Sometimes I Don’t Believe In Redemption

It breaks my heart to say this, but sometimes I think people can’t be saved.

Our church’s mission is Live the Restoration, to literally display what the Gospel story looks like in my life so others can imagine it in theirs. Sometimes I pray for people I meet out in real life, or at work or church.

I love to tell my transformation stories – there are many, new ones all the time. And I love to hear the stories from
others.

But I meet some of these people, and I wonder if they really can be saved. If the blood of Jesus can give them back the things I could never restore: sanity. Human relationships. A life free of addiction.

I secretly think their minds are too far gone or their inability to feel empathy or connect with others renders them destined for a life of Outside the rest of us. I fear they’ve given their best years to the drug.

I fear because I feel my limits.

I would’ve thought this real Walter White was too far gone. But he wasn’t. He made the best meth in Alabama for ten years, shredded his family and lived like an addict. But God didn’t give up the chase.

This story is beautiful because it reminds me I should let God run after people if he wants to. And if he wants me to do the running, I am going to have oblige cause we just never know who Love can save.

Live big and brave with me. Subscribe to the blog for free updates and the first copies of my book, Dream or Die, at its release early next year.

Isn’t It Supposed To Happen More Than Once?

[click photo for source]
Sometimes Christian music is so flat and depressing. Is it okay if I say that? 

It’s because it’s so entry-level, so absorbed in “that one time Jesus saved me”. And then the story never progresses.

I heard a song today with the lyrics “My chains were broken…when your loved washed over me.”

Really? All your chains were broken? At once? Well, a lot of mine have been hanging on. They break off moment by moment, year by year, monumental moment by monumental moment. I’m freer than when I got here, but not all free.

The love of God didn’t come up from behind and tackle me one day, leaving me without fear and problems and hangups. I’m still a mess. But I’m less mess.

I’m becoming who I am. 

And that’s the Gospel, folks. It’s transformation. Sanctification. God in the dishes, God in the fighting, God in the the dirty clothes, God in the hugs from my son, God in the highway breakdown.

The washing-over of love is supposed to happen every day, like a lot of times. Because that’s how much I need it. Not one time, a long time ago.

And slowly, like a rock in a riverbed, the edges wear off. I get shinier and smoother, but it’s just so, so, slow.

[click photo for source]
I need a lot of love washes.

So Christian music, and Christian people, please remember the real Gospel. Please stop acting like salvation saves everything at once with glorious visible manifestation. It doesn’t. (Cause God knows we couldn’t handle that much freedom at once.)

But everything will be made new. Everything is being made new. The promise is a guarantee. Future history. As long as we stay in the river.

What’s one hangup you’ve gotten cleaned off, or at least a little cleaned up? Leave it in the comments, then let’s put it in the river together so it can get washed off.

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What Your Influence Is For: Sanity Not Required

I know a crazy guy.

He’s so crazy, he’s running 24 miles, rim to rim, through the Grand Canyon on September 15.

He’s so crazy, he’s trying to raise $50,000 to save 50 girls from a life of prostitution in Ethiopia.

He’s so crazy, he imagines himself his own version of Liam Neeson from Taken, kicking down doors in rescue, seeing the faces of the lost and desperate as he bursts in. He knows with every step he takes and every thousand dollars he raises, he is plucking the life of a child from the muck and mire of a life never meant for her and standing her up on a rock of restoration and redemption.

sWiens
He doesn’t look crazy, but don’t let that fool you.

He is crazy because he’s inspired. Because he believes he can change something. And it’s catching.

This crazy guy I know is Steve Wiens. And he’s really doing this. All of this. So far, he and his tribe have raised over $31,000 for Eyes that See, an organization assisting with the transformation process for girls and women leaving forced prostitution. And many people are joining in on race day for solidarity runs or coming up with wildly creative ways to support him.

R2R

He’s chasing down a cause worth his time, his energy and his heart. And he’s using his influence.

