To What Extent Should a Christian Participate in Halloween?

download  Exactly 10 days from now, children will be lining up at doorsteps yelling “trick or treat” dressed as ghouls, witches, pumpkins, and ghosts.  Houses will be open to shower anyone from toddlers to preteens with crunchy caramels, succulent chocolates, and those fake cigarettes I always thought tasted exactly like chalk.  Meanwhile, some more conservative and evangelical churches will be hosting “fall parties” – a fun, family friendly alternative to what they believe to be “devilish worship.”  Some crazy Americans from the Bible belt, will even be setting up “hell houses” which function as haunted sheds to show children the horrors of what they are about to enter into.  But how exactly is a Christian parent to go about this holiday?  Should we be banning our children entirely from these “evil acts” or is trick-or-treating nothing more than just a fun way to gather candy once a year?  Is it possibly even an opportunity for outreach and evangelism?  Although the choice ultimately belongs to you and your family or church community, let me briefly highlight some of the advantages and disadvantages for participating in this festivity.

10733471_920822647945007_3633583875742230462_oOption #1: Ban Halloween All Together

I will admit to a certain level of discomfort this year when I was assigned to help plan and organize the annual Halloween party at L’Arche.  L’Arche is a Christian intentional community.  We have weekly chapels, daily prayers, and something akin to spiritual direction which we call accompaniment.  I have been in L’Arche now for over 3 years and consider it to be my current full-time vocational ministry.  Yet, for some reason, every L’Arche community I have been involved in still considers Halloween a pivotal moment for sharing life together.  At first, this did not bother me so much.  I have seen the true looks of joy on core member’s* faces when they dress up and take part in various activities like bobbing for apples or pulling along a doughnut on a string.  Yet, this past year, I’ve been doing quite a bit of soul searching.  It all began with my harmless theological venture into reading Harry Potter.  You see, I grew up in a fairly conservative Christian family, so I wasn’t allowed to read books about witchcraft and wizardry.  Since then I have heard various opinions on the matter from Christian families completely banning these books to encouraging their kids to read them for the sake of literary pursuits.  Since I am not one to form an opinion without my research, I decided to dissect these books for myself.  Not only did I read all 7 books (the 8th wasn’t out yet), but I also read theological treaties on both sides of the debate, spoke with a number of parents and Christian educators, and eventually came to the conclusion that I would allow my own children to read these books “with reservations.”  (You can read that blog post here:  Meanwhile, although I did thoroughly enjoy the Potter series and believe J.K. Rowling to be a literary genius, I began understanding more about the impact that dark magic can have on young, impressionable minds.  What for me might have seemed like harmless fun due to my Christian maturity, might cause a younger person to stumble and become confused between what is real and what is imaginary.  Furthermore, it is a known fact that children often do experience spiritual warfare at a higher level than many adults do, yet lack the ability or the tools they need to help combat the devil.  I am not saying that Harry Potter or Halloween in and of themselves are evil incarnate, because I do not believe that is the case.  However, I will state that these moments can easily become opportunities and gateways for Satan to lead others astray if we are not on guard and not keeping a watchful eye out for those entrusted into our care.

This blog will not be going so much into the history of Halloween itself nor will it be going on a theological tirade stating upfront all the Biblical verses opposed to sorcery, witchcraft, and the occult.  I am going off of the understanding that you hopefully have that broad base of knowledge, and if you don’t, there are plenty of resources which can enlighten you on these matters.  However, any serious student of theology (and anyone who has read the Bible for that matter) can tell you that all of the times magic is mentioned in Scripture it is always done with negative connotations and not positive ones.

So, what do we do about this?  Well, I did go ahead and help plan the event, although I was feeling uneasy the entire time.  I am not sure I had much of a choice in that matter as it was expected of me, though I suppose I could have gotten off on religious grounds.  In a way, I am still looking forward to how the event will unfold, though I am rather unsettled about it.  Being a Christian means being “in this world, but not of this world.” (  That can be incredibly challenging.  Your children might want to go out trick-or-treating, but is that really what is best for them and their spiritual state?  Personally, I believe that having a church gathering perhaps not on Halloween itself, but around that time, with fun, safe, games and activities, and perhaps even costumes (not of the overtly sexual or gruesome kind) might actually be a better option.  There’s nothing wrong with indulging in a day of chocolates and candy, but there are better ways to do it than dressing as a diva, skanky stripper, or vampire.  You can still engage in many of your favourite games, but it will be in a controlled environment where you know exactly what is going into your children’s minds and can more easily monitor the spiritual effects of what they will be exposed to.

halloween-party-ideas-a-christian-response-to-halloween-7-638Option #2: Use Halloween As An Outreach

If you are not such a fan of keeping the more strict and conservative viewpoint on Halloween, another option would be to use Halloween as an evangelistic tool.  This would speak more for those coming to your doorstep than those going out, but there are a number of evangelical tracts that explain the Gospel message in a fun, friendly way to children at your doorstep.  They often use colourful pictures and discuss the need for salvation.  One in particular even talks about how God cleans out our insides in much the same way as we gut out a pumpkin when we are making a jack-o-lantern.  On the back, you can even include information for your church or your own phone number if the person wants more information.  Although we have no guarantee who will read these tracks nor do we know exactly what will come out of it, at least you can be re-assured that at a minimum a seed was planted.

If you are a Christian parent who will be taking your child out this Halloween, instead of completely discouraging you from your plans, let me just make a request.  Talk to your child before going out.  Not just about trick-or-treating manners, but if they are old enough to understand, about the origins of Halloween.  Don’t do it in a scary way, but prepare them for what will await.  You may even find it appropriate to pray with your child ahead of time.  Remember, while your kids are still young, you are the one who is setting the tone and pace for their spiritual journey.  It’s important for them not to fear the darkness, but it is also vital to expose them to the light.

screen-shot-2015-10-26-at-12-55-23-pm-620x481 Option #3: Halloween as Social Justice

Lastly, there are many other considerations beyond the whole black magic debate that surround Halloween.  One of them is the issue of fair trade and the exploitation of child workers in the chocolate industry.  Although no one is perfect and most of us still eat cheap chocolates, it is something to think about.  Whether you are having an in-house fall festival at your church or you are giving out candy to trick-or-treaters, think about whether there may be better alternatives.  I’m not saying go and buy a whole bunch of full sized Green & Blacks bars if you really can’t afford that, but there may be other options.  Perhaps you can consider small mini-bars which are often no more than 25 cents a piece, or you could give out small comic books, dimes or nickels, or non-chocolate alternatives that don’t have as much baggage or history.  If you’re planning an event, it might also be nice to think about whether anyone coming might have a food allergy and be able to provide something unique and special to them.
Regardless of where you stand on the Halloween issue itself, I hope this blog will give you a few things to consider.  If you are staying in, don’t be a grouch to those going out – pray for safety on the roads.  If you are going out, be kind and courteous and give a great big thank you to all those who are showering you with goodies.  And if you are undecided, take a few moments to ponder and pray, asking God what His will is for you during this season.  In all things, remember to be an Ambassador for Him whether trick-or-treating, carving a pumpkin, or planning a fall fair.

*Core Members: A term L’Arche uses to describe individuals who live in our communities who have a developmental disabilities

** For a resource on which chocolate companies in particular to avoid, please see this website:

Finding Mrs. Right

wpid-img_20150615_191711  Read Romans 2… the whole thing, but pay particular attention to these verses:

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.  Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.  So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:1-4)

Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?  You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Romans 2:17-24)

Contrary to popular belief, this blog is not about gay rights.  Instead, I’d like to make an outrageous claim: are you currently looking for Mr. Right?  Stop!  Don’t go any further, instead start looking for Mrs. Right.

