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 you 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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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

 

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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Click here for David and Laurie’s podcast episode.

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Boy Meets Girl and Other Romantical Nonsense.

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I have a confession to make: I’m totally in love with Netflix’s Anne with an E. Potentially bordering on obsessed. Fortunately for me I don’t have time to binge-watch anything so each episode is stolen in little chunks. Unfortunately I then stumble around life in a daze dreaming of Gilbert Blythe.

I realize they totally butcher the story line, but I’m not purist. Mostly because the characters they’ve created are so REAL that I would watch them do anything.

Anne was a peer of mine growing up so I’m kind of attached to her, not to mention Diana, and Gilbert. Spending my teens in an ultra-conservative, cultic sphere of Christianity like I did, I related more to Anne, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and the girls of Little Women than I did to the other kids in the 90s. I spent years wishing I’d been born in the 1800s where I belonged.

I’ve been recording stories from my middle years for Season Two of my podcast. This last week I talked about the purity culture. The first of those episodes is coming out tonight (#23). It’s ironic that I’m thinking back to the old courtship days while watching Anne and Gilbert dance around their feelings for each other. (Romantic sigh)

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Photo Credit: Anne with an E Facebook Page

I think I miss my rosy view of life.

Becoming a woman while reading healthy doses of old-fashioned romance and not actually having interactions with real men gave me all kinds of romantical ideas. I truly believed in happy endings and the goodness of humanity.

The real world has stripped me of most of this nonsense, but I still wish it were true. And I think this is why, despite everything I’ve gone through, I just can’t be a cynic.

It’s like my heart knows things are broken and corrupted here on this planet, but it also has caught a glimpse of what should be, what could be, and I can’t let go. I still believe in a happy ending, just not necessarily between boy and girl and all that.

I love this quote by C.S. Lewis: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

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“The only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

I feel that. Do you? We were made for more.

We have got to stop trying to stuff our hole with things, and distract ourselves with entertainment (even great Netflix shows), and hide our ache with business. There is no shame in the aching hole we have in our hearts. It doesn’t mean we are broken (although we are), it means we are loved.

We were created by a Being who made us for more. And the best part is that we CAN find Him even here on this corrupted planet. But we will definitely find Him for all of eternity because He came to find us. 🙂 Now that’s a story that my romantical heart loves.

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Old Journals, the Enneagram, and Exciting Changes

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Reading through journals from your early twenties is a scary thing. Especially when those journals were written by an emotional, sheltered, homeschooled-in-a-cult young woman who was totally naive but thought she knew everything. (Insert face palm.) The first few were especially cringe worthy.

In preparation for Season Two of my podcast, I took my journals from the middle years with me on our road trip to Georgia over the New Year. These were the years after I got away from our cultic group and before I married my wonderfully opposite husband. As I got past the cringe and stopped judging myself so hard, I began to enjoy remembering those years. I was kind of a basket-case, but I definitely loved Jesus. And I enjoyed working with difficult children, especially showing God’s love to the most broken. It was fun to watch the Real Jesus strip extra stuff away as He pursued my heart.

In the midst of these journals and spending time with my brother’s family, I also took an enneagram test. I know, I know, I’m a little late to the party.

The results were not what I expected.

It wasn’t my first enneagram test. A few months ago I took one with the college girls I mentor and got a 2. For those of you not familiar with the enneagram personality test, the 2 is a Caregiver. These people love to connect with and serve others. They are empathetic and generous. It sounded like a lovely personality and I was very happy with my results.

Since taking that original test I’d found website on the enneagram that I really enjoyed. My husband, brother, and sister-in-law all took the test from that site and were nailed perfectly with the results. On a whim, I decided to retake my test.

I came out as a 4. A what?

Surely I must have taken the test too quickly and without enough thought. I tried again slowly this time with my husband backing my answers. It was still a 4.

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4s are the Creative. They love to be unique, and meaningful, and artistic. The 4s basic desire is to be significant and they are full of emotions. I read the description in disbelief. What a terrible personality! I couldn’t be a 4 because I really wanted to be a 2. Obviously 2s were better, much more significant. Yeah…

After spending the evening and most of the night in denial, I began to face the facts. Sure, I like taking care of people. I’m a huge nurturer. But that’s not the biggest motivator of my heart.

