Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Atheism, family, and love.

I know I haven't posted in a long time, and who knows who will even realize that this is even up. But let's move past that.

I just read an article on (a very liberal "news"-ish site) written by a young, female atheist who spends her time blogging, writing, going to conferences, etc. to spread the message of atheism and raise awareness of various human rights issues. Anyway, the point of the article was that she had begun to realize that the worst sexism and horrible comments the came her way online (death threats, rape threats, etc) were not coming from the right-wing that disagreed with her (although there were some from them too). But rather, they were coming from people on "her own team". So she decided to start speaking out about this. And it got much, much worse. I don't know if I even finished reading the article, but it made me so sad. She seemed so disillusioned, having compared the familial feeling she felt in her community of atheists to what "christians must feel in a church", only to find that they were the worst of her attackers. I admit, to my shame, that part of me was relieved. Relieved that for once, I wasn't hearing again how badly the christians were behaving. Finally, the non-believers are worse than us. But how sad for her. To have chosen not to believe in God, and become part of a community that she now feels attacked by. How alone she must feel. And all the while I was reading this, my Pandora station was playing "Mighty to Save" by Hillsong United and then "Wonderful Maker" by Jeremy Camp. And this morning I was reading in Jeremiah, about how God was so frustrated with his people for turning from him, and the pain He felt is so tangible, you can feel it coming off the page. And it brought to mind when Jesus told Jerusalem how he longed to gather them into his arms. I wish I could give this girl a hug.

 I'm not sure what the take-away from this is, other than a stark reminder of how much God loves and a reminder to me to pray, pray, pray for the lost. But I'm also convicted to love my fellow Christians the same way. The ones who disgust me with their hatred and condemnation of others. The ones who make me look bad when I say I'm a christian. We watched the Father of Lights video at church a couple of weeks ago, and it was all amazing, but for me the most shocking part wasn't the miracles that were performed. It was when the people who went to Venice Beach to minister to the lost ran into a group who were running around with signs that talked about condemnation, who shouted through bullhorns to the people that they were going to hell. And the one of the "good guys" talked and prayed a blessing over one of the guys with a bullhorn. He prayed that God would bless him, financially, and with spiritual gifts, and I was so surprised. Could I pray a blessing over one of the people from the Westboro church? Something to wrestle with. What does it mean to love my brothers and sisters in Christ that I disagree with so whole-heartedly? I always stuck with 'just because I have to love them doesn't mean I have to like them!' as a defense when it came to fellow christians I just didn't like. But that's not love at all. You cannot love someone if you don't like them. It's always meant so much more to me that God really LIKES me, than to hear for the 80-millionth time that He loves me. So I'll keep praying for the lost, and for the atheist author, but most especially for my own heart. That God will give me eyes to see and like people, most of all the ones who are hard to love because I expect more of them. To remember how much I've been forgiven and loved and liked despite the stupid things I've said or done. Because when I remember those things, it's much harder to fault anyone else for anything. Please God, make this forgetful girl never forget how much she's been forgiven.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Hey There, Faithful Readers...

This post is the response to recent facebook message from a favorite friend. Warning to any (if there are any?) men: you probably want to avoid point number 3. Unless you're married. Then you might want to draw your wife's attention to it. Enjoy!

1.) "You don't blog anymore. It's sad. I miss it." 
           Ridiculous and falsely humble as it may sound, it always comes as a surprise to me that anyone would read rambling thoughts and happenings of my day. That's not so much humility as it is an insight into my insecurities. Insecurity is probably an issue for almost everyone I've met, and a topic of countless books, magazine articles, etc. (Unless you're my husband, who is one of the most secure, and comfortable-in-his-own-skin people I've ever met. I pray that my children inherit that security from him and that as I continue to believe that what God says is try and embrace my true identity, they will learn their true identities and not struggle like I have.) Honestly, without the topic of the Cherished ministry, I overthink the things that I consider blogging about. My plan is to get back to regular posting in spite of any "what will they think?" type thoughts. I heard someone say once that a person's facebook identity is typically not who they are, but who they want people to think they are. You cultivate your "public face". So I will try to be as honest about who I am, and what I think, in the hopes that as you read this, you see a woman honestly trying to follow Jesus and love him as best she can. Even is you don't approve of the fact that she likes rap AND is a worship leader. 

