Tag Archives: Alcoholism

outdoor cat.

After 4 long–and I’m talking LONG–months of personal restraint and self-control, I bit my nails. Like, I bit them clean off. I had come so far! I’ve been a nail-biter since I was 3 (truestoryaskmymother) and it was assumed that they had ceased to grow completely. But behold the power of a good prenatal vitamin and a superstition based in nothing but my own crazy head! By mid-February I had grown me some pretty fierce she-claws. Unfortunately, during this past bed-ridden Sunday afternoon, boredom and anxiety teamed up and became one great big mega-force to be reckoned with, and what started with the innocent nibbling of a thumbnail quickly progressed to an all-out war against my own hands.

I got gnarly man nubs again.

Though it feels really good to be biting my nails again, I am so angry with my self. I said “Self! Where’s your will power?” But my self never answers back, so I’m left to ponder, and probably over-spiritualize, the religious themes of The Walking Dead.

You’re welcome.

It is so easy to slip back into bad habits. Look at precious Darryl Dixon:

This is accurate.

This is accurate.

No really, look at him–so much awesome. For those of you who don’t watch, a little background information may be in order: pre-zombie-apocalypse, Darryl was a swampy white-trash redneck who drank moonshine, lived in the woods, and pretty much did whatever he wanted. Suddenly, zombies! Darryl Dixon met up with a group of survivors, and all of them became dependent upon his “Man-vs-Wild”-style expertise. The group was constantly in situations that called for Darryl to step up and be a protector and a leader. He made real connections with people. He became a hero.

Then that band of survivors got separated, and Darryl was roped into another group–this one made up of some real meanies: thieves, killers, and liars, who “claimed” things for themselves. Darryl stood firm in his struggle to be a good, fair person in a world that’s kill or be killed: “I ain’t claimin’ nothin‘,” he asserted, even if it meant going hungry or sleeping on concrete.

Sadly, by the end of one episode, Darryl (at least temporarily) gave up. He saw the body of an enemy and instead of respectfully covering it with a sheet (like Good Darryl would’ve done), he tossed the sheet aside. He gulped down moonshine. And he “claimed” things.

So much for fighting the good fight.

I wonder a few things:

  • How much decency did Darryl Dixon have in him before society went to hell in a hand-basket? My guess is, just like most people, he had the ability to be honorable and kind–just maybe not the opportunity.
  • Maybe his drinking and his swearing and his selfishness were all coping mechanisms. Maybe he was used to being in a kill-or-be-killed environment.
  • And in that case, was he just employing genius survival tactics when he started “claiming” and going along with the rest of the group?
  • Darryl is not known for his faith, in God or in anybody, and he occasionally says so around people of great faith. Does his self-reliance make him better equipped to handle the evils of his world? Or will it ultimately be his downfall?

And then I wonder a few things more:

  • How many times do I show kindness and compassion to someone in need? How many opportunities do I waste to be generous or hospitable? Do I really have to wait until the end of the world to be courageous and honorable?
  • What kinds of habits have I worked hard to overcome, besides biting my nails? People have all kinds of vices in order to cope with the unfairness, scariness, and pain from the world around them. My biggies are alcoholism and anxiety. In my happy bubble of church folk and family, I’m good–but it can be a slippery slope, just like gently nibbling one little fingernail. Of course I don’t need to be drinking a beer or going to a bar–even certain music can put me back into that good-time-girl mindset.
  • How do I act when I’m around people who might make fun of me for trying to set myself apart? I remain quiet. Or get drunk. Or drop f-bombs left and right while proudly displaying my (uselessly) vast knowledge of anything pop-culture.
  • It took me a while, but I have learned that going it alone is pretty much stupid. I can’t survive in the world without Jesus (as evidenced by sins of my past and present). I can’t carry on in my Christian walk without the friendship and the encouragement of brothers and sisters who hold tightly to my hand as we all walk along the same path. And I also can’t walk that path with a blind eye turned towards others who don’t share my hope–there’s a better way to live, and it involves so much more than survival alone.


“…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called…” –1 Timothy 6:11-12



Man in the Mirror

So how ’bout that Beth Moore and her bible study on the book of James?

