Be Anxious for Everything (Or Nothing)

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I lost my planner. Maybe you’ve already heard, as I have shouted it from every window and social media avenue I could find. I called every coffee shop in town, flipped over couch cushions, and cried loud enough that perhaps it would grow legs and run back into my open arms.

It hasn’t worked. At this point, I am sure someone stole it (ok maybe not stole it) or it has disintegrated into thin air because that happens, right? Or it’s under my bed. Actually, I’m not sure if I even checked there. Maybe it’s under my bed.

Ok, sorry, I’m getting off track. I lost it. It’s gone.

Then yesterday a friend sent me an article on joy and how funny it is that God can use someone to speak so loudly into your life that you almost have to cover your ears in fear of noise induced injury. I laughed as I read what the article was on. Losing joy like losing your car keys. I read the line over and over to myself, I’m looking for it in all the wrong places. 

God knows my heart and He knows my struggle. Somewhere along the lines of life, it’s not so much that I lost my joy, but I lost my peace. I regularly struggle with anxiety and have to constantly keep myself in check in my thoughts so that they do not move into an irrational place. It is something that is not worked through over night, but a daily process in how to handle day to day situations. And my meltdown over losing something that can in fact be replaced was a sign that there is still work to be done.

I think I forget to embrace peace. It’s almost as though my default mode is to panic, when in fact we are taught to be anxious for nothing. Apparently I also struggle with the English language, because I could have sworn that Philippians 4:6 said “be anxious for all the things”. It doesn’t. Instead, being anxious for nothing gives us full access to peace that surpasses all human understanding. Including my irrational and anxious thoughts.

As it turns out, I have ironically searched for peace within the walls of anxiety. I have hoped to be put at ease by my own worry, which is so impossible and actually funny when thinking about it. I have allowed worry to control my thoughts, reactions, and how I do life in general. I have searched for peace in all the wrong places.

So what’s the action? The verse technically gives us action. Our action is to pray, to surrender, and to give it over. Which is so much easier said than done, right? Because how easy it to tell someone to pray about it than actually go to God and say “send help, please take over, can.not.deal.”. It is through our prayer that we release anxiety and sign it over to the One who can handle it far better than we ever could. And then we give thanks. Because we already have so much and we serve a God who is willing to take over our worries and anxieties. A God who doesn’t want us to walk around with the weight of our struggles. It is in that exchange that we find the peace that we have lost.

This is a process. It’s just not that easy, though some may act like it is. Of course it’s so easy to just tell you to stop worrying. But it takes daily reminders, grace, and great people who speak into your life and help guide you away from the thoughts that hold you captive instead of living a life freedom. Free from anxiety and worry.

To Be Alone

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We worship a communal God. As Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, our God knows nothing more than community. He has created us with a deep desire to be known and loved and surrounded. Our hearts were created for it. For community that exists within our relationships and the depths in which they go. So then why are we so lonely? And what is loneliness? I was recently thinking about what loneliness looks like for so many of us as I was talking to a friend and mentioned that I had felt lonely. She responded with “but you’re always with people”. We then began the discussion of the different kinds of loneliness and how we experience each one. So, here we go:

Three Types of Loneliness

I’m Alone: The Physical

Loneliness in its simplest form is “to be without companion”. There’s simply no one around. Maybe you pushed them away, maybe they never showed up. Maybe you’ve just moved and you haven’t found your group yet. Maybe you let the busyness of life rob you of your free time. But you desire it. You desire community. The problem is that you aren’t quite sure how to get it. This is often the lonely that is most familiar to us. The one that we think of when we hear the term “lonely”. It’s identifiable because it mirrors it’s definition. To be alone.

I found this loneliness when my first roommate moved out. I sat on the floor of my empty living room. The house was silent. All of the furniture was gone and I remember saying something out loud just to hear my own voice echo through the room. The sound waves were a cry and a desire for physical change. I knew I had to make an effort.

