I Believe In A World That’s Made Clean

I believe in a world that’s beyond me
I believe in a world I ain’t seen
Past the glass
The shotgun shacks
The violent, faceless, racist facts
I believe in a world that’s made clean

I have this song on repeat, because it so fully describes how I’ve felt these last few days. I have read every possible thing I can about the refugee crisis pouring out of the Middle East, watching my European brothers and sisters welcome fleeing souls, wishing I were there to clasp weary hands and usher in weary feet and tuck in weary children. I can’t physically be there when the families wash ashore, and it makes me want to pack my bags and hop a plane and go.

I conveniently forget, or choose to ignore, that every land on this earth is war-torn. Every street is battle-scarred and blood-stained. Every one of us is an exile.

I believe in a world that’s made clean. I believe with my whole calloused heart God lets us be part of that work. I believe God can fix the world all on his own; I believe God is asking us to help. I believe God is asking us to be instrumental in ushering in new life.

I oftentimes let fear close my doors and my heart, my eyes and my fists. I hoard and I heave, hoping others are more generous, more aware. I do what is easy, instead of what is right, and good, and true. I don’t let it take root that I have a job to do; that we are all searching for home, for rest; that my faith in a world made clean is the hope a worn and weary world needs; that faith without elbow grease is hollow; that the abundance I squander has nothing to do with me, has nothing to do with God’s special favor for me, has nothing to do with my ability or skill or talent or worth; that if I am going to believe in and hope for this world beyond me, I have got to be willing to go to the places not beyond me and work toward that peace on earth.

It isn’t enough to wait on God to fix things; to appeal to him to fix things. Because he already answered every exile’s prayer for refuge.

The answer is you, and me, and the Church, the body of Christ prepared and bestowed with God’s own Holy Spirit to finish the work.

Let’s finish the work.

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A Prayer of Preparation / Let Us All Be Filled

On one occasion, while Jesus was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

–Acts 1:4-5

God the Father, Christ who died, and the Spirit who guides…thank you.

What a perfect and perfectly complete three-in-one God we should know. Jesus, even those who knew you best, those most eagerly equipped to scatter out into the world shouting your story of redemption and forgiveness and grace…you bid them wait. What a surprising thought.

Your own eyewitnesses, your innermost circle, you commanded their patience, their pause. The bearers of such profound truth, such life-breathing, life-giving capital-lettered TRUTH, meant for and given to the whole world that we may live…the men and women so fully acquainted with your extravagant, excessive love, the holders of these words poured out to heal the whole world…you said, “Wait.”

How helpless they must have felt, as if they had been told to sit on their hands while the world out there was drowning, a world to love like you love. How ready they must have known they were to go out and get to work.

And oh, don’t I know how significant the story is, Jesus, the story of God and creation and God’s intense love for creation. The story woven so deep in our marrow we oftentimes miss it. The story that haunts us, that shadows our every step, that skirts around the edges of our souls telling us we aren’t quite home yet.

I know this story well. I know the impact and the purpose and the hope you offer. I know the way your words sink into my skin and pump through my heart and pour from my fingertips, if I let it.

None of that has very much to do with me, if anything. None of it comes from my own eloquence or experience of you. And oh, thank God. I could not spill grace so willingly, so easily, though I am given it so freely and at such a high cost. Never could I on my own.

In your perfect knowing of the universe and through your intimate understanding of humanity and all of our weaknesses, you prepared us to finish the job. To heal the world. Jesus, you could have done it all; you could have fixed the earth once and forever and the job would have been done to perfection, completion. But what an invitation you give us to engage. Not for your lacking but for our own undeserved fulfillment. What an invitation to follow you. And what a direction you are leading us.

God, you breathed us to life. Jesus, you bled for our redemption. Spirit, you’ve moved in to help us muddle through it all.

This chapter in your holy word, Acts 1, in preparation of what the liturgy lovers call Pentecost…your followers had no idea what was coming. Would it have blown their minds to know what power had been readily promised, so eagerly gifted them? I know I have been arrogant and ignorant enough to think any good I do, any heart I touch, has anything to do with me. No one aches for me the way we all ache for you, God, whether or not we choose to call attention to it. And you knew, God creator and King, how we ache. You knew we needed your life, your death, and, now, your might.

And I still don’t know, not fully, what was coming. Holy Spirit, how little I consider the gift of you. How much I misunderstand you, forget you, as if you were little more than an inkling or a conscience whispering in my ear, pricking my heart, nudging me right instead of left. How wrong am I to misuse the eternal Spirit of God the Father who formed and adores the universe and every single thing in it.

