The Gospel Doesn’t Need Our Protection

Crucifix On A Hill At DawnI, like many, was so amazed to watch the brave victims of Larry Nassar speak against their abuser and to see Honorable Rosemarie Aquilina provide that space for them. I was especially impacted by Rachel Denhollander, who invoked her faith in her impact statement.

In this interview with Christianity Today, she said something that deeply resonated with me:

Anything else you want our readers to know?

First, the gospel of Jesus Christ does not need your protection. It defies the gospel of Christ when we do not call out abuse and enable abuse in our own church. Jesus Christ does not need your protection; he needs your obedience. Obedience means that you pursue justice and you stand up for the oppressed and you stand up for the victimized, and you tell the truth about the evil of sexual assault and the evil of covering it up.

Second, that obedience costs. It means that you will have to speak out against your own community. It will cost to stand up for the oppressed, and it should. If we’re not speaking out when it costs, then it doesn’t matter to us enough.




“The gospel of Jesus Christ does not need your protection.”

I have seen this idea in Christianity– that it is our reputations that protect Christ’s– and there was even a time when my own actions indicated that I felt the same.

I do not feel the same.

Jesus Christ remains who he is– the perfect advocate and great rescuer– regardless of my failings or of the worldwide church’s failings or of the failings of anyone related to Christendom. Yes, I’m aware that I also represent Christ, but I don’t fool myself that I could ever do so perfectly.

Just as it says in Scripture, his grace is sufficient for me. His power is made perfect in my weakness. In fact, it is in my weakness, my vulnerability, my imperfections, and my shortcomings that I have been able to do my best ministry.

All praise to him, the perfect administrator of justice and mercy.


Celebrating Life AND Death at Christmas

christmas celebrateIt’s not a traditional Christmas carol, but this– my favorite modern Christmas hymn– stirs my soul like no other. While most people I know have Christmas as their favorite holiday, mine will always be Easter. But, of course, they are connected.

We begin in the dark: a humble stable, a pregnant girl whose faithfulness means giving birth in a barn, a baby king with no cradle but a manger.

And it gets darker still: abuse and blood and death, a broken body in a sealed-up tomb.

But it ends (or is this actually a new beginning?) in the light: LIFE LIFE LIFE LIFE LIFE.

That’s why “I Celebrate the Day” by Relient K is a holiday gem. Because it celebrates it all: light and dark, life and death and life again, the entire plan.

Listen below.



And with this Christmas wish is missed
The point I could covey
If only I could find the words to say to let You know how much You’ve touched my life
Because here is where You’re finding me, in the exact same place as New Years Eve
And from the lack of my persistancy
We’re less than half as close as I want to be

And the first time
That You opened Your eyes did You realize that You would be my Savior
And the first breath that left Your lips
Did You know that it would change this world forever

And so this Christmas I’ll compare the things I felt in prior years
To what this midnight made so clear
That You have come to meet me here

And the first time
That You opened Your eyes did You realize that You would be my Savior
And the first breath that left Your lips
Did You know that it would change this world forever

To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me
In the hope that what You did
That You were born so I might live
To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me

And I, I celebrate the day
That You were born to die
So I could one day pray for You to save my life

Merry Christmas, friends!

Why is it Called GOOD Friday?

Growing up, I was always confused about why the Christian church called this day Good Friday– the day that Jesus Christ was put to death. I knew the story: the blood, the nails, death on a cross, the method used for criminals. I had learned about crucifixion in gory detail, and how the one crucified would struggle to breathe in such a position, how Christ would have needed to lift his body weight just to get a breath– his body weight pressing against the spikes nailed through his feet. I knew about the hours of darkness, the quaking earth and breaking rocks. About the curtain of the temple being torn in half, top to bottom.

My family would go to a Good Friday service, the front of the sanctuary bearing a cross adorned with a drape of purple fabric. Sometimes we would hold a railroad spike in our hands. We would always take communion: a small tab of bread to represent Christ’s broken body, a small sip of grape juice to represent his blood.

And I would wonder: why is this good?

I remember as a passionate, deep-thinking, sensitive child thinking, I wish I could have stopped this nightmare.

My God had been ridiculed, beaten, and killed. Why was this good?


