there’s more room: discussing sex, gender, and identity

there's more room

One of my favorite of Jesus’ parables can be found in Luke 14.

While enjoying a dinner party, Jesus notices how many of the guests are posturing and vying for the most important seats at the table.  So what does he do?  Throws some major shade, calls them out, and reminds them that “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (v. 11 ESV).

Then he proceeds to tell the story of a wedding banquet.  If you’re familiar with The Revelation of St. John, you’ll recognize the imagery of a wedding feast traditionally understood as symbolism of the culmination of God’s kingdom in the union of the Son and the Church.

In this parable, a man holds a banquet for all his friends, but after offering a plethora of lame excuses, none of them show up.

To prevent the evening from being a total waste, the man asks his servant to go out into the streets and offer a free meal to those generally pushed to the fringes of society — in this case, the poor and the sick.

His servant returns and reports back “still there is room” (v. 22 ESV).  The master says, “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.  For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet” (v. 23-24 ESV).

I think this is a such a compelling portrayal of the gospel — an open invitation for those who need a meal to come and eat freely.  But what’s so countercultural about this gospel is that it is open to everyone, and the people you’d expect to be at the meal don’t always show up for abundant life.

This is evidenced in Jesus’ life.  It wasn’t those who were exalted by tradition and man-made religion that truly understood Christ’s merciful message.  God-fearing people trapped in the fog of their own perceptions and prejudices missed the Messiah and his wedding party.

But in this topsy-turvy kingdom, it’s the people that have been uninvited their entire lives who are welcomed as honored guests.

God’s presence is a home for the lonely, and the gospel is a safe haven for the marginalized.  Sadly, however, our churches are very much the opposite.

/   /   /   /

Largely in the American evangelical church, LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, etc.) people are considered invisible.  Especially in the Bible belt believer’s mind, they exist only outside the walls of the church, and they live in deliberate, unrepentant rebellion against God.

Of course we as Christians say the invitation is open for all, but often sexual minorities are excluded.  Yeah, we may welcome gay people, but only if they “get healing” and turn straight tout suite.

For many believers, being gay and Christian are mutually exclusive.

So LGBTQ people attending church in conservative contexts are faced with very limited options:

A) sit it in a pew, stay celibate, and deny their gender identity/sexual orientation

B) leave the church and seek refuge in whatever other religious/non-religious context they can find

C) come out of the closet and try to stick it out at their non-affirming church, likely not enjoying the full sacramental rites or the ability to move up the ranks in church leadership

D) find a new affirming (supportive/inclusive) church

But staying in the closet can be hard.  Coming out of the closet can be hard.  Staying at your conservative church can be hard.  Leaving your conservative church can be hard.

Sacrifices abound as LGBTQ people have to jump through religiously imposed hoops just to be able to worship their God in peace.  Is this how we welcome people to the table of Christ?

/   /   /   /

 In 2014, I premiered Sex, Gender, and Identity month (it ran over, so I use “month” loosely) on my blog, and we discussed a myriad of topics including Father’s Day, virginity, egalitarian relationships, biblical customs, gender stereotyping, intimacy, complementarianism, Greco-Roman house codes, and oversharing.

I also published my favorite post to date, “Man Up,” about living outside the rigid gender expectations of a patriarchal society.  The whole endeavor was such a growing experience for me as a writer, and the content really seemed to resonate with people since many of us struggle to feel man (or woman) enough.

sex gender identity 2015

So for the next month-ish, I’m bringing back this series with a bent towards queer topics.  We’ll discuss singleness and sexuality in a larger context as well, but the majority of the focus will be on broadening our perspectives on LGBTQ inclusion within the church.

I’ll be opening up personally about my own pathway to inclusion.  To help me out, I’ve invited a gay Christian friend to do a Q&A interview and a lesbian Christian friend to do a piece on her coming out story.  I’ll also be doing a post that congregates resources on LGBTQ and faith topics that have helped me on my spiritual journey.

/   /   /   /

You may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable with these topics, but I hope and pray that you won’t give up on my blog.  The Train of His Robe isn’t becoming an LGBTQ blog; it’s a blog about various topics from life and faith.

