I Don’t Believe In The End Of The World Anymore

   Christians, I am writing this to you.

   See, my whole life Christians have been pointing to a sign that the world is going to end. Most of them come from having seen or read Left Behind too many times. Every couple months there’s a new one. We’re obsessed with pointing them out too. Each tragedy, each new advance in technology, each political move; end times. I used to believe them. But I don’t anymore. I can’t anymore. Because these beliefs made me hit my rock bottom. I found that rock bottom was the clean, carpeted floor of my church’s sanctuary, where I was supposed to accept the God who drove me to depression.

   Because “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18.)

   Let me explain.

   I became a Christian because I was afraid. This was a good story to tell until I really thought about it. I was 8 years old, having a panic attack over the end of the world and demons and I prayed with my mom to take away my fear.. It sounds cute. Like a little girl running to God to help her. That’s how I always told it. The reality was, a little girl was so afraid of God’s wrath, that she begged Him to love and forgive her and protect her. She didn’t love Him. She just didn’t want the alternative. That isn’t love. It’s manipulation.

   That’s how it started, and that was the narrative of my relationship with Christ. I was never driven by love; always fear. I have found that many people are. I didn’t want to be punished, on earth or in eternal damnation (where all my friends were going if I didn’t tell them about Jesus.), I didn’t want to be left on earth during “the tribulation,” and I didn’t want God to stop loving me. So I lived my life as a believer would. But it wasn’t love.

   I continued having anxiety about the end of the world. But it took me a long time to realize why. Growing up, I talked about it a lot. At my church, in bible studies, and with my family. But the theology was all wrong.

   In the theology I believed, God was angry. God had to punish sin. I was supposed to be (anxiously.) waiting for the day Jesus came back and wiped out the rest of mankind who didn’t believe. I believed that God’s love is conditional, because its all about whether or not I believe in Him. (If I reject Him, He cannot love me back.) And this message of hope turned into a message of fear. Yet somehow people expected me to be okay with all of this. But I wasn’t. I’m not. I’m not okay with God destroying creation and using His characteristic of “justice” as a good enough reason. I’m not okay with people going to hell. I’m not okay with God being okay with that. I’m not okay with God being angry and vindictive and calling it love.

    To be honest, I didn’t know if I was okay with God.

   I didn’t know how much I had to believe in order to “make it” to heaven. My faith is small. Is it enough? Do I believe in Jesus enough to be saved from hell? The bible says you’ll know you’re saved by actions, but most days, I don’t behave like a Christian. I swear; does that cut me out of the group? My theology isn’t perfect, am I still saved? I lust, does God still want me? Because the truth is, I don’t know.

   And if I believe that faith will get me out of hell, then…I don’t know if I’ll have enough.

   That’s a terrifying thought.

   If you don’t know what’s going to happen in the afterlife, hearing the world is ending is the worst possible thing.

   As I studied the bible and went to church and did discussions on these things, I broke. I was so afraid. But I told myself that real Christians wouldn’t be afraid. So I forced myself to read more and learn more. I told myself that if I only had enough faith, I wouldn’t be afraid. But I was.

   It was because of this anxiety that I stopped keeping up with school. I didn’t get to plan my wedding on Pinterest in high school. I didn’t think about turning 21. A lot of days I didn’t even care about what boys did or didn’t like me. I never worried about getting invited to prom. I didn’t think about college or what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t worry about having the newest IPhone or friends.

   I actually spent all of high school thinking about the different ways I could kill myself. I didn’t plan my birthday parties because I could only plan my funeral.

   Why? Because if I added up the theology and the facts about the world around me, I would rather kill myself. That was the only logical conclusion. Church gave me panic attacks. Thinking about church gave me panic attacks. The word “revelation” in any context triggered me. I stopped reading my bible because it did more harm than good. Anything at all made me suicidal.

   At one point I realized I had to give up God in order to salvage my mental health.

   After that I realized just how, excuse my language, just how absolutely fucked up that is. If that was God, I didn’t want anything to do with it. I should not have to pick between my faith and my sanity. And that is why I had to give God up.

   These beliefs about God were making me unable to get out of bed. They were making me wish I was dead. They were making me afraid. Giving me panic attacks. These ideas about God were hurting me.

   Well, that god  anyway.

   By the grace of Jesus, I got help. I talked to someone older than me, and I re-learned who God was. I got rid of what I used to believe in order to see my Savior as who He really is. God is not angry. God is so much more loving than we realize. God knows our fears and our needs. He knows what we are capable of. There is no fear in love. That fear based theology that I was learning was not of my God. My God is heartbroken over what happened to me. I realize that now. The book of Revelation is not a book of fear but of redemption. It it the story of poetic literature, not specific events. It is history and poetry and possible futures. I do not believe the future is set in stone for the same reason I do not believe God is damning the entire world. Because I serve a bigger God than that. Yes, God is justice, but His justice never negates His love. I do not believe in a God who supports using fear to get a desired outcome, even if that outcome is salvation. Perfect love casts out fear. 

   Christians, we cannot teach this anymore. We cannot scare people into evangelism or into salvation. I can’t believe I have to even say that. What kind of God do we serve? Surely not a God of fear.

   God is love. And perfect love casts out fear. His story is of redemption and breathing new life into the world. Breathing new life. Revelation is not about death. It is about life. It is about renewal. It is a call to to love and to see the world from a heavenly perspective. It is about courage and love. Revelation is a book that was written to a certain group of people to encourage them to stand strong in their trials. It’s written the way it is because apocalyptic literature was really popular at the time. The entire book is God literally destroying fear.  He promises to remove fear and it’s hold over us.

