“I Don’t Care About Being Right Anymore” (by Marshall Pickard)


Alright, confession time.

As I recently boarded a plane to Italy, I began reading Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code…

I know, I know. As a pre-teen evangelical, I promised myself I would never commit the cardinal sin of reading such a blasphemous book. But I mistakenly thought it was set in Rome (not Paris), so I gave it a shot.

Here’s a quote I found quite interesting from the book’s nerdy but awesome (Tom Hanks, ya’ll) protagonist, Robert Langdon:

“[E]very faith in the world is based on fabrication. That is the definition of faith—acceptance of that which we imagine to be true, that which we cannot prove.”

Wow. That’s some deep stuff—some philosophy that hits hard against my need to always be right.

My experience with church has been this: I was raised as a PK, so I had to be “on” all the time. Even running in the halls as a kid would result in an intervention from the deacons, and with my every move being so scrutinized, I felt more like a Kardashian than the son of a clergyman.

I’ve always loved the Lord, but I was more than happy to head off to my liberal arts university (albeit, Christian) for some time away from the dry religious season of a rough last semester in high school. Hurt too many times, I needed some distance from the family of God.

But at school, after some space to heal, I got plugged in again at a local church and eventually found myself participating in an accountability group and leading a weekly small group in my dorm. I learned that church was more about “doing life with people” and less about performing the letter of the Law flawlessly.

And yet, there still remained the question of doctrine. At my university, I was challenged to look outside my box and ask big questions about my faith. Often this left me more frustrated than I felt I could stand. With so many interpretative differences inside the church, how could I know what to choose to believe? Eventually, I basically adopted a stance Socrates would have been proud of: admitting I ultimately know nothing.

One thing I do know is this: knowing Jesus is so much more about humility than knowing all the answers.

But still answers are important because in the south, I live in a society soaked in the Christian subculture, and I occasionally find myself at odds with it. I am still frustrated at gender bias in the global church. I think Pentecostals focus too much on prosperity, but I think Calvinists focus too much on suffering. I hate how the Church responded the recent World Vision debacle, and I cringe every time I hear someone equate Phil Robertson’s crude comments from last December with “the Gospel.” I think we all talk about “feeding the poor” too much because none of us actually do it. I hate interdenominational spats and heated theological Twitter battles over unresolvable issues.

And I honestly don’t care whether you went to see God’s Not Dead or Noah at the movies or what you thought about it.

But I’m not actually angry at the Church. I just often find myself out of place—too progressive for the Church and too conservative for the world.

Visiting the Roman Colosseum this week, I thought long and hard about the suffering of Christians slaughtered in this ancient arena.

For them, the Church was their lives. It was definitely not a place where you had to have the right answers or pretend you believed everything you are supposed to believe.

For these early believers, church was a place to meet Jesus—the ultimate truth—often through the community of others who also risked their lives to tell of the goodness of God.

No offense to Rome, but after seeing the grandeur of the Vatican, I began thinking about what Jesus—the man who scolded the religious so often—would think about the production we’ve made church.

I think he would turn the temple tables of our insistence to be right, our theological debates that never get anywhere, our hurtful intolerance for one another, and the false idols we have fabricated and propagated.

Then he would turn the table back over, break out some bread and wine, and invite those who don’t have it all figured out to have a seat. In place of religious dogma, he would teach us the message of Ephesians 4:3—finding peace from all life’s questions by choosing to live in unity with our brothers.

There in his sweet company, the disillusioned Church wouldn’t care so much about being right anymore.

Marshall is currently backpacking all across Europe (the lucky guy), having spent the semester  abroad on the same trip I went on last year. Read more from him on his blog, The Train of His Robe.

“Why I Stayed” (by Hannah Schuerman)

churchsign-1I don’t know when church-going became a part of who I am, but I guess faithfully attending every Wednesday and Sunday for 22 years has a way of turning into a habit. Over the short amount of years that I have been alive, I have had plenty of reasons to leave church, most of which deal heavily with the reality that people suck.

It’s true! I have been around different leadership styles, different personality types, different worship styles, even different theological viewpoints- all within the same church!

To give you a little background about my temperament: I am pretty easy going with most things, it takes a lot to get me riled up and even more for me to speak out against something. I am a natural-born leader, and when a leader is needed (whether in academia or in the church world) I tend to rise to the occasion. Because of these seemingly contrasting parts of my personality, I often am critical of leadership but rarely do I do anything about it.

You see, I am definitely smarter than my pastor. This is a thought that I have actually had on many occasions in my short adult life and I guarantee it’s something you’ve thought of as well, if you’re a regular church-goer. Where does this feeling of superiority come from? It’s easy for me to see problems within the church and think of a magical cure-all to the situation. As the logic goes: if I can do it, how come my pastor can’t? The answer then, obviously, must be that I’m smarter than he is.

