Showering naked & other fears

When I was in high school, I took my first mission trip. After landing in Guatemala, the missionaries gave us an overview of the base. They instructed us there would be armed guards walking the grounds at night. These armed guards would also have dobermans trained to eat intruders. Ok, don’t leave the suites after 9PM. Got it.

Lock down was no problem for me. The thing I struggled with was an almost passing comment by the missionaries — “Oh, and don’t touch the shower spout when the water is running. You’ll get electrocuted.” That sounds serious. The last thing I want to happen is to die by electrocution IN THE SHOWER.

That’s in my top fives ways I would prefer NOT to die. Other ways I’d prefer not to die (like I have a choice in the matter) include: participating in a blow up obstacle course during a children’s camp, being eaten by a bear (my dad has a great story about this fear “almost” being realized) and anything having to do with snakes.

After hearing about the shower situation, I contemplated whether I could go ten straight days without a shower. Considering a large portion of the trip would include manual labor I didn’t think that would be my best option. What if I wore my bathing suit to shower? Then I remembered that bathing suits seem to keep dirt in, which anyone who has visited a beach can testify to the truth of that statement.  Instead, I decided I’d shower hunched over and as quickly as possible. No one was going to find me dead in the shower.  Over 15 years later, I’m still alive so I must have showered correctly.

As I was thinking about this fear of mine today, I was wondering what the big deal would be about being found dead. And naked. I mean, its not like I’d be embarrassed at that point. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized it had to deal with the fact that I’d be exposed. No way to hide.

Sadly, I’ve lived a lot of my life trying to figure out how to cover up. If people see this flaw, this imperfection, this struggle then they won’t love me anymore. If they know who I really am they wouldn’t want to be my friend. Or let’s take it a step further, if I’m really honest maybe God won’t love me. Maybe that will be the last straw.

Adam and Eve understand this thinking. After all, they were the ones who were tempted by the devil to eat fruit from the tree that God forbade them to eat from. Following their afternoon snack, the realized they were naked. Better cover up was their first thought– interesting, right? Maybe if I hide this mess up with some leaves God won’t notice. The proverbial “put some dirt on it” mentality.

Yet, here I am caught in this constant struggle to be genuine and open and yet knowing that there are areas more acceptable to have shortcomings in. The areas more openly talked about. The areas with less shame attached. You start talking about struggles with masturbation, addictions to Facebook or other social networks, gluttony, etc. and people start backing away slowly. That OTHER person has to deal with those struggles. Not me.

Who are we trying to fool? Our friends? Our family? God? Ourselves? Sure. All of them. The truth is there are people who will stop loving you if things get too messy. If they see something they don’t like. You may even struggle with self hatred– being repulsed by your own reflection in the mirror. That’s not how God works though.

We get stuck thinking we need to clean ourselves up before we present ourselves to God. Let me deal with this crap because I wouldn’t want God getting His hands dirty. That’s all a lie. And its keeping us bound up in sin, when Jesus has brought redemption, holiness and cleansing of our sins.

A few Sundays ago, I heard a friend preaching about this idea of holiness. People often ask– “How can God see me as holy?” (I know, right?!?!) But he mentioned that God saw Jesus, as He hung on the cross as a man full of sin even though Jesus had committed no sin. And in that act of Jesus taking our sin, that God can now view us (sinful man) as holy. Boggles my mind.

All of my sin, brokenness, areas I’d rather cover– Jesus took upon Himself so I could be viewed as holy. No longer needing to concoct ways to cover up or hide from Him because He already dealt with it and all I need to do is walk in it.

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One Tough Mother

Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. (1 Thess. 5:14-18, The Message)

This past week, I had the opportunity to be a camp counselor to 8 of the most amazing girls I could ever meet. Other counselors may try and convince you their campers were the best, but they are wrong. I’ve heard it said before (in regards to Mission trips mostly) that you go with the intention, the hope of being a blessing, but in reality you are the one being blessed.  That’s what happened to me this week. I went thinking I’d be the one giving of encouragement and love and even though that did happen– what I got in return was nothing short of a beautiful revelation.

Did this revelation take place in a chapel service or during a time of prayer or bible study? No, it happened in the middle of a game…correction, in the midst of torture.

