How Jen Hatmaker Interrupted my Perfectly Lovely Summer (and may wreck yours too)

It was the beginning of June and the whole summer stretched gloriously before me.  Oh the dreams I’d dream, the goals I’d achieve, the books I’d not only read, but remember and apply to EVERY AREA OF MY LIFE!  I was especially excited to get my grubby little hands on the new edition of Jen Hatmaker’s book, Interrupted.

I pounced on the opportunity to get an advance copy in order to link up and post on it.  After all, my merry little band of spiritual misfits had joyfully jumped into “7” and experienced our own mutiny against excess a couple of summers ago.  I figured we were game for something new.

But here’s the thing…I missed some “fine” print.

Ok, it might not have been so “fine”, but I definitely missed two important details.

First?  The subtitle: When Jesus Wrecks your Comfortable Christianity.  WHY in the name of sweet baby Jesus would I want to read THAT??  If I’m comfortable with my Christian life (and I definitely am!), why would I want to be wrecked?

Note to marketing department: No one who actually reads the subtitle of this book is going to want to buy it.  “Wrecking” is not a selling point.

Second?  Due date for this post.  I read Interrupted last week on flights while John and I were traveling to and from a leadership conference (It’s SUMMER, for Pete’s sake!  I haven’t had time to read MEANINGFUL THINGS earlier than this with all the sun-filled lolly-gagging I’ve been doing!).

Friday night late we landed, John re-packed, and left for another trip.  I threw the book at him as he went out the door shouting, “Here! READ THIS!  I refuse to be the only uncomfortable, wrecked disciple in this family!”

The next thing I know I’m catching up on email and there’s a reminder from Jen that our posts should go up on Monday.  Cue the frantic texts to husband.  (Extra !!!!’s since he rarely reads his texts.)

Me: You didn’t really take the book with you did you?!

John: Well, yes I did, Darling, light of my life, because I’m the dutiful husband and I always do exactly what you tell me.

Me: Ok, here’s the plan. You’re going to take pictures of the pages where I had the most things underlined and email them to me.  Then I’ll figure out something coherent to write.  And YOU come up with a catchy title!

Aaaand here’s how that worked:

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But, as we say in our family, “It’s better this way…”

Honestly, it’s all good because, this provides a convenient metaphor for what discipleship and being the church is all about – just showing up together and doing our messy best, mucking it up and trying again, right?  Seriously, Jen illustrates this delightfully, and authentically as she shares her personal journey with Jesus to a counter-cultural understanding of church and family life.

As much as it was uncomfortable, I loved this book because Jen writes with a beautiful mixture of grace, truth, and self-deprecating humor.  She is where most of us are – truly doing our best to respond to the stuff Jesus shows us, as we gradually let our guard down.  We have these little (or not so little) revelations… like, Ohmygosh! WE are to be the church, loving people wherever we are, not just inviting them to our church building where the PROFESSIONALS can “tell them all the things.”

The good news is that Jen writes like we’re in this discipleship stuff together and it’s gonna be ok if we just keep putting one foot in front of the other and not taking ourselves too seriously.  Making mistakes as we befriend homeless folks will not result in eternal damnation. It was gentle encouragement like this that kept me from throwing the book and yelling, “Leave me alone Jen Hatmaker (and Jesus)!.”

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book (If I get a word or page # wrong, grace please!  I’m squinting, half-blinded at the pictures John sent :))

“Because my experience with poor people was limited, I placed the emphasis on poor but misunderstood the essential part: people.  Which is the polar opposite perspective.  When they were ‘poor’ to me, then I was the benevolent, hyper friendly white girl who had a hard time entering into a real conversation.  The emphasis was on what I was offering: food, gloves, water, a bus pass.  What I saw in them was need, so that is what I addressed.  You require something; I’m here to deliver it with my White Savior Complex solidly in hand… (Eventually,) I started noticing not so much their need but their humanity.”

This makes me think of what we learned in Toxic Charity, (another good read) and my experiences with the homeless and Jesus on the corner.  Oh so easy to see projects instead of people. Lord have mercy!

“It’s easy to visit the bottom with works while our hearts remain higher up.  That’s just charity.  It’s a moment, not a permanent relocation. It is something entirely different to adopt the mind of Christ.  That’s when we don’t just act lowly; we are lowly.  Our minds are not safely secured up higher, awaiting our return after we’re done patronizing those at the bottom.” (p. 146?)

How am I living incarnationally, like…everywhere?  In my neighborhood, at the post office, at work and school?  In the Costco parking lot!! Arrgh!

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“For all my self-proclaimed love of God’s Word, what I really loved were the parts that worked for me.  For my good.  For my blessings.  The sections that made for a great outline or fit a funny story I had in the queue.  The themes I knew my listeners wanted to hear.”

