manifest destiny: a love letter to my white christian neighbors

Dear you, dear me, dear us,

 

I was a fresh faced sophomore in college, packing to go home on a holiday break when the ping! of the headline reached through my smartphone and down into the soul of me: another shooting, another attack, another devastating loss of life. Like most millennials, I typically hear about current events through social media first, so I took to Facebook to read what major news outlets and the people in my circles were saying. And there it was, tucked in the middle of the collective grief: an Islamophobic post, followed by several equally furious and hateful comments. Their own tiny rally, snug and nearly hidden amidst the outpouring of emotions and Jesus, come soon‘s. The author of the original post was a woman who worked with my mother; a woman who had never been anything but kind and encouraging to me, and who, just the day before, had posted all about how much she wanted her life to glorify Jesus. I dared to toss my two cents into the thread, hopeful that this person would recognize that they were being watched and that their words were deeply damaging: Muslims are human beings, I said, and are worthy of dignity and kindness. I went on to say that it wasn’t fair to find the overwhelmingly peaceful majority guilty for the actions of the radical few.

It didn’t take long at all for my fellow commenters to offer up some words just for me.

 

I was called naive.

Someone told me to “watch out for stones.”

I was called an ignorant sheep and told to “enjoy the burka.”

I was called arrogant.

A stranger told me that I was a “bad Christian who had clearly not read The Bible.”

 

Apparently, doing unto others as you would have them do to you and loving your neighbor as you love yourself are taken pretty loosely by some around these parts, more like polite suggestions and less like the commandments that they are. Because in case you haven’t noticed, we love ourselves an awful lot, but loving our neighbor at all, let alone loving them as we love ourselves, is a constant struggle. But I read the other day that admiration without criticism is simple infatuation: a short lived passion. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of watching pieces of myself be suffocated and die off at the hands of short lived passions.

 

This is not the death that we are called to.

 

It’s not how I want to go — not how I want to be remembered after I leave this life.

It isn’t the legacy I want to leave for my children and their children.

I suspect it isn’t how you want to be remembered, either.

 

We must examine ourselves.

 

It’s going to be hard, ya’ll — standing up and admitting that yes, we are capable of that kind of hate, that we’ve actively participated in or seen and heard racist actions and comments and not immediately shut them down because to even acknowledge them for what they are would be too uncomfortable or costly. Family members might not understand. We might have to give up our spot in the “in crowd” in our places of work and worship and learning.

We must own the fact that the depersonalization of an entire group of human beings has been so intrinsically woven into the DNA of our society that we hardly even realize that it’s there, that our entire existence as a country has been at the expense of those we’ve deemed as less than. We must own the fact that we have allowed fear to take root in our hearts and that we have allowed that fear to bully us into the belief that to acknowledge someone else’s worth takes away from our own. We have to call it what it is: white supremacy, and pure, unadulterated racism. 

I know what you’re thinking. You aren’t a racist. You would never do or say the damaging things we’ve seen and heard in the last 72 hours. I believe you. I wouldn’t, either. I know that for most of us, we genuinely believe that we’re doing the best we can. But it isn’t enough to just not be racist — we must speak out and condemn the words and actions of those who are. We must be the Esthers who are willing to acknowledge that if we have been given any privilege in this life, it is for the purpose of making sure that those on the outside have a way to get in.

It’s going to be hard. It might feel like the hardest thing we’ve ever done. But I promise you, if you ask Trayvon Martin’s mother about the hardest thing she’s ever done, she’s going to tell you about burying her baby. If you ask Diamond Reynolds’ four-year-old daughter about the hardest thing she’s ever done, she’ll tell you about begging her mother to be quiet so the cops don’t shoot her, too. And if you had the chance to ask Heather Heyer if she would choose to show up again, my gut tells me she would say yes.

 

We owe it to them. We owe it to our neighbors. We owe it to our children and our children’s children to tell a different story with our lives starting from this moment forward. Because when we dare to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, it changes the narrative of our lives. It changes the narratives of our families and our schools and our churches and our civic organizations and our communities.

We owe it to our neighbors and our children’s children to educate ourselves: to listen to our black neighbors and believe them when they share their experiences. We owe it to them to not make excuses or turn their narratives into partisan debates. We owe them our eyes, unafraid to look at the scars and the pain and the centuries their souls have traveled barefoot. We owe it to them to not just say that black lives matter, but to show it.

