drowning the girl

Posted: April 30th, 2012 | Filed under: life | Tags: , | 30 Comments »

I met a girl the other day who wanted a very specific haircut. She used two pictures to show me her ideas and they both required a brave hairdresser. I was her third attempt at getting the look she wanted. Nobody else would go short enough. “It will look like a man’s haircut,” they told her.

“Yeah,” she says, “I know.”

I loved the haircut. It was funky and bold.

I have colored a guys hair to match his prom date’s dress.  I have dyed a chunk of black and purple stripes in the hair of a single mom. I get the fun people. I help them express themselves and some people have some important things to say.

Like this girl. She told me that her hair used to be down to her hips until recently. Nobody makes a huge hair change without a huge life change, so I asked her what it was. I learned that she had been horribly taken advantage of and traumatized in her first year of college. It was so bad that when she looked in the mirror, she wanted to see somebody different.

I knew she wouldn’t say she wanted to look like a boy. I don’t think she even knew it. It wouldn’t matter to her that changing her look won’t change what happened. Pointing out the obvious won’t keep her from waking up screaming in the night trying to regain control.

I didn’t feel the need to try to talk her out of a remedy that won’t work. I didn’t do that because that’s not what I think God does. I don’t think that God always tells the person with OCD that he doesn’t need to wash his hands five times. I think He makes sure he always has soap.

God meets people where they are even if they shouldn’t be there. If God never leaves you, that means that where you go, He goes. No boundary exists that He can’t cross. When you’re lost, He’ll find a way to let you know that He’s there, too. You’re never alone. You’re never really lost.

Love is the most powerful weapon for saving people. Love is strong enough to not have to wait for you to meet a set of standards. There is nothing more powerful than love. If there was, He would have used it instead.

This girl needed to feel more powerful than she was. To her, the most powerful person she could think of was the one who overpowered her. A boy. She needed to feel more like a boy and I gave her my best version of her vision.

She left practically skipping like the little girl she was trying to drown out.

She’ll grow from here, but she needed this pretend strength for now. She’s going to make it and I got to be a little part of dressing her up so that she feels safe again.

They sewed fig leaves together as makeshift clothes for themselves. -Genesis 3:7

God made leather clothing for Adam and his wife and dressed them. -Genesis 3:21

God meets you where you are, even if you shouldn’t be there. He helps you survive where you shouldn’t have wandered. He does this so that you know He’s there and that He loves you. You won’t always be where you are, but no matter where that is, He’s there, too.



ruining everything

Posted: April 26th, 2012 | Filed under: God, life | Tags: | 9 Comments »

‎”Sanctification requires our coming to a place of death, but many of us spend so much time there that we become morbid.” Oswald Chambers 

When you find yourself helpless to your sinful nature, when you mess up so bad that you want to crawl out of your skin and get away from yourself, when you are screaming for a Savior you thought you understood, but now feel completely unworthy of and alienated from…that is the kind of death that it takes to be free.

It’s not a matter of trying, it’s a matter of helpless fact. When you are begging to be squashed or saved, you are officially “out of the way.” The beauty in the horror.

Those who “add God to their existing ‘good'” don’t have a clue. Those who lose every claim to their own ‘goodness’ are swallowed up by God and have to suffer under the weight of believing in the Unseen Everything and trusting in the Unbridled Anything. All sensibility is contradicted and held together by the Invisible Wonderful that is crashing in on the self-sustained here-and-now.

The spiritual is more real than the so-called reality and the flesh and blood is about to rupture from trying to contain the Uncontainable. It’s terrifying elation. It’s life-threatening Life. It’s the Light that dwarfs the light. It’s the paradox that dumbfounds and ruins everything. It’s the one who says to his lover, “You have ruined me for any other attempt at love.”

God does that. He ruins you for any other attempt at life. He’ll let you resist until you have nothing left. When it’s done, it’s done. He’ll drain you of you and the whole kick about this thing is, you’ll thank Him for it. A person can deny Him until their eyes bleed, but when it’s time, it’s time. There really is no other place to run. Is there?

“First things first. Your business is life, not death. Follow me. Pursue life.” -Jesus in Matthew 8:22



it’s not rocket surgery

Posted: April 25th, 2012 | Filed under: life | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we’ve learned: that there’s one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us—Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free. Eventually the news is going to get out. This and this only has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth. -1 Timothy 2:4-7

I wonder of Paul knew that there would be a new group of people to add to the ‘need to reach’ list. The group of people who have heard of God, but who have been told that they are mostly excluded. Most of this group can quote scripture and have to fight being angry at Christians. They want to be a part of a faith community, but not one that runs like a high school or a corporation.

