What I Didn't Learn in Church

The number one thing I wish I saw happening more at church is people living lives of actual transformation.  I spent the first twenty-seven years of my life completely oblivious to the truth that transformation was a Gospel reality that was meant to be ongoing in all believers’ lives.  Those first twenty-seven years of my life were spent in the church.  I had given myself to following Jesus at the young age of nine.  I had surrendered to a call to ministry when I was fourteen.  I was dedicated to the mission and call of Jesus.  I attended church regularly, attentively listened to teaching and preaching, and applied all that I could.  I eventually became a children’s ministry and small groups’ director for a small church plant.  And yet, somehow, the idea that all believers were meant to be engaging in powerful and life-altering transformation throughout their lives was somehow missing from my practical experience in the church.

What I functionally learned in my years in church was simply that you “ask Jesus in your heart” and then try really hard to be good.  I learned that, yes, part of following Jesus was being close to Him and knowing Him, but also that part of following Him was staying away from all the bad things and instead trying really hard to do all the good things.  This was my practical experience of the Christian life until I was twenty-seven.

Then at twenty-seven, I married a man who had radically come to know Jesus. From the moment he started following Jesus my husband walked in continual repentance and transformation.  He was not afraid to admit that he was messing things up in various areas of his life.  Plus, he was confident that Jesus loved him and could transform all the messy (sinful) areas of his life.  He believed Jesus would actually change him.  My husband wasn’t striving to be a good person, but was at rest in Jesus. 

By his everyday example, my husband taught me the process of transformation.  He showed me that it was safe to admit my failures and sins and struggles, because he admitted his failures and sins and struggles.  He showed me how Jesus changes a person because my husband actively asked Jesus to change him.  And Jesus would.  My husband showed me a freedom from striving to be right by now he instead simply trusted Jesus to change him and then tapped into the power of the Holy Spirit to live differently.  I would watch my husband be at peace while living differently than he had before because he was actually depending on the Holy Spirit to empower him to live in line with the changes Jesus was making in his life.  My husband wasn’t striving to stay away from the bad stuff and only do the good stuff.  He was openly admitting his failures, asking Jesus to change him, and depending on the Holy Spirit to empower him to live differently.  This was a common and continual way of living for my husband.

I had never seen this before.  In all my twenty-seven years in church and full-time ministry, I had never seen someone model for me a life of common and continual repentance and transformation.  What I saw was a lot of nice people trying to be good while learning about God.  This life of transformation that I was watching unfold before me in my early marriage was exponentially more powerful than the nice lives I had seen at church. 

I wanted to experience what my husband was experiencing in his everyday life.  So, I began cautiously admitting when I failed.  I began acknowledging my sin and asking Jesus to change me.  It was terrifying at first because I had erroneously learned in my years in church that being a good Christian was more about being nice and trying to do good than it was about admitting when you’ve done wrong.  I erroneously learned in my years in church that sin and repentance were for the bad people and that good Christians shouldn’t have to struggle much with sin nor deal much with repentance.  But this.  This life of admitting even small failures was radically freeing.  Not only was it freeing, but I was also touching into a power in God that I had not yet experienced.  Jesus was changing me.  I could feel the Spirit giving me power to live differently.  This was what the Gospel was all about.  And it was powerful.

Now six years later, I love this way of life.  I want Jesus to keep transforming me.  I long for this way of life to be commonplace in our churches.  I long for church to be a place full of people who are being radically and continually transformed.  I long for transformation to be the culture of the church.  I long for the church to step away from behavior modification (nice people trying to do good) and to step toward powerful, everyday Gospel transformation in Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

For this transformation culture to become commonplace in our churches, though, actual transformation must be lived and breathed in our every day lives; it cannot simply be taught from the pulpit.  When we start to experience Jesus really changing us and the Holy Spirit really empowering us, then this culture of transformation will burn like a wildfire.  Those being changed will not be able to keep silent about the freedom and power and peace of being changed by Jesus.  Lives will be lived differently by the power of the Holy Spirit.  We, as a people, will get to tap into God when we run to Him with our whole selves and ask Him to change us.  Actual transformation as our everyday reality is what I long for the church to express as its commonplace culture. 


Ostracized: The Polarizing Problem of the Planned Parenthood Posts

No matter where on the pro-life/pro-choice spectrum you find yourself, the videos that have been uncovered are chilling.  So chilling that I honestly have not been able to watch a single one of them.  I know, though, that they are chilling enough to signify a major problem within Planned Parenthood. 

