What Makes Us Think We Can Do This? 

The brake lights appeared in my right peripheral view and in an instant the car was right in front of me.

No signal. No warning, just a 4-door Chevy driven by a person with little regard for my safety or anyone else’s. I slammed on my Honda’s brakes and shook my head, again. It had been the same with several other cars around me. I’d seen it happen over and over on the short stretch of the freeway between here and there. 

Right then I was acutely aware of all the other cars and drivers around me. That old rickety truck with a ridiculously high stack of pallets that were barely held on by one tattered rope. The lady next to me putting on makeup in her rear view mirror. The man in front of me who was concerned with whatever he was reaching for in the back seat. The handful of people I saw with my very own eyes, whizzing by at 60 miles per hour with one hand on the wheel and the other one texting furiously. 

Amidst all that and hundreds of brake lights going on and off, I thought to myself, what makes us think we can do this? 
Seriously. I mean… When Henry Ford unveiled his first model, did he ever dream that one day we’d be crammed onto four-lane roads by the thousands, barely paying attention to what we’re doing as we commandeer our own personal ton of metal just inches from one another? 

What makes us think we can hop in this hunk of metal made up of more little parts than I can count, jet onto the road next to all the other distracted crazies, and somehow make it home safe like nothing dangerous ever happened? 

I’ll tell you what. It’s faith

I have faith that all the moving parts under my hood, some held together by mere tiny springs (I don’t know what you’re called, but I’ve seen you, little whatsits!) will function for the most part as they were intended, working together in a very particular sequence of timing to make this car move. And I have faith in myself that I’ll remember where I’m going and the best way to get there. Or at the very least, I’ll have faith that my cell signal is working so Siri can guide me there. And craziest of all, I have faith in all of the other drivers on the road, that their whatsits will work correctly together too, and that they know and obey (most of) the laws of traffic and adhere to the majority of the unwritten rules of courtesy when driving amongst other folks. I have faith they will not slam into my car on purpose or completely ignore a red light or a stop sign. 

That takes quite a big measure of faith. 

And that same faith is exactly what makes us think we can do anything

We need faith to even think we can do anything. 

It takes faith to take that leap into a new career or a new city. It takes faith to look another person in the eye and say, Yes. It will be you and only you forever. Let’s make that work. It takes faith to stare at a plus sign on a white stick and think Yes, I can do this even though you’ve never done it before and the responsibility is enormous. And it takes faith to believe that you’ve been created for more than just paying bills and dying.

It takes faith to believe that you’ve been created by a God who, after creating the whole world, still decided that you were needed. The world was not complete without you. It takes faith to think that He has put gifts and talents inside each one of us, and given us circles of influence in a specific combination that no one else has. It takes faith to admit that and take even a tiny step to put those things into practice in our world today. 

Today I’m on my way to the She Speaks conference, where about 900 women will gather under one roof to worship God and say I have faith that You made me, God. And I know You’ve prepared good works in advance for me to do. And I think these talents and gifts You’ve given me have something to with those good works I’m supposed to do here. I’m Yours. Show me what’s next

Whether you suspect God wants to use your writing, your voice, your research abilities, your interpersonal skills, your organizational gifts, your parenting, your generosity, or you living room, the assignment is the same: Have faith that you are made in His image, and that means you are a creator. Believe that you have already been given what you need to accomplish the things He’s prepared for you to do. And then hold fast to that faith, and take a step toward getting that business done. 

My She Speaks sisters: I don’t know what that next step looks like exactly for you or even for me. But I know you have faith simply because you’re showing up and making yourself available to His service. It takes faith to hop on a plane or in a car and travel hundreds of miles to a new place, to hang with a crowd of people you have mostly never met. It’s takes faith to walk up to someone and say hello, to introduce yourself and believe you might just make a new friend. It takes faith to share your dreams with someone and describe the talents you suspect God has placed within you. And that is the kind of tiny little brave faith that can move mountains. That faith is what makes us think we can do this. As we should. I am so excited to meet you and give you lots of hugs!

-Krysten 

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People of Faith, Come Out.

The question why? doesn’t even seem to cut it very much anymore in our world, does it? There is simply no logical answer for it during a week like we are experiencing now. There is evil in this world, so much hate, and in Orlando this weekend, those things combined in one person and compelled him to carry out a sinister act. A deadly one.

I’m horrified, as most everyone is and should be this week, as I think of the lives taken just a few nights ago while I was sleeping safe and sound in my bed. When I learned of it, my heart sank down into my stomach.

So here we are again, and forty-nine beautiful, holy, created-in-the-image-of-God lives, are just gone. More than that have suffered injuries. And even more than that have suffered emotional scars that could take a lifetime to heal.

As a person of faith, I pray for their families. I pray that some measure of comfort and peace will reach them. I also pray for the injured and the witnesses, that they would heal both physically and in time, emotionally.

I pray because I don’t think it’s a waste of time. Our prayers are what connect us to the source of all peace, the something-bigger-than-ourselves, the very love itself that keeps us woven together.

