God loves everyone. No exceptions. (Alternate title: The Gospel According to “The Greatest Showman”)Read More
Desmond Tutu said, “We are, each of us, a piece of God.” When I look in the mirror, I see just one piece of God. I need you to help me see God clearly.Read More
I've been fortunate enough to have led worship music for nearly the past two decades. If you grew up in the Evangelical church like me, you'll likely feel right at home with this collection of worship favorites. This is an hour of Christian music (15 songs)...sung by me!
This exclusive bonus content is a gift for supporters of The #AskSteveAustin Podcast who contribute at the $5/month level or higher. "Worship Favorites" includes 5 originals & 11 covers, plus a brief reflection on the story of the prodigal son. These songs have been recorded over the past fifteen years at various homes and churches. There's even a few from the radio. Enjoy!
Here's the list of worship favorites:
- Alone (Clint Brown)
- Let Me Be Used (Steve Austin)
- Jehovah Jireh (Steve Austin)
- Everlasting God (Chris Tomlin)
- The Anthem (Planetshakers)
- Love Came Down (Brian Johnson)
- Prodigal (a reflection by Steve Austin)
- 10,000 Reasons (Matt Redman)
- Great Are You Lord (All Sons and Daughters)
- Oceans (Hillsong)
- Spirit Fall (Aaron Keyes)
- I Really Love You (Brian Johnson)
- Majesty (Michael W. Smith)
- You're My Light (Steve Austin)
- Stay (Steve Austin)
- Holy (unknown)
This bonus content is exclusively for supporters of The #AskSteveAustin Podcast. Want access to this hour-long stroll down Memory Lane? Support the show at $5/month or more today for immediate access! Just click here. Supporters of the show also get access to the Messy Grace Tribe on Facebook, plus loads of other bonus content, including guided meditations and interviews from the vault. Join the Messy Grace Tribe today! Click here for immediate access.
My little boy is a Lego-maniac. He's only six-years-old, but he's got a brilliant imagination and is meticulous with the details. At least once a month, his grandmother takes him to a "build night" at the local Lego store. Forthe first few months, on build nights, Ben would get a small kit and follow the instructor's directions precisely. Eventually, he started bringing extra packages home, one of us adults would supervise and guide him as he pieced the characters, airplanes, and superheroes together. Building Lego's with Ben reminds me a lot of my journey as a spiritual misfit.
For Christmas, I bought Ben a Lego "blockhead" (great name, right?) of the Beast from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast." Sitting with my son through the construction was a great chance to have some quality time with the little boy I adore so much.
At first, things were going great. My son was following the booklet, section by section, piece by piece. The longer Ben worked, I started to notice an interesting tension between his excitement over what was coming to life, and his exhaustion over not being able to follow such detailed diagrams.
But if you give them a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you’ll soon wish you hadn’t. You’d be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck. Doom to the world for giving these God-believing children a hard time! Hard times are inevitable, but you don’t have to make it worse—and it’s doomsday to you if you do. (Matthew 18:6-7)
We were about 80% complete with building the Beast when Ben realized he'd put one piece in the wrong place. It couldn't have been any bigger than 2cm x 2cm, but that one out-of-place Lego messed up the entire construction. If you've been following my blog for the past few years, you know my spiritual journey has mirrored that of little Ben and the Lego's.
Eventually, Ben lost his temper and smashed his brand-new construction to bits. It wasn't perfect, and to my son, if it's not perfect: it's worthless. I've been there, trying to jump through the hoops of manmade religion. I've exhausted myself, attempting to live up to every unrealistic expectation of religious leaders and armchair theologians. For a while, I became an angry Deconstructionist, too.
If you've had a similar experience, stubbornly seeking the approval of the institutional church, but only becoming more disenfranchised and disillusioned, I hear you. If you have more questions than answers, me too. I have been angry, frustrated, and worn out.
As a spiritual misfit, I find solace in the words of Jesus:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me, and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. (Matthew 11:28-30)
After a while, my son calmed down and wiped his angry tears. In the process, Ben learned three lessons I hope he clings to the rest of his life:
- Manmade rules aren't for everyone.
- Whatever has been crushed can be restored.
- Everyone belongs, not everything fits.
Looking for more?
Jon Scott and I had a great conversation on The Holy Heretics Podcast today. The title of the episode is "Faith...I doubt it!" If you are looking for a faith that embraces the gray areas of spirituality, listen to this podcast episode today!
- Is Your Faith Water or Cement?
- I stopped praying months ago. Here's what happened...
