Should Christians Cuss?

Growing up as a conservative Christian, I knew that one of the most important things a Christian can do is…to not say curse words.  After all, the Bible says:

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. (Colossians 3:8)

and

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)

and Jesus even said

And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” (Matthew 15:10-11)

As if that weren’t enough, there was also the ever-looming fear of “not being a good witness,” which basically meant that if someone who was not a Christian saw a Christian doing something bad, the probability of them ever loving Jesus dramatically decreased.

And okay.  I can appreciate the dedication to detail that my conservative Christian upbringing inspired.  God knows I have taken that intense introspection and run with it.  (“God knows,” there’s another piece of the puzzle, to be dissected at the end of this post.)*  But I decidedly disagree with what I was taught as a kid.

A Brief Self-History  Continue reading

The Making of an Ordinary Saint by Nathan Foster

61a-Xthj+SL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I already wrote a more personal blog post about how this book made a huge impact on me, but I’ll try to be a bit more objective in this official book review.

IT WAS SO AMAZING AND HEALING!

Okay, no, I can be more objective than that.

Nathan Foster is the prodigal son of Richard Foster.  While his father was gaining Christian fame for his book Celebration of Discipline, Nathan was suffering from depression and suicidal ideation, alcoholism, and drug abuse.  After getting sober, going to counseling, and deciding to love Jesus, adult Nathan eventually got curious about his father’s life work in bringing spiritual disciplines to life.  But while the elder Foster’s books are more proscriptive (how to practice the disciplines), the younger Foster’s book is a narrative. Continue reading

Self-Hatred, Legalism, and Grace, Grace, Grace

 

I distinctly remember sitting on Lindsay T.’s couch on July 4, 2013, drinking from a cheap Strawberry Daquiri Seagram’s bottle.  “I don’t know if God loves me,” Lindsay admitted.  We had recently upgraded our acquaintanceship to friendship, and this conversation was a milestone.  “God loves me when I’m good,” I responded.  “But deep down I’m pretty sure He’s just waiting to give up on me if I screw up.”

Just two years later when I graduated from seminary, everything had changed.

I spent three years hearing my professors say things like, “God is not the god of karma, but the God of grace,” and “It is grace that justifies us, sanctifies us, AND glorifies us,” and “When I get to heaven and God asks why I deserve to be there, I’ll just shake my head and whisper, ‘Jesus.'”  I spent three years in a church that offered weekly Communion so that we never forgot where our strength comes from.  I spent three years in a small group where we argued about abortion and gay marriage and Islam and transsexuality and feminism in safety and love.  I spent three years befriending counselors who were delighted to discover my darkest secrets and shared their own with me.  I was spoiled with grace.

But then I moved home.  The problem with leaving your hometown and changing is that when you return…you revert to your old mental and emotional habits.  Or at least, I do.  Who was I before I learned to trust in God’s unconditional love?  I was the Good Girl.  I measured my worth in my modesty, I argued people into heaven, and I covered my possessions in simplistic Christian statements.  I was determined to earn people’s approval.  I was determined to earn God’s approval.  I knew how to work the system, and honestly, it was comforting.  Legalism is nothing if not controlling, and I am good at controlling things.   Continue reading

Living in a Muslim Country

The other day, I told a stranger about my plans to move to Greece to work at a safe house.  “You be careful,” he said.  I get this a lot, so I hummed in appreciation/agreement without getting into why it’s dangerous to live anywhere.  But then he continued, “You’re brave to live in a Muslim country.”

“Oh.  Well.  Greece is a Christian country.  Greek Orthodox?  Christian,” I explained.  I was totally thrown by his assumption that Greece was an Islamic country.  He was equally thrown that it wasn’t.  “Well….good luck,” and he was gone.

What I didn’t say, partly because my brain was shutting down in confusion, and partly because it wasn’t 100% relevant, is that I’ve already lived in a Muslim country, and I don’t think I was particularly brave for doing so.  Never once did I fear for my life while I spent five months in Senegal, except maybe when I took a moto taxi with a twelve-year-old driver.  But what do I know?   Continue reading

What Is Your Gumdrop Button?

Four years ago, I rode in the backseat of a van through the Mongolian countryside.  Gany and I had joined an American mission team to visit the Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue.  Gany brought up a topic her church had recently discussed.

In Shrek, the Gingerbread Man’s legs are ripped off and crumbled into cookie dust, yet he spits in Lord Farquaad’s face and yells, “Eat me!” when asked the location of his friends.  It isn’t until Farquaad reaches for his purple candy buttons that the Gingerbread Man caves, saying, “No, not the buttons!  Not my gumdrop buttons….I’ll tell you.”

Gany said, “Before we say we will follow God, we have to give him even our gumdrop buttons, the things we value the most.”  Continue reading

Fill These Hearts by Christopher West

Ten pages in, I knew Fill These Hearts would be at the top of my favorite books lists.  Few other Christian books feel so human; West is deeply in touch with the longings of humanity as well as our hope.  Every sentence went straight to my heart, and I found myself excited to live, excited to be human, excited to admit my desires in hope of my destiny.

The main premise is that we all have universal longings–for meaning, for companionship, for eternal ecstasy and bliss.  We know we want those things, and we know that this life so rarely fulfills us.  In the face of thwarted desire, West suggests that we react in one of three ways:  1) the starvation diet, wherein we pretend we don’t care about those desires, 2) the fast food diet, wherein we try to fulfill our desires through unhealthy means, and 3) the banquet, wherein we lean into our desires and let them point us to God and his goodness.

I used to fall into the starvation diet category, miserable but in control.  I was leery of people who indulged in their desires and arrogantly called them “sinners.”  The past few years, thanks to mentors, books, and counseling sessions, I am learning to embrace the banquet mindset.  I’m so glad West wrote this book (which embraces both theology and pop culture–my favorite!) to give language to my emotions.  More than most books I’ve read, I hope everyone reads this one!  Continue reading

Made for More by Hannah Anderson

Divided into three sections, I was initially unimpressed by Anderson’s book.  The first four chapters cover the biblical story of the gospel, and while it’s kind of awful to say it was boring, it also wasn’t anything new.  However, it was a necessary set up that led into part two…which was amazing.

Anderson’s main point is that understanding our identity as image bearers of God changes everything about how we relate to ourselves, to others, and to God.  She discusses what it means to love like God, be generous like God, think like God, reign like God, and live complexly yet holistically like God.  She is a very wise woman, obviously changed by her study, and her book is full of eye-openers like:

Because of this, imago dei knowledge is by necessity more than a dry, crusty intellectualism; it is more than a “worldview.”  As its root, imago dei knowledge is the capacity to wonder–to look for God’s fingerprints everywhere and then to stand in awe when you finally see Him.  Imago dei knowledge means searching for Him with childlike curiosity, wide-eyed and eager to discover who He is and the world He has made.

And while she never explicitly claims to be a feminist, I high-fived the air when I read,

Too often as women, we have restricted ourselves to the “pink” parts of the Bible.  When we identify first and foremost as women, we can begin to believe that knowledge of ourselves will come primarily through passages that speak to women’s issues or include heroines like Ruth or Esther.  But when we do this, when we craft our learning and discipleship programs around being “women,” we make womanhood the central focus of our pursuit of knowledge instead of Christ.

Made for More was a book-sized encouragement.  By reminding readers who we are, created to image God in creation, she elevates our calling and makes the world feel expansive, welcoming, and exciting.   Continue reading