*As promised, this is the conclusion to the blog post I wrote last week. Fair warning: it’s lengthy. But I hope you’ll read every word. I believe it’s vital to both the struggles we face in the midst of ongoing cultural issues of today, answering some questions you likely have…and the vocal faith Jesus expects us as His followers to have. P.S. Press on. I love you.
After you have taken the step of faith, you must talk your faith. Those who are not afraid to announce their convictions to the world and defend them will have true stability. A universal law underlies the declaration, “with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10 kjv). ~Brengle, Take Time to Be Holy
I hadn’t planned to be back, full time on social media until January.
But then she changed my mind.
“Hi. You don’t know me, but I have a question for you. I hear so many of the “liberal” female Christian ministry leaders speaking out all the time about things, but the more “conservative” voices have grown quiet. It’s hard because I wonder where all the leaders I relate to have gone and why they seem afraid to speak up for some reason. Thanks for listening.”
Her comment wasn’t even on my social media feed. It was on a friend’s feed that I happened to be scrolling by in my nightly mindless scrolling. But I saw her comment and it struck me, in that way that something feels like right between the eyes. That was 9 months ago. It hasn’t left my mind since.
It was enough to change my mind about my plans and intentions, to take an extended online break from my short and blissful September-October reprieve, since after 1 book and another on the way, there’s been so much writing.
She was enough to change my mind.
I pictured her, alone in her apartment or maybe her cute house with her dog or baby on the hip or leaning against the brick outline of the coffee shop window on that city street for just a few, waiting on a friend who was late to meet…pressed enough inside to reach out to someone she admired online and leave a message to ask in the only way she knew how for someone with a bigger microphone than her to please be her representative.
I knew then: I must speak up. If I’m honest, I think Jesus carved the conviction deep in my heart and that kind of thing lingers.
(An important aside: Let me quickly address the label (conservative/liberal) issue and tell you: I didn’t come up with them, I don’t like them, and I don’t find them particularly helpful. But I also understand that in this moment with the important theological issues hinging on certain schools of thought and the leaders which adopt them, churches and people must be diligent in knowing core beliefs of who they read, listen to, and follow and should. Further, because of my Biblically conservative convictions such as these of which I clearly and previously wrote, I am considered in the conservative camp. (Though conservatives don’t quite know what to do with me as I am rather fiesty, unbridled, and tattooed.)
I wrote last week to the remnant – to remind us that we are not alone…that our conviction does not conflict with love but rather, depends upon it…and most of all…to encourage us to remain faithful to Jesus and follow Him to the very end.
The last piece of this encouragement to us is that now is the time to speak. I know we may have wondered. I know we may have thought it was for the usual ones or the loud ones or the bold ones or the ones with the most to say. But it’s the time for all of us, the ones who have the quietest voices, the ones who usually don’t get involved and just want everyone to get along, too. Jesus wants all of us to speak about who He is, what He’s done, how much He loves us, how much He loves them.
To remain silent about Jesus and the convictions following Him brings to our life is to weaken our ability to stand strong in hard times. Exercising a vocal faith is not an option we pick at the point of salvation; it is part of the package of our choice for God. When we chose God we didn’t choose a life of mere social activism. We chose the life of the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:19-20). We don’t get to prefer to let someone else say it, do it, live it, disciple them, bring them to Jesus. It’s our life, responsibility, privilege.
“But it’s really volatile out there right now and I don’t want to add to it.” When it comes to politics, oh friend, I agree. When it’s for the sake of needing someone to hear our opinion, we best get over that, sleep on it, most often leave it alone. You don’t know how many nights I’ve done just that, and I know, you, too. Speaking up for Jesus should carry a different tone, driven from and done with a different heart, one that others will notice, even if they still disagree. Bold and combative are not the same. Motive and character will determine which way we land. Jesus has not called us to fight each other. But He has called us to fight for the Kingdom of God.
“But I don’t know what to say and how to say it.” For so many of us, this is the case. Often it is the latter, the how we don’t know, because we care so much and know the stakes are so high to either draw to or away from our Lord, and we take this seriously. It is why prayer is so important before speaking out – prayer, in heaps and masses, and sometimes, we stop there because God knows. But let us not let the not knowing be the excuse that keeps us from the going on record for our faith, for God knows that, too. God doesn’t need perfect orators. He needs faithful servants preaching the Gospel message with life and lips. All of us can do that.
