When I’m Wordless

19 Jan

writing_zpsrl2zcwbgAs a child, I remember stapling together notebook paper with simple ink drawings, probably of animals, doing some sort of merry little thing together.

My sixth grade language arts teaching told me I had a gift. I thought orchestrating soap opera quality plots with my Barbie dolls and playing, “Let’s pretend…” was just what we kids did. I didn’t know it was a gift.

As I read and wrote, I didn’t know I was developing as a writer. I was just enjoying life—and the the beauty of words. The ebb and flow, the emotion, the meaning, the contrasts. Words had power to evoke emotion, to communicate information, to tell great stories.

I didn’t want to actually BE a writer. I wanted to be a marine biologist, but despite my fascination with the natural world, I’m not scientifically-minded. I thought about being a teacher like my mother or a social worker or even a youth director at a church.

All my paths led me back to writing, even snagging freelance writing gigs at now-defunct Christian music magazine seemed like a divine appointment.

But now… There are no freelance gigs. Print media is becoming obsolete (thought I will always love the feel of paper in my hands) and everyone has a blog. There are so many voices, so many words, so much being communicated and I wonder, did I miss my golden opportunity?

Because I can scribble a few words in my personal journal, but the words don’t come easy. It could be that I’m out of practice. Maybe I’m just lazy. Sometimes I wonder if I just don’t have any more words. Am I REALLY supposed to be a writer?

It was so much easier to be a writer when I had assignments and deadlines and topics, where there was a think tank. Now I feel like I write in isolation.

And something in me screams—THIS ISN’T HOW IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE!

Not because I expected other things (I did, but that’s not the point), but because I NEED to write, even if I can’t find the words.

So bear with me as I stumble over atrophied muscles and dusty pages. I can always becomes who I was meant to be…and I trust the words will come.

In the Stretching Moments

17 Nov

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For over three years, I’ve been walking on a broken foot.  Every step towards something or away from something was taken on a foot that wasn’t healed. Because I didn’t know it was broken, I walked on it anyway.

Often times, my foot would was sore and swollen. My podiatrist assured me I was fine, just suffering from tendonitis.  She told me to keep doing my normal activities and gave me a strong painkiller.  So I worked out, jumped, played, drove, shopped, and swam.  I walked on a boardwalk, on a sandy beach, on the sides of beautiful rivers, chased children and puppies, and I stood.  When I stopped taking the painkiller, which masked what was going on in my body, it hurt too much to stand. It hurt so much to walk, at times I would fight back tears.

Right now, it hurts too much to stand.  Sometimes I fight back tears.

So I’m in physical therapy, learning how to stretch my muscles and tendons because my broken foot doesn’t work properly.  It can’t do what it was designed to do—to roll from the heel to the toes—to carry me from place to place.

The muscles in both feet are atrophied. Therefore, they’re learning how to be strong again through stretching and bending and pulling and aching.

And the stretching out hurts.

As stiff muscles are pulled this way and that, they burn and the burning makes me nauseous.  Yet I keep stretching because I know my foot won’t always be broken.  I know that the stretching will provide the healing I need.  I know the muscles will become strong.

My foot isn’t the only thing that’s broken.  In fact, in many ways it has taken a back seat to my broken heart and crushed spirit.

See, I was doing life broken and crushed I didn’t realize it.  From the business (busyness?) of doing ministry and life, my spirit had become atrophied.

And now I’m in the place of the stretching out—finding a new place to belong, putting myself out there to make new friends, healing from wounds that are still bleeding, and pulling on  muscles that are rigid. 

I’m opening my hands before God, for He is the One who gives and takes away

The stretching out is uncomfortable, but I’m trying to see it as a gift.  Everything God gives me or allows to happen in my life is part of the stretching.  He is making the hard places malleable and builds strength in the weak places.

The stretching is necessary if I’m ever going to walk right again…and I don’t just want to walk, I want to run!  I want to run the race He has given me to run.

It is strange how God still allowed me to walk broken and to do ministry so crushed, yet that’s His mercy.  Maybe we’re all broken, but He only makes us aware of the areas of brokenness as we can handle them, as we become ready for Him to heal them in our lives.

