Yeah, That’s Not Okay

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I listened to the podcast episode in frustration yet not in disbelief because I’ve experienced the bitter pain of church hurt myself. An author I’ve read and resonated with–even though sometimes we’ve disagreed–shared how her family was asked to leave the church they had finally settled in because of her writings.

Is this author on the progressive side of things? Yup. Does she have a fair share of questions and doubts? Absolutely. Had she been deeply wounded by religious Christians before this latest experience? Oh, yes. These are all the more reasons she had hoped to find a place of safety and grace as she rebuilt her fractured faith.

Unfortunately instead of grace, love, and understanding, she found condemnation, judgement, and rejection. Um, guys, there’s a serious problem with this!

If broken people can’t come to Jesus’ brothers and sisters for healing then where are they supposed to go?

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There is a deep issue within the church these days. (Many actually, but we will stick with just one for this post.) People have lost the Awkward Middle Way of grace AND truth and instead we have factions, wars, and sides.

Truth people might hold to the authority of Scripture–although often lacking context and appropriate hermmeneutics–but too often they also see in strict blacks and whites. They love right and wrong and push a list of correct behaviors without seeing the value of precious broken hearts.

Grace people love and accept lavishly–until you disagree with them–but often they are quick to interpret Scripture and historical Christianity through their own personal lenses of right and wrong. How they feel about something is what matters regardless of the way Christianity and the Bible has viewed that issue for the past two thousand years.

My biggest problem with these two sides is that neither of them is an accurate picture of Jesus Christ.

Jesus calls Himself The Truth in John chapter fourteen. He constantly spoke truth about God, about Himself, and about humanity. He didn’t sugarcoat things, and at times the truth He preached was offensive. But simultaneously Jesus was also filled with scandalous grace. He horrified the religious leaders by welcoming the outcasts–sinful and broken people they rejected as less–with open arms. Jesus walked the Awkward Middle Way perfectly.

And it is His example that I am striving to follow.

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What does this practically look like?

  • It looks like welcoming the questioning and doubting, listening closely to their heart, hearing their story, and empathizing with their experiences before offering ANY answers.
  • It looks like totally rejecting pat Christianese phrases or spiritual band-aids.
  • It looks like refusing to share a Scripture or pray a prayer until after we’ve made someone feel safe, heard, and loved.
  • It looks like being attentive to the Holy Spirit as we listen so that we will know when to share truth and how to say it gently.

Being people of grace and truth doesn’t mean that we don’t have a solid rock of truth that we stand on, but it also means we know when to keep our mouths shut and just listen. Shockingly, the Holy Spirit is even more eager to draw people to Himself than we are. 🙂 He doesn’t always need us to share everything we know. And often He uses the strangest little things to do His greatest work.

Friends, we live in a polarized, divided world and unfortunately people who call themselves Christians are in the dead middle of the problem. This. Is. Not. Okay.

WHAT IF WE CHANGED?

What if we Jesus Followers hold our beliefs, but hold them loosely enough that can can still love and accept people who disagree with us?

What if we became people who just ooze grace while still clinging to truth?

What if we made an intentional effort to find and listen to someone who disagrees with us each week? It could be a podcast, or book, or actual conversation. What if we did our best to see from their perspective even if we can’t find any common ground?

What if we began to practice being humble and gracious?

What if we recognized that leading people into the Kingdom of Jesus Christ is WAY more important than forcing them into our side of political or societal issues?

Jesus is the only One who can save people. And like I asked before, if broken people can’t come to Jesus’ brothers and sisters for healing then where are they supposed to go?

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A Dry and Thirsty Land

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The shriveled clumps of grass clung weakly to the dirt. Brown and brittle, they crunched under my feet. It hadn’t rained in weeks. Everything was dry and dusty. Just walking around kicked up so much dirt that a light tan film constantly covered my feet and legs. My favorite summer camp was quickly turning into a desert. We were desperate for some rain!

