I Collect Dead, Dying Things. I Collect Brokenness.

I found this coin when I was 10 years old. I was camping about an hour east of Seattle, deep in the mountains, and as I walked barefoot through the camp sites I suddenly felt something underneath my feet that seemed out of place. I looked down to see a square coin, and couldn’t believe my luck. A coin, IN THE DIRT, from half-way around the world.

I’ve been collecting coins ever since. When I go to another country or when friends go, I ask for coins, please.

And sometimes I collect things that celebrate the creative expressions of peoples all over the world. Sometimes, I revel in the art of countries I’ve never been to. I collect sacred moments, beauty, friends.

But sometimes, I collect dying things. Rotten, rotting things. Things that kill and steal and destroy.

Sometimes, I collect pain and I store it away and I hold it tightly and I let it simmer on the back burner and it’s ok for a while…until it’s not. Until your kitchen burns down. Until the flames reach up and up and quenching them is impossible. Until you barely escape with your life. Until your skin bears the scars of your choices.

And I think I’m starting to see the quiet power in releasing. The STRENGTH it takes to open your palms and say, “Here, it’ll only bury me in flames if I keep it.”

(This is what we mean when we pray for “the wisdom to know the difference.”)

This is what Jesus means when he says to “cast your cares on him”. There is almost a violence to it. Because casting well means you get to eat. Casting well means your family survives. And it’s almost like Jesus KNOWS what he’s asking. But he’s painting a picture of something hard, something that takes energy, a task, a behavior that grows more skilled over time.

He is asking you to shove your fingers deep into the heavy, crude nets of first-century Israel. He is asking you to grab them tightly, like your life depends on it, because your life depends on it. And he is asking you to take that deep breath, and ready your entire body, plant your feet firmly on the deck, and with every cell in your body, without a sliver of hesitation, heave those nets up and over the side of the boat and let them sink heavy-deep into the water.

Because if you can’t heave them over the side, you’ll never be able to heave in the abundance God will place inside those nets.

BECAUSE IF YOU CAN’T HEAVE THEM OVER THE SIDE, YOU’LL NEVER BE ABLE TO HEAVE IN THE ABUNDANCE GOD WILL PLACE IN THOSE NETS.

If you can’t give it, throw it. If you can’t release it gently, release it forcefully. If you can’t open your own hands, let someone open them for you. And if you find that you still can’t, even after all of that, it’s ok. Some of us need to WRESTLE.

God knows. He isn’t afraid of letting you wrestle. He’s not afraid that your struggle will affect his sovereignty, his ability to make all things new, his grace.

There is nothing you can say or do to make God love you any more or any less. Because his love isn’t tainted with sin. It is PERFECTLY. HOLY. WHOLE.

And he sees the weight of brokenness you carry on your shoulders.

And he just wants to take it.

It is a daily releasing sometimes. It is a repeating of obedience and trust that changes everything. It is one step, one movement at a time.

God never asked us to do easy things. He never even asked us to do possible things.

How do you move a mountain?

One shovel of dirt at a time.

How do you move a mountain?

You can’t. It’s impossible.

How do you move a mountain and change your life?

With faith in a God who can make all things possible.

Because he is making all things new and he will not stop when he gets to you.

Child Abuse Is The Social Justice Issue We’ve All Been Overlooking

I listened to a podcast today that talked about how, in the Bible, there is no concept of separate justice issues. There is only JUSTICE and INJUSTICE. Preach! 

When you start talking about injustice, child abuse doesn’t really jump to the forefront of your mind. Because it hides in plain sight, and like a deadly bacteria that works its way deep into the crevices of your body, child abuse is an insidious destroyer of a sense of self.

Continue reading Child Abuse Is The Social Justice Issue We’ve All Been Overlooking

Listen to me. We are NEVER going back (R-rated)…

Let go of the people who say they love you but hold everything against you. Because true love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs.

