Monday, June 22, 2015

We're Not Here Today

Today, if you haven't read this post already, please head over to what I wrote last Friday on another blog I frequent. Happy Monday! It's a topic too important to ignore. As I read this morning elsewhere, we could be at a moment of "see it or lose it" for the American church. Let's not lose it.

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Monday, June 15, 2015

SEE

I am blessed thrilled grateful-because-I’m-too-tired-to-eat-let-alone-write to have some fabulous ladies (and any gentlemen who are brave enough) guest blogging for me over the summer. Here is Andrea, a friend I met through Jen Hatmaker’s launch group for her upcoming book, For the Love. I love Andrea’s heart and good sense. I also love the theme of this piece, which is one of my themes for this year. 

Just. See.

Here's Andrea.


I ordered a personalized leather cuff from a friend recently. I'm not a leather cuff kind of gal, but I loved the look of one that she had in her portfolio. But the words she had on it didn't fit me. So she customized for me because well, I am special. 

I asked her to put the word "see" on it. Simple. Lower case. Just “see."

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. ~Psalm 34:8

My grandson has this “tasting and seeing” thing figured out.

Some of my favorite words lately are grace, peace, and hope but those all seem overused on jewelry so I wanted something different.

See...
See grace.
See peace.
See hope.
See love.
See brokenness.
See redemption.
See beauty.

See? It works.

Open up my heart eyes and see all that good God has for me.


I have come to the conclusion that I can see better when I take my shoes off.
Isn't it like us to keep our shoes on (aka heart closed off) and keep all things potentially painful at bay and not allow ourselves to see? Really see.

If we walk barefoot we might step on something painful or in something gross but it also means we FEEL!

We all have stories. Some of our stories are out there and some stay hidden until we're ready or until it's time. God is being so faithful to show me so many stories in people around me that I didn't see before. Even my own! I didn't take the time to see. And maybe didn't WANT to see.

What I'm figuring out is, and it's a molasses-slow process for this girl, is that God wants me to see what HE is doing all around me. His work, His Heaven. It surrounds me. Even in my hidden story and your hidden story. I only have to take my shoes off, open my heart eyes and SEE.


May I encourage you to take our shoes off for a little while today (either figuratively or literally)? And see.


About Andrea Stunz

I’ve been a wife for 26 years. My husband, Tommy, and I did some of our best work in our 3 amazing gifts from God. I’m a mother in law of 2 stellar humans beings and a Gimi of one adorable little dude. I’m a Christ-follower, a homemaker, a traveler, a seeker, a writer, a pilgrim. I love cooking and sharing good food with others who love good food. I take pictures that tell a story, my story, God’s story. An almost empty nester. A fellow struggler. A fellow stumbler. In need of God’s grace. Oh, and coffee. Grace and coffee. Then I’m good. Oh, and a sunrise. Grace, coffee and a sunrise. THEN I’m good. Oh, and my grandson. Grace, coffee, a sunrise and my grandson. … you get the picture. :) I have many favorite scriptures but my “go to” scripture which seems to encompass all I may be stumbling through or rejoicing in is always this: “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17

You can find more of Andrea’s stories over on her contributor blog, wwwemptyplatefullheart.com

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Letter To Me: What I Wish I Had Known about "Different" Kids (and parents)

We interrupt this series on the book 7 to bring you . . . something else.

The truth is, I don't have time to write The Things right now.  This means that 1) I also don't have time to clean the house right now, which means 2) I have nothing to purge from my life per the 7 book rules for June. I will get back to it. I promise. And maybe, I'll get back to cleaning the house, too. But, well, let's not go overboard.

So today, I am linking to  a post I did for a friend over at her fun blog called Mrs. Disciple. She is doing a series on letters we could write to ourselves at a younger age. Oh yes, all those things we wish we had known. All those things we wish we had done differently. All those things we know God has covered with grace anyway, in spite of us.

If you have been the parent of a special needs child, or you know one, you know. Those moms need special grace. They need some things I wish I had known all those years ago. I hope and pray that these small words might help just one be supplied with that encouragement.

So please, click on the post above. (It's the word "post." Or it's here again.) Enjoy, share, whatever. And have a great Monday.



