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.
If I may, first…this post is about taking time to care about people, not a persuasion piece against boundaries/saying no or intended to guilt recovering people pleasers into regret over necessary life adjustments they have made. If you struggle with boundaries, please read Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend and deal with that important issue, first. I do not suggest now or ever that people substitute in my assessment from a blog post for their personal heart convictions. My goal is to help us see things in a way we haven’t seen them before…consider important things we may need to change. Honestly: I just want to help us and point this world to The Hope. p.s. I love you.
My best friend, Colleen, tells me something over the phone last week – about how her pastor-husband does a funeral for a man and only 5 people show up. I hear this, and I feel sad. (Remember this for later.)
Just a few days after that, my in-laws drive in from the beach where they live, almost 4 hours away, and we arrange to meet them for frozen yogurt, so they can see the kids on their way back home.
7 Whittles, all sitting around 2 tables, yogurt piled high in cups, toppings of choice sitting proudly on top. What was the reason for your quick trip, again? I ask my father-in-law, sharing the table with my husband and me. I know he had just gotten home a little more than 24 hours before after being gone all week. I also know they had driven nearly 4 hours…to just a few short hours later, turn around and drive home. I hadn’t yet asked them about the why behind it. Surely they have a very good reason for this kind of trip.
Our pastor’s grandmother died and we came for her funeral, he says between bites, like it’s the most normal thing in the world. I repeat this for clarification, thinking surely I heard wrong. Your pastor’s grandmother? I ask, with the emphasis on grandmother. I know it can’t be. Lots of people won’t drive across town for someone’s funeral, let alone drive 8 hours (roundtrip) in one day for one.
Umm-hmm, he says, casually. It is clear the yogurt is more interesting to him than the topic of conversation. Did you know her? I ask, guessing it will be a yes. Nope, he says, matter-of-factly and digs his spoon back into his cup.
My husband and I sideways glance but save our words to each other for later. That’s pretty incredible, I say back, and I mean it. I’m honestly floored and don’t know what else to say. I know my in-laws to jump in the car and drive hours to be at my children’s birthday parties. That sort of thing has been happening for years, and what a blessing it’s been to my kids. But to do the same for a stranger, even if the grandson of the decreased is your pastor and you love him deeply? I’m in awe.
I struggle to make it to birthday parties 10 miles down the road for kids my kids grew up with and have half lived in my home.
I only attend funerals for people I really know and have meant something pretty significant to my life. Otherwise, I don’t even think twice about staying home.
It could be just me, but I don’t think so. Lots of people I know who care about my son didn’t come to his graduation party. They were busy, I knew. It’s not like I’ve kept mental track in my head of who was invited but wasn’t there and been upset about it. But some that meant a lot to him didn’t come, for whatever reason, and I think this is not unusual.
Only 5 people showed up to that guy’s funeral my friend’s husband did. (Remember…the start of this post?) No matter the why, it’s still a tough reality. Surely he had other people who had known and cared for him in his 60 something years of life. Were they busy mowing their lawn that day? Were they too tired to mess with going? Would that have been me, too, if he were someone I knew?
I hope not. But I must be honest. We all have a million excuses for why we matter to ourselves more than other people. We don’t say that, but it’s true. Just look at our mostly me-focused calendars.
And I think about how we are all so ridiculously busy that we don’t even have time to call our mother to ask how she is many days, let alone take a day out to drive hours to a funeral for a person we do not even know. And how we don’t go to parties and things like that anymore for someone else because they don’t fit into our pre-planned agenda. We don’t want to do something? We don’t. Edit, edit, edit until all that’s left are mostly my things.
I can’t help but wonder if in all our necessary life edit, important as it is, we’ve edited out showing up for people. Could it be that in all our life de-cluttering we have begun to see people as clutter, too, and thrown them right out like those spoons in the kitchen taking up too much space?
I must be the first to confess it: this is sometimes, me.
Self-care is a yes. People-care is a yes, too. Our problem is we typically choose one or the other when both are what makes our heart truly happy and the world a better place, in the end. (God, for the win, with the balance.)
The truth is, we don’t have the power to solve everything, but we can do one by one things. If we don’t like the way the world treats its people, may we start a new trend. Rest assured…one day, in one way or another, we will need the people to show up for us, too.