I spent my entire childhood competing with my younger brother because his success made me feel insignificant. I’ve always flitted from one crazy project to the next but tend to be too temperamental to ever finish, or get accomplished at, anything…piano, singing, guitar, drawing, refinishing furniture, designing jewelry, making things with old wood, the list goes on.

Reading through my old journals, I was definitely a young 4…no doubt about it.

I processed almost all the way home. And then I decided that if I’m a Creative, if God has given me that personality, then I need to be a good steward of it and actually create. This is where the exciting changes come in.

I’ve reworked bits of my website. A few changes to the Home page…like calling it Welcome and changing some of the pictures and wording. Big changes to the Free Resources page…the devotional I put together is now available for download by anyone at anytime. It used to be tied to my email newsletter, but not any more.

And speaking of newsletters, this is the biggest change of all. I’m going to be starting a monthly newsletter called #rethink. It will have exclusive content in three categories: Something I’m Questioning, Something I’ve Read, and Something I’m Learning. My goal is to provide extra encouragement as we sort through cultural and religious Christianity on our journey to find the Real Jesus.

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I finished up the rough draft of the first issue yesterday. If you already get my random newsletters that I send a couple of times a year, then #rethink 101 will be coming to your inbox this Wednesday (January 15th).

I know it’s kind of confusing, but just because you get my blog posts in your inbox doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get my newsletter. If you haven’t signed up for my email list yet, or aren’t sure, you can click here to join. 🙂

And there you go…it’s crazy what can happen when you start an adventure of self-discovery with Jesus. I love how God has created us all so unique with our own gifts and callings. It’s a beautiful thing.

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The Gift of Brokenness

5798BD51-44AE-4CAA-834F-FFD2E9FCE4F6.pngWe stopped by the Creation Museum in Kentucky to take in the awesome light display and live nativity on our way down south to visit my brother’s family after Christmas. My father is a lifetime member which means that he has guest passes readily available. Which is why we have been there multiple times over the last few years while passing through on on our way south. It’s always a unique experience for me. The Creation Museum brings together an eclectic collection of Christians that kind of makes me cringe. I love the people watching but always come away slightly triggered. 

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It’s a fresh reminder that a powerful Christian bubble exists. One that you can enter, live in blissfully, and die without leaving. It’s a seemingly peaceful echo chamber of like-minded people. A place where you all agree and never have to question your beliefs, preferences, or interpretations of the world.

There are many, many people still blissfully living in their Christian bubble. Because when religion is working, you never stop to question it. 

This was the beginning of my ponderings.

Towards the end of our visit in the South, my sister-in-law (who is also a blogger and hopeful author) and I spent a delightful afternoon disusing the bubble over cafe miels at a local coffee shop. She explained that if you are a Southerner then you are generally a Christian, at least culturally. But too often it’s a pray this prayer and get just enough of Jesus to inoculate you from the real thing. Ouch.

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I’ve been exploring my old journals from the middle years in preparation for Season Two of Looking for the Real God. These were the years where I no longer accepted the teachings of my cultic group, but before I married my wonderfully opposite husband. They are a bit painful to read. I was in my early twenties and thought I had the whole world figured out.

As I’ve read, listening to my mind stretch and grow, seeing fresh how God broke me of my idyllic worldview, and watching Him humble my ever prideful heart, I’ve felt embarrassment and gratitude. I identify with the Christian bubble and cultural Christianity because I lived it.

But through pure mercy, God smashed my bubble and got me out. Brokenness ended up being the most precious gift He could have given. Because when the bubble broke, I was able to see that it and the god I was following were both fakes. It’s been a process as I’ve been reminded of in my old journals. The gift of brokenness has been something God has given me multiple time. But each time my bubble world shatters, I discover more of who the Real God is in comparison to my little, religious, god-in-a-box.

And this is why I’m going to say this crazy thing.

If you have been broken by religion and left confused and doubting, consider it a special gift. 

It may seem like a curse, but in reality it is a precious blessing given to you by a Real God who wants to reveal Himself to you. Because…

We will never doubt our false beliefs when they seem right.

We will never look for a Real God when our fake god is enough.

We will not question our religious Christianity when it is working for us.

But when it all comes falling down, smashes into one thousand pieces at our feet, and leaves us broken and confused, then we will seek for something more.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it forever. As humans we are naturally religious. It’s part of our sinful natures. We want a checklist to follow so that we can appease god and get the good results.

But the Real Jesus is not religious. He doesn’t need appeasing because He already appeased Himself. His greatest desire is for us to know Him. We were created with the capacity to have an intimate relationship with our Creator. And that’s a little wild and scary.