Steve is a pastor, a dad, a husband, a runner and a blogger. He has a growing base of influence, people who wait for his words to show up in their morning email. People like me who look to him for peaceful, accepting wisdom and inspiration to be as crazy as their dreams tell them they can be.

Steve has a platform and he’s using it, not for self-promotion. Not to monetize his blog so he can take extra long vacations. He’s using his presence for a mighty, great good. He’s gathering the people to war and fight and run and pray. He’s giving his tribe something bigger than themselves, something only our rescuer Father God could dream up.

This is what influence is for.

Influence is for the common good. Influence is for calling forth purpose in everyone, no matter their walk in life. Influence is for giving us all a battle cry and a vision before us. Influence is not for me. It’s not for you. It’s for all of us.

You have influence in your spheres. At work, at church, in your home and community. Maybe you’re big and famous or maybe you feel like no one knows about you. But you have influence, I assure you. And it’s not to make you look cool. It’s to partner with God, make his love evident and enormous to the world, and to give everyone around you a real reason to live and move and breathe.

Use your influence for big things today. Speak kindness, use gentleness, motivate and empower instead of belittling and demeaning. Don’t wait for vindication or revenge. Throw flowers instead. And call the people around you to greatness by the very way you live your crazy, inspired, generous life.

And now that you want to know more about this crazy guy, here’s what you can do: Come throw your hat in with Steve and the great rescue effort, or if you want to learn more about Eyes That See, the organization he’s sponsoring, visit the site here.

These stories pump water

I love brand new ideas, really good ones I wish I thought of. Don’t you?

Well, here’s one for you. Have you heard of CausePub yet? If you haven’t, you’re about to.

I just wrote a story for CausePub, an organization creating books for a cause through group-publishing. [Click here to read the story and vote]. [Their current book project is called Couch Rebels, a collection of stories about folks who rebelled against horizontal life and got up to do something, to change something, even if the thing they changed was themselves. The concept is genius. Here’s how it works.

  • CausePub identifies a charity or cause they want their book to support
  • CausePub solicits stories from adventurers and story-tellers
  • After stories are submitted, they approve the stories and post them to their site
  • Story-writers solicit votes from friends and strangers
  • CausePub selects great stories they love with the most votes
  • The Couch Rebel book will be published as a Kindle eBook on August 14. So soon!
  • When anyone purchases the book, the proceeds are divided between the cause, the writers and basic overhead costs.
  • For Couch Rebel, 50% of the proceeds will benefit Blood: Water Mission. The breakdown is in the graphic below.

[Follow CausePub on Twitter here and find them on Facebook here.]

Here’s where I need your help: I wrote a story for CausePub, and I need your vote.

The story is below. It’s a story about a time when God met me and my seatmate on a plane to Atlanta. I didn’t see it coming. I love this story because it makes me like God even more. Please read and take a second to click VOTE. Thank you so much.

What God Thinks About You

“So, where are you headed?” I asked the young brunette next to me to end the awkward silence. She smiled the stranger smile, as if wondering how long this conversation might take. “Somewhere tropical. With friends.” She needed a little prodding, and I wondered if I should just lay off. Instead, I offered my own less glamorous destination: Atlanta.

I attempted to stir the conversation with more questions about her destination, responding with appropriate amounts of awe and jealousy. I hoped we would catch a common thread in our lives and the chatter would take off, giving me an opportunity to eventually talk with her about Jesus.

But no such luck. The conversation flailed, and we politely took up our books. I leaned into the window, pretending to read, but inside I argued with myself, knowing God might have bigger plans for this three-hour plane ride.

Eventually, my discomfort with silence grew larger than my desire to be well-mannered company. “What are you reading?” I finally inquired. She stammered a bit. “It’s a little unconventional. I’m not sure I want to say.” She tucked the pink book cover down toward her lap. I attempted to reassure her I didn’t have plans to judge, but I wasn’t going to push it. But what was she reading?