If you’ve experienced Beth Moore ever, you know that she’s a teeny little blonde lady whose intensity will scare the bejesus out of you, and that’s just through a video. I’d die of fright and fall into a puddle of my own pee if I ever saw her in person and she looked at me with her actual eyes and smiled at me with her teeth which I’m betting are sharp enough to bite right down to my bones. Not that I think she’d bite me; well, she might, and that’s a chilling thought to be sure. I know I went to a really dark place just now, but Beth Moore freaks me out, you guys.

That said, the woman can rock a bible study, amiright? The video sessions and the workbook have pretty much completed the very easy task of massacring my brains. Also, the book of James: if you’ve ever been a little Catholic girl in a swarm of hot-headed Southern Baptist youth-groupers and you accidentally may or may not have said something to the effect of: “Well, you can’t really be saved if you’re always acting like a psycho-heathen baboon on meth, can you?”…well, this particular part of the New Testament is heart-warmingly validating on multiple levels. Take a listen:

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

James 1: 22-27

But wait! There’s more!

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”

You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?

James 2: 14-20.

BLAMO! I wish I had memorized more Bible back in the day. It would have felt great to whip that one out and lay it on the table.

I’m not one to get all proud and cocky, at least not in the past year of my life and between the hours of 3 and 4 a.m. But these passages do speak to me, even more so now than they would have in my teenage years. And not because they’re great verses to present to other people–I am more and more convicted by these words every time I read them.

Why is that? Beth Moore posed this question: When was the last time you were changed by the word of God? Not when was the last time you were touched by the word of God, or the last time you were sentimental over it, or felt guilty because of it, or the last time you agreed with it….but when was the last time you heard His truths and were so impacted that you actually changed?

Personally, I love to get this little baby out of my pocket: “I’m not a stark-raving alcoholic anymore. BOOM. What more do you want, God?”

And here’s God: “Every. Flipping. Thing.” My temper. My impatience. My spending. My dishonesty. My anxiety. My free time. My hands and my arms and my legs and my back. My thoughts. My heart.

So many times I pick up my Bible and I read, and I eagerly nod my head and I pray and I thank God for what He just showed me…and then I turn right around and blow up over something miniscule like my dog is looking at me cock-eyed (which, coincidentally, he does all the damn time.) I tell God that my life is in His hands one minute, and the next minute I’m freaking out because my lunch plans fell through. I say my prayers and I have my quiet time, but then I hop in my car with a to-do list and all my quiet thoughts and calm vibes and good intentions go right out the window and suddenly I’m throwing up gang signs at the morons who won’t let me get in the exit lane.

I am exactly like the man who looks intently into a mirror at his own natural self, and then turns away and forgets completely what he looked like. I pig out on the word, and then I just sit there and burp til I doze off.

We can do bible study after bible study. We could analyze and philosophize until we’re blue in the face, but still not get the point. Sure, we could mentally understand the point, but until we get off the couch and do the point? We’ve missed the point. Salvation through faith alone–it’s awesome. Know what occurs naturally with true faith? Good works. This, btdubs, is happy information for Baptists and Catholics alike.

I’m trying. I really am. I’m doing the bible studies and teaching my children and memorizing scripture and giving things to the poor and bringing food to sick people, all the while trying to remember to switch the clothes from the washer to the dryer. And if you’re like me, you’re probably asking this question: “When do I get perfect, God? Come on already!”

That is one sneaky bastard of a thought, and it pops up time and time again in my head, especially when I’m surrounded by awesome Godly women who have totally nailed this “doers-of-the-word” thing. My friend Libby is calm and wise. My friend Kayla is caring and thoughtful. My friend Lynette is chill every minute of every day. My friend Stephanie is a solid rock of common sense. My friend Paula has more energy than a hyperactive labrador puppy on crack-cocaine. My friend Kim could people-charm the KGB. My friend Kristy invented every craft on Pinterest. My friend Tiffanie is a beast on a bicycle–if beasts look like Kim Kardashian except way prettier. My friend Shanna’s voice sounds like a combination of Fergie and Jesus.

But you guys: Comparison is a torture device of the devil. God put certain talents into certain people for certain reasons. Separately we are limited, but together we could take over the galaxy, or at least the tri-state area.

