Category Archives: Fresh Eyes

Stop Looking For The Window

God's windowI’ve been hearing the saying, “When God closes a door he always opens a window”, my entire life.

It’s been around even Google isn’t sure who said it first– could have been sung in a song by a dude named Jim Rule or it might have been something that one nun said from Sound of Music… your guess is probably as good as Google’s at this point.

I’ve never liked the saying.

It rubs me the wrong way about God who is big and good and has purpose for us.

It leaves us with the impression that–

  1. Obstacles are God’s way of directing us (which is a common misconception in my opinion).
  2. That God’s plan for us is smaller than our dreams for ourselves.

I mean, come on! Most windows are significantly smaller than doors. Do we want that to be what we believe about the God who created the heavens? The God who gave us brains that think and hearts that beat? The God who created the platypus? Really?

I think sometimes we get a little lazy when we hit a road block and we’re not really looking for a directive from God as much as we’re looking for window to jump out of.

God is big. He can use the windows we jump out of.

But sometimes God closes a door because he wants us to find the courage to kick it in.

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Courage to Doubt

Last week I read a Relevant article called 4 Things Jesus Never Said which I enjoyed tremendously and highly recommend that you read. My biggest take-away from this all-around great post was in the second section of the four things Jesus never said under the subtitle “Doubting is Dangerous”.

The author reminds us of our biblical friend “Doubting” Thomas  and the notorious moment where earned that nickname, then neatly follows that up with a reminder that Thomas was not the only disciple to doubt, quoting Luke 24:11 in which all of the disciples “couldn’t believe” that Jesus had been resurrected.

What stood out to me was this bit,

All the disciples doubted, but Thomas was the only one with the courage to admit he needed proof. He said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). And when Jesus finally encountered Thomas, he did not rebuke him. Rather he gave Thomas what he needed. He invited Thomas to touch his wounds, and only then did Jesus tell him he could stop doubting.

The beauty of this is Thomas had an encounter with Jesus none of the other disciples did. He is the only one who touched the wounds of Jesus, because he had the faith to doubt. Nowhere does Jesus condemn doubt; rather he meets people right where they are in it.

Courage to admit his doubt… faith to doubt… interesting.

Very shortly after reading that article I came across a video of Simon Sinek on the subject of serving those who serve others (which I will post below). I have, for years now, been a fan of how Simon Sinek teaches about leadership and stumbled upon this particular video while looking up things about his new book, Leaders Eat Last. This video is long (and totally worth watching all the way through) but in the first 10 minutes I heard something that reminded me of what I had just read in the previously mentioned Relevant article.

In response to being asked how he knows so much Simon describes how he’s learned to ask questions so that he can simplify complex ideas into something he can understand. He references a story from his own life in which he was challenged to go 48 hours without lying, not even employing “little white lies” to avoid humiliation. He points out that we all lie this way constantly, telling waiters that our food is good when really it wasn’t because we don’t want to create a fuss, or telling a friend that we’ve heard of the film/music/what have you they’re speaking about when we haven’t to avoid looking out of the loop. In the middle of this challenge Simon had an appointment with a speech writer for a politician and as soon as they sat down the speech writer asked how much research he had done before this interview. Under normal circumstances, not being in a no-lying-challenge, his answer would have been something like, “a little” in order to avoid looking unprepared, but instead he answered truthfully that he done no research and the woman went ahead to fill him in on on the details he needed to know.

His point was that, had he lied, he would have missed out on hearing vital information and that we feel so much pressure to have all of the answers all of the time that we miss opportunities to know what’s most important.

After hearing that I thought of Thomas and what if he had, instead of expressing his doubt, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Sure, it could be true.”? Maybe Thomas would have encountered Jesus in the flesh and it would have been enough to convince him. Maybe. But because he wasn’t afraid of looking like a fool or a coward, Jesus reached out to him and said, “Here, touch me and don’t just believe that it’s me, know

I wonder what our faith would be like if we had the courage to stop trying to spiritually save face, to stop pretending that we have the answers, and we could face our fears and our doubts at the feet of a God who has infinite love and mercy for us. I wonder if we could be brave in this way how God might extend his nail scarred hands to us and give us the opportunity to not just believe in him but to know him.

