Grace for the Addict (at Deeper Story)


A few weeks ago, I was blown away when I received an email inviting me to join A Deeper Story. Most of you know who that is, but in case you don’t- A Deeper Story is a group of Christian writers writing about faith in the peaks and weeds of life. They are some of the best writers on the internet today. I’ve been following them for well over a year now and I have learned so much from the writers there about writing and life and God. It has been a well of encouragement that I have turned to time and time again.


And today, I have my first post up over there, and I am hoping I can reflect just a fraction of that encouragement. It’s about a part of my life that’s a little profane: my addiction. And it’s about the grace of God, which is so much more offensive.


Here’s the beginning.


In the seventh grade, I won the Ramsey County Police Department Poetry Contest after I penned a poem telling anyone addicted to nicotine to just stop it. It was a district wide contest; a winner would be selected from every school. And a couple weeks after I submitted, my Language Arts teacher burst through the door of my history class. She walked straight up to my teacher and whispered in his ear. They both turned to me, smiling. I beamed back.

They gave me one hundred and fifty dollars. More money than I had ever held in my hands. And two weeks later, with my parents standing proud at the back wall and the local paper’s intern snapping shots next to them, I stood in front of my class and read the poem aloud.

“I know the chains of addiction may be holding you down, but think of your family! They still want you around!” I roared like FDR and the class went wild.

I am no poet. But my life has been riddled with irony. Here’s some: only a few years after speaking my plea into class, I was twirling the feathery white stick between my own two fingers. I was sparking the cherry at the end, inhaling it deep into my lungs. Over a lake, I lay down on a dock with friends, blowing filmy rings into the stars. Watching them rise and rise and wash away in the wind. Dizzied by the buzz that was breaking over me, I felt euphoric, badass, and truly alive. I did not feel the chain clinking around my ankle.


Click here to read the rest.

hymnals and the way of faith in the story of church


Thee, Thine, Thou never felt natural in my ears or on my tongue and the slow, few instruments that played had a way of boring me to sleep as a kid. Some Sunday mornings, I’d sneak a look at the back wall where a red digital clock hung. And by the time the sermon closed, I was lethargic, but straight up relieved.


At a certain point, my parents, seeing us kids in our shared listlessness, having noticed the slow blinking of our eyes, decided to take us to the later, contemporary service. And it was there that my faith was forged. Songs like “Light the Fire” and “Open the Eyes of My Heart Lord” and “In the Secret” seemed to inject me with a spiritual oomph I had not felt. I was moved to tears. I was dancing. Every chorus of those power ballads made me stretch my hands in the air as if to brush the Holy Spirit’s fingers.


Several years later now, with my heart weathered and worn, I’m at a kind of of standstill with church. Having been hit a hundred thousand times by evangelicalism, having become a survivor of the place that initially swept me off my feet, I am instinctively suspicious of all of it. All of Church. And also, wanting so badly to be a part of it.


But all the pop Christian jams still ring shrill in my ears. I am very annoyed by the use of music as a means of emotional manipulation when the pastor prays. And goodness, it takes every ounce of strength in my being to stay on the ground when I hear a secular pop song, sung by the worship band, sometimes with words changed. Stop the sale’s pitch! Stop your need to be Cool! I want to scream. I want to walk out. 


One such song was played last night at the Easter service and at the start, when I recognized it, I started shaking my head in a very obvious, take-note-of-my-disapproval way. I turned around to my family hoping to find solidarity but No. They were feeling it. Loving it. They were clapping joyfully and crooning out the catchy song from the radio. And I. was. appalled.


These little triggers, sensitivities, chinks in my armor are really all it takes to dirty up an entire church service for me. One cringe-worthy thing lingers in the back of my mind like a leaky faucet and it is Game Over. And I hate this about me. I wish I could roll it off my shoulders and just gel in with everyone else, but my heart is weathered and worn. Once I sense the evangelical spirit, with all it’s wrongness and past crimes against me, the dominos effect begins within. Everything is called into question. Every. Last. Thing.


And I don’t know why I keep coming back to this form of faith. The Evangelical. The bubble-gum joy. The cheap sentimentality. Because it’s all I know, but still. I wish I knew more.


