Fear, Faith and Donald Trump

I recently went on a job interview for a graphic design position. While browsing my resume, one of the people in the room laughed and said, “You were a marketing strategist at a church? Is it like…evangelical? How do you market a church? Like, how is that even possible?” I wasn’t surprised to hear this kind of thing. I spent the past four years working at the 13th largest evangelical church in America. Yes, as a marketing strategist. And having that at the top of my resume hasn’t made me the most marketable marketing strategist.

To say that evangelical is a loaded word would be an understatement. In American media, it means something political. In popular culture, it means something hateful and narrow-minded. In classical Christian tradition, it means to practice and share (evangelize) about your faith in God. But because of the broadness with which the word is thrown around these days, affiliation with the word has become problematic for many people who call themselves Christians. (I don’t think I even need to tell you, but I didn’t get the job.)

When the woman in the job interview asked, “Is it like…evangelical?” I knew what she was really asking. Do you hate gay people? Are you racist? Do you think I’m a sinner and should be sent to straight to Hell? Are you a republican? And the most timely assumption of the hour: Do you support Donald Trump?

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If I hadn’t wanted the job so much and felt the need to stay agreeable and professional, I would’ve taken the time to tell her about who I really am, contrary to her media-and-culture-influenced idea of who I am. I’m a person whose life was changed by Jesus Christ at 16-years-old. When I look back on that time in my life, the one thing I see is the full picture of the Jesus I fell in love with. And he looks nothing like the Christians I see on TV and on Facebook, angrily proclaiming allegiance to Donald Trump.

ERRATIC EVANGELICALISM AND DONALD TRUMP

This Buzzfeed article, featuring photos of Trump supporters telling the camera what they are convinced will happen to this country if Trump isn’t elected drew up deep fear inside me. These people claim to represent Jesus by their political leaning. They claim to be mouthpieces for disenfranchised Christians in America. They hear racist, sensationalist, blanket statements about people groups and they cheer. They hear their leader tell them to be physically violent with anyone who disagrees with them and they obey. Who wouldn’t be filled with fear, watching all of this occur in the 21st century? This is the unbelievable kind of stuff I’ve watched so many times in WWII documentaries. It feels so foreign and of-another-time. But it is happening today. And it’s terrifying.

As I flipped through the photos of Trump supporters and read their statements, it was painfully obvious to me that many of them are acting on fear. Fear that, “the country will go to shit,” or “the country will be filled with Hillary Clinton clones,” or “our freedoms will disappear” or “education will get worse”. These statements seemed so general to me. So broad. Almost like empty slogans. In the same way that Trump’s promises are big and fantastical, the fears his supporters seem to be drowning in are sensational and dramatic.

This is the kind of behavior that has created a PR problem for the word, evangelical. This is the kind of behavior that has created a culture where having worked for an evangelical organization is seen as a sign of negative personal character, rather than having a heart for service and love. It’s my humble belief that there’s a group of Christians who have forgotten what the Christ of the Gospels looks like, and have begun to worship a narrow and diluted version of him, overwhelmingly influenced by fear. And they’re unapologetically spreading that broken gospel as far as it’ll go.

Throwing your support behind a man who incites fear, promotes racism, encourages violence, and asks for continual personal allegiance to his personhood rather than his proposed good work, seems to me like the strangest move for a Christian to make. Bowing to feelings of pressure from Christian culture to simply vote for the most conservative candidate to protect your personal freedoms is no longer a worthy strategy. That strategy is based in fear and close-mindedness, and disregards people groups who I believe Christ would have us be loving servants to. Let us not be self-focused but others-focused and see people through God’s eyes.

All the while, there are many Christians like myself who are confused by the fandemonium for Trump within our religion. We’re starting to stand up and say, “This is not Christianity. These people don’t represent our faith.” In the same way, many Muslim people have been pointing at radical terrorists and saying, “This is not Islam. These people don’t represent our faith.” We can’t let fear mold our understanding of people groups. It’s happening far too often in our world and if we need any evidence of where that kind of thinking can lead us, it’s Donald Trump’s run for presidency.

DO NOT FEAR

Fear is not from God. And Donald Trump is a fearmonger. 2 Timothy 1:7 reads, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” In Christ, we have self control, we have the power to make our own decisions, to love recklessly, and to oppose fear in any form. So, when we operate based on abstract fears of the future, we forfeit that freedom and become slave to a flawed human leader.