I can’t be all things to all people. I will never ever have all the answers. I will always be striving and seeking and asking and knocking. Sometimes I will slack off and regret it. Some days I may scream out with my whole heart and tears will burn in my eyes and my body will ache from running to Him. I am not going be perfect, not here on this earth and not by my own power ever. I might read the book of James 50 times this year and still not understand every sentence, but one thing is clear: Love God, love others. The two go hand in hand.

word on the street

Here was soccer practice last night: my team was running around like lunatics while they waited for their turn to shine under the bright team-portrait lights. I stood idly by watching the madness, and I guess I just look like the kind of girl to chit-chat with, and you know, share a life story–complete with political views and spiritual struggles–with.

People talk to me. Well, I talk to people. Well, actually I more or less run my mouth until I look like a total jackass, and then people feel comfortable talking to me since they figure they can’t possibly look any stupider than I just did.

It’s a gift.


I enjoy talking to people when I’m not totally wigging out (’cause I got the anxiety!) As I listened to some of these ladies talk, I realize that every person has so much baggage. We all struggle and strain and fight the work that God wants to do in our lives. Sometimes, if we’re particularly feisty by nature, we create our very own custom-made hell-on-earth.

It’s not just me.

The thought is both relieving and sad.

I’ve been there. I’ve been too tired to go to church. I’ve been so lonely I could just die. I’ve had the knock-down drag-out fights with my husband and I’ve screamed at my kids for a week straight.

I’ve also drank myself into a stupor every day by 3:00 in the afternoon for a good solid 3 years. I’ve cried in my closet partly because I was ashamed of being drunk and partly because I was too drunk to do anything else. I’ve given precious pieces of my heart and body to people who didn’t love or respect me. I’ve brought down mad dishonor on my parents. I emotionally neglected my daughter and I flat-out ignored God, saying things like “I’m just not into Jesus right now.”

But the whole time, Jesus? Was very much into Toni McClung. And He pursued me super-duper hardcore and He fought for me and when I was at my rockest bottom, He walked right in, paid the price for everything that I had done, and everything that I would do and everything that I haven’t even done yet. He redeemed me.

Say that with me: redeem.

I am worth something to Him. I don’t deserve it, I don’t fully understand it, but He calls me His own. He calls me Daughter.

I see these people, these moms and dads and these children out there on the soccer field and they talk to me and my heart hurts for them. It literally hurts, and I could cry over their pain. I know.

I know loneliness and fear and panic and anxiety and desperation and hunger and sadness and despair and depression and anger and rage and hurt and pain and loss. I know the frustration and the impatience and the feeling of being overwhelmed and powerless, and I have had the shakes for something that never fixed anything–only made it all worse, worse than I could ever imagine. Sometimes I still get the shakes, actually.

I always had trouble understanding that church term: my chains are gone. I used to think: “Chains? Really? My life is good. Really good.” (a Nacho Libre quote for the win!)

But I get it now. My alcoholism, my laziness, my pride, my sins: it was absolute slavery. Jesus wanted me to be free. And though those very human feelings still come up and temptations still rear their ugly heads, they don’t own me and they don’t define me, because He calls me Daughter.

It’s not about church or church activities or church people or the church building. It’s not about things I do or do not do or about acting right and avoiding wrong. It’s about loving Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength because He first loved me; He died for me and for all people.

And that’s…awesome. Awesome is what it is.

Have You Asked Jesus To Wreck Your Life?

Friends, correct me if I’m wrong: when Jesus has really, truly come into your life, is it not like someone is stabbing you repeatedly in the heart? Like there’s a giant sharp knife caught right in your chest? And you can’t pull it out, and occasionally the knife twists deeper–sometimes a little, sometimes a lot?

Some things just aren’t funny anymore. Some people just aren’t as cool as you once thought they were. Some foods don’t taste quite as good. Some songs don’t speak to you like they used to.

Sad things are sadder and you’re a lot more sensitive than you used to be.

Taking it further, you don’t have to have that expensive pair of shoes. You don’t need to see that movie on opening night. You don’t care what kind of car you drive, so long as it gets you from place to place in a reasonably reliable way.

It doesn’t matter to you when your highlights are more than 3 months old. Wal-Mart make-up is a-okay. You clean up for church but you still feel slightly grubby (in your last-season-everythings) compared to everyone else, and it doesn’t bother you as much as it once did. You’re just glad to be forgiven and free, and you love being with your new family in Christ.

But it gets worse.

