I’m not afraid of being wrong

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My whole life I’ve fought being wrong, feeling wrong, and looking wrong. I have never wanted someone to find out that I was wrong because, then; who would I be? I’ve found something out: I’m wrong a lot of the time. I’m wrong probably more than I’m right. I’ve realized it’s okay.  It doesn’t make me a horrible person, it just makes me human.

I’m also in a place where I’m questioning things. I’m questioning belief systems I have because I want to know if they stand on their own.  Do I believe these things because that’s what the church has told me is true or because the word of God has spoken this into life? I’ve come to this point in my life because two things are happening; one, close friends have become atheists, and two, close friends have been severely hurt by the church. I want to know why these things are happening. I want to know why the people who claim to be daughters and sons of God–who is Love–have the least amount of love to give. I want to know why my friends who have questions are pushed away for being toxic or dangerous to the church. I want to know why a church would call someone toxic and have no reservations about it. I want to know why Christians are fighting the fact that racism is real in this country, or that gay and transgender people are people too. I want to know what belief systems are causing this.

Am I a Pharisee or am I a disciple? Am I missing the point? Have I moved too far into judgement and condemnation or am I choosing grace and truth? I am close to tears writing this because I don’t want to be so focused on the rules and on the way-it’s-always-been-done to the point where I’ve forgotten to look people in the eye. I don’t want to have an agenda or a project of people. I want to always choose to see people as people and not the means to an end.

I’ve been sharing multiple different articles on facebook, most of them about the injustice happening towards our black community– some about the gay community–and I know it’s making people uncomfortable. Here is where me being wrong comes in: I’m okay with the fact that I may be wrong about the things I’m sharing. I’m okay with that, but I think these things are worth honest conversations and lots of prayer. I think it’s worth talking about because people are hurting and suicidal. People are being pushed out of churches when they should be welcomed in. Church isn’t for the healthy, it’s for the sick. “On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.;” (Mark 2:17)

If I’m wrong, so be it! If I am, I know the Holy Spirit will soon correct me, but what if I’m right? What if it’s time for us as a community to stop clenching our fists and closing our eyes to this world? I think it’s time we stop talking for one second and just listen. I want to hear the stories of people who I’ve overlooked because they were too broken. I want to know how I’ve hurt them by my words so I can ask for forgiveness. Can we stop surrounding ourselves with people who think the same way we do so we can learn and grow and be challenged? Please, can we listen instead of rebuttal? I just want people to know Jesus, the real Jesus, not the one we’ve made in our image. If I’m wrong, that’s okay, but if I’m right, we need to help those we’ve hurt, because we’re hurting a lot of people.

I don’t have this life all figured out, no one does, but I think we’ve come too far into trying to defend ourselves.  We are worried about being wrong. When it comes to hurting people, being right or being wrong does nothing in the face of suffering. I’m going to be reflecting way more on my life and the ways I could be hurting people around me instead of helping them, I urge you to please join me in this. Lets listen more than we speak.

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Planning the Unplannable

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For months i’ve been fighting against unknown territory. I’ve been fighting against things not planned and not laid out in bullet points.  Trevor and I have been on the edge of something new, but just far enough from the edge to make us crazy. We have not been pushed over the side yet and we don’t really know what’s at the bottom. We’re not quite sure where we are headed and lists aren’t helping us at this point. We know God is moving us into something, we feel it, the air around us is thick with promise, but my head is going to explode planning the unplannable.

I’m with the majority of people who like to know what’s going on every second of  every day. I like to know the plan before the plan exists. I wasn’t always like this. Three years ago, while I was overseas doing missions, I was the ultimate go-with-the-flow girl. Over there you aren’t given a chance to be anything else. If you had plans, they most likely would be ruined, which is why we had to learn not to make plans and just let whatever was going to happen, happen.

