caroline holzberger

Keepin' it real about motherhood, Jesus, life, and everything in between.

Archive for the category “Book Club”

So. Very Interrupted – Week Five (Last Week!)

The insecure side of me shouts in my head, Don’t even bother writing your post today. People aren’t reading. It doesn’t matter anyway.

Fortunately, I was able to kick that side of me to the curb. It took a good amount of prayer and time today to do it. But, kick, I did.

So, just know that I am writing out of pure conviction, belief in the good of each of you, and obedience to my Maker. The hope for people still being my friends has officially left the building.

In fact, I will not write this one to you. Jesus has changed my heart and my world these last few weeks, so I truly feel I simply need to write this one to Jesus –

Here we go.

(quote from Ed Stetzer) – “The church is one of the few organizations in the world that does not exist for the benefit of its members. The church exists because God, in his infinite wisdom and infinite mercy, chose the church as his instrument to make known his manifold wisdom in the world.” (pg. 145)

Thank you Lord, that you have given us the opportunity to be Your hands and feet. We get the immense privilege to get out there  in our world and shine your light to people who desperately need it. We have the chance, if we choose to take it, to truly serve others, live out your teachings, and, by the power of your Holy Spirit, be a small part in the true and eternal transformation of lives. That you would use us for this great a goal is beyond me. But, I thank you.

I pray, God, that we re-shift our thinking. May we not enter our church walls seeking to be served and made happy. May we enter our church walls, walking alongside someone we met outside the church walls who our heart breaks for, aches for, and longs for them knowing You. Continue to flip my world upside down, until I arrive at the closest possible life that mirrors Yours. Amen.

(quote from Halter and Smay) – “Jesus didn’t and we shouldn’t. He doesn’t need us to stick up for him; he needs us to represent him, to be like him, to look like him and to talk like him, to be with people that he would be with, and to take the side of the “ignorant” instead of those in the “know.” … Love has won infinitely more converts than theology. (pg. 149)

Jesus, you set the perfect example of how to love people with Your life. While I know I will never be anywhere close to where you are, I desire to have the same heart behind my work. May I genuinely see people as you see them. Open my eyes, Lord, every single day; please use me to show those precious people your love. Thank you for your faithfulness despite my lack of it. Continue to grow in me a heart of compassion for all of your kiddos. I want to be like you. I want to act like you. I want to talk like you. I want to serve like you. Only by your power and strength can I do any one good thing at all. It is you I cling to and trust. Teach me how to truly love.

Insisting that unbelievers or disoriented believers defer to our convictions is the quickest way to repel them from God. Even if our posture isn’t arrogant, broadcasting our extreme Christian principles without sensitivity makes us seem so weird that we’ll lose credibility anyway. (pg. 151)

Lord, while I am fairly confident you inspired Jen to write this for me and me alone, I cannot help but stop and wonder. You know my heart and you know the fire you, Yourself, placed within it. And while I tried to explain myself both through writing and through personal conversations with some of my closest friends, I am still not sure how to step forward. Thankfully, you know each of my steps. Help me to seek you for each one of them. And, you know I don’t want to repel anyone away from You and the work you’re doing…so please Lord, continue to work on me. I am so thankful that you are not even close to being done with me yet. Refine me and make me more how You want me to be. Help my attitude and actions change to only how You want them to change. If I am still ridiculed and misunderstood, then so be it. I want your will. Not mine. Not my friends’. Only yours. Forever.

Theology very naturally follows belief, but belief very rarely follows judgment. (pg. 152)

I am not the judge. Lord, PLEASE continue to strip that robe off of me and remind me of where I belong in the courtroom. Help me to see with my eyes wide open, the heart of your kiddos. Relationships are key to this lifestyle of being on mission for you. Help my authenticity bring people in so they can see how deeply they are truly loved by You. Let my life be my testimony. Not my words. Not my blog. Just the life you live through me.

How would our communities be transformed if our churches became servants in our cities. If at every turn, believers labored for others as if they were our masters, we could not be ignored for long. (pg. 152)

Oh that this is lived out through myself, my family and my friends. Pour us out, Lord. Help us to willingly and joyfully take on the role of servant to all. To our neighbor down the street, and the homeless man who stands at the corner of a street. May you receive every bit of the glory. Transform our communities, Lord…and please use us to do it, for Your Name’s sake.

Blessing blessed people and serving the saved eventually leave us empty – and despite a church designed to meet our needs, these words come out of our mouths: “I’m not being fed.” The largest factor in feeling unfed is not feeding others. (pg. 163)

Lord, I want to be used anywhere and everywhere. Please help me to keep this mind-set of it not being about me. I am never more like you than when I am serving others, so help me Lord, to focus on that, and not on my own desires and needs. You daily pour into me, so that I can pour into others. Help me not to keep any for myself in the spirit of spiritual gluttony. I want to be used. Keep my heart pure for the desire you have placed within it. Only by your strength, Lord…only by your strength.

Living on mission where you’ve been sent will transform your faith journey. (pg. 163)

Lord, your body is made up of many parts. All important, but all with different tasks. You call us to serve where you can use our gifts, talents, personality, etc. to do Your best work and bring You the most glory. That is, if we will answer your call. The specifics are different for each of us, but the mission is the same and it is simple.

Serve.

The woman serving us coffee at the restaurant.

The man cleaning the floors under our feet as we sip that coffee.

But, I beg you Lord, help us not to stop there. Remind us of the lonely and forgotten who live under the bridge we had to pass to get there, too. The men working outside for fifteen hours that day, building yet another fast food place placed on that street for my convenience. Help me see them too, Lord.

Only You know the true answer as to how, where, who we will serve. I guess the question Lord isn’t that; instead the question is IF we are willing to answer the call.

The battle is for souls of humanity, and our secret weapon is love. (pg. 167)

Oh Father, this is all so much bigger than me. This is eternity Lord. This is for real. Please help me to stop focusing so much of my time and energy as if it’s all about my life, my home, my family, my goals, my comfort, my will, my interpretation of Your words written in red. Make my life all about You. Make my life all about Your love.

Amen, Lord, amen.

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So. Very. Interrupted – Week Four

Let me begin with an apology. I so very much did not have my act together this weekend, in order to have my blog post prepared for Monday. Thanks for your grace!

This was a pretty meaty chapter for me. Not sure if you agree, but this was a call to my heart to get my hiney up and moving. Serve those in need. Pour out myself so others may be filled with the love of Jesus.

God began to orchestrate His beautiful will through my new friend, Tony. I met him while he was delivering Pepsi to the Seven-Eleven I was buying coffee from. It was a life changing day for me. And, for Tony. My partner in crime, Thing One, wrote about the experience beautifully. Please take a minute and read this story. You will be so glad you did. What. A. Blessing.

Ok, hopefully you are back now, after reading the miracles God orchestrated in the course of a short twenty-four hours.

Now, on to the book God has been using as a catalyst in my life and my heart. And, basically, as Fresh Prince would say, how my life got flipped-turned upside down.