Recently I was Skyping with my spiritual director when our conversation turned to an area of my life I’ve been giving a lot of thought to.  Sometimes we give off the appearance of growth despite the fact that we aren’t really growing.  Here’s what I mean:

Lots of girls out there want to find the man of their dreams.  They pray about their future husband and they actively search for him.  Many girls have this longing to be romanced, but not by any ordinary guy – an extraordinary prince who will sweep her off her feet.  There are many wonderful Christian and secular books out there about how to find and keep a guy, how to have a good marriage, and what boundaries within dating look like.  However, there are not nearly enough books or articles out there about finding Mrs. Right.  Because, you see, before God can bring Mr. Right into your life, He first needs you to become Mrs. Right – a woman after His own heart.  Just like you want to date a man not a boy, so God wants you to passionately romance Him as a fully mature woman, not a little girl.

You see, so often as women we fall prey to high expectations.  We assume our man should fit a long list of criteria: he should be Godly.  Are you Godly?  He should be a man of prayer and the Word.  Are you a woman of prayer and do you engage in Scripture reading on a daily basis?  He should be involved in church.  Are you not only going to church, but actively seeking ways to be part of the church and to do outreach to others?  He should be kind, loving, and patient.  What’s your attitude level like – how do you respond when someone asks you to do a task you think is “beneath you”?  He should be a family man.  How are you handling the family God has already given you (NOT the family that is hopefully to come – not thinking about raising your future kids, but the family you have right now.  How are you doing with honouring and respecting your parents?  How are you doing with keeping your brothers and sisters in prayer?)  He should be totally in love with us.  Are you self-centered or other centered – do you always need to be the centre of attention or can you step outside long enough to allow someone else to enjoy the limelight?

This past week, there was a young man who was pursuing me quite intensely.  He seems to be a wonderful man, although not my type so I broke it off.  He did all the things you’re supposed to do when you pursue a girl – ask her for a date, ask for her number, and try to get to know her.  However, just like so many others guys out there he thought he knew me a whole lot better than he really did a whole lot sooner than he really should have.  Within the first week of his pursuit, he already began calling me intimate names like “honey” and “sweetheart” and all I was tempted to say was “honey, you ain’t hardly know me!”

When you’re in that position, it’s easy to become frustrated or flustered, however, we do this to God on a quite regular basis.  When we’re with others we may refer to God on very intimate terms – we may give off the appearance that we and God are close.  We may talk about our personal spiritual lives as if there’s really something there.  Then when the door is closed and the lights are off, we realize how much we really don’t know Him.  I have done this many times myself so I write this post without judgement.  In the past, people thought I was super spiritual because I was involved in church, serving as a pastor, writing up Christian blogs, and attending seminary.  I would always post Christian messages, theological rants, or Bible verses on my Facebook wall, but in reality, I was not engaging nearly enough with prayer or Scripture reading.  I knew God on the superficial level – I could tell you a few of His likes and dislikes and a few attributes of His characteristics, but I didn’t really KNOW God in that intimate sense – the way a husband knows his wife.  I spent time with God the way you would a casual acquaintance – sure God, I have 30 minutes to spare for a casual lunch with You, not the way a girlfriend pursues time with her boyfriend where she simply can’t get enough of it.  God and I had fallen into a routine – not the excitement of getting to know one another in different settings and with different types of people.  I was essentially calling God “Honey” when He was probably thinking “Honey, you ain’t barely know Me!  I’d love to romance you even more, I’d love to take you on a date, I’d love to really get to know you and have you really get to know Me.  But you’re not willing.  Where’s that hot, blazing inferno of love you had when we first started this relationship?  Why is it now replaced by cold, hard indifference?  Did I do something wrong?  Why can’t you feel like you can talk to me?  Why did I have to find out that you were going on that shopping date from your best friend – you never even mentioned that when you rushed off this morning without saying goodbye.”

See, lots of us WANT a relationship with God – we WANT that sense of closeness and connection, but few of us are really willing to put in the work it will take.  When a man and a woman get to know each other, it takes time.  For the most part, unless you’re having an arranged marriage, you don’t consent to marry that guy the minute you meet him.  You need to know about him first.  You’re willing to put in the hard work of pursuing love even if you might lose everything in the end.  You’re willing to make a fool of yourself to let him know where you stand.  But oftentimes with God, we don’t pursue Him with that same level of holy intensity and reverent foolishness. We’d rather talk to a colleague who barely knows us, than have an intimate moment with Him.

Sometimes we look at our friends and we think “wow, that person is so Godly.  I wish I could have a relationship with God the way they do.  I wish I could pursue God just as passionately.”  You know why that person is close to God?  Because they took the time to really get to know Him.  They asked His opinion on everything.  Nothing was too trivial or too foolish to bring before Him.  They read the Bible, yes, but it wasn’t just a five minutes and I’m outta here type of deal, they read and re-read His message as a love letter.  The way you would hold on tightly to a love letter from a lover abroad who you only hear from once a month because it takes too long to get the message.  They prayed the way a woman talks to her husband when he’s abroad – holding on to every word and every moment because each call is precious and expensive.  If you’re not willing to put in even half of that effort, then I’m sorry, but Honey, you will barely ever know Him.

Becoming Mrs. Right means thinking about the kind of person you want your husband to be for you and then working on ways to become that type of wife to him.  It means self-improvement, but more than that, it means God-improvement.  Before you start even looking for that man, start looking within yourself.  Notice there are things you need to work on first, and only then, God in His perfect timing will bring the right person along.  The type of person where you can truly say “Honey, I REALLY know you” and mean it.  Grace and light for your journey.


In Times of Plenty and Times of Want

seven-cows  Key Text: Genesis 41 (

If I were to start one of those online campaigns, I would call it #rawhonesty.  There’s just something about being vulnerable, being open, and being willing to share that shows our common humanity.  There’s something about being truthful in the most painful and difficult sense of the word that somehow draws others to us and makes us more approachable.  So here it is: some #rawhonesty from your fellow MennoNerd.

Chances are, you’ve probably read some of my writing on depression…you probably just didn’t know it was me.  I’ve actually written quite a few magazine articles and blog posts for outside organizations, usually under a pseudonym in order to protect my identity.  It is a sad reality, but we, in the church, still see these struggles as something akin to not lining up with our full potential in Christ.  Quite unfortunate if you ask me since Scripture itself suggests that many of the great spiritual leaders (including David, Elijah, and Jeremiah…perhaps even Jesus) struggled with these types of intense, unpleasant emotions.  But now I am stepping out, trying to change that.  Let me be totally frank for a moment: [my mother doesn’t like when I use this word, but it’s the best word to sum up my thoughts at this present time] Life just sucks right now.