Let go of the people who tear down your dreams with wild words of incapable fears. Because real love always hopes. Continue reading Listen to me. We are NEVER going back (R-rated)…

What Healing Really Means

Do you know what it means to be healed? It means you are free. It means your shame is so far behind you you can barely see it when you look back. It means there is freedom of emotion when you walk beside the Lord step by step through a valley and come out into open, wide plains.

Psalm 34 says, Oh TASTE and SEE that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him. The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit…He REDEEMS those who serve him.

Emotional healing is not a singular event. It’s a journey. And it is OK that it’s a journey and it is also OK for your journey to be unique and sacred in the ways that God devises for YOU. We love and serve a God who loves and serves us in individual and personal ways.

And it’s OK when you struggle. It doesn’t mean that you haven’t healed or that God is failing you or that depression is winding itself up to overtake you. It just means there is more to be healed. That’s it. There’s more. And that is OK too.

Oh friend…here’s to you! And here’s to all the bravery it undoubtedly will take to step toward wholeness. May you find all the joy as you walk your healing journey. And be encouraged, dear one – there is much ahead for YOU. There is joy as bright as ten thousand radiant suns…

6 Thoughts on Young Shooters

It’s been a few days since the school shooting in Florida. The images are heart-wrenching. And honestly, I’ve barely followed the story. But I can feel the heaviness in the air and the weight of all the choices made that day and how they still linger.

A lot of people have a lot of opinions about young shooters (and just mass shootings in general)…and they should. People should think about the world and process the state of the broken and hurting in the country. Moments like this force us to ponder…

Here are my thoughts on the school shooting, but also just on young shooters specifically.

1. Hurting People Hurt People. No matter what, behind every abuser or killer there is a mountain of hurt and pain. When all that goes unseen, when entire generations overlook the broken, when ADULTS overlook the YOUNG…there is no where else for teens to turn but to hate. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that. Remember? We learned this once, didn’t we?

Here is my question to you….how are YOU loving young people and teens and the broken and the overlooked? When is the last time you stooped to enter someone else’s world?

If your answer is never or rarely can I say with all the love in me that you are part of the problem.

2. Policies and Laws have never been all that great at keeping abusers from harming others; people are changed when other people invest in them. Believe me when I say, that I have seen firsthand how “effective” laws are at keeping victims safe. Believe me when I say that ADULTS really don’t want to hear about abuse…not really…because then you’d have to do something about it. You’d have to face it.

Here is my question to you…do you even SPEAK to young people at all? Do you invest in the lives of the young? Do you offer financial assistance to programs and churches and missionaries who are in the thick and in the mud and in the unbelievable darkness of the lives of teens?

You can walk into just about any youth group in America and there will be stories of rape, of physical abuse, of depression, of teen suicide, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and self-harm. It’s not new or shocking. You’ve just never looked.

3. Depression and stress are absolutely RAMPANT amongst teens. After five years of walking alongside youth in our community, and several years of Young Adult Ministry, and nearly eight years of consistent involvement in our church…I can tell you with confidence that depression is an enormous burden that many, many carry. If we struggle as adults and moms and spouses…how much more so must teens struggle?

No one can or should do life alone. Including you. Including them.

4. The church is on the front lines. If you’ve never been involved in church, this will seem odd to you. But the church has been, and is still, on the front lines of the battle for our teens.

In our small community alone, there are thousands of Christians who support, volunteer, and encourage youth. We still need more. We still need YOU!

Churches often have the gift of accomplishing much with little. Help a church in your community accomplish MORE!

But also know that the most impactful relationships are the ones forged in the day to day, over lunch, and alongside the ups and downs of life.

5. When you minister to broken hearts, your heart WILL be broken. My husband and I have cried for the youth in our church so many times. Our hearts hurt and ache when we see a student give up and start believing the lies that are literally dumped on them by our culture. When you love someone, you offer your whole heart to them. You cheer them on. You cry with them. Be that for someone.

