Christian living · conservatism · fundamentalism · Legalism · life lessons

Beyond My Tower

This began as a Twitter thread. I figured maybe this would be a good way to enter back into the blogging world. It is certainly a different tone than some of my earlier stuff, but life has a way of doing that to you.

I never would’ve considered myself sheltered, especially considering my parents were pretty open minded. But I realized I know very little about the world and how to connect to people around me, even other Christians.

I grew up in a racist community where the KKK picketed outside my school over Muslim students attending. Racial slurs + rebel flags were the norm. I didn’t realize it, but I was taught to fear people who weren’t white like me in a post 9/11 culture. I was uncomfortable in culturally diverse settings.

Then I got married at 18 to an IFB (independent fundamental baptist) preacher’s son. It hid me away from the insanity of my own family and past decisions. It gave me safety. I learned that in order to have doctrinal and moral purity, I should fear even other believers who weren’t KJVO or as separated as me. I didn’t want to be influenced by the compromising and carnal world. Reaching out to a Southern Baptist was dangerous, let alone a Muslim.

Even in the public school, I was taught a whitewashed, revisionist history. The IFB exacerbated that with their cult history of the church’s origins, conspiracy theories, and obsession with eschatology.

Again, racial slurs against Muslims were common. I sat through an entire Wednesday night service where the visiting preacher made his case for why Obama was really a Muslim and was truly born in Kenya. We had our token black preachers, but also affirmed horrific teachings like the Curse of Cain or the Curse of Ham. We balked at the idea of being racist while making jokes about fried chicken and black church. Peter Ruckman was the father of our KJVO conspiracies (double inspiration) and he was truly one of the most racist preachers of the modern fundamentalist church.

I’ve also been a SAHM (stay at home mom) for almost 11 yrs. I haven’t worked a public job since I was 17. Even joining a co op with non IFB mothers was a no go, because I didn’t want them to influence me. I often heard that women who worked were more likely to cheat on their husbands, because women are the weaker vessel and more easily deceived. I felt uncomfortable even working with other men at church on music or media.

It’s incredible just how small and narrow my worldview has been and, honestly, how socially awkward it has made me. Just the fact that I acknowledge this and desire the truth would’ve meant I was backsliding and being influenced by the world. Watching anything but FOX News meant I was slipping into the leftist regime. Listening to a pastor who didn’t use the King James just meant I desired watered down preaching to tickle my ears.

But hiding away from the world in a commune of sorts is the opposite of what God desires for His people. How am I supposed to reach them if I turn my nose up at them or fear them?! Or believe my nationality makes me superior? How am I supposed to understand the experiences of others? Life isn’t as black and white as I used to think. People’s experiences are quite nuanced. There isn’t always a simple answer to why they feel the way they do or why things have happened to them.

I’m 30 years old and it’s a wild time. I feel like Rapunzel when she first left her tower.

I still desire Biblical truth above all things, but that doesn’t mean I want to be lied to. So many are leaving the faith because they were fed these rosy pictures of American history or the origin of their Bible translation – and when they find that it isn’t true, they hit a faith crisis. The IFB church will just tell you you’re being seduced by Satan. And the unbelieving world will say it’s ALL a scam.

It’s a horrible crisis of faith that many in my generation are limping through.

This is more of a vent than it is a post providing solutions. All I know is that we have to do better with the next generation we are raising up. Because right now, I see too many casualties from this environment that was supposed to protect us. Instead, it has left us socially undeveloped and unprepared for reality. It hinders the work of the great commission that we always heard about each Sunday.

Digging our heels into false information isn’t the answer. Hiding our heads in the sand out of fear will not silence the questions. We need truth. The truth sets us free.

life lessons · Writing

Stepping Back + Other Thoughts

I’ve been blogging since the days of xanga and livejournal. I’ve written in a diary since I was in the second grade. Documenting my life and expressing my thoughts has always been a part of me. Fleshing out my feelings through a journal entry has gotten me through many hard roads. I love going through old journals from my early years in marriage/motherhood and seeing how God worked in my life!

I really wish I still had access to my old blogs from my preteen – high school years, but then again, maybe not! Because blogging was still reserved for a community of only a few people who I had chosen to read my stuff, I was often very candid and detailed in my experiences.

Simply put, some things aren’t worth re living.

