ten weeks of tuesdays: where I bend the rules and write about Jesus Feminist

I feel like I should apologize for missing the last two “Ten Weeks of Tuesdays.”  So, I’m sorry.  I hope this monstrosity of a post that I’m scared to push “publish” on will make up for it.  It’s based on a book, rather than a song, but I make the rules and I say that’s okay.  I welcome your comments; I just ask that they be made in love, with humility, and prayer.  

Apparently bringing Jesus Feminist with me to Starbucks for an hour or two of coffee and reading was a big mistake. When my dad offered to watch my sweet baby for the afternoon, I jumped at the chance to be alone and to read and to write.  But now the lump at the back of my throat almost can’t be swallowed, and I’m sniffing so much people probably think I’m all kinds of sick.  I’m just inches away from the mother of all ugly cries. This book is wrecking me, people.

Jesus-Feminist-Cover-copy

Her stories of loving Jesus and loving people and what really matters are breaking my heart.

And then Jesus is making it whole again.

Because, you see, I grew up in a world where girls are princesses and life is an exciting adventure story and marriage is what rescues you from having to make hard choices and hang up shelves.  Because you’re the woman and that’s how it is. Women do this and men do that. And it’s practical things and it’s spiritual things and it’s already been decided so just read your script and fall in line.  

And then I got married. To a wonderful, godly man who doesn’t hang up shelves or change the oil and who wanted me to make decisions with him.  And I didn’t know what to do.

And I went to a wonderful church and I wrote “Yay!” on a piece of paper to cast my vote for a woman pastor. And it was exciting.

And I decided that working would be the best use of my time and I tried to kill the dream I had to be a momma and spent my time frantically searching for a job. 

And then I went to a wonderful church where a man was in charge of the women’s ministry. And where you were certain to be greeted by a “member of the leadership team and his wife” after the service.  And I struggled with  my place as a woman with no children and a job, but it was still exciting.

And I saw Jesus at work in both places.

And then… sweet Eliana. And all the sudden, those little obediences started to make sense.  All those no’s when all I had wanted were yeses.  And it was Jesus.  And it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m a woman and my place is in the home. It has everything to do with Jesus making me more like him.

And I still hear things like “It’s good you’re staying home; that’s the best thing for Eliana” and “You don’t want to go back to work, do you?” And I don’t, but it’s not because work isn’t  the place for mommas.  It’s because I’m obeying Jesus.

And when I hear Jesus calling me to the hard work of staying home, to the difficult obedience of laying down education and dreams and jobs, and when I hear him calling my friend to the hard work of placing her child in the care of someone else and to the difficult obedience of motherhood and a career, it doesn’t seem as simple as we would like to think it is.

And then I look at my baby and I think about what she will hear. All the lies she’ll be told about what it means to be a woman and what it means to follow Jesus.

And I think about how Jesus has given us the greatest gift of all and we still want a list of rules instead.  We still read the Bible like it’s a catalog of formulaic lives we can choose from instead of a story about the one who made life worth living.

And we make the Gospel about ourselves when it has always been about Jesus.

And I think about how to be faithful to what I’m learning about loving Jesus. And I realize that I’m asking for  more rules and more laws and some step-by-step suggestions and a how-to plan instead of leaning in to the one whose very name is Love.

And that’s why this book is wrecking me.  Because it’s not one of those “I was just like you until I became enlightened,” angry books.  But it’s not shy and it’s unapologetic.  It’s a book that suggests that maybe the point isn’t who changes the tires or who gets to stand in pulpits.  Jesus is the point.  And the love that this author has for Jesus is in every line and on every page.  Even if I don’t agree with everything she says, I see that she’s doing her best to follow Jesus, and I believe that we can agree to disagree on some things, because Jesus is bigger than all of that.

I got this book largely because I read reviews that praise Sarah Bessey for her humility and her attitude.  I haven’t been disappointed.  She doesn’t poke or prod or accuse.  She doesn’t even try to make me believe she has it all figured out.  She just challenges me to follow Jesus.  And to trust that he will be there, leading in the right way.

This book is wrecking me because it doesn’t tell me what to believe.  It doesn’t offer me a check list or a promise of what my life will look like. It invites me to fall in love with Jesus so that I will live, write, and think like him.

Yes, theology is important.  It’s important to know truth and to spend time studying the Bible. I’m not at all suggesting that these things don’t matter.  Nor am I suggesting that I’ve got this figured out, or that I’d be able to articulate my position on a lot of issues.  I just feel like we spend an awful lot of time talking about checklists and facts and not much time talking about Jesus.  But his name is all over this book. And that’s more renewing and refreshing than a peppermint mocha and an ugly cry on a Tuesday afternoon.

If you want to have your own ugly cry coffee fest, you can get Jesus Feminist on Amazon.