   I do not think the afterlife is the way we assume it will be. I don’t think the end of the world is the end of the world at all. I think it’s less like the end and more like the beginning. I think God will come and breathe life into our decay and we will be redeemed. God is not coming to destroy or tear down. He is coming to bring life.

   God did not intend for the bible to be used as way to coerce people into loving Him. God didn’t intend for His words to reek such havoc in my life. He didn’t want people to twist His words and force a theology onto us that would make me want to die.

   Once I realized this, it changed my life. It made me angry that I wasted so many years of my life being afraid. It made me angry that I still get afraid sometimes. But it made me want to do something about it.

   I know I’m not the only one who has suffered like this. I wasn’t the first, but I’m hoping to be one of the last. I still don’t know a lot of thing. I don’t know how much I need to know about God in order to be okay, but I don’t know if it matters. Because God is bigger than the box I put Him in. God is more loving than I can feel He is. He is more powerful than I can imagine He is. If He wasn’t, than He wouldn’t be a God.

   Christians. something needs to change. I say let’s give the bible a new reading and instead of using a lens of fear, lets use one of love.

   “For God so loved the world, that He sent His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not parish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

   “I don’t pay attention to the world ending, because for me it has ended many times, and began again in the morning.” -Nayyirah Waheed


5 Books That Shaped My Faith

   It’s been a minute, hasn’t it? I know. I’m sorry. I’m still figuring stuff out. My life is a bit of a mess at the moment. So much is going on and I’ve been trying to stay on top of it all as well as take care of myself. I don’t have the words to explain it yet, but when I figure it out, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, however, I wanted to share some books with you guys that have shaped my faith and, in many ways, changed my life. I’ve been having a hard time with my personal beliefs lately because they’ve been changing so much, but sometimes you just need to take a step back to remember where you started.

   My faith in Jesus Christ has changed over the last couple years, which is an amazing thing. But change is always hard. I’ve had enormous doubts and had to wrestle through some issues. So if you have doubts, if you’re not on the whole “Jesus” bandwagon and have no idea what its about, if you’re seeking to grow in your faith, or if you’re just philosophically curious, I recommend these books.

   5. No More Faking Fine – Esther Fleece
   This one I actually read because one of my blog followers recommended it after reading one of my posts. It was beautifully honest and I couldn’t have agreed more. The book explores the meaning of the word “lament.” (a word that, even before reading this, held tremendous meaning for me.) She discusses the issue Christians tend to have of pretending things are fine and challenges the belief that you’re suffering negates God’s goodness or belittles your faith. It was refreshing to read a book that told me it was okay to be in pain, because I spent years of my life learning that lesson the hard way. I wish someone had told me earlier that I was allowed to hurt and I didn’t have to pretend to be fine. I learned that I don’t always have to sing the happy-go-lucky worship songs because sometimes it hurts too much. And that’s okay.

   4. Troubled Minds – Amy Simpson
   This book blew my mind. It talks about how the church needs to respond to issues of mental health versus how it’s actually treated by people in the congregation. It gave a lot of really solid, practical ways we as a body can be involved in helping individuals who are struggling with mental illnesses. For once, someone wrote that faith wasn’t going to cure depression. Simpson uses her own personal life as an example frequently, since her mother has schizophrenia. It was eye opening and inspiring. This is a must read, but especially for anyone who works in the church.

   3. The Inescapable Love Of God – Thomas Talbott
   Now, this is where my books get more theological and less practical. I just finished this book last night and it took my breath away. There were several points I physically screamed because I was so blown away. In this book, Talbott makes the strong case for universal reconciliation. (Essentially, eternal damnation isn’t real.) This was a topic I never thought much about, but a friend lent me the book and I read it on a whim. By the 30th page I was in tears because I had never heard someone speak so accurately about the problems in the theology our Western culture holds to. Talbott exposed the abuse in the church and showed how God’s love is greater than it all. It’s a bit of a hard read. I had to read it in complete silence, and do so reallllll slow. But its worth every page. Even if you don’t agree, there is a ton of truth in what he says, and its worth looking into. I haven’t found any other theological argument that would account for the plot holes I see in scripture like this one does.

   2. Silence – Shusaku Endo
   This book is actually a work of fiction written by a Japanese Roman Catholic that was published in 1966. It chronicles the lives of 2 Jesuit priests who go on a dangerous journey to Japan when they receive word that their mentor has apostatized. Let me tell you, I have never cried so hard reading any work of literature more than when I read Silence. It’s a slow read, but intriguing and beyond worth it at the end. The implications made in this book cemented a brand new understanding of God that I had been seeing for a while prior. Endo asks questions about sin, doubt, and the vastness of God’s love. He does an incredible job of answering the biggest question of why God is silent in the midst of suffering. Read this book. Or, if you’re not into that kind of thing, it was just adapted into a movie directed by Martin Scorses and starring Adam Driver, Andrew Garfield, and Liam Neeson.

