So You Want Peace for the Holidays?

If you know anything about my family, you know we are not poster children for the word zen.

“How do you have a peaceful house for the holidays?,” I’m asked by a friend, and I try to play it cool. Thoughts of my husband’s crazy loud voice, my boy’s lively debates over sports teams, my daughter’s wild laughter when one brother puts her in a headlock or the other brings up that inside joke…sometimes in tandem and with a phone ringing, a tv blaring and the dog barking as background vocalists, and it’s no wonder I silently question why I am at all qualified to answer such a silly thing like that.

Yeah, we’re a loud bunch, a traveling circus, and on holidays that circus stays home.

But then I start thinking about the word peaceful, and if there might be any room for our crazy 5 to be included in that space. Surely even loud folks have a shot at Thanksgiving bounty and Christmas cheer.

Turns out, peace isn’t about quiet. It’s about life in any volume, lived in harmony with yourself and those you sit.

I’m grateful for this, since it is unlikely our Whittle party of 5 will quiet down anytime soon. Maybe you live in a home of quiet composure. Or maybe your blessed troupe is a little more lively than that. Either way, peace is not the absence of noise. It is the settled spirit of the people in a home.

I’ve been in a completely quiet house with turmoil cutting like invisible barbed wire with every sigh, look and step. And I’ve been in a house with kids bouncing off the walls like rouge rubber balls, volumes in uncomfortable decibels, where messy love and unity is felt to the studs.

You can set the cute placemats out, but that won’t change the hearts. Perfect tables don’t make peaceful holidays. Love and grace have to bring that.

So this holiday season…

~Let’s focus less on the décor and more on the relationships. The old plates are fine. Let’s throw the old conversations out, if they broke us up.

~Let’s worry less about the noise level of the kids, laughing, running wild and having fun…and more about the noise level of the adults, disagreeing over stupid political sides and Facebook’s this and that.

~Let’s seek peace of the heart kind, not peace of the everything you can see is perfect and picked up by 2pm.

 ~Let’s make Jesus the center, so we can get along with whom we sit.

He’s the perfect holiday peacemaker.

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Go Back to Where You Lost Your Keys

Go Back to Where You Lost Your Keys

I talked about some things on the Jamie Ivey podcast recently I hadn’t intended.

Turns out, when you feel comfortable in a space with a Jesus girlfriend, you open up old wounds.

It feels like a zillion years ago, but it was actually only 6, that I wrote about some of this in my book, {w}hole, the first and only of all my books to go out of print — which feels weird, too, since it’s more about my life than any of the rest.

I refuse to read into that, by the way. :)

I have a tendency to be before my time, and maybe this book was, maybe the Church wasn’t as ready in 2011 as we are now to finally stop keeping all the secrets.

My father lost his church, lost his way, and so did I. Church people hurt us both and we both hurt church people. We are all the Church so we hurt, all the way around.

The truth is, when church people throw stones, we hurl them at ourselves.

It will make better sense to you if you listen to the Jaime podcast, or if you want, you can read the story in part, HERE. But the basic gist is this: the Church was a place that wounded me. And yet it was the very place God used to heal me and show me the beauty of His face.

Truly, it is as St. Augustine once said, “In my deepest wound I saw your glory, and it dazzled me.”

Because I am simple and overloaded by information at the same time, I like to bottom line things…break them down into everyday illustrations so they feel easier to take in small bites and sips. Maybe you can relate to this or maybe you will find I am too simple for you. If it is the latter, I totally understand.

But this church wounding would be difficult for me to both understand and digest, so I needed to find the illustration that helped. I found it, unexpectedly, the other day when I was talking to a friend who was struggling with a hard life something that’s solution to me was crystal clear.

“Go back to where you lost your keys,” I say to her. “Where did you lose them? Retrace your steps, find them, so you know where to go from here.”

Of course, her actual keys weren’t lost. Maybe because I have teens who drive now and hear myself saying these words so often “retrace your steps…where did you lose your keys…” that the words roll off my tongue, even now in illustration. I just knew that the place where my friend became lost in her life, where things broke her in the heart, is where she would need to begin to heal. Lost keys gave a simple, everyday visual.

It was the same for me, with the Church.

I’ve had some counseling, both in my master’s studies, and on the couch side of the desk, but I’m no licensed expert. But I am degreed in what Jesus has taught me. I know what I have lived.

In order to heal from what was broken from the Church, I had to go back to the Church and start there. Staying away permanently wouldn’t help. (Short reprieves are fine and sometimes, necessary.) Shying away from community to self protect wouldn’t solve my inner woundings – it would only increase my loneliness and put me at risk for isolation.