A close friend of mine encounters this loneliness most at home after work. He has an amazing wife and kids, but does not prioritize community. In the moments of him sitting alone, he often recognizes the lack of meaningful relationships in which depth can be found. Accountability, laughter, and encouragement are all lost outside of the family unit. And honestly? That’s hard. That’s something you would hope to find within friends. I know he is not alone in the depths of his loneliness.

I’m Alone: The Emotional

Have you ever been alone in a crowded room? If you haven’t, that line would not make sense to you, would it? It probably sounds like a line in a commercial for depression medication or something. Emotional loneliness is so different though. I was recently speaking to my counselor about physical loneliness when I said something about wanting to just come home and talk to someone about my work day. She brought to light the amount of women who come through her door complaining about their spouse. They’re physically there, but emotionally check out. They too want someone to listen to them talk about their day.

We can be alone and be in a relationship. We can be alone and have all of the friends in the world. We can be alone and advertise the amazing people we are surrounded by on social media. That loneliness is deeper. It goes beyond the physical and reaches into the depths of our aching hearts. It cries out for companionship beyond the physicality.

But how? How have we found ourselves emotionally alone? Maybe we put up walls. Maybe we have bought into that old church lie of “If you’re lonely, fix it with Jesus”. The lie that we should have no struggles once our lives have been surrendered. Or maybe we were abandoned here. By a spouse or a friend or someone who is just not fulfilling our needs. Either way, it’s a process and once it’s gone, does not mean it’s gone forever. There’s a lot that goes into the healing of emotional loneliness. And honestly? I’m not sure there’s an easy fix or that I have ever discovered the solution.

I’m Alone: The Spiritual

In the conversation that sparked this blog, we discussed what it means to really be a part of the Church and why so many are missing the experience. There are many of us who are in the church building every time the doors are open, ready to hear whatever it is someone has to say to us. We can be at church every Sunday morning and never allow the things that we hear to travel the 18 inches from our brain to our heart.

The first part of spiritual loneliness is being completely disconnected from God. Feeling spiritually alone can come from not knowing Jesus, who is the author of community with our Creator. But, it also goes beyond those of us who are just not fulfilled because of what we don’t believe. It means some of us believe. We know we believe with our whole hearts. We just haven’t allowed the things we know and believe to take root, leaving us spiritually unfulfilled.

The spiritual loneliness comes from within and dwells within our hearts and what we long to know about God and why He works the way He does. It sometimes comes from spiritual apathy and a loss in desire to seek out the depths of our faith. I see this so much in ministry with students. Especially in following the weeks of an emotional high or low. Students will experience a highly emotional event (good or bad, retreat and crisis) and cry out to God, promising to chase after Him forever. In the weeks and months that follow, that excitement or passion fades and students find themselves spiritually lonely and lost.

That emptiness is not just an occurrence that I find within my students. I watch it happen within adults as the busyness of life takes over. The absence of alone time can often be the cause of spiritual loneliness. It is a constant effort we must make to be with and make time for God.

Not all loneliness is bad. I am learning that the physicality of loneliness can actually be healing and good for the soul. Jesus set the precedent in being alone to pray, discern, and meditate. We need that time of solitude just as much, if not, more than He did. Sometimes spiritual loneliness is a wake up call to our complacency and a cry for us to follow Jesus like we once did. Emotional loneliness can bring light and awareness to something about us or those around us. To be alone is not bad, but to be alone is often tough. It is a part of so many of our stories and many of us continue to learn it each day. My prayer is that whatever kind of alone you struggle with, is one that you learn to overcome.

When Our Failures Define Us

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I love when you talk about your college experience. So many of you tell stories that make it sound like it was really hard to leave that part of your life behind. I love hearing about the classes you took, friends you made, and groups you were a part of.

I have a hard time talking about my college experience and I think a lot of that lands on my last semester. My last semester of college was not ideal. You know how they encourage you to take the most difficult classes early on? Yeah, I didn’t do that. In fact, I had waited way too long to take my last Accounting class and to say I was terrible at accounting is the understatement of the year. I was working several jobs and trying to finish this last class, along with a few other classes that were directly related to my major and essentially a breeze.

