Book Review: Act Normal: Memoir of a Stumbling Block


I first heard rumblings about Kristy’s book long ago. We have been online friends for quite some time and I knew she had started a blog, which I read on occasion. I had also caught glimpses of her story from things she had posted in our online community, comments she made and her blog. I had been impressed by her writing and wit, but what I think has separated Kristy out (for me) as a writer is her ability to engage the reader in the moment. I’ve even read Facebook posts from her that are nary a paragraph long and yet contain a wealth of information about her children and her life. She just has a fantastic way with words.

Kristy’s book has been in the works for awhile and she had been mentioning it to her friends for quite sometime. So, when she finally announced it was being published, I didn’t hesitate to pre-order the book.

Having now read the book in it’s entirety, I do not hesitate to say this – this is a timely and important memoir. It is one of the most important books I have ever read. Act Normal: Memoir of a Stumbling Block is a biographical account of a woman who had been burdened by the church, terrorized by a fellow parishioner and through years of heartache, regret and fear is able to piece together the fragments of a broken past and find Christ amidst the disappointment and pain the Church had caused her. This is a book for the #metoo and #churchtoo generation. It’s the reality that so many Christians who have grown-up in the Church face, where religion was too often used as a weapon and not enough as a shield.

Kristy also uses the book as an opportunity to present some very real questions about pacifism and what challenges it faces in a world filled with people who would use every opportunity to come into a church and like a ravenous wolf, gobble the pacifist flock at will.

I decided that being a peacemaker was a Christian’s role and recommitted to pacifism. But this was a new kind of pacifism for me. It didn’t mean standing still while someone repeatedly punched me in the face. That wasn’t what Jesus wanted. We shouldn’t fight violence with violence, but that doesn’t let us off the hook when it comes to fighting it. We just fight it in a different way. It’s the trap so many pacifists fall into. We think we can avoid violence by avoiding conflict and not getting involved. We forget that silence can be a violent act.

I once had a flat tire in a dubious neighborhood and a guy insisted he change the tire on my car so I could give him a ride up the road. I felt a bit manipulated because he sort of started without asking and I thought it seemed like the most “Christian” thing to do. I then proceeded to be his chauffeur for about an hour while he asked to “just make one quick stop” about three times. It was a harrowing situation for me, but I didn’t really ever fear for my life. As I was reading Kristy’s account of how she felt in her own home or walking around her college campus, it began to hit me – I have never really had to have the type of alarms around me 24/7 that she had. I live in a fairly rough mid-city neighborhood and I chat up strangers on the sidewalk all the time. My wife barely goes out of the house when I’m not around and often avoids answering the door. You’d think “Well, she’s just being paranoid”, which is what I have often thought, but the more of these personal narratives I read from women, the more I’m convinced there is a deep undercurrent of terror that men may never fully understand.

Kristy has managed to do what I think she set out to do and that’s to shake the reader, not through extraordinary experiences, but through experiences that are so ordinary that they seem extraordinary to someone who has never been through these moments or emotions. She manages to channel personal emotions and make them universal so that even a man who has never experienced a drunken date-rape or the fear of a stalker coming into your room at night can empathize with her. It’s unlike anything I have ever read.

If you don’t have this book yet, please go buy it. I also say this sincerely – if you are a member of the body of Christ, you should definitely read Act Normal. Yes, there is cussing and yes there is “sex-talk“. It’s not a polished book. It’s honest. But I believe God can use this honest book to spur us on towards recognizing the pain of those around us, identifying the image of Christ in that person and improving how women are heard in our churches.


Wretched Faith

We’re 4 months into 2016 and I already want to nuke this entire year. Wave after wave of tragedy has hit us. David Bowie, Prince, the Paris bombings, etc. etc.

Beyond the general tragedy that has generated storm clouds over the earth, there is also personal tragedy. At the beginning of this year, my father-in-law committed suicide. Then, after attempting to conceive for our fourth child and the shock of finding out we found out we’re having twins, we found out weeks later we had lost one.

My wife has been the one who has faced the most devastation with these personal losses. Her hopes have been continually dashed upon the rocks and her faith has been thoroughly thrashed. So, I write this not for my sake, but for hers.