I’m walking broken—physically and spiritually and emotionally—but I am still walking.  Isn’t that really the point of this race we call life?  Whether we rest or run a marathon, we keep on going.  Whether we’re warming up for a sprint or drinking Gatorade on the sidelines, we look at what is ahead, not behind

And sometimes we’re in the stretching, the waiting and the trusting for the moment God will let us run loose.  We will be stronger, faster, and more like Him because of the stretching.  The brokenness and the stretching is all part of the life race. 

Unlike other races, It’s not about who wins.  It’s about how we get there.  Because we were made to run.

*This post was heavily inspired by Jennie Allen’s RESTLESS Bible Study and Ann VosKamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts.  I highly recommend both resources!

Death Without a Funeral

26 Oct

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It’s a death without a funeral.*

There’s been a recent death in my life.  It’s not a person or a pet, but a church.  I have said goodbye to my old church.  This move, orchestrated by God, has caused a loss of community, a loss of purpose, a sense of being displaced, and a sense of identity loss.

Who am I now and where do I belong? It’s like looking to the sky to see God as a cloud leading me somewhere new and on the darkest of nights trusting His pillar of fire to watch over me.

It’s moving on.

A final goodbye.

Don’t look back.

Just keep moving forward.

Leaving this church is one of the most painful experiences of my life.  I came in those doors so wounded and torn up by the world after not going to church for seven years.  I experienced healing, was challenged in my faith, and I grew.  I became strong. 

And because of it, I’m now strong enough to leave.

God is telling me that it is time to move on.  And like Abraham, like Moses, like so many who have gone before, I must follow where my God has called me.  Whatever the reasons for leaving a church—any church—the main reason should and must always be a calling from God.

I wasn’t sure I should blog about this, but as I googled “leaving a church” I didn’t find any helpful information.  I didn’t find people grieving the loss.  I simply found articles with bullet points on knowing when to leave and when to stay.

It goes so far beyond a bullet point.

We want to fancy it up with church talk.  We want to wrap it up in a pretty bow, like because God called us to do it means it isn’t hard.  Because God called us to do it, we didn’t scream our hearts out on the living room floor every day for a week.  We pretend leaving our ministries doesn’t rip us all apart.  We wear these “holy masks” and say everything is just fine.

But everything is not fine.  Goodbyes are hard, particularly this one because, for me, it’s a tearing away.  I feel like I’m losing a piece of myself.  I know the reasons God is moving me, yet I feel like some sort of refugee.  I’m bewildered, don’t know how to fit into the new mold of a new church, and I’m so lost and lonely.

I know I’ll be OK.  I know I’m grieving right now, but just as the dying leaves fall from the trees only to bud in the spring, so will I.  There’s just a long winter of the soul ahead—a time to rest, reflect, and snuggle up with God.  Sometimes a winter has to come to force us to look at the One who truly gives life.  I trust Him to provide what I need in this transition.

I tell myself the truth. Day after day.  And it hurts less and I haven’t cried in a few days now.  I’m finding sustenance and joy in God, almost like I had to become wounded like this to feel Him again.  Almost like my heart had to split wide open with this wound to start beating again.

To quote C.S. Lewis, “There are far better things ahead than what I leave behind.”  I am choosing to run towards the better things ahead. 

And when I need to, I bow my head in grief and scream out to God to ease my pain.  I struggle as I grieve this death, this death without a funeral. 

This is my funeral, my final goodbye, my laying to rest. It’s in these words I find peace and on my blog I place a gravestone.  I build an altar here, dedicate it to God, and remember this holy moment.

*I borrowed the title “Death Without A Funeral” from singer/songwriter Jason Gray.  The song can be found on his latest release, Where the Light Gets In. You can watch a video where Jason talks about “Death Without a Funeral” here or listen to the song itself here.

Me versus Mental Illness

10 Oct

Today is World Mental Health Day-a day to raise awareness for the monsters of mental illness we who suffer battle every single day.