You see, at Camp Judah we participate in a camp wide Special Event each day in the afternoon. The directors concoct games that over 150 people (campers and counselors together) can participate in– cabin verses cabin and team against team. For those of use who are severely competitive this is a very SERIOUS event. Chants are shouted as the teams gather at the specified meeting point. The environment full of athletic energy and team pride.

One such “game” we participated in this week was lovingly dubbed the “Tough Mother”. It was a scaled down version of the Tough Mudder competition, which I now know I will never sign myself up for. Our Tough Mother was less than a mile long, but full of obstacles and stations that you and your teammates needed to complete together. Your team in this type of event is essentially only as good as your weakest member. And for my team, that member was me.

No, really. I was the weakest link.

But, the directors said counselors would be participating and who am I to back down from some good competition? So, there I was at the starting line wondering what I had signed myself up for– would I even be able to complete the race? Would I let my girls down? Where among the course would I be throwing up my turkey sub from lunch? I gave my girls a quick pep talk, giving them some last minute pieces of advice. Letting them know I might bark orders at them at some point along the way. With a final high five and “We’ve got this!” the horn sounded and we were off.

I made it across the pool, alright. I scaled the fence (scale may be too graceful of a word). More like, I flung myself over a fence. We stepped inbetween tires. Climbed up a wet, tarped hill. Pushed a tractor tire through a maze. Climbed down a steep ravine wall. Ran through a creek. Up another hill. Jumped into a canoe and paddled (with our arms) across the length of a pond. Crawled on our bellies under a tarp while being whacked with foam javelins. And in our second to last station cared a log up a hill.

It was in the middle of the hill that I had my revelation that I referenced earlier. By this point, my body and mind had been stretched in ways that it had never been before. I wasn’t just exhausted, but I found myself very literally unable to breathe. And I stopped. I was done. I couldn’t take one more step. And in that moment, my girls rallied around me in a powerful act of support. Each one telling me how proud they were of me and how we COULD finish. We WOULD finish.

I placed my arm around the log and made our way to the top of the hill. We had a carpet race to complete and then the final leg to the finish line. By this point, I still couldn’t breath, but found myself literally connected to one of my girls. She had grabbed my arms and put them around her and she kept me moving as the rest of our girls placed one carpet square in front of the other. We inched our way across the parking lot and had somehow managed to pass the other team. We ran down the last hill, hand in hand, in triumphant glory.

We had not only finished the race, but won it.

I became a pastor’s kid when I was adopted at the age of 13. Needless to say, I’ve been in church a lot. Sundays. Wednesdays. Conferences. Missions trips. Summer camps. There’s been things, people, circumstances that have hurt me and over time my heart has hardened towards the Church. I’ve always loved Jesus, but His people, not so much. I’ve seen people change churches for petty reasons. Spreading gossip and slander. Holding offenses. People taking instead of giving. The more I saw, the more my disgust grew.

And for a long time that’s how I felt. Disgusted with the Church, with His people. I’ve read and studied my Bible long enough to know this wasn’t good and that I needed a change of heart, but that’s kinda where it ended. I didn’t pray and ask God for help with that area in my life because I preferred to be secretly angry and offended. It was EASIER that way. (See my previous blog titled: Easy vs. Simple)

A few months ago, God started gently working on my heart though. I had agreed to attend a special camp meeting with my friend. The pastor shared bible story after bible story about how God would take something or someone broken or seemingly insignificant and bring about victory. It was a powerful message, but at the end he asked us to get into groups of 4 or 5 people and to pray for the Church. It was in that little prayer group where I could see God gently nudging me. Not in a “Holly, get your crap together and love these people that I’ve asked you to love”, but more of “I love these people, Holly. They’re not perfect, but I love them.”

That short time of prayer started something in me…a softening of my heart. And it was during the Tough Mother where things really came to light for me. In the midst of a VERY difficult physical situation, at the very end of myself, I found myself encouraged and carried by a group of girls who loved me. Who cared more about us finishing as a team than winning a race. They didn’t belittle me for my lack of strength or my desire to give up, but spoke life and encouragement when I needed it most.

That’s what we are called to as the Church. As the verse in 1 Thessalonians exhorts us to do: encourage stragglers, reach out to the exhausted, and pull them to their feet. My girls lived that out for me in one of the most practical, tangible ways possible. And it makes me want to do that for those in this race with me. I want to be the type of woman, the type of Christian, who comes alongside someone who is struggling and inches away from defeat and tell them, “It’s ok. You got this. We’re doing this together!”

