Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Thoughts on Holy Week...

We are in the midst of Holy Week, the most significant week ever for those of us who profess to follow Jesus. I’ve been a follower of Jesus for 28 years now, and I have been in church my entire life, so suffice it to say that I’ve had a lot of Holy Week teaching in my years. But if I’m brutally honest, a lot of it has just skimmed the surface of my heart. Sure, I know all the right things to say. I know that the week signifies when Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a donkey just as the prophecies foretold. I know that he cleared the temple when he found money changers cheating people. I know that Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. I know Judas Iscariot  made negotiations to betray Jesus. I know about the Last Supper with his disciples and how he washed the feet of those men that night. I know how Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, and it was there that Judas betrayed him with a kiss. I know Jesus was taken to Caiaphas, the High Priest, where the Pharisees began to make their case against him. I know that he was eventually sentenced to death on the cross- a horrific and torturous death. I know about the nails and the crown of thorns. I know how he breathed his last breath, then was buried in a borrowed tomb, and three days later arose from the dead just as He proclaimed he would. 

Chances are, you’ve heard the story as well. And that’s precisely the problem.

We still think of it as just a story. We treat it as a made-up story with tragedy and a fairy tale ending, and we miss out on the heart of it. 

I’m experiencing Holy Week differently this year. I’m trying to sit with the reality of what happened during this week all those years ago and how it’s still so real and beautiful and transforming today. I’m trying to grasp the GRACE of Holy Week. Too often, we miss this part. We are too busy trading the Cross for Easter baskets full of eggs and candy, and trading the crown of thorns for frilly dresses and bonnets. 

Please don’t hear me say that I’m a hater of Easter traditions. If that’s all you hear from this writing, you’ve missed my point entirely. I’m just saying that I’ve been guilty in the past of focusing on the outward and man-made traditions of Easter that I miss the holiness. I don’t want to be guilty of allowing a bunny or dresses or baskets or honey-baked ham or “Up From the Grave He Arose” be what is worshipped instead of a Savior who gave himself up out of obedience to the Father for the atonement of sin once and for all. 

When I think of Easter, I think of healing. Isaiah 53:5 tells us that “by his stripes we are healed”. It’s true. The work is already done; the healing is ours for the taking. It seems too simple, doesn’t it? I get that. But let me tell you this: I have experienced His healing- physically, spiritually and emotionally. I KNOW it’s real. My life is a living testimony of the healing power of Jesus. And Easter is what made it possible. When Jesus died on that cross, it was because he was being obedient to his father to carry the sin of the world on himself. He who knew no sin bore ours. But if the story ended there, that’s not Easter. You see, Jesus defeated death when three days after he was crucified, he rose again to life. No other god of any religion can say they worship a living God. The same power that resurrected Jesus from the tomb can resurrect a marriage that is dead, a relationship that has lost its life, an addiction that is killing you slowly, a mind that tells you that you’ll never be ok. You have healing, and I have healing, because Jesus is alive. 

But Easter also makes me think of redemption. Sometimes life hands us things we’d rather not hold. Sometimes we find ourselves facing situations that seem daunting, impossible even. And there are days when we feel the air has been sucked out of the room, and we are just struggling to survive. And it’s in those times when the redemptive power of Easter is alive. Just as the resurrected body of Jesus was restored to fullness, we are too. When we surrender to him, all the broken pieces of our hearts and lives are redeemed. We find purpose in our pain, ministry in our messy-ness, testimonies that point to the power of a loving God who restores. We find that our scars tell a story of his power, emphasized in our weakness. 

Friends, Easter is real. And it’s not a bunny or painted eggs or pastel dresses and pictures in front of the freshly planted flower beds. It’s a bloody Savior, broken body on display for a crowd who hurled insults at him. It’s a council of Religious leaders that preferred to kill an innocent man than admit they were wrong about their teachings and religious practices. It’s a mother watching her son die in agony. It’s the Messiah, feeling the weight of humanity’s sin and feeling separated from His Father for the first time ever. It’s darkness, death and destruction.

