How Jen Hatmaker Interrupted my Perfectly Lovely Summer (and may wreck yours too)

It was the beginning of June and the whole summer stretched gloriously before me.  Oh the dreams I’d dream, the goals I’d achieve, the books I’d not only read, but remember and apply to EVERY AREA OF MY LIFE!  I was especially excited to get my grubby little hands on the new edition of Jen Hatmaker’s book, Interrupted.

I pounced on the opportunity to get an advance copy in order to link up and post on it.  After all, my merry little band of spiritual misfits had joyfully jumped into “7” and experienced our own mutiny against excess a couple of summers ago.  I figured we were game for something new.

But here’s the thing…I missed some “fine” print.

Ok, it might not have been so “fine”, but I definitely missed two important details.

First?  The subtitle: When Jesus Wrecks your Comfortable Christianity.  WHY in the name of sweet baby Jesus would I want to read THAT??  If I’m comfortable with my Christian life (and I definitely am!), why would I want to be wrecked?

Note to marketing department: No one who actually reads the subtitle of this book is going to want to buy it.  “Wrecking” is not a selling point.

Second?  Due date for this post.  I read Interrupted last week on flights while John and I were traveling to and from a leadership conference (It’s SUMMER, for Pete’s sake!  I haven’t had time to read MEANINGFUL THINGS earlier than this with all the sun-filled lolly-gagging I’ve been doing!).

Friday night late we landed, John re-packed, and left for another trip.  I threw the book at him as he went out the door shouting, “Here! READ THIS!  I refuse to be the only uncomfortable, wrecked disciple in this family!”

The next thing I know I’m catching up on email and there’s a reminder from Jen that our posts should go up on Monday.  Cue the frantic texts to husband.  (Extra !!!!’s since he rarely reads his texts.)

Me: You didn’t really take the book with you did you?!

John: Well, yes I did, Darling, light of my life, because I’m the dutiful husband and I always do exactly what you tell me.

Me: Ok, here’s the plan. You’re going to take pictures of the pages where I had the most things underlined and email them to me.  Then I’ll figure out something coherent to write.  And YOU come up with a catchy title!

Aaaand here’s how that worked:

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But, as we say in our family, “It’s better this way…”

Honestly, it’s all good because, this provides a convenient metaphor for what discipleship and being the church is all about – just showing up together and doing our messy best, mucking it up and trying again, right?  Seriously, Jen illustrates this delightfully, and authentically as she shares her personal journey with Jesus to a counter-cultural understanding of church and family life.

As much as it was uncomfortable, I loved this book because Jen writes with a beautiful mixture of grace, truth, and self-deprecating humor.  She is where most of us are – truly doing our best to respond to the stuff Jesus shows us, as we gradually let our guard down.  We have these little (or not so little) revelations… like, Ohmygosh! WE are to be the church, loving people wherever we are, not just inviting them to our church building where the PROFESSIONALS can “tell them all the things.”

The good news is that Jen writes like we’re in this discipleship stuff together and it’s gonna be ok if we just keep putting one foot in front of the other and not taking ourselves too seriously.  Making mistakes as we befriend homeless folks will not result in eternal damnation. It was gentle encouragement like this that kept me from throwing the book and yelling, “Leave me alone Jen Hatmaker (and Jesus)!.”

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book (If I get a word or page # wrong, grace please!  I’m squinting, half-blinded at the pictures John sent :))

“Because my experience with poor people was limited, I placed the emphasis on poor but misunderstood the essential part: people.  Which is the polar opposite perspective.  When they were ‘poor’ to me, then I was the benevolent, hyper friendly white girl who had a hard time entering into a real conversation.  The emphasis was on what I was offering: food, gloves, water, a bus pass.  What I saw in them was need, so that is what I addressed.  You require something; I’m here to deliver it with my White Savior Complex solidly in hand… (Eventually,) I started noticing not so much their need but their humanity.”

This makes me think of what we learned in Toxic Charity, (another good read) and my experiences with the homeless and Jesus on the corner.  Oh so easy to see projects instead of people. Lord have mercy!