The music slowed down for the next song. The electric guitar was set aside and a soft ripple of piano began. A steady, functional, reliable chord. I looked up. I felt a centering. A simplicity that made me want to cry with relief. And then the words:


I hear the Savior say

“Thy strength indeed is small

Child of weakness, watch and pray,

Find in me Thine all in all”


These are the songs I once hated, but they are meeting me right now with a precision and truth I cannot explain. In the midst of my own cynicism and sensitivity and anger, in the mess of all the wrong and unkindness of the Church, these plain and poetic words arrive standing before me, unadorned and beautiful, like peace, like Jesus out on the water.


They don’t push me into an exclamation. They don’t pressure me to feel when I don’t. They don’t carry the slushiness, schmaltziness that transfixes everyone into a moment of emotional intoxication. They come wearing no mask, blowing no incense, dangling no carrot before me.


I speak them and I know what they’re saying: Jesus Paid it All. I feel a rush of gratitude at that lyric. I wonder why we feel the need to sing any other line. Then I heart Come Thou Fount, It is Well, and There is a Fountain and I know why. This the fabric of Church. This is her story.



There is a timeworn dependability to them, too. I hold the hymnal in my hands and it’s crinkled, the paper, thin, the crush of a thousand fingers opening and closing and folding and leaving and returning, week after week, year after year. And there’s something about that history. I can trace these works through generations that have come before me, that have endured their own battles here, and maybe, for them, it was just this, this small little book with its’ crinkled up pages, that gave them the grit to come back week after week after week.




And maybe it’s not about fitting back into something. Maybe it’s about being aware of the new shape of my faith. I’ve grown and changed and it’s different now, maybe better. In this season, I can’t hear the electric zest of an era that is still too raw, that left me high and dry and bitter and cold. Maybe I can only be with the old songs. The simple ones. I can lean into the sturdiness of lyrics long-lived.


As I return in my own battle regalia, week after week, searching for my own Sunday Morning, I am finding that for now, this is enough to hang onto. It’s a small raft, but it is mine, and it’s holding me up.

Good Friday Reflection: Beloved



At some profound moment in my reading of The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning, a parachute opened up and saved my life.


It was late in my depression and I was half alive. And when I received as a gift this book, the end result was a sledgehammer to every column of belief I held about myself and about God. A reassembling of it all into a Sanctuary. A Haven. A Home.


I’ve read every book by Brennan, some of them more than once. It is no exaggeration to say that more than once, he has yanked me from the crumbling edge of it all.


And he directed me to another book of my childhood, one that must’ve become buried beneath the Left Behind series and the Wild at Heart and the Purpose Driven Life books that “matured” my faith. It wasn’t an explicitly Christian book, but it was a reply to a question Brennan posed to the author, his friend: What does the Love of God feel like?


“Once there was a tree and she loved a little boy.”


(Hopefully) this throws your mind back into the tragic, but beautiful story of The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.


And to this day, this little book informs how I understand my relationship with Christ, although, I’d add an addendum. For many of us, the hustling for things in the world is so not about feeding the hunger of our sin nature. Or at least not the way you think about sin nature.


I believe our single greatest sin is born out of our single greatest longing. We long to be enough. I know this from personal experience. I have hustled for the love of God, bent over backwards, toed the line, done all but don the sackcloth and ashes, and what I never understood, what I know now, is that this pilgrimage of faith begins alone in the heart. On your own two feet. It begins, I’d argue, before you even pray for Jesus to come on in. It begins when you decide: I am accepted.


Jesus once said:


Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.


Carl Jung once wondered:


But what if I should discover that the least among them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself — that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness.


When we ply open our souls like this and recklessly rally for our belovedness against the world, against our own darkness, we experience the love of God. Youth leaders may have noted that we break God’s heart when we swear or cheat or lie, but what could break his heart more than our fear of him? Than our perpetual scrapping to earn an honest gift given? Sit down with open hands. You are loved. This is Truth. And Jesus Paid it All.


Brennan Manning leaves me breathless with his open heart spilled over in his books. He wrote about one journey he took where He felt God saying: I am dying to be with you. I am dying to be with you. And though he admits it can be found nowhere in scripture, he is certain a similar word lay on the heart of Jesus as he took his final breaths.


And no matter how many times we decide he is an asshole or uncaring or Too Good For Us He forgives. He understands. He waits and waits and waits. Because when all else falls, this love is unyielding.

showing up, together and not together, for Holy Week


In an effort to redeem my infrequent presence of heart and mind this Lenten season, I read through the Palm Sunday story yesterday morning. We’re less than a week from Good Friday, from Resurrection Sunday, and for several obvious reasons, I feel it much more this year.


