Even If I Don’t Get It


Once I had this friend who was embarrassed by my laughter. At the movies, he would literally shove my shoulder to tell me to quiet down. At first I just stopped laughing around him. But eventually I stifled my laughter around everybody.

That same friend couldn’t believe it when I was sad about something, or hurt, or not enjoying myself. I was being a downer, I guess. I was interrupting his life.

We went hiking once and he kept telling me to smile. “Why don’t you laugh?” he said. He knew I had lung issues and breathing problems. But he wouldn’t slow down for me, not for a second.

We’re not friends anymore, but here’s the thing: I don’t think we were ever friends. He wanted a customizable, checklisted, wishlisted type of robot that met his every whim. That was all. He couldn’t imagine another person with needs beyond his own. And I was happy to cater to him. There was something about his bully-like authority that I was attracted to, as if I got strength from his domineering. But no, we were never friends. I was his rug, his lapdog.

I could be mad at him, but I’m guilty of the same thing. Sometimes I don’t understand a person’s fears, dreams, and goals, and I judge them for it. I don’t get their hobbies or the movies or music they like or the fact they love quinoa and kale. Mentally I belittle them for being them.

We do this with mental health, gender, race, culture, their stories: it’s as if we withhold permission for people to feel hurt about the things that don’t hurt us. “It’s never happened to me, therefore it never happens” is the most destructive lie that destroys connection.

But I want to get it. I want to get your fear, anxiety, pain, your worries and heartaches and shame. Your whole story. To really listen means that another person’s story is more important than my own right then. But that’s how we grow. That’s how we heal. That’s how we find laughter, loud and free.

I’m sorry I didn’t listen earlier. I’m sorry I didn’t hear you. I want to. I want to hear you, and by hearing, fully see.

— J.S.

3 True Hospital Stories and What They Taught Me About Grief, Hope, and Unseen Work

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For my live video on my book launch team, I shared three true hospital stories that were “deleted scenes” from my upcoming book. The first story is about a family member who asked for a picture of his dead brother. The second is about a grandmother who refused to die after surviving over a dozen Code Blue resuscitations. (3:06) The third is about a patient who I made an amazing connection with, but the next day something totally changed. (6:30) Also, that is indeed a Bruce Lee shirt. Be blessed and much love, friends. (You can preorder my book, The Voices We Carry, from the link in my bio.) #grief #hope #chaplain #thevoiceswecarry #booklaunch #bookrelease #hospital #mentalhealth #faith #inspiration #truestories #trauma #loss #empathy #connection #jspark [Stories have details changed to maintain privacy.]

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I share three true hospital stories which are “deleted scenes” from my upcoming book, The Voices We Carry.

— J.S.


[Stories have details changed to maintain privacy.]

Is Anxiety a “Sin”? Does It Mean That I “Lack Faith”?

Anonymous asked a question:

Is anxiety a sin? God says to be anxious for nothing. I googled it and apparently lots of Christians say anxiety is a sin. Means you don’t fully trust God

Hey dear friend: No, I don’t believe that anxiety is a sin.

Anxiety results from a broken brain, originating from a world that is flawed, fractured, and has fallen short. At most, anxiety is the result of a sin-torn world. But no, it is not a sin that you’re premeditating, as if you’re somehow planning on having an anxiety attack.

When Scripture says “Be anxious for nothing,” well—that word anxious also means distracted or divided or pulled in every direction. Later Paul says he is content with being hungry or well fed, living in plenty or in want. In other words, he does not have a consuming preoccupation with a perfect situation. He is not basing his happiness on a full stomach or material pleasures. He is writing from prison, after all, and has chosen not to to base his value on his surroundings.

I think there’s a kind of anxiety not related to mental health, which is more of a restlessness for “better,” and it can never be content. This is not about mental health, but rather a moral choice of internal character. Paul says that by praying we’ll have “the peace of God that transcends all understanding,” which in context appears to mean that we’re not always consumed with upgrading our circumstances. It means trusting God even when we don’t have everything that we want. That sort of peace is not easy to find, but it’s possible.

But let’s assume Paul was talking about anxiety the way we understand it.

Continue reading “Is Anxiety a “Sin”? Does It Mean That I “Lack Faith”?”

Spoken Word: In the Middle Along the Way


In my book launch group, I performed a spoken word poem I wrote on finding peace. Hope it blesses you. (Sorry for all the sweat.)

My book drops May 5th. You can preorder here:

When I Ask If God Is Good


When I ask if God is good
I see a cross, an empty tomb.
What He writ large in the stars
is writ small for our wounds.
From the sky to my sin
He is re-making us again.
When nothing else is good,
He is the only one who is.
— J.S.

