It’s a good thing we don’t worship Rob Bell

My former pastor unfollowed me on twitter. I’m not sure when exactly he unfollowed me, but I noticed it last week. I’ve been slowly dipping my toes in the political world and slowly venting my frustrations with the evangelical community on twitter, which really is probably not the best platform, but it’s my home for it.

Anyway I know we don’t see eye to eye, this pastor and me. I suspect due to the nature of my departure, he does not have the highest opinion of me. But I didn’t think we were at the opposite ends of the spectrum, politically and spiritually, yet here we stand.

I started listening to Rob Bell again.

He was once highly respected in the evangelical church in which I grew up, but now is *obviously* a heretic. We even held an entire Sunday school class which was devoted to explaining all of the reasons why Rob Bell was a heretic.

Well, I like Rob Bell. Sorry not sorry. I enjoy his commentary on scripture and his insights on how to become more human, in the best way possible. I also enjoy that he allows for grey in a world that I had always been told was black and white.

The black and white way of life is not working for me anymore. Where my former congregation would have panicked, Bell encourages us to be at peace with uncertainty; to learn and grow from it.

And I am learning. I am growing. Perhaps it’s taking a different route than my former congregation expected, but today I am a more loving, more peaceful person than I was a year ago. That has to count for something.

Most importantly, at a time I most need to hear it, I am learning to break free of a lie that I have been taught:  That modern evangelicals have learned the proper way of understanding God and scripture, and that because I have left the church, I am lost. The evangelical church was an exclusive club–with acceptable reading material from only certain commentators, certain acceptable political parties or ways of dressing and speaking.

I’m learning a lot from Rob Bell, and not just him. Rachel Held Evans, Johnathan Merrit, Julie Rodgers, Vicky Beeching, Matthew Vines and others. A mixed bag of people who are wrestling in the gray world, just like me. They’re published authors, people with their own convictions and ways of seeing the world. I’m not sure I agree with all of them and that’s okay.

Some (my former pastor, I believe) will accuse me of trading one batch of commentators for another (who are, by the way, heretics). The difference is that people I choose to follow never claim to have it all right. Their statements and writings may be based on personal convictions, life experience, a word from God, who knows. But they accept that everyone is bringing something slightly different to the table and act accordingly.

The commentators I grew up reading had no sense of humility. Their statements and writings contain a matter-of-fact tone. ‘I know this, based on the Bible.’ This has never sat well with me. By that model, we should see the commentators as gods, or at very least, prophets. What makes their brain better than mine? What makes their interpretation of scripture any better than Julie Rodgers’? What makes them so special that we’ve chosen to elevate their words alongside the Bible?

Here’s the thing– we don’t worship the commentators.

Since when are the writings of John Piper given the same weight as the words of the Apostle? Since when did we stop admitting that Piper is not perfect? Even John Calvin was just a human.

With commentators, you can pick and choose what you believe. If we’re accepting of shortcomings, accepting of humanity, then we should be comfortable sifting through what thoughts we do and do not subscribe to. To pretend that any one human on this earth has it completely correct is delusional. If God wasn’t somewhat of a mystery, he wouldn’t be God.

It’s a good thing I worship God, and not the commentators. And the last time I checked, that was all that was required of me.

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It’s a good thing we don’t worship Rob Bell

I have a fear of intimacy and “sloppy wet kiss” sounds horrifying.

And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest.
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way…

That He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us….

You don’t know this song? What were you doing in 2009, living under a rock??

How He Loves was a praise song that rose to popularity very quickly in the contemporary praise and worship circles. My church was not contemporary, so by the time I heard it, it was probably already at maximum popularity. Once I heard it once, I heard it everywhere.

I assumed it was a David Crowder song, with the lyrics shown above. Unforseen kiss always seemed fairly poetic, although a kiss metaphor wasn’t something that would be used in my church setting. We were a “leave room for Jesus” type. Like, majorly.

I was attending a contemporary service put on by some young people in my community that summer when I heard the other version

And Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss…

Excuse me, what?? Sloppy, wet kiss? If a kiss metaphor was out of my world, this sent it into the stratosphere. Where did this come from? Did these young people change the words themselves?

