Sober by the Dozen

Unlike years past, this day seemed like the many others surrounding it on the calendar. There was no fanfare. There was no cake. It started with an “I’m proud of you” call courtesy of my husband and ended with carpools and dinner prep. The best part of my sobriety date is the annual giggle that April Fool’s Day marks the day that I thought the imagegood times were over. Because I know that forgetting to remember is a dangerous thing for those of us that are wired to deny, in the midst of the norm, I took time to reflect on the significance of 12 years. Here are my 12 musings for this trip around the sun:

  1. I have 4,383 days of sobriety, but just like I did on day 1, I choose this way of life every hour of every day. Without making that choice, I won’t have 4,384.
  2. There are days when I wish I could drink like “normal people.” It is in those moments that I remind myself that in no other area of my life do I like normal, so why should this one be any different?
  3. In early sobriety I was told that this way of life was a gift. I was sure it was a lie. Today, I’m more aware than ever that not all gifts are pretty and shiny and perfect.  Sometimes the best gifts come by way of pain and a good come back story.
  4. In the beginning, I got sober for my kids. Today I am sober in spite of the hardest days of parenting.
  5. I wanted nothing to do with God in my early sobriety journey. Today, I know that sobriety is mindful work and the core of being rooted deeply is the Creator that formed my being.
  6. Much like everything else in my life, there are seasons in sobriety that require different things of me. Learning to accept the seasons of my life is still one of the most challenging aspects of my existence.
  7. The more I share my journey, the more I see the progress that I have made.
  8. Sobriety reminds me that I am a life learner. Just because I have completed a lesson does not mean that I have graduated from that subject – it’s likely to reappear.
  9. There is nothing in this world – not one single experience – that would be better with alcohol or drugs in my body.
  10. If I choose to live this life, my girls will never have to care for a drunk mom, drive their mom because she can’t or fear that she will end up in jail. I cannot protect my kids from most things, but I can this one.
  11. Not drinking was just the beginning of this journey. I’m thankful for the many ways that taking that first step cleared the path for the real growth to occur.
  12. The fun doesn’t stop when the drinking does. I have more laughs, truer relationships, more inside jokes and waaaaay better memories than I did before. Good people, good stories and great experiences are the most fun things in life – and sobriety heightens all of the above!

It’s not lost on me that 12 is an important number in my faith. Complete. Full. Whole. I will cling to those words today and be forever grateful for this journey.

Teenage Invincibility: The Stakes are Higher Than Ever Before

When I was 17, I had a fear of getting in trouble. That single motivation was one of the few things that prevented me from making stupid(er) decisions. I knew, that should I have financial or legal or disciplinary consequences, my parents were not going to save me. They would have helped me, but they would not have prevented me from facing the natural consequences of my behavior. That was 1992. We are not in 1992 anymore. The stakes are higher, the consequences are more permanent and yet, the more I observe teenagers today the more convinced I am that their perceived invincibility is arrogantly increasing.

I have teenagers in my home. I gravitate towards them naturally. When most adults are moving away from the hormones and drama, I run into the chaos like I was created for it. It is not news to those that know me that I would rather spend a day with a drug addicted 16 year-old than a 4 year-old. Any freaking day. I love the instability and maturing and immaturity and growing pains. Sure, this is hard and weighty work, but they can talk to me. I can yell at them. We can throw smack talk with vigor. And I can look them in the eye and (in a very real and no BS kind of way) hold their feet to the fire of truth and reality.

I have quite a few teenagers in my world right now. Some by way of my connections with my own kids, but not all. I don’t stay in the surface of teenage world. When we are talking about any given topic, it is never just about that subject. I’m a detective of sorts, always trying to determine what is lurking underneath the surface of their actions and angst. And, oh, do they have angst. And, oh, do I love to walk through it with them.