Ouch, OUCH, OUCH!!!  Now you’ve stopped preaching and started meddling woman!

“I believe the largest factor in feeling unfed is not feeding others.  It has less to do with your pastor’s preaching style or the curriculum you’re studying.  We have an innate craving to live on mission with God in the dangerous, exciting world.  Out there is where we come to life, get over ourselves, are fed.  Fulfillment exists in becoming a slave to everyone in order to win someone to Jesus.  Discipleship was never simply about learning; it was constructed on living.” (p. 232)

Amen sister!  One of the phrases we hear in ministry that makes me the craziest is “I’m just not being fed”!  Come say that to me when you’re DOING everything Jesus has showed you and need more of a challenge.  And I say that to myself too!  How many verses can I quote but don’t live?  Anyway…enough of that…

To sum up, this is a book about having your life turned upside down by Jesus in the best possible way.  It’s about really, really being the church in the world – loving all of it – every dark corner and broken heart that Jesus came to redeem and restore, even if that means stretching a teensy bit outside your comfort zone, because wherever you go He’s there too.

My little group of crazies is looking forward to using Interrupted as a study book this fall and anyone is welcome to join us!  More later…

What scares you most about following Jesus?

 

 

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For my Friend Who’s Gay

I don’t read many blogs regularly.  Maybe three.  One of them is written by a friend I haven’t met in real life yet.  He is raw and wounded, confused and self-absorbed, and a little narcissistic just like the rest of us.  He is an incredibly gifted writer.  And he’s gay.

I read his brave, anguished posts and I want to give him a hug and say “I’m so sorry.” and “I can’t possibly understand your pain, just like you can’t possibly understand mine, but I want to try.  I’m listening.  I want to be better at loving you and others well.”

I want to be friends, but there are a couple hurdles.  There’s a caution and a question I’d like to raise with him as gently as possible.  But I fear his wounds are too raw.  Still scraped and bloody and in danger of infection.  I fear even soft, well-meaning inquiries may be interpreted as attacks.  That’s not at all what I want.

Here’s what I’d like to say to this gay friend I’ve never met (Even as I write that I’m nervous that I should say “friend who is gay” instead of “gay friend”):

1.  A Caution.  I want to be friends, but I will always disappoint you. The church will always let you down.  So will secular gay friends.  So will your mom.  And your boss.

Sure, we’ll try.  We’re a well-meaning lot, most of us, but we’re not wired to be constantly attentive, perfectly sensitive, ever-loyal.  You may have us confused with God.  Nope, we’re definitely not.  We’re fearful and proud and self-centered just like you, so we’ll mess up.  And you’ll get hurt.  Again. So will we all.  Even as victims of friendly-fire perhaps.  I know.  I too have the scars.  There was a time, for a year I felt so rejected and discarded I couldn’t enter the church I once loved.IMG_0991

The church, and your gay friends, and even your mom, or your boss or I may have thought or said or done insensitive or unkind things that need to be repented of.  I don’t want to minimize that.

But just because we’re hypocritical let-you-down-ers don’t write God off.  Please.  He IS the One who will never leave or forsake you.  He IS the One who knows you inside and out and loves you fiercely.  You are His beloved riffraff.  And so are the rest of us, hot messes one and all.

2. A Question. (This one is hard, so you might want to sit down and breathe).  Do I have to agree with you to love you?  Do I have to believe what you believe for you to feel accepted by me?  I have to be honest.  Although sometimes you say it’s ok to differ, it doesn’t seem like you feel it’s ok.

I know it’s hard.  We all want others to agree with us, support every decision, cheer our choices.  That sure describes me.  I want to feel included, invited, inside, and indisputably right.

I also want to be inclusive, and inviting with others.  I want to have conversations not diatribes.  I want to love God and you, my neighbor, well – with both grace and truth.

So I start by saying I think you are gifted, broken, and beloved just like me.  Just like all children of God everywhere.

Gay describes only your orientation, and I accept that with all its challenges, just like you accept the fact that I’m blonde and blue-eyed.

Beloved, chosen, redeemed describes your identity and I celebrate that.  I celebrate the God in you.

I also affirm that you have the right to choose your own path.  Everyone, everywhere, has civil rights we must defend vigorously.  But that doesn’t mean I believe those rights are what God desires most for you.  We may disagree there, and if that pains you, I’m sorry.

3.  A wish.  I wish I could see something different in Scripture that would enable me to endorse the lifestyle decisions that most gay Christians long for.  But I can’t avoid what seems to be God’s design for us to thrive, either as single celibate people or in the marriage of a man and woman.  This is not a position I’ve come to lightly or without a ton of reading and conversations and humbly listening to brothers and sisters in the community of faith.  I want to keep listening.

