Archive | faith

I bear witness

consistency :: sarah bessey

Here is a consistency to which I bear witness: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against these things there is no law. I bear witness that we can believe in the “right” things, that have all our doctrinal ducks in a row, but if our lives aren’t icons of the incredible abundant and hospitable extravagance of our God, if we aren’t bearing good fruit, if our roots aren’t going down into the artesian wells of renewal and redemption and restoration, well, then, that is something but it is not grace and it isn’t a tree of life.

Here is a consistency to which I bear witness: the ones who lead well are the ones who lead from among the people of God, the ones who are alongside and not above, the ones who point to Jesus as the north star and the real Shepherd, who lay down power and lift up the voices of others, who tear down the boundary markers, who lay down the nit-picking of who is in and who is out, the ones who live as if we’re all in and we all belong. Delight and friendship and joy create room for the Spirit to play.

Here is a consistency to which I bear witness: the material world matters – the things we make, the breath we draw, the beauty we create, the love we make, the food we eat: kingdom come and so spot the glimpses in seeds and trees, in yeast and pearls, in sandals and smiles, in fishing and gardening, in children and women, in the poor and cast-aside, in birth and death. There isn’t a false demarcation between secular and sacred: everything in your life can glorify God if you intend for it to do so.

Here is a consistency to which I bear witness: transformation from the inside out, transformation which changes us always and continually, sharpening, brightening, bringing out the image-of-God-ness in us, revealing the truth of what God intended all along. Wash the lies away with water, sharpen the image with iron, refine and reveal, there is a true human hiding here. The ways of Jesus are always better for us in our bodies, our minds, our souls: discipleship brings true freedom.

Here is a consistency to which I bear witness: I trust the ones who have suffered, who have walked in the valley of the shadow and still bear the hues of it and yet still walk lightly upon this earth with joy and liveliness. I trust the ones who are kind and the ones who still laugh easily at good things, the ones who aren’t cruel even in secret. I trust the ones who carry a light in the darkness, who recognize the beauty and the sheer wonder of being alive.

Here is a consistency to which I bear witness: Love. Love. Love. I see the Love working its way in and through and around us, you know you’ve found love when that Love brings out the best in us, brings us to fullness and wisdom and joy. I’m foolish enough to believe it: they’ll know us by our love. And we know it when we find it and so it is precious and valuable and ferocious.

Here is a consistency to which I bear witness: Jesus as the exact representation of God, Jesus as the same, yesterday, today and forever and so I am always changing in response to the unchanging Christ, always evolving, always curling into cocoons and being reborn over and over again to a new and distilled beauty, smelling of the wind.

Here is a consistency to which I bear witness: we are always meant for community and love, always meant for wholeness and for shalom. Our true home, our true selves, can be revealed by the light of the Son, by the path of friendship with God. Workers, you are now heirs, live like it.

Here is a consistency to which I bear witness: all other things may fall away – my opinions, my preferences, my habits, my past, my choices then or now, my tidy sureties, my boundary markers, but the Word of God, our Jesus, remains for ever and so I dare to believe it, I dare to say it, I dare to live like it’s true: we are loved! we are loved! we are no longer servants but friends, we are no longer exiles but home builders, we are no longer fighting but farming, we are no longer orphans but family, we are no longer meant for the brickyard but for the Promised Land, we are no longer broken but we are mended and healed and whole, we are no longer wanderers but we are the ones who belong, with just as much a right to Love and to grace and to redemption as every one who draws breath from the breath of God.



Continue Reading · faith, jesus · 18

Go ahead, wave your flag


On the weekend, I did one of the most Vineyard-y things I’ve ever done in my life: I took two of my tinies to a worship flagging workshop. Like, it was a class about great big coloured flags and how to wave them well during church as part of the worship service.

So we have flags. We wave flags.

I know.

It’s weird to outsiders, and I get that. But I guess I can admit now that most of what we do as Christians is a bit weird to outsiders and so just roll in the weird altogether.

I’m not a flagger myself but I have an unreasonable love for people who wave the flags. I’ve reached the point in my story when I want all the crazy. All of it. I want the sloppy prayers and the hope and the flags and the unreasonable and embarrassing expectations for the voice of God to break through my life and the unprofessional dancers and the praying in tongues and the Eucharist and the Book of Common prayer being read aloud like it’s slam poetry in an old warehouse. I want anointing oil in my purse and ashes on my forehead.

