Tag Archives: college

When We Were On Fire: A Synchroblog

dane and liam with wwwof

Today is a Tuesday. The garbage truck will come rumbling down the street as it does every Tuesday. I’ll pack lunch for Dane and drive him to preschool, the radio on, his Cars backpack on the floor.

When we get to class, Dane will go find his name tag and put it on the board while Liam plays with the drinking fountain. He’ll come running back to give me “the biggest hug EVER” before I gather up his brother and go home.

In the car, Liam will ask me six times, “Where Dane, Mom?” It’s been a month, and we’re still not altogether used to the way the school-day breaks into our routine and steals him away from us five hours at a pop.

The weather website says 100% chance of rain — pretty normal for a Minnesota Tuesday in October — so I’ll snuggle next to Liam under a blanket and we’ll watch his latest cinematic obsession — The Incredibles.

It’s Tuesday, October 15th. I’ve known about this day for months…but I’m still not altogether used to it.

I’m not sure I’m ready for my first memoir to go winging into the world.

But release day is here. So, ready or not, it’s time to let go.

Go Against the Flow t-shirt Addie

Once upon a time I was on fire for God, and I wore that T-shirt. (What you’re looking at here is a DIY photo session. My junior high BFF Alissa and I had big plans to send these glossies to Models for Christ, where we’d use our beauty FOR THE LORD.)

I was on fire, so I wore sumo-wrestling suits at outreach events and ate a giant banana split out of a re-purposed rain gutter with my youth group in the Fellowship hall.

I rode the train downtown to see Jennifer Knapp at Moody Bookstore and sang her songs — from memory — all the way there. I owned a book called Keeping Your Cool While Sharing Your Faith and a well worn copy of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, which my boyfriend gave to me before he departed for a year-long missions internship.

I sang in the worship band every Sunday morning, praying under my breath that people would enter into the spirit of worship, instead of standing shifty-eyed and bored. In spite of my voice lessons with a lady from church, I was never much of a singer and secretly suspected that they were turning my mic down every week.

I learned how to wrap the microphone cords so that they wouldn’t tangle, and I stayed after church, cleaning up when everyone else went home. I wrapped, wrapped, wrapped myself in God’s love…and also in the evangelical culture…and eventually, the two were indistinguishable from one another. After a while I couldn’t tell the difference between that still, small voice of Truth and the sleek words of Christian marketing. And the mixture of these two elements in my heart became a kind of toxic chemical.

I wrote When We Were On Fire because somewhere in the growing up, the flame flickered out, and I thought it was because I had failed somehow. I struck myself like a flint against church after church, trying to ignite some kind of spark. Instead I ended up angry, hurt, bitter, broken.

I felt so desperately lonely during that time. Looking back now, I see that I wasn’t alone. So many of you were traveling a similar path, stumbling under the same baggage, trying to work it all out on your own.

when we were on fire synchroblog

A couple of weeks ago, I invited you to share your on fire stories today in my first ever “synchroblog.”

I hoped it would be a celebration both of the release this book…and also of the complex, hard, beautiful journey of faith.

But I also hope that seeing others’ stories pop up here makes you feel a little less alone. A little less crazy and a bit more understood.

If this is the first time you’re hearing about it, it’s not too late! The synchroblog linkup will be open until 12:00 AM on Saturday the 19th. On Sunday (the 20th), I’ll be posting some of my favorite quotes from your stories here on the blog.

Here’s How to Participate:

  1. Write your “When We Were On Fire” story on your blog. (If you don’t have a blog, there’s still a bit of time to get your words added to my When We Were On Fire: The Non-Blogger Edition post on Thursday. Just send me your story today or tomorrow in an email!)
  2. If you’re a blogger, make sure you include the image above and link in your post so that others can click back and see the roundup! (Link the image to this blog post: http://addiezierman.com/?p=2586)
  3. Come back here use the link-up tool to add your post here. Make sure you link to the actual post, not your blog’s home page.
  4. Click around to other people’s posts. If you have a few minutes, consider commenting on a couple that you specifically relate to. (Us blogging people love that sort of thing.)
  5. If you want to share your post on Twitter, use the hashtag #WWWoF so that we can all keep track of what’s happening. (This is the hashtag for the book, by the way. I just invented it. You can use it for all of your nice comments about my memoir…but none of your mean ones. I’m not strong enough.)