It requires conscious decisions to abandon formerly vital things like reputation, perception, position, control. This was probably our most important lesson, more valuable than the specifics we would later engage, because 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 secured up higher, awaiting our return after we’re done patronizing those at the bottom. (pg. 112)

Whoa. I desperately need some of you to comment on this one, because I’m fairly certain I lost a tooth from this much-needed kick in the teeth. I’m sitting here, gap-toothed and speechless. But, it’s more than conviction. That, I’ve felt. This is different. I feel pretty pissed at myself. I feel like I’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid for thirty-three years and all of a sudden the blinders have been removed. There are a lot of poor people in my world, my country, my state, and my very own town. In fact, there’s lots of them. And they need help. Lots of it.

I remember feeling so happy and proud of myself after handing out food at Thanksgiving. Man, I made Jesus proud today. I served those who have little. I judged a few of them as to why. Then, I went home to my ginormous Thanksgiving meal, watched football on my big screen TV, and then after a few days reminiscing, thought little about these people again. That is not living at the bottom. That is not living like Christ. That is charity. Which, please hear me, is not a bad thing. Unless, of course, that’s all you do. Whish through the bottom once or twice a year with a heart to help, and then, as quickly as you came, you leave; heart unchanged and life unaltered.

That was me.

Was.

Not anymore. Thank you, Jesus.

What we need more than denominational or invented boundaries is a commitment to do the work of Christ together. (pg. 117)

This is so very true! This isn’t about whether you kneel at church or I wear jeans to church. This is about whether or not people around us in our everyday lives are affected by the Jesus we claim to love. Do you see the Pepsi guy at the gas station, or the janitor at your kid’s school? Do you know their name? Do you smile and share the love of Jesus?

Ya, neither did I.

Neither did my partner in crime.

Or my new friend I met through an accidental email.

We comprise Baptists, Presbyterians, and even the formerly non-churched. None of that mattered. What mattered is that our brother in need cried out for help. And I praise God we were able to get out of our own way, to help him.

One thing I love about Jen Hatmaker is that she is not suggesting that everyone leave their current church and start churches for the homeless. However, that is a noble task and a much needed one. What she is suggesting is that we blessed American Christians truly stop living just for ourselves. She is imploring, as I am, for those of us who love Jesus to truly start serving like Him every day in every way possible. We should be led by His sacrificial love for every one of His kids. Every one. Not just us. Them, too.

God is unimpressed by a spiritual veneer or our business saavy, either as a faith community or individually as Christ followers. None of us gets to treat people like expendable articles and expect God to look the other way because it somehow advanced His kingdom or had nothing to do with it. We can’t ignore God’s ways and expect to maintain His favor. We don’t get to neglect the major values of the gospel and claim preference or context. (pg. 121)

As is evident in how Jesus spoke to the Pharisees (see Luke 11:37) about their great concern for the outside of their cups, God cares so very much about the condition of our hearts. The Pharisees religiously cleaned the outside. Oh how they seemed righteous and appeared holy. But, the inside of their cups were full of greed, malice, self-righteousness, and pride…just to name a few. Worthless were their works because their hearts were so deceitful and dirty inside. And the worst part of all, is that wouldn’t even admit it. They wouldn’t look deeply enough to see it. It absolutely breaks my heart then, and it breaks my heart now.

This applies to us as individuals and churches as well. If a church guilts people into tithing, or uses money and stocks to secretly further Christmas bonuses for staff and/or church re-decorating – it is dirty inside and clean outside. If we, as Christians, claim to desire the heart of Jesus, but segregate those worthy of receiving that love from us, based on their past mistakes, present circumstances, or current disappointing realities – we might as well change our last name to Pharisee.

The most important sentence in the previous quote is the last one. We don’t get to neglect the major values of the gospel and claim preference or context. We prefer to work with the hurting middle class. We prefer to believe the teachings of Jesus were all figurative analogies, therefore refusing to see them as literal commands. (like, oh I don’t know, “Feed my Sheep.”) Then we are allowing our own desires to get in the way of Jesus’. I think some of us hide behind the idea that “our personal calling” is just not in this or that particular mission. Here’s a clue – if your “personal calling” never makes you feel uncomfortable, never pushes your boundaries, never stretches your faith, or brings you to you knees…it probably isn’t from Jesus.

Please, friend, let’s go serve the hurting middle class. That was me for five straight years. God used His people to love on me, encourage me, and walk beside me during my darkest hour after hour. But let’s not do that at the expense of then checking off our Good-Christian-volunteer-hours and neglecting the poor, the widowed, the orphaned and abandoned.

Let’s just do what Jesus did, shall we?

Serve the poor.

Commune with the rejected.

Pray with the desperate.

Feed the hungry. Like, with food.

It’s actually not rocket science. Good thing. I stunk at science.

(Quote from Mary DeMuth) “But it’s not either/or; it’s both/and.” (pg. 128)

I think this is exactly the point I’ve been trying to make. Can we all just agree to disagree on some things but agree on the most important thing – living like Jesus lived and loving like Jesus loved.

Serve at church! Then also volunteer at a soup kitchen regularly.

Donate to a women’s shelter. Then also stop and give money and respect to the homeless man on the street.

Send money to Compassion International. But, then give up a few hours of your weekend and go show compassion to the kids in the poorest area of town.

Be the change that our culture needs. Let it begin with you!

What if we really loved our neighbors and offered a safe place for community in our home, showing them church rather than just inviting them to one…This is not about doing church; it’s about being the church…There is a movement bubbling up that goes beyond cynicism and celebrates a new way of living, a generation that stops complaining about the church it sees and becomes the church it dreams of. (pg. 131)

Oh that we could get out of the mindset that church is there to please us. Fill us. Serve us. Teach us.

We are the church. You. Me. And the person who left your church for the cooler one.

We are all family, whether we act like it or not. And, this new way of thinking, for me, is rooted in the truth that we are all on the same team. Some of our teammates have been slacking off and not carrying their weight on game day. Some teammates have been more concerned with how they look in the uniform. Some are way too concerned about the snacks after the game.

The fact is this – the whistle blew. The clock is ticking. And when it’s all said and done, nothing in this game will matter more than if we tried our best to obey the Coach, hustle in playing our position, be willing to get our uniform dirty, and honor our years of training, by doing the hard work on game day.

Ps. Just so you know, every day is game day. Just sayin’.

I’ve discovered this journey is not about finding validation as a leader; it’s not about our church. It’s bigger than that. It’s about putting hands and feet to the gospel – our hands and feet. It’s about building bridges with those who won’t come to us on Sunday, not as a project, but because Jesus loves them and told us to.

If the gospel is good news to all, then it’s not just an idea to consider, a time slot on Sunday, or a task assigned to a select few – it’s a life to live. And it’s bigger than all of us.

Friends – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This is not about Jen Hatmaker. This is not about Jen Hatmaker’s book.

This is about Jesus.

Living like Him.

Loving like Him.

Serving like Him.

Every day and in every way…until we go home to see Him.

Period.

So…what do you think? Did I scare you all off from commenting after Week One? Are you still out there? Tell me…what has God told YOU about your life being Interrupted??

Love, love.