- Wholeness in a Time of Polarization
I'm not sure why you clicked on this story, but I feel like it should come with a disclaimer. The goal of this article is not to get you to say "Happy Holidays." I'm not a soldier in the "War on Christmas." Leave the baby Jesus in the manger and say "Merry Christmas" to whomever you choose. Go for it. I am not looking to pick a fight. I’m writing this because I’m struggling with the whole concept of Christmas for the first time in my life, and this blog has always been my safe place to air some of my inner-dialogue.
Christmas in the Grey Area
In most of the circles where I hang these days, people are actively deconstructing their Christian faith. It's humbling to hear the stories of lifelong Christians who have either walked entirely away from the faith of their childhood or much like me, feel trapped somewhere in the grey area.
A phrase I've been using to describe my current stop along the journey of faith is a Christian Agnostic - I just don't know anymore.
But people - it's Christmas! And for me, Christmas has never existed outside the Biblical story of the baby Jesus. Christmas has always been about that little Nativity scene my Mama stitched together when I was just a toddler. It's about memories of my Dad singing "Mary, Did You Know" and remembering how my Grandfather would gather us around the fireplace on Christmas morning to read the Biblical account from the Gospel of Luke, no matter how long it took, or how much his grandchildren squirmed.
During my earliest years, we were pretty close to poor. As such, it was never about the big presents or lots of money. We didn't go to movies on Christmas Day like other families or take elaborate vacations. For us, Christmas was about the miracle in the manger, the Star over Bethlehem, and a stocking full of my favorite candies.
This is the first year in a long time that I haven't written an Advent devotional or visited a local church to watch a Christmas play. I haven't even participated as my wife continues to light the candles each night, celebrating with our children and teaching them about the long-awaited birth of the Christ child.
There's a part of me that wants my kids to have the same experiences I had with a Christian kind of Christmas, but where does Christmas fit for the lifelong cultural Christian who suspects they may no longer buy it?
Did the Wise Men have their doubts? Did they question each other along the way, growing weary with each mile of the journey? Had Joseph faced a theological crisis of his own? After offering the Magnificat, did Mary still lack certainty?
Or should I just shut up and participate in the Advent story and light the damn candles and sing “Away in a Manger” even though my brain can’t quite figure it all out?
Christmas is full of red and greens, and for many people, an American Evangelical Christmas is also very black and white. But what about a Christmas in the grey area? Does it still matter when you no longer feel connected to the story?
I think what I’m really asking is this: can we live a life, full of doubts, while also being intrigued by (and even seeking) genuine faith?
This year, the Nativity speaks to me in a way like never before. I am not a deeply theological person, and I could be flat wrong, but I wonder if this picture of Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus is the perfect metaphor to my life? An image of the marriage of uncertainty and faith, but right in the middle of it all...is God.
No matter what name you give it, or what religion it's attributed to, for me, Christmas is ultimately about Hope being birthed in the dark. It's about Joy coming in the midst of despair. Christmas has never been about big presents or lots of money. And maybe my friend Ed Bacon is right, the magic of the Christmas story “is about our hearts savoring what our minds cannot comprehend”. Christmas is the story of wondrous, unconditional love that continues to choose humanity, even 2,000 Decembers later.
For more great discussion on the magic and mystery of Christmas, listen to this week's special Christmas edition of The #AskSteveAustin Podcast.
The Rev. Ed Bacon joins me for this one, plus Christmas carols with my kids and listener stories! Click the "play" button below, or listen at AskSteveAustin.com or on your favorite podcasting app!
Your Christmas shopping just got a whole lot easier. Okay, Okay, I know you don't know me as a professional shopper, but if I was, these are the things that would make it on my must-have list for the year. There's something for everyone. Here's my favorite gifts of 2017.
If you're looking for a great way to support my work with graceismessy.com and the #AskSteveAustin Podcast, please click the links below when you're ready to purchase. As an Amazon affiliate, each purchase helps spread the message of messy grace!
If you're looking for great gift ideas, this list has something for everyone. Here's my 10 favorite gifts of 2017...
I can't get enough of this album! Do you have it? What's your favorite song? One of my biggest reasons for loving this one so much is because anyone, at any age, can appreciate these amazing Christmas songs. Click here to purchase your copy today.
My friend JJ gifted me this bad boy a few months ago and I love to use it as my run jam. If you're a history buff, a musical theater nerd, or just enjoy a good story - download this one today. Just click here.
We bought an earlier version of this super fun camera a couple of years ago and we still love it! It's even easy enough for our kids to use. This is a super fun way to create a collage or other fun photo project. If you love the feel of an old school Polaroid, get this camera today!