Recently, I have grown increasingly frustrated with what I see as an over-developed sense of being above all consequences. We could spend the next decade arguing over the cause, but that’s not really my concern. I’m more interested in the adults in their lives waking up to this reality and calling this crap on the carpet. I’m less concerned about the eye rolling and the snarky teenage responses than I am the fact that there is not a fear of getting in trouble because they don’t get in trouble.

grayscale photography of five people walking on road

I dabble in Snapchat. Recently, I was snapping with some teenagers (like you do). Of course, this happens while we are sitting in the same room together, so really it is like we were talking… but not. As we snapped, I realized they were receiving snaps and streaks from other friends. The content of some of these images had me in disbelief. So I pressed. The stories that their fellow classmates were sending were mind-blowing. I sat as a parent of a 13 and 17-year-old thinking to myself WHERE ARE THE ADULTS?!?! Many sent images that you would not want your college admissions counselor, teacher or parent to see. Multiple kids sent pictures of themselves doing things that were illegal. But the most shocking was the number of kids that sent pictures of their drug stash that was for sale. Piles of weed. Dime bags. Complete with prices texted over the top like they were selling Fun Dip out of their junior high locker. I. Just. Can’t. Even.

woman taking selfie while smoking

I know that pot is no big deal in the minds of so many today, but can we just stop for a second? These are teenagers. In Texas. Where pot is not legal. Selling controlled substances. Online. Like it is nothing. And for the record, pot is something. It is something. Moms and dads of the 80’s and 90’s, today’s weed is not the joint of 1989. “In the 1970s and 1980s, marijuana generally contained less than 5 percent THC. Today, the marijuana sold at legal dispensaries often contains 25 percent THC. Many people use extracts that are nearly pure THC.” With the popularity of vaping, the use of dab pens is skyrocketing and this simple addition to the cannabis scene has substantial legal and health consequences. **If you are reading this and and you don’t know what a vape or dab pen is or you are not sure about concentrates, waxes or oils, please read up. We have to know what we are up against, and eduacation is key.**

I cannot imagine being a teenager today – with the social media nightmare and instant and constant contact with the world – but this is the reality of today’s life. And with the increase of information and access, comes the increase reality of hard consequences when you mess up. That’s where the serious disconnect happens for me. ‘It’s just the way it is’ and ‘kids will be kids’ and ‘it’s not that big of a deal’ messages are placing our kids in the mindset of invincibility like never before. They think the rules don’t apply to them. They think they won’t get in trouble. They think their parents will protect them should they get caught. And the really sad part is that for many kids, this is a truth that is killing them.

So parents and teachers and mentors and coaches and pastors, we must do better. Not only do we have to teach them differently, we have to call them out and show them that they are not above the rules. They are not invincible in the eyes of injury and punishment. If we see “ads” for quality merchandise being sold in ‘D’ pod, may we be brave enough to turn them in. Even if it means they may lose a scholarship or title or a special award. Even if it means that they may lose the starting position on the team. Even if it means that you become THAT parent. May we show the kids that are choosing to play by the rules that we will not continue to cover for those that it seems easier to protect. May we encourage doing the right thing, even when the right thing feels so very hard. Our kids are worth it. And they need us to remind them everyday and in every way that we have their back, even if having their back means calling them to face very hard and real consequences.

 

 

The Words I Need To Hear

A few weeks ago, after a particularly long day, I went to visit an old friend. As I was sitting in front of her, she said something that was incredibly profound. She looked at me and said, “Breathe in the good shit (pause) and breathe out the bad shit.” She repeated this again and again, until I finally started listening.

It was an important moment for me. I needed to remember I was too busy taking breaths filled with the things that were beyond my control. There have been so many times in the last few weeks that I have held my breath. I have held onto things that were laced with hatred and anger, judgment and even rage. I have been unable to breathe out those things. They have been filling my “lungs” and preventing me from making room for the healthy things that need to replace the rot.

I have a living example of what happens when the bad shit fills the space. My dad has been experiencing fluid build up on his lungs. He had 7 liters of fluid drained off his IMG_8015-1right lung since January. The first drain collected 4+ liters alone (see lovely visual – no, we were not brewing beer in the hospital room). Can you imagine what it feels like to have that much weight and wet and heavy on your chest as you are trying to fill your lungs to sustain life? Weighed down. Like you are drowning. So very heavy. This sounds eerily like my world when I forget to exhale. When I forget to let go of the weight of the day, the week or the year.

