The Great Exchange

One topic that has come up for me a lot over the years is homosexuality. Same-sex attraction is the reason that my ex-husband decided to divorce me. He certainly has his own story and I don’t attempt to tell that here (I am not outing him to the world, he has already done this). That is parenthetical to what I really wanted to say, but important for you to know about my perspective.

You may or may not be surprised if you knew how many Christians struggle with same sex attraction. I know several. Before you get upset with my using the word ‘struggle,’ recognize that I’m not making a judgment- all of the people I know would admit that for them it is a place of great difficulty. I myself glimpsed into that struggle by marrying a man who was not attracted to women.

Was I fully aware of my own foolishness? No. Talking to a friend last night about this issue, she expressed thoughts I carried years ago when I got engaged…. Continue reading “The Great Exchange”

What God Says

I am inexorably attracted to people who know how much they are loved by God and they allow this knowledge to change them.

This Spring I will have been a Christian for twenty years. In that time I have met all kinds of believers; the bitter but tenacious, the happy naive, the fearfully upright, and the broken beggars who walk around amazed to be so beloved by the creator of the Universe.

“If we know how great is the love of Jesus for us we will never be afraid to go to Him in all our poverty, all our weakness, all our spiritual wretchedness and infirmity. Indeed, when we understand the true nature of His love for us, we will prefer to come to him poor and helpless. We can be glad of our helplessness when we really believe that His power is made perfect in our infirmity.” ~Thomas Merton

Honestly, I still spend much of my time with my forehead wrinkled up, carrying this weight of worry around with me. Every once in a while I look up and realize how truly ludicrous is this posture… Continue reading “What God Says”

When You’re Gone

My strongest urge right now is to clam up. This rarely leads to anything good, and so I’m writing.

Today is my daughter Sarah’s sixth birthday. How does one celebrate (commemorate?) the birthday of a dead person? When people have children, they usually spend a decent amount of time planning birthday parties. What you do, you do for the kid. I assume you do what you think your kid will enjoy most. Birthday cake with trucks, cake shaped like a doll, colorful streamers, games, friends. If they are really young, you invite whoever will come and everyone sits and watches this dexterously inept human smear frosting from ear to ear, and from nose to toes.

But does a person who has stopped living continue to age? And what do you do on their birthday every year?

I have been asking those questions on this day for the last six years… Continue reading “When You’re Gone”

Theology Soup

I started going to church when I was a baby. Which sounds funny because clearly I didn’t think to myself at a few months old, “huh, I wanna check out these Jesus followers.” My mom became a Christian just before I was born and started going to a Southern Baptist church. Before you get a picture in your head of holy rollers, this church was planted in Northwest Washington where even self-titled Charismatics are probably not going to get too demonstrative. (This is a stereotype which several of my friends from home break, I’ll grant you.)

We didn’t holy roll. When it was time to worship, we just followed orders. Hymns, praise choruses, stand, stand, sit. No one said, “Amen,” no one raised their hands.

When I became a Christian for real at age 16, I wanted to be at church every moment. Still Southern Baptist. I devoured my Bible and tattooed it with question marks which I would frequently harass my pastor with through email. I did all the 12 week Bible studies you can think of, Experiencing God, The Mind of Christ, A Heart Like His.

Then, because I felt this call to be a missionary, I found myself at Moody Bible Institute. I was like a toddler on the loose, making friends, staying up late, listening to guys debate theology and kind of in awe of their adult sounding opinions… Continue reading “Theology Soup”

A Bigger Why

Even though I’m a missionary and I work at a place with a strong focus on the “least reached” (those places where the largest amount of people have not even heard of Jesus), I’m not particularly motivated by the statistics. I’m not especially drawn to “uncharted” pockets of the planet.

To be honest, any and all ignorance about God motivates me, and I’m just as drawn  to people who have wrong beliefs about Jesus as I am to those who have never heard of him.