There is no formula or checklist. There is no guaranteed outcome. But there is a very real Living Being who has done everything necessary to restore our relationship with Himself. God gave us the Bible as a revelation of Who He is and how He has continually pursued humanity since the beginning of time. Jesus provides His Spirit as a helper and comforter until we see Him face to face. We can know God.

When I look at the state of evangelical Christianity, or the church, or the inoculation of cultural Christianity, I feel overwhelmed with discouragement. But just last week I was talking to Jesus about this, and He reminded me that this is what He does. This is how the broken world works.

People have always run away, and misrepresented God, and chosen religion over Him. And the Real and Living God has always pursued humanity with love, patience, and grace. This is the story of our world.

And in that truth I find hope.

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We Are Not Okay

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As I processed the news of yet another shooting last Friday, this time at the Navel Air Station in Pensacola, a simple thought began to settle in my mind. We. Are. Not. Okay.

As a society, a culture, and a people, we are not okay. I don’t need to make a list for you, because you already know. But here is a short one anyway. Feel free to add to it.

  • Increased violence across the board
  • Increased mental illnesses, specifically depression and anxiety
  • High levels of negative emotions such as anger and fear
  • Mistrust of others and rampant divisiveness
  • Broken families and relationships
  • We could easily continue…

We are isolated behind our screens. Our fear puts us into echo chambers of like thought. We are lonely and disconnected and lost.

But we don’t deal with this reality because we distract ourselves constantly with technology, sound, entertainment, and substances. Not only do we struggle with our close relationships, we don’t even know ourselves.

Because we don’t take the time. Because it scares us. Because we don’t know how.

We are bankrupt in more ways than just financially. We play the debt game well, but it’s going to catch up with us eventually. So advanced as a society, and yet so miserable. Can you see the brokenness? Can you feel it? It’s everywhere.

We cannot save ourselves; we need a superhero.

Religion won’t save us, not even the Christian religion. Applying correct behavior may diffuse some of the negative consequences we face, but we will still be empty. And while religion can control some outcomes, it can never heal our broken hearts.

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Religions have some commonalities, specifically sets of correct behaviors to follow to earn our way to God. Even religious Christianity does this if you look closely. Religions have distant gods who need to be appeased by our behaviors, gods who act a lot like people, especially controlling, powerful ones.

Our broken society does not need more religion. It doesn’t need moral behavior, or church attendance, or pat Christianese answers in cute memes. We definitely don’t need gods who demand to be appeased through power and control. We need Jesus.

Jesus is a different kind of god. He isn’t religious, and He didn’t come demanding appeasement.

Coming as the exact image of the Real God (not the one in our head), Jesus slipped onto earth quietly, choosing to grow for nine months in the womb of a young virgin. What kind of a god does that? Instead of looking for power and control, the Real God came as a helpless baby and announced His birth to a few humble shepherds.

Jesus, who IS God, chose to live quietly for three decades in a small town in a small country. He didn’t look for recognition or fame. He just was. Jesus spent three-and-a-half years publicly speaking truth, loving broken people, and continuing to stay relatively obscure, before allowing Himself to be crucified for the sins of the whole world thus appeasing Himself.

This is not a god that humans would create. He is nothing like us. He makes no sense. In fact, He’s kind of crazy. 🙂

And it’s not that Jesus WAS, Jesus IS. You can talk with people today who claim to have encountered Him in a way that changed their lives forever. I am one of those people.

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We are not okay. We need saving. And the Good News is that our Savior has already come.

I know this isn’t the most popular message right now and it’s definitely not politically correct, but it’s the message that saved my life. Jesus has changed me. He is real in a way that I cannot logically explain. His Spirit does things in my heart that I am powerless to accomplish myself. Nothing else in this world satisfies my soul the way He does and there is nothing I want more than to follow Him for the rest of my life.

The Real God has been seeking and fixing broken messes since Adam and Eve first chose to disobey Him. The mess in our culture and society doesn’t shock Him. This is what He does…He seeks and saves the lost. He heals the sick and broken. He pursues and loves His enemies. And that is AMAZING NEWS!!

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The Awkward Middle Way

Christy Lynne Wood (1)

When my friend Rachel invited me over to her family’s fall harvest party I had no idea I’d be running into people from my past. Or that there would be an awkward stare down over the bonfire.