This also prevents me from having the capacity to breathe in new, fresh air. After the doctor drained Dad’s lung, he handed him a spirometer and explained to him that without exercising his lung and training it to remain expanded after the fluid removal, it would simply refill. I can’t help but feel the same is true for my heart when I don’t choose to breathe in hope and renewal and peace.

This morning, our pastor asked us to participate in a corporate practice of silence. I realized in that moment that I had been holding my breath again. I had the figurative weight of heavy fluid on my chest. I spent the entire 60 seconds exhaling. My friend’s voice just kept screaming in my ear, “Breathe out the bad shit. Breath out the bad shit.” It was only when I let go of the weight, the worry, the hopelessness and the unknown that I could make space for anything good. I could not breathe in the good shit because I had liters of weight preventing my ability to take a breath.

What are you holding? What do you need to exhale? May you start this week with the gift of breath narrated by my friend Nadia. She is the best.

 

 

Uncomfortable

How is your Lenten journey going?  We are 5 days into the season and I wonder if your days look any different from this time last week? Have you connected with the Divine? Have you practiced your presence? Have you opened your eyes in new ways to new things? If you haven’t, it is not too late to start.

I had an acute awareness today of the need to be uncomfortable. Like many seasons before, I was being stretched to let go. Letting go, most often means that I have to consciously remind myself that I am not in charge. As my daughter reminded me recently, this is a control freak’s worst nightmare. On days like today, I have to make frequent attempts (recognizing that they are not always successful) to close my mouth, hold my opinion and remember that my way is not always the only or best way. For many, these seem like simple, daily tasks. For someone like me, this is hard, mindful work.

I wonder, in these uncomfortable moments what I am being asked to observe and learn?Today, I was graciously gifted with the knowledge that the intended lesson is vulnerability. This much misunderstood, ever necessary gift is one that I am hardwired to reject and yet I am blessed to scratch the surface. If the desire is to cultivate new, uncomfortable ways of entering into life and intended movement toward vulnerability, there is no one more well equipped to lead the way down the path than Brene Brown. If you have not read the book Daring Greatly, you must. I am so far from where I want to be in this area, and yet I am thankful for every uncomfortable stretching that leads me back to who I am created to be.

Stretching Your Thoughts

As we continue to explore the journey of Lent, I can’t help but think about how this particular liturgical season has defined my own spiritual growth. It is through that growth that my views on my place and my role in the Church have completely transformed. Today, I bring you an offering of some of the authors and writings that have paved those steps. Warning: There is no author with which I 100% agree. As a matter of fact, I enjoy a good read that challenges my beliefs – one that makes me say ‘do I really believe that?’ One that makes me want to sit down and have a long chat with the author because I can’t see where they are coming from.

With that in mind, please know that not every sentence and directive in these books comes from my own frame of reference. Rather these are authors and believers that have shaped critical thinking within my own life and therefore have helped define what my faith looks like today. Unapologetically, my library has a generous wealth of female voices. I am grateful for these women of faith that are on the forefront of my growth and wholeness.

I would not call myself a reader until about the age of 30. Up to that point in my life, I could have cared less about reading, much less reading non-fiction. It was only because I had heard this guy Rob Bell speak at a conference that I picked up his creatively named first book. But something happened when I picked up those pages. The words came alive in a way that my faith needed. I realized that I longed for the written word to help me understand the shift that was going on internally. You’ve heard me talk about Rob before in my blog, but Velvet Elvis was the starting place. You can read Velvet Elvis in a few hours. It is easy to read but there is so much to digest. More than anything, it was an opportunity for me to know that I was not the only one that thought these things, felt this way or asked these questions. That was a gift. A close second to Velvet Elvis was a book by author Brian McLaren. A Generous Orthodoxy help me go deeper in my thought process – examining my own theology. A Generous Orthodoxy helped me define my theology as one that was open to growth and new discovery. I haven’t touched this book in years, and yet I can still remember the words as they leapt off the page.

