To Be Told conference notes: part two

It’s quiet in my house.  Well except for the squeaky ceiling fan.  It has a rhythm as it spins and while sometimes it’s unnerving and I just wish it would stop, other times it’s like a comfortable metronome just ticking off the day.  It becomes white noise as I sit here and think how to form my words.

I still have pages and pages of notes from the conference and it’s interesting how themes continue to pop up in various places.  When God determines to teach me, it seems he does it intentionally, driving nail after nail into his point until something finally pierces a hole in my wrong thinking.  There is a rhythm to it, like the ceiling fan.

As I continue reading  through all my conference notes, one little sentence that I jotted down popped out at me just now:

Don’t dismiss your story because it’s not as odd or extreme as someone else’s.

How many times have I done that?  How many times have I looked at the course of my life with Jesus and thought, Where’s my big moment?  Where’s the one definitive place where I can say that it was there, yes right there, that Jesus stepped in?  It’s just not anywhere to be found.

Because as I look back, I can find no one moment where he rode in and changed my world.  No one specific moment where I laid on the floor weeping in surrender and then stood up new.  No one wild moment where he pulled me out of a black hole and suddenly everything was different.

No.  I don’t have one of those absolute moments that I can say that it was exactly here that Jesus changed me.  And for a long time I thought that made my story less than impressive.  Jesus was just always there.  Minus a few spans here and there, I’ve always been involved in church, always known of God, always called myself a Follower.  I had an extraordinary conversion story worthy of a podium and a microphone.

It’s just always been.  Sometimes we are close.  Sometimes I push him away.  And sometimes I’m angry and don’t speak to him for a while.  But it’s always been.  We’ve always been.

At the conference, Dan Allender said that God is the author of our stories and that before we live a single day, God has written those stories in their entirety.  And each of us have  stories…yes, the little individual ones like how learned ride a bike or how we met our best friend…but more than that –  we each have the story of who we are that was penned by the Creator of the Universe.  No two are the same.  There is no other story like mine and, as Dan said, no other story reveals about God what my story does.

So while my story may not look or sound as magnificent as someones else’s, my story is mine.  And while there may not be one big moment where sparks flew or a bush caught on fire, there have been innumerable stories of where God showed up.  My life has been one long dance with Jesus full of spins and dips and even moments where I chose to dance with someone else and all the while, he waited for me.  He waited until I saw my new partner for the idol it was and ran back to dance with my true love.

Do you see that?  Do you see where he has always been there in your own life?  Maybe, like me, you don’t have a wild beautiful story of the moment your world changed.  You can’t put your finger on that one moment in time to say “Here.  Here it is.”  But it doesn’t make your story any less incredible than anyone else’s.  It is our stories that reveal God in us and those stories must be told.

Tell yours.

Advertisements

To Be Told conference notes: part 1

So as promised, I’m going back through my notes from the To Be Told conference with Dr. Dan Allender this weekend.  You know how when you hear somebody speak and everything they say is like “WOW” and you can’t write fast enough?  Yeah, that was me.  I’m planing to listen back through to a copy of a previous conference to see if I can pick up on some of the things I missed writing down.

However, one thing among several that stuck out to me was this:

Your calling is not what you do, but how you do it.

It took a minute or two for that to sink in.  For me to really grasp what Dr. Allender was saying.  Honestly, it was probably the next day before I really understood what he was getting at.  And then it was like a light came on.

I’ve felt so lost since I left my church in regards how I can go about serving God in the areas of the my “calling” of leading worship and Bible teaching since I don’t really have anywhere to do that now.  Both of those areas are definitely dear to my heart and places where I thrive.  Music makes me come alive and I love studying the Word of God.  I’ve been told so many times, oh leading worship or teaching the Bible is your calling, and I’ve surely felt that to be true.  But after hearing and mulling over that one little nugget it was like it was clear to me.  My calling is not leading worship or teaching the Bible.

No. My calling is this:   To be faithful to my scars.

But what does that mean?  Another thing Dr. Allender said was that we can find our brokenness and our passion by looking at whatever causes us to make a fist.  And in looking back over my own experiences there is one area that incenses me so much.

