Freedom Friday: Does Jesus Accept You as You Are?

Imagine you’re at a bus stop.

Technically, it’s a free shuttle. The sign at the covered bus stop says that the free shuttle runs on this route.

You wait. You wait some more. Several buses come and go, but no free shuttles, and none of them end up at your needed destination.

Finally, you ask someone walking up the street if they know anything about the free shuttle.

“Yes, the free shuttle goes on this route and will take you right where you want to go. Just sit back; relax. This is the route for the free shuttle. Don’t worry.”

Relieved, you sit back in the shelter of the bus stop and wait. You check your email on your phone, text a few friends, check your Facebook. Soon, you realize another hour has passed.

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Just then, another bus comes, and someone gets off. “Please,” you say, “do you know when the free shuttle will be coming? I’ve been waiting a long time!”

“It’s Sunday,” the man replies. “The shuttle doesn’t run on weekends.”

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3 weeks ago, I wrote a post on what allows me to still wear my LIVESTRONG bracelet and to still listen to the song, “Healer.” What allows me to do that is grace.

This week, with some big news in the Christian media (which I’m not going to comment on :)), I kept hearing the phrase: “Jesus accepts people as they are.”

I hear this phrase a lot from my American Christian friends. I can’t say that in the past this phrase ever bothered me all that much. I can’t even say I really gave it much thought until those recent conversations.

Something about the way the phrase was used didn’t sit right with me. I started to wonder if this phrase actually accurately depicts the fullness of the Gospel.

We generally use this phrase as another way of saying, “We shouldn’t judge where people are. Jesus accepts people where they are and so should we.”

But what if that’s only telling people half the Gospel?

Mary Heathman, in speaking at a conference I recently attended, said, “Grace and truth are two sides of the same coin. They are not two different coins.” She went on to say that one without the other isn’t grace or truth; it’s pseudo-grace and pseudo-truth. Grace and truth, in essence, are inseparable. You can’t have one without the other.

I immediately think of John 1:14:

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

What if “Jesus accepts you as you are” is just the grace part? Can we really have grace without truth if Jesus was the fullness of both?

Isn’t that sort of like telling someone that yes, the shuttle you’re waiting for does run this route, but not telling them the specifics of how to get on the bus?

Did Jesus accept the rich young ruler where He was? How about the woman caught in adultery?

Can you think of examples in Scripture where Jesus accepted someone who was stuck in sin where they were (grace) without calling them to something better (truth)?

Because I can’t.

This verse is the closest I can think of to the sentiment of “Jesus accepts you as you are” stated by Jesus and recorded in Matthew 11:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Sigh. We all give a big exhale when we read this verse. What a peaceful, embracing sentiment. Jesus continues:

Take my yoke upon you

Now hold up! That doesn’t sound very “come as you are”-ish! Exchange my weariness and burdened self for a yoke?

Yes.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Jesus’s yoke may be easy, but it’s still a yoke. His burden may be light, but it’s still a burden.

Perhaps this is why He implored the crowds listening to His teaching to count the cost before committing to being His follower:

 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.

“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” Luke 14:28-33

The problem may very well be with our definition of the word “accept.” However we couch it, the thought that Jesus might accept or embrace us where we are is not necessarily reassuring.

Because I don’t want to stay here.

What we do know is that Jesus is always calling us to so much more than what we’ve experienced thus far. He calls us to abundance. Therein lies the hope of the Gospel: the promise of life-changing transformation.

For that, I’m all in.

An Interview with Abby Kelly, author of “The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story”

Several times on this blog, I’ve mentioned Abby Kelly, author of The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story. Abby is a joy to know! She has really allowed God to work in her life in so many ways. Today, I’m thrilled to be sharing my interview with her here at Living Unveiled.

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If you’d like to read her interview of me on her blog, here it is 🙂 My answers might surprise you!

So without further ado, here’s Abby!

Brenna Kate: Tell me your book title and publication date.
Abby: The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story. The paperback was released in early March. The ebook is currently available in most formats.

