Those who Journey with me: Voices in my Head Pt 2

Yesterday I wrote about finding the courage to tell my story, and why telling our stories matters.  I’ve been writing about the three boxes: order>disorder>reorder.  Until now, my journey through the box of disorder has been like my dirty little secret.  I don’t often talk about publicly about this because it makes people uncomfortable, or it looks bad, or it’s not what’s expected from someone in my position. Honestly, much of the pressure to not talk is internal. I struggle with a high level fear of rejection, for obvious reasons, but as I said, that’s not the narrative I’m accepting anymore.

Church is a funny sort of creature, both the theological construct and the various local tribes. In order to belong, we have to believe and practice certain things. Over time these things become sacred, unquestionable. They are the way things are, the markers which come to identify who is in the tribe, and who is not in the tribe.  When we start to question these markers, the push-back can be both cruel and severe. Or sometimes it’s more subtle, a quiet and gentle withdrawal, a dismissal delivered congenially behind closed doors. Whatever the method, it hurts, deeply. I’ve seen it happen in multiple ways in my own life and watched it happen publicly and terribly to others.

Which is why I kept my own counsel, mostly.  Fortunately, I’m a reader, so I relied on what came most naturally to me to find support. I went to books. Books turned to podcasts. I found a few lovely, courageous people who were also deconstructing, who could sit with the questions I asked, and who honored me by sharing their own. I may most often wish to be a hermit, but this process of deconstruction is nearly unbearable without some form of community. 

Today I want to share a few voices that have meant the most to me over these last few years. Perhaps you need them too, or maybe you will one day.  

7: an Experimental Mutiny against Excess by Jen Hatmaker and Beauty will Save the world by Brian Zahnd.  I credit these two books as the ones that started it all. Or perhaps it’s better to call them the books which finally gave permission for me to explore a different way of faith.  They gave voice to what had already begun to stir in my soul. They are spiritual catalysts.  Brian Zahnd went on to publish Water to Wine last year, a semi-autobiographical account of his own disorder/reorder journey, which I devoured in two days.

Faith Shift by Kathy Escobar.  This is the book which helped me believe I was not crazy.  All the emotional wreckage I was sorting through, I found in this book. I read story after story of those who also survived the journey. I learned how they did, and that no two journeys are exactly the same. Faith became mysterious, organic and impossible to predict. I learned there are paths for those of us who leave The Path too.

Peter Enns, The Sin of Certainty and The Bible Tells Me So.  I read the Bible Tells me so before I read Sin of Certainty, mainly because the second book wasn’t published yet. When I recommend them to others, I advise reading them the other way around though.  The Sin of Certainty is another journey of disorder story, encompassing faith from many aspects and embracing the idea of mystery, questions and the unknowable. The Bible Tells Me So deals specifically with scripture, introducing alternate perceptions and various accepted theological understandings.  For those of us who have learned there is only one way to look at scripture, this is a doorway to a whole new world, inhabited by more than just heretics and fringe lunatics.

Brian McLaren – A New Kind of Christian and A Generous Orthodoxy.  One thing I appreciate about these new-to-me authors and their stories is their overarching willingness to say, this is what I think, but I might be wrong. I’ve never lived in a spiritual space where the possibility of being wrong was tolerable. Being right has always been very, very important. But Brian’s is a voice willing to speculate, to have a conversation. He makes room.  It’s feels not only refreshing and lovely, but welcoming and safe.

Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans and Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey. I could write for days and days the way these two brave, beautiful souls have ministered to me through their words and witness. I desperately needed women of faith who’d been on this journey too. Their pain and their passion mirrored my own; their desperation to know God in a way they hadn’t previously even known was possible, made it possible for me as well. Because they shared their story, I believed I, too, could reconstruct a living faith eventually.

There are others, many others, voices I am just discovering or ones that would take me down rabbit trails to a dozen other titles and voices if I listed even one more. 

I want to finish by listing a few podcasts which have also helped my sanity tremendously.

Rob Bell, the Robcast – Far and away the voice I have relied on most heavily in the podcast world.

The Liturgists – generally topical, this podcast provides the voices of several folks as well as guest speakers.

The Deconstructionists – A great podcast for those who are deconstructing, but who also want to connect and reconstruct in new and exciting ways.

Brian Zahnd – As the voice who started all of this, I seldom miss his weekly sermon. When I need a reminder to inhabit the Kingdom and reject the empire, Brian delivers.

Greg Boyd – Greg is new to my list of voices. I hear his books would probably also make my booklist above, but so far I have only enjoyed his podcast. Challenging, engaging and relevant. He’s currently at the top of my list.

