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My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid Rock I stand–
All other ground is sinking sand
,
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In ev’ry high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in Him be found,
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

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Trying to figure out who we are. By Jon Acuff.

I used to think I could quickly grow a mustache.

My beard is always patchy and hole laden and bad. (Not bad meaning good like Run DMC intoned but bad meaning bad.)

But mustaches? The Acuff family mustache is too fast and too furious. I always thought that was the one bit of facial hair I could hang my hat on or at least a mustache comb. Until I met my friend Daniel.

He sits next to me at work and over a weekend is able to grow the thickest, most committed mustache I’ve ever seen. It is so impressive that when you see his mustache on a Monday, it confuses your sense of time. In your head you think, “Have I fallen asleep for a few weeks or stepped into a parallel universe? I swear I saw him last Friday but the robustness of that mustache would argue otherwise. What year is it? When am I?”

He can grow a quick mustache.

The other thing he’s good at is dropping some wisdom, which is exactly what he did a few weeks ago in a conversation we were having about fear.

With my new book Quitter coming out on May 10, one of the questions I have bouncing around in my head is, “What if it fails?” The Stuff Christians Like book did well and there’s a part of me that fears that Quitter won’t do as well. I know that’s a negative thought, but I want to be honest about what’s bouncing around in my head right now.

Here’s what Daniel told me:

“The problem is that we all start off with an identity. It’s who we are and who God made us to be. Then we have some small degree of success and we add that to our identity. That success becomes our identity. So now, when we try something new, we’re not just afraid to fail, we’re afraid to lose our identity. That’s what’s terrifying. That’s why people are afraid to take risks or try new things. It’s not just failure at stake, we think we’re going to lose our identity and that’s overwhelming.”

That mentality is easy to see in a city like Nashville. I have musician friends who released successful first albums and are now afraid to release a second album. Because if success is their identity, if they fail, they’ve lost their entire identity. But I don’t think that’s just something artists struggle with. The truth is, I think on some level must of us wrestle with the temptation to let other things become our identity.

You see this in parents who turn the performance of their kids into their identity. Sometimes parents get crazy with pushing kids in sports or school because more than a soccer goal or a spelling test is at stake. Their identity is up for grabs.

You see this in dating relationships. Sometimes we’re desperate for them not to end for the wrong reasons. With popular song lyrics telling us, “What am I supposed to do, when the best part of me was always you?” it’s so easy to think, “If I lose this boyfriend, I’ll lose my whole identity.”

You see this at work, when someone scraps and fights for a surprisingly small amount of power and politics inside a cubicle. It’s not a bonus at stake or a plaque or a recognition, it’s their identity they’re fighting for.

Over and over again, whether you’re writing a new book, or dating a new girl or applying for a new job, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of “identity addition.”

But that debate is over. You’re identity has been decided. How you perform in a new opportunity will not finalize that.

You are a son or daughter of Christ.

You are an heir to the throne.

No success or failure should become your identity.

No rise or fall can determine who you are.

And though that feels simple and sometimes even impossible to believe, that is what I remind myself of every day. We are God’s children.

And you and I can rest in the truth of that and be bold in the risks we take and the hope we have. Because our identity is not at stake.

So, as I’m learning Greek, I’m realizing something.  I was led to believe for most of my life that when the Bible used the word “man” (and other such masculine words for types of humans), that it was just a generic way of referencing people.  But you know, that’s a lie.

There are words that mean humankind, people, and so on.  There are words that specifically mean the male gender and specifically mean the female gender.  Why didn’t the writers of the Bible feel like it would be a good idea to include females in their writings?  Why is so much of it so male-centric?  I’m beginning to understand the anger a lot of Biblical feminists have toward these texts.

Like in 1 John 2, where John writes specifically to “young men” and “fathers,” but not to young women or mothers.  Can I take the license to ignore those passages that ignore me?

Does  my own religion exclude me?

I can’t believe Spring Break is over.  And I hardly got anything done.  I really thought I’d be productive; I really thought I’d get ahead.  Somehow, though, I managed to not even get all of my homework for this week done.  How did that happen?  [Side note: I did get ahead in my reading for one of my classes, which will help immensely.]

I think I’m living under the illusion that I’m still disciplined, when clearly, I have lost all self-discipline.  It is too bad.

I’ve been having not happy dreams lately–probably a by-product of being by myself for so long now.  I’ve had dreams about refusing to reconcile with others, about people telling me what an awful person I am, about all sorts of unpleasant thoughts.  At least today brings me back to normal life as everyone returns from their travels.

A Marriage, by Robert Creeley

The first retainer
he gave to her
was a golden
wedding ring.

The second — late at night
he woke up,
leaned over on an elbow,
and kissed her.

The third and the last —
he died with
and gave up loving
and lived with her.

As Anne of Green Gables would say, I’m having a Jonah day.  If I were a crier, I probably would have spent half the day crying.  But I’m not a crier, so instead I’ve spent half the day moping.  I think I’d rather choose the crying.