Your eyes start opening up. For me, it was like God was having to pry them open a little at a time, because I was so afraid of what I might see. And then when your eyes do open up, you throw your hands over them because you are scared to death of change–or worse, a call to action.

For a while, you pretend that just about everything Jesus says in the Bible only applies to other people–nuns or missionaries or college students with dreadlocks. That your calling is to live a Godly life (see also: less cussing) right inside your cozy bubble with a select group of friends and family members.

You read the Bible and almost nothing in your world sits right anymore. Not the amount of money you spend on food, clothing, and entertainment. Not the amount of time you spend at the ballpark, or jacking around on websites like Pinterest and Polyvore. So-called “normal, everyday stuff” (see also: typical day-to-day life in the U.S.A.) seems like a waste of time.

A giant, soul-sucking, waste of time.

And then someone tells you that those new shoes? Worth more than a year’s worth of schooling for a half-dozen girls in Uganda. The impact an education would have on the lives of these sweet children who God loves? Would last a helluva lot longer than the crappy new shoes.

And you will never buy shoes again.

Well, not any pair that costs more than $10.

(I will not even discuss the guilt-fest that my long-time dream of granite counter-tops has induced.)

You read the Bible and you get a cold feeling in your guts because “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God,” according to Mark 10:25, and? Newsflash: we are so rich, it’s ridiculous.

The world will tell you to chill out. The world will tell you that you’re more than good enough already, and that you’re taking this faith thing too far, and that you’ve been riding the Jesus train a little too long. The world might even get pissed when you don’t agree–and this world includes Christians and non-Christians alike.

You read the Bible and everything convicts you. Occasional emotional outbursts and temper-tantrums, overly self-indulgent shopping trips, big fat meals every night, little white lies everyday–all things that your mom or your best friends would excuse, all the things that society encourages–become to you what they really are in God’s eyes: sin. Sin, sin, sin.

Then God tells you to deal with this sin. He tells you to own up to it, ask forgiveness, and repent of it–which means you have to stop it, which means you have to stop other things that lead to it. Some of it is easy. And some of it is really difficult and you are forced to stop being proud and self-reliant. And you beg tearfully for God’s help.

Some days your heart is absolutely soaring on a Jesus high. And on those same days, you will have an anxiety attack from hell and you’ll want a drink so bad, and you can remember the smell, and the taste, and the feel of beer in your mouth. You will long for the buzz and the numbness it brings. You’ll cry because you know it is no good for you or for the people around you; and you’ll actually be so bold as to be mad at God for showing you the light.

Sometimes you will consumed with a sense of urgency, all kinds of on fire to tell your old friends or family about Jesus and how He works in your life these days. And when you do actually have time to talk with them, you chicken out and say a cussword or two just so they won’t think you’re one of those Crazy Christians.

Sometimes you will be overwhelmed with the desire to help the poor. And later on that afternoon, you will physically recoil at the sight of a homeless man on the street. You’ll purposefully retreat to your area of serenity, be it your room, or your house, neighborhood, or in my case–your entire town. But you’ll know it’s wrong, and that there’s still work to be done and there’s still people left to love.

And you will once again ask God for forgiveness, and direction, and courage.

And He actually gives it to you.

Along with patience. And hope. And joy. And love. More than you could dream of containing all at once in your own little human body.

And people who used to make you angry? They don’t make you so angry anymore.

And people who you used to avoid? You seek them out–and you find them.

And people who you never thought would want to talk about God with you? They bring up the Bible on their own.

And a wiser, older man calls you one day out of the blue to tell you a story that brings tears to your eyes and renews your hope and purpose.

And you attend a conference or you hear a radio sermon that tells you you’re not alone in your thinking.

Happy things are happier. Forgiveness is greater and love is deeper. Little blessing are huge deals. Everything has meaning and everyone has purpose. Life isn’t as terrible as you thought it was, and dying isn’t a scary thought anymore. The shedding of this earthly body, with all its shortcomings and mistakes; the leaving behind of this world, with all its pain and drama and uncertainty; and the being united with our loving Father in Heaven–that is how you view death now, and that is why it is exciting.

But during our time here, however long or short it may be, we are called to love God’s people; and since He created you and me and all the bazillion members of Earth’s population and He knows each hair on each person’s little head, I can only assume we are not to hold back with anyone. We’re not necessarily meant to be well-liked and popular in this world. We might not be meant to be comfortable and safe here. We’re definitely not meant to stay here at all.

