I used to think…

I used to think I had it all figured out. I knew exactly what it meant to have faith and believe. Everything was in a pretty, wrapped up box and made total sense. We were meant to be happy all the time and go on with our lives accepting the sadness, but quickly flipping the coin over to joy.

I used to think I needed to keep Jesus in a box too. I knew this whole Christianity thing was supposed to be about following Jesus and being a disciple of him…that it means so much more than a label or a checklist or rules of right or wrong, but I spent so much time trying to be good, trying to make sure I was doing it right, and saying and believing the right things. I was missing out on the person of Jesus and who He was and how He is.

I used to bristle at being called a Christian…too much hurt, too much misuse, too much baggage is associated with that word. It was something I was not proud to be labeled as and the day I realized that a little part of me unraveled. What was wrong with me that I recoiled at this label? And even while I took a step back from the beliefs and traditions I’ve always known and confronted these doubts and questions, I never could shake Jesus. I never could shake that name, that person, that relationship and the more and more I stepped back from my pretty, wrapped up boxes and black and white definitions, I felt like I took a step closer and closer to Jesus.

I started to really think about who he was, what he stood for and if I’m going to say I follow him, what does that mean? I used to think it meant I had all the answers, I was on the “good” path, I should be able to fix everything and make sure it all works out for good. I should be happy all the time, but that’s not how this works, at least it hasn’t for me. My pretty wrapped up boxes have been destroyed, my world has faded from black and white to all kinds of shades of gray and I embrace the wonder, the messiness and the times it just doesn’t make sense because I don’t have it all figured out.

When you’re sitting in a funeral for a student who had been shot and killed, there is no way to fix that. When you watch his mother and brother and family cry out when that casket lid shuts, there is no pretty, wrapped up box for that to fit in. When the pain and the grief was choking me and all I wanted to do was make it better for them, all I could say was Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. That name over and over again. Because what else can you do? This doesn’t make sense, how does my faith explain this? I don’t know, but Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…

When I’ve been in my darkest place, feeling like the despair, the confusion and the loneliness may just overtake me, there was no pretty, wrapped up box for that to fit in. When I felt like the world swirled around me like a tornado and all I could do was hang on for dear life, I didn’t know how this fit in my black and white categories or my understanding of my faith. It didn’t make sense to me, but Jesus did and I said that name, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

Sarah Bessey says, “In your heart of hearts, in your raw place of grief and suffering, in your rich center of love and redemption, who do you say God is?” God is with us. That’s who God is to me. God is with us and he is love, he is comfort, he is peace and he hates what is evil. It is not his will for a teenager to be killed or for us to suffocate in the darkness, but Jesus is on the side of those who suffer and rather than looking down on our pain, sits with us in the brokenness, in the grief and in the sadness.

I used to think we were doing it wrong if we were sad and didn’t have a quick answer or reassurance for when that terrible thing happens, but now I know that we are going to be sad, we have to feel those feelings and there are no quick answers. We have lost the practice of lament and how true healing comes from walking through the grief.

I used to think I was damned for not loving being called a Christian, but now I think I am not alone in that and now I know that a label is not who I am. I never could shake Jesus and that’s who I want to be known by. I want to be known for all Jesus stands for…for love, justice, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, mercy, goodness, life, comfort and peace.

I used to think Jesus was present in my life and was the person I pointed to when asked who I believed in, but now I think He is so much more than that. He is there with me always, holding my hand to keep me grounded when the world is in chaos around me, sitting with me in the grief, walking with me in the wilderness and celebrating my joys. Always reminding me that He is there, he is love, he is comfort, he is constant, thank you Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

{This is part of the Out of Sorts Synchroblog with Sarah Bessey answering I used to think_____ but now I think _____ …head on over here to read more!}

Out of Sorts.

Have you ever felt like you had it all figured out and then you didn’t? Maybe that you knew exactly what you believed about that one thing and then you realized, wait, maybe I don’t know what I think? Or that at one time the world was really black and white and everything you believed made sense…and then it didn’t? Have you had doubts, felt more like you’re wandering in the wilderness every Sunday morning rather than sitting in that comfortable church pew?