So. Very. Interrupted. – Week Three

Isn’t it funny how stinking thorough God is?

I don’t know about you, but when God is dealing with a thing in me, He never ceases to show up in everything with His friendly little God reminders.

If it is pride He is working on, clearly this is hypothetical then I hear a song about humility, while waiting in the carpool line. Then the next day, the sermon is about pride at church, and then bright and early Monday morning, my devotional points to serving others, and not thinking too highly of oneself.

Ok Lord, I got it. Thankyouverymuch.

He is nothing if not clear in His work in me.

Maybe obviously He knows how pig-headed, daft, and distracted I am. He did make me after all.

With that said, I will read an excerpt from a Beth Moore book (Breaking Free) I am reading right now (I know, I know, I have become quite the book nerd, have I not? My Mom is so proud!) that, is no coincidence, showing me confirmation in what God is doing in me, through me, and mainly to me right now.

“Somehow I think a writer should never appear desperate for the reader to care about her words. It just isn’t seemly. She should just do her best and place the result out there. I believe that, but in this case I just can’t do it. The contents of these pages are so important to me that I desperately want them to be important to you. The message in this volume is so precious to me that I desperately desire for it to be precious to you. I want this process described here to grab your heart. I want it to pull at your life so powerfully that the bondage of mediocre discipleship will never again be acceptable.”

That. exact. sentiment. is. from. me. to. you.

The next chapter we are about to talk about, and in fact, this entire movement God is doing in my heart and mind is so very dear to me, so freshly and beautifully precious to me, that I pray it is to you, too. I am not your little Holy Spirit though. I type that more for me, so that I can re-read it over and over while I edit this very long post.

With that said, let’s begin with Spring 2007.

A frustrating part about God is how He expects us to act on conviction fairly quickly. Pretty much the second He convinces us to move, to change, to shift, we’re supposed to. Despite how much we ponder it or talk about it, until we are obedient in word and deed, we’re just here pretending to be there….He first captured our minds…Then He seized our hearts…thereafter was the call to our hands.” (pg. 76-77)

Until we are obedient in word and deed, we’re just here pretending to be there.

Um, hello 2×4 to my head.

I knew sort of what God wanted me to do. I knew sort of who He wanted me to serve. I knew sort of how He wanted me to do it. I didn’t know complete specifics, which is often his adorableslashannoying Sovereign way, but I had the general idea.

So, in the spirit of serving, I took my two children who were currently well at the time (in one week we had three cases of croup, two strep, and one Scarlet fever…and ain’t no partridge in a no pear tree, neither) and we went with Thing One and her church to serve lunch to the elderly.

It really was awesome.

Sister friend and I were on hug patrol, and precious Benjamin gave his contagious joy and smiles away for free.

A couple weeks later (void of any true service to anyone) I finally got to catch up on the phone with my dear friend who up and followed God’s will and moved thirty-three hours away. Ya. Thanks, Lord. As if meaningful conversations were doable when we lived fifteen minutes from each other, but now this? Between the two of us, we have eight children under the age of eight. We are lucky to get a shower. Long, meaningful conversations about the amazing work God is doing in our lives, gets to happen during our luxurious free time. (aka: between 2:30am – 2:34am)

So, once we talked, she asked how Team Holzberger was doing and I told her.

Insert long, drawn out update here, including, of course, our amazing service day with our kids. See, RebFlo, we love Jesus.

Then, it was her turn. Crappity, crap, crap.

She basically told me that in the last few weeks (not months, not years) since we talked, she had found a mission-minded church. And oh ya, it was geared towards the homeless. They’d attended it twice, and driven one hour (one way!) to do so. Then, they’d made tons of peanut butter sandwiches for the homeless people, delivered them, hung out with them, spent time with them, ministered to them, yes, with her five children along for the ride! (She rocks my world!) They’d discovered the greatest need this group of believers who serve these precious homeless people needed, and they are now working on meeting them. Personally. Like, with their own checkbook. Oh, and by the way, they may even be planting a church for the homeless in their part of Portland very soon as well.

Ya, but did I mention we were at the elderly lunch thing for like two whole hours.

Sheesh.

Friend, let me be clear. This is not a works race. Jesus receives no glory when we rush around and try to out-do other believers (or non-believers!), and then try to attach His will and His Name to it at the finish line. Can He still do good through that junk? Yes He can. But, please, I beg you, don’t go there.

But, what I am saying, is that this family gets it.

They have had this stirring in their lives for months and months and months, long before reading books by Hat. But, man, oh man, have they been obedient in word and deed. Props to you Floyds. I love you dearly. But, yes, I reminded God that you verywellcouldbe doing this in Texas too. Just sayin’.

All the stats on pages 78 – 79.

I won’t camp out here too long, because I could spend all day here. Please don’t catch these stats wrong though. Don’t puff up and get defensive about the church. Or your church. (or my church!) Just take this at face value. His bride, the church, is in trouble. Period. What are you (and I!) going to do about it!?! Moving on…

Remarkably, most outsiders are not anti-church (our gospel isn’t provocative enough to incite backlash anymore); they simply dismiss the church as irrelevant to their real lives since it seems mostly irrelevant to the people who go there…If people around me aren’t moved by my Christ or my church, then I must be doing a miserable job of representing them both. (pg. 80)

Jesus was not a joiner.

Jesus did not ‘fit in.’

He was so out there sometimes with His words and His deeds; to say He was compelling doesn’t begin to describe Him. Magnetic doesn’t come close.

We are made in His image and are His image-bearers.

Our love for Him, our deeds done in His Name, our faith in trials, our praise in difficulty, our hearts to serve anyone and everyone – all of it should stand out so stinking much that people cannot help but say “What the heck is up with her?”

Is church irrelevant in your life?

Is Jesus?

I can say with certainty that I have had seasons where the answer to both of those questions would have been a secretive, yet emphatic, “Yes!”

What about you?

It will matter only if you’re a sheep or a goat. The blessed and the lost will be separated based on one principle: the care of the forsaken. The end. (pg. 86)

So, to be honest, there is a big question mark drawn on that page of my book.

Thing One and I talked about it during FPT.

Absolutes are a dangerous thing. Always and Never are powerful words that are never always true.

Sometimes. But, rarely.

In the Bible however, there are some. We know them. I won’t spend time there today. I have before, though.

But, I will say this – (actually, Jesus said it – just clarifying)

Matthew 7:17-19 “Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Matthew 12:13 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.”

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”

I think these verses Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, are a perfect reminder that it is GOD alone who lays the foundation of someone being ‘in Christ’. It cannot simply happen because we recite something correctly as a child or ‘play church’ well as an adult. It is a heart change that brings about a life change.

My pastor often says, “Before you know Christ, you sin all you want to. After you have come to truly know Him as your personal Savior, you sin about all that you want to. God just changes your want to.”

Just so you know, the offerings talked about in these verses are as follows –

Gold, silver and costly stones represent the things we did in this life in His Name, with His glory in mind, not as mere works alone, but as worship and thanks to Him, as evidence of our faith in Him.

