Monthly Archives: June 2012

Women of the Gospels Series: The Whole, Bloody Truth

Women of the Gospels: The Whole, Bloody Truth

OK, I know I’ve been sending you all over the internet to read my posts lately. Just one last field trip, and we’ll be back here for a while.

I’m honored today to be guest posting at Rachel Held Evans’ blog. She’s doing this great series on the many women mentioned in the story of Jesus. I chose an old favorite of mine, that nameless woman who bled and who grabbed Jesus’ cloak in order to be healed. Her story is told in Mark 5:24-34.

This mysterious woman was forever changed and deepened for me during my first Autobiographical Writing class in college. My writing mentor, professor, and friend, Judy Hougen reintroduced her to us not just as a desperate woman, but as someone courageous enough to tell the whole truth of her story. And who was healed in the telling. (Speaking of Judy, you should all be following her blog. It’s amazing.)

I hope you’ll join me over at Rachel’s blog for the post. Here’s the teaser:

This is what last ditch effort looks like: a woman’s frantic grab at a stranger’s cloak. 

He is walking by, and she has heard of him: whispers of healings, echoes of prophecy, murmurings of one who carries healing powers in the tassels of his robe.

Who can say what it feels like to bleed for twelve years, to find yourself perpetually on the wrong side of the line in a culture where there is Clean and there is Unclean? (Click here to read the rest.)

ALSO. GREAT NEWS! For those of you who have joined me in praying for Amy: the lumps are gone; cancer is no longer a possibility; the surgery is canceled. The doctors are not sure how it all happened. Thank you for being part of this journey into the joy and wonder and doubt and fear of intercessory prayer with us. (You can read the whole story on Genevieve’s blog.)

Doing Life Together

I’m over at Adam McHugh’s blog today, writing about my struggle to love my own quiet.

(If I were to stick an evangelical cliche onto it, I’d call it my struggle with “doing life together.”)

Adam wrote this great book called Introverts in the Church. I’ve been working my way through it over these last couple of weeks, and I’ve been challenged and encouraged in the reading.

My goal here, at the How to Talk Evangelical Blog, has always been to try to re-see aspects of faith through a different lens. I’d never considered, though, the lens of personality. Mine. Yours. Each of us distinct; each of us sewn together exactly right; each of us made to say something unique about God.

Wherever you fall on that Introvert-Extrovert spectrum, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to come read. My hope is that you will find some freedom to follow the course of Love in your own, radical way.

Here’s how it starts:

Like all bad ideas, it started off sounding like a really good idea.

It came white-hot, a spark off of our discussion of Acts 2 – that end bit about the early church where they all sold their possessions and lived together. Had everything in common. 

It sounds like a glowy Jesus utopia when you read it aloud in a group, and we were, after all a house church. We were committed to pursuing community in new, out-of-the-box ways. [Continue reading here]

15 Signs You Were Raised in the Christian Subculture

This hat has nothing to do with the evangelical culture. It is just rad.

Tucked in a dark corner of our basement storage room, there is a big, clear Rubbermaid stuffed with the artifacts of my youth. It’s so full that the lid doesn’t close all the way, which isn’t great. But still. I somehow managed to get it down to one box. That’s something.

I went down and dug the whole thing out a few weeks ago, after I wrote on the anomaly of the Christian bookstore and the strange mix of nostalgia and angst it elicits in me. I was surprised at the way this seemed to strike a chord with readers.

It occurred to me, as I read the comments and dug through the remnants of my own evangelical youth, that there is an entire subset of us that operate from a distinct cultural plane.

I’m talking about the children of the late 70s, the 80s, and early 90s who were raised less in the fluorescence of American pop culture than in the soft glow of the Christian subculture.

Like our secular peers, we wore zoobas and poet shirts and big, hot pink hair scrunchies…but we also wore Jesus fish charms and WWJD bracelets and t-shirts with catchy Christian slogans.

We remember, of course, Ace of Base and New Kids on the Block, but our musical foundation was formed by Michael Smith, Amy Grant, DC Talk, the Newsboys. We were not allowed to buy those smutty teen magazines, so we were the ones who read Focus on the Family’s Brio and Breakaway instead.

So, for all who spent their formative years straddling two cultures, a list:

Note: I realize this list is hopelessly skewed to the female experience. It’s because I’m a girl.

15 signs

You know you were raised in the Christian subculture if…

  • You had more than one Bible, at least one of them written specifically for “teens.”(Bonus points if the cover sported fluorescent colors and/or spiral shapes. Double bonus points if you ever wrapped one of said Bibles in duct tape to be “alternative.”)

duct tape bible

  • You picked up the photo of a Compassion kid at some Christian concert with the best of intentions. (Your parents are still making that monthly donation.)

christian concert - chris tomlin

  • You’ve ever thought about building that marble maze/pencil sharpening contraption from the beginning of the McGee and Me videos.
  • You signed up for Sound & Spirit Music Club, even though your parents warned you that you’d forget to send that Phillips, Craig & Dean CD back and wind up paying for it. (Thanks to my friend Carra Carr for this one. For the record, she still has that CD.)