My hands are clenched so tightly around control: clenched around this perfect list so it looks like I have my life together, or create the illusion i’m doing something special. Ultimately, by trying to have so much control I’m not listening to God or his plans. I’m focusing on what I can see and what I can make into nicely color-coordinated schedule. I want to let go of this false control. I don’t want to lose my sh*t every time something goes wrong or we’re running late (gasp!).

If you’re in our close circle of friends you may know how hard this season has been for Trevor and I. It’s hard to explain without making it sound like we’ve hated every aspect of our last two years in Kalamazoo. We’ve had good days while living here and I’m so glad we have met the people who have chosen to invest in us, but most of the time has been us fighting hard against this shallow community.

I have avoided talking about our experience with church because I don’t want to step on toes, but i’m not sure it’s the healthiest response. Our first year in Kalamazoo we deeply invested our whole-selves into a local church. We served in the youth group. I interned in the office. Trevor performed in a play.  We did everything extracurricular we could enroll in and volunteer for. From our experience; if you wanted community you had to invest in the people and in the church. We invested, we planned parties at our apartment, we did everything we knew how to do to build community. Now, before I go on, Trevor and I have fully owned up to any wrong on our part. We turned down some opportunities that we probably should have taken. In hindsight, we believe we did everything we could to become part of this community without burning ourselves out. After a year with no real interest from others in reciprocating investment in us other than attending Sunday’s services, we decided to leave that church. There were also checks in our spirit about the gospel they were preaching but I think less is more on that subject. Since we’ve left, I’ve seen multiple things happen that have confirmed for me leaving was the best decision. One being, not a single person from the church has tried to reach out and see how life has been going for us. After a year: nothing!

Even moving churches we have yet to see any form of intentional relationship building. One of my friends from out of town said to me recently she believes Kalamazoo is “spiritually apathetic.” After two years, I can see it. Despite the great lack of genuine community out here, we have made a few authentic relationships at work and through our new church. Even so, our community is dry.

For me church isn’t the building: it’s the people. Church will still exist if every church-building burns to the ground. The Holy Spirit lives inside of a believer. I have had the unique experience to personally see what genuine community is and what church should look like. I don’t think I will ever see it again until Heaven, but I want to at least try. Trevor’s and my heart are so invested in intentional community and no matter how many people deny our invitation we are still going to give it out. I will continue to invite people into our home even if only one person shows up. I will continue to invest in the ministry of a church-building because I believe it helps broken people see Christ.  I’m aware there is no such thing as a perfect Church; i’m not looking for that, believe me. I’m looking for a church that talks more about their weaknesses than their strengths. I’m looking for a church not afraid to cry, not afraid to admit when they are wrong. I want a church that doesn’t cover up failure.

This new thing God is doing is getting closer, but we are still in the unknown. This unknown is giving me inexpressible joy. Joy that only comes from a God who is planning my life more beautifully than I ever imagined. I know we are moving out of this season. I know he is bringing us into a new place of rest and understanding.

I think I grasp so hard at control because I can’t control what is hurting us. I can’t control the way people invest in us. I can’t control the fact that my husband doesn’t have a community of men. I’ve wanted some sort of control and I made it my mission to make our lives seem fine with a I-don’t-need-you-anyway type of attitude. The truth of the matter is we were hurt and some days we are still hurt. I think a lot of the time when we are hurt we cling to what we can control instead of an unchanging God. God isn’t a broken church or a lacking community. God isn’t a yes than a no. God never disappoints and never fails.

My heart is for community, and I know God’s is too. He’s been teaching me a lot about saying “anything.”  He’s been teaching me a lot about “yes” and about “no.” He’s been teaching me about how to show up broken, but to allow him to do it despite all of the mess. Trevor and I have come to the conclusion that we don’t really want what we thought we wanted. We’re praying the prayer, “God, we will do anything.” We are saying yes to things that help us see Jesus and no to things that are too much, too soon. We are learning to take breaks and to breathe. We are learning that God is in the resting, just like he’s in the going.

