Monthly Archives: April 2014

some changes around here

 

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In highschool, I lived with an aunt whom God had graced with the amazing ability to transform furniture and rooms within the house in hours. I would leave for school on your average wednesday and come home and wonder if I was in the wrong house. I would sit on the same chair I sat on that morning and look around and what once was pink and floral and Victorianlike was now denim or yellow and, well different than it was at breakfast. I realized walls can change color, couch fabric can soften, furniture can be moved around and yet the same people occupy the house. It was then that I learned …it is the people, their personalities, their hearts, their love, their presence and their conversation that truly make up the house.

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In the next few weeks, you might enter this “living room” and the walls might have wallpaper or different colors and the same furniture  might be here but in different spaces . It might look like a designer came in and spruced some things ups. Because they did!  And that designer, Lindsey Kiniry, who is on the Collide team-  I must give props to- for giving so much time and heart and creative motion toward making this new site more cozy, more spacious, more colorful, more useable and more like home.

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You will notice some changes around here because we are merging the online blog ministry, the speaking ministry and the day of events I am apart of all under one roof. But I assure you, the people in this house have remained the same, so has the personality, the heart, the love, the presence and the conversations!

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I hope you will find the new site more helpful and more of a living room that you will want to sit in and get a cup of coffee and peruse and stay while. Please give us grace as we remodel this house. It might take a lil’ longer than my dear aunt’s “in and out in a day” home makeovers:)

Collide: Inspired to Impact

If there is one thing I learned from the passing of an amazing woman’s life this year – it was from her intensity and passion to “make it count.” I think she speaks for all of us. We all desire to live lives that really count- that really matter. We all want to live purposed lives. When all is said and done we want to be able to say we made a difference.

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This next weekend at Collide we will spend the day centering around a woman’s life who was perhaps one of the least likely people to be used by God to do anything good, let alone outstanding or worthy of history. And yet, this woman was impacted by Jesus so much so that after she collided with Him, she then changed her entire village. Not only did she change her village, but she herself has gone down in history and God is using her story to still change people.

My hope is that as women come to Collide on saturday they will no longer make their inadequacies count, nor their insecurities. I hope they will no longer allow  their past to count or their baggage or their fears.  Instead, I hope women are impacted by stories of other ordinary women doing extraordinary things. I hope women are encouraged in every season of life whether they be retired and traveling, empty nesters pacing their empty halls, stay at home moms taking care of everybody but themselves or college aged students chasing that piece of paper. I hope we will come and be moved by the idea that very simply, God can use us in whatever season, in whatever place, in whatever way, with whatever gifts and even in weakness, to truly make our lives count and in turn to help others know their lives count too.

Let us dream again that we can do BIG things. Let us be inspired again that we can IMPACT this world. Let us be renewed again that we can make a huge DIFFERENCE. Let us together MAKE IT COUNT!

in the ordinary by Amy Brandt

I get the pleasure of doing ministry with this lady! Amy is one of the amazing women on the Collide team, as well as the Collide Advisory Board. Amy is an amazing counselor whom I always feel so confident when pointing people in need of counseling her direction.  Amy has just recently become a mama and I love how she speaks here to the ordinary spaces and places in which Jesus collides with her. May we grab hold of our ordinary with a greater sense of the Divine as she so encourages.Willow

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Willow asked me a while ago if I would write for her blog and I have to admit that I have been struggling with it. Struggling because I have worried that my thoughts on collisions with Jesus would be too simple, too mundane and lack the plot that makes for good story telling. But this morning on a walk in the woods with no make-up, moccasins, my dog and a cup of French-press in hand, I had an ordinary collision with Jesus that prompted me to begin writing.

As I walked the trails through our property, Jesus ever so sweetly reminded me that He collides with us in the extraordinary and the ordinary. In the New Testament we see Jesus collide with people through walking on water, healing the sick and raising the dead. The same Jesus, has lunch with his disciples (the fellas I like to call them), he visits family and he rests. I’m not sure about you, but I have rarely had times in my life where Jesus has slammed into me. Jesus doesn’t tend to use miracles, signs of wonder, or elaborate fanfare to meet with me. He collides with me most often in whispers during ordinary life.

