Check Your Blind Spots

Picture with me, if you will, 16-year old Holly learning to drive. I was an overly cautious kid. Hands on 10 and 2. Constantly checking my speed and my mirrors. I was keenly aware that I was, in fact, driving a machine that could kill someone. This reality weighed heavily on my mind every time I got behind the wheel and still does to this day. It’s fun living inside this head of mine. 🙂

One of the things we are taught when we are learning to drive is about the importance of checking our blind spots. Blind spots are those sneaky areas to the side of our cars that can’t be seen by the side or rear view mirrors. What that means is we can’t be reliant upon just our mirrors when wanting to change lanes or to merge onto the highway.

If we are going to safely and accurately check our blind spots we’ve got to actually turn our heads and look over our shoulders. A simple, but vital step in preventing a collision.

Didn’t know you were getting some driving instruction in today’s post, did ya? 😉

Here’s my point: Christians are not exempt from blind spots. We’ve all got them.

These blind spots can include our personal preferences, any biased beliefs, old ways of thinking and just plain ole’ misinformation. Yes, sometimes we aren’t thinking or believing correctly and we leave that blind spot unchecked because it’s easy and comfortable.

In order to check your Christian blind spots you have to have a measure of humility– a willingness to have your heart and motives examined to find out why you think or believe a certain way and why you might be hesitant to relinquish those beliefs.

Sometimes we ignore those spots because we’d rather not deal with it. We know whatever is lurking in that spot is detrimental to our growth but it’d take too much work (time, emotions, energy). Heck, you might even need to get a counselor or therapist! GASP!

[Side note: I’m sans coffee for about 21 days now so I might just come off extra sassy in this week’s post.]

Actually, counselors are really great at helping us pinpoint blind spots and deal with them appropriately. Scripture is also necessary in this process as long as it’s not being used inappropriately or out of context in an attempt to make excuses for that blind spot. The Holy Spirit is also helpful in bringing some clarity and discernment.

All of that requires being open to change and correction. It also requires doing some thoughtful listening without immediately offering a rebuttal.

I’ve seen what happens when Christian blind spots go unchecked and I can tell you that it has stunted growth and caused quite a bit of hurt. We’ve got to be diligent in this area.

I hope it goes without saying but I’ve got blind spots, too. Areas I refused to look at because it hurt too much or I just didn’t want to deal with it. I’m right there with you. I’m just hoping to take a lesson from 16 year old Holly learning to drive and checking those spots that can be easily overlooked….and I hope you will, too.

I love my country but… not as much as I love the Kingdom of God.

It only seems fitting to write about patriotism the week we celebrate Independence Day in all it’s red, white and blue glory. This special day was set aside so each year we could intentionally celebrate America’s freedom by grilling and blowing up fireworks.

I’d consider myself a fairly patriotic person– like “Hulk Hogan staking an American flag into some rock” kind of patriotic. If you’ve never seen that picture please go here. I don’t own a pair of American flag pants like Rex Kwon Do in Napoleon Dynamite, but I cry every time I hear “America the Beautiful” sung.

I love my country. I’m thankful I was born here and that as a white, straight female I get to experience it’s benefits. In many ways, I am proud to be an American, but my identity as an American doesn’t rank #1. I’m not even sure it makes it to my top 5.

I am a Christian first and foremost. That means my citizenship and my loyalty belongs somewhere else. As Hebrews 13:14 puts it,

“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”

Hebrews 13:14 NLT

Or as Paul tells the Philippians,

“But we are a colony of heaven on earth as we cling tightly to our life-giver, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philippians 3:20 (TPT)

Christianity and American patriotism seem to have this odd relationship. Almost as if one could not exist without the other. What I mean is if I disagree with something my country is doing or how my president is acting (or saying or posting on Twitter) then maybe I’m not being a very good Christian.

Crazy, right?!

I recently had a disagreement with someone concerning racism in our country. At the end of the conversation they remarked, “I love my country,” as if my disgust with the lack of progress in regards to equality was somehow NOT loving to my country.

I love my country but I love the Kingdom of God and people He created more. ALWAYS.

I not only love the Kingdom of God, but have committed to fulfilling the work and calling that comes with being a citizen of it. Jesus the King of Kings has commissioned me for His work.

The ideologies of the Kingdom of God and the “American Kingdom” are vastly different. In Robin DiAngelo’s book White Fragility she shares this:

“Examples of ideology in the United States include individualism, the superiority of capitalism as an economic system and democracy as a political system, consumerism as a desirable lifestyle, and meritocracy (anyone can succeed if he or she works hard).

Robin J. DiAngelo “White Fragility”

When I read that I was confronted with how differently these two kingdoms are run. The Kingdom of God isn’t about individualism, but about community and fellowship–so much in fact that even God is triune!