My answers to all these questions? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. My faith has always been a part of who I am, but it has changed and evolved over the years. Sometimes it has made sense to me, other times it hasn’t. Sometimes I welcomed the changes and sorting out with open arms and sometimes I clenched my fists and fought against the feeling that I need to let go of these ideas that I always thought were right. Sometimes I felt really alone, other times I felt like just when I thought it was just me out here wandering, I would see Jesus and a friend would come alongside me too. In her new book, Out of Sorts, Sarah Bessey is that friend.

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Sarah Bessey is one of my most favorite authors and her new book did not disappoint. I think every other line is underlined and I’ve lost count of the number of times “yes!”, “amen”, and “me too” fill the margins. It’s packed full of so much truth. It’s her story of how her faith has evolved and how she has made peace with that, but through her story you are confronted with so much truth. Truth that makes you dig deep, that makes you reflect on your own story. Her words remind us that we’re not alone and that God is oh so present in the sorting out. I see my story in her story.

It’s hard for me to articulate all the goodness found within Sarah’s writing so I think I’ll have to do a series of posts about it, but whether she’s writing about the Kingdom of God, community and friendship or the Church, her words drip with truth, life and light. It’s clear her writing is Spirit led and this writing is necessary and important to us all. It made me feel less alone and has helped me make peace with my evolving faith and I think it will for you too.  Sarah explains what the book is about, “Really, it’s a book about not being afraid. This is my way of leaving the light on for the ones who are wandering.”

Sarah also says, “There are many of us out here sorting, I think. This might be a small candle, but I’ll set mine on the lamp stand and you can set yours there too — and maybe our glow will light the path of others.” So join us on this lighted path so you can join your candles with ours and we can remember that we’re not on this journey alone.

{I was lucky enough to be on the launch team for Out of Sorts, which means I received an advance copy of the book in order to review it and spread the word about it. I didn’t receive any compensation for this, just the benefit of reading it so I can tell everyone how great it is and that you should buy it! You can find it on Amazon here.}

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I was so excited to get the book! Seriously…go get your copy!!!

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And just in case you need any more reason to love the book, there are the cutest printables with some of the themes from the book that you can find here.

Lessons from a 1 year old.

A couple weeks ago I got to spend a few days with my nephew in Seattle. He’s the best. I hate living so far away from him and not being able to see him grow every day, but I cherish the time I do get with him. He’s so fun and it is fun to see the world through his eyes and all of the ways he continues to grow. I was there the week or so after he really started walking, so that was a fun time too to see him learn this new skill and take the world by storm in a new way.

Today is his first birthday (!!) so I figured it was appropriate to dedicate this post to him and what he has taught me. When I was spending time with him, I realized there’s a lot we can learn from a 1 year old. Since I love to make lists, I decided to make a list of life lessons from a 1 year old.

