Rocks, Rails, and The Bible–They’re All Hard

As you read last week, I’ve had some health challenges in the last year. Or so. 
 
Funny thing is, once approximately 27 doctors, 478 blood tests, and 3500 random guesses/unsolicited advice/WebMd visits were all involved? The answer was something no one expected. One of the drugs I’ve been taking for eight years to keep my body from rejecting my donor kidney was causing my body to reject basically everything else. Like food.
 
Food is important. I think I learned that in health class at some point. But now I’m quite certain of it. Nutrients contained in food keep us alive. And my body was having none of them. For a long time.
 
So . . . something meant to make me healthy and well ended up poisoning me. It happens, to a select few.
 

Spiritual Poison

Hard, hard rocks

Spiritually, I’m afraid it happens to many of us. I think automatically of the Pharisees that Jesus confronted time and again. His basic message to them? You have a good foundation. You want to know how to please God. But you’ve taken it so far from its purpose that you’re poisoning yourselves. And everyone else.

 
The Pharisees had rules. Lots of them. They began well enough—with a desire to obey and follow God. They began in Scripture. But they got a tad out of hand. Anytime there are 613 rules for getting through your day, things are a tad out of hand.
 
My medication began well. It was intended to keep my body from killing a life-saving donor kidney. And it did that. But along the way, it started killing me instead. That’s a little out of hand. A bit of straying from the original intent.
 
I fear–no, I know–we’ve done that, too. We’ve looked at the guardrails God set up for life as He intended and, instead of being grateful for their life-saving capacity, we’ve used them to beat others into anything but life. Too often, we’ve poisoned the body with something that was supposed to help it.
 

Bedrock is Hard Stuff–Be Careful

We’ve taken the basic moral bedrock and, instead of standing on it with arms outstretched to heaven in gratitude, we’ve smacked peoples’ heads on it. Not always. Often Christians are awesomely gracious, and I have been witness to that beauty so many times. But enough for some to feel poisoned by the people God meant to be good news. This is not good news. For anyone.
 
Gratitude is November’s watchword.
 

The way to respond to God’s guardrails is with gratitude, not self-righteousness. 

And the beautiful life they give.
When God does it his way.

I am grateful for the chance to live with fewer consequences for my dumb choices if I live by the rules. But I am not free to glibly inform others that their consequences are their own dumb fault. I’m not even free to decide that this is true. Only God can decide if an effect is a result of some cause. It’s not in my bandwidth. It’s not up to me to call a tsunami or an earthquake or AIDS God’s judgment because I don’t get to be God. The complex nuances of cause and effect in my own body turned out difficult enough to navigate, let alone believing I can judge those effects on a cosmic basis.

 
Gratitude dictates that I fall on my knees in worship and then rise in service. Not judgment. Gratitude that I have what is life-giving should make me a life-giving conduit, not an arbiter of who gets to be in and who is out.
 

Making God’s life-giving Word into something that poisons those it comes in contact with is something for which we will surely answer.  .The last year and a half have taught me a great deal about turning something good into a weapon rather than a balm.

 “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” (Luke 7.47)

(Even better, read the whole story from Jesus here.)

In what ways can we use God’s life-giving words to give life this week? How can we guard ourselves from the opposite? Let’s talk about it.

Too Whatever (Being Real, and Grateful, about Our Bodies)

It’s been a year. A year and a half, actually. Eighteen months since I began a health odyssey that started as an innocent stomach bug and ended much later. Well, it hasn’t really ended, but I can see the finish line from here.
 

Long Story Sort of Short

The stomach bug didn’t end in 24 hours like it’s MO says it should. It didn’t end at all. To summarize, for over a year, I could not eat much, had constant abdominal pain, could not get up and do anything for more than fifteen minutes before exhaustion set in, had a body temperature like I was floating on an iceberg, and had to stay in immediate proximity to a bathroom at all times. TMI? My friend, you have no idea. I will never again underestimate the value of normal bowels. Just saying.

 
I lost over 50 pounds involuntarily. That’s not as awesome as many women assume. Because it was so fast and unhealthy, all the muscle mass has gone bye-bye with the fat. Do you know there are muscles in places you never even thought of that you need to function? Like even vocal muscles? Yeah, truth.
 
Why am I inflicting this story on you, like you just got stuck in the DMV line behind the old lady who wants to tell you her entire pitiful health history, in graphic detail, just before getting a driver’s license you are quite certain she should not have, given that history?*
 
There is a point.
 
