taking scripture back

I’ve already written a bit about the purity movement quite a bit, so I won’t go into it too much except to say that it’s interesting how with certain movements in Christian circles verses get captured and shanghaied to always be interpreted in a particular way for the rest of it’s life bouncing from one small group to the next. I wonder if I’m reading the Bible as it’s meant to be read or if I already know what I want/need it to say and I’m looking for that.

Who loves how I’m using a Labyrinth gif to punctuate a spiritual point I’m trying to make? RIP Bowie. 

All that to say is that Hebrews 4:12 has been heavy on my mind recently:
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

The idea that the Bible is a living organism–that it breathes life and change and is every speaking to us–how could we assume to isolate parts of it to justify our pre-established mindsets?

All my life I’ve grown up knowing that I needed to be pure. Lustful thoughts are bad and wrong and like any good evangelical homeschooler who’s read ‘Every Young Woman’s Battle‘ I know exactly which verse to quote to myself and hold to when I’m in that certain type of mood:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
(Philippians 4:8, NLT)

See? The word pure is in there, so it clearly refers to my purity and how to maintain it. Whether it was always taught to me this way or it was once and I took it and ran from it, I’ve never deviated from this idea. It’s never occurred to me that it could mean anything other than what I’m familiar with.

My recent struggle is realizing how much I can ruin a good thing for myself by overthinking and living in fear. I’m the person who has a good relationship or a platform to influence others or good health and then immediately begins imagining all the ways I could lose the person I love, lose my good standing and become chronically ill over a hang nail or a cough. I’m sure everyone is not this way, but I am so here we are, learning how Jesus is present in this still and desires me to grow.

I can’t tell you how frustrating and humbling it is to realize that none of the demons I fear are real or have power over me and that I spend a huge chunk of time in my brain planning for them. For years Jesus has been trying to tell me that it’s not the circumstances, it’s not the location, it’s not the people, it’s my perspective on things that sets me free or tightens the noose around my neck.

I was reading Philippians 4 during one such bout of irrational fears and I felt Jesus quietly tell me to listen carefully and look at what He was about to show me.

Is it true that your future holds only heartbreak and disappointment?
Is it honorable to doubt the character of the man that you love when you know who he truly is and how he truly loves you?
Is it just to assume that you’ll forever be working within a broken system to try to help your girls at work?
Is it pure to doubt who I am and who I’ve been to you all these years?
Is it lovely to try to control situations and people because you’re afraid to lose your current position in life?
Is it excellent or worthy of praise to be dictated by fear and anxiety and other people’s perceptions? Do you want to think on these things? Your thoughts become your reality, your actions, your worldview.

RIP Robin also.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these verses come right after Paul’s exhortation to bring everything to the Lord in prayer and to remove anxiety from our lives–or that they proceed Paul’s confidence to be content in all circumstances. Our thoughts can change the course of our lives–nothing has to change around us (and often change is slower than we want) and we can still be on the ride of our lives because we’re being jerked around by our unbridled, emotional thought life.

The wise woman builds her house,
    but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.
               Proverbs 14:1

I can literally ruin things for myself when nothing is even happening.

Does that scare anyone else besides me?

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
(2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV)

This isn’t just a purity verse, or at least not in the sense of “don’t think about having sex as an unmarried youth” sense. That’s too small and narrow of a goal when Jesus is giving us words for entire life transformation. It’s a commission to live our lives with a high level of integrity and freedom–that’s what life with Jesus looks like. (If it doesn’t, what are we even doing with ourselves?) We cannot afford to allow whatever pops into our heads to have free reign in our lives. We don’t have to live that way anymore. It’s a commitment to have our eyes wide open and a heart fully awake, fully submitted to Christ. It’s work and it’s hard, but no harder than the alternative: living life like the victim for years refusing to take control of ourselves and to step into our position as children of God.

So open up my eyes to a new light
I wandered ’round your darkened land all night
But I lift up my eyes to a new high
And indeed there would be time

the difference of a year

It’s a marvelous thing to keep a journal. Little moments and nuances that might be forgotten are carefully and tenderly documented to create space for all the soft “I’d nearly forgotten about that” and “Has it been that long?” that have piled up in our minds.

2013 07-20 Journal Entry

It’s also the worst because it’s unfiltered and unedited–it’s raw. It’s hard to doctor things up and make them presentable when you’re heartbroken, when you’re at the end of your rope, whenever you’ve seen one of your dreams pass you by. That’s about as vulnerable and unattractive as you’ll ever see me, honestly.

I’ve been pretty blunt in the past on here about my frustrations with still being put in Naples, unsure where to go next, etc. Even still, I was able to present my genuine disappointment as a humorous anecdote or wax poetic about it all in a way that made me feel like a misunderstood artist or something.