In my attempt to live into #rawhonesty, let me elaborate further.  I had no idea how hard it would be to reintegrate back into Canadian culture after a year abroad.  I’ve shared this before in a few other blogs, but I basically went from having the life of my dreams to having a life I never chose.  You see, I CHOSE to go to Edinburgh, Scotland.  I CHOSE to live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  I CHOSE to be part of a life-giving community.  I CHOSE to be part of an international students group and to open my heart to wonderful friendships.  I CHOSE, I CHOSE, I CHOSE and God provided.  When I think back to my year in Scotland, there is honestly not a single thing I would change because even though living abroad is challenging, for me, it was where I truly learned how to soar.  Now I have found myself in a place which I never would have considered.  I didn’t CHOOSE to live in the bush, to be away from civilization, or to be cut off from my need for church involvement…it simply happened because, I, like so many other Canadians out there needed a job and the job didn’t show up when I needed it.  So here I am.  I’ve been trying to make the most of my situation, to look for the positives, and even to believe that there is a reason God called me here….but I have to admit (sorry, Mom, I’m going to use that word again): It still sucks.

This is the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend – a 3 day break right in the beginning of October to mark the abundance of our harvest, the beauty of our land, and the faithfulness of our God.  I know I should be thankful – I’ve spent the last few days trying to compile a list in order to change my perspective. But instead all I can ask is this question: “how can I sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”  There’s much to be grateful for: a brilliant blanket of stars each night, soaring hawks and eagles, fish jumping out of the water, and the fall colours.  Instead I find myself griping over bad Skype connections, unstable internet, and faulty phone lines.  To make matters worse, my distance has caused me to miss one of my closest friend’s weddings…a terrible weight that will likely cause me remorse and guilt for quite some time.  This is compounded by the fact that I missed the wedding while also being somewhere I don’t want to be.

Nevertheless, although I cannot manufacture happiness (nor do I think that’s what God is calling me to do), there is still a key lesson to learn in this trial and it all goes back to Genesis 41.  You see in this passage, Pharaoh had a dream about some fat cows and some skinny ones.  Joseph, the master dream teller, suggested that his vision portrayed 7 years of plenty, followed by 7 years of want.  The key warning was to take those 7 years of great abundance and to store up a reserve so that during those long years of famine, people would not be left in want.  They would lack nothing.

I believe that this is the same in our own lives.  We all go through joyous moments where God is our very being and where everything is going the way we hoped, and then we plummet down into the depths and we are face-to-face with our own doubts, fears, and nagging worries.  But, if we’re strong in the Word, we know there is still something for us to receive.

Prior to my time in the bush, I was really growing in leaps and bounds spiritually.  I’ve alluded to this in a previous blog, but before Scotland, my theology was largely wrapped up in my head.  That’s not necessarily a negative thing, but it’s definitely something most theologians have found.  We are so used to source criticism and contextualization that we often forget how to make the Bible accessible to us and those closest to us.  God becomes a foreign concept rather than an intimate personal encounter.  Christ because a theological construct rather than our Lord and Saviour.  That’s why Edinburgh was such a breath of fresh air for me.  It was just that boost I needed and provided just that source of growth that is so imperative.  I had all that head knowledge, which is a great place to start, but it begin to trickle down into my heart and really change and affect the way I thought about and related to others.  While tightly holding on to my academic head, I also began exploring my pastoral heart.  Due to my many years in Bible College and Seminary, I feel like one year was probably all I really needed to get my priorities straight, especially since I wasn’t starting from scratch.  On the other hand, moving from such a close-knit group to relative isolation has been most tricky.  Yet, a wise person will realize that they can take those vital lessons they learned, which they now hold in their reserve, and use them to supplement their faith during times when it might need to be stretched out.  Of course, we should always keep feeding our souls through worship, prayer, and Scripture…but sometimes when those things are not as readily accessible to us, we may need to jolt our minds back to remembering what we were taught in the past, what we have seen with our eyes, and experienced with our hearts.  If we aren’t able to do that, we’ll constantly just be running on empty fuel.

Maybe you are also in a time like this.  You might be wondering where God is and what His purpose is for bringing you into such a trying time.  The truth is, we often don’t know…at least right away.  Sometimes God makes it clear, other times, we might not realize until 6 months, 1 year, or 10 years down the line.  Often, we might never know this side of heaven.  However, we must continue to trust that there is a reason for all we struggle with, even if only to produce character and hope.  Of course, I’m not saying our trials are easy, nor am I using this common thought as an excuse to avoid the deep spiritual work that must take place.  All I urge you is to remember those reserves when you’re about to give up.  Remember that there’s still food somewhere, and then don’t be afraid to break in and use it – because that’s what you’ve saved it up for all these years.

This Thanksgiving, I really want to encourage you all: dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness, find reasons to be thankful even when life just sucks, and practice good stewardship of those reserves.  I wish you all God’s richest blessings regardless of where you may be over this long holiday weekend.

What?!?! No Baby?!? Things to Keep in Mind When Helping Someone Through a Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome

download   There is an internal drive within most women to create, foster, and nourish life for themselves.  Deep within a woman’s experience lies her intense desire to co-create with God, to settle down and “nest” and to be identified as a mother.  For many, this begins as early as childhood.  I have had a significant amount of experience working with children of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, and cultures.  I have worked with city kids and rural kids, kids from big families and only children, and I have found a common thread among many of them.  Without any direction on my part, giving the preschool children a chance to have free play, boys will naturally gravitate towards tools and sports equipment and girls tend to “play house” or with dolls or stuffed animals.  There are, of course, exceptions to the norm, and plenty of argumentation that this is only the case because of cultural expectations, however, I do not believe this is necessarily true.  I believe this is because there is something that stirs in a woman’s heart almost right from the moment of conception that enables her to want to be a mother.  This is also why even women who never marry or have children, often still have an internal sense of how to respond when a baby is present.  Our eyes light up, our voices change, we become so excited, and we want to hold and cuddle that young child even though he or she might be a complete stranger to us.  On the other hand, while there are some men who would feel and react in the same way, I have more often than not met clueless men than clueless women when it comes to childcare.

Nevertheless, it is an insanely unfair reality that for whatever reason God, the very One who created us with this passion and drive for motherhood, withholds or even revokes that very life we so desired to create.  While I cannot express in words the deep pain, anguish, and aggravation this causes not only to potential mothers but to their partners and wider families, I want each of you to know that I grieve with you.  October 15th is the named Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Day.  It may only be one day for many of us, but for others of us, the loss of a child continues on long after this day ends.  Thus, although I cannot offer a profound method for overcoming this terrible trauma, I would like to highlight a few things I have learned over the years through my studies, and through my own experience walking alongside those who have lost their children to provide some ways for you to begin to understand some helpful ways to encourage dialogue and to promote healing and hurt rather than to shut down someone’s vulnerability.

#1: Losing a child is one of the most horrific acts anyone can experience.  It is a theft of life, a complete shattering of one’s expectations, and a re-altering of one’s perception of what is good and fair in the world.  Being able to open up about this experience takes a profound amount of courage, intimacy and trust, and being able to walk with someone through it requires careful attention, integrity, and compassion.