A year and a half ago, I could not imagine uttering phrases like “I really need to gain some weight.” A year and a half ago, I would look in a mirror, or at a photograph, and think, “Eew. Look at that fat stomach and those chubby short legs. I hate the way I look.”
 
I knew this was wrong. I preach all the time about girls owning their bodies and not being ashamed of them. But what we say and know to be true and what we feel in our hearts are not always the same deal, are they?
 
Now I look at photos and think, “Eeew. I look like a poster for a ‘Don’t Do Meth, Kids’ campaign.”
 
My arms and neck are scrawny; they look like I imagine my mom’s would have if she had lived to be 80. I am not 80. Or even orbiting in its proximity. I have bags and creases the size of an elephant’s under my eyes as a result of of chronic dehydration. Half of my hair has gone AWOL. And that famous thigh gap? Yeah, got that, too. It’s not nearly as glamorous as it’s made out to be.
 
Before.
Now. A picture I really hate. I give it to you.

Too fat. Too skinny. Too fill in the blank. Whatever, people.
I am over it. 

Ten Seconds of Awesome

For about ten seconds in the last eighteen months, I looked like we always fantasize—exactly the right weight. Then the scales tipped too far the other direction, and self-criticism set in again. And I realized, how dumb is that? To only feel confident about how you look for ten seconds of your life? What a waste of the other millions of seconds.
 
Is constant self-criticism really a good use of the time God gave me?  . 
 
Is a focus on the unattainable a colossal waste of what I can attain right now, today?  .
 
Do I care too much about what counts too little?  .
 
Have I failed to be grateful for the amazing gift of a body that’s alive, no matter what it looks like? Have I failed to be thankful for a soul that’s alive?
 
So you know what? I’m owning it. At least, I’m trying to. Let’s be real, here, I am a proud creature, as are most of us. I don’t like looking at photos of myself when I look far worse than I want. Yet I wantto want those photos. I want to own them. This is who I am, this is what I look like, and this is where God has brought me.
 
And to deny that and be ashamed of seeing it, looking at it, letting others see the truth and beauty of what it looks like to be deconstructed and revived? Thats a worse kind of pride I don’t want to harbor. It’s a pride that won’t let others in because I only want them to see the image I want to portray. It’s not ministry–it’s just selfish. It’s thinking so much about me I don’t ever look away from the selfie to see the ones who need me to be real for them.
 
I want to spend November being grateful on the blog. You know, because, Thanksgiving.
 

Grateful is Good

Today, I am grateful. I am grateful for where I am. I am grateful for what I’ve learned. I am so grateful to be alive, to be getting healthy, and to see an end to this long tale. I do NOT take for granted that I can get up and have energy to do life anymore. 

 
A year and a half of enforced nothingness has taught me gratitude for just about everything my body can do and did do before without considering what a miracle that is. I am grateful for whatever that body looks like, in whatever stage it is, because it works. It functions. It is capable of doing whatever it needs to do to be what God wants me to be. I have been forcefully reminded that this is really all it needs to be.
 
Grateful.
 
What do you need to be? What are you not owning as yours, as something God can and will use? Look at it. Take a picture. Whatever works. Say thank you. Even if you don’t really mean it just yet. Saying it starts the work of meaning it.

* True funny/slightly terrifying story. I once had a woman hit my car five times with her car door because she could not figure out that she had parked too close to me to be able to get out of her car. (The full parking job is a story unto itself.) She just kept hitting me, perplexed as to why it would not open. I was Sitting. In. the Car. She proceeded to get out of the car (after finally reparking, a half dozen times), grab her walker, and get into line at the DMV. Jesus hold us all if that lady actually got a renewal and is on the roads.

 

It’s Your Party and I’ll Come if I Want To

I am a party failure. True story. In this month of talking about community, I’ve got to come clean. I cannot throw a party. Other than unicorn/princess/Harry Potter themed birthday parties that have long since seen their day. My baby is almost twenty. She is not so into letting me plan gift bags with glitter tattoos and a rainbow cake anymore. But at those kinds of parties—I was a boss. Just so you know.
 
But now? Friends, neighbors, coworkers—all those people you want to have over and just kick back and have fun around the backyard fire? Fail. I have them, and no one comes.
 

Party Fail

I once threw a surprise birthday party. And No. One. Came. Do you know what it’s like to sit around with a big tub of sour cream and onion dip and and pretend to your spouse (the birthday-ee) that no, there was just a good sale so you bought that industrial-sized cheetos bag for only the two of you? I cannot even remember how I explained the Happy Birthday banner. Whatever, people. It’s been over 25 years; I think we’ve moved on.
 
