Should we expect better of our boys?

I read a quote on Instagram recently about purity culture that really resonated with my experiences as a teenager and even now.

“Purity culture models and even baptizes an immature masculine expression of sexuality as normal or just ‘part of being male’. We have trained a generation of Christian men to view themselves as victims of their own out of control sexual desire. Thus, the conversations around sexual sin in many churches have been dominated by “strategies” for avoiding temptation…Really these strategies amount to avoiding women. The result has been a radical dehumanization of women, who are viewed as either a threat that could compromise either a mans faithfulness/career or (in marriage) as a God given “outlet” for a man’s animalistic sexual desire. ” Zachary Wagner

Wow. I feel that. Deeply. I have read extensively about the purity culture, in addition to living it myself as a teen. While I think at it’s core it was meant to be a way to keep kids from engaging in sexual sin as teens the result was devastating to my generation and the one that has come after me and unfortunately is still being touted even today in some churches. If you aren’t familiar with the purity culture movement it happened in the late 90s and early 2000s in mainstream evangelical churches. It taught, in short, that men were more sexual than women and couldn’t help themselves so they should avoid women if possible but if they struggled with lust, which was expected, then they shouldn’t worry to much about it because it was “normal”. They should just manage that desire as best as they could until they got married and could they exercise their God given rights to express their ever present desire with their wives in any way they saw fit. This led to a lot of sin management, instead of heart change. And obviously some serious issues after they got married as well.

For women, we were taught our bodies were dangerous to men and we should dress in appropriate ways so as to prevent men from lusting after us. We were to guard our purity at all costs, because ultimately that was the picture of our worth as women. We were to be the brakes in our relationship with men and not “allow” them to push our boundaries in a physical sexual relationship. We were given purity rings to seal our commitment to remaining pure, but if we should somehow not remain pure, we were damaged goods and not as worthy as those who did remain pure. Even if we had been sexually assaulted, which many leaders have stated “must be because of something we were wearing”.

Now most of this was not stated explicitly, but inferred through examples of toothpaste being squeezed out of a tube or water having dirt put into it. Teens are very perceptive and that leaves one to understand their worth is only in how they act or what they do or don’t do for God in a performative way.

As one can imagine this was damaging and continues to have ripple effects on people and marriages years later including my own. There was a point in my own teenage story that I was in an unhealthy dating relationship. The boy was much older than me and a leader in our church group. Lines were pushed and I was put into situations I would rather have not been in. He was doing what he was taught. No one expected better of him and no one helped him understand he had deep issues that needed to be addressed. No one was holding him accountable and I was left in the fall out. I felt like damaged goods but would never admit that to anyone because according to the purity message I had failed and was not worth as much as someone else who had followed all the rules. And so I stayed in an unhealthy relationship for years because I was convinced that was my only option.

Now as an adult, much older than that 15 year old girl, I can see the damage. I can tell her that it wasn’t her fault, it wasn’t something she said or wore that made that happen and that someone should have told her that. She should have heard about consent and that what you say matters. But it’s taken 20 some odd years to come to grips with that. I deserved better and so do the boys I am raising. Not only was this message damaging to girls but also to boys.

When we tell boys they can’t help themselves and that lust and sexual sin is normal for men to struggle with we deprive them of their autonomy. They assume they are victims of their own bodies and minds instead of taking every thought captive. We teach them to treat women as objects instead of people. We expect less of them and they live up to those expectations. We expect women to be their mothers instead of equal partners and that is emasculating. You see influencers like Andrew Tate who tell men to take back their power from the feminists and then use that “power” to view and treat women as objects for conquest. And a whole generation of boys are listening to that garbage and some church leaders are encouraging it. I don’t think men need other men telling them to not let their women boss them around and a church telling them the same when the church is partly responsible for this lack of ownership of manhood. The church told these men they were victims not feminism. You wonder why they stopped trying and don’t step up as men, maybe it’s because you told them they were nothing more than sexual animals and not capable of better. Maybe it’s because you told them they didn’t need to take responsibility for their actions with women and that bled over into the rest of their lives. Maybe it’s because you steeped them in shame for sexual sin and just told them to “stop” but didn’t give them any tools for how to. Maybe it’s because you told them sexual sin was expected behavior and now 50% (probably much more if they were really honest) are addicted to pornography and it’s tearing their lives apart and they feel defeated and aren’t being given the tools with which to change because we as a church are about sin management not heart change.