It doesn’t make me less than.

Or crazy. (Most of the time.)

It makes me cleave to God all the more because I desperately need Him to function with the appearance of a somewhat normal person.

But I also think living with anxiety and depression makes me more compassionate, more thoughtful, and maybe a little more interesting than I would be without it.

Oh, I’ve railed at God for creating me like this, begged Him for healing, and groaned prayers that only the Spirit could understand.

I’ve been ashamed to talk about it because I don’t want to face scorn. I don’t want people to see me as incapable, yet I desperately want to be understood in spite of it.

I am me, not in spite of my mental illness, but because of it. It’s a gift that keeps me in the folds of God’s love. I don’t understand it; I accept it.

Like the aspostle Paul wrote, I choose to see it as a gift to cause me to constantly and wholly rely on God. It’s not a gift I would’ve picked, but it has and is shaping me, molding me, changing me.

Maybe there will be a day without daily medications, therapists, panic attacks, and days I just can’t make it out my front door. Maybe not.

I just trust God to shine through all the broken places so people can see His love in my eyes.

I choose to live because of it, not in spite of it.

This is me

28 Sep

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A year ago, my friend and I met over dinner to catch up.  She told me about the man she had been dating for several months.  As with all things Lizzie* it was a hilarious story that had that makings of a good rom-com movie.

“Do you think he’s the one?” I asked.

She shrugged as she responded.  “I don’t know.  I mean, I think you get to a point in your life where you’re like, this is who I am and this is who you are.  You don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not or play games.  You just figure out if you can live together.”

I nodded.  Notions of romance after age 35 were crushed.  I resolved to get a giant chocolate chip cookie before I left to help me swallow this bitter pill.

“So can you, you know, be who you are together?”

“Yes,” she confidently said.  She took a sip of green tea. “You don’t have to impress each other.  You just are who you are.” She threw her arms out and laughed, “This is me!  This is who I am. Take it or leave it.”

I laughed, too.  I tried to think of any instance in which someone of the opposite sex wanted to “take it.” Maybe I was just a “leave it” kind of woman.  You know, the kind of woman you want as a friend, but not as a girlfriend. 

I used to think I was awkward around men because my father had an affair, which absolutely crushed my 19 year-old heart.  Now, I think, I just never felt pretty enough.  Somehow the idea of the male gaze affected me younger and I was always the fat kid.

I look at old class photos and I’m one of the fattest kids in my class.  As I got older, I was the fattest kid in my grade.  I sift through my college pictures and often times, I was the fattest one pictured.    We’re all known for something, right?  I was known for being fat.

See, I wanted to be known for being smart or funny or kind or godly or a decent singer or a good writer.  For so much of my life, I’ve seen myself as the fattest person in the room. And I hated myself for it.

I mean, do you know what it’s like to carry the weight of that extra weight around?  It’s not just the excess celluloid, but all the judgment and shame that comes with it.  And I’m not talking about the opinions of others.  I’m talking about how I feel about myself.

Once upon a time I was the fattest person in the room.  I had to order most of my clothes online (or from catalogs.)   I tried to eat better and exercise.  I would lose 40 pounds and then gain it back.  Actually I would gain even more weight.  At one point, I weighed almost 400 pounds.

And I thought, this is me.  This is all I’ll ever be.  If a heart attack doesn’t kill me, then diabetes certainly will.  This is me and I am going to die from being too darn fat.  They call it “morbid obesity” for a reason.

My “This is Me” wasn’t who I wanted to me.  There wasn’t a satisfaction that comes with knowing who I am and accepting it.  It was more like, “This is me and I hate myself.  I can’t believe anyone would like me….and maybe if I put on make up, I won’t look as bad.”

But that is not who God created me to be.  At 400 or 300 or 200 pounds, I don’t think God ever looked at me as “the fattest person in the room.” I believe He just saw His beloved daughter, Amy.

