My Unpublishing Testimony

It’s been almost a year since I became an unpublished author. Almost a year since I dismantled my online author platform. Almost a year since I left behind the world of striving to be seen.

 

God gave me this song from Lauren Daigle in that season; this song about laying things down and kingdoms falling. God gave me verses; verses about seeds falling to the ground and having to decay and die before they could live, verses about not knowing what form the seeds would take once resurrected (John 12 and 1 Corinthians 15).

 

And so I buried my book, my platform, my greed to be seen, and sang this song over and over.

 

Once And for All

Lauren Daigle

[LISTEN HERE]

God I give You all I can today

These scattered ashes that I hid away

I lay them all at Your feet

From the corners of my deepest shame

The empty places where I’ve worn Your name

Show me the love I say I believe

Oh Help me to lay it down

Oh Lord I lay it down

Oh let this be where I die

My lord with thee crucified

Be lifted high as my Kingdom’s fall

Once and for all, once and for all

There is victory in my Saviors loss

And In the crimson flowing from the cross

Pour over me, pour over me yes

Oh let this be where I die

My lord with thee crucified

Be lifted high as my Kingdom’s fall

Once and for all, once and for all

Oh Lord I lay it down

Oh Lord I lay it down

Help me to lay it down

Oh Lord I lay it down

Oh let this be where I die

My Lord with thee crucified

Be lifted high as my Kingdom’s fall

Once and for all

Once and for all

Oh once and for all

Once and for all

 

Resurrected, the platform-burying looks like freedom. Freedom to write exactly what’s on my heart – nothing more, nothing less. Freedom to write and not worry about who’s reading, if anyone. Freedom to write when things have matured in me, not on a schedule.

 

Because the need to be seen is slavery to whatever post length is vogue at the time, slavery to what people want to read, slavery to whatever posting time on whatever platform is likely to make me more visible. Slavery when it all changes again and again. And again.

 

On Saturday, I attended a literary conference, my first event of that nature. One of the publishers stressed enjoying the unpublished time – the time when writers can take their time – because once published, much of your time belongs to your publisher.

 

Ah, yes. Freedom.

 

There is freedom when the kingdoms fall, and dreams and goals are laid down, buried to die and be resurrected at a later time, perhaps in a much different way than we ever would have imagined.

Last Day Reflections

Last day at Bob Moore Subaru.

Where I learned the phrase, “Love ya like a head cold,” and now find myself repeating it and getting strange looks from people.

Where I have been more than a job description; I’ve been a person.

Where I learned to be more generous, simply by working with such radically generous people.

Where I grew in customer service and teamwork – the most important aspects of any job.

Where I expanded my virtually nonexistent knowledge of what goes into car sales and service, because people were willing to explain it to me.

And while I’m going to miss my people here, it’s time to learn and parrot new cheesy phrases, grow in a new role while maintaining and building on a solid service-oriented foundation, and learn even more about car sales, knowing that everything I’ve learned in this job has given me confidence about moving forward.

Love,

Your Resident Walking, Talking Dictionary and Writer’s Manual,

Sometimes Cook, Sometimes Baker, Sometimes Bringer of Pre-Made Food and the Good Candy,

Mostly Ray of Sunshine, but Occasionally Sarcastic and Irritable,

Always Willing to Help When Asked,

Me

Things Happening Saturday

Two things are happening on Saturday: one, I am starting a new job, and the other, my five-year-old niece is having a celebration of being cancer-free after a battle with retinoblastoma (in which she lost an eye) and chemo.

Both are answers to prayer.

One, a response to an intense and (relatively) short season of prayer, and the other, a response to prayers over many years.

All I can say is that God hears every sigh and collects every tear, and that has been the most precious thing to me in these seasons of prayer. Because answers to life-changing requests take time, and the hope in a moment of loss and waiting and uncertainty is not looking at what might eventually be, but when God is there in it with you – in the sighing, in the groaning, in the melting down – listening and holding your hand and grieving it with you. And in those moments, God recalibrates your hope, your prayers, your faith. And you what you end up with may or may not be what you desire and when and how, but you will be more keenly aware of God in your life, and that, for me, has been the ultimate thing.

But it is life-giving to see the things you pray for realized, and the things you pray against defeated, so this week, I am celebrating.

Celebrate with me!

Toothless

I had a dream about you the other night.

You weren’t in it, but it was about you.

They say a dream about losing teeth is about the dreamer feeling powerless, but in my dream, I yanked out my own tooth. It hurt as I pulled it, and I was sure it was going to leave a bloody, gaping hole in my jaw, but it only left a gap between teeth.  Anyway, it ended up being a misunderstanding: I hadn’t needed to pull the tooth, but, of course, by the time I realized that, it was too late. There I was, an unattractive gap in my teeth.

