Tag Archives: God

Why I’m not in church

Around Lent season of this year, I found myself irritated as I was thinking about what to give up for 40 days. I was mulling over my different options when I realized two things:

  1. Lent causes me to feel shame.
  2. Giving up stuff for Lent has never made me feel closer to Jesus.

First of all, I’ve always been taught, whether directly or indirectly, that Lent is about giving up stuff that’s “bad for you.” It’s sacrificing something you love–that you indulge in–that isn’t good for your life. Growing up we were always giving up some kind of food for 40 days. Today I have a zillion friends who give up chips, chocolate, alcohol, pizza… The message for my brain: “Food I enjoy is sinful.” And if I cheat and sneak a bite of the forbidden food, there’s this enormous guilt and shame that follows that I have failed Jesus, and I’ve also failed myself. Food seems to be the #1 choice of sacrifice, but I’ve seen other people give up a favorite show, social media, or television as a whole. While the choice of sacrifice and suffering differs across the board, the shame is the same when people “fail.” Lent is like a springtime New Year’s Resolution–a fresh promise to do or not do something only to fail a week into it and feel like a big jerk for Jesus.

Shame has never made me feel closer to Jesus. Giving up chocolate has never drawn me closer to my Lord. I understand, now in my adult years, the idea behind “giving up something for Lent” is to, on a small scale, experience and resist temptation as Jesus did during his time in the desert with Satan. It’s supposed to allow me to identify with Christ. But that’s not what happens for me. Lent season becomes about me–my sinful desires for food or activities I love and my failure to identify with Christ.

And yes, I’ve seen others who, instead of giving up something, pour out their lives for 40 days doing something for others. I love that people do this, and I love the idea behind it, but it stresses me out. I feel like I am forcing myself to find ways to serve that quite frankly God hasn’t asked me to do. It still ends up, at the end of the day, being about me and whether or not I was able to follow through on a promise to God–usually not–and feeling like a failure.

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With all this running through my heart I simply whined in prayer, “What do YOU want from me? You tell me what you want me to give up or what you want me to do. I want this season to be about You.”

The immediate response I heard like a tender whisper to my heart that filled my entire living room was: All I want is you.

The vision that came across my mind was of Mary and Martha, two sisters whom Jesus adored. Martha is known for her busyness and bustling around doing things; Mary is known for sitting at Jesus’ feet with an air of childlike wonder and expectancy, just waiting for whatever Jesus had to say next. I have always identified myself with Martha.

With this picture in my mind I heard: Sit at my feet and learn My story. Learn Who I am. Give me yourself so I can teach you about Me.

In the days that followed I had a hunger to learn about who Jesus was as a person, yet I had the strong conviction I wasn’t supposed to be in church. I also realized there are major gaps in my knowledge about who Jesus was because I’d only known him in the context of Bible stories and Christian traditions. I’ve spent my whole life in church learning the lessons of Jesus–from his parables and experiences–and striving to try harder at being a “good Christian” (living out the lessons and traditions of Christianity that I learn through sermons and Bible studies).

I’ve never questioned the traditions. I’ve never questioned what I’ve been taught. I have put 100% of my belief in sermons and studies as how I’m supposed to live; if anything in my heart doesn’t match what I learn then I must be wrong. After all pastors and church leaders are educated and experienced in this stuff. I’ve never allowed me to think for myself in my own faith because I didn’t know it was okay or even how to; I’ve never allowed myself to explore, let alone express, what lives in my own heart about God because I figured I would be wrong.

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I have spent the last many months studying and learning about Jesus just between the two of

For instance, I fully support the LGBTQ community and believe God loves them and protects them. God cares more about their hearts for humanity and their love for Him than he does about gender/sexual orientation. LGBTQ are just as welcome at the feet of Jesus as I am.

