That time God Jesus Juked me.

September 27, 2015

God speaks in many ways. Sometimes He reveals truth through the Bible. Sometimes through a sermon or an insightful word from a friend. Sometimes He doesn’t even use words but leaves an impression in your spirit. And sometimes He straight up Jesus Jukes you. If you’re not familiar with the concept, allow me to explain. To Jesus Juke someone is to take an ordinary situation and over-spiritualize it. I went to a Christian college so I experienced this phenomenon on the regular. So much so that it became a game to suck the transcendence out of a moment by pointing out the obvious transcendence of a moment. “Hey guys, this mountain trail reminds me that life with Jesus is a journey with many ups and downs, but always made better if we travel it together.” Collective groan. That is a Jesus Juke. It trivializes an otherwise profound realization by saturating it in cliche. And unless you’re being ironic, and everyone KNOWS you’re being ironic, it’s the lowest form of spiritual exhortation. So you can imagine my surprise when the Father used this technique on me.

I have a friend who for anonymity’s sake I’ll call Brandon. Brandon and I are as similar as we are different. This has made for a colorful friendship. We both hate goat cheese and mushrooms. We both love good music and laughing too loudly in public. I introduced him to the value of committing early so you get the best seats at concerts and he introduced me to the catharsis experienced by firing a Glock. I think purging a closet should be an Olympic sport, for which I would win a gold medal, and Brandon hasn’t thrown anything away in the almost 3 years I’ve known him. He currently has 4 motorcycles. In his living room. And this is where our story begins.

Recently, he managed to get me on the back of one of his bikes, a feat I thought impossible since I had successfully maintained a life long fear of them. I love the idea of motorcycles, but hate all the leaning. Call me crazy, but I don’t think getting closer to the asphalt while going 60 mph should be part of one’s morning commute. Nevertheless, he managed to convince me, and after a few short rides, I was comfortable enough to agree to longer ride.

On one particular Autumn afternoon,we decided to take his Honda Shadow to the mountains. Up to this point, I’d only ridden Blue, that’s what I named her, on Main St. Those rides consisted of going 15 mph down a straight road, 1 block at a time. But not this day. No, this day would be a real ride. I was as terrified as I was giddy. As we set out, Brandon looked back and said what he always says to me when we are on the bike. “Remember to lean with me. If you don’t, we’ll get off balance.” And with that, we set out.

Side bar: I think the allure of motorcycles is the intrinsic cool factor. It’s impossible to look like a tool when you’re on a bike…unless you’re me. I managed to strip all of the cool out of being on one. I tried to assimilate to bike culture, but I’m a sedan girl and everyone knew it. Did you know there’s an actual method to waving at other bikers and it doesn’t consist of grand hand motions and an uninhibited, I’m-new-at-this grin? I had no chill. Eventually, to Brandon’s relief, I stopped trying and just let him handle all the coolness. It’s important to know your gifting and liabilities. But I digress. 

As we headed north, I started experiencing an emotion I’d never felt in my life. It was a mixture of total excitement and consuming anxiety. Careening through traffic on highway 25 wasn’t the time to process this with Brandon, so I took my feelings to Father. The conversation went something like this. 

Me: Father, are we going to be ok? Was this the dumbest idea ever? You told me to read Ecclesiastes and it says wisdom is futile. Maybe I’m misapplying this…

Father: Relax about it. (He’s been saying this to me a lot, lately)

Me: But I’m scared and what if we have a wreck? (I started having visions of the Lifetime movie that would be made about me, The Girl with no Skin.)

Father: You’re going to have fun today. Just enjoy it. I’ve got your security detail on this. Don’t let the fear of something that’s not even happening keep you from enjoying the fun that is. I want you to enjoy this. (He’s been saying that a lot, too.)

Me: Main St. is straight, and I know it, and if something happens, we’re going 15 mph, so how bad could it be? But I don’t know this road. I don’t know what’s coming or when Brandon’s going to lean. And I can’t protect myself. I’m completely out of control right now. 