The new thing is coming, and I’m excited. I’m excited because I know I didn’t plan this. It’s not on a color-coordinated schedule. A plan unknown to me, but held by an unshakeable God. I know whatever it is, it’s out of my control and I think i’m finally ok with that.

Orphans and Widows

“Religion that god our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans
and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
//James 1:27

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I think a lot of times we don’t think we are doing ministry. I mean, we’re not in Africa holding orphaned babies or visiting widows at their homes. Most of the time if we aren’t doing ministry that looks like ministry to other people, we don’t really believe we are doing anything significant for the Kingdom because it isn’t obvious.
Now let me present an idea to you; it’s an idea that I had while driving to work and it flipped this whole verse upside down for me. What if orphan means outside the family of God? That means your co-worker, your neighbor, or your dad. Every single person that does not call God Father is an orphan. What if widow means that they have lost the love of their life, or they have never met him? Jesus is our groom; he is the one who romances us into salvation. What if loving orphans and widows simply means, “Love your neighbor as yourself”? What if we don’t’ have to go to Africa if God truly isn’t calling us there? What if we stopped putting more importance on certain people groups and remember that Jesus desires every person to be saved. He desires your circle of influence to know the good news that Jesus has saved them.
I have been oversees and I’m not saying you should not go to the literal orphans and widows because they are also our neighbor; I just want to challenge you to stop romanticizing people groups. Every single person needs to know Jesus and that includes people in America, which includes your family and my family. Every person I met in Africa or Thailand or Europe had the same exact need and desire as my unsaved co-worker. I think there is a stigma that all people in America have heard the gospel and I’d like to say that is wrong. There are so many people here that have never heard about Jesus and what he has done for them. Please, please, pray and think about what I’m saying. Loving people around you is so much harder than loving someone overseas that you don’t know or have no connection to. I can tell you from experience that doing missions overseas is easier than loving your unsaved cousin who is heated towards the gospel. Going overseas provides you the option to escape. You have the option to share the gospel and leave to come back to your comfortable home. Preaching the gospel to your family at Thanksgiving gives you no option to escape, you have to live life with them.

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Also understand that I am not trying to discourage overseas missions because as you can tell from this post I have done overseas missions and I have seen great benefits from it. I support multiple overseas organizations and so many of my friends have desires and callings to go and stay. I am just trying to challenge thinking and prompt a better vision for our nation and our church.
So many of my friends have been burned by their local church and I’m not just saying they were offended by what the church said. I’m saying they have been seriously manipulated and painfully embarrassed by them. I want Christ followers to understand that just because you are not overseas does not mean you do not have a mission here. It does not mean you are excused from the ministry that is right in front of you- to love the orphaned heart and widowed souls that are in your work place and your home or your row at church.
This has been on my heart for many days now and I have finally found the words to write it down. I hope you see my heart in these words, I hope you see that I just want to grow into a better Christ follower and I’d like to invite you on that journey with me. I hope you join me.

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The light shines.

“The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.”
//John 1:5

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I had a whole different blog written out. It was full of hurt and the lies I have believing and yes, some of that will spill out onto this page but I’m starting over. I’m starting over because the light who is Jesus himself shines in the darkness and guess what? The darkness flees, it cannot overcome it, and it cannot overcome the Christ, the God-man who defeated it forever.
For a second (which has been a couple months) I have been living like the darkness had a lot of power, like the light wasn’t enough to help, to free me.

I’m not quite sure how to put into words what exactly has been happening inside of me but it has been bloody. The enemy has been attacking me for so long I almost gave up. Every moment was a moment of weakness. I was never good enough. Every single thing I did was just another opportunity for him to tell me I wasn’t worth anything. He was trying to pick me off. He wanted me to become so apathetic I stopped fighting. That is ultimately the enemy’s goal. Anyone that is doing anything for the glorification of Jesus he will try to pick off. He will try to make you believe anything so you become so inverted and consumed with your own hurt that you forget about the goal.
I forgot about the goal. I was licking my wounds and feeling sorry for myself because I was living like I wasn’t worth anything.