HOLD ONTO HOPE

There’s this old Steven Curtis Chapman song called, “Heaven in the Real World” that I’ve been thinking about since the political landscape has been getting so dark and dirty over the past year. It opens with a snippet from a Billy Graham message where he says, “We feel demoralized by the decay around us. Where is the hope? The hope that each of us has is not in who governs us or what laws are passed or what great things we do as a nation. Our hope is in the power of God working through the hearts of people. And that’s where our hope is in this country, and that’s where our hope is in life.”

Even though Donald Trump, his supporters, and the picture they’re painting of Christianity and evangelicalism for the world to see makes me scared as hell, I’m choosing to reject fear and rest calmly in the hope that we have in Jesus–that no matter what happens, he is still in control. I’m choosing to trust that he will not leave us or forsake us. And he’ll continue to teach all of us how to love.

It’s going to be a long and terrifying road to November. I’m praying that Christians find it within themselves to rest in God’s peace, to learn to see people through God’s eyes and not Donald Trump’s, to seek God’s wisdom, to place their faith and trust in God and not in government, and to most importantly–reject fear. It isn’t from God.

 

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Life is a Movie Starring You

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I read this book when I was 16. It introduced me to the idea that your life can be whatever you want it to be. The author used illustrations from classic films and the lives of 1950s-1970s actresses and classic crooners like Frank Sinatra. This was right up my alley. I loved this exciting approach to life–to walk out the door in the morning with a soundtrack in my head. Each morning, I popped open my Discman (yeah I call it a Discman. My youth group girls told me that’s OLD and I should say CD player…but I rock my Gen X/Millennial line-straddling with pride. So deal.) and chose a song to kick off my day. I imagined my life as a movie and it gave me more confidence to say YES to things that scared me, to get excited about things and to not squelch that feeling out of fear of being let down. When my life was a movie, I could steer the storyline however I wanted and create a life I loved.

Something I didn’t think about immediately was that in a movie, there are scenes. And they exist for a reason. To move the story forward, to help characters evolve, to provide resolution where possible. Can I be honest, here? I hate that scenes exist. At the same time…I understand why they need to be there. I sometimes skip ahead to the scene in When Harry Met Sally where Billy Crystal says, “When you meet the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, you want the rest of your life to begin as quickly as possible.” If you know that movie well, you know that this means I skip the ENTIRE movie to get to the final scene. I just love it that much. If I could camp out in that scene forever, I would. But I have to believe that the reason I love it so much is because I know what led up to it…because I’ve watched the scenes before it play out.

There’s a long scene that’s coming to an end in my life next week. I started working at Eagle Brook Church 3.5 years ago. I drove into the office blasting “Fader” by The Temper Trap because I love how it builds up at the front of the song. It’s how I wanted to imagine this scene starting. The beginning of the movie. Cast credits playing.

I was greeted warmly by my coworkers. Mainly because it wasn’t technically my first day. I had attended a conference in Dallas, TX with them a week earlier and met them all for the first time at the airport. We got to know each other quickly. Specifically, Melissa and I. We shared a hotel room where Melissa had to take pump breaks because she’d recently come back to work after having her first baby. We were essentially starting fresh together. Melissa and I went to college together but only knew each other because we’d had a couple Communication classes together; so to be working on the same Communication team at Eagle Brook seemed funny and fortuitous. On my first day at the office, I sat down at my desk to this note:

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We’re still buddies.

We’ve been through A LOT in the past few years. Mel had another baby and I helped cover her maternity leave. While she was on leave, I came across an interesting profile on Instagram…interesting meaning it belonged to a boy that I found attractive. 🙂 Instagram told me that a mutual friend of ours was Melissa, so I sent her a text asking, “Who is Justin Bonhiver?” Her reply? “OH MY GOODNESS. I can’t believe I didn’t already think of this. This is PERFECT!” They knew each other from a high school bible study they both belonged to years ago. So she sent Justin a text message and gave him my phone number. And well, the rest is history.

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I sat down over lunch with Shannon, Krista Rose, Eva, Jackie, and Kellie and often sent text messages to Melissa while she was on maternity leave about HOW NERVOUS I was every time I had a date with Justin. Early on, before every date I required a pep talk from these girls. I was rusty when it came to dating, and I’d been hurt before. But they are the ones who helped me push through all that nonsense and say YES to something that had the potential to be incredible. (And for the record–is.) I am so grateful for those chats with those girls!