It’s when sheep are orphaned by the church.  Over the years I have seen sheep who have strayed from the path and have been booted out of the fold on their ear.  I have seen sheep who refuse to sit down and stay quiet be frozen out of the flock.  I have seen wounded sheep limp away unnoticed.  And to that I say, no.  That is not how the church is supposed to operate.  Sheep don’t just wander off without a reason.  Either the gate got left open or somebody tossed the sheep away.  And somebody has to care why.

I have found myself orphaned by the church more than once.  I still distinctly remember to this day one Sunday morning when I was probably about 16 or 17 and I was teaching 3rd grade Sunday school.  Me and another lady each did every other Sunday and on this particular Sunday, she walked into the classroom on my Sunday thinking it was her week to teach.  When she realized I was already there and set up, she acted haughty and ugly to me in front of the kids because she said I had taken her day.  Honestly I don’t remember if it was her day or mine, but what I do remember was how embarrassed I was in front of the kids because she’d made me feel so small.  I avoided her after that and if I remember right, I quit teaching Sunday school when that year was up.

In another situation, I had a friend a few years ago who made a mistake.  He did something he shouldn’t have done and was basically tossed out on his ear.  He didn’t even hear from the pastor for nearly three weeks after it happened.  Amazingly, he stood through it and has grown in his faith in Christ as a result of walking through that trial and the relationship he had with that church has since been healed, praise God.  But more often than not, it doesn’t end that way.    Were it not for his resolve to find healing and reconciliation, I dare say he’d have been completely forgotten.

Being orphaned by the church, whether in a small thing or a big one, can be deeply painful and unsettling.  The places you thought were safe aren’t safe anymore and the places you thought you stood firmly are all of a sudden shaky.  So many times I saw situations from a quite different perspective than the majority and I was made to feel like I was in the wrong, like I was making a bigger deal out of something than what it was.

But my scars tell me otherwise.  I know what it feels like to be belittled by someone in the church because they are older or because they have more authority that I do.  I know what it feels like to be shushed like a child whose opinion carries little to no weight.  I know what it feels like to be overlooked.  I know what it feels like to be wounded by the church.  And I know what it feels like to walk away from a church I served faithfully for almost 16 years and it to go virtually unnoticed by the majority of those in leadership.

Church wounds run pretty deep and can be incredibly difficulty to get over.  In being faithful to my scars, I allow myself to vulnerable about them and it opens up space for others to feel less alone.  I can mourn alongside those carrying their own church scars.

My calling?  To be faithful to my scars…to be a safe place for those orphaned by the church.

What about you?  What calling do you believe God has given you?  What things cause you to make a fist?   

Weekend rundown

Tomorrow is Tuesday already??  For a long weekend, it sure went by fast.

We spent the weekend at a retreat hosted by a Christian summer camp in the mountains with a huge group of friends.  This was our third year going and I’ve really looked forward to it every year.  It’s a family weekend and there’s tons of kids running around having a blast.  I slept on a prison mattress in a bunk bed and it drizzled rain nearly the entire time, but was glorious.  The weekend was over way too soon.

One of my favorite things about this trip besides getting a whole weekend to just hang out with people that I love is that I get to see them parenting their kids.  And I don’t mean that in a “haha, look at what their kid did” way.  I mean it like in an “oh wow, so that happens with them, too” kinda way.  For one thing, there’s so much going on and the kids get pretty tired by the end of the weekend, so meltdowns are inevitable.  And of course with all those little ones around, there’ll be arguments between kids and arguments between parents and their kids.  It’s just neat to me to see the different family dynamics.  You realize that while we all might do it a little bit differently, there’s a lot we can learn from each other.

Also, I realized as I sobbed through the second night’s worship time that I desperately miss serving in worship.  It’s just my thing.  It’s where I come alive.  I’ve said it before, but there’s just something about the sound of voices coming together in harmony that just opens up the heavens for me.  I’m not sure what to do with that realization as of right now, but hopefully God has something in mind.

And too, I’m really starting to think that church has so very little to do with any one building or group.  Honestly, this weekend felt church-ier than anything I’ve experienced enclosed in four walls in a really really long time.  Spending time together, sharing stories and encouraging each other, worshipping together, watching our kids laugh and play together.  It’s hard to beat really.  It’s a lot like I imagine heaven to be.