“But I want to be known for what I’m for not for what I’m against.” I’ve heard this said a lot, as of late. I like the idea behind it – this thorough preaching with our life that we don’t have to be against anything because we are so known for what we are for there is no need for further discussion. This is just the problem. (Hold on. Remember I love you. This may get tense.) We, the lazy Christians aren’t known for the for things very well. We haven’t been preaching consistent Jesus messages that draw the world in. We haven’t been very attractive. So when we open our mouths and start preaching now, all that comes out is noise. So this may take awhile, my friends. We will have to be dedicated and patient. I’ll talk to you much more about this in Put Your Warrior Boots On but for now I want you to know that the solution is not to clam up. It is to start, from this point forward, preaching a solid Jesus first and only message with a loving heart of grounded, Biblical conviction and a proven track record of personal holiness and solid people investment so that when we develop the clout over time, people won’t be able to say we are preaching “against” anything. They will know what we are preaching for and automatically our tone will sound different.
“But what about the quote I love from St. Francis of Assisi “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words”? Isn’t this telling us the opposite of what you are saying? Didn’t Jesus model this, as well?” I love this quote. It’s beautiful. It’s true. Lifestyle evangelism is something I’ve written about for years. Feel free to look back in my archives. It’s all there.
In the sense that we are to live what we believe, first and foremost, and not vapidly or judgmentally gab on and on about God without substance of life, this quote is key and by the way, biblical. Friends. Isn’t this issue way past settled, I hope?
But this does not mean we don’t speak at all, so let us not misunderstand. Jesus was far from a silent Savior. He was not unnecessarily wordy but He was also not quiet, and He certainly never shied away from fighting for Kingdom things. The times He remained silent were times when He gave up fighting for His own rights, not for the Kingdom of God. When He “spoke not a Word” (Matt. 27:14) it was in reference to his silence before His accusers. Never doubt that when it came to where He stood for Christ, everyone knew.
We aren’t God. We won’t do this, perfectly. But we, the remnant, the faithful followers of Jesus Christ until the end, must exercise a vocal faith. Jesus is our life. We gave up our right to stay silent about Him when we gave our life to Him.
I don’t know what this looks like for you in your everyday life, friend. I can’t give you a perfect formula for a discussion you are considering diving into right now on your Facebook wall. But moving forward, as part of your faithful following of Jesus Christ is your vocal witness for Him, know this:
We’ve got to be honest with ourselves.“Sometimes, in order to sincerely resist the infighting of the Church and the hot button culture conflict – in our claims to not want to be known as a person against something but rather, for something – we unwittingly leave Jesus hanging. Yes, the road narrows when we go on record for our faith. True, everyone won’t like it and some, in order to jab below the belt, will call it judgmental and fighting against. But with the heart intent to be for God, it is the right and only choice to make. And we have to be strong enough to weather the unwarranted accusation and live with our truth.” ~Put Your Warrior Boots On
Let nothing be an excuse for weak witness. Let us not hide behind sin and call it subtlety and personal style. Jesus is worth more than that.
We’ve got to understand the why. It’s not charity work to go on record for what we believe; it’s the anchoring grace of God. When we speak up for God, a courage inside of us is called out and the fear place inside is overcome. Over time, this chipping away changes us for the good. Not only do we go on record for us, but we go on record in order to strengthen the body. We go on record for the young woman who reached out on social media to ask for someone to speak up and share our beliefs, so she would not feel alone. Isn’t this the point of community — to lock eyes and lift arms and humanly communicate the best we can me too? We speak up for the body of Christ to be strengthened and not fall away, just like we need people to speak up so we won’t fall away, either. I can’t help but believe that Jesus blesses those who step out and step up, first, in all faith things, including our speaking out.