I have certainly grieved but my proximity to the aforementioned tragedies is rather distant in comparison to my wife’s. I watch the story as a bit player. She’s one of the main characters. As such, the faith she’s already been fighting for in her heart is tattered and torn at this point. It’s been beaten by life. To a degree, its failed her in adversity. I could see how she may see God has failed her. If she’s mad at God, frankly I wouldn’t blame her.

As the husband and supposed “spiritual leader” of this relationship, I try to bring words of comfort. I have wanted to say things like “God mourns with you” or “Christ knows what you’re going through”, but even before they’d come out of my mouth, I’d know they’d come off as cliches. I only have to look at the tear-soaked face of my wife to understand that what she needs now is for me to shut up and put my arm around her.

At this point, I’m just present. I’m trying to listen and not trying to solve. With that being said, I have to have an outlet. Hence, this blog post. I’m not going to try to solve theodicy, nor am I going to say that everything will be OK. I’m just giving my perspective on why faith is important, even among all the tragedy.

In John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, the narrator says,

“Never confuse faith, or belief—of any kind—with something even remotely intellectual.”

I tend to agree with that. Faith isn’t an intellectual assent. It’s not a matter of solving the questions of existence with equations and logic. Theologians aren’t scientists and scientists aren’t theologians. A Christian should be particularly apt to understand this as Jesus often told parables to people to get them to understand what he meant. Could Jesus have chosen a more obscure vehicle for theology? I think Jesus gave truth wrapped in mystery so that we could search for truth instead of expecting it to be hand-wrapped for us on a silver platter. And as Jesus told us in John 14:6, Christ himself is “truth”. We seek a person, not a knowledge.

In this season, I’ve had time to think and pray. I will be the first to admit that I’m horrendous at regularly reading scripture, but when I’m in a period of anxiety or mourning, the scriptures are where I turn. I have found regular comfort in reading the Psalms, and the prophets, Jeremiah and Isaiah particularly. The curious thing about the prophets is that they follow a familiar pattern. There is a warning, a fall and a promise of redemption. Often, the promise of redemption isn’t fulfilled until decades later. A lot of good that does the Israelites living in squalor and exile at the time of the prophecy! I guess that’s probably why a lot of prophets got stoned.

I’ve also found myself reading Job and the interesting thing about Job is that it has a happy ending but the book is 42 chapters long and the happy ending is one chapter at the end with a brief mention of what happened to Job. It’s rather anticlimactic for a book about tragedy. Most of the book is Job talking to his friends and Job’s friends giving him awful advice and then God enters the scene and wrecks it up. The book is a lesson on the transcendence of God in the midst of tragedy and how we’re little ants on an anthill compared to God. The thing about Job is that without putting Jesus in the picture, God seems rather malevolent and cruel. Job 19:25 has Job making what many of the early church considered to be the foreshadowing to Christ when he says,

“I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.”

You have to understand that nobody believes they will “see” God. The Jewish people didn’t believe God was some figure that could be related to in that way, at least in a literal sense. He was transcendent and almighty and no man will get to see God. There also wasn’t really a developed view of the afterlife. So, for Job to essentially say that he will come face to face with God, “with my own eyes” even (v.27) is not common to the Jewish frame of thinking. That’s why I see Jesus in this picture.

The conclusion I’m coming to here is that faith isn’t easy. It’s not something for the weak or feeble-minded. It’s not an opiate to make all our problems go away. Faith is hard. Believing in God doesn’t take a weak mind, but a strong one. It takes someone who is willing to live with the tension of not knowing why things happen and also the cosmic hope that justice will happen in the end. For the Christian, Jesus Christ is who we look to when the world is crashing around us. Just as Job knew that someday the light would shine at the end of the tunnel and the redeemer, reconciler and judge of the universe would advocate for him, we too believe this. Does this make our lives easier as we live in exile? No. It doesn’t. And anyone who tells you that is most likely lying. Faith is wretched and while Christ is near to us, we are still living in a world with real hurts and wounds. We may not feel the healing in the moment, but we must possess the hope that it is coming.

In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” 

John 16:33b

Today, I’m Thankful I Lost My Job

Weird headline, huh? It’s the truth though. Thanksgiving is a time to share what we’re most thankful for in the past year and this is what I’m thankful for.

