Tuesday, February 23, 2016

In Christ

Boldly I Approach--Rend Collective
He pulls me close with nail scarred hands into his everlasting arms
When condemnation grips my heart and satan tempts me to despair
I hear the voice that scatters fear, the great I AM the Lord is here
Oh praise the one who fights for me and shields my soul eternally 

Boldly I approach your throne, blameless now I'm running home
By your blood I come, welcomed as your own into the arms of majesty

A thousand years, a thousand tongues are not enough to sing his praise

Oh my God, my God. I have been swallowed by this feeling of inadequacy as a human being. That old fear crept up today of "You are only as good as what you do", something I have worked so hard at beating. I have worked so hard at recognizing that I have value and worth, just as I am. And I hear the gentle roar of the Lion, reminding me of who I am in Him. And hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah. I am welcomed, I am worthy, I'm fought for, I'm shielded, I stand blameless and uncondemned. Hallelujah.

Another song I have been hooked on is "Poor and Powerless".

All the poor and powerless
and all the lost and lonely

All will sing out hallelujah
We will cry out hallelujah  

And all who feel unworthy
And all who hurt with nothing left
Will know that you are holy 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Too Heated?

One time, someone told me that they don't like talking about God because those discussions always get too heated. Knowing that this person was an avid church goer and believed in God, I said, I think if it's something you really believe and are passionate about, it's worth talking about. It doesn't have to be heated nor does it have to (nor should it) turn into an argument or debate.

I've been really into this idea of being generous in our responses to others, to extend kindness and to be able and willing to have fruitful conversations about any topic. Now, I have some bias because I am a trained therapist...it is literally my job to be able to dig deep and explore ideas with people in a non-judgemental and safe place, including those that I may not necessarily agree with. And sometimes I forget that while some of it does come naturally, I also went through a lot of school and training to have those kinds of conversations with people and that not everyone has that same experience.

I get frustrated not when people don't agree with me, but when there is no allowance for disagreements, no allowance for discourse or discussion. When passions are turned into arguments of "I'm right, you're wrong, shut up".

If something is on your heart, I think it's crucial you have a safe place to share it. And it's up to each of us to try to create a safe place for others. If you have a question, a thought, an idea, an opinion, find safe people to share it with. Those are the people who will listen, who will perhaps gently challenge you, who will encourage you to further your knowledge on a topic, who will ask questions, and above all, will still love you and still value you. They won't be people who you fear will gossip about what you shared, or people who will tell you you're a horrible person for thinking that, or people who you feel judged by. It's okay to not share with some people.

Share yourself with safe people. And the more of those types of relationships we create, the less heated conversations can be and the more we can learn and grow. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016


My stomach is all tied up in knots because I just overheard an extended conversation that essentially was focused on shaming people. I don't want to shame them in the process of explaining shame, though.

Brene Brown came up with an acronym for healthy relationships--BRAVING.


I love all of them and what they stand for, however for the purpose of this, I want to focus on "generous". Brown defined being generous as being generous in your assumptions in what people say and do;
"Extend the most generous interpretations possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others."

Essentially, be kind in how you read and interpret things. I started to list a bunch of examples, but honestly...I'm too fearful that people won't be generous in their interpretations of reading them.

I love questions and also, statements. I rarely think someone is "stupid" or wonder "what is wrong with them?" or "how dare they?" because I strive to be generous of other people's intentions. Because of that, I'm much more available to engage in real conversations and we can learn and grow and strive to be better and expand our worldview. And because of that, I don't get as angry at a post on facebook or a question someone asked. Instead, I extend generosity via their intention.

I have a lot of favorite verses, but one that seems fitting for this is in 1 Corinthians 8. Hear me out, before skipping this part. It was written by Paul and it's in regard to food sacrifice. I love this chapter because Paul essentially says:

In Christianity, you can eat whatever food you want, but some people think you can only eat certain foods. And if so, that's fine. Don't rub it in their face, make fun of them, or tell them they're dumb; just eat the food they are okay with. Don't use your knowledge [of being able to eat anything] to spite or shame others. 

And 1 Corinthians 8:13: Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

Paul says, relationships come first. Before rules, regulations, before anything else, relationships. People are God's heart. And Christians, in particular, should consistently uphold that priority and be generous in their interpretations of others.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Good Love

It's love so undeniable, I can hardly speak. 

That's my favorite line from Chris Tomlin's song, Good, Good Father.

My God, my God. You have such an unyielding desire for your people. You desperately call out and love your people. Love, love, love.