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They listened to me whine about little things and big things. We supported each other through sudden tragedies in each other’s lives, medical concerns, family tension, relationship changes and organizational challenges at the office. These are my people. I heart them.

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Within the first few months of working at EBC, my close friend Christie passed away from a two-year battle with brain cancer. It is to this day the most difficult loss I’ve experienced. It was drawn-out, tragic, painful and unexpected. I grieved pretty publicly about that and have written about it many times, so I won’t go into it again here. However, I can’t help but reflect on the role Eagle Brook played in my life at that time.:

  • It was on the floor of the closed-door filming studio at EBC that I learned of Christie’s passing.
  • It was Jamie Colbert, a former EBC graphic designer (and still a cherished friend!), who knew that I wasn’t a hug person and forced a love-filled hug on me that morning.
  • It was Johanna, the former Comm Director who allowed me to flit in and out of the office when Christie was in hospice care to visit her whenever possible. (She also made a point to touch my shoulder when she passed my desk when she knew things were getting worse with Christie.)
  • It was in worship led by my coworker, Kate Freer (graphic designer) that I felt a significant healing moment on one of the darkest days of my life in the auditorium at the Lino Lakes campus, six months after Christie passed away. It was powerful. And Kate is forever a part of that in my memory.

Speaking of that filming studio, I never thought I’d have any reason to be in a studio. But one day, Mike Hadley and Michael Pearce Donley decided that I was worth taking a chance on and gave me the opportunity to host the weekly announcement videos that aired in weekend services. My big face was seen on massive sidescreens at six campuses by 22,000+ people every weekend for two years. I’m sorry, what? It humbles me to think about it. It’s really just a whole lot of this feeling:

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The words that came out of my mouth in those little videos helped point people to ministries that may have helped them know Jesus in a new way that led them into a totally transformed life. I can’t believe God used me in this way. I’m really just in disbelief looking back on it.

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For funsies, here’s one of my favorite shoots from last year. Mainly because Tim Johnson did an INCREDIBLE job filming and editing it, and Michael Pearce Donley directed me and as always, made me look and sound like I had been doing this kind of thing for my entire life. 🙂

What’s almost just as humbling, is to think that I played a role in helping launch two campuses while I was on staff. Being on a campus launch team is like adding another full-time job on top of your actual full-time job. It’s draining and takes over your life for a few months. But seeing signage around the Coon Rapids and Woodbury campuses that I had input into warms my heart and again–just humbles me down to the ground.

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Really? Me? So many people come to Eagle Brook and find new life, hope, and healing through Jesus. As cranky as I was about being on those launch teams sometimes, I can’t believe God picked me to be there. ME. Sorry, what?

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Another crazy thing God asked me to do while I’ve been working at Eagle Brook was to speak at a Juvenile Detention Center. Yet another incredibly humbling experience. I was asked to speak about my career path (which has been anything but clear-cut) and how I managed to turn out OK despite having a low GPA when I graduated from high school, being rejected from every college I applied to except for one (and I was only admitted based on my essay and entered school automatically on academic probation). I didn’t feel like I had anything impressive to say. But I spoke to six groups of inmates about my life and career so far. I don’t know if it made a real impact. But I have to believe God had a reason for arranging that crazy day.

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And then there was Canvas Magazine.

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I was asked to act as Managing Editor of Canvas in 2014/15. We didn’t know at the time that it would be the last edition of Canvas for awhile. But it was the best. And the most fun. And to see the picture above on Instagram, posted by an attender who was reading MY article (and Kate Freer’s gorgeous design) just blew me away. Humbled. Honored. What? More of this:

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There are a few specific people who really made an impact on my life in my time at Eagle Brook. As friends and mentors, they led me through difficulties over and over again. They didn’t get awkward when I ugly-cried in their office. They listened when I was so frustrated that I couldn’t see straight. They celebrated my victories with enthusiasm both in work in life. They reminded me of my worth over and over again. And I will always love them for it. Johanna Price has her own blog post. 🙂  But then there’s Mike Hadley.