Wood, hay, and straw represent the things of this life we did for us. For our dreams. Our goals. Our ambitions. Our priorities. Even the ‘good things’ we did with a selfish motive. It all gets burned up if it wasn’t for Jesus. All of it. Oh, that I am not standing up there in line, waiting for my turn with Jesus, with hay bail, after hay bail, after hail bail next to me.

Now, I do not think it is Biblical that anyone can lose their salvation.

I do know that many people out there think they are saved because of a moment when they were five in Sunday school, or fifteen at church camp. But, only God knows the truth. Was there true repentance of sin? Was there true admittance of His Son’s death and resurrection? Was there an honest and humble plea for God to take my life as His own? And now…is there fruit to show this? I’m not talking about works. (I’ll cover that in a minute) I’m talking about fruit.

Friend, I can say “I’m an apple tree. I’m an apple tree. I’m an apple tree.” All the live long day, but if I have oranges hanging on my stinkin’ braches and falling from my life, then hear me, even if it ain’t fun to admit…I AM NOT AN APPLE TREE!

Truth is truth. Period.

And those who have truly accepted Jesus’ gift of salvation may get in, but only be the skin of their teeth, as this verse describes. Our pastor calls is ‘singed but saved’. I do not want to be that way. I do not want to look my Savior in the face one day and have no offering to give Him because everything I try to offer gets burned up in the Fire – because it was done for me. For my glory. For my fame. For my name.

Oh that we have something to offer the One who gave us everything.

“As for me, I’m going to gamble on the fact that Jesus didn’t have much patience with believers who attempted to limit the scope of “who my neighbor is” to the fewest possible people (PLEASE READ Luke 10:25-37) Jesus always fell left of center here, extending grace and healing to those well outside His party lines. He often healed people first; they believed second…and since that’s not my call to make, I’ll just err on the side of mercy and let Jesus sort it out at the harvest.” (pg. 88)

Amen and amen.

Enough said.

“While my soft side loves that concept, I don’t buy it. Many will stand before Jesus one day clutching good works in their hands, but they will leave His presence because they never loved Him. If we’ve learned anything from the rebellious nation of Israel, the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the meager offerings of the poor in Scripture, it is this: God is supremely concerned with our motives, and our works count only when they match our intentions. There is no back door into salvation rerouted around the sacrifice of Christ. Otherwise, the whole earth could gain heaven by good works, and his day on the cross would be pointless.” (pg. 89)

This could not be more true.

I lost a dear one to me this year. Her name was Jordan and she was 22 years old. She was sunshine. She was joy. She was a servant’s heart. All wrapped up into a beautiful, brilliant, amazing young woman. I was her volleyball coach when she was in eighth grade. She killed herself last spring.

Jordan was a devout Jew.

Her family was tight-knit. Her beliefs and their beliefs, strong.

Jordan acted more like Jesus in her 22 short years, than most Christians do in their whole lives. But, as far as I know, she did not believe in Him as God’s resurrected Son. She did not know Him. She did not love Him. And as much as it physically brings my heart deep pain, the truth is this; unless she cried out to Him in her final breaths, like the thief on the cross next to Jesus did, she is not with Him now.

“We cannot think our way into a new kind of living. We must live our way into a new way of thinking.” (quoted from Richard Rohr, pg.91)

Recently, I heard a wonderful speaker named Kat Lee, at a writer’s conference say that there is no ‘try’.

She proved this by telling a story of how she asked someone once to try to pick up a chair. The woman slowly picked up the chair. “No, no, no! I didn’t say to pick up the chair, I said to try and pick up the chair.” Confused, the woman put the chair down and stared at her. “No, no, no. I didn’t say to put down the chair. And I definitely didn’t say to not pick up the chair. I said to try and pick up the chair.”

The woman probably left the room crying or angry.

But it proves the point.

You cannot try to run a marathon. You either run one or you don’t.

You cannot try to lose weight. You either drive through Krispy Kreme or you don’t.

You cannot try to be a doctor. You either actually went to medical school or you printed the degree from your home computer.

You cannot try to act like Jesus.

You cannot try to serve those around you less fortunate than yourself.

You can try to obey His specific call on your life.

You either do it, or you don’t. Either I do it, or I don’t. Period.

We’re all poor; I just have more stuff…A hot meal doesn’t hold a candle to a real friend…So as I was beginning to identify with the least – and Jesus already said He was the least – I was perhaps starting to commune with Christ in earnest for the first time in my life. It was a party at the bottom. Sorry I was so late. I got lost. (pg. 92-93)

Oh how I loved this.

Jesus clearly said it over and over – and my pastor says it often, that we cannot so much as give a cup of cold water in His Name without serving Him personally.

So, I guess we just have to ask ourselves if we are going to hand out any cold water today?

This is how I want My church to look. I want her to rip the shoes off her feet for the least every single chance she gets. I want an altar full of socks and shoes right next to the communion table. I want to see solidarity with the poor. I want true community rallied around My gospel. I want a barefooted church. (pg. 97)

A barefoot church.

How precious and glorious is that?

I love Jesus and how He arranged for them both to be wearing their prized cowboy boots.

I can’t help but wonder what my ‘cowboy boots’ are. What is it, that I need to lay at His feet, to truly put it all out there and be a barefoot-church-kind-of-girl. I feel fairly certain it isn’t my ratty old Reef sandals. Those wouldn’t bless anyone.

It (being on ‘mission’) needed to become an integrated part of our lives, maybe even a discipline like daily Bible study was, not just an event we did once a year. (pg. 99)

I love how her man, Brandon, put it! He wanted to emphasize that serving others is not only what we do once or twice a year (read: Thanksgiving and Christmas) and then go about our daily lives patting ourselves on the back of our Christian t-shirt.

Being on mission – serving the least of these – should be a daily discipline.

We should be seeking God to show us people daily who are broken, in need, hungry, widowed, orphaned, etc. You just watch God show off. He has enough of His beloved children (which is anyone breathing in air) out there to keep us busy with this daily discipline for a hundred years.

Let’s do it!

Never did Jesus charge them with something they did wrong. His entire indictment was on what they didn’t do right. It was a sin of omission. And it went far beyond ignoring poverty. Jesus explained that when we ignore the least, we ignore Him. No amount of spinning or clever justification can neutralize Jesus’ point. If we claim affinity for Christ but turn a blind eye to those He identified Himself with, there is no honor in that. There is no truth in it. (pg.101)

I feel like I’ve been drinking the Kool-aid for the last thirty-three years.

What have I been thinking?!?

I turn off the commercials when poor African orphan pictures come on.

I don’t read/watch the news because it is just too depressing.

I serve the blessed.

I bless the super blessed.

Twenty minutes in one direction are some of the poorest people in North Texas. Five minutes in another direction are some of the wealthiest people in America. Guess which direction I’ve been traveling.

No more.

No freaking more.

Miraculously, there will come a day when we stand before God Almighty with nothing but this human life standing up on our behalf, full of failure and omissions. And just when all hope is lost, when we have nothing left to hold out, nothing to show God, no more to demonstrate our worthiness with, the Son will step in, in all His glory and righteousness, and say to the Father, “Whatever you do to the least of these, these brothers and sisters of mine, you do unto me.”

