Something For Everyone: My 10 Favorite Gifts of 2017

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...

10. A Pentatonix Christmas (Deluxe)

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!

7. Canon 50mm f/1.8 Lens

Wondering how I capture those beautiful family portraits for my photography business? The secret is out! If you're a photographer and don't have a "fixed 50", add this one to your arsenal today! Just click here.

6. Humans of New York: Stories (Hardcover)

The only thing more beautiful than the portraits are the personal stories of triumph and tragedy. If you've been a fan of Humans of New York on Facebook as long as I have, you need this book. This one also makes an amazing gift! Get it right here.

5. LeapTV: Educational Gaming System

Lord, don't let my kids see this (they're getting one)! LeapTV is "the only active video gaming system made exclusively for kids ages 3-8 yeas old". Y'all - it's so cool. And they aren't making any more! So snag yours before they sell out! Just click here.

4. Kombucha Brewing Kit

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.

3. 8 Habits of Love: Overcome Fear and Transform Your Life

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.

  1. Lies We Believe about God

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.

Following Jesus Out of the Evangelical Church

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.”

Music: BenSound.com

“Hey Jesus” by Trey Pearson

You can also listen on iTunes.

JOIN THE EXCLUSIVE #ASKSTEVEAUSTIN FACEBOOK COMMUNITY FOR AS LITTLE AS $1 PER MONTH! DETAILS AT PATREON.COM/IAMSTEVEAUSTIN

ORDER YOUR COPY OF SELF-CARE FOR THE WOUNDED SOUL: 21 DAYS OF MESSY GRACE, BY STEVE AUSTIN TODAY ON AMAZON.

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.

Want to Be a Bridge-Builder? Get Ready for the Trolls.

I’m a social media fanatic because it supports my goal of being a bridge-builder. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have connected me with amazing people from diverse walks of life. I have formed incredible relationships with people from around the globe. From where I stand, the internet is a gift. I connect with many of these internet friends on a daily basis, but there are also folks I only hear from after I share a post about social justice, racial inequality, or affirming the LGBTQ community. My recent blog post, in response to the hateful Nashville Statement, brought the internet trolls out of the woodwork. I muted some, ignored many, and even blocked a few. Being a bridge-builder isn't easy.

I’m not talking about people who simply disagree with my views. There are plenty of those. When you’re a progressive Christian and a Southern Democrat, it comes with the territory. As long as someone wants to disagree respectfully, instead of turning it into a personal attack, I’m glad to continue to engage.

What is an internet troll?

According to Wikipedia, an internet troll is, “a person who sows discord on the Internet with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response”.

After three days of my Facebook page being overtaken by trolls, my stomach was in knots, and I was exhausted. That’s when I posted this on Twitter:

[clickToTweet tweet="I do not have to respond to trolls. I do not have to respond to trolls. I do not have to respond to trolls." quote="I do not have to respond to trolls. I do not have to respond to trolls. I do not have to respond to trolls." theme="style3"]

Josh Powers responded with this great reminder:

[clickToTweet tweet="'Jesus even had trolls.' @powersj_tx" quote="'Jesus even had trolls.'" theme="style3"]

#mindblown

I think my friend Charlie, from The Neighborhood Liturgies, said it best:

[clickToTweet tweet="Wherever somebody's trying to build bridges it's bound to attract trolls. @charlieporterr" quote="'Wherever somebody's trying to build bridges it's bound to attract trolls.'" theme="style3"]

140 characters of love and goodness.Thanks, Charlie.

Even Jesus had Trolls

Each time Jesus stood up against the social and political norms of his day, the Pharisees were there to call him on it. If he healed on the Sabbath or embraced someone caught in “sin”, it further ignited the fires of fear and hatred from the other side.

Jesus defined the trolls of his day like this, “They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.” He goes on to warn against legalistic, closed-minded religious people who focus on small matters like tithe and religious titles, but neglect, “the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith.”

If you’re focused on being a bridge builder, just remember that there have been trolls since the days of Jesus. It can be exhausting. To be honest, there are times when everything in me wants to fight back. I want to defend myself, my views, and my friends against mean-spirited, angry people. But Paul challenges my human nature when it comes to dealing with trolls:

Bless your persecutors; never curse them, bless them...