“I’m reading about artificial insemination,” she offered hesitantly, waiting for the verdict to read on my face as she turned the cover toward me. “I’m not married yet, but I’m 35. And I want to have a baby.”

Oh.

Click the button below to keep reading and vote.

Vote

When it’s all up to you: the value of legacy

{If you found me through my article on Catalyst, welcome. And if you’re a regular or a visitor, please let me share my news: I had the privilege to be featured on Catalyst this week, talking about the church planting life and the value of raising up the legacy of the next generation of leaders. I’m hoping to have the opportunity to write more on church planting and leadership, something Josh and I are growing intimately familiar with. Thanks for reading. Please leave thoughts in the article comments section. Thanks. Now, without further ado…}

Church planting is like parenting. It’s exhausting, and in the beginning, you’re doing all the work. It’s a good thing you love your new, baby church.

But as it grows, it gains independence. It can tie its own shoes. And eventually, you get to go to the bathroom unaccompanied.

Yup, this is pretty much what it’s like in the beginning.

Okay, it’s not a direct analogy, but you’d be surprised by the similarities.

If you’re a church planter, you know: the policy writing, program development, volunteer training and recruiting, preaching and teaching, discipleship of new converts, janitorial duties, midnight counseling, Sunday bulletin design, weddings and funerals and hospital visits and baby dedications are simply all part of the job. Your job.

But this is only the infancy of the church, the stage of greatest need and dependence, and in many ways, the highest level of pastoral involvement. But it’s not supposed to stay this way.

After my son was born, we returned home from the hospital and tried to adjust to life without sleep. I remember hearing him cry one day and wondering when his mother was going to come and help him out. It was dreadful to realize I was the mother. Who gave someone with no parenting experience a new child who has no use of the English language?

Like parenting, church planting is a startling thrust into the fire. When we got the 2 AM call from a local hospital that the husband of one of our parishioners passed away suddenly, we searched about wildly. “Someone should call her pastor,” we muttered in our groggy stupor. And then we realized we were the pastors. We left our three week-old infant with my mom, who happened to be in town, and hurried to the hospital to comfort our friend.

Even if you’ve never comforted a new parent, cooked a casserole for a potluck, or provided the homily at a funeral service, suddenly, it’s up to you. You’re up.

Like parenting, it’s almost a given that whatever needs to be done will fall on you in the beginning. But that’s only the beginning.

Continue reading at CatalystConference.com.

I am the opposite of me

I am a paradox. And so are you.

We are clean and shiny in some areas of ourselves, yet disheveled disasters in others. The real estate of our souls and our yards is impeccable from one angle, and painfully unkempt from another.

How is it that we can live with coexisting brilliance and ignorance, with generous nobility and glaring narcissism?

Sometimes, I feel I’m an imposter, like the real me is the messy version, and the times I act right are just glitches, some kind of cosmic error where the light fell just right, and now the world thinks good of me.

But it feels like a balancing act, until I wreck it again.

So who am I? Can I be the bad and the good, at the same time?

Am I summed up in my moments of fear, panic and rejection or in my faith and courage?

Am I a scared, helpless child, wordless with shame, or a ferociously brave teacher who lives to inspire?

Am I all the times I hate to be alone, or the times I am frantic to get away?

Am I the girl who can’t find her keys or the idea-generating leader bent on improving her environment?

Am I the friend you can count on for everything, or the friend who will let you down?

Am I the blessings and encouragement I bestow, or the curses I hiss beneath my breath?

Am I the rage and anger I release on my very last nerve with my child, or am I the patient nurturer, singing this same child to sleep?

Am I the forgiveness I extend or the grudges I feed?

Am I all the times I disappoint or the times I keep my word?

Am I the girl who finds showers annoying or the girl who can’t stand dirty feet?

Am I everything I do right or everything I do wrong?

Am I the desperate woman wanting children I don’t have yet or the grateful mother to the one I do have?

