Soul Food

Soul Food {January 2017}

The first month of the year brought some wonderful new media my way. Let’s talk about it!

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  • Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” album. I’ve loved Coldplay for years but never actually owned one of their albums, so owning this one now is special. Such rich and layered songwriting with sweeping melodies. I love pretty much every song on it, but this month “Lovers in Japan” really spoke to me. “They are turning my head out, to see what I’m all about; keeping my head down to see what it feels like now. But I have no doubt: one day we’re gonna get out…”
  • “Magic” by Thomas Gold ft. Jillian Edwards. Jillian is one of my musical inspirations, so to see her collaborate with a DJ was especially cool to me; it reminded me of how limitless the possibilities are for artists. Plus, what a great jam.
  • “Why Georgia” by John Mayer. There’s just something about it. “Four more exits to my apartment, but I am tempted to keep the car in drive, and leave it all behind…” I was led to this song by a lovely John Mayer acapella medley, also worth checking out. When they hit those harmonies on “hearrrrrtbreaaaak…”
  • “You’re Gonna Live Forever In Me” also by John Mayer. New and incredible, laced with emotions. “Parts of me were made by you…” His entire new ep is great.
  • Kenzie Nimmo’s cover of “It Ain’t Me Babe” (ft. Harris Heller). So calm and melancholy, with beautiful voices. Love it.
  • “The Perfect Parts” by Shakey Graves. I’ve had this album for like two years but I still go back to it and find more to like about it. Story-telling and solid jams. The Audiotree session of this song is great, too. My dad and I listened and gushed.
  • Colony House’s “Only The Lonely” album. They are my boys, and I am elated to have new music from them. They go a bit more retro rock-n-roll on this one, but I’m into it. And lyrically? Masterful and soul-reaching. My favorites are “Where Your Father’s Been” “You & I” “You Know It” “3:20” and “Cannot Do This Alone.” I think I just named half of the track list but it’s fine.
  • “Ocean Eyes (Blackbear Remix)” by Billie Eilish. Beautiful, emotional, with cool beat-driven moments. I can’t listen to it just once.
  • “Vibes Vibes Vibes” (ft. Aha Gazelle and Chris Durso), “Usual Suspects” (ft. Willow Stephens), “Time 4 That” and “Extra Wavy” by Social Club Misfits. I’m always kind of torn about these guys. The tracks they produce are super fun and get me hyped up, but lyrically it’s almost all reminiscent of a messy humblebrag. I’ve been listening to their new album trying to figure out if I like it; I’m still not sure. But these songs are the ones I end up enjoying in the midst of that conflict.
  • “Hold On” by Jet. This song is in Spider-Man 2 and hit a sweet spot in me the last time I watched it.

If you want to listen to all these songs in one place, I’ve made a playlist! It’s on YouTube and on Spotify (neither are complete, which bothers me, but I had to work with what was available).

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  • Pete’s Dragon (the 2016 version). I had no expectations for it, but it was lovely and magic-filled. I loved the gentle and soft yet powerful design of Eliot.
  • The Joy of Painting. I grew up with Bob Ross’ art; my grandparents were both certified instructors of his and taught classes in oil painting, and we have many of their pieces hanging in our house. I feel such an affection for him and his work. This month, watching episodes of his show was an accidental daily thing for me, so I decided to make it a purposeful routine. Every season is on this YouTube channel in playlists; I’m on season one right now. I love his positivity and how deeply he appreciates everything. He truly created his own world. Plus I just enjoy the solid painting advice. “You have the fun; let the brush do the work.”
  • This bullet journal flip-through. Though I don’t follow a bullet journal format, this inspired me to try out some more creative ideas in my own journal.
  • “Amy Adams & Andrew Garfield – Actors on Actors.” Two wonderful people (Andrew is one of my absolute favorites) sharing such interesting thoughts. I want to sit in on their conversations for hours.
  • Bull. It gives me a few vibes like The Mentalist did, in a courtroom instead of a police station. Though no character comes close to Patrick Jane or his crew.
  • This video about a man who paints without his sight. Stunning and inspiring.
  • George of The Jungle. My ridiculous favorite. “Thor! Are you arguing with the narrator?!”
  • “OMG We’re Coming Over!” I was obsessed with interior design shows when I was little, and watching this cute couple continue on that legacy with their series makes my heart happy.
  • Spider-Man (the 2002 version), Spider-Man 2, and Spider-Man 3. My ever-present Spider-Man love has been extra powerful lately, so watching the films that started it all for me was almost necessary.
  • Captain America: Civil War. Because Spider-Man.
  • Continued watching Scorpion and The Mentalist regularly.