I was reminded of one of my first blog posts this morning as I once again prayed for rain. It has been incredibly dry here in Michigan for the past few weeks. The grass is yellow with the exception of some weeds and I have to water my flowers every other day. After growing up in the country surrounded by farm fields, I’m still stressed out by the spiky corn plants we drive past; their curled and pointy leaves showing their own desperation. My husband laughs at me, but it’s something that I can’t seem to let go.

I spent the morning watching the radar and weather forecast. It looked like the rain was going to miss us after all. “God,” I prayed feeling the weight in my heart, “send us rain.”

“I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land” Psalm 143:6.

I knew firsthand what it meant to be in a parched land and desire water. But what did it mean to long for God like that? I walked through the dry, dusty field at camp and I thought about being as desperate for God as I currently was for rain. Then I did it. I stretched out my hands. There is humility in stretching out to God — even a little bit of fear — because we are admitting that we can’t reach by ourselves. We are showing a need.

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Does your heart feel desperate? Mine does. Months of stress from the COVID-19 pandemic, political drama, social unrest, disagreement, anger, frustration, grief…my heart is kind of a wreck.

Do you know what I long for? Jesus Christ to come and physically reign as King. I want to see what true justice and mercy looks like. I want to watch a King with ultimate authority rule without loving money and power more than truth. And I am excited to know that the longings of my heart will one day be fulfilled.

But I also know that the King of my heart can also provide the peace and security I long for right now in the middle of this messy world. The Holy Spirit is with me (and you) right now. He is here and so I stretch out my hands.

When I stretched out my hands to Him, felt the strain in my fingers and the pull in my elbow, He was right there.

I’m desperate for God. I can’t live without Him. I need Him in the same way that plants need the rain. He knows that, but I need to remind myself. So, I stretch. 

Sometimes when I’m feeling brave at church I’ll lift my hand up just a little bit higher until I can feel it. Sometimes it’s in the car when I’m listening to the radio. There is just something freeing and beautiful about admitting how much we need God.

I noticed that my house felt darker this afternoon, so I picked up my phone to check the radar again. A tiny storm was starting to form to the southwest. “Jesus, send rain,” I breathed. I took my coffee out to the porch to watch. The wind began to pick up and I could hear distant rumbles of thunder. It came. A gentle mist at first and then, while the tree stops danced and swayed, a downpour. I ran for cover laughing. I watched on the radar and out my windows for the next hour and more while the storm grew and grew. It’s still gently raining as I finish this post.

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The same God who graciously answered my desperate prayers for rain will answer our heart-cry for Him. “My soul thirsts for You like a parched land.” As we stretch for Him, He is there to be found.

“’You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all of your heart I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 29:13-14.

“…that they should seek God and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet He is not actually far from each one of us.” Acts 17:26-28.

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Shame on Me (Blogging at The Mudroom Today)

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I think I’ve been brainwashed. 

The unexpected thought pierced my sleepy fog. Although after midnight, we girls were dragged from our sleeping bags for a special lecture. Clumped together on a couple of couches, we yawned and tried to listen. I was sadly aware that my alarm was going off in less than six hours. Prayer meeting started at 6:30 a.m., and if I wanted to appear spiritual I needed to be there. This meant getting up even earlier to shower, blow dry and curl my hair—because for some reason curly hair was also a sign of spirituality.

Quiet submission didn’t come naturally.

Mrs. W droned on and on about cliques and friendship, and I felt myself drifting off. Then she said it—the real reason this meeting had been called: “It just grieved my heart, to look out the window yesterday and see you all playing in the snow. I couldn’t tell who the boys were and who the girls were since you were all wearing snow pants.” Her voice dripped of judgmental disappointment. Yes, at this winter youth retreat we were all wearing snow pants to play in the snow. It was horrifying. Especially because in previous years most of us girls — at least the godly ones — had worn skirts or culottes over our snow pants. (Read the rest of my story of rejecting shame and embracing my strength over at The Mudroom Blog today!)