ride with god inside

  • You ever participated in a Sword Drill, that intense competition to find a specific Bible verse faster than your Sunday School cohorts. You still find yourself stressed when asked by a pastor to locate the book of Hosea.
  • Your comics were judging your prayer life

Holly and the Ivy Halls - Brio Comic

  • You learned about love from Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith duets. (Somewhere, Somehow, baby.)
  • You learned about dating from the Christy Miller series. (Bonus points if you were successfully deterred from “missionary dating” by the whole Katie Weldon and Michael-from-Ireland train wreck. Double bonus points if you’ve ever said, “I’m just waiting for my Todd.”)

island dreamer

  • You can sing all the words to both DC Talk’s “Jesus Freak” and the Newsboys’ “Shine,” and if you were talented enough, could probably do them as a mash-up.
  • You ever wrote the following line in the front of your Bible: “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” (Notice mine there at the bottom…along with several other charming sayings of the era.)

Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth

  • You bolstered your commitment to sexual purity with any of the following: a purity ring, a True Love Waits pledge card, any book by Dr. James Dobson, or multiple repetitions of DC Talk’s song “I Don’t Want It” on youth group road trips. Triple bonus points if you too had this handy True Love Waits quote book.


  • You can still remember a good deal of Bible verses from your youth, but only if you sing them, Psalty-the-Singing-Songbook-style.
  • “The Cafeteria Lady” is not primarily the person who scoops mashed potatoes in the lunchroom, but rather a humor column in your old Christian teen magazine, Brio. (Fifty bonus points if you know the bitter disappointment of trying to become their teen spokeswoman, “Brio Girl,” and being rejected.)

cafeteria lady 2

  • You have “skanked” to the Christian ska band, The W’s song “The Devil is Bad” or the Supertones’ “Skallelujah.”
  • You ever stamped a Jesus fish emblem into a leather belt at summer Bible camp.

jesus fish

What about you? What would you add to the list?

Father God in the ER

Father God: A name of God used in the Bible. A metaphor. A role.

First there was the thud, then the screaming.

Three measly stairs. Maybe four. I can’t remember exactly, but they were linoleum and unforgiving, and Liam was marked by one of them, a mean red gash across his smooth, baby forehead.

This is the cruel irony of parenting: you watch them for a hundred thousand seconds all strung together and nothing happens. But look away for a second, half a second, and suddenly, your kid is at the bottom of the stairs, bleeding like a geyser all over his 12T Avengers t-shirt.

When the ultrasound technician said “Boy” for a second time, I knew that these sorts of things were coming. Broken arms from poorly executed bicycle stunt-jumps. Welts from paintball guns. Black eyes from living room wrestling matches. Scraped elbows and skinned knees and Band-aids and Neosporin.

But there is something jarring about holding your split-open son as he bleeds and flails. Something about pressing a washcloth to his head as he whimpers in his car seat, about walking into an emergency room with your boy in your arms.

In our curtained-off ER cell, the doctor comes in and speaks to us in a southern drawl about stitches. I ask if there will be a scar and he nods, and it makes me cry again. I know that Liam is young. That scars fade to almost invisible. I know that he’s a boy and that war-wounds are cool.

I know, too, that the world is a sharp, hard place. This is not the first time he will be broken by it, not the first time he will be scarred. But it feels so early. So young to have this truth written upon his forehead.

They put a monitor on his toe and some numbing cream on his wound, and they manage to scrounge up a Spiderman storybook for us to look at. He doesn’t cry at all until they come back with a torture-tool called the Papoose, which is a nice name for a straightjacket. Then he goes totally ballistic.

He is strapped to the emergency room table, and his dad and I are bent over him, hands on his him as he fights the constraints with his whole body. We are watching and trying not to watch as our child is stitched back together.

And the truth is, I don’t understand the relationship between bad, painful things and a loving, all-knowing, God. Ask me about earthquakes. Ask me about cancer. Ask me about starvation and genocide and those beautiful Invisible Children, and all I can do is shake my head and cry and not know.

All I can say is this: the God that I believe in calls himself Father. Calls us his children.

What I know in the ER is that pain and love are not separate, but rather a kind of continuum. They are the two sides of the same beautiful thing, and I stand at that precarious edge where they meet. I feel the weight of them both.

I love, and I ache all the way to the bottom of my Mama soul. Dad aches right next to me. We watch the doctor loop, pull, loop, pull, five black stitches into the forehead of our youngest child, and we feel every prick, every tug, every long, hard moment of it.

There is a lot that I don’t understand. I won’t pretend that any of this is easy. But this moment in the ER feels a little like a glimpse into the wild, beating, parent-heart of God. It feels like truth, like a whisper, like him saying, I feel it all too. I feel every last bit of it.

When we get home from the ER, Dane is waiting freshly bathed and in only a diaper. “Liam’s got an eyebrow!” he says, and we laugh, and it feels like release.

We sit him in his high chair and he eats like a mad man and then toddles toward the matchbox cars, oblivious to his stitches, already over the whole hospital trauma.

We watch him, smiling, our hearts heavy with that love-ache that will never go away.

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