But it’s not just me. See, I googled it this morning. There are pages of stories of people who have thrown parties to which no one came. Advice columns. Blogs. Humor essays. Ugly crying in latte essays. All over the world, people throw parties and no one comes. I thought it was just me.
 
In fact, it’s endemic.
 
No one RSVP’s anymore because everyone is just planning to wait until the day to see if they feel like it or not. 


Guilty as charged. 
 
And the reality is, on the day, more often than not inertia sets in. No matter how much you think you should go or you know you’d enjoy it, the pull of not changing the status quo is too great. We don’t go. We find better things to do. We find nothing to do, which is often what we need after a hard day/week/year. 
 
I am one of these people. I know of what I speak.
 
But while I talk about how important it is to create community, I have to be honest, too. I am a community creating failure. And I know it’s not just me. Lots of us are feeling the same way. How do we create a community in the midst of a culture that won’t commit, needs downtime like we need oxygen, and considers relationships as disposable as hitting the “unfriend”button on facebook? How do we not just quit when no one shows up to our lives?
 
I don’t know. If I did, I wouldn’t be a party fail. But I have found some interesting tips. I am terrible at most of the things experts say to do, so there is that. Maybe some of these ideas will stick. But honestly, I don’t know.
 

Timing Is Everything

In her blog, Conrinna Gordon-Barnes writes, “In my experience, there’s an optimal time frame between too lengthy notice and too short notice. Experiment and find what works for the people you want to invite.” In other words, my method of inviting people to come to an event in approximately ten minutes probably isn’t the best modus operandi. Figure out what the magic window is for your people. They’ll still cancel or not RSVP, but you’ve set yourself up for a better chance.
 

Personal Touch

I hate rejection. I hate leaving people out. So I don’t invite people personally. I make blanket invitations. Those almost never work, according to professionals (and according to all those would-be party throwers crying into their drink of choice whose blogs I read). With a blanket invite, people feel free, almost empowered, to not show up. Someone else will. It wasn’t meant for me anyway. I’ll come next time. Here’s a big hurdle for me. I need to do better.
 

Make ‘Em Pay

Not literally. But most experts tell us that having some kind of stake in the commitment makes people keep their word. If someone commits to bringing the flaming pumpkin dessert, he or she is not as likely to flake out on you at the last minute because the ex-boyfriend is back in town and maybe they’ll get back together. That’s good news for you and for the dessert bringer.
 
This is hard for me, because I prefer low key, casual, come and go. If you can you can, if you can’t, no worries. But more often than not, can’t is what happens.
 
I don’t know the answer. I really don’t.
 

But I know this. I need to be a better committer if I want this elusive thing called community.  . Maybe that’s the real answer. Maybe it’s not learning how to throw a better shindig or understanding the exact equation for maximum attendance. Maybe it’s as simple as being a committed friend. Being what I want to see. Because like I said, I am so one of the guilty people.

 
And the truth is, sometimes, we need to be. Sometimes, we do need to take some stuff off our schedule and say no. But sometimes? I think we overdo that.
 

The late Chuck Colson writes, “The basic building blocks of society simply erode without commitment. Any sensible society must address this problem by educating people that commitment is the very essence of human relationships. When we refuse to commit, we miss out on one of the great joys of life. When we obsess over ourselves, we lose the meaning of life, which is to know and serve God and love and serve our neighbors.”

 
If I want to be a better community-maker, I need to serve.  .Not hors-d’oeurvres. People. I need to be the commitment I want to see. Oh, that’s scary. And uncomfortable. And opening myself up right now to anyone who reads this and says, “Hmm. I can guilt her into whatever I want at this point.”
 

But scary is sometimes the best thing we need to move forward.

Do you have any answers for community building? Anything that’s worked for you? Any failure stories you’d like to share (so I don’t feel so alone)? Start the conversation below!

Getting Friendship Backward–What Really Goes First?

Community is the word for October. In that spirit, I’ve invited a friend Andrea Stunz to guest blog today. She has a great message about community, friendship, and being totally honest with ourselves. I love it, and I’m sure you will, too.

Live in true devotion to one another, loving each other as sisters and brothers. Be first to honor others by putting them first. Romans 12:10 (The Voice)
Friends don’t care how old you are.