In the Kingdom of God, giving and generosity is foundational making sure everyone is being taken care of including widows and orphans. Jesus even urged one man in Mark 10:17-27 to give up everything he had and give it to the poor! ALL he had. The man went away sad because he was quite wealthy– a huge mansion, 401K, cars, boats, vacation homes! I’m kidding, but he did walk away sad because the one thing he didn’t want to give up Jesus was asking him to give up for the sake of the Kingdom.

God’s kingdom isn’t a democracy either. He sits on the throne and He calls the shots.

Lastly, and for which I am very grateful, the Kingdom of God and our citizenship in it is not based on our merit, but by the blood of Jesus Christ. Nothing I could do or say could get me entrance– it’s His grace and mercy alone!

The Kingdom of God, unlike the American one, is perfect. I’m not saying Christians are (we are NOT by any stretch of the imagination), but it was designed and is governed by a perfect and loving God. A God who doesn’t classify a person based on race, social status or money in the bank!

I pledge my allegiance to my God.

I am people.

As a Christian, what has been the hardest thing for me to do?

It hasn’t been *not* murdering though catch me without coffee and maybe I’d give you a different answer. Also, there was that one time I was convinced to chaperone a 40-Hour Famine youth group event and I’m certain I had numerous murderous thoughts. I also spent the next 24-hours in bed sick as a dog. Never again!

It hasn’t been serving. If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time you’d know that I served with such zeal and enthusiasm that I find myself in severe and utter burnout.

While others might hold tightly to money or things I’m quick to give. I’m also quick to speak life when people are down or in need of some encouragement. This isn’t to pat myself on the back, but just to acknowledge some things come easier to some and that’s what makes our diversity needed and beautiful!

Back to that main question, the hardest thing for me to do as a Christian has been to love and value myself.

This has been a difficult concept for me to grasp since…well….forever. As a Christian, I very much understood that my life had two main goals because Jesus had so nicely summed them up for me in Matthew 22:36-40. Everything hung on those two things.

Love God. Love People.

And so the light came on: I AM PEOPLE.

I’ve been thinking about this more lately when on multiple occasions I was asked, “If you could tell younger you one thing what would it be?” Back in 2013, I wrote a post around my 30th birthday sharing some of my answers to that question. I still agree with everything I wrote, but as I re-read it I realized I missed this important truth– loving myself.

In the Christian culture, we are encouraged to think outside of ourselves. Be mindful of others. Live the cross-bearing kind of life. I don’t deny any of those things and still agree with them. I am to daily lay down my life for the Kingdom of God, but laying down my life doesn’t mean hating myself or dismissing my needs.

I thought loving God and loving others meant giving of myself until I didn’t even have a drop left for myself. I thought loving others meant finding value in others, but finding myself worthless. I have operated out of this mindset for a very long time.

But I am people.

And you are people, too.

I know you’ve probably got kids, grandkids, jobs, ministry, friends and/or houses to care for, but it’s OK to care for you, too. Actually, I think God finds just as much pleasure in seeing you love yourself as He does when you love others. Why? Because He made you, too. You’re one of His wonderfully made creations, too! You are beautiful and made in His image, too!

One of the worship songs I’ve been bathing myself in recently has been “Prophesy Your Promise” by Jesus Culture and you can listen to it here if you’re interested. The bridge in this song was what first stuck out to me in this season and I feel like it applies to the encouragement I’m trying to share here.

Fear can go to hell. Shame can go there too. I know whose I am. God, I belong to you.

Shame would try to tell us that we don’t deserve love. That we are in fact unworthy. Oh, but dear friend, that’s not true. You belong to God and God doesn’t make or keep junk. You are deeply loved, treasured and desired. More than my mind can even comprehend, honestly.

I can love me because He loves me. I can find worth in myself because He says I have worth. I can care for me because He cares for me, too.

So I’m choosing to proactively send the lies that tell me I’m disgusting and worthless back to hell–that’s where they came from and I’m sending them right back. May you send every lie back to where it came!

Your Spiritual Maintenance

A few weeks before Quarantine hit, a friend of mine dropped off a small potted rose plant for me. She knows I love flowers and enjoy keeping them around my apartment. I usually tend to buy fresh cut ones though because those are meant to die (eventually). I haven’t had good luck with potted plants in the past, but was happy to give it another try.

Yes, I am the person who has killed the “hardest plants to kill” as the masses like to tell me. “Just get a succulent!” I have. Killed them. All of them. Even air plants which need a gentle spritz of water once a week.

I was skeptical I would have any luck, but then Quarantine hit and what else did I have to do with my life/time but baby a plant?

It’s now three months later and my little rose plant is still alive AND it grew so much I needed to put it into a bigger pot. What had I done differently this time than all the other times I sent my potted plants to the Great Garden in the sky?