Father: (and He said this playfully) You have control issues….

Me: That doesn’t even make any sense. How can I have an issue with something I don’t even have. (So glad He is ok with speaking in sarcasm and irony. That’s the kind of relationship we have. He is GREAT at banter.)

Father: You know, Cheryl, if you’re going to have any fun, you have to let go and trust that Brandon knows what he’s doing and that he’s going to take care of you. This is exactly what your life is like right now. So much is changing around you. You don’t know what’s coming so you can’t prepare yourself. You’re allowing fear to rob you of the enjoyment I want you to have. It’s true that you have no control. But that’s ok. If this is going to be any fun, you have to let go and trust that I know what I’m doing and that I’m going to take care of you. I’ll do everything. All you have to do is Lean With Me.

And there it was. A divine Jesus Juke. Ok, for the sake of full disclosure, I rolled my eyes a little, but it’s ok. Like I said, we have that kind of relationship. But mostly those words sank deep into my bones. Lean with Me.

I spent the rest of the ride relaxed and in the moment, learning how to lean with Brandon, not anticipating and leaning early, or allowing anxiety to keep me stiff and inflexible. We got to the bottom of the mountain where the curves got more…curvy and the leaning got more…leany. Brandon looked over his shoulder and calmly implored me.  “Cheryl, this is where you really need to trust me.”

Alright, Father! I hear you!

This past summer brought one change after another. Most were unpleasant and all of them were totally out of my control. I’m embarrassed and sad to admit that I spent much of the time complaining, scared, exhausted, wallowing in self pity, and clamoring to find some stability and control through my own efforts and paltry wisdom. Father and I were off balance. Since that afternoon on Blue, since He juked me hard, I’ve been trying to see each change as an opportunity to trust the Father. More changes are coming. I can feel it. But I don’t want to only have faith in hindsight. I want to rest knowing that every change, every turn was known and planned by Him. I want to trust His faithfulness now, on the unknown road, not just looking back from the perspective of the mountain top. I want to move with Him when He whispers Lean with Me and enjoy the ride. 

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25 Things I Want 25 Year Old Girls to Know

February 28, 2014

I’m 30-something and single. Since most people my age (at least below the Mason-Dixon) are coupled up and procreating by their 30’s, my life looks more like the 20-somethings around me. I spend the majority of my social time with fantastic people, whose company I enjoy immensely, but who are walking a road I traversed a few years ago. As I listen to them work out the issues concerning their generation, I think back on myself at that age. I wish I could take my younger self out for a latte and impart the knowledge bestowed on me by time, experience, and a few mistakes.

As I careen towards my 36th birthday, I offer a list of 25 things I want my 25-year-old girls to know. Ladies, grab a latte and read on.