Let me tell you about accounting, though. So I took Accounting I and did terrible. I was advised to retake it so that Accounting II wouldn’t be so difficult. The only problem was that I took it with a Russian lady who never showed up and when she did, could not clearly communicate the material. We called it even and she passed all of us in exchange for a decent review. Yay, I got a B. Which became a problem in Accounting II.

I understood nothing. Each test was increasingly more difficult than the one before and all the tutoring in the world wasn’t helping. Plus, it was one of those classes where everything hangs on 3 tests and a project. Projects are my jam though, you know? Like, I just get them and they get me. So I fail the first two tests. It’s almost comical how bad I actually do. Then I start to grasp the material and I think I’m going to be able to pull out a somewhat passing grade on this last test. I do the project. I actually get a 96 on that. You’re welcome, Accounting II. So glad I could teach you about the checks and balances of Walt Disney Co. Then I get the test back. On a regular day, that grade would have been fine. I could get by on that grade on any other class. But not this day.

Guys, I failed the last class that I needed to graduate in my final semester by TWO points.

Can we take a moment of silence for that?

Now, we can talk about how I didn’t study or learn the material all day long, but NOTHING could console me in that moment of finding out that I would indeed not be graduating on time. Two days before Christmas, I leaned over a puzzle with Muppet Christmas Carol in the background and just wept for what felt like eternity. I threw my double stuff oreo at the wall as I finished the last sentence of the email “unfortunately, you will need to retake this class”.

Nothing could cut me as deep as that failure did. I walked in shame for the next year as I ignored the fact that I had not actually graduated. I haven’t even addressed the failing of that class until, well, until I decided to write about it. I danced around it for almost a whole year. I didn’t want anyone to bring it up and I wanted to just pretend like I wasn’t three credits shy of a diploma. After a tough conversation and a small bribe, I begrudgingly took a four hour a day Saturday class through March and April so we could stop ignoring the fact that I had not in fact graduated. I didn’t even walk because I was so ashamed of what I had not been able to accomplish in my ideal time frame. I couldn’t run from my failure and it haunted me that entire year.

When we fail, shame whispers our name and lures us to follow it into the depths of grief and pain. It tells us that we will never be good enough and that our failures can never be redeemed. Shame is such a liar. It makes us walk with a the heaviest baggage and tells us we aren’t strong enough to walk at all. Shame makes us feel like we are not the whole human beings that Jesus makes us into. Shame is the enemy.

I want to tell you that it’s easy to think about that time and that day because it’s over with. I want to tell you that I am so proud that I finished college and can hold a diploma with my name on it. But some days I try to forget the whole experience because I walked in that shame for so long over what I perceived to be my biggest failure.

Shame can cause division. Division between us and others. Division between us and Jesus. We choose to walk alone because we carry around the judgement that may not even be there. Our failures do not have to be divisive. Jesus took our shame with Him on the Cross so we didn’t have to hold on to it our entire lives.

Accounting II does not define me. My diploma (which is sitting beneath a stack of papers holding my spare room together) does not define me. I am a whole human being with or without that grade. But sometimes we let our failures define us for too long and carry their weight until they nearly suffocate us. We can breathe easy, though, knowing that we walk in freedom from our deepest failures and in our weakest moments.

When God Responds

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“Have you prayed about it?”
“Of course”, I lied. You should never lie about praying about things. Sometimes I do.

It’s not that I don’t think that prayer is effective. Sometimes I forget and sometimes I’m just not sure what to say. And sometimes there’s nothing to say, but to sit in silence. And I forget that that’s praying too.

But this “thing”. This “thing” you’ve asked if I’ve prayed about. Ok, sure. I have prayed about it. I prayed about it last year in a call of desperation. And I occasionally put it on a prayer list if people ask. And I’ve shed a tear or two over it. And people ask for updates every once in a while. And I’ll be honest, I’m always a little embarrassed when I don’t see progress. As if I’m covering up for God (like he even needs it).

“Oh, I’m sure He’s working on it.”
“He’ll get to it, I’m sure of it.”
“I can totally see it happening down the road.”

