Be YOU: Wisdom from an 8 Year Old

BE YOU

I was tired, hot and hangry*.

It was Friday afternoon and we were closing up shop after our Rummage Sale’s second full day of operation. This is our youth group’s largest and most profitable fundraiser of the year and it takes hours upon hours of work to prepare for the event. We’d spent weeks sorting clothes, moving and setting up tables, hanging clothing racks and pricing items and we were all looking forward to it being over.

During the Rummage Sale, the temperatures in our area hit tropical level hotness when only weeks earlier (on Easter morning) snow covered the ground.  Between the heat, the crazy breed of 7AM rummage sale shoppers and the longs hours I was exhausted. All I wanted was a cold shower, a big ole burger and my comfy bed.

That afternoon as I locked up the bay doors to the garage, my best friend’s 8 year old daughter came up to me and with her green eyes wide with excitement asks, “Can I show you something I made for you?”

I growled a “sure” as I continued working. She unrolled a piece of paper and lifted it up near my face in order to get my attention.

BE YOU

I read it out loud back to Grace, “Be You?”

“Yup.” She smiled and skipped away.

“I’ve been struggling to be me since I was her age,” I thought to myself. Now at 31, I still question whether I’m my true self or just some fraud. My eyes constantly noticing the things in others that I seem to lack. From the completely shallow (like the length of my hair or size of my waist) to more weightier topics (like my long list of insecurities).

This has been my constant inward grappling all these years– wanting to fully accept myself with all my dents and bruises while allowing myself to be imperfect. I’d like to be gracious with myself and my short comings and stop badgering my soul. I’ll be the first one to tell you I’m not there yet. I’m still learning to be kind to myself in the process knowing there will be moments that I forget its ok to be ME.

It’s obvious I’m no master at all of this, but I want you to know you don’t have to conform to some kind of mold. You have complete freedom to be you– to be fully you. Whatever that looks like. Silly. Witty. Sassy. Quiet. Inquisitive.

If I’ve learned anything from Grace’s note, its that maybe I should love me as much as others do. They don’t love me because I’m like someone else, but they love me because I’m me. And if others can love me for me….maybe I can love me for me too.

*hangry= Hungry + Angry

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Jon Jorgenson: Thoughts on Authentic Love, Worry & Grace

Jon Jorgenson

A few years back, I stumbled across this video: 

The Truth found in this video reached to the depths of my heart. I immediately knew it was God speaking directly to my insecurities and filling my soul with His thoughts toward me. It was eye opening for me then and now. When I find myself discouraged I’ll take the time to re-watch it letting the love of God wash over me.

The writer (and speaker) in the video is Jon Jorgenson. It’s been a great joy to get to chat with him and get to know him. The guy has a desire to seek the heart of God and he does it honestly and with humility. I hope you enjoy getting to know him through this interview, but more importantly, that you’d be encouraged by what God is speaking to him and through him. 

The Common Queen: What are some themes/ideas/lessons God is currently teaching you?

Jon Jorgenson: This may seem somewhat silly and trivial, but it’s actually been pretty profound for me. Currently, the command, “Do not worry” has been heavy on my heart. I am a year out of college now, living in my own apartment in a new city, and for the first time truly responsible for all financial and technical aspects of my life (rent, investing, bills, ect). As a driven creative, busy work like this drives me absolutely insane. I would rather write an entire book than have to drop a check off at the post office. This type of busy work gets me easily overwhelmed to the point where I become stressed, anxious, and generally not so good to be around. So in the last few months, God has been reminding me of His literal command to not worry, and that I can experience His peace even while paying bills.

CQ: In your spoken word, “A Godless Generation”, you talk about the church and how we should be loving authentically. Can you explain that idea a little more? What does authentic love look like?

JJ: I have spent the last ten years being a part of and working with the younger generation of Millenials. The general perception of this generation is they’re entitled, narcissistic, and totally ungodly. So in general, churches and other older Christians spend a lot of time trying to show young people how wrong they are. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is very effective. If you tell a kid they aren’t allowed or shouldn’t do something, chances are they are going to do it. It’s how we’re wired. And this extends beyond just teenagers. The general perception of Christians in the world is that they shame everyone by telling them all they things they’re doing wrong.

Authentic Love is more about freeing others to love doing what’s right. Authentic love looks a lot more like listening than it does talking. It looks a lot more like compassion and empathy than it does judgement. Authentic love means passing up the opportunity to shame someone for their current mistakes, and instead seeing them for who they could be, who God made them to be, and encouraging them towards that. It’s actually one of the things my first book, “Authentic Love” is about.