Now, before I go on, I should say that (thankfully) I’m currently employed and the job I lost was one I had for almost 7 years, up until 2014. I can’t disclose the specifics of “why” I lost the job, but I can say that much of it was my own fault. After almost 7 years, I had grown apathetic and comfortable. I had lost my way and compromised what was a pretty good situation for me and my family. I had gotten to this point because I had let past failures dictate where I could go. I decided to take so little chances that I boxed myself in and truthfully…I probably should have left years ago.

For a long time, I had been with this employer who had great benefits and a great community of employees. It was a great situation for both me and my family.

But that was the problem.

It was almost TOO good. I had been there too long and I began to take a lot of things for granted. This sense of security made me fall into a pattern of just going through the motions. Part of this was a loss of ambition. Part of it was in inability to see that I didn’t really belong there anymore. I felt I knew what I wanted to do eventually, but I wasn’t sure how to get there. I was afraid to take the jump and just leave.

During the years, I had tried to interview for several positions in the company that I thought were perfect for me, but they never worked out. I’ll admit that I probably didn’t get those jobs because I was coasting. I had people all around me, encouraging me and giving me tools to succeed, but I floundered instead of taking the opportunity to learn.  All in all…this is what eventually lead to me losing this great job and putting my family’s future in jeopardy.

After the floor dropped from beneath me, I actually found the fire I had lost. I began to go back and finish my Associate’s degree. I started a website. I wrote more. I got passionate about something. It’s funny how an awareness of survival can sometimes wake us up from our apathy.

I took contract job after contract job just to pay the bills. However, with each job, I tried harder than I ever had before to learn new skills and gain something from the job. Even if it was just how to punch in data or how a billing process works.

Finally, I found the job I’m at now in IT. I found something I love to go into work everyday and do. I’m content with my job, but if there’s one thing this last year has taught me its to not settle. I’m always going to look for ways to build upon what I’ve learned – to move forward in my skills. Because not only does my family’s future depend on it, but because adversity has taught me how to grow. My strength comes from forging ahead and never being complacent.

What are you thankful for?

Original Post:

Your American Jesus is Too Small For Me

This year has seen some changes in the United States. Just this summer we saw two screwed up guys with guns walk right up to places with people and gun them down. We are starting to see the candidates for President of the United States line up and campaign for the White House and some, like Donald Trump, are stirring animosity among the religious right. We’ve seen gay marriage made the law of the land. We’ve seen damning videos of people sipping wine and talking about the cost of shipping aborted baby parts with smirks on their faces. All in all, this has been one of the most politically and emotionally charged summers in recent years.

With all that being said, I am more than saddened and appalled at the way I’ve seen people who call themselves Christians conduct themselves on social media. Let’s take a Facebook post by evangelical leader Franklin Graham who said,

“During World War 2, we didn’t allow Japanese to immigrate to America, nor did we allow Germans. Why are we allowing Muslims now? Do you agree?”

The comments by supposed Christians?:

“Every Muslim that comes into this country has the potential to be radicalized — and they do their killing to honor their religion and Muhammad.”

“Not a bad idea. It’s time for the USA to do something positive.”

“Amen brother.”

“I completely agree w/ Pastor Graham.No doubt in my mind.”

Now, to be fair, there are many more comments on the thread which also scold Graham and also this post did go viral, so many of the comments may be from people who aren’t practicing Christians at all. However, my point isn’t so much to witch hunt Christians in Grahams comment sections, but to show that a “man of God” just incited violence, bigotry and hatred in people. Notice I put “man of God” in quotes for a reason, because he sure does not characterize Jesus Christ for me, at least not here.

I love my conservative and traditionalist brothers and sisters, but let me be crystal clear when I say that I do not see Jesus Christ in them when they speak such vitriol. I do not see the “Good News”. I see a twisted Gospel cocktail of Ayn Rand, neoconservatism, utilitarianism and maybe some Jesus thrown in for good measure. I don’t see a Christianity that takes Jesus’ teachings seriously. Rather, I see a cultic faith mixed with jingoism and pride. 

