Tag Archives: Christianity

from the dust

I love the last day of the year.

New Year’s Eve has always been one of my favorite days. Because it feels like one last chance to breathe deep before the canvas is drenched in white again. One last chance to sit in the quiet with myself, contemplating all the remarkable possibilities that are held inside the walls of a new thing.

This year, the inhale of possibility and the exhale of a year feels more like relief than it has in many years. So much so that I’m starting my own quiet festivities early. Husband and puppy tucked into bed, I take to the kitchen to make some vegetable soup. Because chopping vegetables feels a little like liturgy, and God knows 2014 has needed more than its fair share of that. So I stand at the stove, and I chop, and I breathe in the smells of things that have risen from the ground, that have been brought up from the dust, and sometimes everything I need to know is in a pot of vegetable soup.

God’s best things are the things raised from the dust. The things that have been buried. The things that have been made into something new, the things brought low and destroyed in the process.

This year has been so very hard. Is it okay to say that? I hope so, because it has been.

Hear me when I tell you that I don’t say that for pity. I don’t say it to open up a public forum for me to air my personal grievances with life

I say it because I know, to the depths of my soul, that I’m not the only one.

I’m not the only one burying dreams.

I’m not the only one desperate for the clean oxygen of a fresh start.

I’m not the only one thinking, “Is it okay to say this year has been REALLY damn hard?”

I’m not the only one who needs a pot of vegetable soup and a reminder.

A reminder that God’s best things are the things raised from the dust.

You have not been left buried, dear one.

You’re being raised from the dust.

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on ferguson and the edge of hell

Because some days I can’t even string words together except in the form of letters. And even then, they’re mostly word vomit that may or may not make sense. But words, for me, cannot be left unsaid.

I just want to have coffee with you today, and have a safe place to fall completely apart.

My heart is so broken. I don’t even know how to explain it. I cannot stop crying. Ferguson is ripping me apart. I feel like we are standing on the edge of hell, and so many of the people I have known and loved and respected for most of my life are just sitting back and fanning the flames, rather than running to the center of the mess with water and a rescue. And I don’t know how to be a decent person in the face of that. I don’t know how to be a decent person in the face of the fact that if many of those same people knew how deeply and intensely I feel about all of these things in the “wrong” direction, they would have nothing to do with me.

I am not who I was, Mel. I am so, so very much not who I was. I got tossed into the African-American community five years ago, and God broke me over it, and my heart beats for it. But I still have one foot in both worlds. And I have SO much anger at people who can’t even see a need to extend empathy or compassion, except to those who have their shit together enough to earn it. Who read people who resort to violence as just a maniacal, animalistic group of people who deserve every terrible thing they’re dealt; because it’s much easier to see that than it is to see a group of people who are so hurt and grieving and DESPERATE to have a voice that’s loud enough to be heard. We have so little ability to sit with grief. We have little ability to hear pain. 

I get so angry with people who can’t see it, and yet I know how silly that is. I know that the only reason I see it is because God gave me that blessing. He dropped me in it and took away my option of NOT seeing it. The reason I see it is because I have spent every day for years witnessing it all first hand.

But man. Having one foot in two worlds feels like it’s pulling my chest apart some days.

I cannot get ahold of myself right now, and usually that’s a sign that God’s prepping me to do something nuts. Pray? I could sure use it.

I miss you. Let’s run a rescue mission on the edge of hell.

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fear and flying

Dearest one,

It’s a rare day when I genuinely feel like I have some thoughts worth offering, thoughts that might be worth adding to the noise of your already crowded mind. But today, the stars align and the words just keep falling out of my mouth, and I feel like maybe I do. 

You think me this brilliant, amazing creature. And I love that you see that in me. But here’s the truth, a truth that’s not far from your own.

I can’t get myself to commit to a practice of writing every day. 

The reason I can’t get myself to commit to a practice of writing every day isn’t because I don’t have things to say. I do. It isn’t because I don’t have a decent command over the English language. I do.

The reason I can’t get myself to commit to a practice of writing every day is because in my mind, I’m already thinking about writing a book. And none of my thoughts are connected enough for that. I have so many thoughts about a million different things, but I don’t have enough thoughts about ONE thing to justify writing a book.