I am so, so, glad–that no matter what happens to me here–Jesus has overcome this world. In this place I will struggle and my heart will break, and I will get so many things wrong. Oh, but because of Easter…the cross, the resurrection…we will see Him again.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” –John 16:33

My Apologies


I am so sorry.

I’m sorry for coming off as judgmental. I’m sorry if I sound pushy or snide or arrogant or condescending.

I’m sorry if I ever seem to be trying to shove religion down throats. (It only makes people gag.)

And most of all, I’m sorry if the things I say and how I actually live don’t line up; I’m sorry if my faith has not manifest itself through my actions, because that gives off a most terrible impression of a God who I want to honor with my life to the best of my abilities.

And I’m so dreadfully sorry if that terrible impression has turned any of you off to God, the salvation He offers, and the peace He wants you to have.

I am sorry.

I am sorry if you are my friend or family member and I have not shared with you why I have the faith that I have. I’m sorry for my selfishness, my fear, and my apathy and complacency.

I’m sorry if you don’t know my God. I’m so, so sorry. Because you are really missing out.

And I can’t explain it to you, not really, and still come off as rational or sane. I can’t promise that by knowing God that you’ll stop drinking, or have an awesome marriage, or well-behaved kids. Life’s not guaranteed to be easy or understandable; you won’t have all the answers. No matter how much you pray. No matter how much you go to church. No matter how much you learn about God. No matter how many good things you do in the name of God–life here on Earth is freaking hard; there will always be confusion, frustration, and pain. You might go hungry. You might suffer. You might be killed.

I can only tell you what I know: God is love. He is forgiveness, grace, mercy. Peace, and hope.

I know that I am weak, weak, weak. I know that I don’t have in me to battle my own demons. I know that I rebel for no other reason than I don’t like being told what to do. I love to go against the grain just to be different (and difficult). I love to irritate the crap out of Caleb just to get a rise out of him. I love the taste of alcohol, and I crave it, and if left to my own devices I’d be drunk all day every day.

I know that I was struggling. I was actually drowning and I was in total denial. I was fighting and I didn’t even know why. I was making bad choice after bad choice, knowing that I’d pay for it later–and I didn’t care. I wandered. I hit rock bottom. I broke. And I almost took my whole family down with me.

I’ve never had all my shit together. I’ve never been strong enough or smart enough to do life on my own, at least not with any significant amount of happiness or success.

I’m weak.

And I’m grateful. Because that weakness? Has shown me my need. It points me to God. It reminds me of what I am without the hope that He provides. It gives powerful testimony to God’s healing power and love.

God is faithful. He forgives, and He lifts and He restores.

That is my humbling experience.

My friend.

My heart hurts for you. Everyone has a different journey. Maybe you’re on the right track. Maybe you’ve made all the right decisions and maybe you don’t need any help. Maybe God has let you down. Maybe His people have let you down. Maybe people claiming to be His have turned you off. Maybe you’ve found something different. Maybe you just can’t make sense out of it.

I’m not talking about mindlessly following a certain set of rules, carefully avoiding anything that would burst a carefully constructed Christian bubble. I’m not talking about being good just so you can go to Heaven. I’m also not talking about heading straight to your local Baptist church, walking down that green-carpeted center aisle, and reciting a generic prayer.

But I promise you, I promise you: a relationship with God is worth pursuing.


Compelled to Rebel

*Warning: Buttload of pop-culture references ahead.

Alright, so I love the movies and the jokes and the stories and the music and the dancing and the art and the scenery of this world.

I do. I love all the things.

I dig me some Cosby Show and I’m a huge fan of “The Office”. I put a Michael Jackson CD on repeat when I’m driving in my car. I’m not ashamed to report that my kids love some them some Queen almost as much as I do.

Alright, I should be a little ashamed of that.

I think Jackson Pollock was amazing and brilliant even though he was a raging alcoholic who was probably bipolar, and most definitely a rude-boy when it came to women.

I’m irrationally scared to death of zombies yet I find TV shows like “The Walking Dead” strangely addicting (and quite frankly, educational–I am learning what not to do in the inevitable catastrophic event that humankind is plagued by a virus which causes corpses to rise and feed upon the living. Because you just never know.)


