That Mackelmore + Ryan Lewis Performance.

 

 

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*Disclaimer: Sorry for the snark. I think.

Yesterday, I read that Christian Grammy-winner Mandisa decided to stay home from the Grammy awards ceremony, last weekend. She accepted her award in silence, in sweatpants, from behind her computer screen. (*round of applause*) I also read that another Christian Grammy-winner, Natalie Grant, dramatically walked out of the ceremony during Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis’ “Same Love” performance where 34 straight and gay weddings were performed, officiated by Queen Latifah and accented by a westernwear-clad Madonna high-fiving everyone. (*round of applause for Natalie*) A couple of days ago, Kirk Cameron posted on his Facebook page, “How did you like the Grammys’ all-out assault on the traditional family?” He then proceeded to promote his current film project called Mercy Rule, where he and his wife play husband and wife (so awesome, huh?!) and the kids in the movie play baseball and it’s always Summertime. I proceeded to unfollow his page. That kind of divisiveness and self-promotion from those who oppose homosexuality as well as those who support it irritates me to death. I don’t want any part of those types of exchanges.

Homosexuality is such a polarizing topic in Christian circles. It’s really not a polarizing topic in mainstream culture, though. So bear with me while I try to sort through some of my thoughts on this stuff, while carefully wading through the fear of everyone ripping me to shreds for talking about it at all.

If Christians could, I wonder if there would be some type of mass straight (“traditional?”) wedding ceremony that could be televised, maybe at the opening of the Olympic Games, officiated by Kirk Cameron (who gives everyone a copy of the Fireproof DVD and couples’ devotional journal as a wedding gift), with a reception led by Tobymac, with a special message from Joel Osteen and his wife. The ceremony would be held out of spite and pride and no one but Christians would watch. And Christians would be pleased with the fact that only Christians were watching. Because they’re comfortable in their Family Christian Stores/Christian Radio/Family-Friendly Conference filled life. Separate from society. On the high road. Staring up and ahead. (Ok. I’m done being snarky…I think.)

Since college I’ve had a deep, deep struggle with the issue of homosexuality as it relates to Christianity and how we a) present the truths, wisdom and promises of God, b) don’t act like aliens in popular culture and c) stop being divisive when we talk about polarizing issues. It’s HARD. I’ve been blessed to know some incredible gay people in my life. And I prayed about my friendships with them. In the end, my only instinct was to love them however possible and to make sure they felt loved by God. Whatever it took, I wanted to make it clear to them that they are LOVED by their Creator. I know what the Bible says about homosexuality. Trust me. Not only have I studied  it at length on my own, but it’s been shoved down my throat by Christians I’ve met who want to be SURE I’ll let the gays in my life know that their behavior is sinful. (I also know what the Bible says about a lot of other sinful behaviors, too.) 

When I started to hear how Christians responded to this performance at the Grammys, my heart hurt. How is anyone EVER going to hear about Jesus if we wall ourselves off because we disagree? What person in their right mind is going to see Jesus in a Christian person who publicly condemns people’s personhood? Now I know some Christians will jump on me here and say that homosexuality is not someone’s personhood, but I’m going to go ahead and disagree with you. Of every gay person I’ve ever known, it IS. It’s who they’ve always been. It’s much more than a sexual preference. It’s part of their personality and they can’t explain it. It’s been apparent since childhood. I can’t make sense of that, so I just don’t think it’s my place to point at them and tell them God doesn’t love them or that they’re somehow less-than as a person. I mean, really.

Yesterday, I read a comment on an article that stated, “Is it bad if I can’t help but think Jesus would’ve gone backstage with everyone after the performance and just hung out?” No. I don’t think that’s bad. It’s probably true. Even if he disagrees with someone’s behavior, he still treats them with love. Sometimes the truth hurts, but it’s ALWAYS delivered by God in LOVE.  Think about how Jesus treated the woman at the well. Completely outcast by society. She was a slutty, slutty prostitute who lied directly to her God’s face. First, he called her out on her behavior. But then, he blessed her and he INSISTED on loving her. INSISTED. Until she knew she was loved. Until she felt it deep down in her soul.

