Posted: August 27th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: | No Comments »

The 27th chapter of Soul Bare was written by Emily P. Freeman. She titled it, “Gravity”.

I just finished listening to this podcast series where the hosts discussed certain aspects of a certain religion. One of the things that they discussed was the tendency for people to exaggerate their “before picture” in order to make their conversion story more impactful. They would ask someone in this religion to clarify the statement that they were “strung out on drugs” prior to conversion. “What kind of drugs? What sort of things did you do?” They would respond by saying, “Oh, all of them.” Any drug the interviewer would name, the person would claim as their previous vice.

Exaggerating your story to make it sound more impressive only points the attention back to you. It doesn’t point to God, because you can’t find Him through lies. His work doesn’t need human embellishment to speak to people. There is an endless sea of people who don’t have horrid pasts, grievous sin, or skin sagging addictions they’ve been saved from. There are people who, by all appearances, are as vanilla as they can be and they need to God’s grace just as much as someone like me. Their pain, sin, and tension is just harder to see. That’s where Emily’s story comes in.

“While the breaking of the rebel may come with alarms and blaring lights, attention-getting interventions, and phone calls in the night, the breaking of the vanilla comes as a silent crack in the soul, an understanding of our deep selfishness in the midst of our deep woundedness” (page 173).

I enjoyed reading Emily’s chapter. Her writing isn’t pretentious, she didn’t embroider her story, and I recognized her heart in it. I recognize the grace she says she knows and it makes me feel relieved that she’s using her voice in a world full of otherwise meaningless religious merengue.

She writes about trying to live the right way, follow the right rules, and how that lead to “pride when [she] got it right” and “shame when [she] failed”.

“I had to face this cycle and shame it in the presence of Jesus – this self-life, the all-about-me-life, the flesh disguised by sweet smiles and twisted intentions. Don’t let the mask fool you. This kind of living is sin” (page 173).

When Rocky Road meets Vanilla, we can always see the mask. It’s good to know that she’s not wearing one.

emily p freeman


Mandy Steward wrote the 28th chapter of Soul Bare. She titled it, “Breathing Fresh Air”. I’ll write my thoughts about her chapter next.



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you’re not alone

Posted: August 26th, 2016 | Filed under: God | No Comments »

Holley Gerth wrote the 26th chapter of Soul Bare and titled it “You’re Not Alone”.

Part of Holley’s bio on her blog lists her as an “encourager”, and that’s how she comes across in her chapter. She writes about an evening of girl talk where everyone shared something personal about themselves, or their lives, that they don’t pull out very often. I think in using that example, as well as a previously published blog post and example comment, is her way of letting people know that it’s good for the soul to share that intimacy with others.

“Our souls need to circle up on couches, to climb in the car for a ride to school, to put our fingers to the keyboard and tell the people who love us how we’re really doing” (page 167).

Holley mentions the need to remind yourself and others that you’re human and it makes me wonder what makes people forget. I think that there’s a commercial culture that sucks in unsuspecting consumers. Strategic marketing gives people this idea of how they’re supposed to look, live, talk, and behave. They start to lose the core of who they are when they’re trying to be like the strategically packaged moments of someone else.

Holley talks about the source of joy. Many people have talked about joy in this book, and they have their own idea of where it comes from. Holley says it comes from sharing with people.

“That’s the real secret: joy comes from community, from connection. It spills out from the places we think we have to keep locked up inside. It finds its voice in two little words, “You too?” For when those words are spoken we remember this: We’re human” (page 168).

Maybe this is why people get so tired, feeling like they have to hide who they are and pretend they’re someone else. This could be why people get so upset when something snags their plan, because they’re desperately trying to keep up with who they have put above them. It might be why people fight feelings of inferiority, they have no idea who they are because they’re trying to turn their lives into their perception of someone else’s. Maybe that’s why those moments when someone breaks down and admits they have a pulse is so refreshing for those who thought they were the only ones left.

We, as humans, have this path of self-realization that we’re always on. You can’t move forward without, first, accomplishing the steps you’re on. Holley’s chapter seems to be addressed to people who are still trying to find their place in a human group. They’re still working on being loved and having a sense of belonging.

People may get stalled here because they’re putting forth some identity that they think is more worthy than their own. Maybe the identity they’ve fabricated gets the affirmation, or “likes”, they want, but because it’s not penetrating the facade, the human need is still there.

There is so much more “joy” to be experienced, so much more life-giving work to do, when you can lay aside what you think people want to see and realize that you’re your own kind of awesome. You’ll get the sense of belonging that you’re looking for when you are yourself. People can see the mask, anyway. It doesn’t match the color of the neck.

Only after you realize that you’re loved and that there’s a spot for you, you’ll experience the achievement and respect and self-esteem that you crave. It’s then that you can thrive in your own creativity and morality with mutual love and acceptance.


Holley Gerth


The 27th chapter of Soul Bare was written by Emily P. Freeman. She titled it, “Gravity”. I’ll write my thoughts about that chapter next.