Given my obsession with all the awesome stuff this world has to offer, it’s no surprise that I do occasionally (very occasionally) let these unimportant things get in the way of what God expects out of me.

For instance, just this week I slacked bigtime on my bible study–3 days went undone, but I for darn sure watched 2 hours of television a night with my husband. It takes me listening to a whole slew of Christian songs about how holy is the Lord for me to get a good Jesus-vibe going…but after only 3 seconds of Flo-Rida, I’m thinking that da club can’t even handle me right now.

I’m telling you all of this to emphasize how easily influenced I am by what I see and what I hear; by what I do with my time and what I choose to fill my head with.

Our preacher asked in his sermon this past Sunday: “If you have access to clear drinking water, why on earth would you ever go back to drinking from a puddle?” And I sat there, nodding my head in my brain, thinking “Seriously! I would never go back!”

But two days later, I am here to tell you that I have the real answer to his question: We go back because it’s easy. It’s mindless. It’s effortless. And it’s initially more fun. I will not lie. Booty music tends to have a mad beat that I am absolutely compelled to jam to, whereas Gospel music is mildly toe-tapping at best. And Christian movies? They’re flat-out cheesy—I know it’s because they’re pure, and we’ve been completely de-sensitized when it comes to sex and violence in movies, but I want to see some gore! Shoot ’em up! Where’s The Rock? Where are the explosives? Am I right?

I don’t want to say all pop culture is bad (I have reason to believe that during the Apocalypse, Jesus will rock out to Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight”) but being enslaved to it—and filling my head with it, leaving no room for God’s direction—allowing my fascination/obsession with it to have a negative impact on my obedience to God and my service for His kingdom—is bad.

Someone I respected said to me once: “I am spiritual, I love Jesus and all, but I don’t let that affect my life. I don’t let it affect who I am.” I took that and ran with it. I believed that—I totally got it.

And now? I am ashamed to say I ever thought that line of reasoning was anything but hogwash (or, as Bernie Mac would’ve said: “That’s some bull!”) How can we not let Jesus change us?

Here’s some more pop culture for you: there’s a song out called “If I Could Have a Beer With Jesus” by Thomas Rhett. Initial reaction? Enough already with the idea of having a beer with Jesus. Beers are easy! Man up and do some real work—go to church and get your rear in gear!

Second thought? I would like to have a beer with Jesus. Jesus might like to have a beer with me. Jesus might grow tired of my church clothes and my church attitude and my church face that I put on every Sunday morning when I’m ready to worship. He wants to get down to the nitty-gritty–he wants to be open and honest and real with me. Beers? Indicate a certain comfortability with a person–there will be no putting on of airs when you’re invited to have a beer with someone.

Quite honestly I’m not sure I’d even like to have a beer with myself.

And if I was staring into the eyes of Jesus, and if he was talking to me, and I was being real with him (since obviously He’d know if I wasn’t), Corona in hand or not, I don’t think I’d ever be the same. In fact, I know I would never be the same.

Which begs the question: how come I am not different yet? Have I not had an open and honest communication with my Lord and Saviour? How has my relationship with Jesus changed my life, or better: why has my life not changed more?

Here are some things that are different since I have started to try to truly follow Jesus:

  1. The drinking has practically stopped. I had a few beers on vacation in Florida this summer. It’s been months since I touched, or even thought about touching, a drop. Which is good, for me, since alcoholics should probably avoid alcohol.
  2. I am a more patient and attentive wife and mother. Awesome.
  3. I have a supportive circle of friends. Also awesome.
  4.  I read the actual bible more and have gained a slight amount of biblical knowledge. Slight.
  5. I do a lot more activities involving, and pretty much limited to, being at the church building, drinking coffee, eating snacks and watching videos.

That last fact drives me crazy. Here are some things that have not changed about me in the past 3 years:

  1. I am scared to death of tornadoes, zombies, hostile takeover by a foreign power be it aliens or the country of Mexico with Iranian aid by way of E.M.P.s and hand-to-hand combat.
  2. I have yet to reach out to people who are poor in the physical sense and in the spiritual sense.
  3. I sin like a mammajamma.
  4. I think about sinning like a mammajamma, like a lot.
  5. I still feel like I’m not helping, like there’s something more. Like surely it can’t be this easy.

