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
If this title resonates with you, we are kindred. I remember the first time my friend, Stacey Thacker, told me about her new book and what it would be called. Immediately, my load felt lighter. Someone had seen my life and understood.
I had the privilege to receive an early copy of this book and give an endorsement. I need you to know I don’t do this for every book. I have to either love the book or love the author, and in this case, I love both. Stacey can write. But more than that, I trust Stacey’s heart. This, my friends, is of much higher endorsement.
You’ll read below an excerpt from Stacey’s book, Fresh Out of Amazing. Trust me, if this is you, you will want to get it. (p.s. I’m not sure I know anyone who isn’t fresh out of amazing, by the way.)
Stacey is giving away 2 FREE BOOKS for you lovely, interested people. To win, head over to my Facebook page and tag a friend in the comments on this post, and BOTH OF YOU get entered to win! (Random pic, winner to be notified.)
And please come back here on Wednesday. I have something important to tell you, and it has to do with being fresh out of amazing, myself.
“If we had a Christian magazine for the fresh-out-of-amazing woman, Martha would grace the cover more than the Kardashians do the cover of People. We would shake our heads at her and say under our breath, “I’m not surprised” as we put our groceries on the conveyer and glance sideways at the cover so our kids don’t see us. We find ourselves bothered and drawn to her peculiar struggle.” Part of us wants to celebrate Martha because she invited Jesus and his friends into her home. She served them. That is beautiful and right isn’t it? Yes, of course it is.
“But. Martha’s story has a but. Every story has one. For example, I am passionate about walking with God and doing what his Word says, but many times I don’t do those things. Daily I find myself in messes of my own making. Praise the Lord that something is working in my favor, and that something is the grace of God. We are about to see that same grace at work in Martha’s story.
I really wish we could push the “pause” button, step into the story, put an arm around Martha, and say, “Girl, I understand, but let’s not be here in the kitchen like this. Let’s not have a but interrupting your beautiful welcome of Jesus.” Yet here it is: “But Martha was distracted with much serving” (Luke 10:40).
Right there in her kitchen, with Jesus sitting a few feet away, busyness was beating Martha up one side and down another. Consumed by all she had to do, Martha was about to have a moment. She was probably in the kitchen stirring a pot of something wonderful, and she was getting herself all stirred up too. Martha was about to blow a fuse, and she was going to tell one person in particular all about it.
She went up to [Jesus] and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me” (Luke 10:40).
Martha not only interrupted Jesus as he taught, but she asked him straight out if he cared about her: Don’t you care, Jesus? Don’t you care? Then she told Jesus what to do. Yes, she did. Have mercy! Fresh-out-of-amazing girl done told Jesus to tell Mary to help her. I die a little at this point. Do you know why? Because I sound like her just about every other day around 5:00 p.m. when my kids are hungry, impatient, and ready for dinner. I slam all the doors, I crash all the pots, and I blow my fuse too. I tell everyone within a room or two of my voice all the things I’m doing all by myself. I tell them I have had it. I mean had it. Only one Person can help me when I am at my breaking point, and that person is exactly who Martha went to with her problem: Martha told Jesus. “
His response tells us Jesus was looking past her hospitality and straight to her heart:
‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her’ (Luke 10:41-42).
I think Jesus saw that Martha’s heart was to serve and love those in her home. The problem arose when that became her primary focus instead of connecting with Jesus in the moment. Martha’s fresh-out-of-amazing moment took her to the feet of Jesus, but instead of savoring his presence, she pouted. Martha was busy, but she didn’t have to be burdened.”
Did your heart catch a little with that story? Do you know why? Martha is like us. She is our people. I’ve learned a thing or two from Martha recently. First, I need to tell Jesus when I’m fresh out of amazing. Second, a heart full of duty is no comparison to a heart full of devotion. I’m not talking about Mary’s devotion either. I’m talking about Martha’s heart being in the right place when she was doing what God created her to do—welcoming Jesus to her home.
“Friends, when we are fresh out of amazing, Jesus cares. His heart for us is tender, just like it was with Martha. He speaks our names once, twice, or more in order to reconnect our souls to his. Jesus will help us.”
The simple truth is we need to let him.
*Excerpts taken from “Fresh Out of Amazing: Opening Your Heart to God’s Unexpected Invitation” by Stacey Thacker. Available wherever books are sold.
Twitter & Insta: @staceythacker
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.
Struggling through an imperfect life. Doing great things. Doing hard things. Doing things we aren’t proud of and some we really, really are.
Loving people well. Treating people less than. Losing our temper, forgetting to take hold of the battle for our mind and watching it slip from us.
Food that makes us happy. Weight that makes us sad. Community over the table, which is the forgotten best thing.
And oh, those consuming cell phones.
Broken relationships, friends who just know and make us feel loved. Sometimes, getting the flowers or the the card or the text, just in time.
Making progress…falling back and feeling worse. Crazy broken everyday but still, hope in our core.
Doing well with God. Leaving God out of things, completely. Praying like mad or days without prayer, at all.
