4 Things To Remember When Your Spiritual Life Stalls

4 things to remember when your spiritual life stalls

I’d love to travel on a sailboat. To hang out over the railing, the wind whipping the rigging, flying fast and free over the foamy blue. Sun, salt, and sea-spray lightening the red of my hair, utterly unbridled joy and excitement. This water-daughter has lived most her life by the sea, and would love to sail upon it, to reach glorious lands yet unknown (at least to me).

And in a way, that’s what I’d like my spiritual journey to be like too. To fly along blown by God’s Spirit, utter and complete joy in everything, each day bringing a new cresting wave of truth and knowledge.

But sometimes the wind stops. The sails droop. And you’re caught in the doldrums—the place feared by sailors of old, where the wind disappears for days, even weeks, and only oars can take you anywhere. It’s a stifling hot still, where everything is numb and the same. You can row and row, but each pull is agonizingly hard and there’s not a glimmer of change on the horizon.

And sometimes, we can get into spiritual doldrums too. Bible reading just doesn’t excite us as it did anymore. You don’t feel overwhelmed by God’s greatness in worship. Prayer seems like a chore, not a privilege. The wind of excitement seems to have completely disappeared, and you’re wondering what happened. You keep rowing, keep on going, but there seems to be no change, and you’re tempted to throw the oars overboard in defeat.

But there’s some things we need to remember when we get caught in the doldrums of life.

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To The Broken Ones: Don’t Let Shame Strangle You

To the Broken Ones

She sat across from me, clutching the coffee mug tightly in her hands. This was supposed to be a normal conversation in a café, yet quickly became anything but. As her words and then tears began to trickle and then gush out, I quickly came to sit beside her, letting the torrential rain of hurt and grief flow out. When the storm had slowed, she looked at me with broken eyes. Her hurt is not mine to share, but her words then and a hundred others’ could have been paraphrased thus: “I’m not even worthy anymore. I have to be perfect, to be so good, and I failed. I’m broken forever.”

Those words cut me.

I wanted to weep and scream and fight those words. Even now, I still tremble and my throat tightens at the remembering. I hate them. The choices that led to them, the beliefs that fed those conclusions to her, and the ravages they had done to her. This was my friend, and she was being destroyed. Shame was strangling her life away, and not only metaphorically. She had been pierced, so deeply wounded, and I hated that she had done it and I hated that she had been told to just throw a Band-Aid over it and I hated that she was dying inside because of it. If I could have physically walked up to her shame and thrown myself punching at it, I would have. My soul screamed and grieved at the brokenness of it all.

And the worst part is, she’s not the only one. Different words, different girls, but I’ve heard so many echoing the same conclusion. I’ve messed up. That’s it. I’m not good enough anymore, and I can never go back. Everyone, God included, is disappointed with me. I can’t go to Him after what I’ve done.

And I want to scream, No, no, no, and do something drastic, anything to take away this hurt from them. But I can’t. You can’t fight something that’s not physical. Continue reading

Why Writers (And the Rest of Us) Need Poetry

Why Writers Need Poetry

Poetry is difficult for me.  I can’t identify the rhythm scheme of a stanza to save my life, and I was never very interested in doing so. Yes, I did the required reading for school; yes, I memorized The Ride of Paul Revere; but if you asked me, the style got in the way of the story. It would take up so much less space if we didn’t stack the lines. And at least that was a story-poem, the best kind in my opinion. The poems for just poetry, of snow and leaves and fog creeping in on little cat feet– I could do without them. When I left highschool and Edward Lear behind, I breathed a sigh of relief. I had no time for all of that.

Perhaps it’s not odd that I had this view, all things considered. After all, we live in a  scientific, straightforward, and practical culture. Lines section our sky, from towers to plane trails to power lines. We live in a world of checklists and traffic lanes, everyone always rushing by with something to do. We live in a reality where things have an exact place and a strict definition. A house is just a dwelling for people. A pen is just an instrument for making markings on paper. A star is just a globe of gas billions of cold miles away.

But poetry asks, what if we’re wrong? Continue reading

Why I Write

Why do I write?

The question stares at me tonight. The span of time since I’ve written stretches far back into days, weeks, months even. A pulsing emptiness, the great void of silence. It asks, why should I attempt to bridge it? Why pick it back up? After all, there are plenty of other things to do. I could be studying. Or earning money. Or cleaning house. Or doing something, tangible, physical, real even. It warns me to back away from the canyon, to settle back into the normal life.

Because it’s hard to live the writer life. Making words is like giving birth–I don’t know how it works. It takes concentration, focus, and an undistractedness I rarely have.

So why do I write?

Because every word I write stands as a silent protest to this most chaotic world…

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Going To Church Is Useless — If

It was Easter Sunday, and I had no reason to go to church.

It was nine degrees outside. Nine degrees. This Southern girl had never experienced that before, not even in the darkest depths of winter. All I wanted to do was bury myself deeper into my bed, resting under my white covers rather than braving the white snow drifts outside. And I should have. I could have taken my time waking up, and eaten a nice warm breakfast, rather than scoffing down cereal. And I should have. I could have slowly and thoroughly prepared myself for the day, rather than rushing about in a flurry searching for gloves and scarves and tying shoelaces for my little brother. And I should have.

