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.

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!

How To Speak Up For Jesus Without Being That Christian Jerk

It’s late, you’re on social media and at that crucial point of decision.

Do you type the comment or do you stop yourself, walk away and leave it alone?

It’s a tough call to make in a tough age of tough talk surrounding tough issues.

For the believer in Jesus Christ, we find ourselves in a hard place that at times is difficult to maneuver.

On one hand, we don’t want to dishonor the name of Jesus by getting into a heated battle of words. This is the right goal, always, first, foremost and forevermore.  A Christian jerk is rarely, if ever, heard.

We don’t want to add to the vitriol and stir up already rough waters.

But on the other hand, we have this nagging thing inside of us that is telling us we need to be more vocal about our faith.  We can’t shake the feeling that in our effort to not become that Christian jerk, we have become Peter — watching from a safe distance instead of honorably standing with our God. (Matt. 26:58) This doesn’t feel good – this shrinking back from the faith we say we love.

“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” (Hebrews 10:39 ESV) 

Shrinking back, staying silent, is not an option for a follower of Jesus Christ. Neither is being a mouthy Christian jerk. Jesus spoke up for us in the ultimate way on the cross; how much more do we owe Him our going on record? He was rejected, but it was never because He was a Christian jerk. Everything He did was perfect. We won’t be, but we can model our efforts in maneuvering these difficult when to speak/how to speak moments after Him.

  • We must understand the difference between opinion and Gospel conviction. Anyone can spew opinion. Opinion has divided families and hurt hearts and carried wrong motive even before a word was spoken. Opinion hears something it doesn’t like, feels urged to argue by way of quick reaction, and dives into conversation just for diving in sake – driven by the prideful idea that its voice is the most important. More often than not, the opinion wants to silence and even make a fool out of a differing opinion and is offended when others do not agree. Self drives opinion, and the characteristics are easy to identify because it usually results in combat and turmoil. On the other hand, Gospel conviction is a deep groaning for the Truth of the Word to be made known, in order for people to come to know Jesus as the Answer. It weighs response and feels burdened to let people know the better way, but not because it’s a personal vendetta to win. Gospel conviction may still be received poorly, as some people will always reject Jesus. But when we speak up for Him with the heart of Gospel conviction, the tone we take can still draw people to Him.

 

  • We must first establish a legit track record of love. People will listen to those who speak up for Jesus when their record speaks for itself in a positive way. On the other hand, the reason the preaching of many Christians falls on deaf ears is because it hasn’t been backed up by a life that has earned respect, therefore, it is just noise. We’ve got to establish a legit record of loving people before we can speak into their life. Have we listened well? Have we gotten involved in the hurts and needs of others? Have we treated people with kindness? Does our life align with the character of Christ? If no to these things, then let’s get busy. We have work to do. Let us become the people who others respect before we start adding to the conversation.

 

  • We must become a student of speaking. I think this a point many of us miss. Speaking up for Jesus is so important and carries huge Kingdom importance, yet we barely give our training for this a second thought. I write about this in my book, Put Your Warrior Boots On, that we must yes, go on record for Jesus, and equally, have the wisdom to know when to speak. (A practical 9 points to consider for this is in the book.) One does not negate the other and in fact, the two go beautifully together and Jesus requires us to be responsible with both. We need to pray that God would give us the wisdom to know when to speak and learn from the Word what speaking up for Him looks like so that we learn from the perfect model how to do that which doesn’t come natural to the human tongue.

 

The world needs level headed, Jesus-filled, heart-led believers to point the way to responsible, civil conversations, both on and off the Internet.

No more self-focused opinions resulting in the label of a Christian jerk.

But a legit track record of love leading to the voice of steadied Gospel conviction.

It’s what Jesus would do.

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!

What You Should Know About Who You Follow

It all seems so harmless…the quick click to follow…the suggested person to be a fan of that pops up on your screen you “might like because you follow this person who is similar to her, too”…so we just go with it.

I mean.

She’s funny.

She’s intriguing and doesn’t lie down and take junk from anyone.