We’ve got to want God the most, first. There is one reason wanting God the most is the most important thing in your life: because everything hinges on it. It is the game changer, because it changes what you fight for, what you are willing to tolerate, what you are willing to change, what you love, what you chase, what you justify, what you stake your life upon, what you spend your life doing for the rest of your life. If we don’t want God the most, we will never go on record for Him. We won’t love Him enough. We will love ourselves more. Self preservation will be more important. This issue has to be settled first and if today, you haven’t done that, I hope and pray you will. (Here’s a resource to help, if you’re interested.)
I will be taking the month of December off from blogging, as I am finishing up my next book, 5 Word Prayers, preparing for my January retreat with 50 beloved friends from 11 states all over the U.S., and enjoying the holidays with family and friends like so many of you.
But know that I am praying for you, praying for your faith to be strengthened, for you to love God more than ever in the coming days, and for Jesus to show up big in your life in 2017 like He so desperately wants to do.
And OH SO FUN...
January 2 I will be back with a brand new blog with much better navigation and fresh, new things JUST FOR YOU! And I will be telling you about a FREE 2-week Bible Study I am offering from January 16-27 just for you about how to go into 2017 ditching the typical resolutions and marching on with new hope and belief in your future! I am so very excited about all this and Put Your Warrior Boots On, coming April 2017!!
I love you. I love Jesus, the most.
Put Your Warrior Boots On, April 2017, Acknowledgments…
G, M, and S: My darlings, Jesus is the only thing in life. That’s all I can tell you. You’ll need these warrior boots, more than you may now know. Never forget to put them on or that your mom loves you, forever.
It’s true, that so many things start for one reason and manifest in another.
When I started writing Put Your Warrior Boots On some months ago, it wasn’t for my children. The election hadn’t happened. Distraught parents weren’t on social media asking now after all this and the outcome, what do I tell my kids? But now, all of that and more than ever, the knowledge of how to walk Jesus strong is ever so necessary for us, and maybe especially…yes, for the kids.
Just to be clear. The world didn’t get crazy 7 days ago. The world was already crazy and the aftermath of last Tuesday just brought it out with blazing vengeance.
I have written several versions of this post and deleted them all – because I refuse to get caught up in rhetoric and frenzy and divisiveness of this election.
I know some will say this post is small and not addressing the challenges. I can live with that assessment because I know the truth: in all the years I’ve written and spoken a solo message, and that won’t change now: it’s always God, only God, forever God. Things and people and kings and angels and demons and the madness of this world, all fall in line under Him. I stake every thing in my life on Him, and dare not be confident in anything else I might want to contribute.
(For further opinion: feel free to visit any social media outlet to read the take of thousands of others who have well exercised their freedom to speech. There’s plenty of both wisdom and verbal smog to go around.)
My words in this space are for our children, the ones we don’t know what to say to in this moment…and for ourselves, too, as we are so often as frail and needy as are they.
Today, as yesterday, we tell our children to trust God. We tell them He is the answer for the world, yesterday, today, tomorrow, and forever. We tell them that even smart people get it wrong and we are all wise in our own eyes, which is why we need to pray so very much because we all think we are right.
We tell them that God is strong and powerful and no election or unrest changes that. We tell them He is trustworthy and doesn’t make promises He can’t keep or say things out of turn — ever, even though everyone else does.
We tell them all is His. All is His, forever and ever amen, and though people forget that, it doesn’t change Kingship or sovereignty.
We tell them that the Bible says that no weapon formed against them will prosper. We tell them this when they are lied straight to by Satan to make them believe their life is unstable. With Jesus, it is not.
We tell them when fear is around, God is not in that, so we must pray to get out of the fear cycle. We tell them to answer fear with praise and praying the Word of God, which always calms and heals. We tell them that God is their God, and their life is not their own to be wasted on arguments and hating people or loving self too much but to be used for His honor and glory to be a light in this dark world.
We tell them they are ok because Jesus is in charge and well in command. We tell them we don’t have to understand how that works to believe that it is. This is called faith.
We tell them to pray for a heart of peace like never before, even before they pray for their very own country…because we know that hearts at peace cannot also be at war, which solves the problem.
And we tell ourselves these things, too, and turn off the tv and vitriolic social media (which only distracts us from our power source) as we declare the Word of God over our own life and heart and mind – fortifying the weak and worried places…looking to the One who has remained present and strong in every chaos of this world through the ages and is equally present, still.