Anyway, I say all of that to say this – I see nothing wrong with blogging. Or social media. Or even vlogging. (Although I do think it’s a bit goofy to film and edit our lives for likes and shares. But there’s money in it, I guess.) I appreciate blogs dedicated to giving advice, as they’ve been a huge help to me. Or even ones which document real life in order to show the rest of us we aren’t the only crazy ones. There’s definitely a lot of good out there.

But one day, the idea of documenting my life began to feel ridiculous. Does anyone care what I ate for dinner? Aside from grandparents + aunts and uncles, does anyone really need to see what my kids are doing? Do I really need to share my opinion on everything? Do I need to update you through stories and posts on every detail of my life? And do I need to spend hours of my life reading + watching yours? Why do you need to know that I worked out? Is it even safe?!

I like to blog to share a thought. With much discretion and discernment, I want to write things which would edify and strengthen another in Christ. Or share the frank, humorous reality of being a mom and wife. Beyond that, I’m not interested in opening my life up to the world. I don’t want to live in a false illusion of the highlight reel. Really, I want to have a joyful, abundant life well lived. And then perhaps I’ll write about it, because that’s what I do.

If another person enjoys more than that, cool! But for me, I feel I miss out on the present when I’m thinking of a clever Facebook post or photo. It cheapens the value of the moments I truly live in with my family. Hiding behind a screen removes the need to personally invest time in people and see how they’re doing, because we can just see it on social and let them know we care with a heart.

I don’t know. I guess I just want more than that. I suppose I feel as though I’m missing real life while getting lost in the virtual.

I’m not dogmatic about this. I do not believe social media is a sin or that blogging our lives is wrong. I DO enjoy seeing the positive things about my friends and family as well as staying connected. I like watching funny videos or reading encouraging posts. But couldn’t I just do a little better about making the effort to see how they’re doing in another way?

I don’t know. I’m rambling a lot here. I just think it’s goofy to document every waking moment and then spending time reading everyone else’s rather than just living. Think about how much our conversations with one another would be enriched and how we would personally draw closer if we weren’t so connected on social. (Or if we didn’t depend on it so much to stay connected!)

I also know how vain I can be. I know how I can get a false gratification from likes and hearts. Let’s get real! We can not accurately gauge the success and health of our lives by how we’re perceived through a post!

Anyway, I don’t want to stop blogging. I enjoy this community. But I’m stepping way back. I want to write meaningful things, not just little snippets with trendy catchphrases and hashtags on Instagram. I just want to live life. I want to serve Jesus, my husband, my kids, and the ones I love.

And then I’ll write. Rather than creating experiences to write about or living for content, I’ll create from the outflow of what God is doing in my life.


life lessons

Serving in Solitude

It’s been a while since I created a “real” blog post. I frequently do mini-posts on Coffee & Grace’s Facebook and IG, but sitting down to make content for the site is definitely more time consuming. I would like to become more consistent with that this year. Life as a wife, mom, and whatever other hat I’m wearing that day can be busy! But I love to write, I love to blog, and I love the little community that is beginning to form here.

With all of that said, I’ll break my silence with an uncensored, ugly truth.

During discipleship class last week, my pastor’s wife was teaching a lesson on Christian liberty. One of the questions she asked was, “has your legalism ever kept any of you from ministering?”

My answer is one I’m ashamed of, but I’ve resolved to be transparent with my church family and the readers of this blog. I’ve decided it’s time to be real.

The short answer? Yes. I’ve made ministry more about my standards and preferences and less about Christ and others.

I’ve served in church for several years and have developed very few friendships. I could say that people weren’t friendly or I never fit in. I don’t know – I think all have probably felt that way even in the healthiest churches at times. (Especially when you’re an awkward introvert like me.) But God isn’t concerned with them. He wants me to learn from my mistakes.

The ugly truth is … I thought I was too good for many of them.

When I walked through the church doors, I flaunted myself on a higher spiritual plane than those around me. I was there to help them out. There were some ladies in church who felt it was okay to wear pants to church and some who had no conviction against tattoos. There were singers and musicians who loved newer contemporary songs. There were some who didn’t have the same “Baptist” background my husband was raised in and with which we agreed. The fundy in me believed I needed to be set apart from them. I looked down on them.

(By the way, I wore pants to church Wednesday and sang a congregational song I know was written in the last 10 years. My statement there was not bashing people who do those things. Or those who don’t!)