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Ten Weeks of Tuesdays: Wide Open Like a Lake

Dear Eliana,

I hate that I have to write to you about this, but I know that one day, you will need it. You will need to hear about how things break and how they are mended.

there is sin. and sin can hurt. it can rip babies from mommas and daddies from homes. it can mean thousands of people dead. it can mean long nights of crying and sharp stabs in your heart. it can break hearts and homes and people.

it can mean bitterness. it can mean a tight heart and clenched hands and darkened eyes.  it can mean isolation and insulation and grasping at brokenness.

dear daughter, there is also forgiveness. it means an open heart and hands that mend and eyes that are full of light.  it means healing and grace. it means trying and forgetting. it means peace and stable and steady.  it means stillness and wonder and a peace that you can’t fake.

Like a Lake

I know that sounds hard. I know it sounds hard to be open when someone has hurt you. I know it is hard to mend hearts when yours feels broken. I know the ache that wants to be healed by clenching.

But I also know that clenching doesn’t work. I know that a barricaded heart and clenched hands never did anyone any good. I know that we aren’t healed by closing off but by opening up.

I know this because it’s how Jesus forgave. He didn’t clench up, he opened up. He stretched himself on that cross, wide open and vulnerable and begged forgiveness for us.  for us.  who killed him. forgiveness. before we asked.  His grace extends to us, and the best way for his forgiveness to heal you, sweet girl, is by opening yourself up and letting him use you to extend grace. He doesn’t ask you to come up with it. He freely gives. He only asks you to be open for it.

“when everything in me is tightening
curling in around this ache
I will lay my heart wide open
like the surface of a lake
wide open like a lake”*

I love you, sweet girl.

*Like a Lake, Sara Groves

Ten Weeks of Tuesdays: Hope Not Wasted.

It was inevitable, really. If you’ve been anywhere near me, or even if you’re my friend on Facebook (which most of you are), you’ve  gotten an earful about Derek Webb since I went to his concert last weekend.  Sorry about that. Except not really. His was one of the best concerts I’ve been to in a while.  But that’s what I expect from D-dubs.  So, obviously, I’ve had his stuff on repeat for the last week-ish.

“It’s hard to keep from giving up

It’s easier to just close up your heart.” 

Last week, I wrote this post about not running away.  I was a little dissatisfied with myself, because one of my biggest struggles these last few months has been what now?  How do I go back to being a part of Christian culture without buying into the stuff that just. isn’t. true? How can I integrate what I’ve learned into my life?  It’s hard.  It seems a lot easier to just try to go back to the way things were or to walk away entirely.

It’s hard to trust in anyone

It’s easier to just fold up your arms. 

Preach, Derek.  I think this has been my response of choice.  You know what I’m talking about?  I’ll be here, but I won’t like it. I’ll participate, but I won’t really.  I’ll show up, but I won’t volunteer any details about myself. I’ll protest with my indifference. I’ll withhold myself from you and you won’t even know what you’re missing. It’s hard to open yourself up again, especially if it was Christians that hurt you the most. I get it. I really do.

It’s hard to keep on showing up

It’s easier to run away from home.

I love extreme reactions. You don’t have to know me very well to know this.  I love things. I hate things. And I decide pretty quickly which it’s going to be.  When I was right in the midst of getting my world shaken up, I tried to have discussions with other Christians, and about 1% of them turned out well.  The rest ended up being complete disasters. (Lindsey, what was that you were saying about extreme reactions?)  People didn’t know what to DO with me, so it was just easier to run away.

Even now, chances are, I’m going to be the one with the unpopular opinion, and for whatever reason, we really, really don’t like it when other Christians disagree with us.

Is the church broken? Yes. Do Christians make hhhhuuugggeee deals out of things that don’t matter? Yes. Are there things about church that annoy me? Yes.

Is this body of believers, this broken place filled with broken people my home? Yes. Yes. Yes.

I belong there.

And it’s my pride that wants to close my heart, fold my arms, and run away.  It’s my pride that wants to tell my own story rather than God’s story. It’s my pride that tells me that “going it alone” and perpetual dissatisfaction is the only way to honor the growth that God has brought in my life.  It’s my pride that says that the church is beyond the kind of restoration and insight that God, in his grace, gave to me through suffering and crisis.  It’s my pride that forgets that all of this– the last 3 years of struggling and crying and learning and growing– is grace.  I didn’t arrive here (where exactly?) because I’m super smart.  It is what God has done.  It’s all grace.

And like Derek said at his show, you can’t tell both stories.  You can’t tell the story of your own indifference, hopelessness, and pride while telling the story of God’s redemption and ultimate shalom.  You have to choose one. You have to choose what story you’re going to tell with your life. You have to choose what story you’re going to tell yourself. Especially on the days when it’s easier to close your heart, fold your arms, and run away.  Telling this story is harder, I know that.  I’m feeling it every. single day.  But it’s true.