We owe it to our neighbors and our children and our children’s children to hold our leaders accountable for their words and actions — to let them know that we refuse to let them boast hatred and plant fear for a single moment longer.

 

We owe it to our neighbors and our children to pick up our crosses and die to ourselves, abolishing any shred of manifest destiny that isn’t directly tied to the everlasting Kingdom — killing off any seed in us that is at odds with a free spirit. Because the Jesus whom we so proudly boast on our bumper stickers and Twitter bios and business cards came down to tear down every single barrier. He came to put our shame to death; allowing his own flesh to be ripped open so we could have a new name.

 

Beloved.

 

So you can feel free to call me naive. You can tell me that justice and equality are dreams that will never be realized on this side of heaven. I’ve heard it before. But I wholeheartedly believe that Jesus wouldn’t have asked us to pray for the Father’s Kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven if that wasn’t a prayer he was ready and willing to answer. Mother Teresa said she “used to believe that prayer changes things, but really, prayer changes us and we change things.” And I want to be in on the answer. I won’t be perfect at this. None of us will be, but that’s no excuse to not go there, and I hope you’ll join me. 

 

 


For your continued viewing/reading:
These thoughts from Brene Brown
I Will Not Be Silent, by Rachel Dawson
How to Heal When Your Heart is Tired, by Daje Morris
After Charlottesville: The Question We Absolutely Have to Answer, by Lisa Sharon Harper via Ann Voskamp
These words from Brittany Packnett
These words from Shveta Thakrar
Proximity > Politics, by Shannan Martin
Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult

Disclaimer: I’m going to leave the comments open on this post, but please know that if you post something rude or hateful or troll just for the sake of creating division or shame here, your comment WILL BE REMOVED, and I won’t feel the least bit upset about doing it. In the words of Rachel Held Evans, the definition of these terms is left solely to me.   If you must critique, please do so constructively.  Let’s share our stories in this space before we share our opinions– not to prove a point or promote an agenda,  but to move closer to one another.

A love letter to the tension dwellers.

Dear you, dear me, dear us standing weary hand in hand together, 

I must confess, I know next to nothing about politics. I am 26 years old, and only registered to vote for the first time this year, so if you want to tune me out, I understand. But I’m not coming to you with political opinions. Instead, I’m coming to you with this heart and these ears and these hands and feet. They’re all I’ve got, and honestly, they’re kind of busted up. But the older I get, the more I learn that people don’t need opinions or advice. They don’t need perfection. What they need is to see the bruises. They need to know that you’ve seen enough of life and this world to know that the answers aren’t always black and white. People need to see you living into the tension.

I almost gave up last week. My social feeds were like a nasty car accident that I couldn’t look away from, and I could feel my blood pressure climbing with each new post. I cried when Michelle Obama surprised people who were paying tribute to her on late night TV. I went on and on to my husband about my feelings about our new president and the choices he has made in the last 28 days. The marching and the not marching and the refugees and Planned Parenthood and the how dare you’s and name calling. One guy I follow actually had to unfriend his mom on Facebook because she was harassing him and his friends because they had the audacity to express opinions that differed from her own. But I couldn’t stop scrolling — not until I sat straight up in bed at 3 AM after having a nightmare about ISIS and nuclear war.

I was on the fast track to throwing every piece of electronic equipment we own off of our third-floor balcony and spending an entire week in bed surrounded by snotty, tear-drenched tissues. I could feel the panic attacks coming, but I came here instead. To write us a love letter.

 

I have a lot of friends who are experiencing deeply personal pain — friends who have watched their babies die, friends whose marriages have crumbled, friends who have siblings in mental hospitals, friends who have lost jobs or received harrowing diagnoses. Those things can feel like too much to survive, without the turmoil we see unfold in our world with each new day. And we’re all silently questioning how we’re going to wake up and face whatever tomorrow holds. Perhaps we’re all wondering a little bit where God is, where the hell it all went so wrong, and how on earth we’re going to find the strength to just stay here.

 

It’s okay to ask those questions. We don’t have to run from them or pretend they don’t exist. It’s okay to give names to the strange and terrible things we sometimes feel and think. We can lay it all out on the table without shame and feel free to let the grief wash over us the way that only grief does.

 

And then.

 

We can choose to push back when the darkness starts closing in.

