to my sister with the guarded heart

Close Watch On This Heart Of Mine - Hand Stamped Stainless Steel Disc Pendant - Gun - Johnny Cash - Country Music - Lyric Necklace

For Christmas I gave my 15 year old sister an Etsy gift card and she recently spent it on this necklace (above) that boasted lyrics to a famous Johnny Cash song. My mother shared with me last night that she is thrilled that my sister holds the “guard your heart” concept to a high priority, although she was less than thrilled that there was a gun charm on the necklace..

The guarded heart ideal and the purity phenomenon have been under attack in the blogosphere over the past few weeks. I love that rays of grace are starting to peek through clouds of judgement. I am thrilled that vulnerability and open honesty are being encouraged over emotional suppression and secret shame. I stand up and clap at the voices of my generation who are bold enough to write their stories and their experiences and the lessons they learned. We need more stories, not more self help books.

I look at my sister and see a lot of myself in her. However, one way we are complete opposites is our appreciation of books and reading. I’m a reader, a book lover, a collector, and a life-long student. She hates to read, has never in her life voluntarily read a book, only goes to the book store to buy magazines with photos of boy bands, and severely dislikes the educational part of school. And when I was her age was when I would read book after book after book on purity, sacred waiting, godly relationships, biblical womanhood, christian dating, etc. As an avid blogger since the 7th grade (Xanga was the social networking tool of choice among my friends in the pre-Facebook days), I used my online voice to preach the purity ideals to my blog readers. My blogs were reflections and reviews of the books I read. My ambition was to become a Christian book author and conference speaker who would inspire teen girls everywhere to embrace “sacred waiting” (a term I picked up from authors Eric and Leslie Ludy). I was passionate about purity and everyone knew it. And then something happened my senior year of high school…

My best friend got pregnant.

My first reaction was to cry. I had to leave school early because I was so upset. I cried in my mother’s arms as if I had received the news that my best friend had died unexpectedly. It was definitely a grieving process. And it didn’t take long for my sadness to turn into anger.

Why hadn’t she told me she was sleeping with her boyfriend? Why did she hide the truth from me? Why did my mother have to tell me the truth about what happened?

Looking back, I wouldn’t have told me either if I were her. I wasn’t approachable when it came being honest about sin. Especially this kind of sin.

I didn’t know what to say to her. I didn’t have anything to say to her.

I knew a lot of things–but grace was not one of those things. I went to church three times a week in my first eighteen years of life and I had never heard a sermon preached on grace.

After I read Sarah Bessey’s I Am Damaged Goods post in January, the conviction I had always felt rose above the surface and I knew I needed to share with my former best friend an apology for my coldness, my pride, and my severe lack of grace. I needed more than anything to be forgiven. It has been more than five years and I learn that my dear friend is still struggling with the concept of her being damaged, used, and dirty.

She tells me: It’s crazy you are sharing this with me now because feelings of shame have been worse now than ever. I’m trying to overcome these spirits of doubt and failure, but it’s just hard when I feel everyone’s eyes on me, judging me.
And I cry. My heart breaks. I feel deep deep regret. I waited five years to step off of my pedestal and approach her at eye-level–gracefully. Five years. And she is still suffocating from her shame. She is still running far from the christian community.

So to my sweet baby sister…

I am thrilled that you have chosen to keep a close watch on that heart of yours. I rejoice in this. As Madea would say: hallelujer!

It’s okay to be guarded, but don’t put walls up. It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture when walls go up and you become isolated. Don’t lose sight of the heart of Jesus our Lord and Savior who upholds grace and loving our neighbor to the highest degree. There is no greater commandment than loving God and loving our neighbor (Mark 12:31). Remember that. Keep a close eye on your heart, but do not close it. Don’t close it from love. We were created to love each other deeply. Love heals. 1 Peter 4:8 says it beautifully: Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

You will have friends that do not guard their heart.

And that’s okay. Don’t distance yourself from them. Love them.

And you might, one day, open up your heart to the wrong boy.

And that’s okay too. Because love covers that.