I don’t know how Christians can approach this topic differently. I’m not offering any solutions here. (sorry) I’m not even really talking about rights of gay people, or marriage equality, just the way we interact with gay people. Maybe it’s that we talk with them instead of about them? Some are doing this. But they’re the minority. (In my perception)

There seems to be a separatist mentality between Christians and the gay community. Of course, much of the gay community has been scarred by things Christians have said and done. So it’s not like many gay people event WANT our acceptance or approval. I know a gay man personally who was shunned from his church as a teenager, when he finally admitted what everyone already knew- he was gay. Church leaders asked him to sit in his family’s vehicle during church services while his parents were allowed to stay. UNBELIEVABLE, you guys. ABSOLUTELY ABHORRENT. While at the same time, there was a gay couple in my small, Southern, Lutheran church, growing up. I always knew they were together. I’d see them go up to the altar to take communion and one would place his hand on the other’s back. I remember feeling funny about it, like I didn’t understand it, but I never felt hatred or anything negative toward them. They just WERE. And I just WAS. Kneeling next to them and taking communion. I didn’t high-five them or organize a parade in their honor. We were just friendly and loving and exchanged smiles and existed together.

The way this has gone so far just isn’t ok. Have we forgotten that we’re all brothers and sisters? We all come from the same place…I think it’s absolutely possible for us to LOVE each other while peacefully saying, “I love you friend, even though I don’t totally agree with how you’re living your life. I can’t make sense of it, but I hope you understand I’m just trying to do my best to understand God’s wisdom and truths. You know?” And when we speak in love like that, my hope is that a homosexual person can respond by loving us back, “I totally get it. I am who I am in the same way you are who you are. I can’t make sense of why you’re not gay and I am. But in the same way that my homosexual personhood cuts to the core of me, I understand that your Christian faith cuts to the core of who you are. And I think we can love and respect each other, while sitting in disagreement about certain things.” Say there was a woman who repeatedly got abortions. She wasn’t apologetic about it, just considered it part of her life. Would she be treated the same way that a Christian today would treat an unapologetic homosexual? I have to think no–she’d get a lot more grace and mercy and pursuance. Why is that?

One of the most freeing experiences I’ve had in my Christian experience was to become friends with a gay person, and have them treat ME with love and respect because that’s what I gave him. He didn’t look down on me for being a Christian. He knew what I believe about homosexuality and he still gave me a chance. And that felt so amazing.

Infiltrating culture (which includes this branch of popular culture that aggressively supports homosexuality and demeans Christians who disagree with it publicly) is our responsibility. Bubbling ourselves off is a sad, sad thing. Maybe if there were more unity and love present in this conversation, there wouldn’t be a desire for things like the Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis performance to take place, where the issue feels shoved down our throats. If it just exists, and if Christians just exist, IN LOVE, knowing and respecting each other’s differences…who knows what could happen. Your church doesn’t have to start flying rainbow flags outside their doors, and you don’t have to attend next Summer’s gay pride parade. But you can be authentic, genuine, loving and welcoming. Not separatist or divisive. LOVING.

I so badly want to change the framework around this. To make it possible to live somewhere in the middle. Rather than violently clinging to one side or the other, living in LOVE. Without having to condemn, take a side, be separatist, judge or scream scripture in people’s faces. To welcome everyone in and let God do the rest. Is it possible? I hope so.

Really, Civil Wars?

Really, Civil Wars?

This is getting kind of ridiculous. I feel like I’m involved in a divorce. We have to follow them separately? Does this mean they’re officially broken up? John Paul accepted the Grammy for “From this Valley” without mentioning Joy once, last weekend, yet they both were at the ceremony. I’m a little exhausted.