All the while I start to think: Will I ever move this off my prayer list and into a category of praise?

It’s so tough to pray for something and not see the results we desire. It’s tough to see shimmers of promise, followed by doubt and the wondering if God can even hear you (is this thing on??).

I’m not sure what you’ve prayed about or how God has answered your prayers, but I have seen the lists of praises. I started a small group several years back and at the end, we would write in a prayer journal all of the things that were so heavy on our hearts. The following week, when we would meet again, we would put a * or something to note that the prayer had been answered in some way shape or form. It was great to see things that we weren’t sure would ever get answered, or see things answered in a way we never would have thought of ourselves (we serve a pretty creative God, amen?). I remember feeling so inspired and encouraged by the goodness and mercy shown in the greatness of God.

I have never stopped seeing those things. But there have been prayers that I have said so many times that I’m not even sure God still hears them. Of course He does, but I think: Maybe I didn’t pray hard enough/long enough/loud enough/eloquently enough. And then I hear those words again: You are enough.

I realize that God does not work in my time. He does not jump at the sound of my voice, but rather I jump at the sound of His. And who am I to say He is not working and moving on whatever my heart is longing for? Answers come in different forms, and sometimes they’re not called answers, but rather responses. God is responding at all times.

We may not see it as the response we desire or in the time that we want, but He is not always as silent as we feel He may be. God is on the move even in the midst of our doubt in the effectiveness of prayer.

I recently mentioned a “response” to a prayer that I have repeated since the day I met Jesus. It was small. On the scale of responses, it was on the lower end of like a 3 or a 4. But it was so loud and it desired more praise than I knew how to give. While it wasn’t a 10, that 3 or 4 held more value than any number on any scale ever could. One of my sweet small group girls even mentioned “I know how much you’ve prayed about that”.

My eyes filled with tears. I did pray about that. A lot. And not in a “I prayed about it” in the most shallow comments. But like, poured my heart out over it. And how sweet was the moment to see the beginning of God’s work outside of my own time. Your prayers are not lost amongst the sound waves. God hears them and He is moving. Maybe not at the movement or speed that you prefer, but they are not your prayers to answer. His ways are not our ways, and we need to be ok with whatever His ways may be.

Leading Small & Imperfection

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When I first started at IOH, I had this vision for what I wanted small groups to be. I wanted there to be two groups for every grade and every group to have two leaders. I wanted them to meet in homes and do life together. I wanted them to serve and go to each others games and confess their struggles of school and friends and life. I wanted them to be consistent and to grow in depth. I wanted them to create friendships that would last all through college and into their adult lives. I wanted them to eat meals together and send out encouraging group texts. Every week. But I wanted something else that didn’t line up with these things. I wanted them to be perfect.

I wanted every group to run like a well-oiled machine. I wanted there to be perfect relationships existing within imperfect people.

I think I first realized that this may not happen when it occurred to me that we actually had to recruit leaders. We were two weeks away from the start of a new school year and the leaders I had recruited for my (then) 8th grade girls had exciting life changes and were not able to lead. I had high hopes for this group, and while it was no ones fault, I found that I would have to fill in. I found myself in a position where I would be picking up another small group, putting me at a “four nights a week” work schedule. But even that wouldn’t be enough. I couldn’t lead these girls alone.

After a lot of prayer and anxiety (because anxiety solves everything, right?), one of my already faithful small group leaders casually dropped the name of someone who may be interested. Somehow this lady said yes and now every (other) week, 10 girls flood my house. They wipe their nutella hands all over my furniture and light candles and pour the wax out on my carpet. They are not perfect, but I would not trade them for any kind of perfect if it existed. Some weeks we have three show up and some weeks I think that God stretches the walls of my living room to make space for all of us. Sometimes it feels like we couldn’t be closer to God and other weeks I wonder if we’re even growing at all.