Church, We Must Repent!

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“…All people deserve to be seen for who they are: image-bearers of God.” – Max Lucado

I read this quote from Max Lucado earlier this week and it resonated deeply with me.

Mr. Lucado’s article and an internet conversation I had with an online friend motivated me to write this post. After watching a heartfelt admission of struggle from Grand Rapids pastor Chase Stancle, I reached out to my online friend to find out how she was doing and to let her know that I cared. Her response hit me.

“My biggest quarrel is with the church, my white evangelical brothers and sisters. I post a lot, but I think the real work is happening behind the scenes as I talk to my white sisters about how the church needs to repent of its own racism, and then lead the nation in repentance as well.”

Which brings me to a question. Does the white evangelical church truly believe that all people are created by God as equal image bearers of God? Truly?

Because I see judgement and condemnation, if not blatant hatred, for certain groups of people coming from many Christians. Are illegal immigrants, refuges, African Americans, and the LGBTQ community (among others) somehow less created by God? Do they bear less of God’s image?

I think not!!

And yet, that is how many people who call themselves Christ-followers act, speak, and share on social media.

This is wrong.

I know that as humans we tend to be afraid of things that are different. Of situations that we don’t understand. And fear makes us do stupid things. But that’s not an excuse for racism and hatred. We must repent.

As a society these days we are terribly good at putting ourselves and other people in boxes. We label everyone and then judge them accordingly. Differences are not tolerated.

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Before every mission trip I’ve ever taken, our leaders have sat us down and explained that different isn’t bad or wrong, it’s just different. They encourage us to be patient, listen, ask questions, and be flexible with the differences around us. If this is true on mission trips, why isn’t it true in real life?

What if the Church led the way?

Because we believe in the value of every human life. Because we know that Jesus died for the world. Because we have the Holy Spirit at work in our hearts.

I wonder how much of our problems with racism and hatred stem from our religious versions of Christianity where correct behavior is elevated above people’s hearts? Where outward performance and conformity is rewarded, and where questions are dismissed? If people don’t dress right, or talk right, or look right, or act right, or believe right, then religious Christianity rejects, judges, and condemns. Many of us have been on the wrong side of this scenario and we know what it feels like.

What would it look like if the Church started to love with grace instead of judging with mistrust? What if we listened and asked questions? What if we explored differences with interest and flexibility? What if we stop assuming we are the right ones? (I’m not suggesting we give up on the cores truths of Historical Christianity, but we can believe and still listen while responding in love and grace.)

Friends, this is more than simply a behavior problem and we cannot fix ourselves. This is a deep heart problem and Jesus will do the work. But we need to repent. We need to dig into our hearts, admit our sinful pride, allow the Holy Spirit to sift through our beliefs and point out the ones that need to change. Then we need to agree with Him, and change our minds, and surrender to the change He wants to make in our hearts and lives.

We can do this, Church.

It takes brokenness and humility, but change is possible. Will you join me?

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Here We Go Again

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Another well-known Christian influencer, raised in church and the son of a pastor, has come forward to say that he no longer believes in God. John Steingard, lead vocalist of the band Hawk Nelson shared via Instagram how his doubts and questions have brought him to this place. Here we go again.

If you’ve been around this blog or listened to my podcast, then you will know that I have no judgement for people who walk away from Christianity. Doubt, and questions, and lost faith are legitimate experiences and can be incredibly valuable.

No, I have no problem with people who walk away, but I have a huge problem with a religion that claims the name of Christ and yet never introduces them to the Real Jesus in the first place.

My heart is breaking, my eyes are full of tears, and I’m so angry I’m struggling to get words out. This. Is. Not. Okay.

I’d encourage you to read John’s lengthy explanation. The thoughts he expresses are real and very familiar.