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My life has felt particularly ordinary lately. I became a mom 4 ½ months ago to the sweetest little boy. There is not a lot about motherhood that is luxurious or exciting. I spend most of my time looking at a baby trying to draw coos from him (I tell myself that this is for his language development just so that I can feel like I am doing something productive), covered in spit-up and changing diapers. My days are broken up in hurried 45 minute chunks, where if Knox is sleeping, I lunge at the bathroom to pee, to dress and if I’m lucky I make it to the fridge to eat. ☺

When Knox was about 5-6 weeks old, he was really struggling with his nighttime sleep. My husband Dana and I truthfully thought that we might die from sleep deprivation. One night we even counted how many times we got up. 14 times!!!! Are you kidding me! It was on one such night that I had an ordinary collision with Jesus. I was up with Knox for the umpteenth time feeling frustrated and sorry for myself. I remember praying desperately to God to help him sleep and correspondingly I turned my bounce rocking into high gear (being a mom is seriously the best work out I’ve ever had…that’s a little depressing and also a window into how much I exercise)! So I’m in the nursery, in the dark, bouncing and willing Knox to sleep, when in my head I just have this simple thought, “I’m going to miss this someday.” THAT WAS IT. That was my collision with Jesus. He gave me a simple/ordinary truth that totally changed my perspective. Suddenly my desperate, frustrated rocking became smooth as I soaked in the deliciousness of my son.

There are so many moments as a mom that I feel like wishing away. I am constantly looking forward to what is next. I can’t wait for him to speak. I so wonder what is going on in his little brain that I long to hear about what he thinks and feels. I can’t wait for him to walk, run and I am sooooo ready to climb trees with him. What I want is some excitement and adventure. Some fanfare if you will. But if I keep looking forward, wishing away the spit-up and long nights, I’m going to miss out on Knox as a baby.  Knox and Jesus are teaching me to live in the present.

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Looking back there are many seasons in life where I sacrificed the boring present to dream about the future. As a single student I wished for tantalizing romance in a relationship. As a grad-student I wished to be out of school and into the thrill of a career. As a young married women I yearned for a family. How many times have I looked forward the next thing at the expense of the rich collisions that Jesus has for me in the present? I am a little embarrassed to admit how many times I have done this.

So my task currently is to learn to collide with Jesus and Knox and Dana in the ordinary of our life. To really KISS Dana as he runs out of the door in the morning for work. To hold and snuggle and rock Knox with gusto before he turns into a squirmy toddler that won’t allow me to do so. To revel in dirty floors caused by dogs, kids, and friends rather than wishing them away. To soak up the mundane of mommyhood (naps, diaper changes, laundry and dishes) because there is richness in my ordinary and Jesus meets me in it all.- Amy

 

speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves!

A story, a charge and some exciting news….

A few months ago as I tucked my son in before bed, I realized I hadn’t caught up with him because it had been a very busy day. I asked him some questions and then I asked  “What did you learn in Sunday school today?”  I know this sounds like a typical question parent’s who go to church ask their kids. But we are not typical. We are those laaaame church goers that don’t find ourselves typically asking this, so you can pray for us. We talk about God all the time, but just not in such cued prompts.

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At first Aidan’s answer seemed sketchy, a kind of “Let’s get this conversation over” type of answer, but then it led to some deep response. Aidan described how he thinks God will never give up on us because he didn’t give up on the cross. He said he shared this with this girl that seemingly flirts with him in Sunday school class. I thought  a “not giving up” message is probably not what you want to share with girls you no longer want flirting with you! But instead of giving him advice on fending off the ladies, I said…“I like the waaaaay you think about God.”

Then for some reason I asked Aidan, “Do you sense God?

“What do you mean?” he asked, like it’s a weird question. Poor kid has to grow up with a mom like me …Oh yeah, I realized, “sensing God” might seem like a foreign concept. I tried explaining, “Like… do you feel God or sense Him near you ever?”

Silence.

I was kind of scared. What if he says no and the whole thing falls flat on the ground and breaks into pieces and his little faith dies a 10 year old death never to be rescusciated again. And I sat in that short silence thinking, I cannot possibly be afraid to ask such questions of my son for the answers do not prove the existence of God. I just wanted to know, how does this crazy, gorgeous, very much human, spiritually in tune, soon to be young man sense that there is a God? I mean how does he have such spiritual radar and think the way He does about God? It really sets me back sometimes. And really I just wanted to know. I figure if God is real, God certainly must show up and collide with His kids…

Aidan broke through my silent panic game of spiritual racquetball.

“Yeah.” Aidan went on to tell this story…

“Remember that one time when my friend’s head was being squished into the concrete at school by a hula hoop? Remember how I told you that kid was bullying my friend?  I was not facing them. I wasn’t even near them. I was walking the other way on the playground.  And it was like God tapped me on the shoulder and told me to turn around and I did. I went over and pushed that mean kid off him and said ‘Leave him alone!'” Aidan was telling this story with his strong voice and continued… “It was like God tapped me on the shoulder and told me to help my friend who needed help.”

Aidan looked at me and said much softer, “I guess that’s how I sense God.”

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Aidan could have told me any story. He could have said he senses God when he is at church or when he makes touchdowns or when we pray at dinner or when we go on vacation and he doesn’t have to go to school. But he didn’t share those kind of stories! He shared a story about sensing God calling him to do something in the midst of someone else’s pain! I went to bed that night amazed thinking… that sounds like the God I know! He is a God who would go so far as to show up to a 10 year old on a playground and tap him on the shoulder and call him to help someone in need of help!