What am I doing? What are we doing? What is our goal as believers? Is it to convince people to come to church and read the bible? Or would we really just be happy if they came to the building on Sunday and drank coffee and drove SUVs and lived in brick ranch-style houses? Is our goal to volunteer for programs that benefit people who are already doing fantastic? Do we avoid people who don’t conform to our routines? Do we love and serve God just as long as that means we’ll continue to be materially blessed, physically and financially secure, with happy, well-educated children?

“Write this to the angel of the church in the city of Sardis: ‘The One Who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: I know what you are doing. I know people think you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Make stronger what you have before it dies. I have not found your work complete in God’s sight. So remember what you have received and heard. Keep it. Be sorry for your sins and turn from them. If you will not wake up, I will come as a robber. You will not know at what time I will come…” Revelation 3:1-3

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. –Revelation 3:15-17 (NIV)

Is he talking about me?

Am I lukewarm?

I’m no biblical scholar but I’ll tell you what I think: He ain’t talking to the people who don’t ever read the Bible. I think he’s saying “You say you love me, and you say you’re Christians, but seriously? How can you even back that up? I call bullshit—and you’re full of it. Also? You’re kidding yourself. Don’t be lame  by saying ‘well, Jesus, I went to church fairly regularly and kept 7 commandments about half the time. I certainly don’t worship Satan. I gave money to Feed the Children. Btw, thank you for the 3-car garage and that cruise to the Bahamas, that was life-changing.’ You’re either in or you’re out. Do, or do not. There is no try.”

Will Jesus spit me out?

If Jesus was born of a virgin and became man; suffered, died, and was buried; and then rose again on the third day to be seated at the right hand of the Father, and He comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead, I best make sure I’m showing my gratitude—to our God, who sacrificed his own son just to free my piddly soul from the bonds of sin and the pits of hell.

How do I show my love and obedience to God? By putting on a cardigan sweater and pondering a bible verse or two on a Sunday morning. By getting all rowled-up when someone criticizes Christianity . By making promises to God that I have no intention of keeping. By telling people I love Jesus, but turning a blind eye towards the homeless and the needy, or anyone who doesn’t live like I think they ought to. By casting aside people who don’t quite jive with my agenda-of-the-day.

What am I doing? Am I lukewarm?

Sin doesn’t own me, but I still embrace a lifestyle of it. And God loves me, but I’m not honoring Him with most of my thoughts and actions (and inactions). Have I let Jesus change me? Do I love God unconditionally–even if it means losing my comfortability, my family, or my life? Even if it means going places that are scary or unsafe or both? Even if it means giving away all that I own? Would I love God and serve God with a happy and willing heart?

We could talk hypotheticals all day long. And truthfully if I based my obedience on my own human ability, I would fail constantly. I do fail constantly. I just can’t trust my own power–because I am, and always will be, severely lacking in that department.

It is God’s work in us that lifts us out of our ruts. His power—not ours—that breaks habits and addictions, that puts in us a desire to know Him and a drive to serve Him. God gives us courage in scary situations and strengthens us in moments of physical and mental exhaustion.He holds us steady just when our poor little earthly bodies are about to topple over.

So often my prayers go something like this: “Dear God. Thank you for all my stuff and please watch over my family.” But today I offer up another prayer, partially selfish—but mostly, desperate, because something is just wrong and off with what I say I believe and how I am carrying out my day-to-day.

Dear God, I am just disgusted with myself. Please take my heart in your hands and wring it out like a kitchen sponge. Just squeeze it out as hard as you can. Get rid of all the grody junk in me—the laziness, the greed, the apathy. Fix me Jesus. Fix my heart up, just please, please fix it. Fill me up with all the good stuff—use me to say good words and do good works, and then you take all the Honor and Glory and I won’t even ask for a thank-you.

So, really, after that, I’ll probably only ask for one thing—and that’s to stop praying like a 4-year old.

God, Hear My Big Fat Prayer.

I’m aware that what I’m about to say will blow many a mind, but I…occasionally struggle…with doubt.

Okay, it’s not a shocking revelation, but since I’ve been chugging along for the past year or so in relative peace as far as faith goes, this admission didn’t come easy. Sunday after Sunday, bible study after bible study, God has revealed so many truths–and for the most part, I’ve embraced them and treasured them and (hopefully) tried to live them to the best of my ability through the power of Jesus.

And now, let us have a moment of silence, because? That was quite possibly the hokiest paragraph of Christian cheese I’ve ever written.