Man, this got me.

I am the least of these.

You are the least of these.

We have nicer clothes. (Ok, we have clothes)

We have nicer housing. (Ok, we have housing)

But, we are the least upon least upon least.

And I couldn’t be more utterly humbled at the thought that Jesus will stand up for me – yes, ME!?! – and offer Himself instead.

The very least I could do for Him now, is do the same.

Now you know why I quoted Beth Moore at the beginning of this post.

I am desperate.

And, yes, those of you who know me well are thinking –

Ya, duh. Way to state the obvious.

But, I am for real. I am desperate, and not in the normal-weirdo-Caroline-way.

I am desperate for this message to hit you so deep in your heart that your life is never the same. Ever.

Ps. Just for the record, wanna know the first verse I am supposed to memorize for the breaking Free book I’m reading?

Isaiah 61:1

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…”

Ok, Lord, I got it. Thankyouverymuch.

So. Very. Interrupted – Week Two

Before I begin with the outline of the numerous knock-my-heart-upside-down moments I had after re-reading this week, I first wanted to simply point out something I’d like for us all to keep in mind.

Lenses.

No, not your Foster Grants or Oakleys.

No, not the part of your eyeball, that, along with the cornea, helps to refract light to be focused on the retina. Yes, I googled that. Sorry, Dr. Super-Hero.

But, I’d like for us to prayerfully examine the lenses we all look through every day to see the world around us. What area of our life is so prominent that all other things that come into focus in our world filter through it first. Let me explain, because there are a few to choose from.

Political lens – Your views on people, religion, economics, service, regulations, etc. are filtered first through how you view the issue politically.

Emotional lens – You find it difficult to separate your views from your emotions and are often drawn into something or away from something because of how it affects your feelings.

Intellectual lens – Your analytical brain tends to take over and desires things to ‘make sense’ or ‘work out right’ because in order for you to process something, it needs to line up accurately.

Biblical lens –This is the lens that filters everything through Jesus and His Word first. How you treat people, see people, and relate to people and this world is first lined up with Scripture. Not your political party. Not your emotional past. Not your prior knowledge base. Just Jesus. Just the Bible. Period. (Oh, that the church would see through this lens first!)

We are all passionate about something. We read a book like this one and we’re made even more aware of which lens is prominent in our lives. Maybe we weren’t aware at all. But, now, when faced with such strong conviction, we see which knee-jerk reaction we take (I take!) and that tells us which lens rules our vision. Those lenses are important. They are relevant. They just shouldn’t be most prominent.

I want to encourage you (and me!) and challenge you (and especially me!) to truly seek out what lens you look through first. May each of us do everything we can to simply look through the lens of Scripture, straight into the heart of Jesus and just.do.what.He.did. Act like He did. Live like He did. Serve like He did. For His glory alone. Regardless of if it makes us sad. Regardless of whether or not it ‘makes sense’. Regardless of which political party serves like this one. Just be like Jesus – regardless of all else.

With that said, let’s begin –

“I was content letting Jesus do the messy work and I would just talk about it. Or, I made it fit, inventing a way to merge it with my normal context. Sure. He hung out with lepers, but we don’t really have a leprosy epidemic anymore, so I’ll just be kind to customer service reps and telemarketers, which is about the same sacrifice…am I right?” (pg. 51)

Oh that I wish this wasn’t true in my life.

I feel so proud of myself when I am kind to the telemarketers who call during dinner and for some reason my children I’ve lost my brain they sucked it out of me! and I accidentally answer the phone instead of screening the call like I normally do.

Awww. That went well. Most people would have hung up on them. Been ugly. Said rude things. But, not me. I love Jesus. I was kind with my words and tone of voice as I cut them off and told them with my sugar-coated Southern accent that we “just weren’t interested” and then hung up before they could say another word. In Jesus’ Name, of course.

I’ve purposely avoided eye contact with homeless people, justifying in my head how ‘they’ll just use it for booze’.

I’ve rushed right by the elderly people at their once-a-week social outing at Wal-mart. I have no time to smile and chat as they wait in the front of the store for their nursing home bus to pick them up. No time to talk. Just. No. Time.

I’ve heard story after story of kids at my husband’s low-income public school who have such horrid home lives, it makes me cry. But, have I ever gone up there to just pass out hugs? Stickers? Smiles? High-fives? Nope. Not even once.

But, it’s okay, because I was nice to that telemarketer once. I’m good.

My world = population: me.

“Not only was communion a symbolic ritual, it was a new prototype of discipleship. “Continuously make My sacrifice real by doing this very thing” Become broken and poured out for hopeless people. Become a living offering, denying yourself for the salvation and restoration of humanity. Obedience to Jesus’ command is more than looking backwards; it’s a present and continuous replication of His sacrifice. We don’t simply remember the meal; we become the meal.” (pg. 54)

Whoa.

This was a big one. Here Jesus totally took one of their reverent traditions and turned it all around. He became the actual sacrifice and the ritual-meaning all in one. This must have been so weird for them. So beautifully, humbly, perfectly weird.

I love the way she described what God told her about this. Yes, we revere this tradition. Yes we remember His actual body broken and His blood spilled. But it doesn’t end when we throw away our little cups and napkins in the church lobby trash cans.

We become the meal.

We lay down our own agendas, our own dreams, our own pride, our own lives and be broken for others.

“Mercy has a cost: Someone must be broken for someone else to be fed….Death in me = life in you. Broken so someone else is fed. “Feed my lambs”

This would be an impossibly tough notion to relate to, if it weren’t for my three little rascal children. I nursed each of them for about a year.

It wasn’t always fun. Mastitis is from satan.

It wasn’t’ always convenient. No date nights for months on end.

It wasn’t always comfortable. Twenty-four extra ounces pumped a day. Ouuuuch.

It wasn’t always easy. Oh, how I miss you, occasional margarita!

But, for me, because I was able to nurse, it was something I wanted to do for the benefit of my children. I was willing to sacrifice for them. Endure pain for them. My first child had fourteen teeth on his first birthday. I’ll leave it at that. I was losing nourishment because God made my body for all ‘the good stuff’ to go to the Mama-milk first. I was willing to be broken like literally broken nipples! Ugh. for them to be fed.

Whether you nursed your babies or not isn’t the issue. Motherhood in general feels that way sometimes. Cold dinners. Outdated and stained clothes. Lack of sleep. Days without bathing. Overgrown roots. And don’t even talk to me about stretch-marks. And those aren’t even the really hard things.

Watching your kid get picked last.

Seeing your child’s heart broken.

Hearing their angst and pain from school.

Praying they drive home safely.

Pick the right spouse.

Follow hard after God.

Years and years of pouring ourselves out so they can be fed.

Do we regret it? No.

Do we always enjoy it? Heck no.

But, we do it because they mean more to us, than us.

Jesus did that and SO MUCH MORE for each of us.

And for each of them.

The ones we overlook. The ones we judge. The ones we look down upon.

His blood was poured out for them. Our lives should be, too.