I miss having friends.  I’m sure I’ve brought this up before, but I didn’t anticipate the awfulness of moving to a new city and having to make a new life for myself.  I miss the emotional support network that I used to have.  Friends have always been my family, and now I have neither friends nor family around.  I thought that after six months, I would have made more of a dent in my new life.  I thought I’d have begun to put down roots, but instead I still feel like I’m wrapped in burlap, waiting to be planted.

Days like today make me want to give up.

Wow.  Can I saw wow again?  Last night, I made Joy the Baker’s Tangerine-Lemon Curd on a whim.  Only, I used an orange instead of tangerines.  Incidentally, when I opened up my orange, it looked like a grapefruit inside: pink.  I didn’t know there were pink oranges.  Tasted great, though.

I have no pictures of the event: it was late at night; I was watching old school Popeye cartoons.  So this morning, I tried it out (it had set up perfectly) on a leftover crepe I had from yesterday.  Oh. my. goodness.  Can I somehow incorporate this into my everyday?  So good.

That’s all I have to say about that, but I do have one other thing: I need to get back on Livestrong.  I had lost 20 pounds when I was on it before, then came to school, quit using it and gained 10 back.  Now I still have 20 pounds to lose instead of 10.  Sad day, but my own fault.  I like not having to watch what I eat, but I’m aware that that isn’t the best strategy for life.  So…  Okay.  I’ll start today; I can do it.  Plus, tracking helps me to exercise because I love being able to add exercise in and watch my calorie allotment go up.

Wish me luck.  Or at least perseverance.

Last night, I went to My Favourite Starbucks (MFS) to get some reading done and get out of my apartment.  As mentioned previously, I was reading The Irresistible Revolution, by Shane Claiborne.  I actually finished it, so mission accomplished.  But while I was there, I ended up having an hour long conversation with an older gentleman who had asked what I was reading.

It seems he would be in the category of “disgruntled Christian.”  He told me he’d gone to church for 27 years, but then (recently) he began to have issues with what they were saying from the pulpit and doing in the congregations and so he quit going.  He used to be in ministry, was involved, and so on.   But, before I knew any of this, when he asked about my book, I told him it was a book that encouraged Christians to live like Jesus did, to love like Him, to take care of the homeless, the orphans and so on.

This opened a can of worms, but it was clear he didn’t want to dialogue, only to go back to his platforms.  I was asked about what I thought about the state of churches today, because he does not believe any of them preach the truth anymore (I would venture to say he believes they are too seeker-friendly, although he did not use that terminology).  He lamented the fact that churches are only out to get money, by selling sermons on dvd and selling coffee in the sanctuary (and I did put forth that most of the time, churches only cover their costs by these services).  He was very fixated on the book of Revelation, one of those who believes it will, without a doubt, happen in his lifetime because of all the evil in the world and the signs.  He knew his Bible, that’s for sure, but he seemed to want to focus on the problems and not the solutions.

I offered that we can only control ourselves and our actions, that if we are loving like Jesus loved and living like Jesus lived, then surely others will see that and will come alongside us.  He said that no one wants to do that anymore, that Christians (especially Christian women, for some reason, who he saw as incredibly hypocritical and scandalous) are simply out for what makes them feel good, not for what the truth is.  I asked if he was doing his part in being Jesus to the world; his response was “yes, mostly.”  He feels his calling is to ask questions and recognize truth.  I said that our calling as Christians is first and foremost to make disciples.

He then went on to describe his perfect church.  First, if you haven’t been baptized, you aren’t saved.  You need to know that, because it is a pre-requisite for his church.  (And I do mean church with a little ‘c.’)  No one but true believers would be let in.  No one could worship God except for those who are truly saved, and then perhaps God would bless that congregation.

I told him I sincerely hope I never see a church like that.  If Jesus did not come for the sick, who did He come for?  If we cannot eat with the tax-collectors, the prostitutes, the drug addicts, what are we doing as Jesus’ followers?  What better place, in theory, to meet Jesus than in His house, with His followers, worshiping God?  We have so many walls already, why would anyone want to create more?  I am not suggesting the truth is watered down, but I am strongly saying that Jesus died for everyone, so everyone is welcome to come to Him, without stipulations.  Jesus takes you as you are, then He works on you.  You don’t come perfect; you come broken.

Nothing I said seemed to affect this man at all.  And I did not say anything in frustration or anger, although there was certainly passion in my conversation.  In retrospect, I wish I had asked what happened to make him so disillusioned with Christ, why after 27 years he was essentially throwing in the towel, why he wished to be more exclusive rather than more inclusive.  The entire conversation I was praying for wisdom and the right words, and I don’t know if I got either, but I will hope that something I said, if it was at all worthwhile, would encourage this man to reconsider his stance.

After he left, I just sat there, processing, for a good while.  My heart was sad, and still is.  We’ve got such a long way to go as the Body of Christ.