Can I be Honest a moment? Thoughts from a disgruntled procrastinator

Can I be honest a moment? I really hate Georgia summer. I mean L-O-A-T-H-E with every fiber of my being.  I’m trying to convince myself that “at least the mornings are still cool; It’s not so bad.”  But we’re already running the air conditioning every day, and I’m super bummed about it.  If there is a hotter, more humid, more unrelenting place in the world, I never ever ever ever want to go there. Blech.


I started a modified whole 30 eating plan on Monday. It’s mostly ok until the evening rolls around. Then I want to eat all the things including actual non-edible objects.  I’ve eaten nearly a pound of pistachios in three days in an attempt to keep myself from throwing down cheese, or chocolate chips or rice or bread.  On Wednesday, I almost murdered every person I encountered including the people who are the actual lights of my life and my dog.  I’m over that now, but those evening munchies are hanging right on.

I can’t stop watching Gilmore Girls. Call me late to the party again, but I have never watched it before. I started in January (after we entered political bizarro world) and finally, I have made it to season seven.  It’s like I’m cramming for the world’s most caffeinated and cleverly dialogued exam. I’m binge watching six or seven episodes a day. Must. get. to. the. end. so I can live again. Yes, I will totally watch A Year in the Life. NO! No one has spoiled it for me, so keep your opinion to yourself, Missy! (Oh hey, there’s some of the Whole 30 anger).

I am the world’s worst procrastinator. It’s something I struggle with all the time, and while I have made huge strides with it, I still find myself putting off what needs to be done. Then I rush, rush, rush at the end and beat myself up for it. Isn’t that a mean way to be to myself? I’m just sharing this because it’s 6pm Friday night, and I am only now sitting down to write today. All day long, I knew I needed to do this but I didn’t. So here I am. This whole self-awareness thing, and finishing what I start thing, and being creative thing, it’s easier in the morning. Please remind me of that tomorrow.

 Seriously, what is up with Starbucks and unicorns? Why are people acting so shocked and appalled at this drink (which looks like fairy vomit if you ask me.)? I’ll sit down and drink a cup of Starbucks any day, but friends, all their flavored drinks are sugared up garbage. It’s fine if you like it because every person gets to make their own choices about what they put in their body. But let’s all take a deep breath and stop acting like Starbucks has crossed some sort of moral sugar line with their latest drink option.  If you thought it was healthy to begin with, unicorns aren’t the only delusion you may need to be concerned about.

Incidentally, I don’t know if it’s the dreadful advent of summer or the fact that I just watched a Christmas episode of Gilmore Girls–complete with snow–but today I listened to the first Christmas music of 2017. It may be a record. I swear it was only a song or two, but still. It’s April. My anywhere-but-here vibes are spilling over my holiday boundaries. Maybe I’ll just have a little mini-Christmas celebration each month on the 25th.

Just in case you thought I have it all together all the time around here, I thought I’d take a moment to be honest. Some days are good. Some are bad, and some you just lay your cards on the table and air the whole thing out. And now, I have another Gilmore Girl episode calling my name.

Something Fun Sunday: Episode one

I think that success is having fun. – Bruno mars


Last week, I shared about my Sunday struggles
, and my plan to reframe how I feel by adding something fun each week.  I dubbed it “Something Fun Sunday.” This week, I made sure to take notice of books, events, songs, and moments so I could share them today.  I’m pleased to say, it worked! I was definitely more mindful of enjoyable moments. I anticipated their arrival and savored them longer, and then reflected on them more often in further anticipation of writing about it.  These are all keys to happiness. Without further ado, here’s Some fun things for Sunday
I’m an unashamed Marvel movies fan. No, I didn’t grow up reading the comic books, and I don’t know all the lore and back stories. I just know I enjoy a good completely imaginary action flick.  So when Craig showed me the new Thor: Ragarok trailer, I was thrilled! It’s not many movie trailers which make me laugh aloud, but this one does. “I know him! We’re friends from work!” I crack up every time. Watch it here.

Two books added to my enjoyment this week. While I tend more towards literary fiction and non-fiction, some weeks I want cozy chic-lit filled with tears and laughter and a guaranteed happy ending.  I want a great story about relationships and life and the crazy way its beautiful and terrible all at the same time. This week, I found it in Taylor Jenkins Reid’s One True Loves.  I don’t want to give anything away, but, friends, if you need a cozy good book this week, this is it.