If this is all we can tell them, then we have told them everything. The greatest disaster in this moment is not having to tell them hard things about political leaders but if we miss this opportunity to tell them about the ultimately security plan in Jesus Christ, which transcends current mess and transfers to any future situation.
All is His, my friends. All is His.
*Disclaimer: I approach this post with great love, thought, prayer and under the accountability of II Corinthians 5:14: “Whatever we do, it is because Christ’s love controls us.” p.s. It’s a longer post than normal. But I ask you to read every word.
There’s been a lot going on in Christendom lately, what with the election and differing stances and views by the body of Christ and all. The truth is, the Church has always had differing opinions on things and controversies because of it. I’m not sure why we are reacting now as if it were scary and new.
I think sometimes in our effort to use the Acts early church as a model (with good reason) we mistakenly begin to think it was perfect. Stephen, a “man full of God’s grace and power” enters the scene in Scripture in Acts 6 when the early church is experiencing growing pains and controversy of its own. Lest we think the early church was perfect, we need only remember that it was made up of people. And as we know, people will ruin a perfect thing, every single time.
The body of Christ has been a hot mess with a Savior and a cause since the beginning. Until we meet Jesus, we will hold a Bible in one hand and a flesh desire in the other. It’s the human plight.
But before we settle into this idea that the realities of our flesh keeps us from growth, let’s remember that sanctification – the long obedience work of becoming like Jesus – is to be our beautiful pursuit. Until we stop breathing, may we never rest in a less than Jesus wants us to be position.
Listen. I don’t want us to be scared. I don’t want us to be angry. There is truly no need. No matter how it looks right now, this is a time of recalibration, not fear. These tough times are forcing the Christians to live the Bible we’ve read many times, back up all our many preached words. It’s time and it is good. Hollow spiritual lives won’t point people to the Savior of the world, which by the way, remains the reason we are all here.
Controversy brings out the real stuff. Social media can trigger us. But it can only push out what is already there.
If we are fearful, if we have unresolved baggage, if we are Christian in name only but the depth isn’t there, in controversy it will all come out. (Perhaps the knowledge of this is the root of much of the fear.)
And in the same way, if we are full of the good real stuff – the Holy Spirit completely controlling our life – we will be able to not only maneuver controversial waters but respond to those who differ from us in such a way the stance is known but the love is, too. If we are to have angst at this moment, let it be because we see the realities of how we are not yet like Christ.
Now. I need to tell you a few personal things.
I’ve been on Twitter in recent days. I’ve scrolled Facebook. So many unnecessary, ungodly thoughts have come out and general human decency has been disregarded from my fellow believers in Jesus. There’s absolutely no way we can include Jesus in that. May we tremble in our justifications of flesh behavior, most especially if we claim it is done in any way under His covering. Let us not be fooled into thinking we will not be held accountable for our behaviors at times like these. We will.
I have friends, some Christian famous and some not, whom I disagree with about things important to me. But they are my friends, and I do not fear our theological differences because Jesus is our bond. I have readers of this blog who are atheists and some who believe in gay marriage, as do some of my ministry friends. I will not change my stance for them. I will also treat them with love and respect, as both are non-negotiables in my higher commitment to Jesus.
So I exhort us all, the followers of Jesus, to get on our knees and pray like crazy for Christ’s love to control us moving forward. With His control over our life and lips, the crazy will not overtake.
The truth is, we are all products of our background, environment, education, and personal trains of thought, as well as the depth of our relationship with Jesus, so it is no wonder we won’t always agree. (And yes, the Bible says some will become disillusioned and fall away from the faith.) We shouldn’t fear the disagreements. We should only fear God if we, as His rep, don’t respond to them in a way that honors Him. Trust me, at this moment, I’ve asked Him to take my inventory.
We can stand and not waver on our position while responsibly modeling the grace and kindness of Christ. We must stand for the Bible. We must stand for Truth. We must also treat people well. These are not mutually exclusive.
