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Celebrate with Me

July 7, 2015 — 6 Comments

Celebrate with Me!

No, I’m not having another baby. Gotta clear that up right away, because heaven help us.

You’ve probably heard me mention here & there that I am a part of the 500 member launch team for Jen Hatmaker’s New Book, For The LoveIn May, I briefly wrote about it in For The Love of Audacious Prayers. In that post I referenced a few things were sorta big deals. Okay, big deals for a gal whose hobbies include shopping for belts and avoiding nature at all costs.

Anywho, turns out I really, really enjoyed the advanced copy of book (thank heavens! wouldn’t that rot if you were supposed to be promoting a book and you think it sucked? shew.) One of the perks of being on the LT was the opportunity to submit a genuine (pronounced JEN-U-WINE, thank you very much) endorsement that may or may not appear in the book.

Outta 400 submissions only 20 got chosen and mine is one of them! Not only that, it’s the 2nd one on the inside cover! What the what?!?!?! Cue the girlyest, goofiest, giddiest snaughter – snort/laughter – you can think of. That’s exactly how I acted when I found out my endorsement got chosen to be in the actual, literal book. And finally I can share with you what I wrote, as if it’s going to end world hunger or something…

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Obviously, I was given a revelation from heaven.

This is only a snippet that fits in the book. My full online endorsement reads…

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{Also the way I’m acting you’d think I’d written the book myself. Geez. Y’all pray for my humanity.}

If you go to Jen’s website you can see all 400 of the real-talk, real-women endorsements. They just wouldn’t all fit in the book, but they are delightful & I hope at least a few will resonate with you enough that you’ll go buy it.*

You know what’s great about this Launch Team, it’s not all about me. It’s not even all about Jen. Y’all it’s about loving Jesus & loving each other & doing life together without fear of being who I AM created to be! It’s okay that I’m celebrating the fact that my endorsement’s in the book. The rest of the LT is celebrating it too – there’s no jealousy, no ‘poor me’, no ‘I’m chopped liver’ attitudes. It’s just all love. All the time. I don’t even understand how, but it is.

We are a very diverse group from all different backgrounds & religions & cultures. The book has brought this group of 500 weirdos (I mean this with the most sincerest of loves) together and caused us to reflect & let Christ’s love flow through us. I pray that you are able to get a copy of the book when it drops on August 18th and that it has the same impact on you.

In fact, you don’t even have to wait til August 18th. Stop the presses.

I’m as serious as a squirrel is about his nuts.

*You can go to this link, order a copy, or 5 or 10 before July 15th and get all sorts of freebies.

**PRE-ORDER HERE & NOW Jen Hatmaker’s New Book, For The Love**

The best freebie is the FREE IMMEDIATE FULL PDF DOWNLOAD OF THE ENTIRE BOOK! So stop reading this & go get your book… For The Love! Then we can actually discuss it and I can stop being all 007 secret-agent like when I talk to you about it. We can snaughter together like good friends should.

Thanks for celebrating with me!

Shine On!

Danielle 

Not that long ago I wrote 10 Surefire Ways To Be A Christian A-hole. Yes, I did. If you read it, you’ll see I’m very aware of my own shortcomings. Such is the case here. I’m not the perfect friend, which is how I so easily came up with this list in the first place! So read on… with sarcastic non-judgmental eyes. Yes, that’s a thing.

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 1.08.24 AMSo, how about you? Looking to lose a good friend? Herein lies 10 surefire ways to make it happen! You’re welcome! Also, satire, people, satire. #lightenup 

1. Gossip to her & about her.  Tell her what’s wrong with all your other friends. Tell others what’s wrong with her. Ugh. She can be SO annoying because she’s SO nice. All the time. Play mind games. Girls love this stuff. I mean, she’s such a ‘goodie-goodie’ she certainly won’t tell anybody & you can get it the juice details off your chest. Shew! You already feel better, don’t ya?

2. Don’t return messages. Like ever. Everybody slips up ‘once in a while’, and this friend of yours totally knows that you got her text – why should you have to actually respond? And she knows you. She no longer expects to you respond, right? Not everybody can be Miss Congeniality or Polly McPlannerstein. You’re playing Level 725 on Candy Crush – the girl can WAIT!

3. Forget her big day.  You’ve gotten so caught up in school, work & Pinterest that you just completely slipped up. Rats! Rather than admitting that you screwed up though, just go ahead and pretend the big day didn’t really exist next time you see her and well, talk about…

4. Only talk about yourself. What you did last night. How stressed you are about your future. Where you’re going on vacation & how you just like totally have to get rid of these tan lines before hitting the beach. All the foods you can & can’t eat now that you are gluten, dairy, GMO, lactose, and flavor free. Oh, and you just must have a sounding board for your relationship issues. She is SUCH a great listener!!! (and between you & me, her life must be boring because she like never talks about it! Go figure!)

5. Cancel plans. Regularly. I mean, hey, you’re a busy, spontaneous kind of girl! She needs to just understand that sometimes things are gonna get in the way of your friendship & you might just have something better to do. She’s your friend, she knows you’re a flight risk, so she’ll get over it. Again.

6. Lie. Lie because like Tom Cruise she can’t handle the truth, even though she’s asking for an honest answer. You know her better than she knows herself, right?

7. Send her on a guilt trip. Be sure to call her names, cry actual tears if you have to, but THIS TIME she needs to know what an awful person she is for not doing what you wanted her to do. Give her a taste of her own medicine. That’s right, teach her a lesson. Haven’t heard from her when you thought she should call/text you? Didn’t like her opinion? Definitely let her know how hurt you are by screaming at her.