I learned to check the soil.

Before all the green-thumbed readers give an eye roll and release a gentle but exasperated “duh”, let me explain myself.

I was working under some assumptions. Wrong assumptions as the case may be. You don’t just water plants every day. Some days the soil already has all the moisture it needs. Over-watering can be just as detrimental as under-watering (so I have now learned).

During my daily soil checks, I realized that I need to be doing the same kind of “soil checks” for myself. I require regular routine spiritual maintenance just like my beloved plant.

I can’t just assume I’m doing ok, but need to take a moment and ask God to inspect the soil, too. In the words of David:

“God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart. Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me. Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares.” (Psalm 139:23, TPT)

There are days my soil is much drier than I care to admit or even recognize. In those moments, I need to respond appropriately to my needs. What will quench my soul? What will refill me? Yes, consistent Bible reading, prayer and worship keep a steady stream coming in, but there are days that doesn’t feel like enough.

I know how that might sound. “Holly, what you’re saying is GOD IS NOT ENOUGH?!?!” No, actually, I’m not. What I’m saying is God can use a relaxing bubble bath by candlelight or an evening out with my girlfriends to bring some nourishment, too. God’s much bigger than religious prescriptions.

Another thing I do to make sure my plants are doing well (as I already mentioned regarding my rose plant) is make sure the plant has space to grow. When we cramp the roots of our plant by keeping them in a smaller pot then they get “root bound”. What happens to a root bound plant? It can begin to wilt, leaves begin to yellow and growth is stunted. If not taken care of properly (re-potting into a bigger pot), a root bound plant can die.

Again, inspecting the roots is the only way to find out if that’s happening to your plant. Once you know the problem you can effectively administer the change needed to help the plant thrive.

Jesus talked about the importance of soil and roots, too. He tells us the story of four soils, in fact, and how each soil determined the health of the seed and whether it would grow fruit. He mentioned how gravel didn’t work well because it didn’t offer enough soil for roots to grow. Ground constantly walked on won’t be good soil either because it’s too packed down and makes the seeds easy dinner for nearby birds. Other soil was too filled with weeds so the plants were choked out.

Ah, but that rich soil was where it was at– soil so good that seeds could actually produce a harvest! Fruit is also another great indicator of spiritual health. If there isn’t growth in my life it’s important I do some maintenance there.

Regular maintenance always yields the best results.

My dad is an avid gardener. It’s one of his hobbies, which I’m grateful for because I often reap the benefits….literally. Sometimes he asks me to come help weed, which I don’t mind because it’s a bit of “weed therapy” for me. Not that kind of weed therapy. lol. The kind of weed therapy where you can take out any aggression, anger or frustration out by pulling and tossing weeds.

Last year, my dad called me over to help with a section of his garden that had become overcome with knee-high weeds. It took a few hours and much sweat but at the end we enjoyed admiring the results of our hard work. Regular maintenance of that section would have prevented it from getting out of control and over run like that.

We’ve got to be just as diligent in our own lives. It’s not pretty work and you don’t get those nearly as satisfying “before vs. after” pics, but it is worth it. Our growth is worth it.

I now have 3 plants that I am eagerly watching over. Each day enjoying the inspection process because I know that in being mindful of what my plants need it will help them to flourish. The beautiful brightly colored petals and the deep greens of the leaves giving me daily reminders to take care of myself, too.

I deserve the same loving attention and encouragement to grow. Let’s be committed to doing the hard work of regular spiritual maintenance.

In the Words of Bon Jovi & a Franciscan Prayer

What could an 80’s metal hair band babe and some Franciscan monks have in common? I mean, do they have something in common?!

Stay with me for a second. I know this sounds crazy as I’ve been laughing (literally out loud) while watching the Bon Jovi “Livin’ on a Prayer” music video, but sometimes this is how God talks to me. I can’t help it.

For the last week, I feel like I’ve been at a loss of words. When confronted with the deep, heart-wrenching pain of others I wondered, “What could I possibly say?” So, I spent lots of time listening and reading because I believe that’s part of my calling at this time– to no longer feign ignorance, but educate myself and grow.

This is no new concept. In fact, this is a foundational principle whenever you come in contact with someone who is grieving….LISTEN. There is no perfect arrangement of words to make everything better, but listening brings a simple solidarity between people.

As I’ve mentioned before, during my own personal darkest hours the moments people came and just sat with me or allowed me to share openly about my loss and bear my wounds have been some of the most comforting. These kinds of interactions also bring about a depth of genuine connection certainly needed in this current conversation as well.

In my reading this week, I came across this ancient Franciscan prayer. Even though I haven’t had many words to share and have even struggled knowing what and how to pray this simple prayer seemed beautifully relevant.