No, I learned. That’s the original lyrics, penned by John Mark McMillan, changed by David Crowder to make them more approachable, more more worship-friendly, more safe.

That’s crap, these young people had decided, and performed the original version. But at the time, sloppy wet kiss didn’t sit well with me. At all.

Why? As I sought the answer to my disproportionate discomfort, I came to a few conclusions:

  • The adjectives sloppy and wet are both negative. Kiss is typically a positive word. Unforeseen on the other hand, could be positive. The two words hold less dissonance.
  • Sloppy and Wet is not how I wish a kiss to be. That sounds gross and makes me uncomfortable.
  • Unforeseen, in a positive sense, is a surprise–something you do not expect to receive. This was in line with what I had been taught on grace, and God’s relationship to man.
  • But lastly, I have never been kissed, so I don’t understand the metaphor at its core.

In 2009, I was 17 years old, nearly an adult. Sitting there in that auditorium, listening to my peers sing this song on the stage, I realized that I was very out of sorts. An ugly jealousy sprung up inside me. I had never been kissed. The rest of all of these kids had. I knew. I saw them in the hallways. I was 17 and no one had ever tried to kiss me. No one had reached out to hold my hand. No one had even embraced me tightly.

Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting to ever be kissed, therefore unforeseen was the perfect word for the metaphor.

I don’t know where exactly my fear of intimacy arose. Perhaps it was the constant preaching I had been subject to (young people were not even allowed to hug in my church). Perhaps it was getting yelled at (literally yelled) when a female friend of mine snuggled into my shoulder on a couch at youth group, and I rested my head on hers. Perhaps it was the fact that I never saw my parents (or any of my relatives) hug or kiss. Perhaps I was simply afraid of failure; at 17… 19…21… most people had already done this stuff. What if I was bad at it? What if my hand was too sweaty or too cold? What if I was a dreadful kisser? What if my kiss was sloppy and wet?

It wasn’t until I was 23 that I finally experienced intimacy. At 23 I had my first kiss. I held hands with my significant other when we walked down the street, while I drove my car, while we sat on the porch. I was greeted with a smile and a kiss. I was allowed to get close, in fact, my closeness was wanted.

I still have a fear of intimacy, but it’s a different kind. It’s not a fear of failure, and it’s not a negative fear. It’s butterflies. It’s electric in my veins. It’s the excitement and fear of asking “can I kiss you?” and the calmness of the moments following.

Somewhat guiltily, I think I still prefer unforeseen, but I get it now. I understand sloppy wet kiss, because things aren’t perfect, but when you love someone, it doesn’t matter.

I have a fear of intimacy and “sloppy wet kiss” sounds horrifying.

Eva wants me to become a youth leader.

Eva wants me to become a youth leader.

“Just come hang out!” she said. “You don’t really have to do much.

“I would 100-percent support that.”

I love Eva. I love Eva and Joey and Porcha and Alex and the rest. I want to make sure that Eva knows she has a family– that Porcha knows God loves her just the way she is. I want to help Alex along a journey, towards a destination I have no particular answer to, but I want them to know that they are made in the image of God.

I want them to know that when the world abandons them, God will not. And I wont either.

Growing up I had people try to do that for me. They helped me so much. They were my confidants when I had nowhere else to turn. They were my therapist, hearing the records of my anxieties and grievances. But they all fell short. Humans do that.

Eva wants me to become a youth leader.

They see me in the praise band on Sunday. I make sure to ask them about their weeks and listen. I make the tough conversations easy to voice. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have the answers. I just want to make sure they’re all doing okay.

I want them to know that I’ve been there. I see you. I know how you got those scars. You can show me or tell me and I will understand because I have them too. You don’t have to explain. I know how many questions you have, how complicated identity seems. You can skip the explanations, which often are not easy. I get it. I see you. You’re my younger sibling, my little bird.

My God. If I had someone, even one person, tell me that I was beautiful, that “same sex attraction” wasn’t an abomination, that I was made in the image of God–No exceptions!–it would have saved me countless moments of hating myself. If one person took the time to listen, to hold me tight, to tell me that my feelings were valid, I maybe would have less scars. Maybe I would stand a little taller.