Never pay back evil with evil...

Never try to get revenge...

If your enemy is hungry, give him something to eat; if thirsty, something to drink...

Do not be mastered by evil, but master evil with good.

My friend Ed Bacon describes it in contemporary language, as living in the House of Fear or the House of Love. Ed says, "The opposite of Love is not Hate, but Fear. Love and Fear are two competing energies in the wisdom and life of Jesus."

I think Jesus recognized how powerful Fear had become as he grieved Jerusalem, saying:

How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.  And now, look, your house is abandoned and desolate.

The House of Fear seems to control much of social media these days, and sometimes it feels like the House of Love is more abandoned and desolate than ever. This just means we have to keep doing our part to build bridges and invite people over.

We know that Love casts out Fear, so don't give up! Even in the face of adversity and senseless anger, don’t stop sharing conversations like #EmptyThePews. Be persistent in telling everyone you know that there is room at God’s table for them, exactly as they are, no matter what the trolls say.

Steve Austin is a life coach, speaker, author, and host of the #AskSteveAustin Podcast. Steve's goal is to help clients and audiences create a lifestyle of focused emotional health and clarity. Subscribe to the free weekly newsletter and get Steve's Amazon best-seller, From Pastor to a Psych Ward, absolutely free!

The Truth about Millennials and Church

When most people find out that I’m a former pastor, they wrongly assume I have walked away from the faith. I chuckle to myself each time I politely explain that “former pastor” doesn’t always equate to “former Christian”. The truth is, while I am no longer on the payroll at a local church, I feel more in-tune with the teachings and example of Jesus than ever before. Sure, stepping away from employment with the Institutional Church ignited an enormous shift in my personal theology. But it hasn’t driven me from Christ, it’s actually caused me to sift through the excesses of man-made religious constructs and find what parts of the faith truly matter to me.

If you’re a Millennial like me, chances are pretty good that you’re doing some shifting and sifting of your own.

The Truth about Millennials and Church

My friend Andreas says it like this:

Spiritual belonging is finding people who welcome you for who you are and encourage you to own your own spiritual journey, wherever it might take you. Finding people that appreciate being real and honest about life in general. I would encourage everyone to trust themselves and trust their heart.

My dear friend and fellow blogger, Sarah Robinson, added her own spin:

I've experienced both...the loneliness of being in either a really shiny and slick church, where it feels like people don't let down their guard, and a church that lacks a theology of suffering, where there isn't room for honest expressions of pain and doubt. The environments look really different, but the end result is the same - isolation and fear of honesty.

These days, I feel more consumed by the Love of God than ever. And while I’m truly not bitter at the church, I am setting boundaries with toxic people and theology. When it comes to Millennials and Church, many of us have accepted the invitation of people like Ed Bacon, Rachel Held Evans, and Brian McLaren, to stand up for a new kind of Christianity. I am turning my back on the House of Fear, and bursting through the doors of the House of Love with joy and gladness. No turning back, no turning back.

The relationship with Millennials and Church is often a strained one. To read more about the kind of church I need, click here to join me at The Neighborhood Liturgies.

Are You Scared of God? Me too.

“When you are fully known and loved you have a home.”

-Joel Ansett

“...known and loved.” The words make my stomach twist and knot. I cringe and my insides curdle at the thought of being known. I shrink back in fear of being seen as I truly am. I've been scared of God for years. And yet, somehow, I feel drawn to the concept of being loved by this same God.

Are You Scared of God, Too?

Are You Scared of God, Too?

Fear tells me I could never be known and also loved. Guilt says they are mutually exclusive for someone like me. Someone with a past. Someone with dirt under his fingernails and cracks in his armor. Shame says there is no way Love could ever know me.

After a few deep breaths, choking back tears that I fear might drown me, I hear the words of my friend, Ed Bacon. On today’s episode of the #AskSteveAustin Podcast, Ed says,  “I’m an atheist to that kind of God”. The “kind of God” who sits upon a throne of power, controlling His minions with fear, shame, and guilt. My friend said he is an atheist to the God of such toxic theology.