Thank you so much for helping me to celebrate this ordinary (and also…anything but ordinary) Tuesday.

I can’t wait to read your words.

Note: Curious about the book but not sure if it’s for you? You can read the first couple of chapters free here. I’ve also published a short excerpt from the middle of the book over at the Deeper Story site today.

Already pretty sure you’ll love it? GREAT! Order it now here or here or here or here!

The Daily Work of Wonder

Originally published at A Deeper Story.

photo credit: Joris_Louwes via photopin cc
photo credit: Joris_Louwes via photopin cc

“The world of dew
is the world of dew
And yet, and yet –”
~ Issa

I confess that most days, my heart is like a bratty 15-year old: arms crossed, chin raised, daring you to impress me.

I was born at the far edge of the age-group they call Generation Me…narcissistic and entitled and easily bored. I bristle at this language. I am not like that, I think. But it I’m honest, I’ll tell you that I wake up thinking about myself. I choose my acts of love or service or kindness mostly based on how much they will rock the equilibrium of my personal comfort. I am fuzzy on the line between self-care and self-absorbed.

Once I went to Bible college, and I aced my pop quiz on the Gospels and my paper on evangelicalism and my final on Theology. I’ve read the Bible, beginning and then back again. In my 29 years, I have sat through 1500 sermons – give or take – so don’t think you can tell an anecdote I haven’t heard, a statistic I don’t know.

That scripture you’re reading aloud from the podium? I’ve heard it a hundred times. Memorized it in AWANA Sparks. Earned myself a ruby-red jewel for my plastic, pinned-on crown. So I’m gonna need you to spin it new, get into the Greek of it, the etymology, the history. Surprise me with your insight.

I dare you to impress me.

We changes jobs frequently, apparently – people in this generation. That’s what the sociologists say. They say we have too great of expectations, little patience for anything that seems to lack meaning. And I haven’t changed jobs all that much, but I have been nomadic in my spirituality. I have wandered aimlessly from church to church to church, looking for something that I cannot name. Leaving when it’s not there.

I keep waiting for that one big thing that will take my breath away. That will leave me standing rooted to the spot, looking up.

In the box office, I watch movies with 150-million-dollar budgets and critique the special effects. In worship services, the music circles higher and louder, and the fog machine blasts and the lights change color, and I confuse entertainment with awe.

I have believed the lie that wonder is something that is given to me by someone else. That it is fire and flurry, the crashing of might and might, the explosion of flame. Dazzle and daring and the fluorescent spectacular.

But the truth is that none of this is wonder. Not really. There is nothing passive about true wonder. It is not dependent on bigness or limited by smallness; it is not the response to entertainment or to spectacle.

Wonder is a choice. It comes only when I choose to stay.

It’s that thing that happens when doubt and astonishment and mystery converge. It happens when I stand in one place long enough. When I stare out at the broken cattails or the winter-bare branches or a dew drop until it stops being about me. Starts being about the branch. And then about more than the branch. And then about God.

And it doesn’t always feel like epiphany or the climax of a hit movie. Sometimes it comes and goes so quickly that you almost can’t believe that it was there.

But in that moment, something in your heart reaches towards God. And for a small span of space, you believe Him to be all he says he is, and you know it is enough…and this is the true heart of worship.

And all these years, my angsty, selffocused heart has been making the wrong statement.

It’s not I dare you to impress me. Rather, it’s I will dare to be impressed. 

There is work to all this wonder. I can choose to be moved, even when it does not feel holy or wild or amazing. I can decide to stay long enough to see the whole thing ignite like a bush burning. Because God is here: in this tiny church, this broken family, this song, this wintering state…this moment.

The ground spreads wide and uneven beneath me, and all of it is holy.

The dew drop is suspended at the edge of the railing. Wonder is the choice to look closer and closer. To stay until the dew becomes a universe, and your heart lurches when you recognize the holy center: the wild love of God.

God’s Calling and MRS Degrees

woman at a christian collegeAre you sick of me yet?

Because I’m kind of sick of me.

It’s apparently the week of guest posts, and so I’m going to show up in your email box or feeder just one more time to point you to my latest one.