Anyway, tomorrow it’s back to the routine.  By some housekeeping miracle, I managed to wash almost all the laundry before we left so my son actually has clean uniforms for school all week.  That’s nice since instead of uniforms, I’ll be washing old towels all week since the dog decided it would be a good time to get her “female cycle” for the first time.  Picture a little chihuahua in a doggie diaper.  It would be funny if it wasn’t so ridiculous.

Happy September ya’ll.

the underneath

There’s considerably more to me than I give way to out loud.  There’s a whole underneath layer that sits just below the surface, out of view.  Because the hidden parts are often in contradiction to the life I desire to portray.

See, you build your house with the beautiful parts of yourself and display all the lovely things on the lawn.  The ugly and the odd stays inside in the dark with the curtains drawn, only rarely, if ever, daring a quick glance between the blinds.  But even the quickest of glances offers glorious visions of the neighborhood, leaving me seeing spots, and it is quite painfully clear that the world…at least my piece of it…is not ready for the ugly and the odd.

Honestly, it is much easier to hide it all.  To just answer “fine.”  There’s less to have to explain.  Less to have to find words for.  The constant battle that rages on the inside – the fight between light and dark – is better left stuffed down inside.  There’s the fear that to let it all out in the open – to give it words – would set it free forever and I’d never get it all back in the bottle.

In case you’re wondering, we’ve more or less stopped looking for a church and honestly I’m not all that sad about it.  I don’t think what my heart deeply desires actually exists, so I’m just going to push pause.  And I’m actually somewhat relieved about it.

Because the facade is exhausting.

What I mean is that I’m just not good.  I am a sinner, buried in the mire and sometimes I don’t care if I ever get out.  Sometimes I quite revel in the mire.  The smell of it.  The way it feels smeared on my skin.  The honesty of it all.  There is no pretending to be done when you are covered from head to toe in muck.  And truth be told, I am raw from all the attempts at scrubbing it off.  Of trying to be different.  Trying to be better.  Trying to overcome.  Trying to live like I’m free when I know bloody well I’m not.  Trying to live like I’m head over heels in love with a God that I hardly hear from anymore when in reality, aside from the few prayers offered up for others, we barely speak.

A couple of months have passed since my last post and what I thought was a turning point turned out to be the same as every other time I think maybe I’m beginning to get somewhere.  Nothing changes.  I’m still the same.  Still a prisoner to anxiety and depression, food addiction, self hate, fear.  All of it.

I found myself wandering around Barnes & Noble today scrutinizing this book and that book, trying to find the one that might finally give me the answer.  Looking for that person who might have it all figured out and can tell me how the hell to fix myself.  And it’s all the same.  Pray this prayer.  Learn this scripture.  Do these steps.  These people with their all “God moments” and I wonder to myself if I’m just not fixable.

Maybe that’s it.  Maybe I’m just completely and utterly beyond fixing.

I know one thing though.  I’m tired.  Tired of the anticipation of changes that just don’t come.

Please Jesus.  Please.  I just want to be better.

 

Coverings. Or “What I think of when I see the number 1222”

Do any of you tend to see the same numbers a lot?  Like when you look at the clock, you tend to catch it at the same time often?  Or you see it in addresses or totals on a receipt or something?  I do.  My number is 1222.  It was a while before I came to realize what I believe it means.  I wound up in Exodus, chapter 12, verse 22.  It reads:

Take a cluster of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and brush the lintel and the two doorposts with some of the blood in the basin.  None of you may go out the door of his house until morning.

Now I realize that doesn’t really seem to say much.  But when you look at what’s going on around that verse it does.  In fact, it completely blew me away.  Basically chapter 12 in Exodus covers the instructions God gave the Israelites for Passover and part of those instructions included brushing the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorways of their homes.  The final plague sent to Egypt, where the Israelites were enslaved, was that the angel of death would come and take the life of the firstborn son.  However, it would pass over the homes that had the blood of the lamb on the door and the son’s life would be spared.

What a beautiful picture of what was to come!  The blood of Christ, the sacrificial Lamb, painted over us so that we might not die, but have life everlasting!