If we look at the scriptures, we see a rather straight interpretation of how we must conduct ourselves (which is corroborated by the actions of early Christians, by the way). For example, let’s look at what Paul actually says about engaging one another and culture (like the Muslims and immigrants), shall we?

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore,

If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

If he is thirsty, give him a drink;

For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:14-17, NKJV)

And Christ Himself said,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:43-48, NKJV)

I can’t conceive of such a small god that would tell us to love our enemies and then when the going gets tough and they’re knocking on our doors rescind His words because they’re “impractical” or a “threat to national security”. I think our American Jesus is too small. Our American Jesus is the Jesus who made a lot of “cool suggestions” but ultimately all that mattered is he paid for our sins. If Jesus is really God, then shouldn’t every one of His words be like liquid gold for our souls? Shouldn’t they be more precious than anything else? We have God, in the flesh, telling us the best way to live and when the going gets tough or impractical on a societal level, we decide he needs to “sit this one out”.

The larger point here is that Christians have become divided more and more in America and some don’t even know it. Christians have adopted a sort of modernist, practical take on their own reading of scripture and have come to believe that their reading of scripture serves exactly their political stance and doesn’t challenge them on it. This mix of politics and Christianity is nothing new, certainly, but it’s starting to take on a life that makes me gravely question the orthodoxy of those who hold to it. If Franklin Graham or Donald Trump is the voice of thousands or even millions of Christians who would rather keep their perceived enemy at arms-length rather than love them and bless them in the name of “national security”, I believe we’ve allowed the “god of utility and nationalism” to supersede the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We are worshiping a golden calf made by our prejudice and sin rather than shaped by Christ and the faith that was handed “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).

At the end of the gospel, as Jesus was hanging on the cross, many of his followers left in despair. They had hoped the Messiah would rescue them from the Roman empire and would restore Israel to its former glory. That never came. Because God had bigger plans. Jesus was bigger than this nationalistic fight. Jesus came to fulfill a larger purpose and to reconcile the whole world to himself.

In conclusion, a Jesus that is that small doesn’t have a Kingdom of His own, populated by an army of people who claim no crown or country, who pray ceaselessly and trust His power over the nations. A Jesus that is that small wrings his hands over America’s moral failures and his followers have constant anxiety that impending doom will take away their livelihood and economic privilege. A Jesus that small would not give us any ability to spread warmth, comfort and love to the world, even in the midst of Armageddon, because the battle wouldn’t be his in the end.

I’m glad I don’t have a Jesus that small. I’m glad we as His disciples never have.

Vacation Bible School

I remember the smell of the sanctuary. It was a sort of musky, wooden smell. It was the sort of smell you’d find in antique shops, lurking around the ancient wooden chairs and threadbare curtains.

I remember the v-arched ceiling rising to the heavens and the pews lined up in attention towards the center. Every kid in the First Nazarene VBS was in the room, watching the puppet show. They were watching as the puppets worked out moral plays to teach us important lessons from the Bible.

After the puppets were put away, my attention immediately wandered. I was practically falling out of the seat. Then, a balding man with a soft voice came up on stage. He held in his had a sort of play “contract”. It was made out of red construction paper. There was black marker on it that said “YOUR SOUL.”

The balding man said, “Kids, this piece of paper is a contract for your soul. Does anyone know what a soul is?”

All the kids started to chime in at once “It’s your spirit!” “Your life!” “Your heart!”

The balding man said, “Close! It’s actually the inner part of you that keeps going on and on forever, even after you die.” He then furrowed his brow and said, “Kids, did you know you’re going to die someday?”

Vicki shouted out with a bit of a stutter in her five-year old voice, “Uh…my gwamma died wast year! My mom said she went to heaven.”

The balding man perked up, seeing that this would further his object lesson and said, “And before she died, did your grandma give her life to Christ?”

Vicki shouted enthusiastically, “Yes!”

“Excellent! That definitely means she is in heaven with Jesus!”

Vicki was happy as a clam. I was picking pebbles out of the bottom of my tennis shoes out of boredom.