Let’s focus on finishing this race as a team instead of pointing out each others weaknesses, shortcomings and imperfections. Let’s speak life and encouragement to one another offering an extended hand to help pull them along.

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My love addiction.

Hi. My name is Holly and I’m addicted to love.

My addiction to love is less like the 80’s pop song (you’re gonna want to YouTube that) and more like Ted Mosby from the show How I Met Your Mother. If you haven’t seen the show, let me give you a brief synopsis.  Actually, the title kinda does that for me. What the title doesn’t explain is the fact that Ted is a hopeless romantic. He falls in love fast and hard. The words “I love you” fall quickly from his lips– and no matter how many times he’s said it, or to the countless women he’s said it to without it being reciprocated, he continues to love anyway.

I’m Ted.

I’ve loved lavishly.

Many times loving people who I knew had no intention of loving me back.

And I’ve learned something. Love makes people uncomfortable. Sure, some of us say we want it, but we RUN when the opportunity presents itself to actually be loved. Ya, even Holly the one addicted to love has hit the eject button when faced with real, genuine love.

I remember when I first saw him. It was a lot like the movies actually. This still framed moment in the midst of the blurred chaos. He was across the room from me– unaware of my existence at that point and my first thought was something along the lines of “Who is that hottie?!?!” And then immediately thinking, “Someone like THAT, could never love someone like ME.”

Even after becoming friends, and I being allowed to be one of his closest confidants, I reminded myself he could never love me. At the time I didn’t see it as insecurity necessarily, but just practical thinking. Why love someone if you know they’ll never love you back? So, I built this nice little wall around my heart and decided it was better that way.

This went on for years, people. I’d dismiss every opportunity he took to lavish me with love– even at times unintentionally rejecting him. It was silly and showed my immaturity BIG time. And then one day, he told me he loved me.

“Holly, I love you.” I wonder what it means, I confided to a friend later that day. Ummmmm…..I don’t know. Seems pretty straight forward, Holly. I know that’s what you are all thinking too, but I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t feel worthy of his love. I felt like a wreck. He needed someone skinnier, or prettier or less emotional or less opinionated. Not me.

And that’s what I do with Jesus. I pine away for His love, hoping and praying (literally) that He’ll show it to me. And He does every time. And every time I dismiss it. Overlook it. Make excuses how it can’t be real or true that Someone so perfect, could love imperfect me. And yet, He does. The very depth, width and height of it boggles my mind. Even when I struggle. Even when I’m a wreck. Even when I whore my love out to other lesser things, He loves me.

Jesus’ love makes me uncomfortable because I can’t fully grasp it. I’ve sung Jesus loves me since I was a little rosy cheeked Sunday schooler– my head knows it very well. But some days, MOST days, my heart doesn’t get it. Not really. Yet, Jesus showed His “addiction” to love in the most powerful way imaginable. Proving there’s nothing He wouldn’t do for me. There’s no denying it.

A Pet Peeve of a Control Freak

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I’ve got a few major pet peeves. One is bumper stickers.  Especially Christian ones. Every time I see one it boggles my mind. Do these people think Jesus strapped a sign to a donkeys behind when He made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem that read “God loves you”? Has anyone “gotten saved” by reading a bumper sticker? Is Jesus a product to sell? An item to market? Actually, the Christian bumper sticker is a bad idea for this reason: as soon as you make an idiot move like forgetting to turn off your blinker for five blocks people may think Jesus is an idiot too. Or worse yet, someone cuts you off in traffic and you start yelling and throwing your arms in a hissy using the kind of language that would make grandma blush.  All the while, your Ichthys sticker is proudly plastered on your bumper. Actually, that’s exactly why I don’t have bumper stickers…

My least favorite bumper sticker has to be the “Jesus is my co-pilot” bumper sticker? It carries one of the most anti-submissive themes within the Christian Body. There’s this thought that somehow we are at the wheel and Jesus is merely a sideshow to this journey. Jesus isn’t calling shotty, folks.

