Emily Timbol

Fiction Author. Good at making stuff up.

The Power of Community


A love of books goes hand in hand with a love of writing. Often times, I’ve found, so does a love of movies.

I’m not sure if it’s the desire to escape into fantasy, the ability to shut off a constantly running mind, or simply the ease with which one can immerse themselves in a foreign world, but most creatives love film.  Ever since I was old enough to see above the seat in front of me, I too have loved movies.

Occasionally, while engaging in a particularly amusing or unique experience, I’ll pretend that I actually am in a movie. Or, I’ll step outside of myself in the situation, and look at what I’m doing from the perspective an audience would.

Last night was one of those times.

Left on mallory

Photo courtesy of Jared Rypkema

Sitting around me at the handmade wooden table were people so interesting, they reminded me of characters in an indie film.

There was Chris, the author in the faded boat shoes, jeans, and newsboy cap, whose long blonde hair and scruffy beard matched his outside-the-grind personality. He leaned back in his chair and spent ten minutes describing the food in each city he had lived in the past three years, chewing over the words as if they were savory morsels.

Then there was Amanda. She reminded me of a sweeter version of a character from a show about 20 something girls in a big city. Only she was in my city, which isn’t very big. Dressed in a light lace shirt and high waisted pants, she kept her hair back with a small rose pin. While humbly talking about the blog she helps write, she casually took out a flier from her notebook. It was for a local business trying to crowd-source enough money for a vegan food truck.

Her friend, also named Amanda, was brought along for moral support. Donning a large jade statement necklace, she looked every part the vegan photographer she was. Despite being the lone artist who used visuals, not words, to present her craft, she seemed at ease among the group of writers.

Lastly, there was Jared, whose table we were scattered around. Jared, who came up with the idea to start, and lead, a community of local Jacksonville writers, fueled by a passion to make the city a serious literary presence. It’s his relaxed personality, friendliness, and eagerness to learn from others, that has helped make his dream, Left on Mallory, a reality.

And then there’s me.

Me, who before, never felt “cool” enough to sit at a table full of people that could inspire indie movie characters. Me, a person who for a long time, struggled to feel like she belonged at any table, at all.

It was last night, leaving the writers group meeting, stopping for a minute to talk to Chris, that I thought, “Oh. This is that feeling I’ve been missing.”

I finally felt like I belonged.

Strange enough, this wasn’t the first time in the past few months that feeling has come over me.

While communicating with the 49 other participants of the upcoming Reformation Project, I’ve felt it too. Even though I’ve not yet met a single person, while talking to them, and reading their thoughts on the Bible and the academic papers we’re trudging through, I sense that same tingle of recognition.

What I realized, while unpacking all of these emotions, is that God is behind this new-found sense of belonging. Not in a cliche’d, “there’s a reason for everything” way. More like, “This is what you feel when you start living the life you’re meant to.”

Despite their cooler personalities, clothes, and experiences, which normally would make me feel aloof, I felt at home among the writers I met last night. And despite the fact that most of the reformers I’m going to meet in September are all gay, and have lived through vastly different experiences than me, I feel at home with them as well.

I hate that it took me over two decades to realize this, but community is not about race, or sexuality, or income. It’s not about surrounding yourself with people who look and think like you do.

Community is about what happens when people striving towards the same goal come together.

I don’t think I ever really got that before. Which is probably why I struggled with sticking with other communities I joined in the past.

God has brought me into the communities I’m apart of now, through little-to-no work of my own, to show me how powerful and life-giving it is to not work alone.

Which is odd, for someone like me, who craves solitude.

But what Left on Mallory, and The Reformation Project has shown me, is that alone, I’m rather weak. Prone to quitting. Easily frustrated.

As part of a community of others working towards the same thing, I’m emboldened. Revived. Determined not to give up.

I’m incredibly grateful for both of these communities, and excited about what will come in the future for them, and me as a part of them. And for the first time, I’m shifting my view of the future from what, “I want,” to “what is best for us.”

The great part is, there’s much more freedom from the future when the “I” becomes, “we.”