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, hard hearts, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live from deep within your heart where God’s spirit dwells.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world and in your neighborhood, so that you will courageously try what you don’t think you can do, but in Jesus Christ you’ll have the strength necessary to do.

May God bless you so that you remember we are all called to continue God’s redemptive work of love and healing in God’s place, in and through God’s name, in God’s spirit, continually creating and breathing new life and grace into everything and everyone we touch.

No fancy words are necessary when we pray. You do not need a Theology degree or even know the Greek word for prayer. Prayer is simply connection with our Heavenly Father. I’ve started many a prayer with a sigh or groan.

Sometimes the majority of prayer IS listening. God listening to my list of grievances and frustrations. And if I’m smart, me doing the majority of the listening as He comfort or corrects or directs me.

No need to over-complicate it or overthink it. Just make the space to do it–to simply quiet yourself down and turning off all the distractions. Just you and Him. It’s there where the Living Water of His Presence can come in and give us a drink of water. A drink of hope and a drink of strength.

Here’s my encouragement, whether in the words of an 1855 hymn by Joseph Scriven (“Take it to the Lord in prayer”) or a 1986 rock ballad by Bon Jovi (“Livin’ on a Prayer”) take a minute to do just that.

White Christian Hypocrisy

White christian

I will give fair warning now, there will be language found in this post that some would call vulgar and distasteful. If that is something you find offensive then you might not want to read this one. 

As a white/heterosexual/female/Christian, I have often heard Christians accused of being hypocritical. It’s certainly nothing new, but each time I would do my best to ardently defend Christians everywhere by saying, “Christians aren’t hypocrites. We are just imperfect people. We make mistakes.”

As true as that may be, we aren’t perfect by any means, I am finding it harder and harder to dismiss the hypocrisy found among some.

As a Christian, if you give a hearty “Amen!” after someone reads Micah 6:8 (He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”) but don’t support justice for our black brothers and sisters then you’re a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you are ok with protesting colonists who threw 342 containers of British tea (valuing about 1 million dollars today) into the Boston Harbor, but get upset when protesters loot a Target then you’re a hypocrite. (By the way, the CEO of Target released a very loving and UNDERSTANDING message to the community.)

As a Christian, if you are ok pledging allegiance to a flag (or nation), but feel personally offended when someone kneels during the pledge (the very right given to them because of that flag) then you are a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you fight for your right to bear arms, but don’t weep when you see and hear of UNARMED black men and women being shot then you’re a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you preach that God is love, but God’s love has some kind of conditions to it (like race, sexual orientation, political party, gender, denomination, etc.) then you’re a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you celebrate that the Body of Christ is diverse (and you even send missionaries to other countries because every nation needs to be represented in the kingdom!!), but everyone around you looks like you and thinks like you then you’re a hypocrite.

As much as this applies to race, it isn’t the only area of hypocrisy.

As a Christian, if you are ok with your President using the term “pussy” on multiple occasions, but get upset when people wear pink vagina hats at the Women’s March then you’re a hypocrite. (Or if you think Christian women shouldn’t even be a part of such an event!)

By the way, if you support a President who uses vulgar language and claims to be a Christian, but get pissed off when a Christian blogger does it then you’re a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you are ok with your President talking about kissing women without consent (or “grabbing them by the pussy” as he so lovingly described it) and say it was “before his conversion”, but are disgusted by children being abused in Catholic church (which is undeniably disgusting on every level) then you’re a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you are ok with obeying one politicians direction because he considers himself a Christian (because he prays?!?!), but refuse to listen to another one because he isn’t then you’re a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you pray for the persecuted church in other countries and then use the same term to describe the American church during social distancing/quarantine then you are a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you say women and men are created equal and in the image of God, but magnify the voice of men while stifling the voice of women because they are “too emotional” then you’re a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you say that abuse is wrong, but allow husbands to verbally abuse their wives and children and allow them to remain in Christian leadership because it isn’t PHYSICAL ABUSE and you aren’t sure it’s “that big of a deal” then you are a hypocrite.

In order to define hypocrisy, I’d like to throw it back to 1995 when DC Talk (a popular and celebrated Christian rock band) released the song “What If I Stumble?”. The song begins with a recording of Christian theologian Brennan Manning saying:

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

Or if you prefer the definition found in the dictionary it’s when someone claims to have a moral standard or belief but their actions do not line up. Seems to me like consistency is important here. And I believe one of the top reasons why so many young adults leave the church after high school, but that’s for a different post.

So, how do we address this? How do I even begin to discuss the next steps. If we allow ourselves to look in the mirror and we find hypocrisy there how to we respond? That’s the question I keep asking myself because I understand there ARE areas of hypocrisy in my life.