And it hit me.  Every time I saw 1222, it was God was reminding me of the covering I had in Christ.  That I was forever sealed by the blood of the Lamb.  That I had been marked as a child of God.

Fast forward to the last week or so and I have been feeling quite alone.  I mean, I know I’m not alone.  I guess I’ve felt a bit isolated and a little tossed.  And I know it has a lot to do with having acknowledged leaving my church.  Before when not many knew, I still felt somehow connected, but after writing that last post, I guess it was an official severing and I have felt it.  And while we have started going to another church, we aren’t really connected there (by choice thus far).  I told my mom earlier this week, it’s like I feel a bit naked spiritually, not really having what feels like the covering of a church body right now.

And then something funny happened.  So that last post I wrote got read a lot of times.  I mean a lot.  Like over a thousand times.  Much more than any post I’ve ever written.  And it just happened this week, when I checked the blog to see if I had any messages to respond to, I saw it.  The number of times it’s been viewed.

1,222 times.

I was stunned.  And in that moment, it felt like God was reminding me that I always have HIS covering no matter where I am.  That I may not have a connection with a church as of right now, and while that is important, I still have and will always have the covering of the One who flung the stars into the sky.  HE is and always will be my covering.

So friend, are you wandering and feel alone?  Maybe you feel a little tossed and lost?  Maybe you feel like nobody cares or nobody sees you.  Well, let me tell you something.  If you’re wandering, He’s wandering with you.  You aren’t lost.  Maybe you’re on an ocean of doubt and you’re being tossed about by the waves.  He’s in the boat with you.  He sees you.  He knows your name.  And if you’ve called Christ your Lord, you are underneath His covering, sealed by his Spirit (Eph 1:13).  You belong to him.

Now if you’re like me and you don’t have a church home, I’d encourage you to keep looking for one.  I will too.  The body of Christ is just that…a body.  And we need each other.

And also, if by some chance you’re reading this and you have never submitted yourself to Christ, know that His love is for you.  His death was for you…for us all.  We just have to receive it as ours.  If you’ve never done that and you’re ready, please reach out to me or someone close to you and let’s talk.

And in the meantime, please continue to pray for us as we seek a settling place.

Love you guys,

J

 

Why I left my church.

I’ve hesitated to share this and gone back and forth about whether or not to.  But it seemed odd to me that I wouldn’t have written about it, considering it has been such a big deal in my life.  So here goes.

About two months ago, my family left our church.  This church had been my home for almost 17 years.  The only thing in my life I have done longer than attend that church is be a mom, and not by much.  It has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make and not one I took lightly at all.  In fact, my husband and I discussed it for probably a full year before we finally made the decision to leave.  So please know, we aren’t “church hopping,” nor did we leave because we’re offended or mad.  Sad maybe?  But not mad.  And we only told a few people at the time.  We just kinda left quietly.  There are many reasons, but the summation of it all was that we were worn out.  Mentally.  Spiritually.  Emotionally.  Just worn the heck out.

The reality is that the longer you are at a church and the more involved you get, the more you know about the interworkings of it all.  It can be hard not to become disillusioned…especially in a large Western church.   The planning of every single piece of the service down to the minute, the time clocks on the back wall telling me I had 30 seconds to end my prayer, the silliness incorporated in to get a laugh, and of course, the smoke machine.  There’s this constant push to stay relevant, to stay up on the latest thing.  And I was completely and utterly exhausted with the whole entire production.  Sometimes I would walk in the door and look at the three or four video cameras we had sitting the sanctuary so the congregation could get multiple angles of the pastor as he spoke or a close up shot of the keyboard player’s hands while they played and would almost feel physically ill thinking how many families could have been fed for the cost of those cameras.  We could have probably at least partially funded an adoption with just the roving camera, but instead we’re broadcasting close ups of the keyboard for the sake of artistic presentation.  It was eating me alive on the inside.  I felt like I was suffocating.  And it had gotten to a point where it was affecting me in deeper ways than just being burnt out.  The more disillusioned I got with the church, the more disconnected I felt to God.