Sometimes, I get really undone with what I see around me in the modern day church and church culture. I think about all of the sad injustices I have seen in churches, both with my own eyes and through news outlets. The lying, the distorting of scripture, the abuse of the pulpit, the misconduct of pastors, deacons, and clergymen, the exploitation of children, the gossip, the politics. That list, though it is not conclusive, is enough to make me sick. If I think too long about what happens in most churches nowadays, it is reason enough for me to leave on fair grounds. There are so many great things about The Church too: a strong community, a place to encounter Christ, meeting people, the chance to use your gifts and talents- the list is a long one.  But I have had to take a step back sometimes and ask myself: why do I stay in church?

The major theme that links these problems- and is a common theme among Christians today- is the inability to practice what is preached. So often, we hear wonderful sermons and devotionals about loving our neighbors (Mark 12:30-31), “judging not” (Matthew 7:1-2), and forgiving those around us (Matthew 6:14-15)  but are unable to keep these scriptures in mind when dishing out hatred, judgement, and unforgiveness. Please don’t get me wrong, I am one of these people! In fact, I’m probably the worst one of us all. I am guilty of almost every sin in the Book.

God has reminded me of something recently and it looks a little something like this: Be the change you wish to see in the world. Now, most of us internet folks will know that that is a quote from Mohandas Ghandi, but the words are a truth that resonates deeply within me. The first portion of that truth is that I have to get over myself- I must submit to authority and realize that it’s not always about me.

The question why do I stay has no concrete answer.

I stay in church first and foremost because I need a community of believers who I can connect with. I stay in church because I want church culture to be different. I stay because I want to see change, but I cannot wait for someone else to come along and change the culture of the church. I must to be the change that I want to see. I stay because I’m not perfect, I need as much grace as I can get, and I need to learn how to extend that grace to others. I stay because I have forged lasting relationships with people and because I have gotten involved with the worship and youth departments- allowing passions of mine to develop more fully.

The only way of learning how to walk out Scripture is to practice it. I must show kindness, learn to control my tongue, give of my time and energy. Remembering that what I do “unto the least of these” is what I do to Jesus. Because, sometimes, if you aren’t helping, you’re hurting. Imagine what the church would look like if everyone would stop talking and put their hands to good use. Instead of complaining that this or that isn’t right, why don’t we all take a moment to reflect if our complaining is actually helping the problem at hand. I had a mentor of mine explain to me that when I find myself being frustrated with the happenings in a church, I must ask myself if something is a preference or a problem. If it is the latter, then it needs to be prayed about and addressed according to scripture. If it’s the former, then I need to get over myself or leave. So if you’re disillusioned with church right now, I encourage that you stay for a little while longer and change your perspective (and your attitude) and see what happens.

Read more from Hannah on her brand new blog!

“Faithful Till the End” (by Caroline Eaton)


When I was eight years old my parents called a family meeting to announce that my dad was quitting his job as a stockbroker and my parents were going into fulltime ministry.

As an eight year old, I was really supportive of this new plan, yet I had no clue how much our entire family life was about to change. All of the sudden my dad was home a lot more, and we started hosting weekly “house meetings” in our living room, where people would stay into late hours of the night worshipping and hearing from the Lord. In fact, people were always over, and before long, privacy was a thing of the past, and our finances drained.

As different as my parent’s new job made us from every other family, I loved this time. I loved watching my parent’s minister to others. There were some really tough times, and it would’ve been way easier for my parents to give up and return to the “American dream” lifestyle we were used to. People abandoned the ministry, money was tight and my parents didn’t always know what direction the ministry was going in (it was years into this journey before my parents actually called it a church).

But more than anything, my parents taught me what true faithfulness looks like. Throughout every season, every hardship and every moment when they could’ve left the ministry, they remained faithful. Not only did they remain faithful to God and His vision, they were also always faithful to their people. Even when people left without a word, or worse, in a dramatic (and in my opinion pointless) rage, abused their authority or deliberately acted against the counsel they asked for, my parents were always faithful to them, and they always always always loved them.

I saw the Lord work through my parents in amazing ways simply because they were willing. They weren’t spiritual prodigies or even Bible scholars, but when the Lord called, they said yes. Their “yes” resulted in lives changed in unexplainable ways.

I viewed church as a place people could come for love, healing and acceptance, because that’s what my parent’s church gave them. Church was a place where people were protected and encouraged as they grew in their walk and transformed to be more like Christ. In middle and high school, church was home. It was extremely comfortable, and as the pastor’s daughter, I was loved and supported by everyone.