But it’s also light bursting forth from the tomb when death was defeated forever. It’s victory when Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. It’s beauty of obedience even to death. It’s LIFE arising from death. It’s PURPOSE. It’s HOPE. It’s GRACE. It’s HOLINESS

And it’s ours.

May the reality of Easter envelop your heart this week. If you don’t know this Savior Jesus, I’d love to introduce you. 

Monday, January 21, 2019

7 Years...

It's been 7 years, but I can remember it like it was 7 hours ago. I sat at the kitchen table with my son, going over his homeschool assignments for the day As I  looked over his work, I asked him a simple question without ever looking up. He didn't answer me. When I looked up, I didn't see defiance or a sullen teen who simply wasn't answering his mom. I saw defeat, deep sadness, hopelessness. I saw tears running down his face. Something was not right.  And then I heard these words, "Mom, I'm not ok. I need help".

Those words began a journey that saved my son's life. He was in a deep depression, and told us later that he had a suicide plan he intended to carry out. That day, something within him fought for help, and he put aside his pride, fear, and doubt, and let it out. To say I'm thankful for his cry for help seems so small.

What I'm thankful for is a son who is about to turn 23, who smiles and laughs and is pursuing his dream. What I'm thankful for is the opportunity to watch him heal, to watch him learn to love life again, to watch him love others fiercely who have walked or are walking through this kind of pain. I'm immensely thankful for the chance to hear him play the drums, to hug his sweaty neck, to hear his heart about the things he's passionate about. I'm thankful to pick up my phone and see a text from him saying "I love you mom". I'm thankful, alright. My heart is overjoyed that I can celebrate today as an anniversary of the greatness of God who brought healing to my son rather than the anniversary of the day we lost him.

Let that sink in. It isn't lost on me that today could hold such vastly different emotions for us as parents. Today we could be reminiscing on a life that was, and instead we have the joy of celebrating a life that IS.

I'm so proud that my son made a man's decision that day- to fight against the idea that 'real men don't cry' or that it's weak to ask for help. He made a plea that day, and because of it, he's alive today- thriving in his dream of pursuing his music, in love with a beautiful young lady, and surrounded by family and friends who love him like crazy.

Bryan, I'm so glad you made that choice 7 years ago. I'm so thankful to see how far you've come. I'm proud of how you are there to help others walking through depression and suicidal thoughts because you get it. I'm proud to call you mine, and I'm forever grateful to God for allowing me the blessing of being your mom.

If you're reading this and struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts today, please don't wait to ask for help. You're worth it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018


When I was a little girl, my brother used to tell me there was someone or something hiding in the closet. It was an effective way to get me to be quiet for sure, and perhaps that’s why he did it. Suffice it to say, I was scared of what may come creeping out of that dark closet. As I grew, I began to understand that there was nothing to be scared of in between the clothes and toys, and that sometimes brothers are just mean to younger sisters (believe me, I’m sure I deserved it!)

As I got older, fear of dark closets was replaced by a fear of bees, wasps and really anything that flew around and buzzed. My neighbor, Charlie, amazed me at his ability (AND DESIRE!) to hold a wasp in his bare hands without ever getting stung. I vividly remember asking him to do it again and again. I thought he was one of the bravest people around for that stunt. Today, I kinda just think he was nuts! 

When I got to college one of my biggest fears was spiders. Ok, I’m still afraid of spiders. My first year of college, I went on a date with a guy I met at school. We were both from Louisville and home on the same weekend, so we made plans to go out. He asked me over to his house to meet his family, then had plans for a movie. I met his folks and they left for the evening, so he and I were hanging out until time for our movie. I was standing in his hallway looking at family pics and trophies from his younger days when I felt something on my shoulder. I thought he had just tapped me, so imagine my shock when I looked to find a GIGANTIC TARANTULA on my shoulder! 

I wet my pants, y’all. Seriously. 