As I have mentioned in past blogs the only thing I know to do is look to Jesus. How did He respond/act? What did Jesus say about it?

Jesus was not silent on hypocrisy.

In Matthew 23:27-28, Jesus talks to the religious scholars and Pharisees calling them out on their bullshit. As The Passion Translation puts it in verse 28, “Outwardly you masquerade as righteous people, but inside your hearts are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

THIS is the question we’ve got to ask ourselves– is there hypocrisy in my heart? Allow Him to reveal it to you. We can trust Him to do that because there wasn’t an ounce of hypocrisy in Jesus.

Jesus was so perfect in fact that His perfection caused people to not like Him. Actually, some people hated Him and were trying to trick Him and trap Him with His words.

They were so hell bent on it in fact that they brought a woman who was caught in the act of adultery (I wonder how they knew that?!) in front of Jesus who was teaching in the temple courts (John 8). They made this woman, who I assume was naked, stand in the middle of everyone not only to shame her, but to see if Jesus would condemn her.

As good religious scholars would they brought up the law of Moses. Certainly Jesus wouldn’t disobey the law handed down to them! When He finally responds to them He looks them in the face and gives them permission to stone her if they themselves have never sinned.

I wish I could have been there– to see the look in His eyes the tone in His voice. The leaders who were once angry and demanding answers now silent. One by one walking away because they couldn’t deny their own hypocrisy when Jesus presented them with it.

Again, an example of how Jesus can bring conviction to our hearts if we are willing to listen. If we are willing to let Him confront us on stuff that we’d rather not see.

I’ll admit it, I’m pretty angry about the hypocrisy I see in others in the Church. It disgusts me and enrages me to no end, but I need to have that same response when I see it in myself, too.

Oh, Jesus. Root out every sliver of hypocrisy found in our hearts and allow us to pursue justice, to love mercy and walk with humility. Break our hearts for the things that break yours. Heal our nation and bring unity as only You can. Bring freedom to those bound by racism, by tradition, by sexism and ANYTHING that doesn’t come from You! May your kingdom of peace reign in the hearts of your people. Amen.

Is Church Essential?

White Simple Woman Photo Sale or Business Women's Beauty Facebook Cover

I’m not sure there is a way to discuss this without it becoming a polarizing issue except to NOT discuss it. I’m also aware that those who disagree will have much to say about it…and me…but it’s not the first time a post written with loving intentions had me certainly damned to hell by well-intentioned Christians.

Those who disagree are welcome here, too.

Enough about that. We’re here to discuss if church is essential. Many Christians says so. Savior Trump says so. Must be so.

Is it?

Let me make a simple distinction at the get go. One that I think is wildly important.

There’s a difference between a church service/institution and THE CHURCH. I think we’d all agree with that, right? As Christians, we know we are THE CHURCH. The Body of Christ was put on this Earth to love and serve and bring His kingdom to others. (Which was, in fact, Jesus’ mission as well.)

I am THE CHURCH. You are THE CHURCH. God wants to use us. Desires to use us. Has gone so far as to commission us to BE His Church.

Still with me? Good. Cause here’s the part that I’m going to call into question.

Is a church service essential? Frankly, is the church as an institution essential? No. I don’t think so.

But Holly what about Hebrews 10:25??? What about Acts 2:42??? I’m very much aware of those references and am in no way suggesting anything that is contrary to those verses. What I am suggesting is that it doesn’t look like the Sunday morning service the masses are convinced are essential.

Throughout this season of social distancing and quarantine I have been bewildered by some Christians desires to “get back to normal”. As if normal has somehow been working for us. This could be it’s own blog post, but I wonder if God has been trying to use this time to shake the Church out of it’s stagnancy and CHANGE THINGS UP.

Whenever I have BIG questions like whether church is essential I go back to Jesus. I look at His life. How he was doing things during His time on Earth and then try and use that to answer my question.

If we were to go the traditional route, there are a few times in the Gospels where Jesus was explicitly at the temple in Jerusalem. The temple was the hub for Jewish teaching and was the center for celebrations and holidays. We know Jesus’ family visited the Jewish temple and participated in these holy days. In Luke 2, we read about how as a boy Jesus got left behind at the temple because He was busy listening to the teachers and asking questions.

Jesus also tore up the joint (John 2, Matthew 21) because the temple had become a place of profit. Hmm. I’ll leave that one alone.

We also know Jesus taught in the synagogues “as was his custom” (Luke 4:16). One of my favorite examples of this can be found in Luke 4 where He stands up and reads from Isaiah 61, rolls up the scroll and goes to sit back down. All eyes are on Him at this point because they realize what He’s just alluded to and then plainly states– that He IS the Messiah. Uh, mic drop.

So, what if the temple had been closed for two months? Would this have halted Jesus? Would He have been in an uproar to get the doors re-opened? 

