Saturday, July 30, 2011

My Journey: Part 4a

I wanted to write this a few days ago, and it wasn't until I had written half of a story that I realized it was not the part of the story I had intended on writing. Funny how that happens. It must have been heavy on my mind.

So here's the fourth part of my journey, the part I had intended to write several days ago.

I have said for a long time, mostly to myself, but sometimes to others, that I am part crazy. Don't call me crazy, because I'm not all the way crazy...just partly. It comes out in small bursts. Sometimes in what I say. Sometimes in what I think. Sometimes in what I do.

It reminds me of this Scrubs episode where Elliot is having a hard time hiding her crazy from her new boyfriend and is afraid she is going to mess up another relationship. She turns to her best friend Karla who tells her let it out in small bursts to total strangers, until her boyfriend is committed enough not to jump ship at the first sign of crazy.  She ends up telling the chief of medicine that she used to peel off her scaly sun burnt skin, put it in a pile, and eat it. I'm not that crazy. No really, Elliot is crazy. I am not... At least not that crazy.

But sometimes I do things that make me question my sanity. Like how I moved to one of the biggest cities in the country where I did not know a soul. And how I wasn't near home. And it wasn't like college where you live in a dorm surrounded by hundreds of people your age. I moved into a one bedroom apartment, to live by myself. I started grad school. And have you heard how much I dislike school? I felt a little crazy.

And other people made me feel crazy too. Like how my first week of school, I was so desperately trying to make friends, but everyone else seemed only concerned about learning to do this whole grad school thing. Or how I went to church and Bible study at that church, and people couldn't understand why I was there to meet people. Wait, so you aren't here to learn more about Jesus??

About the grad school thing. I started in on the track on crack. My plan was to get it done in two years, and while some people can do that, I wasn't one of them. Especially, after what I mentioned earlier. I was taking 7 grad school classes and I knew no one and was by myself all the time studying, reading, writing. Not healthy by any stretch.

That was the loneliest, hardest semester of my entire life. It was also the semester that everything I knew got turned upside down. I started going to a church almost as soon as I got to Atlanta. When I walked in those doors, I could literally feel the Holy Spirit in that place. This was ironic, because I was about to find out that I didn't know didly-squat about the Holy Spirit. I felt more free to worship the Lord than I had felt in my whole life. Every once in a while, I would just cry, and I never worried who was watching. It was the most honest and passionate place of worship I have ever been.

Enter Thursday night discipleship.We were studying the book of Acts, and I was there almost every week to study chapter by chapter, verse by verse. It was the first time I had ever studied the book of Acts all the way through. And it changed me. And by changed me, I mean messed me up. How had I missed this? The God that I knew was so small compared to the God of Acts. And what did I know about the Holy Spirit? Apparently nothing. It was too much for my Southern Baptist brain to comprehend. Now, I've never been too tied to my Southern Baptist roots, because I feel like no one denomination has it all right. But this has been very difficult for me.

Now, before you started thinking the wrong thing about what was happening, this is NOT my journey from becoming a Southern Baptist to becoming a Pentecostal. In fact, sometimes I cringe to even speak in those terms, because God does not live in denominations. He lives in His followers. But my heart was growing and the ideas I held about God and the Holy Spirit were growing. And all too fast too...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My Journey: Part 3, College

Disclaimer: This is probably the hardest part of my story to write, because it involves friends and others who know me. This is written to tell my story and no other purpose. Some things are over-generalized for writing's sake. All of these things come from a single, flawed, human perspective.

In high school, I was venerated and placed on a pedestal as a good Christian example.

In college, I was knocked down. I struggled to be even good enough for the Christian crowd.

In fact the only time I felt that people recognized me as a decent Christ follower was when I was chosen to lead a mission trip to the other side of the world. I know the trip was not a failure in the eyes of God, but it did fail to make me look good as a Christian in the eyes of man. ( To make a long story extremely short, for the next couple of years the missions department at my school referred to my trip as "the mutiny" and was used to help future students lead mission trips better.Seriously, I was not a winner.)

I did everything I could possibly do to look like a better Christian, so that I would be accepted by those who were thought to be. I was aware of the tension between wanting to impress the cool Christian crowd (and even some of my friends) and the desire to be authentic. So, I didn't join groups or lead or mentor when I didn't feel God calling me to do those things. But I walked a bit inauthentically at some points, because I rarely felt like the authentic me was good enough.

