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

OUCH.

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."

Yes.


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.

21 comments:

  1. I know this won't be a popular opinion but I sure do scratch my head wondering how filming an HGTV series on a big (and I imagine expensive) home renovation is "wrecking" Ms. Hatmaker's "comfortable christianity"? Or furthering her desire to declare "mutiny on excess"? Is she not just encouraging people to "press their noses to the window of HER prosperity?"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess we can't speculate on where her heart is. I think for one thing, real estate is different in Austin TX than it is here in IN...but beyond that, God is using her and her family to make his power and love known. That is HUGE. We need so much more of that. I know enough of her heart to really trust it and to believe she is being led by God and not her ego or her pocketbook. Money is a scary thing and I find myself wanting to avoid it more than anything, but God has been showing me (through others) lately how He controls ALL things. It's such a slippery slope to decide who is living in "excess" and who isn't. I live in a much smaller home than I used to, but it is still SO much more than I "need" or "deserve". You know?

      Delete
    2. She also said on her blog that the remodel was gifted to them. So...she hasn't paid for most of it, but they did buy the house...and I refuse to join a club that is against pretty things. God is in the sauce!! Over and out.

      Delete
    3. Hi Jen. Good question. We didn't pay for that reno, for starters. It was a big fat gift, to be sure. I guess ultimately what pushed us over the edge on doing the show was the space it would put us in. We've been given influence in a really big place now. We so sincerely hope that when new TV folks come to figure out who we are, they get our writings, our ministry, our passions, our books, our family, our church. We so hope to put out a good example of what a normal, funny family looks like who is entirely devoted to Jesus. And not devolve into The Kardashians hopefully.

      Shannan...you are a sister. Love you. Just love you.

      Delete
  2. I am so anxious (and scared?) to read Interrupted. But I am tired of being comfortable.

    We've just only began to flip things upside-down, as we have become very uncomfortable just driving past neighbors in desperate need every single Sunday. It's not right. It made us sick. We left our church. We are trying to stay in that uncomfortable place.

    But comfort calls and I don't like stretching. But I know the world needs Christ in me, in my family, through my family. Even though it's messy. Even though it's hard.

    Also, now I'll add Dirty Faith to the list.

    And one more thing, your thoughts on money and the Hatmaker's choices are spot on. We just can't judge these things, nor should we. We just need to love others and let God sort it all out.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've been listening to a podcast sermon series from Mark Driscoll on the book of James (I know a lot of people are avoiding him at all costs because of some sort of controversy surrounding him right now but this series has been spot on theologically and I see no need to avoid that!). This weekend I listened to James #15 - Jesus' Ownership, Your Stewardship (James 5:1-6) I thought of you as I listened. I think you would like it. The whole series is so good (James #5 - Know the Word, Do the Word is another really good one!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's an interesting perspective on Driscoll and honestly, based on other things I've read of his, surprising. Glad you shared it, because I trust your judgment, K-bomb.

      Delete
  4. Im surprised by Jen's comment (not the hatmaker jen). The new home is not humongous, it was much diying, and it showed a lot of recycling and repurposing. And even if the money had not been given to them.....who cares! I am super glad that a reality tv show followed them.....it shed a positive light on Christians. Good Lord, I am 45 and still get the shivers thinking of Ozzy Osbourne's reality show. (True confession.....i watched them all.) Kudos to Jen (hatmaker.....not the negative one)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haa! You're my people. I love that you get the shivers about Ozzy.
      Reality tv can be a pretty awesome thing. Emphasis on "can". :)

      Delete
  5. I was about a third of the way into writing Dirty Faith when Susan said, "There's a blog you have to read. She gets it--and does it." On days when the keyboard refused to be self-motivated, I often turned to these pages for my reality check. Thanks for the kind words, but many more thanks to you and Cory for living out dirty faith every day. –David Nowell

    ReplyDelete
  6. i wish more than just about anything that i could sit down with you and hear your whole story beginning to end. what a bummer that i'll even be in indiana this week. :(

    ReplyDelete
  7. JEN HATMAKER COMMENTED ON YOUR BLOG! And I just love everything you write! Everything.