On Thursday night, my book group gathered (more fun things!), and we ended up talking about an entirely different book. The Happiness Project is a long-time favorite.  In fact, I’m undertaking a happiness project of my own this year. I reread this book almost annually and was so excited it came up because it’s currently $1.99 on Kindle. I don’t know how much longer this deal will last, so if you decide to read it too, I wouldn’t wait too long to buy it. Incidentally, when I talk about how anticipating, experiencing and remembering an event increases happiness, that’s a concept I learned from Gretchen Rubin.

I’m a bit late to the bandwagon (aren’t I always?) We’ve had family premium on Spotify for about six months now, and the whole experience is wonderful. I’d forgotten how much I like music, and how entwined my mood and music can be. New music at my finger tips and the ability to make playlists for every mood?  YES, PLEASE!! EVERY DAY ALL DAY LONG!  A couple weeks ago I ran across this little gem, and I’ve probably listened to it sixty-eight times since then. So now I share it with you, enjoy!

Why order is necessary: Breaking down the three boxes

I sat down at my keyboard today and wondered, Is it ok to write about writing? Do people want to read that? Which is a silly question because I have five readers, and obviously you are the five I can’t chase away no matter what I write about. We’re stuck together for life, and I’m very ok with it. But then I considered the layers beneath that seemingly innocent duo of questions and peeked at a familiar theme. What is expected of me? Am I upholding those expectations? That’s the voice of codependency and trauma. What are the rules and how do I follow them perfectly? Those questions tell me instead of writing about writing, it’s time to break down some boxes, starting with order.

I learned about the concept of three boxes from Richard Rohr, a formative voice for me over the last several years. He breaks the universal faith journey into three boxes: order > disorder > reorder.

In the interest of brevity–and because you can read more at the linked article–let’s call the first box the box of immaturity. It holds the foundational tenets which we are taught from the moment we draw breath. Whether or not we are talking about church or religion, we begin with certain rules, ways of explaining how the world works. This is a good thing. In fact, it’s a necessary process enabling us to grow in an emotionally stable environment. One of our most basic needs is security. Foundational rules keep us safe and provide order: the stove is hot; the street is not safe; God loves us; the sun will rise every morning.

These rules create order and provide the framework for reality. Without them, the world is a Salvadore Dali painting, skewed, unstable and unpredictable.

All of us rely on rules daily. But most of us don’t follow them blindly once we gain maturity. For instance, the rule we used to follow about going into the street. It is true streets can be dangerous. But when I take my morning run, I frequently run in the street if the sidewalk is bad because all streets are not dangerous all the time for all people. The principle is true even if the practice isn’t always true.

When I run in the street, I leave the box of order and venture into disorder (the time I went in the street and was nearly wiped out) and eventually reorder (carefully assessing traffic patterns before assuming street safety).

Religion can be a very first box oriented endeavor. We make rules because we want to know and understand God, which is good. A god who is too big or too mysterious to understand is a force of power with which we can never connect. Knowing and understanding are key to a relationship, therefore God makes Himself knowable and comprehensible because He desires relationship. However, there are parts of His being which are not immediately knowable and even those which are essentially unknowable due to the limits of human understanding.

We use these revealed truths as cornerstones on which we build our theology. God is good. God created the universe. Jesus is real. Jesus died to restore humanity. We can be like God, and He desires this for us. He helps form us in His image. These beliefs matter. They create order in our chaotic reality.

The problem is sometimes we see the rules as immovable constructs for all time rather than starting point for a long conversation. Yes, the stove is hot and may burn us. However, the stove also allows us to create an endless variety of food, which may lead to conversation, laughter, togetherness and community. What is true about the stove is not ALL that is true about the stove. It’s a starting point, but there is more to the conversation.

The same is true of our religious beliefs:

God created the universe, but the is more to the conversation.
Jesus died to restore us, but there is more to the conversation.
We can be like God, but there so much more to the conversation.

And honestly, sometimes the more to the conversation is scary. Sometimes, the stove burns your house down; the street proves deadly. Sometimes theology goes horribly, maniacally wrong.

At this point we face a sort of crisis, is it easier to continue the conversation, or do we revert to the basic tenets and never deviate? Do we conform to the rules and reject anyone who does not or cannot conform to them, calling them a heretic and casting them away from us for our own safety? Do we even dare question if the original rule might not be a true rule to begin with?

Now we’re in uncharted territory. It’s not safe, not secure, not popular, and definitely not easy. Which is why so many of us never leave the safety of the rules. If a thing is always true, we always know what to expect. We always know the outcome. We never have to worry about consequences. So we live this way for years. Some of us live this way forever. It isn’t inherently wrong to live our entire lives in the box of order, but it’s an extremely exclusive way to live. If a set of rules is true, then every other set of rules must be wrong. There can be only one set of true rules.