Everything is going to change 

And nothing’s going to stay the way it is

One day you’ll wake and the curse will break

And even you won’t be the same

Your hope is not wasted on the day

When everything will change.*

*Everything Will Change, Derek Webb

P.S. Check back tomorrow for my first giveaway! 

Ten Weeks of Tuesdays: Instrument of Peace

I have to start by saying that I found out today that I’m a part of the launch team for a Jenny & Tyler covers EP that’s coming out in November. I’m super excited because a) I LOVE J&T (but you knew that already) and b) because 100% of the money they make on this album goes straight to fight human trafficking and c) because it means that I got early access to the album.  So, check back for more info on the album in the next few weeks.

Anyway, Ellie and I were dancing around to a certain U2 song included on the album and she kept grabbing my face and kissing me.  It was awesome.  Not only because baby kisses are the greatest, but also because I usually have to beg, beg, beg for them….and that really has nothing to do with the short post that follows. I just couldn’t help myself.

I repeatedly notice this tendency in myself to run away from things that make me feel uncomfortable. Just human nature, I guess, but when I don’t like a situation, I usually just leave… That’s not entirely true. I usually mock on my way out.

I don’t think college helped this tendency at all.  Every semester, things changed. I loved that. I loved that if I hated something, an escape was just a few months away. At all times. During the last few months that we were at Trinity, I started to ache for consistency. The temporary-ness of life was wearing on me. I had gotten to the point where every 3-4 months, I was experiencing significant life changes, and it was exhausting.  I dreamed of the day when I would know, with reasonable certainty, where we’d be living, working, etc. for longer than a few moths.

And now we’re getting there.  And it’s terrifying. It feels like suffocation.

And I realized why. It’s because I’m not going to be able to push the eject button. I’m not going to be able to just run away from a situation if I don’t like it. I’m going to have to stick it out. pray it out. live it out.

And if I can be honest, my attitude is going to have to change. A lot. I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit while I was listening to this song on the way home from church the other day.

“All that we do without love
It means nothing
Grant us the courage to give
As You’re calling

Make me an instrument of Your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is darkness let me shine light and
May Your love cause us to open up
Cause us to open up our hearts
May Your light cause us to shine so bright
That we bring hope into the dark”*

The first half of the chorus of that song is from the Prayer of St. Francis.  His prayer continues:

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Oh, friends. I don’t think this is something I can do in my own strength. I don’t think this is something that can come from a heart of pride.  Friends, I think only a broken person can live like this.  Only a broken person living in the strength of the one who was broken first.

*Open Up, The Brilliance

Broken and Grateful

This post is the first in a ten week series called Ten Weeks of Tuesdays If you’re participating, share a link to your post in the comments. 

I recently bought one of those mirror things you mount in your backseat so that you can see your sweet baby’s face in your rearview mirror while you’re driving.  And today, I was driving and thinking. And obviously listening to music.  At a stoplight, my eyes wandered to that rearview mirror and misted over.

“I can’t help but reflect on what it was I almost lost
What it was I wanted, what I got instead
Leaves me broken and grateful”*

I almost feel like I don’t even need to add any more to this post.  Anyone who has read more than one of my blog posts probably knows what happened to me after I finished college. What happened to my dreams and my plans for myself. And I bet some of you are ready to shut off your computer and say, “just get over it.”

But I tried to.

I can’t.

And I don’t want to.

I don’t ever want to forget how I made what was supposed to be service and obedience and mission an idol to my pride.

I don’t want to forget how it hurt to have that deep love for and devotion to something other than Jesus ripped from my heart.

I don’t want to forget how dark it was when my eyes were focused on my pride, and how bright Jesus was when he finally, finally revealed himself.

I always want to remember how, right there, in the middle of my pride and confusion and sadness. Right while I was struggling and crying and praying, Jesus finally answered. When the time was ripe. Just how he wanted to.

I want to remember that it wasn’t in line with my plan.

It didn’t make financial sense, success-oriented life sense, human sense. But it was just what Jesus wanted.

I don’t ever want to forget the joy of living in the good of God’s great gifts. How he heals, protects, provides, and strengthens, even when we have no. idea. where we are going.

I don’t ever want to forget how he turned my wailing into dancing.

I don’t ever want to forget the way that He taught me. So gently, so patiently, so faithfully. That he is good and he is holy and he is enough.

I’m not talking about living in the past. I’m talking about living in the fullness of the faithfulness of God. Every time I look at my daughter, I’m reminded of God’s grace, his faithful discipline, and his great love.  I don’t ever want to slip into thinking that this is commonplace, that I somehow deserved this.

We talk a lot about how God can heal our brokenness. But there are at least a few places in the Bible where things were broken for good. Jesus’ body, for one example.

I don’t want to be afraid of living broken.

“I want to be broken, peaceful, faithful, grateful, grateful”*

*what I thought I wanted, Sara Groves