I started to really question the whole thing.  I just kept asking myself, is this really what church is all about?  Is this really what it’s supposed to be like?  Because honestly, what I needed…and still need…was a place to worship that looked and felt different from the world.  My heart was aching for a place that felt set apart from everything I saw in the day to day, a place that felt holy.  But what I was experiencing was smoke and lights and silly videos and announcements in the middle of the service that seemed to bring holy moments to a screeching halt.  It just felt like there was so much effort put into this weekly service – so much time, so much money, so many resources – when I couldn’t help but feel like there was so much missing elsewhere.

And listen, I’m not meaning to pound on this one church.  Because my church wasn’t really all that much different from most every other big Western church in this country.  Smoke machines, light shows, big screens is pretty much the way of it now.  Hours and hours of planning go into it all.  What will draw people in, what will keep people’s interest, what will make church more appealing?  Churches have their snappy catch phrases and overused cliches.  People don’t bring their Bibles to church anymore because they don’t have to…it’s all on the big screen.  They just sit and consume.  Theology gets tossed out the window in exchange for songs that talk about Jesus like He’s my boyfriend instead of my Savior and Lord.  People treat pastors and worship leaders like celebrities.  Church campuses are chosen over stand alone church plants because it’s just easier (and cheaper) to pump in the video preacher each week…and well…it gives branding to the church (hence the celebrity pastor issue).

I know I sound judgmental.  And while I can appreciate someone thinking that, it doesn’t negate what I saw, what I heard, what I felt in my spirit.  And I want to be clear and say that my desire isn’t to hurt anyone’s feelings or imply that I’m spiritually above everyone who still attends the church I left or any other church that does these things.  I’m not.  In fact, it’s probably the complete opposite.  Over the last year (and in large part in relation to this whole confusion and frustration with church), I felt myself sort of tumbling down the side of a mountain and I landed pretty hard in the valley of doubt and questions.  And that’s where I’ve sat for a long time.

Until I left my church.

It’s like I’m out from under it all and I can finally think straight.

And I’m concerned really.  Concerned about the state of the Church in America.  Concerned because I can’t help but wonder if the true intention of the gathering of worshippers is getting lost underneath all the fluff and and fancy.   Is the self-sacrifice aspect of the gospel coming through or are people being taught that bigger is better with our multi-million dollar building funds?  Have the topical sermons been enough to establish strong sound Biblical foundations?  And if we had to do without the screens and the cameras and the entertainment aspects of church would people still want to come or have we all been so conditioned to think that’s what worship is supposed to look like?  If we were to face persecution here in America like they do in other places, would the Western church at large survive it?

I’m not asking you to agree with me.  And I’m not saying that technology and church buildings and orders of service are inherently bad.  They aren’t.  But if they aren’t partnered with a strong teaching of the gospel and a true understanding of worship, then we’ve all missed the mark in a really bad way.  Is the picture of worship being painted every week an accurate representation of what it’s like to follow Christ – including the hard parts – or just the parts we think will make people come back next week?  If a congregation of people have been trained to think that worship has to be big and loud and entertaining, then that’s what they’ll be drawn to.  But if you strip away all the big and loud and entertaining, what happens then?  When the pastor with all his well planned out sermons and catchy one-liners isn’t there, will people know enough about the actual scriptures to dig further for themselves?  Can we worship just as well with a pipe organ and a hymn book as we can a full stage band and vice versa?  Are churches just as in tune with the move of the Spirit as they are with the time clock counting down on the back wall?

And again, I’m not judging you if you go to a church that does these things.  I’m not saying that churches that use movie screens are bad or unspiritual.  All I’m asking is that we stop to consider the way we worship.  Stop and consider if all the stuff we spend money on is really necessary or just more for our own enjoyment and comfort.  Stop and consider the amount of time put into planning out every little thing compared to the amount of time spent praying together as a congregation.  Stop and consider how much time is spent on videos and announcements compared to the amount of actual scripture that gets read in a service.  Just stop and consider is all I’m saying.  And if you’ve stopped and considered and you’re at peace, then carry on.  But if you’ve stopped and considered and you aren’t at peace, don’t be afraid to speak up.  It’s the only way anything will change.

 

 

 

 

Who are you, Soul?

Who are you, Soul?