Civil Wars- you’re good. But I’m over it.

One Year.

Today, it’s been a year. A year since my loveliest pal Allie called me around 10 am and gave me the awful news. There isn’t much I can say here that hasn’t already been said. So I thought sharing this article that I wrote last fall for modernloss.org would be best. Best for my mental and emotional health, and the best way for me personally to mark this day. I’m not sure how this 29th of January, 2014 will go. I know I’ll be thinking about my dear friend a little more than normal. And thanking God for the little blessings that came out of 2013, even in the dark transition of getting used to the silence and empty space she left behind. I’m really still just getting used to it.

I still miss her all the time. I’m told I always will. Death is a weird part of life, I’m learning.

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I leaned over her bed and hugged her goodbye. I’d never let her see me cry. But that night, with her eyes closed, deep in slumber, my tears fell on her face as I leaned in for one last hug. I said goodbye to Christie, my dear friend of 13 years, at age 27, after a two-year battle with brain cancer. The next morning, Christie died.

When the unthinkable happened, I leaned into my faith. I devoured all the scripture and teachings I could find about what happens when we die. The Bible gives a limited view of Heaven and it leans heavily on metaphor to describe it. I’m a visual person and there’s nothing I want more than to be able to picture where Christie is. I want specifics: What does it look like? Who else is there? What’s she doing? The Bible promises that nothing—not even death—can separate us from the love of Christ. (Romans 8:38) So I know she’s deeply loved where she is. But the Bible doesn’t give many specifics about what it’s really like in Heaven. At least not in a way that a human being can make much sense of.

Over time, we’ve created a lot of cartoons in our minds to help us imagine a peaceful place for our loved ones to spend eternity. Rolling grassy hills, rainbows, fluffy clouds to sleep on, harps to play and yellow-brick roads to frolic down. When Christie died, some well-meaning people would say things like, “She’s an angel watching over us, now. God needed another angel in his army. She got her wings, today.” That made me so angry because I knew none of it was true. There’s nothing in the Bible to back any of that up.

All I know is this: Christie’s spirit is in Heaven with Jesus—whatever that looks like–and she will remain there with him until he returns to Earth to raise the dead and rebuild creation. She’s surrounded by love and joy, with pain and cancer far away. I believe all of this to be true, because it can be Biblically backed up. But as someone who studies language and communication, I’m working on letting go of the desire to put rich, descriptive words to what happened to Christie when she died. For this- there are none. For me, that has made keeping faith while walking through grief, incredibly difficult.

When our loved ones die, we’re supposed to rejoice in their passing. We’re supposed to focus on the hope. Remind ourselves that they’re in a better place and that we’ll see them again, someday. Really believe it.

But let me be honest with you. That’s no easy thing.

I know the hope of eternal life in my head. I believe it in my heart. But there have been many days since Christie died that my heart is so overcome by missing her, the sting of not being able to talk to her, the pain of remembering the best times as we came of-age together—that there’s no room in my heart for the hope. Just the pain. That’s a dark place to be. It makes me feel far from God, it makes me doubt, and sometimes I even feel guilty for forgetting to be happy for Christie.

When I can’t help but ask questions that will continue to go unanswered as long as I’m alive, when I’m haunted by memories of seeing her open casket, when I forget that she’s in Heaven and it is all good and well with her soul, when lots of the things I always knew to be true about God and Christianity get all mucked up and confused–I’m learning to let myself sit in the uncomfortable places and invite God into them. I’m relying on God to ease the pain that singes my chest day after day. And when I invite Him in–He always shows up.

When Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, the shortest verse in the Bible was written, “Jesus wept”. He cried over the death of his friend. Knowing this, I’m set free to weep over Christie for as long as I need to. Even if I never stop. And I’ll cling to the hope that Christie will one day be raised from the dead, just as Lazarus was. And I will see her again.