She’s the person we wish to be, if only we could say it like she does, have the confidence she does – the cyber best friend we long to sit with over coffee who talks about things we care about, understands us oh my word for once…and now we know her dog’s name and love him, too, and we will seriously offer to dog sit if that would mean we could get close to her.

The internet is fantastic and horrible and nothing, really, but a place for the things that are already wrong inside to become more wrong and tangle us in webs harder to get out of.

We follow people with charisma because it’s natural to follow people with charisma.

We follow people with wisdom because it’s natural to follow people with wisdom.

We follow people who are funny and clever because it’s natural to follow people who are funny and clever.

This is not to be a place of shame.

But we have to take following much more seriously.

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It all seems so beautiful…the memes that tug at us and tell us the things our fragile hearts long in the core to grab onto…no matter if they are consistent with the Word or simply beautifully woven words.

I like the way this makes me feel.

This helps me believe in myself.

These are things we probably won’t say, except for inside our heads, but that is enough to share with others as if it’s gospel, never mind if it actually is.

We share things because we feel inspired and we want to inspire other people, and it’s wonderful to want to inspire other people.

We share things because we despise the negative of the internet and we long to spread hopeful messages of love, instead, and it’s wonderful to want to spread hopeful messages of love.

This, too, is not to be a place of shame.

But we have to take sharing much more seriously.

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I talk about this in Put Your Warrior Boots On.

Declaration #7, I Will Follow God, Forever, defines what following is really all about, what to be careful of when we follow someone, and why I believe the word tethered is the key to following God.

In other places in the book, I give us nuggets to help us maneuver this world of following and social media sharing.

But here’s what I want you to know, today, in this space, as this idea of following leaders, particularly spiritual female ones, has become a hot-button issue in Christendom as of late.

  1. Don’t underestimate the backhanded stealth operation Satan will take you get you off course in this area of your life. If something looked evil, you wouldn’t fall for it. The things that look and sound good ought to be the things you most pray over for discernment. This includes people. (Sidebar: with the help of God, this doesn’t have to turn into unhealthy skepticism/negativity.)
  2. If you have to keep saying things like, “I know this person is a little off about this, but…” and the justifications keep happening, you may want to reconsider your follow. Please don’t read this to mean you should look for perfection, or you will have no spiritual influences in your life. But you know when you are going down a justification road most of the time. Stop denying that and consider why you keep them as an influence in your life.
  3. Know what a person who exercises the fruit of the Spirit looks like and what are the requirements for teaching in the Word of God, and let those be your model for following spiritual leadership. (see Galatians 5:22-23; I and II Tim. and Titus, predominantly.) Follow people as they follow God. If someone continually preaches a message that calls attention to themselves, red flag.
  4. Just because someone says they are a believer in Jesus Christ and puts up some verses online does not mean they need to become your spiritual teacher. There’s a difference between a spiritual leader and a fun person you follow because they make you laugh, etc., you appreciate their insight on motherhood, etc. Put people in appropriate seats in your life. One size does not fit all with influence, so don’t let a fun online following bleed into who you look to for spiritual guidance. You wouldn’t go to a doctor to tell you how to decorate your house, even if they knew a lot about a lot. Find out about the background and due diligence of people, where they have come from and what has formed their life and opinions…how they have weathered through things, etc. before you listen to their philosophies on life and their counsel for you. This is just good life wisdom, 101.
  5. This is very important. Please remember that every person, “expert” or not, is human and comes into a discussion and yes, even Bible teaching, the pulpit on a Sunday morning, etc., from a place of bias because of life experience, formative years teaching, religious background, life damage, education, etc. Anyone who says this is not so is simply not being honest with themselves. No one but God has the ability to not bring human into a situation. So then it becomes who has done the work with Jesus and yes, with solid counseling if need be (I would argue, it is always a good idea) to become healthy and well from the hard places in the past to speak now with wisdom into those places. This can be the most powerful experience and such a worthy follow from us. On the other side, though many may have experience in an area (example – been in the church for a long time or on church staff and had a traumatic experience there), if they have not done the work to properly heal, the offering of counsel can come from a broken or bitter place and be detrimental to those they speak into.