We can choose to look back at the countless ways that God has proven himself to be faithful and tell the devil that we’ve got too much street cred to be worried about the tricks he’s turning.

 

We can take a hard look at our own walls and decide that today is the day that they come down. We could find a neighbor and let them know they’re not alone — that we hurt, too. We could invite a college student over and talk Jesus and The Bible on the living room floor over Chinese takeout. We could call up the single mama for a Chick-fil-A playdate. We could be brave and send the text message that says “I miss you.” Why would we wait until tomorrow?

 

Jesus rose so that his Bride could rise. The world is desperate and this is our moment

This isn’t some wide-eyed idealism or wild theatrics. This is how the world changes. Person to person, allowing others to stick their hands in our wounds so that they can know they aren’t the only ones who are a little bit bloody from the fight.

 

Jesus prayed that we would be known for our unity — that our single-mindedness, our hard and fast pursuit of his upside down kingdom come to earth, would be so magnetic that the outside world would be unable to ignore it. He asked this of God on our behalf.

 

And then he gave us some armor, because he knew that this day was coming. He saw the headlines coming down the pipeline and said you’re going to need some reinforcements. 

 

We carry around the fullness of God in jars of clay, and God knows we’re tired. He knows we’re pressed. He knows that we’ve stood gaping at the wide mouthed grave of our dream of how the story would read had the pen been in our hands.

 

The invitation is simple, but it isn’t easy. Stay. Give. Dare to show up naked and vulnerable with your wide open wounds, because the place you are standing right now is holy ground. It’s where the healing happens. It’s where we get filled up and sent out. Not the place you were yesterday or the place you will be tomorrow, but this moment right here and now.

It’s the only one we’ve got. 

 

And we can trust that he’s here.

A love letter to the weary watchers this Advent.

Dear you, dear me, dear weary world, dear us standing together —

When I was growing up, I didn’t know anything about the Liturgical Year. We attended a small Pentecostal church with rusty red carpet and green pews and a hefty pastor and my parents were not well versed in the church calendar. I knew about Daniel and the lion’s den, Esther becoming queen, the prodigal son, and how one time Jesus made a cocktail of spit and dirt and rubbed it in the eyes of a blind man to give him back his sight.

I knew about the highlights. Christmas and Good Friday and Easter and that one Sunday every year when people got really wild and waved palm branches around (that especially embarrassed me). Lent was a time when some people decided to give up chocolate for 40 days, but in the end they just felt like losers, because who could really make it 40 days without chocolate? I knew nothing of Epiphany or Advent or the strings of ordinary time that held them together.

As an adult, I grow more appreciative of the intricacy of the Liturgical calendar with each passing year. This year, Advent, in particular, has opened me up to a kind of awe and wonder that I’ve scarcely ever felt. And it has broken me wide open to an unbridled longing.

 

Aleppo.

Orlando.

Bombs, bullets, all the bullets.

“The gunman was…”

Riots.

Planes falling out of the clear blue sky.

Attacks.

“I moved on her like a bitch…”

Townville, South Carolina — all of fifteen minutes away.

Haunted.

#BlackLivesMatter

Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes.

 

The earth is quaking and we can’t stand by any longer and pretend like the storms are happening somewhere out there. They’re inside of us.

Job loss.

Financial crisis.

Crumbling marriages.

Addiction.

Loneliness.

Disease.

Numb the pain.

Gossip.

Betrayal.

All this loss.

 

And buried somewhere underneath the rubble — the realization that this world is not our home. I knock unrelenting on heaven’s door, pleading.

Where are you? 

Have you left us? 

 

My soul yearns.

 

And then.

A thrill of hope. 

At just the right time.

Our King has come. 

Immanuel, God with us.

 

The greatest gift of all time in the most unexpected package.

At some point, I remember learning that the people with the palm branches in The Bible had the wrong idea about Jesus. They thought he would save them from Caesar, when really, he came to save them from their sin.

Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother — and in his name, all oppression shall cease. 

He weeps for them. 

Perhaps there are a handful who know, somehow, somewhere in their souls that nothing would ever be the same again.

 

He didn’t come to make us comfortable. Rather, that in our brokenness, we could be comforted. A holy God saw brokenness as being such an integral part of the human experience that he could not go another moment without putting skin in the game. Jesus didn’t come so that we could climb some corporate ladder or hit it big or simply make ends meet or just do okay or feel high and mighty about our stance on gun control and who can use what bathroom. He didn’t come for us to experience the same old stuff on a different day. He didn’t give his life so that we could walk around with the prerecorded response of fine. 