I had to get over the imperfections of small group ministry. Well, of youth ministry in general. If we couldn’t meet one week because our schedules just wouldn’t allow it. Or if another group had a leader call out sick at the last minute. Or if my lesson didn’t spark the discussion that I thought it might. Or when we decided that we needed to switch from every week to every other (that took a long time to get over). Those things had to matter less because it didn’t define my group or any other group that met.

The important thing needs to be that these groups are meeting and students are showing up. And relationships are being built and friendships are formed in the most unlikely places. In all of that, in every group, God is being glorified.

We have a group of boys that started meeting last year. My hope was that this group of boys that already hung out together could meet once every other week with a purpose. We carefully prayed over the leaders that would meet with them and they have consistently gathered together for the past year to talk about their lives and the bible.

While we organize these groups, we don’t always get to hear everything that goes on within them. A story was shared recently that reminded me just how faithful God is in our small group ministry.

These boys decided to meet for dinner recently. Their plan was to discuss putting others first as they met over dinner. But what is great about this group on this specific night is the action they took. Before they went in and ordered their pizza, a leader had an idea for them to help take groceries out to the cars of strangers leaving BI-LO. With no expectation for anything in return. Our boys did something small to live out the Gospel by putting others first. And they did it with their small group.

They did it because they have two adults pouring into their lives every other week. Two adults who want to see these boys grow in their faith and want to challenge them to live differently. While our groups may have their imperfections, we are doing a good work and we will not come down.

I’m so thankful that God is faithful in our ministry. For calling on these adults to lead and for the great growth that is happening.

[Don’t] Make Me Brave

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I was standing on the ledge, preparing to step backwards off of a mountain. My heels hanging just slightly off the edge, attached to some ropes that were tied around the waist of our repelling instructor, who apparently was not even required to wear a shirt to work. We counted off “1….2….3…”

No movement. I froze. Maybe you’ve seen the video. I went into panic mode. I jumped straight from bravery to terror in just one short minute. We laugh about it now, but in that moment, I wanted to be anything but brave. I had taken a chance and now I was stuck standing in a place I never wanted to be. I want to tell you that in that moment, I took a leap of faith and everything was fine. That’s not what happened though. I entered into a 20 minute panic attack that involved a group effort to step away for me to cool off. Guys, it was the most embarrassing moment of my life. I think the ONLY positive thing that came out of that moment was that I get to tell this story.

Here’s what your favorite inspirational quote or song forgets to capture about being brave. It feels impossible. Taking risks can feel the opposite of what dreams are made of. Your stomach knots up and the “what ifs” chant their theme song behind each step you take (or don’t take). But risks involve emotion and action and sometimes you have to throw caution to the wind.

I have to tell you though, I’m not that person. I’m more of a fear girl than a brave one. Fear is “great” because you’re always prepared for the expected, even when the expected doesn’t happen. Fear is “great” because it’s paralyzing instead of freeing. Fear is “great” because it holds your hand and says “you can’t”, especially when you can. Fear was my best friend that day on the ledge and each time I looked down, fear would whisper “What good will that rope do?” and “You’ll probably hit the ground and break all of your bones”.

I didn’t though. I took a step (which actually ended kind of comically because my foot got caught and I flipped upside down), but I survived. And after that [failed] first step, I continued on and landed with both feet on the ground.

I’m entering into my 6th month of playing “You Make Me Brave” on repeat. Have you heard it? Go look it up. I recently read an article on how we sing one thing on Sunday and live another way on Monday and unfortunately that just hasn’t been the case with this song.

I wish. I wish I could tell you that I’ve sang the words “You Make Me Brave” and it has not affected my heart in any way shape or form. I wish I could tell you that I have not been challenged to take risks that I didn’t think were possible for me to take. But instead, this theme has begun to consume my life. I’m starting to have to face my fears and anxieties on some things that have chained me for so long now. I feel like I’ve spent so much time and effort running from God when I know I have to face my fears, and He is slowly teaching me that I don’t have to live this way anymore.

It’s easier said than done, though. Because sometimes risks hurt. Sometimes the first step is the hardest because it doesn’t go the way you planned and it can flip you upside down. Sometimes the risks you take don’t make you feel like your heart is dancing. But the risks you take by stepping out will help shape and form you, especially in your faith.