I do deeply desire the kind of faith that follows Christ out onto the surface of the sea, but I also want the kind of faith that looks to the Father as a child and can say, “God I don’t have the answer, I don’t understand what you mean here, I don’t know what I believe, please show me!”

What do you doubt?

What do you not have an answer for?

What do you not have the strength to believe?

Can you, can we, be like Thomas?

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The Other L-Word: Do We Really Know Lust?

Recently I did some art for a church series that paired vices and virtues. It’s an interesting concept– I like the idea of looking at both together and trying to see what is real between them.

Of course I chose to do a piece on lust and chastity, because why wouldn’t I? No one else was jumping at it, from an artistic perspective it has the potential to be edgy and interesting, and come on! What church kid isn’t going to choose lust and chastity. Seriously.

I was one of two artists who braved this pair and now that it’s lust and chastity’s turn in service they’ve asked us to each create a video describing our inspiration for the art and to speak specifically about one half of the pair. *I was asked to cover lust.

I have to admit that when I found out I needed to make this video and speak about lust on it’s own I initially felt unexpectedly vulnerable. I mean, sure, give the single girl in her 30’s lust and chastity to the married woman with kids. I highly doubt that it was intentional, but right at the beginning I felt a little… singled out for lack of a better term. And then I got over it.

If I’m being honest, the subject of lust really drove my piece (which I will eventually post a picture of). I very much wanted to take the opportunity to take lust and chastity out of their usual context and look at them in a less obvious sort of way. Christians get really specific when we start talking about sex. We really think we have a handle on what lust is. I’ve also noticed that with those very specific ideas, by and large, we target men and women on opposite ends of the spectrum– we associate men with lust and women with chastity. Even if we aren’t necessarily accusing all men of being lustful, or assuming that all women are naturally inclined to chaste behavior, we use the lenses of lust and chastity to speak to men and women differently about sex. I don’t think I can comment on this point as to whether I think that tendency is necessarily right or wrong, however I do think it’s short-sighted if nothing else.

Stepping away from the traditional definition of lust, which is almost exclusively viewed as an intense sexual desire, I have to ask myself, “Is intense sexual desire the problem itself, or is it symptomatic of the real issue? And if it is a symptom, is it the only symptom?”

I strongly believe that physical lust is symptomatic of what is at the core of all sins: a void that we are trying to fill with something other than God. There is a difference, I feel, in how lust effects us compared to other symptoms like greed or gluttony, however.

With greed the void is filled through the rush of having in excess and gluttony fills its void through wringing more pleasure out of a thing than it is meant for, but both of those function externally. With lust the void is filled by consuming and making the object of our lust a part of US. We conquer and devour what we lust after in a way that forces it into our spiritual and emotional DNA. With that in mind physical lust is an easy example, but I think it’s important to understand that it doesn’t stop there and that just because you may not struggle sexually doesn’t mean that you do not struggle with lust.

One of the defining characteristics of lust is its ability to dehumanize. This comes up a lot when we talk about porn, for instance. The process of possessing and devouring takes a person from human to object and we see clearly how this happens with porn. What we fail to see is how it also happens all of the time within causes we “fight” for.  I’ll use the pro-life movement as an example because I think it’s the most ironic. A cause, the purpose of which is to protect human life, can often be found demonstrating outside abortion clinics in a way that completely dehumanizes the women walking in the doors. In our lust for moral vindication and power we stop seeing people and only see objects. It seems counterintuitive to put pro-lifers and porn addicts together, but lust can manifest itself just as powerfully in good causes as it can in licentious acts.

Lust is insidious, we allow it to creep into the areas of our lives where we least expect it and the fact that we think we know lust just to be related to sexual desire makes us easy targets. Any time we try to make something a part of our identity and create objects out of people in the process, lust is showing up.