He came to become a casualty, to be cast aside, to be spit upon and mocked and denied and sold out and it didn’t have to be this way. He took upon himself the punishment that we had coming to us — rescuing us from what we surely deserved.

He came to make Love great again.

We know. We know. 

 

And then he asked us to give our lives as evidence.

“Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Whoever is willing to live in this holy, painful tension — whoever is willing to take up his own cross, to let go of dreams and plans and security and bucket lists in order to be poured out alongside me. 

We are broken, and we are broken for each other. We are poured out, and we are poured out for each other. This is the way of the beloved, the way of being transformed to the image of Christ, whose body was broken and poured out for us.

 

We can be the Aaron’s and Hur’s, holding one another up. We can be a generation of Esther’s who are willing to risk it all to tear down the wall so that all might come in. We can be the peacemakers, the prayer warriors, the 2:00 AM answer on the other end of the phone, the lasagna bringers, the roof rippers, the everyday superheroes, the second mile journeyers, the quiet revolutionaries going about the Father’s business.

We can be poured out, because we know that he always gives more

We are the hearts preparing him room, the hearts who know that he doesn’t come in alone, but rather with a host of broken hearts. He touched the sick, broke bread with whores, and called cheats and liars and back stabbers his best friends. He says they’re with me. And when I begin to catch glimpses of my own heart in the folks he chose to spend his time with, it changes everything.

We’re with him when we stand up for the least and loneliest and the left out — we’re the ones who know that when we give the shirts off our backs, we’re giving to him.

We keep both eyes fixed, not in idle wait, but active watching for what we know is on the horizon.  And we must not grow weary. For at the proper time — at just the right time, harvest season will come. The weary world will rejoice and all will be made well. 

 

Jesus, keep us until that day comes.

So be it.

The long way home.

I’ve started to write this post a dozen times in as many days. I’ve looked forward to writing it for a long time, without knowing what these days would look like. This time last year, I didn’t know where my feet would wind up. Bob Goff once said that sometimes, as followers of Jesus, we get to leap before we look. This time last year, I would have put on my best game face and told you I knew what that meant. I thought I knew a lot of things back then. But the reality is that life with Jesus is an endless process of unlearning all those things you thought you knew.  It is about finding your place in the tension filled days of being and becoming. Your place is in him. It has always been in him, and it will always be in him, forever and ever amen.


The Wednesday morning ladies are knee deep in the story of Gomer and Hosea. If you’ve ever doubted that scripture should be paired with fine wine, the book of Hosea will be all the convincing that you need. It is all about a man who sets out to marry an unfaithful woman just because he loves her. When she falls head over heels in love with the world and everything but her husband, he goes to find her, naked and ashamed on an auction block, and buys her back. Its a jealous scandal of a love story, and it has my name written all over its pages.

It seems so fitting that we’re studying these scriptures now. For the past 365 days, I’ve been in the woods. I used to romanticize the woods. Whenever a favorite writer of mine would talk about her own woods experience, I would nod along, totally believing that I was right there with her. I thought that just because I was in a hard season, I could name it whatever I liked, and woods was what was in vogue. I coveted the stories of those who seemed to have this whole lost and found thing all figured out, or at least more figured out than I did. But I was wrong. There is nothing romantic about being in the woods. But I’ve learned it is a place for falling in love. And I was only just receiving my own invitation.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. — Hosea 2:14, NIV

The woods is where he gets you alone so he can win you back. The winning back is beautiful and victorious and everything that you just know deep down in your heart it will be, but the same thing is true for the alone part. This is the part that when you pray for it, people tell you to be careful. I never really understood why church folk will tell you to be careful what you pray for, as if God could give anything other than good gifts.

I tell you that to tell you this: I thought that moving to South Carolina would fix me. I thought it would be a fresh start, and that I could effortlessly be whoever I wanted to be. I thought South Carolina was my chance to take the pen and write a better ending.

I didn’t expect that the past year would be one of the loneliest uphill battles. I didn’t know how many times I would raise my fists at heaven and tell him he got it wrong and that we didn’t actually belong here. If we belonged here, it wouldn’t be so hard. If this is where we were supposed to be, then I shouldn’t feel so alone. I would feel seen and wanted and appreciated here if this was my intended destination. But I didn’t actually feel any of those things. Some days, I still don’t.

