When You are Weary of Vanilla Christianity

For some ridiculous reason, I keep carrying around green sparkly earrings in my purse.

Like  I’m hoping someday that I’ll get to wear them — and there just ain’t no Dave Brown way that’s going to happen this side of the great divide and I’m the best with this.

Big Mama, she’d wrapped them up and sent them from the great state of Texas to this pig farm in the north.

She’d written a whole book about green sparkly earrings. But there’s something the wondrous Big Mama didn’t know when she put those earrings in the mail for this mess of a mama of six.

A secret I’ve been hiding for years under hair falling hardly long enough.




When I was in seventh grade, I was the thick glasses kid who sat in the front row of Mr. Garmand’s seventh grade class, hunched over these math questions  about having 19 stacked apples in one hand and 11 and a half oranges in the other hand, just knowing the real answer was that you needed a bag.

Peter Reman and his lankiness sprawled too close in the desk right behind me.

One of those days, while I moaned over math and other cosmic numerical travesties,  Peter Reman just unfolded one of the lengths of his limbs and yanked on my right ear and that dangling turquoise earring my Grandma Ruth had bought me in a thriftstore in Belleville.

Ripped right through the soft skin of the lobe of  the ear and I bled a bit like one of my dad’s stuck pigs.

Peter Reman’s daddy was an electrician. He looked like he just got a bit of a charge out of the whole thing.

But my Mama made it clear, from that day forth — no more earrings. That if I just let it be, that earring hole that was really now more like an elongated misshapen ditch, would eventually heal up smooth and forgotten.

It was 27 years on a January night before I wore another pair of earrings, before my sister handed me a pair of pearls and said, “Don’t you think it’s time for some glorious lovely again?”

Even if that long ago wound hadn’t healed? Even if the hole in me was too large?


I couldn’t have known that three weeks later, I’d be sitting at an evening family Bible study in my Mama’s front room, the book of Matthew open on my lap, twisting that pearl earring around in my right lobe — and it’d fall straight into my hand.

I felt my ear. Fresh red smeared between fingertips.

“It’s tore right through, Mama.” Malakai whispered it wide-eyed.

No one tells you that  time doesn’t really heal wounds — only the Wounded Healer can.  

I sat that night on the edge of our bed and tucked the hair behind my ear to really see.

The bottom of my ear gapes.

“You look like an ear-notched sow, Mama.” Shalom leans over my shoulder into the mirror.

I grin, wink at her and she laughs — and I feel along the two pieces of my ear hanging torn…

Notched. Marked.

— and there is that first verse of Romans 1:  Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus — Παῦλος δοῦλος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ  — and there is Exodus 21

But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master….’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door…

And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.

The edges of my ear, bore through and blatant.

This murmuring with David:

You do not want sacrifices and offerings.

    But you have made a hole in my ear

    to show that my body and life are Yours.” Ps. 40:6-8

I had been sitting in a Bible Study when my ear had tore straight through and here I was with a right opened ear.

Sometimes what you think is an an open wound needing to heal — is God opening you up like an ear to hear Him and obey. 


I touch the notching. Catch my eye in the mirror. Mouth it — Give it up.

Give up the baggage and the sparkly facades, give up the years of waiting and the personal agendas, give up the American dream and the striving race with the Jones’s and give up pinterest perfection and be pinned to Perfect and become a slave to Christ. 

The call to complete happiness is to come lay down your life completely, and the Call of Christ is always a call to come die and anything else is a lie.

Stand before that door and be bore through — because this is the only way through.

Be an ever opened ear.

 What do I need more than His love and what do I want more than His will and  when I am my own master, don’t I have a fool for a master?   

What do you have to fear?  You were born for freedom. You deliver into it through obedience. 

No one ever entered into the full rest of God by giving Him only half of themselves.   

 You may wrestle, but in Him you have won. You may regret, but in Him you will rise. You may suffer, but in Him you are secure. You may no longer be free to live the easy way, but you will be free to the liberty of doing everything for love. 

The soundtrack for misery always is “I did it My Way.”

Complete abdication to Christ is the only way to complete liberation.  

That hole in me, the one I see in the mirror, the one between my fingers — it is the mark of the bondslave to Christ and it is the keyhole to freedom and my days and my times and my life are not mine but His.

Kids will upend and barge in and spin everything. The phone will ring and the computer will crash and the dayplanner will short circuit and spark and blow a fuse. God will call and God will command and this is the thing:

Knowing every interruption is a call from your Master — is liberation.

When you named Him your Lord, you gave Him right to your life on His time: Every interruption is a new work order from God.   

That tearing of my ear — breaks the chains of my heart and I could be a slave to Christ Jesus and the most freeing place for a soul is in the abandonment to the will of God. 


So I may never wear earrings again — But I keep trying to the wear the habit of saying yes to God.

Habits are to the soul what veins are to the blood. The very course of our life depends on them. Random acts of greatness pale in comparison to habitual acts of faithfulness.

And the Farmer whispers it to me after he turns off the light, pulls me close — “You could go have that ear sewed up, if you wanted?”  He strokes my hair back. I shake my head in the dark. This is my yes to God.

I want Christ. I want this mark. Christ’s people want nothing less than this.

The slaves to Christ bear the three marks:

1. their eyes see Christ in all faces 

2. their lips say yes to Christ in all places

3. and their arms embrace  interruptions as Christ’s directions — as all is grace.   

For the bound and released, none of it seems ridiculous —

that the ever opened ear, it can sparkle anywhere with this startling glint of God.




The Romans Project? That habit of memorizing Romans? There are more than 2200 of us committed at The Romans Project online (!!! amazing people !!!) Thousands of us saying it together: “Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus.”And tomorrow? A very guest blog post by a very special surprise guest who has joined the Romans Project… (!!!).

Every Wednesday, we Walk with Him, posting a spiritual practice that draws us nearer to His heart.

To read the entire series of spiritual practices

Next Week: (Let’s spend one more week on habits, yes?): The Practice of Radical Christianity. Does Christianity need to be radical at its very essence? What does that look like — right where we are? We look forward to your thoughts, stories, ideas….

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