It is a lie to believe love and grace means accepting and agreeing with all views. It is also a lie to believe holding strong to a standard means you shun or lash out at the person you disagree with. Love and grace are an innate response of a Christ consumed heart. Perhaps if this is not our response we ask Jesus to mine deeper.
And because I am personally weary of the just grace and love claim: grace and love exist in the context of standard and conviction. To suggest that Jesus is all grace and love without standard is to grossly misunderstand and misrepresent Him. (That’s for a different post.)
I believe the Bible, every word. I believe Jesus was more than just a good guy, but was and is the Almighty Savior of the World. I believe a baby is a person at the point of conception. I believe faith in Jesus is the only way to heaven. I believe in the sanctity of marriage, between a man and a woman. And I also believe many of us as Christians are walking around pious in our God-ish living, which is equally as distasteful to God.
I believe we worry more about pointing out the sin in others than weeping over our own neglect in caring for the poor, orphaned and widowed, things Jesus speaks in Scripture directly about as non-negotiable actions.
I believe we generally don’t treat people like Jesus would. I believe this is because we have replaced intimacy with Him for surface spirituality so we man our daily reactions.
I believe in the importance of unity in the body of Christ, which does not mean we meld our convictions on every issue but we meld our hearts to reach this world for Christ. Right now, they want no part in the perceived circus.
And I believe most of all, that The Great One thrives like always in bringing clarity to chaos, hope to disappointment, and peace in the midst of controversy.
Let’s put our eyes back on Him.
Coming up with good words after you’ve given your brain a month off is a little like trying to get the ketchup to come out of the bottle for the first time: it’s all in there, but it takes some maneuvering to set it loose.
That’s where I am this morning.
I read two books (fiction and memoir) in the first 3 days while on my “sabbatical –“ a forgotten love I haven’t had time for in years as I bury myself in commentaries and non-fiction inspiration like a good Jesus writer. I sat and watched my kids ball game after ball game and never once checked my phone, not even at halftime. (p.s. Who knew it was possible to sit and not scroll?) I went to the doctor with my ailing father and had necessary, hard conversations with my mother about plans for the future. I sweated and painted and fixed and pulled knobs off of things and nails out of walls in an empty house and cried a lot – the bottled up tears I have neglected. I petted my dog a little longer. My husband told me he likes me, again. Turns out social media can hamper a marriage silently and before you know it, you are in need of marriage ER.
I’ll be brutally honest: there have been moments in this hiatus I have feared I am done with writing – that the words won’t come, again…and maybe even scarier moments when I fear I am not – because when you’ve gone and gotten yourself a taste of a normal life – one outside the swirling social media world and the awesome burden of public inspiration and yes, consumption – you begin to crave it more, at least for the introverts.
The latter fear came true as I am standing on a ladder last week, fresh smudge of paint on my face, painting the inside of a bookcase I’ve known for 11 years but needed freshening. The symbolism to my own life doesn’t escape me.
I am thinking about you and how to tell you why we moved back to our old house after moving to the mission house for a year and all I can think about is Romans 8:28.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
And I know in that Holy Spirit speaking kind of way, that we, the people who so badly want everything to work out and all stories to have perfect endings, often misunderstand this. We take it to mean that all things work out, but it’s not true. All things don’t work out, at least not in the way we anticipate.
But with God, all things work together. Together is different. It’s not just one thing but joint things, in concert, collectively. Somehow, as we make each experience of our life mean everything, we miss this piece of all things, together.
This means that sometimes particular stories won’t end pretty, but when you put it with the rest of the stories and things, all of it, together, will be for our good.
And then, even with all the planning and hopes and following Jesus…some stories don’t end particularly bad – they just don’t meet human expectation, which quietly has become our Gospel. You must have an epic mission house story ending, some to me have said, and I know they want me to have one to tell. The thing is, I do not. We moved because some things happened that we know only God could orchestrate and we walked in obedience with the information we had at the time and we move back for the same reasons. It wasn’t bad and it wasn’t amazing. It just was. This year, we learned. We grew. We got less selfish and maybe learned to appreciate space. We also still fought and had to say we were sorry and got on each other’s nerves, just like in the other house. But it’s like when we started and closed a church in 13 months some years back and there was no neat and perfect story to tell the people like I wanted: some things are too God to be understood and too soul cavernous to be explained in 500 words. And some stories don’t yet have endings so it makes sense we can’t fully tell them. Sometimes stories aren’t epic, they are just another story.