Yes, I can see how lost teeth would symbolize a sense of powerlessness and vulnerability.

Why am I feeling powerless and vulnerable?

It’s you.

When you’re around, I don’t even try to hold on to my power. I tear and throw it away, leaving myself defenseless, and you with dozens of new ways to hurt me if that’s what you decided to do.

Problem is, I don’t know what you’ll decide.

It’s not like I can decide for you. (I wouldn’t even if I could.)

Problem is, this isn’t pretty – me, asking for what I want. It isn’t pretty – me, showing all my cards.

But…

It’s not like I have anything significant to lose.

So maybe I’m feeling powerless and vulnerable, but I’m not.

“And she threw down the scarf” – she jabs at the air – “and stormed out.”

I had actually taken the scarf off, set it on the pew beside me, excused myself, and walked swiftly to the rest room. Because I was crying. Because, in spite of being a major crybaby, I actually hate letting people see me cry.

But that morning wasn’t about truth. It was about peace.

So I kept my mouth shut, and listened to people tell me about my temper, and my pride, and everything wrong with me. And wished I could just go home, back to my family.

That was over a burgundy scarf. But it happened again and again and again. The dismissiveness. The lack of compassion. The putting me in my place. Over spiritual wrestling. Over facing eviction. Over health issues. Over a dead car battery.

I couldn’t do anything right. Couldn’t feel anything right. Couldn’t express anything right.

***

I remember this one time in college, my friend and I miscommunicated, and I reacted poorly. I mean, so poorly, I was sure she wouldn’t want to spend any more time with me, and that nobody else would either.

Later that night, she stopped by my dorm room, knocked on my door, and said, “Hey, I’m running to McDonald’s. Can I get you a Coke?”

I expected to be given a sort of time out, so I would learn my place, and I was met with grace instead.

***

I was huddled in front of a tiny space heater. Numb. Aching. Knots in my stomach Thinking about the dozens of things I still needed to get done. Anxious about all of the people who might have seen me that morning and discovered how vulnerable I am.

I did what I do. I wrote about it.

There were good things about that morning (so many good things), but when you’re feeling weak, and weaker still for having your weakness exposed, sometimes, you just have to get it out of your head.

And there it was again. The accusation about who I am and what I’m going through (as if the two are the same). The dismissal of my feelings, the dismissal of even expressing my feelings. The absolute lack of anything resembling grace or compassion.

Only, quite abruptly, it wasn’t acceptable to me anymore.

***

I am every bit as in need of grace and worthy of compassion as anyone else.

So that’s how I’m going to act.

That’s the kind of treatment I’m going to accept.

If you can’t give it, that’s your loss, not mine.

I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your naked body. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine … the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect.

But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute. You lavished your favors on anyone who passed by and your beauty became his.

All prostitutes receive gifts, but you give gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from everywhere for your illicit favors. So in your prostitution you are the opposite of others; no one runs after you for your favors. You are the very opposite, for you give payment and none is given to you.

I will put a stop to your prostitution, and you will no longer pay your lovers.  Then my wrath against you will subside and my jealous anger will turn away from you; I will be calm and no longer angry.

~ excerpts from Ezekiel 16 NIV

This is for me.

Not that I’m a literal prostitute. Not that Israel was a literal prostitute, either.

But.

I have made the gifts God has given me available to anyone passing by, and so have devalued His gifts. I have poured these gifts into leaky vessels, expended them on dead things. I have provided costly seats to God’s grace in my life at no charge.

I have been dealt with for it.

Of course, I have been dealt with for it; it was never going to be allowed to continue.

Now, there is a new mode of operation.

If you want to find me, you’re going to have to find Him first.

If you want a place in my life, it’s going to cost you something.

If you want the power and grace God has given me in your life, you’re going to have to ask Him for me. Whether or not He agrees to your request is up to Him.

I am not free anymore, for people to use me up and toss me aside.

A place in my life is not free anymore, for people to come and observe the easy things and turn their heads and leave when things become challenging.

The power and grace I’ve been given are not free anymore, for people to accept when it strokes their ego and reject when it does not.

I am going to become unknowable, inaccessible, and unusable, but for the seekers, but for the brave, but for the ones with ears to hear.

For the Ones with Ears to Hear #2

“I would attend [a LGBT wedding] with gladness, and I would drink champagne. I want the very best for my gay friends. I want love and happiness and faithfulness and commitment and community. Yes. That’s an easy answer … We want for all of our kids the same thing: faithful, committed marriage and a beautiful family that is committed to God and the church. I would have the same standard across the board, no matter what.”