How you came to move among and within us, the same Holy Spirit who swept over an unformed earth before time and space were set in motion. The same Spirit who fought battles for King David, who prophesied through Isaiah, who poured visions and faith and courage into the faithful who have gone before us. What power we have been given! What history — our history — living and breathing in the very center of our chests!

What would happen, I wonder, if I knew, really tried to know, the power with which you have anointed all of your followers? What would happen if I let you, Holy Spirit, lover and knower of every eternal soul, actually move me? What if I were to let God’s own Spirit lead my feet and use my hands and bleed from my heart?

Jesus, you commanded your followers to wait on the gift of the Holy Spirit. The weight of Heaven and Earth depended on it. And once given that Spirit? They shook the whole world. 

Move us and in us, Holy Spirit of Heaven, the way you moved unhindered through those first followers of Jesus Christ our souls’ redeemer. Awaken our hunger and our hearts. Plant our feet and point our hands.

Be our power, our sole power. Remind us that through you, and only you, can we shake the whole world.

This is a series of prayers for the church in hopes that we the beloved body of Christ will move and glow and pulse in this world for God’s great and wrecking glory.

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A Prayer of Introduction / Let Us All Be Hungry

God of the universe, creator and king, how funnily you work. To think the gospel, the good, the great news for the whole world would be entrusted to twelve fickle men from small, by-the-wayside towns. That you would spread out the news of your love and your interest and your attachment to us — all of us — through a handful of people whose lives were both perfectly ordinary yet drastically changed.

To say it is miraculous for something to spread so quickly and explosively like the early Christian church in a time when one had to walk dusty miles between towns and tell of healing and forgiveness and radical grace over broken bread and shared wine…is a little naive. I think I am quick to underestimate the hunger we all have for you, God, to discount the intentional creation in us to long for you.

And so I choose I see it. I choose an awareness of that poignant dissatisfaction I have gotten so good at ignoring or dressing up in shallow trappings.

We are hungry for you, God. May your Church wake up to that hunger.

This is a series of prayers for the church in hopes that we the beloved body of Christ will move and glow and pulse in this world for God’s great and wrecking glory.

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Prayers for the Church

I don’t think I could call myself a passionate person. And I use the word “passion” loosely. I use it the way we romantics use it: fervor, ardor, flushed cheeks and flashing eyes, pounding hearts and fists. There aren’t very many things that fill me with such passion, that boil my blood or move me enough to shake a man just to make him hear. Not politics, not religion, not science or art or civil rights. (I’m ashamed to admit that, truthfully.)

But — and this is a tentative “but” filled to the brim with disclaimers — lately I have felt an exhaustion when it comes to the topic of church. The Church and the church. On the surface, I seem to be falling into the precise opposite of “passion,” to be falling out of love almost. And let me be clear: I love the Church and my church and the several churches I’ve visited and have been a part of throughout my life. But I have grown complacent in how I love the Church. I love it, I appreciate it, I often forget to tell it thank you, or to stick up for it to the doubters and the scoffers. I am an appeaser of the highest order.

Complacency, as I am learning, is exhausting. It is exhausting to live with very little passion or purpose. That seems backwards; but it exhausts me in the most literal sense of the word. It drains me of the things that ought to fuel me. I am running low on the good stuff that moves this world, that makes this life and all that comes with it worth it.

So back to the Church and the doubters and scoffers and the passion that drives.

I don’t want to watch the Church grow weak, timid. I don’t want to see it placed on platforms just to be ripped apart from all sides. I don’t want to see it cower beneath political correctness, nor refuse to bend against things that might not matter much at all. And I cannot watch it grow arrogant and indignant, huffing at the naysayers beneath a banner of staunch righteousness, retreating into its own walls.

Neither do I feel needed or equipped to defend it. Neither do I feel the power to restore it in little, rebellious ways a girl like me could do. See, if God were most concerned about his image in this world, he never would have chosen yokels like us to bear it.

So all I have left to do for the Church is the pray for it, and to invite you to pray right along with me. We are the salt and the light of this world. We were formed apart from creation to make this world taste good, to make this world glow in the dark. Not for God’s neat and tidy public image, but for his great and wrecking glory, a glory that doesn’t need PR or marketing strategies or carefully sanitized statements, a glory that banishes fear and crashes into the brokenness. A glory that does not tread lightly but dares to overcome and redeem and reconcile even the ugliest of all.

I want to be a part of that. I want the Church to be a part of that.

So maybe we should begin.

