For the Love! And a Little Fun…

Way back in March, five whole months ago I applied to be on the launch team for Jen Hatmaker’s new book, and somehow I made it into the 10% who actually made it onto the team. I’m sure it was through no charisma or anything that I did or am, just pure happenstance – or could it have been providence? Well, I don’t know, but let me tell you that this experience – being on a team with about 500 other people who are passionate about Jesus and love people to death – has been amazing! This group has lived out in real time the entire message of Jen’s new book, For the Love.

11707768_10206234348291595_8397783984738380235_o

The subtitle really puts it well: “Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards.” I think we’ve all experienced feeling like we’re not enough and that no matter how hard we try, there is something somewhere that we’ve failed at or not met someone’s expectations, be it other people’s or even our own expectations. Yes really, sometimes we’re the ones putting unreasonable expectations on ourselves. And Jen wants you to know that you can take yourself and others “off the hook.” She goes on to explain that

“maybe we can lay down our fear and criticism, self-directed and otherwise. Maybe if we let ourselves off the hook, we can let others off too… We don’t have to be saviors and critics for each other; we’re probably better as loved people beside each other. We aren’t good gods, but we can be good humans.”

Jen is superb at telling the truth with grace, and that’s exactly what she does in this book. She is so gracious with her words, so encouraging and uplifting, that when she hits you upside the head with something that’s a real thing in your own life, you can take it. Because you know she loves everyone with her whole heart – even the difficult ones, for the Love! – and she’ll give you the truth, but she’ll be gentle in the process. And this is something I want to learn from her. She does this so well, and all I can figure is that Jesus is so big in her life that she has learned from Him how to do this really well, so probably I need more of Jesus. Anyway, this is the insight she has about truth-telling: “When you tell me the truth about yourself, I no longer hide from you. Your vulnerability makes a path for my own.” And this, “We are watching the light win truth by truth, and when enough bright places are created, the dark has nowhere else to hide.”

“Show up. Be seen. Tell the truth. Be free.

She tells her truth in this book and invites us to tell ours. Together, we can be free.

11885166_10207370943533126_5078415584688966890_n

In the mix are messages to our children, to our marriages, to the church, to women, and to Christians. And her Thank-You Notes, oh goodness, you do not want to miss those. In true Jen Hatmaker fashion, this book will have you rolling with laughter one minute and crying the next. To me, that is one of the marks of a terrific book and she does it every.single.time.

11846667_10207179915599875_1695320374014254132_n

Jen invites us into something sacred, something holy. She is practically prophetic in her closing words when she calls forth the image-bearer in all of us as she sees what is and can be: “I see you, cheering each other on and calling forth the best in one another, and it slays me. This is the stuff. This is what we were made for. This is how to live well. If we prefer each other as Jesus told us to, there is nothing our community… cannot handle. …we strengthen each other to love our families and neighbors and cities and world. We point each other to God and call out our blessedness. It is so incredibly powerful.” And this, this is exactly what Jen has done with this book. She does this and shows us what is possible.

And this awesome community that is the launch team, has lived out this book in the most beautiful ways ever, giving me hope and a longing that this can be lived out in our real-life communities all around the world, wherever we are, with our people. We all long for this – maybe we need to quit waiting around for it to happen and be the catalyst in creating it right where we are with the people God has put in front of us.

11200882_10153309547916704_70401067820176347_n

And now for some fun – who wants a free book? You COULD go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble or anywhere this awesome book is sold and order one, BUT if you’d like a chance at winning one, leave a comment down below, here on the blog, and you’ll be entered to win one of two copies I’d like to give to two of you amazing people who so faithfully read my sporadic and disjointed words.

So leave a comment, and tell us about someone who has encouraged you, cheered you on, and lifted you up on your journey. Honor those people in your life here, and then do it for someone else. Pass it on!!! Together, we can keep this ball rolling until it gets so big it overtakes our communities and our world. I will draw two names tonight, August 18, 2015 at 11 pm EST, because I want to get these out to you tomorrow. I can’t wait for you guys to start reading this book and sharing your highlights with us, so get your name in quick.

All the best!

Advertisements

Words Have Weight, Even When Spoken In Body Language

We all know words have weight. We’ve experienced their weight ourselves – especially when they have cut and seared and carved deep grooves into our tender hearts. Hopefully we have also experienced the weight of positive words in our lives, words that have helped us imagine a new and beautiful future that may even have come to pass. But the harsh reality is that the weight of negative words seem to tip the scales farther than the weight of positive words. I’ve heard it said that for every negative word carving up our lives, it takes nine positive words to begin to heal the wound. Negative words weigh more. They just do.