BK: One word that sums up this book…. (and then why?)
A: Rescue. I like to use that word instead of recovery because “recovery” makes it sound like I did most of the work myself—I recovered. But in very real terms, Jesus rescued me. I had nothing to do with it. I had tried to “recover” from anorexia using almost every method out there. And truly, at least half of me really wanted to get better. I got over the denial pretty quick, but something else kept me stuck. It’s like Paul talks about in Romans 7, I kept doing what I didn’t want to do. But after years of trying, when I finally broke, Jesus stepped in and rescued me. I think that word also applies because I can tell you the exact day my eating disorder was triggered, but I can’t tell you the exact day I got “well.” It kind of overtook me by surprise.

BK: Is this your first book?
A: This is my first book-length project. I currently write for a lot of Christian publications, both physical and online, but those are short devotions and articles.

BK: Who is your intended audience, and what do you hope your readers take away from your work?
A: When I first concluded the book, the last chapter addressed the three demographics that I imagine will benefit most from this book: an individual personally struggling with an eating disorder, a parent of someone struggling with an eating disorder, or someone whose marriage is crumbling due to an eating disorder or another type of addiction. That said, anyone and probably almost everyone is connected to someone who has food and body image issues. Anyone in that position will benefit from this book.

I want people to feel sorrow and fear when they’re in the middle of the book. The point is to reveal the gravity of eating disorders—anorexia is the most deadly mental illness. Because our culture is so adjusted to fad diets and the term “obesity epidemic” we’re often blinded to the dangers of weight loss tactics.

At the end of the book, I want people to be buoyed by hope and feel like they know where to go next to find help for their own struggles. I want them to see Jesus as their first and last resource and to understand His love for them even in the middle of the mess, even when they’re “sick.”

BK: What was the hardest part of writing this story? What brought you the most joy?
A: The hardest part was actually asking about and listening to the honest accounts of the pain I caused other people in my illness. I wrote to each of my sisters and asked for their memories of that time—how they felt and what they thought. I knew my eating disorder had affected them, but in the process of treatment, most of the focus was on me. I was constantly searching internally and being asked what I thought or felt. But it was eye-opening and a little painful to listen intently to how others were hurt in my chaos. The most joy was definitely the end and not just because I was done writing. But the book ends at “now.” And now, I’m discovering each day afresh. Now, I am walking in freedom. Now, I am enjoying Jesus. Now, I am engaged in relationships. And now, I enjoy food 🙂

BK: Who has inspired you most in your writing career? Personally and professionally.
A: Personally, my mother. No one else in my life has been so open and honest and vulnerable with me about her mistakes, finding forgiveness, changing and growing in the Lord. From the time I was little, she showed me what it’s like to be a woman after God’s own heart. Also, when I was the most rebellious and hateful, she never turned her back on me. And when my husband was struggling, she always honored our marriage and respected him and gave us grace.

Professionally? Well, this is an eclectic list, so bear with me. First, my dad. He’s the consummate professional. He respects everyone, absorbs every opportunity to learn, innovates and leads with kindness. Second, my husband. He’s an incredible leader which is something I’m always told I “should do” and I’m never comfortable doing. Patrick is an Army officer. I’ve watched him lead humbly, from the front, fearlessly and consistently. His time management skills, creativity and innovation amaze me. He can see third and fourth degree consequences and anticipates both the best and the worst.

And yes, there’s a writer mentor too. 🙂 Bethany McShurley has edited several of Beth Moore’s Bible studies. At one point, I sent her an email because I loved her words at the front of the study. She replied to me and offered encouragement in my current writing projects and even sent me some opportunities. I want to have the characteristics of all those people in my personal and professional life.

And now, some random little things about Abby…
• Nickname as a child (and story behind it) Oh-so-many! Squilly (who knows, my dad came up with it) Abs, Ab-ner (that had to happen) Jenny (one of my sisters) even shortened my name to “A” for a while.
• Favorite color (and why) Again…so many! Green first, I think. Then blue, brown, orange—can I keep going?
• Preferred writing attire? Yoga pants usually, or if I’m coming in from a morning dog walk and the idea simply struck, then it’s my tennis shoes, jacket, whatever I have on!
• Tea or coffee? Coffee! I’m like you, Brenna, mostly decaf. I get really jittery with caffeine but I LOVE the taste of coffee!
• Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts? Starbucks all the way! I worked at Starbucks for a while when we were stationed in Washington State. Now, I’m more hooked than ever!
• Favorite author? I have no idea! Actually, wait—C.S. Lewis. That’s not because I’ve read all or even most, maybe not even many of his books. However, I am unceasingly amazed by the beauty of his writing. How he manages to combine that beauty with such deep, raw thought is beyond me. It’s like he takes questions that have never before been posited and then tumbles and spins and polishes them, providing an answer that gleams like expensive jewels.