I just want to make sure the kids are alright. I don’t want to leave them. I want to be the person I never had.

I’m not sure anyone else wants me to become a youth leader.

Me? Who refuses to dress up, despite playing in the band every week. Who comes, frail and pale, with dark circles and makeup clearly from last night. Who jokes during the church service. Who can’t pray out loud anymore. Who is perhaps too open about her drinking habits.

No. They don’t want that.

Even if they do, I can’t become a youth leader with a clean conscious because I am gay. I am gay. What if the parents decide that I am unfit to lead their kids? What if I bare my soul, my identity, to the church leaders and they decide I am unfit for everything? Could I still play in the band? Could I still hang out with the youth?

I don’t want to be a problem to be solved. I don’t want to be an issue to be fixed. I just don’t want to leave them–the kids. I just want to make sure they’re doing okay. Because God, life is hard.

Eva wants me to become a youth leader. I do too.

Eva wants me to become a youth leader.

Sympathy for the one who wears the rose-colored glasses

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A kid at church made this for me over a year ago. You bet it’s still sitting on my dashboard.

Some kids collect toy cars, or rocks. Some kids collect barbies or beanie babies. I collected model horses.

Not cheap ones, expensive ones. Anatomically correct, beautifully hand-painted horses. I gave them all names and personalities, because that’s what kids do with their favorite toys.

It wasn’t a small collection. Over half of the book shelves which lined my one bedroom wall were filled with these horses. Admittedly, it would have been quite overwhelming to outsiders, but as a kid I saw nothing wrong with it. My friends collected marbles or whatever. I just happened to collect horses.

It made sense; I started horseback riding at 7. I still love horses. I wasn’t aware of the “crazy horse girl” stereotype until I was older. People teased me for horseback riding. People teased me for sketching horses in my notebook. ‘My Little Pony’ jokes followed me through college. Slowly my collection became an embarrassment.

As a result, I didn’t show people my room. Not middle school or high school friends, and certainly not my post-high school friends. Only my relatives were allowed, since my room became the guest room when we had visitors. One time, however, I had a girlfriend stay the night at my parents’ house while I was in-between living arrangements. She told all of our mutual friends about my horse collection, finding it incredibly creepy. Our friends found it hilariously weird, and the teasing started up once again. Now my collection wasn’t only embarrassing, but it was shameful.

Within the last year I’ve moved into my own place and have started sorting through my childhood belongings, donating this or that and trying to decide what to do with the objects of sentiment.

The thing is, I see nearly everything through rose-colored glasses. I’m a hoarder of memories; notes from friends, birthday cards, letters of correspondence, embarrassing journal entries, I keep them all.

And toys: I have a stuffed dalmatian that once belonged to my favorite older cousin. It’s disgusting looking, but do you think I will ever part with it?

Recently my uncle asked me what I intend to do with all of the horses in my room. Incorrectly, I assumed he, like everyone else, saw my collection as ridiculous; memories that take up too much space. I gave him the standard answer, that I was sorting through stuff and would sell much of it.

“Oh,” he said. “That’s a shame.” He is a no-nonsense guy. A military guy, who had moved houses and states multiple times, the last person I would expect to be nostalgic.

“I’m a hoarder of stuff like that, you know, kids stuff, drawings they did or favorite toys they had. I hate getting rid of that.”

And really, if I look at what I really want? I don’t want to get rid of my horses. I want to keep the silly stuffed animals and the tiny notes my best friend passed me in class 10 years ago.

I do have a large ‘donate’ pile in my room. Much of what I had packed away in my closet will find new homes. Two horses have already been donated to a charity auction. But some of it I just don’t want to part with. Maybe it’s childish. Maybe it’s foolish or weird, but my childhood was the happiest I can ever remember being, and I would like to hold on to that.

So, my friends, have sympathy for the one who wears the rose-colored glasses. We are few and often fragile.

Sympathy for the one who wears the rose-colored glasses

Slowburn Evangelicalism: I don’t know whats going on, but it’s something.