  1. Your credit score: Know it. Care about it. You may want to move out of your parents’ house at some point, and you’ll need good credit to get your own place. Don’t wait until you need a good score to care about it.
  2. Be on time. It’s the first way you express respect and care for the person you’re meeting.
  3. Have the courage to go to the dark places where the deep wounds happened. Take the Lord there and let Him speak over your heart. The longer you avoid facing them, the longer you live from the pain and lies that were planted, instead of a place of love and freedom He has for you. You survived the event that caused the pain, you’ll survive the memory. YOU ARE BRAVE ENOUGH. Along those lines…sometimes the strongest thing you can do is allow yourself to completely fall apart.
  4. Dance. In private. In public.
  5. You’ll spend your 20’s learning how to be cool (wine tastings, underground music, the new gastro pub…). Let me save you some time. Drink/eat/listen to what you like. If Franzia and Mylie Cyrus work for you, go for it. Unapologetically.
  6. Read.
  7. When you meet someone of the opposite sex, fight the natural impulse to instantly categorize them as someone you’d date or not date. It’s objectifying, dehumanizing, and reinforces the lie that people exist to fill our needs. And more often than not, those judgments are made from trivial things that don’t matter. Engage people for who they are in that moment, not what they could be for you.
  8. There will be seasons when you’re hurting. You’ll pray for God to take the pain away, but often He won’t. Don’t equate this with abandonment. Some things are just painful. Nobody is exempt from grief. But He won’t abandon you in the pain. He will sit (often silently) with you as you grieve. And He WILL redeem it.
  9. Your heart, mind, time, and affections are priceless treasures because they carry the essence of who you are. Don’t offer them to someone who isn’t pursuing them.
  10. Forgiveness is for YOU. Holding onto anger only keeps you tied to the person who hurt you.  Forgiveness demonstrates gratitude and worship to a Savior who forgives you and faithfully takes care of you. The freedom and strength that comes with forgiving someone is far more powerful than the feeling of holding onto the offense.
  11. Support and advocate for the women around you. We are on the same team. Enough with the girl-on-girl hate.
  12. Have fresh flowers in your house. Buy them, grow them, pick them off the side of the road.
  13. Try not to assign meaning to things people do. Ask questions. Otherwise, you’ll just spend a lot of time dealing with drama that only exists in your head.
  14. Stop apologizing for being smart/talented/clever/pretty/et.al. Don’t hide your magnificence because someone told you you’re “intimidating.” The gifts God gave you are yours to bring life, not to shy away from because of someone else’s insecurities.
  15. You’re emotions are an important part of who you are. Don’t ignore them. But don’t make decisions from them. Emotions are inconsistent. Truth is unchanging. Be anchored there.
  16. If all of your close friends are advising you in the same way, LISTEN. One of the greatest gift you can give yourself is the protection of wise, objective, emotionally uninvolved counsel from people who love you.
  17. No church will give you everything. But if your church isn’t your family first and foremost, make the necessary adjustments.
  18. When the news says there’s going to be a meteor shower, don’t miss it. The best viewing time is between 3 and 5am, but missing sleep is a small price to pay for an experience that leaves you in speechless awe of the power and creativity of God. Practical side note: Make sure the weather calls for clear skies before waking up at 3am and trekking out to the middle of nowhere to watch the big show.
  19. You won’t always understand God. You won’t always get all of your questions answered. Neither is required for a deep, faithful, and passionate life with Him.
  20. Don’t process personal matters with vague posts on social media. It’s like wearing an emotional miniskirt – the person it’s intended for might get the point, but you’re exposing yourself to a lot of random people at the same time. More importantly, it’s passive aggressive and immature.
  21. Desiring marriage and kids is normal and legitimate. Don’t ever be ashamed of it. Not desiring marriage and kids is normal and legitimate. Don’t ever be ashamed of it. Your life isn’t validated by the details of your story, but by the One who is writing it.
  22. Every person with whom you engage in a meaningful relationship will eventually disappoint you. And that’s ok. Budget for it. Forgive quickly.
  23. If the invite doesn’t read “And Guest”, leave Guest at home.
  24. Gossip is cancer to healthy relationships and usually flows from incorrect judgments. If it’s not your story, it’s gossip – even if you call it a prayer request. Let your words bring life.
  25. Always have a makes-you-feel-gorgeous LDB in your closet.

More than anything I want you to know this. The world, and all too often the Church, tells you to be something different than what you are – be prettier, smarter, more compliant, more spiritual…the list goes on. You need to know you are completely loved and delighted in, exactly as you are, by the One who created you.  And there is nothing more satisfying, joyful, difficult, frustrating, passionate, and enduing than walking everyday with Him.


Dragons

September 11, 2013

Anyone who knows me knows the center of my earthly joy is found in the 6 little people for whom I get to be Aunt Cheryl. They’re all extraordinary in their own way. The oldest, Grace, is smart, imaginative, and a natural born leader. When she’s interested in something it consumes her. For the past few years that interest has been dragons. She reads about them, has stuffed dragon toys she names and assigns personalities, and it’s her favorite subject to discuss. At length. So you can imagine my surprise when she announced to her mom that when she enters middle school she will stop liking them so much. Her reason? She wants to “be more normal.” When I heard this my heart broke for her. It happens to all of us, and it’s starting for her. I see the world chipping away at who she is – reshaping her with peer pressure, criticism and expectations until she is a polished, porcelain doll on display. I promptly took her on a date and told her she is extraordinary exactly as she is. Please don’t be anything other than who you are, Bean. 