   1. The Theology Of The Book Of Revelation – Richard Bauckham 
   Surprised to see this one as number one? Me too. As many of you know, I struggled with severe anxiety all my life. 99% of it was because of false teachings about the end times. (Another story for another time.) Last summer my brother handed me this book and told me if I read it, I would never be afraid again. Of course, I was skeptical. I didn’t think one book could undo 19 years worth of psychological damage. And you know what? By God’s grace, it freaking did. Bauckham takes apart the most feared book in the biblical canon and reveals the truth. He shows Revelation as a book of redemption and love and ultimate victory. He doesn’t neglect its place historically either, which gave me a new perspective on the book; I am now able to see it as a beautiful piece of Jewish apocalyptic literature. He doesn’t use fear tactics to explain parts of it away either. Again, its a bit of a tough read because its more theological and scholarly, but worth it. No book has changed my life more significantly than this one has. It opened my eyes to the actual intention of that book and gave me courage and actual hope. Not a hope based on fear. Real hope. It was the best gift anyone had ever given me.

   So there you have it.

   My list of best books to inspire faith and philosophical and theological thinking. Let me know if you read any of them and what you thought. (Especially if you read one of the last two. Hit me up real fast.)

   What about you? What books have significantly changed your life? Books that taught you to be more open minded? Books about religion, theology, philosophy, or any of those things. Fiction or not. Let me know. I’m always down for recommendations.

I’m A Feminist (And Here’s Why)

   A year or so ago I started calling myself a feminist ironically.

   It was a joke, I swear.

   My sister started it because there were so many times I would go on long rants out of the blue about, well, about feminist issues. I would say “I’m not a feminist, but…” and then proceed to say some very feminist statements. I sounded like a long SJW tumblr rant. So it became our running joke that I was a super liberal, angry feminist. (And coming from a conservative, Christian, pretty right wing household, this was quite the joke.) We’d laugh about it and make fun of me for it, but then I started to think about it. If I agreed with what feminists stood for, why wasn’t I seriously calling myself one?

   So I did my research. I studied up. I read stuff. Listened to opinions. I learned what the cause was really all about. And I discovered that I was a hardcore feminist. I had shied away from the label for the same reason that most people do: the stigma around it, the lack of understanding, and the fear of being associated with certain people or viewpoints that we don’t hold to. But I realized that was a completely illegitimate reason. After all, I call myself a Christian. (Most people who follow the biblical teachings of Jesus do as well.) Yet I don’t agree with everything in popular Christian culture, and I sure as heck don’t like being stereotyped as hypocritical or two-faced or a know it all. But I still hold to that label. My point is, there are always going to be things you don’t agree with in any group you’re a part of, but that doesn’t mean you ditch the group.

   So yeah. I’m a feminist.

   For me, feminism is the idea that woman are people. It sounds simple enough, but you have to acknowledge that there are ways that women are treated as “less than,” and a lot of people don’t see it or don’t want to admit it. Feminism is the idea that we are not things or objects; we are not here to give sexual pleasure to men and we are not here to be the sidekick. Feminism means that women get to be individuals despite their profession, sexual orientation, or marital status. We are not valuable just because of what we can give society or because of the partner we are with. We are valuable because we were made in the image of God just like men.

   Feminism is not the idea that women are better than men. It is not the idea that a woman cannot be gentle or quiet. We do not argue that all females must be in the workforce; we do not put down motherhood. We fight for the idea that women are individuals with preferences and differences and that means some women will be mothers but some will not. Some women love “girly” things and some women like traditionally masculine things. We have differing skills and abilities and personality traits so I argue that womanhood cannot be condensed into a narrow understanding because not all women fit the bill and that’s okay.

   Again, many people agree with the sentiment but refuse to label themselves “a feminist.”

   There are issues that are “feminist issues” that I am not sure how to approach. As a feminist, I do not believe in the idea of “women’s rights” meaning the women have the right to abort their babies simply because they grow in their bodies. Because I stand for the rights of unborn children to be able to live. But I also know if you take away the right to have abortions, you only take away the right to have safe abortions. This has been shown historically, before medical procedures, women would toss themselves off flights of stairs to abort a pregnancy. But I am not so naive to think that women love murdering children. I believe that life is messy and sometimes we are placed into situations that have no good outcomes; such as that with the situation of saving either the mother or the child, or issues of children of rape.

   As a feminist, I believe that women have the right to wear whatever they want. As a feminist, I feel that sexuality is precious and the human body is beautiful and should not be sexualized. I certainly don’t think that women are responsible for the actions of men in that because of the way they choose to dress they are “asking for it.” I don’t think sex work is a good idea because it devalues the incredible thing that sex is, but I also don’t think that women who choose that profession should be looked down upon as “less than.”

   Feminism is not clear cut because life itself is not clear cut. It’s messy. That’s something I learn more everyday. Life is messy. There are contradictions and times when you get stuck because no way out is satisfying. That’s just the world we live in. So I think if we can accept that, the idea that feminism has flaws just like everything else, we can move forward. Feminism is imperfect because we are imperfect. (Bad Feminst, Roxanne Gay.) But still I hold on to these ideas with every last bit of energy I have. I need feminism because I believe that there is a real problem and I need to believe that things will get better.

   So why do I believe all this? Why am I a feminist?

   A part of it started to grow in middle school when my friends and I all discovered that we liked attention from boys. It started when my best friends and I fought for the attention of boys. It started when I was angry at other girls for getting more attention, for being prettier, for being more likable. It started because as girls, we feel that other girls are our competition and that is simply not true. I thought that if a girl was pretty, I was not. I began to think that something was wrong with me because my friends had boys that liked them and I did not. I started to think that my worth was solely based on the affection I got from males. I looked to them for validation and approval because that was what seemed to matter. The girls who got boys were pretty and fun and popular. And I was not. I started to be angry at girls who were my friends because I thought it was a contest and I thought I was losing. Women face enough oppression as it is, but sometimes our number one enemy is ourselves.