Losing a child at any age is a painful reminder of all that could have been, but that no longer will be.  It does not matter at what stage the child passed away – whether he was 6 years old, 6 months old, or 6 months in utero.  Losing a child is one of the most profoundly spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically altering experiences anyone can face and experts in the field classify the emotional impact as having the same results as being diagnosed with a terminal illness or being raped (although most mothers would say they would rather have taken on a physical illness themselves than have anything happen to their precious little one).  But, of course, while experts can often be helpful, the truth is, the majority of them have never had to live through such trauma themselves.  Each person decides for herself what she is comfortable sharing with and with whom.  There is often pressure to share with certain people for example parents, the father of the child, or clergy, but each woman gets to decide for herself the key people that would really benefit her to walk with.  Sometimes you may meet a woman who is so closed that she doesn’t tell this secret to anyone, at other times you may meet a woman who is so open she relates her pain even to those who do not know her well.  I urge you in either case not to make a judgement.  Do not think of the woman who is closed as being too secretive or private – perhaps it is fear that keeps her locked in.  On the other hand ,resist the temptation to accuse an open woman as being vulnerable in her attempt to “exploit” others or simply to look for sympathy.  Many women actually find it to be a great source of encouragement, comfort, healing, and even therapy to relate their experiences.  While you may have heard the story before or it may seem that she is going around in circles or constantly repeating herself, it’s important not to make snap comments about circular arguments or stating that you already know what she’s going to share.  Remember, each time the trauma is relayed in a relaxed, loving environment the pain lessens.  It’s important not to retraumatize the woman by asking her trivial questions about her pregnancy or loss simply out of curiosity.  On the other hand, be respectful of her story and understand that while you may not want to hear about it anymore, it is helping her and as her true friend this is a sacrifice you should be willing to make.

#2: Avoid judgements at all costs.

We often assume that we know people much better than we do, but when it comes to topics as sensitive as abortion, miscarriage, and loss of life, we should avoid such rash decision making and without our preconceived ideas of who the person is.

For example, if one of your friends makes a comment about miscarriage, do not right away step in by remarking “you have no idea what it’s like.”  Do you know that for a fact, 100%? It could be that this person actually has lived through the horror of this reality, but maybe they have never shared that with you before.

You may assume that the person in question hasn’t lived through this for reasons such as: they already have a 5 kids, they are a “good little church girl” and thus never would have gotten involved in something like that, they were not in an official relationship during the time they are claiming they were pregnant, or you have known them throughout your life and surely if that was the case, they would have opened up and told you.  None of these are good reasons for making such a bold assumption.

Especially when it comes to being a “good little church girl” you may assume that the person would never have considered premarital sex.  However, this is an entirely unfair statement to make.  First of all, even Christians struggle with the same passionate desires non-Christians do.  Maybe in a moment of weakness they gave in and felt terrible about it afterwards.  Maybe it is exactly because of that strong faith and their commitment to purity before marriage that they still hold guilt and regret years later.  It may sound crazy to an outsider, but church kids actually statistically have a higher rate of abortions because they are trying to hide their “sin.”  Sometimes they may even wrongfully blame themselves for the miscarriage because they believe it was God’s way of judging them for something they should never have done.

Conversely, a woman may only give you half the story in order to protect herself.  For example, I know a young woman very well who was the unfortunate recipient of a sexual assault which resulted in her pregnancy.  This woman lost her baby fairly early on, and has not told many people about it.  However, when she has occasionally opened up, she often classifies this solely as a miscarriage.  Although what happened was entirely not her fault, she still blames herself because of the double stigma she faces (not only the stigma of losing a child, but also of being raped) she would much rather just have people assume she intentionally had pre-marital sex than let them know the truth.  Therefore, it is important not only for church leaders, but for all Christians to not make judgement calls about a person’s pregnancy.  Resist any urge to point out the “sin” in someone’s life because we simply don’t know the full picture.

It is fine if someone is making a comment you disagree with related to pregnancy or infant loss to question it or even to word your response by saying “I’m not sure whether you or someone very close to you has lived through this, but…”  However, NEVER assume the person’s life hasn’t been touched or altered by this reality in some way.

#3: Encourage meaningful dialogue

The Western culture often believes things need to be a certain way and when they aren’t we try to hide from them.  For example, young people aren’t supposed to die, so we engage in the cult of youth and believe we are immortal.  Babies are supposed to grow up, be healthy, and lead productive lives as citizens of our fine country, so when a baby passes away we right away get our defense mechanisms up because we don’t want to admit that it could happen to us too.

Sometimes because of our own lack of understanding, our inability to wrap our minds around the tragedy, or our own uncomfortableness, we avoid the topic altogether.  However, what I have found is that most women actually heal quicker when they are given the space to be free to express their thoughts and emotions rather than when culture tells them to repress it.  If your friend is grieving but you personally have never experienced such a profound loss, it is entirely fair to tell your friend you don’t really know what to think or how to react.  However, it is even more important just to be there, to let her rant and rave if that’s what she wants to do, and to hold her and support her as she cries.  Avoid proof-texting and throwing Bible verses at her.  Don’t tell her everything’s going to be okay, because chances are it’s not.  Don’t remind her that she’s young and will have another opportunity to get pregnant because that child she lost is a unique one to her.  She may never have known him, but he still will always be a part of her.  Even if she has 7 other kids, that child she lost would have been completely different from the other 7.  Don’t encourage her to simply forget about her loss and move on with life focusing on her career or even trying to pursue adoption.  Life continues on with or without that child she carried in her womb, but so does the loss.  It may have happened 3, 4, or even 15 years ago.  You might think it no longer affects her, but on the child’s birthday it may still hit her full force.  She may go days without thinking about him, and then all of a sudden become an emotional wreck seemingly out of nowhere.  Don’t judge, don’t rush along the healing process because it is, after all, a process.

It is a terrible fact, but the majority of us will experience our lives being rocked by infant loss at one time or another.  It may not be our own loss (and I sincerely pray God will shield you of such a burden), but it might be a friend or family member’s loss or the loss of a child within our congregation.  Infant loss happens more frequently than we realize because of our cultural taboos which suppress our voices on the issue.  However, I urge you to become aware of people who may be experiencing this sad reality and to learn how to truly make your journey together.  It is indeed a privilege to be able to walk with someone through such a season of grief, but it also comes with a large amount of personal responsibility.  Books, DVDs, conferences, and other resources are helpful, but they only get you so far.  They make generalizations which are better than nothing, but they do not prepare you for the reality of actually having a friend or colleague open up in such a vulnerable way.  I pray that when such an experience arises, you may be able to hold their story gently, and to walk with them even when the road is rough and steep. images

 Post-Script: For purposes of this blog, I have stuck to the experience of the woman, however, it is also important to note the emotional, spiritual, and psychological impacts infant loss has the the father.  Both genders are affected when a child passes away and it is important to remember that. 

Also, the scope of this blog has looked at infant loss including miscarriage and abortion, however, it is important to note that there are many other complications related to both in different ways which I unfortunately did not have time to engage in.  Hopefully in another blog I may be able to pick up a bit more on the abortion piece and how this reality rocks a Christian’s worldview and how hope and healing is still possible even amidst great remorse and pain.  


Making a Case for The Message

16675_large  Two months ago, I decided to do something radical: I began using Eugene Peterson’s The Message as the basis for my daily devotionals.  At first I referred to this practice as “my daily dose of heresy” in a rather tongue-and-cheek type of way; however, now this particular interpretation has not only grown on me, but has become an incredible source of wisdom, insight, and spiritual nourishment.