  1. Sometimes we just need to fall and trying to help can hurt more. Since he was just learning to walk, he fell…a lot. As someone who loves him and never wants to see him hurt, of course my reaction was to reach out and catch him or try to soften his fall, but I realized after awhile that, often times, that made him fall harder. (Sorry Jake and Em). Usually when he lost his balance and caught himself he was fine…he popped right up, ready to keep on walking like it was no big thing. I realized how often we can try to help someone or try to break their fall or fix it when they really don’t need our help. Sometimes helping can hurt and sometimes people need to fall on their own.
  2. Joy can be found in the simple things. My nephew and sis-in-law were in Michigan recently at her grandparent’s house and he loved this spoon he found so he got to take it back to Seattle with him. He loves a spoon…he also spent a lot of time entertained by my little shampoo bottle. These are not big, flashy, or expensive things, but simple, every day items. I think too often we get sidetracked by thinking that life is meant to be big and flashy, when joy and beauty is often found in the simple and every day.
  3. When in doubt…turn to wonder. Babies have so much to learn. Have you ever thought about all the things that we learn throughout life? That at one point you had to learn how to walk, learn to talk, to eat by yourself and learn how the things around you work. Sometimes I would see him look at something or hear something that he wasn’t sure about and then he would toddle over to check it out. Babies don’t have all the answers because they don’t know much yet, so they’re constantly turning to wonder and to curiosity. At some point in life, we lose this, we think we have all the answers or shouldn’t have any doubts, but that’s not reality…what would it look like if we turned to wonder more often? If we let ourselves do the work to figure things out and if we can’t figure them out, just turn to wonder and rest in the fact that we don’t have to know it all.
  4. Sometimes all the people in your life want is for you to show them love. He is a very active 1 year old…he isn’t about the cuddling life. Em would sit him on the edge of the couch every morning to wake me up and I just wanted to cuddle him, but he pushed away and wanted to be off exploring. I mean…I get it, there’s a lot to see out there! He doesn’t know any better, but it made me think about how much we want the people in our life to show us love, so are we returning the favor? Go hug someone. Go tell someone you love and appreciate them. It matters.
  5. Trust in who you follow. My nephew adores his mom and dad. He doesn’t hesitate to take their hand and walk around with them. When we put him down the slide, whoever was at the bottom would catch him and he hasn’t learned yet that maybe that person down there won’t catch me. He trusts in his parents and the people who dearly love him. I follow Jesus, but I don’t think I always trust him…not like a child trusts his mom or his dad. It’s a lesson I have to continually be reminded of.

So Happy Birthday buddy…you’re only 1 and you’re already teaching the world so much! I think we all need to strive to be more like little children and the world may become a more beautiful place.

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     Seriously…is he not the cutest? Such a cool kid. 🙂

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A dirty mirror.

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This mirror is one of my favorite things in my house. I found it one day in the barn at my parent’s house and asked if I could have it. They said sure and that it had been in the barn since my grandpa built the house back in the 70’s and came from their other home before that. It definitely wasn’t the most loved item, with dirt engrained in the wood and smeared across the glass so you couldn’t really see your reflection and paint chipped away. I was going to paint it a different color, but once I cleaned it up, I realized I liked how it looked…paint chips and all. It made a difference once you could see your clear reflection in it.

For some reason, I’ve always loved mirrors. It’s a weird thing and I don’t know why, but it’s a thing for me. So a mirror that actually came from my family and means something and looks cute in my house…jackpot!

Anyway…for some reason this image of a dirty and smudged mirror has been in my head lately. So often we think of ourselves like we’re looking at ourselves in a dirty mirror, we can’t see ourselves clearly and we can’t see a true reflection. We don’t see ourselves the way God intended. I think truly knowing where our identity rests, loving and accepting ourselves, engaging in healthy relationships, becoming self-aware, and dealing with our issues helps that mirror become more and more clear, so we can truly see who God created us to be.

This is a lesson I’ve been learning a lot about the last couple years. One reason I love life is because it’s a journey and I feel like there’s always something more to learn about others, about the world and about yourself! We need to love ourselves so that we can love others well and we need to continue to uncover who God created us to be and live into that identity. I think at some point in life we start building up walls, we start hesitating here, or ignoring those feelings there because we’re scared to be who we truly are. We get caught up in what people think of us, we get caught up in being perfect and we get caught up in being who we think the world wants us to be…at some point we look in a mirror and it’s so smudged and dirty, we can’t see ourselves and who we truly are.

For me, this journey of uncovering who God created me to be, of loving myself, of holding myself to a standard of grace and not perfection, and finding my identity in the fact that I am dearly loved has not been easy, but it’s worth it. I’ve realized too that sometimes we need others to help us “clean off our mirror.” A lot of the time we don’t actually see ourselves the way others see us or believe in ourselves the way others believe in us so sometimes we have to borrow that belief and accept that help from others.