We are tumbling into Holy Week 2014 much more busted up than usual (i.e. World Vision and the last straw). There has been a full-blown split. A definite division. Several new and tragically persuasive reasons to abandon the body altogether.


For some of us, we have simply decided to wait for the church to wake up. For her to finally reach the end of this brutal bender she’s on and decide it’s time to change, to pick herself up and go get a clear head and heart- sobriety- found at the foot of the cross. But I am not holding my breath.


When it comes to the Church, I feel like I am flying between wild hope and complete hopelessness. Yes, I can see how we are a “resurrection people”, with the grace and rebounding of so many from the last few weeks (really, the last few years), but then I heard about a conservative college kid, my generation, hounding down a female pastor after a service, asking on whose authority she thought she was speaking. And so I’m holding optimism cautiously.


Yesterday morning, I read Matthew’s account of Palm Sunday. In it, Jesus passes through the palm-heavy streets atop the baby donkey, and then went inside the temple where he started a riot.


12-14 Jesus went straight to the Temple and threw out everyone who had set up shop, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of loan sharks and the stalls of dove merchants. He quoted this text:

My house was designated a house of prayer;
You have made it a hangout for thieves.

Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them.

15-16 When the religious leaders saw the outrageous things he was doing, and heard all the children running and shouting through the Temple, “Hosanna to David’s Son!” they were up in arms and took him to task. “Do you hear what these children are saying?”

Jesus said, “Yes, I hear them. And haven’t you read in God’s Word, ‘From the mouths of children and babies I’ll furnish a place of praise’?”

17 Fed up, Jesus turned on his heel and left the city for Bethany, where he spent the night.

-Matthew 21:12-17


I know some cringe at Angry Jesus, but I absolutely love this scene. He flips over tables, smokes everyone out, and then builds a makeshift hospital in their place. Restores the Temple to its’ purpose. It is like he is performing a condensed version of the whole reason for his coming. A lesson the church has struggled for 2,000 years to comprehend.


I want to say that church unity is an ideal I am deeply sympathetic to. I wish to be a reconciler. A bridge-builder. A peacemaker. We are stuck together, like it or not, because we belong to each other. This, I know.


But I also wish to be honest.


And if I am honest, I feel like flipping over some tables myself. I feel like staging a Sit-In. Like dropping down in the veritable Church, arms crossed, cloaked beneath a flag that is a rainbow. I feel like reclaiming this place because it is my birthright.


I’m all for harmony, but I hesitate to fall into a beat that is so badly broken. That sidelines a good number of us. That guts the Good News right out of “gospel”.


We’ve reached, what the lawyers call, a place of Irreconcilable Differences. Nothing that hasn’t happened before. The Great Schism, The Great Reformation, the Civil War, these came and served to only propel the faith to where it was meant to go. And it doesn’t make it any less hard or tragic. Real people are involved on each side.


But here we stand, on the brink of another, profound divorce, and at the same time, on the edge of the holiest day of the year. And I honestly don’t know what to do with that tension.


What I do know is that we will still come, as we have every year before and will continue to do for years to come, to meet in our shared love of Jesus… but with our elbows sharper. Our anger still hot. Wounds still fresh. All of us victim. All of us abuser. All of us tired. And all of us standing before the only real hope we have left: Grace.


Grace has been such a big part of my life that I feel it now like a phantom limb. I see it as The Way, as the stream I step into with all of my shit, all of my rage, all of my disillusionment, all my cynicism, my slim-as-a-toothpick hope and I don’t know how it happens, but it always changes me. It smokes out the pride and heals me.


And maybe it’s all any of us can do this week. Just look tenderly at the empty tomb and accept that Jesus Paid It All. That we may break apart, but grace is filling in our fractures. Unifying us forever even after we split away. Stringing a thread that will tug us back together, when the time to do so comes.

A Round-Up and My New Facebook Page


(Some of the fam in Florida, along with some significant others. In the middle you will find Wyatt on my sister Molly’s lap (her boyfriend Seth at the far left, Wyatt’s power couple parents, Matt and Lauren, next to him, and my brother Jordan and his girlfriend Ruthanne at the far right [parents and oldest brother Aaron not pictured].) And then there’s me in the middle, with the dumb smile and overly nice dress shirt. Literally the only single person present besides the eleven-month old. Lord, beer me strength.)