CQ: I’ve been wrestling with the concept of balancing grace and truth. Some Christians say that too much grace is a bad thing and encourages people to sin. But too much truth comes off as religious and legalistic. What are your thoughts on this?

JJ: I think that one of the signs of a heart that has truly been changed by grace is a genuine hunger for the truth. If anyone is “taking advantage” of God’s grace by forsaking His truth, I would question if their heart has really been transformed. That’s not grace at all, that’s just a rigged vending machine. There’s no real relationship there. Similarly, someone who claims to know “the truth” but then shows no grace is someone who probably doesn’t know the truth at all. Jesus said “I am the truth” and what is Jesus a symbol for more than grace? The two are intrinsically intertwined. One cannot exist without the other.

CQ: You talked about how in high school you put on a Christian masquerade. What brought complete transformation to your life? What was the defining moment?

JJ: After I graduated high school, I was invited back to my old summer camp as a counselor and asked to give my testimony. When I stood before those campers, I knew I had a choice. I could ever lie, and keep wearing my mask as this perfect guy, or I could be honest and let them know that I was struggling, lost in darkness, and full of sin. I chose to tell the truth. When I saw that my choice to be vulnerable actually gave other people the strength to do so as well, and that through mutual vulnerability we could find healing together, that changed everything for me.

CQ: What kind of role do people play in your relationship with Jesus? Those within the church? Those outside it?

JJ: I am far from perfect. I do stupid stuff almost every day, and it’s usually those closest to me that feel the effects of it. My girlfriend, my parents, my sister, my small group, they see the ugliest sides of me all the time. Yet they are always astoundingly quick to show me forgiveness. To me, they are a living representation of what God’s grace looks like when lived out and I am unendingly grateful to them for that.

 

Jon Jorgenson is a writer, actor, and speaker living in New York City. Find more from Jon at www.jonjorgensonblog.com or follow him on Twitter @jonjorgenson. Seriously, do it, he would love to talk to you.

I don’t love people.

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I don’t love people.

I mean, I know Jesus tells me to love my neighbor and I DO. I mean my neighbor on the one side is a guy who keeps his lawn mowed and even helps shovel my driveway in the winter. The other side, is a church and most of the time its empty. So, that was easy.

What? My neighbor means EVERYONE? Uh, that’s a little ridiculous. I mean, there are a lot of idiots out there. And you’re telling me I have to love them?

I prefer to love people who treat me well. Or in the very least, can be titled a “good person”. It’s easy to love people who we deem lovable.

But then there’s the not so lovable people.

Like the guy who rejected me because I wasn’t a size 6 (Or because I had opinions. Possibly a mix of both). Or the person who has corrected my grammar on FB about 5 different times now (Seriously, I’m not writing a novel, people). Or the person who’s been nasty to my bestie (don’t mess with my BFF). Or the person who sped up in the slow lane so I couldn’t pass them on the highway (HELLLLLOOOOO! I’m trying to pass you!) Or the person who looked at me sideways in the grocery story (Do I have something on my FACE?!).

By now, you must think I’m just a miserable, nasty person. Maybe that’s true, or maybe I’m just being honest.

I want to love people. I’m just honest about the struggle. Most days I don’t love people. I’ve spent most of my life hand selecting those I’ll love and those I won’t. It’s an arduous process for sure, but it seemed necessary. In doing so, I put a ticket booth at the gate of my heart.

“Got a ticket?”

“Nope.” Hands showing empty pockets.

“Sorry, Charlie. Move along.”

The issue then becomes, not that I’m not loving certain people, but that I’ve taken on the job as ticket collector. I’m the one calling the shots. There’s a better way. And, dare I say, MORE fun.

When I let Jesus run the ticket booth, I’ve got more time for the Merry-Go-Round and the fried Oreos (Try them once before you die). I’m no longer deciding who gets in, but enjoying those who get to join me on the adventure. Sure, there’ll be an idiot along the way, yelling and holding a sign that reads “God hates fags”. But maybe, just MAYBE, Jesus let him in too so he could see there’s more to life than hate and sign waving. Maybe it’ll take me loving him that will convince him to put his sign down. Probably not, but what if that’s all it took.

Love invites. It’s not saying I approve of your actions, but I love you despite them. That’s what’s so striking about Jesus. He loves flawed, ignorant, selfish people and it’s that kind of love that changes hearts. You’ll never overcome hate with more hate.