Since Aidan told me that story, I have heard several stories from different moms telling me different accounts of Aidan sticking up for others, peeling bullies off their kids’ bodies and telling kids who are picking on other kids to back off. My son is far from perfect, let me tell you, but for some reason speaking up for those in need seems to be core to who he is and how he “gets” God. And maybe how he “gets” God has shaped, who he is.

I have to ask, if a 5th grader can muster up enough guts to follow God’s call to help people in need, even if it means sacrifice, then should we not be able to do the same?

I want to look more like my son as he follows Jesus’ example. Jesus spoke up for those who had no voice. Jesus sacrificed for those who were lost. Jesus defended the cause of the needy. Jesus took on religious bullies, political bullies and economic bullies. Jesus became poor so that we might become rich. Jesus gave up his life so that we might find ours.

Proverbs 31: 8-9 commands us: Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.  

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A few months ago, I suppose God tapped me on the shoulder. I was approached by Compassion International about being an ambassador for their amazing ministry. They describe that role around this proverb…speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. I prayed and researched the incredible work Compassion is doing and went through a process with them and I am now an ambassador!  I so desire to be a voice for those who cannot murmur, for those whose circumstances have left them speechless, and for those whose place in life has told them they matter little.  So this partnership with Compassion beckons me deeper into this call that I already have. Being a voice for hurting children all around the world is a privilege I want to lean into.

This means that on occasion you will hear me blog about partnering in what Compassion is doing because I believe to the highest extent that God is using them to give kids HOPE and LIFE and HELP. These are kids who otherwise have been hurting, impoverished, hopeless, hungry, uneducated and bullied by their circumstances. I will not only be blogging about their work, but on occasion you will find me speaking about how we can too follow Jesus in his cause to care for the poor and needy. So if your church is looking for a Compassion speaker, I am your girl:)

In the meantime, I encourage you on whatever playground you walk this day, to sense God. To look around and ask God, who do you want me to speak up for? How do you want me to help? Who do you want me to defend? God cares about His kids so much so that He will certainly tap you on the shoulders and point you in the right direction. And most likely that direction will be towards someone who is hurting and in need. Lets’ speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves together! Maybe our voices will boom and echo change into lives!

If God is tapping your shoulder today to help a child in need…here is how you can help…

Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

His Own (this Maundy Thursday)

With a gamot of reasons, Jesus and his disciples gathered together on the First Day of the Feast of Passover. It was a time for God’s people to come together to remember their Redeemer that delivered them from the death that was brought upon Egypt. Remember the movie prince of Egypt and God’s delivery of His people? Jesus and his disciples were having a dinner party to celebrate this God who over and over again continues to deliver His people.

Perhaps this feast had become merely that, a tradition, something they had to do. Perhaps, it was much like an excuse to get together with loved ones, eat large slabs of meat and keep Hallmark employees employed, much like spiritually significant Holidays can be for us. And for many, maybe it was an authentic time to sacrifice to God and remember His goodness for His people.

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Jesus apparently didn’t have his own house to host this feast, so earlier that day, he sent some of his disciples into town to meet the “man with the glass of water”. They were to follow that man and ask him to use the guest room of his house to celebrate this Passover. (It was Jewish custom at this time to open any extra room you may have had to foreigners passing through to celebrate the Passover.) So as creepy as this request sounds to us, it was customary to them.

So here they were gathered together in some thirsty guy’s extra room and the Bible says that Jesus brought with him much foreknowledge. Jesus was aware of a few things. Jesus knew of Judas and his betrayal. He knew all power had been given to Him, that he came from God and was returning to God. And He knew that the time had come for Him to leave the world and go to the Father. So Jesus knew that this was to be what we call His Last Supper. If you knew you were eating your last meal with your closest people, what would you do ?Knowing it was His last night, look at what Jesus did!  The Bible says:

Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.

What? Had they only gotten a part, a section, or a piece of his love up to this point? Jesus has been hanging with them, teaching them, exhorting them, fishing with them, eating with them, partying with them, doing miracles alongside them, wrestling with them, and praying with and for them.  What else was yet to be shown?