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  • “In Which I Write a Letter to Women’s Ministry” by Sarah Bessey. Spot. On.
  • Jesus Outside The Lines by Scott Sauls… and I didn’t like it. Which was so disappointing, because I thought I would find such a life-speaking voice in it. I wrote a full review on Goodreads if you want specifics.
  • Quite a few Andrew Garfield interviews, because his spiritual journey was making me giddy. His interview with The New York Times is a stand-out.
  • The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. I wanted to read it purely because Wells was such a gem in Poe Party, but I ended up really liking it! Engaging and interesting, just the right amount of sci-fi for me.
  • “Have We Overplayed the Sermon Card?” by Wayne Jacobson. A hearty yes to this.
  • “The Phenomenon of The Dones” also by Wayne Jacobson. I have been aching to hear someone say these words for such a long time. So grateful for this and what it spoke into me. If you know me personally and we’ve talked about church-going before, I’d love for you to read this; it articulates everything I’ve wanted to and more.
  • The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp. Sometimes, a book looks you in the face and tells you what it sees in the depths of you. It shows you things inside you that you’d suppressed for so long you weren’t even aware they were living in you anymore. And once it does that, it tells you– you have the capacity to live abundantly even with those things. You are broken, and you are loved for it. Life changing book. I cannot recommend it enough.
  • “Nobody Wants To Be a Refugee” by Ben Stiller. Nails it. “Compassion and security are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they are mutually reinforcing.”

What’s been feeding you lately?

Soul Food

Soul Food {November 2016}

Art has been extra important to me lately, both the art I make and the art I’m taking in. Let’s chat about some of it!

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  • Audio Adrenaline’s “Until My Heart Caves In” album. This is one of my favorite albums of all time. Meaningful and melodically masterful. It is so nostalgic for me; I won’t pick favorites from it.
  • “When We Collide” by Jon Foreman. Sweeping and heart-grasping.
  • Anthem Lights’ “Magical Medleys” Disney covers ep. Exceeded my expectations! Super fun but also arranged so beautifully.
  • “Wild World” by Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors. We need this. I’ve been singing it to myself all month long as a reminder.
  • “When” by Dodie. Sometimes a song captures a feeling you didn’t even understand you had, and sings that knowledge to you with a comforting touch. This is one of those.
  • “Love Me Now” by John Legend. I might not ever be able to get over this man’s voice. There’s also a lovely version of this song by Kurt Hugo Schneider, Madilyn Bailey, and Blake Rose.
  • “Pop Out Revenge” by Social Club. I’d been needing a new jam with a solid beat and wow did this do the trick.
  • “Love on The Weekend” by John Mayer. So calm and lovely. I painted to it late at night, then woke up with it in my head; I loved it in both places.
  • “Do You Miss Me At All” by Bridgit Mendler. Just a nice little something to groove with.
  • “Brother” by The Brilliance. “When I look into the face of my enemy, I see my brother.”
  • I’m getting back into my Christmas music! All Christmas season I have playlist, and add to it if I find more songs I love. You can find that playlist on YouTube or (most of it) on Spotify if you want!

Speaking of playlists: if you want all of these songs in one playlist, I’ve made it for you! You can listen to it on YouTube or on Spotify.

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  • “Forgiveness in an Age of Anger,” a TED talk by Brant Hansen. Reminders I needed, and probably a lot of us need right now.
  • “Eddie Redmayne Plays ‘Heads Up!’ with Ellen.” My throat hurt from laughing at this! Eddie is one of my favorites. There’s also this video of him screaming in terror at a clip of himself singing as a child.
  • Barbie and The Magic of Pegasus. An animated film I grew up with that still puts me in the warmest mood.
  • Rewatched every “Craftversations” episode because it’s just so enjoyable and cozy.
  • Rhett and Link doing the “Crazy Cookie Roulette Challenge.” So funny! Mostly because Link’s gem of dad guest-hosts.
  • Pride & Prejudice. The 2005 film is so beautiful. What a timeless and lovely story.
  • Continued watching The Mentalist and Scorpion.

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  • Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery. This series makes me so happy.
  • “Amy Grant’s Tennessee Christmas for The Bruised.” In case you still thought the Christian music industry was a lovely place where people are treated fairly. It’s an industry just like any other, except it pastes Jesus’ name over their choices, to add a little extra sting. I’m working on praying for it instead of being bitter toward it.
  • “The Kind of Christian I Refuse to Be” by John Pavlovitz. I’ve struggled with calling myself a Christian for a few years now and this explains why so well.
  • “The Lack of Gentle Platonic Touch in Men’s Lives Is a Killer.” So interesting and something I’ve seen to be true in my life and the lives of men I know. Our culture is in need of healing here and I think more people are seeing that.
  • The Veil by Blake K. Healy. Healy explains his giftings humbly and practically (yes, he explains seeing the spiritual realm in a way that makes it practical), with the intent being to simply share his story and impart insight to those who seek it. It made me think and it made me sit back in awe. There’s a lot to learn here about our role in the spiritual world that we’re living in and taking part in, and I’m really grateful to have read it. [You can see my reading progress and read my reviews in real time on Goodreads if you want to!]
Misc. · The Basics

On Identity & Never Fitting Quite Right

DSC04999I am both and I am neither.