Thank you so much, Abby, for allowing me to interview you! Mostly decaf for the win! 🙂

You can read my review of The Predatory Lies of Anorexia here (I loved it). Get the paperback or the Kindle for yourself or someone you love today!

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #8: “The Cross and the Switchblade” by David Wilkerson

I finished my 8th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson

This book was a little different because I actually listened to the audio version. As I mentioned before, Christianaudio.com has a free monthly download. All you have to do is sign up for their email newsletter, and they will let you know what the free download of the month is. You go to the site, enter your email, and it downloads. You can’t beat free!

I’ve also shared that I don’t think absorb as much from audio books as I do from actual hold-in-your-hands books. But since I’ve read this book at least 5 times already (though probably not in about 5 years), I was very excited to listen to it.

The audio version did not disappoint.

If you’re not familiar with David Wilkerson, he traveled to New York City in the late 1950’s to minister to teens in gangs and with heroin addiction. He eventually began a ministry that is known as Teen Challenge today. This book is the story of that ministry’s beginnings. Teen Challenge is now one of the most successful drug rehabilitation programs worldwide.

The story is so compelling (even the 6th time around) that I limited myself to only listening to it while exercising. I found myself cheering, pumping my fists, crying and praying, even though I would be running or on the elliptical. I won’t give away the whole book, but I will share one story.

David Wilkerson comes from several generations of preachers. His grandfather was a preacher, and so was his father. One day, his grandfather said to David, “The day you learn to be publically specific in your prayer, that is the day you will discover power.” He learned the power of this truth one day when he was about 12.

He came home from school to find several cars and an ambulance at his house. He knew it was his father. His father had duodenal ulcers, and for more than ten years he was not free of pain. David’s mother warned him on this day that his father would likely die. Just then, his father cried out in pain. As his mother ran into the room, David saw that the floor and bedclothes were covered in blood.

I’ll let the book pick up there:

Ignoring my grandfather’s words, I ran just as far away from everyone as I could. I ran down the basement stairs, shut myself up in the coal bin, and there I prayed, trying to substitute volume of voice for the belief that I lacked.

What I didn’t realize was that I was praying into a kind of loud-speaker system.

Our house was heated by hot air, and the great trumpetlike pipes branched out from the furnace, beside the coal bin, into every room of the house. My voice was carried up those pipes so that the men from the church, sitting in the living room, suddenly heard a fervent voice pouring out of the walls. The doctor upstairs heard it. My father, lying on his deathbed heard it.

“Bring David here,” he whispered.

So I was brought upstairs past the staring eyes of the elders and into my father’s room. Dad asked Dr. Brown to wait in the hall for a moment, then he told Mother to read aloud the 22nd verse of the 21st chapter of Matthew…

“And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer,” she read, “believing, ye shall receive.”

I felt a tremendous excitement. “Mother, can’t we take that for Dad now?”

So while my father lay limp on his bed, Mother began to read the same passage over and over again… And while she was reading I got up from my chair and walked over to Dad’s bed and laid my hands on his forehead.

“Jesus,” I prayed, “Jesus, I believe what You said. Make Daddy well!”

There was one more step. I walked to the door and opened and said, loud and clear: “Please come, Dr. Brown. I have…” (it was hard) “I have prayed believing that Daddy will get better.”

Dr. Brown looked down at my twelve-year old earnestness and smiled a warm and compassionate and totally unbelieving smile. But that smile turned first to puzzlement and then to astonishment as he bent to examine my father.

“Something has happened,” he said. His voice was so low I could hardly hear. Dr. Brown picked up his instruments with fingers that trembled, and tested Dad’s blood pressure. “Kenneth,” he said, raising Dad’s eyelids and then feeling his abdomen and then reading his blood pressure again. “Kenneth, how do you feel?”