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“I’m gonna go spend like 4 minutes asking Jesus about this…”

We were working on naming a retreat for the middle schoolers at my church, last week. We’re behind schedule (because the pace at EBC is crazy right now…so many great things happening at once!) and needed to land on a title everyone liked pretty quickly so that branding could commence, marketing copy could be written, webpages and registration could be built, and promotions could take place. I had come up with 10 or 15 name options, and the middle school pastor was stewing over two of them. She’s relatively new on staff and said to me, “I’m so used to taking time to pray about this stuff. Then the Lord would just give me the name for a message series or a retreat and I’d run with it.” I was taken aback…and convicted…by what she said. She walked away saying, “I’m gonna go spend like 4 minutes asking Jesus about this.”

When I was new on staff, I attended the 2012 Global Leadership Summit where we received this:

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On my first full work week, I pinned this to the board behind my computer monitor. I got to work a little bit early most days so I could pray this prayer. I would even jump on the YouVersion app to see what God had to say to me, that morning before I dove into my projects. I remember working on a few of my first writing projects, where I’d stare at a blank screen and in my mind, I’d be praying to God to give me inspiration, to give me words that would resonate with people inside and outside the church, to communicate whatever message HE wanted. You guys, I was SO grateful to finally be working in ministry. I can’t even explain it. I’m STILL so grateful. But I’ve been reminded of how God was such an integral part of my job at the start. And in the fast pace, the urgency, I’ve stopped inviting Him in. Don’t get me wrong…I pray for patience. I pray for stamina. I pray for peace and clarity of mind. But then I run out of quarters. And the vending machine breaks down. And I kick the side until I tire out.

The prayer card is now in my file drawer. I don’t even remember when I put it in there. Or why. Probably no conscious reason at all. But I can tell you this. I am grateful for that interaction, last week. I needed it. It’s so obvious that when you work for a church, you need to invite God into it. Right?! I mean, really. Here’s the deal: We’re humans working for a supernatural cause. We’re going to muck it up and make it a lot tougher than it needs to be. Because that’s our nature. I’m grateful for the grace and forgiveness God gives in times like these. And for the divine intervention found in interaction with other believers.

Next time I’m staring at a blank screen, instead of only considering what words will specifically grab the people who have to approve the copy in order to move the project along quickly, I’m going to pray it out. Back to how I started. Even when we’re two weeks behind and the clock is ticking. It’s worth it. It’s absolutely imperative.

He has me here because He has something to give through me. Not so that I can shine based on merits of my skills. He gave me those skills, for pete’s sake. It’d be an abuse of those gifts to use them without Him, spinning my wheels in the mud, exhausting myself, when he’s standing there watching, twirling the keys to the tow truck on his index finger, eyes closed, head shaking side to side, smirking at my silliness.

These words won’t be my own. They’ll be His, through me.

Whatever it takes. No excuses.

My Love/Hate Relationship with Christian Music

I didn’t grow up listening to Christian music. My dad is a rocker and I grew up listening to classic rock, alternative and pop–while country and folk music were banned. (Don’t worry, I discovered my country/folk niche later on in life.) When my Dad discovered Christian music when I was in late elementary school, he bought me two cassettes- Point of Grace, “The Great Divide,” and DC Talk’s Jesus Freak (obviously).  I liked it, and continued my collection later in junior high with Jars of Clay and Switchfoot, because they were crossover artists and I lived for alternative music in the 90s. I’m grateful for the breadth of knowledge about music history that I gained growing up with a musically-proficient parent. But I’ll be the first to admit, it made me a bit of a music snob. I’m selective about what I listen to, and when I like an artist, I become an ardent supporter. I’m basically a one-woman social media street team. I take it seriously.