Yeah, that Bible — I see so much of myself in its pages. I know my lines by heart, a truth that shakes me straight down to my core.

The wilderness is the place where all our idols and identities are wrecked. It is an operating room, and make no mistake, the blade hurts like hell. I had a professor tell me once that the problem with living sacrifices is that we’re always crawling back off the altar, and now I know why that’s true.

He asks do you want identity? Find it in me.

You want peace? Find it in me.

You want beauty? Find it in me.

You want purpose? Find it in me?

You want wholeness? Find it in me. 

This love, this wilderness, this healing — it isn’t the tidy kind. It is bloody and dirty and gritty like spending a fortune, a life to buy you back. Even on the days when you never asked to be saved.

Most of the days, it won’t feel like being saved. Most days, it will feel a lot like losing and being lost and there’s an enemy who would love nothing more than for you to believe that grace stops short of the end of your rope.

But it doesn’t.

I don’t know why this love. I surely didn’t earn it. It isn’t the story I would have written for myself, and I know it is far from over. Some days, I feel like the way out of the woods is so close, but then I get turned around again and he winds up saying hey, I’m not finished with you yet. 

He is still naming me, still asking me to come home, even if we have to go the long way.

On mile markers, giving up, and learning to love my neighbor.

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I.

So, it seems that I have somewhat accidentally started a book club, birthed from the sentiment that if you want something and can’t find it, you should make it for yourself. Tonight, I’m meeting with my friend Emily, who happens to be the groups coordinator at our little church, to discuss the particulars, but starting in mid-September, my Thursday evenings will consist of homemade food and dog eared pages with friends both old and new.

Honestly, I didn’t have much say in the matter. Within five minutes of my bringing it up to Emily, she took the liberty of inviting two people. Then, of course, there’s God, who, in his unrelenting pursuit of me and my busted up heart, has been kneading answers into my prayers and asking me to do hard things when it comes to growing community and blooming where I’m planted. I told another friend that I’m both excited and scared: this feels a bit like going off the deep end, but more like taking back ground from the devil. Where those two meet up is always the starting line for good ideas.

Besides, if you ask me, the best church services happen in living rooms over chips and salsa.

II.

The last thing I wrote here was about soul-hospitality, and the kind of revival that can only come through vulnerability and offering up the messiest and most fractured pieces of myself. I penned those words for a laundry list of reasons, the gist of which added up to the fact that we’ve lived here for a year now, and I don’t feel any closer to what my heart knows that church and community should be. The past twelve months have seen me weary and worn down from spinning my wheels and living a try hard life.

I had all sorts of plans to fix myself. I would lose the weight and buy all the cute clothes, find quirky wall art and construct a Pinterest worthy gallery wall, market my blog like a pro and gain lots of followers, toss more money in the offering bucket at church, volunteer more. The truth is, I’ve been picking up whatever fig leaves I can find in an attempt to look more whole than I actually am.

The paradox is that it is only when I lay down my masks and become more fully myself that there can be less of me and more of Jesus.

The most potent truth of all is that what I’m really missing is Jesus. There have been days, some more recent than I care to admit, when I have begged him through sobs to show up. It isn’t that I haven’t been looking for him all this time. I’ve just spent my entire life looking for him in all the wrong places. I believed I would find him within the realm of my own comfort and safety.

Suffice it to say, he has rarely, if ever, resided there. And slowly but surely, he is tearing down my walls, meeting my resistance with loving kindness.

III.

The other day, the man and I were talking about church, both our little body and the body collective. Hesitantly, I admitted that for all the things that keep me wrapped, there are also a handful of things that I desperately wish were different.

I wish there were easy answers for how to navigate community with broken people. Most of the time, I’d settle for somewhat difficult ones. But Jesus wasn’t known for showing up with blue prints. Instead, he turns everything we think we know on its head. Because he knows that the deepest need of our hearts isn’t a formula — the deepest need of our hearts is him.

And then, he put some skin in the game by offering himself.

He met people smack dab in the middle of their mess, unafraid of getting his hands dirty and not the least bit intimidated by the second mile.

He touched the sick, broke bread with whores, and called cheats and liars and back stabbers his best friends. And when I begin to catch glimpses of my own heart in the folks he chose to spend his time with, it changes everything.