As we get older the expectations and wounds of this world batter us into a new form. So we develop defense mechanisms to protect ourselves. We want to belong and we want to be honored, so we do whatever the environment demands of us. We run after money, beauty, and status. Or we ascribe to a counter culture and reject these things to win favor with others who reject them. And little by little we are re-molded, not by the loving Hands of a Refiner, but by a world rejoicing in forgeries. I believe this is one reason Jesus told us to be like little children. Children are still in their true form – their undefended, messy, selfish, imaginative, whimsical true form. They laugh and cry without any thought to appropriate social behavior. The hearts of children are simple. Please love me. Please keep me safe. Please let me have fun

This doesn’t change as we get older. We just use more complicated words spoken through filters that remove any authentic sense of the desperation we feel. We “process” through forgiveness. We measure our responses to minimize self-exposure.  Little children don’t hold grudges, or toss and turn over finances, or see the color of skin, or waste their days drudging through life. These are all behaviors we learn as we lose sight of being beloved Children of Father. A child who is sure of her Father’s love and delight for her is free to run and play and cry and sleep well. She forgives quickly and laughs fully. Her head is full of daydreams, not to-do lists. As she becomes more secure in the Father’s love, the chains of the world’s expectations begin to fall away. When a heart deeply understands its place in the Father, it can maintain it’s whimsy even in a cubicle 40 hours a week. True Sonship is in the spirit, not the circumstances

But how do we live as Children of Father as adults who can’t blow off work or bills or committee meetings? How do we live with childlike hearts when we are no longer oblivious to the arrows being hurled at us? How do we stay connected to the true self He made us to be and truly experience Him as Father?  

Maybe the key to understanding and living in the fullness of my identity as a Daughter is to live as He designed me instead of the identity I take on as the world (and let’s be honest, the church) demands more of me? Maybe it means coming to Him as I am, before I’ve sanitized my words to fit into a “spiritual” framework. Maybe it means bringing Him the same things over and over again – The things I talk about. At length. 

For the sake of transparency I’ve not figured out how to live here. This is something I understand in my head but not my heart. I still struggle with feeling His delight over me, and as a result, I live as an orphan. Maybe that’s because He’s not delighted in me when I’m not really being ME. Maybe He finds it difficult to be close to someone who insists on coming to Him with masks on.

At the end of the day, Father wants me as I truly am, without pretense and polish. He’s not interested in interacting with a counterfeit me. And the real me can be untrusting, prideful, angry and obstinate. And He prefers this to any false piety I could feign. With all of my selfishness and demands and daydreams, He wants me to bound up to Him, just as I am, dragons and all.  


Truth in a Church Lobby

September 1, 2013

Sitting on my porch, still blurry eyed from sleep, I took in a long, slow, deep breath and inhaled the aroma of rain, honeysuckle, and brewing coffee. As my breath left my lungs I felt my spirit exhale. I smiled. My Lover brings me perfumes. He lavishes these small gifts on me like the cadenced flow of a river washing away yesterday’s tears. His mercies are new every morning.

I wrote those words. I posted them on Facebook and watched the masses express their appreciation. A click of a mouse and I’m affirmed. I’m Liked. And from the safety of a well crafted status update I hide the reality that I struggle to actually believe what I wrote. That’s the thing about Facebook, or Twitter or a church lobby. You can masterfully edit your life to draw attention only to the pithy moments of your day, the clever or deeply spiritual soundbites, all the while, carefully measuring what people see. Let’s be honest. We talk endlessly about vulnerability and transparency. We hold these virtues high, but we honor them more than we practice them. We toy with them. “Oh, things are a struggle but God is good. I’m learning,” we say. But do we ever unzip our skin and expose what’s really going on. We convince ourselves that strangers can’t carry the weight of the truth and the people close to us think they know it. And quite frankly, we shield our hearts to avoid the empty answers and cliches so quickly offered. But what if I dared to tell the truth. The unfiltered, unsanitized truth.