   The idea grew in high school when I experienced my first rejection, my first hurt, my first guy friend who never wanted to talk to me again. I saw how that tore me apart because I didn’t know who I was if I wasn’t his friend. I didn’t know how I would live if we weren’t together. He didn’t like me because I was shy and I thought it was my fault for not being more brave. I would beat myself up for not matching up to his standard. I cried myself to sleep every night. I was a complete mess because I put our relationship before everything else and when that fell through, there was nothing of me left. I thought, as a woman, it was my job to be committed and to love without limits and I thought I was supposed to make sacrifices for us. And that guy left with everything. I had nothing. I saw that my friends did the same thing. They gave their all to guys who gave nothing. I saw that guys lead on, used, abused, and fled. My friends and I would cry and wonder why we weren’t good enough. Maybe it was our looks. Our personalities. Our taste in music. Maybe if we could be more submissive, more loving, more outgoing then maybe he wouldn’t have left. I saw that we, women, put all the blame on ourselves when relationships fell through, simply because we thought we were not enough. We thought that in order to be good girlfriends, we had to change and get rid of the parts of ourselves that he didn’t like.

   When I was entering college I realized I was a feminist. See, I have a larger than average chest size. It’s something that isn’t my fault. It’s genetics, body predisposition, and simply part of the way I am. No amount of healthy eating or exercise will cut it. Now to people who just know me in passing and random strangers on the street, I am just a woman with big tits. I am not smart, I am not creative, I am not funny; I am immediately thought of as an object to lust over. I am catcalled. I am the recipient of crude comments even when I am fully and appropriately dressed. I don’t dress provocatively, but still I am reduced to nothing more than my cup size. I can’t walk down the street without thinking that men are undressing me in their minds. I can do nothing to stop it. And it’s not just me. My sister and my friends are catcalled and objectified on the daily. Women everywhere experience this. Because we have enforced this idea then women are to be sexy and women are here to be beautiful and women are here as eye candy. Nothing more.

   That’s the worst part of it all.

   That women are reduced to nothing but things to have sex with. We are nude models. We are loved for the sensation we give others. We are valued because of the size of our jeans and size of our chest. If we cannot be beautiful, we cannot be anything. If we are not beautiful, we are irrelevant. That’s why in high school one of my friends was starving herself. Because she was told she wasn’t pretty enough, and women are not worth anything if they are not pretty. So I watched in horror as she shrunk down her size by starving and binging and purging. Because if she wasn’t pretty, men wouldn’t love her. If she wasn’t pretty, she wouldn’t matter.

   What made me a feminist was the day someone I love very much told me she was gang raped. Several men undressed her and stole her virginity. She wasn’t even in high school yet. I don’t care if that’s graphic, because it was the truth. It happened and I could not ignore that, and people should not ignore that. Because I know more people that have been raped then people who like my favorite TV show. Because according to RAINN, someone is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. Because my friend wouldn’t let me put a hand on her shoulder because it gave her flashbacks. Because its 2017 and people still make jokes about rape. Because hardly anyone in my life considers themselves a feminist because they are too scared to admit that this thing happens every day. Because they won’t stand up for this real abuse because God forbid someone think they hate men.

   I’m a feminist for all those girls who hate themselves. All the girls who are catcalled and sexualized. I stand up for those who have been molested and raped. I am here for women who were told to be quiet. I’m a feminist for myself because I need to understand that I am a person who is valuable on her own. I am a feminist for all the female fans at Wrigley who were told that baseball was a boys sport. I’m a feminist for my little sisters who I hope will grow to be strong, and loving women. I’m here to tell girls to lift heavy, speak out, be different. I’m here because people say “Men don’t like it when girls…” I’m a feminist for all those women with shaved heads and all the girls who don’t fit the standard. I’ll fight until girls stop calling each other “bitches” and learn to be supportive. I’m a feminist for women of color and disabled women, who have it even harder than I do. I’m a feminist because Jesus’ best friends were prostitutes. I’m a feminist because women matter too.

   And because feminism is for everyone, I am also here to support men who cry, because it is not a sign of weakness. I’m here to fight for men who are overly sexualized and feel that in order to be a man they need to have muscles. I’m here for men who wear pink. I am a feminist for stay at home dad’s and males with careers that are labeled “women’s work.” I’m here for the men who are raped because their voices matter too. I fight for the guys with eating disorders. I’m a feminist because I don’t think men should feel the need to be aggressive; I fight for their right to show emotions.

   I am a feminist because John 15:12 says to “love each other as I have loved you.”

   Feminism means loving all people regardless of gender.

   I don’t know how you can’t be a feminist.

Lament 3 (How Great Is Our God?)

I’ve been writing poetry lately. Well, it’s more like spoken word, and I wanted to show it to guys. I think I want to do stuff like this more. This is the third “lament” I’ve written, but the first one I’m officially sharing. This has been on my heart a lot, so I hope it resonates with you. If you don’t want to watch the video, the script is on the bottom. 
Let me know what you think.
(Please excuse the bad quality and the stuttering.)

How great is our God?