  • He talks about a Christian culture that was shared without explanation or understanding.
  • John describes behavior based expectations that felt manipulative.
  • He uses Christianese phrases like “accepting Jesus into your heart” and “praying for signs and wonders.”
  • There was a definite initial suppression of any doubts.
  • And finally John shares his questions that just don’t seem to have acceptable answers.

John is describing his experience with a broken religion, an experience that many of us have shared. Religion is not enough. A set of beliefs, or a checklist of behaviors, or even a happy, little bubble-world of likemindedness is NOT enough.

There is only one thing.

“”Christy, why are you still a Christian?” My friend, who also happened to be an atheist, looked at me intently from across the room.

It was a valid question, and one I had been pondering myself lately. Over ten years had passed since that midnight lecture on the couch, ten years and countless life changes. I was a youth pastor’s wife and mother of two. I wore jeans every day, had a Bachelor’s degree from a secular college, and every song on my iTunes playlist included drums. People in my current life knew that I had been homeschooled, but even my husband was oblivious to the extent of crazy I’d experienced in our cultic-subgroup of Christianity. That was changing…

…the door to my past was beginning to crack open. I learned that a man we previously respected and followed was being accused of sexual harassment, with multiple girls, over decades. I discovered a website dedicated to exposing truth about the cultic organization my family was a part of through my teens and early twenties. I found online support groups filled with former students like me. These discoveries confirmed things I had always suspected. The flood gates opened. My poor husband listened patiently to many rants, frustrations, and memories. I sorted through truths and lies. I connected and reconnected with people who shared an understanding of my crazy past. It was exciting, healing, and heartbreaking.

I was overwhelmed by the number of people who grew up like me but left Christianity completely. I understood in theory…if what we had experienced was the real God, then no wonder they wanted nothing to do with Him. But it made sad. And it made me question.

Why was I still a Christian? Why hadn’t I run away too? I knew why.

I’d met Jesus. And while I rejected the legalism, and the ridiculous standards, and the performance driven faith, I couldn’t reject Him. Because I loved Him, and I knew that He loved me. It was worth the fight…it was worth deconstructing and reconstructing my faith to find the real God.”

Impostor Jesus – Christy Lynne Wood

Guys, meeting Jesus changes everything. And the hard work of deconstructing and reconstructing what it means to be a Christian is worth it.

The Real God is more than the religion that we have created. He is more than correct behavior, or emotional experiences, or Christianese phrases.

But He is also more than our own understanding, or feelings, or doubts.

He has legitimate answers to our questions if we are willing to look. And He is a Living Presence who will change our view of reality if we let Him. He is REAL real, but He might also be different than we think He is.

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Hey there! If this is your first time here on my website, I just want to say welcome! I also want to link a few of my other blog posts on this topic so that you don’t have to search through years worth of articles to find them. 🙂

The Value of Losing Our Faith

Why I am Still a Christian

Irony & Apostasy – Finding a Solid Faith

I’m Just Here for the Broken Ones

 

Our Need for Real Repentance

 

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If you are like me, and you’ve experienced some degree of spiritual abuse in your life, the word repentance might be triggering. Images of authoritarian control. Waves of guilt and shame. Memories of confessing every possible sin you might have committed.

I want to tell you a story that will hopefully redefine the way you think about repentance.

Both of my children are strong-willed, but my son is particularly stubborn. He will get something in his head and no amount of reasoning, or pushing, or arguing will change his mind. The other day, he was in a mood. I don’t even know what he was upset about, but I do remember that he told me to shut up. We don’t talk like that in our family.

I was working on a puzzle (because, coronavirus) and he was standing there next to me looking miserable, chin jutted out, hands clenched, angry at the world. I calmly reminded him that those kinds of words hurt people and that we don’t talk like that. I acknowledged that he was angry and told him it was okay to feel that way, but that it was not okay to tell his mother to shut up. He glared at me.

My son is really good at being stubborn, but he’s also excellent at repentance.