Over the next few weeks (months, years, whatever, I am super at ambiguous timing), I’ll be posting prayers I have for the Church in hopes that you will read these words and be moved enough to fill in the cracks you see in the Church and your church. Not because I suspect I am eloquent enough to CHANGE THE WORLD. But because I am convinced prayer is ridiculously powerful.

I can’t exactly say, or even pretend, I really know the power of prayer. Most times I don’t even know what happens after I say “Amen,” if anything at all. I have never experienced a windfall, an immediate response to my prayers, even the ones that wrenched my gut.

But I am learning to love the act of prayer: the intentional, time-carved-out-for prayer. I’m not any good at it; I am only aware of it, of the gift of language to attach to my heart’s groanings.

I mutter reckless prayers often (though not often enough), but the richness of prayer — in my particular case — is most obvious when I sit down, breathe in deep, and write — actually write — the words I most carefully want to say to my King.

And that’s what these will be: letters to a king, words chosen for the formality and eloquence.

I admire those whose prayers are intimate conversations with a devoutly interested God. I am not there yet (or ever). So these will be my prayers to a sovereign God, the creator and artist of this broken world, prayers bold enough in my self-importance though hesitant to call too much attention to myself, to interrupt his majesty.

I hope you’ll find God here because I am certain he is listening.


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If I had known eleven or so years ago how hard and heartbreaking this parenting gig was going to be, I would never have signed on.

Well, that’s probably not really true. But I definitely would have given it a lot more thought than, “Yeah, okay, we’ve got this.”

How arrogant. How short-sighted and silly to think I’ve got any of this.

But I can wing it. Today we’re eleven years in and I’m pretty much just winging it.

My astounding Bug, my firstborn, my gift, the one who made me a mother, who gave me this purpose larger than myself…he has no idea all this time I’ve actually just been following his lead.

This kid is magic. And because we don’t trust the magic in ourselves or in others, we sometimes try to dim it. Magic makes us nervous; magic makes us suspicious. The world doesn’t often spin so kindly.

So sometimes I try to reign him in, worried the things that make him loud and bright and big and present will backfire. Sometimes I worry he is too much for the world around him, and the world around him will force him to shrink small and fit neat.

I want to protect him. From bullies, from concussions, from sunburns, from bad grades and sore losers, from feeling out of place. But at eleven years old he doesn’t want my protection…he probably doesn’t even really need it.

Realizing my space in his life is the tide receding…that’s something fierce. It cuts deep. So I force my protection on him, with sharp words and edges because I know I am running out of time with this ELEVEN-year-old. (ELEVEN. There is no possible way I’ve already had ELEVEN years with this kid.)

When he was a toddler and glued nicely to my hip, I never thought this day would come. I mean, I figured it would but it was so hard to imagine, so abstract from the way he and I — baby and new mama — actually spent each day. “Not us,” I’d think, “we’ll still be inseparable.”

But the thing is, even as independent as he is, he still slips effortlessly back by my side. He has his own life, like every other pre-teen, but for now he still happily invites me in. We are still inseparable. (And, kid, I am clutching that with both fists; you won’t be able to shake me loose. And I’m glad you haven’t tried.)

This kid is a superstar. He is laugh-out-loud funny (even if his go-to comedy is fart noises) and whip-smart (do NOT get him started talking about professional soccer unless you have at least thirty minutes to spare) and watch out, because he is changing the world.

He is literally the best eleven-year-old I know, and he is crushing me to pieces from the inside out.

Happy elevensies, Bug. You are my very favorite boy.

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The Magic Bean

I keep thinking maybe I’ll run out of words because sometimes when I look at her my breath catches in my throat.

She is my favorite girl in the whole world. I tell her that, ask her if she knows it, and she will sigh and say, “Yes, mommy, you tell me every, every day.”

And maybe it’s not so much so she will know, but because I need to know. I need to reassure myself I’m not missing something; I am still aware of this spunky little gift who never lets me use the bathroom in peace.

I don’t know how much longer I’ll get to keep her this close; under my foot and within my shadow. It didn’t last nearly long enough the first time around, so this time, I soak it up (most days).


So today we celebrate her, our little Beanie-bell, the spitfire, the truth-teller, the silly-song singer, the fastest scooterer, the magic in the room. We celebrate how she completed our little family five years ago, how she slipped into this world and from that moment gathered us in like wildflowers.

She is magnetic and charming, mischievous and bold. I love to listen to her talk, because her mind is a secret garden, a tangle of dandelions and hidden doors and unlikely adventure and glow-in-the-dark enchantment. Everything is real to her and everything is magical, and boy, what a way for a tired, stretched-thin grown-up to see this world.