Here is how Jesus showed the full extent of his love

So He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, He poured water into his basin and began to wash his disciple’s feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

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When I read this, I have to be honest, I thought-what did that show? So I sat on it for a few days and then looked at who “His own” were. He had His own…

  1. He had His own arguers: Now keep in mind that in Jewish tradition, it was customary and expected that as people arrived at a feast, the lowest slave would wash the guests feet as they arrived. Because they were in some random guy’s guest room, there was no lowest slave, so someone was going to have to take the job. But no one did. Why? Because they were too busy trying to be the best to be the lowest. Luke 22:24 describes them: Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be the greatest. And these men who were arguing over who was the best in God’s economy were “Jesus own.”.
  2. He had His own Betrayer: Judas, was present, and his mind had to be on his betrayal of Jesus. This man had betrayed His Lord in exchange for the amount of the measly price of the lowest slave (hmmm interesting). In a moment, he traded His Lord at a horrible exchange rate! Judas was “Jesus’ own.”
  3. He had His own Big Talker: When Jesus came around to wash Peter’s feet, Pete so boldly declared “Lord and Teacher, you shall never wash my feet!” Making this statement was an effort to say that Jesus was much too great and he, Peter, not nearly great enough. What a humble and spiritual statement or so it made Peter seem. Here was a man who wanted to appear humble, yet was not humble enough to jump in and be the lowest slave! And, if Jesus were Teacher, why wasn’t Peter being teachable? If Jesus were Lord, why wasn’t Peter submitting? Here was a man who proclaimed with his mouth, but failed to back it up with his actions. And he was “Jesus’ own.”

This is just a slice of the audience that Jesus called His own. I wonder how much we are like them and they like us:

  1. Are we like these arguers? Well, perhaps not all of us are arguing, but definetly at the forefront of many of our minds is how can we be seen as great? We want people to see us as spiritual giants, as leader, as servant, as oh wiseone, as do gooder, as one who “gets its”, as close to Jesus, as tight with the Big Man upstairs or at least tight with a pastor.  We want to be seen as one with a great reputation, a person who loves others, someone spiritually disciplined, active in the church, a Christ follower who is surrounded by other important Christ followers. Christians are constantly trying to be found on the top of the spiritual pecking order that we, ourselves, make up. Very few of us would have walked into that room, or any room for that matter, to make ourselves the lowest slave, unless of course we knew for certain that we will receive credit, kudos and applause for being such a “humble, loving, great servant.” How similar I find myself to those of his own, who were, even on Christ’s last night, still trying to be found as great, respected and important. And perhaps you do too.
  2. Are we like Judas, willing to betray Jesus on a dime? And maybe, we wouldn’t fully betray our Lord and turn our back on Him for good, as Judas did. But how many of us, today even for a moment, we’re willing to exchange our Lord to partake in some small reward? In a moment, we will exchange our Lord to partake of juicy gossip. In a moment, we will exchange our Lord to partake in pleasure. We will exchange Him for a rush, for a pat on the back, for a laugh, even for mere man’s acceptance. Ashamedly, as I look at my own life, it is obvious that I am constantly willing to exchange my Lord for what I, in a moment, want. Are you?
  1. Are we like Peter wanting to look good yet so unwilling to do as Jesus says? And we like Peter, are so willing to proclaim Jesus as Teacher, yet at times, we prove to be so unteachable. We, like Peter, are so willing to voice Him as our Lord, yet we so often fail to submit to our Lord’s voice. Yes, we proclaim He is our Savior, yet we fail to own up to what we need saving from. Yes, we proclaim Him to be our Guide, yet we fail to even seek Him for guidance. Yes, we proclaim Him to be our Hope, yet we keep hoping in so many other things. As is Peter, so are we.

Yet these were the very people He called His own. And we are too.

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Notice, something incredible occurs… He washed all of their feet. Jesus gets very personal with His own. The Bible doesn’t say that he bowed down and washed one of the disciples feet as some kind of example, for mere lesson. It doesn’t say that he washed the dirtiest or the cleanest. He didn’t wash his longest standing disciple, his busiest servant, or his greatest prayer warrior. He washed all of his own’s feet, however dirty, however clean, however faithful, however not- with whatever issues they brought to the table. He bowed down and washed every single one of them, the ones who were arguing, he washed Judas and he washed Peter. Christ’s love is obviously not based on behavior. His love doesn’t come with biases. His love holds no conditions. It is not dependent on ours. As He washed the betrayer and the faithful alike, so He does for us. He calls us his own and He bows down and loves each one of us personally to the fullest extent.

My dirt…His body….My muck…His blood. I would imagine that their dirt became very personal.

When Jesus bowed before each of them and scrubbed their ten little piggy toes, they had to have been reminded of the gunk that had accumulated in the basin. Thinking “He bowed down and washed my feet. He washed my dirt and he didn’t just wash it, “He became the dirt.” It was my grime, my ugliness, my dysfunction, my wrongs. The same personal love that was willing to sacrifice by becoming the lowest slave the night of the footwashing, was the same personal love that was willing to sacrifice by taking on my dirt on the cross.It wasn’t just Pilate who Christ died for. It wasn’t only for the Jews. It wasn’t just for the crooks on the crosses next to him. It wasn’t merely for the bad guys of the world. It wasn’t just for the Pharisees. He didn’t take on the sins of only those that flogged his back or those that fought over his clothes or for only those that spat and mocked him. It was for me. It is a very personal redemption for my very personal dirt.