When we show up for people we chip away at the climate of selfishness in our own lives. (Which, by the way, FEELS GOOD.)
When we show up for people we make the world better, even in just one kind act.
We are all half sad and crazy, walking around here on earth, everyday, wondering what in the world to do to help all the madness go away.
I think showing up for people is a good place to start.
I’m so excited…in a grateful, honored, still pinch myself that this is what I get to do with my life kind of way.
(p.s.Sometimes writing books still seems like a dream I fell into rather than dreamed up (well, because it was) – one others may be more qualified for but none more passionate about, I can promise you that.)
I’m releasing 3 new books/projects with Harvest House Publishers in 2017, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.
Currently, I’m in the midst of writing my forthcoming book: Put Your Warrior Boots On: Walking Jesus Strong, Once and For All. In case you haven’t noticed, the world is in kind of a mess. I have been praying and thinking long and hard (like it keeps me up at night sometimes) about how to live in the mess better, and I believe God has given me the how-to. Put Your Warrior Boots On is an equipping and strength-inducing book. It is a what-do-we-do-right-now book. It is a book to help we, the followers of Jesus, live with a better strategy – not one of reaction and hopelessness and fear, but one of real, true strength. I want us to be steady, ready and sure as we walk in this world gone crazy. (p.s. Yes, we can be.) I want us to stop trying to brave ourselves into it. (Seriously can’t wait to talk to you more about THIS and share what I’ve learned about it because I think the shift in perspective may help you as it has me.) I want us to be consistent in our relationship with God instead of riding the spiritual roller coaster, once and for all. I want us to walk in His authority like He’s told us to do – with effectiveness in the world and tunnel vision on heaven. We are here and the world is not getting better and we can’t keep wishing things were different – we have to change up how we live to be solid and sturdy, no matter what comes our way. We need this, right? Man, how we need it.
I want you to know: it is with the softest of hearts and the deepest of love and the strongest of speech I write it. It is proving to be very much like writing I Want God, in the sense that the urgency is a second skin I’m wearing, the revelations from God are swift and piercing, and I find myself eager to hear what He has to tell me, every time I sit down to type. I cannot wait to share more as the release date approaches, as I believe there has never been a more important time to release a book like this. Release date: April 1, 2017
My second book is a different kind of book for me, and I’m so excited about it, too. It’s called 5 Word Prayers: A 40-day Devotional, to help kick start our prayer life in a way that is both doable and powerful. (We don’t need to talk about how ABSOLUTELY VITAL prayer is, especially right now in this crazy world, right? Like…prayer is everything. For real.) For years people have been asking me if I would write a devotional book, and for years I’ve thought about it but never moved forward. I’ve long believed that with our prayers, it’s not about word count but about heart intent. The documented prayers of Jesus are short. The older I get the more I realize that prayer is not me saying as many words as I can but listening and being with Him in communion, where our hearts unite. For this reason, this devotional book. This book will not only provide daily 5 word prayers, but it will also include a short devotional written about each prayer to help it really seep down deep. I have lots of love and belief in this book, and I hope you will be as excited as I am about it. Release Date: Fall of 2017
And last but absolutely not least…with the release of 5 Word Prayers will be the release of a super fun companion adult coloring book by the same name. I know ya’ll love these things. I know they are flying off the shelves like crazy. And I believe in this case, each coloring page and accompanying prayer will be something not only you can fly your creative flag with, but also meditate on and maybe even frame and hang on your wall as art or give as a gift to someone else. You should know I’m hardcore committed to these coloring pages being beautifully and meaningfully graphic. So I hired the absolute best, most talented freelance artist to draw the sketches. She just so happens to be my baby sister, so she shares my DNA. I still can’t even believe I was able to hire her – she works in an art gallery and draws sketches all day FOR A LIVING, and I begged her to squeeze me in. (Family has its privileges.) So you know…this project is going to be fantastic and is truly a labor of love. Go ahead and plan on it being one of your Christmas gifts for someone in 2017. Release Date: Fall of 2017.
Well, there it is. These are my new projects. I hope you are as eager to get them as I am to get them to you.
So many of you have spread the word about I Want God and as a result, helped change lives. (For real. You should hear the stories.)