We spent the next hour doing my laundry in his house after I showered and borrowed a pair of his sweatpants. No movie that night.. or any night after that. (My momma didn't raise a fool)

Fear is a funny thing (or not), isn’t it? I have an aunt who is crazy fearful of cats. I know people whose lives are crushed by the fear of being in a crowd. My daughter has a fear of dogs that prevents us from going to houses with dogs unless she is 100% sure they are put up. It’s an understandable fear for her, but it disrupts her ability to be with people sometimes. 

That’s what fear does; it disrupts. 

Two years ago when I prayed about what my word for the year would be, I felt the Lord tell me “fearless”. I embraced it. That year, among other things, I put on a bee suit and worked with a friend who has beehives, actually finding the queen in the midst of hives! I started thinking in terms of “conquering fears”, and it felt good. Really good. 

In December of 2017, I felt the Lord telling me to keep that same word for 2018. It didn’t make any sense to me. I’ve never kept the same word two years in a row, and I couldn’t understand what the Lord was doing. I thought I had done well with embracing fearlessness in 2017. Was the Lord telling me that I hadn’t done well after all? What was up? But whatever the reasoning, I knew He was telling me “Fearless is your word. Trust me”. 

Little did I know what was coming. 

We were in the midst of making some awesome plans for an anniversary trip to Hawaii, and I decided that getting in a shark cage would fit in perfectly with my “fearless” year. So, I found a place, and we made reservations. And I assumed that was that; I’d prove my fearlessness in a cage surrounded by sharks. 

But God had other plans. He began to move in our hearts as we prayed in January “God, are we where you want us to be?”. For 19 years, He’d answered that prayer with “yes. You are in Richmond KY where I want to use you”. And it was good. So very good. But in January of this year, He began to stir in us that there was something else, someplace else. And so we prayed. 

 Little did I know how much a simple text from one of the pastors at Hillvue Heights Church would change my life and challenge all I had learned about what it means to be fearless. This church was asking for Jeff to come to Bowling Green KY to serve on staff. Not only were we talking about a move across the state, but we were talking about Jeff going back to church staff! I was afraid. Our lives were comfortable, and I had loved the past 6 years of Jeff serving in ministry outside of a church staff. What if things weren’t as good and as comfortable? (this cracks me up now. Following Jesus isn’t supposed to be comfortable!!)  What if the church didn’t like me? What if the church expected me to have the same gifts that Jeff has? What if Ellie didn’t make friends? What if I didn’t make any friends? What if we never met anyone else who would play Settlers of Catan?? What if BG didn’t have a good coffee shop? (ok, they don’t have a Purdy’s, but I digress) What if there was no place for me there? What if I lost myself in this move and crashed into depression and resentment that I’d followed Jeff somewhere and was left without anything? 

Fear had crept in. It was crippling me, if I’m honest. We obeyed the call that we KNEW was from the Lord. And we showed up in Bowling Green with a suitcase and some toiletries and nothing more because our house hadn’t sold yet. We walked into the church that first week, and I was terrified. It had been almost 20 years since I’d walked into a church where I didn’t know almost everyone. And the Lord met me there. As the music started, I heard His sweet whisper saying “thank you for obeying. It’s going to be an incredible ride”. When waves of fear crept up, I could literally feel him crushing them back down with a simple “I’m in control; I’ve got this. You can trust me”. 

And I can. 

And so can you. 

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t have this down yet. I still feel the fear sneaking in sometimes. In the stillness of the night, as I’m laying in bed, I still feel the lump rise in my throat, and more times that I like to admit, the tears roll down my cheeks, and I just cry into Jeff’s shoulder. But I’m finding more and more that those tears are for homesickness and not fear. And for that I’m so very grateful. 

I don’t know about you. I don’t know what fears you’re wrestling with. Maybe you’ve been called somewhere new. Maybe you’ve been called away from a job you know and love well. Maybe you’re being called back into the workforce after a time away, and it terrifies you to think about that. Maybe you look at your bank account and wonder how it will ever be enough, and you feel the fingertips of fear around your throat, threatening to choke you. Perhaps the doctor has looked at you with sadness and regret at having to tell you the bad news of a diagnosis that you never wanted to hear, and you feel the smothering cloth of fear covering your mouth to suffocate you. Maybe you’re watching with trembling as your children make decisions that could have devastating consequences on their lives, and you feel the grip of fear rise out of the depths of water to pull you under. I don’t know your story. 