Prior to reading The Message myself, I often faced a certain resistance towards the text.  Being a Biblical Scholar and fairly familiar with the ancient languages, I felt that Peterson’s work was highly lacking in Scriptural accuracy.  Additionally, many of my more Conservative friends were highly opposed to Peterson’s attempts to modernize and “jazz up” Scriptures.  However, the most profoundly immature response I have ever experienced towards Peterson or his writing happened at my university.  I remember in my second year, Tyndale decided to host Peterson for a conference.  Since it was during the student reading days, a few friends and I decided to spend the day in downtown Toronto at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM).  Around 4pm, after a long day of sightseeing and eating delicious food, and right before the traffic got bad, we were walking back to campus, when we noticed some police cars out.  By that point, the riot had died down, but we were informed to go directly to our dorm rooms and not stand around and gawk.  Later that evening, we were told that some KJV only protesters were threatening Peterson, holding picket-signs suggesting he was the “Antichrist” and even jumping on the cars of those coming to hear his lecture.  Although I do realize that these crazy kooks are in the minority and most conservatives (although they might not agree with Peterson’s writings) would never act so juvenilely, it still set the precedence for me about how his work is interpreted by many as an unacceptable or “second rate” option to the true Scriptures.  However, in this blog post, I’d like to make the argument that there is a reason to read The Message, in fact there is more than one.

#1: The Message: A Scripture for When Scriptures are Inaccessible

Recently, I was reading Eugene Peterson’s description of why he created The Message and what he hopes it will be to its readers.  What I was initially struck by was his honesty in stating that The Message is NOT the only Bible out there, but rather it is a book of preference.  Peterson essentially writes, “Some like to read the Bible in Elizabethan language.  Others prefer a fresher, more vibrant option.”  This is not to say that there is anything inherently wrong with reading Shakespearean writing.  Particularly with passages like the Psalms, the brilliant form of writing, the mechanics behind the grammatical structures, and the pastoral images the verses evoke are breath-taking and delightful.  Similarly, those in older generations who grew up with the KJV often may feel a sense of familiarity or comfort from reading that which brings them back to their first memories of Scripture.  On the other hand, there is a good case for saying that the KJV is out-dated, irrelevant, and as most Biblical scholars readily admit – not the most Scripturally accurate translation either.

When considering the needs of those around us – whether they may be a person with a disability, a youth, a young adult, or a child, whether they may be “un-churched” “semi-churched” or “re-churched” it seems clear to me that we need a different approach.  Trying to convince a young adult hipster who hasn’t gone to church since his christening, grew up in a nominal Christian family (if he could even call it that) and is only now trying to find his way back to the church to read a gigantic two thousand year old book will likely not only seem foreign, but even intimidating.  Especially if he does not have someone to help guide him while reading, he may easily give up on daunting chapters and outdated language.  Even though there are so many versions of the Bible out there, there is something quite unique to Peterson’s work.  Unlike other Bibles, his writing is clear and easy to read – even just in terms of the page layout.  You’ll often notice that when reading mainline Bibles, verses are disrupted right in the middle of sentences or key thoughts.  Actually, the idea of Bible verses would have been quite strange to the original interpreters as the ancient languages usually were written in a rather constant style with verses added later in order to more readily find a verse.  However, what I love about Peterson is that he divides his work into paragraphs.  This means that reading his work is more like reading a novel or a letter from God to us.  We don’t get so preoccupied with verses and chapters, but rather we can just read complete thoughts.

Another cool thing about Peterson’s writing is that he is a fairly dynamic and dramatic writer.  Reading his work still gives the inescapable flare of infallible Scripture, but it is done in a fun, light-hearted way.  Peterson also shows quite a high level of cultural sensitivity in his work without neglecting the core doctrines that Scripture provides.  One great example of this is when he writes about the role of women in the church.  Whereas, many other versions give the wrongful impression that women should have no leadership at all (which deviates significantly from the ancient languages), Peterson writes in a more open-minded way that presents the reader with the opportunity to form his or her own opinion while still looking at the socio-historical context.  Thus he softens the blow and encourages ownership from his readers while still continuing key themes in the Biblical narrative.

#2: The Message: A Scripture for the Weary Overly-Theological Soul

Those of you who are frequent viewers of this blog or who know me personally, know my story of how I gave up reading the Bible for 7 years (ironically, the length of time I was in Bible College and Seminary).  After graduating from seminary, I finally decided to try reading the Bible again, but I often felt unmotivated and resentful.  It’s not a matter of disbelief.  I still believed in God in the same way and interestingly I discovered my prayer life and my desire to be an active, evangelical Christian was increasing even while my desire to read Scripture decreased.  This may make me sound like an irresponsible Christian, but most of my problem lay in my inability to distance myself from my academic pursuit and to put on a more spiritual formation type of hat.  I once went on a Retreat in Daily Life where my spiritual director encouraged me to find other ways to tap into that more mystical side.  I tried all of them.  I tried listening to the Bible by audio, but I just got distracted.  I tried a variety of spiritual disciplines, but I still reverted back to Greek and Hebrew.  Eventually, I just gave up and put the Bible back on the shelf.

Fast forward to two months ago.  Since I started reading The Message my devotional life has greatly increased and even become a joy (instead of a burden) to me.  Reading Peterson’s work is like reading the Bible again for the very first time.  It’s given me a whole new spin – a completely different way to read all too familiar passages.  I have once again discovered the joy that new believers often face when they encounter the Bible for what it truly is.  I no longer dread my devotional times or simply see them as another box to check off on my to-do list, but rather I look forward to how I will be fed and nourished and in turn be able to nourish others.

Recently, I started spiritual direction with a good friend from Tyndale who is working on her MDiv.  In our last session I remarked that while I feel The Message is finally getting me back to a more regular rhythm of Scripture, I still am unsure about it because lots of my friends tell me it isn’t a true translation.  She wisely responded, “Well, you have the skills.  You have the education, you know what a good translation is and what it’s not.  Just remember: you’re doing your devotions for yourself not for anyone else.  If others disagree with your chosen method, that’s their business, but God knows your heart.  If it’s working for you, keep at it.”

If you’re longing for a Bible that doesn’t just engage your intellect, but also your heart – the seat of your emotions and that refuels the passion you once had but that has since gone stagnant, try reading The Message.  Open your heart up to the possibility that it can change your life, then see what happens.


#3: The Message: A Scripture for the Sin-Sick Yet Biblically-Bored Christian

Perhaps you are not a Bible-scholar and you don’t struggle with English or with reading, but you just feel bored and complacent: once again, try reading The MessageThe Message is perhaps the first Bible I have come across where reading Leviticus was mildly interesting (it was still rather bland, but much better than in several other translations I’ve read).  Peterson’s work often has a bit of a “punch” to it, and I love it not only because it’s poetic, but also because it’s practical and prophetic.  There is usually a message of what to DO in each passage.  When other Bibles bog you down with mere theology, this version has a bit of a “pop” a “pizazz.”  If you’re a worship leader or a preacher, consider reading a passage or two during a morning worship service and see if it add something to the congregation.  You may encounter some resistance, but more often than not I have found that what I was so hesitant to do at first has actually enhanced the overall feeling, ambience, or mood of those gathered.  Sometimes it even acts as a way to making church more accessible, welcoming, or engaging for visitors.  Just think how you would feel if you’ve never set foot in a church before and the pastor was reading from a Bible you could actually understand and get something from in modern 21st century English, rather than in something that sounded strangely like garbled up Latin.

#4: The Message: A Scriptural Supplement for the Actual Scriptures

Although I have found The Message to be a great addition to any theological bookshelf, it’s really only that: an addition.  Peterson himself did not intend for The Message to be the only Bible you ever read – he meant it as a supplement.  Unlike Word on the Street which clearly announces “this is a book, not a Bible,” The Message is classified as a Bible, but even then only really as a paraphrase.