The train of the Sovereign’s robe even covers the topics that religious people often ignore out of insecurity, fear, or shame.

I value your readership, but in my efforts to discuss topics of importance, I couldn’t ignore the diversity/equality conversation any longer, as social justice is a major component of a faithful life.

That’s all this is — a simple conversation between gay, straight, queer, and questioning people.  We’re just having a meal around a table, sharing the body and the blood between fellow believers.

It’s your choice whether you show up to the wedding banquet or not.  When we reject our brothers and sisters and refuse them an invitation to the unconditional love banquet of God, we run the risk of missing out on the feast ourselves — the kaleidoscope beauty of kingdom life.

Y’all, there’s so much more room at the table.

Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” // Luke 14:15 ESV

“Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” // Revelation 19:9 ESV

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College Creatives: Talking Music and Faith with Jessica Lamb

talking faith and music

Every once in a while, I’d like to start introducing you to wonderful people who are making a creative difference in the world — College Creatives.

Jessica Lamb and I became friends when we traveled across an ocean and studied abroad in the UK for a semester.  We had an unforgettable time, especially dancing and singing a night away with Beyonce at London’s O2 arena!

As a singer and songwriter, Jess is creating some awesome stuff and recently released an EP, Live Sessions. Her music is beautiful and poignant, and I can’t wait to hear more stuff from her in the future.

She agreed to stop by the blog and share some Q & A goodness on how she gets inspired and how her faith and love of music intersect.

How did you get involved with music originally?  Did you have a musical family or take lessons?

I took piano as a kid but ending up quitting.  I picked music back up around high school and started teaching myself guitar and piano.

My parents don’t play music, but their personalities and influence in general has a heavy influence on my songwriting.  The content of my songs comes from my mind and thought processes, much of which they helped form.

So, though they aren’t musical, I’d say they have a greater influence on my music than anyone else.

Jessica Lamb

What do you enjoy about music and songwriting?  How does it help you connect with God?

Ever sing I was young, I’ve felt trapped in overthinking.  So many times I become frustrated and discouraged by the thoughts that play over and over in my head, and eventually, I feel debilitated by them.

When I started writing songs, I was blown away by this process of taking the thoughts I wrestle with and crafting them into something of value.  It’s become a powerful picture of Christ to me — the fact that my messy, jumbled thoughts can turn into a song.

I love that I can see Jesus taking what I thought was my ultimate weakness (overthinking) and using it to drive me toward what I love.  That’s incredible.

What is your process of songwriting?  How much do your life experiences affect your writing?

I almost always write words before music. Melodies come pretty easily to me, but the lyrics keep me up at night. Most of my writing stems from my experiences. Even if it’s not something I’m currently going through, I’ll draw from past experiences and write about them.

I’d like to play around with that a bit more and think out of the box of my own life. I wouldn’t really know where to start, so we’ll see how it goes.

You write songs about faith and about life.  Why have you decided to do neither exclusively secular or religious music?

From a writing standpoint, it’s just because I want to write about the whole of my experiences.  As far as “marketing” myself as a Christian or secular artist, I think it’s becoming less necessary to box yourself into one of those categories.

So many artists these days — from Ben Rector to Michael Gungor to Carrie Underwood — are putting out music that’s reflective of their faith without being made for Christian radio.

I want my music to glorify God by simply allowing me to connect with others.  Ideally, someone hears my song and thinks, “I’ve felt that, too.”  That feeling could be religious, but it could also be romantic or depressed or frustrated.

From that connection comes conversation and a platform for me to build relationships and exemplify Christ in my world.  Even if all starts out with some chick thanking me for writing a killer breakup song.

For more from Jessica, check out her music on Spotify.

A Prayer For When You’re Overwhelmed

a prayer for when you're overwhelmed

I will not be debilitated by my feelings or my circumstances.

I recognize the limited nature of either the unnerving passion or crippling anxiety I am experiencing now, and strong as it seems, I see my feelings as they truly are — contextual and fleeting.