To some this may be shocking and un-missionary-like of me. I’m not ashamed, although I have been tempted to be, that I don’t feel more drawn to the 10/40 window than I do to other parts of the world. This is not because I don’t care about the great need in those places. What I care even more deeply about, though, is God himself, his reputation, his glory…. Continue reading “A Bigger Why”

Failure Loses Its Sting

How was Paul the Apostle so confident? So active, so joyful, so sure of his position in God?
How am I so insecure? So easily discouraged, so doubtful of my position?

As I asked those questions, I heard in my head, “because you make it about you.” I make it about how I feel, what I think, what I’ve done, who I am.

When I woke up Friday morning I felt a kind of inner turmoil- like there was something rotten that needed attending. As I sat down to write in my journal I couldn’t really think of anything to say and I couldn’t figure out what my problem was. Because I’ve been slowly learning this lesson about the fact that my identity is not swayed by whatever my current emotion is, I just asked God in my head, “Is my heart in your hands, Lord?” and he simply responded, “It is.”

As I study Philippians, I’ve been kind of astounded by this statement, “If I am in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.” (Philippians 1:22)

Paul knew that his work would accomplish something because he was doing God’s work, following God’s call, living in obedience. He was sure that God would make it fruitful.

He even says later in chapter 3 that he puts no confidence in himself and his abilities – it’s not about what he can or cannot do. He counted all of his former trophies as garbage so that he could cling to the sacrifice and perfection of Jesus. He strained toward identifying with Jesus in love and suffering – looking to position himself firmly in Christ… Continue reading “Failure Loses Its Sting”

If I Find My Way

Lately I’ve been finding (and needing) such deep encouragement from friends. A few days ago I posted about an email from one friend and last night I had a really life giving conversation with another friend who was willing to just dive right into my inner mess.

Sometimes I hesitate to post about messy stuff because I don’t want to give the impression that I’m not doing well. One thing my good friend reminded me of on the phone last night was that I am usually more honest than is socially normal. So why would I avoid talking about feeling down?
Partly I’ve been avoiding it because I haven’t had time to understand it and find words that fit. It’s only those who especially love me who are able to sit through the words that don’t fit while I find the ones that do.

This morning I listened to a sermon by Tim Keller, The Wounded Spirit. He uses several verses from the book of Proverbs to talk about the many varied reasons why a person might feel crushed in spirit and what might be done about it.

Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” This well describes what has been going on recently, but there is also much more… Continue reading “If I Find My Way”

The Etymology of Identity

I went to the bank the other day to change my name with them. One of the ladies who was helping me asked for the reason I was changing my name and I simply said, “Divorce.” She related with me that she also recently changed her name because of divorce and we talked a little about the joy of returning to our maiden names. As we sat down to go over some other things with my account, she was open and really friendly. A compatriot.

Then somehow it came up that I worked for Youth With A Mission. At this news she ever-so-slightly stiffened, both in her body and in her banter.

When this is brought up with strangers, I look for the most non-threatening way to explain something that is so far from what is normal and also far from its stereotypes. I try to stay focused on things that make sense like how I love to teach and travel.
Sometimes I have to walk people gently through this and often it actually makes me happy to confess that I’m a Christian and proceed to be different than I know they’re expecting.
Telling people I’m a “missionary” is a bit like telling a boyfriend, “we have to talk.” They start to sweat a little and blood rushing through the head causes their hearing to decrease…. Continue reading “The Etymology of Identity”

Crisis of Faith

What is a crisis of faith? To me a crisis of faith is any time anything (circumstances, ideas, people, desires, etc) challenges my current beliefs. When my beliefs are challenged I must wrestle with all of it and either see how the challenge really does work inside of what I believe or I have to adjust my beliefs.

It sounds pretty basic, but it’s hardly ever a fun experience.