I recently went through my old journal from last year and I cringed at almost every word I’d written, more from an awareness of how cynical and angry I really was. I never realized how lonely and how separated from everyone I felt; when you constantly operate in an emotional deficit it’s almost impossible to imagine that you’re actually missing out on anything.

It’s remarkable to me the difference that a year brings.

First of all, at this point last year I was considering moving away to Los Angeles because I was really done with the Naples scene. I was tired of the routine and tired of feeling isolated and, really, who loves telling other people that they’re living at home with their parents at 24/25 year old? (I still don’t love that part, but if I can’t afford being on my own yet and my parents are graciously letting me stay in my bedroom at home, it feels foolish not to take advantage of that.)

Really the issue wasn’t even my life or the way it was–it was honestly decent. I was working a lot, two jobs, and dancing. I spent time with a few friends here or there. Church was still really hard for me, as it had been since I arrived back in the States. I think it both reminded me too much of my life in Tanzania and simultaneously dragged me away from it with all it’s differences and the fact that it was always in English and never full of impatient little ones tugging at my hair and my journal. It felt cold and far away, which made God feel cold and far away. I honestly avoided church for several months. I wrote in my journal once about church, “I think the most difficult part about seeing you these days is that there was a time when seeing you meant I’d see Him”. 

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Still in that waiting stage—I feel it so deeply but I can’t put my finger on it exactly. What is coming next? I’m interested in knowing the next step.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

I think of my stubborn declaration to any anyone who’ll listen about how I will never give anyone permission and power to affect me again. But there’s something about that. I’ve heard that meekness and humility, like you had, Jesus, mean putting yourself at the mercy of others even when they don’t deserve it.

I’m trying to remember the last time that I gave someone permission to affect me; I think I just don’t trust myself because I seem to pick the worst people to cut slack for. The last time I opened up to someone new last year they immediately brought an unsafe person into the equation and it was a headache. That didn’t make me want to try to get to know any more new people in the area.

I have a lot of strong opinions about relationships—all relationships. They seem to be time fillers that insecure people use to make decisions and prioritize for some odd reason.

When I think of [romantic] relationships, for me I think of being scrutinized and shamed for my interests / decisions. I think of dressing up pet monkeys and training dogs to sit on command. I think of expectations that everyone has and being a disappointment. I think of becoming invisible and losing my personality and not liking myself. I think of shame and lust and anxiety. I think of everything I hate. I think of shackles and lost ambition and settling.

… Is there anything I’m actually missing out on with this stuff?

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Jesus, I can almost taste the freedom. When am I free to leave? How much longer do I have to serve this sentence? It’s been 17 months since I came back. How long am I going to have to make due here in this wasteland? I’m being super ungrateful, but for real.

I still clung to Jesus–I always come back to Him in the end. He’s like the lover I fight with and ignore sometimes but still come home to every night, if somewhat ashamed of myself. Thank God that He’s long suffering and kind because I really was such a brat. But I was a brat because I was mourning deeply the loss of the future I’d imagined for myself. Grief has a way of draining all life and light out of things.

I spent months doing what I knew to do (although not doing it perfect by any stretch): reach for Jesus in your lack. Reach for Him in your loneliness. Keep your chin up–things could get better, but better to live without expectation because then you’ll never get disappointed. It is not glamorous or worthy of reclaim, but it has kept me safe from harm for the past few years.

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When I went to Haiti back in April of this year, nearly to the day, since I wrote these broken and painful entries last year, our team was on our final worship night of the trip. It was hot and muggy in open air church at the bottom of the Mission of Hope campus in Titanyen, and truthfully I was there more obedient than “feeling it”.

I don’t remember anything except that God started talking to me in a way I haven’t felt in ages. You might know the feeling–the one where you feel in in your skull and inside of your ribcage and it’s coming too fast for you to dismiss it as your own rogue thoughts.

He said to me:

You are so determined to prove that I am not a good Father and that I don’t have good things for you when all I’m doing is to prove to that I can take care of you. I do hear you. I am a good Father. Look at yourself–look at your life. You are worshipping me here in Haiti surrounded by believers who love me on a ticket that you didn’t pay for, and you are going home to a job where you’re paid to fight sex trafficking, a loving and supportive family and a good man who loves you completely. How can you say that I am not good to you when I’ve given you all this and myself?

The next part broke me in half:

You have known me in lack and in loneliness for many, many years but you are now going to know me in fullness and in joy. It’s okay. I’m a good Father.

And He’s been right.