“It’s easy to visit the bottom with works while our hearts remain higher up.  That’s just charity.  It’s a moment, not a permanent relocation. It is something entirely different to adopt the mind of Christ.  That’s when we don’t just act lowly; we are lowly.  Our minds are not safely secured up higher, awaiting our return after we’re done patronizing those at the bottom.” (p. 146?)

How am I living incarnationally, like…everywhere?  In my neighborhood, at the post office, at work and school?  In the Costco parking lot!! Arrgh!

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“For all my self-proclaimed love of God’s Word, what I really loved were the parts that worked for me.  For my good.  For my blessings.  The sections that made for a great outline or fit a funny story I had in the queue.  The themes I knew my listeners wanted to hear.”

Ouch, OUCH, OUCH!!!  Now you’ve stopped preaching and started meddling woman!

“I believe the largest factor in feeling unfed is not feeding others.  It has less to do with your pastor’s preaching style or the curriculum you’re studying.  We have an innate craving to live on mission with God in the dangerous, exciting world.  Out there is where we come to life, get over ourselves, are fed.  Fulfillment exists in becoming a slave to everyone in order to win someone to Jesus.  Discipleship was never simply about learning; it was constructed on living.” (p. 232)

Amen sister!  One of the phrases we hear in ministry that makes me the craziest is “I’m just not being fed”!  Come say that to me when you’re DOING everything Jesus has showed you and need more of a challenge.  And I say that to myself too!  How many verses can I quote but don’t live?  Anyway…enough of that…

To sum up, this is a book about having your life turned upside down by Jesus in the best possible way.  It’s about really, really being the church in the world – loving all of it – every dark corner and broken heart that Jesus came to redeem and restore, even if that means stretching a teensy bit outside your comfort zone, because wherever you go He’s there too.

My little group of crazies is looking forward to using Interrupted as a study book this fall and anyone is welcome to join us!  More later…

What scares you most about following Jesus?

 

 

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Why Underwear is Important

Did you know that the average American woman owns approximately 21 pairs of underwear? About 10% of women own over 35 pairs.

Did you know underwear can mean the difference between a girl who’s educated with a chance for a bright future, and one who’s not?

Sometimes it just blows my mind how much I don’t know.  Recently I learned some not-fun facts about the challenges facing women in Uganda, including the challenge of underwear.  But I also learned something I can do about it.  And boy that feels good.

I’ve written before that our daughter Maggie is working in Northern Uganda this summer at Pader Girls’ Academy.  They teach and give vocational training to girls, many who have escaped the Lords’ Resistance Army, but can’t return to their communities.  They have become outcasts because of the stigma of being raped by soldiers or having babies out of wedlock.

But even after they have a tiny glimpse of hope for the future through education, there are still hurdles.  For example, I learned that girls often miss about 5 days of school a month when they have their period because they don’t have sanitary pads.  Or underwear.

Are you freaking kidding me? Continue reading

Is God Always the Hard Choice?

It’s One Word Friday!

Ok, so I’m not sure how I got there, but after becoming a Christian in my teens, I fell into a default mode that always assumed that God’s will must be the hardest, and most painful choice I was faced with.

Broccoli or brownie?  Broccoli must be more holy.

Cat or dog?  God surely hates cats so He must want to refine my character by inflicting a cat on me (if this is true, I’m not committed enough to be a disciple) Continue reading

Life-giving Links and Likes

Happy One Word Friday!  I think some of the ways we “Choose Life” (my two words) are by choosing truth, choosing grace, and choosing to delight in the gifts of God.  I thought I’d share some of those gifts that have been delighting me lately.  What about you?  Share what’s delighted you lately in the comments! Continue reading

5 Questions About…

Do you have a nickname?  It’s not a nickname exactly, but in our family, and with my close friends, I’m known as “Idea Woman”.

I’ve shared before that husband John says the first line of the 4 Spiritual Laws should really read: God loves you and LAURA has a wonderful plan for your life!

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So, I’ll admit that there are people who see me coming with that “IDEA gleam” in my eye and are tempted to run away.

The other thing I’m accused of is grilling asking a lot of questions of people I meet.  Frankly, besides wanting to be a spy, I also want to be Katie Couric (and yes, look like her too).

All that to say, I’m really excited about an idea I had for a new blog series called “5 Questions About….”  I have so many incredibly talented friends that I thought, what if I send some of them 5 questions about different topics that they have great insights on?