“You see kids,” the balding evangelist began, “this deed to your soul once belonged only to God. And God took very good care of it, because He made it Himself! But then Adam and Eve ate of the bad fruit from the tree God told them to stay away from. They disobeyed God. And then this here deed became the property of Satan. “

Baldy continued, “That means, your soul belonged to Satan. And God made a deal with His People, the Jews, that if they kept His laws, sacrifices and commandments, they’d be with Him forever. The problem is, they couldn’t keep the law. The Bible said NONE of us can! So, He sent Jesus to be the perfect lawkeeper and the perfect sacrifice.”

Still bored, I had now slithered down in my seat until no one could see me, still careful to keep my legs on the seat while my head, arms and shoulders dangling off the edge.

I was looking up at the white, expansive ceiling when Mrs. Fowler tapped my leg furiously. I looked at her scowling face with a dumbfounded confusion as she mouthed the words “Sit up!” I sat up and breathed a giant sigh of exasperation.

“…now we’re able to go to heaven with God, instead of to hell. Kids, the most important decision you will ever make is right now. Will you join God in His heavenly kingdom, or will you choose the pain of fire in hell? I know I don’t want you to go to hell. So, now…right now…you must choose to follow Him,” his voice started to rise as he pointed furiously upward, then he crescendoed, pointing downward in a power motion, as he declared, “or face eternal suffering with Satan and his demons!” Billy Sunday would have been proud.

He quieted down to a pregnant pause. Mrs. Fowler took her place at the organ to the right of the stage and started playing “Oh What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. All I could think was “Is hell any worse than this? I want to go outside and play with those beautiful, colorful, squishy water balloons waiting outside. One of them is just waiting for me to throw it at Vicki’s puffy face…”

“COME! COME, KIDS! COME TO THE FRONT!”, Baldy cried. “Jesus is waiting for you at the altar! Eternal life! Heaven! Come down!”

A force suddenly came over me and my body trembled. It started in my fingers and toes. I felt something in my head telling me to go, but it had nothing to do with heaven or a fear of flames licking my heels for all eternity. It was something bigger. It felt like a hand had wrapped around my heart and squeezed it.

Other children started to get up out of the pews and ran to the front. One girl was weeping profusely, like her favorite Barbie had been burned in a fire. I watched with a blank expression as they started to kneel before the altar, clasp their hands together and whisper prayers. Some were the faint prayers of a first grader, pleading for his/her life. “Father God, Jesus…I am so, so sorry…” I remember little Vicki was praying rather louder than the rest because she was freaking out. “I don’t wanna go to hell, God! I don’t wanna go to hell!”

I slowly got up out of my pew and started to walk to the front. The trembling continued but now it had reached my eyes. I didn’t cry, but I felt things glaze over, like the world was saturated in color and the light was flaring bright.

I reached the altar, knelt down, clasped my hands and prayed. As I prayed, a familiar, rough hand grabbed my shoulder. I knew exactly which big, callused hand it was without even having to look up from the altar.

Starting a rough prayer, I whispered, “Jesus, I don’t know what I’m doing. Can you just forgive me and teach me how to be good?”

I was probably only sitting there staring at the black space in the cave of my hands for about five minutes, but it felt like eternity.

When I got up, I saw my grandfather’s weathered face looking back at me. We embraced with the smell of Brut and wood chips filling my nostrils.

I felt like there was something different in me after that. It felt like sailing on an endless sea under a blue sky and a light breeze on the face. It felt like home.

The New Commandments of Love: Blessed are the Peacemakers

This might become a series. May not. It’s more just me having Andy Rooney moments and going on old-man rants. Hope you get something out of it.

Some days I feel like a complete outsider to every Christian sub-culture. It’s no secret to most people who’ve read my previous writings that I’m sympathetic to the Eastern Orthodox position within the wave-spectrum of Christian thought, but even I get perturbed by Eastern Orthodox people who latch on to a fundamentalist, “black or white” mindset that is commonly known as “hyperdox”. Likewise, I consider myself prone to a more “liberal Christian” views on social justice, but I often am annoyed by the tribalism that can pervade even this group of open-minded individuals, with a rabid demonization of all conservative perspectives. In short, I half-jokingly refer to myself as “an anomaly of middle convictions.”

Yes, I do like to rock boats and poke bears, but I don’t particularly like it when the bears bite back. I’m a provocateur, but I’m provoking everyone. I’m trying to get in the wedge between the two sides and find the middle way. Even when my mom and dad would fight when I was little I’d get between the two of them, say “You’re both right! Now stop!” and try to be a physical manifestation of their love so they’d forget for a second their petty differences.