After I spent some time trying to discern my own understanding of faith and whether I wanted anything to do with it anymore, I took a good, long hard look at the Church. This still continues today. The most profound Church journey book I have read to-date is Rachel Held Evans’ Searching For Sunday. I was standing in line to have my copy of this book signed at a conference recently when I got to visit with a young woman who was exactly where I had been in years past. As we stood for 30 minutes or so, I realized I didn’t need my copy of Searching for Sunday anymore because that book was imprinted in my heart. I gave my copy, instead, to this new friend trusting that perhaps through reading my tear-stained pages, she too would realize there was a place for her in the Church. If you have felt un-included, if you have felt like the church of your childhood doesn’t fit, if you have felt like there was no relevancy in the institution of the Church, Searching for Sunday should be at the top of your reading list.

Here are a few more quick MUST READS by topic:

Messy Faith and Doubt: Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber, Carry on Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton,

Women and Faith: A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband ‘Master’ by Rachel Held Evans, Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women by Sarah Bessey

Sexuality: Sex God by Rob Bell (I especially recommend this one for those that need a new lens for hurts and hangups in their own story), Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free by Linda Kay Klein (tough, tough read because of the truth in the pages), Shameless: A Sexual Reformation by Nadia Bolz-Weber (get ready…this one is wonderfully challenging)

There are many authors that have joined my journey and even more that I missed and have picked up years later. This is just a smattering of some of my favorites. I do, however, have multiple copies of many of these books and I will gladly buy anyone that is interested a copy of your book of choice and a cup of coffee if you want to discuss. These are my favorite things: faith, doubt, Church, Jesus, messy, belonging. We need each other and the journey of discovery that comes from allowing the quiet musings of our own thoughts to be affirmed in the pages and lives of others. Let’s do this together.

Happy Lent!

This morning was a heartbreaking scene at our home.

“Guess what day it is?” I excitedly exclaimed as I made my coffee.

“HUUUMP day?” Ally grinned.

Immediately my heart sank. How could this child of mine even joke about such a thing? Today is my day. This is my favorite. And she was joking…or was she? I looked at her – half angry, half broken-hearted – and said, “Seriously, do you know what day it is?” Looking at the half eaten King Cake on the counter, she responded, “It’s really bad planning for Ash Wednesday to be scheduled the same week as TAGS.” (definition: my swim meet should always hold priority to your spiritual weirdness.)

I collected my coffee, keys, and pride and prepared for carpool. As we pulled out of the driveway, she continued with her litany of instructions about things that I needed to schedule into the next two days of preparation. She expressed disgust that we may be “late” (aka she might have to wait an extra 10 min at practice) so that the rest of the family can attend the service tonight. My mind was numbly listening to her to-do’s but I had yet to move past the irritation. Just as my blood pressure began to slow, I asked her if she would like me bring home some ashes from worship for her. Are you ready for the response? No, you are not…nqwfjotlefrvfdqcsyfa.jpg

“Mom, I don’t think I have actually had ashes on my head in years. I don’t want zits.” All the while, she was smirking like 13 year-olds do when they know they are holding their parent’s hearts captive.

Here’s the big win: I didn’t yell. I didn’t throw anything. I did not even run in the house to get my anointing oil and smear it all over her hormonal, acne prone forehead. I just died a little inside.

I know that not everyone loves Lent. I have enough church-y experience to know that plenty of people think that this season is dark and depressing and weird. But for me, there is a unique and precious moment that happens when someone literally reminds me of my mortality. And to be on the imposing end of the Ash Wednesday experience is a treasured gift. On more than one occasion I have made the sign of the cross on the forehead of one whose mortality was waning. To mark a child with ashes literally takes my breath away, yet it is necessary and holy to remember the starting and returning point for all of creation.

Today we are reminded that we are God’s. We are but dust and ashes, formed from the breath of a life-giving, powerful source. And from that strength, we are invited into holy co-creation with the Divine. Whatever the hard work of the Lenten season may bring you, know that you are joined by countless fellow travelers on the road of maturity in the Spirit. May the inward journey of Lent push you closer and closer to the revelation of your wholeness in Christ.

Happy Lent!

 

 

 

My Favorite Table

I was raised in the United Methodist Church. One of my most formative theological foundations is rooted in the gift of the open Communion Table. I was taught from a very early age that we are all welcome at The Table. When my friends came to church, they were welcome. When I brought my Cabbage Patch Doll to church, she was welcome. When my grandparents visited (even when they chose not to partake) they were welcome. This was contrasted by my experience of attending a Catholic high school, where the invitation to be fed was limited to those in their particular understanding of the elements.