But I know my God. And He is able. 

He is able to conquer my fear and yours, my friend. He is able to destroy the walls that fear builds around your heart. He is able to crush the mountain of doubt and terror that stands in front of you and seems impossible to get over or around. He is able to navigate the path out of fearfulness that is hidden by the overgrowth of fear and unbelief. 

He. Is. Able. 

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who stumble and fall Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fail. Though war break out against me, even then will I be confident”. (Psalm 27:1-3)

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Lessons from the lotus flower...

When we were in Hawaii recently, I saw may beautiful things (duh), not the least of which were the gorgeous flowers around the islands. The smells were incredible, so sweet and strong. But one of my favorites was the lotus (I believe some in Hawaii call it the water lily as well). I’ve been thinking about that flower a lot, as I’ve recently done some reading about it. And then last week, a friend sent me some gorgeous photos of lotus flowers she had just taken, and I knew I had to write out some thoughts. 

It’s no secret that life has been a bit “hectic” for us lately (hello, captain obvious!). Three weeks ago, we moved to a new city, new church, new school, new everything. We left behind a life that we absolutely loved. I have done my fair share of grieving these past few weeks. But amid that sadness and homesickness, the Lord is using the lotus flower to teach me some pretty incredible things. 

The lotus flower will only grow in the mud. It lies buried under the water until sunlight comes in the morning, and the plant rises through the mud and the pond water and ultimately blooms into a beautiful pink or white flower. It’s not hindered by the mud and water around and over it; in fact, it THRIVES on those things. When the sun goes down, the flower closes and the stalk sinks back under the water for the night, only to rise again the next day.

Maybe you see where I’m going here. I’ve discovered that I really don’t embrace change as much as I thought I would because it’s terribly uncomfortable and well, if I’m honest, I’d prefer to live in my comfort any day of the year. But beauty doesn’t often come from comfort, does it? In my life, I’ve come to see that the most beautiful things I have are those which came through pain, trials, effort, tears, sweat, fervent prayers, aches, work, waiting… Things like a marriage that has endured the ups and downs of life and is thriving. Things like children born through pain, given through hardship, and loved fiercely through the fires of life. Things like confidence in who I am because I’ve walked through the murky waters of self-doubt and fear. Or the beauty of true JOY because I know what it’s like to walk through sadness and depression and not wanting to be here anymore.  I can celebrate joy of knowing I’m seen and loved wholly as I am because I’ve thrown off the cloak of shame over my life. 

The “mud” in our lives often leads to the most beautiful things we could imagine. And yet, time and time again I would choose not to walk through it. It’s hard to walk through mud, isn’t it? Literally and figuratively, it’s just hard. It requires effort and strength. Sometimes we feel like we just don’t have it within us to get through that mud, don’t we? Well, I’m sorry to burst any bubbles here, but we don’t. On our own, we can’t do it. It’s just not possible in our strength. 

And yet…

My God is so faithful. Just as he raises the lotus flower, he raises me. Just as he made that beautiful flower to flourish in the mud and murkiness of the pond water, he has made me flourish amid the “muddy” and “murky” things in my life. And he has made you that way too. His strength provides the means to rise above what could hinder us in life. His love provides the ability to hold our heads above the water and bloom where we are- even if that happens to be in the middle of a dirty pond. His sacrifice on the cross allows us to see this life with eternal perspective, knowing that what we are enduring is just for a little while- the morning will come, and we will rise to bloom again. 