I once tried to do regular Round-Ups like this, but then I kept forgetting to do it. I haven’t posted one in over a year.


Typically, I defer to Rachel Held Evans “Sunday Superlatives”, or Ben Howard’s “[insert hilarious meme] and the Best Things You’ll Read All Week” or Sarah Bessey’s “In Which I Link You Up.” But it’s hitting me lately that as much as this is about “link love”, it is also about me, about what is affecting me right now. One blogger friend, after I first posted my very first list of links, noted that these would be great to reflect on one day. I could look back and remember the messages that made an impact in me; the hope-giving, life-saving ones that changed me. I couldn’t agree with her more.


Also… I wanted an excuse to plug my fresh new Facebook page. I have avoided facebook at all costs. Even after I came out here, on my blog, I untagged myself from every status that shared my posts. I was terrrrrified of it, because of all the people in my Real Life. Of all the distant relatives and their pearl clutching, email typing, frantic panicking over the state of my soul (which has not happened.)


But my spine is a little tougher now. I’m braver. And I am making peace with the fact that being a public person requires extra transparency. Authenticity. Courage. And, yes, it requires you to go “LIKE” my page (As an aside: I’ll interpret any non-likes as sheer acts of aggression. Choose wisely.)


Onto the links.


Why I’m Done With Letting Critics Tell Me Who I Am by Esther Emery (one of my favorites)


Don’t be defined by the critics. Not by listening to them. And not by fighting against them. Not by positioning yourself to be more appealing to them. And not by begging them to change their minds.

You. You. YOU have a voice. And it is uniquely yours. But it comes through a glass darkly. It isn’t always going to land the way you wanted it to land. Sometimes the problem is craft, sure. You can always get better at making yourself visible. You can always peel off one more layer, making it all that much easier to see the pure and naked soul within.

But that isn’t going to lose the critics.


Two-Part Post about Youth Pastors and LGBTQ Youth from my incredible, in-real-life friend, Laura Statesir

What I Wish My Youth Pastor Had Said (Part One)

The most important thing you can do as a Christian youth worker is to reaffirm your love and God’s love for that youth. Assure the youth that this does not change your relationship with them. Remind the youth that God’s love is unconditional and that this does not change how God feels about them. Reassure the youth that this does not change their personal relationship with God. Make sure they know that this doesn’t mean that they are no longer a Christian or that they are no longer welcome in your church/organization. Remind them that everyone is welcome at the table of Christ.


Part Two

Encourage the youth in their faith.** To a lot of youth, a Christian youth worker is a reflection of Christ in their lives. They are watching your reactions to see how God feels about them. If you express unconditional love then they will know that God loves them unconditionally. If you express judgment or condemnation they will feel that God condemns them as well.


The Man in the Center by (the incomparable) John Blasé (At Deeper Story)


We’re not painting a picture that takes the breath away and leaves your eyes pooled with tears. I’m no whackadaddy fundamentalist nor the son of one, but if whatever your burning theological issue is doesn’t have Jesus in the center of its page, then as my friend Brennan used to say, your burning theological issue may not be burning or theological. It may just be an issue, and have absolutely nothing to do with the love even a 6-year-old boy can understand.


In which this is for the ones leaving evangelicalism by Sarah Bessey (technically, more than one week ago. But also, the thing that saved me.)

I’m someone who believes that we are in the midst of major shift within the Church – what Phyllis Tickle calls a “rummage sale” – similar to the Great Schism, and the Reformation. The Church is sorting and casting off, renewing and re-establishing in the postmodern age and this is a good thing. The old will remain – it always does – but something new is being born, too. If it is being born in the Church, it is first being born in the hearts and minds and lives of us, the Body.

She followed up with a beautiful letter to those who stay. Another must read.

Jesus isn’t an evangelical. But he lives and moves and has his being among the evangelicals, too.


Giving Up… My Worry by another life-giving-in-real-life-friend-mentor-rescuer Steph Spencer

I’ve heard faith defined as placing our confidence in something. Sometimes it feels like the only thing we can be confident about is that at some point, all of our lives will hit bottom.

And so I place my faith in that worry. I am confident that something dreadful will come to pass in the near future. And the more I am confident in that, the less it feels like anxiety and the more it feels like truth. The worry fools me into a false sense of security.

But security is not the same thing as peace. Peace is what Christ came to offer me.