Sometimes I’ve railed at heaven, screamed at my ceiling shaking a fist of accusation.  Why did You make me like this?  If I’m fearfully and wonderfully made, then why am I so flawed?  Why can others eat a bag of M&M’s and drink regular soda and eat at fast food places and I have to be so very careful?  Why doesn’t my body make enough insulin?  Why is my metabolism so slow?

WHY AM I SO FAT?!  Why has my life been so sad that I’ve wanted to eat?  And why have I allowed this fat to starve me of a more abundant life?

Really, God, why am I fat?

One day, He gave me an answer.  He didn’t have to, of course, because He is God and God doesn’t need to explain Himself.  I heard it in my heart.  “For My glory.”

And part of me is ashamed to admit that seems mighty unfair—why do I have to suffer for His glory?  I realize, though, that I have no idea what glory or holy or fairness or justice really is apart from God; therefore, His “glory” seems like some abstract concept.  What is the glory of the One whose very name is holy? 

I think about Moses face glowing from seeing the passing of God’s glory as he was protected in the cleft of a rock by the very Hand of God.  To be called to do something for God’s glory is a high calling indeed, even if it is difficult to bear.

I’m starting to realize I’m so much more than a number on a scale or my age or the size of my clothes.  It isn’t about finding “the one,” getting married, and having kids or scoring that perfect job.  It isn’t about buying a house or owning a dog.  Those are all good things.  Great things even.

It’s about being able to say, “This is me.”  This may not always be me because God is constantly refining me into someone who looks more and more like Jesus.  It’s about seeing my flaws and gaps and open spaces and seeing how God’s light shines through and how His strength makes up for all my weakness.  It’s not being about the fattest person in the room, but rather about being the person in the room who is living and loving for His glory.

It’s about me coming to terms with myself.  This is me.  It’s not all I’ll ever be, but it is a result of everything God has done in my life up to this point. I want you to look at me because I want you to see  Jesus.

This is me trying my very best to live for His glory.

This is me.

Bullying: It Never Stops

26 Jul

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Once upon a time—in the late 90’s—I was sitting in math class at my Christian high school.  We had some free time so I was working on homework when a student in the back of the room began harassing me.  “You’re a lesbian, you know that?” he taunted.

One of his smirking friends joined in pointing out that I must be a lesbian because I didn’t have a boyfriend.  At least they didn’t call me ugly or fat—that day.

Finally, unable to stand it anymore, fighting back tears I told them to stop, which just encouraged them to continue their torment.  My teacher was standing at the front of the classroom, no more than 15 feet from where I was being verbally abused.  I looked straight at him and asked, “Aren’t you going to do anything about this?”

I’ll never forget his response.  It’s one I’ve heard used by educators, parents, and adults everywhere when they talk about bullying.  Dismissively, he said, “If you ignore them, they’ll stop.”

If you ignore them, they won’t stop. 

I know because I tried that, too.  The bullies only jeered more loudly.  Other joined in or laughed, while a few girls sometimes giving me pitying glances.

Back in those days I didn’t cry nearly as much as I do now.  I would hold it in knowing that they could never see you cry.  You can never let them see that they got to you.  I knew I would come home and drag a razor across my wrist or thighs or stomach and somehow that would release my pent up rage.  No one called it “cutting” or “self-injury” back then, just para-suicidal behavior.

Sometimes during middle school and high school, I imagined I would stand up and give an impassioned speech, which would change everything, like I was staring in some sort of Hollywood blockbuster.  I would tell them how much it hurt to be called names, to be pushed into my locker, and to be left out.  They would finally understand, apologize, and we’d all become best friends like on “Saved By the Bell” episode where Zack dated the fat chick.

I couldn’t wait to grow up because I thought there wouldn’t be bullies anymore, or at least I wouldn’t have to go to school with them every day.  When I became an adult or at least went to college everything, I assured myself that everything would be OK.

When I went to college, everything was OK.  I met and befriended real lesbians on campus and wondered what those immature high school boys would say about that.  I excelled in my classes, like I usually did, and felt secure in my environment of friends who accepted me.  Finally, I was part of the “in” crowd or maybe just in a crowd.

They (whoever “they” are) say that bullying is just one of those things kids do and the victims will survive.  Students just need to toughen up, educators say, because kids will be kids.