If there’s an extreme to reach, I can’t. If there’s a side to pick, I can’t. If there’s an ultimatum to meet, I can’t. I’ve looked into both; God has met me in both. I just cannot make myself believe that He only lives in one aspect of everything. I believe He is bigger than I have room to understand.

I was raised around conservative Christians. I grew up and found myself relating to liberal spirituality in some ways, too. I still don’t fit comfortably in any camp. The Bible is my firm foundation and I follow Jesus in relationship, so the latter believe I am religious and closed-minded; I talk about spiritual life on a grand scale and I practice tolerance, so the former believe I am loose and heretical. I don’t fit. I don’t think I am any of the things they think I am; I hope I’m not. I hope you don’t think I am, either. I think I’m just a person just trying to figure things out the best I can. We all are, aren’t we?

It scares me sometimes. Because when you realize no human being has it fully figured out, you don’t quite know who you can go to with your questions anymore. I can talk to someone about something and have such a deep connection with them– then we’ll take the conversation a step further. And we’ll reach a place where the connection ends, where we don’t see things the same way anymore. And I’ll feel alone again.

I realize I will ever fit into any of the categories offered to me.

I’m reading 1 Corinthians. Paul is speaking to the church there, and he mentions that the Jews were demanding signs while the Greeks were seeking wisdom. Two groups wanted two different things to answer their questions, to supply what they felt they needed. Paul then says:

“Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

In Jesus, both groups were met. Because of Jesus, they were no longer two groups, because everything each person was seeking was found in Him.

He was the deciding factor of their identity. Of their unity.

When we base our identity on what others say, on groups we can belong to, on categories to sort ourselves into– we are basing our identity on something other than Christ. And when we do that, division enters in as a natural result.

In the same chapter, Paul brings up how the church is experiencing conflict because different people in it claim to follow different apostles. His response is simple:

“Is Christ divided?”

When we follow teachings and ideologies, it’s easy to be divided, because there are so many options to choose from. But when we follow Jesus? There’s only His person. And we can shape ideas to serve us, but we cannot mold a person to fit us. When we follow someone, we serve them. We learn from them. We learn the truth about them because we are with them and we seek to know them.

I’m not choosing an extreme. I’m not picking a side. I’m not selecting a category I might fit into. I can’t.

I’m seeking Jesus. Because He is the answer I’m looking for. Always.

And… I’m loving you. Whatever you might have chosen to identify with. Because the answers you want are in Him, too. It binds us together as family.

And everyone has a place in this family.

[Listen]

Responses · The Basics

“They’re Not a Christian Because _____”

DSC09659“That person says they’re a Christian, but it doesn’t seem like it, because they–”

Wait. Can we talk for a second?

What makes someone a Christian? We could have different perspectives on this, but I think most would agree that a Christian is someone who seeks to know and love God, and accepts His grace through Jesus. That’s a Christian at the core, isn’t it? Do we agree there? If we do–

How do we make sense of these statements that so many of us make?

“He says he’s a Christian now, but he still swears all the time.”

People said that about an actor earlier this year. He had just declared himself to be a Christian, after a long internal battle ending in an encounter with God– and we weren’t rejoicing with him. We were telling him: “Not quite yet. Change your vocabulary first. Christians don’t talk like that.” We missed out on joy.

“He says he wants to be like Jesus, but he doesn’t seem to care too much, because Jesus definitely didn’t live the way he’s living.”

People have written entire articles based on that statement after reading a recent interview with a huge celebrity. We weren’t excited that he was seeking to emulate Jesus in His life, or that he believes in the power of Jesus to forgive and transform us, or that he just blatantly shared the gospel with an infinite number of people who adore him and read his interviews. All we saw was that he isn’t perfect yet.

Because we have it all figured out?

“You want to be like Jesus? Well, I’m sorry, but you aren’t,” we said. Forgetting that we aren’t, either. Forgetting that we’re all in different spots on our journeys, and deal with different struggles at different points in time, and that love and grace are what make us who we are.

“She talks about Jesus, but she also dresses immodestly pretty often.”

I said this. About a musician I didn’t even know. I didn’t focus on the positive messages she shares through her music and on social media, and I didn’t see her as a person. I just looked at her clothes and decided I knew the contents of her heart. And I am so ashamed, and deeply sorry.