~ ~ ~


My own most-read post this week:


May We Never Stop Speaking


Most popular comment (ALSO, the comment that left me speechless, and teary, because it was from Jen Hatmaker and because she was so damn kind and insightful.)


Ben, officially, I am your friend and I am for you. You are welcome in my comment feed, my inbox, and my home any time. And also? NEVER STOP WRITING. Wow. You are sincerely gifted. I am proud of you. You are managing a gentleness and grace in the midst of crazy. You will be so glad of that five years from now. (I always think through that grid: Will I still be proud to stand by this in a few years? Was I gracious? Was I kind?) Lastly, I died laughing: “We were cracking open beers, listening to country music, talking March Madness (which I feigned stress over).” MARCH MADNESS IS GODLY. Please work on your theology. ;0)


Like I said in the beginning, totally plugging my new FB page. Come and “like” it, we’ve got a good group growing there, full of loving and kind and funny people. You’ll fit right in, I am sure of it.


If you prefer, email, enter yours in the subscription ribbon that should be floating near the bottom right. If it isn’t, no problem, redirect your eyes to the top of the right column.


Enjoy your Saturday!

A Walk to the Lake



He loves fresh air, fallen leaves, the wind, the cement basketball court in the back and just about everything else outside. I imagine all babies are overwhelmed by this, the experience of earth. I don’t know, but every time a bird brushes past the window or the front door is opening up, light pouring down out across the planked wood floors, his blue eyes swell. He starts clapping. Kicking. Laughing like a chimp. And well, of course, the entire house drops to its’ knees in a heavy sigh. Spellbound by this tiny angel.


He is my first nephew, the first of the next generation of Mobergs, and he is objectively the most adorable child to ever crawl this earth. I, like every other member of our family, cannot get enough of him. I look at him and think like Rachel Green, looking down at her new baby in her basinet, whispering to Monica and Phoebe, “Right now. I miss her. I actually miss her.” And it’s the same feeling, I swear on it. I miss him even when I’m with him.


And maybe it has something to do with his rapid growth (he’s almost ONE) or maybe it’s the sudden shift of seasons. Spring is speeding up and as is routine, redeeming me from the winter version of myself. There is change in the air, fast and fleeting. And I can see it coming over him too.


The other evening, I took him for a walk in the stroller. The first time when it was just the two of us out there like that. We’ve only spent time between the four walls, beneath a strong roof, safely cocooned by every thing required in an emergency. And so, naturally, the cars seemed to come a bit faster than usual- aggressively fast. In my head, I kept thinking about my bad habit of turning my eyes to change the dial or check a text or a tweet, jolting back into focus by the screech of tire on curb. So quick! All this is to say, that walk was the most stress-inducing one of my life.


After we got to the park, we strolled beneath the large leafy trees and watched the geese scoot along the thinning ice, a round frame of shimmering water above the shore. I found a bench and took him out, propped his feet up on my thighs, face to smiling face.

 ~ ~ ~

After stumbling upon three rocks arranged into sculpture in Hawaii, Barbara Brown Taylor reflected:


I looked at the three stones pointing straight up through the sky and wondered how I had forgotten that the whole world is the House of God.

Taylor, Barbara Brown (2009-03-06). An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith (Kindle Locations 179-180). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

 ~ ~ ~

I struggle, sometimes, to assemble the right line of words in prayer, or any words at all. And sometimes I can find the best ones but it feels dishonest. As if I’m still hiding some unknown something. And if I am truthful, with you, there are moments I wonder if my prayers are heard at all. As if they don’t even matter. Waste of my breath and time.

 ~ ~ ~

There is no printed prayer on my heart in this moment, just the view of his face up close, his head eclipsing the sun and the light caught in his hair, glowing as if it were a halo. I carry him over to a tree where he picks off the flaky bark, crushes it, drops it, peels away another and another. We sit back down on the bench and he crawls all over it, waves at the people passing by.


In the five-minute walk back, he is lost to asleep.


I am rolling toward the middle of my twenties, and I’m learning that maybe prayer is little less about talking and more about wakefulness. About seeing. About the light cascading through the trees and the scented gust of wind and the geese pecking away at the ice and the baby laughing in my lap and the sense that it is all so good. That it couldn’t possibly get better than this.


The Doubter and The Resurrection


Nearing the end of last fall, I sort of left faith, which is different than leaving the Church.