Holding My Book, “The Voices We Carry”


Good Friday to you, friends. My publisher sent my books early for me. It’s incredible and surreal to finally hold my book in my hands.

My book launch team is still open if you would like to help support the book release. You get an advance copy of the book, giveaways (like art by Red Hong Yi), Q&As, and live video chats: https://www.facebook.com/groups/thevoiceswecarry

You can also preorder my book here, which releases May 5th: https://www.amazon.com/The-Voices-We-Carry/dp/0802419895

God bless and much love to you, friends. All peace and grace be with you.
— J.S.

[Thank you, awesome team at Moody Publishers.]


Join My Book Launch Team for “The Voices We Carry” Now Live!


Hey friends! My book is releasing in one month, and my Book Launch Team is now live!
The Book Launch Team is for those who want to support my book release. If you’re committed to joining the team and writing an honest review, check it here:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/thevoiceswecarry

You’ll get a free advance copy of the book and giveaway prizes, and I’ll be doing live chats and Q&As. There will be some really awesome discussion and fun activities along the way. Space is limited!

My book is available for preorder here and releases on May 5th.
To find out what the book is about, check here.

Thank you and much love to you!
— J.S.

I Messed Up. I Hugged Someone.


I messed up. I hugged someone. We’re supposed to practice social distancing, but my friend badly needed a hug. I know I shouldn’t have. I couldn’t help it.
— J.S.

Your Hurt Does Not Determine Your Worth


For those who have been severely hurt by COVID-19, whether you lost your job, freedom, have tested positive, or know someone who has:

When you become ill or lose something valuable, it’s easy to tie up your hurt with your worth. When you can’t work or lose your once vibrant health, it can feel like it’s your fault. Physical illness still has a deep social stigma and it can seem you‘re less of a person when you’re sick. Unfortunately, our health is measured like wealth.

I read an interview with a man who tested positive for COVID-19 who said, “I felt kind of dirty. Psychologically, it’s weird, hard to accept. It was hard to tell my family.”

I’ve seen this in the hospital. Patients not only feel physical pain, but an embarrassment about their situation. It’s an almost humiliating dread and shame, like their body has betrayed them. To be stripped of health can send a brutal and confusing message: “This pain I feel is who I am.” And so often they blame themselves, because we’ve been trained to believe that when we’re sick, we’re somehow morally wrong inside.

The thing is, you can do everything right and still get sick. Yes, it’s absolutely crucial we stay at home, wash our hands, and keep distance. Please hear me: these rules are necessary and they mean life or death. But there’s a side effect of any rule: a built-in legalism and judgment. Even when it’s not your fault, the false message we preach is that to fail the rule means you’ve failed at life.

If you end up testing positive for COVID-19, you might be seen as bad or reckless or lesser, as if “you didn’t try hard enough.” Even if you recover, you might get strange looks at the office or from your family. You may feel cursed, stained, unclean.

Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter how you got ill. What matters is that you’re made in the image of God still. Your body and health and job are not a currency for your worth. By grace you are more than the things you lose and the things that happen to you. The grace of God is so that nothing can separate you from His love, that He has no social or spiritual distance from you, that He sees you far more loved than you see yourself.

While you may be cut off or abandoned and it‘s crushing to the soul, the one who made that soul will never leave, never forsake, never stop drawing near to you. This may not fix anything now: but please know, in the midst of an unfixable situation, He is with you. He is always with you, and by grace you are always more.

If you know someone directly affected by COVID-19, my hope is you will see this person from the eyes of grace, that they’re not their illness, that their hurt does not determine their worth. Love them. Humanize them. Affirm their dignity and their imago dei. To see a person is to heal them. See by grace.
— J.S.

The Storm Doesn’t Always Pass


Not everyone can stay home to wait it out.
Some have to keep working.
Some have lost their jobs.
Some have never had a home.
Some will never go back.

Maybe things are “not that bad” for you. Maybe “this too shall pass”—in your world. But someone you know doesn’t have that luxury. Someone you know is permanently affected. They’re grieving a loss, whether it’s loss of their autonomy or a whole person. Our advice doesn’t apply to them, because it can’t.

Stats and facts gloss over real loss. Two in one-hundred doesn’t sound like a lot, but if any two people I knew had died this week, it would be absolutely devastating.

To downplay any grief and loss doesn’t help, and if you keep quoting statistics to show “it’s not that bad,” you’d be the last person I would go to for help.

No, we shouldn’t panic.
But please don’t tell people it’s fine
when they’re not.

The storm doesn’t always pass. Not for everyone. Pain can last for a lifetime. We can only hope to adjust to the new normal. By the grace of God, I will crawl down there with you.
— J.S.