Aylan and the wind

It has been so hot and sticky this whole week. I’m sticking to my computer keys as I write this. There isn’t much hope for respite, either. We’re all just sweating our brains out.

It’s stagnant, humid, and hot, the worst kind. Barely a breeze.

Have you read Ann Voskamp’s post for today?

If you haven’t, you should.

Aylan drowned trying to flee ISIS. He was three years old. That is a sentence that should never be written, not truly. “He was three years old.” Not when it means finality.

Ann wrote that he could have come to their house, played with their new pet bunny, eaten cherry tomatoes out of their garden, been welcomed in just as we were all welcomed in at some point.

But he wasn’t. He died.

And he isn’t the only one.

What do you and I do in situation like this? We sit, astonished that the horrors of our world have not yet halted but instead gotten worse. We cry. We wonder what could be done.

We give money?

I tweeted at my representatives. Meager efforts. Without a miracle, it’ll be buried in their daily correspondence and never resurface.

Without a miracle.

What would that miracle look like? Governments opening their borders, willing citizens opening their homes. It would look like safety. It would take people to do it, and it would have to start with people in power.

I thought of the red tape required for anything to get done and sighed. Then I sat back in my chair, feeling helpless.

Then a great gust of wind blew through the back porch where I’m sitting. It was cool and smelled like rain.

That’s what we need. We need a great gust of holy wind to blow these refugees to safety and relief from fear.

We need to pray.

I don’t understand prayer, not totally. But I know that God is invested in creating peace and refuge, that he cares about refugees, and that he listens to prayers.

Will you pray up a mighty wind? That our lawmakers and leaders will see how imperative it is that we welcome in these people and show them safety, that there will be a way when there seems to be none.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.

Baseball statements.

Tonight at the Twins game, in the bottom of the 8th, Torii Hunter got in the umpire’s face after he had had it with the bad calls. He got in his face and someone else (possibly Paul Molitor… you never can tell from the 300 level of the stadium) had to hold him back from the guy. Torii then stormed towards the dugout, then turned and threw his hat, threw his glove, then threw his jersey. The stadium cheered because we always want to believe that we’ve been wronged when the umpires call it against us.

I didn’t really know how to respond to that. I was disappointed in him initially. Come on, will that really do anything? Baseball players are known for being the good boys of major league sports. You see so many fewer arrests and scandals, unless we’re talking A-Rod.

I was sitting in 323, hundreds of feet away from home plate where the umpire was making his sketchy calls. So, don’t take my word for it. If it comes out that they were perfectly in the clear, whatever. But a good number of those “strikes” looked awfully low to the ground, and somehow they managed to never rule in our favor on the questionable plays. Could be legitimate.

Whatever the case, Hunter had had enough. He was through – and he knew his only way to make a statement about it was to throw himself out of the game. It was like he was saying, If this is the way baseball is going to go, I don’t want to be a part of it. I wonder if the same umpires had been making those calls throughout the entire series.

The whole thing was so emotional. I could have shed tears while it happened. It didn’t feel like a diva thing, like a I make thousands of dollars per game, notice me! deal. It felt like a guy who was at his end.

I heard a little boy talking to his mom as we walked out to our cars.

“But he’s always so happy!” (little voice, probably 3 years old)

His mom laughed and answered him, totally aware that the people around her were amused, “Yes, he is always so happy, but he got really mad tonight. I guess the umpires were making a lot of bad calls.”

It got me thinking about what it would take for me to throw my glove and my jersey and storm away from something I was really invested in. (I mentioned this aloud as we walked out, and my mom said, “I smell a blog!”)

What would it take? When is it worth it? I’m no drama queen. I don’t like being the center of negative or controversial attention. I’m not even sure I like being the center of positive attention. Most of us are like this, I think. We live day to day without getting up in arms about every little thing because we know it isn’t usually constructive. And we want to make lasting, effective change if we’re going to do it.

But when is it good to throw something, to say with all that you have that it’s not right and you are willing to risk your baseball season (or equivalent) to make a statement?

I hope I’ll know when it’s time. I hope I’ll feel the fire and be ready to take the heat when it’s time to stand up.

I’m not sure I stand behind Torii Hunter completely in his choice of actions tonight. I don’t know what he said to the umpire. I don’t know what the umpire did in response (besides sticking to his call and repeatedly showing the crowd). Maybe there was a better way to handle it. But either way, he’s a reminder that statements don’t have to be verbal. And that sometimes it’s worth taking the heat in order to say something that must be said.

Show me your scarf.

This is not a “clap for me” post. Oh, please, don’t clap for me.