It doesn’t seem possible, but I am all these things. It’s the conundrum of me. I can stop covering it up now, stop holding my breath so people will think of me as cleaned up and together.

The truth is, I am holy and I am full of sin. I am a work in progress. But at this exact moment, I am the good and the bad. 

I am all the things I’ve screwed up irreparably, the words I want back, and the genius and generosity in between. I am everywhere I’ve been and everywhere I’m going. I am my failure and my success. I am what I know and what I don’t know. It’s part of me. 

I just need to hit “Accept” on all this stuff, on the easy to love and the impossible to love parts of me. Cause it’s all me, and I’m not going anywhere.

No one notices the pillars

No one notices the pillars.

Take a look at the White House. The facade, the grandeur, the elegance, the sweeping landscape. The protesters in front. You can feel the history. But you probably walk right past the pillars.

They cast a lovely shadow, create an ambience to be experienced, but so often we look right through them while they stand at attention in a thankless work. As we enjoy the view, we forget if these essentials supports cracked, buckled or vanished, the place would topple.

This is true for those who support our organizations, our churches, businesses, non-profits. We take great pride in our out-front leaders, the big personalities, the charismatic types who lead rallies and bring in all the fundraising.

pillar

But what about the pillars, the ones who stand behind, the last to leave, the ones with toilet brushes in hand? These are the pillars we walk right past. We don’t appreciate the pillars who stand beside us, who hold the whole place up with their relentless tenacity, who day in and day out take the sideline view to make the vision a reality.

A few days ago, our church said farewell to a family of pillars. They were rarely in front. Their names weren’t plastered on walls. Some people didn’t know them well. But they propped up our community with prayer, guidance and support. They showed up in the beginning, when there wasn’t much to show for the labor, when pieces were hardly in place. 

And they stayed. Because that’s what pillars do.

When pillars are people, sometimes we have to say goodbye when a new season comes along. But inevitably, within a healthy family of people, whether a business or organization, someone else will step in. Will become the new pillar. Will forsake notoriety and fame to build up and support something greater than themselves.

So here’s to the pillars. I see you. I am so thankful for you. May we all see the pillars in our lives, and give them the praise they are due.

A squishy, floaty, sturdy, heavy thing called Love

Only the things done in love matter.

Only the things done in love weigh enough to stamp eternity. Everything else just floats off the surface as vapor.

It’s not the act. It’s the intent.

Love might wear you out, but it doesn’t get tired that easily.

Love lets you be where you are right now, knowing you won’t always be here. It knows This too shall pass.

Love is lighter than gravity with a terrible memory for the bad stuff people do.

Love is more a grandmother and less a police officer.

Love doesn’t look down in vulnerable moments. It just looks you square in the eye. And it doesn’t flinch at all that you’re uncomfortable.

Love chuckles at the past, beams bright toward the future and sits perfectly content in this moment. Because its a pretty good one.

Love isn’t in a hurry, doesn’t wish it was somewhere else. Love can silence the phone and taste dinner.

Love likes itself, doesn’t wish it was someone else. Love takes good care of itself, but isn’t self-obsessed. Love doesn’t belittle itself because it doesn’t need your compliments. And it’s confident enough to care about you, to really listen, to squat down next to you in the dirt and feel all you feel.

Love looks past sour, crusty shells to warm, squishy insides. And knows just the words to safely let the guts out.

Love listens because the stories are the people, and the people always matter.

Love can tell you you’re wrong so kind you won’t feel the sting. You will just be grateful. 

Indeed, only the things done in love matter.

Jesus is love. If you don’t know him yet, introduce yourself.

I am Jesus’ awkward friend

In college, it was getting easy. I finally figured out how to make friends, not talk too much or make people feel uncomfortable around me. And aside from the tumultuous relationships and the general self-loathing, my relationship with God felt relatively sturdy too.

In the mornings, I propped up my pillow behind my head, then read, wrote, prayed, sang. I poured my dirty, little heart out. And Someone always welcomed me.