  • “That kind of God” tells me I couldn’t possibly love Jesus, and also margaritas.
  • “That kind of God” only demands 10% of my money, but 100% allegiance to dogma.
  • “That kind of God” appeals to straight white males who were born with power, but thirst for more.
  • “That kind of God” says you can either be Christian or crazy. Not both.

But the truth is, “that kind of God” isn’t God at all. An idol, maybe. It looks a lot like a golden calf. A man-made power structure. The Christian Machine, for sure.

Anne Lamott says it like this, “You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

It’s “that kind of God” I shrink from. And that kind of toxic theology wounded me deeply. I was judged by the followers of “that kind of God” for growing tired of performance-based Christianity. The Church of “that kind of God” excommunicated me for my questions and lack of faith. It’s “that kind of God” who told me that to be known wasn’t possible, because a perfect God couldn’t get near my dirty secrets or dare fellowship with the kind of company I keep these days. “That kind of God” couldn’t allow me into even the outside of the circle, much less love me as I am.

If Jen Hatmaker is right, and the Christian Machine isn’t the body of Christ, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. And if that’s true, then who is the body (or family) of Christ? The Bible says we’ll be known by “...compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, and discipline.” It goes on to say that we’ll be “quick to forgive” and “clothed in love”.

If so, I have found the body of Christ in unexpected places and in the faces of people who have been hiding in the shadows for a lifetime. I have broken bread and sipped wine with those who wouldn’t dare darken the doorways of traditional churches. I have found God in the middle of a gay bar. I have formed beautiful friendships with people who felt they had to move away from America in order to live their best life.

And in every story and situation, I have tasted and seen that God is actually good.

To be known and loved used to frighten me to tears. I was constantly scared of God, but these days, I am experiencing the Light and Love, the Peace and the Presence of God on a deeply personal level. It happens in ordinary conversations with people who are anything but ordinary. I am learning that to be loved is to be known - one doesn’t happen without the other. Each day, I am allowing myself to be more fully known by people who find my faults to be flawless and love me without condition.

[embed]https://youtu.be/rqyvyuMO5m8[/embed]

I'm No Longer Scared of God

Do you want to be known and loved? If so, join me. Consider this your invitation to pull up a chair and sit for a while. The table is larger than we ever imagined and there is room for everyone. Please, I beg you, come out of silence and secrecy. Being known and loved is possible and wonderful. It’s a place that feels like home.

Like this post? Check out these powerful resources:

  1. The Wonderful Truth about Heaven and Hell (with Ed Bacon) on the #AskSteveAustin Podcast
  2. MoreThanLeftovers - A Safe Online Self-Care Community
  3. Subscribe to Steve Austin's free weekly newsletter.

[clickToTweet tweet="Are you scared of God? Read this. #MondayBlogs #graceismessy #AskSteveAustin via @revedbacon @iamsteveaustin" quote="Are you scared of God? Read this." theme="style3"]

A Promise of Hope and Healing in the Next Generation

Last week, I had the distinct honor of speaking to two groups of high school students in New York. My friend and colleague, Sarah Fader, and I talked about mental health, stress, self-care, bullying, and panic disorder. At the end of each session, we answered questions from the class (always my favorite part of any talk). The experience was good for my soul. A Promise of Hope and Healing in the Next Generation

It was the first time I’ve spoken to a group of teenagers in nearly 5 years. I was apprehensive, walking the streets of Brooklyn, entering the albatross of a school, walking down their halls. I didn’t know if I still had it. I wasn’t sure if I could muster the courage to tell my truth again.

But the words of William Paul Young came to mind. Paul once told me something like this, “We are wounded in relationship. And it is in relationship where we find healing.” As I stepped behind the podium yesterday morning to deliver an inspirational message, God was taking me back to the place of my deepest wounding.

In the darkest days before and after my suicide attempt, shame and desperation told me I wasn’t good enough. I believed I would never speak again. That I would never sing again. That this dream I had of “messy grace” was all a big sham, a fake, just like me. But yesterday morning, I stood and told those kids that I was once right where they are. I was once an honor roll student who seemed to have everything going my way, but I’d been dying inside.