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First, it should be noted that I copied Mike and took an improv class where he used to be a SUPERSTAR (Comedy Sportz MPLS) and name dropped for him like, every class. He helped me build credibility and respect there because so many people who work there count him as one of the greats. 🙂 Mike not only helped direct me and worked beside me in On the Fly, last year he became an interim manager for our little Communication Team (which had dwindled down to Melissa, Shannon and me). This was the most challenging time I endured in my time at EBC. It was marked by a lot of loss- in my personal life and at work. A lot of people I cared about and looked up to on staff at EBC were leaving for other opportunities. Senior leadership was struggling (and talked openly about it, so I feel free to say that here). Mike rallied his troops and helped us stay as positive as possible. And he let us be honest when things sucked. He’s a better counselor than he realizes. 🙂 He helped me learn from mistakes and do better the next time. And he cheered me on and continually reminds me of who I am and what my abilities are when I feel down or discouraged. Mike has been a rock at work and a great friend in life. I am so grateful for him.

Then there’s Joelle.

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At a time when a lot of high-level female leadership was disappearing at Eagle Brook, Joelle was hired as the Middle School Teaching Pastor. I remember when I was introduced to her, I knew instantly we’d get along. We both love fashion and beauty products and have had the most fun shopping around Sephora and visiting each other at the office to talk about new products we’ve found and loved. 🙂 We went to the Mpls St. Paul Magazine Fashionopolis show together last year and it was A BLAST. There’s no one else I would’ve rather experienced that with. Aside from the fashion times and lunch dates and late-night texting, Joelle has been an incredible role model for me. She invited me to her birthday parties and out to the movies and dinner. She’s the kind of Jesus girl I want to be. She encouraged me by leaving devotionals and verses on my desk. She was always ready and willing to listen to me in tough times and to give perspective on work and life difficulties. She PRAYED for me. When things have been really, really dark–Joelle somehow brightened it up. There’s a kindredness with Joelle that can’t be denied. I am so grateful to her for her guidance and her laughter and her prayers. 🙂

I really can’t believe I’m moving on. But it’s what’s happening. Next Wednesday, I’ll walk out of the office for the last time. Which is why I’m posting this, today. I don’t think I’ll be able to handle it next week. Let’s spread this scene out as long as possible! Can we pause it? Indefinitely?

To everyone I’ve loved and worked with at Eagle Brook:

You are my people. You have been my saving grace more times than I can even recall. I don’t know what I’ll do without seeing you every day. Let’s do the hard work of remaining in each other’s lives as much as possible. God placed me among you at a crucial point in my personal life and in my career. He used you to do amazing things in my life that will stay with me forever. Thanks for loving me and caring for me as-is and never asking me to change (actually, encouraging me to be more ME many times. :)) You are all called and God’s working through you. As He’s calling me out, I’m eternally grateful for this scene in my movie.

I plan to replay it often.

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Tragedy + The Tide

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When I was growing up, my family vacationed in Gulf Shores, Alabama every September. One year, my dad took my brother and I on an oceanside stroll after dinner. Mom stayed back in the condo to relax. We were probably 7 and 8 years old. As we were walking along, I remember the sun being almost completely set, my brother scampering around, his skinny limbs flailing as he ran up and down the ridge of sand on the shore where the tide had come in the night before. I remember talking loudly to my dad, asking lots of questions and hamming it up like I usually did, when my brother started to run in the opposite direction. I didn’t think anything of it, because he was kind of running erratically to begin with. But moments later, the tide came crashing in, right over my 6’4 dad’s head and my scrawny 3rd-grade body.

I reached out to my dad as the water poured hard and heavy over our heads. He grabbed my wrist tightly and I remember looking down and seeing my heels digging into the sand, my lightweight frame being beckoned right into the ocean. It seems like the water poured on our heads for the longest time, but realistically, it had to have been less than a minute. My dad let go of my wrist when the water receded and we both looked back at my brother, dry as can be, running back toward us.

My brother saw a wave coming in bigger than he’d ever seen before and he took cover. My Dad and I were too busy talking to notice the wave. And we got clobbered. It very well could have pulled us right under.

This memory resurfaced this morning as I learned about the unexpected passing of a dear friend’s mother. I’ve been thinking about the loss of my friend Christie a lot lately as well. So this story about the late-night walk on the beach with my dad and brother has taken on some new meaning for me.

