Cliché Cringe. Celebrating Soul Bare. And a Giveaway

by

#SoulBare
“Inauthenticity, hiding and pretending to be someone we are not, leads to shame. Refusing to be vulnerable for the sake of preserving pride and self-image destroys the possibility of living in Jesus’ freedom and joy and hope.”Jennifer J. Camp

I hate bandwagons. I can love something like crazy, but if too many people start to love it too I become suspect. The road less traveled, the narrow gate, the eye of a needle…these are the things I want to be part of. I’m a fan of precise words, and I hate the cliché, especially Christian ones. Here are a few I’ve tried to weed out of my vocabulary in the past few years,

Authentic
Transparent
Vulnerable

I used to appreciate them, but then everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, started saying they were suddenly telling the whole truth about everything. And I cringed. They became fingernails on a chalkboard. I would hear them or read them, and I’d get a mini barf in the back of my throat.

I wrote Gauntlet with a Gift out of context…without the memoir that came before. And then the doubts came. Why would you believe all this suffering was a gift of scandalous love and Grace if you didn’t know what I was rescued and redeemed from? I didn’t tell you about the child who found Jesus and then lost Him. I didn’t tell you about the ugly, abusive church that keeps me from going to this day. I didn’t tell you about how being a victim of violence triggered the sudden onset of a prodigal life or how I became a self made orphan, a drunk, a slut and then a prostitute, a thief, a murderer, and an adulteress. All of you reading my old blog day after day and following our hard on social media saw me stumbling in faith but always finding my way back to Dayenu. Even this was enough. It was more than enough. It was more than I deserved. I was daring to call it good as long as He was getting the glory. None of this makes any sense unless you know the before. So I saved Gauntlet away. I took the Scrivener short cut off my desktop, and I claimed “Listen” for this year. I’ve written almost nothing. I’m less true. I’m more covered. I’m more guarded. I fear the cliché. I’m terrified of the overshare.

Part of the listening has become a Spirit led passion to read well and support other writers who are brave truth tellers. Mostly offline. Slowly God has allowed me to form authentic relationship with these transparent and vulnerable Jesus people. I am realizing their stories are layers of sin and suffering saved by Grace and faith just like mine. Sometimes their middles need told before the beginnings. Sometimes they stand alone. There are no hard, fast rules to this messy business. I’m also understanding as much as our narratives have similar chords they are also uniquely ours and, yes, each and every one has the power to help and heal, sometimes others and most of all ourselves.

A beautiful anthology of short authentic, transparent, vulnerable stories from friends I know and friends I’d like to know were born through a midwife, Cara Sexton. The book is Soul Bare. Some of the writers I’ve had the great privilege of meeting face to face. I’ve shared meals and worship and sacrament with them in sacred space. Some of the stories are from writers I’ve never heard of. They don’t have book deals or speaking obligations. They have small online places where they shed pretense and practice real. As blogging fades into podcasts and live video streaming, there are still plenty of us who wish we could stay in 2007 with our one hundred faithful readers (was “following” even a thing then?) and just lay it down day after day in words. If you miss that kind of intimacy, you will love this book.

Cara ends with this beautiful description of “what it means to be soul bare…”

…This is what it means to seek God with all our heart and mind and soul. It does not mean, as anyone who has ever lingered in Christian subculture may suspect, that we have reached a pinnacle of faith–that we have simply believed hard enough.

It is to be lost and found, over and over again. It is to recognize the upside-down nature of the things of this world. It is to know that even when we are lost, we have a finding place. It is to know the word ‘help.’

Even when we have no words, even when we have only blindness and cannot take ourselves to the Word made flesh, He comes anyhow, somehow…He comes, and against all odds, we see.

Cara isn’t one of the writers I knew. Just before this book was published one of the other writers included in the book, a mutual friend, connected us for an entirely different reason than words. Cara has been a chronic illness warrior for years with muddied diagnoses. They just found her Chiari malformation. Oh how I wish I had a printed copy of Gauntlet to mail her. Maybe, just maybe, Danica and I’s story matters just as it is.

