Writing

It’s Moving Time

'The Door' photo (c) 2009, Brad Montgomery - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I’m so grateful to all of you for reading my words for the past few years. I have loved writing for you in this space.

A lot of things have happened in the past year and pretty much everything in my life has changed. That is not all bad, but it does mean that this space feels awkward for me moving forward. And moving forward is something that I am determined to do.

To that end, I’m closing up shop here. I’m not deleting this blog, but I’m not going to be posting here.

I’m also not going to quit writing. It is something that energizes me, and I’m going to keep doing it. Perhaps not with the frequency that I was writing here, but still writing.

If you’d like to continue to read what I have to say, you can check out my new blog here. I would love to see you there.

Again, thank you so much for the kindness that you have extended to me by choosing to read here. I know there are a lot of blogs out there and I’m so grateful that you have included this as part of your reading experience

In the Church, but not of it

Lady Justice

My favorite presentation while I was at Wild Goose was hosted by Jared Byas with Levi Weaver. They spoke on spiritual creativity, and as someone who fancies herself a bit of a creative, I was interested to hear their thoughts on that issue.

Jared’s talk and Levi’s performance were amazing, but one of the things that really struck me about them was that they both said that we had to get beyond cynicism if we wanted to create. They did not suggest that we could not experience seasons as a critic, but cautioned against setting up camp there because it is nearly impossible to create from that space because it can be just as limiting as the things that we’re cynical about. If we constantly put ourselves in the position of critic, the ability to see beauty diminishes and with it, the ability to project beauty with our art.

I didn’t realize how much I needed to hear this message.

I didn’t realize how much I need to have hope affirmed.

While my real life circles are primarily conservative, online I run with a fairly progressive crowd. The people who I interact with grew up in a Church culture that emphasized to they be in the world but not of it, but mostly meant not to really be in the world either. But we discovered that we related to God more through Alanis Morrissette than Darlene Zschech, more Kurt Cobain than Stephen Curtis Chapman. We joined AOL chat rooms and found out that the world was much bigger than our local church and that the scary people we were warned against weren’t all that different from us. We realized that the alternative to black and white wasn’t grey, but rather a stunning array of color.

As a result, we found ourselves in the role of critic. The status quo could no longer satisfy, the old answers no longer accepted at face value.

And our mantra changed. We became in the Church, but not of it.

But in the same way that they didn’t mean in the world, we didn’t really mean in the Church either.

Instead, we positioned ourselves as the new arbiters of what it meant to be Christian. We traded one form of judgment for another that fit us a bit more comfortably.

I have to be honest, though. Any kind of judgment starts to chafe after a while. This seat became hard, this robe confining. Being on the outside is lonely, even if there are others there, because really, everyone is suspect.

Last week, Tina and I were talking about how we need to absorb the shock waves that result from the loss of power. How do we take something that is hurtful and potentially harmful and lessen the impact? She asked how we become Antoinette Tuffs in those situations.

As I listened again to the 911 tape of a woman talking down a shooter at a Georgia school, what struck me about her was that rather that placing herself as the shooter’s critic, Tuff came alongside him and found commonalities between them. She acknowledged her own hurts and disappointments. She showed compassion, even when it was a risky.

This is what I want. Not to be on the outside, but to be in the midst. I want to be one who sees the humanity of people, even when we disagree; even when there could be some cost. I want to surround myself with people who acknowledge pain, but search for beauty, and when they can’t find it, create it themselves.

I don’t simply want to say that I’m in the Church, I actually want to be in the Church.

Don’t upset Jesus!

point

I just read another piece calling out someone for calling out someone else. Maybe there was a third level of calling out in there. I’m not sure. It’s all pretty muddled at this point. The point is, calling out people is bad and we need to call them out on it.

There aren’t many things that make me want to quit blogging, but the unending circle of making sure we’re morally superior to “those other guys” is one thing that makes me vaguely consider it.

Let me be very clear. I am totally okay with people writing blogs wherein they disagree with the writing/teaching/tweeting of any other person. It’s usually big names like Mark Driscoll or John Piper or Rachel Held Evans or Rob Bell. They do something that rubs someone the wrong way. So folks will write about it. Some will write about the actual content, some will attack character. Some will look for dialog, some are using the names to get blog hits.

Whatever. It’s how blogging works. I get that. Most of the time, even if the content is less desirable, there can be positive outcomes from the discussion about their words. There may be clarification offered, or sometimes an apology for something that was stated poorly. It’s not always pretty, but it’s often beneficial.

But then? Then comes the part that I hate.

We see that the person that we like got called out for their words. And we don’t like that.

So we get all hyper-spiritual and we start writing about unity in Christ. And we write about Matthew 18 and going to our brother privately. And we write about being silent. (Because nothing contributes to silence like another thousand words or so about the subject.)

Here’s the deal. I don’t think that Jesus has a whole lot to do with it. Mostly, we just don’t like that the person or the ideology that we associate with is under attack. Or sometimes even just questioned. It feels a lot like WE are being scrutinized.

It doesn’t sound great to say, “Please don’t pick on my friend,” or “Please don’t question my belief system.” So instead we make it about Jesus or the Church. Instead of “Don’t upset my friend,” it becomes “Don’t upset Jesus!”

But seriously, can we stop? Not the discussion of ideas. But the discussions about those discussions.

And if we can’t stop that, can we at least be honest? Can we please stop dragging God into it?

It sucks when someone who is a friend gets run through the shredder. I hate seeing someone who I know being called names because I know that it actually hurts that person. They’re not just a persona, they’re a real person who has feelings. It can be really tempting to want to get spiritual about how hurtful it is to the Church when we tear down a brother or sister in Christ. But that’s not why I’m upset. I just don’t like seeing my friend in pain.