{word of wisdom because I can’t help myself: if you want your friend to talk to you when you’re struggling, swallow your pride & CALL HER YOURSELF! Actually SAY the words, “Girlfriend, I need you right now, like, for real.” Then if she doesn’t respond – see Point #2 – you’ll know she’s just really not into this relationship or is very possibly going through her own crisis. Remember to give the grace you want her to give to you. Nobody likes a relationship where you have to jump through invisible, constantly twirling hoops to maintain it. Also, don’t be a meanie when you don’t get her attention. It will backfire. Backfire is never a good thing.}

9. Don’t compliment her, for heaven’s sake. Sure she’s down on herself, but complimenting her outfit (that you secretly adore & know would look better on you) will go to her head & she’ll probably become all stuck on herself and forget you exist. Definitely keep compliments to yourself.

8. Give her the silent treatment. Make her wonder why she doesn’t deserve your attention. If she doesn’t know, she should! Ignoring her at the party will certainly help her figure it out. Duh.

10. Never say I’m sorry. In fact, don’t admit that you had any part in hurting her, even when she says you did because it’s just her insecurities. Tell her to suck it up, buttercup. Life’s hard.

So do you agree with this list? What would you add?

We all know there comes a point where friends just grow apart, have different interests, different schedules, etc. Do your best, however, when you do see each other, to pick up where you left off. It doesn’t have to be complicated!  Just enjoy each other’s company, for the love. If both of you can do this, you’ve got yourself one heck of a friend and you should tell them so!

Shine On! {and go hug a friend}

Danielle

 

I could not have said this better myself. These words need to be read (& heeded) not only by Evangelical Christians but Christ-followers all across America. Thank you Ed Cyzewski for this call to action & anthem of freedom. A fantastic way to put our compassion into action is through The Legacy Collective, a non-profit started by Brandon & Jen Hatmaker which is a new kind of Giving Community focused on partnering, pioneering, and funding sustainable solutions to systemic social issues locally & globally. It’s sort of brilliant.

 

The Supreme Court Just Gave American Evangelicals a Gift

 

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Evangelicals are tenacious, persistent, and driven when they want to fight for a cause. The problem is that American evangelicals have been swept up in fighting for the wrong cause for a long time.

When the Supreme Court ruled to make same sex marriage the law of the land, American evangelicals received a gift that many don’t want: official permission to fight for people in need instead of fighting against same sex marriage.

Whatever you believe about same sex marriage, the role of government, and the future of the church in America, disagreeing with same sex marriage on moral grounds does not demand a public campaign to prevent it from becoming legally sanctioned. While I remain committed to creating room for affirming and non-affirming evangelicals who unite under the common banner of saving faith in Christ, evangelicals in America should have never made legalized same sex marriage a central moral issue to fight in the courts.

While I don’t believe Matthew 25 is exhaustive in its presentation of what matters to God, we do get a glimpse of the kinds of people who have internalized and lived out the message of Jesus. They work to alleviate the most pressing needs of others in our world.

That isn’t a call to relativize our sexual standards. Rather, I see Jesus pointing us toward the issues that pertain to the most basic aspects of human dignity: food, shelter, clothing, justice, and sickness:

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,

I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,

I was a stranger and you invited me in, 

I needed clothes and you clothed me, 

I was sick and you looked after me,

I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

We can disagree all day about same sex marriage. Heck, the majority of evangelicals will most likely continue to disagree about this issue for another 20 years until the millennials take their place in church leadership.

However, there’s no denying that millions of people around the world are suffering significantly, and Jesus wants us to focus our energies on serving them. If there was ever a group of people who should give a damn about children dying of hunger, deeply wounded people suffering in prison, and thousands upon thousands of refugees fleeing unprecedented violence in the Middle East, it should be American evangelicals.

It’s not like these massive global needs are a secret:

Over 49 million Americans and 870 million people overall in the world are going hungry (source).

750 million people worldwide lack access to clean water, leading to diseases that disproportionately kill children under age 5 who are unable to fight bacteria (source 1,source 2)

The U.S. prison system incarcerates over 2.3 million people, including a disproportionate number of African Americans (source).

Over 100 million Christians around the world face severe persecution, including the believers living in refugee camps after fleeing Syria and Iraq (source).

Over 500,000 Americans are homeless (source), but worldwide an estimated 1 billion people are living in housing that is inadequate (source).

If you care about preventing terrible things like human trafficking, rape, forced prostitution, and child soldiers, partnering with groups that empower communities to meet these basic needs will go a long way in keeping potential victims safe, healthy, and in control of their own lives.

Declarations about the collapse of civilization because of same sex marriage ring hollow when we consider that Americans toss 31.1% of our food while allowing millions to go hungry, fail to ask whether our ridiculously high incarceration rates ruin thousands of lives that could have been set right through treatment programs, and Christians in the Middle East have to flee their villages after ISIS invades, steals their women and children, and threatens to kill anyone who refuses to convert.

If God is going to condemn us over anything in America, it’s going to be our indifference and inaction when it comes to feeding people, giving out clean water, offering shelter, visiting the sick, and helping the prisoners, not a Supreme Court ruling.

It boggles the mind that evangelicals in America have long seen this ruling coming, but we have fought tooth and nail in what many suspected to be a losing cause. So many millions of dollars and hours were tossed into legal battles that were a long shot at best.

And yet, we have always had financial resources, competent charities, and passionate workers who are more than willing to travel to the ends of the earth to fulfill the very words of Jesus. If we collectively gave these most basic causes just a fraction of the time and energy that we had devoted to fighting same sex marriage, who knows how many thousands or millions of lives could have been saved.