I’m not brave today. But I’m trying to be. God is teaching me to be anxious for nothing and that He is for me, not against me. And each risk I take is an effort to be released by the fear that consumes me. I know I am not being challenged to be brave because it will make me happier, but because it will make me stronger. So, here’s to stepping back off the platform in honor of being brave.

5 Reasons I’m Not Pouting [Anymore] About Not Being Married

1441354_10201012908673555_1984515154_nIt’s no secret that I’ve been in a wedding or two in the last few years. I wish I had a date for every time someone said “Have you seen that movie 27 Dresses? That is so you!” Not for the dating experience, but because I would never have to pay for a meal again. 
 
I haven’t been in 27 weddings. And the weddings I have been in have been delightful. I mean, the last one was in a castle. You could say my friends are pretty cool and have great taste. 
 
I’ll be honest though, when these weddings first started happening I was a little bummed. Not that I got to be a part of some of my favorite people’s big day though. That part was awesome and I got to treat my sweet friends like celebrities (because they totally were). I was just disappointed that I wasn’t there yet. 
 
The disappointment came in waves and the reality is, my friends met great guys. And those guys are smart and realized they should spend the rest of their lives with my friends. So naturally, my excitement should and has exceeded any and all emotions. But jealousy pops in every once in a while.
 
This last year brought on something new though. I started getting over the things that were outside of my control and started claiming the greatness that my life could be, even if it’s just me. So, it’s a process, but here’s why I’m not pouting about it today:

  1. I’m busy.
    Not in a “I’m too busy for a relationship” kind of way, but in a way that means I’m not sitting around waiting. I’m called to do youth ministry and that takes up time. Work doesn’t look like 9-5, Monday-Thursday. It looks a lot like volleyball games for kids that are not my own, weekends out of town, and girls taking over my living room at least once a week. When I meet someone, that stuff will stay. Busyness is a part of everyone’s life, mine just looks a little different. There are times when I notice I’m not married, but there are more days when I don’t walk into my house until 9 pm. Being busy may be a distraction, but it’s not a bad one.

  2. I’m confident in where God has me.
    It’s taken me a long time to get there. It’s taken prayer and people having hard talks with me where I cried a lot and demanded a different outcome. I had for sure thought that God had forgotten me on some days. “Surely he didn’t mean to marry off every single one of my friends except me…” But that’s not really a fair way to look at things. I still need a reminder on this one, but it’s important for me to claim confidence that I am not forgotten and there is still goodness to be seen in my life.

  3. I’m not alone.
    I’ve said goodbye to a lot of cool people in the last few years. Not forever, they just moved. Because they got different jobs, or their spouses got different jobs. Or life just took them in a new direction. Those days have been sad and I’ve really missed the people who have come and gone. But the great thing is, I haven’t really been completely alone. I still have incredible people that invite me to be a part of their lives. They invite to grab lunch after church or to run errands or just pop over because they were on my side of town. I’m really blessed in that sense. Though I’m not married, my married friends still include me in on their adventures.

  4. I know how to be alone.
    It’s taken a really long time for this one to sink in. Not that I haven’t been alone before, or a majority of my life. But understanding how to truly be alone takes time. In the past year I have learned how to go to the movies, kill spiders, and decorate my Christmas tree all by myself (cue Céline Dion…no wait, don’t. That song is way so sad). Those things take time to grow into if you are constantly pouting over not being able to do them with your future spouse. I love that one day I will be able to say that I learned how to do those things and I can’t wait to learn what else I can do on my own in the next year (except hang shelves or curtains…I don’t care if I’m 70 when I get married, I will not know how to do those things).

  5. I know marriage will be great some day.
    The cool thing about having friends getting married right now is that I get to see different marriages. I get to see different struggles and watch as they navigate this new stage of their lives. I get to see all of those things now, and feel pretty good about having that in the future. Sometimes I really want cheesecake, but I know I have to work out for like, a week before I feel like I should have it. Not because I don’t deserve the goodness of cheesecake, but because wanting it right now doesn’t mean I should have it right now. I don’t think marriage is like cheesecake, I think I’m just hungry.