So many of you are faithful readers to the messages God has put on my heart to share. I wish you knew how humbling this feels and how much responsibility it brings to my heart, and how seriously I take it.
I think you and I are on the exact same page. I believe we share the same heart.
If you, like me, want to live with a better strategy, want to walk Jesus strong instead of walking tentative, defensive and reactionary, want to be the steady and sure believer of Jesus that He can use in this world in these crazy days to influence the rest of the world…if you, like me, sometimes feel like prayer books make me feel more intimidated about my prayer life, like I don’t measure up, love the idea of 5 powerful prayer words to pray every day for 40 days to better communicate with God…and if sometimes you just like to be a little artsy but are intimidated by Pinterest :)…these books are for you.
Can’t wait to share them.
Thanks for letting me share my new projects…and my life…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.
She tells me this on a drive in her car, and I can see how it pains her: how she feels called to things her life right now does not let her do.
It’s not that she doesn’t love her life. She does. It’s that the God pull is strong inside and she does not know how to walk out a call she cannot, at this moment, fulfill.
Living in the space of not now is perhaps the hardest and holiest of all.
I know what this feels like, and it’s a space of wrestling. I remember being 23, I tell her, with God fires burning deep and no where to take them. It almost feels cruel for God to give us a sense of destiny only to not release us to walk in it right away, and I’ve felt this at times in my life. But the walking in the waiting is part of the plan, too. The spiritual disciplines of surrender, trust and faithfulness make us more like Jesus…more ready for the appointing.
The truth is, the anointing often comes before the appointing. Believing God and pursuing holiness in the space in between is our only job.
I think of Bible David.
He’s anointed to be the King of Israel early in his life. But it isn’t until much, much later (historians say about 15 years) that he’s officially appointed King. This was not a plan gone askew: it was God’s perfect plan.
All the while, David knows what he knows. He knows he’s been chosen by God. He knows he’s going to be the King over the people. But he has to wait on God to appoint him, on perfect God time, and learn to live in the space of the not now. For him to do that, he has to believe God anointed him, hold to that, and trust Him to complete that good work.
Because God knows what he needs to learn. God knows how he needs to grow. God knows what will happen if he is appointed before he is ready.
It’s always the omniscience of the Father that saves our life.
And so…for my friend in the holy hard space of the not now…for the waiting, the anointed but not yet appointed…please remember this:
- God knows what He’s doing.
- The when is just as important as the what.
- Manipulating things to satisfy our impatience will likely lead to pain. (Hint: God keeps doors shut for a reason.)
- Your anointing hasn’t changed because the appointing hasn’t yet come.
- Pray to stay faithful in the wait. There is zero chance God won’t honor faithfulness and patience.
God anoints and appoints, but not always at the same time. He sometimes says yes, but not now.
Hold to what you know and trust for what you don’t.
He knows exactly what He is doing.
Anointed = (Lisa’s definition): gifted by God, given a sense of passion, desire and destiny (purpose) for Kingdom work.
Appointed = (Lisa’s definition): when God ordains and releases us to do something with the anointing He’s already placed on our life.
(David’s anointing: I Sam. 16; David’s appointing: II Sam.2:4; 5:3)
I learned my lesson through email, some years back.
There was the specific one I can vividly remember that embarrasses me now to think of it, the most. It involved strong opinion and strong language and strong probability of starting a friend fight. I typed it on a night I stayed up too late and after a day that unraveled me to a single thread. In my mind, the email was justified. The principles I communicated in it were right.
I showed it to my husband and after reading, he said with the cautious voice, “why don’t you sleep on that before you send it?” I raised the eyebrow, disliking the suggestion. Night eyes told me the email was perfect. Too tired to argue, I took his advice and went to sleep feeling convinced my words were on point and morning would tell me no different.
I woke up the next day fresh, and with slept on perspective. I re-read the email with new eyes and as I did, I saw the words without flesh bias. The email was a mess. The tone was wrong. The right things I was trying to express were lost in a muck of verbal throw up. Nothing was going to get accomplished by me pressing send.
So instead, I hit delete.
That experience has since been my reminder for many other emails and now social media things that have come behind: you don’t have to send/post everything you think.