For instance, I fully support the LGBTQ community and believe God loves them and protects them. God cares more about their hearts for humanity and their love for Him than he does about gender/sexual orientation. LGBTQ are just as welcome at the feet of Jesus as I am and thus free to live equally as who they are as the rest of us. Discrimination is painful for both Jesus and his people.

us, without the distraction of church and my tendency to take what I hear from others (especially church “authorities” as my mind held them to be) as my own belief. God is revealing the truths that live in my own heart–and have for years–about Jesus, and He’s teaching me to be confident in those truths even when they don’t match the world or even Christian culture. God needs me to be confident about what He places on my heart so I can stand firmly later. I am shocked and relieved by what Jesus is teaching me, but I am not confident in my expression. There’s an uncomfortable dissonance between what I believe about Him and what I’ve been taught my whole life–it’s scary to know that I am going to offend people. (I actually already have here and possibly here and maybe here.) But none of this is about me; it’s all about God and the news of his love for ALL people and what that Love looks like.

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God is going to bring me back to church; He has been clearly reassuring about that, but He has given me zero clue as to when. Typical.  While I haven’t been in church, molding my normal pew spot on Sundays, He’s kept me active within the church body through the Shattering Stigma mental health ministry and precious one-on-one experiences with my children, husband, friends, and strangers. Church on Sunday is simply one way, not the only way, to worship and connect with God and the church body.

I know from the deepest part of me that where God has me is where He needs me right now; and while I am not yet comfortable (and probably won’t ever be), I have to trust what I am learning is from God and true. Maybe not always 100% right, but rooted Truth. But I don’t think God cares so much about me being right or wrong; he cares more about me being connected with Jesus and confident about what lives in my heart and obedient to His calling.

 

Rendered Silent

The world suffers loudly, enduring violence, injustice, fear, ridicule. People with names, faces, families–with purposes and reasons for living–suffer. There is injustice afflicted on black lives, Christian lives, LGBTQ lives, mentally ill lives, women’s lives, children’s lives… The discrimination, persecution, and exploitation of particular groups of humans is undeniable.

In the midst of the madness and loss, loathing arguments fling across social media, pelting the intelligence and opinions of well-intentioned people who try to speak up for what feels right in their hearts.

Me? I am rendered silent. Silence isn’t safe in our culture; is is almost as unsafe, or even more so, as shouting the wrong opinion. I see/hear the judgement from many who shake their cyber-fists at those of us who choose not to speak up.

I cannot stand up for all the issues and all the people. I cannot feel the hurt and advocate for the safety, recovery, equality of all who suffer. You see, when I think about all the people and all the issues and all the injustice and all the pain and all the inequality, I freeze. There is too much, and it all sits on my chest like a boulder. No injustice or forced pain is greater or less than another in my heart. The loss of black brothers is just as tragic as the thousands of children lost in the sex industry– is just as tragic as the thousands of Christians massacred across the world– is just as tragic as the transgender teen who dies by suicide– is just as tragic as the police shot during a protest– is just as tragic the father so weighed down by depression he can’t get out of bed– is just as tragic as the young girl who is blamed for her own rape…The list goes on dear reader.

I am rendered silent because screaming into a raging storm is hopeless. But reaching out my hand for someone seeking shelter from the storm–I am rendered empowered. Staying alert and sensitive and curious to the people and situations around me, that’s helpful. Teaching my children to be curious, compassionate, inclusive, sensitive, and loving toward all people–that’s helpful.  And when the Spirit leads me to take action, to get involved, to speak up and to stand up for someone who’s hurting, I do. And that is good. It is enough. The cyber-fist shakers won’t agree and that’s okay. I don’t answer to them. And if I did, I’d only be contributing to the widening chasm that keeps us from connecting in a way that makes a genuine difference to those who suffer. I answer to Love–to those who seek love in their suffering and the One who is Love.

 

 

No More Secrets–Released!