All things don’t work out. I need to remind us of this, not to make us pessimistic about our life, but to remember God’s promise that if we love God and follow Him, our life works together – all the good, all the bad, all the hard, all the disappointing – and it is truly the best life, still and always because life doesn’t depend on one just thing — even a big thing — to make it good.
I tell you this because I know you’ve had things not work out at times, too. And I want you to remember that a perfect plan on paper not working out disrupts nothing about God’s bigger plan for your life experiences to work together for your good.
I have to tell you this one last thing.
Before God called me into this life of ministry (or perhaps when I finally said yes), I wanted to be an interior decorator. I was a few weeks away from enrolling in the Art Institute of Charlotte to further my dream when my mom and I decided to start teaching a class at church that wound up becoming my first book. As God furthered my writing and speaking, I put the enrollment papers away and determined one day, I would pick them back up if He ever let me.
Somewhere between travels and words and looking into people’s eyes and seeing God use me, the desire to pursue being an interior decorator left. But my love of decorating never did.
As I painted the bookcase the other day, I recognized the unexpected kindness in the things not working out like I had planned – one only God could lace a disappointment with so beautifully.
After 11 years of the same old paint, the same old look we were moving back into when we really wanted to be moving forward, I was getting to redecorate my home and make it almost like new. It wasn’t my plan when I lived there. It wasn’t something I had the time or resources to do. Had we never moved out in the first place, none of it would ever be done. I can choose to see it as coincidence. Or I can choose to see it as the Father who loves me, made me and knows me so very well, knowing what I love and letting me get to brush off the decorating passion and use it in a healing way in the midst of disappointment. I have to tell you – it’s been the sweetest of unexpected gifts to take this month off to create in my home.
That’s our Father, friends. He doesn’t stop being present when our life on paper doesn’t work out.
That’s our life: not just one thing working out but all of it, working together.
For our good.
When we love God and live in line with His call and purpose.
p.s. I’ve missed you. I am not sure exactly how all of my re-entry will look, as of now. But as always, I will write as God puts things on my heart to share. Thank you for your love and patience. I’m so very grateful for you.
I come to you in this post, both sure and unsure.
I come to you with a healthy heart and a weary one, at the same time, if that’s possible.
For weeks, maybe months, I’ve been saying to myself and everyone else I’m ok I’m ok I’m ok but in the past few days I have come face to face with the reality that I am, but I’m not.
Before you start imagining all the horrible things, let me assure you they probably aren’t there. I’m not having trouble in my marriage (aside from the regularly hard, normal life marriage stuff). My kids are ok. I don’t want to quit ministry, my dog didn’t die and no one in uniform has come to handcuff me and take me away to the big house.
But I’ve had a taxing 6 months, like so many of you. I hesitate to list all the things since I know you have your own and who needs to read another person’s stressful list? But I need some breathing room to hear from God more clearly. I need wisdom, moving forward in my life and particularly in the future release of my book. I need more Jesus power before I start this speaking season so I can properly minister to the hurting people. I need to grieve over my son leaving for college a little more privately and pray for him harder in his transition. When I’m worried about posting to teach and inspire, I don’t have as much warrior time on my knees. I need to recover emotionally from writing another book with soul grit (which by the way, I turned in LAST NIGHT. Hallelujah.) Stupid Satan has been all over me lately, as I write about the Warrior Boots, putting me to the test to live what I write, I admit.
I miss God. I long to be deeper in the secret place with Him. I want to make sure of what I’m saying and doing publicly, before I say and do them. So I must step back from social media for a month, at least, to rest and listen and be still. If I keep going when I know I need to take a break, I risk getting out of line and saying and doing things with negative Kingdom repercussions. I quake at this thought, at not being a good representative of Jesus, the One so Great. I think a person much more wise to step back before the floor underneath falls out.
Remember Monday’s post? Yes. That. I’m fresh out of amazing.