I coined the term "spiritual points" during my college days, because it so often felt like a game. The more spiritual things you did, the more friends you could have, and the more people looked up to you. There were certain things that got you more spiritual points than other things it seemed. I just never seemed to do the right things to win at the game.

I even had friends that sometimes made me feel like less of a Christian. I'm sure some of you may be thinking that good friends wouldn't do that, and at times I felt that way. But my college friends put up with a lot from me, and in turn I put up with a lot from them. The truth is we were all kind of immature at the time.

I wish I could do justice to the Christian climate at my school, but words really do not explain it. And I certainly don't want to pick on any specific crowds of people. But there's this ridiculous, yet hilarious book out called Stuff Christians Like that I wish I had studied before college so I would have been more prepared. Pick it up. You might need it someday. Or don't. Your choice. Anyways...

So there I was, hundreds of miles from home, away from everyone who believed I was a good Christian, spending hours in Beth Moore Bible studies a week, taking ministry classes, serving in my church, and trying to look really, really spiritual.

It's too bad that I didn't stop and consider what Christ thought a good Christian looked like...

Sunday, July 24, 2011


About a month ago, I went camping with some friends in the North Georgia mountains. They aren't from the South, so when they asked if I wanted to go with them on a camping trip in the middle of the summer, I thought they were a little crazy. I thought it would be miserable. But it was the most beautiful and perfect weather. I couldn't have asked for more. The first day we hiked Desoto Falls, both the upper and lower falls which was where we were camped. They were easy hikes and we were just enjoying the weather and each others' company. We ate about a hundred s'mores and mountain pies. It was a great time.

The upper falls
I let my friends blaze their own trail to halfway up the falls. It was too steep for my liking. Yes, I was a wimp, but in my defense, two of them came back down on their rears. It was that steep. And I am accident prone. So, I took pictures instead.
The lower falls
the gang at the lower falls-gotta love asking strangers to take your picture. They almost always cut out the scenery.
It was Bob and Jamie's anniversary that weekend, and I still can't believe they wanted to spend it in the woods with us.

I named this picture "Accomplishment" in my album for several reasons. This is at the top of Blood Mountain, right after a rigorous 2.5 mile hike up and right before my first time ever peeing in the woods. :) I know you probably didn't want to know, but it was a very proud moment and at least I spared you the details.

Grace and Peace,
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Who is Jesus?

My friend used to attend this church in Raleigh, NC and didn't know a thing about these hilarious videos. In writing about my journey, I thought of these videos. And because I love you so, I am sharing them with you. This church (Vintage21) did a series on the misconceptions about Jesus and dubbed over clips from the old Jesus video. Please take 10 minutes out of your day to watch them and laugh along. You might need to turn your volume up on the last two videos, because you don't want to miss anything that is said. Sometimes I laugh so hard I cry.

My Journey: Part 2, the back story

In order to really understand my story, we have to back up a good fifteen or twenty years. At least to my early years in South Carolina. Life before that was completely carefree, and not that SC changed everything. But I was beginning to grow up, to understand the world and the things of God more.

I had a Christian family.
We went to church... even when it snowed. Yes, mom, you don't get to live that one down.
I went to Christian school.
I made Christian friends, who also went to Christian school and church.

Around 2nd grade my dad sat my sister and I down and told us that as a family we were only going to listen to Christian music. This was not a big deal at the time, I liked the Al Denson, Wayne Watson, and Sandy Patty tapes my parents had. The only "secular" music I owned or listened to was an Ace of Base tape my friend Marie gave me for my birthday. To this day I'm not sure what was wrong with it, but it was handed over. For some reason the rule didn't apply to my parents and we would listen to The Drifters or The Beach Boys at times. I learned all the songs on the Christian radio station in about 2 days. There was one song I really liked, and since it came on about every five songs, I would listen and wait. 

In fourth grade, I actually decided to begin my relationship with Christ, but it feels like just a formality since we had known each other all along. At my church, you had to go up to the front and tell the pastor that we wanted to pray to accept Christ. Even though I had wanted to do that for a while there was no way I was going to get up and walk down to the front of the church in front of everyone while they were singing and staring.

