“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell my people Israel of their sins! Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me. ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it.” ~ Isaiah 58:1-3 (NLT)

“I know that you don’t understand ’cause you don’t believe what you don’t see. When you watch me throwing punches at the devil, it just looks like I’m fighting with me…

But there’s comfort in failure. 

Singing too loud in church

Screaming my fears into speakers

Till I collapse or burst

Whichever comes first…”

Julien Baker, Shadowboxers

Let’s talk about prayer and fasting. Or better yet, let’s talk about fasting, thoughts and prayers in a nation that is all about thoughts and prayers. And fasting but only when it makes us look good.

First, there’s the fasting.

Fasting. I tried that once. Or a thousand times. All I got were headaches, a grumbling stomach, and told that I was either too skinny or too chubby.

Chubby. Fat. Overweight. Heavy. Words that have never been a compliment when I was in times of my life that wouldn’t be described as times I was physically skinny. I remember turning not eating into a ritual. Or controlling my eating so that I’d weight exactly how much I wanted to weigh. This started in middle school when someone told me I was chubby. Ok. My father told me I was chubby. And honestly, fuck that noise. But anyway. Sometimes I would weigh myself multiple times a day. It was mostly because my weight was a thing I could control while others in my life controlled most everything else. I would eat less. Read my Bible more. Try praying more. And somehow that was never enough. It was never enough for me to be enough for my parents, or my church, or myself.

I am finally learning to love myself and my body. Only because others have reminded me that I am enough. And because my partner affirmed me first. I didn’t believe I was beautiful until she told me so. She knew something about me to be true not because I was skinny, or because I was trying to lose weight. But because she really saw me.

Then there are thoughts and prayers.

Thoughts. Thoughts like: I have already tried giving up things and parts of myself just to hope I’ll be loved by other people and God. And that maybe once I’ve given up everything and 

Prayed enough. For there to be peace on earth, and for us to love each other and not murder our children. Prayers…the prayers, and the thoughts, and the fasting have all changed to prayers like: Lord, have mercy on a country, a president, and a Congress who are ok with children being massacred for the sake of “freedom.”

Thoughts are now more like: Maybe I just have to be. And to be means to be kind, to seek justice, to be merciful, and to love. And this season of Lent where I’m focusing more on death and suffering has just ripped my heart out and put it on display for you.

I am tired of people dying and suffering. Honestly, I’m tired of any one putting themselves in pain for the sake of others being in control, and having power and freedom.

I am so very tired of fighting with myself to be something for others when I just have to be myself.

Another pre-Lenten practice that I’ve carried over other than learning to love myself and love others better is writing letters to Mary Magdalene and today’s probably reflects more of how I felt growing up in a fundamentalist church and how I feel now in encountering Jesus:

Dear Mary Magdalene,

Did they tell you that you were crazy? that you were unhinged, or that you didn’t believe enough to be healed? Did they tell you that you weren’t worth loving because you were crazy? With all the demons in your head…were people afraid of you?

I have to wonder if that first encounter with Jesus–just meeting him–was what started the healing process for you. Because you were seen and you were loved. And he didn’t tell you you were crazy. He just freed you to be yourself. Maybe I’m projecting…but I hope this is true. I hope this for myself because I know that’s the Jesus I’ve come to know so well.





God dust

“For until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. Then they went home.” ~ John 20:9-10

Hello! I know it’s been a while. Sometimes I get these grand ideas of what I want to be writing and it doesn’t pan out because I need a break to sort things through. So, it may be ironic that I’m writing today on Ash Wednesday of all days when many people quit social media for 40 days, or quit sugar, or whatever.

Last year prior to Ash Wednesday, I had just preached my first sermon from John 20:19-31. I greatly identified with (and still do in many ways) Thomas. Otherwise known as “doubting” Thomas. I learned so much simply from asking questions and realizing asking those questions about faith and life wouldn’t destroy me like so many pastors growing up told me it would. And in studying about doubt and peace in the resurrection, that gave me hope that in asking all the questions even without answers, I was going to be ok.

Also, last year on Ash Wednesday, for the first time, I met my now partner and we’re getting married in April. What can I say? It’s been one wild ride since Lent last year.

This year I’ve circled back to John 20 but this time to the first part of the chapter. I’m fascinated by Mary Magdalene’s story woven throughout the gospels and her encounter with the Risen Christ. I know…I know. Lent is about suffering and focusing on repentance. We’re not at the Resurrection part of the story yet.

But Lent this year feels different. There’s a hope in the midst of the darkness and doubt I didn’t have last year. As I go through the gospels for Lent and realize Mary Magdalene was there at the crucifixion and burial of Jesus and didn’t lose hope when many of the other disciples did, this has caused me to hope more too. She’s an unlikely heroine in the story where men are highlighted and focused on more. And I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m thankful for unlikely heroines who suffer much but follow Jesus anyway and still have hope.

So, when the ashes are imposed on my forehead again this year, I will be reminded of something my pastor said in small group this week that we’re all God dust–or we’re all a part of God. We’re all a part of God and the story of redemption and restoration–even in the midst of suffering. And I’m sure I’ll tear up a little with a cross of ashes on my head for only the second time in my life. Because while we’re focusing on suffering and repentance, there’s more to life than those things. Death is with us but doesn’t have the final word.