*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.
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
We have just entered into a club we knew we would one day be a part of, but in the midst of parenting like a boss, seemed so far away. That kid that was blowing out diapers and slobbering for a living one day turned into a nearly grown person, and we had no vote. We know it was meant to be. We are grateful we’ve made it to this milestone. But that doesn’t mean it’s not hard.
So, here we are now, that season of life we dreaded, if we are honest. We want them to grow. We want them to be independent humans. We also don’t want them to do either, because that means we no longer get to have them full time in our home. This is the rub of parenthood.
I don’t want to make this any harder on us than it already is. So I won’t.
This post is not let’s reminisce about how little they once were and now they grew up. Dear goodness, we’ve read enough posts about that. This post is me putting my arm around you and saying…I know. Me, too. We are kindred, so let’s talk about a few things that may help us both.
- I think it’s good to admit we don’t like the system: us parenting awesome crazy and then one day, “bye…please text me every once in a while and I’ll see you for the holidays.” Listen. I know it’s the very best one. I know it’s the way it needs to happen. But I do not like it. I repeat. DO NOT LIKE. And I just want to say to you that you have permission not to like it, either, instead of pretending for the sake of others that you do.
- Related to the last one but also, a next step kind of a thing. Though this moment is hard and yes, let’s take some time to mourn things…we can’t stay in the house and hold baby pictures and cry all day. Gosh, this has been known at times to be me. And sometimes an hour of this does a lump in the throat and personal sanity some good. But then we must dry it up and get up and get out of the house and keep doing life. Life is still really, really (mostly) good.
- This is a good time to find friends in a similar life situation if we haven’t already. I’ll be honest: right now I gravitate towards you, and I think that’s ok. I adore my toddler-mom friends. I adore my single and newly married ladies. But this is a unique life thing, letting the kid we have raised, go. We need the specific support of others walking through as well as the wisdom of those who have walked before. There will be a day we are able to do coffee with new moms and hear about their grand, fresh adventures in motherhood but this is probably not the day for that, as we are remembering and struggling with what it feels like to let go and hope and pray we’ve taught them enough. We’re in a unique season, and I think it’s ok to gravitate towards the safe and knowing kindreds right now.
I have two more things I want to tell you – one which I find a huge help and mind shift – the other I consider the real lifeline.
So I’m continuing this conversation on Thursday at 9am EST on my Lisa Whittle author page on Facebook to talk about these things. I’ll be live at 9am EST with my coffee and a cyberhug, so LET’S GET TOGETHER for a few more minutes then. And if you are not in this particular life season but know someone who is…by all means, invite them to join me. I promise, I’ll take good care of their heart. (p.s. Even if you aren’t in this life season, you can still join, too! Non-exclusivity alert.)
In the meantime, head over to any of my social media accounts (FB, Twitter, Instagram) and leave me a comment or question related to this subject, and I’ll do my best to include it in our conversation on Thursday.
Happy Monday, my kindreds. I know. Me, too. I love you.
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.
In this crazy and getting crazier world, I’ve been thinking a lot about what the world really needs from us, the Christians.
It doesn’t need more of our words, in most cases. We’ve said a bunch.
(Pause here, followers of Jesus. I feel tender towards us. Because I know, we really want to help and we don’t know what else to do sometimes but say something to make things better and right. We say what we want to do and want to believe, even when our flesh fights us to act on it. Saying fills awkward spaces. Saying gives alternative to moments that feel hopeless. If we can just offer something through our words, we think. We think. And p.s. yes, God has used our words in many cases, thankfully. I have to believe this. I’m a writer. Hello.)
The truth is, we have good hearts and intentions, most of us. We really want to meet needs. We really want to reach out and show the love of Jesus. We get sidetracked and selfish sometimes, mind you. (Don’t make these out to be small words. We have been known to massively mess things up.) But deep down in our core, we want to help.
It’s just that words alone are not what the world needs to turn them to Christ. We know this, right? We’ve tried this speech giving.
Instead, what the world needs is steadfastness: preaching the same, loving the same, doing the same, being the same, no matter what. A ministry of sameness. The gift of stability. We are used to big waves and floating around and in 2016, who is not looking for an anchor?
I know. On one hand, the world preaches change. I, myself, preach it, too, as the alternative to destructive patterns and ruts. Hope requires belief that yes, even if …. in our past, today, we can change. (Psst. I believe it.)
But one day, my friend gave me a compliment that caught me off guard and taught me the value of sameness: “Lisa, thank you. I feel like you are always the same person no matter what, and I admire that.”
At first, I didn’t like it. The compliment felt small. It felt stifling, like I was a person of little growth, which everything inside beat against in rebellion. I want to change and get better. I have. Age and Jesus have done great things for me in the maturity department. I didn’t want to be known as always the same person.
But then I realized that this sameness was not about the unwillingness to grow. It was about being a solid, consistent person to count on. And I knew, then: that was it. That is the thing we need to see. That is the thing the world needs now from the Christians.
Preaching the same message, over and over, again.
Loving the same, no matter the race, the issue, the preference.
Doing the same things that build character, even when they feel small and redundant.
Being the same person so people know where to go to find the Anchor.
My fellow Jesus people: this is what the world needs. Not our braggadocios storytelling. Not our angle to arm wrestle non-believers over or hold loud Jesus pep rallies cheering about His goodness and the next minute we’ve thrown down the pom pons because Jesus has disappointed us. But to be known by our sameness: the ones to love and the ones to live holy and the ones to stay faithful to Jesus, no matter what. Our life needs to say: you know where to find me. This is where I am and where I’ll always be — this is where you can find me at any time, on any given day. You can count on my consistency. People will know they can count on Jesus by how consistently we live.
- A consistent person will be sure.
Sure of what we believe. Sure of what we know about God. Sure and unwavering. Most people aren’t sure about anything, so we have to be different.
- A consistent person will be tireless.
Yes, we are human. When we try to lead from our flesh, we will become exhausted. But when we lead in the Spirit, we are replenished, consistently.
- A consistent person will be specific.
We can’t beat around the bush, be passive aggressive with our faith. The world needs clear direction and teaching – for us to be specific with what to do and how to survive unstable times.
- A consistent person will be selfless.
We can’t do this life thing if we are not, because eventually, selfish people can’t maintain a servant (aka, Jesus) lifestyle. It’s not about us. It’s not about our words. It’s not even about our story, for the sake of telling people about our life. It’s not about popularity. It’s not about followers and being accepted. It’s not about getting things off our chest, pontificating our opinions, writing and speaking for a particular response. Just be the messenger. Just be wise. Just be about God.
The world doesn’t need more of our words. It needs more of our consistency.
Maybe it’s time to change our goals.
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