Every summer I went to Christian camp.

In middle and high school I attended every youth group function.

I learned to read my Bible every day.

I led groups and did studies.

I read Christian books...I knew the Christian book store better than anyone I knew.

People looked up to me. Leaders counted on me. I was respected.

I could keep going, but the list is kind of exhausting. And by now I'm sure you're asking, "What's your point?"

Was I faking it? NO! Not in the least bit. I was so passionate about the Lord. I look back at things I wrote back then, and I am dumbfounded at the wisdom and discernment God gave to me at such a young age. In many ways, I felt, even then, that God was raising me. He was my Father. He was my friend.

My point in all of this is that in all of this a mindset was forming. A life that was filled with unintentional rules. A life that began to make God smaller by expecting my own goodness to provoke the goodness of God. A life that was learning that I would be rewarded with praise and friendship when I was a "good Christian" and how easy it was to fake it. A life that felt that the less grace I needed, the better off I would be.

I was starting to believe that I was in control.
I was starting to believe I had to have it all together.
I was starting to believe that I must earn God's love and His favor.

It was so subtle how God left all my good, Christian, spiritual things, that I never noticed Him leaving....

Sunday, July 17, 2011

More Jerome Adventures in SoCal

I almost forgot! Jamie went on a little trip with her mom while in CA and here are some of their fun pics with Jerome.

O Jerome, you're in trouble now!

Thanks for bailing him out ladies! Sometimes I wonder if I'll get Jerome back from his little escapades!

Part 2 of my journey is ready to roll, but I am holding you in suspense with some brief commercial breaks.
I'll be back after these brief messages...
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Jerome in SoCal

My friends Bob and Jamie went back to the their home state of California over 2 months ago and I am just getting around to documenting their fun with Jerome. What can I say? Jerome attracts fun!
I should have known these two would make him play tennis. I bet Jerome was good competition. ;)

Train ride!

Grapes! Lots and lots of grapes!

Ah, the Pacific.
Jerome makes friends wherever he goes, but it's not every day that he gets to be with his gnomies. :)

Ew. Gross. No surprise as to why Jerome is looking a bit pale. Gum wall. I would never be that close.

Beautiful! Thanks guys for being such great friends and for showing Jerome (and me!) a little more of the world.
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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Journey: Part 1

I have decided to share some of my story and the journey the Lord has been taking me on this year. I call it my journey, because I needed some sort of label to put on what God was doing in my life. It felt so contradictory and confusing at it's beginning, but I am slowly becoming able to see glimpses of the work that He is doing in my life.

Everything started to unravel one rainy night last November. In my mind, it happened like a movie. I slept through both morning services and though I didn't want to attend the evening service at the church I had been attending for a year and a half, I made up my mind to go. I was looking for answers and demanding God to speak to me that very day. I was finished with the lack of clarity, the frustration, the longing, and the discouragement.

As evening set in, the rain started coming, and my spirit was stirred more towards anger and resolution. I was going to that service, and God was going to speak to me. End of discussion.

I was late, and so I walked the 2 blocks from parking to the church in the rain by myself. As I stood across the street staring at the church waiting for the light to change, I could feel the pressure building, the creaks in the wood before the dam breaks. I think I even hated the sight of that building, and all it meant to me. All the struggles, all the trying and doing and wishing and tears.

As I stood there on the corner, the thought actually occurred to me that I shouldn't stand too close to the road, but my mind was fixated on my demands, my hopes, my hurt. Right before the light turned, a car flew by driving in the ditch between the road and the curb. Yeah. Right where all the water collects when it rains. 

Standing there drenched, I threw up my arms, and yelled to the night, "Are you kidding me?" I look across the street to see the greeters, anxiously looking away, pretending not to see. I'm not sure when my spirit broke. Was it standing on the curb rain soaked and humiliated? Was it walking past the greeters unseen and disconnected? Or was it walking into the 1000 seat dark and crowded auditorium and hearing people sing about how much Jesus loves me, when the irony of my situation made me feel very differently?

If you hear one thing from my story, hear this. I never left God, and God never left me. But if you looked at my life over the months following that night, it sure looked like I did. There were people in my life who probably were worried I was leaving God, but there were also people who could see I was finding God in unexpected places, through unexpected ways....

Stay tuned for part 2