Tag Archives: April Kelsey

rainbow after the storm

“Nothing to shout about”, or, my four-month break

It was July 4th. That was when I decided I needed a break. Four months. Important things have happened in that time. Much of it never made the news.

  • We found a new church home. My daughter was hugely relieved as she gets attached easily and “church dating” has been really hard on her.
  • I returned to Yosemite for the first time since my childhood best friend was killed there in a rock climbing accident in 2005. It was even more beautiful than I remembered.
  • In Monterey, my wife and I spent 10 hours battling seasickness in a tiny boat to see an actual, live albatross in flight overhead, something I had wanted to do since I read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner at age 12.
  • Within three days in late September, two of my favorite bloggers each posted that they are hanging it up, one for a break, and the other, for good.
  • My family witnessed, together, an outcome in the World Series unprecedented since before my daughter’s great-grandparents were born.
  • And yes, our country chose a new president, and I have sat with various friends through all their different reactions: some elated, some terrified.

I have posted before about sabbath: how important, and yet how little valued it is in our day. Especially for those who believe in their work, it is easy to justify the never-ending, bit-by-bit deplenishment of spirit that comes from doing just one more small thing.

Important things have been happening in our society. I know what I’m supposed to do if I want to be a successful writer: I need to write about what’s hot. I need to tap into the zeitgeist. I can only be relevant by connecting with an audience, and if this is a hard, cynical age, marked by division and mistrust, then I need to toss a coin, choose my side, and start shouting.

That is what I could not bring myself to do. As I stood on the sidelines these past four months, witness to all the sound and fury, I could not help remembering the words from Shakespeare’s King Lear: “What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent.”

I care passionately about what is happening in our society. I believe this is a historic moment. And I believe, at a time like this, that some things— like how we treat those who disagree— are more important than which side wins.

Some hear me calling for reconciliation and mutual respect, and they hear only the voice of white privilege, brimming with complaisance and naïveté. Some hear the voice of betrayal. Some hear nice words but with no real power. But I do not believe that Christ was complacent or naïve, or that bipartisanship equals betrayal, and as for those “nice words”: history has shown they are the only words with any real power to heal.

Award

Best Christian Stuff of 2015

One thing I have discovered this past year as a blogger: If you want to write, you have to read what other people are writing. No writing happens in a vacuum. We as writers need inspiration, and much of that comes from the inspired voices around us. So, to put a button on the year, I want to take a moment and recognize some of those voices. Here’s hoping they will inspire you too!

The “Embrace the Grace” award

As Christians, we must remember the need to constantly replenish our souls. The world God has given us is wastefully overflowing in beauty, but our part is to stop and drink it in. Scripture exhorts us to spend our mental energy reflecting on all of it (contrary to the prevailing trend in our society of meditating on things wrong with the world that make us angry). So the “Embrace the Grace” award goes to Esther Owen for a beautiful example of doing just that.

Drenched In The Chase — Esther OwenDrenched in the Chase — by Esther Owen

“Eternity is soaked in moments like these. Saturated with wonder.  Lost in a moment so humble in its simple hopefulness. Sometimes whimsy takes practice, but don’t hesitate. Always embrace the chase.”

 

The “Eye Opener” award (two-way tie)

As a Presbyterian growing up in California, you hear these vague, distant rumors— places where Christian faith is being carried to absurd legalistic extremes— but they’re easy to dismiss. So much of the extreme stuff we hear about is really just media hype (witness the breathless reporting of “outrage” over the Starbucks cups or the lipstick names).

Unfortunately, some of the rumors are true. So my “Eye Opener” awards go to two posts from Amy Buckley and April Kelsey— actual human beings I respect that made me stop in my tracks and say, “Wait a minute… this is seriously a thing?!”

Never Worth Less — Amy Buckley

Never Worth Less — by Amy R. Buckley

“All I knew was women could lead women and children, but never men. But I couldn’t understand why it was honorable for a man who lacked musical abilities to lead worship. And I wondered why on earth God would be offended by the worship of a woman with musical gifting, simply because she used that gift in front of men.”

 

Silver Dress — April KelseySilver Dress: My Experience With Evangelical Purity Culture — by April Kelsey

“Would my parents approve of this dress? Was the neckline too low? Were my shoulders too bare? My body was constantly sexualized and strictly policed. All I really wanted was some safe affection. But in purity culture, there was either no touch or sexual touch. And I couldn’t live without touch.”