As one who has spent more hours than necessary both lamenting these choices of Eucharistic Theology and defining my own rhythm of belief, please know that I have the historical context for denominational differences. I can appreciate the systems of belief from a church history perspective. At the same time, there is no other Sacrament or tradition that brings me the peace and joy that I find in my understanding of Communion.

I have written about this before. I can hardly tell a story of faith without connecting the power of The Table to my journey. But I felt compelled to write a word about it again today. There are multiple situations in my life that are beyond my fixer-upper ability. For those that speak in these languages, I am an ISTJ, an Enneagram 8 and a Strength Finder #1 – Command. Let me define = I know how to do it excellently, productively, accurately and fully. And by it, I do mean everything. So on days when I find myself unable to do and fix and complete all of the things with competency and a secured positive outcome, I am frustrated and angry (because that is always my default for fear). It is in these times, that I am instantly drawn back to The Table.

Let me say a few things about this religious ritual for those that are already annoyed that I am talking bread and wine, again. For some of us, this meal has become entangled in religious ritual. Perhaps you find yourself immediately dissecting the experience: It’s too casual, you prefer to kneel. What about the “non-pastor-like” people handling the breaking of the bread. What’s up with that? You don’t like drive by communion – what happened to the good old days of the altar? And what about these kids…they just get communion without going to a special class? How does that work?

When we share Holy Communion we are doing what Christians have done throughout time: celebrating a relationship with Jesus by taking seriously his own words on the night before he died—“Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. Drink from this, all of you; this is my blood poured out for you.” We come to the table and take the bread and wine to remind ourselves that all of life is holy. IMG_1674

That’s why The Eucharist moves me like it does – time and time again, year after year – it never stops speaking to me of the Christ who is reconciling all things, especially the broken, divided world in which we live. In light of this season in my life, it is the gift of Communion that reminds me that just as the meal is about connection with God, it is also the place were we join with our sisters and brothers and this faith that we share gets real.

On a given Sunday I will likely spot one or two people who have wronged or hurt me. There are often people whose politics, theology, or personalities drive me crazy. But The Table transforms even our enemies into companions. The Table reminds us that as brothers and sisters adopted into God’s family, we’re in this together. Everyone eats, regardless of economic, social, or racial background. The Table gives us a chance to eat and drink together despite our differences, perceived and real. We are family. The Table teaches us that, ultimately, faith isn’t about being right or good or even in agreement. The Table is about feeding and being fed.

The Table is a place where people and their differences come together without losing their individual identities.  It’s called Holy Communion, and rightly so, because something very holy happens in this space. Something that I cannot experience anywhere else in this life. This is the heart of where I find myself today. Because I can’t drag all of the key players in the hard issues of life to my church and march them up the aisle for the moment of magical connection. That’s not the way this world works.

But for those of us that meet Jesus there, we are just as quickly sent back out to be the living Eucharist for the world. Because whenever you are walking through life with someone else, you are breaking open your body and pouring out your blood. And that, my friends, is Jesus living through us. I celebrate this meal because I am committed to partnering with God in the rescue of the world. I choose to love so that others might be loved and healed in the name of Jesus.

But let me speak from my hard-earned experience, when you partner with God in loving the world, you can become empty. It hurts when your body is broken and your blood is poured out. It takes something out of you to serve and give so that others might be healed. And that is why I run back to The Table – to mend my broken body, to bind my wounded soul and to allow Jesus to pour healing blood back in.

I cannot heal the world by trying hard. Even in all my strengths and boldness, I cannot do it. I can give and pour and create and partner and then I am forced to stop and remember that I cannot heal the world. I am a partner with Jesus in the work of restoration. I am not Jesus. And that single fact alone is the reason that I have to run to The Table.