We have been given a gift: The Supreme Court ruling means we can stop throwing our time and money into fighting same sex marriage and fulfill the words of Matthew 25.

We need not lament, lick our wounds, or bemoan the “terrible” world that our grandchildren will inherit. For millions of people around the world and even in our own neighborhoods, the worst has already happened and will continue to happen.

We need not wave the white flag of surrender on same sex marriage and pray for God’s mercy. If we’re going to take the words of Jesus seriously, know this:

God’s judgment has been upon us long before a single state allowed same sex marriage.

God’s judgment came upon us when we left people hungry, thirsty, sick, unclothed, and alone.

It’s time to stop blaming the court system. If we disagree on same sex marriage, that is our right. That doesn’t change the call of Jesus for his followers, especially American evangelicals at this time. We have our marching orders. We shouldn’t act surprised at who we’re called to serve.

We aren’t called to fight against someone. We aren’t called to litigation.

We are called to fight for everyone—especially those suffering in the most basic ways.

The longer we engage in legal fights against same sex marriage, the more apparent it becomes that we’d rather throw ourselves into any losing cause than obey the most basic commands of Jesus.

Let’s take our tenacity, energy, and resources and throw them into serving the people who are suffering the most in this world.

We may even hear the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant,” one day.

I’m a bit giddy over this guest blogger, y’all. I sorta have a blogger-crush on her. Andrea & I have become fast friends through the Launch Team for Jen Hatmaker’s new book, For The Love, coming out in August. We are thoroughly enjoying all aspects of this journey within the Launch Team of 496 gals & 4 guys we call the #bandoffour (bless ’em, Lord for they are indeed strong, secure men!). I’ll be talking more about all that on another post. But for now, read this incredibly insightful, inclusive & sincere post that had me saying, “ABSOLUTELY, GIRL, AMEN!” a few times. Thank you Andrea! Shine On! 

hypocrite

This morning I woke up in sort of a panic. I usually have my best ideas, most important thoughts or take care of unfinished brain business from the night before right as I wake up. This morning the unfinished brain business panicked me a little.

I started this blog just a few days ago and am feeling a bit insecure about it all. I’m writing stuff here that I know is true, but I woke up wondering if I really believe it… if I really live it. You know those people you live with who really see you ALL the time and then read what you write or listen to what you say and shake their heads wondering who you are because you’re not the same person they know? You know those people?

Well, that’s how I felt this morning. Like a big ol’ smeared mascara-eyed, bed-headed hypocrite. Because… well… I am one. So I felt like I needed to put this out there for anyone reading. Well, if anyone is reading, I try not to write what I don’t live out or at least try really hard to live out. I try to tell a part of my story, what’s going on inside of me, and it not seem like I have it together and or know it all because I certainly don’t. Just ask the people I live with. They’ll be happy to tell you I don’t have it all together. On second thought, maybe don’t ask them… just take my word for it.

I’m a professional mask wearer at times and in certain situations. I rarely let my guard down. My vulnerability braveness level is incredibly low. I’m a perfectionist in a lot of areas and wearing my mask is one I quite competently excel at with very little effort. Most of us do. Isn’t that what a hypocrite is? The word hypocrite comes partly from the Greek word, hypokritḗs, referring to a stage actor, hence one who pretends to be what she is not. Oh, did I step on some toes there? Yeah, mine hurt too.

A former pastor, who shepherded us so well in our early years and who we still love dearly, has given us some of our best quotes and sayings over the years. One time he was preaching about being called a hypocrite and he boldly said in his Texan accent, “Well, we’re all hypocrites! And I’d rather be in heaven with ’em than in hell with ’em!”

Let’s face it (pun intended), we’re all hypocrites. It’s a human condition for which there is no cure this side of heaven. Thank you, Eve… We’re all fig leaf wearin’ fakes. Hiding behind something. Not wanting to be seen or fully known. But wanting so desperately to be seen and fully known at the same time. Yeah, thank you, Eve… Some of us have our masks plastered on so tight that it would take a high-pressure power washer to get it off. So… if we’re going to do it, let’s do it together. Let’s be hypocrites together, shall we? Authentic, call it like we see it, mask wearin’ hypocrites.

But let’s at least be hypocrites who try. Hypocrites who love other hypocrites. Hypocrites who love Jesus. Kind hypocrites… always kind! I’ll write what’s on my heart. It will all be as true as I know it to be. I will try to live it out as best as I can and I hope that you will too. If you catch me being a hypocrite, point it out to me in love but expect that I’ll do the same for you because after all, it takes one to know one. Oops… did I get your toes again?

On wearing masks… I recently started reading a book by Jamie George, Love Well. He wrote this in the introduction,

“Stuck, unsure, and without direction, we live out a masquerade, hoping desperately that someone will love us and accept us when we pull the mask off.

Until we tell the story of the mask, we will never take it off.

Until we find someone who is fully present, who listens to understand, we will keep hiding.

When we tell our stories, and when we are truly heard, we begin to clean out the compost of our souls. We then begin a journey of subtraction. We courageously begin to take off the emotional armor that we have collected until we can find childlike wonder again.”  ~Love Well, Jamie George 

If we are going to be hypocrites, if we are going to wear masks, then we are still better together. But let’s also work towards pulling them off. Together. Let’s empty our plates and tell our stories. I think, no I know, that there are hearts out there that need a fill-up. I know this because mine is one of them.

Empty. Fill. Repeat.