I remember once I was sitting in a shared room with my friend Jessica. We were on vacation, we were young and we were up super late talking about the mysteries of the Universe, or men, or both. At some point one of us suggested, “What if we don’t actually exist?” What followed was both frightening and hilarious (in retrospect). Both of us could almost feel the floor of the room slide away revealing a black, sucking chasm beneath us. Although it couldn’t have actually happened this way, my memory shows the situation to me like we were both actually hanging onto the beds for dear life as the room rocked back and forth and objects began to disappear…. Continue reading “Crisis of Faith”

They Shall See God

I am driven strongly by relationships, but no relationship more than my relationship with God. This used to express itself in a constant fear of failure… a vigilant weighing and measuring how “good” I was on any given day. But in recent years I’ve been able to let go of that more and more and begin to really enjoy God himself (realizing that He quite enjoys me).

Does that seem like a strange concept? Enjoying God? I used to wonder if it was a tail told by overemotional, super holy people. I am neither of those things. I have an interesting perspective because while I am a huge feeler and very expressive, I also have such a deep desire to know what is true. The way that this has worked itself out in my life is that I have LONGED to dive straight into the heart of God and be entirely lost, but I am also constantly testing things against reality, against the Bible, against the advice of people I deeply trust…. Continue reading “They Shall See God”

For What It’s Worth

Where does our value come from? I have seen a couple of posts on facebook today that posit that we have value if we value others.

For myself, I have often felt as though my only worth came from what I did for other people or how much I could “produce.” This has been made more pronounced by the fact that I grew up in a pretty works-oriented church and have always had close friends who were REALLY organized and productive. My mom is the first born of 7 and loves to clean and raise her hand when responsibilities are needing filled at church. Most of my best friends over the years have been efficient, get-er-done kind of women. Since I do not operate that way (I’m very relational but not very productive) I have always felt something lacking within myself…. Continue reading “For What It’s Worth”

Satellite Heart

Tonight I wrapped up a very mini series with the program staff here at Warm Beach Camp on Intimacy With God. What God gave me to give to them was pretty basic, on one hand, but also felt hard to execute. The two main things that I felt I was supposed to talk about were the spiritual principles of intimacy with God from Psalm 63:1-8 told through the lens of my own story with God.

The four spiritual realities that I found in those verses were these:
Continue reading “Satellite Heart”

Rattling the Rafters

This last week in class the speaker (Dan Shannon) spent a few hours teaching us (a bit of) what he knows about “simple church planting.” He worked for a few years with a man named Floyd McClung in South Africa with an organization called All Nations. Considering that I have only heard the most basic teaching about this stuff, I feel intimidated to retell it on the world wide web, but I want to at least process a bit of these running thoughts in my head….

Continue reading “Rattling the Rafters”

Do We Matter?

This last week in class we talked about personality and team dynamics. Along with that conversation we all shared our Myers Briggs scores.

I posted about this in the past and it’s interesting to come back to the question of introvert vs. extrovert.

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This time when I read the descriptions of INFP and ENFP I strongly identified with both. Looking at famous people with these two types, I see that the extroverts are journalists and revolutionaries and the introverts are poets and theologians.

I have the real need to artistically explore and express my inner self as well as radically change and influence the the outer world. Coupling these “needs” with my previous post that what we believe about God matters, I am left feeling an urgency to study and discover. We all know that the world is not as it should be, but what needs to be dealt with and how does it need to be handled? Can one person change the world? If you think about people like Paul the Apostle or Darwin, Alexander the Great or Martin Luther King Jr. it’s clear that a single person can impact societies and generations of people…. Continue reading “Do We Matter?”

What Matters Most

The speaker for our class last week started out her time by asking the class for introductions. She asked where they were from, what they were passionate about and one thing they’ve learned so far during the school.

This question, “What are you passionate about?” is a good one and although I have looked at various branches of my passion and tried to articulate these things well, I had not come to the direct point until the other day. I think what helped me with this was that the speaker said, “You’re not allowed to say, ‘Jesus.’ We’re all here because we’re passionate about Jesus.” She was right, of course.  I never felt like this answer was a cop-out because it is true of me, but being forced to find a more specific way to express myself  was enlightening…. Continue reading “What Matters Most”