I will end with a quote from Spurgeon:  “The Lord Jesus loves his people so much, that everyday he is still doing for them much that is analagous to washing their soiled feet. Their poorest actions he accepts; their deepest sorrow he feels; their slenderest wish he hears; and their every transgression he forgives.”

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As you look back this Maundy Thursday and see Jesus showing the full extent of His love to His own, may you be reminded that as dirty as your feet have become on this walk of yours, you are also His.

 

 

 

the two things I said to a guy who wanted to end his life because he’s gay

Sometimes people send people my way. I am not sure why. I’m not a counselor. I’m not a pastor. I’m not even halfway interesting. I think it’s because I am willing and i am free. You’d be amazed how many people just need someone to sit with them and listen.

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I’m sorry, i am going to go off for one sentence…

What the hell is wrong with our world that we need to pay people to listen to us?

Ok, I am back. But really, what is going on that we need to pay people to listen to us? Just sit. still. engaged. making eye contact. with no phone. no agenda. No bias. No judgement. open ears. that’s all. People make up to what $100 dollars an hour to do that? (Counselors are wonderful x amillion. But the huge gaping hole of people needing people to just sit with them and listen isn’t.) This whole I am free thing keeps me pretty busy…

So a friend sent me their friend. My buddy was really worried about his friend and so I got a phone call from this random guy and agreed to meet with him. I had a bit of background on him as I walked into this coffee shop looking for a single guy who’s physical characteristics were never disclosed. There were like 5 guys sitting alone at tables. I thought to myself, “Oh man, don’t be that girl who walks around looking like you are Match.comming it at a coffeeshop.” I agreed with myself and waited for him to come to me.

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He didn’t.

So I texted him and told him where I was sitting. Sure enough, one of those five guys stood up and walked over to me. Two hours later, I left that coffee shop with a spiritual stomach ache.

I will tell you his story tomorrow….

No, ok I will tell you his story right now. This young man is struggling with his sexuality. In his words, He is a Christian, wants to do right by God but believes being gay is a sin, yet feels a strong sense that he is only attracted to same sex males. He has been fighting his desires for years. This fight has found him looking to hook up with girls hoping they will “heal” him. (This made me sad for any girls whose lives are being used to “heal” people. Who wants to wake up and find out they were being taken like a pill? No less a pill that didn’t work.)

This guy who will remain nameless said that pill wasn’t working. It was a placebo. He started becoming addicted to porn and was really struggling. He opened up to his pastor and friends at his church, that he loves. They, in their effort to help him took away his computer and encouraged him to go to counseling. They surrounded him with an all out effort to hold him accountable. Their efforts pushed him further into the closet, hiding with all sorts of skeletons.

By the time he was sharing an americano with me, he had traveled from girls to boys, to hooking up on any end of the spectrum anywhere he found himself, to a nasty porn addiction with suicide luring him as the ultimate pill. This week he was falling in love with a boy. He said if he told his church he was gay he would be excommunicated.

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In an effort to understand, I asked, “So, if you are addicted to porn you can stay in the church, but as soon as you say you are gay, you cannot?” Yes, that is correct. It was his fear of losing his people that led him to live a life of hiding where nobody really knew who he was and what he was doing. These lies and secrets were killing him. But it would also kill him to tell people and have them disown him. He saw his options as one of two. Hide or die.

Did you hear that? Hide or die.

I asked him if those were his only options? He confidently said yes. I said that I wanted to suggest a few other options. And here is why.

Outside of what you believe about sexuality, I believe these two things to be true:

1. Life matters. This man’s very life is in question. He lives every day thinking about killing himself because he sees no other option. God made him. God shaped him in his mother’s womb. God made his sense of humor. God shaped his brain. God knew his strengths and his weaknesses, his quirks and his tendencies. God breathed life into Him and until the day God decides to tenderly move him into the other realm, his life should not be taken by his own hand. He is someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s friend, someone’s coworker. He matters. And when I sit across from someone who is questioning that, I will start there. Always.

2. Be real. Living a life you have to hide is just as much a sin as any other. I always say to my kids, “Live a life you don’t have to hide!” This is one of our family mantras. Fill in the blank with any sin…..Hiding and lying about who you are and what you do is just as bad as __________ (insert any sin you think heinous whether it be not recycling, greed or murder). Yet the system this man is a part of was encouraging this hiding. Living a double life, a life of secrets is just as sinful as another sin you are living out in the open with, isn’t it? Are we encouraging people with our judgements to live secret, lying lives? What choice is this guy left with? He either lies to his community and gets to be apart of the family or he tells them the truth about where he is at and he is on the streets like an orphan with no home.