Juicy title, huh? All the credit goes to my pal Julie Steck who is releasing her memoir today titled, No More Secrets. *cue applause and high-pitched whistles*

I had the privilege of reading an advanced copy and know for a fact this book is worth the read. But before you decide to invest your precious time and money, why don’t you get to know the author a little bit? Julie was a good sport in an interview with me recently. Releasing a book is a serious deal in a writer’s life, but not so serious that I won’t pry into an author’s thoughts about mermaids, breakfast for dinner, and who would be invited to a red-carpet, Hollywood-style book release party. Enjoy!

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L: You wrote a book… with pages, chapters, front and back covers. I mean this thing has a copyright page; it’s legit! How does it feel to say “I wrote a book.”?

J: You know, writing a book is something I’ve dreamed of for years. I’ve imagined how I would feel to actually be an author. I am stoked and honored about releasing this book and sharing this journey.

L: What does your writing space look like?

J: My writing space looks like my bedroom. It’s a secluded space, two closable doors away from the chaos of my living room, so it’s quiet. I can sit on the couch with my laptop or pen and paper (which is how I start every first draft) and write.

L;  Okay, let’s pretend we’re at the park with our kids and my youngest comes up to us all, “Mama, I’m hungry and hoooot.  Can we go now?”  I tell her we’ll leave in two minutes—which is exactly the amount of time you have to tell me what your book is about before my kid melts down. Go.

J: Ok, so I became a Christian at three years old and always grew up in church. I never really had a dark period where I turned away from my faith, but I never really knew the Julie before Jesus. I mean, what exactly did He save me from? Did I have an “old self” at three years old? And why do I still struggle with sin? As I look back over my life, the stupid and sinful things I’ve done, I didn’t do before Jesus. I did them knowing Jesus.

Well, a few years ago, some friends of ours got tangled up in an affair. I never saw it coming and it really rocked me. I realized that if they could fall, so could I. So I began to pray that God would show me areas in my life that needed to be dealt with so I didn’t fall into the same trap.

I found out God answers those prayers! He showed me alright. He unearthed my buried secrets, you know, the ones I didn’t want anyone to see, and He asked me to deal with them. In the end, He showed me His true, undeserving grace and my desperate need of it!

L:  What’s your favorite zoo animal and why?

J: I think meerkats have to be my favorite. They are so cute, seem to have big personalities and I love how there’s always someone on the lookout for predators.

L: Fill in the blank: “If you are someone who___________________, then you should totally read my book.”

J: Works in ministry

L: If you had a whole day to yourself and unlimited funds, what would you do with your day?

J: I would drop off my kids at a friend’s house, and jump in the truck with my husband for a day in town. We would eat lunch at Babe’s Chicken, go for a walk at the walking trail, then go see an action/suspense movie in the theater. By then we’ll be hungry again and will sit down at Cheesecake Factory where we’ll order some appetizers for dinner and Oreo Dream cheesecake for dessert.  Then it’s time to drive back home.

L: What scares you the most about people reading your story?

J: I hope people don’t read the first four chapters, judge me for sharing, and not read the rest of the story where God showed up and taught me His grace. Also, I can be nervous that the people who know me will think differently about me, now that they see what I’ve struggled with or they’ll try to figure out who the different people are that I refer to in the story.

L:  If you could have coffee with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

J: Even though I don’t drink coffee (please don’t hit the screen!) I would have to say Beth Moore. I did several studies of hers when I was newly married and eager to know God more. I have always wanted to tell her how much her Bible studies meant to me. I actually had a dream that this book paved the way for me to be able to do that. I don’t know that that will happen, but it made me smile!

L: What was the hardest part about writing your story?

J: Chapters 2-5 were extremely hard to write and even harder to edit. My first draft wasn’t nearly as vulnerable, but my editor repeatedly said, “This is specific, yet vague. Can you expound anymore on this?” In my mind I thought, “No!! Being more specific means I have to tell the whole story and I’d rather hide behind all I learned rather than share that!”

After I prayed about it, I felt led to share the whole story. So I went back and included the specifics about how I struggled and was tempted to think about a man other than my husband. I included the specifics of my past that can haunt me, and the shame that rose up inside me. I didn’t add those details to air out all my dirty laundry for all to see, but to point to what Christ has saved me from.  When Hebrews 12:2 says, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand throne of God,” it means that because Jesus went through with the Cross, I don’t have to carry my shame around anymore. It died with Christ and now I am a new creation.  