Part of my own story is that I went for a big wander outside of my my mother Church, encountering different and new and ancient ways of experiencing and knowing and being changed by our big and generous God as if I were encountering occasional cups of water while in the desert, drinking each one down as if they were sustaining me for the next leg of the journey. But at the end of the story – or at least at the point of the story where I am right now, who can say if this is the end? I came home. I came home to the school gyms and the folding chairs, the humble people of God also thirsty for the inbreaking of the Holy Spirit, imperfect and sometimes disappointing and unabashedly sincere and utterly beloved to me. 


We’re that kind of people, we wave flags and it blesses me to no end. My children are among the gaggle of kids who wave flags in the front corner of the school gym, off to the side, while we sing about the goodness of God at the top of our lungs and close our eyes and chase toddlers across the back of the gym.

The ladies who bring the flags for the kids are so dear to me because they are braver than the rest of us. They worship with those flags, too, and they teach the children how to do it well. It doesn’t take much guts for most kids to wave a beautiful incandescent flag over their head while people sing but I know how much self-consciousness and reserve has to be broken off of an adult to claim your flag and plant your feet.

It means a lot to me that we all get to do this. That there aren’t auditions or performances, that there aren’t “teams” or clubs. If you want to flag, grab a flag, there are no gatekeepers.

So the ladies held a workshop on flag waving for the kids and they made them homemade cookies and juice, they read them a story. They held small children in their arms as they sat cross-legged on the old carpet with them. You could feel their love for these children present in the room with us, it was warm and gentle and I think that’s sort of what the Bible means when it talks about how we’ll be known by our love, everything we do can feel like loving. They taught the children about what each of the flags mean – how red is for redemption, how white is for purity and for the Spirit, how purple is for the King of Kings, how gold is for the throne of God. I find it significant to wave flags that have no nationality, no borders, no patriotism, no exclusivity to them.

But they also told these precious ones that there is no wrong way to worship God and the colours might mean something different to each of them, that really it’s worship but it’s also listening and responding. One beautiful woman told about how she had seen someone worshipping with a purple and orange flag one time and how it reminded her of the story of the woman with the alabaster box of perfume, how that woman ran to Jesus leaping over conventions to smash that box open at his feet and poured out all of her treasure for him and weep and wipe his feet with her hair, longing for forgiveness and I swear the warehouse began to smell of perfume.

Then they turned on the music and they all danced. Danced! They spread out around a cement warehouse and waved beautiful incandescent flags together. Little ones spun around the room like fairies, like fire flies, flashes of pearly white and glowing orange and yellow and purple. I watched my two girls, so different from one another, wave even their flags in their own ways and I knew then that it was true: it’s an expression of our real selves somehow. Its deeply personal, a conversation, an offering in the midst of receiving.

Afterwards, each of the children laid down on the floor for a rest and the ladies prayed for them. They quietly moved around the room, lightly tracing the sign of the cross on their small foreheads with anointing oil, praying for each of them to encounter Jesus, to know Jesus, to step into their lives as an act of worship.

I should probably wave a white flag for all the ways I’ve surrendered: all the opinions and ideas and rules I used to obey and the ways that the Spirit swept like a wind into my preferences and gave me fresh air to breathe; for the alabaster box I would smash on my front street in gratitude, I just want to be walking with Jesus always, following in his steps. I wanted to dance in a swirl of indigo and gold, in red and kelly green, because in the midst of all the craziness of this world and all of the work there is to do it’s a holy thing to take a minute of your life to say Oh, God, you’re beautiful you’re as good as we dare to hope right alongside of a bunch of kids. I want to carry the sight of this forward into my life because I want the worship to be just as present in my work and in my life and in the daily every day acts of justice and mercy and worship and renewal.

I sat on the couch watching the class with a few other mums but I wanted to lay down on the floor myself: anoint me, pray for me, hand me a flag.

But I don’t know how to do this. I don’t use my body to express myself very often: I use words instead. I’ve never been coordinated and I can barely clap on beat. I’m not connected to my body for worship, not yet. The closest I have come is a good long steady walk in the mountains, I breathe in the air of the north and the west and it feels like cleansing like worship like an encounter because my legs ache after a bit of holy striding, my brain is finally at rest and I am simply present to my own breath, to the beat of my pure heart, to the austere beauty of being alive and being held and being loved and the only response is to love in response, to rise in response when you are lifted up out of the clay, to admit you’d choose it all over again and you are, for just this moment, as close to God as to your own breath and frankly you’re both enjoying each other’s company.