If you're tired of paying $3.50 per bottle for kombucha at the store, make your own! This is the kit we use at our house, and it's fun and easy! The kids feel like we're doing a science experiment every day, and I love being able to test out new and interesting flavors. The best part? It tastes good and is GREAT for your health! Order your kombucha brewing kit today. Just click here.
Now y'all know the Rev. Ed Bacon is my IRL friend and mentor, whom I adore. Want to know more about Ed's heart? Check out our conversation on my podcast:
My precious friend, Doris, sent me a copy of this amazing book recently. HOLY MOLEY. If you're a fan of Brene' Brown's book, Daring Greatly, this one is even better. Brene's raw honesty makes this deeply spiritual journey of finding the courage to stand alone one powerful book. Lindsey and I are reading a chapter a night together and it gives us much to talk about. Get your copy here.
If you love The Shack by William Paul Young, you're going to love his first non-fiction book. The one that spoke to me most is this: God loves me, but God doesn't like me. It's amazing just how many lies we believe about God. This is my favorite book of the year. I promise, you'll love it, too. Get your copy today.And buy one for a friend!Just click here.
Honorable Mention: Lindsey's Must-Have for All the Runners Out There: Polar A370 Fitness Tracker
Lindsey loves the Polar A370 because it consistently monitors her heart rate, provides GPS assistance, sleep monitoring, and more activity data (including average pace/mile) than you can imagine! Get yours today by clicking right here.
In Episode 41 of the #AskSteveAustin Podcast, Steve Austin talks with David P. Gushee, author of the brand-new book, Still Christian: Following Jesus Out of American Evangelicalism. Tony Campolo says, “Still Christian takes us on the journey of a Christian leader who endeavors to maintain his integrity while navigating his way from a rigid fundamentalism with its right-wing political agenda into a progressive worldview.” Listen now at AskSteveAustin.com or on your favorite podcasting app!
A piece of my journal from March of 2016 says this:
I’m too liberal for the Republicans and too conservative for the Democrats. I’m a 30-something Southerner, born and raised in the buckle of the Bible Belt. I was dunked by the Baptists, spoke in tongues in the Assemblies of God, went to a Church of God college, returned to my Baptist roots as a youth pastor, became a Methodist, and now agree with about 80 percent of the Catholic Church’s teachings. I attended George W. Bush’s first inauguration as a senior in high school but have voted Democrat in the last election. I study the King James Bible with a concordance but I read The Message on my iPhone for enjoyment, while having a glass of wine and smoking a cigar.
I’m a walking contradiction.
Maybe there was once room for people like me. Maybe everyone is like me, if we’re all honest with each other. But our culture no longer allows contradictions. I run from discussions with other Christians because it almost always ends poorly. A loss of friendship, a loss of faith, a loss of fervor. I’m tired of being burned.
When many people of faith force it to be an either/or battle of choosing sides, how do you find your voice without losing your soul? This is what today’s episode with David Gushee, author of Still Christian, is all about.
Some questions from today’s conversation:
- What’s it like to become a born-again Christian in 1978, during the Presidency of Jimmy Carter and the formation of the Religious Right?
- How has stepping away from American Evangelicalism impacted the way you pastor and parent?
- What is life like for you, as a pastor or Christian leader, when church life in America seems to be on the decline?
- Do you have any advice for folks like me, who are in the midst of a personal deconstruction of faith…on how to hold onto their faith, while not abandoning their intellect or ignoring the questions?
- Is the Bible literally true?
- How similar were the religious wars of the 1980’s to whatever we’re experiencing today with the marriage of President Trump and the Religious Right?
- If we look at life through the lens of American Christianity, politics, and culture in 2017 – when do we compromise, and when we do we stand our ground?
- Do you have any advice for Evangelical Christian pastors who feel stuck, Sunday after Sunday, with the obligation to support their family pressing right up against their secret affirmation of the LGBT community, or their support of women, or their disdain of the President?
- You have been described as “every liberal’s favorite evangelical” and you have also been described as “every liberal’s least-favorite evangelical”. Which one would you rather be, and why?
- You are an anti-torture, pro-environment, LGBTQ-affirming, academic…and yet you seem to still consider yourself a Baptist? If so, how and why?
- After all that you’ve been through, how is this not just a book about a disillusioned ex-Christian?
Favorite quote? “I’m disillusioned. But I’m not an ex-Christian.”
You can also listen on iTunes.
