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:


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!


“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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5 Questions About…God’s Plans For You

Today we start a new Friday series called “5 Questions About…”  image-4

Recently my friend, Lee Hanssen, who is the director of student ministry at our church, (and just happens to be a rodeo rider on the side :)), preached on Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Oh my gosh, have you seen that verse quoted on all the cards everywhere in the history of the world without end amen for anyone who was sad, or getting married, or graduating, or…?  I loved Lee’s message and I wanted him to share some of it with you.

1.  What made you choose this popular verse for your text? Continue reading

After Easter

Good morning!  So many of you are new to this blog that I decided to re-post an offering from last year about this time.  I pray it is encouraging to you today!

My cousin died last week.  And a friend was deeply wounded by something a loved one said to her.  And another friend continues to pray for healing from a painful illness.  And another is deeply discouraged.  I imagine each of you could add something to the list.

And last week, after Easter, I was reading in John 20 when Mary comes and finds the tomb empty.  It was my “scheduled” devotional reading, and I’m a rule-follower, so I was obedient, and read it, but inside I was thinking…”Easter is OVER!  Been there, celebrated that.  Let’s move on.” (I’m not proud, just being honest).

I felt like those people who leave their Christmas wreath up til May.  Easter didn’t feel relevant after Easter, which I know is soooo wrong, but like at the tomb, God was gracious and showed up

I was clonked on the head like one of the Three Stooges as I entered into this passage as Mary.  Yes, Mary Magdalene, the one who Jesus miraculously cast all the demons out of, but at the same time, someone like all of us, any of us, who are ever in pain, lost, confused... Continue reading

Peace in the Middle East and at Starbucks

You see, I have this table at Starbucks.  It’s mine“.  Everyone knows it’s my office of sorts.  Every morning I arrive early and work there for several hours.

The toddler who peeks around the corner each day looking to share his cheese crackers with me knows where I am.

The ever-present chatty Brit – the “Norm” of our “Cheers” knows where to find me.

Mark, the doctor, stops by to say “hi”.

Anyone who ever meets with me ever knows where to come.

I like to think it’s a place where kingdom work is being pursued.

And I like to think there’s a special ambiance or aura around my table.  I feel more inspired when I sit there.  It’s comfortable.  I can spread out.  And it’s the perfect distance from coffee and people.  Close enough to be convenient, and far enough to not be interrupted too much.


So here’s the problem. Continue reading

A God of Cat and Mouse Games?

This week I was able to return to a place that is holy for me.  A place where God met me in a powerful way.  It’s a dock by a lake where our friends live in Wisconsin.


The dock is a perfect place to spend some time reading in the early morning.  One of the things I love to do as I read my Bible is to date different promises or commands that have been meaningful to me, connecting with specific circumstances in my life. It’s such an encouragement when I see how personal and alive God’s word is to me – even if it’s convicting.

Many verses are dated with the name of one of our daughters as I have prayed the verses for them. Next to Psalm 16:8 is 10/9/09 and “Katy -job”.

Other verses (like Is. 42:13 and Is. 43:18,19) have dates with notes about prayers for guidance.

Psalm 9:9 says, “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” Next to it is written “Haiti”.

One of the most meaningful and important notations in my Bible is next to Matthew 7: 9-11. I wrote, “Bere’s dock, August 15, 2004.”

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Three Things to Listen For

John and I “mentor” several young men and women, but I’m not crazy about that word.  Basically we’re all just travelers on a road trip trying to help each other find the exits, and the Culvers, scrape up enough money for tolls, and not crash.

All of us stumble and run and trudge along with each other.  Parent and child, friends of different generations, boss and staff, coaches, teachers, trainers…

Healthy or wounded or recovering, energized at times and weary at others, seeking sometimes, finding at others.  Discouraged or joy-filled we need each other.  

In all relationships I want to be present to God and to the other at the same time.  Kind of like when I’m in the Great Room at church after worship, talking to someone I can always discern John’s voice if he’s also in the room.  It’s distinctive and I know it.  How I long for that same ear attuned God’s voice while I’m in conversation with others!

Awhile ago I heard someone suggest that as we are present to God with others, there is often one of three things He may want us to listen for that may be needed.

1 Thessalonians 2:11,12 says “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting, and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.”

Whether it’s a child or friend or co-worker, does this person need encouragement and affirmation?  A picture of what’s possible?  Celebration of what you’ve seen in them?  Naming their gifts?

Or do they need an empathic listening ear?  Someone to sit by their side and remind them they’re not alone?

Lastly, might they need a kick in the butt?  Maybe that takes the form of correction or facing hard truth, or setting the bar higher?

This being present to God and others doesn’t come naturally for me.  It takes practice and  paying attention.  And sometimes I just ask the person, “What do need most today?”