So when I turn on Christian radio in 2014 and hear, “In the Light,” by DC Talk, which came out in 1995, I cringe. My theory on this is that Christian radio is so afraid of, “secular,” songs that they have to fill time with songs that are 2o years old, since they’re, “safe for the whole family.” I don’t want to promote these artists all over social media. I actually often feel a little bit embarrassed about the music they’re making. I just can’t get on board. Even with much of the new stuff. I just don’t connect with it. It doesn’t make me feel. It doesn’t change how I feel about God. It doesn’t feel authentic. It feels commercialized, except for a solely Christian audience. It doesn’t make me want to worship. It makes me want to change the station.

I once heard it said that Christian music was never intended to be for Christians. But today, that’s the only people it’s for.

From years of being involved in Young Life, then attending Bethel University, and now working for a church, despite my love/hate relationship with it, I’ve acquired a decent library of Christian music. Obviously, I don’t hate all Christian music, otherwise I wouldn’t own any. Over the last several years, even while working for Eagle Brook, I haven’t listened to much Christian music. KTIS is a preset in my car, but 99% of the time I skate past it on my way to 89.3 The Current or let’s be real- KDWB because it’s the McDonalds of radio stations. I spend a lot of time alone in my car. I live far away from mostly everything right now, so music is my constant companion. Car singing, my therapy.

On a particularly drawn-out trip around the Twin Cities metro one evening last week, I was listening to a playlist on shuffle. That night, my heart hurt. A week from today is the one-year anniversary of Christie’s passing. And I’ve been feeling the grief in a new way over the last month or so. There have been several nights that are dark, cold, and I can’t shake a heavy feeling from my chest. I want to cry, but why? I just feel so sad. So sad. And it’s all I can think about. As this playlist shuffled, David Crowder’s song, “Shadows,” came on. My hand immediately reached for my iPhone to switch the song. It’s my gut reaction to a Christian song I’ve heard 1,000 times. But I felt too bummed out and worn out to go through with it. I didn’t have the resolve to care. So I let it play. And suddenly, a song I’ve heard 1,000 times took on new meaning. And I hit repeat. 1,000 times.

The song talked about the waves of light and shadows we experience in life. Oh the joy, and oh the sorrow. OH the sorrow. I know sorrow, now. I don’t think I did before last year. I knew deep sadness. But sorrow is different. Yet will he bring, dark from light, Yet will he bring, day from night. When darkness falls on us, we will not fear, we will remember, when all seems lost, when we’re thrown and we’re tossed, we’ll remember the cost, we’re resting in the shadow of the cross. I backtracked and played those lines over and over. I needed a reminder that this feeling I was feeling is just a shadow. It’s not the end. It’s not forever. It will lift and I’ll stand directly, “In the Light,” like DC Talk. (Hah…or maybe not exactly like DC Talk, but I had to tie it back in. :))

This is why I love Christian music. And at the same time, I hate it. It feels exclusive, much of it juvenile, commercialized, uninteresting, an abuse of an art form. But then David Crowder comes through my speakers reminding me that there’s hope. And I can’t be mad at him. So even when I think the songs are lame, I have to keep giving them a chance to speak to me. Because God uses some of them to talk to me. And I don’t want to deafen my ear to that.

I’ve started to pick out a few “Christian” artists that I respect for their art–like Audrey Assad and John Mark McMillan. Maybe you have some others you’d like to share? Please do in the comments!

To wrap up, here’s a great new song from John Mark McMillan that I heard for the first time, today. Beautiful, authentic, and I felt it in my heart. (Despite all the crazy dancing and overreactive facial expressions happening behind him…see, I can’t let the hate go. Love/hate. :))

My (Late) Opinions on Golden Globes Fashion

You are probably well aware by now that this blog is sometimes about really serious stuff. And sometimes–really, really not.

As I watched the Golden Globes last week, I took little notes in my iPhone about whose fashion made me gasp. Why? Because I want to call attention to it. Why? Because that’s the kind of stuff I think about when I’m lying on the couch in a Sunday night, wintertime, space-heater-induced stupor.