Monday, June 1, 2015

Overboard: Jettisoning the Junk We Think We Need


My daughter and I have been embarking on a second round of Jen Hatmaker's book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. A more detailed explanation can be found here. And here. This is my weekly progress check in.


MAY 20-JUNE 20? We are getting rid of stuff. 
210 items, to be exact. 
Seven things, each and every day. 
Maybe I should post pics of what I actually still own that I definitely should not??


I am a hoarder. Not bad enough to get myself on a TV show that embarrasses my children to the third generation, but a hoarder, still. I keep stuff. Too much of it.

For example, the five pairs of great jeans I kept for years, because some day, they would fit again. You know what I'm saying here. I loved those jeans, and they had not gotten nearly enough wear before my size, ahem, changed.

Fast forward a while. I took them out last year, after having lost weight due to the celiac debacle. Tried them on, all excited to get to wear those fashionable things again. Guess what? They were huge. I saved those jeans for years, and they never, ever fit again. (Plus, the likelihood of them still being fashionable was . . . not.)

So why not give them away years ago, when they still were fashionable and someone else could have worn them? Because they were still perfectly good. The fact is, from cars to clothes to craft items, this family doesn't get rid of anything that still works. That's good. Usually.

But what about when it's not perfectly good for us? See, I've been asking the wrong question all this time when looking at something and deciding whether to give it away, throw it away, or keep it. My question has been, “Is it still good? Can I still use it?”

7 has taught me to look at it another way. To ask another question.

Is it still good for me? Will I still use it? 

Or—is it perfectly good in order to bless someone else who needs it? I can't let go of something, even something I will never use, if it still can be used. Even if it's a pair of jeans that was two sizes too small, and is now five sizes too big. How crazy is that?

It makes me ask other questions. What other things can't I let go of? If my hold on material stuff is so strong, how is my hold on other stuff? Intangible stuff that, like piles of unused clothes and craft materials, can strangle the life and sanity out of a person? Stuff that takes up too much mental space with my need to cling to it and defend my possession of it.

The need to be right.
      The need to defend myself.
The fear that someone else is doing better.
      The pursuit of safe work rather than the risks God wants.
Doing what's easy rather than what's necessary.
      The defense of my time.
The right to get angry.

Are there other things I can't let go of, even when it would bless others immeasurably if I jettisoned them ASAP?


I'm here to tell you, getting rid of stuff is freeing. My closet and my craft room and my sanity thank me. But I suspect that getting rid of mental junk is even better. I think I'm going to work on some questions to ask about that kind of stuff.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix
 your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4.8

Stay tuned.


Meanwhile, what mental junk might you need to toss over the side? Let's help each other.



Monday, May 25, 2015

To Whom Too Much Has Been Given

Some of the things that came out of that craft room.
Only some.
My daughter and I have been embarking on a second round of Jen Hatmaker's book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. A more detailed explanation can be found here. And here. This is my weekly progress check in.


For May20-June 20, the plan is to give seven things away. Every day. That's approximately 210 things just for me. This does not count the daughter. Or, potentially, the other daughter who is coming home from college this week and may want to join us. Or not. She probably feels deprived enough already having just spent the last year eating dorm cafeteria food. Still, she should read last month's conclusions on food, I guess.

OK, so you have to know, I started this giving away stuff long before the beginning of this month of Possessions. Like, over spring break, when I enlisted a friend of mine who had foolishly offered to help clean my craft room. She offered. I needed the drill sergeant to make me toss stuff. It was a match made in, well, second grade when our daughters became best friends.

We gave away/threw away five garbage bags of stuff. And trust me, that room is still full. I promised myself that a year from now, if I haven't used it, more is going to go. The girls are done with matchstick eiffel towers and unidentified clay creations. 4H years are over. Get a grip, mom. It's time.

Then the linen closet. At least ten old towels and various wash clothes donated to the wildlife center. Just in time for baby animal birthing. And I don't miss them at all. About seventeen sheets and pillowcases. Why? Why? I have no idea where some of these even came from or whose bed they ever graced. Out.