I refuse to allow my negative thoughts and emotions to box me in and close me off from abundant life.

If the situation I now face is stressful but ultimately will have no lasting consequences, I exercise my control to place my feelings on this matter gently to the side.

If the reach of this circumstance is longer, then I now choose to respond in love, not fear.

If this dilemma requires me to act further, I now ask God to grant me guidance to make the most authentic, compassionate, and bold decision I can.

I ask heaven for the courage to move from my head to my hands.

I accept the fact that my efforts can only go so far to change this issue, and at that point, I relinquish this imperfect circumstance to a universe creatively designed to yield my ultimate good.

Even in the struggle, I can feel God moving in, around, and through me.  As I set aside distractions and unnecessary clutter, I accept wise counsel and hear Holy Spirit’s whisper in my ear.

I give God permission to say the final word — to introduce peace into my restless mind by speaking words of truth.

Only love lasts forever, so I acknowledge that this situation will either resolve itself or God will give me the strength and leading to face what may come my way.

I will not be overwhelmed.

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Consent, Control, and Christian Grey

Before you read further, you should know:

  • I tried to read Fifty Shades of Grey.  As an ardent egalitarian and Jesus feminist, I vigilantly began reading on a mission to get to the dark heart of this whole Grey phenomenon.
  • Unexpectedly, I was somewhat compelled by it.
  • I stopped reading because I was actually starting to enjoy it.
  • I also didn’t particularly want to read about the painful stuff.
  • I dislike people who write about books they’ve never read.
  • By that standard, I’m not entirely convinced I should have written this post.
  • However, I guess I am 33% more qualified to write about Fifty Shades than most Christian bloggers.

If any of this irritates you too much to continue reading, I totally understand.  Cheers! :)

Fifty Shades

I. Grey

I’m guessing your newsfeed has already been blown up about this book-turned-movie.  You probably read enough articles and posts to know how risque Fifty is.  You likely know some of the NSFW details from the book’s extreme BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadomasochistic) elements.

I believe the real danger of Fifty Shades, however, is less in the sexually explicit material–which is a dime a dozen in Hollywood–but in the glorification of causing women pain.

Hopefully, no one would openly make light of domestic abuse or advocate the type of “punishment” Christian Grey dishes out.  Then this begs the question:  why would millions of women, strangely including grandmothers and conservatives, find their own degradation attractive enough to keep turning the pages of Fifty Shades?

What do women see in Anastasia Steele that they wanted to emulate?  What do they see in the abusive Grey that they deem worthy of worship?

Despite its many flaws, the book has a bizarrely seductive pull to it; somehow I found myself sympathizing with Anastasia and developing a curiosity about Christian.

Like I said, I only read a third of the book.  I didn’t stop, however, because it was so poorly written or too sexual:  I stopped because it was so utterly intoxicating.

Thankfully, I put the book down before too much of the weird stuff happened–that is if you don’t consider Christian pinning Ana’s cellphone, stalking her, asking her to sign a nondisclosure contract, or taking her virginity only moments after showing her his “Red Room of Pain” weird.

Not exactly the kind of stuff that usually makes an ideal Valentine’s Day film…

Still, as violently opposed to every ounce of the book as I should have been, I was somehow enticed.  When I realized how much I really wanted to keep reading, I knew it was time to put the book down.

The marketing of this franchise could be partially to blame.  Christian’s money and infinite resources give the book covers and movie trailers a ritzy vibe.  Accompanied by an incredibly well-done and decently mild soundtrack (that I admittedly haven’t stopped listening to), advertisers brought a glamorous Gatsby attitude to a film about control and subjugation.

II. Darker

Honestly, I think Fifty Shades plays into something so engrained into our cultural mindsets that we are almost blind to it:  sadly, our society still views relationships through a patriarchal lens.

If you are unfamiliar with this terminology, patriarchy is the strong bias toward male leadership prominent in almost every culture throughout almost all of human history.

It’s the notion that being a man makes one physically and emotionally stronger and therefore more apt to control a kingdom, an organization, a people group, or a woman.