I’m celebrating Soul Bare with a giveaway!
Here’s how to enter:

1. Share this post on social media to give your friends a chance to win this amazing book.
2. Please leave a comment here about what being authentic, vulnerable and transparent means to you.
3. Please say a prayer for my new friend Cara.

A winner will be randomly chosen from all the entries on Monday night, August 15th, and announced Tuesday morning from my chemo chair.

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9 Comments on Cliché Cringe. Celebrating Soul Bare. And a Giveaway

  1. Rochelle Goldizen
    August 10, 2016 at 7:06 pm (11 months ago)

    I continue to be left speechless and amazed at the gift of words God has given you sister, and how they move and bless the souls of many. Your story matters more than you may ever know this side of eternity, and however, wherever, whenever you chose to share Gauntlet, I know it will achieve your heart’s desire and bring our God glory. Never stop writing and sharing your heart! I love you so!

    Reply
    • Monica
      August 10, 2016 at 7:17 pm (11 months ago)

      You have been one of my greatest cheerleaders and prayer warriors. I love you.

      Reply
  2. Cara Sexton
    August 10, 2016 at 7:40 pm (11 months ago)

    Oh Monica. I simply cannot count the ways you have blessed me in the crazy short time I’ve known you, in ways that you may never know the full impact of. You are the kind of gift I couldn’t have known how to ask for. Thank you for your support of me and Soul Bare, and for your own incredible story. Love you big.

    Reply
    • Monica
      August 16, 2016 at 10:19 am (10 months ago)

      I love you new friend. I already don’t remember not knowing you…which means you’ve always had a piece of my heart. I am with you in all the next things.

      Reply
  3. Suzanne Anderson
    August 10, 2016 at 7:43 pm (11 months ago)

    Monica~ you are such a beautiful soul. The depth of your faith is tangible. I have said, and say it again, I don’t want to lose the tangible, precious, yet unexplainable riches, that can feel fleeting. If it means I need a thorn in my flesh to keep these real & fresh~ I’d rather keep the thorn. You are so transparent and I find this a rare quality. It’s certainly lacking within “the church” you and I know. We have much more in common than you know. Because of your journey you’ve learned the value of authenticity. It’s so much more than mere words. It’s a necessary life trait to see a revolutionized world. I love you friend. You are such an inspiration in many regards. I hope at some point in time, we can break bread together. There’s a song coming to mind–it’s an oldie and I can’t put my finger on the title….but is speaks of being “broken and spilled out”. Yes, this. It’s powerful. Anointed. You’re suffering is not in vain. Yet, I’m so sorry for all you’ve endured. My compassion would take it all away if I possibly could. But would the story carry the same power…..would it be rewriting, God’s story in the wrong way…..I don’t know these answers.

    Reply
    • Monica
      August 16, 2016 at 10:20 am (10 months ago)

      Suzanne,

      I pray we meet face to face soon. You are kindred. Knowing and being known by you is gift. I’m praying you see Him in big and small ways today. I love you.

      Reply
  4. Diane McElwain
    August 10, 2016 at 8:34 pm (11 months ago)

    One word: be honest. People know it, they respect it. I will be sharing this post. Sounds like a great book.

    Reply
  5. Halle Land
    August 13, 2016 at 12:40 am (11 months ago)

    Before my last surgery, writing used to just flow. Thoughts not even fully formed would just fly onto the pages. It helped me understand myself better because it sorted out my thoughts. Now I struggle. It takes a lot of effort, and concentration, and it feels all cluttered and clunky. I know I should try to start writing again, but I get so frustrated. It feels like another thing that EDS has taken away. But like everything else, I think I need to work through it, even if it doesn’t come as easily as it once did. I still have things to say and a story to tell. Especially now that we are experiencing our miracle baby…

    Reply
    • Monica
      August 16, 2016 at 10:17 am (10 months ago)

      Friend, I miss your writing. Even if you do it privately it helps you know what your really think. When my girls were little I found even a few sentences a day provided a framework for special memories or things God was teaching me. Your story is a beautiful one. I love you.

      Reply

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