I wonder sometimes if this world is ready for her; I wonder if it will be kind, and soft, and forgiving. I never want her to lose the way she marvels at clouds and pinecones and fireflies. I never want her to believe the world is harsh and vengeful, greedy and mean. I want her to trust the good stuff, that there’s enough of it out there to far overwhelm the things that are hard. I want her to love this world, to see it and love it in all of the broken places and to know she was made to help it mend. I want her to realize her own smallness in this wide, wild universe, that she is the very favorite girl to only a handful of people out of billions, and that she takes up very little space on earth and in time. I want her to know that space and believe she can leave it better, brighter, more whole and healed.

I want her to know she is joy, she is heart, she is beauty, she is warmth.


It’s her birthday, but this is my wish.

Happy fifth, Bean. I. Love. You.

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Jessie’s Journal, Part I

So I recently found an old journal of mine from when I was 17-ish. I’ve been writing in a journal ever since I was 11 or so, so this one is probably  Vol. CLVIIEKDV or something.

I covered this particular journal in pictures cut from an travel catalog a couple of hot Australians handed to me during one of those college & career fairs.

I covered this particular journal in pictures cut from a travel catalog a couple of hot Australians handed to me during one of those college & career fairs. BECAUSE ADVENTURE.

When I found it OF COURSE I immediately started reading it, and OF COURSE I immediately started cringing and breaking out into hives and nervous laughter. I was SEVENTEEN AGAIN, minus Zac Efron’s excruciating romantic encounter with his own daughter.

I promised the Twitter I would share excerpts, because I mean, HOW COULD I NOT? Seventeen-year-old Jessie was a GEM, you guys. And also a WELL of emotions and adverbs. Every single adverb.

There’s really no way to set up any of what’s about to happen, so let’s just dive right in.

On Love…Part I [ed. note: everything is in parts and EVERYTHING is in Roman numerals]

Today, I felt my heart beat faster and my stomach tingle and my toes curl when I thought of someone. Could this be it? I know that it isn’t physical attraction [ed. note: WAIT, NOT physical attraction? THAT’S SO MEAN.] So I am perfectly safe in that aspect. So obviously it is their personality. And isn’t that what we need to fall in love with first? [ed. note: NO, SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD ME, FALL IN LOVE WITH HIS PORCHE FIRST. What I mean is, maybe we should marry for money?][JUST KIDDING, marrying the guy while we’re both flat broke totally worked out.]

You guys, I fell in love with a different boy pretty much every other month. REAL, TRUE, LASTING LOVE, OBVI. What follows that delicious opener is a dissertation two solid pages long on dating vs. trusting God will drop my future husband (MY SOUL MATE) into my arms (or vice versa) because I probably had just finished reading I Kissed Dating Good-Bye and DUH, THAT’S BASICALLY WHAT HAPPENED TO JOSHUA HARRIS.

[Love] makes me seem weak and vulnerable and my heart is just bare, completely unprotected, waiting patiently on that line. Love is such a beautiful thing. [ed. note: wait for iiiiiiiiiiit…] Although I have never firsthand experienced it, through little tastes I’ve come to grasp concepts of love. [ed. note: GROAN. GROAN. GROAN GROAN GROOOOOOAN.]

You guys, I was SO FULL OF WISDOM AND EXPERIENCE AND TRUTH back then. I’m pretty sure every single teenage girl I know today is a thousand times cooler and more self-aware than I ever was at 17.

And is love truly a search or more of a stumbling, you just happen into it, you just stumble into someone’s life and something new happens.


FINALLY, I wrap it up with some profound words:

But why do I need to know [ed. note: I’m talking about needing to know if the 17-year-old boy mentioned above was THE ONE] if I trust God will deliver me someone who I will love forever and perfectly [ed. note: please ask my husband — who is NOT the 17-year-old boy mentioned above — next time you see him if I love him perfectly HAHAHAHAHA]? Each situation is separate and different, so I guess it’s nearly impossible to generalize all situations with one theory or one solution. And about that pitter-patter of my heart? It felt nice…

OMG, THE ELLIPSES! This girl’s story isn’t over yet! Will she find THE ONE? Will she discover what it means to stumble into love? Will there be a Part II? Only time will tell!

(And me. I’ll tell. There will be a Part II, because I have a composition notebook quite literally filled with teenage wisdom, SUPER random poetry, and at LEAST a dozen more boys to fall in love with.)


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