This was not the first season of doubt for me. Just the latest in a long sordid history of rich and dark and holy times when I walk off into wasteland, dragging my difficult, but important questions behind me: The Bible, Real Life, History (both the world’s and my own), Hell, Heaven, Miracles, the Problem of Pain. The only conviction anchoring me was my steadfast search for something authentic. Not something I should do or something I feared for but something real. Something worth wrapping my whole soul around.


My doubts arrived after a series of painful events in the lives of those around me, and by the middle of January, the tragedy toll only seemed to skyrocket. That was when I became very afraid, and angry, and skeptical, because I can see what Marx was getting at when he said, “religion is the opium of the people.” I’ve seen how it can space out the most sensible people. I’ve felt like the last sane person amongst all this calm, against all this chaos.


As I set about in my searching, I heard folks repeatedly explain away my questions because of the mysteries of the divine, or  my limitedness as a human, or that my doubt was a manifestation of sin in my life. Of course, all this did was highlight my fears that we were engaging in a kind Orwellian Double Think. Or, (chills), that I was simply blind. That I was the only one who couldn’t see it.


The most holy day of the year is coming soon, and I know from experience that it can be the most frustrating and frightening day of the year. Many Christians will wake up and want to fall to their knees, cry in their happiness, rejoice in the victory that he is risen, but they won’t be able to. They will feel paralyzed by the presence of those so sure.


I am nearing the edge of my own wasteland, but unlike so many times before, I’m not going to leave it. This is God’s dwelling. In the tension, in the honest practice of asking, searching, seeking. The place I wrestle with questions is the same place I find consecrated ground. I speak in unexpected hymns. Soul, mind, heart, authentic. I am not the first.


A passage from Greg Boyd’s, Benefit of the Doubt:


As is apparent in so many Old Testament heroes, the faith of Habakkuk was obviously nothing like the certainty-seeking, doubt-shunning faith of so many today. Instead of avoiding cognitive dissonance by piously slapping the “mystery” label on an apparent contradiction, Habakkuk boldly goes to the mat with God. This is the kind of faith these descendants of Jacob were “blessed” with. And far from being offended by this raw honesty, God is the One who blessed them with it! This apparently is precisely the kind of honest relationship, and the kind of honest faith, God is looking for!

Boyd, Gregory A. (2013-09-15). Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty (p. 83). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


The true mark of faithfulness was never, ever about the certainty of the mind and heart, but the authenticity within them. And I’ve come to believe that is better to not play pretend here. God did not make us to be blind followers or bidders on behalf of the church. Love isn’t like that, so neither is God.


For some of the faithful this month, this will be a time of impulsive squelching, of cloaking and straining yourself to believe and finding yourself utterly burnt out on Monday. I pray for the opposite.


Speak the truth that is haunting you. Lay out all the questions and fears without edit or softening or excuse. If it is heavy, let it drop. This faith is for the scholar and the street smart, the burnt out and on fire, the jaded and the impassioned, the weak and the strong, and for you, too, sojourner, who feels like it will never ever ever make sense. Take heart: this faith is not about being certain. That is the opposite. What this comes down to is the authenticity of your shaking voice, asking the questions that scare you. Sitting, waiting, wanting.

And it is exhausting, so take a few minutes if you need to, on Easter Sunday. Sit alone with a novel or a sketchbook or Netflix and drone out the shoulds of the day. There is no shame in that. There is rest there. And God made rest. Find him in the resting.


Or go to the words of another. Call your spiritual middle man. I offer up in Paul Tillich:


Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: “You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted!” If that happens to us, we experience grace After such an experience we may not be better than before, and we may not believe more than before. But everything is transformed.


Or listen to the prophetic voice of Rachel Held Evans, who last year, around this time, penned a post for people like me. Gave me the courage to say aloud what I felt:


But you won’t know how to explain that there is nothing nominal or lukewarm or indifferent about standing in this hurricane of questions every day and staring each one down until you’ve mustered all the bravery and fortitude and trust it takes to whisper just one of them out loud on the car ride home:

“What if we made this up because we’re afraid of death?”

And you won’t know how to explain why, in that moment when the whisper rose out of your mouth like Jesus from the grave, you felt more alive and awake and resurrected than you have in ages because at least it was out, at least it was said, at least it wasn’t buried in your chest anymore, clawing for freedom.


Or simply be still.