So, one day weekly til l run out of friends or topics, we’ll be doing 5 Questions About… Leadership, Hospitality, Singleness, God’s plans, Mentoring, Risk, etc.  (I’ll alternate these with One Word posts.)

“An expert is someone who knows some of the worst mistakes that can be made in his subject, and how to avoid them.” Werner Heisenberg

Everyone is an expert at something.  Who is someone with a gift or a skill you’d like to learn from?  Give them a call today and set up a time for coffee.  You might say, “I really admire your understanding of ________ and I’d love to learn from you.  Could we spend an hour together?”  Everyone likes to share their knowledge and experience!

There’s so much we can learn from each other!

Proverbs 23:12 says, Give yourselves to disciplined instruction; open your ears to tested knowledge.

What’s a topic you’d like to ask 5 questions about?  

 

Is there Room in Your Chariot?

This past summer at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit I had the opportunity to live blog for Engage Churches, a part of the Willow Creek Association.  I was blown away listening to the teaching of Chris Brown, a pastor at North Coast Church in California.  Here’s some of what I wrote that day…

This afternoon, Chris Brown (not that Chris Brown, a different Chris Brown) started with the story of a man approaching a campfire.  Creeping forward, and then walking back into the shadows while others by the campfire gossip about his failed leadership around the issue of a certain giant named Goliath.

The man is King Saul.  For over a month Saul has been called out and he knows he doesn’t have what it takes.  His ministry is  paralyzed.  His leadership is paralyzed.  He’s a leader in trouble who is bailed out by a kid named David.

And then it goes out on Twitter (as it were).  1 Sam. 18:5-9 “Saul has killed his thousands.  David his ten thousands.”

Huh??  Big gasp.  How is Saul going to react?

“From that time on, Saul kept a jealous eye on David.”

Saul didn’t have room in his chariot for David, the young twerp who bested him.

Leaders struggle with jealousy and comparison.  Pride and ego.  It’s in the Bible.  A lot. Continue reading

Life-giving Links and Likes

We had another 8″ of snow dumped on us last night and it’s tempting to think that spring and little green shoots will forever be smooshed down and hidden under heaps of this white stuff.

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Even before the most recent snow, this guy was looking longingly for any sign of life!

Maybe we’ll never ever see the lavender of lilac bushes or the pink of tulips again!  Maybe we’ll never smell the enticing aroma of burgers on the grill, or feel the warm pavement under bare feet!  ARRGH!  Stop the madness!!  Before we despair, a couple of life-giving links on this One Word Friday. Continue reading

Help for One Word

Yesterday I posted on One Word for 2014.  I love seeing the words you’re choosing in the comments section – check them out and add yours!

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I asked my mom what hers is and she said it’s a secret. :) Guys, it’s not like this is a nuclear launch code.  And you will not be struck by lightning if you change your word in February.  Ask my brother, David.

If there was going to be One Word for this blog I pray it would be Grace, grace, and more grace!  Part of my goal is that we would take God seriously, but ourselves not so much, so jump in.  It’s safe, I promise.

If you’re considering choosing One Word for 2014 and are having some trouble, here’s some help from the author of the book, One Word, who was on the Today show.  As you reflect, he suggests, look in, look up, and look out.  View the 3 minute clip here.

Lost In Soweto and Bethlehem

“Let us drown out the howling nonsense of Gomorrah with the melodies of the New Jerusalem.” – Spurgeon

In 1996, shortly after the Rwandan genocide, just when AIDS was gaining attention, not many years after the end of Apartheid in South Africa, we got lost in Soweto.

There were six of us, white americans crammed in a car, driving around in circles until we stumbled upon the place where Nelson Mandela came and spoke after his release from prison. As I remember, it it was large and cavernous.  We walked inside, the only ones there.

In the silence, our friend started singing in a crystal clear voice, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

The notes softly bounced off the ceiling, the floor, the walls.  It was a holy moment.  We let it wash over us.  It was a melody of the New Jerusalem.

Many years later I walked into the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, crowded with tourists, wanting a piece of Jesus, but not necessarily wanting the sacrifice necessary for Peace. Continue reading