I think tragedy is like the tide in the ocean. Sometimes we see it coming and we can prepare ourselves. The tide comes in every single day. We know this as a meteorological fact. But most of the time, tragedy arrives abruptly and rudely. It interrupts our peaceful stroll through life. It blindsides us, and pours heavy and hard over our heads. We can’t see clearly, only through blurry strands of raging water. We dig our heels in, determined to get through it. But we still wonder if there’s a chance we might not make it, while the sand slides away beneath our feet.

And when the ocean recedes, when things quiet down, and we realize we’ve made it to through, we still can’t forget what it felt like to be in the middle of the wave, hanging on for dear life. I sometimes wonder what part of tragedy has the worst effect on a person: the event itself or the subsequent grief journey.

So when I look back on the tragedy of losing my dear friend, when I think about the sudden loss of my friend’s mother this morning, when I think about the tide nearly taking my Dad and I out that day in 1993, I think about what made it possible for me to survive.

With gallons of ocean water pouring hard over our heads, my dad reached out through the angry waters and gripped my wrist with a determination and strength that I knew would sustain me until the wave passed. Even though I looked down and saw my heels slipping away beneath me, I knew no matter what, my Dad wasn’t letting me go.

When tragedy comes (and it always will, just like the ocean tide) I hope and pray that we all have an anchor that won’t let us go. I pray that God shows up in the people that surround you with love and food and strength and prayers and loved ones who grip your wrist in a way that helps you believe you’re going to make it, no matter how hard you’re sucked under. Because if you’re going, they’re going. Into the darkest places and back out to the light again.

Why I Don’t Blog Much Anymore + Thoughts on Burnout

d47dd96d43a6a287e15247bd624a6b4bI know. The irony isn’t lost on me, friends. I’m blogging about why I don’t blog anymore.

But here’s why: I have noticed something in the last several months. There are a lot of voices on the internet. (What?! Shocker. I know. It’s news to all of you.)

Sometimes, an idea for a blog post crosses my mind. As I stew on it for a few days, it begins to dawn on me that what I have to say isn’t always necessary. In fact, most of the time–it’s not. It might stir the pot. It might make me feel better. But most of the time, it doesn’t change much.

In my past, I blogged about things quickly and without much thought. When I slowed the process down, I had this shift in thinking. With a chorus of voices talking about everything from the dress Katie Holmes wore on the subway yesterday to the conflict in Syria, I just can’t help but ask myself–is my voice really needed? Would it even make an impact? How wise is this 30-year-old compared to that cranky Star Tribune concert reviewer or Nicholas Kristof at The New York Times? I don’t know.

Blogging, for me, has always been a way to exercise my writing ability, regain inspiration for writing projects, and work things out verbally. However. It’s tiring to write quality posts. I mean, it’s easy to shoot off a quippy, snappy little piece about cosmetics I like, or a new album I’m listening to. But it isn’t easy to write about things that matter and do it well. So. Thus the silence in this place for the past several months.

No energy to do things you love (see: Writing for pleasure), is also a telltale sign of something terrible. It’s called burnout. And it’s where I have lived for the past year, really.

I’ve been here before, but only visited. This is the first time in my career life where I’ve really pounded in the tentpoles and set up camp. Burnout. What happens when you burn out? Well, here’s what I’ve learned.

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When someone goes out of their way to be nice to you, your first reaction is to be annoyed. What kind of jerk gets annoyed when someone is nice to them?! Someone who literally has left so little margin for interaction with other humans in their life, that they are only concerned with said nice person potentially slowing down their productivity. Really, they’ve forced the burned out shell-of-a-human out of their dark place and it’s uncomfortable for them. So they get annoyed. “Don’t you dare make small talk with me, person-at-the-Wendy’s-drive-through-window. I. Will. Cut. You.” Sound familiar? Come on. You know you’ve been there. Just me? Ok. I’m terrible.

There’s no time for anything that brings them life. What brings me life? Music. Live shows. Cooking and baking. Art and design. History. Reading books by smart writers. Writing for pleasure. Quality time with people I love. Drinking wine or Manhattans when they’re not being downed to forget about a hard day. When there’s only room in your schedule for waking up, sometimes showering, accomplishing tasks, replying to emails, buying meals because there’s no time to cook, then going to sleep and doing it all over again–Welcome to Burnout.