Today, I wore a scarf on my head to stand in solidarity with a friend of a friend who has alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that has caused her to lose her hair increasingly over her life. She’s had to go through the hair loss process not once but twice in her life, so far.

I can only imagine the heartache.

No, I’m not being sarcastic. Hair is more central to our identity than we realize. Watching your hair fall out is like losing a part of you. What do people say when they describe you to other people? “Oh, yeah, she’s tall, has blonde, curly hair…” If it’s not the number one descriptor, it’s number two.

And for me? I’m a healthy, happy, natural hair fiend. I take so much pride in treating my hair well and even more so when it results in a good hair day. I actually love my hair, though over the past few days it’s been all flyways because it’s hot and I sit in front of a lot of high-powered fans.

So though wearing a scarf on your head is a simple enough request, it seemed like it would be better to not do it. I can still support people without covering up my hair. I can still do that. Yay for you. You are courageously going bald. Woohoo. I’m so with you… except I’m not.

I don’t know why, but it struck a chord within me, maybe because I don’t think I could ever give up my hair for good. Shave my head? I’ve considered it. I would need a good reason, but I could do it, because it’ll grow out again. But watching it fall out, bit by bit, and knowing that I’m going to struggle to have enough hair even for a thin ponytail for the rest of my life?

Call me shallow, but that makes me want to cry.

You know I have an identity crisis every year when my hair stops being blonde in the winter. My identity, though this isn’t good, is so wrapped up in my appearance – particularly in my hair. Who am I? I’m a writer who looks like this.

So that little, stubborn, unsupportive resistance was my hint that I needed to do this. I needed to understand what it felt like, in a small way. I needed to take a small step in courage as she takes a big one. Yay for you, Katie. And yay for me, too. I think we’re both learning something here.

There it is. That picture makes me think of how my ears stick out, and well, at least I’ve got a nice smile. My roommate (in a loving manner) told me that I looked like a mystic.

Good grief, Ashley. Haven’t you been told time and time again that it doesn’t matter what you look like? So why did you feel so conspicuous and unusual and not yourself? It’s just hair. You don’t have this crisis when you shave your legs. (though you might when you don’t)

Who are you?

I’m Ashley. I’m a writer. I’m learning that my identity has little to nothing to do with what I look like and more than everything to do with who I am.

I’m 20, and I’m just now putting this into practice.

Knowledge is muscle.

“If we want to know what’s most sacred in this world, all we need to do is look for what is most violently profaned.” – Christopher West

I know what hunger is, but that knowledge alone doesn’t feed those who feel it every day.

I know what poverty is, but simply knowing doesn’t offer clothes and shelter to the needy.

However, in some cases, knowledge truly is power. Because I know what pornography is, I can help delete it from our society.

Why is pornography an issue?

In Greek society (and yes, pornography goes way back before Playboy), the word “porne” referred to the lowest class of prostitute, affordable to all male citizens. Pornography today aims to depict women – and not just the women pictured but all women – as low, vile, promiscuous, and cheap.

Are we cheap?

I’m not talking just about women, because pornography aims to make men users, dependent on a fantasy to be satisfied. It aims to skew their views about women so badly that they will never be content with a real one, always needing to go back to the pornified woman.

Pornography cheapens men, too.

I ask you again: are we cheap?

We’ve cheapened ourselves by not identifying the pornographic influences in our advertising, in our conversations, in our media. We’ve said it’s okay to make sex casual and violent and graphically displayed in public places.

And what has it brought us? Increased prostitution, higher rates of human trafficking for sexual slavery, catcalling, rape culture, and a view of sex that objectifies both parties involved.

Are we content with this?

Once you know, it’s difficult not to speak up.

Fight The New Drug (FTND) is a nonprofit organization working to educate people on the effects of porn, primarily to let people know that pornography is harmful.

If we truly believed that, if we knew that ridding our society of porn wouldn’t take away our fun but would improve our lives, would we bring it up at the dinner table? Would we tell our cousins about it at family reunions? Would we risk pushing people away because we know that if they know that it will be addictive, change their brain chemistry, and crush their relationships, it will be harder for them to use porn?

Get the facts on FTND’s website. Educate yourself on what pornography will do to you or to your loved ones – or, hey, to that person who lives down the street that you happen to be Facebook friends with because they matter, too.

In this case, knowledge is muscle. We can fight away the lies we’ve been fed with the truth about our value as humans, our expectations from relationships, and how pornography tries to steal that from us.

For more information, visit Fight The New Drug’s website, or check out Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality by Gail Dines.