I’m reading The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical, by Shane Claiborne.  It’s one of the books I picked as introductory material for my thesis on homelessness.  One of the reasons I picked my topic, broadly as I have yet to narrow it, is because I want my thesis to create change in my life, if not in the lives of others.  I want to be influenced by the Gospel.  I want to live out the life Jesus calls us to as Christ followers.

I’m reading this book and already am feeling convicted, and I’m not even halfway through.  In many ways, I’ve already been ruined for ordinary life, and I think this project is going to ruin me the rest of the way.  I sincerely hope it does.  But at the same time, I am afraid of that, afraid of what it means, because I am still holding onto the material, the temporal, instead of holding onto the Kingdom.

One of the penitential prayers from The Book of Alternative Services of the Anglican Church of Canada (and I’m sure very similar to others), is as follows:

Most Merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us,
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your name. Amen.

Amen.

I’ve said it before, but it’s so true.  After about 10pm, I lose all restraint I generally have during the day.  So if you want to know something about me or get something out of me, anytime after that is your best bet.  I might not tell you my secret at 4pm, but I sure will at 10:30pm.  No joke.

That said, half the blogs I write at night get deleted or made private.  Or I waffle and change the settings several times.  I can’t help it; it’s just how I am.  Secrets are for the nighttime, not the glaring lights of day.  One of my best friends in Bible College used to come to my room at about 11pm most nights to get my confessions from me.  And some of the most fabulous ones would come out, like the time I referenced a certain male with the strong statement: “Now, that’s a man.”  (You probably had to be there.)  My friends didn’t let me forget that one.

I don’t want to write about the things I’m thinking about tonight, so I won’t.

Instead, I’ll talk about my dreams for the future.  This is a topic that I can’t help but re-visit.

I thought I was over the PhD dreams, but thanks to one of my profs from undergrad, those got re-awoken.  I suppose it will depend on how things go with my thesis here.  I really don’t think I’d need a PhD, but it would pave the road to being published, which is one of my goals.  Only, I don’t need, necessarily, to be published academically, although that would be nice.  Poetry, short stories, novels, any sort of writing would be a thrill.

I want to be married, but only in the kind of marriage that doesn’t make me feel strangled.  This is something I fear.  I like my freedom and independence and I understand that you have to give a lot of that up for a relationship, but I don’t want to be in a relationship that makes me feel like I’m missing out on life.  I want a relationship in which we are walking the same direction and so our lives intertwine in all the right ways.  Besides the fact that my last ex was scum, he also violated those basic principles: he wanted me with him whenever I wasn’t at work (are you kidding me?  I have a life, friends, things to do…), he wasn’t as smart as me (forgive my sounding arrogant), he didn’t like the idea of me going to grad school, he wanted to live the 9-5 existence that I hate so much, and so on.

Most of the time I want kids, but only when I forget the reality of kids.  They’re great, but you can never be as free as you once were.  Plus, I’m pretty committed to the idea of adopting if I was going to have kids because I can’t see the need to pass on my own DNA when there are so many kids out there who need a home.  And let’s be honest, most men who want children also want them to be their own genes, for some reason.  But I’d be okay without kids, too.  I often think about requiring said hypothetical husband to get snipped first, in order to have a better chance of not having kiddos by accident.  (If its ever by accident if you’re having sex with someone, since that’s the natural conclusion.)

I want to be smart and academic, but I want to work with folks on the ground level.  I want to be real.  I want to make a difference in the world and somehow change it for the better, even if only in a small corner.

But it’s 1:30am, and I’ve turned into a pumpkin.  So I’ll leave you with that and hope you all have a lovely sleep, where ever you are.

This next week is Spring Break.  I have hopes of getting in around 8 hours of homework every day, in order to catch up and get ahead.  I think it’s possible, especially since every person I generally spend any time with is gone this week.  Sad, right?  But with any luck, if I can keep busy during the days and find things to do at night, I won’t be too lonely.  Sometimes when I’m left alone for a long time (more than a day is considered a long time), I make bad decisions…

In the interest of NOT making bad decisions, I’ve already found a few dance venues: there’s blues dancing both Tuesday and Friday and swing dancing both Thursday and Sunday.  That only leaves Monday, Wednesday and Saturday to fill.  Unless, of course, my arm/tattoo doesn’t feel well enough to have sweaty men touching it by Tuesday, in which case I will have to postpone dancing.  Or if I don’t quite gather the guts to try out blues dancing here.  I’ve heard that where I live, the blues dancing is pretty dirty, so I’m slightly hesitant, but only slightly.

There’s also the zoo, the science museum and a local cheap theatre ($4 tickets).  I’m too wimpy to hike by myself, even if the weather cooperates (animals don’t scare me, but creepy men on trails give me pause).  There is bouldering any of those nights, and if I go on Saturday, maybe I’ll meet that blue haired man who was so nice last time.  He said if I come back on Saturdays, he’ll see me, but sadly, I keep forgetting to go.

I think I can keep myself entertained?  The problem is that I need my alone time, but once I have it, I want people.  This is going to be a long week.