Pouting isn’t fun for anyone. I have gone through some down days and I’m sure there will be more days where I’m not throwing a party because I’m still single. And there will be days where I’m a little jealous. Like when my married friends cook dinner and I’m at home melting cheese between two pieces of carbs because singleness (and because cheese and carbs are delicious whether you’re married or not). But all in all, I think these things have stood as a reminder that being single in your late 20s isn’t bad. And being married in your late 20s isn’t bad either. Your life may not look like your friend’s lives and that’s just not really worth pouting over.

To Those On the Fence

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This past Saturday I decided to venture downtown to watch the Georgia vs. Clemson game. You can imagine my surprise when I realized that college football can draw a crowd nearly as heavy as St. Patrick’s Day. We finally made our way into a packed bar before the end of the first quarter.

Then the guys next to us strike up a conversation. Please, no…just let us watch the game in peace.

After trying to politely carry on a conversation while I pick over my pizza and wings, one of the guys finally asked my favorite question. The one that can end someone’s interest in a heartbeat if I answer it the right way.

“So, what do you do?” Now’s my chance…we have two more hours of this if I don’t answer this right.
“I work at a church.” Silence. Finally.

And then the unexpected happened. This guy had questions. Struggles. And a desire to know more about an establishment that had certainly let him down and offended him. And over the yelling and cheering in this crowded bar, Jeff and our table began what is now one of my favorite Spiritual discussions to ever take place while watching college football (my hope is that it won’t be the last).

All of that being said, I have sat with a heavy burden on my heart since then. My mind racing with the ways that we, as the Church, have failed our friends. People that were close to encountering Jesus, who wanted to know more about the Gospel, only to be let down by a Christian in their lives. So, I guess I wanted to write an apology. It’s going to leave out a lot, may overstep boundaries, and has the potential to bore you. But if you’re on the fence, I want you to read it anyway.

To My Friends Who Are On the Fence About Jesus:

I hope this finds you well. I know you don’t want to hear it. “Here goes another Christian with an agenda”, you’re grumbling. But wait, hear me out.

I’m sorry.
We’ve done some really crappy things. And not just in the sense of history. Just in day to day life. Because we’re not perfect. And we’ve poorly represented Jesus. I’ve seen it and I’ve taken part.

For when we’ve expressed anger and bitterness before love.
For when we’ve been late, or even worse, not shown up.
For that time you came to church and no one greeted you or made you feel like you shouldn’t be there.
For when we’ve made you feel like you don’t belong.
For when we’ve been unapproachable.
For when we’ve made you feel like you had to walk through something hard alone.
For when with the same tone we’ve led worship or prayed words of healing, we tore someone else down and ripped them apart.
For when we’ve been the last to forgive.
For when we’ve cut in line to take for ourselves, leaving others in the dust.
For when we’ve spoken “Christianese” without truly being genuine about the words we’re speaking.
For our sometimes questionable appearance in the media.
For when we’ve proudly rocked our Jesus bumper stickers as we cut you off in traffic.
For when we’ve claimed to care, and yet stood by doing nothing.
For when we’ve presumed to know your side of the story without actually listening.
For when we’ve intentionally danced around your questions because we’re too uncomfortable to address them.
For when we’ve led you to believe “being good” gets you into Heaven.
For when we’ve said “I’ll pray for you” and forgot.
For when we’ve said “I’ll pray for you” and used it as a chance to air your dirty laundry.
For when we’ve skewed Truth to match our perception of who we want Jesus to be.
For when we’ve done something to cause you to use the word “hypocrite” or worse.
For when we should have been a calming and comforting presence, and instead we just brought chaos.
For these and the many times you’ve had to say “Wow, so that’s what a Christian is like?” with disgust dripping from your tongue. 