~Andrea

Please read more from Andrea here —> Empty Plate Full Heart

In light of recent public events surrounding the Duggar family, I encourage you to also read this beautiful, gracious post by Andrea’s daughter. These girls can WRITE! —> Grace and Social Media

 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one. Romans 3:10

andreastunzI’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 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

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 10.50.45 PMLots of heavy, heavy talk in the Christian blogosphere this week. Rather than weighing in on all the drama, of which I have no business pretending I know the answers, I’ll use this little blog to put something light-hearted in your newsfeed. Come along with me down a little path we’ll call ‘For The Love.’ Stay with me, we’re skipping along the path at break-neck speed.

Several months ago, a thought just popped into my head. Like, out of nowhere!

Most of the time, I think it’s the Lord doing the popping, except for maybe that time I listened to the popping thought and ended up accidentally drunk at a Hibachi Steakhouse because the entertaining chef, whom I thought was shooting a ketchup-like bottle of water into my mouth was actually filling me with POISON (also known as Sake!) Holy Moses, Grammar Nazis, yes I KNOW that was a Guinness level run-on sentence! Heel. A couple ‘shots’ later and this never-had-a-sip-of-alcohol girl was blurting out ‘why does my fork feel so heavy???’ and crying because well, I’m an idiot.

Whoa there, Sloshed Sally. That was indeed a rabbit trail. Back on the “For The Love’ Path.

A few months back, a SMART thought popped into my head. I was reminded about a guy named Jabez. No, he’s NOT an old boyfriend, but a guy from the Bible (OT) who was born to fail. I mean, his mom decided to name him ‘Pain & Sorrow’. Let’s just say he didn’t have a lot of hope toward becoming a happy-go-lucky, successful, trusted guy. Imagine introducing yourself to the ladies, ‘Hey girl, my name is Pain N. Sorrow {get it?}. Wanna go out to pasture with me?’ I’m sure his dating life suffered. Thanks a LOT, Mom.

But you know what he had besides a super sad name? He had boldness. He had AUDACITY! So much audacity, he prayed to the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob. With incredible faith, he prayed against his birth name,

Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, ‘Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain {not cause pain}.’ And God granted his request.” 1 Chr. 4:10,NIV

I remember when the The Prayer of Jabez became really popular among the Christian community around the turn of the century. The premise was wonderful, but soon it was everywhere… on books, bracelets, flannel boards, and baby onesies… It became the Genie-in-a-bottle prayer. ‘If I stand on my head and simultaneously repeat this prayer 245 times a day, God will HAVE to hear me and BLESS ME INDEED with everything I ever wanted… I mean so I can turn around and give it back to God’s people, of course… and maybe even some to the helpless orphans in Africa.’

I’ve been a Christ-follower for a long time now. Oh about 40 years, give or take the 10 months I was in the womb… #sarcasm {I have to hashtag that because sometimes people take the things I say way too seriously. sometimes.} Anyhow, I get weary when the Body of Christ overuse a verse. It usually is taken out of context & used for self-gain. I had long put the Prayer of Jabez out of my memory.

When I re-read it this time, I saw Jabez with fresh eyes. You guys, he just wanted to please the Lord and BE A BLESSING. And you know what, it’s hard to be a blessing when everyone thinks you’re a doof, and you feel like you have no voice because you’ve been labeled a doof since before you were even born.

I found the balance between the Genie-in-a-bottle prayer & dismissing the guy completely. And as I studied about Jabez, I fell in love with him and his heart. I began seeing him as a man with audacity & strength of character & as a man who wanted to glorify God. There was NOTHING selfish about him! He wanted to know God & make Him known.

Guess what? Me too. I’ve found myself scared of success, scared of telling people my experiences with the Lord, as if I have any right to think I know God’s heart better than the next guy. I don’t ever want to give pride a foot in the door. I stopped worrying so much and decided it’s okay to pray, believing God can and will enlarge my territory of influence, to keep me from harm to myself and to others. I prayed He would expand my desire to bring Him glory and bless me to be a blessing, whatever form that would take.

I began praying this prayer on March 7th. I know because it’s in my prayer journal. 

No joke, three days later my territory got expanded big time. Jen Hatmaker is an author, speaker and crazy-funny person. She has a new book coming out on August 18th called ‘For The Love’. GO PRE-ORDER IT!!! Over 5,000 people applied to be a part of the Launch Team. Only 10% got in and to my utter shock, I’m one of them! You may have heard me shouting it from the rooftops. I received an early copy of the book and it’s such a refreshing mix of down-to-earth comedy & heavenly encouragement. I was greatly relieved when I actually liked it. It’d stink to promote a book if it was no good. #bless

11062554_10205996882788713_8839148486045733658_nThis Launch Team has its own Facebook Group, of which Jen actually gets involved in the conversations that range from religion & parenting to crotchless yoga pants. (oh Lord, don’t google it! CYP are simply maxi skirts. Seriously don’t google it. Trust me. I may have had one of those ‘thoughts-popped-into-my-head’ moments that ended in horror & the need for a shower.)