Does this mean we can’t be friends?  I hope not.

Jesus was friends with a heck of a lot of people he didn’t agree with.  The “lifestyle choices” He condemned even while loving others, ranged from greed to hypocrisy to adultery, idolatry, and self-righteousness.  You may disagree with my politics or think I’m addicted to comfort, or that I don’t sacrifice enough for others.  I still wish we could be friends.

We’re all of us “plank in the eye” people.  We’re all stumbling along, many of us trying to do so by grasping the Hand much larger than ours.  My prayer is that we can go together, and receive God’s great love for both of us.

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“First Step” #1001
C 1992 Jonathan Rogers

When Mistakes Have Been Made and You Don’t Know What to Do

I vividly remember the second time I ever saw my husband, John.

He was up in front of the congregation at the church I was attending. He was the youth pastor, fresh out of seminary and it was his first time preaching. He was leading the congregation in reading the morning Scripture passage responsively – him one verse, us the next. The problem was he was reading from one Psalm and the congregation was reading from another – the correct one – the one printed in the bulletin.

After a few awkward, “off” responses that left people confused, he stopped and said, “Have you ever made a really big mistake in front of a lot of people?”

I may have fallen in love with him at that moment. A leader who can own his mistakes and move on is rare.

But some mistakes are much bigger than others.  Sometimes owning our mistakes is complicated and the consequential damage can seem irreparable. Continue reading

Breathing in Advent

Confession:  Even though I wrote about it recently, I skipped church yesterday.  I didn’t skip because I wanted to have brunch with friends, or catch an early football game.  It’s just that I had been with people constantly last week over Thanksgiving and I knew I needed some true silence and solitude.

I wrote in my journal, “I need to breathe…have a Sabbath removed from frenzy. I need to listen for Your still small voice.  I need to fill up with You.  Speak into the silence, Lord. Come Holy Spirit.”

I’ve started to copy an acquaintance of mine who signs her emails: “Breathe deep. Lean hard. God’s love holds.”  I need that reminder

It made me think of this post originally from 2 years ago…

really wish I liked Yoga more.   It’s healthy.  And it’s so in.  But I’m not crazy about it.

Here are the only things I like about Yoga:

  • the comfy pants that are like legal pajamas,
  • the fact that you do it in a group with great people, and not, for example on a stationary bike in your basement (like a crazy introvert),
  • the corpse pose (where you lay still with soft music playing)…

And one more thing…                                                                                                                  They remind you to breathe.  In fact, I think that’s the only part I consistently get right when I go.  I mess up all the poses.  And I can’t make myself pretzelize (is that a word?) like my friend Brooke. Continue reading

Missing Church?

Mark Batterson recently tweeted: One of my driving motivations as a pastor is this – do people actually MISS church when they MISS church?

A couple of weeks ago on Sunday I was away from home.  We knew there was going to be an opening worship service for the conference we were at so no morning worship was planned.  But then some folks got together and said, “There’s just something about the Body gathered for Sunday morning worship that seems…holy…honoring…right. Like we’re missing something without it.”

They weren’t being legalistic, but they decided to put together a Sunday morning time of worship for anyone who wanted to come.  Lazily I almost didn’t go, but at the last minute slipped into the back and was treated to voices from every continent raised together in praise, a corporate exercise in adoration using the Psalms, and a simple Bible message.  Reminders all of the love of Jesus and the power of the Body joined in community.

This discipline of gathering as the church, weekly, has been something I’ve been pondering a lot recently. Continue reading

When We Were On Fire and Got Soaked

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I read very few blogs, but Addie Zierman‘s is one I love.  She is an incredibly talented writer whose new memoir, When We Were on Fire is her story about growing up in an evangelical church, in the “strange us-versus-them world of the 90′s Christian subculture, where your faith was measured by how many WWJD bracelets you wore and whether or not you’d “kissed dating goodbye.”  I can’t wait to read this account of her journey in and out of the evangelical church.  Today she’s hosting a synchroblog, inviting others to write of their experience of being on fire for Jesus.  Mine, growing up a suburb of Chicago, was quite different from hers…

I was in high school in the 70’s before “WWJD”, but when “Jesus Freaks” were still a thing.

We weren’t cool enough to earn that title, but not clueless enough to be weird. A friend of mine wrote in the cover of his Bible, “No more Bozo’s for Jesus.”  We just tried not to be “them”.  We fell somewhere between Freaks and Bozos.

The extent of our Jesus freakout was that our youth group went to the downtown Chicago theater productions of Godspell and (subversively) Jesus Christ Superstar.  And we carried our The Way Living Translations of the Bible to school on mornings when we had Bible study.