I was nice, I think. I mean, it’s not that I didn’t like these people. But if a person didn’t think exactly as I did, I didn’t want to get close to them or share a real friendship with them. I only wanted to be around those of the same persuasion as myself. We may have had Christ and many fundamentals of the faith in common, but many of the outward standards (which I had no Bible to back up) needed to be in common as well.

I got close to a select few, but everyone else was at arm’s length. They were discarded into the “less spiritual, less committed” pile which I used to elevate myself on.

I isolated myself in a solitary bubble, away from the actual ministering God called me to.

And man, I missed it.

I missed it big time. The opportunity to get into life with people and learn from them, love them, and walk alongside them … it just went over my head.

Because … what is ministry? Is it parading around my holiness for everyone? Is it sitting in the church pew? Is it admiring the preacher or the singers? Is it suits and ties and a beautiful building? NO. Ministry is where we work together, edify, and strengthen for the greater cause – the Gospel of Christ. Its when we lift another brother up who has fallen or is struggling in their faith. It’s when we look at the displaced and discarded with compassion, loving on them. It’s giving help to the needy both in the spiritual and physical sense. It’s when we remember where God brought us from and desire that others don’t stay there! It’s giving our life to Christ, because He gave His for us!

It’s like I completely forgot everything God had saved me from as well as what He has called me unto.

There are no hard feelings toward anyone my past church experiences. Looking back, I think about so many sweet people who had an earnest desire to serve. But I can’t say many people knew me or I really knew them. I just couldn’t get past myself or my opinion of how others should be.

Several years of my life were spent chasing rainbows and trying to force doors open … and the moments of actually “being the church” were sparse. It’s so sad, because living in a bubble is not at all what God wants for us.

In the last chapters of the Pauline Epistles, you’ll notice Paul mentioning many names. He salutes them; declaring his appreciation, respect, and fondness for them. Each of these people were people who he had served along side and grown in Christ with. He learned from them and they learned from him. Paul’s example of Christian service was not a life of solitude. He didn’t escape to some commune with only those who were likeminded. He served alongside the brethren.

And we know he witnessed many disagreements! 1 Corinthians chapter 3 where he mentions some were of Paul and some of Apollos – basically, each group gravitated toward a different leader and argued over who was right/better. He discussed in Romans 15 how some brothers would eat herbs and others would eat meat, but that the stronger would not be a stumblingblock to his weaker brother. There will be times when we serve among those who don’t share the same convictions or preferences we do. God did not create us as robots. He gave each individual unique gifts, talents, and experiences to use for His glory. There are also some with stronger weaknesses. Part of serving together in unity is learning to respect differences and learning to love in spite of them.

Don’t get me wrong. The Bible is still clear on sin, how to deal with sin with another brother, and we need to hold fast to those truths. But when it comes to the petty churchy-ness of the modern day American church, we’re missing it.

Or at least I know I did.

We need to quit being so divided over silly disagreements and get into life with one another. We need to get our eyes off of ourselves and try to learn from one another, build each other up, and sharpen each other. I believe my service during that time would have been so different (and not the train wreck it was) had I just gotten ahold of that.

Because really … I’m no one special. I was riding my high horse, but those folks knew how to get ahold of God. They knew how to get in their Bible. They got excited to serve and do even the smallest things for God. They just so happened to not always look like a cookie cutter believer. And I was still stuck on making that the measuring stick of spirituality.

Legalism is the antithesis of a God-honoring ministry. Legalism destroys. It kills churches, homes, and relationships in which God blessed us with. It isolates people from seeing the beauty in others and their diverse gifts. Because … it’s all about Jesus. It’s about His Word.

We’re ministering for Him. We are serving for Him. We are coming together for Him. But the modern day church has turned it into a show, a routine, and so many lost and wayward folks walk away empty.

So many saints walk away misunderstanding the church’s purpose.

I’m left with lyrics to a song which I would not have been caught dead singing two years ago. But it truly speaks to my heart and where I am today. I’m ashamed of the way I used to view ministry, but I’m so grateful God gently broke me to show the truth.

I pray in spite of my ugly truth, you can walk away encouraged to make ministry and Christian service less about you, your standards, or preferences … and make it all about Him.

When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come

Longing just to bring
Something that’s of worth
That will bless your heart

I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required

You search much deeper within
Through the ways things appear
You’re looking into my heart

I’m comin’ back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You
It’s all about You, Jesus

I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about You
It’s all about You, Jesus

The King of endless worth
No one could express
How much You deserve

Though I’m weak and poor
All I have is Yours
Every single breath

Be blessed.