When I studied preaching in university, we were taught to read at least 4 versions of Scripture in order to break-open the text and see what the Spirit was saying to us.  Among these 4 we often included: The KJV (since it’s the most readily accepted especially by elderly folk), a more common version that everyone is familiar with such as NIV or NASB, the Greek/Hebrew text (if you know the languages), and finally the Message (or a similar translation like the VOICE).  The reason we were told to read the Message is because it gives us a completely different feel, on the other hand, we would never be told just to break open the Message as a stand-alone option.

Here’s the way I see it, Eugene Peterson himself claims that the Message is NOT a study Bible, it’s a devotional Bible.  He doesn’t try to hide his intentions or make it out to be something it’s not.  Peterson actually is a brilliant language scholar himself – well versed in Biblical languages and his work reflects that careful analysis and painstaking labour of parsing verbs.  However, if you want to do an in-depth theological project or write a doctoral dissertation, The Message is not exactly what you’re after.  On the other hand, if you’re looking for a way to re-ignite your spirit, this might just be a great tool for you.

Eugene Peterson’s The Message is indeed a flawed translation written by a flawed man, but then again, if we were to be honest with ourselves, any translation is simply that – a translation.  If you speak more than one language fluently you know that it is nearly 100% impossible to give an absolutely direct interpretation of what the other person stated.  When words are transferred between languages, cultural idioms, figures of speech, mannerisms, and understandings we take for granted are almost certain to be lost (especially when the text is written).  Therefore, I’d urge you – please don’t dismiss The Message right away without even giving it a chance.  You may disagree with it after you’ve read it, and that’s fair.  But for now remember, God is using this Bible in many incredible ways especially to reach out to many people who would never have considered reading or owning a Bible before.  Be proud of the way God is moving and consider how you, too, can be part of this incredible Kingdom work.
You can read Peterson’s rationale for creating The Message here:

What’s a Christian to Do with Multi-Faith?

download   Coexist.  If you’re from the West, you will likely have seen this slogan adorning bumper stickers, pamphlets, t-shirts, key chains, and possibly even church sign boards.  If you’re in my generation (under 30s) you probably have also grown up hearing logic like this:

  • All religions are equal, there are many paths to God and our role is simply to respect and learn how to COEXIST with one another.
  • Truth is relative. What works for me, might not work for you, but we can still COEXIST, mutually loving one another even despite our apparent differences.
  • “The truth is one, the wise call it by many names.” (Hindu Expression)…Therefore the wise COEXIST with one another, whereas the unwise bicker and dispute.
  • Or in slightly more sophisticated language (in the words of Professor Ali Assani of Harvard University: “The divine purpose underlying human diversity is to foster knowledge and understanding, to promote harmony and co-operation among peoples. God did not create diversity to become a source of tensions, divisions, and polarizations in society.  Indeed, whether humans recognize it or not, human diversity is a sign of spiritual genius.” (  Therefore, COEXISTING is a sign of our increasing intelligence, maturity, and desire to learn with and from one another.  Whereas failure to COEXIST is a sign of close-mindedness, rigidity, and disrespect.

At the surface, this all sounds rather easy in a hippy sort of way.  Sure, let’s just get along, respecting one another, and seeing the value in the various viewpoints people espouse.  But is it really so simply to act out in our day to day living?

In the West, we are fast becoming more and more multicultural, multiethnic, and thus multi-religious.  Due to factors such as immigration, cross-cultural communication, and emigration of our own peoples, we are no longer a mono-religious society, nor will we likely be one ever again.  On any given day, I engage with and walk past people who identify as Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, New Ageist, spiritual but not religious, Agnostic, Atheistic, and those who do not yet identify as having a religion.  There are, of course, various levels to which these people practice their faiths from very strict and religious observers, to nominal church goers, to secular Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and to cultural devotees who do not agree with their religion’s core doctrines.  Furthermore, among the various people groups I encounter, there is a wide range of beliefs surrounding interfaith.  Some are more than happy to build friendships with people outside of their tradition whereas others prefer to keep connections only with those similar to themselves.  Some are interested in exploring other religions (possibly going to a temple, church, synagogue, or mosque despite it not being their tradition), and others warn against such “evils.”  Therefore, the possibility of interfaith dialogue is not always an apparent opportunity.

Yet, because of shifts in socio-cultural and religious understanding, it is important for us to become more aware of the differences and similarities other people groups bring to our country and our world.  Below I’d like to suggest a few key points for making interfaith dialogue more readily accessible to all:

  • Being Aware of Our Own Prejudices and Ideas

Let me begin by asking you a few simple questions: What makes someone a Christian?  A Jew?  A Muslim?  A Buddhist?  An Atheist?

Do you think it is more meaningful to belong to a certain religious group or can one also engage in a meaningful life by being spiritual but not religious, not identifying with any specific group, or even being an atheist?

Can someone who is an atheist still have a deeply spiritual life?
Think about your answers.  Where do they come from?  Did you yourself grow up in one particular tradition?  Who were the people you were exposed to from your earliest childhood memories?  How did your parents shape and inform your religious views and identities (or did they)?  Were your parents adamant that you follow one specific tradition, or did they allow for exploration, open-mindedness, and dialogue ultimately letting the decision fall on you?

There are no necessarily right or wrong answers to these questions, but being aware of how we would respond to them helps create a good basis for where our interest in multi-faith relations comes from.

Additionally, we need to be reminded of how our culture and church shapes our views of other religions.  For example, it is an unfortunate reality, but many children today are growing up with a rather Islamophobic understanding of the world because of news reports and media coverage about extremist groups such as ISIS or Hamas.  This attitude sadly even extends into some churches which may become saturated with Zionistic tendencies, even using unfair examples to portray what they believe to be End Time prophecies.  Whereas, someone who grew up in the WWII era in Europe would very likely have been exposed to Anti-Semitism.  Certain Americans (though certainly not all) may be exposed to white supremacy and come to wrongly associate white religious expressions as more valid than those that people of colour follow.

It is also important to note that within each religion there are a multitude of different opinions regarding gender roles, sexual identity, political viewpoints, dietary restrictions, and many other topics.  This is because each religion is internally diverse.  For example, in Christianity we see male headship, but we also see feminism.  We see Christian arguments for vegetarianism, but also arguments against.  We see Christian groups which do not readily seek converts (such as the Amish), and we see evangelical groups who believe in street and door-to-door evangelism.  In each of these cases, the people who make up the group are still Christian, are likely very sincere in their approaches and their faith, but also are extremely different from one another.

  • Understand the Reason For Your Dialogue

People engage in inter-faith dialogue for a variety of reasons and with many different motivations.  For some it is simply a means of seeking out evangelistic opportunities.  They may believe that by attending these groups or making friends with people outside of a different faith that they may be able to help the other person see the need to join their specific group.  This is especially true of many Evangelical Christians. At the very least, even if the person does not convert, they still look forward to at least sharing their own beliefs and stating their own opinions (check this out for more reasons people engage inter-faith:  The Bible certainly DOES encourage us to engage with people of other faiths, to go into the world and share and testify to our relationship with Christ, and to disciple one another, but it all depends on our motivation for doing so.  Creating friendships and building bridges with the intent of truly getting to know the other person, forming a loving relationship, and striving for peaceful conversations are all good reasons to do so.  Excessive arguing, shaming, belittling or even attacking the other person’s viewpoints are not a good way to go about it.  Instead, we should be open-minded, trying to find level-ground, and willing to learn from the other person.  If you’d like to read my experience of spending time with a Muslim colleague who has become a very dear friend to me over the years and how we maintain strong ties without letting our religious viewpoints get in the way, please read this article:

Furthermore, some people engage in inter-religious dialogue because they are interested in clarifying their own convictions or learning how to articulate them more clearly.  But the ultimate best reason to be part of the inter-faith movement is to break down barriers and grow in multiculturalism. 