I want to take us back to the story of Mary and Martha. Not so we can look at my woman of faith doppleganger, Martha, but Mary. We are told in Luke 10 that Mary was found at the feet of Jesus listening to His teaching. Mary wasn’t the only one in the room. Yes, Martha was pissed off in the kitchen prepping for dinner, but the rest of the family (neighbors, friends) were listening to Jesus, too.

It’s kinda what Jesus did. To echo 12-year old Jesus’ words, “Didn’t you know I must be about my Father’s business?”

He went from place to place hanging out with people. Eating meals with them and giving them the literal Word of God while He lingered there. He did this with Zacchaeus and even big time Pharisees and Jewish leaders, too.

It was this meeting people along the way kind of ministry. The kind of ministry that met people at water holes, along roadsides, in cemetaries (hello, demon possessed naked man!) and in open fields.

He was not shackled to a building, but rather a mission. 

And I get it, we’ve tied the mission of God to a building for so long it’s been uncomfortable and shaky for many when that building (crutch?) has been taken away. 

In a very real way, I understand that meeting together can be encouraging. How praying with one another and worshiping together can usher in the presence of God. I would never deny that, but maybe our church buildings have become precious little idols.

I wonder that because when it’s taken away (even temporarily) a spirit of fear rose up. “They’re denying us our freedom!” “We’re being persecuted!” In Sunday School, we are taught early on that an idol is anything that takes our focus off of God and onto something or someone else. So, again, I just wonder if a building/service/institution has become our focus.

I often wonder if Jesus would be impressed at our big fancy buildings that take up city blocks or old strip mall plazas or would He remind us that it is just a tool. One of many that can be used for His glory. If it gets taken away tomorrow His mission doesn’t and will not end because He’s bigger than that. 

Please hear me. I am not trying to be edgy, clickbaity or controversial. I’m just like you– trying to figure out the heart of God in a world that is constantly changing. I don’t want to miss something He has for me, or US, because I was so busy focusing on one thing when He had something better and BIGGER in mind.

 

 

Life Lessons & Wallpaper Removal

life lessons & wallpaper removal

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time you’ll notice a theme. I write about stuff I’m going through and/or learning. If you’d go back through my old posts you’d see those things range from time I spent on the river kayaking or passing a torn down McDonald’s. If our ears and eyes are open, there’s so much to learn in the simple, ordinary moments of life.

Like while tearing down wallpaper.

In October 2011, I moved into my apartment and immediately hated the wallpaper in my entryway. I’m not sure when this house was built, but I’m certain the wallpaper (at least the first layer) is circa the 70’s at my best estimate.

Please don’t get me wrong. I LOVE my little apartment. It’s got character much like it’s tenant. There’s tons of kitchen storage though some of it can’t be reached by a 5′ fun-sized person such as myself. It’s got brand new windows that let in the morning sun and overlooks a back yard with green grass and a bunny or two. The hardwood floors in my bedroom make me smile every single day.

My landlords/neighbors have become friends over the past 8.5+ years of me living here. Their daughters leave me the occasional hand-picked flower on my step to brighten up my day. Of all the sweet perks of this apartment (and there are many) they are by far the best part.

But it was time for the wallpaper to go….past due in fact!

One might ask, “Holly, what has taken you so long to take down the wallpaper?”

Here’s where my lessons begin.

Lesson #1: You can’t get what you don’t ask for. 

I lived with something I didn’t like for almost 9 years because I didn’t ask for anything different. I was willing to live with it.

What things have you been willing to live with?

I’m not talking about dated wallpaper here. I’m talking about toxic relationships, mental health hang-ups or jobs that leave you feeling unfulfilled.

Don’t you think it’s about time you ask for better for yourself? And not just ask for better, but DO better, which leads me to my next point.

Lesson #2: You’ve got to put in the work.

You can have a realization for a looooooooong time that things need to change, but if you don’t do anything to make some changes things are just going to stay in the same.

We don’t lose weight, get a new job or set up personal boundaries just by thinking about it. We’ve got to do something about it. We’ve got to set aside time to exercise or plan healthy meals. We’ve got to search job postings and send out our resume. You get the point I’m trying to make here.

For me that meant tearing down two layers of unruly wallpaper. If I want a renovated and beautiful entryway/office I’m going to need to put in the elbow grease.

Lesson #3: You’ve got to have the right tools.

Something you might not know about me is I’m slightly obsessive. Personally, I’d prefer if we called it driven or highly-motivated, but obsessive might fit better. If I get something in my head that I want or want to do I dive right in. So, when my landlord gave me the go-ahead to tear down the wallpaper I started immediately.