2.) "Did you decide not to update the Cherished facebook group? How are things going? Still doing something monthly?" 
            That's right, I created a facebook group of people to pray for the Cherished ministry. I hope you're not offended if you're not in it. I invited people who regularly contact me personally and that I know pray over this ministry, so I'm sorry if you would have wanted to be in on that. Anyway, this is something that is difficult for me to talk about. Makes me feel a little sick. In the last 4 months or so, I have felt a diminishing of my 'call' to the Cherished ministry. Part of that is because I took the worship leader position at our church, and time became less and less available, but a big part of it was due to reading "7 Practices of Effective Ministry" by Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner, and Lane Jones. As a staff at church we read it and went through the questions together. It was really great, and I recommend this book to everyone. It was a chapter called "Narrow the Focus" that really got to me. It was a chapter about cutting prgrams that might be working, but are not contributing as much to the overall mission of the church, rather, they're using resources that could be used in a program that might better feed into the mission. I know that I was supposed to go to the club and do what I did. I can't shake the feeling that my part in it is over. I'm still praying that God will clarify or give me reassurance that this is right, but my gut says it is. I hate quitting. I hate feeling like I started something I thought I might be doing for a decade or more, but this is right. I'm praying that God will give someone else a vision and a plan for how to reach these women. I still plan to stop by occasionally, and make sure they are aware of any outreaches the Vineyard does that could reach them. I just won't be continuing on a steady, monthly basis. Even as I write these things, I can think of a million easy ways to say that I should keep going, except that I'm not supposed to. At least not as the leader or on a regular basis. Please pray for me in this. Pray that God tells me what he wants. That he provides whatever is best for these people. 

3.) "Slightly off-topic, but where does one buy pretty underwear that doesn't come from Victoria's Secret? Also that doesn't cost $250 apiece."
              Married ladies, if you aren't investing or interested in this question, you should be. Speaking from experience, it's so easy to think less about pretty underwear and lingerie the longer you're married. He wants you as you are, right? Everything you had or bought a few years ago still fits, right? You're nursing, and they don't make sexy nursing bras, right? These are all thoughts that have run through my head. But I'm so thankful to have a couple of women who keep me accountable to make sure that I'm putting in the effort to love my husband by loving on my husband. And as men are visual creatures, this includes looking hot ;-) Also, it's just nice to feel pretty (even if no one eles sees). So, in answer to the question, I like sales at department stores and Have fun. :-) 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sometimes I hide in a cave.

My allergies have hit and hit hard this week. Last Sunday my voice was weak in the morning and even worse that night. But the result was that I spent both services we had listening from the audience, instead of focusing on the worship set. The sermon that morning was so amazing for me. Pastor Joe (Papa somehow doesn't seem respectful enough when I'm talking about him as my pastor, lol) told the story of Elijah killing all Jezebel's priests and running to cave to hide when she promised to kill him. God came to him and spoke to Elijah in the gentle whisper, and asked "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

The mental image I have of this makes me want to cry right now. 

So often - more than I would ever want to admit - I forget how much God loves me. Not that I could ever fully grasp it, but it's so comfortable for me to try to earn God's love and affection. For a long time I thought that if I didn't have a knot in my stomach because I felt guilty, it was only because I hadn't remembered what I had done wrong. I somehow taught myself to always be worried because someone was mad, was going to be mad, or God didn't like me and I had to fix something. I noticed that I've been doing that again, with God. When I find myself happy and at peace, I then wrack my brain for what I've got to feel bad about. How crazy is that? But listening to the sermon this Sunday, I immediately pictured myself in a cave, with my back to the light. I pictured myself standing there, crying, because I couldn't find my way out to God. I want to be close to him so much, and I was so sad because I was sure he wouldn't come close because I had done something, or was doing something wrong, and I didn't know what. So I couldn't fix it.