I wish I could say it still didn’t hurt.  I wish I could say the kid who made fun of my voice every single say in sixth grade science class hasn’t affected why I sometimes feel awkward when my voice is amplified over a microphone.  So many of these lies still rattle around in my brain and the lies have become my truth.  It is something God and me are working on together. 

The truth of the matter is that words do hurt.  The far reach of social media has made bullying even worse.  I recently watched a documentary called The Bully Project and I cried through much of it.  I couldn’t even watch the entire thing.  Emotions I thought long dead resurged.

Finally, it occurred to me that no matter where you are, what age you are, or what you do, there will always be bullies.  Work bullies, neighborhood association bullies, church bullies (who do it in the name of God), road rage bullies, mommy group bullies—and you know what?  Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Frankly, I’m sick of bullies.  They’ve taken too much from me and I’ve let them.  I don’t have any deep answers on how to solve the bullying epidemic.  I don’t know how to make teens stop sending stupid text messages or posting ridiculous nonsense on Instagram or Snapchat.  All I know to do is to tell them over and over again the effects of bullying. I can’t change them, but I can change me.  I can stop giving their words meaning and move past the hurt they inflicted.

I refuse to be like my math teacher, who incorrectly told me they would stop.  They never stop.  Instead, I work with students as they deal with conflicts and teach them about who they are in Christ so the truth can overcome the lies, so the light of God can overcome the darkness

In this work, I have found redemption for my own middle and high school years eaten by the locusts.  There is healing in ministry—something that makes the scars bring forth His light. 

My junior year of high school was more than half a lifetime ago and I still remember the words of the students and my teacher.  I still feel the sting because I am human.  But I don’t let it consume me because I am redeemed.

Pokemon Go Into the World

14 Jul

Last night there were a lot of youth and young adults at my church.  The problem is that they weren’t inside the doors, but rather in the parking lot.  You see, our church is a Pokemon Go Gym and there was an epic battle being fought between the red and blue teams for control of this precious resource.

Have I lost you yet? (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, click here.)

Like millions of other people, I downloaded the alternate reality game because when it comes to pop culture, I like to be in the know.  What I initially didn’t realize about Pokemon Go is that it’s a precious tool when it comes to meeting others.  Take a walk around your neighborhood, and you’re bound to run into someone else looking for Pokemon (aka “pocket monsters”) to catch.  Eavesdrop on a conversation at a local fast food joint and you’ll find out where the biggest and best Pokemon are lurking.

I’ve heard so many complaints about how the game is silly, a waste of time, and childish.  I’ve read the stories about how it’s consuming people’s lives and seen funny videos and meme’s about those who take the game a little too seriously.  Pokemon Go can and may be all those things.  But like all technology—all things really—it’s what you do with it that matters.

As a youth leader, I’m always looking for ways to connect with my youth—whether it’s singing Adele and Taylor Swift songs,  watching superhero movies, playing MarioKart, and social media.  Any way I can dive into youth culture, I’m willing to give it a try (within reason.) If downloading a game that involves catching little creatures with things that resemble baseballs (pokeballs) is a way to bond with students, then I’m all for it.

My heart echoes what Paul talks about 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.  I want to become all things to youth—a mentor, cool adult friend (like an aunt), a karaoke singer, a movie watcher, and a Pokemon Go player.  Like Paul says, I want to be all these to different students because I desperately want them to know about the One who made me.  I want it to be way to sharing the Gospel and showing how God is alive in my life.

See, last night one of the girls in my small group and I roamed around the perimeter of our church catching Pokemon.  Then I was able to talk to another student—a boy who just finished 8th grade—about Pokemon Go.  He excitedly answered all my questions and honestly, now I’m a better player.  The students and I even talked about the potential for a meet up with their friends to go monster hunting together.  I suggested the same thing on my neighborhood Facebook page, which is usually filled with drama about what time we should put out the trash, complaints loud teenagers, and random gossip.  Finally, there was something that brought us together; we could go out and play Pokemon Go.