Pain didn’t let me have enough sense to know this. Jesus had to do it, behind the scenes, or I would have said no. He had to use sending me off to speak to the very Church people I was either angry towards or afraid of, thinking I was just obediently using my gifts, when actually, He was doing surgery on my diseased heart, saving my life.

Every unexpected kindness. Every smile and gracious, affirming word. Every immaculate Holy Spirit moment beyond any capability of my own. Ministry that my human pessimism couldn’t kill and didn’t end in disaster. Jesus showing up in my deepest wounding and dazzling me to the deepest core.

He took me back to the place I lost my keys, gently helped me re-trace my steps, and moved me forward. My life has never been the same. But He knew: I had to find my lost keys first.

He knows the same about you.

  1. Go back to where you lost your keys.
  2. Ask Him to dazzle you in your deepest wounding.
  3. Go from there.

p.s. I love you. Jesus loves you most.

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I Don’t Want to Live In a Christian Castle

I Don’t Want to Live In a Christian Castle

“We have been so busy creating castles for ourselves that we haven’t stopped to notice they aren’t really very beautiful.”

~Lisa Whittle, I Want God

 

I’m about to get on my Christian Twitter and type 140 Christian words about a Christian issue Christians talk about, when I get her message.

“Please pray for my husband – we have 4 kids and he’s suffering from an addiction to pain meds, is struggling to work and is our primary income.”

Suddenly I don’t want to get on my Christian twitter anymore.

And Amie, my lovely ride from the airport a few weeks ago, tells me something on our drive to an out-of-town event that is gnawing at me, too.

“Christian writers and speakers sometimes don’t fully realize how much they vocalize their privilege. Like, writing so casually about their beach house to readers like me who lived in a trailer my whole life and wouldn’t know the first thing about a beach house. Or, telling me about how God spoke to them on a cliff in Fiji while they were on their vacation when I’m a single mom just trying to make ends meet. Yeah, I read a lot. I love Christian books, but that doesn’t translate to real life, much.”

I hoped she wouldn’t see my quick mental scramble through 6 books to assess if this were also true of me.

The next morning, I stand and give my opening speaking illustration that prior to my conversation with Amie I have thought nothing about: our family on the lake in our boat.

We are far from rich. That 20-year old boat was given to us, for goodness sakes, and it spends more time in the shop than on the water, if the truth be known. I could rattle off all our volunteer work we do as a family and the books I give away that still cost me money…but at the end of the day, I must own the depth of my unknowing cute Christian privilege.

God wrapped up in a bow.

God wearing a suit.

God in 140 characters.

God on a lake.

Look, I know the drill by now and how some will love what I’m saying and some will blast me for being critical and want to throw me into Christian PR. Let me just put this out there the best I know how: I’m 39 in Jesus following years and 45 in real age ones, which can be translated as “past the age of being able to tuck back in my Christian niceties and plastic Christian answers.”

I’ve seen a lot in those 39 Jesus following years, which has aged me even further: 25 of them as my dad a pastor in churches all over the US, a handful of church fights (pastors kids don’t forget these things), one public court case which led him to lose his mega church, plastered all over the 6:00pm news, seminary, launching and closing a church in 13 months (my husband and myself), non-profit ministry that went amazing, non-profit ministry that ended hard, and many things in between. I’ve loved deacons and pastors and their wives, even ones that hurt my family deeply…been a part of hundreds of potlucks, run down the halls of many a stained glass church, brought all of my babies to church nurseries and worked in them and held other people’s babies while they drooled on my new silk shirt, too.

I know this life. I know Church. I know Christians. I know me.

And I can’t tuck the stuff about us back in, anymore. I just can’t. Really, I never have been able to and now with 39 years of it behind me, it’s just flat impossible.

So here’s where I land.

I don’t want to live in a Christian castle, based on blueprints of my own self-fascination, built by hands that serve myself, and the inability to be empathetic to my neighbor’s view from their window next door.

I don’t want to put up walls that serve me, that keep people out because I see them as necessary but really, the rooms don’t need them.

I don’t want to sit in my well constructed castle, writing well constructed books that don’t help change anyone because I don’t get out of the castle to know what people actually do need. (Sorry, online polls. You just aren’t the same.)

I don’t want to be rich. I don’t want to be famous. I don’t want to do anything if it doesn’t have a point.

I don’t want to dance around issues to help other people feel better about their prejudice and entitlement. I don’t want to pretend I don’t have some gross entitlement issues of my own. I don’t want to be afraid I will lose my spiritual expert card if I tell you I do not have a perfect marriage and constantly battle with my weight and am so introverted I often do not want to leave my house. Truth is, I never wanted that card, anyway.