Fast forward a few years to a dream come true. I met a man, we dated for a year and a day, and then we married. I love marriage. But God and I aren’t friends like we used to be.

After we married, I went back to school. Then he took a pastoring job. Then we bought a house, birthed a kid, and flung ourselves into the modern whirlwind. I’m studying to be a pastor myself. And I am a working mother and writer.

I just haven’t figured out where God fits into all this ministry I’m doing.

Ironic, isn’t it?

I am so busy saving people from suicide and trying to stitch together failing marriages and regretting nights where I choose anything over playing with my son.

I stay up late and arise early. I pray for people on Sundays and throughout the week. I listen to God for total strangers and encourage them with the proof that he sees them. I use God’s word to guide my life. My life feels busy, quite spiritual, yet strangely empty.

It’s hard to find time to be with God himself. 

It’s easy to coast, to look the part, to impress people with stuff I know. But growing up in a Christian home, the kind where people spoke in tongues and prayed Scripture for prayers, I have an unfair advantage. I know exactly how to sound like I have my crap together.

But I don’t.

Some Sundays, I want to stand on the platform and apologize to everyone for being a fraud. But instead I go home and apologize to God. I tell him I want it to be different. But not much has changed.

The last time I remember feeling anxiously earnest for God and his presence, for Jesus himself, was May 2010. I was a few months pregnant. I was alone and suddenly felt this heavy fear I would burn out on Jesus if I didn’t get some fire around me, the hunger of other people who wanted God too. So I got a group of girls together and told them I needed women to burn with me. We called our meetings Burn Night, and that’s been the name ever since.

I have one friend here who loves God and wants him like I do. But we are both struggling with motherhood and life and where to schedule in time with a Guy who exists everywhere all the time, who knew what I would be thinking about last week, before I even thought it.

How does one be friends with Jesus?

I woke up this morning and realized that I feel awkward around Jesus now because I talk to him often, but it’s small talk, often about other people. It’s not good, quality time. Our friendship just isn’t what it used to be, and it’s my fault.

There is a wall of condemnation guarding heaven, and I just haven’t learned to push through. But I have to.

So today, I sat down and wrote. I told him I feel naked and vulnerable, and I’m worried he’s going to remind me of all my failure, and I will just sit here looking down and then try to leave and act right.

Weird. He has never done that before.

Then I reminded myself what Jesus said a long time ago: “No one can come to the Father unless the Father calls for her.”

I have no right to be here. No right to talk to him. No right to be his friend.

I may be attractive and well-spoken, and that usually works for me when I need someone to think I know what I’m talking about. But that doesn’t impress God. He sees right through the extra make up and the confident posture.

Drat.

So what impresses God? Some might say nothing. Some might say, “Being a good person”. But Jesus said we can’t come to God unless God calls us first. So we are pretty much screwed unless he initiates the conversation.

But has he? Will he? Does he?

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. And suddenly, he’s coming to me. I’m not the sad, little orphan outside of heaven. He’s the one at my door.

And the tables turn. I feel I’ve been discovered. But not in a rock star way. In a “I am so going to jail for this” way. I want to hide, but I’m getting called. He’s at my door! It’s what I wanted, right?

Hello, awkward.

I feel deeply uncomfortable because I so want to qualify myself. I want to earn love, to prove my worth with my talent and labor. I want God to be impressed with me. But he just doesn’t care about that because he’s not looking for good deeds.

He’s looking for people who just want to be with him. I mean, he has everything he needs. And if he needs some work done, the angels are more reliable.

He doesn’t want a work force. He wants friends.

I feel really awkward, like I’m going to start playing with my phone and not making eye contact, because I am not bringing anything to this dinner. All the stuff that I normally bring to a relationship doesn’t matter here.

And yet, I am pretty sure the level of my personal contentment and happiness come with making peace with the fact that I am not really bringing anything except myself. And that is good enough.