In that moment, as I prayed, I didn’t feel it was necessary to go into the hot button topic about homesexuality and where he should land on it. What good would that do? This wasn’t his issue. His issue was now choosing to live- choosing different options than to hide or die. He had heard arguments on all sides of the issue for yeeearrrs and interestingly enough, he himself believed for him it was wrong but he also felt like he “couldn’t stop doing the very thing he felt he ought not to do”. This man has tried to stop. He has denied himself. He has gone to “rehab”. He has self loathed. He has prayed a million prayers. Now he lives wrestling, struggling and wanted to give up. So if he thinks not living is now his only escape from the struggle, do you really think I should get into a theological volley with him? It felt like God wanted me to fight for his life and for living it wide open, honest. Wherever he is at, he needs to be able to be real about it.

What is the point of community or of church if we have to hide what is really going on in our hearts, our minds and our lives? We need to be able to journey with people as they are. It is then that we can all invite God to show up as we are and do what only He can do in our lives. How can God show up in our lives in a real way if we are all walking around being fake? How can we get help for our porn addiction or our confusion and our sleeping all over tarnation if we have to hide it? How can we get help for our boxed in judgmental hearts and limited grace meters if they are never tested because everyone is walking round acting perfect in person and screwed up in secret? How can we learn what it looks like to love, really love, if we only worship with people just like us? How can people who want to end their life have the people they need to keep them alive if they can’t be real about what they are pondering?

This is not to say we shouldn’t speak the truth in love. This isn’t to say that we should tell people do whatever the heck they want. That is not what I am saying. (There should be some asterisk here about how this is not a blog on speaking the truth in love and holding people accountable. This is a blog on sitting across from a guy who thinks about ending it all.) So don’t go off on your assumptions and miss out on numbers 1 through 2 and an added 3rd.

1. Life matters. We should be telling people in the church and out this. We should be telling our kids and our parents this. We should be telling this to people who have black skin and those who are albino. We should be telling this to people who are Muslim and people who are Bhuddist. We should be telling this to people no matter what they do with their private parts. The same God, the One God, made all of us and we all matter.

2. Scripture says in Romans 8:38-39 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Not death, nor life, nor life that is crazy, messed up, confusing, different, diverse, weird and destructive, nor angels, nor the President, the Pope or your boss, nor Republicans or Democrats, nor kings or the Queen, nor this very present circumstance you find yourself in that feels like its overcoming you, nor what is about to go down, nor any victory or success or low low valley or deep dark sin, nor a long list of mistakes, nor any other human being and their opinion shall be able to separate you from the love of God which we see in Christ Jesus. 

And boy do we see the love of Jesus Christ! His death reminds us that our lives matter. Our lives matter so much so that God was willing to give up His own for ours. He died so that we could live. Next time you are sitting across from someone regardless of what you think or believe about how they should be living, start with their life mattering. Jesus Christ gave up His life so that you would never wonder where you are at with God.  Jesus loves you with such an intense sacrificial love that I am going to keep telling you how much you matter. And please keep telling me.

I understand that because our life matters, it matters how we live it. But sometimes we elevate how we live above the life itself. Thats why people keep sending me suicidal people to have coffee with. Free and willing, I sat across from this man and I physically hurt. Remember, I am not a professional. I am not a psychologist.What can i possibly say?

I can say, your life matters. Let’s get you to a place and places where you can start there. That is most important. God would say so with His very life. (In fact, none of the other stuff matters if you are no longer alive.) And we need to be saying this too!

3. Be real. I am not suggesting that the Church shouldn’t be a place that teaches morality, virtue, discipline, and values. But I am going to suggest that we have got to allow people to start where they are. I just cannot get over the fact that a church will kick you out if you are gay but not if you get excited about nasty porn every night. I can go to any church in my town and no one is thinking about kicking me out. Yet they have no idea what I am doing in this head of mine. I could be shooting people with rifles in my imagination. I could have millions of dollars in an account that I don’t share with anyone. I could be sleeping with other men in my head every time I sleep with my husband. And guess what, you would never know.

Whether I am doing all of those things or none of them, how on God’s green earth do I stand a chance of journeying towards God if people are pushing me away from Him? What chance do any of us have if we are keeping what needs God’s face shining on it hidden in a dark closet? We have to be able to be real about what is going on our lives. This actually is the beginning of true healing, true recovery, true freedom and true community. I have always said: If people can’t tell their story in the Church then Church won’t be a part of their story.

I am confident that we as the Church must reread that last sentence and get our staff- our children’s pastors, youth pastors, family pastors, our worship pastors, your elders, our laypeople, we need to get all of them together and we have got to figure out how to build and shape an environment where people can be real about their stories. This then is when God can enter our stories and write into them beauty, hope, life, grace and redemption. If people cannot be real about their story in YOUR Church, YOUR Church won’t be a part of their story.

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Or I can keep looking purdy in my church dress and filling a pew and showing up and looking the part to make you happy and trick myself into thinking I have a spiritual community. I can sit right alongside my new friend and we can fake all of this, but where is it getting us? We know God is real, so why aren’t we being real? God is real and He can handle us. He can handle us in all our unglorifying mess. He can. I am sure of it.  I will sit next to that man. In fact, I will pick him up and take him to church if I need to, if only to remind us both that life matters.