And even though many of us have become aware of this form of prejudice that is sooooo prevalent in our religions, our governments, and our overarching cultural narratives, this belief system still sometimes subtly creeps into even the most justice-minded consciousness.

Why?  Because, despite the leaps and bounds into mainstream opinion that feminism has recently made, sexism is absolutely everywhere.  From our history books to our sacred texts, from the private sector to male-dominated legislatures, and from pulpits to the blogosphere, misogyny and objectification and inequality are pervasive.

To be honest, I’m not sure why Fifty Shades shocked so many people as the trilogy is the logical end of a patriarchal society and the systematically unequal treatment of women.

Many clergy and places of worship who demonize Fifty Shades are just as guilty of perpetuating a weak view of women–theology that paints women as dependent on and submissive to men.  In some Christian traditions, female leadership potential is frequently limited in relationships and in ministry using scripture.

We’ve been taught that it is noble for men to lead relationships and that it is romantic for women to submit.  This ideology doesn’t sound exceptionally dangerous in theoretical terms, but in the hands of broken and selfish humans, non-mutual submission teachings can easily be abused.

However, manipulation doesn’t have to look as grandiose as Christian Grey’s Red Room of Pain or as institutionalized as gender discrimination in the Church.  Sometimes it is much more subtle…and even consensual.

Fifty Shades supporters have argued that the series isn’t necessarily degrading to women because Ana consents (she literally signs an agreement) to her role as the “Submissive.”

But just because a relationship is consensual doesn’t make it healthy.  Someone can consent to being demeaned, used, or taken advantage of, and that isn’t sexual liberation.

It’s time that we start rejecting the whole dominant/submissive false dichotomy. Relationship isn’t about competition, ya’ll.  Real love IS NOT overbearing, unequal, partial, hierarchical, one-sided, demanding, possessive, exploitive, or belittling.

III. Freed

Fifty Shades of Grey wouldn’t be nearly as successful if people like you and me never felt lonely or unwanted or misunderstood or distant from the people we love.  The sexual brokenness that leads us to use or be used by someone is simply rooted in the need to be loved and wanted, and in this case, it has led millions to idealize a fictional sadist.

Chains and whips definitely don’t excite me, but feeling powerful and feeling desired does, so who I am to cast the first stone?

What if I am Christian (the controller)?  What if I am Anastasia (the controlled)?  Too often I have used others for my own selfish gain or compensated for my insecurities by allowing someone to give me a false sense of worth.

We’re spending so much time criticizing these literary characters, but I don’t think the Church is examining our own hearts and truly seeing the sexual dysfunction that has been overlooked or justified in our lives.

Basically I stopped reading the book because I was too overwhelmed by my own dark capacity to manipulate or be manipulated.  Maybe the path forward is in seeing potential for similar depravity within our own lives and deciding to stand for equality instead.

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P.S. This (click here) is BY FAR the best piece I’ve read on Fifty Shades.  Gets at the heart of why this series might be so interesting to folks, going all the way back to Edward and Bella.

Creative Extremists: On Selma and Institutional Inequality

from nydailynews.com

Oprah places activist Annie Lee Cooper in Selma // from nydailynews.com

When I watched Selma this past Sunday, I was too shocked to even cry.

Watching bodies being thrown by bombs and gunshots, seeing beautiful faces slammed against the asphalt and beaten bloody with billy clubs, and hearing white men jeer at protestors–black and white alike–was almost more than I could handle.

I kept cupping my hands against my face in terror and whispering, “Oh, Jesus.”

If I’m being truthful, my gut reaction was absolute shame.  I couldn’t stop thinking:  I don’t want to live in a country where this happened.

But what made me even sicker was the realization that I do live in such a country.  Fifteen years into a new millineum, entire systems of oppression go uncontested, and blatant acts of prejudice and bigotry are still pervasive.

Like a police officer choking a man gasping “I can’t breathe” with his dying breath.

It’s easy to watch a movie portraying scenes from fifty years ago and be horrified by both the perpetrators of injustice and those who sat blindly by and let it happen.  It’s much more difficult to critically think about the issues on which you and I are on the wrong side of history.