Next came clothes. Again, three huge bags of them. Losing 45 pounds does something to your wardrobe, namely, causes most of it to hang on you like a needy girlfriend. Not to mention expose parts of your underwear that are not, sorry ladies, for public view. Necklines that used to sit right just . . . don't now. So, out they all went. Yeah, are you ready? 60 pieces of clothing. And one winter coat. I am not done yet. Why do I have so many clothes? How can one person wear that much? When the washer was broken for a month, I still had enough clean shirts to wear every day—and that's just depressing. Yes, most of them are $5 Old Navy specials, but still. Who needs that much?

When someone has been given much, much will be 

required in return; and when someone has been entrusted

 with much, even more will be required.” (Luke 12.48)

I know, in context this is not talking about possessions, per se. But I think it is still applicable for those of us to whom so much has been given. I've not just been given things. I've been entrusted. Am I acting in ways worthy of God's trust? Do I think about my things in a way that makes Him glad He trusted me? I'm doubtful.


So now, after all that, we are starting the month of giving away seven things every day. You'd think I would be out of things to toss. Sadly, I am quite sure this won't even be difficult. The thing is, I want it to be difficult. I'm not sure how to really feel this one. But I am sure God will have it figured out. Time to listen. And toss. And give. I am excited.


After. So wish I had taken a before. You would have been
suitably appalled.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Four Weeks, Seven Foods, Still Alive


My daughter and I have been embarking on a second round of Jen Hatmaker's book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. A more detailed explanation can be found here. And here.

So here is the wrap of of month one, seven foods. Only. All. Month. For me, that means: chicken, fish, eggs, tomatoes, bananas, strawberries, and rice.

What a month of eating nothing but seven foods has taught me:

  • That it's still “me” appearing prominently in that sentence. How do we change that? I think this is key to the entire experiment.

  • That my whining about developing celiac disease and therefore no longer getting to eat (in approximate order of importance): Culver's fish sandwich, cheese curds, and flavor-of-the-day custard, crab rangoon, Cinnabon, shrimp tempura, Aunt Annie's pretzel sticks, etc. is exactly that. Whining. Poor me. 


Most of the world gets one choice for food. Rice. Or yams. Or mud cakes. Every. Stinking. Day. Get over it, self. But yes, I will probably still petition Culver's to make their custard celiac friendly. That's the least they could do for this formerly loyal customer.

  • That I can change the way I spend money on food. Yes, things are kind of tight around here, what with paying for school for (potentially) four people, one wedding, and one business buy in. It's a crazy time. But we get to do those things. We have a choice. We are fortunate. Do I dare try this experiment?


Love your neighbor as yourself.

Does that extend to what I spend at the grocery store? What if I loved my poor neighbors enough to spend as much on them as I do on me? Food banks, feeding programs, here I come. We can do this. We have to do this. There are starving people, and despite not being able to eat a cinnamon roll, I am not one of them.

  • That eating out is great fun and a nice break, especially for this “did someone say no cooking?!” girl. But I do it too much. Yeah, I did already know that. Not only will cutting down here free up the budget for giving, it will help the celiac. Because seriously, when a waiter responds to my request for gluten free options with “you want what free?," I am clearly in a danger zone anyway.


  • That I haven't felt this good in months, and I need to avoid the reentry binge on gluten free pies, brownies, and pasta. But most likely? I won't.


I am excited about this new idea. Cannot wait to try it and see what works and what doesn't. For now, moving on to the month of possessions. Getting rid of things. Yay! This is the month I have been waiting for. Stay tuned.


I'd love to hear if you are interested in making this journey, too.



Monday, May 11, 2015

My Choices Are Limited








The month of May. OK, April 20-May 20 to be exact, because we don't like to start projects when normal people would. Our month for eating only seven different foods. All month.

As a reminder, my daughter and I are embarking on a second round of Jen Hatmaker's book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. A more detailed explanation can be found here. And here. We are tired of excess. And we want to find our hidden caches of it that sneak up on us. Most of all, we want to find what God is saying in the searching.