The great danger of allowing lust to creep into our lives is so much more than the obvious risks and consequences emotionally and physically of promiscuity or porn. The only thing we are created to fuse our identity to in such a deep way is the Holy Spirit. When we try to make these other things a part of ourselves, we’re not only dehumanizing others, we are being dehumanized ourselves.

Goodness, what a lot to think about.

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No Fear In Love

love:fearA couple of posts ago I mentioned Project Just As I Am . Sunday will be our first live photo booth event at NewChurch Georgetown. I think we’re all pretty excited about it.

Since the beginning of the project I keep finding myself drawn back to certain passages of scripture, actually, in a lot of cases whole books of the bible.

In the last couple weeks the words “No fear in love” have been playing on repeat in my head. They’ve popped up as I’ve faced difficulty in my relationships, they’ve been echoing through my mind as I’ve listened to students tell me about different situations going on in their lives. I’ve heard those words loud and clear as I’ve thought about what life is all about and how I should be treating the guy serving my coffee or the lady bagging my groceries.

1 John 4: 18 says,

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 

I’ve always thought about this verse from a first person perspective. don’t have to be afraid when I am grounded in God’s love for me. And I believe that’s true and it’s a place to start, a jumping off point for this verse. It’s extremely important that we know ourselves through the eyes of the unconditional love God has for us. Brennan Manning says in The Raggamuffin Gospel, “My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” If we ignore internalizing how we are loved by God we inevitably will spend our entire lives trying to earn something that is already in our possession and miss God’s calling for us. Thank God for grace.

All of that said, in the last couple of weeks as the words “no fear in love” have been the background music for all of my thinking and living, I began to wonder what it would look like if I applied this verse, which I had only been applying to myself, to the way I love others. It opened up a whole world for me, which I have to admit wasn’t exactly comfortable at first.

Without intending to, I think, we practice a lot of fear in the way we “love” others. I mentioned that several days ago in this post. We have our Christian disclaimers because we’re afraid of what it will look like we condone, or believe, or have taken part of if we just love people as they are. We constantly want to spell it out for people, “I MUST REMIND YOU THAT YOU ARE A SINNER” and then we wrap ourselves in turmoil over how to relate– Do I go to the gay wedding? Do I give the homeless guy on the corner money? Do I baby-sit for the teen mom?

And most of the time we DON’T– whatever our specific question is– because we’re afraid that the most loving thing we could do will be enabling, or condoning, or supporting something that we are morally opposed to. And I get it. But I think collectively we DON’T get IT.

Over and over again the bible says, “Love God and love each other”. I don’t see anything that says to make sure we stand daily on our moral soap boxes or that it is our personal mission to convict the sinful pants off of each other. Instead of being “salt and light” we Christians seem to be in the constant business of isolating ourselves and alienating others. It’s wrong, it’s backwards and it makes zero sense if we pay any attention to Jesus.

Jesus made the first move every time. He reached out and touched the dirty, he approached the prostitute, he surrounded himself with the broken, the outcast, the rejected, and then he DIED for all of us. ALL OF US. Without any promise that we would even understand what that gift meant, without any down payment from us. He said, “You know what, they are mine, make me liable. I claim them.”

If there is no fear in love then there should be no fear in how we love others. Jesus set the bar really high, so I feel like it’s safe to say that we cannot err too far on the side of love, because love is the point. The whole entire point. What do we really think all of our “good” and “moral” insistence means if we are missing the point? St. Paul says it pretty clearly in 1 Corinthians 13,

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

If we love without fear we change the world. Because that’s what Jesus did and the more we do it, the more we become like him… “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement: In this world we are like Jesus. ” (1 John 4:16-17)

I know this is a lot.

Trust me, I’ve thought through the ramifications– it means self-sacrifice, and going out of our way, it means not caring what other people think, even other Christians, it means taking risks, taking personal hits, it means giving ourselves away… any of that sound familiar?

We can do this.

We have to do this, the world desperately needs it and so do we. I heard Rebekah Lyons say recently that anxiety is the result of unfulfilled purpose and I believe that’s true. It seems to me that the majority of the Christian community is experiencing a great deal of anxiety.  Could it be because we are not fulfilling our purpose? I think so.