My foolish God.

As often as I try to be open about my struggle (and I use that word because it is a struggle, every single day) with depression and anxiety, I have to say that it’s so hard to come out with it. There’s never really a point where you’re ready to tell the world that your emotional life is messy, that you don’t have control over it sometimes, and that you have woken up every morning for weeks in a row and just cried because there was another day to live through.

That’s not something that ever gets easy to say. And if it does get easy to say, that’s because you’re forgetting how hard it was.

Because I know that I’m far from alone in this, though, I want to speak up. I want people who don’t have depression to have an idea of what it’s like and to know that if you’ve never experienced it, you will not understand, ever. And I want people who do have depression and have experienced it to know that there is no good reason to feel ashamed (I say “no good reason” because obviously, there are plenty of reasons that we feel ashamed. They are real, but depression is not shameful). You are not alone.

In the road to healing, I’ve read a lot of articles written by people with depression, and I’ve noticed this divide between Christians and non-Christians who write. I feel torn sometimes, because sometimes I just want to write like Hyperbole and a Half. She’s so honest, and I can relate to all of the things she says. She’s so blunt, too. Sometimes, I want to say that I feel like ______ (insert word there that Christians don’t use), too because depression feels like an emotional curse word.

Then I read things like “Anxiety and depression can also, ironically, be a conduit of hope—an opportunity for the foolishness of God to be displayed in our lives.” from The Gospel Coalition and see that God has a place in all of this. He’s not just a part of my pain; he’s CENTRAL to it. He’s the one who never departs and makes meaning out of it.

I love that phrase, the “foolishness of God.” Because it really is pretty foolish to shower grace and mercy and love and blessings on some person who is going to fail you and disappoint you at least half the time and only listen to you when they feel like it and not obey because they think they know better (stupid people).

How foolish my God is, to love me.

How foolish He has been during the past year. How foolish He is to see my depression and try to tell me that something meaningful will come out of so much pain and so much deadness. God is silly.

It’s foolish to think that someone who can’t bear the thought of getting out of bed in the morning or cries while eating breakfast for no reason or has to deliberately remember how emotional interaction with other human beings works because of the horrible emptiness in her heart or who can’t possibly have anything genuine left at the end of the day to offer her roommate could be someone God wants to reach out to. That’s messy. That’s ugly. That’s icky. That’s not “holy.”

But that’s where we find Jesus. He works in messy. He comes into pain. He says, “Not only do I still love you and want you to be a part of my Kingdom, I want to use you. Like this. And when you start feeling a bit better, it’s going to be even more meaningful. You’re going to have a story, and I’m going to help you tell it.”

How foolish.

How wonderful.

My foolish, wonderful, gracious God wants to use my story of not being able to do my homework because I needed to just cry for a few hours and do something with it. He wants to not just use my story but me, the one who did the crying and hurting and……


I guess we did that, too. We are doing that.

My foolish God.

My foolish, amazing God.

He is the reason that it’s worth it to tell my story and be open about my struggle. He gives meaning to the mess and passion where there was only pain.

Shining a light.

Today is the day that End it Movement shines a light on slavery. People all around the world put a red ‘X’ on their hands to show their solidarity with the anti-trafficking movement and tell everyone who asks (and maybe even those who don’t ask) why they’ve subjected themselves to possible blood poisoning by ink.

Well, this year I’m in Austria. (Did you know?) I would normally be on-board with something like this, obnoxiously re-posting things about it on Facebook and taking a selfie with my red ‘X’ on the day.

Normally. (But I don’t have a red marker this year… just orange, green, and pink)

It's just not the same.

It’s just not the same.

However, as I thought about how I could participate this year, I realized that even if I did put a red ‘X’ on my hand this year, I wouldn’t be able to tell the people who asked about it. I don’t even know what “human” is in German, much less “trafficking”, forced labor”, and “sex slavery”. I don’t really have a sphere of influence here, and even if I did – no guarantees that I’d even see anyone who spoke English tomorrow.

So, instead, I’ll use this platform.

Most of you already know that God has laid this on my heart. You already know that He opened my eyes and dropped a ministry into my lap, along with incredible opportunities to learn and serve. You know that it’s not about me, not about anything amazing that I’ve ever done but that God is using His church to accomplish His purposes: justice, mercy, love. I’m a part of that church.

The truth and magnitude of trafficking is stunning, staggering, maiming, even. In the last year, anti-trafficking organizations have been saying that instead of 27 million slaves, it’s more like 29.8 million. And that’s an estimate, since it’s such an underground business. There are likely many more in slavery. It’s important to tell people how enormous of an issue it is, but I think it’s even more important to share the stories of hope. And I think we need to make sure that Jesus gets His part in those stories, because Jesus is our hope.

