Oh, my friends.

I’ve laughed and I’ve cried, I’ve celebrated and cringed, I’ve cheered and I’ve grieved as I read through each and every one of the entries into the “I used to think ____ but now I think ____” synchroblog to celebrate the release of my new book Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith.

You people know how to write.

Thank you so much for pouring your stories out for us to read. What an amazing altar we’ve created! I met with God in each of your stories and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to read them. (I read each post and tried to comment on all of them – if you don’t see a comment from me, it’s because of technical difficulties/no comments).

It reminded me of one of the great gifts of making art: we realize that we’re not alone. It’s a powerful thing to hear “you, too? ME, TOO!” about our questions and growth and changes as we become truly human. You’ve given that gift to me so many times and now you’ve all given that same gift to one another.

I hope we all feel a little less alone because of this synchroblog.

I have chosen one of those entries to repost here at my site – that post will be up tomorrow. And that writer will also receive 3 signed copies of the book as a thank-you. I also promised to give a signed copy of the book to 5 random participants (including commenters on the original post) so here are those winners:

Melissa Peugh

Adrienne Graves

Libby Wendland

Krysann Joye

Tiffany Malloy

(Keep an eye out for an email from me, winners, with how to get your signed book!)

Really, I’d love for us all to have time to read them all but with 133 entries, that’s a bit difficult to do, I know!

So below, I’ve curated a handful of the posts so that you can experience the power of community yourself. These were a few of my favourites. Enjoy!

And seriously – thank you all for the gift of your words.

Lisa McKay – Good Will Come – When I see these sorts of hands (and far worse) dealt to other people I’m still tempted to wonder why certain things have happened. But as this torrid season has been unfolding for us, those why questions have seemed largely irrelevant. It’s taken too much energy to keep trekking on through the valleys to leave much left over for wondering why we were in the valley in the first place. And hanging onto those questions felt fruitless, anyway. I couldn’t hold those questions close and still reach for many the lifelines we encountered along the way—lifelines that offered respite, levity, and light.

Linda Stoll – Much of my ‘and now I think’ comes from 60 years of hard won life lessons.  An almost 40 year introvert / extrovert marriage that birthed two incredibly wise daughters, their godly men, and seven grandchildren who’ve captured my heart, one who went home to be with Jesus just two months ago.  A soul-stretching graduate school experience in my 40s.  A horrific nightmare of peri-menopausal anxiety and depression that almost finished me off in my early 50s.  Thirteen years of journeying with hundreds of beloved counseling clients on their courageous trek toward hope and healing.

Simply Rea: Pictures of God – He’s a God who isn’t afraid of a mess. He’ll let us paint our portraits of him, and I think he looks with delight on each one, whether they are finely honed photorealism, impressionism, or finger-painted abstract portraits that put an eyeball where a chin should be and use purple when he really should have been green. I used to think that God wanted me to paint the perfect portrait of him, but now I think that just maybe the point of it all isn’t who paints the best portrait, but who’s willing to sit with the subject long enough to try.

Katherine L. Fischer: Jesus, the Fullness of God – Now, thankfully, I can read the Old Testament through the lens of Jesus and see the same beautiful God at work. Do I have questions? Sure. Plenty. And I think I will have many of them until I die. But I read scripture so differently now, and I must say that I find a richness in it that I never saw before. I appreciate it for what it is: a beautiful, complex story. A story that reveals a complex and beautiful God that I can know intimately. Now I find myself more in love with God than ever before, more eagerly seeking him, more openly asking all my questions, and more in wonder at the beauty, the mystery, and unsearchable depths of who God really is.

Joy Lenton: When you think it’s all sorted but then it isn’t – I used to think…that church was a place you were at because you’d finally got your act together. You were sorted and saved with a ticket in your hand for beyond the grave. It was where you decided and declared by a 4-step-sign-here process your eternal devotion to your Saviour Jesus.

Saaybe Says: It was scary. The answers that used to satisfy were instead making me furious. It was like a domino effect. One little push and everything came crashing down. I found myself doubting things that were the very foundation of my faith. I was thinking of Jesus as an arbitrary being. An alien who couldn’t be as good as he purported himself to be. Someone who could do what I asked but wouldn’t just to be spiteful. Someone who patted me on the head in a patronizing manner when I got angry because my poor little brain would never understand how great and mighty he was. I was pissed. I was hurt. I felt lost.

Nancy Roe – It was decades in the making, this Homecoming. All this wandering and wooing occurred over a 20 year period. Much living, learning, pain, loss, and pleasure needed space…distance…time. Then one day when the time was ripe, I discovered a love letter written with deep pointed intimacy just for me. I opened my Bible to Isaiah 55, and there it was. Love, joy, promise, reassurance, and life spilled out of each word, breaking heaven open and my heart free. Through currents of cleansing tears, my melting heart rejoiced as I wondered at the sheer miraculous astounding beauty of it all. My Love, my Life had never left me. I just didn’t know it. I just thought He had.

Searching for Grace – I will be unafraid to be un-ironically enthusiastic.  I will be unafraid to hold different theology on women, on marriage, on life. I will be unafraid to be real about my mental illness and the ways it stops me from living life how I’d wish. I will be unafraid to be honest about my heartbreak and the pressure I felt to have a future marriage to look forward to. I will be unafraid to speak up about the ways I have had my potential limited by those who see female-ness as a call to hold back. I will be unafraid of giving my all, never failing to love and speak of Jesus when he is so needed in the world.

Some Random Mother: Stones of Remembrance -I used to think that though I couldn’t earn God’s love, I could prove to Him that I am a good investment but now I think that the truth of God’s lavish love for me is proof enough that I am worthy.

Nate Sparks – That moment destroyed my certainty in the way only an encounter with God truly could.  I didn’t suddenly become a different person or have a magical Damascus road conversion from fundamentalism.  But, quite suddenly, I found myself with no frame of reference for understanding God outside that single moment.

Edible Life – Without realizing it, I had transferred the rule book from my childhood — the measuring stick that played such a prominent role — and made it equally important in my new faith even though it never actually belonged there.

Jeff K. Clarke – My theological posture was very rigid and often aggressive. I came to view Christian experience as suspect, holding out little possibility that it could add anything beneficial to my well-defined belief systems. I was all too eager to throw around words like heresy and heretic the moment I encountered what I thought was unorthodox theology.

Jill M. Richardson: Falling off the promises – I had stood on the promises, and they dropped me. Hard. I was a Christian, a pastor, and alone, with a bleeding, devastated heart where faith still resided by the smallest of glimmers. What kind of pastor has a suicidal heroin addict for a daughter? It’s a great way to avoid eye contact in meetings.

Sam Citty: From Nobody to Somebody – Five years later, I work for the same university as a quality assurance analyst while paying off an incredible amount of student loan debt.  We have one child and my husband is thriving in youth ministry.  And my master’s degree in worship?  It comes into play about two hours a week when I direct our youth drama and worship teams.  So yes, I have taken out thousands upon thousands of dollars in loans for a degree that I use for one Sunday afternoon a week. Dave Ramsey would have a heart attack if he were reading this.

Bravely Imperfect: His Goodness is Overwhelming – I used to think God’s holiness meant he was unkind and angry, and now I think his goodness is overwhelming. I used to think he waited for me to make a mistake, hoping I would, so he could teach me a lesson. I wondered, at least a little, if he celebrated my pain. I used to think he was blameless and righteous, but now I see, I didn’t think he was good.

See you here tomorrow for the guest post!

Christmas Gift Guide to Empower Women
I used to think I wanted peace in faith (a guest post by Rachel Roth Tappling)
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