So, if you’re like me right now and find yourself in a season of uncertainty- if you’re just not quite sure of why God has planted you where you are, and if you’re wondering if he has forgotten to reveal his purpose to you, HOLD ON. The morning is coming, and just like the lotus flower, he will lift us up out of the waters and make us bloom. Our lives will give off the sweet smell of a God who loves us wholly and eternally and perfectly. No storm can rip us from his grip. No trial can imprison us from his will. No chains can hold us down. No doubts can erase his purpose and plan for us. 

In a season of uncertainty, I’m so very grateful to know that I am in my Father’s steady arms. I know this because I am his adopted daughter, one of his very own children. If you don’t know that for yourself, I’d sure love to tell you more about it. God is for you, my friend. He loves you with an everlasting love. You can trust him. 

Go bloom, friends. I’m praying for you today…

Photo Credit: Shannon Wyatt

Thursday, April 26, 2018

28 years...

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the over wrought heart and bids it break.” (William Shakespeare, Macbeth)

 It's been 28 years today
336 months
 1460 weeks
  10,220 days
  245,280 hours

Suffice it to say, it's been a long time since I was raped in the parking lot of my high school. Today's weather is remarkably similar, a slight chill in the air but sunny nonetheless. I'm listening to a bird sing outside my window right now, and I can actually remember hearing the same thing the morning I was raped as I walked out of my house to go to school. Little did I know how that night would end. 

If I sit here long enough, I could likely detail every moment of that day...the test I took in Mr. Weidmar's class, the songs we played in jazz band, the clothes I was wearing that day...all of it. And yes, I can recall every detail of the act of rape itself, even after 28 years. If I allow myself to dwell on those memories, I can get to a really dark place. Just because time has passed, don't think that the hurt isn't still there. It is, and it's raw and gnawing. 

In years past, I've approached this day with more joy, feeling grateful for my healing and so thankful for how the Lord has restored me completely. I've rejoiced that my suffering hasn't felt like it was in vain because I've had the honor of sitting with countless other ladies who have walked this road too, and I get to tell them that healing is possible. I STILL FEEL ALL OF THOSE THINGS. 

But this year has been different for some reason, Maybe it's the "me too" movement. Maybe it's all the media about sexual violence. Maybe it's something altogether different; I really don't know. But what I do know is that I'm sad this year. I'm not depressed and ready to kill myself. I'm not weeping hysterically all the time. I'm not secluding myself in my room and eating chocolate until I fall into a sugar coma. I'm just carrying about my life with a sadness in me. 


I'm learning that it's ok to walk through these kinds of seasons. My sadness doesn't mean I'm not healed. On the contrary! I would argue that my sadness is a sure sign of healing- I'm allowing myself to feel the pain I stuffed down for years as I struggled to make sense of what I'd endured. No more stuffing here. I'm sad, and it's ok to say that. It's ok to feel that sadness. It's ok to cry (gasp!) It's ok to let others see that just because I'm healed and whole and redeemed and no longer a victim, I can still feel great sadness over the loss I endured at the hands of that man. 

Healing isn't removing all the memories or pain. Healing is learning that those memories and pain have no power over you anymore. And today, I can assure you, these memories have no power over me. The Lord has overcome, and He has healed me. 

A friend shared a  song with me recently, and it has become my anthem of healing. It's called "I'm No Victim" by  Kristene DiMarco, and it is beautiful. Here is the bridge:

I am who He says I am
He is who He says He is
I'm defined by all His promises
Shaped by every word He says

I can choose to be defined by the act of rape or the words whispered to me during that act. I can choose to be defined by the choices I made in the aftermath of the rape, the dysfunctional ways I handled the trauma. I can choose to be defined by what some in the world would call me- damaged, defeated, wounded beyond repair, a victim. I can choose to be defined by my own fears and frustrations. I can choose to be defined by only the memories of the pain. And yet... I CHOOSE to be allow the Lord to define me. 
I choose to believe that I am fearfully and wonderfully made by him (Psalm 139).
I choose to believe that I can live fearlessly because He is my light and my salvation (Psalm 27).
I choose to believe that I am a friend of God (John 15:15).
I choose to believe that I am made new (2 Corinthians 5:17). 
I choose to believe that I am found holy and blameless before the Lord (Ephesians 1:4). 
I choose to believe that I have been made alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5). 
I choose to believe that the peace of God guards my mind (Philippians 4:7) and that He will supply all my needs (Philippians 4:19).