I cannot fathom it, cannot fathom you, your beauty, your glory. Holy, holy, holy are you. I can't believe you died for me. I can't believe you care so much about me, about my friends, about the world, about the haters.

How is this real? How is it that the God of the universe loves His people? How is it that the Lion and Lamb laid Himself to be slaughtered and crucified? What kind of story is this? That there is a god, who formed the world, created people, people said, "nah, brah" to god's holiness, god passionately pursues them, god leaves heaven, goes to live on earth, gets killed, raises back from life, comes back to be with people saying, "now do you believe I love you?" and ever since then, keeps trying to say, "I love you, I love you, I love you. Do you love me?"

What other religion has the Creator of the universe coming in the form of man and taking on suffering and choosing to spend time with people? Directly in their messines? What other religion has that the GOD gets crucified? What other religion has "their leader" trying to engage with people and pursue people rather than trying to get people to engage?

He loves us, oh how he loves us. Love so undeniable, I can hardly speak.

At the very least, I want people to better understand the story of Christianity. To think, Wow, I wish that were true. I wish the God of Christianity that is described on this blog was real. 

Even if you don't believe in it's realness, I want people to better understand the actual story. Rather than as how this person described the Christian religion:

"Religion has convinced people that there's an invisible man ... living in the sky. Who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn't want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer, and suffer, and burn, and scream, until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you. He loves you and he needs money."

Because there are
A thousand stories of what they think you're like
but I've heard the tender whisper of love in the dead of night
as you tell me that you're pleased and I'm never alone

You're a good, good father. It's who you are. 
And I am loved by you. It's who I am. 

And I've seen many searching for answers far and wide, 
But I know, we're all searching for answers only you provide

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


The other day, someone had posted on FB, "If you're voting for _____, then just unfriend me right now." And it really bothered me. Not about the statement (I actually agreed with them, that that candidate would be a terrible choice for the nation and world), but the blanket statement of, "If you don't agree with me on this point, we can't be friends."

And I think it's a fairly common thing for people to say, "....just unfriend me" and it drives me bonkers. Because I love relationships. I love talking to people, I love hearing different views, I love sharing my thoughts and hearing other thoughts, and digging into it.

As much as I love it, I have found most people don't love it. And so what happens in so many of my conversations is I just listen quietly and don't share anything and don't gain any knowledge, because people oftentimes want to tell (sometimes yell) their opinion and because they're so passionate about it. It's too hard for me to listen when the tone is, "I'm right, no matter what you say/do I believe this 100% and you're stupid if you don't" (Intentional tone or not.) I hear it, I give them the validation, but I don't get a chance to listen, question, or engage in conversation.

Because of that, I get stuck even longer on topics or ideas or thoughts, because I don't have that many people to really grapple with. I only have two identified persons who I can say I actually trust to discuss hard topics with and trust that I won't be judged, I won't be "unfriended", I won't be yelled at. Whom I trust to not tell someone else, "Oh my gosh, let me tell you what Ashley said". Who we can have differing opinions, even about "heated topics" and I know neither of us will yell or loudly talk at the other, neither of us will demean the other, neither of us will walk away from the conversation feeling like we don't matter, or fearing the other person will think less of us.

Maybe you have more than two friends like that, in which case, that's awesome! Maybe you don't actually have any friends like that. Maybe it turns out all your friends agree with you, so you're not really sure what it would be like to have a different opinion or to question something. I'd like to have more friends like that. Although, as quoted from Freaks and Geeks, "I already have two friends, how many more does a guy need?"

For me, up until I was in mid/late-high school, all of my relationships were "surface level". I didn't even realize it until I experienced real relationships. Where I started to have friends like above--who I felt safe with and who I felt like I could say, "I believe this, what do you think?" "I am really confused about this, can you help?" And they wouldn't just give me their opinion or tell me, "Do what you want, it's your life". Rather, they would walk me through it, take the time to understand me, and push me into vulnerability and provide a strong enough safety net.

I believe in friendships. Real friendships. I think they're worth investing in and I think it's important to have people who we can feel safe with and important for us to be the type of friend who others feel safe talking to.

From my journal, 1/23/16 (which I wrote as 1/23/15)

I want to make life better for people. I want people to like knowing me and enjoy my company. I want to inspire people to make good choices and take responsibility for their actions. I don't want to "unfriend" people because we disagree. People are beautiful and I want more truly beautiful people in my life. 

And if you want to unfriend me...please don't. I really want to be your friend.