I’ve gotten it backwards for a whole lotta years. Not on purpose but out of just not knowing how to do it right. Not being taught. I do selfish very well. Too well. Don’t we all? I’m just shy of 50 years old and I think God may finally be getting through to me and helping me understand how this whole friend thing works.

First, you have to be a friend. Then you get to have a friend.
Ahhhhh….. soooo….. Well, I’ve been trying that out and guess what? It’s working!
But it’s not easy for this control freak.
I’m putting myself out there more and with a different outlook. I’m trying new things. I’m risking.That’s the hardest part. Risk. Being vulnerable. Knowing that if I truly let myself be a friend to have a friend it might hurt at some point. Knowing that it will most definitely hurt at some point. I don’t like that part. The hardest part for me in all of this relationship business is being willing to be hurt. Because it will happen. Even by those who aren’t supposed to hurt me. They aren’t God. God is the only “person” who will never disappoint me.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” ~C.S. Lewis
Somewhere along the way I decided that risking heart exposure wasn’t worth the pain. What I’m finally learning is that risk is not always worth it but it is sometimes worth it. Love is costly, but anything of value costs. Being willing to be broken is also being willing to accept redemption.
If I let myself be a friend and have a friend then it might just might turn out okay or even better than okay. It might actually be great!
Or how crazy you are.

The thing with friendship is that we can have a lot of them but not all of them have to be bff’s. If we follow the model of Jesus, he had a three “bff’s” in his inner circle. Three that he went all in with. Three that he shared his guts with. Then his circles broadened. As his circles broadened so did the amount of information he shared with them. Not because he didn’t want to but because those he would be sharing with couldn’t handle it or wouldn’t receive it.

I am coming to realize that those who can’t handle me don’t deserve me. That may sound harsh, but this control freak has to have some boundaries. I can still love and share Jesus and share my life with everyone but I don’t have to share my guts with everyone. We’ve told our kids countless times that you don’t have to be friends with everyone but you do have to be friendly. I’ve got friendly down. I’m working on being a friend. Got trust issues? I do! My trust issues include trusting God enough to put people in my life whom I can trust. Then, the onus is on me that once he does that to not squander it. I have to trust and try. Once the loneliness gets lonely enough, we’ll either choose to move out of it or resolve to stay in it. I’m finally in the place where I’m choosing to move out of it.
Relationships are messy and what I’m coming to learn (not having arrived just yet but learning) is that messy = living and living = messy. I’ve gone far too long without really living and then getting all upset because no one else was helping me live it. Ridiculous, right? But it’s true and ridiculous and I’m tired of not living. Life is so much better when it’s lived.
“In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).
There will be strong and unfriendly winds that will make a mess of our lives. On those blustery days, the kindness, prayers, and simple-but-profound ministry of the presence of dear friends will be the anchor to our unraveling, the rescue to our storm.  ~Dr. Leslie Parrott

Those kinds of friends are few and far between. I have a few of those and they know my mess and love me anyway and come to my rescue. Some have known my mess and chosen not to love me and that hurts but there’s nothing I can do about that now. Somewhere along the way I got in my head that people were just supposed to know when I was hurting and miraculously come to my rescue. What I’m realizing now is that I have to let them in. I have to take the risk. The power of the lies of thinking I need control and not trusting because it hurts are a relationship killer. Somewhere along the way I got in my head that if I shared too much or exposed myself they wouldn’t stick around. But now I know that if they don’t stick around then one of us still has work to do. I can’t fix them but I can work on fixing me. I need to be careful and have some boundaries but isolation is not where it’s at.

Remember we were meant to be in community. Don’t isolate yourself. Insulate your heart but don’t isolate your body. ~Patsy Clairmont
God has been faithful to show me the way. I’ve forced myself to become more involved in a few things at church – which really is not bad at all once I’m there. I’m purposely asking old friends and new friends to lunch or coffee and just letting whatever happens happen. It’s mostly been wonderful. Not easy and not without some anxiety and heart palpitations but wonderful. I also signed up to get some email tips from (in)Courage on “how to be the friend you wished you had.” God is lovingly but clearly telling me that I need to figure out how to be a friend before I can have a friend. I’m getting it. Slowly, but I am.
So in all of this, I’m still learning. I’m still growing. I have not arrived. I’m trying to be brave. I’m willing to risk. I think…
God help me. Amen.
~Andrea
“I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.” ~Maya Angelou

Andrea is: “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

This was originally published on Andrea’s blog, here. Check out the rest of her writing while you’re there!