My early training led me to believe that discipleship was a method of sterilizing the life. When I was a new Christian, someone took me out and bought me new clothes, another person loaned me several Christian cd’s, and someone else bought me some Christian books to read. I loved it. I was a pregnant 19 year-old and wanted to completely recreate my life. This was perfect for someone who was escaping one life to find a new identity in another.

The only thing is, I don’t think this is what Jesus came to do. Anyone can change their appearance and influences. You don’t need Jesus to be able to reinvent yourself. Besides, this only leads to a huge problem when the person’s real self is no longer able to stay subdued in the back room of their character. The real self will always find a way to find Jesus. You know this is happening when you feel like the truth you’re learning deep in your spirit is a threat to your outer religious life.

“Eventually the truth is going to get out.”

That’s when you realize you have a choice to make.

Discipleship is a method of learning why the simple truth is true. Jesus said He is the truth and there is a lot about where He fits in God’s Plan of Salvation that many people don’t know. For example: Was the sacrifice of Jesus planned first, or was it a response to people? Does Jesus ‘fit’ into “God’s Plan of Salvation”, or is He the Plan of Salvation? If He is the Plan of Salvation, then does that affect when He was planned? If Jesus was planned first, then what does that say about sin?

Along with pushing our real selves back into the back, we’ve pushed the real Gospel back to the back. Now we have this entire group of ‘real’ people who want the ‘real’ Gospel.

It’s a simple faith and a plain truth. Eventually, it’s going to get out. …and so are you.



paying for status

Posted: April 24th, 2012 | Filed under: life | Tags: | 10 Comments »

Last year the University of San Diego did a study on the relationship between stereotypes and the way they make people behave. They found a little over 100 people to study. They all met at the mall and a few were shown a list of stereotypes about successful people and about their own race or category.  Then they were set loose to be observed while they shopped. The point of the study was to see how stereotypes of successful people affected the behavior of people who did not feel successful.

Here are a few stereotypes about successful people listed by Forbes:

  • arrogant
  • overbearing
  • selfish
  • compulsive
  • risk takers
  • insensitive
  • lucky
  • competitive

Stereotypes aren’t based on fact, they’re based on general public perception. Stereotypes are formed by people on the outside looking in. Sometimes they’re hurtful and most of the the time they’re wrong.

The study revealed something in human nature that we already know happens. People will compensate for their inadequacy by trying to behave like who they want to be. The only problem is, they are using a stereotype to base their behavior on. They fake it while they’re trying to make it, but the model is flawed. Those who really are successful can see through it and are frustrated that the stereotype is being perpetuated.

“Good” Christians have stereotypes, too.

  • always happy
  • hardly ever sin
  • don’t have doubts
  • don’t have the big problems
  • don’t have questions
  • an example of purity

But every single Christian on the planet knows that list isn’t true for them. Some think it should be, because they think it’s true for other people. They think it’s true for other people because other people want them to think it’s true. Everybody is looking at everybody else and nobody has a clue that nobody has a clue.

Marketers know how to take advantage of people who want to appear more successful. They jack up the prices because people with low-self esteem think that the more you pay for something, the more special it is and it makes them feel more special. They’re being gouged in a psychological game with the greatest tool being human lack of self-worth.

The people who stand to gain the most money when people try to buy their status will literally bank on the fact that even if they think they’re paying too much, people who want to prove their worth and identity will not speak up and blow their cover.

Satan knows how to take advantage of people who want to appear like a good Christian. He wants the stereotype perpetuated so that it gets so far from what Jesus even was that the real Christians look like heretics. The price on grace is jacked up so that people with low-spiritual self-esteem have something to earn that builds their confidence. The harder something is to maintain, the more meaningful it is, the closer to God they feel.

They’re being spiritually gouged with a psychological tool, playing on human nature to get the desired effect. The entity that stands to gain the most when people try to earn their good Christian standing will literally bank on the fact that even though most people know something isn’t right, they won’t speak up and blow their cover. They’ve seen how the proud treat the meek and they don’t want to be in that lot.

So, we have these loud, arrogant people trying to prove their success by being demanding jerks because they think that’s what successful people do. Yet, the whole time, they’re drowning in debt and getting further and further away from the security they’re trying to pretend they have. Then, we have this other group of people who try to fabricate masks of peace, joy, and righteousness with forced spirituality. The whole time, they’re drowning in their own lives, but can’t show it because they’re afraid people will know they don’t have it all together. They’re further and further away from who they think they should be. They only reveal half of their inner battle for self worth when they point out the flaws of others. The other half is hidden behind the mask. When someone points out the flaw of someone else, it’s the last half of a sentence that started with them noticing their own failures.