I told them about my first panic attack, and how I used to cry into my pillow. We talked about how I would cry in the shower because I knew no one would hear me. I owned my story, shared my truth, told them I remembered the pressure to perform, to be the very best at everything, and yet, I still remember feeling worthless at the end of the day.

I begged them not to be like me - holding onto secrets and pain for 28 years and nearly dying as a result. I urged them to find an adult they could confide in or a friend they could trust. Someone who would have their back, no matter what.

[clickToTweet tweet="We are wounded and healed inside relationship. #stigmafighters #graceismessy #AskSteveAustin #MondayBlogs" quote="We are wounded and healed inside relationship." theme="style3"]

We talked about the word “peace” and I told them that things come our way that we never asked for - people and institutions cause us harm and distress. We’ll be disappointed a countless number of times, but peace is this idea that really bad days come, and we press on.

Peace is a calmness in the raging sea. Peace is a decision. “No point in losing my shit today. It won’t do me or anyone else any good.” Peace believes that the promise of a better tomorrow outweighs the difficulty in this particular moment.

Peace is a wide-angle lens in a world of tunnel vision. Peace believes there’s more to the story. Peace doesn’t ignore the gnarly details, but is confident in our own resourcefulness, so peace chooses to ride the wave. Peace knows there’s a big difference between stress and distress. Peace is stubbornness with a wild-eyed smile.

[clickToTweet tweet="Peace is a wide-angle lens in a world full of tunnel vision. #graceismessy #AskSteveAustin #MondayBlogs" quote="Peace is a wide-angle lens in a world full of tunnel vision." theme="style3"]

I was so encouraged during the Q&A portion of our time together yesterday. I introduced a coaching technique called “The Wheel of Life” and some of the students shared the highs and lows from their particular wheel. One student said his sense of happiness comes from eating right and exercising, another student talked about how it’s always been his dream to do something great with his life, and a young lady on the front row confessed that she could never speak to her parents if she did ever face a mental health crisis.

The kids were honest and hopeful, vulnerable and wise. They spoke their truth in front of their peers and looked me in the eyes when they spoke. One guy talked about his first panic attack and the way his breath became short and his hands shook for no good reason, but he was thankful he had a friend to call who had been through it before. Another young man said he was raised to believe that we shouldn’t deal with things like anxiety or depression, that we should just toughen up, but that he’s grown enough to no longer believe that lie.

Talking to these students yesterday was healing for my soul and hope for my future. The Light always conquers the darkness. And as we continue to educate, inspire, and empower a younger generation to speak up and be kind to themselves, we persist in shattering the lies of stigma and shame.

Let’s be resolute in constantly telling our children that their lives - pains, joys, traumas, successes, disappointments, and hopes - all matter. Their friendships matter. Their support systems are vital for a healthy and vibrant life. If we continue to do that, they will create their own sources of Light that no one can snuff out.

[clickToTweet tweet="A Promise of Hope and Healing in the Next Generation #graceismessy #stigmafighters #mentalhealth" quote="A Promise of Hope and Healing in the Next Generation" theme="style3"]

More Resources:

  1. Recovery: When Jesus Isn’t Enough (#AskSteveAustin Podcast)
  2. How to Host a Self-Care Sunday
  3. Why I Believe God Works Ordinarily
  4. What You Should Know about "13 Reasons Why"
  5. Why I Believe Kindness is the Antidote for a Cruel World

I stopped praying months ago. Here's what happened.

"My own words echo back down,

Like rain on my head,

And I wonder if God is even listening, or if He cares.

If She is even there."

-from my journal

The Truth about Prayer

Everything is prayer.

The truth is, I haven't prayed in months. I wonder if it's all glass up there. Cries for help, for deeper understanding, asking for answers, they just echo chaos back down on me.

I was taught things about prayer like, "Ask and it shall be given to you, Seek and you shall find, Knock and the door will be opened." Matthew 7:7 (KJV)

I pictured God as a mix between Santa Claus and the Genie in Aladdin's lamp, complete with the voice of Robin Williams (may he Rest In Peace). I believed if I did all the right things and followed after God's will, God would somehow magically meet my every request.

But God's not my bitch. God ain't no beck-and-call girl.