Don’t You Dare Blink

As a mom of littles, I HATED when someone would see me – mid 3-year-old melt down – in the Target aisle and say, “Oh, mom, don’t blink they will be grown before you know it.” All I could think in those moments was YOU ARE A BIG FAT LIAR. These moments will never end. These screaming kids will never go away. They will always follow me into the bathroom when I am trying to hide. They will never sleep through the night. And they SURELY will never quit waking me up early on Saturdays. I know that my eyes spewed expletives at strangers and usually my mouth had some smart-ass comment to share.

But here I am. Saying the thing that I didn’t want to hear. Don’t you dare blink. To the momma that has not showered in days – this will pass. To the one that would give anything to leave the house for dinner in a shirt that does not have snot – it will happen. To the one that just found the rotten sippy cup in the dog’s cage – I promise, you will forget these moments. When I was in the trenches, I was dying. Sometimes literally. There were countless days that I crawled into bed and silent tears ran down my face because I dared not admit that I was still awake to the husband that had not been acknowledged in weeks. I’m here to testify: I’m still standing. And you will be, too.img_7836

Something terrifying happens when you just keep living. Days pass. Lots of days. And tonight, I am reminded that exactly 6,209 days ago I was in labor with my oldest. Over the past 149,016 hours I have felt all the highs and lows that I could possibly bottle into a choose your own adventure story. We have traveled some roads. Yet here we stand, hours from her 17th birthday. It was just yesterday that I was googling poop colors and stressing over cradle cap. It happened. I blinked. And I am now the mom of a beautiful, independent, capable, big-hearted, brilliant young woman. This means two things: 1) I am old. 2) We’ve survived. Sure, I have more gray hair and wrinkles. But it also means that I have moments of joy and wonder as I have watched this precious product of my flawed DNA lean into all that God has created her to be.

Because I only operate in profound honesty, there are have been some long nights. The cause has changed from sleep training to junior high friendships and the emotional toil img_7833has escalated from missing Dora to future life planning, but she is img_2235still my little girl. Even on the days when I know that my eyes are looking at maturing beauty, I still see my Monster’s Inc obsessed cheeky treasure. So to all the moms out there, may this bring you some comfort and hope. No matter how long the days seem and how endless the nights are, know that one day you will look back and remember the voice and the cuddles and the way that only their smile made your heart soar. It never changes. And deep in their insides, that precious little one never goes away. Ever. I will, until my last breath, hear AJ’s one year old voice say to me, “Well, acccctuuually, mommy….”

Happy Birthday, AJ. You make me beam with pride.

 

 

 

Uncomfortable Missions

When was the last time you pushed yourself to do something really uncomfortable? I’m not talking about running a mile as a part of your New Year’s diet plan or folding the clothes that bring you joy in a new way. I’m talking about stretching your bounds of ease, success and competency. Let’s take this a step further. For those of you that chase after Jesus, when was the last time you did something really uncomfortable in the name of your faith?

If it has been a while, let’s talk. There is not one thing about the life and ministry of Jesus that was go-with-the-flow and crowd pleasing. Quite the opposite, I feel certain that instead Jesus was rarely mundane. The great legacy of Christ is the radical way in which he refused to allow those that were longing to see God to remain in a sense of worldly comfort. Rather, he demonstrated quite often that he was sick and tired of religious games.accident-alone-bridge-918795.jpg

Jesus was completely uninterested in and often turned off by those that enjoyed safety and comfort. Money and position and privilege were seen as stumbling blocks to faith. Not because Jesus was mean. Not because he longed for people to hurt. Instead, Jesus knew the truth that we often miss. When we have our basic needs met, we don’t need any other help. When we are happy and we have love and warmth and freedom and full stomachs, we don’t need to depend on our Creator. This is where I tell you to sell your car and house and give all your money away, right? I know that some of you think that I believe that to be a socially responsible goal. Nope. That’s not my end game. Instead, I am going to ask again, when did you last do something that made you feel completely incapable, unable, inept?

This morning I left the house at 6:02. Full stop. I was already uncomfortable. But that was only the beginning. I had quite a drive to ponder my ineptness as I prepared for a new experience. There are so many things that I do well. I could walk into any ICU and be completely unfazed. I can hold the hair of a de-toxing puker and feel capable and worthy. I can even sit with the broken-hearted and depressed while they are lost in numbness and not flinch. But not today. Just when I think that God has equipped me with all that I need to do the next thing, bam! Guess what, Lacy? You will forever need me. And when you think that you have things figured out, that’s when I need you to need me again. This was the talk that God and I had as I made my early morning drive.