And so I don’t write. Because I’m so busy thinking about the end product that I am paralyzed. I feel like none of it matters until I know exactly what it’s going to look like in the end. I feel like none of it matters until I have a plan. Until I can nail down what it’s going to look like. Until I feel safe and secure and like its all something I can control.

I am a walking, talking definition of missing the beauty of the forest because I can’t see past the trees.

And so it is with you. 

See, for all the credit you give me and all the shame you so effortlessly give yourself, you and I are not that different. Not at all. Steps without an endgame feel pointless to you. And I know that feeling. They feel pointless to me, too. But the thing I’ve been thinking about today is how there is no endgame until you take steps. If I don’t start taking some steps without knowing where I’m going, the endgame is RIGHT HERE. This is it. The endgame is me, sitting around and wanting to say something worth hearing, but not saying anything because I want a roadmap first. If I don’t start taking some steps, I will still be this person in forty years, only with a whole lot more regret and a lot more untold stories and a lot more unlived life.

And so it is with you.

I remember his words to you one day, months ago, about how the greatest enemy of the next step is the fear of what’s across the room.

You and I, dearest one. We are one and the same. We are both so focused on what may or may not be across the room that were frozen in place. Stuck. Afraid to take a step for fear that it might be the wrong one.

But grace, man. Of all the things I’m unsure of, and there are many, Grace doesn’t make the list. Not even close. Grace may, in fact, be the one thing I know like I know my own name. Mostly because of the frequency with which I’ve had nothing else to fall on.

I believe that our steps will be messy, and some of them will be the wrong ones, because we are nothing if not fully human and prone to being and creating disasters. But I also believe they’re all important, every last one of the steps. All necessary. All growth. All Grace.

Some of my biggest missteps have turned out to be my biggest graces.

And so it is with you.

And so it will be.

Breathe. Crawl. Step. Leap, even. Jump off a cliff knowing that your wings get built while you fly. Growth and movement and purpose doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Doesn’t happen at a standstill. It only happens in midair. In discomfort. In dirty soil. 

All you can do is this one moment. You can’t handle the overwhelm of a lifetime, all at once. All you can do is this one moment. One moment that looks like crawling, but is really more like flying, when you’ve spent all this time standing still, rooted to your fear. 

Fly, mine. Don’t stand rooted to your fear. There is nothing worth fearing more than that.

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words are sharp and shiny things

Words are sharp and shiny things, and I am good with them. I always have been. I can twist and shape them into whatever form I wish. I can take you places and bring you back; I can make you feel things and ask questions and draw pictures and crave adventures.

Words are sharp and shiny things, and I am good with them. But I have learned to wield them reverently. I’m good with words in the same way I would imagine a sniper is good with his rifle, holding it with a healthy dose of both adrenaline and fear, because he knows that what he holds has the power to decimate anyone in its path.

Words are sharp and shiny things, and I am good with them. I am also terribly afraid of them. Because I know my words, the words close enough to my chest to be called mine. They aren’t easy ones, to write or to hear. They might be packaged neatly, but there is no resolution. I won’t ever give you a conclusion, and the loose ends don’t sit comfortably.

Because the words close enough to my chest to be called mine aren’t even completely mine. They are mine, but they’re also the words of at least five different people, from five separate conversations that have taken place in the past month. They’re also the words that I haven’t heard, but have seen in the eyes of more people than I can count. Words that don’t get a voice because they’re terrifying, and they can plunge a person into a rabbit hole that may cost more than they’re ready to pay.

If the North American church is a true reflection of who God is…

It feels a little bit like God doesn’t have space for messy people, for broken people, for lamenting people.

It feels a little bit like all God wants to hear when He asks how I am is “Great! How are you?” And then for me to be on my way.

It feels a little bit like God doesn’t want my love and affection as much as He does my blind and unquestioning acceptance.

It feels a little bit like I need to be successful and happy to belong to God. 

It feels a little bit like issues of race and poverty and slavery and gender and sexuality only matter to God so far as they can be dealt with as “issues” rather than dealing with the messiness of the real, vulnerable people behind the issues.

