“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.

“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

Getting Lost in Cambridge

Hands down my favorite avenue in Cambridge.

Hands down my favorite avenue in Cambridge.

Sometimes, you just have to skip class and wander. Tolkien wrote that not all who wander are lost, but given my horrible directional skills, I definitely achieve both simultaneously sometimes.

Armed with my Calvin Klein for Costco rainjacket and a playlist full of Bon Iver, I explored the city center of Cambridge all afternoon, reveling in the beauty of the moment.


#selfie #casualthursday

There’s nothing quite like walking down the narrow cobblestone sidewalks of an ancient city, the raindrops falling on your face a reminder of the fact you are alive.

We need more reminders of the fact we are alive. You might be thinking that’s the stupidest, most obvious thing you’ve ever read—we’re alive, no kidding—but when was the last time you did something that made you wholly cognizant of that fact? We are just walking, breathing bundles of dust, living in a world full of self-medication to numb the pain of life. We crave simple moments of beauty, ones which reflect the presence of greater Good in the world, Jesus Christ. To be honest, before this past week, I was still a member of the walking dead. A change of scenery did nothing but add new methods of distraction.  Exploring the tiny harbor town of Howth, Ireland woke me up again (more details to come.)

So much beauty

So much beauty

So, how should you go about with this resuscitation? Do something non-goal oriented/ time frame based by yourself. Go for a walk, explore something, read on your front porch, paint, hike, whatever.

I think one of the biggest obstacles that twenty-somethings face in this whole weird “finding myself” phase is the fear of being alone. Doing any activity alone scares people to death because as it seems to signify the future presence of a glaring neon sign “Forever Alone.” It’s so healthy to be alone. You learn so much about yourself and become a thousand times stronger with this independence.

So go on. Get lost. It’s good for you.

That one time I went to England.

Home. What a transient word it has been in my life. Growing up, we moved a lot and because of this, I’ve always had wanderlust for new environments to call home, even if just temporarily. Will I ever stay in a place long enough to establish roots? Of course! …After I see everything and everywhere to weigh my options. (Just kidding, I want to live in NYC.)

This summer, Dallas, Texas was my home for ten crazy weeks, the longest I had ever been away from home. Four days from now, I’m off to top that record. For the next twelve weeks, home is now a little country (“this precious stone set in the silver sea” according to one William Shakespeare) called the United Kingdom.


Yeah, I’m really, really blessed. This opportunity is beyond compare and I’m humbled to participate.

While it still doesn’t seem real that I’m leaving SO soon (just ask my suitcase…), everyone else is making up for my unapparent excitement with passionate enthusiasm. But the other day, while back at home in Franklin, someone from my parent’s church asked me a question that keeps subliminally pricking my conscious:

“So, Kelsy, are you doing any missions work there?” 

When asked, I was immediately kind of annoyed.

Uh, of course I’m not. Is that mandated for international travel as a Christian? 

And please, everyone knows that my sister is the missionary one in the family (legitimately) and I’m the writer. Duh. 

But then, I started thinking. Alas, how so many problems begin that way.

Sharing the essence (love, life, redemption) of Christ is kind of our jobs…in ALL that we do. We don’t get a “time out” card that we can redeem and be off the clock for representing Christ for a day or two (or in my case, 12 weeks).

And while I’m definitely NOT going to be doing ministry puppet shows, painting houses, or evangel-shouting on street corners (all typical missions activities), I will be studying, building community, and interacting 24/7 with the lovely British people. I’d be a fool to deny “missions” work being done while there, because I’m planting seeds no matter what I say (just like when I’m anywhere, not just a foreign country). My goal: planting seeds of hope, redemption,and acceptance. Little reminders of the essence of Christ

Jesus is there already, I don’t need to pack Him in my carry-on.

Guest Writer: And He Shall Be Called…The Good Shepherd

The following was written by my good friend Jamie Binegar! She’s such an insightful writer. Enjoy!

The Good Shepherd

John 10:11

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”

When we think of shepherds, we think of Precious Moments-esque characters in long robes with a staff, playing the lute, sitting on a green hillside and watching sheep graze. And all is at peace with the world.