May I emphasize the grace of God that is so central to my faith in every word I speak and in all of my actions. May your grace, Lord, heal the cries of the broken and draw them closer to the heart of your son. Help me to open my heart and love your people better. Because love is enough.

Keep Reading:

Hearts Are Not Construction Paper

I Stopped Guarding My Heart Ten Years Ago

Purity Culture Fallout: “I wanted to die because I had ruined ‘God’s plan for my life’”

Why I Watch The Super Bowl

The Super Bowl will always have a special place in my heart. My first job in the male-dominated sports industry was with a Super Bowl Host Committee, where I worked under a fabulous group of influential men and women who have big dreams and big hearts. I wasn’t necessarily qualified for my first internship–I was only a sophomore in college–but I was ambitious and passionate and someone in that office decided to take a chance on me.

While many of my co-workers and bosses went on with their careers in the sports industries after the Super Bowl was long over and the Host Committee closed its doors, many of them continued working in community outreach through various non-profit organizations. Two now work with a veterans support organization. Several work with a children’s education foundation. One founded an after school program for inner city children and another went on to work for the program. I went on to finish my education and continued to passionately pursue a career in the sports industry–doing community outreach.

In this first internship of mine I was inspired by all the good this group of passionate people did and continued to do.

I feel led to write this post in response to two articles I read over the weekend: Why I’m Boycotting the Super Bowl and The Super Bowl as a Theology of Women. First, I immediately felt like the worst feminist of all time for being excited about the Super Bowl. But then I remembered why I love the Super Bowl so much. I whole heartedly respect and understand the positions of these passionate and bold writers–and I don’t disagree with them–however I view the Super Bowl from a different lens.

I view the Super Bowl as an event that gives women and minorities opportunities. 

I shared with you my experience with the Super Bowl giving me, a woman, my first opportunity in sports. On a larger level, the Emerging Business Program that becomes a part of every host city’s Super Bowl Host Committee is a collaborative effort by the NFL and the Host Committee to provide business and economic growth opportunities to local women and minority owned businesses. The objectives of this program are to:

  •  Maximize opportunities for minority and women owned businesses to conduct business with NFL contractors and purchasing entities as well as the Host Committee
  • Channel an impactful portion of the Super Bowl economic activity to local businesses
  • Provide educational information and workshops aimed at developing local business’s ability to bid on contracts, network with other companies, and procure business from the Super Bowl as well as other events

Learn more about the NOLA Emerging Business Program, or see what the NY/NJ 2014 Host Committee is doing to promote women and minority owned businesses.

I view the Super Bowl as a gathering place for a community to  come together and do good.

Listed below are just a few of the events and outreach efforts that happen during the months and weeks leading up to the big game. These listed are just a fraction of the community outreach efforts specific to the NOLA Super Bowl. Each host committee initiates their own outreach programs.

  • A free health festival for local African American and Latino youth and families (read more)
  • A program that promotes diversity and cultural education in classrooms and through youth clinics
  • Scholarships given to local schools to be used toward fitness and health education
  • Literacy promoted in partnership with Scholastic to put books in the hands of more children, primarily in Hispanic communities
  • Hiring our Heroes, an exclusive job faith for military members and their families
  • Several Habitat for Humanity projects completed by affiliate groups and volunteers
  • Make-A-Wish® , through the assistance of the NFL, grants the wishes of 12 children to attend Super Bowl XLVII
  • Rebuilding Together, a non-profit that rebuilds thousands of homes for low-income homeowners each year, has worked to revitalize low-income communities
  • The Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, a worship service during Super Bowl week, raises funds for local foundations in the community

Those are just nine examples of the 50+ community initiatives take place for each Super Bowl. Learn more about community outreach programs from NOLA, past Super Bowls, and the NFL.

I view the Super Bowl as a culmination for big dreamers.

