Monday, August 18, 2014

2 Books That Are Changing Me

Five years ago, my comfy good-girl life was split at the seams by a sermon series that soon after became this book. (It seems impossible that it was five years ago, but I just counted on my claws and yep, five.)

Prior to that, we were good Christian people live honest, Christian lives. We did all the things we thought Christian people were supposed to do, things like putting down deep roots, living within our means, attending church, tithing, and not being mean to our neighbors. We said the right words and did all the right things. We kept up our appearances and worked hard to build a life we could be proud of. For bonus points, we also gave financially when we knew of a need, read Bible stories to our kids, listened to Christian music on the radio, attended and led Bible studies, lived in the country, talked about homeschooling one day, and spent all our time with other Christian people.

I'll be clear right out the gates, before anyone gets the chance to get angsty: None of those things we did were bad. They were good things. Positive and life-giving things.

But they were not the Gospel.

We were not living by its words and bleeding its cause.
We weren't dying to all the things we thought we were, all the things we wanted to be.
We weren't spending our life for the sake of being the Good News to the world around us.
(We didn't even know the world around us. Not really.)

So, when I say it felt like a gut-punch, I'm not trying to be dramatic.
I remember feeling nauseous in bed and bawling my eyes out in the shower.
It was painful to let go of what we thought were the right things to live for and we felt bruised and banged up for months on end. I was terrified and ashamed of the way I had twisted God's very words to fit my me-centric lifestyle.

For the first time, I was faced with the hard question :: Am I really following Christ?
The only answers I saw made my knees weak.

The Bible says if I love and follow Jesus, I will care for the poor, fight for the orphan, love my neighbor, feed His sheep, wage war against injustice, advocate for the forgotten. I will live like all I have is His. I will be inconvenienced and misunderstood and lonely, sometimes. I will intimately understand my smallness and need - my humanity. I will hurt and weep for the sake of Truth.

I'd spent my entire life, up to that point, doing the exact opposite.

My solitary goal was to make my life better, easier, safer, shinier, and happier. I expected my church to serve me and meet my needs. I knew "worldly" people needed Jesus, but they would need to find Him somewhere far away from my children, because I didn't want them near an unholy influence.

I could go on, but it's making me feel sick again...

We didn't know what else to do, so we just kept asking God to show us the next right thing. And that's all He did, and all He does still. There was never a grand revelation, or a giant pull-down map that descended from the heavens, charting the rest of our life on this earth.

For us, He deals in baby-steps.

Had I been able to project five years into the future, I would probably hope to be further along. I'm still Flower Patch Farmgirl, but I live in a shabby part of the city now and the cucumbers I tried to grow this year are a testament to all I've unbecome. I don't know that I would see *this* as progress enough, but I'm learning now that God moves freely in our small places, turning our hearts to Him one degree at a time.

Consistently, He has used the wisdom and openness of others to refocus our hearts.

Without hesitation, the outside voice that has been the most instrumental for me is Jen Hatmaker's.

I found Interrupted two years ago, after reading her book 7. Though I loved 7,  this matched the drum-beat of my heart. I devoured it, underlined and dog-eared it mercilessly, kept it on my bedside table for months, and bossed everyone to read it.

With every page, the call on my heart was affirmed. During a time when I've never felt more misunderstood, God sent this stranger and her words on a page to convince me I wasn't alone and only half-nuts.

Until two years ago, my life resembled the basic pursuit of the American Dream; it just occurred in a church setting.    - Interrupted

So Americans living in excess beyond imagination while the world cries out for intervention is an unbearable tension and utterly misrepresents God's kingdom. While the richest people in the world pray to get richer, the rest of the world endures unimaginable suffering with their faces pressed to the window of our prosperity, and we carry on oblivious.    - Interrupted


God used Jen to show me He likes us wonky and weird and living in ways our human nature tries to avoid. He meets us most intimately when we nose-dive with Him into the ditches. He finds us there and breaks our hearts, but His presence is our reward and He fixes and heals us and keeps us low-down and needy so the only thing we can do is cling. And because He happens to behilarious and the opposite of what the flannel board taught us, He also gifts us with strange and amazing people along the way to share our lives in the weirdest ways.

Interrupted is being re-released, and it makes me want to wheel around every little town like a misguided paperboy and fling a copy onto every porch. It's revised and expanded and you need to read this book, guys. Don't be scared of what it'll do to your heart. Trust me that it'll hurt, but He will carry you and you'll never be the same.

Unfortunately, the years since I first met Interrupted haven't found me at a position of particular saintliness. Rats. We're still fumbling people, we just happen to fumble in slightly different ways.

But we've come to embrace the wild call of Jesus to do hard things and go to risky places and abandon some of the comforts we're inclined to cling to for the sake of loving His lambs. Some days it's easier than others. Some days we act like it's 2008.

Over the past couple of years, we've had tremendously painful days, but we've also had some shocking and humbling opportunities come our way. This is one of them.

My new friend, David Nowell,contacted us last year asking if he could include our story in his book, Dirty Faith.

We said yes, and here it is.

Friends, this book is phenomenal.
I didn't know what to expect, and it is blowing me away.
It's the perfect partner to Interrupted. The ideal follow-up, or "Now what?" read.

I can't tell you it's an easy read, because truthfully, it will break your heart.
But isn't that part of our mission? Haven't we been called to live with our hearts split open?

This is a book about perspectives and possibilities. It is about looking at our world through the lens of grace, about seeing people as Christ does. It is about a different way of extending grace to and beyond the community of faith. It is about compassion - hurting alongside those in need.           - Dirty Faith

Deeply and profoundly understanding just how blessed we are can be a powerful motivation for blessing others.          - Dirty Faith

Let's be in this together, want to? Find a few people near you. Start a class at church or in your neighborhood. Host an online book club. Grab your people and get busy.

Let's lean in and be a wrecked-up mess for His glory.

In Jen's words, "Come, Jesus. We are yours. Have your way with our generation."


Find 'em:
Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker

Dirty Faith by David Nowell

PS - To see more of the books that heavily influenced me at the beginning of this wild ride, click here

*Amazon affiliate links used.