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redemption looks beautiful on you

Posted: August 25th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: | No Comments »

Shelly Miller wrote the 25th chapter of Soul Bare. She titled it “Redemption Looks Good On You”.

When I read Shelly’s chapter, it struck me how your social influences will shape your guilt or shame. What is shocking to one person may not be shocking to another. She wasn’t writing about feelings of guilt or shame in her chapter, but she was sharing secret truths from her past with fellow church friends one night, and her story left everyone in shocked silence. Someone finally spoke up and told her that she is a miracle.

From what I understand, her mother was an alcoholic. She and her girlfriend grew enough pot in their backyard to sell to people out of their home. In spite of her salty upbringing, Shelly was a sundress-wearing french-manicured pastor’s wife, sipping wine with friends on a warm summer evening.

Shelly’s message is that, by sharing the parts of you that may not be the norm for your social group, you open the door for others to bring out the heavier things that they may be carrying. Your bravery, through faith that you’re not defined by anything but God’s love for you, inspires others to trust that they’re not defined by the their salty parts either. Not unless they want to be.

I, for one, am drawn to the salt in others. I prefer it.

“And perhaps this is this is where the beauty of redemption begins, in releasing the ugly parts of our story held captive by shame” (page 164).


Shelly Miller


Holly Gerth wrote the 26th chapter of Soul Bare. She titled it “You’re Not Alone”. I’ll write my thoughts about her chapter next.

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the choreography of God

Posted: August 24th, 2016 | Filed under: God | No Comments »

I’m almost finished blogging through the book Soul Bare. I wrote a chapter in this book and wanted to use the opportunity to introduce you to other authors who have been through some of the grittier places of life and came out with insight to offer. I didn’t read the book before I committed to blogging through it. I’m reading as I go.

Holly Grantham wrote the 24th chapter. She titled it, “The Choreography of God”. In her chapter, she writes about her writing and the act of writing. She says that she gains such “revolutionary” insight from her own writing that she wants to bring that “feast” to others. She writes about reading her old journals from when she was a teenager:

“A new reading unveiled something revolutionary: the act of writing had revealed the hidden” (page 158).

She discovered something that therapists, counselors, other writers, etc. already know. Writing is therapeutic. Holly writes about being insecure about her own opinions prior to reading her old writing. As a result of reading them as an adult, she no longer believed that her words were not meant to be read by others, that they were “far reaching ripples”, a “prayer language”, “rich and golden”, and life giving. She sees her writing as food for her soul and no longer wants to keep that for herself.

“I spent a long time hoarding the few loaves and fishes that I believed were mine to keep, but I now realize that to hold back that meager meal is to forfeit the feast to which it leads” (page 160).

You can read more of Holly’s writing here.

holly Grantham

Shelly Miller wrote the 25th chapter of Soul Bare. She titled it “Redemption Looks Beautiful On You”. I’ll write my thoughts about her chapter next.

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without people like you

Posted: August 23rd, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: | 1 Comment »

Sarah Markley is the author of the 23rd chapter of Soul Bare. She titled it, “Without People Like You”.

In Sarah’s chapter, she captures that painfully awkward feeling that I think every kid has when they’re growing up. She writes that her sensitive heart put her at a disadvantage because childhood love, fumbling words, and ultimate rejection stung all the way to the core.

Reading about her experience took me back to my own middle school rejection. It’s that sharp sting that makes your eyes burn. Stuff that happens back then forms the way you relate to people for years, if not forever. Sarah shared some of the stuff that’s probably still got some bite to it.

“I’ve been labeled sensitive, overly sensitive and even hypersensitive. I could never get over heartache or snubs… I would get my feelings deeply hurt… The idea of letting something ‘roll off my back’ was almost an impossibility to me” (page 153).

Sarah was also bullied by a youth pastor who would make fun of her and taunt her when she cried. She finally started trying to dumb heart down and hide it behind the walls we’re so good at building. It was in therapy years later that she started to see her sensitivity as an asset.

She’s grown up now, but it took her the majority of 37 years to undo the damage that careless people created while they were clambering over her for their own spot in life. Kids don’t know that their words stick in the minds of their peers like deeply imbedded splinters. We grow up, and our minds form around those splinters, making them a part of who we become.

Sarah’s identity was put in perspective when she considered the fact that God created her with a tender heart, and trying to change or hide it was a direct insult to Him. Now she’s a mom with a tender-hearted little girl, and she gets to whisper her truth as her daughter cries herself to sleep.

“Maybe she’ll understand that her heart was created with just enough tenderness to love the world as it needs to be loved and to feel the hurts of others so that she can mourn with those who mourn” (page 156).

You can become part of  Sarah’s facebook community by clicking here.

Sarah Markley


Holly Grantham wrote the 24th chapter of Soul Bare. She titled it “The Choreography of God”. I’ll write my thoughts about her chapter next.

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