    Carry on now.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ack. I want to read this book so bad and have had it on my wish list for ages. Just haven't pulled the plug and bought it. Gotta budget for that :) And LOVED hearing you on my local radio station the other day!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Interrupted slayed me too. And your blog keeps it coming. It's so neat that your family is going to provide even more inspiration through another venue in Dirty Faith. God never promised easy, but the Christian life is NOT dull!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Girl, your story sounds so much like mine, right down to the heavy influence books. I wonder if David Platt knew what he was going to unleash in this generation of young moms with that book! :) Love your blog, and I will definitely have to check out Dirty Faith.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm so glad I found your blog! I am currently reading "Not a Fan". It's speaking very loudly to me. Can't wait to get my hands on these two books also!

    ReplyDelete
  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I have been reading your blog for a while now. I greatly admire your steadfastness to what God has called you to do. I enjoy your observations. However, this post gave me pause. My husband has been in ministry for 30 + years. We have been involved in various churches and para church organizations. The one thing we have learned in all these experiences is that faith is just not neat and tidy ( you say dirty faith...we say not neat and tidy.). We embraced the evangelical movement. We thought the post modern church was a breath of fresh air...but each of those movements did they same thing you did in this post. They began to think that their faith actions were the only true actions asked of God. After warning us that those things aren't bad in your first paragraph, you say "but that's not Gospel." My heart just fell. Because God's call to a faith journey looks different on everyone. My husband came from a very dysfunctional family. It was little old ladies who shared the gospel just like in your first paragraph who made the initial inroad in his life through a church party someone took him to. I am an educator. I have seen countless teachers pour love and prayers over their students (teachers and coaches also showed my husband the love of God.). My parents are those people you describe. They also adopted two children. One on the basis of a phone call from a doctor about a child born who nobody wants because she might have Down syndrome. Sight unseen they said yes. She is now a hospital Chaplin. My mother at 81 still volunteers at a free clinic my father helped start. Please don't limit God. Dirty faith is obedient faith. It is easy to classify some actions as authentic faith and dismiss others as lacking. I don't know why some people are called to one journey and some to another. I just know all journeys can be used by Him and the minute I start trying to categorize them, God humbles me. You have this great platform to share your faith. Please don't take this as a stab at you. I truly admire you. Just don't sell everyone else short. Faith is just not that neat and tidy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment! I have read your comment twice, and I think we're more on the same page than you think, though I could be misunderstanding.

      The "good things" I listed up at the top of the post describe "good, Christian living". Where they fall short is living beyond ourselves. And living just for ME is contrary to the Gospel. Living "good" but almost entirely isolated isn't Gospel living.

      I spoke directly for us in writing that those things we were doing were not bad, but we were not fulfilling the "Go" portion of the Gospel. We were not really loving our neighbor. And because we were missing entire chunks of scripture from our paradigm, we weren't really loving God.

      I believe fully that most people haven't been asked to switch careers and sell houses and adopt felons. Those were God's gifts TO US, and parts of his mission for us. But no matter where we are, He wants us living beyond ourselves, not circling back in and looking out for #1 (aka ourselves) first.

      The people and stories you describe sound very much to me like people spending their lives on behalf of others. God uses "small" lives. I happen to think He uses those lives in the biggest ways. Faithful Church Ladies and School teachers - what could be a more fruitful mission?

      My faith is no more authentic or lacking as another person's. Like you said, we are all on a journey. But central to the journey is the call to Follow, and that implies doing actual things, most often for other people. How amazing that He accomplishes this in us through so many different ways?!

      Thanks again for taking the time. Have a great day!

      Delete
  14. My stomach hurts.
    And Jen loves you. :)
    And I do too.

    ReplyDelete