 

Leadership is a beautiful thing and following people as they follow God is a priceless pipeline of the Gospel He intended we implement so many will come to know Him.

May we make we make this a serious matter of prayer.

Oh God, protect us…give us wisdom…help us do this better moving forward.

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!

If You Need to Remember the Great I AM

**Friends, please welcome my friend, Michele Cushatt, to the blog. She’s just released a new book called I AM: A 60-Day Journey to Knowing Who You Are Because Of Who He Is, and I hope for your sake you will go get it. A few things you should know. 1) Michele’s my real life friend, as in we have spent overnight together, shared meals, prayed & cried and regularly text. She’s the Michele in the opening story of my next book, so that’s a fun fact for you. :) 2) I’ve watched her walk through cancer, and she is a wrestler, lover of God, and deep well. Any hard question she will ask herself, first. 3) I endorsed her new book, I AM: A 60-Day Journey to Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is because it ministered to me and is a tool I can eagerly recommend to my friends to go with your daily Bible reading. So do yourself a favor and get it, today. For real. And I don’t say that often.

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The gift arrived when I least expected it. And when I most needed it.

A small corked jar, no bigger than a thimble. Filled with dozens of yellow-brown mustard seeds, each smaller than the head of a pin.

For months, I’d been struggling with my faith. After too many years of physical pain, I came up for a brief reprieve only to face a vast sea of spiritual pain. For nearly five years, I’d prayed for God to deliver me from cancer and suffering, to restore my life to health and protect my family from further heartache. Beyond my own prayers, thousands of friends and family and strangers offered up theirs. Add it all up and it equaled far more than a thimble jar filled with faith.

Even so, illness and death continued to stalk me. In spite of my pleas, God didn’t seem inclined to intervene.

What about my mustard seed of faith, God? I thought You said it was enough.

With books and Bibles and journals gathered around me, I searched for answers and wrestled with the God I’d always loved. I still loved Him, still believed in Him. I just didn’t understand Him. I didn’t understand His promise of power coupled with His apparent unwillingness to deliver it. We’d prayed. Fasted. Believed promises and memorized Bible verses.

Where was God?

Thus, my friend, Traci, sent mustard seeds. A Matthew 17:20 reminder for the girl who feared her fragile faith and nagging doubts meant she was a terrible Christian after all. With one glance at her thimble-sized jar, I remembered:

It isn’t the size of a girl’s faith but the presence of it that counts.

I wonder if the disciples experienced a similar angst when their best efforts to heal a boy came up short. They’d been given power to heal diseases and cast out demons. By that point, they’d done it enough times to feel a measure of confidence that healing would come once again.

Only it didn’t. No matter how many times they tried. So the boy’s father asked Jesus for help, and Jesus came through. When the disciples asked why their efforts didn’t produce results, Jesus said simply, “Because you have so little faith” (Matt. 17:20).

So little faith?

I’m confused. It seems to me they had far more faith than most.

But the disciples’ shortage of faith wasn’t a lack of belief in the power of God. They knew Jesus was able. They didn’t doubt His reality or capability.

But their expectation wasn’t sourced in relationship. They’d failed to submit their will to the will of their Father. Only there, in full submission, is a mustard seed of faith a powerful mountain- moving thing.

I do not know why some mountains move and others remain firmly in place. I’ve seen people of tall and true faith baffled by God’s lack of response. And I’ve seen people stuck in a mire of doubt and unbelief surprised by a miracle their faith doesn’t seem to deserve.

I know that belief and faith are critical pieces of this spiritual journey to the glory of heaven. But I also know that Jesus believed fully in God’s ability to deliver when He begged for deliverance the night before His death. He had more than a thimble-sized jar of faith, and yet God chose not to move His mountain.

Or, perhaps, His mountain moved after all. In the size and shape of a tomb-sealing stone. In a moment, faith moved it from here to there, and the Son of God walked out, alive.

No, God didn’t move the mountain of His crucifixion. But God moved the mountain of His death in a beautiful resurrection.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, nor can I unravel the mysteries of our unfathomable God. But perhaps the greatest faith, a mountain- moving faith, is one that bends low. One that submits to the will of the Father and allows the power of God to move in ways we wouldn’t have imagined.