Here’s what we don’t realize. Shepherds didn’t have an easy job by any means. They had to constantly fend off predators, like wolves, so not one sheep would be hurt. They had to know and keep track of literally hundreds of sheep. Not just, like, 12, like we always picture. Hundreds. And they had to do this at all hours, even into the night. Them, alone, with a bunch of sheep, all day. Sounds fun, right?

I would NEVER want to be a shepherd. Of course, what I want to do with my life involves shepherding, to a certain degree. But my “sheep” will actually be able to talk back. Or else I’d go nuts and start talking to animals.

This is the incredible thing about Christ. In this chapter of John, He calls himself the good shepherd. And we say, sweet!…But what does that mean? Well, here we go.

He gives his life for his sheep. Which I believe we take for granted a lot. A lot. I think we forget exactly what this means. He gives his life for us. Jesus’ entire existence is forour protection, our safety, our comfort, our nourishment, our ability to be one with God. Us, us, us. He didn’t just die for us. For every moment Jesus has existed – which is forever, frontward and backward, by the way – His big concern has been his sheep. He stays with us day and night, to fend off our enemies, to make sure every last one of us is safe, is known, is taken care of. He has not once left his flock.

Now compare this to what he says in the next few verses. “A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock” (v12, NLT). Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? All the things we’ve put our trust and hope in, the things of this world that we thing are taking care of us – once trouble hits, they flee. They falter.

You see, a hired hand doesn’t care about the sheep. He’s just in it for the money. He has no relationship with the sheep, he doesn’t know each of them, they aren’t dear to him. But Christ knows every single one of us. In v.14, some of the meanings of the Greek word forknow are to feel, to be aware of, to understand. Christ is aware when we feel pain or when we’re in danger. He feels it with us. He understands it. And so he gives his life to save us, day after day, struggle after struggle, so that we will not scatter from the flock. He will never run away out of fear, or falter like the earthly things we put our trust in.

And that is why he is the good shepherd. We can trust him. Don’t ever feel like he isn’t aware of your pain. He’s already running to help you.

Blast from the Past: “Jesus isn’t a Republican.” (2009)

I wrote this three years ago back before I graduated high school. It’s funny to now see that what I wrote about then was key to establishing the views I hold today. Oh 2009. I’m so different now, but maybe actually not?

So, lately, I’ve been realizing that life is all about love. Our love & God’s love– everything boils down to the two. As I write this, I’m struck at how hippie, “make love not war” this whole thing sounds, but this is a discovery, and discoveries can sound like whatever they want to.

I think if Jesus had come today, many conservative so called Christians would probably ignore Him. For example,Jesus would hang out with the people we Christians are supposed to be thoroughly against..homosexuals, liberals (ha), and you know, people not like “us.”

Jesus is pretty radical. He doesn’t judge others like we often do. Prostitutes, the rejected and despised, everyone who didn’t fit under the religious “status quo” of the day loved Jesus because He offered them something society never did: unconditional love, forgiveness, a purpose & new life. Do you think that a prostitute like Mary Magdalene, once she looked into the eyes of her Creator and saw His love for her, ever went back to her old life? I don’t think so. Once you meet Him truly, you are forever changed.

We have met Him. We are supposed to be changed. Our life which was once full of dying and death is now worthy of being called a “life;” we have a hope and a future in Christ! Right?

Why are we against so many things and people? As Dr. David Cooper says, Christians ought to live a life that isfor something, not against something. A life for peace, rather than turmoil. A life for love, rather than playing the “one side versus another” game.

I like how Donald Miller says, “Morality, in the context of a relationship with Jesus, becomes the voice of love to a confused community, the voice of reason and calm in a loud argument, the voice of life in a world of the walking dead, the voice of Christ in a sea of self-hatred.”

I’ve decided to love, even those conservative, right-wing Christians-or liberal, leftist Christians for that matter-decide to shun.

Because I know Jesus would and does. And because I know He is not anyone’s flag nor in “the business of brokering for power over a nation” but of loving.