*Jen has casually invited all 500 of us to her Texas farmhouse for a Launch Party. Also she’s nuts. But this means we’re BFFs now. What else do BFFs do besides get together to giggle & wear matching clothes? So that’s what we’re gonna do. Our T-shirts, designed by my amazing SIL, Melissa will be arriving in the mail in a few weeks! {Insert giddy girl scream!}

*We’ve also been given the chance to enter an endorsement for the book. I have it on good authority that mine has been chosen and will be IN the book!!! I can’t tell you what I said and it’s CRUSHING ME!!!! AHHHHHGGGGG!!!!

~~~~~

Okay, so I shared that story because God has indeed expanded my territory and given me a bit of a new sphere to experience His grace through, of which I’m learning so much! Though I’m not allowed to share content yet, the book, For The Love is all about fighting for grace in a world of impossible standards.

Right up my alley, because like Jabez, I’ve never quite measured up to what I thought I needed to. I’ve always been so hard on myself. Thank God, because of His grace, I don’t have to! I can keep right on being me – my accidentally-drunk, sometimes flighty, run-on-writing self. God is so good like that. He takes our labels, our mess & turns it into a beautiful grace-filled path, if we’ll trust Him enough to just keep walking.

Today I encourage you to pray audacious prayers, like Jabez – that seem beyond what you could fathom.  You just never know what path they may lead you on & who will be encouraged by your journey! #ForTheLove

Shine On!

Danielle

*Read these paragraphs using your best Valley-Girl voice! Seriously, it’s like TOTs better! Also GO BUY THE BOOK!!, it’s like TOTs better than this blog!

 

 

 

writing & photo by Mike Brower

photo by Mike Brower

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)

Do these words describe you?

Tired.

Worn out.

Burned out on religion.

It just comes natural to most of us to worry, strive & stress. These words in Matthew have been shared with the tired & worn multitudes of times.

But what about those ‘burned out on religion’. Religion in & of itself (rituals, routines, rules within an organized religious setting) can be a heavy burden to bear when they are without the living knowledge of the great grace of God.

There are some fantastic religious settings (churches) where the three R’s (rituals, routines, rules) are beautifully lived out not in spite of but because of the grace of God. However, I would venture to guess many of us have found ourselves burned out on religion when…

…going to church starts feeling like a duty instead of a privilege.

…Bible studies feel like science class, instead of the inspired Word of God.

…we hide our pain because the last time we opened up we were told, ‘You just need to have faith.’

…we feel shamed and/or rejected by religious leaders whom we had once trusted to lead us toward God.

Your story may be different. But this is mine.

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Call me a non-conformist. Call me deceived. Call me brainwashed by the world.

But I know what I experience on a daily basis with the Lord…

Before I could recover from my religious burn out, I had to step back from organized religion for a while. I got so involved in the culture of church, I lost perspective on what it meant to be a child of God.

More than a decade ago I had been in a church bubble for so long that I didn’t even know how to have real conversations with real people outside of the church.

Because I was in church leadership, I was also told I couldn’t be ‘real friends’ with the congregates. I felt uptight & on guard ALL. THE. TIME. In church. Out of church. Prime burnout scenario.

When I backed off from church, I began to take my relationship with God BACK into my own hands. I started journaling again, which for me involves spilling my guts… asking stupid questions, expressing my confusion & crying out to God to help me understand what it means to be a Christ-follower.

I’m certainly not saying leave your church if you wanna get closer to Jesus. Unless of course it is an abusive, controlling, toxic environment. 🙂 I am saying to remove whatever is hindering you from communing with God. For me it was religion. Church became my God. I had become a Sunday Christian. And I nearly killed my relationship with Him. But then grace stepped in & allowed me to step back to see Jesus in my every day life.

I decided to start fresh, to read the Bible through fresh eyes, to pray like God was big enough to handle my burn out, my doubt, and even my anger. God’s cool like that. I really don’t know why we think God is fancy & only fancy, memorized words capture His attention. Certainly God is to be honored, but He’s more honored by authenticity & vulnerability than our fancy words, in our fancy clothes, in our fancy pews.

So what does Jesus say to do when you’re burned out on religion?

Come. 

Come to Jesus.

Get away WITH Me and you WILL recover your life!

You need to rest & I’ll show you how!

It IS possible, dear child, to truly rest & find freedom in Me.

Let me shower you with grace. I promise not to lay

anything TOO heavy on you,

that we both can’t handle together. Stick close with Me. 

And through winced eyes, I say, ‘Okay, I trust You, Jesus.’

(of which I say exactly 3 billion times a day)

I trust You, Jesus.

I trust You, Jesus.

 

You know what the grace of God has done for me? Brought joy back into my life!

[It is NOT a license to act however you want & then cry ‘GRACE!’)

In my personal journey, God’s grace has allowed me to live more freely & lightly than I ever have before! I’m not so caught up in the do’s & don’t of religion. My family & I enjoy church, whether it be in a building with others, out serving in the community or on the mission field. And we even totally dig Andy Stanley’s church whereby we can participate via the internet.

I absolutely still live with conviction & do my best to honor God with my words & actions. BUT I’m not all bound up & afraid to be a REAL human in a REAL world with REAL problems!! I actually can laugh at myself instead of trying to hide my unholy imperfections! Also, I laugh at Christians sometimes because well, we ALL need to LIGHTEN UP!

I’m getting a taste of what ‘the unforced rhythms of grace’ feel like and well,

It feels like inhaling Peace and exhaling Love. 

Inhaling Peace and exhaling Love oxygenates relationships.

It breathes life, vitality & acceptance instead of forcefully spewing religiously-imposed judgments.

I believe this is why people of all types were drawn to Jesus. He exhaled Love wherever He went, to whomever they were regardless of their sin or social standing.