I am over pious Christians causing fights. I am saddened to no longer be surprised when spiritual leaders make up their own doctrines, mostly built on popularity and what sells, with a little Jesus thrown in.

I am tired of 170 characters of nothing. I am weary of books that take up space. I am sick to death of my own smart breath knowing so much I don’t know enough to shut the mouth it came out of and listen to God who knows every last thing.

I think we’ve all said enough. I know, I have.

What are we doing, now? Now, that we’ve voiced how much we hated that election. Now, that we have talked about how crappy our life has turned out. Now, that we have used every last word in our vocabulary to say we are scared to death about this crazy world… what now?

Are our Christian castles honestly that beautiful? We’ve built them, methodically, sometimes years and years over time. But have they brought us any closer to Jesus? Have they let us minister to a hurt and dying world or successfully insulated us from it?

It’s not beautiful…

It’s not beautiful to be a Christian country club, members of our kind only.
It’s not beautiful to be racist.
It’s not beautiful to stay stuck in our messes and never let God use us, because we’ve decided perfection is the litmus test.
It’s not beautiful to love grace and preach love but deny truth and righteousness.
It’s not beautiful to work for God and not dwell with Him, intimately.
It’s not beautiful to be so pleased with ourselves we can no longer see the Cross.
It’s not beautiful to live God-ish lives. (II Tim. 3:5)

These are the hard considerations, some overdue, and well worth asking God to search our heart over, deconstruct our Christian castles…

…so we will finally come out of them into this world, extend our hands to the hurting, and escort them to Jesus. This is when we will all finally be ok. Them, because they have found Life. Us, because we have found life purpose. Him, at the center of it all.

May this post be a small beckoning us to it.

 

 

…An epilogue encouragement to my writer friends: I love our sensitive, word-offering misfit band. I know we want so deeply to get it right, and as sensitive types truly desiring to make this world better, it’s never our intent to isolate our readers. I pray with all sincerity that this post will not be discouraging, but will serve only as a tool of greater awareness to reach for every heart with our pen, wear the shoes of every reader through prayer, empathy, and imagination, and touch the hurts around us so we can write about them from first-person skin. I’ve been convicted in my own Christian castle. It is from that place this post derives. Keep writing. I love you.

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Help Us Love Our Neighbor – A 5 Word Prayer from Trillia Newbell

Hi! This is our 3rd amazing guest post in our 5 Word Prayers series, and I couldn’t be more excited to welcome Trillia Newbell to the site. Trillia is someone I respect from afar, since we have thus far not met in person, but trust me: it’s my goal and intention for the very near future. Trillia is a wife and mom with many professional and literary credentials to her name: author, speaker, writer for such places as Christianity Today and The Gospel Coalition and editor for online publications such as Karis and Women of God magazine. She is currently the Director of Community Outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention and has a mad (please translate as super awesome) Twitter account I love to follow for amazing insight and wisdom and really fabulous truth bombs: @trillianewbell. (Go follow her. For real.)

But the main reason I asked Trillia to post here, is because I knew she would have some important things to say about unity. Not only did she write a book called United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity, but she is living this message in her own life and helping us as she teaches us in the ways to follow God in the important way of racial unity. Lecrae, one of my favorites, just wrote this on Twitter, “Talking about racism is not ‘being political.’ It’s being real.” I agree, 100% and would only add that I believe it is also the heart of God to not only discuss this important issue, but work together to see unity between races. We are all God’s perfect design, and how dare we not see the value in each other.

So it is with great joy I welcome Trillia to our community today — someone you may not know, but I hope you will begin to listen to and follow, as a wise woman of God. Here is her 5 word prayer…

Help us love our neighbor.

“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

We are a society slightly obsessed with love. We even have a day dedicated to it: Valentine’s Day. Honestly, it’s probably one of my favorite holidays. I like to celebrate it beyond romantic love. I think it’s a great opportunity to show our friend and our neighbor that love isn’t a word that is wasted on trivial things.

In many ways we have trivialized love. We say: “I love hamburgers!” I love my new socks!” “I love the movie Nacho Libre!” Those things are fine but there is something unique, special, and set apart by the type of love God calls us to in relation to people. If we boil love down to only romantic love, we will get it wrong as we relate to others and if we use the word flippantly, we also get it wrong. When I look at the Word, God commands us to a radical love for others. So radical it includes loving our enemies and persecutors (Matt. 5: 43-48) and loving without expectation of receiving love in return (Luke 6: 27-36). But the most challenging call to love in all of Scripture, in my opinion, would be the great commandment love God with all of our heart and love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22: 34-40).