Selma took place in the 1960s, so walking down the street you could still pass someone who cursed or attacked those protestors.

Throughout time, these people (hopefully) changed their minds and saw the error of their ways.  Still, in the history books, their images and hateful words are forever bound to the crippling prejudice of their generation.

I wonder if had I lived in that time in the South and been as inundated with regional hatreds and historical heirs of superiority as the angry antagonists of the Selma story were, would I have followed Dr. King?

Rich with biblical allusion, his prophetic words peak deeply to our spirits today.  But for some in that time period, his teachings on equality–now staples in American religion–would have sounded too controversial.

What modern movements of the Spirit have we been blind to or, God forgive us, discounted?  What issues in our nation are breaking God’s heart right now?

I could take a few guesses–systematic poverty, wage inequality for women in the workplace, ethnic prejudice, high divorce rates, the murder of human fetuses, the treatment of sexual minorities as second-class citizens, drone strikes, military torture techniques, etc.

Discrimination and prejudice hurt God’s heart because they demean God’s own image in us–the Sons and Daughters.

Every day, we must continue shifting our mindsets from fear to love, from injustice to equal opportunity, from blind ethnocentricity to vibrant diversity, from superiority and judgment to humility and gracious acceptance.

from history.com

from history.com

However, a major problem we face, as the characters in Selma did, is that the institutions created to protect us often perpetuate injustice themselves.  Our schools and universities, our courts and legislatures, and our churches still neglect the wellbeing of all for a select privileged.

Like Dr. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Something I’ve been convicted by recently is how important it is not to entirely give up on “the establishment” and therefore surrender our power to influence it.

If young Christians are tired of the way churches stigmatize sexual minorities and people struggling with mental illness, the last thing we need to do is abandon the mainstream church.

If women are tired of being disenfranchised in the political sphere, we need strong female candidates not to dismiss Washington but to keep running for office.

If social justice activists are sick of unfair income distribution, they must collaborate with the private sector and demonstrate corporate responsibility as new way of doing business.

Protests are powerful, but resistance only goes so far.  What is needed to dismantle corrupt systems is creative and redemptive action from within these institutions.  We need to be agents of restoration within our schools and churches and courts and city halls.

from thecommongood.net

from thecommongood.net

Let’s spend less time demonizing our opponents, as that only widens the gap of misunderstanding.  To win the hearts of those who–out of their own fear and limited vision–persecute others, we must stand with firm commitment to our standards, unified hearts, intentional acts of love, and radical humility.

Dr. King, I believe, recognized that strong rhetoric influence minds and spirits but that purposeful actions shift cultures.  Both art and politics–demonstration and activation–are necessary.

That’s what Selma taught me.

I’ll leave you with these words from his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which speak to my spirit as strongly as they did the first time I read them in my eleventh-grade English class:

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus and extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you…

So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime — the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth, and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation, and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

 

My Faith Evolution: The Search for Silence

The last few years have been a roller coaster of faith, as I explored expressions of faith like pentecostalism, calvinism, liturgy, the emergent church, postmodern Christianity, and more.  Today I’m sharing how I found my place, for the time being, in the Episcopal church.

If you’re just now joining us, you might want to read Part I “Days of Fire” and Part II “Flirting with Calvin” first.

Search for Silence

Part Three of Three

When we left off, I was finally deciding, for the sake of my mental sanity, that maybe God was bigger than the unnecessary binary of predestination vs. free will.

But much to my chagrin, the influx of my questions didn’t stop there, and over the next year and a half, I took the measure that many millennials and fed-up churchgoers are choosing these days–a couple steps back from traditional evangelicalism.

The things I clung to as truth for so long came into question for the first time in my life.

Those days, I spent church services lost in the webs of my own mind:  Do I agree with this theology?  Why do I need to jump and shout in worship to prove I love Jesus?  And while I’m on that subject, would Jesus, the accuser of the religious, really have come to establish a new religion?