Friday is good because of Sunday.

Because Friday was not God losing the battle– it was part of the battle plan all along. It was a well-conceived, strategic move before the checkmate.

Because, as I said above, the curtain of the temple was torn in two— this represents our direct access to God, where before we needed a priestly intercessor.

No matter what it looked like on Friday– the end of the world, I’m sure many of Christ’s followers thought, and certainly the end of hope— Sunday was just around the corner. Sunday, the resurrection, the culmination, the checkmate, the victory. It was all part of a master plan, one that we– nearly 2000 years later– can see in full, even if our brothers and sisters at the time could not. We can see the rescue waiting just around the corner. We can say, This is good.


Years ago, I attended a conference where I heard a sermon by Louie Giglio that I will never forget. It profoundly moved me and helped to shape my worldview. The bottom line of it is this: when the bottom drops out of life, we can still have hope — because of the cross.

If you will do just one this for me this entire year, would you please watch 1 minute and 38 seconds of this sermon? I’d love to have you watch the entire thing, but please at least watch from 24:45 to 26:23.

From the foot of the cross, the cross appeared to be the worst thing– from the perspective of history, we Christians see it as the best.

And we can trust that God is at work even in the times that are hardest. This is why I have hope.


This is so core to my identity that I put it into my book in the form of a parable.

Silas tells West that he believes that God is in control, even over the bad things, and she asks him why.

“Writers know that the climax comes before the resolution.” He was quiet for a second, then said, “Not just in fiction, either, West, but in real life too. How many times has the worst thing turned out to be necessary? Or even the best? Rescue wears masks, you know. It’s why people say it’s darkest before the dawn. Sometimes things take a long time to make sense. Could be years and years—or only a weekend. Or they might never make sense. But that doesn’t mean you stop trusting that the world is being rescued.”

Or only a weekend.

Good Friday, everyone. I’m looking forward to Sunday.


As many of you know, I’m a college admission counselor. I recruit students to my university, attend college fairs, and read a LOT of applications. It’s very common for these seventeen-year-olds to talk about their faith in terms of actions and activities.

unsplash5I go to youth group.
I teach Sunday school.
I went on a mission trip.

I also see a lot about behavior.

I don’t drink or swear.
I don’t go to parties.
I’m committed to sexual purity.

It’s really interesting to me to think back to myself as a seventeen-year-old. At that point, I’d committed my life to Christ for about three years. I was riddled with OCD and mired down in legalism, partially due to the intense black-and-white thinking that OCD forced me into. I probably would have talked about my faith in much the same way.

Now I’m nearly 34; Christ has been my companion for many years– 20 since I made the choice to give my life to him. I’ve been through ERP therapy and set free from so many things, and I think of my faith in such different terms now.

Were someone to ask me to define my faith, I’d have to talk about my identity: I belong to Jesus. I’m a sinful, selfish, prideful, broken person who makes bad decisions and is constantly learning, but I belong to Jesus, and that is what my faith is about. I walk with Christ. He walks with me. I never tackle anything alone– not my novel writing, my persistent issues with anxiety, my career, my relationships. I have a faithful friend, guide, rescuer, and love. I cling desperately to the cross.

Don’t mishear me. I think it’s fantastic for teens to go to youth group and commit to sexual purity. I think our actions (hopefully) flow out of our love for Christ. I just can’t use my actions to define my faith anymore.

My coworkers and I were talking about this and wondering about this shift in mindset that many of us have gone through in our late-twenties and early-thirties. When you are a child, you are taught black and white. It is good to share. It is bad to hit your brother. How could a young mind even begin to fathom gray? I’m not a parent, and sometimes I’m so glad for that. I would have zero idea of how to raise a child.

This blog post isn’t a lesson or a sermon, just an observation that I wanted to share and process via writing. It’s exciting to know that my faith looks different at 34 than it did half a lifetime ago at 17, and I can’t wait to see what it looks like at 51.

more than you can handle

You know that well-intentioned phrase that people say all the time, the one that goes God will never give you more than you can handle?

I hate it.  I think it is such a load of utter crap.

I can’t handle my sin nature and depravity.  I can’t handle death and devastation.  I can’t handle pain and letdowns and rejection and broken relationships and the monstrosities of this current age.