“Like strength is flowing into me.”

“Kenneth,” said the doctor, “I have just witnessed a miracle.”

David Wilkerson went from being a “country preacher” from the hills of Pennsylvania to ministering through the power of the Holy Spirit to teens in New York City with strongholds he’d never even heard of. He was able to do this because God enabled him to.

If that doesn’t get you excited about what God is capable of, then you might not be alive!

Grab a copy of The Cross and the Switchblade. Your local library might have it. And prepare to be changed!

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:
           

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #7: “The Predatory Lies of Anorexia” by Abby Kelly

I finished my 7th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story by Abby Kelly

I “met” Abby because she oversees the blog over at FINDINGbalance, where I have guest-posted. I’ve mentioned her before, and over the past few months, we’ve become fast friends.

I was THRILLED when she offered to let me read a preview copy of her book about her recovery from anorexia. I read this book almost straight through one Sunday and then had to slow myself down so I could actually write a review. That’s how captivating Abby’s story of battling the grip of anorexia is.

Since I also have overcome an eating disorder, I recognized much of myself in this story: the denial, the self-protection, the battling with family and other loved ones. But having read so many books on eating disorders, this one is distinct in two amazing ways.

The first thing that sticks out is how very well-written this book is. As someone who became a Christian as I emerged from the eating disorder’s hold, I have read many book on eating disorders by Christian authors. “Predatory Lies” is one of the best. Abby is a writer and a talented one at that. Though I was granted a preview copy, I could not think like a reviewer upon first read: I just had to read to finish. It’s not just that her story is compelling; the words she uses to capture her experiences and emotions grab your heart. I found myself needing to read the book again in order to be able to actually write the review! The parallels Abby draws between real-life situations and her recovery draw the reader in, so that even if anorexia is not your struggle, you relate. I love her honesty and willingness to not mince words. Here is one such quote: “anorexia robbed me of all ability to create and live within meaningful relationships. An eating disorder builds a shell around its victim, fending off anyone whose love might threaten it.”

The second thing that struck me is the hope. Abby clearly lives out the truth of Psalm 25:5: her hope is in the Lord all day long. And it’s not some vague “wishing on a star and pray everything comes out okay” hope. Her trust is in a living Savior who longs to help her (and you!) overcome life’s challenges. And she makes it clear in her captivating way that this hope is available to all who struggle with the lies an eating disorder speaks.

Abby has a clarity that is refreshing and necessary. The book has been released and is now available on Amazon. Read this book and sign up for her blog updates while you’re at it. You will not regret it!

You will be hearing more from Abby here at Living Unveiled in the coming weeks. She posted an interview of me in her blog, and I will be doing the same 🙂

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:
           

Monday Morning Meditation: Teach Us to Pray

Luke 11:1: “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.'”

I’ve been spending a lot of time with the section of Scripture we call “The Lord’s Prayer” lately. Not studying it – just praying it. This prayer I memorized as a child that flows out of my heart when I’m not sure what else to say.

In December of 1998, I was introduced to Keith Green. I was given his biography, No Compromise, as well as a couple of his CD’s. I was not yet a Christian, but a friend thought maybe Keith’s music and life would draw me closer to Jesus during a difficult time.

Keith was a radical. He was 100% sold out to Jesus. And one night in January of 1999, as I listened to one of Keith’s passionate songs, as I heard him sing about Jesus, I cried out to God, “I want what he has!”

I don’t know that I was ever taught the context of the Lord’s Prayer. This wasn’t a prayer that Jesus apparently recited over and over, as my Sunday School teacher did, in order for the disciples to memorize it. It wasn’t super lengthy or wordy. It wasn’t even a topic that Jesus brought up on His own accord.

One disciple wanted to be taught how to pray.

Read Luke 11:1 again, as quoted above. The disciples saw Jesus praying. When Jesus was finished, one of his disciples said of Jesus, as I said of Keith Green that January night, I want what He has.

If you struggle with knowing how or what to pray, ask, as the disciple asked:

“Teach us to pray.”