Although Rachel and I had both grown up under the influence of the same cultic organization, her family had been on the fringe and missed a lot of the craziness I experienced. Still, we had a bunch of mutual friends. Something I unfortunately forgot. I hadn’t seen these people in at least five years and let’s just say a lot had changed. For me that is; they looked exactly the same from their blue jean jumpers and tennis shoes, to the rolled curl of bangs across their foreheads. It was kind of surreal.

Maybe no one would recognize me. Maybe they would just think I was a worldly soul in need of conversion.

Rachel couldn’t let that happen. I was warming myself by the bonfire when I realized that I knew the woman directly across from me. She didn’t notice me until my dear friend announced, “You remember Christy Mills don’t you?”

Her icy glare swept from from the tips of my jeaned legs to the top of my short hair. I’ve never felt so judged and condemned in my life, but I managed a sheepish smile, “Hello, Mrs. So-n-so. How are you?”

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Sometimes I still feel like I am getting glared at – only this time it’s from two sides of the bonfire. Maybe you do too. We don’t fit in with traditional conservative Christians but we don’t fit with the more progressive groups either. Welcome to the awkward middle way.

I imagine David Bennett, author of A War of Loves: The Unexpected Story of a Gay Activist Discovering Jesus feels this way too. Despite his book being absolutely amazing, (seriously, go on Amazon and buy it) David has gotten flack from both sides. The conservatives are upset because he calls himself a gay Christian and identifies as LGBTQ and the progressives are upset because he affirms an Orthodox Christian view of marriage and sexuality and is choosing to be celibate. He can’t win. And yet, there are many people who have joined David in the middle way and are celebrating his journey with him.

Guys, we are great at choosing sides, but what if truth is actually found in tension?

My church talks a lot about tension theology. That’s the idea that we need to hold onto two seemingly opposing truths to have an accurate understanding of reality. We have to embrace the paradox. I’ll never forget the story our pastor told us about trying to put up a trampoline.

Someone gave his family a used trampoline and he decided to surprise the kids by setting it up. Because it was used, it didn’t come with any instructions. However, my pastor managed to get the frame together and started connecting the springs. But the more springs he connected, the harder it got. Although one side was hooked up, the other side wasn’t even close to connecting. “This trampoline is too small,” he thought to himself. No matter how hard he pulled, my pastor couldn’t get the second side of springs to reach.

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Eventually, he took all the springs off and just connected one. Then he walked around to the opposite side, pulled and connected one. After hooking on a spring in each of the four directions, my pastor was able to get all of the springs to stretch and reach. This is the same with tension theology.

Is God holy and just or loving and merciful? He’s both. Predestination or free will? It’s both. Is God three or one? He’s both. See how this goes? It doesn’t always makes sense to our finite minds, but that’s just it. We are the creation not the Creator. It’s okay if we don’t understand it all. In fact, if we can explain everything about God, then our god probably isn’t the Real One. There is much truth that needs to be held in tension.

I heard the phrase Via Media from my good friend, Alexis. Yes, the same friend who talks theology with me over bagels and coffee. Via Media, or the Middle Way was first used religiously by Anglicans to refer to the Church of England as a middle way between the extremes of Roman Catholicism and Puritanism.

I guess people have always been good at extremes.

I love the Via Media because it’s where I seem to fit best these days. I’m just muddling around somewhere in-between the extremes of the right and left: religiously, politically, socially, etc. I refuse to compromise my orthodox view of the Bible and Christianity. But I also refuse to go along with the religious traditions of cultural evangelicalism. I want to passionately love the people God has created, and I want to hold to the actual truth of His Word at the same time. It’s an awkward place, and kind of messy, and I definitely might get stuff wrong, but I’m okay with that. It’s not that I’m compromising, I’m just choosing to hold truths in tension.

I want to dialogue with people who are different than me. I want to learn from people I disagree with. I want to hold my perspective with an open hand. While at the same time continuing to believe in a very big, very real, incredibly amazing God who knows it all. Grace and truth, that is the goal in my pursuit of the awkward middle way. I want to hold tightly to truth in one hand and grace in the other. I want to be like Jesus.

It’s been amazing to find more middle way muddlers lately. Sometimes this journey can be lonely. But together we can be a tribe, a family. Figuring this out together in humility. Giving plenty of grace. Understanding that it’s not really us vs. them and rarely is anything actually black and white. We might get glares from both sides of the bonfire, but that’s okay because Jesus got a lot of glares too.

