Category: spiritual growth

women and the stronghold of insecurity

My mother-in-law recently sent me this great article by the teacher Beth Moore. If you don’t know who she is, she wrote a book called Breaking Free which is a very simple Bible study that teaches you how to use the words of truth in the Bible as proclamations. There is one thing Beth Moore knows, and that is scripture–she knows that it is the best weapon of all.

The article was an interview about her new book So Long, Insecurity, which is all about her path to overcoming insecurity and how other women, especially, can overcome it as well. I think this book is very, very timely. (And I love the subtitle: “you’ve always been a bad friend to us”.) Although I’ve always kind of felt that insecurity was a “thing”, nowhere has anyone named insecurity as an enemy, a “thing” that is wielded against us. Once some kind of false reality is named, our discernment of it gets greater, our weapons against it get sharper.

The minute we ate from the tree, insecurity was there to hold our hand.

Adam answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”


And God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

The word for naked here is “erom”, which is usually used in places that indicate shame, exposure and bared-ness. It is distinct from “arum”, a word used earlier in Genesis to indicate something naked or not typically clothed. So the nakedness that they were before they ate, and the nakedness they felt after they ate were distinct. It’s interesting in that the word “arum”–which is what Adam and Eve were upon their creation–doesn’t necessarily mean unclothed. It’s quite possible–and I believe–that Adam and Eve were clothed with light, with a type of divine garment. If we were created in his image, and he is clothed with garments of light and majesty, his image of himself probably was, too.

Whatever they were stripped of, whether psychologically or physically, left them feeling bare. “Feeling bare” is another way of defining insecurity. Insecurity is feeling vulnerable, subject to harm, or dangerous sensitivity to one’s surroundings. Their nakedness per se was not the issue–the feeling of being vulnerable to harm was.

Perhaps they were not stripped of their light-laden clothing at all, but they felt they were. And insecurity has been our first line of thought since that point.

I can’t wait to read more of her book because I have thought about this quite a bit and struggled with it my whole life. I’ve overcome a lot of insecurity in the last 10 years, and I’m really with her in how frustrating it is to watch every woman I know struggle with it. (Her website declares: “We’re insecure. You and me and every woman. In fact, chronic insecurity is a cultural epidemic, but almost no one is talking about it. And it ticks me off.”) I just love it when a Baptist teacher gets ticked off. It’s about time.

Her website has a great idea: symbolically saying goodbye to insecurity by sending off a “so long, insecurity post”. It’s kind of mind-blowing–a collective blog where women are naming their insecurity demons. I’ve always known that when something I am struggling with has a name and a face, when it is pin-pointed, it is out in the light. That is half the battle–then I know what I am resisting. And it will flee.

New Resources

I apologize for my relative silence around our blog lately. (Although Derek’s been writing some great poems!) It’s been a busy year, full of maintenance of all of our existing projects and life’s busy-nesses (is that a word? now it is). I’m making no huge promises here, but I have been writing a bit more and am working on a new blog with my own non-Bearable Light writing and art. I’m also at the beginnings of another book. I’ll let y’all know when that gets off the ground.

In the meantime, we were thinking of opening comments on some entries on the blog. We’ve never done that before, but sometimes it’s fun to get feedback. I guess we could experiment and see how it goes.


I had a topic on my heart this week that I felt like exploring here. It has to do with new resources, and this is something that Derek and I have been struggling with and through lately, but somehow I think it is relevant to more than just our own lives. From just speaking with other friends and observing some trends in the church, it seems like many are in a period of transition.


when bitterness sets in

Most of us can’t pinpoint the moment a disappointment becomes bitter. Many of us experience repeated disappointments in the same area, and we still recognize the pain of being disappointed, but often there comes a certain point where we believe the disappointment and it makes a home deep in our hearts. Bitterness is basically unresolved grief that is very buried.

From then on out, there is no person or situation that can prove otherwise. Perhaps from time to time we feel glimpses of hope and forget about our pain, but it won’t be long before we are disappointed again in that area. Not just because life sucks, but because bitterness is an invisible ruler that sits on its own throne of our heart, ruling with its own interpretations. Bitterness is a stronghold. By nature bitterness takes root when we choose to stop hoping past our experiences. For most of us this starts in childhood.


notes from a recent sermon on haight street dr derek and rev shoeless jo

“I release the words of The Father over your life! Let them thwart the false streams of words that His enemy has against you. The Words of the Father are life, they are His specific blessings over you. They are His passion and enjoyment of you. Let them wave over us and take off every false whisper or lie from below. The words of the father are gold over us, and cause us to shine as the sun. The words of the father are hope for us, for they are true and how he sees us. the words of the father cannot be erased or overcome–for once a word is spoken…the words of the Father are irrevocable and mighty. Receive…these are the words you know as true. They push of the accuser, they cause your insides to dance again, they make the lame parts of yourself whole–don’t forget the Father of all Life is speaking over your life at all times–believe receive and enter into the stream of word of Life over your life!!!!”

reverend shoelessjo dansa


one new man

Lately I’ve been thinking what it means to become “one new man”, a spiritual concept that is hinted at a lot in the Bible and taught most fully by Paul in Ephesians. I really love Ephesians. It is one of those parts in all of holy literature where there are so many clues to our identity, to who we will be, to where we are going.