It’s an adjustment to not look over my shoulder and to keep myself from constantly imagining all the ways that I could lose my relationship or my job or my life that I’m actually content in–to really hold to the fact that goodness and mercy could actually be following me, not calamity and disappointment. It’s by far the most vulnerable I’ve been in ages and as terrifying as it is, it feels like the final battle that I’ve been avoiding for so long. I’m daring to believe that I could live happily ever after. I could have the life that felt so out of reach for me for years. I could live for Christ in America and not always feel like a failure because my life isn’t showy or remarkable. I can live free and I can actually enjoy good things that Jesus gives me.

I am allowed to have joy. 

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welcome to the family

I went to Naples Night of Worship a few days ago and I just wanted to write a tiny little note about what it meant to me.

The worship was held at New Hope, which is the church that spent all of my formidable years. I got saved in kids church in Mrs. Judy’s preschool class there (and she still invests in me to this day which means so much to me), I went to youth group there and I learned to serve there in every capacity from the altar ministry to the choir. There are people there who’ve known me from a little girl and I remember growing up in that building. It’s tremendously emotional for me whenever I come back to visit.

I’ve spent the last six months or so with Eddy searching for our own church to get involved in. After visiting about 3 different churches, we finally landed on Destiny, which we’ve been going to for about 6 weeks now. During that time we visited Livewire, Summit and Living Waters; all of which are wonderful churches.

The thing that I loved about the Night of Worship was how connected I felt to everyone and each congregation represented there. I could look on the stage and recognize worship leaders from all the different churches we’d visited, all cohesively worshipping together like one big family. I could look around the room and see different people who’ve sown into my life, people who know my parents, people I’ve gone on mission trips with, people I’ve learned under and served with. It was a wonderful, anointed time and it was exciting to see different “churches” come together as His Church and recognize that Jesus is our head and we are all part of His family.

I loved that.

How often do we take time to recognize our connection to Christ or to each other? How often do we gather as a family and just love Jesus well?

Not enough, I submit.

But I think this is a good place to start.

Thankful for all the passionate believers who pushed and believed for a night of unity and worship.

How else can we extend this and live in it out in our daily lives? I’ll be thinking of that this week and pondering the possibilities. What do you think?


A Few Things I’ve Learned at 25


Today I am 25 years old.

This is the oldest I’ve ever been, and therefore the wisest I’ve ever been. I still have so much that I can’t wait to learn as I grow and mature, but I thought I’d share some of the best things I’ve learned over the past few years. These things have truly revolutionized my life and set me free from faulty mindsets that were holding me back.

Not everything is my fault.
I am quick to blame myself for everything. If someone is upset near me, I’ll wrack my brain to figure out how I personally offended them. If something goes wrong, I’ll assume responsibility regardless of my non-involvement. I’ve come to learn that doing this is not only irrational but also is a form of egotism that assumes that I am that important in the lives of others as to be the source of their frustration. Can you say unbalanced?

You can start anything at any time.
I’ve spent most of my life either saying “I can’t do _________” or “I’ll do _______ later”. I always felt like I had to have more money, or be stronger, or be smarter, or more fill-in-the-blank to do the things I was thinking of in my head, whether it was as small as reading a book or as large as going to India. I finally realized that all I have to do is decide to start something and then do it. It can really be as simple as that. If you want to start running, go for it! If you want to blog, do it! If you want to grow in your weak area, the only person stopping you is you.

I can’t save anybody, I can only love them.
I’ve consistently found/put myself in situations over the years where I’ve wanted to help others. I see people in need or people struggling and my heart goes out to them. I want to do everything in my power to fix things for them or change their scenarios; at my best I basically want to save them– at my worst I want to tell others how to best live their lives. I’ve learned that even if I pour out myself and all that I am to someone else, at the end of the day, I can’t save them. People have to want to change in order to do so and that’s something that no one else can force upon them. The best I can do for anyone I want to help is to love them, present them with my best advice when asked and know that ultimately it’s God’s job to save them.

The only thing in life that I can (mostly) control is me.
I can be a pretty controlling individual at my core. I think it mostly comes from spending so many years alone and independent, but this being the case plays to my advantage as well. I started journaling my particular stresses a year or so ago and evaluating which I could actually control and which I would have to change my attitude on since I couldn’t control them (lazy coworkers, other people’s perceptions of me, the emotional energy of the room, etc.). Almost everything that I was able to control came down to my perspective, my attitude, my behavior. It’s humbling, but it’s real and it has saved me hours, days, of unnecessary stress.

We really do reap what we sow.
I’ve watched time and again in my own life and the lives of others this simple truth played out. I’ve watched shady coworkers eventually lose their jobs, I’ve watched dedicated servants of Jesus be blessed, I’ve watched people get everything they want fall apart in the end because they missed their opportunities to build character. There are tons of things in life that aren’t fair, but we can’t escape our good or our bad choices. I won’t do myself any favors by constantly thinking, “What about them?” It’s not my business or job to exact justice on anyone. I have to leave that to God.

