Because of RHE

Dear Rachel Held Evans,

You don’t know me and, to be honest, I don’t know you well either. I followed you on Twitter and read some of the blogs you posted, but I’ve never even seen one of yours books, let alone read one. I learned about you from my sister, although I had heard about you before, and after going through some of your tweets, I decided to follow you. That decision opened up a whole world of people whom I didn’t know existed, and through some of your conversations and retweets, I’ve started following many others who have challenged me to growth in my faith.

It’s been a week since you passed away. It still leaves me in shock thinking about it. I mean, I shouldn’t be upset right? I hardly knew you, never read any of your books, don’t know any details about your theology, and I never had the chance to speak with you. Others have died in the past year whom I actually had regular acquaintance with - people I had known for my entire life. I didn’t cry when I heard of their passing or even when I went to their funerals.

But I cried when I heard of yours.

Well, more specifically, I cried when I went on Twitter Sunday morning to find the hashtag #BecauseOfRHE and there were hundreds, if not thousands, of people tweeting about what your life meant to them. I read tweets from many pastors and bloggers who said it was you who gave them the inspiration to speak up. I read tweets from authors who said that it was your words of encouragement that pushed them to keep writing. My sister told me that it was your book, Faith Unraveled, which helped her realize that she was not the only one with questions and doubts in Christianity and it gave her comfort and hope knowing that someone else was willing to talk about it. It is because of you that these women and men have found peace, courage, life, joy, and power. They have found themselves.

I sit back in awe looking at the life you led. You inspired so many to action - you inspired them to speak their minds. You showed them that there is room at the table for all, and you even pushed some naysayers aside to open a space for those who believed that they were too far outside to have a place. I watched you argue on Twitter, sometimes in defense of yourself but mostly in defense of others - often the most vulnerable. You appeared unafraid to let the world know where you stood, and I admired that. Personally, I’ve struggled to even know where I’m standing, never mind speak adamantly about the truthfulness of that place. You have given me a model of how it looks to stand tall in your beliefs, and it’s one I strive to follow.

At church on Sunday, we played two songs that still ring in my memory. The first was Reckless Love, a song that I could hear you singing as I remembered all the stories that I read about you: “Oh the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. It chases me down, fights til I’m found, leaves the 99.” You embodied that love for others in your words and actions.

The second was “Come Lord Jesus,” and although it is not a song of lament, I heard the chorus as that; “Every heart longing for our king, we sing. Even so, come. Lord Jesus come.” This world is less full than it was last week. It is less bright. I can only imagine what your family is going through - the pain and anger at a world that is far from perfect. Despite the thousands of Christians vigilantly praying for your health, you were taken away from us. We long for a world when all is right again, when the Lord Jesus will come and renew all things. We long for the resurrection of the dead and the hope of a new life with Christ. We long for a world where death does not have the last say.

I wait for the day when I get the chance to meet you and tell you that it is because of you that my life now makes more sense. It is because of you that my sight is now focused and my purpose has never been clearer. I am inspired by people who tell their stories - those whose voices I would not have heard if it was not for you.

Thank you Rachel Held Evans for the life you modeled for us. You have given us the courage to live our own.

Shane O’Leary

When Words Fail

What can I say?

Is it really that important?

Why me? Who wants to hear from me?

These are the types of questions I have found myself asking. I have not published a piece in over a year, and those questions are one of the main reasons that has happened. Sure, I’ve become super busy taking on a second job as a young adult leader at my church and yes, I have also had the honor of finding out that I am a dad to a little girl who is to be born in August. This is all true, but it’s the questions that have truly kept me from writing.

I mean, who am I that I should speak? Straight. White. Male. Evangelical. I’m the type of person that I’ve tried to avoid listening to over the past couple years. I would rather read blogs from people with different experiences than my own and hear voices that have long gone unheard. I would rather take time listening and reading from those people than typing my own thoughts.

I have come to see that people who do what I do really piss me off. I’ve wasted hours of my life reading blogs from pastors and teachers such as myself on websites like the Gospel Coalition and Desiring God, and even more hours spent in anger and disgust at what those people said. I am stunned by the number of dangerous, hurtful, sexist, racist, unbiblical, and downright ungodly posts that I have seen from men like me who think that they are doing the world a favor by sharing their thoughts.

Not only that, but I have written things in the past that have hurt people. Words that I meant in the best possible way were taken to mean something else, and legitimately so. Words that were meant to inspire dragged some people down. Words that were meant to heal only opened more wounds.

As a teacher, I have found that my words are far more dangerous than others because people take what I say as having some authority. At 23 years old, I am only beginning to scratch the surface of knowledge and wisdom, and yet my spoken thoughts today - which could be different next week - could have an impact on others beyond that. I am finding that the things I say and the way I act is more open to scrutiny now that it ever was before.

So why write? Why this post?

Truthfully, I don’t know. I felt compelled this morning by words I’ve read from other blogs and even tweets from some of the people I follow on Twitter. I also took time to read a couple chapters of Isaiah this morning, and chapter 6 hit home (as well as the rest of the book. Seriously, go read it if you never have. I’m reading the NLT translation and it has been incredible). I am compelled not to write perfectly, but to write. I feel called to speak - not to anyone in particular, but to myself. I’ve realized I need to hear my own voice again, even if that’s just to straighten things out in my head.

I’m planning on publishing this post but not sharing it like I used to. This post is not for anyone else; it’s just for me. Words have failed me for the last year, and I think it’s time I got back on track.

Isaiah 6:1b-7

I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. They were calling out to each other,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!

The whole earth is filled with his glory!”

Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke.

Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.”

Being Human; Black Panther and the Relationship between Politics, Art, and Theology.

Being Human; Black Panther and the Relationship between Politics, Art, and Theology.

While our instincts are to divide the secular from the sacred – the holy from the unclean – the God-human in a feeding trough in Bethlehem breaks these divisions down for us. When we try to remove our theological views from the world around us, we end up taking Jesus out of his own kingdom.

A Tale of Two Churches

A Tale of Two Churches

One's experience at church shapes how one lives as a Christian outside of the sanctuary. In order for our churches to thrive, and more importantly, for the Church to thrive, we must be willing to learn from each other and develop better ways to teach the Christian life to those who seek it.