That’s okay. We’re allowed to empathize with our friends. I think it’s good when we do.

But I don’t think we’re doing ourselves or our faith any favors by dragging God into these arguments. Instead, we make it seem like we worship some petty deity who gets humphy because this blogger called out that pastor or because that pastor called out this author.

By all means, stick up for your friends and for your beliefs. Let your friends know that you care about them, and let us know that you care about your beliefs.

But stop bringing Jesus into it. It’s just making me absolutely crazy.

And I’m pretty sure Jesus doesn’t want that.

I’m so happy for you…really!

A whole stack of my writing friends just released new books.

Another group just signed publishing contracts, some for multiple books.

Friends signed with agents. Friends with speaking engagements. Friends with writing jobs that pay the bills.

I read their status updates and their tweets and I’m genuinely happy for them. It is exciting to see a dream realized and they are my friends, after all. I read their writing, it’s good, and I want more people to have the opportunity to soak in their words. Any time you seek to make a living doing something creative, it’s a risk and it’s a joy to know that risk is working out for people who I like.

Sometimes I worry that my congratulatory comments don’t sound as sincere as I intend for them to be. Because let’s be honest, while I’m happy for my friends, I a little bit hate reading those updates.

It’s not so much that I hate their success, it’s just that it reminds me of my lack.

One section of my proposal is explaining why I am the best person to write the book that I hope someone will represent and eventually publish. Seeing updates from these writers makes that so much harder for me to do. I don’t have any formal writing education. I don’t have any training in counseling. I don’t have any official Bible training. So my qualifications come down to “have a blog” and “have friends who are willing to let me write about them.” As I was writing that part, I felt exactly like this.

I think a big part of my frustration is that nearly all of the writers that I know, I know only in the Virtual Village. We haven’t had the chance to sit down over drinks together or talk about our favorite movies or give a real hug to each other. Don’t get me wrong, I value the relationships that I have with the folks online. But there is something extra special about time spent face to face. It’s a unique and beautiful thing.

Tomorrow I head to Story where I am going to get to meet a bunch of these folks that stir up feelings of joy and jealousy. We’re going to have a chance to drink and talk and hug. And I think at the end of that, the next time any of these friends post their good news, my well wishes will be all the more sincere.

At least, I sincerely hope so.

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This is a part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival hosted by Peter Pollock. You can read more submissions and add your own here.

Not Alone Blog Tour

October 1 was the official release from Civitas Press of the Not Alone book. In order to celebrate, I’ve asked the contributors and some other blogging friends to share portions of their stories and their impressions of the book. This link-up will be active all week long and I hope that you’ll stop by throughout the week to check it out and see what people are saying about the book.

If you have read it, I’d love it if you would consider leaving a review at Amazon. I genuinely believe that this is an important book and I would love to see it reach as many people as possible.

Thanks again to all who are participating in the blog tour. I know this wasn’t an easy book to read and I appreciate you taking the time to review it. And of course, thank you a million times to all of the contributors. Your stories are powerful and dynamic and I am incredibly grateful to you for your generosity in sharing them.

Now, start to the clicking!

(Quick note to those linking up: Where it says “your name” please type the name of your post or your blog. That’s what will be displayed in the link-up. And in the link, please include a direct link to the review. Thanks!)

1. Sonny Lemmons 11. Robin Farr (contributor) 21. Megan Wright
2. Matt Cannon (Seekingpastor) 12. Joy Wilson 22. Elizabeth
3. David Henson 13. Not Alone Book Release: My Piece of the Story (Tamara Out Loud) 23. ” You’re Not Alone! No, really!” (Sarah Moon: Christian Skeptic)
4. Katie McNemar 14. Megg 24. Jennifer Luitwieler
5. Chad Jones (randomlychad) 15. Knox McCoy 25. If you’re depressed, you’re not alone (Kyla Cofer)
6. Christie Hagerman (Hammock Librarian) 16. The Family Chaffins 26. David Ozab
7. April (For What It’s Worth) 17. See Preston Blog 27. Shawn Smucker
8. Kristin Tennant (Halfway to Normal) 18. Unbeautiful Beauty (Shanda Sargent) 28. Lisa Colon DeLay
9. Kellen Freeman 19. The Boy with the Thorn in His Side 29. A Coffee and a Book Review Friday (This Time Around)
10. You Are Not Alone! (Consider † his!) 20. Leigh Kramer (Hopeful Leigh) 30. You’re next

Six Short Months Later…

Back in February, I announced that the Not Alone series was going to be made into a book and I asked you to consider either contributing to the book or looking for others who might want to share their stories.

The response was absolutely amazing.

As I’ve spent this month editing stories, I cannot tell you how many tissues I’ve gone through and how many times I’ve had to stop and walk away because of how affected I am. People have been extremely vulnerable with their essays and I can never thank them enough for the way they have poured out their souls into these words. It is a huge privilege to be a part of this project.

And so it is with great excitement that I am totally breaking my sabbatical (just for a second) to let you know that you can now pre-order the Not Alone book!

Really, if I’ve had any doubts about this project (and I imagine in the course of every project, those doubts creep up), they were put soundly to rest yesterday as I read through the comments to Tony’s post. Stories about depression strike at something deep. The isolation that Tony talked about (and that all of the other contributors have mentioned) is very real and the sense of relief that you feel when you see someone else verbalize it can be almost tangible. Those comments reminded me that this project will have a profound impact and I am deeply grateful to be a part of it.

So click this link and order your copy of the book. Buy it for a friend who suffers depression. Buy it for someone who doesn’t understand what it’s like to go through depression. These stories are powerful and I believe they will speak to you, regardless of your association with depression.

Thank you so much for your support so far. I’m so happy that you’ve walked this path with me!