God, let that be our prayer this week. Teach us to pray as You pray. We want what You have.

Freedom Friday: Why I Still Wear my LIVESTRONG Bracelet and Listen to the Song “Healer”

My dad gave me a LIVESTRONG bracelet to wear as I ran my 2nd 5K in 2008.

I had raised over $1000 for cancer research and was super excited to run. This was my first race to run for those who can’t run themselves. I’ve worn it for every race since.

My dad had been wearing one for a long time and supported the LIVESTRONG foundation in other ways. He identified with Lance Armstrong’s own battle with cancer and his decision to live life to the fullest as long as he is able.

Lance Armstrong admitted to doping shortly after my father died of cancer.

I still wear my LIVESTRONG bracelet.

Running the Baltimore Marathon in Oct. 2013, LIVESTRONG bracelet on

Running the Baltimore Marathon in Oct. 2013, LIVESTRONG bracelet on

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Michael Guglielmucci composed the song “Healer” in late 2006 after announcing he was dying of cancer. This song was a popular choice at the church we attended in Boston prior to moving to Virginia. I cried through many choruses, declaring, “I believe You’re my healer, I believe You are all I need,” all the while recognizing that God didn’t appear to be healing my father. I sang with passion, “You walk with me through fire; You heal all my disease. I trust in You – I trust in You,” knowing that trust is a choice to believe in God’s character, to rely on His goodness, to ask for His eyes to see clearly when nothing seems to be making sense.

At some point in the last year, I was told about the history of the song which had surfaced in 2008. Michael Guglielmucci had faked his illness, an attempt to create a diversion from a 16-year battle with pornography addiction.

I still sing the song “Healer.”

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We often lack true grace in our society. I’m not talking about sloppy or cheap grace – the counterfeit that allows us to continue in our sin when God beckons us to live in freedom.

I’m talking about real grace.

The kind of grace that Jesus extended to the woman caught in adultery, recounted in John 8 – grace that extends a hand when you’re down, helps you up, and then commands you to “Go and sin no more.”

The kind of grace that Jesus talked about when He said to forgive “seventy times seven” times.

The kind of grace that hung from a cross so that we could have a chance at the abundant life of freedom we were created to live.

How many second chances has Jesus given you?

What about third? Fourth? Fifth? One hundredth?

We need to learn about true grace. We want justice; we don’t want to forgive. We laugh at others’ failures in hopes that somehow, it shows us in a better light. We try to negotiate when forgiveness is appropriate, as if Jesus’s words weren’t clear. We don’t extend to others the grace we expect for ourselves.

I wear my LIVESTRONG bracelet (I don’t wear the original one my dad give me; I now wear his) as a reminder to live a life of goodness, one of my father’s aspirations. I wear it, reminded of a man named Lance Armstrong who had imperfections, but chose to do much good with the influence he had gained. Yes, he made some big mistakes and then he lied about them. Is that unforgivable? I wear this bracelet so that I remember to not lose heart when life gets hard. I wear it as a reminder that nothing is impossible with God.

I sing the song “Healer” because Michael Guglielmucci knew God could heal him of his pornography addiction. He knew it so deeply in his soul that he wrote a song about it. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know I don’t believe God heals us in a bubble (James 5:16), that healing generally happens in the context of community. I pray now he has found the healing he needs. I sing the song because the words aren’t any less true just because Michael Guglielmucci was lying about having cancer when he wrote that song; the truth contained in the song has not changed because the writer’s lies were exposed. I sing “Healer” because I desperately believe in its sentiment.

For nothing is impossible for You
Nothing is impossible
Nothing is impossible for You
You hold my world in Your hands

Extend grace to someone this week, even if they don’t deserve it. Especially if they don’t deserve it. That is what the cross did for you and me. Forgive someone. Ask God to search your heart and show you your own graceless attitudes.

Lord, help us to be more like You.

 

Welcome to Living Unveiled, the blog of Brenna Kate Simonds, Author of “Learning to Walk in Freedom”

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Welcome to the blog of Brenna Kate Simonds, author of Learning to Walk in Freedom.

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You Have Not Because You Ask Not
Do I Still Struggle With Same-Sex Attraction?
Remind God of His Promises

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