breathing fresh air

Posted: August 28th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Mandy Steward wrote the 28th chapter of Soul Bare. She titled it, “Breathing Fresh Air”.

Mandy’s chapter was about discovering what yoga can do for your mind and spirit. I understand what she is saying and it’s fun to read her perspective. Yoga is the practice of relaxing into the tension of being stretched. It’s about finding the edge of yourself and growing that territory further out by facing the fear of falling off. The mental strength you gain has an undeniable positive effect on the rest of your life.

She parallels the practice on the yoga mat and out in her life:

“As I follow what I believe to be the promptings of the Spirit of God inside of me, I find myself exploring all sorts of new territory. What I am learning on my mat in yoga is transferring to how I enter into these new mysteries of my faith. I bend a little in my mind, as far as I feel comfortable, and then I breathe and see if I feel as though I can safely release the muscles to allow myself to go even deeper or if I am at my proverbial edge, needing to back off” (page 180).

In a conversation I had a couple weeks ago, my friend and I discussed the different paths people take to find the truth. They’ll get a glimpse of the truth and make a religion out of it. When I studied religions in college, I noticed that each had an element of the truth in it. It’s just that many of them haven’t found it through the Source of Truth, and so it’s tangled by tumors of false belief or spiritual blindness.

There is a such thing as spiritual enlightenment, of living selflessly, loving others, and finding your connection to the rest of creation. These things are worthwhile spiritual practices, but they have nothing to do with the flesh. Meaning, they have nothing to do with Jesus. Any religion can accomplish amazing acts of humanitarian work and meditation practice can strengthen the thinking part of our lives. Food can be our God-designed medicine, positive thinking can alter our chemistry, and healing breaths can change our neurological activity. In all of that amazing and fascinating truth, none of it mentions Jesus.

There is a connection between tradition and freedom from tradition. It’s all part of the whole. I’ve been exploring this territory for a few years now. Mandy’s writing gave me the sense that she knows she’s talking to people who may not have discovered much about God outside of the safety of their religious institutions. I wish we had more Bible-based conversations about the bigger picture. I think people would find the healing, freedom, and peace they crave if they recognized that God created everything and He is an active part of every aspect of life. We’ve scooted away from Him in every area except the Sunday Morning sanctuary.

Mandy cited this scripture and I love it…

As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.Ecclesiastes 11:5 KJV

mandy stewart

Dan King wrote the 29th chapter of Soul Bare. He titled it, “Look At Me, Daddy”. I’ll write my thoughts about his chapter next.

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teenage heretic

Posted: August 20th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: | No Comments »

Amy Peterson wrote the twentieth chapter of Soul Bare. She titled it “Teenage Heretic”.

Amy’s chapter felt like a teaser for a book that I would probably read. She writes about the moment she became uncomfortable with her own body, how that affected her choices as she grew into adolescence, and how she circled back around to being comfortable in her own skin again.

She was just a kid when a game of Truth or Dare resulted in she and her best friend practically naked. Kids are curious and weird because they’re innocent and free. We’re supposed to be like them in spirit. But, our own experiences take away innocence and curiosity. Adults, when they’re careless, can project their own feelings onto kids.

Her best friend’s mom was afraid the girls were “pretending they were married”. The way it was handled made Amy feel weighted shame. Instead of redirecting the children and telling them to keep all of their clothes on, she made them feel like they were doing something wrong and added the bonus of making the bedroom side of marriage dirty, too.

“The church’s party line encouraged my gnosticism, but it was through friendships at church that the wholeness of my childhood was returned to me” (page 138).

It was when Amy was older and skinny dipping with her church friends one night at Gulf Shores that she washed off the shame and jumped back into the comfort of her own skin.


Amy Peterson


The twenty-first chapter of Soul Bare is written by Sarah Bessey. She titled it “Letters of Intention”. I’ll write my thought about her chapter next.

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tie to the deep

Posted: August 19th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , | No Comments »

The third and final part of Soul Bare starts today. It’s called “Hope and Healing”. Tara Pohlkhotte’s chapter is first. It’s called “Tie to the Deep”. It’s my favorite chapter, so far.

Tara is a preacher’s kid. Growing up, as she says, with her back against a pew, she didn’t question the faith of her parents. She adopted it as her own. It’s when her grandpa died that she started examining her inherited faith. It didn’t comfort her like she thought something alive should. This inevitable part of life opened her soul and woke her up.