You can't just rub Buddha's belly on your way out of the Temple or the Chinese restaurant and expect that things are now supernaturally going to fall into place and your whole existence will now make sense.

“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God.” John 4:24 (The Message)

You want to know the most powerful prayer I've ever prayed? It was September 24, 2012, three days after I should have died. I rolled over, sat up, and slowly placed my feet on the floor. The nurse rolled me down the hall, from the ICU room to the psych ward. When that looming metal door clanged shut, I whispered, "If you're there, help me."

The act of choosing to get better was more powerful than uttering those words. In that moment, I chose to live. I chose not to try to die again.

We are all recovering from something. We are all choosing, each day, to not live in the graveyard of yesterday, but to shake ourselves loose and breathe again. We are all echoing the song of Lazarus, whose life wasn't finished when his heart stopped beating.

All of life is a prayer. Every word we speak and everything we do is an act of worship. A declaration of who we are, how we value our own life, and what we want to give to the rest of creation.

[clickToTweet tweet="Everything is prayer. #graceismessy #AskSteveAustin" quote="Everything is prayer." theme="style3"]

Each moment I spend with my son, listening to him, pouring my hard earned wisdom into him, laughing with him, teaching him - it's all prayer. I am praying that he will live a better childhood than me. Prayers that he will feel safe and happy, healthy and whole, loved and at peace.

When I hold my little girl close and whisper, "You are so beautiful. I love you to the moon and back,", I am praying, "God, let her know her value. Let her know that her worth is found in who she is. Let her rest in the knowledge that her father accepts, respects, and cherishes her, exactly as she is."

When I push the kitchen utensils aside, grab my wife gently by the wrists, and spin her toward me, looking her in the eyes as I wrap her in a warm embrace, I am praying to the Almighty that her heart will never feel the need to wander. When I tell her, "I love this life we are creating," I am praying. And when I wash the dishes or take out the trash or bring her the first cup of coffee in the morning, those are all acts of worship and devotion. Because I am in love with the divine beauty that inhabits her soul. My wife is a deep well, and in her eyes, I have met God.

So maybe you don't know the right words. Maybe you haven't mastered the language. But everything we do is prayer. When we treat others with kindness and dignity, our souls are singing to God.

We belong together. And we belong to God.

When you secretly pay your neighbor's power bill, you are offering a cup of cold water in the name of Jesus.

When you gather on a Sunday afternoon to feed the homeless, your soul is crying, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty."

When you sit through an all-day dance recital or sweat in the noonday sun all weekend at a baseball tournament, you are praying that your children would know just how priceless they are to you.

Everything is prayer.


Sign up for my free weekly newsletter. Just click here.


[clickToTweet tweet="I stopped praying months ago. Here's what happened. #graceismessy #AskSteveAustin" quote="I stopped praying months ago. Here's what happened. " theme="style3"]

The Truth about This Millennial's Struggle with Faith

Lindsey and I love to shop at garage sales and thrift stores. We both grew up going to them, so giving new purpose to old pieces of furniture is a fun challenge and reward for us.  Why I Don't Want Thrift Shop Faith Any More

Our current kitchen table is a wooden corner booth, which originated either in a camper or a house boat. I’m guessing it’s from the 60’s. It’s small and has little water marks and pencil indentations on the top, but we love it. It’s got character.

Recycling and repurposing is one of the things we do best. The only thing I don’t really like to buy from our thrift shop is clothes. There’s no dressing room, and it’s a real inconvenience to have to take it home, see if it fits, and if it doesn’t, return the item for an exchange.

And the only thing worse than recycled clothes is thrift shop faith.

///

Giving Up My Thrift Shop Faith

I haven’t written anything new in a while. I’ve republished old posts that did well in years past, when I was the Grace is Messy Guy, but I haven’t created new content in a while. I haven’t been sure of what to say.

I also think I have been so focused on self-care over the past year because self-care isn’t offensive. It also doesn’t require me to wax poetically about Jesus or God. I don’t have to use words like “destiny” or “faith” or “belief” or “plan” or “will” when I’m talking about things like meditation, medication, doctors, self-compassion, and breathing techniques. Self-care is pretty vanilla compared to something like exegeting Scripture. Anyone can appreciate and practice self-care. Christians, Buddhists, “nons,” you name it.