I recently sat down with my teenage boys and told them about purity culture and it’s damage. I told them they are responsible for their own choices, regardless of what other people do. Women are not the enemy, they aren’t scary, they aren’t to be avoided. They are to be seen as God’s beautiful creations and respected for the person they are. They are not to be objectified, even if you are kidding. They are not in competition with you, they are equal and partners in life with you. Porn is dangerous and will ruin your life and the lives of those around you, but if you fall into that we are here for you and will get you appropriate help to overcome it, which does not include sin management but actual heart change. There is no need for shame. Purity is great but it isn’t everything in life. You are not less than for any mistake in your life. There is such a thing as consent and you are responsible for asking about boundaries and maintaining those, you don’t get a pass because you are male. (insert eye roll emoji). If you find that you aren’t lusting after everything that is female, that doesn’t make you abnormal. There is a large range of normal when it comes to libido. Interests that aren’t seen as prototypical male are absolutely fine for everyone. My boys are artistic and musical, they don’t play sports and hunt, but that in no way makes them less masculine and any man that tells you otherwise has a form of toxic masculinity.

If you experienced purity culture, I’m sorry. I know it’s caused some damage to everyone it touched. We have to recognize it and do better for this generation of kids. No more purity messages and for gosh sake no more ring ceremonies.



One of our favorite movies is “Encanto”, a tale about a magical and imperfect family that overcomes trauma to grow closer together. It’s become quite popular for its songs, one of which is “Two Oruguitas”, which means “Two Caterpillars” and beautifully illustrates how life brings change, transformation and wonder. Similarly, in Ecclesiastes 3, we read that there is a time for everything (vs. 1) and that God has made everything beautiful in its time (vs. 11), including the toil and burdens we carry from time to time (vs. 10). 

As many of you know, Ruth and I (Glenn) have endured a great deal of difficulty over the last decade through trauma and loss. We find ourselves in a season of healing and transformation and have realized that we need a space to simply “be” and heal quietly, at least for a season. We sense God’s direction to begin attending Multiply Church in Concord, where our oldest son Sam attends Southeastern University Carolina and where we can plug in to specialized support ministries that larger churches like Multiply are able to offer.  

The CHURCH is the body of Christ and fills the earth. We firmly believe that the various locations that we all attend should not detract from the kindred spirit we share with all believers (Colossians 3:14-16 and Ephesians 3:2-6). We have been deeply invested at Harvest Church Charlotte for many years and remain committed to supporting Pastors Tom and Tracey and all of our brothers and sisters in Christ there. We particularly appreciate how Pastor Tom serves our community sacrificially, boldly preaches the Word of God in kindness and shows love and acceptance to all. In the same way, Pastor Tracey has a great love for others, leads with a bold faith and calls us all to grow in Christ.  There are many others in our HCC family whose friendship we value, and we look forward to remaining connected in this new season. 

So to ALL of our friends and family, both old and new, THANK YOU for being a part of our lives, for your understanding during this transition, and for your continued friendship as we all move forward in this journey together. 

“Wonders await you

Just on the other side

Trust they’ll be there

Start to prepare

The way for tomorrow…”

-Two Oruguitas

Who do you think God is?

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” AW Tozer

I was recently listening to a podcast on Joy. I’ll put it in the link below. It was one of the most impactful podcasts I had heard in the past year. The basic premise is found in the quote above, that what you think about who God is, reflects how you live your life.

My ideas of God growing up and till recently have really been largely that God is angry and you must walk on eggshells around him lest you face judgment. Jesus was kind and good and loving, but God not so much. And in my defense, the Old Testament is full of stories of God getting angry with people who don’t do right and punishing them. There are lots of rules and wars and death. So you can see how I came to the conclusion that God is angry and looking to judge people. It has also been said that you often see God in light of your own relationship with your earthly father. For me, that was complicated, to say the least. But in this podcast Comer challenges the notion that God is angry or judgemental, but that he is full of joy. That is definitely not how I would have described him. These verses may help shed light on it.

Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore”

Psalm 94:19 “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”

I Chronicles 16:27 “Splendor and majesty are before him, strength and joy are in his place.”

God is joyful and wants us to be joyful as well. What is Joy?

“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” Karl Barth

“Joy is the serious business of heaven.” CS Lewis

“Joy is not necessarily the absence of suffering, it is the presence of God” Sam Storms

I have heard many sermons on happiness versus joy. Happiness is due to your circumstances whereas joy is from God and is despite circumstances. Comer challenges that there is a difference. He says that joy is something you create in yourself by intentionally focusing on the good things in your life. It’s a spiritual discipline to create joy. Practice gratitude, prayer, and meditation on the goodness of God and the blessings in your life and doing things in your life that bring you joy. I thought, based on my understanding of joy, that it was something that God bestowed upon the really good Christians usually in hardship. If I wasn’t joyful then I wasn’t a good Christian. I didn’t feel joyful for lots of moments in my life, especially over the past few years, so I must not be doing it right. But joy is something you practice. It’s a spiritual muscle you build up and it begins with how you see God.

If you see God as angry and judgemental then it affects how you view life. But if we see God as joyful and merciful and full of grace doesn’t that just hit you differently? It brings a joy to your own life that this Being who created the universe wants you to have a relationship with Him and wants you to be joyful. Seeing God in this way has changed how I view joy and how I view my life. I don’t have to walk around fearing God’s judgment and wrath, He has grace for my failings but I in turn want to please him, not out of fear or duty, but out of love. “it is the kindness of God that brings one to repentance”.