We have to ask ourselves, are we exhaling love & the rhythms of grace or are we too caught up in making sure the sinners know how sinful they are? Jesus certainly didn’t ignore sin, but He didn’t make it His focus. He knew there was much more to people than their sin.

Instead, His focus was exhaling Love wherever He went. It still is. Through us.

We are His Body. Through the help of the Holy Spirit, we are agents of His grace, pointing the Way to inhale Peace & exhale Love wherever we find ourselves on the journey.

Would Jesus Bake Their Cake? (yes)

Would Jesus Bake Their Cake? (yes)

For nearly 20 years, my journey has been alongside my best friend, my husband Mike. There’s been so many times I’ve held my hand to my heart and felt incredible gratitude for him. When we said ‘I do’… When our sons were born… When he held my head & hand through a deep pit of depression… When I watched him dance with a little girl in Africa who had only one leg… and this week when I read his life-giving words in this article, ‘Would Jesus Bake Their Cake?’ … this man has deep conviction and even deeper love. I am so grateful for his heart that puts no limits on whom he will love & serve, no matter the personal costs. Now, GO READ IT!

Today, may you go & find your God-centered rhythm of grace.

Shine On!

Danielle

 

10 Surefire Ways to be a Christian A-hole.

I know what you’re thinking, Dear Christian who loves Jesus a whole lot, “Remove the bulging tree trunk out of your own eye, girlfriend, before you try & tell me how to get the sawdust out of my own! Who do you think you are? Jamie The Very Worst Missionary?” {trust me, I’m so not that cool}

I almost didn’t post this because it’s kinda rude & I’m a scaredy cat. Aren’t Christians supposed to love each other? Isn’t this part of the problem – Christians smearing each other? Well yes, it is. But here’s the exact reason I’m posting this satirical list.

**Y’all, we Christ-followers desperately need to lighten up!!!**

I realize behind each one of these things that make us look like A-holes is a genuine desire to show love, to do good, to represent Jesus to the world. I get it. I just think we’ve gotten ourselves wound up so tightly we often forget how to relax and relate to & BE real people when we’re in public.

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 10.30.34 PM…We’ve put ‘Christianity’ on a pedestal instead of Christ on the throne.

…We’ve become Bodyguards instead of the Body of Christ.

…We’ve become His police officers instead of His peace offerings.

…and we’re failing miserably because we weren’t made for this!

We look like jerks. A-holes, in fact.

There’s a whole generation of young people who see the Church not as the safe haven it should be, but as an abusive, judgmental, stiff-necked clique that they’ll never fit into. So why try?

I came up with this list rather quickly because I have decades of experience being a decorated Christian A-hole. And I’m still working on lightening up. When we lighten up, guess what happens? We LIGHTEN up – Christ’s LIGHT shines more brightly through us when we relax & let go of our legalistic lists.

Turns out being a peace-offering & a regular folk is SO liberating. Being vulnerable & authentic, (instead of Judgy McJudgerson) has opened up a whole new world of friendships to me… ones I never would’ve let in 15 years ago. You know, cuz I was still waving my banner of bitchiness (is that a word?) holiness, but instead I was miserable & lonely. Jesus was like, ‘Lighten UP, girl! This is exhausting!’ 

So without further ado, here’s 10 surefire ways to be a Christian A-hole. You’re welcome. 

  1. "Worst. Joke. Ever." said Jesus.

    “Worst. Joke. Ever.” said Jesus.

    Be demanding to the ‘lowly’ people serving you… especially Sunday after church so your server will KNOW you are in fact a Christian A-hole. Doesn’t she know you are a child of the Most High God and should be treated as such? You require excellence & will settle for nothing else!! If your food comes out cold, or she forgets an item, by all means leave her a Jesus tract instead a tip. That’ll teacher her. This same advice works great with the stewardess, the nurse, receptionist, and custodial staff.

  1. If you’re in ministry leadership or are a ‘Christian Boss’, definitely remind those whom are under your authority that they are IN fact under your authority. Preach submission & remind them God speaks to & through you. This must be done from the pulpit & also in the conference room… so everyone knows his or her place. Wouldn’t want the youth pastor or VP of Sales to get a big head and make you look bad… Jesus put you in charge, not them.
  1. Hang out only with like-minded Christians. After all, those other religions and denominations probably are diluted and only preach half-truths. It’s not worth the risk. You KNOW your church is preaching the full Gospel. Even within your congregation, make a point of criticizing those who are different from you… “We really need to pray for Sally Sue. She is being a stumbling block to the men of the church in that short skirt! Doesn’t she know she’s supposed to avoid the appearance of evil, bless her little heart.” Seek God for wisdom on how to tell Sally Sue she’s not representing Jesus.
  1. Stand outside the gay bar, proudly show off your neon picket signs that read “Homosexuality sends you to Hell.’ & ‘God HATES Fags’ because people come to Jesus when we shame them into it.
  1. Regularly share political status updates on social media, making sure to exclaim in ALL CAPS how CONSERVATIVES are RIGHT! Argue your position in ALL comment threads. And while you’re at it, you should also post a MeMe photo depicting President Obama as a literal jackass so people know how serious you are about your love for God & this nation.
  1. The Word of God is a Sword. It says so in Ephesians. Be vigilant to wield your Sword wherever, whenever necessary, to stab people with truth. The truth sets them free after all. You, sweet Christian A-hole, can’t help it if the truth hurts, right?
  1. If a family decides to leave your church, by all means, don’t speak to them lest they assume you support their foolish decision. How dare they make your pastor look bad!!! In fact, if you’re smart you’ll tell them the truth upfront. Let them know if you see them in public places you plan to turn the other cheek by ignoring they exist. Hey, you’re just being a proactive Christian A-hole. Bless your heart.