There is no fear in love.

Let’s begin loving fearlessly, church.

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Love Without A Disclaimer

A photo from ProjectJAIA

A photo from ProjectJAIA

Today is my first official day of not being an employee of retail cosmetics. The decision to leave a job that has held me financially steady for six years was a scary one, possibly one of the hardest easy decisions I’ve ever made.

I say “hardest easy” decision because knowing that my time with the company I was with was over couldn’t have been more clear. Everything going on in my heart and my life pointed right towards the door, but taking the actual steps to walk out and facing the fear of all of the “what ifs”, took every bit of guts I have.

And here I am.

I jumped with both feet because I couldn’t not.

My constant prayer these days is, “Here is my life, God. Wreck it. Ruin it for your glory.” But don’t go thinking I’m super brave because most of the time I have to choke the words out in between sobs. I oscillate between terror of the unknown and a sense of adventure unlike anything I have ever experienced every day.

A big part of what has driven this big change in my life has been trying to wrap my head around how I am loved by God.  I realized that I was living a huge lie. My mouth claimed that God loves me just as I am while my heart believed that there were parts of me that were unlovable and I was in constant turmoil trying to cover, hide, and mask those parts. I could logically understand that God sees everything, but it didn’t stop me trying to block him out of the dark parts of my soul or pretending to others that those parts didn’t exist.

About a year ago in a moment of divine disaster God’s voice thundered through my head and my heart and said, “I see you Katie Elizabeth Brown and I LOVE every piece of you. ” And for the first time in my life that truth felt like a refuge in a storm instead of a threat.

The world needs THIS kind of love.

The answer is love and it always has been because God IS love.

I am determined to love without a disclaimer because I am loved without one.

A disclaimer is a statement that denies something, usually responsibility. In Christian culture we are used to “loving” with disclaimers that say things like, “I love you, but I don’t accept your sin”, “I love you, but only when you do what I think is right”, or “I love you, but don’t hurt me and or I will cut you off”. We are fearful of guilt by association when those we love fail, get dirty and maybe don’t get right up. We don’t want to be stained by their sin, hurt, or have to sacrifice anything in the process of helping them up so we hold these disclaimers up so we can deny responsibility and make it understood that our love only reaches as far as their ability to deserve it.

God’s love doesn’t do this to us.

God’s love took responsibility for us on the cross. God CLAIMED us as we are and I believe with all of my heart that he asks us to do the same for each other.  1 Peter 4:8 says,

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

How would the world change if we loved like this? If we claimed each other in love, if we didn’t hold anything back, if we took responsibility by going all-in for one another?

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to put my whole life into finding out.

One of the ways I’m committed to “walking as a child of Light” (Ephesians 5:8) is by working with a bunch of students on a project called Just As I Am. ProjectJAIA is an opportunity to come forward with those parts of ourselves we’ve worked so hard to hide from God and everyone else and to step out into the light of God’s unconditional love for us. Through our pictures we hope that ProjectJAIA will encourage us all to let God and  his love for us into the places we feel the most vulnerable and that in the process we will learn to see each other the way he sees us.

I hope you will check ProjectJAIA out and if you’re feeling brave add your own photo! What have you let make you feel unlovable? Bring it into the light.

You can follow ProjectJAIA on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr. If you have questions, comments or would like to email a photo submission for the project you can contact ProjectJAIA at projectjaia@gmail.com. You can also participate by hashtaging your photo #projectJAIA on any of the social media sites mentioned above. 

 

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Somewhere In Between

There’s been a lot to read about women in leadership, specifically in Christian circles and conference circuits, the last week or so. As I thought about the different sides and perspectives reflected on social networking sights and blogs it occurred to me that something seemed to be missing.

Somewhere in between the Beth Moores and Rachel Held Evans’ of the world there is a group of women who need to speak up.

Nothing against either of those women– I have learned quite a lot from both and I find myself agreeing with many things they have to say– however, I don’t feel like I belong in either of the core groups these women respresent. In fact, when I thought about it, none of the women I know seem to belong to either of those groups.