Don’t Mess with Texas

I went to a party a week ago. Really, almost two weeks ago, and really, it will have been a month before you read this. I went to a party in Austin, Texas at Jen Hatmaker’s house. For those who do not know, Jen is an author, speaker, mom, wife, and everyone’s best friend, plus she helps lead an awesome church that is basically being Jesus except with cowboy boots. 

Apparently, the house I partied at was made famous on HGTV, but since I only get to watch HGTV in hotel rooms (we watched a lot of it going to Texas and back) I would not know that detail.

She invited her launch team to a party. I am still amazed at that fact, and I am still amazed that I picked up and just drove to get there. It’s still surreal.
Everyone else involved seems to have written about it immediately. As in, they must have gone back to their hotel rooms in Austin and blogged at midnight, people, because that’s how fast some of them managed to get these reflections posted.

I did not.

Yes, we really drove there. And loved it.
I went back to my room, meandered around Texas for another two days, drove back to Chicago in another three, and spent a week returning to life and processing what had happened. Because I am All. About. Processing. And not so much about getting things done right away. Let’s assume it’s all for good reasons and not basic procrastination.

Being on the launch team has been a gift. In five months’ time, a group of 500 of us have somehow made a community online that defied Christian stereotypes. We are a people of random ages, backgrounds, political theories, theologies, and colors. We disagree. But we don’t fight. We don’t call names. We don’t compare. We do pray for one another, encourage one another, and mourn with one another. We even give one another our time, money, and coffee mugs. That’s community, people. And until the party, most of us had never met.

Now, here’s the thing. I’m an introvert. I don’t do parties. I don’t do people I’ve never met. In large quantities. E-V-E-R.

So this was hard. I loved it, but it was hard. (Most lovely things are.) Sometimes I socialized and hugged and told stories and listened. Sometimes, I sat and just watched the buzz around me. I’m not the person to sit on Jen’s porch and take selfies. I’m not the one who will approach her to talk about life, even though I feel (like so many others) that we could be bffs. I’m not the girl who will sit in the middle of a table of strangers and draw them in.

The day after the party, many of us went to the Hatmakers’ church. (I know, she would hate having it called her church. It’s Jesus’ church. But it’s easier for identification purposes.) She made a comment during the sermon about it looking like a sorority house in the congregation. And it kind of did.

Which is exactly the place on earth I would feel the least comfortable.
I am so not a sorority kind of girl.


In the book we launched, Jen talks about community. She tells tales of how we have the tools and the ability to reach out where we are, with who we are and what we have, to create the community the world craves. And I realized something about that while I was taking my dear sweet time processing what the party had meant.

I love those women, and I will continue to love them and support them and do life with them. Even those I never see again. I am so grateful for their presence and for the party and for the woman who brought us there.

But community needs to happen where I am. It needs to happen on my back porch, in my church, in my coffee shop or library or park, where I live. The point of the book was to push us out into creating that, not to make us comfortable with a safe group of people we don’t have to see on a daily basis. That is a wonderful thing too—but it’s not the main thing. It can springboard us into the main thing by encouraging us along, but it isn’t the thing itself.

Wouldn’t you know, looking again at her book today, that’s exactly what she says,

“Online life is no substitute for practiced, physical presence, and it will never replace someone looking you in the eye, padding around your kitchen in bare feet, making you take a blind taste test on various olives, walking in your front door without knocking.”


My community needs to be where I am. And that’s even harder and scarier than a strange farmhouse in Texas.

Because its up to me. Up to my insecurities, imperfections, and fears. But that’s the point.

“When your worn-out kitchen table hosts good people and good conversation, when it provides a safe place to break bread and share wine, your house becomes a sanctuary, holy as a cathedral. If you have a porch, then you have an altar to gather around. If you can make a pot of chili and use a cell phone, then you can create community. If you want to wait until your house is perfect and you aren’t nervous, then just forget it. This is an imperfect apparatus, thank goodness. It requires people with true faces, courageously being seen.” (Jen Hatmaker, For the Love)


I can make chili. (I don’t like to eat it, but I can make it. It’s one of the few things I like to make.) I have a porch falling-apart-deck. I can be seen.

At our house, we have a formula to test how well people know us. Appliance repairpersons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and salespeople will knock on the front door. Friends will knock on the back door. Real friends will walk in it.




In October, I want to focus on this idea of community. How do you create community? Please share your ideas, things that have worked, things that have been disasters, and thoughts for the future. I would love to see your creativity and questions!