Are you the one never quite at home?  Never quite finding the real belonging place?

You are, aren’t you?

The one who even among the dearest friends sits in self-imposed aloneness, owned by the fear of rejection and equally by the fear of acceptance.

Drawn to darkness, you find more comfort there than in the light you deem undeserved…undesired even sometimes.  Living in a minor key, as notes of comfortable melancholy map out your history, the same chords play over and over on repeat as if to prove that while the depths of your desires may be colored in the beauty of great and mighty things, your mind and your body will always betray you with feet dug in the ground, refusing to go one single step further away from same ol’ same ol’.

Yes, Brokenness is my name and I am broken.

I am the one always seeking and not finding.  The one who resides in a constant place of not enough-ness.  The one who needs desperately to believe that there is more here than meets the eye…because there’s more to me than meets the eye.  Please let there be more to me than meets the eye.  This can’t be all there is.

 Because I’m drowning on a daily basis underneath the doldrums of the day-to-day.  Always falling short takes it toll.  Being broken drains clarity and sometimes I can’t even remember my last coherent thought.

My dreaming mind sees a place where things are slower.  A place where I can breathe. Where all the right words flow clear like water and all the wrong-said things go unsaid. A place where twirling whirling hoop skirts dance and there is laughter and rose gardens and I imagine myself as an artist standing under a shade tree spreading lines of color on canvas.  Or I see a field of flowers bringing solitude and rest as I stare up at the night sky where little stars punch holes of light in the dark…much like the darkness of you, Soul.  Where are the little holes of light punched into the darkness that is you?  Because sometimes they are hard to see.  And sometimes there are no stars at all.

My name is Brokenness and I am broken.  But I hear there is One who changes names.  He gives new names written on white stones and heals up all the hurts.  He is the Light that punches holes in the dark.

Hold onto Him, Soul.  He is good.

Gratitude and thanksgiving

As the weekend comes to a close, I find myself with a quiet moment.  Everyone is in bed, the Christmas tree glows softly, and there’s a chill in the air outside.  The room smells like pine and I feel serene and at peace for the moment.  And then the dog promptly gags and throws up a little in the floor.

*sigh*

The long weekend was a good one though, dog barf aside.  Dinner with part of the family on Thanksgiving day and lunch with the rest of the family today.  But there was one moment that has sat with me all weekend.

My two cousins and I were seated at one of the adult tables with our spouses.  (I’m sure if you have a large family you know what the adult table is.  The kids got the card tables and the adults sat at the big table.)  And there we all are eating and having adult conversation when it suddenly struck me…where were the adults at the table?  I mean, we can’t be the ones here at the table having grown up conversations about kids and gymnastics and politics, can we?  Where were the real adults?

And the moment when I looked around at the table and realized we WERE the adults, it was like time slowed for just a second.  My cousin sitting across from me, the one who played dress up with me at Grandmother’s house.  Her husband sitting beside her.  Her daughters on the sofa, her son upstairs playing with mine.  My other cousin sitting beside me.  The one who, along with the rest of us, used to play fun games on holidays like this.  And there beside him, his wife, holding one of their three little ones in her lap.  Suddenly the children weren’t at the kids’ table anymore.  They were all grown up.  Now our children were at the kids’ table.  It was quite surreal.

And for that moment, I just wanted time to stop.  To just stay right there, while my parents and my aunt and uncle talked at the other adult table.  While our kids were all still young.  Before our hair goes gray all over and time begins to take its toll.  To just stay.

But stay, we cannot.  Time is not ours to stop.  The older I get, the faster it seems to go by.  And the older I get, the easier it can be to look back and be found wanting.  I think of things I wish I had valued at the time that I had them.  Moments in time that start to fade that I wish I could remember better.  So many things I realized I wanted to do when it was too late to do them.

But time doesn’t go backwards.  Time moves forward.  And we move with it.  And we must live in the moment while it is ours.  To enjoy what we are given as it is received.  To take those surreal moments and breathe them in while we sit in them and have the pleasure of later recalling those moments with joy for having had them.

Yes, time moves forward, but in that moment looking around the table,  my heart was full of gratitude and thanksgiving for what has been.