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STEVE AUSTIN IS A LIFE COACH, SPEAKER, AND AUTHOR OFSELF-CARE FOR THE WOUNDED SOUL. STEVE’S GOAL IS TO HELP YOU CREATE A LIFESTYLE OF FOCUSED EMOTIONAL HEALTH AND CLARITY. LOOKING FOR MORE WAYS TO CREATE SPACE? SUBSCRIBE TO STEVE AUSTIN’S FREE WEEKLY NEWSLETTER BY CLICKING RIGHT HERE.
In Episode 40 of the #AskSteveAustin Podcast, Steve Austin shares some encouragement from his own life for folks who feel hopeless. If you’re ready to give up, tired of running, or feel like you’re drowning, please listen to this very personal bonus episode.
“I believe that the greatest truths of the universe don't lie outside, in the study of the stars and the planets. They lie deep within us, in the magnificence of our heart, mind, and soul. Until we understand what is within, we can't understand what is without.” ―Anita Moorjani
*To listen to this post, click the play button below.
The God Nobody Knows
Do you ever have those moments where your skin tingles a little extra, like someone else’s guardian angel just whisked by in a hurry to get to their next assignment? Those moments where you’d swear God was sitting right next to you, be it in the car, at the office, or the coffee shop? It doesn’t have to be for any reason in particular, and the space doesn’t have to be particularly sacred, but do you ever have those days where it seems like God is whispering things - yet unknown - to the deepest parts of your soul?
Your ways, O Lord, are higher and
Your knowledge is immense;
So give us strength to trust You when
Life doesn’t make much sense. —Sper
Logic might say it was just a strand of hair that tickled my neck. Or the air conditioner being turned on in the office. It could have been a nerve-ending gone haywire. Or a random case of goosebumps.
Maybe so. Maybe not.
The unspiritual self, just as it is by nature, can’t receive the gifts of God’s Spirit. There’s no capacity for them. They seem like so much silliness. Spirit can be known only by spirit—God’s Spirit and our spirits in open communion.
These rare and precious moments happen to me from time to time, and all I can say is that they feel like God. I can’t argue it with logic. I can’t explain it away with science. I can only tell you that in those brief moments, time stands still, and I sense the embrace of God. Those silent few seconds, when no words are audibly spoken, deep things are being written on my soul.
In the silence, I’m transported to another dimension. I close my eyes, and I feel grace washing over me. I know it’s grace, and not just a whiff of the honeysuckle outside my window because the honeysuckle has never given me eternal hope in the midst of trying times. This silence - this washing - the Comfort belongs only to the Holy Spirit of God - an invisible Connector between my soul and my Creator.
In Acts 17, some Greeks inscribed a message TO THE GOD NOBODY KNOWS, but the greatest mystery of faith is that this seemingly unknown God is intricately familiar to every woven fiber of my soul.
THE GOD NOBODY KNOWS isn’t a human-made statue. It’s not an idol, carved by hand. God doesn't equate to dogma, devised by the imagination of those who hunger for power. The God of Mystery is thicker than the incense that fills the altar. And in that Mystery, I store up hope for future days when my heart is overwhelmed.
So to whom will you compare me, the Incomparable? Can you picture me without reducing me? I am God, and there is none like Me. - Isaiah 46:5-9
It’s easy for me to get caught up in trying to answer all of life’s big questions. In this season of my life, there seems to be a new existential crisis at every turn. Should I take the Bible at face value? Is the Jesus of the Bible the only way to God? Can I embrace my faith without abandoning my intellect? While the old me sought solutions for these and many more stumbling blocks, the new me is learning the power of the pause.
As I slow down and seek stillness, God whispers truth to my soul:
Breathe in: I love you.
Breathe out: I am here.
Breathe in:I will never turn my face from you.
Breathe out: I am more than your wildest dreams.
For in Him we live and move and have our being. - Acts 17:28
I’m leaning in. I’m taking deep breaths. At this point, I’m not even asking what God is saying. Instead, I am embracing Divine Mystery. My spirit is being cultivated by The God Who Sees Me. I have a deep inner-knowing that the Source of Love is here with me, breathing life back into my dry and cracked lungs. And that is more than enough for me.
Steve Austin is a life coach, speaker, and author ofSelf-Care for the Wounded Soul. Steve's goal is to help you create a lifestyle of focused emotional health and clarity. Looking for more ways to create space? Subscribe to Steve Austin's free weekly newsletter by clicking right here.
If you have a suggestion for this weekly feature, please email Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org today. If you’d like to suggest a topic or request Steve’s perspective on a particular word, please reach out!
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I vow to let go of past failures and strengthen what remains so I can be a better version of myself each day. Not let go of them completely, as in forget them, but take my fear, shame, mistakes and misgivings, and put them under my feet.Read More