Recently, I flew out to Kansas to visit some friends. As the passengers filed past me, I watched as the flight attendants busied themselves with their pre-flight preparations. I’m sitting there snugly  in my seat when God slams this idea into my head. “Holly, just buckle up, I’m the one flying this plane. I know where I want you to go. I know how to get you there. I’m not here for your comfort, but I am here to lead you and get you to the final destination.” Jesus, you mean you aren’t hear to fluff my pillow and crack me open a Pepsi?

Jesus is looking for an intimacy and a heart that says “When I can’t see where I’m going I’ll trust you’ll get me there. Even when it looks like I can handle it– I’ll let you be in control. Even when it looks like foolishness to the world– I’ll do what you’re asking because I love you. No matter the sacrifice, no matter the time, no matter the pain.”

I had a dream once that I was driving a bus on a trip. Someone sat in the passenger seat, and as we buckled up they turned to me and asked if I knew the way. I assured them I remembered how to go, but with each turn, each hasty decision I kept getting more and more lost. Isn’t that exactly what we do? We tell God we remember the way, or we’ve got this and each step we find ourselves getting more and more off track.

My goal in life isn’t to be in control. My goal, my aim, is to let Jesus be The Lord. To do, go, say and be what He asks of me. I pray that for you too– that you’d have a “simple” yet profound wisdom that says “Jesus I’ll do whatever you ask. Follow you wherever you go.” Not out of obligation, but out of a deep love for Him knowing He’s going to take care of everything. Every detail. And me, well, I’m just along to enjoy the ride.

Easy vs. Simple

Nothing about life is easy.

Relationships take work. Money doesn’t appear at my front door in the form of an over-sized check. People I love die. People I dislike prosper. Bad hair days are more prevalent than good hair days. Laundry keeps piling up. Bills too. Pounds come off slower than pounds come on.

Do you see where I’m going with this? Most things in life, especially “things” worth having, don’t come easily. Love takes sacrifice and time. Money takes long hours– sometimes at a job that makes it hard to get out of bed in the morning. Getting healthy means sweat and self control.

Christianity is no different. There’s nothing “easy” about it. Frequently, I’ll hear people say, “You just don’t get it, Holly. What you’re asking me to do is hard.” This usually comes in the form of a text message from a teenager in my youth group. Or from the lips of a friend sitting across the dinner table from me. Hearing those words weigh heavy on my heart because I know its not ME asking them to do or change anything. And secondly, who ever promised it would be easy? Whoever said that is a liar. And they should be shot, but I digress.

Jesus never promised easy. But when I read His words, I see simplicity in His instructions. Easy and simple are two very different things.

I’ve been thinking about the rich young ruler recently (Mark 10). We see a man who comes RUNNING up to Jesus and falls at His feet asking how he can inherit eternal life. Jesus lists off the commandments and the man reassures Him that he’s obeyed them since a young boy. Apparently, following those were “easy” to him.

And then Jesus gets real.

“Go. Sell all you have. Give it to the poor. Come. Follow Me.” (In my words…) Pretty simple instructions. Nothing complicated there. Yet, the man walked away sad and grieved. Why? Because he had lots of stuff– and must have liked the fact that he did. Give up my beach front home? My bright red sports car? My season pass to the Yankees games? My imported bear fur slippers? Come on, Jesus! What you’re asking me to do isn’t EASY?

Exactly. It’s not. We are told repeatedly in the Bible that we’d encounter difficulties, trials, and hardships. Jesus told us to count the cost– aka– “This journey ain’t gonna be easy. You up for it?” You mean, I’m not promised health for all my days? Or a million dollar making smoking hot husband? Or a car that isn’t a piece of crap? Or the strength to not hit my snooze 10 times before throwing myself out of bed each day? Nope. Instead we get handed a Cross with the simple instructions to carry it and follow Him.

It’s not going to be easy. Actually, its going to be the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. At times, it will feel like your heart has been ripped from your chest. I can’t sugar coat it, but I can tell you that following Jesus has been the most fulfilling, beautiful adventure I’ve ever had the honor of joining. I’ve exhausted myself with tears, but I’ve also felt my lungs filled with an unquenchable joy. I’ve known peace in the midst of chaos and disaster. I’ve seen provision in the midst of poverty. I’ve seen hope in the midst of darkness and depravity. And I’ve encountered a Love deeper, stronger and more sweeter than anything I could have ever imagined.