“Hi, welcome to Well Intended Church with Legitimately Caring People! How are you?” In a moment no longer than a blink I imagine what it would be like to answer truthfully.

“Hi! Well, Let’s see. I’m in YEAR SIX of wandering through what people call “a spiritual wilderness”. I don’t experience God’s presence. His voice is quiet. His affections disconnected. It’s confusing, and hurtful and lonely. At times, the loneliness is so thick if I give myself permission to feel it, it overwhelms me to the point of feeling suffocated, so I lose myself in TV or work or activities. But there are the moments it forces itself through the door and won’t let me forget it’s as close as my skin. I’m told He draws near to the broken hearted. I was discarded by someone I believed loved me. So I take these wounds to God, but I don’t feel His comfort, or protection or healing. I feel nothing. I hear nothing. And I cry out for mercy, but there is none.

And I wonder Did He abandon me? Am I expendable to Him, too?

If hope deferred makes the heart sick, by now my heart is terminal. I walk with God every day. I have my whole life. And I don’t experience the comfort and satisfaction everyone around me seems to swim in. It’s like God loves me, but just as a friend. He likes me enough. I’m sure He loves me. But not with the same delight and passion He has for the people who are more…well, I don’t know what they are. But apparently it’s something I’m not. How can I make myself lovely enough that He wants me, too? I don’t feel His love. What can I do to get His attention?

I don’t feel His presence. I know it’s there. I believe it. But it’s a conviction, something I experience intellectually. But what I know, the truth I desperately cling to, doesn’t fill my lungs when the hurt goes so deep it takes my breath away.

I’m ashamed for being crushed under the weight of so little. EVERYTHING IN MY LIFE IS FINE!! But on the inside I’m staggering, and nobody knows the difference. How can a person with so much feel so worthless, so overlooked by God? I want to be the woman who stands confidently in what she knows, despite how she feels. But right now, I’m not. There’s a chasm between what I know and what my pain tells me.

I know what you’re going to say. I’ve heard it all.

We don’t live by what we feel, but what we know to be True. Yes, thank you. I know all the answers. I can recite them to you if you’d like. And I’m pretty sure He’s never been all that impressed with my “right answers.” Besides, I need Him to care that my heart is broken and scared and barely hanging on. He doesn’t seem moved by that. Why doesn’t He care about my heart? Why do my groanings go unanswered? Why is He hiding from me?

Just hold on. Breakthrough is coming. It’s just around the corner. I’ve been around a lot of corners and I’m not seeing this breakthrough everyone talks about. Holding out hope that it’s coming is exhausting and more than discouraging when everyday is like the one before. When does my redemption come? When is my pain made beautiful?

Jesus is the only one for me. If there was nothing after this life, I would still choose Him now. So why is His affection elusive? Why don’t my groans move Him? I don’t know what else to surrender. He has it all. I can’t beg anymore. I can’t hope anymore. I can’t keep fighting but I can’t give up. And I’m so weary.

I blink slowly, retreating from my momentary daydream and offer a most convincing smile. “I’m well. How are you?”


The Challenge of Thanksgiving

January 3, 2012

I am reading 1000 Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. One of her challenges is to be grateful in the midst of trials. And while she encourages the reader to thank God for the hardships in life, she brings to light the importance of noticing the small moments of wonder and pleasure and to express gratitude to God for those small graces. She notices the color of light reflecting its iridescence in dish suds, or the sound of fresh snow crunching under her feet.

I am a new practitioner to this, but I found that it brings a swift sense of peace in chaos and wonder into moments that are often overlooked as mundane.