In this day where Facebook statuses have become verbal throw up, blog posts have become knee-jerk rants, and we have the tendency to sound like those people we never meant to be: pious experts, projecting our belief systems (and yes, baggage-filled perspectives) onto others, I can’t help but think: we should probably hit delete more. We would save ourselves (and others) some trouble.
Before we post that, perhaps we considering checking ourself with these 5 questions.
1) Is this a good idea? Not…do I want to? Or…will this temporarily make me feel better? But is this a good idea in the sense of is this something I want associated with me long after this urgent need to share it goes away?
2) Does this make a positive difference? Now listen. We can justify anything. We can say all day long that this is beneficial to the masses and worth the risk of who it may offend. We can even get wild and call it spiritual and say it is “from God.” But we know in our heart when we are spinning it. When we write and post personal passive aggressive jabs and rants, we know it. When we post things for fun that are probably not appropriate, we get that gut sense. This is about being honest. God knows. We know. If it’s not something making a positive difference…in the way we laugh, learn, understand, relate, are inspired, encouraged or strengthened, hit delete. So we miss posting a few potential inspiring things in exchange for being discerning? Eh. I feel sure 2,589 other inspiration things will be posted that day we missed, so it’s probably ok. I’d rather err on the side of caution. (p.s. In case you’re wondering: Nope. Everything we post doesn’t need to be spiritual. And yes. We have free speech but that doesn’t mean verbal irresponsibility.)
3) Will I need to apologize? I know. You’re mad. But think beyond this very moment. Will it embarrass people you love? Does it have pain potential for someone else? Are you prepared for the fall out? Quick reactions typically create online messes. We can react or we can respond, if in a space of maturity we deem it necessary. It all comes down to how interested we are in continuing to mop up our own mess. A good rule of thumb: if we want to write a pressing blog or Twitter status (FB, etc.), let’s first sit on it for 2-3 days. People won’t go away and neither will the need to post, if in fact, it’s something worthy to post. If it’s a reaction instead of response, the pressing will typically fade. (Exception: God presses it on your heart right away to speak out about something. Also: obviously not talking about fun, light FB statuses which don’t need 2-3 days to sit on. Last: Non-perfect alert: I still miss the mark on this reaction/response thing sometimes.)
4) Will someone get a wrong impression of me from the post? If your post/status update/blog is the one and only impression people will ever have of you, is it what you would want them to know? We think we will have time to write other things. We think we should be given the grace and understanding to have a bad day and vent about it and it not be held against us. But the reality is, one status update, one blog, one post can be the determining factor of how people see us. Should we live concerned about what others think of us? In the sense that it drives our convictions and self-esteem, no. In the sense that all the good things we have to share in the future may be disregarded because of one bad status update/blog post we shared first, yes. People don’t always stick around for more. This is the reality of where we live and must be considered in the midst of our posting.
5) Does this give Jesus a bad name? I mean. Jesus followers, we have to care about this. I don’t know about you, but I shudder over the thought that I could mark my pure Father by my behavior to the point that someone who doesn’t know Him may never want to get to know Him because of me. People judge parents by our kids. It’s true. It’s not always fair (because, hello? Free will). But we do. I have been guilty of this. I see well-behaved kids and I automatically think: they must have good parents. People judge our Father by the way His kids act. Again, not always fair. But true. We Christians have a lot of opinions. Not all of them have anything to do with Jesus, even when we throw His name into the mix. There is a difference between saying things that offend non-believers because it’s Biblical and we can’t water down what Jesus says (even then, most of the time we can probably choose our words better) and saying things that offend because we are in the flesh and our character becomes at risk in the process. I don’t expect us to be perfect. I don’t buy the scapegoat phrase of you’re supposed to be a Christian to be used on us every time we make a mistake. We are in the human category, too. But where is the discernment by Jesus followers in what we post? Regretfully, often missing.
As long as there is the gift of free speech, there will always the tug of war between head and heart, helpful and not helpful, important and not important when it comes to what we share publically. People will not like everything we post, some will always see it as biased, annoying or unimportant. To a degree, that’s what makes the world with our differing flavors, differing things we like to read about, go round.
But as a whole, let’s sleep on things more. Let’s not be so quick to post. Let’s be more willing to hit delete, take the issue to God in prayer and leave the status update for another, better day.
In the end, we will be grateful we’ve checked ourselves, first.