So my hope is that being specific connects my journey with others better than if I was vague and you were left to guess what I was talking about. If my journey can help one other person, it’s worth it.

L: Do you believe in Big Foot? What about mermaids?

J: No. Only in the movies.

L:  What’s the best part of your book?

J: Of course…all the juicy details! No, seriously, my favorite part is chapter 6. After I’ve taken everything out of my trunk, and dealt with my fear issues, I begin to seek a faith void of fear. In this chapter, I describe my relationship with my grandparents while I was growing up. It was such a special one! As a kid, when I walked through their door, I became the most important person in the world to them. They were never too busy or tired to spend time with me. But 25 years have past since then and my grandmother has gone to be with the Lord and my grandfather has advanced dementia. I discovered so much of my identity as a person was wrapped up in them. So as their influence in my life faded away, I felt this void in my heart, like I didn’t even know who I was without them. One day on a hike with my husband, I felt the Lord ask me to let Him fill that void now. Talk about a tough hike!

Also in that chapter is the story of our trip to Kenya and how God used a heron on the Indian Ocean to teach me that He sees me, and knows when I sit and when I stand. Oh, it’s my favorite chapter!

L:  No More Secrets sounds really juicy. How did you come up with that title?

J: It actually just hit me one evening while I was blow drying my hair. The original title was Out of the Shadows and into the Light, but that just didn’t have the zing I wanted. No More Secrets will grab your attention!

L: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?

J: I’d have to say squirrel-n-dumplings my oldest cooked up. It’s one of those things I never knew I’d do as a mom!

L:  Was there anything unexpected that happened in the process of writing, editing, or creating the book?

J: I think the whole journey was unexpected! I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I never envisioned this topic would be my debut!

L: How do you feel about breakfast for dinner?

J: Hang on while I clean up the bowls of oatmeal on the table from dinner….! Breakfast for dinner is a regular at our house because I love breakfast food, but I’m not a morning person. It’s really hard for me to cook a big breakfast first thing, so I like to serve it for dinner, that way I’m not grumpy when I cook.

L:  What’s the one thing you want people to take away from your story?

J: As long as we walk this earth, we’re going to be tempted. Often this temptation comes in the form of what we thought we could never do. Temptation itself is not sin, but temptation is not something to take lightly or think we are strong enough to handle. It wants to destroy us!

I love my husband’s illustration I share in the book about living life in a round room. A round room has no corners. Everything must be brought to the center and dealt with. It’s much easier to handle difficult issues when we know exactly what we’re dealing with.

This topic isn’t talked about much in the Christian community, especially when it comes to thinking too much about the opposite sex. That’s almost taboo. My prayer is that we can find the courage to talk about these issues and get them in the light. I see affairs affecting more and more families and it all starts in the mind. We have to figure out how to handle our thoughts and the temptations Satan sets for us, otherwise they turn into sin and eventually death.

L:  Which do you fancy: paper and ink books or books on Nooks?

J: That depends. I love the feel of paper-back books and actually turning the pages. But, I like to read on my Kindle at night and load books on there when I travel.

L: If you were to have a red-carpet Hollywood book release party, who would you invite?

J: The cast from Anne of Green Gables.

L:  What else do you want people to know about you or your book?

J: I didn’t write this book to prove some point or be famous or make some top 10 list. I truly wrote this book because I felt God asked me to share my story. So I pray that this story can help someone realize a temptation they are facing and be able to overcome it with the victory of Christ.

L:  If God said he would oblige to answer only one question for you, what would you ask Him?

J: For there to be brownies and ice cream in Heaven!

Do I dare dream?

Way of Life

 

I am not a dreamer. In a culture that pushes me to “dare to dream” and “follow my dreams,” I feel a bit cynical in my stance; however it’s not cynicism I feel. It’s confusion. At the risk of over thinking this and letting my perfectionism show let me break it down for you.

