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!

Jesus Isn’t Pressuring You

I’m supposed to be promoting a book right now, and turns out, I’m as bad as I thought at doing what people tell me to do.

Because all I want to talk to you about is something off script.

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My dentist tells me last week he thinks I’m clenching my teeth, and I’m sure he’s dead wrong. “I don’t think I do,” I tell him, quite sure. “Well, pay more attention. Maybe you just haven’t noticed.”

Since then, I noticed I’m clenching my teeth. I do it, in fact, all the time.

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I buried my father less than 6 months ago, barely kissed him goodbye then turned to a camera and smiled because there was a book that had to come out and it needed my attention. Then another one on its heels, and I’m supposed to be ready to go, again.

The day I filmed my video trailer for 5 Word Prayers I had taken the red eye home from California. Some things, makeup can’t fix. Every bit of the weariness showed on my face.

*****************

I don’t know from where your life pressure comes. I don’t know what you are smiling through. I know some of you are paying off debt right now, and that is an enormous task. Some of you are still buried by it, not knowing even where to start, suffocated by the strain and worry.

I know some of you have problems with your kids.

Some of you feel the pressure to be married and have that family. Some of you feel pressure to please that person or those people, maybe parents that cause you to feel you must always perform, or a church or followers, if you are a pastor or lead a ministry.

Some of you are cleaning up. Literally, cleaning up your yard from the hurricanes or figuratively, cleaning up from the mess that just blew into your life.

We are all dealing with many things right now. Hard, complicated things.

And I just want to say to us today: we have to stop trying to soldier through, handle it, pretend it away, and skillfully take it on. We have to pay attention to our hurts and how they are quietly manifesting in our life. Most of all, we have to give our hard places over to God.

Jesus is not pressuring you to handle things, in fact, quite the opposite.

He doesn’t want you to make it all right. He wants to make you alright.

We need Him so much.

That’s all I have to say.

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” I Peter 5:7 (NLT)

Order 5 Word Prayers!

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!

When It’s Time for a Social Media Break

IMG_2578 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.

  1. When you feel condemned.
  2. When it’s your first thought in the morning.
  3. When you feel frenzied.
  4. When you feel paranoid.
  5. When you have skewed vision.
  6. When you are prompted by the Holy Spirit.
  7. When it’s bringing up feelings of anger.
  8. When you’re starting to assume.
  9. When you are feeling tempted, or keeping something secret.
  10. When you’re starting to resent.
  11. When you’re starting to neglect higher commitments, service or passions.
  12. When you’re giving it priority over personal time with God.
  13. When you feel jealous.
  14. When it consumes at least half of your thoughts.
  15. When you can’t hear from God.
  16. When someone you love and trust tells you it’s become too important.
  17. 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

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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

In Case You’re Fresh Out of Amazing

lisawhittleendorseFOA.001If 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.

Love ya’ll.

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“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

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I’m Tired of Christian Cute

IMG_2027Every 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.

For When You’re Struggling Through an Imperfect Life

IMG_0700Struggling 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