As I reflect over my conversations from yesterday, I was responsive to God’s nudging with friends who needed comfort and encouragement, but with the boy I tutor, I think urging – more challenge – was called for, and I missed it in the moment.

What about you?

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.

Continue reading

A Near Death Experience

There’s a prerequisite for heaven.  It’s called death.

You remember that line from the movie, Princess Bride?  “There’s dead and then there’s mostly dead.”

The other day I realized I was only mostly dead.  Or even less than that.  Maybe just a smidge dead.

But I wanted to be SEEN as totally dead.  Dead to self.  To selfishness.  To self-centeredness.

Several times in the course of two days I gave time and effort and gave up comfort to go out of my way and serve someone.

And you know what?  It didn’t seem to matter at all.  No one said “thanks”, much less threw a parade.

The kid I tutor was rude and uncooperative.  The meal I made for someone didn’t fit their dietary restrictions.  And, and, and…

And my bratty 13-year-old self, wanted a high five or at least a little “Woohoo!” from Jesus.  And by that I mean from everyone around me.

The main person I really wanted to serve was myself.

I wanted the image of serving others, and the perk of being noticed and admired.

I wanted it to look like I had a shiny outside but my inside was pretty gross…maggoty in fact.

Have you ever recognized this in yourself?  Maybe once?

Continue reading

Where are you going today?

Tomorrow John and I are leaving to go to Sri Lanka, off the coast of India (yes, I had to check).  He for a World Vision Board meeting.  Me, to support him in his Board-dom and see more of God’s world and work.

The amount of travel I get to do is a privilege I don’t take lightly.  I’m blessed, but I told the girls it doesn’t bode well for me that one of the first things I read about Sri Lanka is that they have 84 different kinds of snakes, but not to worry because not that many are poisonous.

I hate snakes.  I mean really.  Me and Indiana Jones.

So, Sri Lanka has that against it.  And it’s like a million hours on three flights to get there which I could live without.

But, I’ve been thinking.  Discomfort and snakes aside, in many ways it’s easier for me to go across the world and build relational bridges to folks in Sri Lanka, than it is for me to go across the street and build a bridge to my neighbors who smoke and have loud parties and yell at their kids.

It may be easier to fly across continents than for me to make the time to fight traffic and go across the city to a homeless shelter, or to tutor.

Sometimes it’s easier to jet across time-zones than to walk across the Great Room at church and include someone who is hard to love.  Or cross the coffee shop to listen to enter into someone’s pain, or reach out to a stranger.

I think of what it was like for Jesus, leaving the pure delight of heaven and coming across time and space to enter into the everyday brokenness, muck and mess of this world He loves.

And then He went across cultural and economic and class lines to reach the Samaritan, the tax-collector, the confused rich, and the broken-hearted father.

I think the reason it’s easier for us to go across the world than across the street is because across the street is just so everyday.  It’s always right there.  It’s the ever-present opportunity we’ll get to “someday”.

Going across my city, my neighborhood, my church, my home, my coffee shop.  It’s not like it’s a big deal.  Which is why, perhaps it is a big deal to Jesus.

A quote by Gregory Boyle has captured me this week: Jesus “goes where love has not yet arrived.”

So on this last day before Sri Lanka, my goal is to be aware go across wherever I can go across in my everyday world, prayerfully going where maybe love has not yet arrived.

Where is it hard for you to go across?

Sheep and the most Important Word

My family says I’m sheep-obsessed.

I’ve always been a sheep girl.  I love the image of God as our shepherd in the Bible – patiently, gently taking care of us clumsy, clueless, grace-dependent, but usually well-meaning lumpy messes.

My family gives me a hard time because I’ve been known to chase sheep on several continents trying to get a good picture of, say “British sheep” as opposed to “Guatemalan sheep”.  Last week outside Bethlehem I got this picture of what I called “Christmas sheep”.

Although the land is all built up with Israeli settlements, as I looked over the hills surrounding Bethlehem, it was easy to picture THE real shepherds two thousand years ago on Christmas eve in the quiet night, looking up at the same stars that blanket us today.

It made me think of a sermon I heard years ago on the Twenty-third Psalm.  It really stuck with me, which is the mark of a good sermon, isn’t it?

Actually it was only on the first 5 words of the Psalm.  The speaker, Max Lucado challenged listeners to choose which one of these words was their favorite…which was most important to them.

The (not “Some”, not “A”, not “one of many” )

Lord (The word used here is a verb – ACTIVE!  The same word for Lord used with Moses – I AM)

is (present tense, not just “was” or “will be”)

my (personal!! not just “David’s” or “Paul’s” or “Billy Graham’s”)

shepherd (present, caring, and responsible for sheep 24/7.  Sheep are totally dependent)

So, this morning, jet-lagged and just home from a long, intense trip, I’m thankful for a Shepherd-God who gently carries me.

What’s the most important word for you?

Which word would you choose as your favorite today?