Love starts with God and ends with God because God is love. We see this in 1 John 4: 7-8 when he writes:  “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4: 7-8). This is a compelling call for Christians to love one another. John explains that love doesn’t originate from us. If we love, it is because we have been “born of God” and “knows God” (4:7). And then John says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (8). God is love. All that we know about God is bound up one way or another in His love.

Our love for each other has great implications. Jesus says that, “by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” (John 13:35). And so we cry out to God for help. We don’t love as we ought to. The radical love Jesus calls for hopes for the best of their neighbor. This love puts on the skin of their neighbor and gains understanding. It prays for all the hopes and dreams and good things that one wishes for self, for the neighbor. If we want unity, we must have love. Needless to say, we can’t do it on our own. But, with God, we can love radically (2 Cor. 5:14-15).


Trillia Newbell is the author a new kids’ book God’s Very Good Idea: A True Story of God’s Delightfully Different Family. You can find her at trillianewbell.com.

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Dear #Metoo Sisters…

I’ve been sitting all day, off and on reading #metoo posts on social media from women I love all across this country. (If you don’t know what it is, google it.)

Close friends…ministry comrades…my very own baby sister.

It pains me in a place I can’t actually locate, but my heart is a good place to start because it’s tangibly aching from all this mess.

Listen. I could tell you some stories, myself. Not of sexual assault, thank the Lord, but of the unwelcomed, harassing, crossing the line stuff, of which I, too, have had my fair share. One such incident that comes to mind: I’m 22 and walking with my best friend in the hallway of a hotel the night before one of our dear friends’ wedding. We’re both her bridesmaids, and though we have reservations about our friend’s fiancé, we are determined to stand up and give her our support. About this time we see him in the hall with one of his groomsmen, muster a hi, and just as we pass him he calls my name and as I turn to look at him, these words, loud and proud and with a gross grin, “nice a**.” If there had been a hole, I promise I would have crawled into it. The guy was a creep, and my friend marrying him had already been forewarned. But my heart broke over this violation of us both.

They lasted about 5 years, by the way. The impression from that night in the hallway for me lasted much longer.

There were other times I don’t want to talk about – not because I am ashamed of them, but because I find them too salacious for this post. What is most important is what is happening with the #metoo movement…women are opening up, secrets are coming out, and things are no longer allowed to fester in the dark. This, my friends, is the road to health for many. Make no mistake – this thing is deep and wide.

I have many friends who are courageous survivors of sexual abuse – most women, and some men. Their stories are egregious, and were it not for the redemption of God, too heinous to move past. For them, talking about these things is long overdue. Really, it is for us all.

I write this post because I should. I should speak up and acknowledge when my sisters are hurting. I also write this post because I need to do something with my angst. And so, in the wake of this #metoo movement, I extend to my friends this small offering of personal intention, moving forward. I can’t fix it. But I can do what I can.  (Please note: though I speak in the singular, this is a team effort with my husband, who leads our family well.)

  • I commit to continue to speak out for honesty and integrity in the Church, from the highest level, down. I commit to it in my own life, first, and will demand standards from our pastors and teachers, according to the Word of God.
  • I commit to continue to preach for secrets which Satan would like to keep hidden in the dark to use as methods by which to keep us chained to guilt, shame, pain and anger over our past to be brought forth through healthy counseling and by the help of the Holy Spirit, who is the greatest counsel of all.
  • I commit to instill in my daughter a sense of worth, that she might value herself too much to be used by any other person in any way…and continue a relationship of open communication and prayer, that she may feel safe to speak openly about her life.
  • I commit to mother young men who treasure women, will not degrade them or minimize their contributions to this world, and will speak up on their behalf when wrongs are done to them on their watch.
  • I commit to stay aware, stay engaged, stay sensitive and concerned, not bury my head in the sand or talk around hard topics just because it would be easier. There are real hurts out in this world and we must engage with them.

Most of all, I commit to continue to love people and love God the most. I trust and believe this hierarchy will never lead me astray.

I cannot change the pain of the #metoo stories. But I can do my part to make the world I touch a world that will not tolerate such horrific injustice and abuse.

I love you.

I love Jesus most.

May He heal us all.

 

 

*If you have been a victim of sexual abuse, here are some recommended resources: Not Marked by Mary DeMuth, Heart Made Whole by Christa Black Gifford, Rid of My Disgrace by Lindsey Holcomb, Breaking Free by Beth Moore.

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Prayer Doesn’t Have to Be Intimidating

Do you find yourself frustrated in your communication with God? Does a thriving prayer life feel completely out of reach?

The strength of your prayers lies in your heart intent, not your word count. Discover a new joy in your conversations with God!