  1. Judge others by their actions, but yourself by your best intentions. Assume they too are an A-hole. Give no room for grace. People will have no reason to change if they aren’t ‘called’ on their discretions.They cut you off in traffic, you best tell them by riding their bumper & giving them the ‘I hate you’ look. Once you speed past them, they’ll see your Christian Fish emblem and realize Jesus wants them to act better. I swear, this world is going to hell in a hand basket! Thank God for Christian bumper stickers!

    Honk if you Love Jesus!

    Honk if you Love Jesus!

  1. Assume the poor are lazy, dumb people who just don’t want to get up and go to work everyday like you do. I mean, after all, you work hard for your money. They are the screw ups! You’ve pinched your pennies & nobody ever gave you anything. You’ll be damned if you give it away to hooligans (either on the street corner or in a third-world country) who are probably just gonna spend it on alcohol & sex anyway.
  2. Get your family so busy with your church activities that you don’t have time to mingle with ‘sinners’. Your children are safer in a Biblical Bubble. As you know, God’s Word says we are to be in the world, but we are not ‘of’ it. You wouldn’t want sinners to pull you down to their level. Snub your nose at your neighbors… ya know, the ones who have tattoos, drink too much, cuss like sailors, and are authentically themselves. Jesus has called you to do His work, not waste your time with these sinful shenanigans. You have been set apart.
What the Lord requires...

What the Lord requires…

Well, there you have it! Wow, being a Christian A-hole seems exhausting, doesn’t it? Trust me, it is. I hope you read this with a light heart & don’t send me Jesus hate mail. Now excuse me while I go remove the very large plank from my own eye.

Shine On & Lighten Up!

Danielle

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 9.00.12 AMTake my hand

We’ll make it, I swear!

Ohh! Ohh!

Livin’ on a prayer!

{Bon Jovi, chapter 1, verse 3, Hard Rock Version}

If you are a product of the late 1980s, early 90s, you know this song. Even if you were raised holy… you know the kind of home that did not allow Halloween costumes, rock music, Smurfs or especially the sounds of Scooby Doo to permeate the peace of your home. You may not have been allowed to trick-or-treat, but you knew the chorus of Livin’ on a Prayer, despite your parents best intentions to protect your virgin ears. Bon Jovi was everywhere. *swoon*

And for the record, your parents were probably listening to it when you weren’t in the car!  I know this because my radio station is set according to when the kids are or are not in the car. Can I help it that I like P!nk? Or Usher, usher, usher? Murderous love songs by Bruno Mars? Yes I’m sure I can, but sometimes you just need to cut loose and feel the beat… it doesn’t have to be your life’s anthem and it doesn’t mean you’re going to hell if you still know 98% of the words to Ice, Ice Baby. Alright Stop. Collaborate and listen…

Wait, what was the point of this post?

Oh yeah, prayer.

We need prayer. I need prayer. (if you didn’t already figure that for yourself, after reading the first two paragraphs!)

The Bible says God uses the foolish, ordinary things of this world to confound the wise. I think of this verse so often because I am foolish and ordinary. I really am. Only my closest family & friends know how true this is. Apart from Jesus, I have nothing to offer. And thank GOD for that! Jesus really is the only One worth living for anyway!

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 8.04.10 AM

Right click to save this to your Mac desktop!

Now that you are armed with the knowledge I just shared… I beg for your prayers as Mike & I follow Jesus where He’s called us (& our team) once again… to the other side of the earth for 12 days to Swaziland, Africa. I woke extra early this morning with the realization that all of this preparation, all the gathering of supplies, all the coordinating of sponsor letters & cards Here are a few!… it is all because of prayers answered by our Heavenly Father who has brought us all together. Glory to God!

It’s not the prayer alone. It’s the One-Who-Answers-The-Prayers that has made all the difference, who is orchestrating this particular mission & is seeing to it that children of Swaziland, who once thought themselves forgotten, can no longer wonder if they are loved with extravagant, reach-across-the-world kind of love. God goes to great lengths to show His love, doesn’t He? He asks no less of us. For some, it’s a great length to knock on the neighbor’s door and invite them over for a bonfire. For others, it’s a farther distance, but the same faith & boldness are needed for both, so that God’s love can shine through us; not as ones who come to rescue, but simply come to build relationship.

Our team leaves for Swaziland, Africa this week. We hail from Texas, Alabama, North Carolina, and even Minnesota! Will you pray for us & the children?

I’ve made this snazzy daily prayer bookmark. I know, be jealous. I’ve had no professional training in the graphic arts. Yet, this Word document bookmark exists somehow. Jesus.

Here it is…. please, if you haven’t already, start praying cuz

Ohhhhhh! We’re halfway there!!! Ohh-ohh! We’re Livin’ on a prayer!!!

Shine On!

Danielle

Sent.

July 8, 2014 — 1 Comment

I’m about to knock your socks off.

(I know this because my socks were literally knocked off when I heard our pastor say this on Sunday)

Get ready.

Being a follower of Jesus does NOT equal going to church.

Yes a pastor said this.

(cue the amen!)

Go pick up your socks and consider what being a follower of Christ really does mean. Here’s what our pastor said & I agree.

Being a follower of Jesus means you & I are SENT!

Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 12.38.24 AM

Before we get to the juicy ‘sent’ part, I want to talk about church. For some odd ball reason last week the Lord gave me this message that took about 10 minutes to write. I knew it was from the Lord because, well, usually a blog post takes me anywhere from three hours to three years, give or take.

It struck a chord with people. Spiritual abuse, often in a church setting, is not something that a good Christian girl wants to talk about. You know, it might hurt people. It might ruffle some feathers. It might have backlash. Or the worst, I might come across as a bitter, cynical, church-hater. I mean, it would seem a post like 5 Really Good Reasons To Leave a Church begging people to ‘run like hell’ (I re-read the post and I literally didn’t know I’d written those words!) from church would only draw people to Jesus, right?

But in actuality, all I did was beg people to see that it is okay to use common sense, and not sit under the leadership of someone who is using the name of Jesus in such a perverse way as to inflict emotional & spiritual pain, by manipulatively drawing people to themselves rather than letting God be God in their lives.