I won’t reach my goals if I don’t plan to reach my goals.
Whatever my goal may be (read this many books, spend this much time in the bible, run this 5k, etc.) I will never reach it if I don’t plan to reach it. It helps to work backwards from a date or event and then I try to break it down to weekly goals and then daily goals. I’ll never be able to do a headstand or crow pose if I don’t start practicing. I’ll never read 12 books a year if I don’t make time to read. Goals are totally reachable, I just have to first prioritize what my goals are (spiritually, financially, physically, relationally, etc.) and then create and implement plans to get there. I’ve heard it said and seen it to be true that “failing to plan is planning to fail”.

If it scares me, I have to do it.
I will limit this to everything shy of jumping out of a plane, but I stand by this. If I’m intimidated and I chicken out, I lose an opportunity to grow. It may be as simple taking dance lessons or being vulnerable with someone I love, but I want to choose to do it. Instead of shying away from discomfort, I want to embrace it. It’s brought me the greatest growth in my life this far and while it’s not usually quick, if I’m consistent I can see great results.

Don’t talk about it, be about it.
I get really passionate about things and I’m good with my words, so it’s easy for me to talk or to sound like I know what I’m talking about. Words excite me, motivate me, inspire me and so I want to give that to other people. I’ve watched the damage both I and other have caused by offering words unsubstantiated by actions or behaviors and I don’t want that to be the norm in my life. It’s my policy now that there aren’t measurable differences in my actions to back up my beliefs, then I don’t have the right to speak to anyone about it. Plain and simple. It’s been a great challenge, but it’s been very necessary in my life.

These are just a few of the things from my list, but I’m interested to see what has set you all free? What life lessons has God used to deliver you from anxiety, stress, fear, or whatever it is you struggle with?

We Are Not Our Successes

I’m a recovering perfectionist. 

Anyone who knows me could tell you that I want to get it right, get it right the first time and get it right every time after that. I hold myself to an extremely high standard and will mercilessly pick myself apart in the hours and days following any mistake or error I make (real or projected). I’m constantly re-evaluating my mindsets and behaviors to come up with better solutions for growth. 

This is actually a good thing–a little self awareness and desire to grow never hurt anyone. 

I saw a quote the other day from Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz, Scary Close, etc.) that stated, “We are not our successes”.

I’ve spent most of my life trying to get past my failures and mistakes and I’ve honestly taken more pride than I should in the few things I’ve gotten right in life. I’m not perfect but I’m competent enough to deal with interpersonal relationships, to hold a decently high stress job and rise to challenges, to take care of (most of) my financial needs, to serve the Lord in a way that makes me feel productive, etc. 

I’ll be honest, I’ve based so much of my identity and value has been in whether or not I’m doing well. Am I getting it right? Or more importantly, do I look like I’m getting it right? 

There are passages all throughout scripture about the value of hard work or doing well at whatever tasks we’re given in this life.

It is a gift from God to be able to eat and drink and experience the good that comes from every kind of hard work.                    Ecclesiastes 3:13

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…       Colossians 3:17 

They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.    Psalm 1:3

These may seem disjointed, but there is this sort of concept that I’m inferring that seems to say “work hard, enjoy success, do this to glorify God”. (I literally used the word prosper non-ironically. Who am I?)

Lately I’ve realized the exhausting pressure of maintaining this image–feeling like I have to get it right every time and no one can know where I struggle or fall short. It may be good to have a good name and do good work, to be successful and productive and all of that, but at the end of the day of that validates me more than the love of Jesus and who He says I am, I’ve missed the whole point. I’ve allowed something outside of my Creator to assign me value and give me strength and purpose. I’ve become a foreman on a project, trying to build without spending any time at all with the Architect who’s designed the entire operation. 

… God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus… 2 Timothy 1:9 

It’s common to hear people say that something to the extent of “I am not the sum of my past mistakes”. I’d submit that an equal and more subtle danger is to reassure ourselves that we’re the sum of our successes, past and present. 
If I can gain my value though my success, I can lose it through my failure. Frankly, that’s more pressure than I care to bring into my life these days. I want Jesus to be my identity; when I think the disciple in John that is described as “the one Jesus loved”, I want that. And I don’t desire in vain, because Jesus gives himself generously to all who seek Him and hope in Him. They are not disappointed. 

My favorite passage right now is Isaiah 41:9-10 because I feel like it calms my fears about who I am, how secure I am and how in the end it comes back to Jesus and who He is and what He will do. It’s not dependent on me and thank God. 

You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I’ll forgot it ten times between now and tomorrow morning, but I am so encouraged by this! I’m thankful for this place that I don’t deserve that’s been freely given to me and that is ever secure in Christ.