As a wildly ambitious person and as an athlete myself, I love seeing athletes reach the highest level of competition and the joy that comes with winning a championship. And as a close friend of a rookie on the San Francisco 49ers, I am absolutely THRILLED to see my friend play for a Super Bowl after the battles he has overcome in his life to get to where he is now. I am also thrilled that he continues to give glory to God and honor God during his journey to the big leagues. My friend has inspired me and many others in so many ways by his work ethic, his perseverance and his tendency to overcome all odds. I am reminded that every man on that football field tonight is inspiring someone. They have all overcome something. They have all set a goal and have put in the discipline to achieve their goal. They have all made sacrifices to get the prize. And I respect that. I respect big dreamers and I celebrate the culmination of big dreams.

Yes, I detest the sex trafficking that happens when a large contingent of corporate men flock to a city looking for a good time. I am uncomfortable with the posed risks of the violent game of football. It concerns me that fans, whether at the stadium or on the couch at home, are more passionate in their worship of the game of football than of their worship on Sunday mornings. I don’t like how much money is spent on tickets, on jerseys and on chicken wings and beer (and I’m guilty of this–I bought a #23 jersey for more $ than I care to admit), when there is so much poverty and hunger and financial need in our own backyards. — I love that those with a voice are bringing light to these issues. I’m glad that groups of people  and organizations that are shining a light on the sex trafficking issue and are fighting to break the trend that follows the Super Bowl to each host city. I’m thankful that there are men and women alike that see a major problem in the fact that women are depicted in the Super Bowl and other televised mega-sports in ways that proclaim, “This world is for men, about men, and because of men. You women may participate, but only in forms that are pleasing to men.” That’s not okay. And I am on board with changing this.

Yes, there is a lot of negative that surrounds the Super Bowl as with any major sports event. However, there is still so much good. And while I hate the bad and will learn how I can help right the wrongs where I have an influence, I will also celebrate the good. And that is why I am watching the Super Bowl.

searching: for a church home

In a perfect world, finding a church to call home after moving to new city would be as easy as Phillip Phillips makes it sound.

And living in the largest metropolitan area in the Bible Belt you would think would make my search for a church home easy peasy.

But it’s not.

I’m a twenty-something recent graduate who has regularly attended only two churches in my lifetime–the church I grew up in and attended with my family for 18 years, and the church I visited the first Sunday of my freshman year of college and attended until I graduated and left town. Both Southern Baptist churches.

I’m newly engaged and the fiancé and I have been visiting around, church hopping, or “dating the church” as some might call it. I don’t think either of us can quite put our finger on what it is we are looking for in a church. We want a place where we can make real friends, be discipled as a young engaged (eventually a young married) couple, and do ministry together. We want a home.

Oh, and a place where we don’t feel the need to be closet feminists to fit in.

We will think we really like a church. Then one day we’re both like–meh–so we move on to the next church on the list.

Then we find churches with bullet points in their position papers that look like:

  • [ … ] will not allow a woman lead teaching pastor.
  • [ … ]  will not allow women to teach on a weekend worship service.
  • [ … ]  will not allow women to teach men’s Bible studies.
  • [ … ]  will not allow women to teach mixed-gendered Bible studies.
  • [ … ]  will not allow women to teach men’s Home Groups.
  • [ … ]  will not allow women to teach mixed-gendered Home Groups.
  • [ … ]  does not allow women to prophesy in a way that resembles teaching the Scriptures (Spiritfilled preaching).
  • [ … ]  will not allow women to evaluate a prophetic utterance in the public gathering of the body.

So then we’re like–meh–so we move on to the next church on the list.

The fiancé and I would also poke around with the pre-marital counseling services at the churches we would visit. We saw it as a red flag when the very first words on the counseling flyer quoted Ephesians 5:22-24–bolded and underlined.

Meh. 

We didn’t return to that church either.

Discouraged and ready to just settle in a church regardless of their stance on women and the marriage union, I e-mail Pam Hogeweide, author of a book I had read about the injustices toward women in the church, for advice. Is it really that big of a deal if we believe differently on this topic than the leadership of my church community?

You have barely waded into the waters of this faith community and already your injustice meter is going off. And that’s what it is to me : injustice. The issue of women and the attitudes and beliefs towards women are far reaching. How a leadership see women affects the preaching and practices in that church. 

She is right. We shouldn’t settle for the injustice.

We should keep looking.