That’s not to say we are to overlook or dismiss our feelings of sadness or anger. Those are valid. They are meant to be felt. God gave me a chapter in the Bible to look at the other day. Psalm 109. I didn’t remember reading it before, but it’s a very interesting passage. It’s called an imprecatory psalm and it’s the strongest one in the Bible. Basically, David is very distressed and angry because the people he loved have treated him badly. They have betrayed him and said terrible untrue things about him and he cries out to God about it. But then he goes on to curse these people very strongly. It’s very controversial and some scholars have argued it shouldn’t be in the bible because of its strong language. In the end, David tells God that he will leave these hurts and offenses to God and he will not do anything to avenge himself. What’s more, this psalm was sung by the Jewish people in their worship services, can you imagine? Why would God put this into the Bible? Why would He show it to me? I think it’s because he wants to validate sadness and anger as normal human emotions. I felt seen and heard in my own pain. It also shows how we should not try to avenge our own mistreatment but should leave that to God, but we are allowed to express ourselves to him about these situations in our lives.

How do you see God? What is He like to you? How does that affect your life? What can you do to create joy in your life?

Letting Go

Last Thursday our second oldest child, Jordan, who is 16, flew to Brazil to visit family all by himself. It was the first time he had ever been on a plane, traveled outside the southeastern US, or been away from us for more than a few nights. He will be staying for almost a month. Originally, he was going to go with his grandparents as our oldest son had done a few years ago, but circumstances with his great-grandmother prevented them from going. So, he said he wanted to go alone. I was very against that but I realized that he really wanted to do it and there was no logical reason he shouldn’t. I was just going to have to deal with my anxiety. It was hard when his older brother went back in early 2020 but that was before a pandemic shut down the world, and before we lost our daughter and he was with his grandparents. I really had to deal with the feelings of not being in control of his travel and the fear of something happening. That is a real thing for any parent, but particularly when you’ve lost a child, and when it happened in such a tragic and preventable way as it did with Kaki, my anxiety can definitely be hard to fend off sometimes about something happening to my other kids. My biggest worry was him getting off the plane in Sao Paulo and hiring someone to help him with the bags and boxes he was traveling with and then making his way outside to find my brother-in-law. I won’t lie, I had visions of him getting lost or kidnapped or something. He landed in Brazil at 3:30am our time and you can believe I was up at 3am watching for his status on the airline website and texting with him. At one point, when he was trying to find someone to help him and couldn’t he didn’t text me for about 15 minutes, I was really having to talk myself down about it. But ultimately, I was so proud of him because while he couldn’t find anyone to help, I’m guessing he didn’t look like he needed help, he just found a cart and worked it out himself. He handled a tough situation calmly and I was so impressed. We knew he could do it, but to see your child faced with a very tough situation and you cannot do anything to help, but they rise to the occasion and do what is needed is such a rewarding thing. I know he is learning skills that he will carry for the rest of his life, most of all to believe in himself.

As I said before I was not on board with him going alone on this trip. I was trying to convince him to do something much more structured and, in my opinion, safer. But I realized I was standing in his way. He wanted to stretch himself and I was preventing that. I don’t want to be that parent, that limits my kids because of my own scars and fear. The teenage years are all about slowly letting go of your kids and letting them be their own people. It starts in middle school and gets more pronounced in high school with driving but then as they go to college, as our oldest son has this year, it becomes even greater. He still sleeps at home but other than that we rarely see him. We’ve been gradually letting go of control of any part of his life this year and now he’s pretty much self-sufficient. That is rewarding as a parent and also scary sometimes. Like in August when he got into a car accident. That was easily one of the scariest moments I’ve ever had as a parent. Thankfully he was okay, but his car was not. We had told him we would help him buy half of his first car, but after that, he should save an emergency fund and the next car would be on him. When he wrecked his car I wanted to bail him out, but I knew that wasn’t what he needed long-term. He needed us to help him emotionally and to help him as he went to buy another car, but he needed to pay for it. That was also a hard parenting moment. You never want to see your kid in a tough situation that life has dealt them. We could have helped but then he wouldn’t have had the satisfaction of knowing he could take care of things himself and how valuable that emergency fund he had saved was. It was a very important life lesson.

