wrestling with God in the art house theater

Posted: August 15th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , | No Comments »

The fifteenth chapter of Soul Bare was written by Karissa Knox Sorrell. She titled it “Wrestling with God in the Art House Theater”.

Karissa begins her chapter in a bathroom stall of a movie theater. Something about the movie she was watching, Tree of Life, connected with the accidental death of her brother and she had to escape. She writes that a woman came into the bathroom, heard crying, and asked if she was okay. After Karissa mentioned her brother, she received a sympathetic cliche and declined the offer to come out for a hug from the stranger.

I can’t imagine the pain of losing a sibling. Her brother was only seventeen. He was riding a motorcycle and lost his life against someone’s windshield. It’s a common thread among people who have lost someone to be uncomforted by the verbal stumbling of people who can’t find the right words to show their sympathy. The woman in the bathroom was no exception.

Different religious denominations have their own language, sayings, traditions, and rituals. They do and say certain things at certain times, and only those within that section of the subculture know what is going on. The bulk of Karissa’s chapter speaks to those who are familiar with her particular religious subculture. She mentions some of the rituals, describing the comfort she got from them.

“We sing [The Paschal Hymn] at Pascha, we hold our blazing candles high in the air. We shout it, announce it like believe it, like we know it’s true. We are so drunk on Christ’s resurrection that we laugh ecstatically, then we cry a little, then we laugh again” (page 104).

As I read, I was aware of the likelihood that these gave her structure and a sense of control in spaces of her life where the pain may have made her feel like she had no control. Despite the illusion of control, she is unable to forgive God for letting her brother die. He was just a kid, so the senselessness of it all is heart breaking. She made her way back to the movie, but sat crying in the dark.

“I’m a lot like Jacob [in Genesis 32] just fightin’ it out all night with God in the middle of the scary dark” (page 106).

When people are in the infected pockets of life, they come across unbalanced, like you could tip them either way and they would tumble. We’re all so different. Situations have meaning for some that carry no sentiment for someone else. But, there is a place for all of it.

As Karissa gives you a glimpse of her fight to hang on to her faith and stay above the water that keeps trying to suck her under, she says she’s trying to hope that God loves. This reader notices that she doesn’t say she’s trying to hope that God loves her.

“In desperation, in my near faithlessness, I still cling to the small hope that he’s real and he loves” (page 106).

Pain that deep doesn’t feel like it was inflicted by someone who loves you. People live in this struggle every day. They “wrestle with God” every day. It’s a journey and Karissa won’t be in this spot forever. You never know what people are going though under the smooth surface of their skin. It’s a good reminder to be patient and kind.

You an find Karissa blogging here.

Karissa Knox Sorrell


Lindsey van Niekerk wrote the sixteenth chapter of Soul Bare. I’ll write my thoughts about her chapter, “A Broken Love Story”, next.

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outgrowing your demons

Posted: February 8th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

I read this recently: “It’s hard to let go of the demons inside. They were the only ones holding you when no one else would.” It was a message written across a photo of a skeletonish looking thing holding the face of a man who appeared to be crying. The person who shared the photo added the caption, “True!” to his post.

I know this person’s story and I know the “demons” he keeps at bay. I also know what he means. What is familiar is more comforting than what is unfamiliar. This is true even if the familiar is pain. I’ve been in the place of holding on to the pain to the point of sabotaging anything that would threaten to heal it. I would do this unconsciously, as a survival instinct, because I knew how to navigate the darkness.

When you grow up the way I did, you learn to pack light. Joy, love, and relationships are all too bulky to carry. They slow you down and ultimately put you in danger. It hurts to lose what you care about, so you try to care about very little. When life starts to settle and joy starts to inject hope in the future, that’s when you pull out the demons to protect you. The drinks, the sounds, and the memories all serve to remind you of who you believe you are and keep you from believing that you can be anything more. You say whatever terrible thing you have to say until you can see your pain in the eyes of anyone who falls for you. And a relationship that dysfunctional is all you’re capable of.

Preferring the familiar is part of the human condition. It’s not a special dysfunctional ability reserved for the strong few. It’s why commercials make sticky songs, toxic products spend tons of money making you feel like you know them so that you’ll bring them home, and people stay in the dead waters when they could set off looking for vigorous rivers. People prefer the ruin that they know to the decay that they don’t. They would rather get hit in the same nerve damaged spot over feeling new pain in a new spot. These people are strong. Some of the strongest you’ll ever meet, but their strength is their abuser, their captor, their own demons, and they might even be smart enough to know it.