Saturday night I sat in a local up-scale bar with friends. We discussed politics and religion over Moscow Mules in glinting brass mugs.

It’s no secret to any of my friends that I am a Christian. It’s no secret that I have many frustrations with the church, but in the end, I am convicted to believe in the saving God. However, conversations about faith or religion are not avoided with me or anyone in the group; they know where I stand and there’s no attempt to convince me otherwise. There’s also no attempt on my part to convert them to Christianity. We reach a mutual understanding of each other’s positions, and part ways feeling (if nothing else) intellectually stimulated.

Growing up in the evangelical church, this might feel… wrong. It sounds wrong, to some. In fact, it was this very notion, this behavior, that caused me to lose my VIP status in my church.

If your faith isn’t compelling you to testify to others, you should take a closer look at your faith.

How much do you have to hate the other person to not share the Gospel with them?

These were two things that I was taught over and over again growing up, and they still fill me with anxiety. I’m not particularly compelled, but the suggestion that I’m damning others by my inaction is incredibly stressful.

The thing is though… I have no power to save anyone.

Read it again. I have no power to save anyone. I cannot offer anyone heavenly grace. I cannot rescue anyone from the grips of sin. I cannot save anyone.

Well, yes, my evangelicals would say, yes I know that. But I can plant the seeds. That’s our job.

You are so right. That’s why I practice a slowburn evangelicalism.

In the world that I grew up in, many people already know the basic points of the Gospel. They know the points on the Bible tracts. There’s very little sense in talking at people about this.

In college, my roommate was a self-proclaimed staunch atheist. She came from a Catholic background and had become disillusioned by the intolerance and hypocrisy shown in the church.

So have I, I said. We have that in common. 

Over the next 4 years of close friendship, we have talked about frustrations with the church, our own beliefs, our doubts, our hangups. I tell her what I love about Church and she encourages me. We talk about the universe, science, how vast and crazy and specific this world is and how can it be an accident? She agrees.

Four years, this takes. Six years of friendship, and four years of discussions. Leading up to Moscow Mules, in a bar at my city.

I’m an agnostic, she says. I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s something.

This is what it means, my friends. This is what I yearned for in every conversation I had with her on faith. I saw her heart, which had been so hardened, so bitter, open to me. I tried to show her every kindness that I believed in, instill upon her every ounce of grace I had been given. And I passed along all of the unconditional love I could muster. And I praised my God for giving me this human, this friendship, the universe, and the cool night air.

I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s something.

Slowburn Evangelicalism: I don’t know whats going on, but it’s something.

A tale of fake high school crushes

High school is tough. Four long years of trying desperately to both stand out and fit in. What do I like? What am I good at? Who am I?

I grew up in an area where homosexuality was just not an option. It wasn’t even considered. And when i finally learned about gay people, I thought ‘being gay’ was just something you did that was bad, I didn’t know relationships between gay people were an actual thing.

So anyway!

Starting in middle school, as is extremely normal, all of my friends started having crushes on people of the opposite sex. My guy friends started becoming interested in the pretty girls (who somehow managed to be ALWAYS the same 5 girls) and my female friends would spend lunch hours talking about their crush of the week or month or day.

In those days there was a check list of traits that you had to have in order to be considered crush-worthy. We were kids, emulating Tigerbeat magazines and Nickelodeon Stars, channeling every bit of pop culture that was surrounding us. If Tigerbeat said Zach Effron was the the it-boy, then it meant those boys in class with shaggy skater hair and a wide smile were also the it-boys.

The it-boys were fairly easy to identify and therefore easy targets for my fake crushes. I remember sitting in the cafeteria with my girl friends as they once again had the discussion on who was crushing on who. I had so far avoided being roped into these discussions, but today I couldn’t escape.

“Lily, who do you have a crush on?”

I thought and thought, but couldn’t muster an answer. What boy did I have a crush on? I was friends with Jake, but I didn’t want to kiss him. I liked spending time with James, but I didn’t like like him. As the time passed and I stayed silent, I began to blush, embarrassed that I was the odd one out.

“She’s blushing! She does like someone!”

“Awww who is it?”