My plan as of now is to go away from September 1 (yes, as in tomorrow) to October 1, on all online avenues, including this blog. If I wind up extending it, I’ll make sure and let you know.
I’ll miss you. But I know this is right.
I know many of you grapple with this should I or shouldn’t I take a break from social media, because you’ve told me. I thought since we relate, a few of my own guidelines I’m following might also be helpful to you, to know when it’s time to take a step back. (I’m assuming, of course, we all know first to pray.) It’s not an exhaustive list, and in no particular order of importance — just some of the things I’ve found that often signal it’s time. Thank goodness they don’t usually all happen at once, or we would be in trouble.
- When you feel condemned.
- When it’s your first thought in the morning.
- When you feel frenzied.
- When you feel paranoid.
- When you have skewed vision.
- When you are prompted by the Holy Spirit.
- When it’s bringing up feelings of anger.
- When you’re starting to assume.
- When you are feeling tempted, or keeping something secret.
- When you’re starting to resent.
- When you’re starting to neglect higher commitments, service or passions.
- When you’re giving it priority over personal time with God.
- When you feel jealous.
- When it consumes at least half of your thoughts.
- When you can’t hear from God.
- When someone you love and trust tells you it’s become too important.
- When it’s interfering with family or work life.
I won’t press you to know which of these you might be encountering, but I will just ask that you honestly take a look at each one. It’s a hard list. But there’s so much growth in honest heart cleanse. If we’re truthful with ourselves, most of us know in 2 seconds which of these apply to us, don’t we?
There’s a book that a friend going through a hard time recommended to me not long ago to read, because she knew of my affection for Henri Nouwen. The book, The Inner Voice of Love, is lesser known than some of his other works but none less powerful. It’s a compilation of his writing while in a mental hospital, recovering from his own fresh out of amazing life. There’s something that speaks to me in a deep place about this kind of gravel road experience…to be once put on pedestals and then put in a place where people judge you for losing your mind. The raw edges of his man’s soul come out in his writing in this book and move me to no end.
One chapter in particular means the most. It has beckoned me in this space to go dark for awhile, online, with the goal of coming back to the place that never fails to re-calibrate and stabilize my life: the solid place of God.
I leave you with Nouwen’s words, and with an I’m ok, I’m not ok and I’ll see you soon to you, my beloved online friends whom I trust and pray I will return to with clearer eyes, renewed heart, fresh strength, resolve and passion.
I’ve got a lot of future Gospel living to do, as do you.
p.s. I love you.
“Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful. What about me? Have I been faithful? Well, it matters very little what you or anyone else thinks. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that isn’t what matters. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.” I Cor. 4:2-4 NLT
Always Come Back to the Solid Place
You must believe in the yes that comes back when you ask, “Do you love me?” You must choose this yes even when you do not experience it.
You feel overwhelmed by distractions, fantasies, the disturbing desire to throw yourself into the world of pleasure. But you know already that you will not find there an answer to your deepest question. Nor does the answer lie in rehashing old events, or in guilt or shame. All of that makes you dissipate yourself and leave the rock on which your house is built.
You have to trust the place that is solid, the place where you can say yes to God’s love even when you do not feel it. Right now you feel nothing except emptiness and the lack of strength to choose. But keep saying, “God loves me, and God’s love is enough.”
You have to choose the solid place over and over again and return to it after every failure.
*From Henri Nouwen, 1996, The Inner Voice of Love; Image Books
Every now and then I write something that threatens to make me unpopular and marginalized. Turns out Jesus freaks are annoying. Sigh. It’s true.
The last thing I want to be in this post is divisive to the wonderful, flawed body of Christ or self-focused and whiny…so trust me, I’m being careful.
But I read an article today that messed me up – about the Western Church and how we don’t have a clue what true Gospel living really is. And now I can’t write anything else but this post that threatens marginalization that was not on my schedule. Hashtag inconvenience.
Please. Don’t you know how much I don’t want to say hard things? It’s not my goal in life to scare people off and have them run away. But God presses me hard, sometimes, and His pressing bosses me to death. My allegiance is to Him. It is not to my peers. It is not even to my readers. I gave up caring largely about what people thought of me when I wrote I Want God, thank God, and it’s too heavy to take back.