A few quiet minutes went by while I worked away on my puzzle and he stood there glaring. Then he broke down. There were tears, and hugs, and “I’m sorry, Mama” was whispered in my ear. We snuggled. Our relationship was restored.

True repentance isn’t a power trip by an abusive authority. It isn’t a formula where we confess sins so that bad things will stop. It’s a change of heart. It’s a humble acknowledgement of sin. It’s restoration. 

I’ve been reading the book of Joel the last few days for my morning Jesus Time. It starts with a plague of locusts and a call to repentance. A plague and repentance. It struck me that something has been drastically missing from our social media feeds during this pandemic.

I’ve witnessed anger, frustration, dismay, and fear…

I’ve seen a plethora of conspiracy theories (and even Christian conspiracy theories to debunk the initial theories)…

I’ve read far too many political rants…

But I haven’t observed much repentance.

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If anything, this COVID19 pandemic has reinforced my beliefs in the cores of Christianity. As human beings, we are totally corrupted by sin. This world of ours is definitely broken. And we absolutely need a Savior. There is no shame in admitting these facts, but it does take humility. And that’s where true repentance starts…broken humility.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen a lot of my own brokenness over the past two months. I need forgiveness; I need restoration; I need Jesus.

I would like to lead us in a prayer of repentance.

“God, I come to you with empty hands.

I stretch them out before You and admit my lack.

I agree with You that I am broken, helpless, and in need of a Savior.

I repent.

I have forgotten or ignored Your reality,

that You are Who You Are whether or not I acknowledge it,

and instead I have created an image of You that suits my purposes.

Sometimes I don’t want You to be REAL real.

I repent.

I want to believe that I am in control.

I don’t like feeling helpless and afraid.

I don’t want to admit that I am needy.

My pride is strong and I push You away.

I repent.

There is a part of my heart that can only be filled by You,

but I have tried to fill it myself.

You know the things I have used to attempt satisfaction.

None of them work.

I repent.

You say that this world is not my home, but I want to be comfortable.

You say that I will face trouble, but I want peace.

I work so hard to grasp things that will not last

while ignoring things that are eternal.

I repent.

More than control, more than answers, more than peace,

more than comfort, and financial security, and physical health,

I need You.

I open my hands in surrender and I let go.

Show me Who You Are in all Your reality.

All I want is You.

Amen.”

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Friends, first we need personal repentance and then we can move to corporate repentance. There is much that the church needs to repent of and abandon. Stay tuned.

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A Virus and a Savior

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Many of us used to think that the modern human being was advanced, intelligent, and sufficient. We had impressive technology, evolved thinking, and a vast array of resources. Any problem that anyone threw at us would be solvable. But a tiny little virus destroyed all of those beliefs in a matter of days.

Rather than being sufficient, we have discovered that we are helpless with no cure or proven treatment. Instead of evolved intelligence, our smartest scientists struggle to explain the hows and whys. There are more questions than answers. Despite all of our technology and resources, we are left facing a very real fear of death.

It is a scary time, filled with uncertainty and disruption. But it is a gift. Because we have to realize that we are lost before we can be found!

We elevated our advanced intelligence, but now we are left helpless. We declared humanity to be “basically good,” but rampant selfishness has been on display all around us. It’s hard to deny that humanity’s goodness has been corrupted. We decided we were sufficient not needing the crutch of religion, and yet we find ourselves terrified of death.

We need a Savior.

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Do you think it is a coincidence that our fight with this virus overlapped with Easter? Hardly. The Real God knows exactly what will make us stop and think, and consider and turn. He has been after His people since He created Adam and Eve. We were made by God for a relationship with God. And since the beginning, despite the fact that people always run away, God has done everything necessary to make that relationship possible.

The Real God became a man and lived on this world with us for three decades. Jesus blew the religious leaders’ minds by refusing to follow their rules because it has always been about hearts and not actions. He chose the rejects, loved the broken, and forgave the sinners. And then at just the right time, Jesus allowed corrupt people to torture and kill Him thus becoming the Ultimate Sacrifice for the sins of the world.

