Archives For freedom

 

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.

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 2.07.55 PM

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

 

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

I just attended a moving Memorial Day Service at our local school.

I was overcome with gratitude & a renewed respect for American Veterans who have given their service to protect our country & our people.

I remember being taught how to properly fold our flag when I was in Girl Scouts, but I don’t recall ever hearing the symbolism behind the flag-folding ceremony. It touched my heart & I pray it will yours as well. Today, the following was read as our American flag was folded.

United States Flag

Stars & Stripes Flag Folding Ceremony

Compliments of the Fort Custer National Cemetery

The flag folding ceremony represents the same religious principles in which our Country was originally founded.

The Flag: The portion of the flag denoting honor is the canton of blue containing the stars representing states our veterans served in uniform. The canton field of blue dresses from left to right, and only is inverted when draped as a pall on a casket of a veteran who has served our country honorably in uniform.

1st Fold ~ a symbol of life.

2nd Fold ~ a symbol of our belief in the eternal life.

3rd Fold ~ made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing our ranks who gave of a portion of life for the defense of our country to attain peace throughout the world not to have been in vain and shall never be forgotten.

4th Fold ~ represents our weaker nature: for as American citizens trusting in God, for it is Him we turn to in times of peace as well as in times of war for His Divine guidance.

5th Fold ~ a tribute to our country: for in the words of the immortal Stephen Decatur, “Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right, but it is still our Country, right or wrong.”

6th Fold ~ for this is where our hearts lie – and it is with our hearts that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one Nation under God indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

7th Fold ~ a tribute to our armed forces: for it is through these same armed forces that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our republic.

8th Fold ~ a tribute to the One who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day: and this fold is made to honor Mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day.

9th Fold ~ a tribute to our womanhood: for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty and devotion that the characters of the men that have made this country great have been molded.

10th Fold ~ a tribute to Father, for he too, has given of his sons for the defense of our country since she was first-born.

We fold the stripes towards the stars: for whereas the stripes represent the thirteen original colonies that founded our republic, and they are now embodied in the fifty sovereign states represented by the stars, so that the stars cover the stripes.

11th Fold ~ for in the eyes of the Hebrew citizen, this represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon, and glorifies in their eyes the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.

12th Fold ~ for in the eyes of a Christian citizen, this represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies in their eyes God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.

When the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, which reminds us of our national motto, “IN GOD WE TRUST”

After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington, and the sailors and marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones: and they, followed by their comrades and shipmates in the armed forces of the United States, have preserved for us the rights, privileges, and freedom which we are enjoying today.

After reading the symbolism of our American Flag, may the words, “Happy Memorial Day” bring greater meaning to you & your family as you go about your holiday.

Do you have any close family or friends that have served or are currently serving our country?

Sounds of Home

May 27, 2010 — 12 Comments

We are in our new home!

We live in a small town and now in a small charming house directly across from the elementary school where my kids attend.

Next to the school, every day, every hour, the Catholic church bells sound.

I have decided church bells are one of my new favorite sounds.

They remind me to stop what I’m doing, take a moment and thank God for all I’ve been blessed with. Every hour. Every day.

Here’s a few things other sounds I’m thankful for:

  1. Parties ~ we’ve already had several parties including painting, cleaning, BBQs & birthday parties
  2. People ~ laughter & joy have filled our home. We have been astounded with everyone’s joyful willingness to help us settle in. Even my SIL is coming at 6AM tomorrow morning to weed my flower garden! That’s love, people!
  3. Silence ~ We’ve been without internet & television for nearly a week. I never thought we’d survive without Facebook & Season Finales at our fingertips. However I am loving the solitude. I can close the blinds, lock the doors & love on my boys & husband any time of the day or night. We’re not looking for some outside force to entertain us. We can just be. It’s golden.
  4. Bright  colors ~ Yes, colors make sound. They speak volumes about who we are. We painted our living room is bright green. Every morning, it gently calls me to a refreshing comfort of nature! And I feel alive & inspired to create in my bright yellow office. Gone are the neutral colors of our past homes!
  5. Freedom ~ All of this is the sound of freedom. Freedom to own a home. Freedom to raise our children how & where we want. We have this privilege that so many in our world do not have. And every time I hear those church bells, I am reminded how blessed I truly am to be living in Small Town America.

Ladies, you don’t have to keep up with the Joneses. Your home doesn’t have to be perfectly large, or perfectly clean, or perfectly decorated.

Your home is perfect because you & your family live & love there.

Today take in all the sounds of your home & remember how blessed you truly are.

Shine On Sisters!