The box of order is safe, but it breeds superiority, contempt and disassociation. At its extreme it is completely anti-community. There can only be us and them, and we are always completely right.

Order is necessary, but there is more to the conversation.

**I didn’t start this as a series, but it has rapidly become one. Stay tuned for further installments.

I hate everything: Writing my way out of the funk

Lately, I’ve been in a funk. I’m commonly heard saying, “I hate everything.” And it’s true. I sort of do. Current events, nationally, internationally, and personally all are fairly rotten right now. I’m in a season of letting go, and my life is in a holding pattern…things are ending but the next steps aren’t clear yet.  I like a plan; I’m a plan girl. Waiting is hard, waiting in a stressful environment is harder. My mind keeps circling around the word depression, but for now, I’m certain it’s more situational depression than clinical depression. I’m keeping my finger on my mental and emotional health pulse though, just in case.

In the meantime, though, I need to fight back against the funk, reframe the narrative that everything is hard and hopeless and crazy, and I’m not doing anything right in the midst of it. I need to push back against this crazy fear of being seen and heard. People keep speaking into my life: “sit down and be quiet. Your voice isn’t wanted here,” which ignites a desire to be consumed by a crack in the earth, whisked away never to be seen or heard from again. I know, my confrontational skills are the envy of many.

I’m making my circles small, smaller, smallest lately, but isolation isn’t a great situation for someone whose mind keeps riffing around the word depression, and it’s pretty obvious something has to be done to break the cycle I currently inhabit.

When you don’t know what to do, go back to the things you know well, the comfort spots, well-worn and familiar, as safe as physical safe spaces we’ve created when everything inside us yells, “RETREAT!” Writing is that thing for me. I spent most of the last three weeks writing a curriculum for community care, and every day as I sat down at the keyboard, my soul sang, “Home, home, home! Let’s play in all the words, words, words!” (does your soul sing like this? I hope so or I sound even crazier than I already am.)

I love words, both the writing and reading variety, and I love that over the next eight weeks, a group of people will dissect and discuss those same words my soul poured out here in the safe space.

Words and conversation. I crave it. I miss it. I fear it. And for a little while, I lost sight of it.

I haven’t really written in over a year. Before that I was writing regularly, but I was also trying to conform to a model, and we all know how great a conformist I am.  I was bogging down over a lot of things: pictures and Pinterest, SEO and link backs and clickability. You probably don’t know what any of those things are (except maybe Pinterest-which everyone loves and I, of course, hate) which is fine. You aren’t missing anything.

And I’m not throwing shade on people who love SEO and Pinterest. Everyone gets to love what they love. The thing is that I do not, and focusing on those things and trying to make my words conform to certain models became more draining than enjoyable. Eventually, I just forgot…forgot what I loved and why I loved it. I lost myself in someone else’s ideal, which is a behavior pattern I continue to encounter in my life.

Stupid co-dependency.

But I remembered over the past month as I wrote and thought about the words, only the words. How they played together or how they set themselves apart for emphasis. How I feel more wholly me when I am feeding myself with them. How I communicate best and most clearly when my mouth is closed and my fingers are busy. How pouring my heart into words helps me understand my own heart better.

Then yesterday I ran across the 100-day project.  And of course, a sucker for projects, plans and things with numbers, I had to find out more. I hunted out websites and podcasts and Instagram accounts.  I stopped and considered and told my fear, “shut up for just ten minutes. PLEASE.”  I remembered the sweetness of just having a conversation with a piece of paper (or a computer screen), when it really is ok if I am the only person who comes to the conversation.  Even alone, I can be good company.

I didn’t hate the idea. In fact, I was kind of inspired by it.

There is so much about this world I can’t fix: elections and wars and refugees and sarin gas and economic depression and employment issues and my dogs refusing to get along and whether or not people like me. All these things are far out of my control, beyond my reach.  But I can carve out thirty minutes a day for 100 days and just have a conversation about life and fear and having a voice and deconstruction and reconstruction. What I’m reading, how I’m feeling, why I can’t stop eating triscuits and tuna fish.  Even if no one comes to the party but me, I’m an introvert and I kind of like it like that anyway.

What am I going to do here in the middle of hating everything? I’m writing my way out. I’m going to remember who I am when I am fully me. Whatever comes to mind, day by day. Sometimes longer, sometimes shorter, without bells or whistles or pins.

Just me and words, and an empty chair or two at the table in case you come along to.

I don’t hate that idea at all.