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NLT)

This precious truth is at the core of any version of Historical Christianity. God Himself died to forgive our sins, was buried, and rose again, and those who put their faith in Him will be restored to eternal life.

And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son” John 3:14-18.

We were helpless, but God Himself stepped in to be our Helper. He did not leave us alone, but came to live among us so that we would know who He was!

We were corrupted, but God took our sin upon Himself and offers us His righteousness in exchange if we will trust in Him.

We feared death, but God offered us eternal life through a Savior, Jesus Christ.

It’s a crazy story. Crazy and unique. Every other religion includes human effort and sacrifice in an attempt to appease the god or gods. No other religion has a God who became a man, took the punishment on Himself, and offers free forgiveness and life to anyone who believes in Him. 

It’s an insane story that has transformed lives for the last two thousand years. It’s transformed mine. Not just the story, but the Person behind the story. Because Jesus is alive and I am foolish enough to believe that I’ve encountered Him personally. I’ve met Jesus. I’ve experienced the forgiveness and life that He offers, and I won’t ever be the same. He’s waiting to meet you too.

Happy Easter!!

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Fearful People are Easier to Control

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I’ve been pretty quiet for the last few weeks as I watched the COVID-19 pandemic grow. I didn’t want to jump in with just another pat Christianese answer about having faith and not giving into fear. But as the public hysteria grows, I’m done being quiet because there are some things that need said.

Yesterday I was working at Meijer as a Shipt shopper. Shipting has been my job for the past three years. If you aren’t familiar with Shipt, I’m basically a personal shopper. I use an app to accept orders which I then shop and deliver. Over and over again every hour while my kids are in school. Sorry to disillusion you if you thought I had a glamorous life that included spending my days at chic coffee shops typing out beautiful words. Nope, I’m just a professional grocery shopper.

Because I spent the day at Meijer I had the opportunity to witness first-hand the madness that is the toilet paper apocalypse. Three times over the course of the day, trucks arrived with more toilet paper. Every time before the employees could even get it to the shelf, people descended, grabbed, pushed, and shoved multiple packages into their carts. As customers left with carts full of toilet paper the shelves were once again bare.

The ridiculous thing is that there isn’t really a shortage of toilet paper. We are creating the shortage by overbuying. As the shelves deplete, more people feel panic and begin acting out in fear. Thus the toilet paper apocalypse continues.

Fear makes us do crazy things.

I know this because I spent a decade in a cultic sub-group of Christianity heavily influenced by fear. In fact, if you look into any cult you will find fear based teachings. Why? Because fearful people are easier to control. 

Our state has decided to close schools for the next three weeks in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. Trust me, that decision did not help the panicked hysteria. People have swarmed the local grocery stores and stripped the shelves bare. Parking lots are full, every checkout is open, and the lines are long. Why?

It’s not like those stores won’t be open tomorrow and the next day and the next. It’s not like more semi-trucks won’t be showing up to deliver food. But the news of empty shelves causes even more people to panic and try to buy whatever they can. It’s a vicious cycle. Fear makes us act irrationally. 

But I get it. Looking into my fridge this morning, I noticed that I only had half a gallon of milk. I wondered if there was any milk left in the store. Irrational or not, I felt the urge to run out and buy some just in case. I wouldn’t really be out of milk until Sunday at the earliest, but still.

Although I tried to talk myself out of it, eventually I couldn’t help it. Ridiculous or not, I went to a smaller grocery store (that still had food) and got some milk, bread, and a bag of apples. Trust me, I understand the feelings of fear and sense of panic.

But here’s the thing, the lines in the grocery stores, the shortage on toilet paper, and the empty canned good shelves have nothing to do with the actual virus. They are cause by anxiety, fear, and worst case scenarios in peoples’ minds. Personally I’m more concerned about the effects of the public mass hysteria than I am about COVID-19.