Anyhow, the most famous passage about the “new man” is Ephesians 2:14-16:

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

In this whole chapter, the teacher is writing about both cultural and spiritual divisions–the division between Jews and Gentiles, the division between men and God. And he says that we are foreigners–to each other, to him. There is a hostility between these cultures, and between us and the spiritual.

And I look around me and see the signs of this dividing wall. The biggest one is between us and God–the wall that separates our natural beings from his supernatural-ness, his being, his reality.

The second biggest dividing wall is between men and women.

And then between races, which of course the most crucial one is between Jew and Gentile. And if we doubt Scripture, even in world politics the hostility between Jew and Arab should be enough to convince us that this is one of the deepest grooves of human division.

From there, there is hostility between nations and even one nation divides against itself. Nowhere did this become more poignant to me than when I was visiting Berlin a few summers ago, and walked a long day around broken parts of the Berlin wall. When the wall was being expanded during the Cold War, there was a famous historical church called, appropriately, the Church of the Reconciliation, that was torn down to build more room for police to patrol the barrier.

I felt this as such a prophetic symbol–and Germany as a prophetic symbol–a nation which, in the aftermath of its racial humiliation, divided against itself, where the evil one was able to mock and tear down the reconciliation.

And when the Wall was finally torn down decades later, torn down with a frenzy that history has never seen, there was so much glee, so much hope, so much joy. It was the most profound prophecy for not only Germany but the future of the nations: “he tore down the dividing wall… putting to death their hostility”.

And not only that, he will make them one new man. And this is what I have been thinking about–what does it mean to be a new man/woman? He doesn’t eradicate who we are, who our basic identity is, but he does make two into one, even when men and women come together in marriage. There is one new thing that is made that never could have been made otherwise.

Same when two nations reconcile–there is one new person who is birthed. The two identities, distinct in who they are, also recreate something that never would have been expressed otherwise.

I have now seen so many marriages struggling and really in combat with each other, wanting to be free and be supported in their uniqueness and personal dreams, but never really discovering who that one new person is that they are together. This person that they create together–when they become one–will never be replicated by any other marriage, with any other partner, or cannot be made on their own. But it is an expression he wants to make… who is this new man?

How can we possibly know? It is work to cross racial divisions, too, and there is no way that we can do this without his revelation and help and constant forgiveness. To overcome racism and forgive is I think one of the biggest human obstacles and cannot be done without his forgiveness at the core. It cannot be done merely by civil rights, or fighting poverty, or giving people a chunk of land they want for themselves. It will not be overcome by balance, in the same way that you can’t heal the divisions between men and women by giving women more position. He doesn’t just want balance–he doesn’t just want fairness and justice–he wants one new man, who is bound together by love above all.

But the most amazing part is that since he wants to make one new person in a marriage, and one new man between nations, what does it mean for him to tear down the most basic wall between us and Him? He is trying to make, with us, a new person–a new expression, an expression that happens between God and each of us that will never have a chance to be expressed otherwise.

This new person that is made between me and God when we become one–I cannot express her on my own and He cannot express her on his own–it is the circle between us, his life in me, of tearing down the wall between us.

a parable about provision

I had a dream last night where Jesus was teaching in parables. And I overheard a series of parables about money and provision. In them the sunlight was always the father’s wealth, his abundance, and his limitless resources, and the growing plants were his children. This was one:

The kingdom of heaven is like pots of seedlings. In the beginning, the farmer grows his seed in protected conditions–inside a house or a greenhouse or under shelter– protected from sun, from cold, from increment weather and pests. In this way, the farmer nurtures his seeds safely so that they grow to become sturdy young seedlings. Eventually they must be moved outdoors into the place where they can grow most fully, since plants cannot stay healthy in artificial light. The light of the sun is far richer and far brighter, and few plants produce a bloom or fruit without the rays of the sun, but they must first learn how to receive the sun. So the farmer gradually takes his pots of seedlings into the sunlight and weather for lengthening periods of time each day, until they have adjusted to its total brightness, and ready to be planted into the soil.

In the same way, the Father has begun each of you from the tiniest seed. Some are still being grown so carefully in protected places, but he wants his children to stretch out and live under his abundant provision. Do you want to experience the full capacity of his light? The Father’s light has so much abundance, and this abundance is necessary to live, to grow, to flourish, to produce fruit and flower.