And then I pictured Jesus standing right behind me, saying in the most gentle voice, "What are you doing here, Jessie?" 

Why are you beating yourself up?
Why are you trapping yourself in this despair?
Why are you telling yourself you are not enough?
Don't you know I've always loved you?

And just like that, I'm broken. 
I am free. I am loved. I do not have to be good enough. I know that I never could be. But Jesus loves me, God loves me. The lightness, the freedom that comes from that is so much better than any feeling there is. 

This will not be the last time I struggle with this. But I pray that God will draw closer and closer to me, and that I will fall deeper and deeper in love with him. I have come too far with him to ever experience anything other than complete misery were I to turn back or try to earn his love. I hope you've found the same freedom with him. Any other existence is not enough. He loves you. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Nothing's Gonna Hold Me Back

This has been a crazy week. There is so much to catch up in the last couple of months, but just to preface with a couple of things:

  1. I am not dead. I understand if you might have worried, due to my lack of blogging
  2. We have not quit the Cherished ministry, even though I am 3 months behind on posts. That has been somewhat purposeful.
Cherished Update:

Cherished has been going very well. In March we actually went in earlier than usual - it was a really exciting opportunity. There was a community-wide consignment sale held by one of the local churches going on that week and I was contacted by the woman running it (who is one of my favorite people that I rarely get to see - thank goodness for facebook!) who asked if we would be interested in taking vouchers for the women who work at the club. This consignment sale is exclusively for kids: clothes, shoes, books, toys, equipement, anything child-related. It was perfect. There are very few women working at the club who don't have children, and when Natalie and I went in to tell them about it, the reaction was awesome. They were SO excited. I didn't blog about it at the time because there was a chance some of them might come shop when Natalie and I went, and I really didn't want to run the risk that anyone might see someone with me and think "dancer!". None of the girls came and shopped with us, but it was at least a great gift that they really really appreciated. I love giving a gift that meets a need without it feeling too much like charity. It's always a fear of mine that any of the girls think that this is about looking down on them in any sort of condesencion or feeling of superiority. In April we took gifts of Scentsy room deoderants that had necklace charms attached to them. These were a huge hit, and we met a couple of new girls we hadn't met before. We also brought in small versions of our church's Easter flier to give them as an invitation to church. Several of them expressed interest and one acutally sent her kids! It was a really exciting week. This was another visit I postponed blogging in the hopes that some of the girls might come to church and to avoid anyone looking sideways if there was a new person with Natalie and I (although I did share with several people who pray for our ministry - I can't keep that happy of a secret to myself for long!). With all that said, however, I will be discontinuing the Cherished updates on this blog. As it becomes (or feels like it's becoming) a more and more real likelihood that we will be able to build friendships with some of these ladies outside the club, I don't want anyone surfing my facebook profile to find this blog and feel somehow betrayed or condescended to. I'll probably still give brief updates, and prayer requests, but not the detailed accounts that have been my habit. I'm so thankful to everyone for the support, and I still desperately need your prayers, but I want to make sure that no one who comes to church due to this ministry is looked at through the lens of their occupation. I'm starting to realize how much I do that myself, and I know that I would hate for anyone to look at me firstly characterized by the mistakes or decisions I made when I wasn't fully surrendered to Jesus. If that sentence makes sense. :-) 

Life Update:

This past week was sad. TJ's Papaw Hood passed away, and we went to Ashland on Wednesday and Thursday for the viewing and funeral. Our hearts especially hurt for Mamaw. She's such a sweet lady and I hate to see her hurting. It was really great to see some of TJ's cousins we don't see often and I loved getting to know them all better, but the circumstances sucked. Also, on a more whiny note, Stella and I are suffering from allergies and it has us both a little cranky. 

