Permission To Speak Freely

I read the book Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art On Fear, Confession, and Grace by Anne Jackson. I really enjoyed it, largely because it is a mix of essays by the author and art that was submitted to her.

Why were people submitting art to her, you ask?

On her blog in May 2008 she asked a simple question:

“What is one thing you can’t say in church?

The long and short of it is that the blog entry went viral and people anonymously submitted all sorts of personal stories and such and an on-line community supported each other. And, she wrote a book. Got a contract and made a few dollars for writing, I suppose. And, I’ll be honest. I’ve secretly wished that would happen to me.

Anyway, here’s a sample of why I enjoyed the book:

“Over and over again I hear people talk about how they left the church so they wouldn’t be judged for their basic humanity.

Most of us choose to live in one of these extremes: conformity or escaping. Few can find peace living in the tension of both. Those of us who do wonder if we’re too idealistic to believe a faith community can be a hospital where our wounds are welcome can be healed. The true sanctuary cna be found both within the walls of the church and outside as well.

A Scottish minister once told me, “If you can’t be an idealist in a church, then something is extremely wrong.”

At the risk of sounding overly idealistic, I’d like to say that for those of us who believe the church should be one of the safest and most grace-giving places a person can experience here on earth, it’s time to reclaim what our faith stands for.

It’s time for us to politely but passionately disagree with those who make church a ‘safe’ place by removing all the messiness.

It’s time for us to put all we have out in the open–not for the sake of faux humility of self-deprecating exploitation or attention, but for recognizing the things the Cross stands for and left for us: ultimate love and undiscriminating grace.”

Now, long-time readers of The Diner are aware that I often tire of writers always focusing on the negatives of what a church should be helping with. All too often in life-together, there are celebrations like when our children marry and we rejoice together, or laughing together like crazy on a mission trip or enjoying graduation of a friend who has been working hard to get that degree or whatever else is enjoyable in this world. But I’m not sure those types of books sell.

However, Anne’s story has a lot in it that is messy. Very, very messy. And I’m thankful she wrote about it…and the work of God in her life. It’s pretty cool to see the beauty of the transformation…even if it’s still kinda messy.

So, grab the book. It’s a good, thought provoking read. But what I really would love for you to do is go to the book’s website Permission To Speak Freely and check out the art work. Very, very cool. And you can link from there to the Facebook page with even more comments about “things you can’t say in church.” And on the Facebook page for the book there’s a slideshow which has even more art. Very, very cool.