Don’t worry, I considered demographics…
The thing is, having been involved with an international organization I’ve gotten to know women all over the United States and some outside of it.
It’s not just the women in my area.

So these two sides are what stands as markers for women of faith…

On the one side the more traditional/conservative Christian women’s movement seems to declare, “This is how women should be…” and the example is the woman who has it all together. She’s a devoted wife and valiant mother. She balances grocery shopping, coffee dates, and bible studies all while looking fabulous and radiating joy. She’s the organizer, the Sunday school teacher, and she never misses her running group. These are beautiful, lovely things… and a lot to live up to.

The message of progressive Christian women, on the other side, almost insists, “This is how Christian women are…” and here the example is of the woman who is self-sufficient, politically active and hot-button savy. She is in the fray and society’s face. She is pushing the boundaries of theology, questioning centuries of church history, and her tenacity is unrivaled. Her dedication and determination are also beautiful and lovely, but a lot to live up to.

Both of these groups are vocal and passionate.
Both are valuable and yet… I don’t believe either represent the majority of Christian women. These are not the women I know, these are not the women who have spoken into my life. These examples don’t reflect the woman of faith I am or want to be. And that’s not a judgement against women for whom these examples make sense, but I do believe a big part of the picture the world sees of women of the church is missing and we need to give voice to it.

Somewhere in the middle there are those of us who are mothers just barely holding it together, wives fighting for their marriages, and single women who are neither relationship starved or desperate, but still value their relationships with men. These women believe in balance. They value tradition while they explore creativity, they are confident in their equality and don’t need it to be superiority. You won’t find them signing petitions, joining boycotts or holding picket signs. They are not activists, but they DO act– they find every opportunity to help those around them in need, they give the clothes off their backs, the food from their kitchens, and the time they would be spending asleep in their beds. They err on the side of grace, always, forever, for everyone, no matter what the situation. They look for where God is and they go there, they run, they are the first responders and do their best to honor Him by cultivating relationships that breathe His love and life into the world and affirm what is good and right. They create culture instead of placate, embrace, or rebel against it. They respect each other’s differences and hold each other up.

In the middle they hope, they pray, and sometimes they beg.
They see beauty and call it what it is.
They fight, they persevere and hold on with everything they’ve got.
They forgive what society says is unforgivable.
They stay, no matter what.
They are courageous and they know where they stand with our Creator even when they can’t stand at all, when the best they can do is crawl.
They know mercy, they long for justice, and they love so hard it hurts.

The core female church of today doesn’t have time to look a certain way or to belong to one camp or the other because she is too busy rolling up her sleeves and getting her hands dirty.

If you want to know why there aren’t more women speaking at Christian conferences, writing books or taking positions of leadership, I challenge you, take a look around in all of the least glamorous places, where the hard work that comes with little thanks gets done and you will find women of the church giving everything they’ve got.

These are not the Christian women I hear or read about, these are the women I know. These are the women who raised me, who have been there when I was the most broken, who have patiently stood beside me while I hurt, who have taught me what it means to be seen, heard, and loved by God.

This is my mother.
My sisters.
My friends.
My mentors.
My co-workers.
Women I have served with.

This in between group needs to find its voice– for all of the other women in the world who don’t feel like they can see themselves in the current faces representing Christian women. It’s time to step out into new water, deep water, and take a risk by being vulnerable and honest in the public square.

Women are a ferocious and exquisite part of God’s image, everyone of us. It’s on us to show up, to speak up, to be heard, to think out loud. All of us, not just the groups who are already used to getting out there. No matter what our personal beliefs are about male authority in the church, we can’t keep blaming them for our absence. We have to stop waiting for them to give us openings and start taking responsibility for ourselves, for when and where and how we speak.

My prayer and hope is that we are about to see a new age for women in the church, that together, and in all of our diversity, we begin to reflect the image of Christ in a way the world has never seen before.

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The Gift of Going First

I heard someone use that phrase at the Love Does conference last week and it stuck to me like glue. He was talking about being vulnerable and how leaders lay themselves bare first to open the door for others.