I can't end this without saying this: If you have been raped or assaulted or if you find yourself in a dangerous relationship today, don't stay silent. Speak up and get help. If you need me to point you to some good options for help, I'd be happy to do so. If you're struggling with believing you're worth the effort it takes to heal, let me assure you that YOU ARE. And I'll happily  believe it for you until you're ready to believe it yourself. Don't wait any longer to take the first step to healing. It is possible. You do not have to be defined by what happened to you any longer. I'm living proof. 

To God be the Glory for that truth....

Monday, October 30, 2017

A letter to my former self

Dear Former Holly,

Three years from now, you're going to open Facebook and see a "memory" pop up from today. You'll look in shock and say to yourself, "Oh my gosh, look how FAT I was!". You'll initially hesitate to look further at the picture, but then you'll be intrigued, so you'll enlarge it-zoom in closer- to see just how many chins you had and how your eyes sunk into your chubby cheeks. Then you'll take a selfie and put those pics side by side to compare where you are today. Yep, you sure will! I know, I know, you hate pictures, but it's a thing you'll do in the future just to see how far you've come.
And then it will happen.

You will cry. And then you'll laugh. And then you'll cry a little more. And then you'll send those side-by-side pics to your husband and your mom and say, "Can you even believe this?".

So much is going to change about you. So much more than your fat face, let me assure you.

In the future, you aren't going to stand behind everyone in every. single. picture. ever. You aren't going to spend energy trying to hide behind someone or some object just so less of you shows up in a picture. Nope. In three years, you will ask people to pose with you so you can have a reminder of the day, the moment, the adventure. And you'll look at those pictures and smile instead of squirm.

In the future, you're going to walk confidently into a room, not worried that people are looking at how fat you are, but eagerly looking for people you know to talk to. You're not going to scope out a place for the seat that you can fit into or the widest area you can walk through. Nope. You'll be too busy enjoying LIFE to notice those things much anymore.

In the future, you'll get on an airplane and literally laugh OUT LOUD every time you buckle your seatbelt and have to cinch it tighter across your lap, remembering how you almost couldn't get it buckled once upon a time.

Three years from now, you will be the one begging your family to go hiking or for a walk. Heck, you'll even go by yourself to do those things! Girl, you will CLIMB A MOUNTAIN by yourself in the future. YES, you really will! And you'll be so proud when you stand at the top, looking down at how far you climbed, and in your spirit you'll feel true pride and know that you are whole and healed and free of so much baggage you carried for so long.

You need to know that in the future, it's ok for you to spend a little money on some new clothes. After all, you're going to need them. A girl can't walk around in pants that literally fall off of her. And it's ok for you to enjoy shopping again. It doesn't make you selfish to enjoy that you can try something on and feel beautiful. You'll bond with your daughter in the dressing rooms of many stores, and it will be grand.

You may also need to hear that you're worth the money, time and energy you've spent on making a healthier you. It's a good thing. It's ok to invest in yourself and your health. Stop feeling guilty if you want to go for that walk or run alone because not only is it good for the body, but it's good for your soul.

In the days ahead, you'll actually get on a stage to speak to people. Sometimes it will be about your book, and sometimes about your past hurts. Sometimes you'll teach from the Bible. Sometimes it will be talks about racial equality or other topics. But the thing is this: You'll actually enjoy being there! You'll come to love standing before people and sharing the things God has taught you and how He has loved you so well. I know it seems freaky, but trust me on this. You will love public speaking three years from now. Crazy, huh?

There will still be times in the future that you'll look into a mirror and see someone that's not good enough. I know; I wish I could tell you that goes away, but at least in three years, it still will be there, although not nearly as often. But I can tell you this: You'll be able to push those thoughts away much easier, and walk in confidence that you're enough just as you are.