Church Life Update:

Another major life change has been my taking the interim worship leader position at church in March. I love worship so much, and I love leading worship, but it was a bittersweet time. It's also a much harder job than I realized, and that first month was pretty overwhelming. I'm so grateful to everyone who prayed for me and was so encouraging and helpful - and still is! I'm feeling much more comfortable now, and it's really helped me learn more about music theory and playing guitar. I really love it. Worship is my favorite thing - I really would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than anywhere else on Earth. I'm so excited for tomorrow night - we're having a Pulse, which is an evening of extended worship, communion, and baptisms. It's always so awesome and refreshing. 

That was super long. I think that'll do it for now. :-)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cherished Outreach - February 2012

Well last night was a wonderful, short but hard-won visit. And by hard-won, I mean that it was God that made it possible for this visit to happen.

I'm going to have to give you a little back story this time. Yesterday afternoon while enjoying the beautiful weather with some friends, I seem to have been stung by something. My finger started swelling up faster than anything I've seen (at least on me - the only other time comparable is when Josiah was accidentally hit in the face with a plastic bat by another kid at a party), and I was immediately scared that a) my finger would keep swelling until it exploded and b) that I would have to postpone the Cherished visit. I really didn't want either of these things to happen, so I ran to the medicine cabinet, grabbed some children's benadryl and proceeded to misread the directions and take 3x the recommended dose for an adult. That is very bad. Thank goodness for my friend Stephanie who said, "Um, Jessie, are you sure that's how much you're supposed to be taking?" or I might have taken more. Teaspoon is significantly different than tablespoon.

Fast forward an hour, and I'm starting to feel loopy. I had my friend Natalie drive us to the club, and on the way there, I called TJ's aunt (who is basically a doctor) and she told me I needed to throw up immediately. Natalie and I prayed, because I've never been able to do that before, and ran into the Paddywagon. I know it might not seem like much to you, but I was able to throw up everything in my stomach right away, and for me it was an answered prayer. Thank you to everyone at the Paddywagon for being cool. We went back to the car, prayed, and then went inside.

This month's gifts for the girls were copies of Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Again, if you haven't read this, do it. God loves you, and he's proven it over and over again. For the guys working, Natalie made some great cookies. When we went in, everything seemed a little chaotic and busy. D (the dj) was drilling something into a wall, there seemed to be at least one customer, and several other guys running back and forth who may be new staff. I was still feeling a little loopy, but I think God gave me the grace and control to not show it. "J" immediately ran over to us and gave us hugs, and we headed to the dressing room. As we passed the dj booth, I saw a new guy sitting in the chair and a new girl talking to him. J grabbed her, and pulled her into the dressing room saying, "You've gotta meet these girls!". The new girl gave us her stage name and I was able to talk to her a little and tell her we came to bring a gift to say that God loves you, and we love you. She was really sweet and was quick to tell us that she is just doing this short term. She said that she and her husband attend church and like it. I think she said she has an interview for a waitressing job this week, so we encouraged her in that. However, she did seem like she was on something. While we were standing there, another girl, "A" came in and gave me a hug and seemed excited about the book. I told her it was my favorite and that it was based on a book of the bible, all about how much God loves us. She said she likes to read, and was looking forward to it. We talked a little about her two kids, and how she wants to get into EKU and become a veteranarian because she loves animals. She said her husband doesn't work, and she supports the family. She was as high as anyone I've ever seen, and it broke my heart to hear her dream is one that might seem impossible to her in her present situation. Please pray that she understands her value and gets the strength and will to change her circumstances. While I was talking to these girls, Natalie had a really great conversation with J. J told Natalie that she had had a miscarriage this week, but that it was probably a good thing because she isn't living the way she should. She didn't go into detail about what that meant, but Natalie told her even so, it hurts to lose that little life. They had a very sweet moment together. Natalie was actually able to give her a copy of the book that she had written in and prayed over. Please pray for J, that she sees that this isn't a good environment and she can get another job. Please also pray for the pain of losing a baby. Even if she think it's for the best, it's such a hard thing to go through.