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Continue Reading · church, community, faith · 14

When you feel a bit selfish for pursuing your calling

In our new house, I have a little room of my own. Well, technically it’s not “my own” – it doubles as a guest room. But since the guest bed is a hide-a-bed, I’ll just go ahead and call it my “office” so that I feel like a proper adult. I’ve always had a bit of a laugh when serious well-meaning folks ask me about my “writing space” as if it’s a magical area. Nope. I have done 99% of my writing at the kitchen table or a noisy coffee shop or the public library. But now I have my own little room at the bottom of the stairs in the basement: the carpet smells a bit musty, there’s a hearth for a wood stove that doesn’t work, and cedar paneling that has endured since 1983. I love it mostly because I’ve established a No Tinies Allowed Here rule.

The other night, I had to do a few final checks on my book manuscript and it was urgent. It has been a busy month with our move in particular, so busy that I hadn’t really properly written or worked for the entire time except as snatches during 30 minutes of Phineas and Ferb for the tinies, so that night after we had cleaned up the supper dishes, I passed the baby to Brian, he set up the Monopoly board with the tinies, and I went downstairs to get my work done. I turned on a bit of music, made a cup of tea, lit a candle, and entered into my work with my full attention for the first time in far too long.

I came up to nurse Maggie an hour later and tuck her into bed. Brian put everyone else to bed. He came down to check on me at our usual bedtime four hours after I had begun, and I turned to him as one resurfacing after a spectacular deep sea dive, my grin wide and my whole being excited. He laughed at my euphoria. I said, I’m just so happy to be working! I love my job! I love having a quiet spot all to myself!

I finished the manuscript checks, got organized for the next week or two, made some plans, outlined some articles, that sort of thing. Hardly any great creative work but it was the kind of work that lays the groundwork for creativity. When I set up the scaffolding, it’s easier to build, I find. I sent the final docs off to my publisher, shut down the computer, blew out the candle, and floated off to bed. I slept like a champ, nursed in the middle of the night with joy, woke up in the morning singing, all of my energy restored by the simple act of doing the work I love to do. I felt more alive, more engaged with my life, in every way.

Virginia Woolf identified a woman’s need for “a room of her own” for creative work, both figuratively and literally. I haven’t had a literal room before and so I’m deeply grateful for it now. But the big thing I realised at the end of that evening was how important it is to also create the figurative “room” in my life altogether, to create just a bit of the emotional and spiritual room necessary for living out my calling.

I’m happier when I’m doing what I love to do and what I’m called to do and what I enjoy doing. The truth is I’m a better person in every way when I’m doing the work I feel called to do.

Life takes over at times, we all get it. We need to shelve our dreams or our creative work for many good and important reasons or make it accommodate the rest of our lives and the schedules of everyone else for whom we bear responsibility. My work right now revolves around Maggie’s nap schedule and the tinies school schedules and the unpredictable tiring rhythms of a young family. It’s not perfect and sometimes it’s frustrating, for sure, but the priority is there for me in this season of life. (When I was still working full-time outside of the home, I would write blog posts on my lunch breaks because that was my only free time.)

But here is the thing that I believe: we need to do the work we were meant to do in order to be who we were meant to be. And what’s more, I believe that honours God.

We are whole beings. We aren’t living out of just one aspect of our humanity to the exclusion of all the others.

Sometimes I can think that pursuing my calling is selfish. I don’t know where I picked that up – perhaps it’s cultural conditioning, leftover bad theology, or something. On some sub-conscious level, I can feel guilty for taking time to create, for taking time to do the things I love to do, simply because I love to do them.

But the truth is that I start to falter without it. I become frustrated, tired, empty, if I’m not creating something, even if it’s just as simple as a few hundred words a day. I know this but I forget it sometimes. I skip creating in some grand self-sacrificial way but then everyone else ends up missing the best and most whole version of myself altogether. It isn’t until I sit down and do my work again that I return to the rest of my life – homemaking, raising children, community, church, school, marriage, all of it – as my most true self.

I’m better everything when I’m doing the work I was meant to do, however humble or unimportant that work is to anyone else.

That night of work downstairs reminded me of a quote from novelist A.S. Byatt that Elizabeth Gilbert shared on the first episode of her brilliant podcast, Magic Lessons.