And I’ll be there with you, trapped in a place of mercy. A place of grace. A place where I have found the patience of God to be abounding and his yoke, light.


Be still if that’s all you can do. Be present. Listen.

Know you are not alone.

His Love is Deep


Sometimes, the internet feels like a house of horrors. Like the place I know better to avoid, but I move my feet forward anyway. I don’t know why. The thrill perhaps. And because I want to be braver and give the bullies a bit of their own medicine. I want to throw down as many hits as I can.


Then vwalla! An hour passes, just like that, and I am exhausted and I am enraged and in my head, there is this scrolling feed of tweets, of heavy-handed and bold and italicized comments, and it is all I can see, all I can hear, and I beat myself up for it, because I know better than this. I know who I am- why do I suddenly feel less than? Other? Kept Out?


I walked into church last night a bit banged up by twitter, and these past weeks, and really, I might’ve stayed put at Caribou, duking it out in the latest round of Am I Christian Enough?, had it not been for my brother preaching that night. It was his fourth sermon of the weekend and he had poured his whole heart into his message. Issues of social justice, they vibrate in his bones, and even though he played it cool and was self-deprecating, I know him better. This is a message nailed into his heart: Jesus. God. The Poor. Justice. Love. Mercy. This is what gets him up there.


I sat in the parent-child room with my sister-in-law, Lauren, as baby Wyatt slept in his car-seat beneath a blanket. Matt came in during the preliminary praise and worship and sat on the couch, calm. Lauren looked at him, “Should we pray?” and he nodded and then we did. It was a small, private moment, and I felt the weight of the spirit on us. In their marriage, in our family, in snoring baby Wyatt. I braced for the coming message he’s been carrying.


I would have heard more of what he had to say had I not been so crazy entertained over Wyatt’s antics. He woke up ten minutes in. He was crying one moment, laughing the next, doing the sign language he’s just learned. More! More! He said with his hands and Lauren tried to feed him, but he’s just turned eleven months, and thus, very picky. Lauren and I pointed at the glass, there’s daddy! And he began pounding so hard against it we worried the whole church would turn around. My sister Molly ran over and flirted with him through the glass, like he was an inmate. It was great.


At the close of the service came communion, and for this time, the band plays. I swear on my life, Wyatt sung along. He is just a baby, but his babble rose into a high note, the most earnest tone in the world. Just for a fleeting few seconds and then done. I felt a flutter in my chest.


At the back of the church, I stood and checked my twitter compulsively, my mentions, my feed, feeling the weight of my salvation hanging on the edge of some conservative writer, but then my phone died. The tether broke. I drifted away. And all I could really do was look up at the screen. Sing along to these words:



Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.


And then this:


His love is deep, His love is wide

And it covers us

His love is fierce, His love is strong

It is furious

His love is sweet, His love is wild

And its waking hearts to life


It is classic evangelicalism. Songs I grew up singing. I should be cringing and running, but my mind, my heart, threw up hands in protest: Hear this. 


“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze. – Isaiah 43:1-2


Here is the Truth: They are powerless in separating us from his deep and furious and wild, head-over-heels, never-leave-nor-forsake-you, take-heart, I-am-with-you sort of love.


 The spirit came before them, before us, before evangelicalism, before the church, before the earth even dropped into orbit. So no, they cannot duct tape a line. Jesus is not a trophy they can keep on their side of the world, behind the gates lined with their tweets and comments and mob intimidation. Sin is not some stamp they can print on every one else. Sure- they can jeer us away, but only if we let them. They can tweet out barks of Hell, proof-text ’til the sun goes down, but by the end of the service, I am feeling it. My worth and my hope and my belovedness circling around me like a halo. Pointing to the ground, this ground beneath my feet. I whisper: This. Is. Church.


I can see it in my nephew sleeping with hymnals in his ears and two parents raising him to be a peacemaker. I can feel it in the two pastors who come alongside me after the service and talk through everything with me- World Vision, Mean Christians, and the Jesus leaning in against the Church, smiling over at me. One of them tells me I need to plant myself, daily, in the love of God. And it’s a call I’ve felt linger over me for days.


Pope Francis said the internet is a gift from God and though there is so so so much shit rising up in a haze over that realm- a church is being built there too. When I was hit hard, a blogger friend stood up for me. I messaged him, “thank you and I look up to you” and he messaged back, “you’re my family” and then, tears. Voxer has become a window for me and a couple other friends, ones with big hearts who leave me prayers like notes on the sill.