Would a loving God actually send a young girl in an unreached people group to hell because she had never heard the name Jesus?  Why are Christians so hell bent (excuse the pun) on the idea of God sending people to hell? What if hell doesn’t even exist?

Why doesn’t anyone seem to notice contradictions and incorrect historical facts presented in the Bible?  Why can’t we admit the Bible was flavored by the preferences of human (and very male) writers?  Is the God who condones genocide, misogyny, and execution in the Old Testament the same God who gave Himself up for humanity in the New Testament?  Does Scripture really have to be “inerrant” for it to be relevant truth?

Why do the traditional understanding of certain Bible passages and the historical opinions of prominent Church fathers so violently malign the equal image of God found in women?  Why does the Church promote the discrimination of LGBTQ people and people with mental illness?  What if God created the earth through the process of evolution?  Why do our theological differences so often drive us to division?

And the question that reverberated loudest through the caverns of my consciousness:  why am I not allowed to ask questions? 

***

Spending three months in Europe only exacerbated my unsettled thoughts and opened my eyes to my own American theological biases.

I visited the grave of Peter in the Vatican, walked through the cave where St. John wrote his Revelation, stood on Mars Hill–where St. Paul delivered his address to the “Unknown God,” and heard a woman sing “How Great is Our God” standing in the Ephesian amphitheater from Acts 19.

But it was in the rituals of Anglican evensongs–worshipping in thousand-year-old cathedrals–that I heard the gentle whisper of the Spirit unlike ever before.  What I experienced was ancient yet bordered the precipice of something new and extraordinary for me.

In those moments of humble amazement, in particular, taking Eucharist in King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, I discerned a tangible connection with saints thousands of years before and after me–and the Lord who made and loved them all.

***

Upon returning to the States, I became quickly disgusted by the exuberance of American evangelicalism.  The unnecessary noise, the distaste for history and tradition of any kind, the preachiness, the often superficial conversions, and the obsession with favor and money zapped my energy.

It was like tasting medicine or being visited by a traveling salesperson each Sunday.  Certainty and doctrinal ideology were to be worshipped.

The constant internal questioning had become too much, but what smothered me most was the feeling that I couldn’t express my doubts within my current faith framework.  I was quickly running out of air.

When I tried to talk to people, I felt like others couldn’t bear the weight of my heavy questions.  Friends held interventions with me, convinced I was too close to the edge of orthodoxy.  Their good intentions only left me in shame.

The summer was filled with draining Sundays and many desperate tears on my pillowcase.  On and on and on, my thoughts would fire off, and I had been left in the isolating asylum of my criss-crossing theologies.

I had lost my peace.

Then I finally understood:  what I needed for continued spiritual growth was a season of quietness.  For the longest time, I had been making up for my own lack of sincerity with charisma, and I wasn’t satisfied anymore.  I hadn’t been true to the evolution of my heart.

So I left my comfort zone far behind and found a small Episcopal church close to my university.

The echoing hymns, the poetic liturgy, the glimmering stained glass icons, the exaltation of the Gospels, the paradox of the service’s complex simplicity, the warm smiles of new friends–it was all so beautiful and mystical.  In sitting still, clearing my mind, and taking the holy Eucharist, I met Jesus again.

A friend recently told me, “A change of position will always change our perspective,” and I totally believe that what I needed in that season was a shift in vantage point.

Maybe you are different than me and grew up in a liturgical church.  You might be tired of the rituals and the creeds and need a breath of charismatic air.  Or perhaps you’ve always been nondenominational and should try the mainline for a while.

Who knows? Maybe you need to listen to a megachurch online or serve the homeless or take a theology class or study the monastics or reread the gospels.  Whatever the change, I have confidence you’ll discover it and have the courage to make it!

I’ve changed so much over the last four years, and I know I haven’t found my journey’s end yet.

My advice to you is to never be afraid to question, to grow, to evolve.  That doesn’t mean you have to leave your church or your denomination:  it just means you should take an opportunity to look beyond your little religious box for the answers your heart craves.