About 4 years ago, my friend challenged me to make a list of things I’m grateful for. I found this list and started adding to it. As Father allows me to notice the beauty in everyday happenings, I record those small gifts and thank Him for His touch in the ordinary.

Thank you, Father, for…
#4 Misty, foggy mornings
#16 Indoor plumbing
#92 A great job that provides but doesn’t define me
#121 Full, gut laughter that goes so deep, your soul converges with another’s in utter joy and delight
#144 Well fitting bras
#150 A perfect song that takes you to another place
#178 Old people who are still full of joy and have a clever wit.
#190 Fresh, clean, cold sheets on a summer night

Each gift, both the small and profound, is from the heart of Father, and He is giving them lavishly. Search for these moments. Hunt for beauty. Finding it, and being grateful for your discovery is vital in living in each moment, fully and with thanksgiving as we learn the heart of love Father has for us.


things i learned while running my first 5K

April 24, 2010

If you’re going to listen to music, make sure it’s got a beat that is consistant with your running pace or you might find yourself burning out after 1 mile. No more techno. Maybe Hymns in the Vinyard next time.

Realizing you’re paced yourself too fast, and then looking to your left to see friends who’ve run up beside you and are there until the finish line = God’s provision for that moment.

Whether you’re 12 or 32, it means the world when your family comes, on time, to watch. This is particularly significant if you’re a middle child. MCs, you know what I mean.

It’s pointless to stress about being on time to the race on Saturday when it’s only Monday night.

There are a lot of pretty men that run.

When it hurts so bad you think you can’t take another step, “Jesus help me!” may not mean the pain goes away or the road turns downhill. Sometimes it just means that you find yourself at the finish line knowing Who got you there, even if you don’t know how it happened.


random musings* about the church

March 28, 2010

we try really hard to be attractive to the world around us. we make our services “seeker oriented”. this is code for people don’t like to dress up for church, as if people who have been in church their whole lives aren’t seeking. i think there must be planning commitees whose sole purpose is to choose a one-word name for a church or group. engage….exchange…..fuse…..it’s easier to market a trendy word as opposed to a traditional contruct of a religous gathering. i am currently involved in a group that wants to draw younger people who wouldn’t normally be attracted to church. we have meetings in a bar. the band is well staffed with guys in skinny jeans and religiously oriented tatoos. it definitely doens’t have the feel of traditional church. i was in the back of the room, watching 150 20 somethings pour their love on jesus. and it was precious. and weird. it’s not weird to me. i understand what it means to “release the kingdom” or “be touched by the spirit.” but for someone who hasn’t been made alive in christ (another phrase that is just plain crazy to those not familiar with the venacular) it’s still strange. don’t get me wrong, this group that meets is giving a place for people to worship and build community, in theory. but i still think that unless the spirit shows a person truth, christianity is weird. sometimes i wish i hadn’t been raised in the church. i would like to have the perspective a person on the outside looking in. what really makes a person draw close to jesus when all they see is his people? it’s not how cool our graphics are or how similar our musical structure is to what they normally listen to. i am reading a book about christianity and the arts and we serve THE CREATOR. our graphics should be amazing and our music compelling. in the end, thought, i think it’s just the holy spirit working in our lives to show himself to someone who hasn’t met him yet. and that can happen anywhere, with any level of trendiness or lack there of. it’s funny how much the church runs after the person who doesn’t know jesus and takes for granted those who have never known anything else. i can speak to this. in my hard times, i’ve gone to spiritual authoriy to ask for help for my brokeness and without fail, have been asked “Where are you serving the body?” yep, as a lifer, you aren’t allowed to just be broken and empty. i mean, you CAN be, but you have to be serving somewhere too. it’s only the truly godless that get real mercy from the church with no strings attached. my church is charleston wasn’t like this. i just got to hurt when i hurt and that made me want to serve. i LOVE my current church and i’m excited to see young people loving jesus. but “seeker” also means people who have never known anything else but the love of jesus but still find themselves ignored by all the fishing of men. the coffee house is closing. i should go.
*venting that sounds more bitter than it actually is.