There’s no capacity to care. In one sense, living in burnout requires that you care A LOT about some things. But I think it often means there’s no emotional, spiritual, or physical energy left over to care about some things that SHOULD matter. Prioritizing becomes impossible because every single thing is at the top of your list in Burnout. And you can’t really address any of it at your full potential, when you’re living in that state of chaos.

You isolate. No time for developing relationships. No time for thoughtfully interacting with whatever humans God places in your path each day. It’s all about you, your checklist, and the people and things that you’re allowing to dictate it. Selfishness and anxiety reign.

Your faith suffers. Faith is a relationship with God. And if there’s no time for developing relationships or even investing in the lives of strangers, there’s certainly not much time for God. Aside from a frantic prayer here and there, good luck keeping that connection alive. I can vouch for how incredibly hard it can be in this place, to sense that God is here and to interact with him.

You do nothing well. You might still be fooling everyone around you that you’re fully capable. But when you slow it all down, you’ll see–you’ve barely been scraping the surface of your potential. You’ve been giving everything 5% when you could give two or three things 25% and still have energy left over for personal fulfillment. Can you imagine what an amazing life that would be? I dream about it like I dream about what heaven will be like one day. MARGIN. What a joy that would be.

So. That’s Burnout. I’ve been a real peach to be around, lately, as you can imagine. 😉

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A dear mentor and friend said this to me recently: “I don’t think God intended for us to live our lives exhausted and dried up of passion, inspiration and joy.”

Soon after, other wise people started saying similar things in my direction:

In the words of G. Love + Special Sauce, “This Ain’t Livin.”

In the words of Iain Thomas, “And every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, “This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!” And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, “No. This is what’s important.”

In the words of Ariana Huffington, “And whenever I’d complain or was upset about something in my own life, my mother had the same advice: “Darling, just change the channel. You are in control of the clicker. Don’t replay the bad, scary movie.”

In the words of Andy Warhol, “Sometimes people let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say “so what.” That’s one of my favorite things to say.”

In the words of Anne Lamott, “You are not your bank account, or your ambitiousness. You’re not the cold clay lump with a big belly you leave behind when you die. You’re not your collection of walking personality disorders. You are spirit, you are love. ”

In the words of the Psalmist, “Seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:14)

It’s because of Burnout that I’m responding to a deep urging, that I believe is from God, and making some big changes in my life. (More on that, soon.)

I plan to force margin back in. To get to know what grace and peace and creative inspiration feel like again. To feel joy. To reacquaint myself with wonder. To grab God’s hand again. And to REALLY LIVE. Whatever it takes.

Morning Glory

Morning Glory is the title of the mix CD I created for myself years ago that I played most mornings on my way to work. Its kind of legendary in my musical memory (you know, the soundtrack of my life) because it stuck around in my rotation for so long. Since streaming came around, I spend far less time camped out on one mix of songs. (Personally, I think that’s kind of sad but also great in many ways. But that’s another blog post altogether.)

I love to share music. Love, love, love it. If I share a song with you and you actually LISTEN to it, you’ll be my favorite person forever. If I had to recreate my Morning Glory mix today, here’s what I’d include: (And thanks to streaming, this will probably change by next week.)

DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE: You Are a Tourist

There’s always been something about the lead-in for this song that for me, makes it ideal for the opening of a playlist and also–the opening of your DAY. 🙂

BECK: Dreams

Beck found his Odelay keyboard patches. And I am rejoicing.

BEST COAST: Feeling OK

This is the most produced Best Coast has sounded since their start. And I have to say–I like it. I love Bethany’s voice. It’s like a polished Courtney Love sound. This song is bright, bright, bright. Good stuff for mornings.

SHE & HIM: In the Sun

Something about Best Coast’s West Coast retro sound always points me to She & Him next. This song has been in the Morning Glory rotation since 2010 and only rarely falls out for a short period of time. ESPECIALLY in the Summer. I mean come on. In the SUN. Yeah. Perfect.

OWL CITY + HANSON: Unbelievable

People love to call Owl City and Hanson guilty pleasures. I’m just gonna fly my flag high and call this a straight up JAM of mine. You were going to start your workday with a Buzzfeed list about the 90s anyway, right? Just get it done before you even sit down at your desk.

BETTY WHO: Heartbreak Dream

If you don’t already know about Betty Who, please. Stop what you’re doing. Listen to Take Me When You Go. All of it. Congratulations, you’re addicted. Betty Who has had at least four tracks in my daily rotation for nearly two years. She’s the bestest.