Absolute proof I was in Texas.

If it Isn’t True for Everyone

(More Musings on For the Love book and new musings on the gospel)


I have been blessed for the last several months to be a part of the launch team for Jen Hatmaker’s new book, For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards (available now on Amazon).


For the last couple and one more week, I’m taking chapters of the book that meant a lot to me and discussing them. Thus far, we’ve covered crazy self-imposed expectations of parenting and responding to the millennial generation (without being crappy Christians 🙂 ).

This week another topic dear to my heart and the heartbeat of God’s kingdom: what is the gospel really, stripped of our ever-present tendencies to make it what we want it to be? Jen has a great standard from which to start that conversation.

But then God changed my life, and everything got weird. I discovered the rest of the world! And other cultures! And different Christian traditions! And people who were way, way different from me! And poverty! Then the system in which God operated according to my rules started disintegrating. I started hearing my gospel narrative through the ears of the Other, and a giant whole bunch of it didn’t even make sense. Some values and perspectives and promises I attributed to God’s own heart only worked in my context, and I’m no theologian, but surely that is problematic.

There is a biblical benchmark I now use. We will refer to this criterion for every hard question, big idea, topic, assessment of our own obedience, every “should” or “should not” and “will” or “will not” we ascribe to God, every theological sound bite. Here it is:

If it isn’t also true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true.(Chapter 3, On Calling and Haitian Moms)


I love this. I absolutely, stinkin’ love this. It’s so simple. Some time ago, I wrote a post on the gospel and what it really is. I asked people to narrow it down to 25 words or fewer. Some of you did, and it was great. (Mine was fourteen. Top that. OK, maybe Jesus would not be quite so . . . competitive.)

If the last year of political posturing and pontificating on how Jesus’ gospel relates to this crazy world has taught us anything at all, it’s that Christians have wildly different views on that answer. And that we are quite pleased to knock our brothers and sisters out of the kingdom ring like Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots if their interpretation differs from ours.

Ferguson a year ago touched off a hurricane of argument that has rebounded with every touchstone event. Staten Island. McKinney. Supreme Court decisions. Charleston. Perhaps the fact that the list refuses to end should be a clue that we are to take this seriously. There needs to be a gospel response. And it needs to be the real gospel. Not the gospel I carry around in my head and heart because it’s near and dear to all I’ve ever known.

It needs to be a gospel for the Haitian mamas. Because Jesus came for everyone—including me and everyone else. If what I’m saying is Jesus’ gospel response to the issues of our day is not true for the Haitian mama, it’s not true. If it’s not true for the black daughter grieving the loss of her mother in a church basement, it isn’t true. If it sin’t true for the illegal immigrant mama terrified of returning to a country that will sell her son to drug lords, it isn’t true. If it isn’t true for the gay person who won’t consider any claim of Christ because he’s read between the lines of “hate the sin but love the sinner” and knows he’s not loved at all, it isn’t true. 

Are these tough issues? Yes. Is the gospel capable of handling them? Yes. If we let it be what it is. All it is and not all it isn’t.

“Theology is either true everywhere or it isn’t true anywhere. This helps untangle us from the American God Narrative and sets God free to be God instead of the My-God-in-a-Pocket I carried for so long. It lends restraint when declaring what God does or does not think, because sometimes my portrayal of God’s ways sounds suspiciously like the American Dream and I had better check myself. Because of the Haitian single mom. Maybe I should speak less for God.”


Maybe speaking less for God involves first taking a scalpel to my God-in-a-pocket version of the gospel and learning what it truly is. All that it is and, maybe more importantly for today, all it is not.

God created. We broke. God loved. He fixed. 
We love back—we help fix. 


That’s the gospel. Winnowed down. All that it is. Not all it isn’t.

We messed it up. We all messed it up. We keep messing it up. But every once in a while, we have a chance to look around, see clearly how messed up things really are, and declare, “Not on my watch.” 


Not so long as the gospel means what it really means. That Jesus came to unmess our mess. And once we accept that beautiful, intense, mop-up grace, he wants us to help clean up the mess. He wants us to be restorers and reconcilers. Not restorers of the American God Dream. Restorers of God’s creation plan. I think it looks a tad different than we imagine. I think it’s beautiful.

To order Jen’s book, click here.

Are you interested in a book club discussion of her book? Comment below!

Four Weeks, Seven Foods, Still Alive


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

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

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

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


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


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

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


Love your neighbor as yourself.

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

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


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


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

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