Church became a struggle when I moved away to college, though, so I became a professional church hopper. All of the sudden I didn’t know everyone, and people weren’t as interested in me as they were back home. When you’re the pastor’s daughter, getting involved in church takes no effort at all. You are immediately on the inside track, and you get more hugs in ten minutes than some people get in ten years. But when you’re new in town, getting involved in a church actually takes effort, and I was not used to that.

I got involved in a church once in my freshman year, but left because instead of protection I found pressure. After that, I hopped around from church to church without ever finding one that was “good enough” for me.

It was a hard lesson when I finally learned that church does not have to be about me. In fact, it’s a lesson I’m still learning, but I’m taken back to the biggest lesson I learned from my parents: faithfulness. Like any other commitment, it should take some effort for me to get involved in a church. It should also take some acceptance and love on my end because no church could ever be perfect, but it doesn’t have to be for me to be faithful.

I’ve learned that it isn’t from a specific church that I will find my love, healing and acceptance; it’s from the Lord. I’m still struggling to figure out what I want out of church and what I can/should give to it, but maybe this revelation will make getting involved in a new church easier than it has been in the past. Maybe I won’t give up when it isn’t an easy fit or I don’t get as much attention as I’m used to.

My journey has taught me that church, like life, can be messy. But when approached with a pure heart, it can also be a beautiful place to freely worship and find community. My parents unending faithfulness to the church, and God’s unending faithfulness to me (despite my self-centeredness and church-hopping habit) makes me believe that the church should be a place that doesn’t give up on people, even when people give up on the church.

Read more from Caroline on her blog, the College Cosmopolitan (such a great blog name!) or Twitter.

“The U-Turn: Why I turn the car around most Sundays” (by Tim Moore)


It’s a cool morning, and there’s a sweet taste in the air. I drive downtown and watch the sun peek over the hill ahead. I pass people walking on the sidewalks, dressed in ties and hosiery. I come to a creaky stop at the intersection. The light turns green and I’m supposed to go straight, but I get a hardening in my chest. I head back to my house instead.

This setting is one that has been too often repeated in my life. So… where was I heading in that scenario? Church. I was going to church.

Let’s rewind a few years.

I was born into a denomination that represents one of the more rare churches in Cleveland. To get an idea of this church, at some point in my infancy, I gazed at wood cathedral ceilings as my smiling family gathered around a robed man dripping water onto my forehead. This was also one of the few typical family-in-church moments in my life.

During grade school, my family left our home church and tried another church in the area. It wasn’t long after that my mother, who grew up in a churchless family, became tired of the hypocrisy of the church. The tiredness led to apathy from going, while my father continued to go as a good pastor’s son would.

For a while, I found myself more on the apathetic side. How many kids would want to continue going to church if they could stay home? Not many, and I definitely wasn’t one of them.

However, when I was in middle school I decided to get involved in a youth group, and that meant going alone. I was interested in joining the church I grew up in, as they had an almost-cool youth group. Until I was able to drive myself, I hitched rides every Wednesday and Sunday for years. I went alone every time, but I managed to get reconnected with old friends and their families which seemed to justify it. While at times it was a struggle to be surrounded by church-raised families and see the connectedness they gained through it, I learned that I could create my own church-going experience.

Senior year of high school came quick, and I noticed a change of heart. No longer were the activities, retreats or Sunday lunches enough.

I wanted substance. I wanted to have the big discussions. I wanted to ask the tough questions. I wanted to have a real church family and to be supported.

I talked with my pastor, associate pastor and youth pastor about it. At the time, I believe they listened and heard me out.

But that wasn’t enough. I grew increasingly frustrated as that anticipated change didn’t happen. I started to feel as if a person at my age didn’t have a place or role in the church. I felt myself becoming disconnected and I started to feel the loneliness of the years weigh down on me. I just felt like a lost soul in an old building.

Sometime that year, I stopped going. I’ve only been back a few times since then.

I have tried going with friends to other churches, but I noticed a bitterness and discomfort followed me every time. I became tired of going into a sanctuary without the slightest bit of a welcoming, and it quickly became a dreadful affair. I had endured too many years of trying to find a church family even when my own family wasn’t by my side, and it made me bitter towards the church because I never felt like I got that church family I sought after.

Let me say one thing: I know my story is not all that special or a story that asks for sympathy. It’s just my story. I have had an extremely blessed life and this experience has shaped me in good ways. Everyone has their own difficult church experiences, and for example, I am well aware that growing up as a minister’s kid has its own set of difficult challenges.

So where am I now? I know that Christ died on the cross for me, and I can’t begin to describe my gratefulness for that. But as far as this church experience goes, I don’t know where to begin. What comes first and what follows: getting my spiritual life together or trying to get plugged into a community? I’m seeking community and substance, but it’s as if I’m not applying the right formula to it.