I didn’t want to tell them, because it would be lying. I never gave guys much thought in that way. I was a tomboy. I was one of the guys. They didn’t make me nervous or shy. The only person in school that made me speechless was Joanna.

But I couldn’t say that because we weren’t talking about girls. We were talking about boys. To satisfy my friends, I looked around at the photos on the cafeteria walls. The boys soccer team. I picked a guy–Jackson–an it-boy. I had known him for years. It would probably be believable.

“Jackson?” It wasn’t. “You like him??”

I couldn’t spare myself the teasing, but it was better to fake a crush on Jackson than it was to admit to myself that the reason I was faking in the first place was that Joanna was my first crush. Blonde, kind, gentle and talented. Every time I spoke to her it lit up my heart. I could feel the butterflies, and my world would speed up and slow down at the same time.

But thank God for Tigerbeat. Thank God for Cosmo and for TMZ. Thank God that young women are so predictable. I faked it for years. The it-boys were always easy to spot and required no further explanation from me.

And I could save my butterflies for the blonde girls, the girls with tattoos and quiet smiles.

A tale of fake high school crushes

10 Party tricks for introverts

Social tips from an introvert: How to become instantly endearing.

We’ve all found ourselves in social situations where we’re a little unsure of what to do. Maybe, like me, you’re an introvert. Or maybe the situation is awkward due to the group composition. Maybe you’re meeting people for the first time, or maybe you’re meeting people who may or may not like you.

This weekend I was in an interesting situation where I was a little unsure of what to do socially. All in one party, I had to meet new people, reconnect with people who I hadn’t seen in years, interact with children,  all on 4 hours of sleep and somehow come out unscathed.

I played a game of endearment; specifically, how many people could I endear myself to in the 3 hour time frame?

Here are the tips:

  1. Open the conversation

    • “How are you” will absolutely suffice, but might prompt a one word response. Instead, try “how is your summer going?” Or “what have you been up to this summer? Did you take any vacations?”
  2. Find the story

    • Search around for the thing they want to talk about–A trip they went on, or what they’ve been bingewatching on Netflix. Maybe its their kids, or pets, or new spouse. Then ask them about it.
  3. Learn something new

    • Give them the opportunity to educate you. Listening is hard, but if you approach it with a learning mentality, you’ll find it much easier. Tim is on the travel soccer team this summer. Is he enjoying himself? Does he want to play in high school? What position does he play?
  4. Ask at least two “learning” questions before you say anything about yourself.

    • Conversation should flow, story to story. In order for the flow to be smooth, each party needs room to tell their story. Give the other person space. People love when you ask them questions, and it genuinely is easy. You don’t have to think of how to respond– just ask another question and learn more!
    • When you are ready to talk about yourself, keep it brief and on topic. Add another spotlight to their story instead of stealing from it.
  5. Smile!

    • Laughter is endearing! You don’t have to laugh hysterically or smile constantly; rather, genuinely enjoy the moment with the person you are speaking with. It’s only one moment in a million; it is brief. You can do it.
  6. Thank the host(s) individually.

    • This one is genuinely super easy but it’s often overlooked. When you’re saying your goodbyes, add a “thank you so much for having me over! I really appreciate it!” Adding a handshake or a hug where appropriate will bring a level of sincerity to your words.
  7. Offer to help clean up.

    • Humble yourself, and just offer to help. More often than not they will refuse help anyway.
  8. Talk to a variety of ages.

    • Talk to the adults, talk to the youngsters. It shows you’re a well rounded person. The conversations don’t have to be long; the effort was still made.

If you need a little help…

9. Compliments. Everyone loves to be complimented. I like your hair! I love your backyard! Your children are so sweet! It’s one of the easiest things to do– just make sure you come across as genuine.

10. Take a shot. Of alcohol. Sometimes you can put on  your best face but you really just do need something to take the edge off the nerves. No shame, just drink responsibly.

At the end of the day, you may still be worn out and tired–you are an introvert after all–but if the other people left the conversation with better energy than they started with, you’ve done your job.

Parties are never going to be easy for the introvert–think of it as a time to endear yourself to others. Perhaps the next party will be easier.

 

 

10 Party tricks for introverts