The first month of this seven, we are concentrating on food. How many food choices do we typically have? How much does the average person waste? How many stinking times do I grab something out without even thinking once, let alone twice? How does that assumed abundance ultimately affect the expectations I believe for what I deserve?

And what if we self-limited our choices to just seven? How would that teach me something about the lives of others, and the life I believe I should get to keep?

Now, abundance of food choices has not really been an issue for me lately. In fact, in the past ten months, I've been what you might call “dietetically limited.” (I wasn't even sure dietetically was a word. But spellcheck does not deny me the pleasure.) After a virus that triggered a latent case of celiac disease, I have spent nearly a year unable to eat much food and unable to process most. It's been an experience.

Many people have gushed over how good I look. (I.e., no longer forty pounds overweight.) One of my dearest friends, who can always be counted on to be real, put it differently last week.

****
Friend: So, are you stabilizing now? Like, not losing any more weight? Because you look a little . . .

Me: Concentration camp chic?

Friend: No, that's not the way I'd put it. Exactly . . .

****
Yeah. So, too much food has not really been an issue.

In fact, I welcomed the chance to narrow it down to seven foods I know my body can work with. Maybe, by the end of a month, things would get a jump start back toward normal if I avoided anything that might upset the system. (Which is, well, just about anything.)

And I do feel better. Much better.

Which is why it's funny that I'm being a little bipolar about the whole 7 foods thing. One minute, I'm all “I could do this forever—I love how easy it is!” and ten minutes later it's more, “I would sell my firstborn child for the tiniest corner of a (gluten free) brownie!”

You can't please some people.

OK, so I wonder. The things about this month I rejoice in: 


  • The ease of shopping. (7 things. I don't even need a list.) 
  • The simplicity of meal prep. (A sliced tomato for dinner vegetable/fruit. Always. A banana and egg for lunch. Soooo easy.) 
  • The mindlessness of menu planning. (Chicken, fish, or fried rice for dinner tonight? And . . . a tomato.) 

These, to me, are huge bonuses. So much space in my refrigerator, schedule, and mental life is freed up.


But what about the people I'm supposed to be thinking about—the ones for whom this is every day? The ones who never get to think “what shall I cook today?” because the choice is always the same. If there is anything at all. The people who would consider my seven things a list so spectacularly varied and nutritious they could scarcely imagine eating off it all the time.

All those amazing lessons I'm supposed to learn from “depriving myself”? When I think about these people, it all seems so . . . so . . . still All. About. Me. 

Any conclusions I come away with still seem so minimal compared the the one huge conclusion that no matter what I take away, I will still be privileged compared to most of the other images of God on this planet. If I flat out starved myself, I would still be exercising a choice to do that, something so many do not have. The very fact that I have choices at all. And, that I am of (reasonably) sound mind and body to make them. Have you ever really thought about that??

So maybe that the lesson I'm taking away from month one? That my mere existence in this time and place puts me at an incalculable advantage no matter what. And what does that mean? Because surely God did not give me that gift to watch me say a (sort of) grateful grace at every meal and go on with life as usual.


I'm getting what Jen says in her book Interrupted: 

“I started hearing my gospel narrative through the ears of the Other, and a giant whole bunch of it didn’t even make sense. Some values and perspectives and promises I attributed to God’s own heart only worked in my context, and I’m no theologian, but surely that is problematic.

There is a biblical benchmark I now use. Here it is:

If it isn’t also true for a poor

 single Christian mom in 

Haiti, it isn’t true. Theology 

is either true everywhere or it isn’t true 

anywhere.”

I don't think a theology of “God thank you for all my blessings you've blessed me with, The End,” would make sense to that Haitian mom. I don't think she'd understand at all if I assumed I just have so much because He just loves me so stinkin' much. I'm incredibly adorable, after all. 

What would that be saying He thinks of her?

I think if she ever read Isaiah 58 or much of the gospels she'd wonder if I ever had.

I don't know where this is going to go. But I know I've got to ask the hard questions of why I have so many choices. And I know that when God starts getting us to ask why, anything can happen. 