I’m interested to see what other stories get brought to the table this week. Thank you, Kelsy, for being such an inspiration with your transparency and giving me the opportunity to write on this topic.

Read more from Tim on Twitter, where you can harass him about starting his own blog. 

“Stones & Bricks” (by Evan Olson)


“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles…

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood…”

-Theodore Roosevelt

There are times when I hear people talking negatively about the Church. I hear things like:

“The service is too long.”

“They want my money.”

“They want my time.”

“It doesn’t meet my needs.”

It would be very easy to add my voice to this choir.

I’m not blind, folks. I agree that there are things that are wrong with the Church.

The Western Church, to be specific, is definitely too comfortable at times. The Western Church can sometimes seem to be too focused on building projects and not as focused on more pressing issues like poverty or the orphaned.

I could add to the list of the things the Church has done wrong.

It would be a long, well-written list of things that many people would agree with. I would maybe even get some retweets and larger traffic on my blog. I have things to add, things that aren’t exaggerated or misleading. They are real problems that need to be dealt with.

I could add my voice to that choir, but I won’t.

I can’t complain about the Church, because I am the Church.

Unlike myself, I understand that there are those of us who have been deeply hurt by their church or denomination. I have compassion for them and also desire to see them overcome the obstacles that pain has erected.

But there comes a time when we have to forgive.

There comes a time when we have to lay down the stones, especially the stones we find ourselves wanting to cast at the Church.

When we feel like casting disapproval upon the Church, we have to remember that the Church is the fullness of Him (Ephesians 1:22-23). To continually berate the Church is to, in essence, continually berate Christ.

More often than not, people aren’t even saying derogatory things about the Church. Instead, people use sarcasm as a means to complain without becoming too invested.

Sarcasm is not a gift of the Spirit. If anything, sarcasm eats away at the roots that hold us together. I’m not saying sarcasm is evil or immoral – I’m saying that when it’s used to berate the Bride, it’s dangerous and undermines the finished work of Christ.

We can’t complain about a problem when we are members of the very institution we complain about. To complain is irresponsible. We’re better than that. We’re the Church and we’re not built upon sand. We’re built upon a firmer foundation than sarcasm, judgement, or offense.

Furthermore, your church isn’t the Church. To write off the Church because of your experiences with a church is wrong. In fact, it’s not biblical (Ephesians 4:32).

It’s not wrong to have issues with the Church, but I’ve read stories of people being hurt and deciding to completely stop attending because of an offense. By definition, that type of action is contrary to the Bible.

It’s time to stop jumping on the bandwagon that is constantly speaking ill of the Church. Jesus called the Church His Bride. Furthermore, He commanded us to come into community with one another.

While this may not look like its current manifestation – Sunday mornings with Starbucks before service and Chinese buffets afterwards – at least we’re trying. At least we have some semblance of balance when it comes to a weekly gathering.

Personally, I was once annoyed with my own church. We lacked community; we were too concerned with revival and seemed to have little interest in our congregants and their daily lives. In a pursuit of large theological concepts, I felt like we were forgetting about people.

But instead of complaining, boycotting, or leaving: I decided to do something about it. Where I saw a lack, I added myself and began investing time in what I wanted to see happening.

So whatever problems you see, you can help solve. Cliche as it is – be the answer to your own prayer. It is far too easy to cast stones from afar at a denomination, church, or pastoral staff. It’s easier still to blog, tweet, and upload statues about it.

What is truly difficult (but also brave) is to set foot in the arena, to go to where the problems lie, and give your aide.

It’s too easy to throw stones at the Church.

But what I’ve learned is that those same stones we so desire to throw at the Church, can also be used as bricks.

Bricks to build with, bricks to create with.

The things we see that need improvement, we can help improve!

Don’t let offenses blind you. Don’t let the sun set on your anger. We’re still sinking in that ocean of grace.

We’re His Bride, His representation. We’re literally re-presenting Him to all mankind.

It’s time for us to come together, with stones in hand, and begin to build.

After three years of knowing one another & much convincing, I’ve finally agreed
with Evan that the place he lives, Iowa, actually is cool. He has guest authored for AE before and also authors his own blog

Habitual Christian (by Jessilyn Justice)

churchsign-1To tell you my church story is to tell you my life story, the pulse of my existence.

Part I

My parents are big believers in Proverbs 22:6 and not just a repeat-this-verse-after-me way.

Every thought that crosses my mind is infused with church culture, both the practical and the spiritual, as I literally grew up in the church, as my parents are pastors.