We say that a lot
we believe He is good 
when He gives us what we want
But how much of that do we believe
when our life gets tough?
our ideas fall to pieces, strangely enough

how great is our God?

In my heartache and hurt I wondered if it was true
why God would send me down the path that lead me to you
the hurt you inflicted caused a serious wound
now my trust is diminished and has become ruined
how great is our God
can I say that with sincerity 
when all He is done is left me without any clarity
He gives and He takes
but lately its been more of the latter
Is He really listening to my prayers?
or is He too busy with other chatter?

how great is our God?

in the Old Testament and the ancient Scriptures 
I see a God who killed and waged wars
and awarded  adulterers 
I see justice by bloodshed and holy wars
I see refugees begging are answered with closed doors
the saints of today are more like the sinners
its hard to tell them apart when they both act so bitter
the world is a mess and looks more like cat litter
in the midst of all that
is our God any better?

how great is our God?

when the world has turned to chaos and violence
and believers cry out and are answered with silence
when good people die and bad people prosper 
and life is unfair 
and things only seem to get harder
how great is our God?

this question keeps me up at night and stops me from sleeping
how great is our God in the midst of my weeping?
is He good, is He loving, is He really omnipotent?
what I compare Him to is His worldly equivalent
my father he left me after years of abuse
so in my mind I see God with this big cup of booze
He’s sipping His Jack with His hand in the air
He says “Faith, now really? Did you have to go there?”

so how great is our God?

the problem I see is my own narrow view
I think if hurt touches me it mustn’t be true
that God could really love me while I’m feeling so blue 
when He doesn’t take away my problems or lead me through
I think God’s greatness is the same as my success 
when He never promised me I would always be blessed

how great is our God?

when we stop feeling like God owes us something
can we stop and see Him as all awe inspiring?
can we give credit where credit is due
when we look at Jesus Christ, the son of a Jew?
His death is important, but I want to show His life
how He lived among us and dealt with our strife
He never expected for us to love Him
He came as a servant what we did was shove Him
we pushed Him aside because we wanted something better
but God, Jesus Christ, is the best good that there ever was

in my pain I created a version of God so small
that He could not save me from my vicious brawls
He was indifferent to my suffering, He neglected my hurt
He didn’t care about the pain on the Earth
the things that I learned and took as a fact 
were that God could end the world with the drop of a hat
years of reinforcement and false learning 
showed me that God’s viscous wrath should be something I’m yearning
I should wait for the day He takes out His rage 
on a world of hurting people who barely make a wage

I believed in a version of the bible that made me suicidal 
because I thought my God was just standing by idle
or on my worse nights, I thought He was angry
I thought today was the day that He would come take me
but that is not my God, the one I created
He was nothing more than a figment of imagination
if I discard all the things I was told
and all of the ideas pain told me to hold
if I look at the Scriptures, pure and untouched,
I see a God who loves me so very much

how great is our God?

I wish someone had told me when I was 16 
that God’s word was not written as all that depressing
He never meant for us to live in pain and misery 
He wanted us to find comfort in the shelter of His wing 
Our God is so great He’s not just up in heaven
He walked here on earth and had human essence
He experienced suffering, not to tell us it gets better
but to show us its possible to live under pressure
His ways are not our ways, and it sounds like a cop out
a fake reason to ask people to throw all their doubts out 
but I believe in a God who was best friends with sorrow
He came to hurt with me to get me through to tomorrow 
so even if He never takes away my hurt
He says He’ll be with me when I’m stuck in the dirt

so I ask again, how great is our God?
I answer it with “He’s the greatest of all.”
He is not up in heaven, counting days til His judgement 
He’s with us on Earth, tending to the wounded
He is loving us, every breath that we take
even though all we do is push Him away 
I cant understand or dare comprehend 
how God continues to love us time and again
I wish I remembered the vastness of His plan
even when it involves my life slipping away like sand
Our God is so great that He allows pain
because at the end of our line is when we can finally say 

how great

how great

is our God

Dear Faith O’Leary

   Today is going to be a great day. And here’s why.

   You’re in this amazing production of Coraline, and you’ve met some of the most fantastic people while doing it. You’re remembering that you’re in love with theatre. Opening day was yesterday and you killed it. You’re really don’t care what people think of you. You’re brave and crazy enough to go on a stage with a fake mustache and sing in a terrible fake Russian accent. You’re having the time of your life.

   You were the happiest you’ve been in months last night, and I don’t want you to forget it.

   Listen Faith, you’ve come too far to only make it this far. There’s so much more for you to do. Yeah life still sucks sometimes but there are so many things to be happy about. I don’t want you to sit around feeling sorry for yourself anymore. There are so many bigger, more important things going on. There are people out there with real hurt and real problems. They need someone to help them. They need to see that it gets better. I need you to believe that for them, even if you don’t believe it for yourself. Because you can’t go around and tell people to push past their hurt and learn to be happy if you can’t even do it yourself. You have to be more than just talk. It’s so much easier to tell people to choose joy but it’s something entirely different to live that out. I think you should though.

   I think you have it in you to choose to be joyful despite everything. Your circumstances are going to change. They’re going to get worse and then they’ll be okay and then they’ll get worse all over again. Maybe at some point they’ll be great. But my point is, if you let your situation dictate how you view life, you are going to be unsteady as long as you live. You’ve been that way for so long. Your emotions have been on a roller coaster because how you feel is purely based on what happened in your day. It’s killing you. It’s exhausting to be so happy one day and so sad the next. You can’t live like that.