Praise God for the cross of Jesus Christ.  He can handle it all for me.

If God never gave us more than we could handle, then why would we ever turn to Him?

His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection proved He can handle anything and everything.  So I don’t dare say any ridiculous, silly phrase like He will never give you more than you can handle because I know that I am weak but He is strong.  Amen and amen.

whom I write for

Who is your audience? is a question every writer faces in the midst of creative work.  For me, the question has kind of morphed into For whom am I writing this?  In other words (for me), Whom do I most want to please with this work?

It’s different answers for different things.  For example, with Lights All Around, my first novel, the answer was

1) God.
2) Other obsessive-compulsives.
3) My writing community.
4) Myself.

With my second novel, Truest, I have found the answer to be

1) God.
2) Myself.
3) John Green.

I hadn’t really thought through this much until the other day at work when I was talking to some coworkers about how desperately I wanted John Green to like the story I was writing.  Am I crazy?  Maybe.

How about you, writing friends?  What does your list look like?  Does it change from project to project?

literature, time, and other thoughts

They were drawing me.  The books.

It was like my car was on autopilot– I thought I was headed to Dunn Bros, but when I drove past it, I wasn’t surprised.  Instead, I just let my car take me to Barnes and Noble.

It’s been a little while since I have been here.  Now that I have a membership and have free shipping, I’ve been buying most of my books online.  Today it wasn’t enough.  I had to be with them, surrounded by them, which is why I am drinking a banana chocolate smoothie, typing on my laptop alone, but feeling like I am in the company of friends– or future friends.

To be honest, I feel a little overwhelmed.  There are so many books I want to read, I don’t know when I’m going to find time to get to them all.  I perused the “Summer Reading” table and found more that intrigued me.  From where I sit, I can see the “New Fiction” shelves, and I wonder if I’ll ever have a book there.

I feel pulled so many ways.  I want to readreadREAD, but I am trying to balance that out with plenty of time for writing, which I love even more.  But my writing is informed and inspired by what I read, so I have to keep fueling that fire.  Those two activities alone could keep me busy until I die, I think, and yet– I have even more important things in my life than these.

People.  God.

I know everyone gets 24 hours a day, but I wish I could have more.  How am I supposed to be a loving, caring daughter and friend while working fulltime and writing a novel and feeding an obsessive reading habit– all while never neglecting my true love Jesus Christ and his church?

Praise God that OCD is no longer demanding so much of my attention.  How did I manage?  It feels like a different lifetime.

And yet, I have friends who do all this and take care of a spouse and children.  It boggles my mind.

I want my life to matter, want to leave a mark.  It seems difficult to do when my interests are so spread– I worry that my efforts in each area will be lacking because I didn’t have enough time invested into each one.

I think that one of the reasons I decided to keep a list of books I have read and reviewed (click THE READER tab above) was to try to organize at least one part of my life.  When I sit here in the bookstore, surrounded by all this brilliance, I know that there will be corners I never explore.  Somehow maybe this will help me keep better control of the labyrinth I’m in.

And what a beautiful labyrinth.

Christianity is weird.

And I love that.

C.S. Lewis once described it as “a religion you could not guess.”  I love that too.

How bizarre: a 3-in-1 God who speaks things into existence.  A God who wraps himself in human flesh.  A savior whose method of victory is death.

Fascinating.  I am proud to be a Christian, eager to plumb these mysteries as long as I live.

Why Christians Should Write

Jesus Christ is a believer’s gravity; he infuses meaning and purpose into our lives and tethers us to reality through the Body and the Blood.  There is no story more fascinating, mysterious, devastating, resplendent, and sanguine than the gospel, and this is the reason we need more Christian writers in the United States to write and be published.  Believers have an incredible capacity for story—true story—which is our duty and privilege to share.  When we weave gospel truths into our stories—even when we whisper or our voices shake—those stories assume deeper meaning, exactly what the world craves, whether knowingly or not.  Tales with no hint of the divine, no rumor of a Savior, may often be a poor investment, a squandering of what might have been.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”  Books written by Christians are just such miracles, stories that are able to be held, while the Great Story, instead, holds us.