Parenting is the worst sometimes. You think when they are young that those are the hardest days, having spit up all over you and no sleep. Cranky two-year-olds and snotty noses. Those are hard physically, but the teen and young adult years are harder emotionally. It’s much bigger stakes. I definitely can look back and see all the things I wish I could do differently with my kids, so many lost moments and things I wish I could undo. I think you need those moments so you can do better in the future as a parent. It also makes me think of some tough situations in my life that I would want God to just fix for me, but He has chosen not to. I need to struggle through them to grow and learn some things. I don’t think He enjoys seeing me struggle any more than I enjoy seeing my kids struggle. Some of the situations are of my own making and others are just life dealing you some terrible hands. Either way, I need to struggle to grow sometimes. I need to pay the price of my own bad choices to learn from that and also to sometimes experience the hurt of someone else or a difficult situation to understand my own strength and to lean on God. Sometimes I need to go through something difficult so I can avoid future difficulties. I need to realize I need an emergency fund for when the storm comes, both financially and in the form of a support system. Those are things that I can’t learn unless I go through some difficult times without them first. It’s been a very tough few years for us and we’ve learned that we need to have a better support system in place for when the next storm might come. We have to invest in that in the times of calm though, you cannot build that support in the middle of a storm, then it’s too late. I’m working this year to make my supports stronger so that I’ll be ready, just as we save and prepare for financially hard times, we are working to prepare for emotional hard times as well. We know for sure they will come, as they have in the past. That is life.

Spiritual Bypassing

I bravely walked into the church in November 2016 and tried to put on a happy face. I had spent the last month recovering from stillbirth and subsequent emergency surgery for an infection. I still looked pregnant, despite having barely eaten or slept for the past few weeks. I wasn’t sure I ever would recover from losing our son. One minute everything was fine, and the next we were delivering him and planning his funeral. I walked into the church, hoping to go unnoticed. I was standing in the foyer and a woman walked up to me and asked if I was having a boy or a girl. Obviously, she didn’t get the memo on what had happened. I politely said, trying to hold back my emotion, that I had lost the baby. She then said, ” God must have needed another angel in heaven”, and walked away. I was glad she walked away because my urge was to slap her. She didn’t know what to say, so she said something that sounded good but it made me feel like my feelings weren’t valid. That is spiritual bypassing when you say or do something that negates what emotions people may be feeling in a spiritual way. Another definition; is the “tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks.”

Other common phrases that can be used as a spiritual bypass are:

  • “Everything happens for a reason.”
  • “You create your own happiness.”
  • “It was for the best.”
  • “It was a blessing in disguise.”
  • “Good vibes only!”
  • “Thoughts and prayers!”

We have all done this at one time or another. I don’t think we realize how hurtful it is until we experience it. So why do we do it? Generally, because we are uncomfortable with pain. We don’t like to experience emotional pain and we also don’t like to be around people who are in emotional pain. My tendency is to want to fix the situation. When a friend called me recently with a parenting problem with their child, my first instinct was to suggest ways she might fix the situation. That’s not what she called me for. She called me wanting someone to listen and to empathize. I’ve been practicing shutting my mouth and listening, and not automatically offering suggestions unless they ask. Let me tell you, it’s not comfortable. Sitting with someone in pain is in and of itself painful. To be able to empathize we must allow ourselves to experience some of their pain. That is difficult. But that is what we all need.

When I lost my son and I sat in bed for a week recovering physically, but also trying desperately to drag myself out of the dark emotional pit I was in, my son Luke taught me an important lesson in comforting people who are mourning. He was almost 2 years old and he would sit in bed with me for hours and not say anything. Every once in a while he would reach up and softly touch my face and I would cry and he would sit there with me silently. That is what people in pain need. They need someone to sit in silence with them. They need physical touch. In my work in prayer ministry at church, I have learned that I could pray the most eloquent prayers and say the most inspiring things, but instead, I just hug people. It really breaks through to something deeper when I do that. I grab people and hug them for an uncomfortable amount of time tightly, and most of the time they just sob. It does more healing than anything I could ever say. I learned that the hard way though, after years of spiritual bypassing. I’ve said so many things to hurting people I wish I could take back.

Do you spiritually bypass people? Do you spiritually bypass yourself? Sometimes we can say these things to ourselves so as to not deal with our own difficult emotions. In many Christian circles, this is considered a positive thing, emotions are not to be felt or dealt with in any way because they are not to be trusted. I think that leaves many people wanting more. People need others to tell them “you are heard and seen in your pain and are loved”. “Weep with those who weep”. Jesus showed a range of emotions in his time on earth and I think it was for us to see that emotions are not bad. We must feel our emotions in order to heal and part of that healing comes from others honestly acknowledging our felt experiences.


The word freedom has been coming up for me lately. It seems like it’s everywhere and that’s when I know God is trying to tell me something. One definition of freedom is the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action. For me, the freedom I am pondering lately is the freedom from a performative environment. Growing up there was a lot of pressure to make good grades, graduate high school and complete a bachelor’s degree, at least. And if you were really dedicated, a master’s or doctorate was the gold standard. My mom placed a high value on education, and for good reason. She herself was only one class away from a doctorate. She was a woman who valued education and made a career for herself in the 50s when it wasn’t the norm for women. She blazed her own trail and was her own person apart from the typical path of most women to get married and have a family after high school. She was a force to be reckoned with and she was my hero in many ways, but I also felt the pressure to live up to that ideal. It was about how well I performed and what I made of myself. Some of that pressure was definitely self-inflicted, but was there nonetheless.