   There are a million and one reasons why today is going to be a great day.

   You have a day off of rehearsals and shows. The sun is out. You laughed so hard last night that your stomach hurt. One of your classes was cancelled so now you have some quiet time to relax and clear your head. You saw the best production of Sweeney Todd last night. You have been so blessed to get to know some amazing people at school. Think of all the people you said hi to today. You’re graduating in the summer. You’re going back to work at Wrigley Field. You’re doing some paintings for your church. You’re actually doing okay today.

   And listen, even if all that gets taken away, you’re still going to be okay.

   Do you need me to say it again?

   Even if everything gets taken away, you’re still going to be okay.

   Because life isn’t about your circumstances or how you feel. There will always be reasons to be happy and joyful. I want you to appreciate all the wonderful things in your life that you were too blind to see. Open up your eyes. The world is so big and so beautiful. I’m writing this so that you’ll learn to hold on even when you don’t feel like it. Hold on to joy even when you’re sad or stressed or anxious. Even at 2am when your brain won’t shut off and you feel so overwhelmed. Choose joy. See beyond the moment. Don’t let it trap you.

   Look how far you’ve made it. There were so many times you wanted to give up. There were a million different situations you never thought would get better. And yeah, some of those terrible things still impact your life, but they’ve never stopped you from living. Pain has never stopped you before. It’s just a little hurt. It’s not going to kill you. It’s going to make you thrive.

   I know you’re not where you want to be, but don’t let that scare you. Let it inspire you. let it challenge you. Let it change you.

    You know that you are who you act like when you’re under pressure. Pain reveals character. So who are you going to choose to be? Are you going to be the victim or the victorious? Because no one is going to choose it for you. The hardest part is though, no one would blame you for being the victim either. People will say its okay to be defeated, and maybe it is. But don’t let rock bottom be the place you take up permanent residence at. You’ve been down long enough. It’s time to get up. I know you; I know who you want to be. So go out and be that person.

   You got this.
   (It gets better, remember?)
      Sincerely,
          Me

The Oscars (Part II)

   People love to hate the Oscars. Everyone always has something to say about a nominee or the host. There is always going to be “too much politics” or “not enough people from x group of people.” And of course; the Oscars are the most pointless thing. It’s a bunch of overpaid individuals getting praised for being who they are.

   But I love it. I love it.

   I said this last year when I watched my first Oscars and I’m just here to say it again.

   Art is so important. Whoever thinks otherwise can honestly fight me. Movies are art and they matter because they have power. As much as we like to think it’s stupid to be an actor, they have the power to make change. Sure, it’s kinda shallow that we will listen to actors before we listen to politicians or people of a “real position.” But that’s the position they’re in. Whether or not I agree with every actors political view, I really appreciate how they use their voice to stand up for something they believe in.

   I even love listening to their acceptance speeches that only list a bunch of names because they’re naming real people who have real stories. They all worked hard and got a lucky break at some point in order to be up there, and there are people, their family and friends, that helped them and inspired them to get there. I don’t know who any of those people are who won awards, but I know they were living a dream. I get secondhand joy watching people. I cried because I’m a sympathetic crier. I feel their happiness like it’s my own and I know how much I would be feeling if I was accepting an award for making art.

   Again, I said this last year, but you don’t have a right to be mad when politics are brought up in ceremonies that celebrate art. Art and politics are intertwined. Movies are made as a representation or a response to real issues that are happening today. Movies have the ability to make us think and make us act. Art exists for this reason. Movies are the product of someone’s story, life, and vision. Movies are made because people wanted to say something. They’re not made by robots. They’re thought out and planned by people who have dreams and fears and aspirations. They are made by people who have experienced hurt and joy that have contributed to how the film is created. People see a need, and they rise. They create a movie to inspire people to make a change.

   And don’t you dare tell me that movies can’t create change.

   My sister wouldn’t want to study psychology if Short Term 12 had never been made. Movies have helped me become the person I am today: Mad Max: Fury Road, Silence, The Sandlot, The Breakfast Club, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Good Will Hunting, We Need To Talk About Kevin, and honestly so many more that I can’t even give credit to. Movies help you feel more empathy. They help you understand. Movies are how I relate to people. I’ve made so many friends just by discussing movies.

   The movie that changed my life would be Hangman’s Curse. A cheesy, terribly done movie about high school and bullying. It has the worst dialogue, corny acting, and a vast array of plot holes. But when I saw it when I was ten years old, I knew I would never be the same. I saw that kids were hurting and there was something bigger than myself. It was the reason why in middle school I always said I wanted to change the world. That movie showed me how to connect to others and really showed me what it was to love.

 
   A documentary that changed my life was The Woodmans; the story of a young photographer who committed suicide in 1981. If I hadn’t seen that film, I never would have decided to experiment with black and white photography. I never would have realized that art doesn’t have to be pretty. I never would have developed what would eventually become my signature style. I probably would have stuck to pretty portraits and happy themes, which wouldn’t have been able to impact me the way black and white photography has.

   I’m sure it’s not just me. Everyone has that one movie that changed their life, right? Everyone knows how it feels to walk out of a theater and feel like a character in the movie. Sometimes we feel odd for days after because it reached us on such a profound level.