Monday, May 4, 2015

Guilt, Gales, and Going Where the Wind Blows




I've been doing a lot of things lately with the potential to throw me under the guilt bus. Writing a sermon this week on “The Gospel for the Weak.” Reading Jen Hatmaker's Interrupted. Re-reading her book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. Seeing Baltimore. Can't really write this sermon without walking through Baltimore. Mentally. Going through all my summer clothes and realizing how many I have. Just after posting on Facebook that I have no summer clothes that fit and no money to buy any more. Both lies.

Ugh.

Now before you lecture me on the finer points of why we should not feel guilty (or why we should), please note that I have finally developed a pretty good sense of when guilt is from Satan and when it's conviction from God. I know the former is about as necessary to my life as putting tapioca pudding in the gas tank would be necessary for my car.

Yes, sometimes storms can be crazy.
But holy conviction is good. It's painful as heck, but it's good. At first, you feel constricted and buffeted, like a tornado is approaching, and you can feel the vacuum created before the storm. But then, giving in to the wind, you get lifted on it and taken to new places. Good places you didn't imagine gong before and aren't sure you would have gone on your own. Holy conviction is emancipating.

And that's what I'm feeling.

All this to say, my middle daughter and I have decided to go through the book 7 again. We did it as a family a few years ago. The premise of the book is that our lives are too full. Packed full. Full of things we don't need that suck the life out of us, not to mention the compassion. So sometimes, we need to take stock of those things and jettison large portions of them, at least for a time. One hopes, it becomes a way of life.


  • Food.
  • Clothes.
  • Possessions.
  • Media.
  • Waste.
  • Spending.
  • Stress.

These are the seven things we're going to, once again, narrow down in an attempt to focus our lives on . . . on what? Just having less? No, that would not be sustainable as a motivation. On feeling the “enoughness” of God. On growing closer to knowing His heart by cutting out the things that distract us from it. Things that we amass all around us that we don't realize are choking our spirits.

Because they feel so good.

I want to know, not just esoterically believe, that God is enough.  [tweet this]. Then, I want to let that hurricane wind blow me wherever it will in its holy conviction about what I own, or what owns me. About how I spend my time and money, or how it spends me. Sometimes, I am tired of being spent.  [tweet this].

Join me in going wherever the wind blows? I'm so ready.

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound.” (John 3.8)

This month, we're eating only seven things. That's correct. Seven things. For me, it's chicken, fish, eggs, tomatoes, bananas, rice, and strawberries. Limiting? Yes. But for a girl who hates cooking? Well, there are some perks there. We'll talk about it more.

Already, though, there is freedom. Shopping? A breeze. Cooking? No time at all. Focus on things other than how much food we have, how to use it up before it goes bad, what we “need” from the grocery store, and what to make that is at all interesting when I have about as much interest in cooking as I do in body piercing? None. No need to expend any energy on food. At All. I love it. What are we learning? How are we changing? Stay tuned.

You can read about the experiment in more depth here.

You can even purchase the book 7 here. Then, let's keep each other on track with encouragement and talk about what we're learning. At least, this month, I'm learning to cook chicken and eggs. A lot. (And asking myself the question--are they really the same thing? So, should they only count as one thing? This is important wrestling, people.)

Wind is crazy. And beautiful.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Love Means (Often) Having To Say I'm Sorry

Warning – incoming honesty missile. This may be TMI on my relationship with my husband, but here goes. Trust me, I'm not telling you anything he doesn't know.
Yes, that church is made of bullets.
And other violent-type stuff.

The biggest issue I am having with my dear spouse right now is that sometimes, I just want an apology. You know, when you mention something that bugged you, or something that didn't get done that was promised? And the response is, “But I . . .” “Well I did that because . . .” or “If you hadn't . . .”

I really, really hate that response. Here is the truth of our conflict. I don't need to be right. I don't require a lifetime commitment to change. I just desperately want to hear “I'm sorry,” with no excuses. I want to know my concerns and needs have been heard.

Defensiveness makes me crazy. (Plus, I am really good at it.)

Hearing words that immediately defend, justify, or condescend does things to a human soul. Words and actions of defensiveness shut down all potential communication. Any relationship that may have developed dies. They say, “I don't want to hear your heart.” “Your experience is invalid.” “My need to be right outvalues your need to be recognized.”