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I was picking up my room this morning when I looked out the window and saw a sunbeam glinting on these grassy plumes in my flowerbed. It was a beautiful March morning, especially for Michigan. The sun was still shining, the birds were still singing, and the grass was still waving gently in the breeze. Life was happening around me despite viruses, or hysteria, or a lack of toilet paper. God had not lost control and life was moving on.

We aren’t used to hard things in this culture. But we fear them. And that fear makes us do crazy things.

I want to close with some reminders.

COVID-19 is basically a viral pneumonia. The media likes to call it “the deadly coronavirus” but that just means it’s killed people. So have a lot of other things. Adding the adjective deadly makes it seem scarier. Remember, people who are terrified are easier to control. I find it interesting that in the entire world no child under the age of 10 has died from COVID-19. People who are most at risk are the elderly and those with preexisting health concerns. Most of the population is at a low risk for infection and an even lower risk of serious illness. Most of us do not need to be afraid. 

Should we be educated, aware, and prepared? Yes. Should we follow guidelines from the CDC and our local government agencies? Yes. But should we do irrational things and fall into the public hysteria that is the toilet paper apocalypse? No, please no.

Instead, enjoy some extra time at home. Do your spring cleaning. Make cookies. Read a book. Play a game with your family. Experience the simple things that we don’t usually have time for in our hectic lives. Breathe. Rest. It is going to be okay.

God has not lost control and life will go on.

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Healing and Surrender

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“I’ll heal you if you’ll let Me.”

I heard the Spirit’s whisper clearly in my heart. Fear and worry had wrapped themselves around my body threatening to strangle me. Again.

Some of my earliest memories include freaking out because someone was sick in my family, or in my Sunday School class, or at the grocery store. I worried about many things as a kid but sickness was one of my biggest.

As an adult, I’ve been able to work through many of my fears. And while I no longer fear my own illness, I hate my kids or husband being sick. Because I feel helpless. Because I’m out of control. Because I can easily imagine worst case scenarios. Because I love comfort and happy, easy moments of life. Because I hate not being in control.

As I sat there contemplating these things, I realized what a powerful grip fear and a desire for control have on me. A grip that I felt powerless to resist.

Maybe you can identify with this. Maybe it’s also fear and control for you. Or maybe it’s something different.

“I’ll heal you if you’ll let Me.”

If you’ll let me. The irony isn’t lost on me. In order to get rid of this fear and desire for control, I needed to surrender my control. I needed to let go.

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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about right and wrong, why we should choose to reject sin, and what it means to believe that Jesus is Lord. I know that it has to be more than behavior designed to earn something because that’s just religion again. But at the same time, the Bible clearly shows God’s desire for our righteousness and holiness. How do they both work together?

I love that the people who are helping me work through this are people that much of the church doesn’t know what to do with. There is a group of Christians within the LGBTQ community who call themselves Side B. These people identify as LGBTQ but also believe that God’s design for sex and marriage is between one man and one woman. That’s a really uncomfortable place to land because you get criticized from all other sides.

Laurie Krieg, author, speaker, and podcast host, is attracted to women but is married to her husband Matt. I recently heard a podcast episode with Laurie, Matt, and David Bennett author of A War of Loves. David, a former atheist gay activist, is attracted to men but is choosing to live a single celibate life. They talked about surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus, not just in their sexuality, but in all of life.

I’ve heard people use the phrase make Jesus the Lord of your life in a way that makes me cringe. It usually comes with a list of behaviors that prove you are indeed making Jesus Lord. Often this phrase is also linked to salvation which I can’t accept because I believe salvation is a free gift of grace that we can do nothing to attain on our own.

But as I listened to David and Laurie talk, surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus felt different. Surrender for Laurie and David is costly, uncomfortable, and strange to the modern world. They aren’t doing it to earn anything. And somehow what they have found through that surrender is more than worth it. I find myself convicted and challenged. Jesus is Lord whether we acknowledge that fact in our lives or not.