   Movies make people feel like they’re apart of something. It’s a sense of community. I suppose one person could theoretically make a movie on their own, but as a general statement, movies are made with hundreds of people doing hundreds of jobs. Thousands of people experience those films once they’re made. Each person brings in their own baggage and background and mindset and it shapes the film and shapes how the film is seen. And if that doesn’t blown your mind than I don’t know what will.

   Watching the Oscars makes me dream. I’m sure I’ll never win one in my lifetime, but if I can be a part of something in any way, I will have felt I lived. I want to bring in as much passion into the musical I’m doing at my community college as I would if I were making a movie, because it doesn’t matter if I never get anywhere or if not a lot of people will see it; it just matters that some people were impacted. Some people will appreciate it. Not everyone has to see your art, but if you can move one person, you’re that much closer to changing the world. We can’t change the world all at once, but we can do it one person at a time.

   Please keep creating art. Keep appreciating the existence of art. Keep living and dreaming and being inspired. Keep going to the theater. Keep loving.

   Love. Love. Love.

   Love things. Love people. Love the stupid things that don’t matter and will be here today and gone tomorrow. Because all those stupid little things add up to create the human experience. They create life.

i dont know

   I’m not sure what to say.

   There’s been so much going on inside my head. So much that I haven’t been able to write. My thoughts just get jumbled together. There are a million topics to discuss and a million ideas to share. But nothing has been working. Words have been betraying me.

   But guys. I’m not okay.

   I haven’t been for a very long time.

   It’s not like every day is a total mess. I have good days. Actually, most of my days lately have been really good. But this week just hit hard and I’m tired and lost. Today actually, today I’m numb.

   It’s weird because I’m the best I’ve ever been, and the worst I’ve ever been. Both at the same time. I’ve grown more recently then I ever have before, but everything still hurts. I can’t believe everything still hurts. You know, lately I’ve written so many pieces about perseverance and faith and everything. But it’s hard. I mean, it’s easy to say “its going to get better” on good days. But on every other day, I’m seriously contemplating the idea that I might never feel better. I don’t know if it will. Van Gogh said it once in his letter. “I fear this sadness will last forever.” I fear that too. I don’t know how much more I can take. Sometimes I think that I just can’t do this anymore. I just wish none of this had ever happened. I just want to forget.

   I don’t know. Maybe God wants more for me than to just feel better.

   I don’t know. Maybe I’m asking for something small when I pray to not be in pain anymore.

   My philosophy professor said something that I can’t stop thinking about. He said “Torture happens to your body; torment happens to your soul.” And it reminded me of the verse about Paul’s thorn in the flesh. He said it was to torment him. Torment, not torture. I know a lot of scholars say his thorn must have been his physical illnesses or injuries. But I’m wondering if he was plagued with a chronically broken heart. I wonder if I’m going to have a chronically broken heart.

   I might. I might never feel better ever again. But maybe I wasn’t meant to feel better. Maybe this life isn’t about my feelings.

   Sometimes I think it’s better to be in pain. At least when I’m in pain, I don’t think I’m better than anyone. At least then I stop relying so much on myself. At least when I’m hurting, I’m more compassionate towards others.

   It’s just been a cycle though. Me being okay, and then pain comes and I remember to have faith. I persevere and it gets better. Then more pain until I remember to trust again. It’s just a giant circle. I don’t think I’ve ever been this emotionally tired. I don’t want to try anymore. I just want it to be over.

   That’s the truth, right? I don’t want this to make me stronger. I just want it to end. I just want to wake up one morning with my mind wiped of all the terrible things I can’t stop remembering. It hurts.

   It’s been a nightmare for my family, seeing me like this. It’s annoying for my friends. Nothing has been easy. It sucks because I really thought I would feel better by now.

   I just want to take pictures and draw until I have forgotten everything. I want to write until my words run out. I want to stop thinking and overthinking. I don’t want to wait. I just want to know how this plays out.

   But I don’t know. That’s all I can think. I don’t know how to make this feeling go away, I don’t know how to move on, I don’t even know what to pray for or what I need. I don’t know what to learn from this. Because sometimes pain just hurts. You know? Sometimes it doesn’t make you better or stronger; sometimes it just makes you feel weak. I don’t know how to be a good example to my girls in my small group. I don’t know how to be a good example to my siblings who don’t understand why some nights I can’t stop crying. I don’t know if I’m a good enough Christian or a good enough leader. I don’t know how long this is going to last. I don’t know if it was worth it. I don’t know anything.

   But I keep holding on to the words in Jon Bellion’s song “Maybe IDK.”

   “Although I guess if I knew tomorrow, I guess I wouldn’t need faith. I guess if I never fell, I guess I wouldn’t need grace. I guess if I knew His plans, I guess He wouldn’t be God. So maybe I don’t know. But maybe that’s okay.”

   I don’t know anything. But maybe I need to stop focusing on the stuff I don’t know and think about the stuff I do know.

   Like I know I’m not alone. I know I’ve gotten through 100% of my worst days. I know I have people that love me. I know art exists and so does music. I know I have you guys; and all of your support makes everything suck so much less.

   I guess I don’t need to know it all.

   The truth is, I don’t know if I’ll be okay. I don’t. But that’s okay. Because I don’t need to feel better. I just need to keep living anyway.

   Sorry I’m just rambling. I just didn’t want you guys to think I fell off the face of the world. I just wanted you guys to know what’s going on.

   Here, enjoy my spotify playlist. It’s been getting me through a lot lately. (The songs at the bottom are the best.)

