Maybe your list is different. But, you have a list of celebrities that you’d love to have as your BFF’s….or, just hang out with for a day. I think many of my friends would have at least one of these people on their list. Joanna and Chip are so hilarious to watch; I feel the need to let them renovate my house, even though there’s nothing major that needs to be ‘fixed’. Jen Hatmaker looks like so much fun…I can totally see it….her coming over, probably with chips and salsa (or some other yummy, Southwestern/Texas treat) and us ‘clicking’ from day 1.
Oh, and don’t forget Michelle Obama and Melinda Gates – two strong women advocating for the rights of women and girls, using their position and power in admirable ways to fix what’s wrong in the world. What I’d give to jump on that bandwagon. Truly – I’d be in Africa passing out anti-malaria tents in a heartbeat, if I got to hang out with the likes of Melinda.
There is something seductive about celebrity. I happen to adore everyone on this list. But, I’m trying to ground myself a bit, heading into a conference this weekend. I am attending the Belong Tour in San Jose. And, I am like a 6-year-old getting ready for their first trip to Disney. I AM PSYCHED! This Christian women’s conference brings headliners like Jen Hatmaker and Shauna Niequist together to inspire and teach women how to live ‘fun, faith-filled, purposeful’ lives. It is going to be awesome.
In my post, The Day After, I talked about what we do after the big event. And, this is true, even in noble pursuits, like a Christian conference. I definitely credit the women in this line-up for changing the conversation in faith circles, advocating generosity and justice, and showing us by example what it looks like to be vulnerable about the brokenness in our world…and, even in ourselves. Yet, the reality is that this (a conference) is not the end – this is just the beginning. For sure, we all need the ‘ra ra’ moments…the moments that will motivate and inspire. But, if I fail to take it one step further, I’ve done nothing truly spiritual. I may as well call it for what it is, a girls weekend. (Btw, there’s nothing wrong with girls weekends!)
LESS ‘RA RA’ – MORE CROSSES
Faith is not about the ‘ra ra’ moments – it’s about God coming into the messy moments. Ann Voskamp writes of an exchange with a homeless man, they invited to live with them:
The sun’s losing light as it edges across the floor. I can feel the world tilting a bit, its truth slipping right out and onto the floor between Gordon and me: Why do we rush to defend God to a broken world, and not race to defend the image of God in the world’s broken? Gordon’s eyes search mine. The light’s caught in his hair. Yeah, I’ve got no idea if he’s packing something, dealing something, trafficking something, but something holy’s caught in my throat. We’ve all got our crosses.
I love that. We’ve all got our crosses. What’s remarkable is that for so long, Christian culture has managed to stick a cross on everything….our Christian books, our Christian music, our Christian camps – even our churches. Yet, most of the time, it’s symbolic – we’ve cheapened our faith to the point of forgetting what the cross actually means. Let’s be honest. If you are hungry. If your parent(s) are in prison. If you have no roof over your head. If you are being trafficked. If your country is falling apart and you are a refugee. If your world is broken, you could care less about all the Christian conferences, camps, books, songs – you name it. You just want help. You just want someone to walk alongside you. You’ve got an actual cross.
Read these brutally honest words, written by Mickey Maudlin, Senior Vice President and Executive Editor at HarperOne:
Eventually the scales fell off and I had to confront the uncomfortable truth that perhaps evangelical churches, books, personalities and programs were the most popular because the movement was the most accommodated to consumer culture. Seeing evangelicalism as a populist movement, subject to fads and personality cults, fit with many of the dynamics I witnessed.
Somehow, we so quickly forget that the real treasure isn’t in best-sellers or the number of congregants in the pews, it’s something much better.
OVER COFFEE AND CROISSANTS
Yesterday, two friends came over for brunch. We drank a pot of coffee, and ate a bag of croissants from Mademoiselle Colette. It was divine. But, the real treat was hearing their stories. One shared stories of building schools in South America, while the other talked of how visiting orphanages in Asia and Africa has changed the way her kids see the world. I can’t help but think that this is church. This is faith. These are holy moments.
My Jesus Calling devotion for today, is titled Be Willing to Follow. It says: “Some of My richest blessings are just around the bend: out of sight, but nonetheless very real. To receive these gifts, you must walk by faith – not by sight. It means subordinating the visible world to the invisible Shepherd of your soul.”