I will show up and like this guy, and like Paul in the New Testament, I will say “I continue to do the things I ought not to.” In saying that together, we realize our deep need for God in all His stretched out forgiveness that gives and gives and gives. And saying that together with other broken people who echo the struggle, we can hold hands, reminding each other that Jesus says life matters. Grab our hands and come with us if you want. We can walk towards Jesus instead of away from Him. We can tell our stories and beg that God becomes our Author. We can together find ourselves underneath His cross, where the ground is level, everyone matters and His death reminds us just how much. That is the only hope we all have. That His love is greater than our brokenness. And it is the only hope I will give my life to.

If you don’t like what I have to say, I don’t want to hear about it this time. I am not in the mood to mess around. I just sat across from a guy who wants to end his life. Argue with someone who just sang with the gospel choir.

 

 

measuring sticks by Melissa Jacobs

I met Melissa this year on the playground at my kids’ school. She walked up to me and said she had heard about Collide and wanted to come. She was sweet and kind and we chatted and then she showed up at a Collide! I was thrilled to see her and as the months have gone by it has been a blessing to get to know her and pray and encourage her as she has faced some hard life stuff. I love that she so rawly shared her “real” self here and that she taught us along the way. I will never see measuring sticks the same, but even more, I will never measure myself the same. Thank you Melissa! – Willow

Melissa Jacobs story

It seems ironic that one of the first Bible verses that I memorized as a little girl was Proverbs 3:5-6“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.” I realize now that knowing this verse by heart is not the same as knowing the heart of this verse. They say there are two sides to every story, two perspectives from which to gain understanding. For me, leaning on my own understanding, my own perspective, has lent itself to years of being stuck in depression, anxiety, self loathing, paralyzing fear, and a desperate search for evidence that I had any worth at all.

No matter how much scripture I have read, praise music I’ve listened to, friends that have encouraged me, prayer I received, or anti depressants I swallowed, I couldn’t shake my horrible self image. While these things made me feel better for a time, I was so deeply rooted in what I understood about me, that I went quickly and comfortably back to my default setting with whatever road block I came up against next. I was only 12 when I remember having concluded that whatever it took to be acceptable and lovable-wasn’t in me. And despite having a wonderful husband these past 12 years, I still believed that until very recently. I didn’t doubt his love for me all this time, I just thought he was a miracle straight from God, somehow blessed with eyes to see me differently than I truly was and the patience to love me in spite of myself. Actually, I still think that. 😉

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The past couple of years God’s been challenging me to outgrow the toxic thinking that I have clutched onto since childhood. Each time I tried to break free something seemed to keep me tethered, bound in darkness. Then this past fall I happened upon information about Collide. I was crazy nervous, but attended anyway. The things I heard resonated with me. But I still believed that the freedom the speakers seemed to have wasn’t for me. One of my dearest friends has often told me, “You aren’t very kind to yourself.” It was true, but I felt like I was being honest with myself and couldn’t pretend otherwise.

Recently, while sharing that I realized that I just need to accept that I might never finish a college degree, another friend asked when “uneducated housewife” would stop being my story, because she  said she doesn’t see me like that at all. Within days of that conversation I sat in church and hung on every word as my pastor said “It’s time to take off the grave clothes.” and challenged the body of Christ to “embrace an abounding life.” (He directed us to John 1:12 and John 6:28-29.) I pressed into these truths, and slowly began to consider a different perspective, to understand in a way I never had before, that who I am is found in Christ alone. I wrestled with this new perspective. I longed to trust it with my whole heart, from the depths of me, not just to recite it.

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In the midst of this season of undeniable pursuit, God showed me a picture of myself surrounded by measuring sticks. They were a little like yard sticks, but similar in size to 2x6s, each one looming over me. I had to pray and journal a lot about these measuring sticks. Were these the standards of the world that I just couldn’t measure up to and shouldn’t even try?

This was my initial thought. Slowly and surely God started revealing to me that these sticks were mine, that I’d been collecting them my whole life. Collecting them and lugging them around. Everywhere I went these measuring sticks came with me. Each one seemed to represent a time of hurt or disappointment in my life, and my understanding of what that experience said about me. I longed for them to tell me that I was ok, that I was enough. They were not so kind. They told me that I’m worthless and disposable, as evidenced by my parents’ divorce and the lack of weekend visits with my dad, as well as when I was 18 and my “no” was mistaken for a “yes” and a boy I had just met took something that I’d intended for only one.

They told me I would never measure up, never be the woman God intended me to be, that no matter how hard I tried I would always be uneducated, undisciplined, misunderstood, ill-equipped, too sensitive, too irritable, too afraid. All I could ever see was evidence in my life to support this understanding. It became clear to me that not only did I lean on my own understanding, I sat in it, wallowed in it, wore my understanding like a tattered crown.