I’ve walked through that on my own journey, and I’ve found my way out. I can write about this subject because, instead of finding comfort in not trying, I’ve found the life that I’ve always wanted. I don’t get to reclaim or redo a lost childhood, but I get to break the mold that that kind of hurt forges. Life, I’ve discovered, is in the challenge and the anticipation. It’s still heavily weaved in difficulty and disappointment, but not like the emptiness of remaining the hiding child peering at life through the cracks. It’s possible to outgrow the comfort of familiar demons much like the “normal” child outgrows depending upon his parents. You mature. Like an infant redwood in an indoor planter, your potential is grossly underestimated.

We, “children of Cain”, have an opportunity of which the others are not aware. We have the freedom to create whatever we want. We can stamp down new paths because our old ones aren’t lit. We can start new lives and build new structures because our old lives with its old structures are the products of someone else’s poor construction. We can leave it all behind and let God create something brand new within us, around us, and through us. We are not cursed and neither are our children. What happened to us, as children, is not a reflection of who we are. It’s just something that we lived through.

“Afflicted city, storm-battered, unpitied: I’m about to rebuild you with stones of turquoise, lay your foundations with sapphires, construct your towers with rubies, your gates with jewels, and all your walls with precious stones. All your children will have God for their teacher—what a mentor for your children! You’ll be built solid, grounded in righteousness, far from any trouble—nothing to fear! far from terror—it won’t even come close!” – Isaiah 54:11-14 MSG

outgrowing your demons

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broth of truth

Posted: February 23rd, 2015 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Failure is a pandora’s box of debilitating lies. It’s not enough that you fell, failure has a slew of insults to keep you from getting back up. There are so many ways to dismantle a human. Too many to count. A blameless lack of knowledge leaves you without knowing where to look for your enemy. How can you fight when you don’t know what weapons you’re fighting against?

That’s why I want to keep it simple for the moment. You’re like a battle wounded soldier hiding in the shed of a farmer’s widow. We’ll search for meaning later. Right now, you just need to sip the broth of Truth.

Cynics look high and low for wisdom and never find it. The open-minded find it right on their doorstep! – Proverbs 14:6 MSG

You’re accustomed to a culture of distrust. Your social circle nurtured group-importance by finding all the ways they were right and the rest of the world was wrong. If another wasn’t part of your group, then there was something wrong with them. Cynicism.

But look at you. Your group doesn’t know what to do with a broken soldier and you’re bleeding out on an outsider’s wooden floor. Your tiny box of existential “rightness” has been smashed by the headlong rejection of your comrades.

A blown mind opens the door for Wisdom. You can choose to reject the Truth or let it swallow you whole. It’s a fearful thing to be swallowed whole. Instead of becoming inflicted with the Fear-of-God, many hide until the Truth gets explained away.

The Fear-of-God is a spring of Living Water so you won’t go off drinking from poisoned wells.Proverbs 14:27 MSG

It’s human of us to balance incoming information with what we think we know. That’s why denial is always the first step. We unconsciously think that we are the authors of wisdom. We think we know all the words. We confer with ourselves. We consult with others. But you only confer to affirm that you’re okay. You only consult so you can be approved.

But what if you’re wrong? Reality is only a socially agreed upon attribution of meaning to the acknowledged narrative. Don’t you want the Truth? What if you’ve been drinking from a poisoned well? The Fear-of-God is a spring of Living Water. How do you get your hands on some of that Fear?

Failure is a pandora’s box of debilitating lies. The only goal of the enemy of the soul is to keep you from getting back up. The fading backside of your friends is evidence that they were not there to help you up. The midnight insults and accusations stealing your sleep are not there to lift you up. The blank stares of the answerless leaders reveal the gap between the Truth and the counterfeit.  The curtain between the actors and the audience has crashed to the stage and you stand there in a noiseless gasp of mind blown denial. The basis of your assurance could not carry the weight of reality.

The gullible believe anything they’re told. The prudent sift and weigh every word. -Proverbs 14:15 MSG

Solid Christians sin. They knowingly, openly, unabashedly make choices that are contrary to what they know is right. This is the introduction of Truth that time reveals.