Everything about the Love Does conference reminded me that I am a story made up of many parts and there are some parts that I am exceptionally comfortable telling and there are others I hold close and try to think of as background noise while the scene focuses in on something else, something less personal, or less painful.

Over the past six months I have felt with increasing urgency that these other parts of my story need to step into the light and when I heard this idea about going first it was like God tapping me on the shoulder and clearing his throat encouragingly.

I guess we can consider this post my attempt to put a toe in the water…

When I was twenty-six I found myself really disillusioned with life. Nothing was working out the way I had planned and it didn’t make sense because I had always been the good girl. When everyone around me was doing other things, I was towing the line for God. I prayed, I went to church, and I worked hard to be better than my peers. It was exhausting. It felt utterly unfair that I was lonely, unsatisfied with life, and worse, everything kept going wrong.

I lost my job, I had horrible roommate trouble and I ended up having to move home. It felt particularly humiliating being the oldest and being the only one to have to move home. I didn’t know who I was or where I was going in life and I was angry that after having tried to do everything right, this is where I found myself.

Timing is everything and I was ripe for something to change, so when I met someone and he planted the seed in my head and heart that I would feel a lot better about life if I worked on my physical appearance, I seized the opportunity with a vengeance.

What began as a plan to use the time I wasn’t working to exercise and make healthier choices about food turned into nearly two years of starving myself and exercising close to 30 hours a week.

The more weight I lost the better I felt about life.

It wasn’t just about what I saw in the mirror, even though I enjoyed the compliments I got and the way people praised my hard work, for me the greatest satisfaction came in finally having something I could control, and the more I controlled it, the more satisfied I felt.

I had dropped just below 100 pounds when God used a trusted friend to bring me back to reality with the words, “Hey, you’re starting to look really scary.”

One of the reasons I’ve avoided talking about this part of my story is that I have never wanted to wave the Eating Disorder flag for myself or let it be the center stage production of my life. I’ve feared both people’s pity and their disappointment. There is so much more to my story than this one part and it’s bothered me to think anyone might get stuck here.

What I’ve learned in the aftermath, however, is that our struggles don’t find us at random. As much as we are purposed by God, our stumbling blocks are strategically chosen for us by our enemy.

This might be hard to hear, but starving yourself is not easy. It takes an extreme amount of motivation and will power. Hunger is a basic and persistent human need and to deny it for long periods of time requires unwavering determination.

There are people who would say that through an eating disorder Satan preyed on my weaknesses– insecurity, self-esteem, belonging. But what I know now is that the truth is he subverted my God-given strengths and used them against me.

Knowing that changes the picture, it changes everything about how I take each step each day. Instead of seeing myself as a helpless victim, I have learned and am learning to understand that I am a target because I am strong, I am determined and I have what it takes to fight hard. My weaknesses are nothing compared to the strengths God wove into my being and so the best way for Satan to take me out is to distract me from what God made me for, not pick at the chinks in my armor.

This part of my story has been essential to me understanding who I am and how God created me.

Do you see the strengths in your struggle? I hope you will look for them, I promise you they are there and when you recognize them it turns life upside down in the best possible way.

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A Straight Girl, A Gay Club and God.

I love to dance.

I know. I am deceptively introverted, so I understand how much of a shock this news may come as to some of you.

While you try to recover from having your whole perception of me shaken keep reading.

 

As a younger person I was shy-ish. I say shy-ish because a lot of people assumed I was shy, but the truth was that I was more cautious than shy. I stepped out into the world with circumspection and moved through it doing a lot more watching than acting. There was something hidden deep inside, however, that longed for wild abandon.

 

It wasn’t the same as a desire to rebel– I didn’t feel the need to fight against an invisible cage placed around me by other people or circumstances. I wanted to break out of the prison cell of self. There was someone inside of me somewhere who wasn’t concerned with her reputation or how she measured up to everyone else. Buried under layers of worry about whether or not I exceeded people’s expectations and the constant drive towards perfection was a girl who was fun, who loved who she was, loved how she was made and I wanted to find her.