All this is to say that being someone who desires to see people come to their senses, I’d like to think of myself as a peacemaker. What does it really mean to be a peacemaker though? The reality is it’s a lot harder and more dangerous than it sounds. I reflect on Christ’s own words on what that means. Why do we want to pursue peace and what does it even mean to have peace?

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matt. 5:9)

This is supposed to be the point where I should be cracking my knuckles and give you 10 points on what it means to be a peacemaker so you can share it with your friends and say something like “I like number five. That’s so me!” I’m not going to do that. I’m also not going to tackle “Just War theory” or anything on a grander scale, because I think we first need to have a conversation on what this means from an individual level first. I’m not into giving easy answers. Rather, I’m going to let some old, (physically) dead guys tell you what they believe it means, because frankly…they know koine Greek a heck of a lot better than I do.

First up, one of my favorite preachers of the post-Nicene era, John Chrysostom, Mr. Golden-tongue himself:

Here He not only takes away altogether our own strife and hatred among ourselves, but He requires besides this something more, namely, that we should set at one again others, who are at strife. (Homily 15, Homilies on Matthew)

We are commanded to have only one enemy, the devil. With him never be reconciled! But with a brother, never be at enmity in thy heart. (Homily 20, Homilies on Matthew)

Another favorite preacher and honorable father of the Church, Basil of Caesarea has this to say:

I cannot persuade myself that without love to others, and without, as far as rests with me, peaceableness towards all, I can be called a worthy servant of Jesus Christ. (Letter 203,2)

And the coup de gras, one of my all time favorite teachers and monks, Isaac of Ninevah has this to say on peace:

Let yourself be persecuted, but do not persecute others.
Be crucified, but do not crucify others.
Be slandered, but do not slander others.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep: such is the sign of purity.
Suffer with the sick.
Be afflicted with sinners.
Exult with those who repent.
Be the friend of all, but in your spirit remain alone.
Be a partaker of the sufferings of all, but keep your body distant from all.
Rebuke no one, revile no one, not even those who live very wickedly.
Spread your cloak over those who fall into sin, each and every one, and shield them.
And if you cannot take the fault on yourself and accept punishment in their place, do not destroy their character.

See, to me, all of these sayings point to a revolutionary idea. That idea is that no matter how right I may believe myself to be; no matter the injustice I perceive before me, I must actually follow Christ’s command to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.This dangerous idea is one that demands a sacrifice of ourselves and to be truly selfless to the point where it hurts. It demands that I give up my right to be right for Christ’s kingdom to be manifest in my life and the lives of others. It’s almost as if Jesus is daring us to let go of our own ideas ideas of justice and peace in a sense and see every person in the image of God. That’s impractical! That’s shockingly reckless! And that scares us because it means we have to give up control. Millions of martyrs throughout history gave up their control and we exalt their memory for it.

The other side to this coin is that when we see people being oppressed or being encompassed by the mob, lynched for their crimes by the masses; no matter how despicable that person may seem, we are to approach that person with love and to shout down the furious hatred rising from the mob, which is breaking into the world like a cancer. Does this mean we never speak out, never stand up and that we let all evil people go free? No. Here’s what it does mean: you do not exchange your humility and peacemaking imperative just because you have some moral upper-hand. You don’t exchange the gospel of peace for a poison, even a poisonous tongue (James 3:1-12), just because you are not identified as a pedophile, rapist, murderer or thief and the other person is. You do and you put tribal justice before a kingdom imperative.

Solidarity is a powerful tool to stand up to power, but it is also a fearsome weapon, able to ensue chaos and a whirlwind that can catch up the innocents in it’s wake. As an example of this, consider the nation’s founders of the United States who saw that such a problem could occur, which is why they segmented the democratic republic and created check’s and balances. The “tyranny of the majority” is just as frightening.