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And on the flip side, I find that my whole life informs and enriches my work. The way I was raised informs my work. The ways I encounter and experience God informs my work. Falling in love with my husband all those years ago, the way our relationship has unfolded over the past sixteen years  informs my work. Becoming a mother and now the experience of raising my children informs my work. Ordinary life enriches my work. All the things I do and experience and live out inform my work. If I didn’t have all these other things, what in the world would I have to write about anyway?

I’m not sure, but I think this tendency might be more common for women. I think we struggle more with the perceived “selfishness” of living out our calling or vocation with abandon. So we feel guilty when there is no need for guilt, sometimes even adopting a martyr complex of all the things we are denying ourselves in service to our families.

In reality, God placed those gifts and callings inside of you for a purpose and it’s profane to stifle them in some misguided attempt at honouring God. If you want to honour God, come alive.

It’s entirely right and appropriate to bring your whole self to your whole life. I think God created us for an abundant life, filled with joy and meaningful work and service.  And I think it’s important for our children to see us working, to us loving our work (even the kind we do just for the fun of it, because it makes us feel alive).

I saw this in a friend recently. She is a gifted Bible teacher and she kept putting it off and putting it off because it was hard to figure out a way to make it work in her season of life as a mother to young children and a full-time job. But when she made space to engage in that aspect of her calling – teaching, leading, training others how to study and love the Bible – she came alive! It was incredible to see. She came home from the nights of teaching as if she were on an adrenalin high. The joy of it would carry into her whole week, affecting her family and all the rest of us. The work she did mattered, of course it did, and she changed lives with her work. But the act of doing the work itself was also life-changing for her and for the ones who loved her.

If teaching or preaching or writing or managing or leading or painting or film-making or delivering babies or studying astro-physics or whatever it is makes you feel more whole, then darling, do it all to the glory of God and you’ll see that the way it makes you come alive will stain your entire life with joy. 

The work is good and purposeful and necessary in and of itself, absolutely. I’m always flat amazed at the ways that my words, tapped away on this smudgy laptop wing into lives all around the world in ways I never would have expected. That’s worthwhile! But I also love the gift that the act of working gives to me. Isn’t that just like God? For even during the Fall, when we were “cursed” with work, we find goodness hiding there, too.

Because it’s never just about us. That true version of yourself – the one that needs the wholeness of creativity and work and service altogether – exists in a family and in a community and as part of God’s love letter to the world. When you are fully alive, as Ireneus famously said, it glorifies God. And when God is glorified, all of us are drawn to the light and life of that moment. 

It doesn’t have to be pretty. It doesn’t have to be seamless and easy. It doesn’t have to come together without struggle. In fact, I can pretty much promise you that it’s going to be hard at times to create the room for your calling to be lived out. But it will be worth it. Because if it makes you feel alive, if it’s what God gifted and called and created you to do right along with everything else in your life, then we all need you to do it and also you need to do it.



Continue Reading · faith, women, work, writing · 83

My Weird Childhood Faith Isn’t So Weird Anymore


received the gift of tongues when I was just eight years old. An older woman in our small charismatic church introduced us Friday night Bible study kids to the idea of a “prayer language.” I don’t remember how my teacher explained it, only how she gently placed her hands on our heads, one after another, while quietly praying in tongues herself. My mouth filled with syllables I didn’t know and didn’t understand; I lifted my skinny arms to the ceiling, and I spoke in tongues like a mystic.

I was raised in small charismatic churches in western Canada, long before the Internet made it easy to keep tabs on what other Christians were up to. I grew up believing that our experiences—speaking in tongues and then the interpretation, healing, miracles, prophecy, words of knowledge, and faith—were utterly unremarkable.

As I look back on my childhood, although the gifts of the Holy Spirit were dear to us and we deeply believed in their practice, the real difference was that we expected God. We wanted the wild and the untamed Spirit to disrupt us. We lived out of an assumption of God’s good gifts and overwhelming love. We yearned to see the Kingdom come on earth, right here, as it was or would be in heaven. We figured that was what God wanted, too. Believing power would come from on high to see the lost found and the sick healed and imprisoned set free, our church operated on a first-name basis with the Spirit.

Later, when I began to spend time with other Christians outside of my tradition, I discovered that we were considered fringe. A bit suspect amongst the establishment. People thought charismatics were dangerous, the weird ones, controversial. Who knew?