  • Be Aware Of Your Religion’s Own Short-Comings

In his book, God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Rule the World, author Stephen Prothero explores how Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Confucianism, Yoruba Religion, Daoism and Atheism have all succeeded as well as failed at various points in their history.  Prothero also blogged about how it can be easy to display our religion’s best against the backdrop of another religion’s worst, but this is neither fair nor helpful (  Each religion has at times floundered and been re-routed from their original founder’s viewpoints and ideal.  Each religion has been responsible for great acts of social justice and human dignity, but also for wars, division, and disunity.  It is therefore a gross injustice to make sweeping generalizations like “all Muslims are extremists and terrorists” or “all Christians are welcoming, nice, and friendly.”  It may sound like common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many people do this (consciously or unconsciously).  Even though people might never say these words out loud, they might often think them in their head, which can be just as dangerous and destructive.  Protero also rightly notes how easy it is to justify our own religion’s misdeeds while not offering the same level of forgiveness to other people groups.  For example, we might say, “the Christians involved in the Holocaust were not true Christians.  True Christians love people and always do what is right because they are following Jesus.  The people who did such atrocious acts simply paid lip service to God without a change in their heart or soul.”  We then may turn around and make sweeping generalizations of other groups we deem to be violent or dangerous.  Instead, we should humbly ask forgiveness for the things our religion has done that has harmed others and take responsibility rather than shifting the blame onto another.

Professor Assani once again gives some good advice on this topic “for in the end, a struggle against the flaws of the ‘other’ is worthwhile only if it is coupled with a struggle against the flaws of one’s own tradition.” (

Dr. Shaye Cohen (director of Jewish studies at Harvard) gives a similar statement when warning against the proof-texting that so often accompanies these sorts of discussions: “We don’t take the Bible out and put our finger on the page and say, ‘you see, look what it says.’  To which my response is always, ‘yes, but what does it MEAN?’  You have to interpret it and you have to see what the interpreters have said and then we can talk about it.”

  • Learn All You Can About Other Religions

I recently completed a 6 month certificate course through Harvard University Online (HarvardX) called “World Religions Through Their Scriptures.”  This course has been an invaluable tool for me and has opened up my mind to all sorts of new possibilities.  Previously, I hardly knew anything about Hinduism or Buddhism, but now I am beginning to see how to have a much more fruitful dialogue with people in these faiths.  The certificate included courses on: Religious Literacy – Traditions and Scriptures, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism and was taught by a superb teaching staff including professors who practiced the religion themselves.  When I first started, I was nervous.  I actually thought I might struggle in my own faith because Harvard is a rather liberal and secular school, so I asked some of my Scottish friends to pray for me about it.  Instead of decreasing my faith, though, it actually had quite the opposite effect.  I constantly was making new discoveries into what I personally believed, was seeing more and more of a need for these types of dialogues to happen across religious boundaries and barriers, and oftentimes came to many spiritual encounters which only confirmed and strengthened my own faith.  I think this is the key to beginning these types of dialogues – we need to be willing to learn and grapple with as much of a different religion as we can.  We also need to be humble and ask people what they believe and think, we should not solely rely on our own experience, education, or opinions to guide us.  Even if we believe we are experts in a certain religion, we still need to realize that everyone will follow their beliefs and practice their faith in a slightly different way because each person’s experience is unique.  If you would like to learn more about this course, you can access all of the materials for free indefinitely at:   (You may also want to check out this site for more information:

So…what’s a Christian to do with Interfaith? It ends up a whole lot.  Our responsibility as believers in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is not to flee from challenge or to deny our rapidly changing and expanding world, but rather it is to engage and engage in love. In our quest to do Kingdom work, we are to find ways to share our faith with others, but also let them share their faith with us.  We are to dialogue rather than debate, to actively seek peace rather than to create hostility.  We are to promote unity within diversity rather than ignore the wars and strife that religions can sometimes create.  When we put forth this effort, when we share in a cross-cultural meal joining hearts and hands with those much different than ourselves, and when we truly believe that global harmony is possible – we are bringing about God’s Kingdom.  I’m not saying to lay aside evangelism completely, not at all.  I’m not saying to hide your faith, but I’m actually saying the opposite.  I’m saying: be bold in your declaration of the Gospel of Christ, share it freely, but do it in love.  Do it in service.  Do it with sensitivity and compassion.  Do it in the spirit of inter-faith. 

If you are interested in having a meaningful inter-faith dialogue here’s a great website that might aid you in your discussions:


These pictures represent just a small fraction of the books I have in my personal library on multi-faith.  It is fascinating to see the role religion plays in our daily lives: from children’s Bibles to Bible trivia to joke books.  It is also interesting to see how we can truly co-exist with one another.  Just like the books are each their own unique entity, but they live on the same book-shelf, we can do the same in our relationships with people of other faiths.  

Going Dark – My Experience of Being Off Facebook

stepsToTake_unplug  Those of you who read my first blog post: “God Rejoices Over You with Singing” ( will already have some idea of what I am going to be sharing in this post.

For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to peruse it, I will explain a bit here.  Basically, I deleted my Facebook for a short time because I needed to re-focus on my relationship with Christ with minimal distractions.  I realized that as amazing as Facebook can be, as helpful, as convenient, as fast, and efficient – it was causing me to stumble.  Or at least I thought it was.  I truly believed that limiting my exposure to so-called “triggering” events was somehow going to shape my internal image and remind me of my worth in Christ…but ultimately I learned that unless I was willing to put forth an effort in my spiritual life, it was a rather pointless exercise.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of good has come out of taking myself off Facebook.  For one, I was able to get quite a bit of writing done.  If you read my blogs, you will know that I published 9 blogs while offline and have several more scheduled for the near future.  I’m sure this has made my fellow MennoNerds very happy!  Not only have I had a the chance to increase my blogging presence, but I also had quite a few moments of quiet reflection and journaling on my own.  It also boosted my self-esteem somewhat to know that people missed my status updates and it was touching that my friends sent me text messages and emails to make sure everything was alright (thanks, guys!).  It also showed me how although it’s usually easiest to reach someone by Facebook, your real friends will find all sorts of ways to keep in touch.  Nevertheless, it also taught me a few other important lessons:

  • Like I mentioned in my previous blog, henceforth called “GROYWS” taking myself off Facebook didn’t necessarily give me any more free moments in my day, instead, my time-wasting efforts were just shifted into other tasks. CF: the fact that I added about 10 game apps to my phone when previously I had none.  However, I can at least justify this somewhat by saying that some of those apps have actually started developing some good habits in me (for example: I have a work-out game app and I am starting to learn Polish and Hungarian, and I have also been working on improving my French and have been surprised at how much I still remember from high school).  Nevertheless, I have to admit that playing Candy Crush and Panda Pop probably are not really all that much better than mindlessly scrolling Facebook in the end of the day.
  • In a moment of vulnerability, just like I mentioned in GROYWS, deleting my Facebook did not take away that gnawing sense of anxiety or that stifling fear of insecurity. I talked to a few of my really good friends during this whole process.  It wasn’t so much like “rehab therapy” because to be honest, I didn’t find I missed Facebook as much as I thought I would.  But it was more about getting to the core issue – the real reason Facebook was affecting me so much.  I mentioned to them, and I will share openly now, that getting rid of Facebook was really just like treating the symptoms without getting to the root cause.  But thankfully, it allowed me to at least start thinking about what the root cause was.  In this case, I realized that my insecurity didn’t just come from scrolling feeds, but it came from my inability to see myself the way Christ sees me.  It came from my lack of discipline in reading the Scriptures and in spending time in prayer asking God to form me and show me a healthier way of viewing myself.  To combat this problem, I’ve made a few changes in my life, which I can also recommend to you here:

* The only way you will ever get over your sense of insecurity or people-pleasing and stop worrying about how others view you is if you make the conscious decision to care more about Christ’s opinions than the world’s. And the only way you can learn what Christ actually thinks is if you spend time with Him and ask Him.  So that’s what I’ve been trying to do.  When I finally was able to tear myself away from any kind of screen, it gave me the ability to go out and actually spend some time praying in nature which is what I love best.  It was then that I learned how great God’s love for me (and for all of us) really is and that He really and truly does REJOICE OVER US WITH SINGING!  More practically, I’ve added a few apps to my phone which might also help you.  Once again, realizing that adding apps DOES admittedly cause me more “screen-time,” but also knowing that without my daily notifications and the fact that it’s on my phone anyways, I wouldn’t be doing it as much as I have.

I have one app called “Daughters of the King.”  Ladies, if you are struggling with the same types of issues I mentioned above: with low self-esteem, lack of self-worth, identity disorientation, or constant and chronic comparison syndrome, this is just the app for you.   Every day, I get to read a new short devotional that is especially geared at women.  It’s super encouraging and relevant, but it doesn’t read like one of those self-help books or like a motivational speech.  Instead, it’s deeply rooted in Biblical truths – it’s about adjusting our perception of ourselves.  Additionally, there’s another add-on to this app called “Who You Are in Christ” it’s 7 minutes of pure awesomeness!  I usually put it on and let it play right before bed letting these words of truth and wisdom seep over my soul to destroy the lies of the Evil One.  Once again, it is incredibly Biblically rooted, and in fact, is not so much of a sermon, but literally repeating verse and verse of words that God speaks directly into our situation.  Here’s a little excerpt from Who You Are in Christ that I find particularly helpful and that sums up my experience with this little app: “It is important that you know who you are in Christ.  If you are going to accomplish anything in the earth for God’s glory, it will first begin with you knowing who you are.  Be blessed as you listen to Scriptures from God’s Word that will give you clear understanding into your identity.”  If you’d like some more information on this app, you can check it out here: ***SEE BOTTOM OF POST***

I have also added the Bible to my phone.  This is something that the majority of my friends have done, but that admittedly I never thought of doing until just now.  You can add any Bible version of your choice, but I chose to add Eugene Peterson’s The Message to mine.  I know that The Message has long been fraught with controversy and to be honest, I am eventually planning to do a theological study on it (so that blog will be up in about a year or so), but The Message is not all bad.  If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I studied theology, so when I read most versions I all of a sudden go into some sort of “hyper-nerd” function.  With The Message I actually get the liberty of sitting back and letting the Gospel story unfold as a narrative.  I don’t have that same urge to contextualize everything or to go into some lengthy discussion about historical criticism.  Previously, I was really struggling with my Bible reading (a terrible, terrible admission to make as a pastor – I know!!) but reading a whole new version has really been helping me out in that regard.  So it definitely hasn’t all been bad.

  • Lastly, being off Facebook has caused me to re-think a lot of what I post online. Sure, I know that for the most part I try to post uplifting and helpful comments.  I try to stay away from all that vulgar rubbish – you know, sexual jokes, mean sayings, and crass language, but being off Facebook has made me think about many other “more innocent” things I have posted in recently weeks which quite frankly have basically been a waste of time.  It’s also made me think about what I subject my mind to.  Yes, I have many friends who post WONDERFUL things on their walls that are very helpful to me.  I enjoy reading Bible verses, testimonies, even (okay fine… I’ll be honest…ESPECIALLY) theological rants.  I enjoy seeing pictures of weddings, babies, and baptisms.  BUT I was also subjecting myself (consciously or unconsciously) to a number of other things that get posted up.  Stuff that my parents would probably cringe at or things I know my church (and God) wouldn’t approve of.  It’s not because I was intentionally going to seek that stuff out…it’s just that…well, it was on my newsfeed, I was scrolling down, and it hit me like a bombshell.  Things I thought I was long over, temptations I thought I was long past, were welling up in my soul.  I take full ownership and responsibility for that.  As a mature Christian, I shouldn’t have been at that juvenile stage in my faith walk, but at the same time, I realize what a blazing inferno such things can create.  Now that I’m back on, I realize that perhaps what I needed to do was hide some of those statuses all along.

Don’t get me wrong, Facebook is an absolutely wonderful innovation and I am so glad to be back on!  It’s going to be super helpful in connecting with my friends, getting caught up with family, and talking to people a world over.  It’s also a much more effective way of promoting my writing and blogs (but hey, if you missed any of them while I was away, feel free to scroll through Z&P, everything’s still here!).  But ultimately, it was good for me to take a break.  Submitting to the Lordship of Christ means being willing to make these kinds of sacrifices because in the end of the day, it’s going to make you a way better and stronger person.  I hope you all continue to enjoy Facebook for what it can be – that brilliant people-connector, community-builder, and spiritual initiator, but always keep this in the back of your mind: if Facebook causes you to stumble, disable it.  Get right with God, and what you post on your feed will reflect that new found desire to follow Him.

***P.S.. Speaking of affirmations, here is one of the devotionals I read from Daughters of the King on August 21st that really spoke truth into my life.  It’s important for us to speak and declare words of truth over our lives and over our situation understanding how Christ sees us despite worldly pressures to believe otherwise.  I created a list of affirmations about a year ago that I read daily.  I also encourage you to create your own individual personalized affirmations rooted in Scripture because it is always more meaningful and speaks more deeply when we come to those realizations ourselves rather than just someone stating them for us.  However, if you are having a difficult time knowing where to start or if you’re not much of a writer, here is a great springboard to give you some ideas because it basically has all of the key elements for what you would include in such a list:

Know Who You Are

“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”
1 Corinthians 15:10

You are not your past. You are not your failures. You are not your state. You are a daughter of the King. You already know who God is, now be reminded today of who you are in Him. Declare this today:

I am smart. I am important. I am a world changer. I am brave and courageous. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am beautiful. I am called by God to do great things. I am strong. I melt in His presence, yet stand strong in the face of adversity. I can’t stop running because Jesus didn’t stop for me. I am a finisher. I am the right woman for the job. I am a winner. I am so loved. I am richly blessed. I am rooted and grounded. I am abundantly graced. I am my brother and sister’s keeper. I am empowered to lead. I am an overcomer. I am more than a conqueror through Jesus. Greater is He that is in me than he that’s in the world. I am a daughter of the King no matter how I feel. No matter how it looks I will see His promises manifested in my life. I am patient and kind. I am truthful. I am hidden in Christ. I am an end time soldier in His army. I was born for such a time as this. I have what it takes. I am resourceful. I am wise. I wear God’s grace beautifully. I am who God says I am and I will do what He says I will do.

Prayer: Father, help me stay reminded of who I am in You. Help me not to let my problems define me. You define me, Lord. You are my God and I belong to You. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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