Imagine actually saying those things to another human being.

Yet that is exactly what a lot of us church people do. We don't use those precise words, but we might as well. What is true for us interpersonally in our closest relationships is true in all relationships – when we put up our defenses first, we lose all possibility of hearing another person's heart. When we refuse to hear, we refuse to be the image of God we were created to be.

Because God is all about seeing and hearing. Always.

God is given the name “The God who sees” almost from the beginning (Genesis 16). in the same verses, He declares that he is also the God who hears. From the very first covenant with His people, God sets himself up as the One who sees and hears his people. And for God, these are active verbs. They mean to deeply see, to recognize, to delve for need and hope and hurt and to provide for their remedy.

God is not the spouse who nods and assents, “Yep, I hear you,” all the while checking text messages and Buzzfeed. God is the one who looks you in the eye and sits until it's all out there, vulnerable and raw, and then begins to heal. That's his version of hearing.

How good are we at that?

  • Jesus saw the woman at the well's thirst, when no one, never mind Jewish men who were not “supposed” to see her, would look her way.
  • Peter heard Cornelius' faith when by law he should not have stepped into his house.
  • God saw a lonely, homeless, hopeless single parent when those responsible for her refused to take responsibility.
  • Jesus saw Zaccheus' shame when his neighbors overlooked and despised him.
  • God heard Hannah's pleas when no one listened to a woman in pain.


We must see and hear, too.

In all the sins that have been recently cast on the church, deserved or not, the common denominator seems to be this defensiveness. We are so busy defending ourselves, we forget that Jesus never told us to do that.

In this world you will have trouble.

But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you.

“If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.
“Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. (Luke 6.27-36)

It seems Jesus told us, repeatedly, to do quite the opposite of defending ourselves. But still, we don't get it.

I understand. It's so counterintuitive to what we believe. All that we've been told. Everything that screams the American way. We've been immersed in a culture of rights, independence, and individualism our entire lives. We equate it with “right” naturally, because it's all we've ever known. That's what all people everywhere do. Humans see what is as what should be, because no one else's reality has ever been part of their experience.

Unfortunately, that means white, (usually male), American Christians most often see the status quo that retains their position as what is right. It is what has always been. How would we know any different?

The only way to know is to listen. To hear. To see. To look someone else in the eye and say, “I want to know what your experience is. And I want to keep my mouth shut while you tell me.”

I know this is true because it's true in my own house. And human relationships are all basically the same. We just want to be heard.

In the last few months, how many issues have drawn the defensive shots of Christians?

*Millennials are leaving the church? Well, they just want a watered down gospel. They're looking for weak truth, and we aren't compromising.

*Gay people want wedding cakes or photos? They're targeting and persecuting us for our beliefs.

*People of color still believe white privilege exists? They're delusional hoodlums.

*Christians should be accountable for their historic atrocities? How dare anyone suggest that? We don't go around starting holy wars or abducting people and enslaving them. Now.

Here's a radical response: What if all many of these people really want is to be heard?

What if they're not saying Christians today are responsible for it all? What if they're not demanding we find a solution? What if they're not insisting we agree? What if they don't need a lifelong commitment to change our ways but simply a recognition that this is their experience? And it's worth hearing?

What if my knee-jerk reaction was not to defend my way of life but to be the image-bearer of God, to be the eyes and ears of the One who sees and hears?

You are someone worth listening to. My need to be right does not outvalue your need to be recognized. I see you as a fellow image of God. And however flawed we both may be, the one thing I must commit to is “acting as a child of the Most High, and being compassionate, just as (my) Father is compassionate.”


Acting as His child is irrevocably linked to acting with compassion. Jesus would not separate them, and He did not put my rights above that command. if I find one thing necessary to defend, that could be it.




Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Searching for Sunday -- Why So Many Are Looking and Why Evangelicals Needs to Listen


“Wrapped now in flesh, the God who once hovered over the waters 
was plunged beneath them at the hands of a 
wild-eyed wilderness preacher.”