If the North American church is a true reflection of who God is…

…then I’m afraid that God maybe wants nothing to do with me. And I’m not positive I want anything to do with Him.

And if all of that isn’t true, if it’s my perception that’s flawed…

Who IS God? And what does He care about? And where do I find Him? And how do I reflect Him? What is my responsibility in this? How do I love like Jesus does, in real life and real time?

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terrifying and true

31 days of WTHKW

There are days when I hold words close to my chest. Because words are wild and powerful, and sometimes I just have to wield them quietly, carefully, reverently. As though they’re capable of most anything.

And they are. Don’t ever underestimate the way that words are capable of most anything.

These past couple of days, words feel like that. I keep writing them, but in the way that I always write the things that feel most sacred. On paper, with my own hand, in the quiet of the morning. Sometimes I think that’s the space my best words were created for. I don’t kill my darlings. I don’t have the heart. But I shelter them, and I hold them close to my chest.

And sometimes I don’t know why.

On my better days, I believe it’s because I’m aware. Aware of myself, aware of my tendency to need people to approve, to need feedback on my own soul in order to feel validated. Aware of how easy it is for me to put myself out there to people and let those people affirm me, rather than God Himself.

Some days I think I hold my dearest thoughts in private places because for once in my life, I want to express my own thoughts without worrying about what anyone things about them.

And on my not-so-much-better days, I believe it’s because I’m afraid.

I’m afraid of myself sometimes.

I said it last week, out loud for the first time, that sometimes one of my major disconnects with the church these days is that sometimes when I speak about things that actually matter to me, one of the most common reactions I get is something that closely resembles fear. Is it okay to say that? Sometimes I worry that people, particularly good God-fearing church people, are a little bit afraid of me. That I’m just too much. I have All of the Big Thoughts and All of the Big Feelings and my brain wades into All of the Grey Areas. Literally nothing is off limits to my questions.

And sometimes I think that’s terrifying to people. I know beyond the shadow of any doubt that it’s terrifying to me. And so I find myself holding on to those parts of me.

The parts of me that I would define as the most difficult…but also the parts of me that I would define, without hesitation, as the most lovely. The most genuine. The most true.

The most me.

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under the sky

Sometimes, church is pipe tobacco and a shared bottle of wine.

In moments like that, the Texas sky seems exactly as big as all the old country songs claim, freckled with stars and nearly swallowing the moon with all its navy blue.

I didn’t know that first night, months ago, how immediately they would be our people. You know the ones. The people you sit around the dinner table with, laughing and talking, and a split second later, you look up to find that hours have passed and it’s tomorrow already and you instinctively know that this conversation has only just begun.

The night ends and months go by, because life is busy and there are jobs and kids and soccer practice and piano lessons and all of the things, but eventually you’re gathered around that same dinner table and it just feels like you never left.

So you take it outside, under the sky, because all the best things should always happen under the sky, and conversation like that is the best thing. Honesty like that is the best thing. Laughter like that is the best thing. Hope like that is the best thing.

In those moments, with the voices and and the stories and the sky and the same pipe tobacco Tolkien loved and the red wine, I feel it in my chest again. Church. I believe in it. I always have, but some days it comes easier than others. Some days it’s a picture I can see clearly, and some days the picture looks like nothing, clouded as it is by my own imperfect vision.

I sat out there, stars blinking and wind blowing my hair, and I wondered if this was what it felt like in the beginning. If this was why Jesus felt so strongly about gathering with people around a table. If maybe, when Jesus talked about the church, he was talking about this. This lack of pretense, this lack of politics, this lack of a business model, this lack of programs, this lack of agendas, this lack of cultural success. This presence. This presence of real, messy, disastrous, beautiful human beings who just want to know Jesus and do things the way he did, love people the way he did. Even when that feels impossible, wrapped as we are in humanity so frail it’s been known to shatter.

I want that. I want so much more of that. All of the fibers of my being strain toward it. Toward Jesus. Toward his people. Toward church, for the first time in so very, very long.