MAJOR LAZER, DJ SNAKE + MO: Lean On

I’m convinced there’s something psychological that they’ve capitalized on that makes this song as addictive as sugar. There’s something about that lyric: Blow a kiss/fire a gun. I love. Can’t get enough.

ASTR: Hold On We’re Going Home (Drake cover)

https://youtu.be/4PtgaTnYxRU

Because you know you need to wind the energy back down before focusing in at work. And it’s best to start your day with a groove that forces you to move. This’ll be on repeat at the end of the day, too. Guaranteed.

But Why?

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1995. Jars of Clay released their classic self-titled album. I was still a child, just discovering Christian music. Like most people in America, Christian or non, I bought this CD because of their crossover hit, “Flood”. And until 2000, “Flood” was the primary song I listened to on the album.

2000. I was 16 and just starting to understand what it means to follow Jesus. I heard the Gospel explained in applicable language for the first time in my life and my relationship with God grew into something new and different. As I immersed myself in Christian culture and media, I revisited my old Jars of Clay CD. Suddenly, “Like a Child” became my go-to track.

I liked it for a few reasons:

  1. Understanding that I could do anything through Jesus, if I just believed, was a new concept for me. And it was exciting. Like I discovered a superpower I never knew I had.
  2. I defined childlike faith as sold-out, no-questions-asked, all-on-board, 150% IN-IT-TO-WIN-IT. Anything less than that level of intensity seemed disrespectful to God, in my opinion.
  3. Let’s be honest–it has a repetitive, catchy melody. Real catchy.

I held onto that definition of childlike faith for a long time. At 30, I’m just beginning to realize that it wasn’t very accurate. And it may have held me back in my spiritual development over the last 15 years of my life with Jesus.

Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 18:2-4

If you know a pre-schooler, think about them for a minute. When you teach them about how something works or the way something is, how do they typically respond?

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They. Ask. Questions.

Lots of them. They rarely take anything at face value. They want to know the ins-and-outs. How it came to be that way. Why it’s that way now. Who made it that way. What was that person thinking? What’s their favorite color? What’s their middle name? And it goes on.

As a parent—sure, it might get annoying–but aren’t you encouraged when your child insists on understanding all the details of a topic? You know they’re growing. You know they’re becoming integrated with life on earth. Their life experiences are becoming deepened. They’re becoming more fully human.

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I have a friend whose pre-schooler has yet to enter the, “But why?” stage of development. She’s expressed a little bit of worry about the fact that he takes everything as 100% truth and never questions anything. Everything is a fact and he’s comfortable with that. He’s all about his momma’s word–sold-out, all-in, no-questions-asked. In fact, he has a frequent pattern of speaking that goes like this:

G: “So we are going to the zoo today.”

Mom: “Yes, we are.”

G: “The zoo is in Roseville.”

Mom “Yes, it is.”

G: “There are gorillas at the zoo.”

Mom: “Yes………there are.”

And it continues. An adorable and incredibly articulate onslaught of statements about things he knows to be factual.

While I’m confident her little boy will get there in his own time (and she’ll probably regret ever wanting him to get there, at times) I have to believe that everyone’s faith development must work in a similar way. I don’t think I could’ve started asking the really hard questions at 21 or even 25. Because I’m not sure I could’ve held onto faith and questioned it simultaneously at those stages in my faith. But today, my relationship with God is continually deepened by walking deeper into this dark, cavernous tunnel with God’s hand on the small of my back, guiding me gradually to the other side, excitedly and proudly pointing me toward new discoveries, and free places to unashamedly wrestle and doubt.

It took me 15 years to start asking questions. I mean, the really hard, stretching, scary questions. Questions that force you to figure out what and why you really believe. Taking the example of a curious child and reforming my definition of childlike faith is deepening my relationship with God. Children are brave–they ask unlimited questions and don’t worry about coming off like they don’t trust your word. They just want to really understand.

Maybe growing more spiritually mature looks less like rising up and more like shrinking down to the most childlike posture, where we’re unafraid to dig deep and break things down. I think faith like a child is really about hearing our Father speak truth, accepting it as truth, latching onto it, but then looking him in the eyes and asking, “But why?”

Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. 1 Peter 2:2

Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen. 2 Peter 3:18