I’ve had more pizza with the pastor than pizza on my couch. I know exactly how many church chairs (six) need to be lined up so I can sleep while the elders meet. Challenge me to a game of hide and go seek in our church’s old sanctuary, and I can guarantee my victory.

At the same time, I know precisely how to pray for each person who asks, and even those who don’t. I can speak in tongues at the drop of a hat. I can grieve and rejoice.

I went on my first international mission trip when I was 9. I remember seeing some woman with gauze over her eye standing in her doorway. I asked my dad who asked the missionary if we could pray for her. She let me, as I was this chubby 9-year-old American girl with curls that couldn’t be contained.

Turns out she was a drug lord, but the real Lord completely healed her eye, which she was supposed to have surgically removed.

I went to two over-night summer camps: Camp Wonder Book and Camp Straight Street. I can recite countless verses from memory, many of which I chanted to myself before I fell asleep.

The highlight of my summer for a dozen years was Vineyard pastors’ conferences. Finally, I was among people who got what it was like to grow up in the church.

I remember sitting in a youth group meeting where the pastor asked people to identify someone in the room they thought, for sure, was a Christian. Heads swiveled in my direction.

I went to public high school where I would sing worship songs under my breath as I traveled from class to class.

When I was 17, I went to Kenya with my father. While he spoke with the men about budgetary issues, I sat with pastors’ wives and talked. And talked. And talked.

I spoke openly, honestly; laughed loudly.

“You’re so free,” several said.

And then when I was 18, it all fell apart. (I don’t believe in karma, but I do believe in sowing and reaping, which is why I still can’t figure this out. Out of respect for the people involved — and maybe to show them I am the better person — I won’t use names.)

Part II

When I was 16, my longtime youth pastor announced he was starting a nonprofit, which is a fantastic service, and I couldn’t be more delighted with his//the organization’s success.

But then we hired someone else, someone who was loud, passionate and oh-so-spiritual. There was a cult of sorts surrounding this pastor – people who are so obsessed with being anti-religious that it’s basically a religion.

In short, I didn’t fit in to this group.

Adjusting to being a spiritual outcast after growing up in the church is quite difficult – especially when the reason wasn’t drugs, pornography, sexual deviance.

Nope. I read “Twilight.” And like that, my world fell apart.

That was actually the last straw. Before that, I’d broken a few “cardinal” sins.

  1.      When everyone else was laughing because they were high on Jesus (it’s a thing), I didn’t. I was just quiet. I was told the reason I wasn’t laughing was because I had demonic activity in my life I needed to deal with.
  2.      I had a dream that wasn’t entirely appropriate. I told the youth pastor at the time, and she rebuked me – as in told the “spirits” (aka demons) around me that they had to leave me alone.
  3.      I couldn’t actually picture Jesus when I prayed. The group I was involved with held an intervention of sorts after a Bible study one night, and I cried and cried and cried, trying my best to picture Jesus. I was told that the reason I could not see Jesus was because there was sin in my life stopping me.

And then I read “Twilight.” And I liked it. And I saw the movie. Around that same time, the following happened:

  1.      That same group invited me to a movie (“Up,” which I will not watch to this day because of this), then informed me that I was not allowed to sit with them.
  2.      They informed me I was no longer allowed to sit with them at church and physically moved my stuff to a different part of the sanctuary.
  3.      Two girls went to give me hugs and then stopped, turned away and basically ignored me for the next several months.

These are a few specific examples to say the following: I was rejected, and it hurt. I was manipulated by scriptures to do what this group thought was favorable to God, and when I went against the grain, I was shoved out. Kind of literally.

This rejection led to an emotional spiral to places you don’t want to think about.

I was enveloped in loneliness, bitterness, depression. I cried out to God and felt ignored. I was terrified of anything having to do with the Holy Spirit because of how hurt I was by this group.

As a former cutter, I began to snap rubber bands against my wrist as a different form of self-harm. Sometimes the rubber bands would snap so hard that my tattoo would swell – my tattoo that means “Set free from the dominion of sin, liberated, unchained and unleashed.”

Though I felt like I was in a void, I still attended church. Couldn’t let the church members realize something might actually be wrong with the pastor’s daughter, could we?

Part III

My parents told me I could skip church the morning of March 14, 2009, so long as I attended the evening service with a prophetess I’d never met/heard of.

When I arrived at church, this lady was praying for someone else. I sat down and started snapping my rubber band. The lady finished her prayer and approached me.

“You’re Jessilyn.” It wasn’t a question. I nodded.

“You’re the apple of God’s eye.” There was more, but that’s all I remember.

That’s when the healing began.


Back to Proverbs 22:6, I was trained up and I’m not turning.