Pretty much ALL of pages 58-59…ending with “Being accused of white guilt was nothing; the only tragedy would be missing all that wheat for one confused weed – who might someday turn into wheat if I show up on his street corner often enough, handing him food as he calls me a racist.”

We cannot base our service on our feelings, on our preferences, on what makes us happy. Jesus wasn’t into having a happy life. He led a perfectly holy life. And I feel confident He cares much more about our holiness than our happiness. I know this from personal experience of how He has used my greatest unhappiness to bring His greatest holiness to my life.

If only He didn’t have so far to go in me. If only His work stayed ‘done’ in me. Thank you for not giving up on me, Jesus. Thank you.

May we see the weeds for how He sees them; future wheat.

Remember friend, you, too were a weed. And Lord knows I was a big, fat, pesky one.

I’m so grateful, Lord.

Just. So. Grateful.

“I am learning what it means to descend…The pursuit of ascension is crippling and has stunted my faith more than any other evil I’ve battled…The path of descent becomes our own liberation…We are released from the idols of greed, control, and status. The pressure to protect the house of cards is alleviated when we take the lowest place…I had no idea how tightly I clung to reputation and approval or how selfishly I behaved to maintain it.” (pg. 64-65)

Sigh. I feel like a twenty ton elephant has been lifted from my heart.

Perspective is one of God’s greatest gifts.

He wrapped it up and handed it to me on my couch and my life will never be the same.

Oh how I pray that someone out there is released from this rat race today. Oh I pray, Lord, that you open the eyes of someone who has loved you but not lived for you.

Help us all to realize that this life really isn’t at all about what the world says it is about. IRA’s, cushy retirement, square footage, small waist, clear skin, happy-all-the-time…it isn’t eternal Lord. Help us to be eternally minded, but while we do earthly good.

Keep our eyes fixated on you and your calling for our lives.

Keep me low so that You can be high.

Make my name nothing so Yours can be great.

Give me no credit, no glory, no fame. Sola Deo Gloria. Today and always, Lord.

You can have all this world. Just give me Jesus.

Matthew 23:12 “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

Romans 12:3 “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”

“The needy world isn’t interested in God because he might secure their promotion or deliver an offer on their house in a wilting market. By the millions, they are running to the cross because the love a redeeming Savior is too intoxicating to resist. Jesus is their hope and inheritance, and they glory in Him despite crushing poverty, political upheaval and endless instability. They already live at the bottom, in Jesus’ zip code.” (pg. 67)

Oh that my life would be one not lived with God as my own personal blessing vending machine. May I not seek my will and then ask Him to sprinkle His blessing dust all over it. May I praise Him in rain and darkness. May I join others in their rain and darkness and shine my light with them. May the ‘good life’ be one I never desire again. Oh that people will look at me and see Jesus and not just another chick in a Christian t-shirt who looks remarkably like everyone else in and of this world.

“The rest of the world struggles with hunger and sickness, but we have to conquer the disease of greed and ego, which are notoriously harder to cure…I suppose that’s why Americans are the richest people on the planet but plagued with depression, suicide, and loneliness. We’re furthest from the freedom that exists only at the bottom, and that liberation that money can’t buy.” (pg. 68)

Isn’t this true?

The things of this world that promise fulfillment only leave us feeling more empty. Yes, even those of us who claim to be Christians. Because we literally have the world at our fingertips, we don’t see how good we have it. I do not discount people’s pain. I do not devalue their genuine struggles. But, statistics don’t lie. We are the richest. Yet, not the happiest. We should be ‘full-filled’ because we have every stinking thing around us that should fill us up. Yet, it doesn’t.

I’ve heard a saying that when you truly hit rock bottom, the only way you have to look, is up. True for our country. True for me. But, I do pray that when we look up, it isn’t longingly at the next rung up the ladder. But, instead, at the One who is there with us at the bottom, standing over us with His scarred hand outstretched, ready to pick us up, dust us off, and welcome us to His level of freedom we’ve been searching for all our Christian lives.

“It could be that Jesus will lead us to a place where we ourselves don’t even know whether we’re holy, where all we know is that we have work to do, where we have to obey the word that we’ve heard in our heart.” (pg. 70)

I underlined parts of this quote Hat referenced by Richard Rohr, because I want to be clear that Jesus calls us all differently. His blessed Holy Spirit prompts, reminds, teaches and convicts each of us according to His will. It would be ignorant and prideful, not to mention blasphemous, for me to insist I know God’s will for you. That I know how He has called you to specifically respond to the words you have read.

But, I do know, if we are willing…He will faithfully strip us of us until all that remains is Him, His will for our lives, and His love for others. This goes for each of us. If we will let Him.

James 1:22 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

Luke 22:27 “But I am among you as one who serves.”

“Become broken and poured out for others, constantly make this real, desire with desire to sacrifice, resist the power politics of the Benefactors. But, with His closing statement, He called Himself a servant, making this worldview nearly impossible to spin or misconstrue. Is this not why the gospel is such great news for the broken? Jesus redefined the nature of greatness, which has always rung hollow for the least and last. He took its connotation away from power and possessions and bestowed it on the humility of a servant.” (pg. 71)

James 1:9 came to mind. – “The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.”

I will admit that this made me cry.

All of a sudden, I pictured, in my overly vivid imagination, their faces. The least and last – their actual faces became burned into my mind’s eye. All the faces of those society has ignored, abused, judged and neglected. I pictured them suddenly learning that they were valued. I pictured them receiving this news personally from Jesus. He walked up to them, looked them in the eye, smiled, and said, “You. Are. Great!”

The look on each of their faces was similar to that of one of my children, who sleepily walks in on Christmas morning and sees a room full of presents.

Wonder.

Amazement.

Doubt mixed with faith.

Unbelief of their good fortune.

Relief.

Pain is released.

Hope is renewed.

Joy abounds.

But, not because of stockings or Santa.

All because of Jesus.

I couldn’t take it. Face after face came into my head. Older black man, dirty face lined deep with wrinkles. Young Hispanic mother, couldn’t understand my words, but knew my heart’s message. Young Asian teenager, with angst released and freedom embraced. Abandoned African toddler, just looking for someone to love them.

Face after face after face of God’s kids came into my head. And I.just.lost.it.

These are the great ones with me now. Here at the bottom. Where I hope I forever live.

James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

And I will close with a dream in my heart, spoken perfectly with her words –

“I dream of a church that is once again called great, even by our skeptics, because our works of mercy cannot be denied.” (pg. 71)

Amen and amen.

So. Very. “Interrupted” – Week One

“Our hope is that through our story, you might identify where God is leading you, that you might read something that helps you overcome what is holding you back, and that you might receive permission to chase after it.”

I wholeheartedly concur with Brandon Hatmaker in the introduction to this book. God will speak to you differently that He speaks to me. His Holy Spirit will convict you differently than He convicts me. We are different people. We have different gifts. We live and work in different spheres of influence. But, one thing I will not sugar-coat is that He has called you to help the needy. Make no mistake about it.