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because i don’t know where i fit as a woman

Here’s the truth:

I am a woman, and I don’t know where I fit in the context of the church and ministry.

I have spent most of my life, not all but most, in fairly-to-very conservative evangelical churches. This is the dominant frame of reference I have to work with. And while my adult life has given me plenty of opportunities to see faith in new ways, wrestling through those kinds of big questions has not been a quick or easy process.

So this whole struggle is coming from a person who still identifies, in part, as a conservative evangelical. At 29 years old, I am a mutt when it comes to faith, but that world is my mama and her DNA is written into my genetic code. I don’t always agree with her, and I often wonder if I got switched with someone else at birth, but still. She’s my mama, and her words are heavy in my ears.

It’s a really easy thing to get mixed messages about where that limb of the Church places women, as far as leadership goes. For men, it feels very open-handed: whatever God calls you to do, do that. For women, it feels like there are a whole lot of conflicting distinctions as to what callings are acceptable, what leadership roles are okay for us.

Women can teach, but only other women and children. Women can teach mixed-gender groups, but only when a male co-teacher is present and active in the scenario. Women can write books and Bible studies, and men can read those books and Bible studies and learn from the women who wrote them, but her physical, real-life, verbal delivery of the exact same material isn’t okay. Women can teach mixed-gender groups in Bible studies, but not on Sundays and not from the pulpit, because that’s preaching, not teaching. Women cannot be pastors, under any circumstance. Women can go overseas and preach the gospel to anyone they come in contact with, but on American soil, it’s a different story.

See what I mean?

There are many parts of me that wrestle with this, and not from a place of wanting power or control or even to be perceived as “equal” to men. I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions about women who struggle with the role of women in the church. While I know for sure that there are women who desire power and control, I can tell you from a very personal place that it’s not the case for all of us.

For some of us, Jesus is just All of the Big Things and we have All of the Big Feelings about him and we are literally ACHING to share it from every possible platform. With our words and with our actions and with our love. With everyone. Women, men, children, friends, strangers. And it feels so awkward and weird and hard that there seem to be so many limitations about how we can share all that stuff, and with whom. It is a truly disorienting disconnect. Like we’re exactly what we’re supposed to be, we’re truly mad about this man who flipped the entire world upside down with the biggest of all Loves. And at the same time, we’re not what we’re supposed to be because we don’t know how to manage it within the boundaries we’ve been told are acceptable. We’re not what we’re supposed to be because we’re not 100% sure that we buy into the boundaries at all. We’re not what we’re supposed to be because we want our voice and our Jesus-story to matter, to be heard. Because we believe someone else, maybe even a man, needs to hear it. Because we believe that we were made (as women) in God’s image, and we see His heart in a uniquely feminine way that’s real and true and valuable. Because we don’t know how to see God’s image in its entirety until we see it from all angles.

And I know this isn’t the case for all women. There are these astonishingly beautiful women in my life, women who are wives and mothers and lead women’s ministries and children’s church and support their husbands in their ministries, and they are absolutely stunning pictures of God’s image. They are in their niche, doing exactly what they were created to do, even when it’s not easy. Please don’t misunderstand me. I do not in any way think that women who fit easily into that profile are women who love Jesus any less than I do. Not for a second. They are some of the most inspiring, generous, courageous, passionate people I know and they are changing the world by being exactly who they are. They’re warriors. And I know that they are fighting battles of their own, insecurities of their own. Feeling like their gifts are insignificant or wrong or don’t matter much.

And that, I understand completely. Anytime we compare our gifts or callings to those of another, it can feel very much like we don’t belong. For women who don’t fit seamlessly into the shape of wife, mother, women’s ministry, children’s ministry, it can feel as though we’re prideful and selfish and engaged in a power struggle that’s really just indicative of our own sinful desires. When genuinely, even in our worst moments, at the bottom of our hearts, this is the issue: We. Freaking. Love. Jesus. He has messed us up, and put us together, and he is creating and recreating us. And we suck at boundaries, and we feel like if there’s one place they shouldn’t even exist, it should be in our love for and sharing of Jesus.

So what about you? Are there any places in your life where your passions and loves mean that you don’t really know where you fit?

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