In college, I was able to coast on the fumes of my community’s Christianity. The school functioned as a church, so I didn’t necessarily feel the need to attend a church.

I traveled to Hong Kong, where I dealt with a lot of my aversion to things of the Holy Spirit by simply seeing the spiritual gifts in practice in a healthy way.

Like your physical body, the church can be healthy or it can be sick.

Just because you have a bruise on your arm doesn’t mean you can’t run.

In the same way, just because you have been hurt by the church does not mean you can do without a spiritual community and a place to serve. In time, (possibly a very, very, very long time) healing will come, and you will be able to use the once-wounded part again. Most of the people who hurt me have apologized, and we are rebuilding our friendships.

Until then, continue to seek, to ask questions, to struggle and serve. Comparison is the death of spirituality, so focus on your journey, not others.

Jessilyn Justice has guest written for the Accidental Extrovert before (this isn’t her first guest writing rodeo.) She resides both in Alabama and online on her blog

Sleeping in on Sundays: Why I left the church in college

churchIf I’m being really honest, I don’t understand churches. And sometimes, even worse, I don’t like them.

I grew up hearing the sermon statistic that 60% of Christian young adults will leave the church after they graduate college, but I never thought I’d be a part of that number until one day I woke up in college and was.

Growing up as a ministry person’s kid (no fun acronym or support group like for Missionary Kids or Pastor’s Kids sadly), my relationship with the church was often a rocky road during high school, peppered by painful experiences with people who were unkind and theology that was untrue.  It was a really dramatic, raw time in my life and unfortunately the church situation never got better.

I left for college with an internal suitcase packed with cynicism and anger towards the church, which admittedly was strange baggage to bring to a Christian, mandatory chapel-ed college. Not the Church aka the body of Christ, I would clarify to my friends in college, but the organization of church. Lowercase “c.” I didn’t figure I was leaving the church when technically, it left me first. In college, I made little to no effort to try to find church again.

Thankfully, as I’ve gotten older, grace continues to abound in my life.  I’m happy to say the anger has left my heart, thanks to many people &  churches that despite my best efforts, pulled me in closer. When I lived in Dallas for a summer, the Village Church was and continues to be the example of how the Church does church right. Also, Passion City Church in Atlanta has been a constant source of spiritual nourishment to me (I’d encourage you to check out both churches’ podcasts–great stuff.) Even in Nashville, I on & off again attended an incredible church before we moved away.

But really… I’m nervous to trust a church again.

I have many questions.

Why can’t my spiritual fellowship come from other places or people? Must they be organized to a certain time slot at a certain location? Does the Church have to be stuck at church? If the purpose of our lives is to bring honor & glory to God, for Him to increase & us to decrease, why are we so stuck on the American church model? Couldn’t church happen at any time and any place if the total presence of God is with us at all times? And why are there so many damn building projects (why are we so focused on temporary aesthetics when there’s real work to be done?)?

This is where I am, a Christian young adult part of the 60%. I’m searching for the answers to those questions and remaining hopeful that, like my peers who have found their home in a church, I will find my place too.

Don’t give up on me. My story is to be continued.

Actually, I owned Justin Lookadoo’s “R U Dateable?” book.

justin_lookadooAll the current uproar over Christian speaker Justin Lookadoo’s controversial dating message and speech to a Texan high school reminded me of a yet another reason why I write: I once owned his book  back in 2008 or so. It’s interesting to look back and see the subtle influencers in my life and how in many ways, I had to completely abandon them in order to be mentally & relationally healthy today. Christian dating books were bad influences in my life–maybe I read them too young, but they molded my mind and heart in unhealthy, incorrect ways.

EDIT: To learn more details (albeit biased perspective) about the current Lookadoo vs. Texas/the Internet debacle, go here

Growing up in a conservative (although on the scale of 1 to Duggar, we were probably a mere 4, equating to a strange paradoxical system of TV shows we weren’t allowed to watch [no Harry Potter, but yes to "Bewitched"?], True Love Waits rings, and many, many modesty talks [unfortunately even the most concealable of tops from Khols still showed that well, I'm in fact a girl]) household, the idea of “dating” was strange and almost exotic, like a marsupial or the state of Wyoming.

I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16, a birthday that came & went without really doing anything to change my relationship status. (It’s not like 12:00AM on my birthday a godly and wonderful (but never “hot,” because as my friends and I would say, a person is not a temperature) boy showed up to profess his sudden interest in courting me. Nope. I was a laaaaaateeeee bloomer.)

But no matter. I wasn’t 100% sure if I was even allowed to date at 16 anyways, because when I’d broach the subject to my dad, conversations would always be a little like:

Me: So Dad, I’m almost 16 and all my friends are allowed to date then. Can I?