IV.

I don’t mean to make a big production out of a simple ladies’ book club. I’m not parading around under the assumption that it will somehow change the world, I’m simply praying that it will change mine.

I’m tired of the rat race, exhausted from seemingly endless days spent pining for the approval that is already mine. And anyway, the last thing I need is gold stars and applause (though let’s be honest, I crave them like an addict).

No one needs my formula and ten point plan to better myself — least of all, me. So I’m giving it up, leaving it on the side of the road so I can better walk in step with Jesus, loving as he loves.

 The kind of love that doesn’t give up on broken things.


I was graciously given an advanced copy of my friend Shannan Martin‘s new book, Falling Free: Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted. I was not required to write a review, but upon finishing it, my heart couldn’t not share it with you. Reading her words felt like breaking bread with a trusted friend, the kind that dares you to leave your comfort zone and loves you enough to not let you get away with making any excuses. What’s more, she cheers you on, acknowledging that it isn’t always the biggest leaps that count the most, but the baby steps taken in faith. When you walk away from an encounter with someone who has been with Jesus, you’re never the same. Shannan is one of those people for me. You can preorder her book Falling Free today, or find it on a shelf near you on September 20. And if you’re curious, we will most definitely be reading it for the book club.

Thoughts on hospitality and the way of the beloved.

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I.

Nine months ago, I had just turned 25 and was desperately trying to navigate living in a new state with a new job in ministry with new people, and too much of my identity was wrapped up in trying to recreate myself into a person who was well liked — a person who fit seamlessly into the role of just enough, whatever that looked like. Just enough edge, just enough grit, giving just enough of a glimpse to keep people intrigued and on their toes. On the inside, I felt lost, deadened.

I treated God much the same way, only giving him the pieces of myself that felt ready. He offered to come in and eat a meal with me, but I wanted him to call ahead. I couldn’t have him walking in on me in my unfinished fig leaves, clawing at whatever mirage of control I thought I could grasp. What I didn’t realize was that he was working all along, breaking the walls down brick by brick, and sometimes that’s what miracles look like. Now, I know: I can look back and see him wooing me. And he is not a God who gives himself in pieces.

II.

I didn’t see the way of beloved coming on the horizon, let alone understand what it had in store for me. I couldn’t have, and perhaps that is the grace of it all. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring and how love will choose to rush in. I used to fear that, and to be perfectly honest, I still do fear it on most days. But he knew, and he was already etching thanksgiving on my heart when I chose to etch it on my skin.

Lately, I’ve found myself praying hard for revival, for my own heart, for my marriage, for my friendships, for our church, and for the Body of Christ as a whole. I’ve wept in worship, asking for parted waters, a flood so uncontainable that it couldn’t possibly be mistaken for anything other than a wave of the Spirit. I’ve been begging for a straight path into a promised land.

When you catch a glimpse of the way of the beloved, you want everyone you know to come with you.

III.

I took a spiritual gifts inventory through our church last week, knowing that one of two things would come out on top. I’ve always been told that I am an encourager, and I have always felt called to make people feel at home. In the end, in this particular inventory, hospitality took the top spot, much to my lack of surprise.

Hospitality is, at least in my experience and what I would venture to guess is yours too, most widely viewed as being the hostess with the mostess: the one who opens up their Pinterest pretty home and turns a cartwheel in shiny pumps to hand someone a gluten free bit of slaved over deliciousness without breaking a sweat. And everyone at the party talks about how fine they are.

But really, that’s not the kind of hospitality my thirsty heart longs for. Dare I say that I’m betting that it’s not the kind of hospitality you’re looking for either?

I’m craving soul hospitality.

If there is a revival to be experienced, it won’t be ushered in through our contrived attempts to mimic glossy magazine covers. We won’t find it by closing the doors to our messy places.

Jesus didn’t come and die so that we could simply make ends meet or just do okay or experience the same old stuff on a different day. He didn’t give his life so that we could walk around with the prerecorded response of fine. 

Honestly, I’m not fine.

Neither is my best friend.

A boy in the apartment building next to mine took his own life last week.

The headlines scream war and hate and the world is not fine.

Our time here is so short and precious and we don’t need any more occasions to wear our grave clothes.

IV.