When I drive home, I am still singing those hymns. I am feeling myself planted firm in Christ and him Crucified. The radio is off and I am praying aloud thanksgiving. I am laying hands over all the things said and all the passion burning in their words and saying: He Paid It All. I am singing, out on the freeway, heart no longer afraid: His love is Deep. His love is Wild. And it Covers Us. 

May We Never Stop Speaking



photo credit

Last weekend, I sat around a small stove fire on the driveway of my brother’s house with his friends. We were cracking open beers, listening to country music, talking March Madness (which I feigned stress over). And one of the guys brought up the World Vision fiasco and my responses and how I was going about mending from the tragic turn of events that steamrolled over last week.


One of the guys, who I didn’t recognize, looked back and forth at us.



I then explained everything, starting with a stuttered, awkward, “Well, you know, first off- I’m gay and christian, and a blogger, and, also, I’m Ben- nice to meet you!”


Then I dove into all the details of everything that went down. All the excruciating messages I heard in the conservative response, the swift and unanticipated betrayal from World Vision, and then, I talked a bit about gatekeepers and their ever shrinking circles. The kid sat their blinking,


“So, you’re uh, gay and Christian?”


It’s a fair question. Especially after learning about his conservative background, which we share, and his current beliefs, which we don’t. He told me he had a total of one gay friend, but after he came out, that friend quickly walked away from the faith, and from him. And I found it so devastating, the end of a relationship that could’ve borne so much fruit in that tension. The faith his friend was told was not for him. All it did was prove the point right, gay and Christian are mutually exclusive.


We talked then, through theology and books and the very essence of Jesus. He posed some brave, awkward questions, ones that showed how little he actually knew about what it is to be gay. Do you believe it is a choice? As in, just tell me the truth, did you decide this? An ignorant question, indeed! But you know what? His eyes were wide open and curious. This was an honest wondering. To him, he explained, all he knew was the old retired debate of choice vs genetics.


I explained to him that, no, of course I didn’t. He asked, if it were possible, would choose to be straight. I said, years ago, yes. Today, without a shadow of doubt in my mind, no. And I also told him I wasn’t entirely convinced in the born this way assumptions. I believed it was a mix of things, but perhaps with a divine plan in place? Who knows? Not me. But that’s missing the point. For all we know, heterosexuality isn’t in the genes either. Here we are today.


Conversations about sin led him into what I thought was the classic, “but we all sin…” olive branch, but then, instead of passing it back to me, going into what he believed my sin was, we found ourselves standing together on the beautiful core conviction that shame is not of Jesus. We lamented over the obsession conservative Christians have regarding any and all sex. Grieved over our Bible, the way it had been sharpened into a shank against every one of us. All around the fire, friends nodded their heads. Gave sighs of agreement. And we began sharing stories- real, meaningful ones. And we talked about grace. That offensiveness of it. We gave a long hug at the end. He said this conversation was such a relief for him to have. And the truth is, it wouldn’t have happened had I not said I was a gay Christian.


Jen Hatmaker published today one of the best pieces I have read from the conservative corner. I was surprised by the warmth it left on me. Like love does, I suppose. And I was impressed with her grace, honesty and her pledge to continue to find ways to love one another (and her acknowledgement that not all Christians agree here, some are-heaven forbid- affirming. An important point which is not ever mentioned in the GATEKEEPER, “Gays are not Christians! Allies are traitors!” posts.) There are gay Christians like me out here, searching and finding and living, and that, my brothers and sisters, is a victory for the kingdom.


I am a gay Christian. I have come to feel the destabilizing truth of this declaration. It packs a punch. It pisses off the gatekeepers more than anything, and evokes a call to love and learn from those with searching hearts. It provokes conversations that are fruitful and drop seeds, into both our souls, as we learn the difference between hate and disagreement, gay pride floats and committed relationships, as we, as I, ply apart the person from the, now inflammatory, Evangelical.


And so I’ll keep saying it because I am reaping such a harvest, such a renewal of life is growing in the ground of my soul: I am gay and I am Christian. I’m a gay Christian. You are straight and you are Christian. You are man, woman, genderqueer, black, white, brown, and Christian and the kingdom is where we meet and grow together. Sling arms over shoulders. Open our hands and choose to see the best behind our eyes. Choose to stay even when it scares us.


God love us all and may we never stop speaking.