Every person is made in the image of God, from the money-grubbing pastor to the petty thief to the Wall Street executive. Let’s seek justice for those who have been hurt in the wake of injustice by evil men, but let’s remember that the evil that lurks in the hearts of all men can just as easily blind us and numb us from our sins, so we then justify our actions through righteous indignation. In world where hashtags on Twitter and rumors on Facebook can quickly destroy someone’s life, to be a peacemaker is a dangerous ideology because it asks you to give up your vendetta (even if it’s a “just” one) and your control and let the King of the Universe take them into His hands.

A Letter to my 5-year Old Daughter

Dear Selah,

Your life has been a short, carefree one so far. I wish I could capture this time and wrap it around you forever, so it surrounds you like a warm blanket and keeps you away from life’s coldest realities. As you grow up, you’ll begin to face these realities. I can’t keep that from happening and I don’t necessarily want to, but man…why do they have to sometimes hit you so young? I can already see the confusion in your eyes when you sense cruelty or you see that not everyone wants to be your friend, even though you’re so eager to find your next BFF, like the little social butterfly you are.

Your name means “to pause and reflect” in Hebrew. So, with that note, there are some specific things I want you to pause and keep with you. I want you to wear these words in your soul until they become a part of you.

1) You are beautiful, but remember that true beauty comes from within. (1 Sam. 16:7) I was reminded tonight of the absolute blitzkrieg of images that bombard you everyday, reminding you that you need to look a certain body type, have a certain bone structure or reach a certain status (no less than a Princess, of course) to be loved by the world. You told me that you were “afraid of becoming fat”. I told you that I only want you to be healthy and your 5 year old mind shouldn’t be partaking in such concerns. This world is at war for your soul. It’s a battle I’m ready to fight for you. I will continue to reaffirm that you are beautiful, no matter what and that your soul is beautiful to both me and God. This is what matters amidst the billboards, TV ads and endless array of perfect plastic dolls.

2) True beauty comes from pursuing virtue and goodness. Don’t be the “mean girl”. (Psalm 17:15, Psalm 45:7, Is. 51:7, Matt. 6:33) I am aware that you are a girl with beautiful eyes and a beautiful smile. I’ve seen many people tell you that. I just want you to remember that your form is a small part of who you are. When you decide to stand for the oppressed, the isolated, the forgotten and befriend them (as I know you are already keen to do) you elevate your beauty as well as theirs. That’s when the most beautiful object created shines through you – Christ. He is the source of true beauty. If you can remember that, even if your outward beauty were to be taken from you (which is mostly assured when you get as old as mommy and daddy), you will radiate a deeper beauty than any runway model or Barbie doll.

3) Pain and suffering are gifts that refine us into icons of God. (Luke 9:23) Someone will break your heart. Someone will break a promise. Someone will let you down. Someone will hurt you in some way. The world will constantly do it’s best to make you run hard and fast from pain. It will tell you that the ultimate good is to rid yourself of all suffering and pain and to just try to make yourself as happy as possible.

This is a lie.

You can’t escape pain and suffering, but you can be truly happy. Here’s how: first, recognize that loving others and not constantly looking out for yourself is one part of it. The second and most important part is that true joy comes from the Lord. He is your comforter. It’s OK to cry and to grieve. It’s OK to embrace sorrow and soak in it. Just remember that Jesus Christ is there with you, wiping your tears and mending your wounds. He experienced it himself. He took it upon himself and now pain and suffering have a redemptive power that can only be found within him.

I wish none of it was true. That you would never experience pain ever. But I know that’s impossible.

Instead, I leave you with the greatest gift I know how to give. The love of our Savior. You may look back on the prayers we said at your bedside and roll your eyes. You may one day think about the cheesy Bible songs we sung together and scoff. You may even wonder how I could even be so ignorant to believe in an invisible being.

But I hope you never, ever forget the love I gave you. I could only love like that because of Jesus. And I know his love is greater than any worldly lies.



Fire From Ashes: A Conversation with Fr. Joseph Huneycutt and Steve Robinson

The other night Billy and Zach had the chance to sit down with the authors of “Fire From Ashes: The Reality of Perpetual Conversion” from Ancient Faith Publishing, Fr. Joseph Huneycutt and Steve Robinson. It was a great conversation on crawling out from the darkness of a faith that’s been trodden by the world, the church and sin.

We talk about confession, dealing with clericalism and why Steve is crazy!

You can listen to the whole thing here!