We are broken, and we are broken for each other. We are poured out, and we are poured out for each other. This is the way of the beloved, the way of being transformed to the image of Christ, whose body was broken and poured out for us.

I need you now, and perhaps you need me. I don’t have many answers, but I’m trying to learn how to become one.

Here I am, arms open, with all of my fear and trust issues and temptations and nervous quirks and baggage. And you are welcome here: welcome to cry, welcome to not hold anything back, welcome to start the brick by brick demolition of your own walls, welcome to walk in freedom just for freedom’s sake.

I think I’m finally ready to unpack and call this place home.

A time to starve; a time to eat.

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Recently, I’ve felt the sneaking pain of depression creeping back into my life. For the first time in months, I’ve found myself wondering if anyone cares about or even sees me. The headlines and trending topics have led me to question whether anyone cares enough to see anyone else. In the ache of my loneliness, anxiety turned the volume up on lies, blaring them on repeat and sending me on a steep downward spiral of shame.

A free sermon on shame: it often shows up for no good reason at all. You can try to combat it by doing the right thing all day long, but it will still crash the party. Shame is not a picky eater. It will devour anything you feed it — your relationships, your body, your creativity, your faith, your energy, your peace. If you want to kill shame, you have to starve it. You have to be absolutely unrelenting in your refusal to let it eat. This is something that I am still in the thick of learning, and I’ve never learned anything the easy way.

My quiet time looks a bit different lately, and by that, I mean to say that I’m actually making an honest effort to have one. Right now, I’m camped out in Genesis with She Reads Truth. Because God is good and knows that I am thick headed, the stories have shown up in multiple places. On Wednesday, I watched a sermon about Abraham with a bunch of skinny teenagers. Andy Stanley pointed out a tiny verse, tucked away in the depths of chapter fifteen. Abraham had already been called out of his homeland and had just been promised the seemingly impossible. I’m sure he was probably lonely, and he certainly had questions — but Abram believed the Lord, and it was credited to him as righteousness (v. 15)

Let’s be real: believing in God requires next to nothing of me. It barely even has any effect on my life. Taking him at his word, though, is a different thing entirely.

I was knee deep and sinking deeper into my own aching loneliness when this truth showed up like a neon sign on a desolate highway. God had isolated Abraham because he was about to do something revolutionary in the world. Perhaps he wants to do something revolutionary in my heart in the moments when I feel lonely and left out. Perhaps he wants to get me alone because he has things to say to me.

My friend Brooklyn messaged me today to see how I’m doing. I told her that yeah, I feel like I’m roughing it in the woods lately, but that my perspective has shifted. Rather than whining (which I still do sometimes), rather than asking why me, I’ve started to ask God what it is he wants to teach me. Instead of praying for the cup to be passed, I’m praying for increased sensitivity to his voice. I can sense that the fog is lifting, because for the first time, I’m able to see how some of the pieces fit.

He really is a good, good Father. He can be trusted, because his ways are always perfect. Even when I want to hide, there’s nowhere I could run except into him. He feeds me on the manna mystery and on his word, and I am hungry for more.

And he always gives more.

Notes from the Race (Guest Post at The Rising Blog)

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I turned 25 last year and went through some major life changes. My husband and I moved from Georgia to South Carolina, leaving behind jobs that were less than fulfilling in favor of pursuing positions with our church. We loaded up our hand-me-down possessions in a U-Haul and set out for what I thought would be an entirely new life. For months before, I had prayed and cried and prayed and cried for an open door, a way out of what my life had become. I was struggling with loneliness and comparison, and my anxiety and depression had reared its ugly head, now, stronger than ever before. It was a Saturday morning — I had been up all night with leg cramps that had forbidden me to rest, and I told my husband to take me to the doctor before I lost my nerve. Now, I take a little pink pill every day in order to keep my chemicals in check.

The truth is, some days I still feel like a scared kid trying to navigate this weird world of adulthood. I don’t always want to clean my room, sometimes I want to eat Lucky Charms for dinner, and Sallie Mae is like a taunting playground bully. But other days, I do okay, and I know it is due, at least in part, to this recent realization: life is a race, and it is not a race.

Life is a race, and it is not a race. I must have been driving, because all my deep thinking takes place in the car. At first, I was baffled. What does that even mean? Since then, I’ve unpacked it a bit.


I’m so grateful to Rachel for her gracious hospitality. I hope you’ll continue reading over at The Rising Blog.