You may think that losing weight won't change how you think or your personality. And while it won't change the core of you- your values and morals and hopes and dreams- it WILL change how you view life. It will be a catalyst for you to live life with more joy and less abandon. Losing weight will spur you to believe that if you can do this hard thing, then you can do other hard things. And you will do hard things! 

Three years from now, you're going to awaken as a woman who feels fierce and confident and loved and whole and free and joyful. And let me tell you; you ARE those things. You are loved by the greatest husband who will be your biggest encourager through this process (and forever!). And you have the best family in the world who will cheer you on.

I'm not one to rush through life, but in three years you are going to be feeling so full of joy and contentment. It's going to be good. No, it's not going to be perfect. You'll still see things you want to change about you (that's a good thing!), but you'll love who you are. Genuinely love who you are. And that is a very good thing, Holly.

Enjoy the ride. Life is sweet,

Your Future Self

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What the Church Can Learn from the Hardcore Scene

A couple months ago, Jeff and I attended a show that our son’s band was performing in. Now that may not sound so odd, but the story has just begun. You see, our son plays in a hardcore band. Hardcore (formerly called hardcore punk) is a subculture of music that originated in the late 1970's and has evolved into a faster, harder and more aggressive style of music.  We’re talking screaming, moshing, look-like-you’re-killing-your-best-friend music. It’s sometimes so loud that I fear my ears will literally explode (Sorry to my audiology friends out there). It’s sometimes so vulgar that I feel my heart will explode (true story!) It’s sometimes so chaotic that I fear my introverted Self may implode. And yet, I love my son and so I went happily to this show. Our son lives out of state, and we miss him! So when he told us he’d be playing at a show in Louisville, we definitely wanted to be there to hug his neck!

When I say that Jeff and I were a little out of place, I’m not exaggerating. We walked into a pizza parlor that serves as a music venue for hardcore bands. It’s underground, dark, a little smelly, and the concrete block walls serve as the perfect echoing mechanism for all the screaming that happened. When we first walked in, the guy selling concert tickets assumed we were just there to grab a pizza (I hear it’s delicious; I haven’t tried it myself). We assured him we were there for the show, and when we explained that our son was playing, he let us in without paying.

