Christian media

Last Friday I had an adventure with my former writing professor Judy.  We went to Macalester College to meet Donald Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz, one of my favorite books, and watch a special pre-screening of Blue Like Jazz: The Movie.

The movie was very well done, a fictionalized account of Miller’s time at Reed College in Portland, Oregon– a story about a young Christian who is stepping away from his faith and trying his hand at life.  I loved that it didn’t shy away from any tough issues.  The movie was gritty and raw and real, and I encourage everyone to go see it on April 13th.

Steve Taylor, the movie’s director, was at the event as well, and he introduced the film by saying, “Since when did ‘Christian’ come to mean ‘family-friendly’?”  He pointed out that the Bible itself contained stories that kids might not be old enough to hear.

When I think of Christian movies, I think of cheesy, overdone movies with bad acting and fairytale endings.  When I think of Christian books, I think of poorly written, G-rated romance novels with unbelievable, over-the-top conversion scenes and lots of scenes where the protagonist “happens to” come across a Bible verse directly suited to her situation.  No thanks.

Writing about Jesus is tricky, let me tell you.  How do you write about an eternal God who supernaturally reaches into people’s chests and grips their hearts without sounding insane?  How do you write about spiritual experiences in a way that people who do not love God can come along for the ride?

I think this movie is going to be a big step in the right direction.  Check out the trailer hereLet me know your thoughts on all this!

Euthanasia Coaster

It’s just hypothetical.  An art concept.

A rollercoaster that sends 24 people up a 500-meter rise and fall and then through seven consecutive loops, each smaller than the last, which racks up so much G-force that the person can’t sustain it and dies “with elegance and euphoria.”

I heard about it last summer, and I felt sick– a strange kind of sick.  A revulsion and a fear for our future, but also this bizarre fascination that has made me look it up many times over the nine months.

You can read all about it on Julijonas Urbonas’s website.  Let me know if it fills you with the same strange wonder and horror and disgust as it does me.

I have always been drawn to oddities, to things that are broken or are sick– because I am myself.  A broken, sick oddity, but covered in the blood of Christ.

creative theft

I just read a really interesting Forbes interview with Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like an Artist, which is about”the idea that all creative work is iterative, no idea is original and all creators and their output are a sum of inspirations and heroes from whom they appropriate and the ideas and content they choose to remix and reimagine as their own body of work.”

photo credit: marklarson

For those of you reading who like to create– whether you’re a writer, a musician, a visual artist, etc.– do you think this is true?  Is there truly nothing new under the sun?

In my “swipe file” I’d love to have the following: John Green, Leif Enger, Peter Beagle, Markus Zusak, Melina Marchetta, Billy Collins, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling.  If I could be one big melting pot of all that brilliance, I’d have a bestseller for sure!!

How about you?

the very worst thing

There were days when my OCD would tear my worldview out from under me.  Things that I had thought were solid things to stand on (GOD-IS-GOOD, I-AM-SAVED, IT’S-OK-TO-MEET-NEW-PEOPLE, HUMANS-ARE-REALLY-HUMANS, etc.) turned into vapor beneath me, and there I was, seeming to free-fall forever.

A real, only slightly altered conversation with a former roommate:
Fanny Fakename (frustrated): I can’t believe this!  I can’t believe this!
Jackie: What?  What happened?
Fanny (in anguish): I just found out that my tennis retreat is the same weekend as this political rally I wanted to attend!
Jackie: Oh.
Fanny: The same weekend!  This is terrible.  What am I going to do?  This is the worst thing that has EVER happened to me!
Jackie: thinking harm thoughts even though that is not her regular type of OCD 😉

One thing that OCD has engendered in me is perspective.

Right now, I am trying to lose weight, and it’s been a tough battle for me, but tonight I was praying aloud in my shower and what slipped out of my mouth was, “Thank you, God, that this is not an OCD thing.  I can handle this.  OCD was the very worst thing.”

Perspective.  Love it.

What is the very worst thing that has ever happened to you?  What it OCD-related?  Have you been envious of friends and family when their very worst thing seemed tamer than yours?

scrupulosity and the unforgivable sin

Scrupulosity: OCD centered around religious themes.

The story of my life.

The obsession: for many years, my head would repeat blasphemous things over and over, sometimes triggered by certain sounds and sometimes by non-specific phrases about hell, demons, souls, the devil.

The compulsion: I began to repeat one particular phrase– “Father God, I love You”– over and over in my head as a way to stem the other thoughts.

It became very difficult to handle everything that was going on: these blasphemous thoughts would crowd me– I mean, really crowd me (the image I have is of these thoughts bumping and grinding on me like dirty brutes at a dance club), and I’d be warding them off by repeating this repetitive prayer over and over (and over and over and over).  And on the outside, it didn’t look like anything.

Those who were closest to me (dear friends and roommates and family members) knew that I was going through hell, but they couldn’t see the battle that was taking place.  They only knew of it when I told them (or on nights when I broke down sobbing in fear of eternal damnation … thanks for speaking truth to me those nights, Desiree!).

It is hard to describe exactly what it feels like to feel as though you’re wearing a sentence of hell on your shoulders.  Here’s a shot:

Condemnation (or supposed condemnation) is like being in a tank of water with only inches of air at the top.  You have to lean your head back to put your lips to the air, and the whole while you must keep treading water.  There is no opportunity for distraction.  It consumes every moment of your life.