In fact, I should save myself the trouble of having to go to church every week, I should do away with the discipline of reading my Bible every morning, I should dispense with the whole of my faith — if.

If Christ is not risen.

Going To Church Is Useless -- If

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Surviving Leviticus: 3 Tips To Persevere in Your Bible Reading

Leviticus.

That dreaded name in your Bible-in-a-year plan.

“In the beginning” of January, you start off just fine. The Creation of existence, the Garden of Eden, the ark of Noah — we’ve heard these stories since Sunday School, and comfortably sail through our two or three chapters every day. Then comes Exodus, and it’s full of adventure and intrigue. Burning bushes, massive plagues, attempted coups within the camp of Israel — you can almost hear the echoes of The Prince of Egypt soundtrack playing as your read.

But January turns into February, and the white of winter turns into slushy brown, and you start to drag. Because all of a sudden you begin to read every detail about how the tabernacle was built. And I mean every detail. Use this many rings on the left wall. Use this many rings on the right wall. Use this many rings on the front wall. Use this many rings on the back wall. Put this many pomegranates on the left curtain. Put this many pomegranates on the right curtain. Put this many pomegranates on the front curtain… And so you trudge through these last few chapters of Exodus, convinced you can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Then you’re hit by the train of Leviticus.

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Announcement and Post on TheRebelution: How Do You Define a Christian?

I was recently asked to join TheRebelution Staff as a regular contributor! You might be familiar with the site, as I’ve been published with them several times before. I’m so honored to join this team, and to be a part of their work in equipping and encouraging young people to go out, chase after Jesus, change the world, and do hard things. So you can head on over to TheRebelution every third Monday to see a post by yours truly, and follow TheReb for daily encouragement (and sometimes conviction) to love and live and work with excellence. Here’s my first post as an regular contributor!

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I paused as I read the post. It asked, “How do you describe a Christian? I’m asking because I think I have a different definition than many of you.” I clicked to see the comments, morbidly convinced I was about to witness a full-out brawl between different denominations, or the putting forth and praising of strange cult-like beliefs.

But there wasn’t.

Each person described what it means to be a Christian a little bit differently, yes. And the original questioner had a unique answer as well. But rather than the soft heresy or warring factions I had so morbidly expected, I found I generally agreed with them all. True, there was the occasional ambiguity of the precise intent of phrases like “Love everyone” because these phrases have often been co-opted by wrong ideas. But with a charitable reading, I found myself nodding to almost all of the answers. And yet none of the answers were the same. They were all different.

Does that mean I’m a naïve Christian? I hope not. Does that mean I don’t know how Christianity or doctrine works? I don’t think so. Does that mean that all of these people were confused about being a Christian? No.

Perhaps it means that we can’t truly have a small, concise definition for something so big.

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Valentine’s Day Doesn’t Have to Hurt: Guest Post On Delighting In Him

I’m honored to share on the lovely Moriah’s blog, Delighting In Him, talking about singleness, joy, and Valentine’s Day. Go take a look, and while your there read Moriah’s wonderful blog, and subscribe to catch her new upcoming series on delight!

 

“Valentine’s Day used to really hurt.

Not because I have anything traumatic that ever happened around it, nor because anyone was ever unkind to me, and not even because I hate chocolate or red and pink wrappers. (As if such a thing could be.)

No, Valentine’s hurt, because it was a reminder. Because all around me people were getting flowers and buying cards and posting photos of them and their significant other. And there’s nothing wrong with them doing that. But to me it was a reminder. A reminder that there are the Have’s and the Have-not’s of relationships, and I was well and firmly in the latter…”

via Valentine’s Day Doesn’t Have to Hurt | Isabelle Ingalls

The Olympics and the Single Moment

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One moment. Everything hangs upon it.

My family has been watching the Olympics together this week, tensing as a figure skater gets tossed several feet into the air until she lands safely again, holding our breath as the hockey player takes the shot, cheering as the skier lands that fantastical flip. It’s incredible the feats these athletes can do. But what’s even more impressive is the labor these athletes have put into their sport.

They’ve trained since they were ten. They’ve given all their attention to this one thing. They lift those weights, just one more time, so that they can get here. They hit that alarm, just one more time, so that they can get here. Thousands of pushups and crunches, and hundreds of thousands of hours out on the snow, out on the ice — they dedicate the whole of their lives to training.

And yet some of them only compete for 38 seconds. That’s the whole of their race, that’s  how long their track is.

But for many more, the outcome is decided in one single moment. Continue reading

Don’t Instagram Your Godliness

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This should come as no surprise to anyone, but at risk of repeating the obvious: We’re living in the internet age. We communicate through emojis, learn through videos, and keep up through pictures. We have surmounted the limitations of space, breaking her hold on us, as we can communicate just as easily with those who live across the country as with those who live across the street. But we’re not just inhabitants of the internet age. We’re Christian inhabitants of the internet age.

And we want our online identity to reflect that. We ask ourselves “If someone looked solely at my profile, would they think I’m a Christian?”

So we saturate our online selves with spirituality. We post inspirational verses edited over sunrise stock-photos. We share the coffee-and-Jesus picture. We tweet a quote from today’s devotional; we make sure we pray a nice, theological, long prayer in our group. And everyone can see very well how much we love Jesus and what good Christians we are.

Now, I’m not saying it’s wrong for us to share online so others can see our good works.

Jesus is. Continue reading