Greatness and change

Wow.  What an election season this was.  Lord help me, I tried to stay out of it.  I made my very best efforts to keep my opinions to myself on Facebook and to not be quick to jump to conclusions set before me by the media.  Lord help me, I tried.

But I’m telling you, this election stirred up some of the most hateful, ugly, embarrassing behavior I’ve seen in a while.  People are highly opinionated about the things they are passionate about, that’s for sure.  And we should be passionate about things…as long as they are the right things.  It’s when our passions get a little off center that things go to hell in a handbag.  And boy did they.

And I made a few observations.  And here they are.  And they are mine.  I don’t want you to tell me how they are wrong and I’m not looking for you to shout back a bunch of amens either.  Just a few things that I need to get off my chest.

First off, A LOT of people get their dander up over bullshit.  (Sorry.  This election has brought out the very worst in me and sadly I’ve tended to cuss a lot this past month.)  My Facebook feed was full to overflowing with posts about this thing Hillary did or that thing Donald said and you know what?  Half of it was either soundbites that were only meant to stir the pot or either they were bait and click posts.  Now listen, I know they both said and did some awful things.  Both of them.  I won’t deny that.  But I also am smart enough to know sensationalism when I see it.  Friends, please stop posting things that are nothing but sensationalist bullshit, so we can all focus on the real issues here.

Second, BE NICE.  Calling people “snowflake” or “crybaby” really isn’t nice.  And posting “love wins” with a snark in your keystroke really isn’t nice.  Do I think people were over the top ridiculous about Hillary’s loss?  You bet.  BUT are there people out there with reason to be uncomfortable, concerned or frightened even?  You bet.  And the sad thing is, all the ones wallowing around gnashing their teeth are overshadowing the people who might have some legitimate fears and concerns.  And where are those people?  Keeping their mouth shut, laying low.  Because scared people don’t mouth off publicly or make a show.  They hide and keep quiet.  THOSE are the people we need to be seeking out to comfort and put their fears to rest.  But calling them all snowflakes isn’t helping at all.  And for all the “love still wins,” or “love Trumps hate” posts.  Please just stop.  It’s just a passive aggressive way of saying screw you and you know it.

Third, STOP MAKING ASSUMPTIONS.  I heard somebody once say that basically to assume makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me.”  And we have all been behaving like a bunch of asses. All of us.  Lumping everybody into one category based on how they voted is unfair.  Not everybody who voted for Trump is a racist homophobe who wants to send all the Mexicans home.  AND not all Democrats are baby hating terror mongers who want Sharia law.  Just stop.  Seriously.  It’s an asinine way to think.  This whole election was hard on all sides.  And while there are surely those out there that were hardcore for one side or the other, I would present to you that most people voted more against one side than they did for the other.  If they even voted at all.  And for those who did the no namer vote (and I say that because I honestly cannot remember the guy’s name right now who ran Libertarian), please just stop with the “hashtag never” posts.  Many people truly did see that as a throw away vote, so while you may have been convicted to vote that way, it tends to make people feel less than when you’re reminding them of that with your posts.  I mean, it’s honorable that you took a stand for what you believed in, but not everybody was there.  I know, I know.  You’re not judging, but people feel judged just the same.

And fourth?  We are ALL a bunch of HYPOCRITES.  This whole entire nation.  We complain about the things Donald said about women.  He’s degrading to women.  Yet, I look on my TV and here’s a shampoo commercial using what sounds like a woman having an orgasm to advertise their product.  I go shopping and see clothes in the little girl section that no 10 year old girl ought to even consider having on her body.  I look in a magazine and there’s a scantily clad Miley Cyrus with her tongue wrapped around her face holding a blowup penis on stage, Arianna Grande in clothes so tight she looks poured into them, and Beyonce in photoshoots and on TV showing so much skin she’s a breath away from being naked.  TV shows that seem to have a rape scene in every fourth episode.  Music that calls women bitches and all sorts of other things….and I’m talking to you now Hillary standing up there on stage with Jay-Z.  Have you read any of his lyrics?  But holdup…before you jump on that train, it’s not just hip-hop either, although hip-hop is awful for sure.  Look at the top 40 chart and you’ll find song after song about sex.  Since when did it become okay to sing a song about having sex with your woman?  Would you invite me into your bedroom to watch?  Because if not, then why are you inviting me in with your song?  That’s private for crying out loud and yet there you are with your songs on the radio describing all the details for everybody in the world…and here we all are just listening away.