After this article (which, please, believers, all read) I sit with a lump in my throat and tears pushing to come out in all the conviction. All I see lately is let me post a selfie with a random Bible verse caption and buy my latest book and post after post on Twitter, ad nauseam, with our answers to all the things. Every conference that has a get ahead theme to it, with the best people still, but chasing, chasing and I literally want to throw myself across the bed and scream.
Where is God in all this? We are dying to hear everything we don’t need to hear and being in the most popular Christian group. I’m tired of who knows who and all that, when it comes to the ministry world. It tarnishes God’s honest concept for community and makes those who don’t know some particular who wishful they did.
I’ll be gut level honest: by virtue of that I do, I’m enveloped in a weird Christian celebrity world of sorts that I did not sign up for and I can’t be silent and pretend it doesn’t exist. (If you don’t know about this, I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you.) And I have worked very hard with Jesus for this kind of strong calling out not to be baggage or envy or anything else, and I can promise before Him now that I truly believe it is not and if it is, I give Him full permission to out me.
(Hold on. This part is hard.)
I’m tired of Christian circles where compliments are gushed publicly without true relationship, conveniently right before our new book comes out. We’ve scratched each others backs so hard we have fingernail marks.
I’m tired of Christian cute: all the zillions of inspirational sayings that we have trained ourselves to now need to hear every 2.2 seconds for the next fix that float around on social media…the way we mostly circle around ourselves as believers instead of reaching out to the lost…our Christian t-shirts and jewelry we can’t get enough of but mostly just wear and don’t live…our complaint after complaint about everything under the sun while missionaries in other parts of the world live under mosquito nets and fear for their very life…being so very proud of ourselves for our short bursts of faithful to the Lord.
Sometimes Christian cute and Christian celebrity makes me want to throw my hands up in the air and quit, especially when I read an article like the one I did earlier today and remember the persecution of believers in other parts of the world that are real, people, really real and I am so very wimpy and soft. And in the next minute I see a picture of what Christian celebrities are taking a picture on Instagram together, more please buy my new book (p.s. Please don’t write to me about why this is necessary because trust me, after 10 years in the business I get it, and there’s a difference between responsible book promotion and pimping ourselves to death), and my own tweets last night while watching The Bachelorette. Let me not be falsely humble. I’m a fan of myself, too. We all are. Humans.
So then I’m convicted in my own self sin, and I just want to quit and cave up, like I do when it all seems so wrong and so much and that article that messed me up won’t stop bugging me and I’m not sure what to do about all that’s wrong with me, with us.
(Good for the article. I needed it to mess me up. For a second I forgot.)
All of this Christian celebrity and Christian cute is about nothing but tactics of the enemy to keep us focused on self, which, in fact, is working. And we can call it favor and call it being exalted by God but let’s not lie to ourselves about all the hustling we do to get there in many cases, too.
And I know this calling out needs a solution or it’s just venting, which is a further waste of our time, and I don’t want to be held responsible for that.
So as I sit here with a lump in my throat and tears pushing, still, I can only offer what I know for sure to work:
- John 3:30: He must become greater; I must become less. (The only way I don’t think of myself so often is when I’m thinking of Him.)
- John 15:5: Without [God] we can do nothing. (Let’s pray to stop being so enamored with ourselves. Really, that’s what it is.)
- II Chronicles 7:14: Get humble, pray, seek God’s face. (Let’s just pray. I mean, for real, instead of all this other stuff because it’s the only thing that will help.)
I’m going to forewarn you: I won’t do this perfectly, so please don’t be expecting that or you will be sorely let down. I won’t promise not to slip, because I may. I don’t ask you to do it perfectly, either. I promise to love you through the muck of sorting it out, as I hope you will, me.
But we’ve got to fight for our purity of heart and stop settling for a glossy version of a Gospel that daily costs real, skin on believers their lives. If we aren’t going to go be physically in the trenches with them, we can at least fight for and with them here in our safe world through prayer.
And most of all, just God, forgive us for our Christian celebrity and Christian cute. It has absolutely nothing to do with You.