By showing up, I am saying, “I want to be here”, and it’s all I can offer God since the only thing he won’t touch is our free will. It’s my will saying “Yes” to him, to all the forgiveness and love and future he hands out, and the humility and love it takes for me to receive it is worth a lot to him. 

Well, that’s a relief. Cause that’s all I have.

How to feel like a good mom when you tuck yourself in

Motherhood is teaching me a lot about my human-hood. And it hurts.

I face off against the frayed and tasseled ends of my patience and goodness every time my voice shouts too loud, or when my son’s unexplainable need to fish in the toilet stirs up my ugly, unreasonable side.

I don’t like that girl I hear yelling at the barely three foot, tiny, blond with giant Precious Moment eyes. Who is that crazy, angry lady, and why does she yell at children? She sounds like someone I never wanted to be.

It’s so counter-intuitive because I work in social work, and as a result, my biggest mom fear is that I will put my son in therapy. But what is really crazy is that it is precisely my unfettered, out-of-control fear that causes my strongest, scariest reactions. The kind that could land him on the psychologists couch. If they still used them.

Sometimes my son’s childish ignorance or disrespect on repeat just push a button and suddenly, I’m terrified. Or furious. And there he is, my little baby who still wets his Pull-ups, taking 31+ years of anxiety and anger.

I feel so crappy that I am trying out my uneducated mothering on him. Surely all the rest of my kids, whenever they get here, will get a wiser version of me. But he gets this tired, cranky, impatient lady who forgets who she’s dealing with.

It’s not fair, to him or to me. And my heart can’t take many more nights of the ache and regret. As I tuck him in under his glow-in-the-dark stars, I’m desperate to make the most of those last moments of the day. Trying to make good memories for him so maybe he won’t remember me only with angry eyes.

It’s just that Mom Guilt, and the general sense that I suck at this mom gig, haunting me all the time. So when I came across Sarah Bessey’s practices of mothering the other day, it was like a life jolt. I realized I could intentionally parent, with help, and I could not only stop sucking at parenthood, I could actually enjoy it.

Because let’s be honest: it’s hard to enjoy something you’re bad at.

For the record, my like or dislike of parenting was never, ever about not liking my son. I’m wild about him. I just was not at all wild about my skills. It just felt like hopeless most days.

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My personal parenting goal is: to enjoy motherhood and say with confidence, “I am a good mom”.

But I needed hope. And some structure.

And thanks to two of my favorite bloggers, Sarah Bessey, and Lisa Jo Baker, I have some of both.

Tonight I am sharing Sarah Bessey’s practices of mothering, which I plan to intentionally fold into my living as a parent to my son. I will share some awesome insight from Lisa Jo about not yelling anymore, which I am so very excited to stop doing. That will come in a few days. (And if you can’t wait, you can visit her site and find the article early, if you must. But I will get to it. Promise.)

Here are Sarah’s mothering practices, which I love-love-love, and I think they will enlighten any parent, mom or dad. I have three here, and then I will redirect you to her site to read them all. So good.

The practice of speaking life.

I can’t get away from the truth that is this: Words Matter. The words that we speak about ourselves, about our children, about our life matter.

The practice of attachment.

Here’s why it helps me love mothering: attachment parenting works. … See, I want their hearts. I want their hearts so connected to mine and to my husband’s that the love between us will be stronger than any thing else that comes along. So, I do these “things” not because they make me a good mother but because they help me to capture their hearts. And once I have their hearts – and I do – I can lead and direct and train them with their full trust and confidence.

The practice of routine.

Sure, a routine makes sure that I can get done what I need to get done for myself and for my family, but it also helps me find room for those things that are truly life-giving like prayer, meditation, reading, being outside, writing, reaching out to friends and neighbours, helping others, advocating for others, being present in our community and so on. By establishing a loose routine, I enjoy motherhood more because it feels intentional and restful, simplified and life-giving for all of us.

Read the rest of Sarah’s inspired practices of mothering here.