My Dad, the man who went to law school: Define dating. Define a boyfriend. Define a date. Define group dating.

Me: …nevermind.

But being excessively curious, I went to the only place I knew that would give me life-breathed, holy advice for this mystery called dating: the young adult aisle at Family Christian Bookstores.

I'd call it the mecca of Christian stuff, but that seems a little religiously contradictory.

I’d call it the mecca of Christian stuff, but that seems a little religiously contradictory.

Oh the young adult book aisle. Located conveniently next to Bible aisle, so whenever I’d be poring over the latest Christian dating fad  book like “Every Young Woman Needs to Know This About Men” or “Technical Virgin:How Far Is Too Far?” and some blessed little granny would walk by, I could NOT GET CAUGHT looking at a dating book! Me? The intended demographic for a book on dating actually seen READING IT!? NO. So with my lightning fast reflexes, I’d pretend to be looking at the spine of a random NKJV until the danger passed. Psh, me look at dating books? Who do you think I am, a boy crazy pop singer I wasn’t allowed to listen to?

Justin Lookadoo and Hayley DiMarco’s “B4UDate” was actually the first dating book I purchased (and is currently FREE on Amazon Kindle??), albeit still veryyyy nonchalantly.  I felt awkward and unwanted, but I hoped by getting this book, I could suddenly learn how to be wanted. Being dateable was the ultimate accolade and proof of worth. (Oh how I wish I could go back and talk to 15 year old me.)

I read a lot of dating books back then (before I even knew very many guys beyond the three weird ones in my homeschool group.) “B4UDate” as well as the countless others (including “Dateable” by the same authors), employ very subtle fear tactics. I was convinced–thanks to these books–that boys were basically untrustworthy, heartless sexual sociopaths. They would use you and then lose you–and of course, as a girl, your most valuable asset was virginity. Once one of these boys/sociopaths tricked you into having sex with him, you were like a useless piece of construction paper pulled apart from another: messed up, void, and unwanted.  So, boys were untrustworthy and suspicious. (Let me tell you, it took a really long time for that lie to be retaught into truth.)

One thing I definitely recall from the books that I tried super hard to replicate in my own life was consequently the big controversial bit today: being mysterious (aka shutting up.) Over and over again, I would read that in order for a boy to stay interested (presumably he’s not also trying to get in your pants) was to basically reveal close to nothing about yourself–ever. Be mysterious. Let him ask. Let him  talk.

I googled "How to Be Mysterious to Men" and this was the top result....

I googled “How to Be Mysterious to Men” and this was the top result….

Anyone who knows me also knows this concept has never really worked for me. I’m the most open book, heart on my sleeve person out there. Even if I’m not talking, you probably know what I think just by looking at me. I’m NOT mysterious. And thus in  being myself, I break the ultimate “dateable” rule.

R U Dateable? According to that standard, I sure am not.

And may I just say, thank the Lord for that. Books that hold impressionable young people to impossible (or in many cases, incorrect) gender standards and stereotypes are false teaching. As a society we ought to be better than that and as for the Christian community, come on. Enough is enough.

The truth sets you free. It set me free from that terrible mantle of relationships Christian dating books (here’s looking at you “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”) established in my life and it continues to set me free daily.

Side note: I tried to sell my copy of “B4UDate” to a used bookstore a year or so ago…they wouldn’t take it at all. Hindsight’s 20/20…

P90X and the Wisdom of Grace (by Lyndsey Graves)

DSC_0075 Pay close attention, because Lyndsey Graves is the writer to watch. I’m basically trying to copy her-- I’m lucky enough to know her “in real life.” Her point of view made our sometimes boring COMM classes always interesting. When she’s a renowned writer one day, I’m going to be able to say “I know her! We took that horrible Public Speaking class together!” Lyndsey has been featured Thought Catalog, Threads UK, and most recently, On Pop Theology. A recent PopTheology article was shared on Twitter by Rachel Held Evans, one of my favorite bloggers and authors! Off to Boston University to begin her Master of Theological Studies, catch her on Twitter or her blog, [To Be Honest.]

I first started exercising regularly to impress a boy. We would meet with a couple other people in his basement to practice muay thai, the style of kickboxing you usually see in MMA stand-up fighting. It was terribly romantic.

Something I really admired about him (and still do) was that he worked out every day – and not just nice 20-minute jogs. He would either spend an hour in the gym at our college, or he would do an entire P90X workout. You know how the big thing for a while was to brag about doing P90X on facebook? Those workouts are as intense as everyone said they were. Really painful. Push push push don’t stop. You feel really accomplished afterwards, but while you’re actually doing the workout, you keep going by sheer willpower and grit and being yelled at.