What is The Reformation Project and Why Does it Matter?


logoIn about two months, I’ll be flying to Prairie Village, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, to attend a four day conference aimed at reforming the church’s current teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity. Forty-nine other people will be joining me there who believe, like I do, that something needs to be done to stop the mistreatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people within the church

The conference is being held by The Reformation Project, started by Matthew Vines, whose sermon about the Bible and homosexuality turned into a viral video, shared by thousands.

There is no doubt in my mind that God is at work with this conference, its leaders, attendees, and me.

Four years ago, when I first started to feel the tugging of the Holy Spirit leading me to where I am now, I had no idea the struggles I’d face. I thought, foolishly, that being motivated by a love of the Gospel, and a desire to treat people with love and respect, would be uncontroversial. That everyone who professed faith in Christ would support me.

I was wrong.

What followed my decision to become someone who seeks change in the church was attacks. Personal, vicious attacks. Aimed at my faith, my character, and my intelligence. These attacks came from friends, close family, and countless strangers.

But these attacks are only a glimpse of what my gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender friends have experienced. The more alienated I felt from the church, the more close I felt to these people, many of them Christians, who just wanted a place where they too could worship the Lord. At the same time I was feeling the pain of isolation, I was feeling the power of empathy.

When this was all beginning, I lamented to my mother about the struggles of being, “different.”

“I just don’t feel like I belong anymore,” I said.

“That’s because you’re a reformer.”

“What?” I asked.

My Mom smiled at me and shook her head, “It’s never easy for reformers. No one likes to be told they need to change. But the church can’t survive if someone doesn’t do just that.”

When The Reformation Project first contacted me, that conversation came to the forefront of my mind, and I smiled and thanked God for the sprouting of a seed I hadn’t realized was planted.

My mom was right (she usually is.) Reform needs to happen. And this project, led by the incredibly intelligent Matthew Vines, is seeking to make those changes happen.

I was wary, at first, by the word, “Reform,” used by someone seeking to apply that term to something as unchanging as the Bible, Christianity, and Christ.

But what the Reformation is seeking to change is not Scripture, or Christianity. What it’s seeking to change is the wildfire of misinformation that has caused far too many well meaning Christians to burn with hurtful words, actions, and attitudes towards their LGBT friends and family. What I, and the other reformers want to change is not what the Bible says, but what people have mistakenly taken it to mean, when it comes to rationalizing discrimination and homophobia.

This isn’t a project with the goal of twisting Scripture to fit a certain agenda. It’s a project dedicated to the thoughtful, measured re-examination of everything surrounding those scriptures that have been misused.

The other reformers and me have spent roughly 10-12 hours per week reading academic and theological articles from authorities on both sides of the issue. John Boswell, Richard Hays, William Webb, Robert Gagnon, David Halperin, to name just a few of the dozens we’ll be reading. History, literature, psychology, sociology, are all examined, interpreted, and applied to the issue of just what it means to be a Christian and LGBT.

We’re only a few weeks into our summer of learning, but so far I can say this: when all is said and done, I won’t just have an opinion on whether or not being gay is a dis-qualifier for being an active Christian in the church. I’ll have an education on it.

An education that I’m going to use going forward, in my journey to fight those who seek to use the Bible as a weapon of discrimination. That is why The Reformation Project matters, and that is why I’ve found myself falling more in love with Christ, the more I dive into this work.

The church can never stop reforming, if it wants to continue doing good in the lives of people within it. I’m so blessed to now be a part of a group of reformers who believe the same, instead of having to go it alone. For that, I thank God.


The Reformation Project’s Statement of Faith:

We believe in:

  • The inspiration of the Bible, the Word of God.
  • The Triune God, eternally existent as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • The supremacy of God the Father, who created all things seen and unseen through Christ our Lord.
  • The deity of Jesus Christ, only begotten Son of the invisible God, firstborn over all creation, fully God and fully man, head of the church, author and finisher of our faith; His death for our sins; and His resurrection and eventual return.
  • The regenerative power of the Holy Spirit, whose fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.