Thing is, sometimes those negative words don’t even need to be heard by our ears. Sometimes those negative words can be read, not in black letters on a white page, but in the language of a body speaking weighty, oh so weighty words. We’ve probably all witnessed or experienced it sometime or other – two or three people whispering, exclaiming and rolling their eyes behind their hands, and it isn’t hard to figure out they likely are not discussing the weather or speaking encouraging words to each other.

I’ve talked with enough people and had enough experience of my own to know this is a real thing. Countless people, real people with hurts already deep enough, have been even more deeply wounded by words both spoken and portrayed. And while it may not affect me personally like it used to, there are many, many among us who continue to be deeply affected by this language. Just because someone didn’t actually hear what was said doesn’t mean they can’t be hurt by those words. No, people know and it matters. Our words and actions, even though they may not be directed at someone, have the power to do severe damage in an individual’s life.

On the other hand, positive, life-giving words also have weight and can be used for building each other up, for speaking truth in love permeated with grace, for pointing each other to the One and only Jesus. Even our body language can a positive influence, especially when our posture is open and free, inviting others into relationship and connection without so much as a word. We can learn how to do this and make a difference in the life of every person we meet. I’ve been in the company of people who exude openness and connection and most times it’s not in the words they say, but in the way they handle themselves, that draws me to them. It’s their body language that speaks loudest. No wonder, as the old saying goes, more is caught than taught.

So I guess this is a challenge to all of us – to me most of all – to be careful with the way we speak – both with our words and with our body language. The future of our world depends on it – that’s how much it matters. Maybe sometime soon I’ll talk about that part of it. Yes, I believe our words carry that much weight – our words literally shape our world and the world of those around us. Will it be for good? Or will it be for ill? We have the power to shape our world. How will we do it? Speak life-giving words of encouragement to someone today. Start with yourself if you need to. If we don’t speak those words to ourselves, we will find it difficult, if not impossible, to speak them to others.

 

Bombings, Tornadoes and Judgment Theology

I heard it in the days, weeks, months and now even years following 9/11. I heard it when the tsunami hit Indonesia in 2004. I heard it when the country of Haiti was devastated by an earthquake. I heard it in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. I’m hearing it now, after the powerful tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma. And I’ll confess, I’m sure I have contributed to the conversation myself. What I’m talking about is what I call “a theology of judgment”.

I hear that these tragedies are happening because of God’s displeasure toward nations and people who (some assume) do not believe in Him. That these people have somehow done something to merit God’s wrath being poured out upon them. That somehow the condition of the world is irredeemable. That God has lost patience with us, His image-bearers, and that He’s just tired of this redeeming business. That an unseen line has been crossed and now judgment must be meted out.

If this is true, why then do any of us yet live? Why haven’t I been struck dead yet? If that’s the criteria we use, then who of us should still live? If we live in the economy of judgment then I should have long ago been zapped with no chance for redemption. But no, here I am, there you are, still living and breathing, sustained by the very Spirit of God as is every person on the face of the earth.

To be honest, I can’t wrap my head around this. It makes me wonder if we believe in God at all.

Scripture does seem to bear this out, particularly in the Old Testament. But then we come to the New Testament and the advent of Jesus, where He has a few things to say about this line of thinking. Jesus turns much of this stuff on its head. In Acts 17, we read that some of the Jews were incensed because the followers of Jesus were turning the world upside down. I would submit that Jesus Himself turned the world upside down. He showed us a different way, a better way. He did not go around striking people dead because of their sins. He gently drew them to Himself. He was the perfect reflection of God. What He did not do while He was here on earth should say as much as what He did do. What Jesus did and did not do here on earth reveals to us the heart of the Father.

I wonder if, when we uphold this type of theology, we are not actually going back to living under the law? Do we really believe the Gospel that Jesus came to live and teach – the Gospel of Grace and Truth and Redemption? I’m not saying I don’t believe that God is not a just God – He is. But I wonder if we’re making some of these things out to be something they are not.

It seems to me that this theology of judgment has been borne out of an abundance of truth, grace having been cast off along the way, thrown into the ditch together with redemptive time. Jesus showed us how to speak Truth with Grace, within the context of redemptive time. Dr. Henry Cloud says “Truth (without Grace), can be called judgment.” Is it then any wonder that we end up with judgment theology? Let’s not forget to couple truth with grace. Otherwise, we’re probably merely passing judgment. And we’re likely missing the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.