Moving on.

All this time I’ve had a sense that I’ve been on the right track–until this past week. While I will spare all personal details, there’s been a recent happening in my family that has even the most understanding of us calling for blood. Though this particular offense impacts one person more than others, all of us are confused and hurt and betrayed and angry. My heart was hardened before I had even two sentences worth of information. For several days I saw no way the situation could be rectified; no forgiveness and no light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, I saw a full-scale withdrawal from the tunnel, period, followed by an all-out sprint in the opposite direction, toward a pile of tommy guns maybe, and a top-secret operation called “Six Months of Slashing Tires”.

I have, at times, also struggled with a red-hot temper.

And then came the questions: “What gives, God? Why do you allow these sort of things to happen? God, how can anything remotely good come out of this? How long will you let this pain go on? The suckage factor in the current situation is major. Where are you in all of it? How can anyone expect to see you in such terrible circumstances, especially when they’re not used to looking for you to begin with? I write my heart out about how awesome you are, and then this awful thing goes down, totally blowing out of the water all that crap about loving and forgiving our enemies. Give me something to work with God! Zoom out and show me the big picture! Because right now, all I’m seeing is a steaming pile of horse shdoo.”

And then here’s my husband, who likes to drive me crazy and make me feel bad and cause me to lose focus on my irrational-yet-comforting thought process:

“What do you think about all of it?”

Me: “What do you mean, what do I think? You know what I think. Don’t you think it too?”

Caleb: “Well, I understand, but you never know. It can be fixed.”

Me: (scoffing) “Oh, okay, Caleb, genius. Tell me how it can be fixed and why it’s not necessarily as bad as it seems.”

Caleb: (quietly) “God can do miracles. God has his purposes. God can fix it. Maybe it happened so that people will search God out in a time of need. Remember how it was with us?”

Me: “Well, yeah, God can do it if He wants to, but why would he want to? And besides, people probably don’t want Him to anyway even if he wanted to.”

Caleb: “I can’t believe the words that are coming out of your mouth. Do you hear yourself?”

Me: “Yeah, I do; and I make a lot of sense. You just don’t understand.”

I ended the conversation because it started to make me uncomfortable, but of course God slapped me upside the head during prayer time and Sunday church time. Never fails. And so here’s my official statement:

There is nothing God cannot do. There is no problem too big for God. There is nothing He can’t fix. Here’s Beth Moore this past week, word-for-word, from James: Mercy Triumphs, my daily bible-study: “God can change what people do. He can change behavioral patterns that have been in play for decades. He can change what we do to cope, to find comfort, to survive conflict, to count. Like me, Rahab had done a same old thing for years…and then she did something new. She believed God and acted on it.”

Now, Rahab? Was a total prostitute. No, really, a prostitute. But God got ahold of her and took her life in a direction no one could have seen coming. It reminds me of a poster that I’m sure we’ve all seen but it hits home in my case, especially recently:

I don’t know why certain things happen. Perhaps many times, the really terrible stuff is not from God at all, but from the devil and our own sinful nature–we succumb to it because we are spiritually weak, and we give in. Or we know no other way of life; our sins to us aren’t really sins–just commonplace behavior that, though hurtful, is normal and in a way, expected.

I know this because it could not have been God’s intention for me to meet my husband in a bar and start a beautiful relationship based on raging alcoholism and a mutual love of fornicating. There’s no way our beginnings were God-condoned.

I do know that God lifted us up when we hit rock-bottom. He held our hands and led us away from those damaging habits and hurtful behavior, and believe me when I say that our marriage was literally one more binge away from stone-cold OVER. He protected our family, and positioned each of us around sweet, caring people who saw to our spiritual needs almost like they were nursing us back to health.

God works in big ways and I am so ashamed of doubting that in any way. Who am I not to forgive? Who am I not to hope? Who am I not to trust God? It is my big fat prayer that God brings something beautiful out of a situation that is beyond my understanding at this time. I don’t get it, but I know that God does. It’s not my job to pass judgement and make assumptions. God brings light to pitch-black. He takes weak things and makes them strong. He can make oozy goodness out of the worst kind of sin. He can wash us up, shiny and new and beautiful. Even when it seems impossible to us, God will help us forgive and love and move on in a direction we never thought we’d go.

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