“Do you think an LGBT relationship can be holy?”

“I do.”

~Jen Hatmaker, in an interview with Jonathan Merritt of Religion News Service, October 25, 2016.

 

“In the Bible, rain is a sign of God’s blessing.”

~Franklin Graham, Inaugural Prayer, January 20, 2017

To the Christian leaders who have set themselves up against what God has revealed about Himself:

“Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing, who prophesy out of their own imagination.

“You have not gone up to the breaches in the wall to repair it for My people so that they will stand firm in the battle on the day of the LORD … You lead My people astray, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace, and because when a flimsy wall is built, you cover it with whitewash … By lying to My people, who listen to lies, you have killed those who should not have died and have spared those who should not live.

“Because you disheartened the righteous with your lies, when I had brought them no grief, and because you encouraged the wicked not to turn from their evil ways and so save their lives … So I will pour out my wrath  against the wall and against those  who covered it with whitewash.

“I will save My people from your hands.”

~excerpts from Ezekiel 13 NIV

Ezekiel 13 is for the prophets of Israel, I can hear someone protesting. Absolutely. It also shows us something unchanging about God: He is jealous for His people and He will not allow them to be lead away from Him by false prophets and shepherds.

Render them mute, Heavenly Father, in Jesus’ name. Level every platform that sets itself against what You have revealed about Yourself, in Jesus’ name. If we are not about repairing the breaches to strengthen and equip Your people for spiritual battle, sit us down and shut us up, in Jesus’ name.

“Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’ ‘Haven’t you read,” he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female, and said, For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate…Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it” (Matthew 19:3-6, 11-12 NIV).

“Jesus replied, ‘You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven'” (Matthew 22:29-30 NIV).

“[The Heavenly Father] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45 NIV).

 

Grateful for her life. Grateful for all the stories she shared with me. Grateful for all the stories she let me share with her. Grateful she knew who I was the last time I saw her, if only for a moment.

She used to say when I would share my stories with her that she knew. She knew by the play conversations I had on my toy phone as a little girl that I had the imagination to be a writer.

When people look at me, they see my Mom – I get so much from my Mom – but the stories, the stories come from this woman.

Love her and miss her, but oh so grateful that this woman was my Grandma.

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The Bible, Mrs. Stanton, and Me

It was a dark mark on my Christian good girl record, the day I admitted I couldn’t accept that God said everything the Bible says He said.

It was the middle of July, and I was reading through the Pentateuch and the Gospels simultaneously – specifically, that day, I was in Numbers 15 and Luke 6.

While the Israelites were in the wilderness, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day.  Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp.’ So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the Lord commanded Moses. (Numbers 15:32-36 NIV).

I would have wrestled with this passage anyway, because I could be missing something, but the only time I remember the offender’s death being commanded as a punishment in conjunction with breaking the Sabbath in the law is in Exodus 31, and even there, another punishment is given as well: the offender being cut off from their people. (I confess I struggle with where the punishment of  the offender’s death is prescribed for other sins in Leviticus, because then what was the point of setting up atonement?) Then, I flipped over to Luke 6, and I was really in trouble.

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”  Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled.  The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath.  But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus. (Luke 6:1-12 NIV)

Now, I know from the Gospels that Jesus is God, and, especially from the book of John, that He came to reveal the Father to us, the human race. These passages seem to present two opposing views of God, or at the very least, taken together, a God who makes things up as He goes.

That day in July, I found I couldn’t trust a God who makes things up as He goes. I don’t think anybody could, not really. So, I had a choice: I could believe what Moses said about God, or I could believe what Jesus said about God.

And I am a Christian. My faith, my theology, my everything is centered around this belief that Jesus is God, and the only way for sinners to know God and experience God’s presence. If I don’t have Him, I don’t have anything.

I chose Jesus. More accurately, I chose to filter everything – including everything in the Bible – through the things He said and did. And He has been my standard for whether I accept or reject anything as coming from God.

But, being a Christian good girl somewhat respected for her doctrinal soundness, I kind of hoped this break with orthodoxy would be temporary, partially so I wouldn’t have to let anyone know I’d had a break with orthodoxy until after I’d have a testimony of God’s restoration to it, and partially because it opened me up to a whole new world of doubt. A month in, no such restoration was in sight and my doubts threatened to overwhelm me, so I shared about it publicly. I didn’t go into the particulars I’m sharing today, but I let people into it.