I look back at my church experience as a teen and young adult and I see the purity culture and the damage that did to so many young people. It was about maintaining your purity, particularly if you were female, and if you didn’t, there was an immense shame. I lived a double life in high school trying to look like the perfect Christian girl but feeling like a failure. There was an unfair expectation of girls to try to maintain purity in the face of men being told they were slaves to their lust and they couldn’t help themselves in every man’s battle. The way we dressed as girls we were told was a stumbling block for the boys and we should do something about that. Years later I look back on that poor teenage girl who was wrestling with her shame and trying to be “good” and, I feel such anger for her. No one should have shamed her. They should have sat down and asked her how she was and how they could help her out of an abusive situation. But no one was concerned with how she really was, only what she did. That followed me until this year. I have felt damaged and such shame. I didn’t believe I deserved better. I didn’t believe I had any value other than what I could do for someone. It was all about ministering from your pain but that doesn’t actually heal the pain, it just makes you stuff it down and move forward. You must dig up that pain and actually deal with it, feel it and let go of it. And then, and only then, can you give to someone else from that pain in your life. You cannot give what you don’t have.

So now in my life, I’m declaring freedom. Freedom from shame. Freedom from performing. Freedom from others’ opinions. Freedom to be who I am. Freedom to be the same person inside that I am on the outside. Freedom from my addiction to codependence and people-pleasing. Freedom to be the person I was made to be. Freedom from patriarchy, the freedom to know I am just as valuable as the men in my life. Freedom to make decisions without second-guessing and judging myself. Freedom to do what is best for me. Freedom to have a relationship with God and to understand He loves me even if I never did another thing for Him. Freedom.


A few years ago now I moved into my husband’s grandmother’s house with his uncle and aunt on one side of us and his parents on the other. We also have two grandmothers who live with each of those families. So, there are four generations living in the same few houses. We see one another regularly and my kids play in all the yards like they are their own. People thought I was crazy when I moved here. “Why would you want to live next door to your in-laws?” And I will say there have been moments when I wondered what I did, but for the most part, it’s been great to have that support around us. It’s been a rough 10 years and we have needed the family support around us to make it through. And since then two more of my husband’s sisters and families have moved across the street. It’s very unusual though, for this day and age, to have your family live next door. Most people don’t even have family in the same state, I didn’t growing up.

Loneliness and isolation are epidemics in our society today. They are worse for your health than smoking 10 cigarettes a day or being obese! You might think that loneliness and isolation are the same thing, but they aren’t if you look at them closer. Isolation refers to being physically separated from others, something we all experienced during the pandemic. We were forced to be separated. Loneliness, on the other hand, is feeling alone. Everyone has had the experience of being in a room full of people and still feeling lonely. Our society is so individualistic that we have lost the value of community and having deep relationships with others. People used to live in a much more communal way and spent time together in person regularly. Now we scroll and post and think we have connected to others, but we haven’t really. We are settling for the illusion of community. It’s safer to scroll and like than it is to sit with someone face to face and have a conversation. Real connection is scary and messy.

How many people have been hurt by someone else? Like deeply hurt? Someone said or did something that cut you deeply. You thought you could trust someone and they betrayed you. Everyone has had that experience. It’s hard to want to trust again. But we must. One-third of people report being lonely. It’s such a health concern that the CDC has done multiple studies on it. We have to trust and seek out community for our physical and mental well-being. We were made to be in community. Even God himself is in a community with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Jesus had a community. He had many followers and there were crowds everywhere, but he was intentional with his community of 12 disciples and then even more closely connected with his inner circle of three.

So what would this community look like and how do we find it? So many of us attend church, have an exercise group or even a close friendship but are never getting past the surface of life. We talk about the weather, or the latest movie or even our families but never venture into real vulnerability. Is there anyone with whom you talk about the real hurts and pains in your life? Is there anyone you confess your deepest faults to? Does anyone really know how your marriage is really doing? Or are we just letting people see the IG version of ourselves. Unfortunately, in my experience, the church is one of the worst offenders in this. We go to church and put on our best selves for people. We ask each other “how are you?” and you better reply with “fine” if you are a normal Christian and “blessed” if you are a super Christian. We portray only what we think is acceptable. We never tell people our deepest hurts or sins. We fear rejection and being made to feel less than.