We can be bad messengers. The Gospel is better than this. Don’t let the actions of that “one Christian you know” drag the perfect image of Jesus through the mud. I’m sorry, Jeff. And I’m sorry to those that we’ve pushed away with our actions. We should be living and breathing the Gospel and sometimes we just fail. Please show us the Grace that we have failed to show you.

I wish I could tell you I won’t be guilty of the things on this list of apologies, but the reality is, I’m a work in progress. My new friend won’t ever get to read this, and that kind of makes me sad. But I can try to continue to shape other’s vision of what a follower of Jesus should look like.

When In Doubt…

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8th grade was a tough year for me. Who am I kidding, isn’t all of middle school tough? I was attending a small Catholic school, in which by the grace of God I was not kicked out of (for mass producing the answers to a take home test in exchange for goods…no joke, I’ll elaborate another time). School let out in May and I ran out of those doors, never to return. While I loved my friends (and even some teachers) there, I wasn’t on board with what they were teaching. I didn’t have much of a spiritual upbringing, aside from a Precious Moments bible that had some cool pictures and a collection of prayer cards my great aunt had given me. I didn’t want to be cornered into believing anything, and I’d argue anyone who tried to convince me otherwise, including my teachers. Not to mention, they had already suspended me from a church service or two from my behavior. They did, however, allow me to go through Confirmation. On the morning of my Confirmation, I begged my mom to let me stay home. She bribed me with a necklace and a nice meal afterwards. We went with the understanding that I wouldn’t have to go to church again after that day. 

Shortly after school let out, I packed my bags and headed to my favorite place in the world, Buffalo, NY. I had lived there until I was 7, and was not at all bitter over the fact that my parents had dragged me down south (ok, maybe a little bitter). I spent a few weeks there every summer there visiting with friends and family and eating as much food as my body could handle, while enjoying the cool weather.  Continue reading “When In Doubt…”

Ministry Through Rejection

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I love my job. No really, I usually say that with no hint of sarcasm at least once a week.

I love the good parts.

When students call and tell you about their wins in life. When you notice that a student wrote the notes from a message you gave a year ago on her mirror. When a student comes straight to your office or texts you after his first day of school because someone asked him about camp. Those days are the best.

I love the bad parts too, though. The days where I have no idea how I got here, or why God picked me to work with what seems like the most difficult age you could go through. Days where I have to be reminded that it’s a calling, not a curse. Because those are the days I feel God leaning in the most. Those are the days that I have faith that He is bigger than the struggles that we face every season in ministry.

The deaths. The tears. The hormones and ever changing attitudes from “I think you’re the coolest” to “ew, get away from me”. Somewhere, sometimes, I see God in that.

There is a part I struggle with, though. It’s the part that can keep me up at night if I’m not careful.

It’s the chances that we don’t get to do ministry.

Sometimes we don’t want to have someone walk alongside us. Sometimes ministry can seem annoying and unwanted. Sometimes we would just rather do it alone.

When I was 19, I left the church for 10 months. I can tell you the exact day I walked out and the day I was ready to return. I was unreachable in that time in between. Phone calls would go straight to voicemail and texts would go unanswered. Sure, I was still a Christian. I thought Jesus was great, but the people were so unappealing. Everything they stood for, I just couldn’t figure out if I stood there with them.

I wanted no part of the Church. I wanted to run as far away as I could. So I did. I put my bible on a table where it sat for so long that the back part of it became one with the surface. I am now reminded of that season every time I turn my bible over and notice the leather that’s missing.

I was not the first person to reject ministry. My friends that loved me and reached out never gave up. They gave me space, and they were there the day I came back, with open arms.

I constantly need a reminder to stand there and wait. To know when to be silent and when to step in. To wait patiently for the day that the person who doesn’t want you there today, may need you tomorrow.

Rejection hurts. There’s always part of me that wonders what I could have done better, if anything at all. But then there’s always a part of me that remembers that season seven years ago, where I just wanted to walk alone for a while.

It’s a dark and lonely place. I would never advise you to go there and camp out for longer than a day. And if you’re not careful, it can be dangerous. But more often times than not, there’s someone waiting on the other side for you to come back.