Tomorrow I plan to spend time with another student and hopefully catch a few pocket monsters during our time together.  Maybe we’ll even make new friends.  In a nation that’s become so divided by politics and race, isn’t it great that there is something that’s bringing us together, even if it is a little silly?

And tonight or tomorrow night, I’m going to head over to my church and sit with the young people littering its parking lot.  Since I’m Pokemon Go newbie, I need help from experienced players.  No one seems to mind a quirky blond woman in her 30’s asking about Pokeballs and hatching eggs.  So, I’ll sit with them on the concrete and as the Holy Spirit leads, perhaps invite them into the church.  One day maybe we won’t sit together on concrete, but rather inside the church worshipping God together.

Last night when I looked at the Pokemon players, less than 100 feet from the church doors, it filled me with hope and excitement.  Churches aren’t exactly filled with the under-30 crowd these days, but there they are in our parking lot.  We could easily dismiss this nonsensical game or we can use this opportunity to minister to the people that are very literally sitting at our doors.

I don’t know about you, but I am definitely joining the PokemonGo Out Into the World movement (#pokenmongointotheworld).  Yes, I meant that to be punny, but it fits in with Matthew 28:19 pretty well.

Wanna join me?  We gotta catch ‘em all!

The Wisdom of Youth

15 Mar

Not my students, but we can pretend they are!

On Facebook, I recently posted some off the cuff remarks on what I, as a youth leader, have the privilege to learn from the student with whom I work.  See, the thing is that I often think I will impart the wisdom of the ages on these young minds.  I will amaze them with all my Bible knowledge and life experience.  My middle school girls (the primary group with which I work) are so lucky to have me.

Really and truly, I am so fortunate that God allows me to work with them.  I often tell them I love having a front seat in seeing them grow into young women of God.

Because everyone in the world isn’t my Facebook friend, I thought I’d recap what I posted here and add a little meat to my top 10 list because it’s so easy to forget how much we get from the students who spend time with us.

Here are 10 ways my students pour laughter and encouragement into my life…

  1. They are always FIRST to like my Instagram photos…and they like each and every photo I post.  Sometimes my own mom doesn’t even like my Facebook photos. (To be fair, she’s technologically inept and doesn’t always see my photos.  In case you’re reading this, I love you, Mom!)
  2. Not only do they insist I *REALLY* am engaged to Captain America, they think I’m amazing enough to be engaged to someone LIKE Captain America. (Being engaged to Captain America started as a joke last May and since then has really taken off.  My students, in particular think it’s great and often introduce me to their friends as Captain America’s fiancé.)
  3. If the Captain America thing doesn’t work out, they have back up guys for me to date and it hasn’t occurred to them that these guys might not be interested in me. Seriously, they see the rare single guy at church and automatically start planning our wedding.  Sometimes I look at these guys, who are really good looking and think about how they’d never be interested in me.  These girls don’t see that—they see *ME* and think I deserve the very best, even when I don’t.  I love them so much for wanting that for me.
  4. They remind me that cynicism doesn’t have to be a reality; idealism can flourish. To them, almost every fun idea is a good idea, whether it’s running outside to check out the twin brothers who live next door (note to parents: we are discouraging this) or learning to crochet scarves or sledding down a snow mound during the Super Bowl party.  They are ready for anything.  I love when they’re told they can’t do something and they ask, “Why not?”  It hasn’t occurred to them that certain things just aren’t possible.  I am learning to ask myself the same question because why not?
  5. No matter WHAT the discussion happens to be, they can tell random stories that have nothing to do with the actual discussion. It’s a special skill.  It really is.  If you’ve ever talked to middle school girls, you know what I mean.
  6. They can’t remember to bring their Bibles to *BIBLE STUDY*….but they remember the words I say. As much as I think they aren’t listening to me because they’re staring blankly at the wall or laughing with a friend, they hear me.  They remember when I tell them they can have a piece of candy for memorizing a Bible verse, that I love meat, and even that they are so dearly loved by God.  Keep talking, fellow youth workers, they’re listening.
  7. Even if I think I’m the biggest loser in the world, they think I’m completely awesome.  I was one of those kids that never fit in when I was in middle school.  I could those are three of the roughest years of my life.  High school was only slightly better.  Yet these are the kids who know think I’m a role model.  How on earth does that happen?  I have no idea only to say it is by the grace of God.  Plus, I think listening and showing an interest in the students probably helps a little.
  8. They still think playing WiiU is cool…especially when they team up against me on MarioKart.  I consider it a fellowship and bonding activity.  It’s always fun to win a game against an adult, right?  Except I always crush them in MarioKart.  Sorry, girls, I have a lot more practice driving than you!  It’s fun to be able to “play,” which is something we adults neglect far too often.
  9. They raise their hands when they don’t interrupt each other.  It’s a respect thing and it’s absolutely adorable.  But yes, there are lots of random interruptions.
  10. Sometime they say the most astonishing things, I can’t believe they’re only teenagers.  Last summer when I was running a high school girls small group, we were looking at Psalm 139.  I asked the students, “If we are fearfully and wonderfully made, then why are some babies born with birth defects?”  There was a long pause and one of the girls said, “He makes us how it pleases Him.” I had to take in her thought…and often times, I still have to take in her thought to remind myself, I have been created to please my Creator.