There is no waiting to be called. It’s been done. Read the Great Commission in Matthew 28. There is no doubt He wants you to help the poor, the widowed, the orphaned. Read pretty much any other book in the Bible. But, as we work through this book together, we will pray for God’s specific call on our lives. We will pray for each other. We will encourage each other in the faith. As my partner in crime says, we will get off our tooshy and serve those in need.

As far as format goes, I am simply going to highlight main points where God spoke to me. You must know I could have highlighted every other stinking paragraph. But I really tried not to! Please feel free to make comments about my main points AND/OR bring up how God spoke directly to your heart as well!! I am praying for life change. Not for us to just stumble around together dizzied by this transformational message and conviction from God.

Without any further ado…let’s break into Chapter One – Winter 2007

“If you truly love me, you will feed my lambs. My people are crumbling and dying and starving, and you’re blessing blessed people and dreaming about your next house.” (p.27)

Ouch. This was stung. As well it should.

I, like Hat (that’s our nickname for Jen Hatmaker because my partner in crime is Jen too!) So, anyway…I, like Hat, grew up in church. I was a PK. I was there every time the doors were open. I worked as a counselor and director at a Christian camp for a third of my life. I was on church staff. And so on and so forth. How in the stinking world I managed to mentally limit “His people” to the ones who look like me, vote like me, worship like me, and are American like me, I have no idea. I feel like an absolute fool. The level of justification we, as Americans, use to determine who does and does not deserve help/relief/blessing is nothing short of sickening. My prayer is that God gets a hold of the limitations and segregations our hearts have put upon this – and crushes them to obliteration. Even better, just smote them, Lord. You heard me – smote them. The judgments, not the people. For now.

“It won’t suffice to claim good intentions. Saying “I meant well” is not going to cut it. Not with God screaming, begging, pleading, urging us to love mercy and justice, to feed the poor and the orphaned, to care for the last and least in nearly every book of the Bible. It will not be enough one day to stand before Jesus and say, “Oh? Were you serious about that?” (p. 27-28)

Does anyone else feel like they just found out their best friend in the whole world’s birthday was last week and you completely forgot to even send a birthday txt? Oh shoot! Shoot! Shoot! Shoot! Shoot! Guilt mixed with anger mixed with disappointment and frustration at yourself, all topped with a large dose of shame and shoulda-known-better-ness.

Well, that’s fine. I’m there too. But, the only way those feelings are anything more than feelings is if they drive us to action.

Read Galatians 2:9-10 -“James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.”

Paul is talking about his ministry to the Gentiles (the non-Jews, accepted by grace and faith in Jesus) and the ministry of James (Jesus half-brother) and Peter, which was to the Jews (born ‘God’s people’ and driven by The Law). They were not the same. At all. But, they respected each other. They held the same goals in the forefront of their minds. James and Peter were called to preach ‘clean the inside of your cup’ type messages to the self-righteous Jewish culture. Paul was called to preach ‘by grace you’ve been saved’ to those not born into the ‘right’ bloodline. Both of these ministries were crucial to the beginnings of the early church.

James and Peter (known as two of the ‘pillars of their faith’) had given Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship and agreed Paul should go to preach the good news to the Gentiles. But pay special attention to verse 10 – “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.”

It’s all. they. asked.

They didn’t ask to give them the credit.

They didn’t ask to make sure they had pews and not chairs.

They didn’t ask to ensure their dress code was up to par or their music wasn’t too hard core.

All they asked was for Paul to continue to remember the poor.

These two such different ministries – with one common mission. To be Jesus to the people. And by this, to remember the poor.

And how did Paul react? Obedience. After all, this was ‘this very thing he was eager to do.’ The Greek word for eager is a verb, not an adjective. It is a verb that means: to make haste; to exert oneself; to endeavor; give diligence.

Exert oneself. Exert myself. Exert thyself. Enough said.

“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.” (p.30)

Um, yeah. She read my thoughts. Dangit.

“ALL of the statistics on pages 32-33!!” (Isn’t perspective a beautiful and freeing and humbling gift!?!)

I will just touch on a few of these that hit me hardest.

I am almost among the wealthiest 1% in the entire world. Me? What!?! I thought we were broke! Doesn’t she know that I stay home with my kids and my husband is in education for goodness sakes? Yep, she knows. That doesn’t change the math. I am wealthy. And not only in the good-Christian-says-my-treasures-are-in-heaven kind of way. Literally – I am wealthy. As in 99% of the people in the world are more broke than I am. Most of them would kill (and do kill!) for the leftover change I have under my couch cushions and in the floorboard of one of my two cars. Ugh, shoot me now.

I complain about the yucky water in my old house’s faucets, and therefore justify buying bottled water and/or Brita purifiers when 40% of the world has no water to drink that won’t cause them to get sick or die. I feel certain they’d happily drink from my old faucet.

And this one got me the hardest – we hear about the Jewish Holocaust and how awful it was. And, it was beyond awful. But, in my generation, we have only heard about it. We think, If I’d have been alive, I’d have tried to do something more to help those people. Yet, we sit back with Starbucks cup in hand, while the equivalent of SEVEN TIMES that many people die every single year from starvation, disease and malnutrition. Every year. Yet, everywhere I turn around I see an American man, woman and child who are overweight or obese. The contradiction is almost too much to take in.

Right now, Americans make me sick. Oh wait, I is one.

(In response to the quotes from three prominent American Christian leaders)“…God wants American kids to go to college but He’s ok with sixty-five million orphans panhandling in Asia? God wants to give us ‘nice things’ but doesn’t care about helping Africans with things like food and water? It’s ridiculous!” (p.36)

In full disclosure, I cannot personally comment toward the public Christian leaders’ comments with a good heart right now. This one gets me pretty fired up, actually.

Here’s the deal – prosperity preaching is crap. It just is. God cares so much more deeply about our character, our motives, our selfless and pure acts of love than He does about our home’s square-footage or the promotion we receive with freaking stock options. Don’t get me wrong – He cares about it – but only because He cares about us. To say that what God wants most for us, aside from salvation, is for us to live on earth as wealthy, successful, and happy people, is quite a stretch from…well, reality. And, it is a giant leap away from Scripture.

How do you explain poverty? Or disease? Or the trafficking of millions of children?

You can’t.

Especially if you hear on Sunday morning that God just wants us to be happy here on earth. Really? Hmmm. I guess just us then. Not them.

Yes, God loves it when His kids are happy. But, I believe He cares far much more about our holiness than our happiness.

When we begin to equate His favor by our qualifications of wealth, health and prosperity…we are missing the point. And perhaps, missing His deepest favor altogether.

“As Ghandi once famously said, ‘I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” (p. 36)

Unfortunately, I think Ghandi hit the nail right on the American head.

Obviously we are unlike Christ because we are not perfect. Given. But, let’s not use that as a cop-out. Ghandi said we are SO unlike our Christ. And, to be so unlike our Christ is beyond sad. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a Debbie Downer. I know personal people, yes, Americans, who give generously, love deeply, serve faithfully and are very much like our Christ. I could list them by name if I thought they wouldn’t be embarrassed.