Dear children, trust My Father’s hand as he brings you out into the garden where you may experience His provision toward you. Don’t stretch toward the artificial light; it was there to protect you, to grow you, to keep you safe. He will stretch your land, your arms, your dreams, and multiply you as well.

the advent

This season the “advent” seems more poignant than ever. Not only do many Christians celebrate the historical announcement of his birth but there is another aspect to advent that we have not tapped into, or celebrated: the metaphysical event that his advent prophesied, the advent of a birth that is to come, not what has already happened.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

–from Romans 8

I remember about 7 years ago I started asking Jesus what it meant when He said He was coming back. At that period in my life I was having massive prophetic dreams and visions about His return. I can only say I felt overwhelmed by His presence that that point in my life, in a way I had never felt before.

One of the things that I saw so deeply was how many Christians have lost a living hope in his return because they have been unable to see that HIs return encompasses far more than a date in time. His return is in ‘space’ as much as it is in time. Jesus will not only return physically, with resurrection power, and bring many others with Him, but His return is metaphysical. The Greek work in scripture that was translated ‘coming’ or second coming, is “parousia”, which means “the presence” of God. The presence of God, making himself King, returning as King, is being established on the earth. His presence is being established inside of us.

In one of my dreams, the work of his ‘return in us’ was so important and connected to his physical return. The bride asks Him to come when she is one with the spirit in saying so. He sent the Holy Spirit to pour Himself inside of people, so that He could dwell in man more fully, make us His temple, make us His coming, a new creation, His presence. His advent announces both his birth in us, and the birth of the “new” sons and daughters.

Jesus taught about His coming as a series of birth pangs as a woman is in labor. Paul spoke about creation itself groaning in the pains of childbirth. Creation and people are in labor to birth Jesus. What this means for us is, His return will not be without pain, inside of me or you. It is not something to run away from. It is not just about getting on with life. It is about letting Him be born. It is about letting us be born into His spirit more fully.

A woman experiences pains in birth and so do we as we birth Him. It is painful when He enters us. There are places in all of us that are still living in our “old creation”. There are places, whether because of wounds, or circumstances, or just our plain old sin nature, that shut God out. He once showed me that “purity” means oneness. God is one, so He is pure. No part of Him is divided. But we all have parts that are divided, that he is trying to make one. We have parts that He has transformed, and parts that we are blind, stubborn and closed-off to His voice. When He enters these parts of us, we are unfamiliar with him there, we can’t recognize his voice there because we only recognize lies. It is painful for the purity of who He is to be birthed in a space that is cramped and dark.

This is why Jesus also said, the kingdom suffers violence upon its entry. The purity of His kingdom and His being, suffers atmospheric violence when it enters the thin polluted air of our old man, of the world. It suffers birth contractions to enter us. It hurts when He starts going after roots of our sinfulness and wounds. It’s painful when He starts tilling up this ground. It’s painful to let Him enter.

The contractions are also the body’s attempt to keep things moving, and we have a father who is standing beside us saying, Breathe, breathe. This past year I saw one of the great contractions coming on Christians, on the body of Christ. There will be times of contractions and times of rest, just as in birth, until He has birthed His son fully in His people. Until the whole world can see the light of Him, His personality and His kingdom. It was not a time to ignore this, but to let Him transform each one of us individually.

It would be a painful time. Some people would get off the train because they couldn’t handle how fast and bumpy it was moving, how shaky it was. Some would blame others for their pain. Some would experience the heights of loneliness. Some would try to fix others’ pain as a way of ignoring their own. Some would get overwhelmed by the work. And all of us would need grace. The worse thing to experience right now is self-judgment, perfectionism or inadequacy. And still, I watched the Father’s firm hand tilling the soil for His return, tilling up old weeds and dead seeds, tilling up tangled roots, wounds of anger, rejection, abuse, depression, grief. Tilling them up until they were visible and they could be worked on. We were becoming more inhabitable.

In spite of how painful this is, it is a season to celebrate His advent inside of us! He has announced His birth, His second birth, over and over again, through the prophets. He will birth His presence inside of us. Let’s celebrate His parousia! His return in us!

I pray that we are able to let Him complete His work in us this season, what He is doing inside of me and you, so that more of His light will be shining in our bodies, our minds, our hearts, our spirits. That we would trust His hand and the painful things He brings up, the overwhelming challenges, the and let Him advent Himself!

And I pray that we would keep our eyes on the Father, who loved us so much that He births His only son in us. He is standing beside us, his hands are on our hearts. He is closer than ever, just as a new dad waits with joy in the hospital to see his baby! Can you imagine the day Jesus was born, what the Father felt? I’m sure all of you fathers know…. but He has so much joy!!!! in us, in what he is doing.