As a Christian woman, I am 100% interested in following God’s plans for me. “Follow my dreams” clashes with Jesus’ invitation to “Follow me.” At least it feels clashy. I’ve had more than enough experience (and humility), so far, in following my own desires only to harshly realize later they weren’t healthy choices for me (e.g. running my own business, being skinny, having an affair). In the moments, I sort of just ran with how I felt based on what I thought I wanted and, I confess, what other people wanted from me.

When I finally let Jesus take the reigns of control, He brought me to places I never would have dreamed for myself (e.g. working in mental health ministry, writing a children’s book, speaking publicly). God’s will for me has looked MUCH different than my own plans. Hence, my own dreams don’t feel like they would line up with His dreams for me. I don’t want to miss what God has for me because I am off dreaming and striving for something that isn’t meant for me.

In wrestling with this topic with a friend, she said to me: “It could be that you fully recognize how corrupt our hearts are in their natural human state, so your motives for dreaming in the first place are unclear to you.” Totally! I speak for myself though… I know how corrupt my own human heart is.  I know what wrongdoing I am capable of. I know how hurtful I can be to myself and others (whether intentional or not). This is not low self-esteem from which I’m speaking. I know I am a good person with a sacrificing heart. But I am H-U-M-A-N. I am not perfect, meaning I operate out of selfishness, impatience, greed, and self-righteousness without even realizing it most times. What if my dreams comes from this space? The thought of that is so depressing, I don’t WANT to dream. I don’t dare to.

I know all through out the Bible God says many times that he will give us the desires of our hearts. “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I believe that, but I think that only happens if my desires align with His desires. So that’s what I pray for, that He will align my heart with his and the things I “dream” about will match. But I don’t trust myself. Maybe I don’t trust God. *cue guilt* How do I know if what I am dreaming about is actually his delight for me?

There are three things I think would be cool if God ever made them happen, but I don’t call them dreams because I resist thinking about them let alone pursuing them:

  1. Living in Maui. I can handle approximately six weeks of Oregon’s cold and rainy winters and then I’m done. I’m ready for clear skies and 85 degrees. Everyday. I don’t fear island fever because the majority of my life’s routine takes place within a 30-mile radius.
  2. Owning my own vineyard and winery. I have zero clue as to how to make wine, so God would literally have to make this happen. I have even gone so far as to create the content for my wine label. I feel weird about this.
  3. Winning a literary award. This one is strange because I have zero desire to publish a book. My desire to pursue publishing a book is so low, that I procrastinate to even think about it. Yet somehow the thought of earning literary recognition is appealing. (I guess the next phase of my completed children’s book is going to be a challenge.)

Somehow I’ve talked myself into believing that dreaming is wrong, yet I don’t feel like other people are wrong when they dream. What makes me so special that I shouldn’t dream while others can? I don’t know, you guys. This is messed up. My thinking doesn’t feel right yet I can’t reconcile the angst.

Bottom line, if I’m going to dream, I want to dream “right” not big. This is where perfection has a hold on me. I don’t want to follow the wrong thing and end up humiliated or sick or depressed or financially strained or whatever else because I pursued my own selfish desire. And if my dreams are planted by God, I want to know for sure they’re His.  I don’t know how to trust what’s in my heart.

Are you a dreamer? Have you experienced “dreams come true”?

 

 

 

 

Anorexia Recovery: 1 year

Water drop close up

Last year, on this very day, I published a blog post marking the anniversary of meeting my husband. After I hit publish, I drove to Vancouver, WA and entered rehabilitation for anorexia.

The very first paragraph in my first journal entry documenting my rehabilitation I wrote the following:

Today was the big day… going into rehab. I was nervous, but also felt a great sense of peace. I prayed an intense prayer for humility and for God’s will to be done (that my will align with his). After my devotion time, I felt like God had my hand and I was finally letting him lead.

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