“The way we love each other is still the best proof that Jesus is alive. Who we are says a lot about who He is.” Bob Goff

 

From the Wreckage

Wreckage

While in the Drive-Thru of my local McD’s I noticed a sign in the window that read: “We will be closed March 15-May 15 due to renovations. Sorry for the inconvenience.” It IS an inconvenience, McDonald’s. Do you expect me to make my own breakfast? Gosh.

It’s been closed a few weeks now, and I drove by it on my way to the grocery store…to get food to make my own breakfast when I noticed something startling. Apparently, when they used the word “renovation” they should have used the words demolish, overhaul, REBUILD. All of those would have been more appropriate than renovate, which makes us think of new paint colors on the wall and an updated Ronald statue in the entrance. Instead, there were some piles of rubble, a few full dumpsters and that was it. Nothing remained of the old building. Nothing.

I’m a simple kid and I keep a simple kind of faith. I pray simple prayers and say simple things like “Jesus, do what you want with my life. I am yours.” That simple, dangerous statement Jesus has taken very seriously much to my surprise.

As I mentioned is my previous post Jesus is interested in doing an overhaul– not just a surface cleaning of my heart. But from where I stand, all I can see, is wreckage. “I asked for this.” I mumble to myself as I look around at the debris…the brokenness. I see Jesus running the bulldozer. His yellow hard hat standing out in a sea of grey. He smiles and gives me a thumbs up. I muster a slight smile as a tear stumbles down my cheek.

Everything is shattered.

Nothing has gone untouched.

I’m often told by those who love me, and who also love Jesus, that this is a GOOD place to be. I’ve taken their word for it because nothing feels GOOD about this. It hurts. And sometimes, I’m very angry about all of it. My prayer life has been more like a steady stream of comment cards in Jesus’ suggestion box. I tell Him how I’d like things done. The timeline I’d like them done in. Oh, and don’t forget the chocolate. He softly reminds me He didn’t ask for my suggestions and He doesn’t need my help. He has sent the chocolate though.

So, what do I do? I go back to the basics. God loves me. God is good. God’s grace is sufficient. God is made perfect in my weakness. God is my provider. God is my healer. God hasn’t abandoned me. Each Truth just enough to swallow in one bite.

I’ll leave you with this excerpt from Brothers McClurg’s song “You shine through”, which has been an encouragement to my soul:

You shine brighter when we’re broken

With our hearts stretched out upon the floor

In our weakness and our failures,

Your light shines beauty to this world

From our broken hearts, we’re crying out

Through the cracks in all of us,

Through the fractures and through the dust,

You shine through, You shine through

In the darkness, you’re the dawn,

Blazing like the morning sun,

You shine through, You shine through.

Jesus, from the wreckage I ask that your glory would shine bright, that your love would flow free and your grace would be in abundance. 

A Traitor’s Legacy

silver

I’ve been studying the life of Judas.

Ya, you read that right. Judas. Don’t worry, I’m still studying Jesus too.

Recently, I read Luke 6:12-16. Here’s the recap a la Holly. Jesus goes to a mountain and prays all night because apparently talking to God is MORE enjoyable, beneficial, refreshing, captivating (…etc…) than sleep. This truth alone sends my poor little, sleep loving heart into a tail spin.

Back to the story.

After Jesus’ sleepless night, He comes down off the mountain and appoints His 12 apostles. I have a hard enough time picking out an outfit for work when I haven’t slept all night. I can’t imagine having to pick out my ministry team without a solid 9 hours, and an extra large Dunkin Donuts coffee in my hand! Am I right? Ok, I kid, but seriously, this event was a big deal. These 12 men would be with Jesus 24/7 for the next 3 years(ish). They’d eat together. Travel together. Fart in each other’s presence. You don’t pick just anyone to live that close of a life with. Let alone a life of discipleship and ministry.

And Jesus CHOSE Judas. A traitor.

Scripture reminds us again and again that we have been chosen by God. Hand selected. Invited. Called by name. All of that is true of those who will choose Him in return. And those who won’t. Uh, ya, them too. Seems silly by my standards. I mean, most people would NEVER enter a relationship with someone if they KNEW it wasn’t going to work out. Why love someone, invest time in a relationship with them, if in the end they’re only going to reject you? You’d never agree to it if in a few days, weeks, months, years you knew you’d hear: “Ya know, you’re great, but I don’t think this is going to work for me.” God does that.

Jesus chose Judas. And He chose me.