Surrender sounds like death. It’s giving up control. Letting Jesus be in charge. Laying aside my own pride and way of doing things. It’s scary.

“I’ll heal you if you’ll let Me.”

Surrender may sound like death, but holding onto control feels like death. I hate what worry and fear do to my heart and mind.

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I sat there with my fists clenched at first. There was an utter lack of condemnation or shame in His Presence, just gentle love. Slowly I opened my hands. I wanted healing more than I wanted control. Palms up, I surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus.

It’s not going to be an instant healing. It’s going to be a journey of surrender. I know that the Spirit will continue to show me areas where I’m holding on but I’m already seeing glimpses of freedom.

I think this is real life with Jesus. It’s a process, a daily adventure, continual surrender. God longs for us to live in righteousness and holiness because He loves us and because He knows that this is where we will flourish and find life that is truly life.

It’s about so much more than behaviors and right vs wrong. It’s about our hearts. It’s about healing. And it’s about the Lord Jesus restoring His precious creation.

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The One Thing that Stops Grace

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I’m rereading this theological fantasy series right now. You’ll hear a bit more about it tomorrow in my email newsletter. (Not signed up yet? Click here.) The Archives of Anthropos were written by the late Christian author, psychiatrist, and pastor, John White. I first read them as I was a teenager, and then again to my husband after we were married. But reading them now a decade later, I’m struck fresh by the wisdom and truth that White weaves through his story.

In Book One, there is a boy who is supposed to be the Sword Bearer. He has an impressive sword and a mission to accomplish. But because he stubbornly refuses to drink the wine of free pardon, he cannot get his sword to leave the scabbard. He is powerless on his own and is currently pridefully refusing the power of the Changer. I’m so irritated with this character right now and so convicted at the same time.

I find it ironic that the only thing that stops God’s grace is our stubborn pride.

No sinner is too sinful for God’s grace. We can never be too far away from it. Yet He allows us to resist. He wants to give us the Kingdom! But He doesn’t push anything on us.

Often we think of pride as feeling superior, like we don’t need God or His grace. That we are fine on our own. But reverse pride is just as dangerous, maybe more. Reverse pride is deciding that we are too messed up, too bad, or too far away for God to reach. That somehow we are outside of God’s grace.

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The wine of free pardon is available to anyone in Anthropos. The initial sip is full of bitterness and fire, but those who choose to drink are filled with inexplicable joy and peace. They receive supernatural healing and strength. I get this.

Surrendering to God’s grace, admitting we need it and that we have nothing to offer in return…it’s humbling. And letting go of control can be terrifying. Control brings feelings of safety.

But, you guys…grace is amazing! It’s beyond our wildest imagination. Free pardon. Based on total Jesus and on nothing me. It’s crazy and insane and beautiful. And once you’ve tasted it, you can’t go back. Not just grace for salvation, but grace for life. Grace is not just a word or a concept, it’s a force.

I wish there was something I could do or say to convince you to jump into the abyss that is God’s Grace. To leave your pride and stubbornness and control on the top of the cliff and just jump, screaming, eyes shut, arms flung wide.

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It’s not worth clinging to those broken, plastic toys.

But God will not force you, and I can’t either. He will woo you, draw you, tantalize you, but ultimately He will let you decide. And if you choose to stubbornly resist, He will let you.

Too many of us have experienced grace for salvation and called it good. We don’t know what we are missing.

Receiving the full force of God’ grace doesn’t take any action on our part except for repentance and an open hand. Repentance means that we agree with God. We admit our pride and fear and desire for control. We agree that those things are holding us back, that they are wrong. Then, with head bowed and most likely teary eyes, we just open our hands. And we let God overwhelm us with His grace. This is not about us. It’s about Him.

I pray with all my heart that you will experience the love and grace of Jesus Christ. That you will choose to drink deeply of the wine of free pardon. And that you will never be the same.

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