In the middle of being told that the Bible was God’s Word no matter what anyone thought, and that His ways and thoughts are higher than mine and I should dismiss my thoughts and accept that even revealed things are sometimes unknowable, and the well-meant warnings about the dangers in my thinking, and people reaching out to say they were praying, one friend asked a question that went straight to my heart: What has changed? And I realized, nothing fundamental had. I still believe Jesus is God, and that He is the only way for sinners to know God and experience God’s presence. And then I had peace about where I had landed, even if it was permanent.

It’s been six months now, and I still have peace about it, but I’ve been thinking about what my life will look like going forward as a result this week.

On Sunday, at the church I’ve been visiting, the pastor asked how many of us would be willing to raise our hands and admit we had faith-related doubts. I don’t think he was actually asking us to raise our hands, but would I have raised mine? This is a new church for me, you know? I like these people. I see myself here. But I know, when it comes time for that commitment called membership, I’ll be presented with a list of beliefs, and one of them will describe the Bible as the inspired and infallible Word of God. (Inspired – that is, something divinely breathed in – I can get behind fairly easily; infallible – that is, the quality of being without error – poses a significant block for me.)  If I want to join these people and serve with them in the ways I’ve served other local churches, something will have to change in my thinking.

I mean, I could just go along and act like I believe to get where I think I’m supposed to be in ministry, but that’s not an integrity move. In fact, it feels a lot like the selfish ambition I’ve been convicted about lately – the desire and drive to be seen a certain way.

Maybe God is going to use this season with this church to rid me of that selfish ambition. Maybe God is going to use this season with this church to restore the belief that the Bible is His inspired, infallible Word. Maybe God is going to use this season with this church to establish me in a ministry that can’t be contained to a local church body. Maybe God is going to use this season with this church for something else entirely. I don’t know.

You know what I do know? God is using this season with this church. He’s using it to get me back into reading the Pentateuch, something I gave up when I hit that bump in Numbers back in July. He’s using it to get me back wrestling with the Pentateuch. The women’s Bible study is going through Genesis, and the life group I visited is going through Leviticus. *squinty eyes at God* You see what He did there?

It’s hard. Everything is coming back from the last time I was here, including the reason I started a mad dash through the Pentateuch to begin with.

And here it is…

The Woman’s Bible edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a commentary compiled at the end of the nineteenth century by a number of feminists seeking to answer these questions: “Have the teachings of the Bible advanced or retarded the emancipation of women? Have they dignified or degraded the Mothers of the Race?” Before having read The Woman’s Bible, I would have stated unequivocally that the Bible has advanced the emancipation of women, and dignified the mothers of the human race. Instead, once finished with the volume, I was confronted with the fact that the Bible has at the very least played an ongoing role in the subjugation of women and fed her degradation. For me, the question was whether that role has been passive or active, and I set out in the Pentateuch and the Gospels in May to find an answer. Among other things, I found that whereas Jesus respected the personhood of women, and treated them with dignity in his interactions with them, the Mosaic law often treats them as less responsible and accountable beings before God, and gave them less access to Him. (According to Mosaic law, for example, a father had the God-given authority to release his unwed daughter from a vow. If you want to hear about the real life application of this in my own life, we should get coffee sometime.) 

So I’m hesitant to revisit this place where orthodox Christianity insists that God holds me less responsible and accountable before Him, and that God is not quite as accessible to me, because I am a woman.

Hesitant, but not unwilling.

And as I prepared for the Genesis Bible study a few weeks ago, God met me in that willingness with something I’d forgotten about Jacob’s story, and that was … the big picture. God met Jacob at Bethel as a young man and promised to be with him, to watch over him, to restore him, and to be faithful to keep the promises He made (Gen. 28:15). And it was twenty years and several mistakes later, but Jacob was restored at Bethel (Gen. 35). The big picture is that God wants to make us right, to get us back to His presence, to life with Him – a perspective that was all too easy to lose looking at the Bible through a human construct.

I still think there are things the Bible says God said and commanded and did that directly oppose things Jesus said and commanded and did, and I still have to reject those things. But hopefully I can gain some lost ground by considering the eternal – that is, timeless – redemptive purposes of God. And hopefully I fully occupy my place in Him, whatever that looks like, day by day.

“The trouble is too often instead of searching the Bible to see what is right, we form our belief, then search for Bible texts to sustain us, and are satisfied with isolated texts without regard to context, and ask no questions as to the circumstances that may have existed then but do not now. We forget that portions of the Bible are only histories of events given as a chain of evidence to sustain the fact that the real revelations of the Godhead, be it in any form, are true” (Clara Bewick Colby, The Woman’s Bible).