But I fear we are flying past another problem all together.  In the flood of posts I have seen in reference to the uncovered secrets of Planned Parenthood, I have only seen one singular post reaching out to the heart of women who have had an abortion.  I fear we are running forward and forgetting some of the most hurting hearts in this slowly unfolding reality.

So, today, I want to write to you.  The woman who has had an abortion.  Who has had many abortions.  Who was sitting with her computer and saw the video and wept.  Who feels betrayed.  Who didn’t know.  Who can’t even touch the emotion of what actually happened in that moment.  That day.  Who has never told a soul.  Who feels deceived.  Who feels shame.  Who feels regret.  Who feels longing for that baby that she never met.  Who feels unforgiveable. 

Today, I want to be gentle with your heart.  Today, I want to quiet the noise of the news.  The facts.  The pain piercing your heart as you scroll through your Facebook feed. 

There is more love and grace for you and your baby than you can ever imagine.  More than you can ever imagine.  That moment can be forgiven.  The sadness you feel can be turned into healing. 

Nothing is beyond redemption. 


And so, as the memories of that day come flooding in, take the heartbreak to Jesus and tell Him what you feel.  Tell Him the remorse, the pain, the regret.  Tell Him your greatest fears.  Tell Him the deepest feelings tied to that day, that moment, the hours that followed.  And ask Him to heal.  He can heal.  And He welcomes you with open arms.  He says:

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.*

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.**

The sadness you feel, when taken to Jesus, brings a redemption without regret.  Repentance is just that…acknowledging the wrong, turning from it, and asking Jesus to heal.  Redemption can be found.  Even redemption of your darkest day.  Repentance allows for that redemption. 
Without repentance, the sadness just remains and closes in without hope, bringing death to your very soul.  My fear is that so many of the posts about the recent Planned Parenthood discoveries bring just that…a dark sadness, a sorrow whose only outcome is death of soul.  A deafening sentence of judgment without an offering of hope. My fear is that many have inadvertently perpetuated this perspective rather than a perspective of redemption these past few weeks.  For that, I am so sorry. 

As your heart has felt a myriad of emotions, open yourself to them, take those emotions to Jesus, and let Him heal you.  Repent.  But also grieve.  Grieve that day.  Grieve that moment.  Grieve the loss.  It is real.  It is why you feel what you feel.

Nothing is beyond redemption.


A Final Note: As you grieve, you may even want to read, “Funeral Meditation for Owen,” as a source of hope and comfort (click here to read). 

And a word to the Church: I wonder if it might be possible to expose the atrocities that have become evident this past week, while also reaching out a hand toward redemption.  I wonder if it might be possible to speak out against injustice without ostracizing thousands upon thousands of hurting women.   I fear we may have ostracized so many more than we realized, all the while missing a moment to offer redemption and healing.  What could you do differently going forward that would both expose injustice and also offer hope?

* Psalm 34:18 (ESV)
** 2 Corinthians 7:10 (ESV)


A Book by the Same Name

A while back, John Kitchen contacted me sharing that he had written a book by the same name as my blog.  How cool is that?  Life as Worship.  He sent me a copy of his book shortly after, and I have been skimming it since. 

Kitchen’s primary question is for the reader to ask what he/she believes life to be about.  He emphasizes that whatever you believe life is, that is what you will give yourself to.  He shares that he believes that our lives are expressions of worship, that all of life is a form of worship.  Early on he says:

Everything about everything must become an expression of worship to God!  We are not called merely to weekly worship, periodic worship, rhythmic or seasonal worship.  We are called to worship at the speed of life! (p. 13)”

Kitchen then goes on throughout his book to explore various ways we live life as worship.  At the end of each chapter, he has shared action steps for the reader to take, steps that would allow the reader to incorporate that specific outlet of worship into everyday life. 

I love this concept of all of life as worship.  At my core, I believe that our entire lives are meant to be expressions of worship of our God.  This book by John Kitchen echoes that core concept.  You can find Kitchen’s book on Amazon by clicking here.


This Is Love

About a year ago, I began dreaming about covering our (very unattractive pink-tiled, early ‘90’s styled) fireplace with beautiful, white beadboard.  I dreamed about how peaceful it would look.  Only we didn’t own the house back then, and I really wasn’t sure it would turn out anyway. 