“My world would no longer accept [my Savior] as a fairy-tail knight in shining armor. He would come to me tearing his gown, with a tear-stained face and hands black from going into the grave to redeem” (page 132).

Tara’s writing is excellent. She writes about our interconnection and the way Jesus shows up in the faces of strangers, the reaching hands of our children, and the kindred moments between best friends. She draws a parallel between a baby tied to his mother in the womb, and us tied to our Savior in this world.

“… while I had since walked away from the organized church of my youth, I had not done away with communion. … Every story I shared with another soul, every night spend in a smoky basement bar talking about the fullness of life, of dreams -brought me back shoulder to shoulder with the congregation of humanity” (page 134).

I said this in a previous post, but I’m switching my allegiance. If you only read one chapter of this book (besides mine, of course), read this one.

I’m going to go find her other writing and read it.

Tara Pohlkotte

The twentieth chapter of Soul Bare is written by Amy Peterson. She titled it “Teenage Heretic”. I’ll write my thoughts about her chapter next.


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Posted: August 17th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , | No Comments »

Joy Bennet wrote, “Metamorphosis”, the seventeenth chapter of Soul Bare.

I’m reading as I blog. I don’t read ahead, so I don’t know what’s coming. Most of these chapters leave this reader with the feeling that the writer is letting me in on something known only by people close to him or her. Joy’s chapter is the epitome of that. Her guard is completely down.

She starts off by going through old photographs of herself before she saw the side to life that melts the sheen off. She walks you through the private thoughts she had as public church leader with a special needs child. Her private thoughts were doubtful and, at times, bitter.

“But as the years of fighting death back from our daughter’s bedside wore on and as her condition worsened, I began to doubt that God was good” (page 117).

This chapter, in its unguarded honesty, is absolutely beautiful. The doubt, pain, eventual acknowledgment that she needed help beyond just trying harder is refreshing. Joy went through every parent’s worst nightmare, and the lesson she, through her chapter, walks you to is that it’s okay to question and to admit that what you’re going through is beyond your ability.

“My innocence needed to be strengthened by experience, my joy has been deepened by grief, my optimism and enthusiasm are grounded in reality” (page 119).

It was through not hiding that she found freedom. I love that.

Joy Bennett


Tanya Marlow wrote “Breathing Room”, the 18th chapter of Soul Bare. I’ll write my thoughts about her chapter next.

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just be you

Posted: April 18th, 2016 | Filed under: God | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Just because you say you are a thing, and present yourself as a thing, does not make you that thing. You must first find that thing stalking you in the secret spaces of thought and knocking on the doors of your intent. You must turn inward and meet that part of you as an act of submission rather than fabrication. You can be anything you want, but until you are no longer mimicking the identity, convictions, and practice of others, you are not anything. The genuine does not use others as products for consumption. The genuine knows how to create.

The earlier revelation was intended simply to get us ready for the Messiah, who then puts everything right for those who trust him to do it. Moses wrote that anyone who insists on using the law code to live right before God soon discovers it’s not so easy—every detail of life regulated by fine print! – Romans 10:4-5 MSG

When you study the movements and habits of others as a means to make them your own, you procrastinate your own journey. You shortchange yourself. Deep feelings of inadequacy are keeping you from getting to know yourself. You can’t fake your way into being someone of substance. You can’t follow enough rules to make it real. You only attract others who, like you, don’t know where they’re going. You surround yourself with people who want to be someone and never know that they already are.

But trusting God to shape the right living in us is a different story—no precarious climb up to heaven to recruit the Messiah, no dangerous descent into hell to rescue the Messiah. So what exactly was Moses saying? The word that saves is right here, as near as the tongue in your mouth, as close as the heart in your chest. It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. – Romans 10:6-9 MSG

Stop running from your own quiet. You’re not missing out on anything because what is going on out there is not yours. You can’t keep taking and taking, all the while expecting no one to notice that you’re just regurgitating someone else’s ideas. Where is your fruit? Show us your creation.

You can’t do this on your own. You’re making people want to avoid you. Spend more time breathing in the already present God. Breathe out all the tension and angst of someone with no vision. Leave the frustration of a desperate wannabe behind as you cultivate your own garden. Water your own grass. Find your own path. Let the organic righteousness of God fold you into His mysteries and weave you like thread into something uniquely beautiful. Maybe somewhere down the line you’ll meet up with like minds instead of trying to consume the minds of those you want to be like.

This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!” – Romans 10:9-10 MSG

be yourself

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