As we headed back out for the door, I saw "P" sitting at the bar and went over to give her a hug. She was drinking, and had probably had a few, but was very excited to see us and excited about the book. We started talking about reading and she shared that she loves to read, but they are the bad romance kind. She also shared something her boyfriend said that was "a joke", but pretty borderline lewd. I just felt a sense of the addiction and perversion that comes with the life some of these girls live, and how it can just affect every area of who you are. After that we headed out, and Natalie took me home. I called Poison Control and they told me to eat food, drink a lot of water and sit with my feet elevated. I cannot say enough about Natalie last night. I leaned heavily on her, and she was great. At the club, and then at my house where she helped me get my kids settled, made me sandwich, cleaned my kitchen, went out and bought juice for me to give to Stella. Then my wonderful little brother James came and played with Josiah until bedtime so that I could relax and rest.

Please pray for all the women who receive a book, especially the ones we didn't get to talk to. Please pray for continued favor with the new management. I hope that as our visit was short, they saw that we aren't a problem (for their business) when we come in. I'm pretty sure that's who the new guys running around were. God has really kept the doors to the club open for us, so please pray that that continues. Thank you so much for your prayers and support.

By the way, I feel much better today. No more benadryl for me. Children's or otherwise.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

After a long, full day.

I am thankful.

  • for my huge, comfortable chair and ottoman.
  • for my husband, who will forgo sleep in the morning so I can go to the eye doctor unencumbered by children, and who likes when I wear my Uggs because that means I'm comfortable.
  • for an opportunity to work in an economy like ours.
  • for Patty Griffin.
  • for my children, who are fussy because they missed me and being at home today.
  • for the ability to be a stay-at-home mom.
  • for the opportunity to tell lost women that God knows them and he loves them.
  • for a God who loves me even when I am so self-focused.
  • for a job my husband enjoys so much.
  • for jazzercise.
  • for a cozy house in the rain.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I'm listening to the sermon from 2 weeks ago.

We're in the middle of series called #thatsahardteaching. Now that is actually pronouced "Pound - That's a hard teaching" instead of hashtag, because the pastor (ok, he's my dad) likes the emphasis of the word "POUND". :-) It's been a really great series, we've been going through the beautitudes. But 2 weeks ago, he felt called to switch the sermon on Sunday morning. The sermon was ... get ready for it ... women pastors.


I don't know about you, but growing up as a Mennonite who didn't agree with women as pastors, this was a highly uncomfortable sermon for me to listen to. And I knew where he was going with it, and I don't disagree with him, but it was and is still slightly uncomfortable. The only thing I can say is that it's hard to undo what you've grown up with. But what I appreciate the most is the constant question he asks: "What does the Bible say about what the Bible says?" - and I'm challenged again to back up why I believe what I believe. This year I've been refreshed and blessed with a new hunger and thirst to read the Word. I started a "read-it-in-one-year" reading plan on the 2nd of January (I'm a rebel like that) and I'm enjoying it so much more than I expected. Even before this sermon I've been experiencing the exciting discomfort that comes from growth - seeing pride in places I didn't want to admit I was keeping it. Seeing a condescending, judgemental attitude I didn't want to admit I harbored. Seeing my insecurity for what it is - lack of faith and trust in God and his Word.

I'm not going to argue for or against women in leadership/women pastoring. If you want to hear the sermon I'm listening to, go to and select "sermons". Launch the sermon player, and play the sermon titled "#yourenotthebossofme". I hope that I keep bumping into uncomfortable, stretching teachings as I grow. My favorite line from the sermon this past week was "If you want to be comfortable, Jesus isn't for you". I'm done with comfortable. I want to be moved. I want to see greater things.