But to talk about Easter? The birth of Jesus? Good Friday? The rapture? Holy Week? God’s will? It makes my stomach hurt.

You know my story: Church rat. Born in the baptismal. Sang my first solo at 5. Children’s camp. Youth leader. Star student. Ministry school. Youth pastor. Worship pastor.

Church, church, church.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

And I believed it all. Even when I started having questions in my early twenties, I fought to continue buying everything I’d been sold for a very long time.

But I was only repurposing the faith of my parents and grandparents. I brought home a thrift shop faith and rather than taking it back and exchanging it for something that fit better, I thought it was too much trouble. So, for the first thirty years of my life, I held on to traditions and expectations that weren’t mine. They belonged to someone else and I was hell-bent on recycling those things and making them look better.

But when something just doesn’t fit, no amount of dressing it up will do.

///

I wish I could just accept things with “faith” and “because the Bible says so.” But that isn’t good enough for me any more. It just doesn’t cut it. I don’t buy it.

I’m not just talking about speaking in tongues or being “slain” in the Spirit. As I have mentioned in previous posts and podcasts, I’m asking things like:

To take it a step further, what if my parents and grandparents and most of my acquaintances are right? What if it is all true, but I can’t seem to make it fit my life? If I don’t believe it, then what? What happens to all these “promises” that have been made to me from the pulpit, week after week, all my life? Promises for the children of God?

The stressful part for me is the fact that I have no idea if I believe anything that marked my life for the first thirty years. And when your entire identity comes into question, when there’s a war within your own soul, when you are fighting against yourself, it’s no fun.

This isn’t a cry for help or attention. This isn’t about writing something controversial, just to get views (no matter what my brother thinks). This is just one person’s honest confession and a way to create space for others who are feeling quite stuck, too.

Millennial's and the Church

I see why so many Millennials have left the church. If they are feeling anything like me, of course they’ve left. There’s no dialogue. No chance to say, “but what about…?”

A record number of young Americans (35 percent) report no religious affiliation, even though 91 percent of us grew up in religiously affiliated households.

Our disbelief was gradual. Only 1 percent of Americans raised with religion who no longer believe became unaffiliated through a onetime "crisis of faith." Instead, 36 percent became disenchanted, and another 7 percent said their views evolved.

There is no space to question or wrestle or doubt or punch holes in the walls. I need to punch holes in the walls, friends. Some people would call me a heretic. But what’s worse? A heretic or an unbeliever? A heretic or a Doubting Thomas?

And what do I do from here? Where do I go? Who can I talk to that doesn’t have some hidden agenda to try to “save” me or convert me to their brand of spirituality? Is anyone actually listening?

I can’t hide. I’ve held back on writing what I actually think because I live in the Buckle of the Bible Belt. But I’m not going to live from a heart of fear. I refuse. I did that for the first 28 years of my life, and it nearly killed me. I’m going to live from a heart of love. I’m going to accept myself.

This is the new leg of my spiritual journey. I don’t have it all figured out. In fact, I don’t think I have anything figured out any more. But this is my safe space. You are my people. And if, after reading this post, you decide you aren’t my people any more, that’s okay too. I hope you find peace for your own journey. I haven’t found it yet, but if there’s actually a Something in the Sky, I hope it is watching me and loving me and believing in me, or at least accepting me. Even when I wonder what I believe any more.


Click Below to Share on Twitter!

[clickToTweet tweet="The Truth about This Millennial's Struggle with Faith #AskSteveAustin #graceismessy #MondayBlogs " quote="The Truth about This Millennial's Struggle with Faith" theme="style3"]

[clickToTweet tweet="Why I'm Giving Up My Thrift Shop Faith #graceismessy #AskSteveAustin #MondayBlogs " quote="Why I'm Giving Up My Thrift Shop Faith" theme="style3"]

[clickToTweet tweet="When You Don't Know What You Believe... #graceismessy #AskSteveAustin #MondayBlogs #faith #doubt" quote="When You Don't Know What You Believe..." theme="style3"]