For a long time I stared into my mirror and it’s like all I saw was dirt and imperfection and smudges, but then a friend would come along and remind me where my identity should come from…and she took a rag and wiped some dirt away. Then another person came along and encouraged me and affirmed who I am and that’s who God created me to be and took a rag and wiped a few more smudges away. Then another person gave me an opportunity to show that I was capable, even if I didn’t believe it myself, and they took a rag and wiped away some dust.

My people coming around me helped me see myself more clearly. They helped me pick up my own rag and wipe away all the dirt and smudges so I could see myself clearly, so I could truly see who God created me to be.

It may just be me, but this has been a process over and over again for me. Sometimes I forget and the mirror gets a little cloudy, but God seems to always send someone with that rag in hand to speak some truth until I remember it myself.

I hope we can all be mirror cleaners for others…may we only speak truth so that others see themselves clearly.

I want you to know that even if you don’t see yourself clearly right now, you matter, you have value and you need to start seeing yourself with love and grace. Sometimes we can’t do it by ourselves and we have to borrow that truth from others, so here I am, telling you this truth, you are dearly loved, you were created on purpose and you are meant to be who you truly are…let me get my rag so I can come clean your mirror.

The Beauty of Community.

I was fortunate enough to spend last weekend in Michigan with some of my favorite people. The beginning of the trip was with family and the end of the trip with friends. It was refreshing and exhausting all at the same time, but overall, it was just what I needed.

No matter where I live or where I go, Michigan will always be home. Staring out the big window in my parent’s living room and looking out to the backyard, sitting on the beach, playing in the waves at Lake Michigan and soaking in the sunsets are where I find peace.

That weekend I didn’t even spend much time at my actual house, but I was with people in lots of different places. It made me realize home isn’t always a place, but it can be who you’re with too.

My friends and I rented a house for the weekend. We’ve been planning this trip for almost a year and we managed to find a time where all eleven people could come from five different states to one of our favorite places, Lake Michigan. When everyone arrived, my heart felt like it would burst because it was so full.

Some of these friends I have known since I was a baby, some of them elementary school, some high school and some have “married into” the group, but regardless of the length of time each person has been in my life, they each mean so much to me and have a piece of my heart.

The weekend was a healing balm and jumpstart to my heart, all at the same time. One group got dinner ready, while others played cornhole and others talked on the porch. We played game after game after game. We sprinted across the sand to meet the sunset. We talked life plans and caught up in ways that can only happen in person. We settled into each other’s presence and picked up where we left off. We jabbed and joked with each other and went back and forth, where others may look in and wonder if we’re more like siblings than friends. But that’s the beauty in community, just because we don’t share blood, doesn’t mean we can’t be our own kind of family.

With each burst of laughter, each heart shared, each question asked, every joke made and every smile exchanged, I just saw beauty. Beauty in friendship, beauty in bonds that last through change, through moves, through life transitions, beauty in new friends and marriages and babies and life milestones celebrated, beauty in community and beauty in the ability to sit down, pick up where you left off and really be together. States, time and life might separate us, but that doesn’t mean the beauty is gone. It just means we have to hang on to it when we can and know it’ll be there the next time we’re together.

We are meant for community. This weekend was a testament of that truth for me. We are meant to open ourselves up to each other and do life together. We are meant to encourage, comfort and listen to each other. We are meant to enjoy, laugh and have fun together. We are meant to be a part of each other’s story.

I am so thankful for the community I have and that through the people who exist within my different communities and “families” that I am able to see and experience so much love and so much beauty.

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All the lovelies with our cute little banner…geez, these people are the greatest!

Other.

There’s been a lot happening lately…from the beautiful lives lost in Charleston (Also, did you know six black churches have been set on fire since this happened? It hasn’t been all over the news, but it’s real and it’s happening. Check out #whoisburningblackchurches on Twitter), to same sex marriage being legalized, to the affordable care act being upheld, lots of conversations happening, bringing “issues” to the forefront and everyone having an opinion about something.

Also, unfortunately, there seems to be lots of hate going around. I don’t really get it and I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Something that I’ve realized in all this rhetoric about different things is how we view each other as “other” or think about people in terms of “us” and “them.”