I have a small drawer of floral handled tools (Thanks, Mom!), that doesn’t seem to include a scraper. This tool is extremely helpful when trying to remove old wallpaper. Yet, in my haste and excitement to begin the task at hand I just started. I don’t need a scraper. This is fine. (It was not fine.) It made the job more tedious than it needed to be.

Thankfully, my landlord had the tools I needed and graciously shared them with me.

Sometimes I don’t have the tools. That’s ok. Others might and many are more than willing to share their knowledge/tools/gifts/skills to help you accomplish the task at hand.

Also, I’d prefer NOT to bring it up but this lesson also might also show the importance of allowing people to help you. Please don’t tell my best friend I said this. She’s always telling me it’s important I recognize I need community and other people to grow and heal and all that stuff and I simply don’t like admitting that because I like doing things myself. (cough, cough. I mentioned I tried to remove wallpaper without a scraper, right?)

Lesson #4: It’s all a process. 

I’m a bit naive when I take on projects. I’ve got the end goal in mind and the euphoria of having a beautiful updated space is at the forefront of my mind. NOT the steps I will need to take to get there.

But it is a process. After I tore down the wallpaper I needed to do some repair. The repair required it’s own steps. After taping and mudding and sanding it’ll be more sanding of trim in order to prepare for painting. Even after I get it painted and I stand to admire all of my hard work I will still have to put furniture back and get it set up the way I’d like it.

Process.

Accomplishing goals requires acknowledging there is a process and recognizing not all of the process will have linear progress. AKA ya’ll we are going to have set backs. And that is OK.

As I sit here mid-process on my project it could be easy to get discouraged. Why did I get myself involved in this anyway???

I’ll tell you why! The end result. Sometime soon (soon….that nice vague timeline) I will be typing this from my beautiful office nook with freshly painted walls, vintage white lace curtains and a small plant I will certain kill in a few weeks after getting it. I’ll be sitting at a desk the full length of my wall that my brother helped me put together from some scrap wood he had and some hairpin metal legs I bought on Etsy. It will be perfect.

While social media will surely see the finished product they won’t see everything it took to get me there. Maybe that’s lesson #5. People won’t know all it took for you to reach your goal. They just won’t.

My hope for all of us is that wherever and however the lesson comes (or wherever we are at in the process) that we would learn a few things about ourselves, about our priorities and about life.

 

Radical Acceptance

Radical

Every time I sat down to write this I was unable to because I felt like a fraud. You see, I don’t have this radical acceptance stuff figured out. I am very much on the journey towards it, but I’m not there yet.

Actually, that could go for everything I write. There is not a topic I’ve fully grasped, championed or perfected. I’d like to think that’s part of why you come here because you can relate to not having it all figured out. When I share my own imperfection I hope you find it an encouragement and not something that makes what I have to say fraudulent.

Back to the topic at hand then: RADICAL ACCEPTANCE.

A friend mentioned this phrase to me recently and it stuck with me. So much in fact that I scribbled the words into my notebook to study out when I had more time. I wanted to figure out what radical acceptance means to me? FOR ME?

Like the nerd that I am one of the first things I like to do is look up definitions. In my experience, there’s a wealth of insight when we look at what a word means. So that’s what I did here.

I won’t bore you by writing out the lengthy definitions, but just some things that stood out to me that I think will further our discussion. (This is a discussion, right? Or are blogs just me talking to myself? haha….moving on.)

radical (adj): far reaching or thorough

Radical is fundamentally extreme. It is not wishy washy, but an “all in” mentality.

I’ve heard Christian leaders call us to be “radical for Jesus” yet when we radically love the people He instructed us to they don’t like it. Funny how that Truth can be so easily warped by a person’s agenda. Thing about that is when you warp a Truth to fit an agenda it’s not longer true.

I may be going off on a side tangent here (not sorry about that), but being radical for Jesus doesn’t mean sitting in the front row on Sunday mornings or rushing to get back IN a church building after this Coronavirus stuff is over. Being radical for Jesus doesn’t mean putting a Jesus sticker on your bumper or not saying words like shit.

Being radical for Jesus means advocating for those who have been abused, neglected and mistreated. Being radical for Jesus means getting OUTSIDE the church walls and pursuing the hurting and broken and not just expecting them to walk into a church building.

Seems to me like some of the stuff that Christians have labeled as “radical for Jesus” is just whitewashed religiosity.

My tone might sound angry in those last few paragraphs because….I am. American Christianity (and I do stress a difference here) seems to pick and choose what aspects of Jesus fits nicely into our life and schedule. There’s nothing radical about that.

On to our next word.

acceptance (noun): consenting to receive something offered

Under one of the definitions for acceptance was this line: a willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation. 

Damn.

I’m going to let that sit a minute. That leveled me. I feel difficult and unpleasant the majority of the time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wondered and worried if I was being a pain in the ass. Just ask my best friend, siblings or guys I’ve dated and they could all attest I’ve asked them if I was being a pain numerous times.