Crying because we are sad, crying because it’s better than we hoped. Laughing over nothing and everything and the funniest things.
Pets we love and gardens we tend and places we drive and meals we cook and laundry we do and those jobs in nice clothes, too.
People we hug and private pains in our heart, over loves who’ve gone to heaven and people who hurt us here, on earth.
Weak bodies, strong bodies, old bodies we don’t recognize anymore.
Winning things, losing things, holding onto things too long and letting go of things too soon or sometimes, right on time.
Worries, so many, even when we know we shouldn’t. Bursts of faith that surprise us but give us proof we truly can believe with all our heart.
All I know, today, is that we are all human and doing all of these things, no matter what pictures on social media we see or ones we dream up in our minds. We are beautiful people and difficult people, all at the same time, none who will ever be perfect.
And I’m just really grateful for Jesus.
One day we will start our real best life and all get better.
That’s honestly it.
P.S. Press on. I will, too. I love you.
#alwaysGodonlyGod #presson #weareallhuman
First, full disclosure.
I never set out to fast from shopping for a year.
Instead, I planned on one month. The month of January, 2015. Two months after my birthday and two weeks after Christmas. Let’s be honest: the sacrificial level was not high since my closet was so recently full.
But that’s just the thing: we are good at giving up things that don’t cost us much and calling it sacrifice. I’ve done that, before. It’s pretty shallow.
The reason for the fast in the first place happened in tiers. I couldn’t find things in my closet, not because there was nothing in there to find, but because it was so full the things got stuck behind other things. (This is a good indication of excess, by the way.) I went to Honduras. The poverty, as expected, made my excess feel especially egregious. But mainly, I just knew shopping was getting in my way of me and God, in that way we just know deep down and no one needs to tell us. Shopping had become my relief for feeling chubby, boredom, desire to silence the relentless call of God. I was tired of the justifying — that I was paying in cash and buying things on a bargain and shopping no more than anyone else — at the end of the day the excuses were all an echo and I felt the same sheepishness at night when I was alone with God.
I didn’t do it for a book. I had already written I Want God. This was no experiment. It was another layer of obedience.
I got the point where I wanted to eliminate any reason God might not be blessing me. I wanted to do all I could on my part to make sure my life was clean so I didn’t have the distraction of guilt or worry. (Aside: I find that we worry a lot but many of the things that cause us to worry we keep around instead of giving them up, which in turn, would lessen our worry.) I didn’t want to worry that my excess was blocking the hand of God or continually asking myself the question “is this God or is it because of me” (maybe you don’t have trouble distinguishing between this, but I do), so I did something about it.
At first, I was not going to go public. Had no desire to wave any kind of martyr flag. But a few weeks in I knew exactly what I needed: accountability. I suppose it’s hard to be in the checkout line with a basket full of clothes and have someone who knows you’re on a shopping fast see you and ask, so I saved myself the embarrassment.
I had planned to blog about this in January when my fast is over. But I have gotten a startling number of private Facebook messages, emails and texts from people as of late who tell me the same thing: I believe God is calling me to a shopping fast, but I’m scared. Can you talk to me about yours?
So I write of it sooner than later, with the hope to help in whatever way I can with whatever fast God is prompting you towards. (This is not a specifically spiritual post about fasts. Please refer to the Bible for Biblical aspects of it.) Please, I’m no expert. But I’ve walked this, yes, and there are some things that I believe, helped.
- I took it very seriously. This was a hugely personal commitment to my God, not a revolt against shopping, itself. I wanted to go to the depths, not swim on the surface — break free from the grip of wanting something other than God and I knew in order to do that, it had to be of length and substance. I determined up front there was no length to which I would not go to keep my commitment (see #3). What started out to be a month very quickly changed to a year. Why? Because I knew God was asking me for that length of time. Why? Well, it’s God, so I probably shouldn’t try to guess. But in my human mind I can only gather that He knew the length of time it would take to break me from the grip.
- I made it doable. I know, I know. A year of no shopping doesn’t sound doable. But trust me, it is. Not everything was off limits. I didn’t go crazy with a wild-haired plan that would never work. Instead, I focused on the over buying. Necessary toiletries, maintenance things (hair coloring and cut), clothing for my family were not a problem. Shoes, jewelry, hats, clothing for myself were the offenders. So I focused on those things and fasted them for an entire year.
- I planned for it. I am a big believer in saving myself from myself, and this experience certainly confirmed it. Because I knew it would be a difficult thing for me not to compromise, I made it as impossible as I could. I did not go to stores for the first 6 months (after that time, I eased a few stores back in but some of the ones I love the most I still have not been in for a year). I went public with my fast so people could watch me and bust me, if necessary. (I felt sure God would make that happen if I slipped.) I truly believe it is in allowing ourselves that moment of secrecy that we mess ourselves up the most. So I set myself up for success by methodically planning out how not to fail. (Let’s be honest. Sometimes it takes our heart awhile to engage with our mission. That’s ok. All the more reason in the beginning to plan until the heart kicks in and desires change.)