We adopted our daughter Kaki from Hong Kong at age 11. She had severe intellectual disability and other health challenges. Everyone around us thought we were super Christians for adopting her. They put us on a pedestal and we felt isolated. Everyone was watching and hoping this would be a miracle for her and our family. For years we hid the pain we were experiencing even from our family. How could we tell people how terrible life was with her? How could we tell them she was raging every day and trying to hurt us and the boys? We felt like a failure. We struggled with big questions about whether this was really what God wanted and we hated our situation. A few people were around us enough to figure out there were major issues, but not many. We had her with us for 6 years before she died tragically. We still cannot understand completely what God’s purpose in all that was, maybe we never will. But instead of turning to our community, we turned inward to shame. We didn’t have the community we needed to get through that because we hadn’t been intentional about building it. We did have friends who were there for us, but very few. I am determined to do things differently.

My hope for community is a group of people in my life that do life together. We eat meals together and talk about real things. They know how I’m really doing. And I know how they really are. We are close enough to get annoyed with each other and love each other enough to work through issues. We are of all ages and colors and political/social groups. We encourage each other to become better. We work through difficult things together. I think it’s possible. I think it’s desperately needed. I’ll leave you with lyrics to a song that encourages me to pursue this level of community.

All Together By Mike Donehey

No more playin’ Mr. Nice Guy
I’m done pretendin’ that I’m alright
I fake a laugh, keep actin’ upper class
Like I’ve never had a struggle in my whole life

oh, can I tell you the state I’m in?
(Ooh, ooh-ooh) cracks are where the light gets in

Maybe we don’t have to have it all together
What if grace made it safe to tell you the truth? Oh
Maybe we can make a shelter for each other
Turnin’ lies into light and we’ll make it through
All together, all together
Love keeps our broken pieces all together

I want a church that looks like 12 steps
Where all are honest and accepted
But it’s gonna take myself to cultivate
The kind of life that others haven’t seen yet

Am I the only one who struggles here and now?
Am I the only one who wrestles with my doubt?
And if I tell you all my secrets, will you go runnin’ out?
There’s only one way to find out
There’s only one way to find out

Christian Caste System

I’ve lived in denial of many things in my life. I’ve spent the better part of the last couple of decades ignoring things in my life and pretending everything was great. I had an awakening that started through the last couple of years, but particularly in 2022, where I’m seeing things more clearly and unwilling to go back to living in denial. I’m growing and shifting and it’s positive, I feel, but it’s also difficult. When you start seeing things around you that are unhealthy, and you are seeking to become more mentally, emotionally and physically healthy, then it’s harder to ignore those things anymore without feeling disingenuous. One thing that is hard for me to witness right now is what feels like a Christian Caste System. A Caste system is a sociological construct that people are born into a particular group or caste in life and cannot move up into a better position just because that is the class they were born into. If you are born in the lowest class in your society then you will always be in that class. There is no room for improving your situation. That is not something that we as Americans tend to subscibe to, in fact, most people would say they love America because we give people options to move up in class, or down as the case may be, depending on how hard they work and how successful they are. It’s obviously more complicated than that, but that’s the general idea.

I see this Caste system in the church sometimes. If you aren’t from a certain family, or of a certain gender, have problems or issues that everyone knows about, are a social outcaste or not “typical”, then sometimes you aren’t seen the same as other more mainstream Chrsitian people. If you aren’t “spiritual” enough you are excluded from certain events or activities or groups. It’s not at all how I interpret what the church should be from a Biblical lense. What I see in the Bible, particularly the Gospels, is that Jesus was all about upsetting the religious hieracrchy of that day. Jesus challenged the religious leaders and their exclusion of people based on class or status. He ate with “sinners”, tax collectors and prostitutes. People that religious leaders felt were not to be associated with. We sometimes read those passages about Jesus eating with unacceptable people and miss the real depth of it. In those days a Jewish man would not eat with anyone who was not acceptable in society. To eat with someone was to accept them. We don’t really understand how upsetting it was for Jesus to eat at Matthew the tax collectors table. It was scandelous. Jesus loved people first and then asked them to change their lifestyles. In church we can often ask people to change so that then they will be acceptable. That is not what Jesus is about. Church should not be a country club of people who are perfect. It should be a hospital for the broken and hurting. We say we accept people but then don’t allow them to really be apart of our lives because they are uncomfortable to us. When people feel rejected by us as a church, then we are jeopardizing their relationship with Jesus. You can’t tell people they can’t be apart of a particular group in a church because they don’t measure up to your standards. That’s not church, that’s a country club. And this generation of young people can see through your BS and won’t be around for it.

Now let me be clear. I am not saying we should let just anyone lead people in the church. We have been too permissive with this at times and it’s led to horrific abuse and trauma. We should be very very discerning in who we let lead others. We have to remain a safe place for people. If someone has unresolved sin in their life that people know about, then they shouldn’t be leading others, particularly young people. When I was in high school and preacher came to speak at my youth retreat. He was preaching all about not putting unchristian music in your mind. That you should only listen to “christian” music. He asked me to run out to his truck to get something for him and I noticed some secular CDs in his truck. I confronted him about it and he brushed it off as “research” or some such BS. I didn’t buy it. And I no longer trusted him or what he was saying. Young people can be permenantly damaged in their relationship to God by a leader with a lifestyle that is inconsistant with what is being preached. We have to be carful about that. Putting someone who is struggling in a leadership position to help them grow is not a good idea and it’s potentially detrimental to those they lead.