You can spend years thinking that you are the one holding yourself together. Skin seems impenetrable until it’s sliced. The only thing that can stand the weight of time is the bedrock of Truth. Sip your broth. You are not the source of Wisdom. You are Wisdom’s vessel. You cannot hold yourself upright. “Upright” is a proclamation. Grace points to the man on his head and proclaims “Upright!”. Not because he is, but because “I AM”.

We are insufficient and our failures make sure we know it. Not to destroy us, but to open us. Grace gives the failure a purpose. When that sinks in, you will know the Fear-of-God; the spring of Living Water; the broth of Truth.purpose


end of an era

Posted: February 13th, 2015 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

I’ll wipe the slate clean for each of them. I’ll forget they ever sinned!” God’s Decree. – Jeremiah 31:34 MSG

I’ve had a job since I was fifteen. I think coming from a gypsy mother with no money made the act of making money really intriguing to me. It’s just that I developed a habit of wanting to work in most places I entered. I was a clerk at a really small town grocery store until I went with a church group to eat at a little country buffet and became their newest server. One afternoon, I went shopping at a nearby bigger small town with my adopted mom and we grabbed a cherry limeade from Sonic. I was driving by this time, so I submitted an application and I upgraded from country buffet to fountain drink maker at Sonic.

Working in another town made it easier to get away with my crazy and most nights people would have to drive me home because I was too drunk to drive myself. In retrospect, these were some pretty good acquaintances because I lived over thirty minutes away and it would be the middle of the night down a country dirt road. My adopted mom liked to shop at Wal-Mart and they built a new supercenter in a different, bigger small town, so I quit the fountain drink making job and became a cashier at Wal-Mart.

After I turned seventeen, I got a second job taking care of the flower beds at a local college during the summer. That was the summer I left home. I’ve always been fiercely independent. I think I came out of the womb waiting to be on my own. I quit both jobs and started working for quarters, literally, at a diner. Then I worked at a fast food burger chain. Then a different fast food burger chain. I cleaned rooms at a hotel, made follow-up sales calls for a satellite company who made us call ourselves a “phone line cable” company, and then I sucked nitrous oxide from whipped cream cans in between making sundaes at a frozen yogurt shop.  After that, I worked as a cashier at a grocery store.

It was hard for me to keep a job because I was homeless and my life was chaotic. When I turned nineteen, I was pregnant and a brand new Christian. A friend of a woman at my new church let me man her mall kiosk of flower arrangements until I had the baby. This brings me to the point of my story. Around this time, an Irish owned Mexican restaurant chain out of Kansas was built in our town. They opened right around the time my daughter was born and I went there with some friends after church. Old habits are hard to break. I filled out an application while I ate chips and salsa and I started my new job about two weeks later.

Due to the structure that living a Christian lifestyle brought, my life was more linear around this time. I had stability and a little group of people supporting me. My best friend from church started working with me, which made clocking out at 1 a.m. a blast. We were both nineteen, so the night was still young at 1 am. The rest of the world, however, was closed for business. That is, except the 24-hour Supercenter. We were the teenage girls who smelled like salsa and raided the beauty aisles of Wal-Mart at 2 am.

Our church groups would have their nights out to our restaurant. Other friends would end up there and wait to sit in my section. I loved when my world would take that place over. It made me feel important.

Life moved forward and earned some breaks and scars. Moves, marriages, break ups, failures, and redemptions looped us all in passing circles. I went there twice since I moved back. Once to see what the past tasted like and the second time to sit next to my husband as his heart was torn out.

Here’s the thing. I’m taking a small-town-ambition-fueled highlighter to this soggy-marshmallow-trailer-park-social-salad. The circle of friends got tangled. And a cold plate of nachos sat like a prop on an unfriendly Mexican Irish booth while words became razors.

We never entered that building again. It became an eyesore, a reminder of our sins, an innocence graveyard.

Then, a few months ago the place got shut down. Like a fed up landlord, a note hung on the door and the locks were changed. You can’t celebrate enduring memories on blood stains. So, I was glad.

An era is over. Grace has washed away most of the bitterness. New memories, new life, and redeeming Love has softened the pain of failure and loss. Healing has taken over and kindness has replaced scorn. So it’s only fitting that the Carpenter deemed it time to clean the slate.

Good riddance, Carlos O’Kelley’s.

“Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be— you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean.” – Psalm 32:1 MSG



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advice for the found out

Posted: November 30th, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »
The following is a response to someone whose affair was just discovered and whose shame has been publicly paraded.