Anyone reading this understand me?

If so, please read this sermon.  I think it might help.  My heart aches for you, but there is hope.  Lovers of Jesus Christ don’tbelong in hell.  Let’s talk.

OCD logic

It exists!  It’s thorough!  It’s also ridiculous.

Here’s an example:

1. Begin with an assumption: most parents tell their children not to talk to strangers.
2. Therefore, if a young person talks to me, they are being disobedient.
3. If I am causing a child to be disobedient, then I too am sinning.
4. Extrapolation: a parent’s direction does not just wear out; therefore, even teenagers and young adults AND EVEN ADULTS are still under that command not to talk to strangers unless the parent has told them otherwise.
5. Most parents wouldn’t think to say otherwise.
6. Therefore, it is sinful for people I don’t know to talk to me and sinful for me to talk to people I don’t know.

Did you make all those connections with me?  But you think it’s silly, right?

Yeah, an obsessive-compulsive can’t dismiss things so easily.

Good luck, Polly Pure-O, at your job tomorrow, at the drive-thru, at the Target register.  Say a word and you’ll only feel guilty.

To the OCs who read my blog, walk me through your OCD logic in a comment!

Did God give me OCD?

Q: But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” — Romans 9:20 (ESV)

A: Thanks for asking.  I’m Jackie Sommers.  I guess you could call me a sass-pot. 

Why do we get OCD?  Is it a punishment from God?  Is it a result of the fall of mankind?  Is it completely arbitrary?  Bad karma?  Simply genetic?  Strep throat gone awry?

I believe that my OCD is indeed from God, given to me for three reasons:
1) To drive me to Him.  The times that I have known most intensely my desperate need for Christ have been some of my most OCD-riddled seasons of life.  When I am given something impossible to handle, then I have to turn to Someone bigger who can take it from my weak hands.
2) So that I would use it to glorify Him.  I wrote a novel about an obsessive-compulsive, a book written for the Lord, to use my talents to honor Him.  I think it’s a beautiful picture of redemption to see the way God allowed me to turn my history of OCD into a creative and beautiful result.
2) To help others who are suffering.  Simply put, I would not be able to sympathize with other sufferers in the same way had I not crawled out of those same trenches.  God was with me every step of the way, and I know that it was He who guided me to cognitive-behavioral therapy, of which I am now a strong advocate.

So, what do you think?  Is OCD from God– or is it something else?  Would love to hear your thoughts!

solipsism syndrome, anyone?

Solipsism syndrome is a condition where a person believes that everything she is experiencing is a dream, is inside her head.  She believes that reality is not real.  She believes that others either don’t exist or that their existence can never be proven.

I have been doing a lot of research on SS lately (for a story I am writing, not because I have been feeling this way), and it is fascinating.

In my wildest OCD days, this idea would sometimes come to me in one variation or another.  Some days I would wonder if everything I had “experienced” up until that point was actually a very intricate dream– and when I finally woke up, I would only be a toddler.

I would imagine that everyone who truly entertains ideas like these must either be Pure O or an astronaut.  But what do I know?

Solipsism syndrome is hard to argue with– the solipsist will always win any debate, because in the end, she can simply dismiss you– since, of course, you don’t really exist.  People affected by this obviously become very withdrawn and experience incredible loneliness.  Some people probably think of this idea and can easily dismiss it (it doesn’t feel like I’m living a dream, so I’m just not going to worry about it), but obsessive-compulsives don’t work like that.  We hold on.  We strangle thoughts.  Or let them strangle us.

So, blogging community, here are my questions for you:
* Have you ever experienced anything like this?  What was it like for you?
* What helped you to feel less alone?
* Care to share some experiences?

Because SS is not recognized as a psychiatric disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, I am relying on human experiences for much of my research!


Who is Jackie Lea Sommers?

I know my dear friend Ashley loves my blog– but she also knows and loves ME.  She suggested the other day that I let my blog followers in on who I am.  Sounds like a marvelous idea.

The details: Jackie Lea Sommers, 30 years old, as single as a girl can be.  I live in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and I grew up in a small town of ~700 people.  I’m the recruitment manager at Northwestern College, the most wonderful Christian university in the world.  I’m also a proud alumna.  My degree is in English-writing.


I live with Desiree.  She is a math geek.  We are like yin and yang in that way.


My family includes my dad and mom, my sister Kristin, my brother Kevin, and Kevin’s girlfriend Samantha (who is essentially a part of our family!).


I am passionate about a handful of things: Jesus Christ, people, and writing & literature. 

Jesus: my REASON FOR LIFE, my gravity, my Rescuer.  Jesus is the lens through which the rest of my life makes sense.  I am so proud of my Savior, so proud of the cross.

People: so many wonderful people in my life … camp friends, college friends, favorite students at Northwestern, kiddos I’ve met through years of youth ministry, plus Emma, Ava, and Elsie, my littlest loves.

Writing/literature: I love to read, but I LOVE to write.  I finished my first novel this January, after working on it for nearly four years.  It’s a story about a girl with OCD, and it draws heavily on my own experience with OCD.  And now I am working on my second novel!  Favorite books:

yes, I really do have a wardrobe in my living room that functions as a life-size diorama of Narnia … nerd alert!

Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (whom I had lunch with this month!), The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, all poetry by Billy Collins, and (new!) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

What else would you like to know about me?