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Last Sunday at church we started a new series about what kind of story you want to tell. We were asked what kind of story we wanted our life to be telling. The kind of life you live when you believe the lies isn’t a life and it wasn’t the story that I wanted to be telling.  I want my story to be an adventure filled with courageous deeds and bold statements. I want my story to ask hard questions and to challenge the ideas of culture. To be in that kind of story, the kind that comforts and moves and changes, you have to be secure and confidant in who the writer is. Who is the writer? The writer is the same one who beautifully and awesomely created this world. The same writer who told the ancient couple Abraham, and Sarah that they would birth Isaac and that Abraham would be the father of many nations. He is the same writer who called little tiny David to defeat the monstrous goliath.   The bible is the most exciting adventure, and Jesus was the most courageous man. I want my life to look like that. How do I make that happen? I trust God, the one who created me, who knitted, molded, and breathed me into existence.

 “Every day God invites us on the same kind of adventure.
It’s not a trip where He sends us a rigid itinerary, He simply invites us.
God asks what it is He’s made us to love, what it is that captures our attention,
what feeds that indescribable need of our souls to
experience the richness of the world He made.
And then, leaning over us,
He whispers, “Let’s go do that together.”
//Bob Goff, Love Does

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Our whole life is a battle and we have been warned of this, even given armor. (Eph 6:10-20) We should never be surprised, but ready when those attacks come. We are children of the great I AM. No story is complete without a little friction. We like to see the hero overcome obstacles; we want to see the hero win the battle. Are you the hero of your story? Are you going to fight for your story? Are you going be courageous and bold? Let’s live in the confidence of the light that cannot be overcome by the darkness.

I had to talk about it.

Today is Thursday, December 4th, 2014 and I’m sitting in a Starbucks and I’m confused. I’m confused because unarmed people keep being killed. Then those unarmed people’s families have to mourn them and wonder why the trained police officer really had “no other choice”.
I’m confused because it’s 2014 and the issue of race is still an issue.
Trust me, I don’t know all the facts, and I was not there, but I do know that something is wrong here, something is very, very wrong, and it makes my stomach ache.

I am a very privileged white female who has had little problems in life. Just like I questioned why I was born in America while I was in Cambodia, watching small things become big things, I question now why I was born white. Why was I chosen to live a fortunate life when so many others around me were not?
Another issue right now is why it becomes about “me”. Why Mike Brown being shot 6 times and Eric Garner being chocked to death could possibly be about me? (There are plenty more cases I could name)
You know who it’s about, and what I have to come back to at all times to have hope in anything? Jesus. I have to have hope in what has been said. I have to hold onto the God that I know, The God who is just (Deuteronomy 32:4, Psalm 111:7) and the God who is love. (1 John 4:8)
I also have to come back to a place of trust with the Lord, that a lot of things DO NOT make sense because my mind is in a earthly place and He is higher than me. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
He also has told me not to take revenge, because revenge is His. (Deuteronomy 32:35, Romans 12:9)
What I can do is love the people around me. I can sign petitions that help our justice system become that, just.
I can trust my God and know that he loves his children way more than I do, and the anger I feel is not even a small amount of what he feels.
I think when things like this happen we forget that God is for us. God fights for us; he is our protector and our warrior. This world is fallen and we will not be perfect until heaven. Unjust things will continue to happen because the human race is sinful. Until we surrender our lives to God and open our eyes to our sinful nature we cannot be changed.
We can fight for change though; we can fight with the Lord to make things different. We must put on a heavenly lens when looking at these situations though, The Lord is seated and he knows. He knows our pain and he weeps with us. Jesus was tempted and tried in every way to be able to sympathize with us. (Hebrews 2:18, and Hebrews 4:15)
I trust my God, and I trust he will work all things for our good.
Until then, I will continue to pray for the families who have been wronged, and for the justice system to understand what their role actually is.

What do you think our role as Christians is in this issue? How can we carry our brothers’ burdens?