I don’t think I’m that much different from Judas. Some days I sell Jesus for much less than 30 pieces of silver. Some days I put MY desires, MY priorities, MY opinions above those of Jesus. I’m not proud of it, but it happens. When I come to my senses, I ask Jesus to forgive me. Each time being reminded that I am NOT faithful, but He is and I’m grateful.

It boils down to the condition of the heart. You see the major difference between Judas and I, which I believe is the key to this whole discussion, is that I let Jesus in to the nooks, crannies and dark back alleys of my heart.

I’m one of those people that loves inviting friends over to my house. I bake them fresh chocolate chip cookies and start brewing some coffee and then do a complete cleaning of my little studio apartment. I make sure the space behind my toilet is sparking clean, that you can see your reflection in my kitchen faucet and that the moldy cucumber that had been in my fridge the past month is now safely hidden in the bottom of my trash can. If I start running low on time, I lump up the odds and ends and stuff them in the closet I didn’t I know I had until I lived there over a year. If they ask where that door leads, I’ll tell them it’s where I keep the bodies with a laugh and keep walking. If a friend happens to stop by unexpected, I repeatedly apologize for the pile of clothes on my floor, my unmade bed, and the crumbs on the counter. Every time that happens, they smile and say everything looks fine and not to worry about that stuff.

I’m not like that with Jesus. He gets access to my heart all the time. He sees the dead bodies in my closet, the moldy cucumber in the garbage, and that sock under my bed that I’ve been looking for since last summer. I don’t politely apologize for the mess and ask Him to overlook it. Instead, I ask Him to do an overhaul. Toss whatever doesn’t belong. Bleach the walls– tear them down if necessary. It’s a painFULL process, but there’s purpose behind it. And love. Like when a mom cleans up a kid’s scraped knee. You can’t just leave the dirt, rocks and debris in the wound. You’ve got to clean it out. And sometimes you scream out in pain with tears rolling down your face, but He reminds you it’s necessary in order for complete healing to take place.

Stop trying to hide. Stop trying to fix things yourself. Stop trying to tidy up. Let Jesus in and let Jesus work on your heart. That’s the heart of a faithful follower– not because you’re getting everything right, but because you’re letting Him make everything right.

You are not a glorified “Elf on the Shelf”.

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Last week, I published a blog letting the world know Jesus is not and will never be Santa.

This week, I’m here to remind you that you haven’t been commissioned by God to be an “Elf on a Shelf”.

For those of you who don’t understand the reference because you live in another country or you live under a rock, let me explain. Mr. Elf is a doll that parents use as a festive way to manipulate their children into obedience during the holiday season. His job is to watch the children and report back to Santa if they’ve been naughty or nice. Santa is outsourcing these days, but Mr. E doesn’t mind because he’s got a few antics and pranks going with the kiddos to keep life interesting.

Truth be told, I find it a little odd. Whatever. I get it. You’re making memories. Awesome.

We were not called to be some glorified “Elf on the Shelf” informants to Jesus where we go around putting peoples shortcomings on display and appointing them to the naughty (or dare we say “sinner”) list. Take your badge off, Sheriff, and get off your high horse.

Here’s the REAL issue for me. I hear a lot of Christians bashing on other Christians– it comes from BOTH camps. The conservatives and liberals flinging mud at one another with their theological stand points. Making sure everyone knows how WRONG the other person is. Sometimes they even call each other names and question whether or not the person is a Christian at all. To make matters worse its happening in public forums– on Facebook, in magazines and other media forums.

This business has got to stop. Firstly, it makes everyone (and I mean anyone who identifies as a Christian) look bad. And dumb. And ignorant. And mean. It looks a lot like friendly fire to me. Don’t we have enough problems as it is without having to worry about whether our brother and sisters are taking jabs at us?

Look, I’m not asking you to agree with these people. There are lots of Christians I don’t agree with, but like every family there’s some weird uncles out there. I am asking you, however, to love and respect them. Let’s take some wisdom from Colossians 3:14 where we are told to “… put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” If you read a few verses before you’ll see we are told to be compassionate and tolerant of one another. Even goes on to say when you have a complaint against someone to forgive it.

Not blast them on Facebook.

Let’s start putting a priority on relationships and unity instead of our positions and viewpoints. 

I know this isn’t a popular point of view. I even know the Scriptures people will use in rebuttal, but in a last ditch attempt let me leave you with this question: “What is your motivation for making a public display of your disapproval of a specific person, their actions, or opinions?”