We don’t agree with homosexuality and we think marriage should be between a man and a woman so those that disagree or practice homosexuality are “other.”

We think the Confederate flag is just part of our heritage and doesn’t stand for racism or slavery and anyone who thinks differently is too “sensitive” or “other.”

We think “poor people” should just work harder and not take advantage of welfare and “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and those that don’t…”other.” Aren’t we glad we’re not like “them”?

We think those “immigrants” should just go back where they came from, they’re too “other,” they’re not like “us.”

How often do we step outside of our own perspective and worldview and try to consider another? How do we stop seeing fellow human beings as “other”?

I know I’m guilty of this too. I can see people that are different than I am and they are “other.” They’re not like me, they don’t believe what I believe, they are wrong…therefore, they are “other.” It’s me against them…whoever them is. It’s like it gets engrained in our minds…there’s us and there’s them.

It once was easy for me to say, oh, homosexuality is wrong and the law shouldn’t include same sex couples…until I started having friends who came out and actually entered into friendships with people who are gay and took the time to listen to them and hear their story. It was easy for me to say, oh, racial profiling probably doesn’t happen on the scale that people try to say or racism still isn’t a huge thing, people just exaggerate, until I started having friends and neighbors tell me their experiences, until I started listening and really opened my eyes to see. It was easy for me to say, I really do care about equality and justice, but it’s just too much so I’m going to distance myself from it all…until, I really started seeing the inequality and injustice. It was easy for me to say, why wouldn’t people just enter our country legally…until, I started hearing the stories of those that are undocumented and hear about the fear and injustices they live with each day and how screwed up our immigration system is.

These “issues” aren’t issues to me, they are people, they are living, breathing, beautiful people with the image of God stamped on them just like it’s stamped on me.

Things can be easier when we see people as “other” or when we just think in terms of “issues.” We get to have our opinions, we get to see things in black and white, we get to distance ourselves and thank God that we”re “not like them,” but is that love? Is that carrying each other’s burdens? Is that truly working to see God’s Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven? Is that truly experiencing the richness and fullness that can come from deep relationships and community? Is that really choosing to love our neighbor as ourself? Is that what Jesus was about? (I’m pretty sure Jesus spent a lot of his time with people who were considered “other”)

We need to be surrounded by people who are different than us. What tore down the walls and broke the lens of seeing “other”, for me, was relationship and community. It was love really. It was stepping outside of my perspective and my own box. Building relationships and stepping inside someone else’s story breaks down the barriers of “us” and “them”…it creates space for just us.

I wrote a prayer on my bathroom mirror that I read every day because I’m tired of how easy it can be to see the people around me as “other” and I know I have to work to uproot the bias and the indifference in my own heart. I pray that I would be reminded daily that everyone is made in God’s image, that everyone deserves to be loved and that if I can even have a small part of affirming that in someone, I will.

It doesn’t have to be us and them…we can be part of creating a better story. A more inclusive story. A story where there is no us and them, there’s just us. A story where no one is marginalized or made to feel “other” because they are affirmed in who they are and affirmed in the fact that they are created in God’s image and are wholly and fully loved.

How does my prayer end? With love…just to love well.

Charleston.

Last week, a horrific, evil act happened in Charleston…motivated by racism and hate. I’ve had this post sitting in my drafts section since I heard about it. I would type and erase, type and erase, sit and stare, and cry and cry and cry, so angry, so sad. I’ve been reading and listening a lot…partly in fear that anything I would say may not be the right thing, partly because who am I to even comment and partly because I wanted to hear from others, but ultimately coming to the conclusion that I cannot be silent.

Feeling so angry about it all and while yes, it’s hard to wrap your head around such evil, I can wrap my head around the attitudes and culture of whiteness and white supremacy that moved him there…because it’s everywhere. I refuse to sweep it under the rug as just a hate crime that is isolated to this “white guy who was a loner” or explain it away as “it’s just sin”. It’s more than that. There is nothing new about this killer’s worldview. As Joshua DuBois says, “Yes, the killer was deranged, but he simply had a more extreme version of a common malady.” (please read the article that comes from here). It’s a further example of the racial injustices and racism that courses through the veins of our country and our society. And yes, while I was born white, a fact that does give me privilege and power, I was not born silent, I do not have to invoke that privilege and distance myself from this awful event, among so many others, and forget.