Dear Found Out,

I am so sorry you’re in the spot you’re in. The level of shame and humiliation you must be feeling is crushing.

I’m not sure if you’re looking for practical information, spiritual perspective, or just to reach out to someone who has been that person and had to navigate that mess. So, I’ll offer you a little of each.

The practical information is this:

  • It is best to own everything you did, resist sticking up for yourself, avoid explaining your reasons, and let people fall apart in their own way.
The longer you take to come clean about everything, the harder it’s going to be for you in our healing process. It’s like breaking a bone, not telling anyone about it, then the doctor has to break the bone again so it can heal right. Just go through it all at once so that you can get this part behind you. It’s horrible and you’ll lose every bit of what you thought was good about you, but the rebuilding is amazing and thorough. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.

Don’t stick up for yourself or offer your excuses. You have them, but you got them little by little and they made sense at the time. But you’re giving this to people all at once and it will sound pathetic, even to you. Excuses have a one time use: to get you trapped. They cannot be resurrected to set you free.

People are going go through their own pain because of this. You can’t help them and it’s not even about you, though they’ll make it about you if they can. It’s about them and God. It’s going to be hard on them and they’ll want to make you feel some of it. The spiritual perspective will help you endure their pain along with your own.

The Spiritual perspective is this:

Every second you’ve been alive, every breath you’ve taken, and every moment you’ve lived up to this point, God has known about this. Every time He has told you that He loves you, He knew about this. When He made you, when He saved you, and when He used you… He knew about this. This will change you, but it won’t change Him. He would not be God if He couldn’t handle your worst.

You’ve always had this inside of you and this is the time that He has decided to finally root it out. You’re about to learn what it is to be refined by fire and it sucks. You’re about to understand why Jesus had to do what He did. There is no way you could pay this debt. That is what this is all about.

The gravity of finally understanding the Truth is absolutely terrifying in every way possible. It’s also very personal. It’s between you and God. God will not allow you to use other people as a pacifier, so He is going to put up walls between you and anyone who will crowd out His voice. You have to remember not to blame anyone for failing you right now. They’re not supposed to be enough, remember. Don’t keep a mental list of their failures toward you, because they’ll be so numerous and spiritually horrific they wouldn’t be able to bear them. The more you need from them, the more they’ll demand from you and fail you. It’s you and God and that’s it.

Remember that when Adam and Eve sinned the first sin, God came for them, He didn’t wait for them to come to Him. When Jesus came, He went even further than the path in the garden, He went to every depraved place we could go. He’s with you. Don’t ever let anyone convince you that He’s left you. That’s enemy territory and the power is in the lie.

There is a battle raging for you you right now. Hell wants you to believe that you’re ruined and God wants you to know that He’s closer than He’s ever been. Of all those times you’ve said “God, I’ve got this,”… this is not one of them and He’s all over it.

People will tell you that you have to do a), b), and c), but that’s an attempt to get you to believe you can save yourself. There is no climbing back up the cliff from which you jumped. It’s okay if that reality destroys you. You’re about to be rebuilt stronger and more beautiful than you ever were before. Again, you’ll just have to trust me on this one.

As someone who has been in some version of your shoes:

The Christian culture has been too candied to be able to come anywhere near being sufficient enough to find you where you are. Some of the songs have words that are so on point, it’s surreal, but they’re sung by Disneyish characters who have no soul. It’s infuriating and sickening. It’s hard to find something real, but when you do, it’s hard to believe that God would still talk to you like that.

I’ve spent nearly a decade trying to add some friction to the steps people take to find the Truth. The fact that you remembered me while laying broken at the bottom of the cliff is proof some of the grit stuck. Everything I write is for people in your position. It’s like a road map. I know it’s hard to believe that God still loves you, and not only knew about this, but has a plan for this. That’s why I use as many scriptures as possible to back it up. Read those blogs again… things will pop out at you that you never saw before. I write in layers. I hide things only people like us would get. People like us: Saved by grace. Literally and for real this time.

Oh, did you know that Adam and Eve’s names weren’t mentioned until after they sinned? Before then, they were called “Man” and “Woman”. Interesting, isn’t it? Also, Adam wasn’t cursed…. the serpent was cursed and the ground was cursed. Adam and Eve lost their innocence, but they weren’t cursed. You have lost your innocence, but this will be the pivotal moment of your entire life. …A moment in your narrative that your future self thanks God for.

Hold on. He’s got you.

He won't leave you.