Pursue your peace:  it’s so worth finding.
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Train of His Robe’s Best of 2K14

Wow.  What a year it has been.

IMG_3858Up until 2014, my blog (despite my good intentions) had been nothing but a hobby pushed to the side.  I only wrote infrequently, and I had very little traffic when I did.

But then the new year came, and I shipped myself halfway across the globe to study abroad.  People began to read my blog in increasing numbers to hear stories from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Greece and the lessons I learned through an indescribable semester.

After returning to the States, I kicked my interest in blogging to the next level with my Gettin’ Personal month and buying the thetrainofhisrobe.com domain.

Next, we tackled tough topics during the Exploring, Sex, Gender, and Identity series, including personal stories of my own struggles with gender stereotypes.

During October, I embarked on the 31 Day Challenge and posted every day for the month of October.  31 Days of Unexpected Spiritual Encounters was a wild ride, and some posts weren’t as good as others, admittedly, but I grew infinitely with writing confidence.

31 Days also incorporated travel stories from myself and some phenomenal friends in the Finding God Abroad series, and I also celebrated 10,000 all-time views on the blog.

Now 70+ posts later, I’m celebrating a successful year showcasing some of 2014’s superlatives (in order of most views)!

***

5) Most Timely Post:  Feminist–Why It’s Okay to Call Yourself One

FEMINISM

This post came shortly after Emma Watson’s HeForShe talk at the United Nations, and it was such a joy to help people combat their misconceptions of feminism.  If you’ve ever struggled with this F-word, this is the post for you!

4) Most Taboo Topic:  Worth Waiting For?  Why Abstinence Doesn’t Equal Sexual Purity

Worth Waiting For?

This was the first post in what I refer to as my Sex Trilogy.  Talking about intimacy and virginity was a little uncomfortable for me, but hey, it’s about time the Church got real and started talking about sex!

3) Closest to Home Issue:  Chemo, Advent, and Kingdom Come

Advent, Chemo, and Kingdom Come

Talking about my mom’s cancer was admittedly pretty difficult.  Christmas was very different this year, and as thankful as I am for all the kind words and prayers, I know the road ahead will be long for my momma.  Continued prayers are beyond appreciated.

2) Most Talked About:  The Perks of Egalitarian Dating

The Perks of Egalitarian Dating

This post was about my dating relationship with Caroline Eaton, who you can find on The College Cosmopolitan.  We did a crossover, and it was the first time we had really gone public with our relationship on the blogosphere.

It was also a brief introduction to the theology behind egalitarianism–the practice of mutual submission in a romantic relationship.  What was so surprising is the negative feedback I got from a small group of people who were furious that I suggest a model for marriage other than patriarchal doctrine of male headship.

However, the negativity actually had the opposite effect:  I decided to write about defying gender stereotypes more often!  Don’t get bitter; get better.  :)

1) Most Vulnerable Post:  MAN UP

Man UpI wrote this in Paris, but two months later, I was nauseous as I was almost too anxious to actually post it.  For me, it was sooo personal publicly dealing with the gender stereotypes and assumptions I’ve dealt with my entire life.

It was by far my most popular post ever, and I’m so grateful for the kind words and support that you guys showed me after this.

I even had a person I didn’t know approach me while I was walking through campus and say how much this post meant to him.  There’s nothing that cuts through shame like the simple affirmation:  “I’ve felt that way too before.”

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Now for some personal favorites!

Most Enjoyable Journey:  Surprised by Jack

Surprised by Jack

Most Beautiful Memory:  Sacred Silence \\ Holy Hush

Lindisfarne

Most Poetic:  A Prayer of Undoing (which goes really well with BURNOUT)

A Prayer of Undoing

Cutest:  Because I’m the Only One!

Tigger

Best Travel Reflection:  Ireland, Instagram and Illusions About International Travel

Ireland

My blogging goal for the new year is authenticity, so get ready for some 2015 realness coming your way!

Also, I started a Facebook page, and I’d be so appreciative if you’d like it for convenient access to new posts and old favorites.

Thanks for hanging out with me this year!  Much love and happy 2015!

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