We complain about racism and how the church needs to put its glorious foot down.  We are hypocrites!  Churches are the most segregated places in America.  Think about your church, if you go.  Look around at who is sitting beside you.  I’m betting for the most part, they all look a lot like you.  My church has gotten a lot more diverse than it used to be, but it’s still pretty white.  And black churches are no different.  We like to tell everybody else what’s wrong with them, but when it comes time to get the log out of our own eyes, well…

And racism.  Ah, racism.  It’s the same as the fear issue.  There are so many real true incidents of racism that are hidden underneath the pile of cries of wolf.  Racism is very real ya’ll.  There are black people everyday that are looked at sideways in a store because of the color of their skin.  There are Hispanics (from lots of other places besides Mexico) that are here quite legally, but people make assumptions about their status because they speak Spanish.  Racism is a real true awful hurtful thing.  But what’s sad is that it’s become such a buzzword, a common and sometimes false accusation, that people don’t want to hear it anymore.  In fact, you can add some words to that list…homophobe, islamaphobe, bigot…just check your newspaper headlines or Facebook feed.  All those words have been so overused that nobody is listening anymore.  You want to end a conversation real quick?  Say homophobic to somebody who believes homosexuality is a sin.  You want to shut somebody down in a heartbeat?  Say islamaphobic to somebody who truly fears terrorism.  And on the other hand?  You want to cut somebody to the core?  Tell a black man racism is dead while he’s being stopped by cops in a white neighborhood.

You want change?  Me too.  So then we’ve got to get out there and have some face to face conversations that involve a lot of efforts to understand why people feel like they do.  Brow beating people with buzzwords and sound bites has made people stop listening.  I want to have a conversation with you, not the Huffington Post or Fox News.  However, ignoring strife and pretending there aren’t problems just makes people more hurt and more angry.  We need to have conversations.  We have to.  Nothing will ever change unless we do.  You won’t change people with Facebook posts.  You can’t change people by holding a sign up on a street corner.  You can’t justify your stance when you don’t really know what all you’re standing up against.  And you won’t change your own opinions until you start listening to somebody who’s different than you.

Ya’ll I’m tired.  Right down to the very depths of my soul, I am tired.  Donald Trump didn’t start any of this.  Obama didn’t either for that matter.  But it’s gone on long enough.  We have been at each other’s throats long enough.  I’ve realized some things about myself in this election.  Some things I need to change.  Some attitudes I need to rethink.  Some assumptions I need to let go of.  And I hope that will be the case for a lot of folks.  Lord knows we can’t keep on like we are.

spread out brokenness

The sea is a peculiar thing. The ebb and flow of it. How it brings up beauty from its depths and then batters it in the surf until all that is left are broken pieces of what once was a whole. It spits out ragged bits of shells and such, only to steal them back, toss them about, and lay them out again. A continued cycle of breaking and brokenness.DSC01615

As I stand with feet planted, the foamy water comes and swirls and I sink in and lose my firm foundation and have to adjust myself. Such is life too, I suppose, with its harsh push and pull, like waves that sweep over and over, tossing and churning, brokenness tumbling over itself, sand sucking down leaving me unsteady on my feet.

Even still, in the midst of the corners and colors and edges, there are rare treasures – worn out, but fully intact as if to say, “Look at me! I survived the beating.”

And while those complete treasures usually find their way into pockets and buckets to be taken from the sea as tokens, it is the broken ones that lay unclaimed that draw my eye today. The ones with the stories of change and loss and tearing away and wonder. Pieces that once were together – split, shattered, and scattered – finding themselves spread here and there, telling their harrowing tale to this passerby in one place and that one in another. Their spread out brokenness touches many all at once.

I trace the rough edges with my finger and marvel at the colors and lines etched in. And I see that while the whole is only now a part, there is still beauty in what remains and I am astounded by grace as the water gives and takes and the sand covers my feet.