I could probably write an entire book on learning from middle and high school students, but I’m sure many have been written.  Here are a few of my thoughts on some of my favorite people in the world. Thought it’s an often quoted verse for youth, I want to use it just the same. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for all believers in speech, in conduct, in faith, and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

I’m so fortunate God blessed me with teenagers who set such a high example for me.  My prayer is that I can be worthy of this calling.

No Hugs Please

23 Feb

I don’t like being hugged.

Maybe I should clarify that statement a bit.  I don’t like being hugged by strangers and most acquaintances with who I have no real relationship or bond.  When you come at me with outstretched arms, I might obligingly sort of hug you back, but I hate it.  Really, really hate it.

See, I’ve never been one to enjoy being touched.  Sometimes it makes me uncomfortable.  It’s not as if I wasn’t hugged as a child, but we were not overly touchy.  The Pennsylvania German culture—my people—are like that as a community.

That’s not to say I NEVER want to be touched.  As always there are exceptions to this rule—like with children, teenagers, old people, and dogs.  I don’t feel threatened by any of them and therefore, touch is welcome.  Besides, try explaining to a baby why they can’t fall asleep in your arms or a teenager why a game of surprise poking isn’t funny or an old lady who misses the embrace of her deceased husband why a hug isn’t permissible.  My compassion overcomes my discomfort.  I seek opportunities to touch those who most need it.

To me, a hug is an intimate act between two people, which I take seriously.   I may spontaneously hug someone in excitement or because of genuine care or love.  But if you ask me for a hug, I say no, and you hug me anyway—that makes me mad, uncomfortable, and puts distance in our relationship.  You have violated me and my personal space.

It’s not that I can’t offer grace to those huggy types, because I do.  I see the intention of a hug wasn’t to harm, but rather to share a great gift.  I am trying to become more comfortable with hugs because I need physical touch, especially as a single woman.

There are huggers, semi-huggers, and non-huggers.  I’m a semi-hugger, which means I hug with discretion.  Non-huggers would rather not be touched at all and huggers, well, hug everyone and everything.  Here’s what huggers need to understand—not everyone wants to be hugged.

You should never force a hug on a semi- or non- hugger. No means no!

It doesn’t make us frigid people—maybe slightly controlling—but not lacking the full real of human emotion.  Whether it’s how we were raised or personal preference, we need to be respected for the discerning huggers that we are.

And maybe, just maybe, when you enter our inner circle, you’ll get a hug, too.

Until then, don’t force it.  Hugs should be given in love with the feelings of both people in mind.

Movie Review: RISEN Doesn’t Rise to Occasion

22 Feb

Risen starring Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love, Luther) is the latest in a growing number of faith-based films.  The story is loosely based on the mention of a Roman centurion who after Jesus’ terrible crucifixion exclaimed, “Surely this man was the son of God!” (Matthew 27:54) Fiennes plays Clavius, a Roman tribune, who after investigating the claims of Jesus’ resurrection becomes a believer himself. (Sorry for the spoiler, but you knew it was coming.)