- I talked to God about it, a lot. We’ve been in this together since day 1. Only He has known my private thoughts, struggles and successes, and that’s the way it should be with Father and child. Prayer kept me sane throughout this process and made it harder and harder for me to want to disappoint the One I had committed the fast to in the first place. In that way, a few months in, prayer really sealed the deal.
- I didn’t think about messing up. Trust me. I knew it might happen. But I didn’t focus on it because I felt in that focus I would have to choose grace over legalism (always the right choice) and that might set up a mindset that I didn’t want to allow in. I just didn’t want the focus to be on the day or moment I messed up. Instead, I chose to focus on keeping my eyes locked on God. I knew there would be too much internal noise to contend with if not, and I needed all the heart heading in one direction.
So. Your inevitable question. Did I mess up at any point this year?
Yes and no. Yes, if you count the pair of Walmart $20 knock-off Birkenstocks I bought in Springfield, Missouri, on one of my speaking weekends this fall when my shoes I had been wearing for two days were so awful they were making the bottom of my feet pinch to the point of fire. It’s well worth your scorn, by the way. :) I couldn’t have walked one single more step onto a plane in those awful shoes. And bonus: I wear the $20 knockoffs now, all the time.
And yes, if you count the awesome Target travel bag I bought a few months back when mine broke at the handles. You would die over the cuteness. Plus I have something to carry things in. Turns out you sort of need that for travel.
But no, if you don’t consider those things a mess up. By the grace of God (and I mean this, heartily), I bought nothing else during my shopping fast for myself. Two times, I had something in my cart to buy. And two times, I was able to walk away. (Thank you, Jesus.)
How has it changed my life? I’m sure I will be assessing this in the months to come, and I’m sure some of the ways I may not ever fully know. But there are a few things I can put words to, today: 1) I have new confidence in my ability to tell myself no. I was never very good at that in this area. Now I know how to be smarter about shopping and when it goes south, how to quickly pull back before it gets out of control. 2) Spiritually, I’ve been drawn in to God in a new way. We did this, together. He helped me when no one else could. Those things make for depth in the relationship. And just…I believe when you obey God in any area of your life, your life gets better. Not prosperity Gospel stuff. Deep, dredged heart ways.
As January draws near and the time for my shopping fast is coming to an end, I am more determined than ever to not let it all be for naught. For that reason, I’m doing the following things:
Making a solid, practical plan. I can never assume being healthy in this area without one. My plan is that for every new piece of clothing (shoes/jewelry/etc.) I purchase, I have to get rid of 5 things in my closet. Yes, this is steep. But it’s necessary. In our #missionhouse, there’s no room for anything more, anyway. (Thanks, God, for the extra little help.) Needless to say, I’ll have to love something enough to let 5 other loves go. So this is a good plan and will help me stay choosy.
Continuing my passionate pursuit of God. There will be more things to chip away. There will be more discipline and recalibration. It won’t end with a fast from shopping. My wanting God journey doesn’t stop with January and the conclusion of my fast. It continues for the rest of my life. Having fasted shopping for a year, in a new way, I know the only thing I can’t live without is Him.
This is long and I need to close. But thank you, once again, my faithful readers, for the honor of sharing this piece of my journey.
And to my friend reading who is being prompted this very moment by God to enter into a fast of your own…with the softest of hearts I say: don’t run. Say yes. That the Lord would be calling you deeper means He loves you much more than you know.
p.s. Man, I love ya’ll.
Let’s talk about this on my social media. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. (Links in the right margin/black and white banners on this page.) Need me to pray for you in your fasting endeavor? I will. I love how God uses us to help each other as we so humanly limp along.
I saw it just today: an author, whose first book is so brand new it has barely had time to prop its feet up on the bookstores shelves, talking about the next book, almost completed.
And I know. I get it. The publishing industry, like all others and like life, too, is always in a hurry for a great sequel and follow up.
But there’s this thing that I think has happened to us in the process of constantly looking for our next, rushing into it: we barely glance at the now because our eyes are focused elsewhere. We by-pass. We hurry. We don’t savor. And we miss things, right in our hands. Good things.
People ask my son, who’s an almost senior in high school, what’s next for him. And I watch him, eyes scared and narrow, grasping for an answer in a moment he doesn’t have one, because he’s barely 17. And I know what he wants to say if we hadn’t taught him to be polite, about how he just wants to listen to his music and drive his car to his friends house where they will laugh over crazy guy things and talk about whose bracket looks the worst…how it’s too much to think about growing up and what’s next and he wants to stay in the now a little longer, and how he’s tired of that question.
Please. It’s not the looking at the future that’s wrong. It’s the pressure to be in the next moment, the stress of it, the feeling of non-achievement when that next is unknown at this moment and the now somehow doesn’t seem good enough.
God says, today. Just today. Make your plans, but live in TODAY.
So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:34)
Not what can we do next, but what can we do now?
There’s a lot…enough…right in front of us.