Church has to be a place of welcoming and openness. It’s has to be a place of authentic community, not just lip service, but actual trust and community. We should be able to share our deepest hurts and what we are really going through, but so often we can’t because we don’t feel safe to do so. We are afraid of judgement. Jesus preached against that sort of thing 2000 years ago and yet here we are and we are still doing it. To be a safe place for people to be authentic we have to take down our guard and not judge others’ walk with Jesus. Only He knows what’s in the heart. We are all at different places in our walks with God. And years don’t matter. Some of the most mature christians I know are not old in age and haven’t been christians as long as others. And then there are those who have been christians for 40 years and are just babies in their growth. If someone around you is difficult to love and uncomfortable to be around, they need love all the more. The church has to be a place of acceptance and we just don’t have that reputation. We are seen as close minded and jugemental and with good reason. It feels all the more these days as we grow more angry and polarized. I want a place where all are welcome and not judged. Where we love people into a deeper relationship with Jesus and let Him work out those rough edges.

70 Pound Puppy

We adopted our dog five and half years ago as a rescue puppy. Her mom had been hit by a car and the puppies were rescued. Because they didn’t have a mother dog, they were not trained how to behave well. Apparently mother dogs do this. We were told she was a beagle/lab and we thought she would be about 45lbs full grown. When we got her she was a hyper puppy but I’d never had a puppy before so I assumed it was normal. Our vet suggested a dog trainer and three months after we got her when my mom moved in after almost dying of a septic urinary tract infection, we decided we should check into it. I didn’t have time to train a dog. So we signed her up for 1 week of intensive boarding training. Not cheap. Half way through the week they called us to come get her. She failed out of dog training because she was so hyper they felt she needed medication. I am apparently drawn to both kids and pets with special needs. So we got her some medication but it really didn’t help that much and my life got much busier with my mom’s needs and care. Riley became a mostly outdoor dog because we just couldn’t deal with her indoors. She would run crazy and had gotten very big very fast. Fast forward five years and I decided I would try to do some more training with her. We have done some things but really not much at all. So I brought her inside and quickly realize that while she is a bit calmer not that she is older (aka she’s basically like a normal hyper puppy now, not a normal 5 year old dog) she’s still got puppy habits. She pees on rugs, chews stuff, and runs around like crazy sometimes and jumps on people. None of that was fixed by her getting older. And now that she’s had five years of practicing bad habits they will be all that much harder to break. I’m working on it with all my free time, haha. It’s a slow process.

It got me thinking about emotional and spiritual maturity, because you cannot have spiritual maturity without emotional maturity. Sometimes we are physically mature but not emotionally mature. Do you know anyone like that? lol don’t name names. We are all like that really, but some more than others. Sometimes you have circumstances in your life that get you stuck in an emotional age. Like if you have some trauma that happened in you life as a child, that could get you stuck at that emotional age unless you intentionally deal with it and move past it. Or if you are fighting an addiction you can get stuck at whatever age you started the addiction. That is an interesting one because I know most people are thinking well “I’m not a drug addict or alcoholic”. Well that’s probably true but there are many types of addiction that aren’t so obvious. So many people are addicted to busyness, video games, shopping, or pornography to name a few. Yes those all count. You can become addicted to whatever you are using to escape or numb from negative emotions. So lets say you lose your job at age 25 and then you work hard and start your own business. You are successful and making money but you can’t stop working. You are driven to make more and more money and stay busy because you think that will prevent you from experiencing joblessness again. You are running from and numbing those negative feelings you didn’t process when you lost your job. We can easy slip into this. Then one day you look up and realize you are struggling with relationships in your life and you don’t know why. It could be because you have become consumed with running from emotions by staying busy or some other numbing technique. People can’t connect with someone who is emotionally unavailable and emotionally immature.

We can all be emotional children, teens or adults depending on our level of maturity and it has nothing to do with your age. If you want to know where you stand there is a test at

It was very eye opening for me when I took it. I also highly recommend the book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. It has helped me on my own journey of becoming more emotionally mature. Over the past couple of years some things have led me to realize I was not really dealing with things well and my relationships were suffering. That led me to lots of introspection and taking stock of my habits in life. Some things weren’t healthy. I was numbing feelings and not dealing with emotions, positive or negative. See you can’t just numb negative emotions, slowly you begin to not feel anything at all, and that leads to becoming emotionally unavailable to others in your life. That’s extremely lonely for you and for others around you. You can be in the room with someone, but a million miles away.