 

It was heartbreaking to admit over and over again that I had no clue how to unearth a less severe side of myself. I’m naturally a competitive and determined person, so my approach to personal change or growth has always been to white knuckle it into submission. After one inevitable failed attempt after another I learned that this tactic was paradoxical to finding freedom.

 

Eventually resigning myself to the belief that the carefree person I had hoped was hidden in my soul just did not exist, I finally met her in the most unlikeliest of places– A gay bar.

 

I was twenty-seven at the time and had come to the end of many ropes. Relationships had failed miserably, my desperate need for control was crushing me,  and all of the ways I had tried so hard to live up to the standard that I believed God and everyone else had laid out before me were leaving me feeling dead inside. I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the person looking back at me. I’d had enough.

 

Literally and figuratively throwing caution to the wind I started going out with friends. I learned that a little liquid courage went a long way towards making me feel brave enough to face the dark side of the moon. If I couldn’t find a sense of freedom, I had decided I would settle for a sense of carelessness instead.

 

One fateful evening, weary of dodging the ceaseless advances of stumbling drunk members of the opposite sex, but anxious for something to do, my friend suggested we go to a gay club and dance. Up to this point dancing hadn’t ever occurred to me, the places my friends and I normally hung out were “grown up” bars where you sat around, looked pretty and drank fancy cocktails while pretending to maintain conversations. I had heard that gay clubs were a safe haven for the single straight lady looking for a place to have fun because there was little to no risk of getting hit on or propositioned in any sort of way.

 

Considering the way I was raised and my parents ministry I felt a tiny twinge of guilt and the hint of a sense of betrayal (which now seems ridiculous to me), but the appeal was too great and I agreed to go.

 

What I found there I will never forget. We stepped inside and the dance floor was crowded, the music was loud and the atmosphere was… brace yourself… joyful. It hit me like a wrecking ball– the air was light and easy to breathe with lack of judgement. People were jumping up and down and moving to the music, not only because they wanted to but because they couldn’t help themselves. Whether you were a skilled dancer or completely uncoordinated didn’t matter, everyone was welcome to cast off their labels, their insecurities, their pride and feel alive.

 

It was contagious. As Cher sang the words “Do you believe in life after love” to a roaring house mix I found myself, completely sober, in the middle of the dance floor flailing for all I was worth. The camaraderie between my fellow movers and shakers and I was unlike anything I had ever experienced anywhere else. These people didn’t know me, they didn’t care what I tried to live up to or how I failed, they just welcomed me in.

 

It felt like I was experiencing pure and unadulterated joy for the very first time in my life. Something cracked deep inside of my heart and God spoke– “This thing that you feel filling you up with a sense of wonder that is unrestrained is me. There’s nothing hidden from me, there’s no judgement in me, there are no wrong dance moves, but you can’t dance at all if you’re carrying all of your stuff, so come to me the way that you came to this dance floor.”

 

I love to dance.

It’s how I learned about surrender and joy.

I’m not perfect… Every day I have to remember to put my stuff down so that I can dance, but now I know that I can if I just will.

 

Will you have the same experience in the same kind of place? I don’t know, I can’t give you an answer for that. What I do know is that God isn’t limited in the ways he can and will speak. He is creative and he knows that sometimes what we need most is to see him in the unlikely places, not where we’re used to looking for him.

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Fantastic Article: Being Gay at Jerry Falwell’s University

This post is so good, it’s long but read the whole thing. Man if we could all show love this way and have this kind of impact on our fellow humans the world would be such a different place.

It was the fifth time that night that my Theology and Biblical Greek professor was calling. And, like the previous times, no way was I answering the phone. I knew why he was calling. Earlier that day, I emailed all of my professors to tell them I’d made the difficult decision to withdraw from school. As my cell phone went to voice mail, I crawled into bed under my covers, dreading the next morning when the rest of my professors would get my email, when the university would call my parents, when my roommates would ask me why I wasn’t waking up for class. “Why did I come here?” I asked myself. “Out of all the colleges in the world, why did I pick this one?”….

Read the rest of the article here!

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Fresh Eyes: Who Am I?