Over the years, I’d seen my share of damaging abuses done in the name of the Spirit. I’ve been on the receiving end of some weird practices. I look back on some of the things I used to believe and cringe a bit. Think of an over-realized eschatology, and I’ve probably heard it preached beautifully.

Anytime I get defensive about how charismatics are mocked or stereotyped, I am presented with something like this article from Charisma “news” referring to Donald Trump as “God’s Trumpet to America,” and I have renewed sympathy for cessasionists. In my upcoming book, Out of Sorts, I write about how I’ve learned to make peace with having an evolving faith, which means that, like most of us who grew up in some form of Christianity, I’ve had to sort through what I was taught and figure out what I want to carry with me and what I want to lay down. Being a charismatic provides a lot of material.

Read the rest of this article at Her.meneutics, Christianity Today’s Blog for Women….

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Continue Reading · faith, Guest Post, journey · 0

A Voice for the Voiceless

A tired trope, isn’t it? a voice for the voiceless. The problem with this is, of course, that so few people are actually voiceless. The problem isn’t their “voicelessness,” it is that we are not listening. We don’t value their voices and so we do not listen.

I have never liked the phrase. Few people need us to be a “voice for the voiceless,” instead I believe it’s more powerful to elevate and amplify the voices from the margins, from the ones we overlook and pass over, to say that everyone is worth listening to and that – regardless of race, socio-economic status, geography, ability, and so on – people get to own their own stories.

There is one notable exception though: the unborn, the babies still in the womb of their mother, they have no voice. These are truly the voiceless.

So I’ll use mine for them without apology.

I am a pro-life Christian feminist. Christians have a long history of valuing the undervalued, saving the discarded from society, and welcoming the differently abled as icons of Christ. Our Jesus came to bring us life and life more abundant. So to us, life is sacred, a gift from God, precious. Every person carries the breath of God. We are made in the image of God.

But there is also a long history of pro-life feminism. In the first wave of feminism, our foremothers believed women deserved better than abortion. They saw that abortion was violence against women by a society who did not value women.

Because of both my faith and my feminism together, I believe in advocating for life, more than ever.

“A voice for the voiceless”: well, this week the voiceless have cried out.

I have made myself watch the Planned Parenthood videos – now I owe the voiceless these small words at least. Not because of the possible sale of fetal tissue, horrifying as that is: but because it told the callous truth of what this medical act is for once and for all. Legal or not, that is not the issue. Telling the truth is an act of revolution. This week has revealed it. Here is the truth of it, here is the truth of what it is, here is the truth of what it means and what it meant and how it will always mean something.

As a woman, as a mother, as a Christian, as a feminist, my entire being revolts against abortion and the Orwellian language with which we excuse ourselves.

I carry no judgement, how could I? This is incredibly complex and I offer only my deep compassion to the women who find themselves here. I carry no easy solutions, there are none. I make no promises and I write no screeds or manifestos or declarations or accusations.

I want women to be safe and I want babies to be born. I want all of the reasons why women abort to cease, to be healed, to be legislated right out.

So I want equal pay and decent healthcare for low-income women that includes contraception and supportive partners and a wide availability of midwives and supportive birth environments and real material support for children who are differently abled in mind or body and at least a year of maternity leave and on and on and on.

Abortion is a sign that we have failed women somehow, I think.

I don’t have much hope of legislated change when it comes to this issue. So I encourage us, Church, to continue to speak out, absolutely, but also to put our money and our time and our compassion where our outrage has risen up. The best way to save babies is to support women well.

Our pro-life ethic has to outlast our outrage. It has to show up in our communities and churches and clinics.


This video is by Gungor. As they wrote on their release, “In 2014, a woman tweeted that she would be faced with “a real ethical dillema” if she became pregnant with a baby with Down Syndrome. Richard Dawkins responed “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.” Also in 2014, we had a beautiful little girl with Down Syndrome and two heart conditions. We named her Lucette, which means ‘light.” Lucie has taught us how much every life matters. This song is for her and all the beautiful people on this planet with special needs. We think that you make this world a better place.”

For more:

Feminists for Life

You Don’t Have to Be Afraid to be a Pro-Life Progressive by Benjamin Corey

Why Progressive Christians Should Care About Abortion by Rachel Held Evans

On Planned Parenthood and the Language We Use Around Abortion by Hilary Yancey

I’m closing comments on this post. I don’t want careless words to wound any further.

Continue Reading · faith, social justice, women · 10