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With the awe and fervor of new found faith, like a scientist discovering a new planet, we wanted to run up to others, shake them and yell “Have you heard??!!! Isn’t it amazing??!!” and “Do you know about this earth-shattering-stinkin’-awesome grace stuff?”, but we tried not to pounce.

We lurched forward, fell down, and stumbled our way towards owning our faith and finding authentic ways to express ourselves.

Then one day, we were on a Young Life ski trip heading north to Whitecap, Wisconsin.  A jumble of hormonal teens, all arms and legs and acne, some new to faith, some desperately confused, all self-conscious and insecure. Continue reading

Saying the Last 10%

Monday I wrote about our culture of who’s in and who’s out.  About how often, subtly, we “disqualify” people for church.

Jesus says we’re all broken, but through Him we’re all “in”.  A messy community of sinners redeemed and being continually picked up, dusted off, and set on our wobbly feet to take a few steps forward before we tumble again.

Here’s the tough part about this.  In an effort to be inclusive, we’re often afraid to say the last 10%.  The hard truth that everyone’s included, but everyone is also in process and in need of forgiveness and redemption.

Somehow, in our culture, inclusion has become synonymous with approval.  Not only do you need to welcome me, it’s taboo for you to point out anything that would indicate that perhaps not everything I do is in line with God’s Word and will for me.

How is it that we can follow Jesus in this?  How can we love, welcome, and accept, but also be honest in saying “We’re on this journey together and none of us have arrived.  Let’s help each other out as we try to move towards holiness.”

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Top 3 Secrets to Winning the Name Game

Ever see the Antiques Road Show?  You know where people bring in stuff from their attic?

The chair they bought at a garage sale, or an ugly picture they’ve never liked that’s been handed down in their family and they ask the experts how much the item is really worth.  People are usually surprised when items are worth much more than they think.

I’m going to let you in on a secret.  In church world, we may not have antique art, but there’s a valuable skill that’s worth a fortune in spiritual collateral that few people talk about.

The real way to be a superstar in church world isn’t jewels in your crown from selfless serving, or stars on your Awana scripture memory chart, or how many people you’ve “prayed the prayer” with.

What’s most valuable in church world?

Names.

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More specifically, name recall.  It’s Olympic gold.  It’s Sampson’s hair.  It’s Kryptonite in the hands of Lex Luther only used for good.

Here’s how it goes…

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To my Friends Wounded by the Church

We’re in the throes of wedding planning, with family coming into town this week for showers.  So today I’m re-sharing a post that seemed to strike a chord with many of you.  It will be new to those who have joined us in the last year.  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.

Dear Friends wounded by the Church,

As I write this, each of your faces come to mind and tears fill my eyes.  For you.

And for me.  Because I am one of you.

Maybe it’s because I am that you’ve felt safe to share your pain with me.

You’ve experienced exclusion,

poorly handled conflict,

shaming,

power struggles,

dishonesty,

truth-telling with out grace or hope of redemption

from a church you’ve loved.

From a church that is trying to do its best.

But I think of the particular circumstances each of you have endured at the hands of people who say they love Jesus and mostly I just can’t believe it and I want to rail at the injustice and shake “someone” and make it right, and undo the pain.  But instead, maybe I could tell you a story.

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Christmas Funeral

Dear Friends,                                                                                                                            I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, planning to post it today.                                             And then the Connecticut shooting happened.                                                                     And we’re reeling, wailing, mourning, grasping for answers and comfort.  No words are adequate.  So I want to be clear that this post is not in response to recent events, but nevertheless, I pray may be some small encouragement.

Here’s the thing.  I hate funerals.  I avoid them like a cat avoids water.  I really don’t like them.

I know they’re important and showing up to grieve with the family is good, but still…I’m just being honest.

Friday I had to go to a funeral.  The son of some friends of ours was killed riding his bicycle.  We love them and our kids grew up together.  It was just a freak accident, as they say.

Corey was a troubled young man who struggled with mental illness all his life, and so, in a sense, his death was a relief from his torment, an escape to peace with Jesus who he had claimed as his Savior.

Still…Both John and I had a hard time getting through the service.

As the words of Mark Shultz’s song “He’s My Son” bounced off the windows of our beautiful sanctuary decorated with greens and twinkle lights for Advent, we thought of our own girls, our own prayers, our attempts to protect them, our parenting mistakes…

I’m down on my knees again, tonight.  I’m hoping this prayer will turn out right…

Can you hear me?  Can you see him?  Please don’t leave him.  He’s my son.

How do you make sense of it all?  How do you survive the death of one of your babies?

I just don’t know.

But here was the biggest thing about Friday and that funeral...  In the midst of that tremendous, palpable pain at church, there was also an overwhelming sense of ….Emmanuel.

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