She got me at the beginning with the sheer beauty of that sentence and never let go. Rachel Held Evans, in her new book Searching for Sunday (out today), calls the church to regain its sacredness, passion, and yes, even its weirdness. As an evangelical who dearly loves my tradition and (usually) its people but has her eyes wide open to its harmful aspects, I breathed this book in. I live her frustrations and her passions about the church.

I don't always agree with Ms. Evans. But I always love her humor, her willingness to “go there” on tough issues, and her heart for God. This book is no exception.

This book is above all a call to listen to, respect, forgive, and love beyond all of our abilities and even preferences for the greater reason that there is a Kingdom at stake, and we are spending too much of our time arguing over who should be in it and far too little making it look like Jesus.

We spend a lot of energy, time, and research in pinpointing why younger generations are leaving the evangelical church. I know I do. It's a writing project I'm working on now, plus a topic dear to me as the mother of three in that generation and a former high school teacher with an unaccountable enjoyment of young adults. Yet the church tends to get defensive whenever someone actually tells them the truth about they 'whys' we wring our hands over.

Ms. Evans tells the truth. Her voice speaks for thousands who are feeling the same doubts, concerns, and fears but who simply leave without voicing them. Of course, “simply” is a poor word choice, because that decision is often anguished, never simple.

An excerpt of that truth in her own words:

“I was recently asked to explain to three thousand evangelical youth workers gathered together for a conference in Nashville, Tennessee, why millennials like me are leaving the church.

I told them we’re tired of the culture wars, tired of Christianity getting entangled with party politics and power. Millennials want to be known for what we’re for, I said, not just what we’re against. We don’t want to choose between science and religion or between our intellectual integrity and our faith. Instead, we long for our churches to be safe places to doubt, to ask questions, and to tell the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable. We want to talk about the tough stuff—biblical interpretation, religious pluralism, sexuality, racial reconciliation, and social justice—but without predetermined conclusions or simplistic answers. We want to bring our whole selves through the church doors, without leaving our hearts and minds behind, without wearing a mask.

Millennials aren’t looking for a hipper Christianity, I said. We’re looking for a truer Christianity, a more authentic Christianity. Like every generation before ours and every generation after, we’re looking for Jesus—the same Jesus who can be found in the strange places he’s always been found: in bread, in wine, in baptism, in the Word, in suffering, in community, and among the least of these.”

To flesh this out, she discerns our sacred need through themes such as baptism, communion, confession, and marriage. In each section, she poetically, theologically, and compassionately examines why we find these sacraments meaningful. What attracts Christians through the millennia to these same rites, these same words, these marks of Christ in life?

And how can we come to them trying to bring reconciliation and renewal to a church that desperately needs to see and hear those who don't feel welcome in its doors?

In the chapters on baptism, for example, I love the bottom line truth of what it stands for that we can and should all agree on, whether or not we agree on dunking, sprinkling, or just about anything else.

“Baptism declares that God is in the business of bringing dead things back to life, so if you want in on God’s business, you better prepare to follow God to all the rock-bottom, scorched-earth, dead- on-arrival corners of this world—including those in your own heart—because that’s where God works, that’s where God gardens.

In the ritual of baptism, our ancestors acted out the bizarre truth of the Christian identity: We are people who stand totally exposed before evil and death and declare them powerless against love.
There’s nothing normal about that.”

The book is a cry to the church to stop trying to fix people or give them checklists to make them 'OK' before God (and more importantly, before us). It's a call to come beside people and hear their faith cries. It's a passionate request to be with God being with people, not over them.

Searching for Sunday should be read by anyone in ministry, and there are many definitions of that, whether or not the reader is an Evans fan. In fact, I'd say especially if not. If a person truly wants to be a minister, he or she needs to delve into the truths of how the next generation (and many above it) are feeling about church and all its baggage. We dare not ignore the warnings that people are giving up on the institutional church (and their faith). We cannot pretend the reasons behind it have no basis – not if we say we are people of the Word who speak and believe the Word. We need to have the courage to listen.


Searching for Sunday is an informative and beautiful step in doing that.

I have been privileged to be on the launch team for Searching for Sunday, and I am lucky enough to have read its words before everyone else. But now -- you no longer have to wait.

Find it on Amazon now.