In our tiniest mustard seed of faith, we too have access to that kind of power.

When we bow our desires to the plan of a God we love and trust, we have access to a far greater power than we’ve ever known. Resurrection power. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is in you and in me. That means when we pray for mountains to move, they move. Sometimes it’s the mountain right in front of us. Other times, it’s the bigger mountain we don’t yet see.

I still pray for healing, hoping God will grant my heart’s desire. I still pray for a body that’s renewed and a life that’s long.

But I also pray those healing prayers on bent knees, knowing God may choose to move a mountain bigger than this one.

Either way, I can trust Him to empower me. Even if all I can muster up is a mustard seed of faith.

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About I AM:

Pulling from her experiences of raising children from trauma, a personal life-threatening illness, and the devastating identity crises that came to her family as a result, Michele creates safe spaces for honest conversations around the tensions between real faith and real life.

The words of Michele’s most recent book — I Am: A 60-day Journey to Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is—were penned during her long and grueling recovery from a third diagnosis of cancer during which she was permanently altered physically, emotionally and spiritually. In it, she speaks with raw honesty and hard-earned insight about our current identity epidemic and the reasons why our best self-help and self-esteem tools aren’t enough to heal our deepest wounds.

Michele and the love of her life, Troy, live in the mountains of Colorado with their six children, ages 9 to 24. She enjoys a good novel, a long run, and a kitchen table filled with people. Learn more about Michele at michelecushatt.com.

2 Questions to Ask Before Responding on Social Media

 

This world, the recent election, the personal pressure cooker we are all in of fears and family issues and job woes and daily struggle has pushed out some of our ugly, lately.

None of us want it. I hear us, we lament it. Where did that come from, we wonder to ourselves as the ugly seeps through our cracks in late night tweets and Facebook comments.

It hurts us. We hurt. We hurt each other. It all becomes a mess.

For days, maybe weeks, I’ve been holding a lot in. I would like to say I’ve been praying every moment but the truth is, I’ve not been praying enough. Last night, I needed to get off Twitter and pray. But I didn’t. This was my great judgment lapse, and I dare say, where most great online judgment lapses start.

I had enough.

I responded back to a few wild generalizations tweeted about some of the best people I know doing Kingdom work. I spoke firmly, steadily and not out of turn. I refused to fight online – all good things. But I spoke up, for this has always been my bend: to honor my justice meter, fight for the underdog if need be, and yes, regrettably and far less spiritual, to be feisty and mouthy when I feel misrepresented, condescended and wronged. Flesh brings out my southside, and I didn’t even grow up on the southside. God has whispered to me on more than one occasion, Thanks, Lisa. Now how about you let me handle this thing? I’m a scrappy one, I’ll admit.

But even if I’m right. Even if they need to be put in their place. I am to be of higher mindset. We, the Jesus followers, are servants of the most high, and as we face difficult people and conversations we need to remember the message of I Thess. 4:1 to “…live in a way that pleases God.” Tweet in a way that pleases God. Facebook in a way that pleases God. Text in a way that pleases God. That is the only thing. All our right-fighting arguments pale in light of this message.

As I was tempted this morning to respond on social media even further, I was reminded of my own words in my forthcoming book, Put Your Warrior Boots On“Flesh anger is the reaction of things done against us…holy anger is a response to things done against God.” And I was convicted in my flesh, confronted by the Holy Spirit with two questions to ask myself before I did:

1) Is this of offense to me, personally, or an offense to the Gospel?
2) Does God want to use me to speak boldly for Him in this moment or is my flesh needing to learn the discipline of Godly silence?

I want to get it right. I don’t always get it right. Jesus…the Kingdom of God and what is at stake is worth getting it right. Fighting for me can’t be in this, no matter how right I may feel.

The only way to know the answer to either question? Prayer. For discernment and wisdom. Otherwise, it’s tough to know the difference.

In this loud and ugly time on social media, these are the things God is speaking to me. Trusting they might also have some value for you.

Onward and forward. Only offended for the Gospel. We can do this, friends. We love Jesus enough.

 

 

 

 

p.s. I love you.