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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

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!

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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.

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 11.06.09 PMLet me preface this by saying church is good and can be great! I love my church, and the churches we’ve been associated with the last few years. I’m thankful for their influence & love for my family. But this post isn’t about those kind of churches.

I’m all for 1st Corinthians 13 type love, but I’m also all for common sense & not being taken advantage of or led astray by people who are supposed to point you to Jesus. I get a little feisty about it.

Just like there are reasons to stay at a church, there are also legitimate reasons to leave. Yep, here I am – a Christian advocating that you might just need to consider leaving your church, if it has become a toxic, abusive environment. Sometimes you get so entrenched that you can no longer see the dysfunction that is sucking you dry & stunting your growth.

These five reasons are deal-breakers in my book, especially if you’re experiencing more than one of them. Take what good lessons you can with you, but run like hell because there’s way more to Jesus than rules, hoops & hours volunteered.

Five Really Good Reasons To Leave A Church

1. Sinners aren’t welcomed. Of course only ‘sinners’ with ‘obvious sins’ like tattoos, itty bitty mini skirts, or large piercings. Oh sure, just sitting in the back pew might be okay, but they certainly aren’t volunteer material according to your church doctrine! What would the well-dressed, well-mannered givers of the church think, bless their hearts! How many tender-hearted, talented, beautiful people have been rejected by our churches simply because they didn’t look the part? God forgive us.

2. Your pastor somehow weaves the law of submission into nearly every message he preaches. You submitting to his authority of course. You know what? Real leaders are far more interested in demonstrating love and being a follower of Christ than they are on whether or not the ‘sheep’ are obeying them.

3. You feel you have to be there every time the doors are open. Oh sure maybe at first you WANTED to be there, but then you kept getting asked to do more and more and more… and you have found yourself burnt out and taken advantage of. “Does this church actually care about me or do they just want me because I do whatever they ask?”

4. You just never quite measure up to expectations. This is spiritual manipulation at its best. If you dare to ask questions or speak out, you are quickly held at a distance, labeled disobedient, difficult, or the worst… a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Suddenly an urgent prayer meeting is called… and you’re not invited.

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 11.43.15 PM5. Your church isn’t present in the surrounding community. Outreach? What outreach? A church can get so focused on building their own little kingdom within their big, beautiful church they forget God’s kingdom is also outside the church walls… the hurting, the broken, the hungry, the lonely – many would never step foot in a church (perhaps for the reasons above). We as a church must go to them, show that we are no better, we’re all sinners saved by grace & we’re put on earth to love each other. That’s why I love our church now; they actually regularly cancel Sunday morning service to go serve people in the community. Its brilliant and Jesus is all over it!

Okay, there’s actually six reasons.

6. If it sounds like a cult… talks like a cult… walks like a cult… 🙂

Lest this post become an excuse for you to throw baby Jesus out with the holy water, check out Relevant’s post “5 Really Bad Reasons To Leave Your Church” Remember, there is no perfect church!!!! Give grace, give room for growth, pray for your pastor, get to know other families. Church should be a locker room experience, a launching pad if you will, to prepare you for the big game of life with all its victories & defeats. Let yourself be refined & conditioned, but when you find yourself shamed & abused in the locker room, its time to consider joining another team.

Shine On!

Danielle