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You can listen to my corresponding podcast on any of these listening platforms. It’s Episode #15 The Awkward Middle Way.

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The Theology of Me

The Theology of Me (1)

Once a month or so my friend, Alexis, and I meet for breakfast. I don’t have many friends who are up for deep theological conversations at 8am, so Alexis is pretty special. We drink coffee, eat bagels, and ponder God. She’s a decade or so younger than me and her perspective on life is refreshing. Alexis was the one who inspired this blog post and corresponding podcast episode when she mentioned a double-sided theology of God.

We are both taking night classes at our church. I’m taking a Bible Study Methods class (which I’ve been consistently talking about on my Facebook page), and Alexis is taking a Theology class. “In order to have an accurate view of God,” Alexis began, “we must believe in His transcendence and immanence.”

Those are big words and I had to look them up.

Transcendence means that God is above us in every way. He is hidden and we can never know Him fully here on earth. But immanence means that God is also with us. He has revealed a portion of Himself to us and He is able to be known.

One of these beliefs about God without the other creates a god that is out of balance. This theology quickly becomes more about me than anything else.

My brain started to spin. How else we have created a Theology of Me within our versions of Christianity?

Maybe it’s because we can’t see God and don’t have daily physical interactions with Him. Or maybe it’s because we are naturally His enemies. But for whatever reason, we humans are constantly misrepresenting the very Real and Living God of the Universe. And we are pathetically good at extremes

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Jumping to a side comes naturally with a black and white or us vs. them mentality. But I think truth is found in tension, in the Awkward Middle Way (that I’ll be talking more about next time), as we hold onto two seemingly opposing truths.

Here is what I see happening in modern Western Christianity.

There are two extreme versions and neither is accurate. One group focuses on God’s love and goodness (as defined by their own opinions). Their god is nice but he is also kind of wimpy. He cares more about people’s happiness and other positive emotions than he does about what they do or don’t do.

The Bible becomes irrelevant as people pick and choose the parts that seem good to them. Somehow, they seem to believe that they are more advanced than the original authors of Scripture or even God himself. Salvation is vague if even necessary at all.

This kind of theology might seem good because it is kind and loving and hopeful, but people are the real gods here and it’s actually a Theology of Me.

The other side holds tightly to truth (as defined by their opinions). They focus on God’s power and rules. Their god is holy and just, but he’s also kind of a manipulative narcissist. He demands correct behavior and good people who are afraid of him.

The Bible becomes a rule book filled with dos and don’ts. Rather than seeing the Bible as the story of God and people, they see it as a recipe box filled with formulas to get desired results. Salvation is often fear based and focuses on behavior.

This version of unbalanced theology might seem like it’s about God, but if you look closely, it’s actually not. I perform. I follow the rules. I get blessings and success because I am a good person. Under the guise of “righteousness,” it’s still a Theology of Me.

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The Living God is either real or He’s not.

And if He is real, then we must accept that He is unlike us, above us, and incomprehensible to us. However, He has also chosen to be with us, and He allows Himself to be known and experienced by us.

When God is God instead of us, we get to live in this beautiful place of tension and mystery. It’s not all going to make sense because He is so much more than we are. But this amazing Living Being wants an actual relationship with us. We have the capacity to know Him. Our relationship with the Real God is not going to be one where we get to call the shots. But it’s one where our questions and doubts are welcome.

In this place of tension, we find a God who is just and holy, but filled with grace and love. He is all-powerful and yet allows us to choose to reject Him. The Bible becomes His revelation to us. I love this next quote.

“The Bible amounts to baby talk, because God is so much more than He can communicate, but the Bible remains true knowledge because God is not different or other than what we see there” Dr. Mike Wittmer.

Salvation is a needed gift from God to us because we could never get back to Him by ourselves, but the only behavior it is based on is the sacrificial behavior of Jesus Christ.

Making ourselves the gods comes naturally as we create gods in our image. But if the Living God is real, and I believe He is, then it’s not our job to create Him, but instead to find Him.

Whichever side of the Theology of Me you find yourself on, I hope that you will stop to consider the possibility of a tension filled Living God who is both far above us and near enough to be known.

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You can listen to my corresponding podcast on any of these listening platforms. It’s Episode #14 The Theology of Me.

DON’T FORGET TO CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE SEARCH AND RECEIVE RANDOM NEWSLETTERS WITH EXCLUSIVE CONTENT. 😁