So how do you start? I have done lots of reading including the book I mentioned. I have started counseling to deal with my past hurts and present ones and develop better relational skills. I am working on learning how to have a healthy relationships with others that aren’t codependent or avoidant. I’m learning to find my own voice in my relationships, my previous self would just defer to others all the time to avoid conflict. I’m learning conflict can be healthy if done well and it’s okay. (I REALLY hate conflict, enneagram 9) I’m learning about healthy self care, it’s balance between finding out what I really need and what Instagram tells you that you need. I’m learning to process emotions instead of stuffing them by walking, praying and journaling and then processing with other appropriate people who may have caused the emotion.

My dog would have been much easier to train when she was a puppy five years ago and my emotions would have also been much easier to deal with when they first occurred too. But it’s never too late to start today, training your 70 pound puppy.

A fear of Band-Aids

My two year old is scared of band aids. He will fuss and fight if you try to put a band aid on his boo boo. I thought it was kind of strange, most kids want band aids for the tiniest scratch, but not this kid. I mentioned it at the doctor’s office to the nurse who was pricking his finger for a test and she said her two year old is the same way. She said she thought it was because she associates the band aid with pain. It totally makes sense. Gavin doesn’t realize that the band aid is helping, instead he thinks it’s what is causing the boo boo to hurt. I think sometimes we are like that. Sometimes the thing that will ultimately help us, we reject because we think it’s making the pain worse. I see this with things like counseling. When I suggest people start counseling to help with their emotional pain they usually resist. They are too busy or it costs too much or it’s not convenient. What they are really saying is they are afraid of the counseling hurting more than the emotional pain they are experiencing. And it probably will at least at first.

Tomorrow I’m starting counseling again. I’m working through some things in my life and I realized I need to deal with some stuff in my past. I will confess I am not looking forward to it. Especially those first few sessions where you have to tell your story, it’s hard. It feels safer just leave all that stuff buried deep in my memory than to deal with any of it. But if I don’t, nothing changes. I will continue to deal with the same issues and have those issues effect others in my life. So many people who have experienced trauma in their lives think that they can just bury it and it won’t effect them anymore. It’s not true. There’s a term in mental health called “leakage”. It’s when those emotions that have been buried and tightly guarded suddenly leak out, usually in a stressful situation. In my own life this usually looks like me yelling at my kids when they get on my nerves. That’s my clue that I have stuff I need to deal with. We normally only allow leakage with those we love most, but it can happen in other situations.

Counseling is hard, but it’s like cleaning a wound. You can do nothing about a wound and it will eventually get infected and cause way more damage to those healthy parts around it. Or you can gently clean it and put a band aid on it and it will heal. Is it easier to pretend we don’t have a wound, or that was “all in the past”? Yes. But eventually that wound becomes infected and infects your whole life and those around you. You can never be your best self with old wounds. You will never trust people, just because of those who hurt you so deeply in the past. That will effect your relationships for the rest of your life if you don’t do the hard work of dealing with it. I am the first to admit I have trust issues. I am convinced people will leave me eventually, and I have good reasons from my past experiences to believe that. I have to work hard to dispel that belief and do some serious internal work to deal with it or I will never have close relationships. Some people think they prefer to be isolated and never trust, but that is no way to live. Its easier, until you go through something hard and you look around and no one is there. We are so quick to let people in to a certain point and then we throw up walls around our hearts. People can feel that. They back away slowly, and ironically their experience with you is that you aren’t safe. If you don’t trust others, how can they find you trustworthy? I can’t be a safe person for others if I refuse to be vulnerable with them. Vulnerability takes tremendous courage, especially if you have been deeply hurt. That doesn’t mean you share everything with everyone. We should be wise about whom we share with. There is an acronym that Brene Brown shares about trust that I will share here. It’s been tremendously helpful for me in learning how to trust and how to be trustworthy in relationships.

BOUNDARIES: Setting boundaries is making clear what’s okay and what’s not
okay, and why.
RELIABILITY: You do what you say you’ll do. At work, this means staying aware
of your competencies and limitations so you don’t overpromise and are able to
deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities.
ACCOUNTABILITY: You own your mistakes, apologize, and make amends.
VAULT: You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share.
I need to know that my confidences are kept, and that you’re not sharing with me
any information about other people that should be confidential.
INTEGRITY: Choosing courage over comfort; choosing what’s right over what’s
fun, fast, or easy; and practicing your values, not just professing them.
NONJUDGMENT: I can ask for what I need, and you can ask for what you need. We
can talk about how we feel without judgment.
GENEROSITY: Extending the most generous interpretation to the intentions,
words, and actions of others.

Let’s not be afraid of band aids. They are here to help us get better. If we don’t choose to deal with our past and present issues they will just continue to cause problems in our relationships with others. If you don’t have any close relationships with people, you should ask yourself if you might have trauma in your life that you haven’t dealt with. Consider counseling to help deal with your issues. Be brave along with me.