People are too afraid to say anything because they think they’re the only one. But, they’re not the only one. Everybody feels inadequate at times. That’s why communities of real, even broken, people are so refreshing and healing. We need more honesty and less of the stereotype.

Speak up, Pontius Pilate. You’re running out of soap.

So don’t be embarrassed to speak up for our Master or for me, his prisoner. Take your share of suffering for the Message along with the rest of us. We can only keep on going, after all, by the power of God, who first saved us and then called us to this holy work. We had nothing to do with it. It was all his idea, a gift prepared for us in Jesus long before we knew anything about it. But we know it now. Since the appearance of our Savior, nothing could be plainer: death defeated, life vindicated in a steady blaze of light, all through the work of Jesus. -2 Timothy 1:8-10 MSG



too busy being religious to be good

Posted: April 23rd, 2012 | Filed under: life | Tags: | 8 Comments »

The last two nights have been rocked by dreams that I’ve been trying to unwrap to find the meaning. Sometimes it’s straightforward and sometimes it takes a bit of talking it through to see the deeper message. I’m not that into dreams, but I know they carry messages about what is going on under the surface of consciousness and sometimes they carry spiritual messages.

My most recent dream was interesting. A woman woke up to find that her daughter had been abducted. (I’ve probably been watching too many Lifetime movies.) The woman went into every church she had been a part of, starting from her young Christian days forward. She was searching for the people who used to pour into her as friends and leaders to tell them about what happened so they would start a massive prayer chain on behalf of her missing daughter. The only thing was, this woman had failed horribly in her Christian walk and many of these people no longer would speak to her. However, this situation went beyond the failures of flesh and was a spiritual emergency that desperately needed God.

She went into a church where an old friend was teaching in a children’s class. The old friend, in everyday life, would have nothing to do with her, but given the gravity if the situation, the woman knew that her old friend would put hurt feelings and the doubt of redemption aside to step up and join the fight against the evil that had taken the mother’s daughter. But, in my dream, the old friend would barely look at the mother. Her spiritual arrogance nearly spat on her as the mother was begging for help. When the mother fought through the personal attack and bitter barbed wire that surrounded her old friend, the old friend said, “Well, when you have sinned to the depths that you have, God can’t protect you. This is just part of being a failure and your daughter probably got herself into this mess by learning from you.”

Shot down, but still in desperate need, the mother went to the next church looking for someone who knew her as a child, knew her parents, and watched her daughter grow up. This next woman was so preoccupied with her own “spiritual duties”, that she could barely give the mother the time it took for her to explain what had happened. The mother had to put the horrible reality into words, “I know my daughter is being hurt right this minute.” She wanted the woman to put herself in the shoes of the mother and take in the gravity of the situation. It made such little impact on the religious woman, who was too busy with her own ‘good’ work, to take a time out and listen to the plea of a begging mother.

The mother stood looking around for anyone she could turn to. In this place where people are supposed be warriors who gather together to fight evil, they were all too busy with their projects to notice the urgent need right in front of them.

I know why I had this dream. It’s not about abducted kids…a mother’s worst fear. It’s a problem I and many others have encountered personally and often. It’s about being in the middle of a crisis that needs a church community who actually believe what they preach. Like calling 911 and being hung up on, people are learning that they cannot turn to the church when they need help. Not if they’re flawed. Not if it doesn’t fit in with the agenda, or the latest trend, or the current focus of the religious community.

If you are a known failure, your trauma will be thrown back in your face as though you deserved evil. People need an army on the home front, but everybody is scratching their way to go to some far away place to serve meals of miracles and salvation to everybody else.

Why is it so hard to serve the people you’re closest to? Why is it such a bother to stop your program and rally around someone who can do nothing but take what you offer to people who don’t even speak your language?

I think the religious community, at large and in general, can get so caught up in their religious plans and projects that they fail their neighbors. They fail the people right next to them.

It’s a problem if you can preach unmerited grace, unchained salvation, and unbound miracles to people you don’t know, but cannot offer it to someone you do know.

You become a disciple in your church living room before you can do anything good on ground elsewhere. People within earshot are screaming for the promise you’re making to people you can’t hear.

A religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?”

 He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”

 He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.

 “Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”

 Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”

 Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.

 “A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’

 “What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?

 “The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded.

   Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”-Luke 10:25-37 MSG