We can talk about the people who are rescued all we want, but if we leave God – the one who truly heals people, completely and in a way that nothing else can from the psychological, physical, and emotional horrors of slavery – out of the picture, then we’ve missed the point. We’ve missed our opportunity to say that Jesus came to seek and to save, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, healing for the broken. And that there’s no other way.

No other way.

There’s no other way that injustice will end. There’s no greater power than the One who pushes into dark places with a brighter light than any we’ve ever been able to produce.

I’ve heard so many incredible stories about Jesus meeting people in the darkest imaginable places. He’s there, and I will testify that He is moving to bring darkness to light. His is the biggest red X, and He’s drawing it with His blood over all the people who need to be rescued.

He’s using us, and He’s setting people free. Hey, that’s a word I do know in German! frei

Let’s talk.

I’m writing a paper on a Friday night. It’s not even totally necessary. I have a lot of hours tomorrow that I could use to work on it.

I’m just fired up about it, and that’s not just because I like writing papers. I mean, I do like writing papers, but I’m fired about about this because it’s about overconsumption and how our society ignores and normalizes it.

I’m writing about materialism.

And I’m writing about PORN.

It sounds like an indecent topic. It also sounds like it will be slightly awkward to talk to my professor about when I meet with him about my paper. It sounds like something you wouldn’t say in church.

But we need to start talking about this, especially in church. Read a book about the history of porn (Andrea Dworak, The Social Costs of Pornography, Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, The Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West using Pope John Paul II’s notes about sexuality), and you’ll likely be just as disgusted and angry as I am.

I’m really angry because Satan has taken ahold of our society’s concept of the body and sexuality and twisted it into something that is so horrid and shameful, I can hardly bear to think about it. I’m so ashamed of all these things that are true of the world in which we live. And I’m so angry that we don’t talk about it. I’m pounding my fists on my desk because few people say that it’s bad and that it lies and that we need to get rid of it. I’m fuming because people defend something so invasive and awful. I’m angry that there is little I can do on my own…

Little I can do but speak up.

So that’s what I’m doing.

I won’t be silent because when I’m silent, I stew. Instead, I will write my paper and blog and tell my friends to stand with me against pornography and defamation of sexuality.

Because pornography affects everyone, whether you’re the person trapped in it or using it or affected by the culture that it has formed.

Because real love is patient and kind and doesn’t envy or boast. It isn’t proud or rude or self-seeking. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs. Love doesn’t delight when Satan gets to have his way with our sexuality but rejoices that we can reclaim it. It bears the horrible culture, believes that it can change, and endures and presses toward that day.

How long?

Here’s a little confession to get your Friday started off right: I’ve had a tab open on my computer for almost a week with the guitar chords for ‘My Heart Will Go On’ on it… just waiting to have time to try out Celine Dion, acoustic style. Whew, so glad I got that off my chest.

So, I like to pray for people, but I can’t pray for everyone everyday. I mean, I could, but I think my prayer life would get pretty stagnant. So, I divide them up by category and pray for different group every day. Today is Friday, the day that I pray for freedom for the captives around the world.

Today, I found myself asking God to be present with every woman, child, and man who are enslaved today. Then I got on a small thought bunny trail, That’s a big prayer, but God is a big God. He can handle that. He can be present with everyone who has been oppressed at the same time. He could set them all free right now if He wanted to… wait. He does want to. 

Then the thought that I get ashamed of every time if pops into my head came back, doesn’t He want to? Why hasn’t he, yet? Why has this gone on so long?

Here’s what I think. 1) Faith without any doubts probably isn’t very strong because it’s never had to survive the fires of uncertainty. So this whole doesn’t God want to set the captives free? thought is a good thing. 2) God could set people free all by himself, right now, but I think He’s using us instead.

Think about that. God could do this independently. He could loosen all chains right at this moment. He could have done it ages ago, but He’s using the church. He’s asking us to be a part of it. He’s saying, Here’s something that is so horribly wrong, this injustice against My children. It breaks my heart, but I want it to break yours. I want to break your heart for them and use you to set them free so that your heart and the hearts of captors and those who were ignorant of this injustice before will see how horribly people have been treated and never let it happen again. 

I don’t have a scripture to back that up, but I have this sense deep down in my soul that God isn’t acting with his mighty power to break the chains instantly because He wants to partner with us, so that we will learn how to treat each other, not abusing our power or gaining power by hurting other people.