As I drove through Houston today, I saw more churches than I could count. There were thousands of cars, sitting in hundreds of church parking lots all over the city. I thought to myself, what if every follower of Jesus did one really uncomfortable thing this week? I’m not talking about standing on the street corner with a billboard asking people about their place in heaven. I’m referring to the intimate, soul shaping work of feeding the hungry or facing your own demons or sitting with a dying friend. I’m referring to sharing a meal with someone because they need to be loved. What about having that hard conversation that you have been putting off because you know it is going to hurt?

My friends, we only grow when we stretch. And just when you think you can’t possibly stretch anymore, Jesus sends you on a mission that takes a new kind of dependence. That’s what being a Christ follower is all about. It’s not just parking in the lot on Sunday and singing some songs. Don’t get me wrong, I was running back to my church in time to be fed at the Table this morning. We need each other to do this hard work. But this is more than a one hour a week business. We need 24/7/365 engagement because we have a world that is falling apart on our watch. Let’s get uncomfortable together!

 

Listening to New Voices

After writing Saturday’s post, I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about how my worldview is formed. I love the underdog story. I want to be on the side of the good fight. There is something life-giving about speaking for the voiceless. I feel like I am singing my best song when I do. But what is the real motivation? There is nothing in my life that has transformed my calling to live outside of my own wants more than these words, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 (NIV)

I love the scriptures. I read them for instruction and hope. But it is a rare occasion that I quote scripture in my writing. Too many times, I have seen these ancient words used as weapons in the morality wars of Western Christianity. I have instead chosen to embed them in my being so that just as Jesus talked about in this chapter of John, they are the outflow, the overflow, of my life. Rather than leading with proof-text, I have instead chosen to lead with love. My experience shows me that there is never a time that love does not win. It seemed only appropriate that on this day when we celebrate a man who embodied a passionate and profound love for all people, but especially those that were oppressed, that I take a moment to reconsider the why of my actions.

One of my favorite museums is the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN. Housed in the Lorraine Motel, visitors have the opportunity to walk in the final steps of Martin Luther King, Jr. There are many of his words that strike a chord in my heart, but one of my favorites is, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”  Want to read more on this idea? Enjoy, this is gold. There are countless ways that we can live out love, but in an era of self-preservation and power and pride, I have really had to work on intentionality in active loving.

One of the most profound ways that I have chosen love is to actively seek out stories that are vastly different from my own. It is impossible to hate or attack or even passively avoid them, when issues are no longer issues. When they are people – people that I know and love. When policy and laws have flesh and blood on them, my ability to ignore the impact is decreased.

I wonder, who are you reading or listening to that looks nothing like you? Do you choose to click on the story whose headline makes you feel uncomfortable? You know the one. The one that means that you will have to deconstruct your 43-year-old version of Gospel truth to really love like Jesus. The one that is riddled with ‘that’s not what my parents or grandparents taught me’ moments. We need to be reading more of these stories. I am especially thankful for voices of color, my LGBTQ friends and my faith community that have allowed me space to deconstruct and process.

brand trademark cobblestones community denim pants

I am a white, private school raised, upper middle class, privileged girl. I am college educated, not by my own hard work, but because I had parents that set that as a minimum standard and worked to provide that opportunity with little effort on my part. I married a good-looking, smart, tall, educated fellow. Together we live in a suburb with 2 kids and 2 dogs. We are the American dream rolled up into a red brick two-story narrative. It was only after I I was stuck with the reality that life can bite even the picture perfect in the ass, that I realized that I had so much to learn. And to learn at the feet of and in the humble space of a student and not a savior was the only way that I could love my sisters and brothers that have been fighting for a voice for generations. So, with all of the thanks I can offer, I give you three of my best teachers. They ARE the embodiment of Dr. King to me in 2019 as I learn to navigate the great calling of love.

 

Jeff Chu (@jeffchu)

Kaitlin Curtice (@KaitlinCurtice)

 

Austin Channing Brown (@austinchanning)