But, the rest of us – most of us – look awfully similar to everyone else in America who doesn’t give God the time of day, much less proclaim to follow Him. And, trust me, read any chapter of any gospel…our Christ looked nothing, acted nothing, spoke nothing like anybody else in His culture.

“We stand at the intersection of extreme privilege and extreme poverty, and we have a question to answer: Do I care?….I won’t answer one day for how the U.S. government spent billions of dollars on the war in Iraq ($601 billion and counting when $9 billion would solve the planet’s water crisis) nor will I get credit for the general philanthropy of others. It will come down to what I did. What you did.”

So true.

We will stand before God one day and give account. That is not a theory. It is a fact. God ahead and stop and picture that for a minute. His pure majesty and glory beyond what we can imagine. Will we be able to say that we fed His people, cared for His people…all His people? Or will we give Him our justification of how they didn’t deserve help, after all, Lord, they weren’t even contributing to social security. Sheesh.

Disclaimer: I am no politician. I am NOT looking for a political debate here. I have no label of any sort I associate with, except Christian. And Jesus served. Everyone. Every race, creed, color, religion, and economic status – He served them. He died for them. Yes, all of them, too. Really, friend, that is all that matters.

I have heard so many people say “But we have so many people here in America that are poor, homeless, widowed, etc. – why should I send money overseas when Americans are in need, as well?”

Fine. Then, get in one of your cars, and drive to a place and serve them.

“I do try to help those in need.”

No you don’t.

You either help those in need or you don’t help those in need. There is no try.

“I serve at church. I tithe. I donate clothes to Good Will. I send a check to a missionary every year.” I may or may not have said this exact type thing once all too recently.

Good! You are doing awesome in those areas of obedience. But, once again…how are you (how am I?) actually getting up and exerting thyself to serve those who are poor, homeless, widowed, and orphaned?

It ain’t rocket science, friend.

I feel this would be a good time to mention the obvious – this is not a guilt thing. The conviction of the Holy Spirit and the desire to actually obey Scripture are the only reasons for you to act on any this. Not to look good. Not to still be my friend. Not to relieve your guilt for being a wealthy American.

I am not saying we all need to quit our churches, sell our homes and move to the ghetto. But, oh my goodness gracious, we could all (myself especially!) use a swift kick in the teeth when it comes to serving the least of these.

Do it in obedience. And for Jesus Name’s sake – do it with love.

1 Cor. 13:3 “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

1 Cor. 3:12-14 “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Ok now. I have done everything in my power to keep this as brief as possible. (This is my page 5, but it easily have coulda been page 15. You know this, man.) So…please feel free now, my friends, to comment. Please be respectful of others. Speak in kindness. PLEASE share what God is saying to you. How have you been impacted? What parts of the book stood out to you? Let’s support each other as we all move together toward the goal – bringing God all the honor and glory we possibly can with our meager lives, while we can.

I simply cannot wait to hear all about what God is doing!! Love, love.

Proverbs 29:7 “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.”

2 Cor. 8:9 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”

“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it. But, I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.”  – Anonymous

All the Cool Kids Join a Book Club

I’m not a reader.

Please note that I did not say I’m not much of a reader.

I did not say I’m not really a reader.

I clearly said – I am not a reader.

This is not a statement made in false modesty as I whip through three books a week. Before this whole Hatmaker business, I hadn’t whipped through three books in the last three years. Ok, maybe five.

And, of course, I am aware that reading two books in three weeks, does not a reader make.

But, none of that matters, because I am starting a book club. This is where I would have totally made fun of myself right now, just a few short months ago. Thing One  and I have decided that we want to go through these books slowly, and with a group of fellow believers, to see what God does with us, through us, and most likely to us.

Thing One and I belong to a writer’s group that meets once a month. Neither of us could swing it this summer, with the craziness that summer brings, but we plan on getting back into it soon. Right, Jen!?! Once, a few months ago at our meeting, the other beloved friends and writers were discussing their passion for reading.

Smile and nod, just smile and nod.

I’ve had a passion for soccer.

I’ve had a passion for the Texas Rangers.

I’ve had a passion for summer camp.

But, reading?!!? You have got to be kidding me.

I wasn’t the same. Much to my mother’s dismay, neither my brother nor I are readers. To the contrary, my Mom will literally whip through three books a week. Easy. It has been that way my whole life. I cannot count the number of memories I have, of her asleep with a book in her hand, or over her face or awake reading at the kitchen table (for three hours already!) once I  finally woke up for school at 7am. “How can I have two children and neither one of them loves to read!?!” she cries out. to Jesus, who made us this way, Mom.

Sorry, Mom. But, hey, I am fun at parties.

At one of our writer’s meetings, a wise friend proclaimed, “The best way to become a better writer is to read as much as possible.”

Well, crap.

I guess I should take up shuffleboard or something, then.

My reply to the ‘read more’ suggestion was simple. In fact, it was the exact same story I just told you about my Mom and my brother and the whole ‘Hey, I can’t help it if I don’t read, I just like to write.’

And then, with the love of Jesus and the honesty of James, my darling Thing One made a statement that cut me to the core – in a much-needed-Jesus-kind-of-way. She said “Oh, I see…you don’t’ want to read what anybody else writes, you just want everybody to read what you write. Nice.”

Please envision the large, flashing neon SELFISH CHICK sign that now hung over my head.

Ouch.

And, thank you.

But, as God’s been drawing me closer to where He wants me, despite of me, and my many many many many many many shortcomings, I have come to realize that reading really is good. Somewhere right now, my beloved Mrs. Larsen (7th grade English) and Mrs. Driver (11th & 12th grade English) are rejoicing with my sweet Mom (English teacher for 37 years!) Or maybe they all passed out. One of the two.

But, reading really can be beneficial to my writing, but even more importantly, to my soul.

Little did I know the first freaking book Thing One would recommend would turn my world upside-down. Gee, thanks Jens. Yes, both of you.

So, here we are. I have read two books in three weeks. Mom, you got a gold star for me? I am quite certain the impact these books (and the God they’re about) has had on me will render me useless for anything else but serving Him for the rest of my life.

I’ve been humbled.

I’ve been convicted.

I’ve been baffled.

I’ve been excited.

I’ve been angry, and sad, and joyful and driven.

So, wanna come along??

Today is Monday, and I am pushing the proverbial GO! button on this whole book club thing. I warned you about it a couple weeks ago but here it is. If you haven’t gotten your book yet, you can buy it online or at any Christian bookstore near you. I have also heard you can download it onto Kindle. Whatever that means. So, no excuses.

One week from today, I will post my blog about the first chapter (Winter 2007) from Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker.

I would love nothing more than for you to read along with me. Post comments please!! And let’s start a dialogue of what God does in our hearts. Then, the next Monday, I’ll post about the next chapter, and so forth and so on. There are five chapters, so it will take us five weeks. (Yes, I used to teach Math!)

So, I guess all I have left to say it – GOD, DO. YOUR. THING!

“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it. But, I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.”  – Anonymous

Disclaimer: If God touches your heart like he has touched mine and rocks your world like He has rocked mine – don’t blame me. Blame Jesus. And then get up and serve like Him. In Jesus’ Name.

Amen.

 

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