   Don’t worry about me. I’m going to keep making art because that’s all I can do. I’m going to breathe even though it hurts. I’m going to survive.

Trust Me

   I have asked that you have faith.

   And listen. I did not ask you to do what was easy. I didn’t ask what you had the strength to do. I didn’t ask what you had the energy for or what you wanted to do. I asked if you trusted me. I asked if you trusted me as much now as you did this summer.

   I want to know if you trust me in your weaknesses as well as in your strength. I want to know if you trust me even when you don’t know the answers.

   I did not ask you how much courage you possess or for how long you wanted this to last.
I did not ask how much it hurt or if you’re okay.

   I asked if you trusted me.

   I know how much it hurts. I know you have not been okay for a long time. I know this pain has made you weak and how much you want it to end. I know the exact measure of strength in your bones and how much courage is in your veins. I know the exact amount of bravery needed to get through this. I know how broken you are and that you are ill equipped for this task. I  know you feel like you can’t make it another day. But I did not ask that you dig up this courage from the depths of your heart or to summon energy from your weary flesh. I didn’t ask you to be brave or to even have strength at all. I know I could not ask that of you. I don’t require you to be okay or to smile through the pain. I didn’t ask you to stand.

   I asked you to kneel.

   I asked you to trust me.

   I asked you to trust that I am still God when there is no end in sight. And I asked that you believe in me when you have lost the ability to believe in anything at all. I asked you to be still and know that I am God.

   I have asked the impossible thing.

   I have asked that you stop fighting and stop trying to make it through this. I have asked that you not measure the time in between now and then. I have asked that you give up on the idea that you can do this on your own. I have asked you to remain in your pain.

   I have asked that you have faith even when the silence is loud and I asked that you would continue to breathe when your lungs are burning. And I ask that you would trust that I did not bring you this far just to leave you here.

   I have asked that you stop trying to be God.

   I have asked that you let me carry you when your trust has run out and that you would hand over the remnants of your shattered heart. I ask that you would not be anxious and that you would stop trying so hard to fix yourself.

   I want you to let me fix you.

   I want you to trust me.

   I do not need you to have a large amount of faith. You don’t need much. You need to simply acknowledge me.

   Turn to me.

   Believe that the God who created your very soul knows damn well what it needs and when it needs it and stop striving to make the pain stop and learn how to live with the pain instead.

   3 times you have come at my feet and you said “Take it away.” “Take it away.” “Take it away.”
   And I’m so sorry love, but to you I have to say that my grace is enough.

   And whether I decide to take this burden from you or not I ask you to trust me. I ask you to believe in the words to claim to believe in. I ask that you would choose to believe that I love you and that my heart breaks along with yours. I ask that you would have faith that my compassions will never fail and that my goodness is enough to carry you through your sea of sorrows. Trust that I know what I’m doing even when you can’t find the willpower to take another step. Trust that my faithfulness is greater than the extent of your suffering and that I have not forgotten about you. Not even for a moment.

   My love, I’m asking you to trust me.

   Disclaimer? i have never liked letters from God.  i would never claim to put words in His mouth. but this is something that was on my heart today and i wrote it. And i could re-write it as me saying it to you. because that’s all it is. mere words i wish for you to read. things to consider. opinions, really. nothing more. but i hope you were encouraged. see, God never meant for us to have the strength in of ourselves. and im learning that He is made perfect in our weakness. and i just keep thinking of Him saying “my grace is sufficient for you.” and i know that sometimes He allows us to be in pain and sometimes when we pray and ask him to take it away he says no. and sometimes you just feel like you’re going to die because its too much and i also know that in these times, he is with us. i can’t promise that your pain will go away because you might be in pain until you die. but i dont think the length of our trials is the point. that maybe we rush through experiences that were meant to be taken slow. pain is just pain. we can drink it away or numb it or ignore it but its still there and sometimes it doesnt get easier. and if this pain is lasting longer than you thought it would i ask you to consider Christ. and i ask you to trust him. you dont need to find strength in yourself because you and i both know you will find nothing sometimes. i only ask you to have faith. 

thats what im trying to do.

What Does Christmas Mean? (For People Like Me)

   Christmas. 
The time of joy and carols and of peace. The time where those who are recipients of God’s grace rejoice in hallelujah’s and songs of praise. 
Christmas is a time of laughter and happiness.
But what does Christmas mean for people like me?
What does it mean for me in the midst of my depression 
and my doubt?
What is it for my heavy heart
that breaks more and more every day?
What is it’s significance during my bouts of insomnia
where my tears don’t stop falling
and my fears don’t stop growing?
What is Christmas about for those who have lost loved ones?
For those who are struggling to keep their head
above the rising waters?
For those who are sick?
For those who are being oppressed and persecuted?
 What is the point of the birth of a baby to those who ‘s only desire
is death?
Where does Christmas fit in our hearts?
Is it next to the idols?
To the addictions?
To the alcohol?
Would Christmas fit in the space that once held the piece of my heart that I gave away?
We celebrate God incarnate but where is God now?
What the hell does Christmas mean for people like me
whose pain is so significant 
they can barely breathe?
Whose prayers aren’t answered
whose trials keep continuing? 
During Christmas we say rejoice! We say hallelujah! 
But what about those whose hurt runs so deep
they can’t offer a single utterance
of praise  to the King?
If Christmas is for the joyous, than where do the exhausted fit in the equation?
What does Christmas mean in the midst of suffering?