My dear white brothers and sisters, we cannot be silent and complacent, like @feministgriote said, “Black folks did not create racism, anti-blackness, or white supremacy, therefore it is not our issue to fix.” Karon Walrond, says it well too. We can’t even blame it just on a “white supremacist.” As Nancy Rust says, “We can’t call it that because it lets too many White people off the hook.  The average White person (AWP) in America will look at the headlines, recoil at the sickening pictures and deplorable details circulating about Dylann Roof and then declare, “Wow, is he crazy or what? …Until we are able to acknowledge the system that allows these acts to flourish, we will get nowhere.” 

Austin Channing, talks about how white supremacy affects everyone and says that we have two choices, we can acknowledge that and work to uproot it or we can let it grow…we are either nurturing love or hate. And knowing that those of us who are white, when we say things like it’s not “all of us”, that really isn’t a comfort, but rather creates distance. So to her I say, “I see this sin in my own heart, my own life, my own church and I am working to uproot it. I don’t want to be this way, and I will do the work to submit this ugliness before Christ.”

To my black brothers and sisters, I am sorry. I am sorry that you are made to feel that your lives do not matter because they absolutely do. I am sorry your experiences are discredited and ignored. I am sorry you have to live in fear and for the pain, anger and injustice you experience, that I know I will never fully understand. I am sorry for the way I have distanced myself from things before because it was easy and have not stood up and worked to uproot this sickness.

There are so many more things that could be said, so many more articles or videos shared, so many more “explanations” about why white supremacy, white culture, whiteness is a thing (explanations shouldn’t even be needed…just look around) but really…it is a time for lamenting. A time where it’s hard to see the hope, joy, peace and reconciliation that should exist. Where people refuse to be comforted and join in prophetic grieving. When these beautiful people in their place of worship welcomed a stranger and then were gunned down for their hospitality and grace, with the only crime being the color of their skin…it’s a time to lament. It’s a time to remember the victims of this tragedy and say their names because THEIR LIVES MATTER: Ethel Lance, Myra Thompson, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., and Rev. Sharonda Singleton.

(p.s. please take the time to read all the links. Also, the sermon below by Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil is worth the 30 minutes)

It’s About More…

A few months ago, I went to a church that was holding a panel on racial reconciliation. The pastor asked the panel, why should Christians care about this talk of race, reconciliation and justice? One individual responded about how we have to because it’s what we should be about. He talked about how we too often take the pieces of God that we like, people cling to the piece that has the most in it for them and what they like the most, the salvation piece.

We take the piece of God we like…the salvation piece. Too many people’s version of Christianity is just concerned with our souls. It’s all about going to heaven. I remember spending many days and nights worried as a kid that if I sinned, wasn’t able to ask for forgiveness and then died, I would go to hell because I didn’t ask for forgiveness and my soul wouldn’t be clean because my Sunday School teacher told me that was true. This is just really bad theology in my opinion, made me live in fear for a long time and totally made me miss out on the beauty of the gospel. (and makes me realize that I was way too worried about deep things at a young age…these were my thoughts as an eight year old. Anyway…).

Our souls are very important…obviously. Salvation is important…but God has so much more for us. We don’t get to just decide “we want to go to heaven” and take that piece of God and leave it at that. God is so much bigger than that. People ask me why I care so much about justice and equality and I honestly, truly think it’s because we’re supposed to. As people who believe in this great big God and claim to follow Jesus, we have to care about justice and equality. We have to care about our neighbors and what is happening to them. We have to remember that every single person is created in God’s image and we are called to love each other well. We have to remember that when we claim to follow Jesus, we committed to be a part of a bigger story, that we decided to be a part of God’s Kingdom coming here on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Many people have said about me before, “Abby…justice and loving and caring too much is her ‘thing'”, but it shouldn’t just be my “thing”. It should be all of our “things”. (And you know I’m no expert or that great at it, so we all need to be in this together!)

