Jamie Tworkowski is the founder of To Write Love On Her Arms, a non-profit organization that helps people dealing with issues like depression, cutting, and suicide. It started as being the church for a girl named Renee and has morphed into a t-shirt company and so much more. Jamie has opened up a conversation that was often taboo to discuss; sadly even in churches. As a result, they are seeing more and more people address these issues and give hope a chance.
Jeremy: Tell us something odd/unique about you.
Jamie: I have a scar above my mouth and the scar arrived when I was thirteen and ran into a mailbox while playing football in the street. It was the street I grew up on and I caught the ball running full-speed, crashed into the mailbox, knocked the mailbox to the ground… I lost a tooth and needed stitches but I held on to the ball. The awesome part about it is that i held on to the ball.
Jeremy: Do you think people are born leaders or develop into leaders?
Jamie: I really don’t know. I do think people grow and change, that it’s possible to find gifts or begin to run after things later in life. I think God has a sense of humor and tends to surprise us in who he allows to lead. Also, I believe “leadership” can mean a lot of different things – it’s not just the guy up front with the microphone.
Jeremy: How can people put themselves into a position to influence our culture?
Jamie: Good question. I think we have to engage culture. We have to do our best to understand culture – the places people live, the things that matter to people, the needs they live with. I don’t think we can influence culture if we’re afraid of it, running away from it or simply trying to create (or join) some alternative culture. We have to meet people where they are, and we have to invest in things that are relative to the needs that real people really live with. Beyond that, I believe that most good ideas start small, and I believe that people respond to love and also to humility.
Jeremy: Why are you a follower of Jesus Christ?
Jamie: When I look at the world, when I look at my life and life’s biggest questions, the story of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ helps me make sense of a lot of those questions. His life and death are a picture of love and love helps me make sense of existence, purpose, relationships, community… so many things. And if the world is broken, then this presents a disconnect, a need… and this helps me understand that the story of Jesus is not just a good story or a nice philosophy. If the world is in fact broken, which it sure seems to be, and if Jesus was who He said He was, then His death on the cross and His victory over death, it changes everything.
Jamie: I don’t know that I would call my spiritual life particularly active or healthy. If I’m honest, I think I have a long way to go. If I am going to tell people that I am “in a relationship with Jesus,” then I should talk to Him more, and I should spend a whole lot more time trying to listen and trying to learn. For now, I am thankful for grace and also for music. I feel like I find God in songs quite a bit. Oh and for some reason, I feel like it’s easier for me to pray when I’m surfing. In surfing, there are a lot of moments of waiting for waves. I don’t know why but this is when it’s easiest for me to pray.
Jeremy: What is your hope for the future of the Church in America?
Jamie: That we would apologize for the mistakes we (as the Church) have made in the past, and that we would actually learn to behave and communicate in a way that represents Christ. By that, I mean a way that is inviting, a way that meets needs and learns how to love people.
Jeremy: Should we abandon the use of the word “Christian” for a better term? If so, what?
Jamie: I think we have to acknowledge the way the word has been abused and misrepresented for years and years. I was walking into a concert in Atlanta last Saturday night and there was a guy standing close to the front entrance, yelling at the people in line as they went in, basically telling people that they were going to Hell. An experience like that doesn’t make anyone in that line think “Wow, I really want to be a Christian.” or “Man, I should really check out a church tomorrow morning.” There’s just so many examples of really terrible things happening “in the name of God” and I think we have to begin by acknowledging the mistakes that have been made, the way the Church has offended people. There is a book called UNchristian by Gabe Lyons and David Kinnaman that speaks to this topic. The book is based on three years of research as to what people outside the Church actually think of the Church (or “Christians”). The results are eye opening and sobering to say the least – I think it’s an important book.
Jeremy: What blogs/websites do you regularly check?
Jamie: donaldmillerwords.com (Donald Miller’s website); aspworldtour.com (website for the professional surfing world tour. I have a few friends that compete on this tour.); worldprosurfers.com (another pro surfing site. My friend Dustin creates the video content for this site.); surfermag.com (I really like surfing); nba.com (I grew up playing basketball and rooting for the Orlando Magic.); johnmayer.com (I am a John Mayer fan and his blog is great.)
Jamie: Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller is the big one for me. It changed a lot of things for me. I was just blown away by the combination of honesty and beauty, the things Don was saying the way that he was saying them. That book taught me so many things and moved me in so many ways – made me think and laugh and cry. Blue Like Jazz was the book that taught me that it might be okay to be honest, okay to ask questions. It was also the book that taught me about community, that people need other people. Maybe more than anything, it was the book that made me want to start writing.
Jeremy: What music moves you?
Jamie: My all-time favorites are U2, Coldplay, Jimmy Eat World, Switchfoot, Jeff Buckley and Ryan Adams. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Ray Lamontagne. I saw him play in Atlanta last week and his voice is just incredible. The music is simple and some would say it’s sad but I find this amazing honesty in his lyrics. Imagery too – he is a great storyteller. My favorite Ray Lamontagne song is a song called “Jolene” and in that song, he sings “I still don’t know what love means.” For some reason, that line really hits me. It feels honest and true. Overall, I think it’s hard to explain why a certain band or song moves you, but I think we can all agree it’s great when it happens. I guess for me it usually has to do with something feeling true in the lyrics.
Jeremy: Any other thoughts or advice?
Jamie: You were created to love and to be loved, to know and to be known.
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