For me this phrase “radical acceptance” should read “radical self acceptance”. And when I go back to my original questions (What does radical acceptance mean to me? For me?) this is how I would answer them with all that stuff in mind.

Radical acceptance means willingly tolerating (and even celebrating) every aspect of who I am. Even the more difficult or “ugly” parts of who I am.

Radical acceptance means to thoroughly and wholeheartedly receive a person and all they bring to the table.

It means allowing myself the grace to share my thoughts, struggles and opinions without having to preface it with an apology. NOT that it gives me free reign to be a jerk, but that it simply allows me to be open and authentic without feeling like I have to soften that for someone’s palate.

I’ve been told I’m too emotional, too loud, too opinionated, too whatever and I’m coming to some conclusions that I might be too much for some and that’s ok. I may not be spiritual enough for some or lady-like for others. I may be too liberal for some and too conservative for others.

In caring so deeply about what other’s liked and didn’t like about me I ended up hating myself and I’m slowly trying to pick up the pieces and accept me for all that I am. I am imperfect and flawed and get it wrong so very often, but I’m also generous and thoughtful and funny.

And on my journey to radical acceptance I will celebrate all of who I am…even the unpleasant or difficult stuff.

I hope you will find the strength and courage to love all of you, too. That’s the kind of radical love Jesus has for you. An all encompassing, unapologetic fierce kind of love.

 

The Exact Timeline for Healing

the exact timeline for

I tricked you.

There is no such thing as an exact timeline for healing. 

wish it were that easy. I wish I could sit here and give you a formula so we could determine how many days you’d be hurting. It’s not like that.

Yet people will try to offer you advice, books to read (I currently have 8 books that have been given to me and are waiting to be read)  or essential oils to buy. When that stuff doesn’t work and some magical number of days/months have passed we’ll be told to just “get over it”.

Sure, they may not say those words. Most will try and cushion it and frame it as gently as possible, but when you shake off all the niceties that’s what you’re left with.

We say some dumb things to grieving, hurting people.

And I get it’s with the best intentions. Actually, I really get that. As I’ve watched people I love walk through some horribly painful experiences I have tried to use every kind of word band-aid I could come up with. Anything to ease the pain and stop the hurting.

“It won’t always be like this.” Just another fancy way of saying, “You’ll get over it.”

We wrongly assume that time lessens grief and pain….but it doesn’t. Time (alone) doesn’t do anything. In fact, sometimes time can make it worse.

The last few years I found myself in a perpetually painful situation. One that has left me so strangled by anxiety that I am losing sleep (or unable to get out of bed). I have felt like a shell of a human unable to even fake a smile on the outside. On the good days I’m miserable and on my bad days I’m begging God to kill me.

I told myself a good Christian (a good leader) would just get over it. I told myself it wasn’t a big deal and to just get over it. I told myself it was all my fault and to just GET OVER IT.

As time went on the hurt only got worse as I compounded it with layers of shame and guilt because I hadn’t just….gotten over it. I’m starting to slowllllllly peel back those layers, but it’s only through getting help that I have made any progress towards healing at all.

But what about grief? It’s no different.

The thing about losing someone you love is that time only makes the chasm bigger. The time since you last heard their voice, felt their touch or saw their face gets further and further away. You don’t just get over losing someone.

I saw a bleeding heart plant the other day and for a moment it took my breath away. That plant will always remind me of my grandma. Each summer she would have one hanging on her back porch and we would watch the hummingbirds come drink from their flowers. I miss her and as the time goes by I only seem to miss her more.

At the grocery store this week, while we were all masked up and steering clear of each other’s personal space there was a woman who came up behind me in the meat department. I almost said to her, “Hey Ma!” thinking it was my best friend’s mom who passed away a few years ago. She’s gone and I don’t feel like I had the opportunity to say goodbye to her. Time hasn’t brought any comfort there.

Grief is more than death though. It’s the loss of a marriage that you thought was perfect. It’s the loss of a job because of COVID-19. It’s infertility or miscarriage. It’s singleness. It’s the result of abusive relationships. I don’t need to give you examples. You’ve got your own.

If there is no timeline, and there isn’t, what do we do?

It seems silly to try and give you some prescription for this. There are no “3 easy steps”. No miracle drugs. And to be honest, I’m still in over my head trying to work through it all myself.

My intention wasn’t to give you answers. It was simply to let you know that if you’re still hurting when everyone has forgotten why that it’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up over it. There’s no reason to be ashamed. Your healing process won’t look like anyone else’s so be gentle with yourself. No need to compare your journey with those in your Facebook feed.

Please, whatever you do, just remember to give yourself some grace.