Merry Christmas everyone!

suffering and redemption

Last year we went on a road trip with a bunch of friends to California, and we felt like there were specific things that needed to happen, connections to be made–and especially on a road trip, especially when you have about 15 people to consider, there are always blunders, mishaps, bad timings, etc. Derek is all about timing too–knowing the right time for the right thing, but not everyone has this same sense of timing and choreography.

We got really frustrated at one point with the direction things were taking, and were trying to figure out ‘how to get back on track’ with what we thought was supposed to happen, when God gave us a funny word: “commit your way and keep moving forward, even if it seems like it’s not the way it was supposed to be…. get to know me in redemption”.

We sat in the car and thought of all the friends we were on the way to visit, the stories they had–most of them are real leaders in their communities but all of them have really hard stories, stories of imperfection and weakness… and all of them limping in one way or another. But all of them have a kind of humility I admire, where there is a willingness to accept suffering and walk through it with dignity.

And the redemptive story he is telling through them is really sweet and beautiful. That trip taught us so much about redemption… obviously it was not the perfect plan that we kicked ourselves out of the garden, but even in that moment, there was a backup, a plan B, so to speak, that would end up becoming and still is becoming, the entire story of his creation. The remaking of all things new.

I started to learn that trip about the place of suffering is really the place from which we reach the most amazing heights… I think about the 2nd temple… its glory was greater not because it looked better but because it had been built with ‘burnt stones’…. and so the rejoicing and gratefulness was far more spectacular than had ever been seen in the bajillion-dollar temple that Solomon built.

Obviously when we’re in it, when we’re in the suffering parts, it’s so hard to see the other side of things. How to be grateful at all is beyond me, let alone how not to get bitter. But I am seeing it, even now, in some of my friends–the fight not to get depressed or lonely or anxious. And that fight is so worth it, because when they get to the other side of things, or even from the midst, they have so much to teach us about beauty and hope.

This past weekend I visited the Ground Zero site in New York. I have never felt the presence of God so strongly as I did at that place. It was almost as if the Holy Spirit was hovering or brooding over it, almost like he did at the beginning of creation. There is a not-yet in that space, where cranes, drill and concrete trucks are beginning to complete the foundation of what will be there. There was something in there that had hope but also an intense suffering, and Jesus loves to dwell in those places. His presence is actually thick in suffering places. It reminded me of what David wrote– ‘even if I make my bed in hell, you are there’

He is so present in your suffering… there is no place he hasn’t been. You may not feel his presence but he fills those places with himself, and He will resurrect from your devastation. He will come up out of his own grave, and so will you.

a tiny prayer

Give us Your disposition today. Be in the implicit as well as the explicit–the little, daily things, as well as the big patterns of our lives. Inhabit our unseen gestures as well as our seen. Help us to see things as You do today Lord Jesus.

Joy and acceptance–the humor of Grace

I know very little; my wife knows much more (that’s no joke!), but one thing i do know is that Jesus is indefatigable. He never gets exhausted. How is that? I think it has something to do with joy. This One who labours harder than all of us combined, somehow–staring at that joy set before Him, never just poops out and quits.

What of this joy set before Him? If joy-and particularly the one set before Jesus-is eternal, it is also unlosable (if that is a word). We cannot actually have joy stolen from us, as it seems we do in experience. Joy, God’s joy is eternal and inviolable. This joy somehow gives Jesus hope to never give up, and be overcome by the exhaustion of His endless labours. Something He sees and knows, some Joy.

I don’t hear much of joy. Such a short word even in french–joie; but so much punch and energy it offers. The great phycholigist Victor Frankel held out joy as the primary motivation which kept those who endured the holocaust going. They held to some image of joy–something that they cherished, and in this clinging, hope stayed chiming deep within them. Joy ushers in hope–holding onto this hope that we will see His face…

But joy does something else as well-it causes us to feel accepted fully in the depths of our being. When we feel God’s joy over us, we suddenly feel entirely accepted–engulfed in His full validation of ourselves–completely welcomed. From that place of self acceptance, we are able to work on our own shortcomings, or areas we need to allow Him to transform us in. But I believe that this acceptance which follows joy, needs to be there, before we are able to break into transformation.

To feel accepted is humourous when we realize how messed up we trully are! The humour comes from the contrast of our state, and God’s love for us, as we are. Humour works by putting things normally in different categories in the same one for an instant–a banana peel and a soldier; humour works by contrast: the contrast here is our state and God’s acceptance. I think this is why we laugh (and cry sometimes), when we feel His full acceptance of ourselves. Grace in this way is a funny thing.

Laughter is good medicine, the old adage goes.

Why would laughter be medicine–because when that joy comes, and that self acceptance engulfs us, there is room for His spirit to bring healing. Joy also comes in the morning, because it brings the light of day into our tired souls. It is the morning that the bright and morning star shines–the one already rising in our hearts, each time we are tingled by His Joy!