magnificently.