When we say, “They’re not a Christian because _____,” we are saying that something other than the love and grace of Jesus makes us who we are.

That is in direct opposition of the gospel.

The gospel tells us that our identity lies solely in the redemption we’ve been given through His love. Our identity as beloved children comes from the fact that He loves us. “They’re not a Christian because _____” tells us that our identity as beloved children is dependent on our behavior. Dependent on us.

And I don’t ever want my interactions with anyone to become a vessel for that false gospel.

If your theology is different from mine; if we don’t think the same way concerning social issues; if your lifestyle is unlike the one I live– our Savior is still no different. Christ came for all. If you know and love Jesus, we’re siblings, and I love you right where you are, the wholeness of you. And so does He.

May we never forget who we are.

Testimonies · The Basics

On Religion, Relationship, & The Extremes

I’ve been in a place of extremes lately. I was in a church history class last semester, and the main thing I took away from it was our tendency to go to extremes. When one group of Christians would begin having an issue in their beliefs/teachings/practices, those who noticed would break off and start their own group striving to be without that issue. But something always seemed to happen when they did that– they would go to the other extreme. If the church was being too strict and regimented, a group would form that would later become too loose and reckless. And it would continue in a cycle of legalism versus carelessness. It had to be one or the other. They never seemed to be able to just fix the intensity; if something was reminiscent of an element in the group they’d broken away from, they pushed it away and sought the opposite, because they had been reminded of something that had been destructive.

And I guess I’ve been doing that, too.

DSC01148I don’t want religion. Jesus didn’t come to earth to start Christianity; He came to earth to save the people He loved so He could be with them and share in relationship with them. I go to church, I read the Bible, I do “Christian” things, but it’s not because I’m religious. I do those things because I know Him, and through relationship with Him I know that these are things He wants me to do. These are things that grow our relationship and put me in positions to love Him and love my family of humanity.

I don’t want to be part of a religion. I don’t want to be a Christian. I just want Jesus. I want to know God. I want to know the Creator and Healer. And I do. We share in love, and when life is dark and painful He is the one thing that makes me feel remotely alive and safe and calm. I just want Him.

In Matthew 16, Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” The disciples shared the various things they’d heard: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, a prophet. But then Jesus asked them another question– “But who do you say that I am?” This question is so different from the first. The first is about people who don’t have relationship with Him; they’ve seen Him and heard Him and maybe even spoken with Him, but to them He is nothing personal. For them, He is a concept to be pondered. But the second question… the second question is about His friends. Jesus is asking the people who know Him whom they believe Him to be. He doesn’t ask them who they think “the Son of Man” is; He simply asks–

“Who do you say that I am?”

They know Him. And it is through knowing Him that they know and believe and live in the life-shaking truth:

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

The living God.

When we know the living God, any ideas we have about Him get to be confirmed or proven wrong, because we know the person they belong to. We go from religious people to the people who are His loved ones.

That’s what I want.

But I think, in the process, I’ve hated religion too much.

No, I still don’t want to be a Christian; I still think Jesus came to save His loved ones instead of set up a religion. “He himself is our peace, who has made us both [Jew and Gentile] one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Eph. 2:14-16). But I know Him because, through reading the Bible, I learn to recognize His voice. I cannot express how many times I’ve grown to know Him better through studies of theology. I can’t tell you how many times the Christian church has pointed me toward greater depth with Him. I can’t count how many times Christians have ended up saying the same things God has said.

Jesus didn’t start Christianity. But maybe Christianity was started by people like me, who wanted to know Him.

I’ve gone to the other extreme. I’ve seen the deep issues and hurts that come from being religious and formulaic about a relationship with God, and in response I’ve started becoming adverse to anything that sounds religious… even if, maybe, it’s what Jesus says, too. I finally admitted these things out loud, and to myself, for the first time today.

And I was sitting in a Catholic cathedral when I did it.

My church is great. It’s relaxed and homey and feels accessible. But the cathedral… every stained glass window, every carving, every statue, every element in that room… it was all about Him. One of my best friends was there with me, and she said, “You would think it’s too extravagant, but it’s not. It’s all for Him; all of it makes me think about Jesus. And that cross…11800312_865882580114334_2251339569539622530_nWe don’t see that in many churches. There will be a wooden cross, but… He isn’t on it. Maybe we’re too afraid to look at Him.”

Jesus, on the cross, for His loved ones. That’s what I want to see.

And I will do everything I can to see Him more clearly and more closely every day, to be with Him. Even if that makes me look like a Christian the process. Because I don’t need to pick an extreme.

“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”   -Job 42:5-6