I impressed the boy well enough to get mono from him, and by the time I had worked my way from sleeping 16 hours a day down to 12, I was completely stir-crazy. Out of sheer boredom I took up yoga, because I could challenge myself without becoming exhausted, and suddenly I was exercising regularly for myself for the first time. As my body healed from the virus, it also became more strong and flexible, and I fell in love with yoga for teaching me to fall in love with my body. 

Yoga should be hard – you stretch a little further every time and, of course, try to balance in strange contortions – but it’s not really meant to be strenuous. It’s static; it’s silent; it’s about listening to your body and welcoming the ache in your muscles. You’re meant to keep your face relaxed, not contorted in pain, as you find balance, strength, and flexibility within yourself, through your breath. Form is everything, so you can notice yourself in order to care for yourself. Where P90X or sprinting or swimming can feel like a battle against your body to get to the finish line, you can only do yoga well by listening to your body, loving your body, and entering into the present moment.

I realize this may sound very hippy-dippy, and you may still not consider yoga to be a “workout”, all that standing around gazing at your hand in the air or whatever. The first year or so that I did it, I felt the same way – like it was something I enjoyed doing, but only kind of counted as “exercise”. Difficult though it is, It’s certainly not a sustained cardio session, and it’s not going to GET YOU RIPPED. Most people who do yoga all the time are very strong and very skinny.

I only really came to appreciate its importance after that first year, when I decided one day on a whim to join the old boyfriend and his daily-workout buddy for a session of P90X interval training. It’s probably the very most intense, go go go sort of workout I’ve ever seen, one of these “extra” options for after you’ve gotten too good for regular P90X. It was their third or fourth time doing it in a month, and they warned me that it was nearly impossible to get through and I should take a break, get some water, sit out whenever I needed. Being none too confident in my abilities at REAL SERIOUS EXERCISE TO THE MAX, I agreed with them that I’d probably collapse after five minutes.

So we started the video, wherein you do some sort of move as hard and fast as you can for 20 seconds, take a 10 second break, and then move on to the next. And I, in official exercise parlance, beasted it. I mean, it was difficult and horribly painful, but I was still going strong when the guys were extending their breaks. We were all confused by this at first. But as we kept going I realized that my breathing was significantly slower than theirs, even as my heart rate went through the roof. It had become second nature to me, when exerting myself physically, to work with my body instead of fighting against it, and to draw energy from deep breaths that tried to fill every corner and cavity with oxygen. It occurred to me then that yoga is not a watered-down, lazy man’s pretend-exercise, but that my focused and gentle practice really had brought major change to my body and its abilities to do all kinds of other things.

I am always trying to P90X my faith and my life. I worry that I’ll get lazy or disobedient, and so I try to do everything really well all the time. I read a bunch of Francis Chan books a couple of years ago and decided that really sold-out Christians should constantly be doing very difficult things. I get all strenuous about doing devotions every day, being kind to everyone, volunteering all the time, or “stewarding” my time and money and body TO THE MAX. I’m unwilling to be gentle and patient with myself.

Circumstances and my expectations for myself have made for a past year that was certainly very difficult. It wasn’t all bad and I did get stronger, but if I’d kept going the same way, I was on my way to serious burnout. Now that I’ve been given the gift of a few restful weeks at my parents’ house, I’m realizing it’s time for a yoga season. For rediscovering myself, for learning what it means to feel the stretch without overextending. For being gentle with myself the way God is, and doing the very different work of re-centering in him. I’m starting to realize that the P90X seasons of huge exertion and growth aren’t opposed to the yoga seasons of loving myself and learning calm, the way I used to think they were. The next time life requires a sprint, I’ll be centered; and I’ll be faster; and that is the wisdom of grace.

Confessions of a Lukewarm Christian

"You will know them by their fruit."

“You will know them by their fruit.”

Yesterday, I realized something horrible.

I’m currently a lukewarm Christian. “Asleep in the light,” as Keith Green might say.

How did I get here? How did I this to happen? I’m not sure.

Complacency. Convincing myself the minimum (“Yeah, one “Jesus Calling” devotional ought to be adequate time with God”) was good enough. Hoarding God’s love–seeing His goodness, favor, love, and grace in my life but doing absolutely nothing to spread His message to others. Allowing bad habits to creep into my system and become okay to the point of addiction.


It’s my biggest problem. The root of all of issues, actually. I’m so afraid to be vulnerable and look stupid. I’m missing out on so much.

And so that’s where I am.

I’m tired of my selfishness. And trust me, I’m not being honest in order to be “brave,” or garner sympathy & platitudes. I’m being honest because when you’re empty, you have nothing left.

God hasn’t forgotten me. It’s time I stop conveniently forgetting about Him.