(Thanks for bearing with me; next week should be a little bit quieter here.)

Today I’m over at The Church of No People for Matt’s series on gender roles and faith.

My contribution has to do with being a woman at a Christian college and that moment when you start seeing it. Here’s the first bit.

It’s Christian college, so naturally your “hall theme” is something like In the Son – pun intended – and the wall is taped over with yellow and orange construction paper rays and pink beach umbrellas and sunglasses.

At your orientation meeting, your introduction to life at this college includes a long section on modesty and exactly what you can and cannot wear. It’s nothing you haven’t heard all of your life. In your shared closet, you have modest sweaters and one piece bathing suits and dresses that go at least to your fingertips.

But the whole thing has a new air about it now, and the hall is cloudy with the smell of gardenia body lotion and competition. There are many more women than men walking this campus, and there is this unspoken expectation that whatever else you leave here with in four years, you should at least have managed to get yourself an MRS degree.

(Continue reading here.) 

For the One Attending a Christian College [repost]

The boys and I have been in Chicago for a week now, waist-deep in preparations for the wedding of one of my best friends from high school days. It’s wonderful and exhausting. We are all a little tired and a little out of our routine; there is not much time for writing.

So in honor of college classes starting this week, I’m reposting this open letter I wrote to students attending Christian College. It’s that time of year, after all. School supplies and just the hint of something brisk on the air and new jeans and anticipation. For the one headed off in your first car, laundry basket and mini-fridge in the back…(and for the one who still feels like a little like she’s eighteen even though she’s not)…this one’s for you.

The first thing I want to tell you is this: it is not what you are expecting it to be.

I know about the glossy ads: campus lawns meticulously maintained so that they almost look like the “green pastures” of the 23rd Psalm, like you could lie down here and rest. A few feet away, unshaven college boys throw Frisbees lazily back and forth in the afternoon sun. I know.

Perhaps that four years of high school was a little unkind to you, and you are just looking for a place where you can belong. Or maybe you are filled to the top of your soul, high off all the leaving, looking forward, full of hope.

You are thinking “Christian College” and it looks like two thousand students lit like candles from the inside, glowing in the darkness. Instant friendship and up-all-night conversations over coffee and Krispy Kremes. It looks like safety. It seems like it would be so simple.

Here is the truth. Here is the paradox:

Where Christians gather there is love, wild and full of grace. And. Where Christians gather, there is pettiness. Gossip. Pain. Hate.

They are, after all, just people in the end. Young, like you, on their own for the first time. Making all their big mistakes, trying to figure out who they are. It will look like hypocrisy at times. It will make you double back. There will be a moment when it makes you rethink this whole Jesus thing.

At some point, the scripture-themed hall decorations will start to feel gaudy and cliché, the Bible you carry for class will begin to feel heavy against your back. There’s a good chance that someone will write a judgmental Bible verse on your whiteboard or use a spiritual phrase to insult you. This is part of it.

There will be pressure to find “the one” and envy and mockery if you do. The rules you agreed to when you sent in your paperwork will tighten around your neck; you’ll tire of all this theological discussion. (Premillenialism, predestination, a verse for everything, a test on Friday.)

This is what it means to grow up: to jump bravely into your imagined future and come down hard on the unyielding ground. You will find yourself a little broken, a little sad, a little lonely. And that’s just part of it.

The second thing I want to tell you is this: don’t give up.

You will feel yourself at a fork in the road at your Christian college: perform or disappear. Prove that your faith is strong, or despair. Choose neither of these. Choose stillness. Chose love.

Don’t be afraid of darkness. It will come, even in this place that promises Light. Question. Doubt. Discuss. Do not accept easy answers here or give into the party lines. Push toward the hard edges of your pain. Be as honest as you know how to be.

Eat cold pizza and stay out past curfew and venture downtown. Make friends from outside this place; find them at hole-in-the-wall coffee shops with live music. Listen to their stories. I mean really listen.

Find a few people from your hall or your English class that get you. Just a few. Don’t worry if it’s not your roommates, if you don’t like your roommates, if your roommates don’t like you.

Breathe deep breaths in the cold night air. Jump into the lake in the middle of winter. Feel your skin burst into flame as it touches the water. Know that God is here, and you, you are alive.

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