Why am I apologizing? Here goes. You’re gonna read it and you’re gonna like it:

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Jared Leto

Alright. To begin, this isn’t really a fashion comment. Aside from the fact that Jared Leto will FOREVER be Jordan Catalano and don’t you dare try to tell me otherwise, I was really having a 90’s moment watching him accept his award. So, I’ve never seen Dallas Buyer’s Club, so I didn’t know his character’s name was Rayon. So when he thanked, “The Rayons of the world…” I nearly SHOT off the couch. I’m pretty sure I yelled, “WHAT?!” and tears welled up in my eyes. (I am such a fangirl, it’s sad really.) It was truly reminiscent of the moment NSYNC reunited at the VMAs, last year. Goosebumps appeared all over my body BECAUSE, my dear sweet friends, I THOUGHT he was thanking Rayanne Graff!!!

 

 

 

 

Rayanne from My So Called Life! She was a misfit and I thought he drew inspiration from her. Soon, I put it together about his movie character’s name and calmed the heck down. But whoa. In my mind, I’m going to pretend he thanked Rayanne and that My So Called Life really happened and it’s STILL happening somewhere in some other dimension and one day I’ll get to hang out with Jordan Catalano in a stairwell. (They’re at a Buffalo Tom concert in this video in some place where you can stand around and also play pool. Oh and wear lots of baggy flannel. *Sigh* I miss the 90s.)

BACK TO THE GOLDEN GLOBES!

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Zooey Deschanel

Zooey gets two photos. One for the full ensemb. I love the classic beaded detail of her dress and the TULLE. Could we all start wearing tulle ballerina skirts everyday? I would seriously love it. I see them online all the time paired with a casual t-shirt and it looks awesome. But I’m pretty sure if I wore that to Target I’d get some funny looks.

Zooey’s makeup and jewels. I happen to remember her jewels are from Neil Lane…lucky Zooey. I love the lashes and the perfect red lip, not too overpowering. If it were bolder (a’la Katy Perry) it would look like she were going to a 1950’s costume party. Smart, smart choice. You know these choices are deliberate. It’s really crazy to think about! Her dress reminds me of some of the things Gwen Stefani used to wear when she first started working with John Galliano.

Basically, I’d wear this. Tomorrow.

 

 

 

f3e85442b3bd0c0ad163ef763aa19f67Olivia Wilde  

Her red to blonde ombre is working. Well. I’ve also always been a huge fan of emerald green on ANYONE, but especially with red or auburn hair. It’s just one of my favorite combinations. I had an emerald green Barbie dress that ALWAYS ended up on my vintage Midge. Always.

This is also a good time for me to tell you that I recently watched the indie movie she made last year with Jake Johnson (from New Girl), Drinking Buddies. It’s on Netflix. Even though there’s some language, some weird stuff, and Jake Johnson NEVER has shoes on (my GOSH what is it with lazy hipster boys and not wearing shoes in public?!), it was endearing. There was a lot that I liked about it. Her character frustrated me because I know people like her. I’m not going to give much away but if you’re up for it–I think it’s worth watching. The end.

Fun fact, she’s marrying (and carrying the baby of) Jason Sudeikis. SNL. Applebee’s voiceover guy. ICYMI.

 

 

 

b74adcb47d577a78c4dde4fada98864eLeonardo DiCaprio

Classic. Classy, classy. Eloquent. Leo4evr.

That is all.

 

 

 

 

 

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Has Julia Roberts always had brown/amber/honey colored irises? Or has she been wearing colored contacts lately? Fake eyelashes make the world a better place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here ends my Golden Globes breakdown. Thank you for listening. (You better still be listening…)

 

Foster the People : Supermodel

Big news!

Foster the People has announced a new album coming out in March. There was a long, long, long, long Winter that I literally have only one memory of–driving out of Minneapolis at night playing Foster the People’s first album on constant rotation. It was cold. It was dark. And Foster the People was always on.

I’m pretty pumped about this new material. This little taste is enough for me to know I’m definitely going to buy it, and I’m probably going to like it. All Winter long.