It isn’t because He’s not good, because He is. It isn’t because the problem isn’t massive and urgent and incredibly important, because it is.

How long will it take? How long will we live comfortably while other people live in chains? How long will we say that it doesn’t affect us, even though no country in the world is unaffected? How long will be allow other people to be oppressed? How long will we be the oppressors? How long will it take for us to care and take action?

How long, church? How long?

My soapbox.

I know I use this platform to tell you about my eating habits and silly adventures sometimes.  It gets a bit frivolous, but that’s just real.  We all have days with deeper thoughts than others and days with less thought in general.

Today, however, I want to be heard.  I keep hearing so many arguments over the two hot button social issues of the week: abortion and DOMA, and it’s time to speak up.

I’m not a dogmatist.  I don’t hold my values close because I’m afraid that someone will snatch them with a well-versed argument.  I try to hold tightly to my most tested and true beliefs and to keep a looser rein on others, to keep an open mind but to have a filter.  So, understand that when I say these things, I have thought and read about them quite a bit.  They matter to me, as I’m sure they matter to you as well, even if we don’t agree.

Also, along that thread, if we don’t agree, I don’t hate you.  I may think you’re annoying, (depending on how respectfully and deferentially give your opinions) but I most certainly do not hate you. Hate is not a godly perspective, however radically we may disagree.    Love is the movement, and I think we could even live like it’s a verb (just in case you didn’t know, love is a verb).

Speaking of love and who can love who and all that, I believe that I am called to love people, and if I love people, how should I act towards them?  I should look out not only for my own interests but also for the interests of others.  I should have the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2).  I use the Bible as my moral compass, and I fall short of its expectations every day, but I’m journeying to a godly life where I live just a bit more like my Redeemer every step of the way.  (just in case you were under the delusion that I’m perfect or something… I’ll bake you cookies later)

With that in mind, the Bible teaches (though many would dispute this) that homosexuality was not God’s intention for the world, that it wasn’t a way that He wanted His children to behave.  From what I have read in the Bible, I’ve seen a God who points to homosexual relations and sees them as yet another way that we have fallen short. I don’t think the struggle is any worse or more offensive to God than my struggle with pride or jealousy.  And just as pride keeps me from being all that God wants me to be and is destructive in my walk with Him and my relationship with the world around me, so is any sin.

Now, I ask you this, having seen where I come from: if I believe that homosexuality is not what God wants for people and keeps them from knowing Him rightly, would it be loving for me to vote gay marriage into law?  Would it really be loving for me to stand for something that I think will harm someone else?  I don’t really think that marriage should be legislated at all, personally.  I’d rather just have my church declare that I (and whoever the lucky guy is) am married, because it’s a union in the sight of God and man.

That’s been churning around in my head for months now.  Now, no matter the response, it’s out there.

If you’ve made it to this point in this long post, thanks for being here.  I appreciate your audience and hope that you are trying to see my side of things (if, in fact, you are on another side), as I will try to see yours.

Can we talk about abortion now?  This is a dialogue that hurts me so much, because it’s even further proof that we live in a fallen world.  When the choice is between making a twelve year old girl who is pregnant because of incest keep her baby or kill it, I wonder if we can win.  I’m not anti-woman.  I’m not even anti-feminist.

I AM a woman.  I work for women.  I want a world where women have as many rights as men and are treated equally.  I think that’s part of God’s kingdom, so when we say, “your kingdom come,” that’s included.  I think that a world without cat-calls and nearly pornographic advertising and prostitution and devaluation of women would be ideal… paired with a world where we don’t abort our babies.

How can it be empowering to a woman to encourage her to kill?  When all the genetic information is present at conception and the heartbeat begins at week 6 (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/prenatal-care/PR00112), how can we doubt that human life is in the womb? I have read so many testimonies about women who regret their abortions, which is not something that most media will let you see, but it’s enough for me to understand that the choice is too much.

We were not meant to decide life and death.  I don’t know what the legislative solution is to abortion when taking it completely off the table could make unprofessionally performed abortions even more common.  I don’t know how to win, but it surely isn’t by building more Planned Parenthoods.  It certainly isn’t by referring to babies as “a blob of tissue.”  And I think that education about sex and pregnancy could definitely be helpful.

This is my soapbox.  Welcome.  I don’t have all the answers or solutions, and I don’t think that any one person does.  I think that the more questions we ask, the better.  I think that we need to stop yelling and start listening and discussing.  I think that we need to talk about the issues that are underneath, the ones that are closer to home and hard to talk about.

Really, I just think we need Jesus.