We walked into this crowded space filled with people from all walks of life. There were kids who couldn’t have been more than 12 or 13. There were college professors and middle aged moshers. There were folks with hair colored a dozen different colors, and those with no hair at all. There were those covered head to toe in tattoos, and a few girls with not much clothing on. There were gay couples, straight couples, transgendered people, wealthy folks, people who had almost nothing, people who had obviously just recently smoked a LOT of weed from the smell of things. And in the midst of this crowd, my son caught sight of us and ran to us, threw his arms around me and picked me up in a bear hug. He wasn’t at all embarrassed that his middle-aged (and slightly un-cool) parents were there. He proudly introduced us to his friends, all of whom were so kind and talkative and engaging.
We listened to 3 or 4 bands before Bryan's band played. I was told to "get up on the seat of the booth" while bands were playing to avoid being in the mosh pit. Believe me when I say I wanted no part of being in that pit! I watched as people threw punches in the air, kicked like bucking broncos, screaming in each other's faces with spit flying,  and swung their arms like helicopter rotors. It was complete chaos from the outside looking in. And yet, there was an order to it. Unbeknownst to me before that night, there are rules to the mosh pit. And if you don't follow those rules, you will be sent out of said pit. But that's another story for another time.
I stood in that little room, head thumping from the bass pounding, and it dawned on me that I was in a really cool place. And I was somewhere that maybe surprisingly, the Church could learn a few things from. Here's my takeaway from that night and from conversations with my son and others in the hardcore scene about what I believe the Church could learn from Hardcore.
1. How to be genuinely open to ALL. 
When I say that I stood amidst folks of all walks of life, I was serious. It's not often that I stand in a room with people that don't look, dress, act, believe, and express themselves much like me. It's our human nature to surround ourselves with people we connect with, who think like us and have our same set of values. Yet that night, I was surrounded with a true smorgasbord of people. Some of them are Christians- sold-out followers of Jesus. Some of them are atheist. Some are in between somewhere. Some were gay. Some were straight. Some were bi-sexual. Some believed that drugs are ok and acceptable. Some have pledged "straight edge", a commitment to not use drugs or alcohol at all. Some were vegan; some loved meat. Some showed tattoos depicting stories of their lives, and some had smooth skin with no marks at all. And EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM (Myself included) WERE TRULY WELCOME AND WANTED.
I sat in my church Sunday morning and looked around me. I saw one person with brightly colored hair, a few who showed tattoos, but for the most part we all looked and acted pretty much the same. And I wonder if that's how the Church is supposed to look. Somehow I don't think so. And what's more, I wonder if my gay or transgendered friends feel like they'd truly be welcome in our churches, or if they'd be stared at and judged before we even got to hear their stories. I'm not saying we back down from our convictions about biblical truth. That's not what this is about. I'm just saying, "are we truly open to ALL people from ALL walks of life?" The hardcore scene is sincere about this. I know because I was welcomed openly there. I've seen firsthand that the hardcore community doesn't just talk about acceptance; they practice it. They mean it when they say they are for everyone and want you there. 
2.  The people in the hardcore community take care of one another. 
The bible tells us in Galatians that we are to "bear one another's burdens", yet I look around my town, and I see people in need. I look around our world, and I see people literally dying from unclean water, poverty, acts of racism, and war, and I have to ask myself, "What am I doing about it, and what is the Church doing about it"?. With the hardcore community, when there is a need, it is met immediately. My son tells me of a person in their community who had a house fire. They raised enough money in a short time to replace everything lost. When my son had his wallet stolen while on tour, his money was replaced and tripled in just a few short hours once people heard. I've watched this community rally around someone whose child has cancer and was in need of money for medical treatment. I've watched them do a show to raise money for the homeless in communities. I've watched them give generously from their wallets for those in need, despite the fact that many of them live paycheck to paycheck themselves. They don't even seem to give a thought to the fact that they may need the money they are giving; they simply see a need and know they can meet it. So they do. 

Now, don't get me wrong. I know that there are some followers of Christ who are getting this right. I know there are churches who are meeting the needs of those in their communities well. Please don't hear me saying that no one in the Christian community is doing this. I'm just wondering if maybe we could be better at this. I'm thinking out loud here that maybe we could have more of a mindset that says "yes" to helping immediately. I see that in the hardcore community, and it's impressive. 

The people in the hardcore community are passionate people. You hear it in their voices, in the language they use (albeit foul), in the songs they write and scream sing. You see it in their faces. You read it on their t-shirts. They aren't shy about what they believe. They don't hold back even when they know those around them may disagree. They can hear other opinions, respect those opinions and never for a moment slack off in their own convictions. The Church could take a lesson here. We have the One Truth that is worth a passion like this, and sometimes I fear that we are hiding instead. When faced with the decision to speak up for the things of Christ or remain silent, too often we are remaining silent. You'll never spend any amount of time with someone connected to the hardcore community without knowing with absolute certainty what drives him or her. How well is the Church doing at that in our communities? 

The hardcore community gets a bad reputation often. I confess I've been guilty myself of judging them based solely on their screaming music and vulgar language. I don't condone the language, but after getting to know the people, I understand it. And that is possible. It's possible to get to know someone closely and to genuinely love them without condoning their choices in life. When we take the time to get to know someone, to HEAR THEIR STORY, it starts to make sense sometimes as to why they act the way they do. When we really get to know people, we are better able to love them. True love is in the knowing. True love says "I see your life, and I am still here, even if I don't believe the same way". True love says "I think you're worth my time and attention even if we aren't the same". I've seen that among the hardcore folks that I know and love. I see it in some of Christ's followers too, but I wonder if maybe, just maybe, we could all love a little harder?

So, mosh on all of my hardcore friends. I'm watching and celebrating you. And Church, let's Mosh on too!