I was at the Justice Conference last weekend and got to hear Dr. Cornel West speak and one thing he said really stuck out to me…he said, as people who say they follow Jesus, we have to be about love and justice. They’re not equal, but their indivisible. If our faith and beliefs are rooted and all about love, with that comes justice. To me, it just makes sense, that’s what my theology is about.

We can’t just take the pieces of God we like.  We can’t ignore the injustices that happen around us. We can’t think that the goal in life is just to make it to heaven. It’s about so much more than that.

“The gospel at its best deals with the whole man, not only his soul but his body, not only his spiritual well-being, but his material well being. Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial.” – MLK Jr.

What Friendship Looks Like

I’ve been reminded lately of how beautiful friendship is. I’ve said it before, but some of the best evidence to me of God’s love are the people in my life. I really value friendship and think it’s one of the most beautiful things on earth.

You don’t have to be friends with people and it’s a choice to love someone. You never really make a covenant or a promise to your friends that you’ll be there, but you’re choosing to enter into their life, into their mess and to be present with them.

I’ve had a hard time in my life being fully known. I’ve always had a problem with perfectionism and wanting to be well liked by everyone. I’m really good at reading people and personalities so this has made me someone who can be the right person for whoever I’m with. This isn’t a bad thing when there’s balance and boundaries, but for me it’s caused me to forget who I am and only care that I was the perfect person for whoever I was around.

I’ve been unlearning this habit and learning how to stay true to who I am and just hope people still like me and if they don’t…that’s okay. I am so thankful for people who like me anyways and even when they see my insecurities and my mess they’re still there.

Because friendship doesn’t look perfect…because we’re not perfect.

Friendship looks like meeting a friend for lunch and asking how they’ve been and instead of automatically giving a “great and all is well” answer they honestly say, not good and trust you with their true feelings.

Friendship looks like a friend asking me to list everything I’m anxious about regarding a situation and rather than judge me they listen and respond with grace.

Friendship looks like texts full of inside jokes and pictures only those few people will understand.

Friendship looks like ten minute catch up calls whenever you have a free moment and hour long calls when you have a few free moments more.

Friendship looks like asking the hard questions and sitting with someone even in the unknown.

Friendship looks like binge watching shows on Netflix together or going on a Sonic run to fulfill your shake craving.

Friendship looks like responding with “awws” and “so cute” the 100th time I’ve shown a picture of my nephew rather than being annoyed.

Friendship looks like celebrating your friends victories, achievements and successes and sitting with them in their pain, grief and uncertainty.

Friendship really just looks like being there and showing up…most of the time it’s in those ordinary and messy moments where beauty thrives.

O Holy Night.

I’ve been working on a lot of papers these days with the semester winding down, which means I’ve been listening to a lot of Christmas music to accompany me…John Legend Holiday Radio on Pandora to be exact. I really love Christmas music…within the time frame of Thanksgiving and Christmas. 🙂 Every time I’ve been writing or working on an assignment whenever my favorite Christmas song comes on, O Holy Night, I just stop and listen to it.

I think about all that is happening in our world and in this season of Advent, this season of waiting and anticipation of what is to come and this song shines a little light into the darkness and brings a little hope to the hopeless. It’s a beautiful reminder about why this season matters so much.

My favorite part says this:

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name

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Because this is what Jesus is about…to be about love and peace. Not to get caught up in legalities and arguments and I am right and you are wrong, but to love one another no matter how we differ from each other. Jesus came to show us His love so we can love each other. Jesus is also about justice and equality and about those on the margins and the oppressed experiencing freedom, justice and peace. I’m thankful for a song that reminds us of that. It also has an interesting history if you’re interested in reading about it, find it here. (a good reminder to people that just because something is not created by people labeled as “Christians” doesn’t mean it isn’t Truth)

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