The “Faith in Motion” award (two-way tie)

If it’s to be of any value, faith needs to be practical. We use it to make the world a better place. We apply it to our own lives to live more abundantly. Writing can help us do that: the type of article you want to post on someone else’s Facebook wall. Here were two articles this year, by Mo Morrison and Julia Powers, where I did just that.

Feed My Sheep — Mo Morrison

Feed my Sheep — by Mo Morrison

“Something powerful occurs when you’re talking to someone who’s standing on the other side of what you’re pressing through. God wastes nothing.  As we overcome, we can BE a blessing.”

By Prayer and Petition — Julia Powers

By Prayer and Petition — by Julia Powers

“So, strange as it sounds, a petition emerged saying something like this: ‘I’m stressed. I propose a change in my commitment to self-care and pursuit of social support.’ It was a slightly awkward seeking signatures— anyone from my therapist to my pastor to the college classmate who lent a listening ear.”

(P.S. Julia gets extra credit, because I stole the “Best of 2015 Blog Post” idea from her.)

The “Couldn’t Do It Withoutcha” award

Bible GatewayHow my brain works: I can remember the words of scripture. I can’t for the life of me remember the chapter and verse. When I write, scriptural accuracy is vital to me: there are so many supposedly Biblical claims that are not actually in the Bible. In this blog, every quote from scripture is verified on, and linked to, the source at Bible Gateway. That way:

  1. I know I’m quoting scripture correctly
  2. Readers with questions can verify the verse themselves, read the full context, and see if they agree with my take
Thank you

Finally, thanks to those of you who took time out from your busy lives to read One For Jesus. Just since I started keeping track in August, over 2700 unique visitors have been here. I hope some of your lives have been touched by what you read.

So, to all those recognized and many others, thanks for all the ways that you contributed to  my life. You are truly the ones who make this blog possible. Wishing you all the best, and many blessings to each of you in 2016!

Victory: New Year's resolution

How a New Year’s resolution can rescue your soul

Some folks are down on the New Year’s resolution, but I am a big fan. At the heart of any resolution, there is a spirit of transformation, which is one of scripture’s favorite topics:

  • “The old has passed away. Behold! The new has come.”
  • “See, I am doing a new thing! I am making a way in the wilderness.”
  • “He said, ‘I am making all things new.'”

The sense that a new year brings new promise— a new hope, a chance to leave behind the mistakes of the past and start fresh— these are all principles that originated with Christ. Before that, there were two categories of people: the worthy, and the fallen. Once you had strayed from the path, there was no recovery, and the “worthy” took every opportunity to make sure you knew it. As my friend April Kelsey recently put it, “You became a cup of spit, a licked candy bar, a white sheet rolled in the mud. Consumed. Polluted. Spent.”

This view is still held today by the Pharisees among us who have missed the point of Christ. But that is my point: they have missed the point. If, today, you are one of the “fallen”— if you have made some mistake so horrible, if you have strayed from the path so far, if you are carrying some monkey on your back from which you can never be free— then there is good news: you can be free.

The “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous opens with a letter from a doctor, describing a patient “…of a type I had come to regard as hopeless… He acquired certain ideas concerning… a Power which could pull chronic alcoholics back from the gates of death.” Many of us know of AA’s “Twelve Steps”, but the heart of the recovery that had been missed by so many before is captured in Step Two: “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

As I have written before:

Whatever may be wrong in our lives, don’t we say, “It’s my problem, it’s up to me to fix it?” But the truth is, no matter who you are, no matter how powerful and clever and creative you are, you didn’t create your sin by yourself, and you are not going to solve it by yourself… whatever is causing destruction in your life, more likely than not, there is a multi-billion dollar industry supplying it to you.

No matter what rut you are stuck in, another way is open to you. That was my story. My burden was sexual sin, and my cross was soul-crushing loneliness. When I finally encountered a true scriptural perspective… when I finally could understand that the Bible’s urgings against “sin” were not meant to control me and crush my spirit, but to offer me a way of escape from the very thing that was destroying me… when I realized that Christ had given his life to make that way available to me… that was a new day. That day was not like all the others where I simply determined to “do better”.

So this year, when you make your resolution, the same one you have made so many years before, when you grimly grit your teeth and resolve this time to succeed, “knowing” at the back of your mind that it’s all pointless, that it’s going to be just like all the other times, that you are going to fail… do something different. Quit treasuring up your secret shame and let in the outside air. Others have found the path, and so can you. You cannot find it by yourself. You cannot find it without faith that it is there. But it is there. I know it, because it happened to me.

This year, let your resolution be that you will find it too.