6. This is absolutely a parenting issue. And love starts at home. Healthy homes do not produce hate and violence. And there might be very differing levels of parental responsibility case by case. But there is always an element of parental influence.

•••

You don’t have to be a pastor to make a world of difference. Just step outside your comfort zone and love on a kid with all your heart. And you will see the world change.

When You’re a Christian Who Struggles With Depression

In 2008 I had just finished up my first senior semester with a 3.6 GPA. I had worked my butt off to get those grades. 6 classes. 4 senior level. 2 Theology classes. 4 English classes.

It literally took everything in me to finish strong . And by the end of the semester, with Christmas just days away, I found myself depressed beyond what words could even describe. It didn’t matter that I loved God or what I told myself…I could not get better.

I was living in daily abuse and lies. I simply could not cope.

Honestly, I knew that I had to make a choice: visit my doctor or die. I wouldn’t have made it through another two weeks…and the small pill she prescribed me changed everything.

I think of depression so differently now than ever before.

To Depress – to lower in force, vigor, or activity; to weaken; to make dull; to press down; to lower in amount or value.

Now, bear with me for a moment…when you take a verb and change it into a noun it is called “a nominalization”.

When you take the action of “depress” and apply it to a subject so repeatedly that the subject takes on the behavior of the action we say, “She has depression.” The verb becomes a noun. The action of the verb becomes a thing.

See it?

Now here’s the thing…depression is so multifaceted that there can be any number of causes. Those causes can be either SELF-inflicted or ENVIRONMENTAL.

An example of “self-inflicted” depression might be lack of proper nutrition, lack of exercise…etc. These are actions YOU have some control over.

But there are also ENVIRONMENTAL causes, actions or events you have zero control over.

This might be death, disease, a traumatic event, lack of proper care as a child…etc.

No one is surprised when a rape victim struggles with depression. No one is surprised when a solider struggles with PTSD. No one is surprised when an overwhelming life event causes anxiety or fear.

There is such a thing as being able to control your depression. But there is also such a thing as not being able to control your depression.

In a lot of ways, depression is a natural response to sin and brokenness.

We were never intended to live in a world with rape or slavery or brutality or childhood abuse or manipulation. God didn’t create the world that way…he created this world perfect and sin destroys perfection.

Is it any surprise that our bodies might have a physiological response to sin?

Is it?

Our bodies respond physiologically to sin every single day simply by the mere FACT that we AGE. Why are Christians so surprised when the very cells of our bodies respond and cry out against brokenness?

C. S. Lewis said, “You are not a body. You are a soul. You have a body.”

We are not mere mortals. We are souls designed to live in perfect community with our Heavenly Father. Sin breaks that communion in ways deeper than we usually care to reflect on.

Here me, and hear my heart. If you are a Christian who struggles with depression I GET IT. In a lot of ways, I have had to take hard inspection of myself to see the places in which my depression has been environmental or has been as a result of my own actions…or lack of action. I am not gonna lie…it’s hard to do this. But it is so worth it. It is also fully possible for depression to be lengthy and lifelong depending on its causes and roots, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still glorify God in and through it.

We are not victims even if we have been victimized. That is not our identity. Our worth is in the simple and beautiful fact that we are created. That’s it. Value of personhood is not earned or gained. It is thrust upon you by your creator. Value…is…intrinsic.

Ask yourself these three questions to test your motivation behind your actions.

1. Is this good for my soul?

2. Is this good for my relationship with Jesus Christ?

3. Is this good for my most intimate relationship?

It is OK if you struggle. It is OK if your body struggles to regain healthy function after trauma. There is no shame. God knows and he sees and he is not surprised by your body responding in a way that he designed. He’s not. Depression does not scare or intimidate God. He is a whole lot bigger than that. And he waits with wide open arms to receive you and receive your pain…

…and he has beautiful things ahead for you.