I have to be brutally honest with myself. How often has my heart been captured by my eyes? I am drawn in by the talent, the wealth, the intellect…. Like a shiny penny, my eyes quickly see that well-crafted package; it is so easy to open. It is so lovely to read a book or listen to a song, and to feel good about my salvation. On the other hand, if I let my soul be my guide, where would it take me? What new things would suddenly become visible to me, if I saw beyond the safe and sanitary, tree-lined streets of Menlo Park?
Tuesday, I was at home with a sick kid. After cancelling my appointments and plans, I suddenly had all this time I hadn’t planned on. So, I decided to start a book that all my friends have been reading, Love Warrior. Glennon Doyle Melton holds nothing back, in writing about her life and marriage. As things fell apart, Christians were anything but helpful. In the excerpt below, she’s at church with her daughter, when the judgment from folks there, revealed the gulf between our God and our religion:
I look away, farther down the hall, and I see Tish in line with her Sunday school class. Tish sees me and her face lights up. In that instant, I realize that I owe nothing to the institution of Christianity – not my health, not my dignity, not my silence, not my martyrdom. I do not answer to this place, I answer to God, to myself and to the little girl in that line….She needs to learn from me that these four walls don’t contain God and that the people inside them don’t own God, that God loves her more than any institution God made for her. She will learn this only if I show her that I believe it myself.
I’ve been there. I’ve been that little girl, Tish. I am the collateral damage of a church that prioritized outsides over insides. Jesus doesn’t mince any words.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, so that the outside may become clean as well. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity.
Tomorrow, I head to belong. I can’t wait. I don’t want to be blind. I don’t want to be a clanging cymbal. I don’t want to be that well-meaning woman in the church. I don’t want a conference to be the beginning and the end. The world doesn’t need any more books, CD’s (is that old tech now, should we say MP3’s?), camps or conventions. The world needs us to just get OUT. I’m nearly done with Brandon Hatmaker’s book, A Mile Wide, where he writes:
We become so consumed with our model or way of church, protecting our beliefs and fighting over doctrine that we become distracted from what’s most important….the Kingdom is for sinners, not the righteous…although Christ died for us and offers us what we cannot earn, we still spend way too much time trying to appear like we earned it.
While he offers many tips for how to get out of our old beliefs and ways, two ideas stuck with me. The first one, he learned from a friend, Alan, who regularly helped the homeless. Alan, a church leader like Brandon, told him, “My job is to get as many people out of the pews and onto the streets of our city as I can, because I know it will change them.” The second tip is that a deeper faith is rooted in trusted relationships…maybe like the relationships born over coffee and croissants, where families figure out how they can make the ‘love God + love others’ equation a reality in their lives.
I may love to dream big, of working with the celebrities of the world. Heck, Sheryl Sandberg’s kids go to the same school as mine. And, you can be sure that my ego sometimes whispers, that maybe I should try to find a way to get my ideas to her or see if I can get connected to her. (For the record, I’m a huge fan of hers!) But, that never seemed to be the way Jesus went about things….He almost always seemed to ‘go small’….to pursue hearts and minds, one at a time…to start with the people that are right in front of you.
This year, I’m kinda all over the map. The homeless, low-income schools, my kids’ schools, a myriad of roles at church….and, now, a Christian women’s conference. I’m trying it all….including, blogging. And, I hope that the blogging never comes across as bragging. Dear God, help me – if it does. The blog is about accountability. It is about documenting this journey, and letting others into the messiness. I’m trying to see what faith actually looks like outside of the church. If we are talking about belonging, I no longer want to belong to a cultural Christian club. Rather, I think God is asking whether I am making space so the hurting, messy world can belong to me and I to it…whether I let my heart be broken, so that out of the pieces I may find how I’m supposed to live out my Micah 6:8 life.
It turns out, the real fixer upper is me.
To the beautiful women I get to spend this weekend with, let me speak to you. Let’s have fun. We are hard-working mama’s who deserve a weekend away. And, many of you inspire me with the way you’ve oriented your lives around helping those in need. So, I’m kinda speaking to the choir. But, let’s collectively commit to letting this weekend be the beginning of something bigger! – Love, Dayna