Now though, after hours and weeks of prayer, I have had the breakthrough I have desired for over a decade. Now, when my own understanding tries to remind me of my ugly past, of yesterday’s evidence that I failed to measure up, I see a different picture of myself. Now I’m standing on a heaping pile of broken, busted measuring sticks. Now I am telling a new story. Now I carry just one single measuring stick. This one has me standing taller, breathing deeper, trusting with all my heart. This new measuring stick tells me that I am justified and redeemed, set free, accepted, a work in progress, an overcomer. – Melissa Jacobs

P.S.  A key part of Melissa’s healing came from reading Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead .* She said this book shed so much light on the patterns in her life and wants anyone who struggles with a story like hers to know that it’s a great resource. 

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Hope in the again!

Spring is this season where the earth’s axis is tipped on its side and leans closer to the sun. The power of that move causes new life to spring forth all around us. Words like restore, rebirth and renew are used to describe this experience we have every year at this time. This prefix “re” actually means “again.”

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My kids chant “Do it again!”  to my husband when he does his “7th grade talk” and when this seemingly conservative dad of theirs busts out in hidden breakdance moves on our kitchen floor in his dockers. They chant “do it again” to me when I pretend to swallow objects whole and when I blow huge bubble gum bubbles and they pop all over my face.

Kids enjoy the again. The idea of a God who enjoys the again is an interesting concept. God does not paint a sunset in the sky and ignore its beauty as if He is bored of its brilliance. He does not take for granted the newborn that suckles its mothers breasts at first glance. God does not get tired of doing His Divine breakdance moves in the sky nor does He want to stop blowing bubbles in the air, only to hear His children giggle.

The Bible is a fascinating narrative regardless of your relationship with it. Think about it. A story that begins with a God who breathes life for the first time into the tulip bulb, the bird who has not yet migrated, and the puppy who has yet to become a dog. The God throughout this book makes life and continues to move towards making new again what we have ruined. It ends with a book called Revelations with a picture of a new heaven and a new earth.  A new garden and a new city. And Jesus is on a throne. He is King and He says these words: “I am making all things new!”

In between a garden and a garden is a story of humanity ruining what once was new. And a God who is continually trying to restore what we have damaged. It is a story about a destroyed spirituality and how religious people ruined the pursuit of God. It is a story of a people in rebellion who continually to choose their own way and their own way doesn’t seem to work. It is a story of people who have no loyalty- they’ll screw everybody and their brother, to get where they want to go. It is a story of people who are dysfunction junction because of the sins of the generation before them and it has passed on right into their very DNA.

And in the midst of this story of what humanity damaged, God shows up in the hood of these people’s war zone and hangs out with them. And everytime this God in the hood whose gang name was Jesus…everytime He shows up and collides with people they experience the AGAIN. They experience restoration. Men whose hands were falling off, by Jesus’ touch, their hands were made new again. Blind people who begged to see, by Jesus’ spit, could again stare at beauty. People who had lost all hope, Jesus gave them hope to live again.

Wasn’t it Jesus who brought a dead man back to life and said ‘Dude take your grave clothes off!’? Wasn’t it Jesus who told us we would have to be born again- to experience an again? Wasn’t it Jesus who said in order for you to experience new life, you would have to die to your old one? Wasn’t it Jesus who talked of a new promise, a new commandment and a new hope? The Bible- this entire story is about a God who desires to make life new again.

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For some reason God doesn’t give up on our ruin. He doesn’t stay out of our fights. He doesn’t close the door and leave us to our own battles. He isn’t overwhelmed by our dirtiness. From making all things new to reminding us that He is and does and will, we see a God who by His very nature, in how He made the world, one in which the very earth springs forth new life, but also in His character, His plan and purpose, He is moving ALL things toward new.

Sometimes it feels like parts of us live in the dead of winter. Sometimes it feels like where we once bloomed, we withered right into that very soil. Sometimes it feels like the chill has surrounded us to never see the light of sun again. Sometimes it feels like we need to hibernate because hiding is the best option. Or maybe we migrate because running is the new way of hiding. Sometimes it feels like life got dark and we shiver and wonder when things will get back to how they used to be.  Will the singing of the bird come out to play again? Will the sun shine on us again?  Oh how we would all like to be made new….

This spring, as we see the cherry blooms blossom, the birds sing us awake, the daffodils smiling, the chicks chicking, the grass turning green, the wool sweaters going high up on a shelf to be replaced by things light and airy that peek our pale skin… As we watch this spring unfold, let us be reminded that we have a God who is in the business of making what was in the dead of winter, what got so very old, sick and infected, dark and lonely- He is making even those things new, and one day, if not this one, they will be bursting with life!

Hope, along with me, in His again.