So.  When we did finally buy the house, the first purchase I made was all the supplies to cover our pink fireplace with beautiful beadboard.  I did my Google searches for instructions.  I read all the articles I could find.  I even read one article specifically about covering a tile fireplace with beadboard.  I was ready.   I had a dream.

At some point, in the preparation process, though, I did realize that I would need Val’s help.  So, I asked him if he’d be willing to “just” cutting the boards for me, and I’d do all the rest.  Little did I realize that “just” cutting the boards was the whole project.  Val spent three nights painstakingly cutting each piece of beadboard to the precise height and width for each section of the fireplace.  This is love.

I thought the “gluing” the beadboard on was going to be no problem at all.  Before we even went to bed the first night working on our project, the entire side had fallen off.  I quickly learned that the “gluing” was not going to be so easy. And I was ready to give up.  Give up the dream.  It just didn’t seem worth it, and my ignorance of all things construction was beginning to show.  I felt ignorant and incapable.  Val, though, was sure that we could figure this out.   He was going to ask around about adhesive for tile.  And if it didn’t work, we always had the option to hire someone to do it for us.  He was encouraging and hopeful when I wanted to quit the entire project.  This is love.

Once he had found the right adhesive, we both knew the “gluing” wasn’t going to be a one-person job.  To get this just right and looking beautiful (and actually sticking to the tile), we’d have to work on it together.  So, not only did Val spend all his spare time cutting my boards for three nights in a row, he also stuck with me through the entire project and all the steps that I had planned on doing on my own.  This is love. 

Never once did he complain about the project.  Never once did he grumble about how much work I had gotten him into that he personally never planned on getting into.  Never once did he make me feel like it wasn’t worth it.  In fact, his attitude was quite the opposite.  He knew that this beadboard fireplace dream mattered to me, and he was giving himself fully to the project to make my dream realized.  It was important to him because it mattered to me.  This is love. 

I did manage to paint the fireplace myself.  That is one thing that I do actually know how to do.  And in the end both Val and I were both so very pleased with our new fireplace. 

And when I look at it, I will be reminded of just how much this man loves me.  



We Bought Our First House

Last week we sat in a conference room and signed a ton of papers that all said things about us agreeing to pay money to own our house (over the next three decades or so)!  The ironic thing (and amazing blessing) is that the house we bought is the one we already live in.  When we got back to Tulsa in May, we knew we’d be staying in town for a while and pursued the possibility of buying the house we currently live in.  Our landlord-friends kindly agreed to sell us the house.  This was amazing of them because our house is a one-hundred year old treasure.  While it definitely has its moments of wear and tear and needed repairs, it is such a lovely old home. 

Now that it’s ours, I am dreaming up all kinds of things I want to do.  I’ve got little projects here and there that I want to do to just give the place more of my style.  We got an amazing deal on an antique couch from craigslist a few weeks ago.  It has brought so much more character to the living room.  Val’s dad is gifting us a loveseat we’ve had our eyes on for a while.  I feel life being breathed into our home.  It is so much fun.  And Home Depot is my new favorite place.

I lopped off the random toppers that had slowly been falling off our cute white picket fence, giving it clean lines.  I am also going to put a fresh coat of paint on that fence as soon as possible.  I asked Val to saw off the remains of an old archway, making a more clean cut entry to our walkway.  Tonight we start covering the fireplace with Cape Cod beadboard.  I. am. having. so. much. fun.

Soon a contractor and his team show up to remodel the upstairs.  We’ll be turning our three large bedrooms upstairs into four smaller bedrooms.  This will let Silas move out of our room and into his own room and will also let each of our kids have a space that is theirs.  I totally know that having one’s own room as a child is such a luxury, so we do not take for granted that we have this opportunity.  With some of the dynamics we have in our family, giving each child their own room is incredibly helpful.  Giving each person a space that he can call his own and retreat to when he needs space is incredibly valuable to me.

This is our home and we get to make it our own.  I am so totally stoked.

Plus, my little brother still lives next door (love him!).  And we are just minutes from downtown, which is where a lot of the city’s life happens.  The children’s museum, park, splash pad, and library are only minutes away.  Plus, right next door to us an old high school that is currently being renovated to become artists’ lofts.  I can’t wait to see who moves in there and what it would be like to live next to an artist community. 

I feel a sense of settledness and home as we’ve taken this big step.