So I’m good with it. Even if there’s backlash from the very ones who inspired the post. God may just be using that simple post to set people free from bondage they are finding in places that should provide respite from pain & bondage. word.

Back to being sent.

Follower of Jesus = Being Sent as He was sent.

Love the Message version of John 3:17 (which happens to be our key verse while teaching in Swaziland, Africa very soon) “God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.” 

As I learned this weekend, the words sent/send appear almost 300 times in the New Testament! I think God is trying to get His point across.

His Point? Go where I am going!

Where is Jesus going?

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is found with the people. Friend of Sinners. Oh sure, he respects the Sabbath, but not to the point of shunning people in desperate need of comfort, help & healing.

He’s found with the people. Like, real people, people. The rich. The poor. The adulterer. The beggar. The possessed. The hurting. The sick. The deformed. The thief. The fornicator. The fisherman. The unpredictable, clingy children. The drunkard. The liar. Even the tax collector!

If we call ourselves Christians, we are to be following Christ TO the people.

Are you with the people? Mike & I have had to ask ourselves that hard question… hard because being with people, opening our door & our lives is often uncomfortable & challenging. Hospitality is not my gift. 🙂

For the Christian whose spiritual life has been centered around the Sunday-morning-Gospel, its way easier to invite somebody to church than it is to invite them into our everyday lives! It’s easier to clock-in your Sunday morning duties (show up, sing, sit, shake hands, stay awake, etc.) and go home. But easier isn’t life-giving is it? We ALL know that feeling of ‘Dear God, there HAS TO BE MORE than this!!!’, right? Coming out of church feeling drained & beaten up, rather than healed up & revived… this ought not be so!

The kind of Gospel Jesus preached & lived is one that is people-centered, not church-centered.

When we start living this people-centered Gospel we can NO longer blame our lack of zeal, lack of faith, lack of God’s presence on the church or the pastor. The people-centered Gospel beckons us to seek God for how we can live our everyday lives to spread His love & bring Him glory.

This is not a works-Gospel either. It is simply a new way to see the people in your every day life, in your town, in your world as relatable. When our posture (not from The Church of the High & Mighty down the street) is that of building relationships, the ‘works’ of helping & being there for them come naturally. Its a very holy word called FRIENDSHIP!

We overcomplicate it. As I see it, essentially Christ’s message is to show love wherever, however, and to WHOMever He sends us! Hugh Halters, a pastoral renegade of sorts, says we can really only reach people we’re connected to.

For too long, the Pharisaical church has put up walls, both figurative and literal walls. Don’t touch. Be quiet. Keep your distance. Look clean. Pay your dues. And by all means, don’t ask questions.

But what did Jesus exemplify?

His life (& death) screamed, “I AM ONE OF YOU!”

He refused to put up walls. He welcomed people, welcomed touch, welcomed interruptions, and was more than comfortable around people who were far from God.

I don’t know about you, but this is a whole new paradigm shift in the way I view the Gospel. Even more than that, it just makes me in awe of God, and makes Him seem more approachable and accepting of me (beyond the sin that He & I both know are there).

Keep going to church, people. Don’t get your spiritual panties in a wad. But perhaps ask the Lord this week to open your eyes to opportunities that are all around you to share His love & live a sent life.

Shine On!

Danielle

ps. Eleven of us are being sent (nice segway, huh?) to Swaziland, Africa in 10ish days. We covet your prayers. Pray that we go with the posture of visiting a good friend’s house: that we not take over, but honor their home, culture & ways of life. Pray that we speak from God’s heart, not our own good intentions. Pray for the children’s hearts & lives – may we really see them and serve them as Jesus would.

Pss. Thanks Pastor Carl for not needing fame, not needing numbers, not needing a pat on the back. For that reason, here’s a pat on the back. Keep loving Jesus. It’s contagious, dude.

A huge thank you to everyone who participated in Love4Lunch in some fashion or another! As of right now, $12,415 has been given.  I say ‘as of right now’ because just today another donation was made! People are still feelin’ the love!

{Update: by the end of February, over $14,500 was given!!!}

Once all the funds are in from the local events, they will be wired to Swaziland and the Bheveni children will be told that they can return to school for the entire year, without worry of being turned away!

I know many of you, like me, wish that you could be there to see the looks on kids’ faces when they are given the great news! Remember the hysteria created a few years ago when Oprah surprised her entire studio audience with a new car? “You get a car! You get a car! You get a car!”

Yeah. It’ll be that, but x160!!

“YOU get an education! YOU get an education!

YOUUUUU get an education!”

The children will be shouting and spontaneous singing will break out! I can hear them singing now, “I just want to say, Niyabonga, Jesu” (Thank You, Jesus!) And of course, Make Maksohazane will immediately begin doing her African Praise Dance, with one hand in the hand and a war cry like you’ve never heard!

Let me remind you, Giver –

You did NOT go without lunch for nothing.

You did NOT plan a local Love4Lunch event in vain.

You did NOT just throw your money to the wind.

Your money is going to REAL kids in REAL need of a REAL opportunity!

Your prayers, your dollars, your efforts combined with the hard work of the natives & staff in Swaziland will bring change and opportunity the children wouldn’t have had otherwise.

I’m so proud of my Jesus & my community! You did not turn a blind eye or say, “Those kids half way around the world are NOT my problem!” You served them as Jesus in Disguise! I’m so humbled & grateful that you let His Love flow through you this Valentine’s Day! Guaranteed it was the best lunch money you’ve ever spent!

On behalf of the children, their caretakers, and Children’s HopeChest, I say a big fat thank you!!! Keep praying, keep giving, keep loving!

Shine On!

Danielle