Let’s start with the positive aspects of Risen.  While the plot wasn’t gripping, Joseph Fiennes did a good job as Clavius, especially in those opening battle scenes to help us establish that Clavius was a tough soldier.  It was interesting to see Fiennes transition from the roles of Shakespeare to Luther to Clavius, and he certainly bulked up for this film.  As a fan of Fiennes and his brother, Ralph, I primarily wanted to see Risen because I like Joseph Fiennes.  I was not disappointed as the movie contained plenty of Fiennes goodness and I didn’t have to put up with him kissing other women.

The biblically accurate scenes, such as the depiction of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance to the disciples along the Sea of Galilee found in John 21, were good.  Even though there is no mention of a Roman centurion tagging along on their fishing trip, I enjoyed seeing the disciples once again receive fishing advice from a stranger onshore who they later recognize as Jesus.

The costumes, sets, and other imagery seemed very realistic…or at least better than the cheap Roman soldier outfits we use at church during Holy Week.  I found myself interested in the setting, the rooms, the outfits, and even interested in the architecture of the period.  This, to me, was a highlight of the film.

Finally, of course, I appreciated that it was none other than Tom Felton, who portrayed Draco Malfoy in several of the Harry Potter films, who was Clavius’ attendant.  Harry Potter fans might find this especially amusing since Fiennes’ brother, Ralph, is Lord Voldemort in the same franchise.  Unfortunately, Felton can’t seem to catch a break because he still played a villain.

My biggest complaint about Risen is the departure from biblical narrative.  While some of this is necessary in reimagining a story, I believe Risen took it too far.  I started to squirm in my seat when Clavius discovered Jesus sitting with His disciples and Mary Magdalene in the Upper Room.  My discomfort grew after Clavius followed and befriended the 11 disciples (Judas not among them, obviously).  But when Clauvius was part of Jesus’ reunion with His disciples in Galilee, my stomach did flips and I nearly walked out when Clavius and Jesus had a heart-to-heart in the middle of the night.  While all these things might have happened, there is no biblical evidence to support this whatsoever.  Since I attended the movie with my youth group, I felt the need to lean over to the sixth grader sitting next to me to inform her of the parts that weren’t actually in the Bible.

Also in the realm of scriptural inaccuracies in Risen is one of my pet peeves—the incorrect portrayal of Mary Magdalene as a prostitute.  In fact, Scripture says Jesus drove seven demons out of Mary (Mark 16:9, Luke 8:2).  Could she have displayed promiscuous behavior?  Possibly.  However, there is no evidence in the Bible this was the case.  Risen suggests that Mary did business with half of the Roman army before her life-changing encounter with Jesus.

While Clavius was a character with dimension, everyone else is a caricature of a goofy disciple, born-again radical, or a fool more concerned with power than truth.  While this makes for great comedy relief, high drama, and inspiration, it doesn’t make an award-winning (or even interesting) film.  Even though these characters exist to move the plot forward, they do so at a terribly slow pace.  In fact, when my sixth grade friend dumped her cup of ice on her lap, I was just about to doze off.  It was that boring.

Most of all, I was disappointed in the potential this movie had.  Instead of producing a mediocre tale about Jesus’ resurrection with made-up, feel good stories, it could have told a greater, more realistic story about the centurion, perhaps how his new belief caused great distress in his position, possibly including persecution in the early church.  Understandably, there parallels to Clavius’ search and a believer’s own search for truth and perhaps this is what the movie was trying to portray.  But it just lost me.

Risen starts out strong and loses steam as it continues. While there are some notable scenes, the last half of the movie drags on and on. Joseph Fiennes provided great acting, but it wasn’t enough to keep my attention. It was an interesting depiction of the Roman centurion who believed, but so many artistic liberties were taken I fear people will confuse what is in the Bible and what is not.

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