But as people of faith, I think there’s more we need to do right now. More than praying. More than even donating money or giving blood. Those things in themselves are good, and we should do them. But there’s more to be done.

Because a sanctuary was invaded this weekend. A sanctuary not unlike the one in Charleston that was invaded just a year ago. It might not be the place many of us initially think of when we hear the word sanctuary, but our LGBT brothers and sisters certainly understand it to be just that, as they were gathered in this place of joy together.

They were dancing and singing and laughing and being free together. Free from judgmental eyes and hateful comments. They were in a sanctuary, free from the fear of being treated as less-than.

And they should have been safe there. They should have been safe to be themselves and enjoy a night without worrying if they would ever get to enjoy another. They should be safe there. They should be safe anywhere.

But the fact is that they aren’t safe everywhere. In the freest country on earth, an LGBT person is never quite free from the worry that someone will treat them in a manner that is disrespectful or downright dangerous.

So, yes, I want to #PrayForOrlando together with other believers. I want Americans to band together and grieve this completely senseless loss of life that happened yet again on our soil.

But I also want us as people of faith to acknowledge that this was a crime that targeted our gay community specifically. And I want believers inside and outside of the Church to understand that if we don’t specifically acknowledge that, and we skip right past that fact and just start to clamor about political positions, we’ve done a great disservice to the LGBT community and we’ve actually added to their pain. 

To my LGBT loved ones, I want to say that I see you. I can’t imagine how scary this is for you, to wonder if this will happen closer to home next time, or if you or someone you know will be the next target. I understand that this is by far not the first time you have had to be fearful of someone using hate as an excuse to violate you. I am so sorry for that.

I am sorry for the way the Church on the whole has, at worst, treated you as less-than-human, or at best ignored you. I don’t want to do that. I know each one of us are made in the image of God and He loves us all completely and wholly without condition. Every single one of us. I don’t think you need me, some white, straight, middle-class elementary school teacher to validate you in that way. But maybe there are some of you who have just never been told that. So please hear it from me. You are made in God’s image, you are beautifully unique and special and nothing will ever change that. We are all worthy of love and dignity simply because of that. And anyone who treats you as if that’s not true is simply wrong. 

I am so sorry you have suffered at the hands of people who, supposedly in the name of God, have said you are not worthy of unconditional love and respect. And I’m especially sorry for any of the same people who have hurt you outright with words or deeds. Please hear this: That is not what God is about. Anyone who claims that hate can be justified by slapping the name of God on it simply does not understand the overall concept of God.

You are loved by God and by many, and nothing in the universe can ever change that. My heart breaks this week for your compounded grief, as people who are both dumbfounded by more loss of life, and as members of a community who have known far too much violence and hate in your quest for love and acceptance. 

rainbow hearts

I pray my words fall on the hearts of my LGBT friends gently. There is much more to say, but for now, I just want you to know you are loved and seen and heard. 

To my friends who claim the name of Christ: I see you too.

One important note: There are those who, supposedly in the name of God, have spent large amounts of energy trying to convince men and women in the gay community that they are unworthy of love, that they are despicable, or abhorrent. I am not addressing those folks here, because I don’t in any way think they are actual followers of Christ. Nothing even remotely similar to Him is in their speech or their actions, and I do not refer to them as Christians (meaning Christ-followers) because everything they do shows that they are the opposite. They are ideological extremists, exactly like the man who murdered dozens of people in Orlando this weekend.

I am speaking to my brothers and sisters in the faith who follow the person and example of Christ as imperfectly but faithfully as possible, who understand that every single person on the face of this planet was created by God in His image.

To you I want to say that this needs to be a major time of reflection for us. How have we, as individuals or as entire fellowships, participated in this violence? It’s true we’ve never pointed a gun at a homosexual person, but have we fired shots with our voices or our silence? The hurt is the same.

I know you and I truly believe that your heart hurts for this whole situation. I know so many of you are uncomfortable and sickened with the way that the Church has treated many groups, including our LGBT brothers and sisters.  I have spoken with you over coffee and during times of study and I know that some of you don’t understand why this debate is even still happening. You are tired of being lumped in with the “ignorant Christian bigots” because that is truly not what you are. I understand. May I urge you to speak your mind, and to be a bridge for the people you love at both ends of that spectrum? Voice your beliefs and your love and your questions. I predict you will be loved all the more for it.

And I know that there are some of you who love Jesus and truly believe that an LGBT person has personally chosen their lifestyle, and you have a hard time understanding how that fits with what you have been taught over many years. I have grace for you as well, and I understand that you are on a journey of learning and you truly want to be faithful in that quest. May I urge you to tend to this in your own personal prayer life and study of God’s word on these issues (yes, deep study–that means whatever it takes, all the way back to the original languages for every single word if you have to) and to truly develop your own understanding rather than simply accepting what has been repeated to us over and over.

And please, if you have big opinions about the LGBT community but find yourself realizing that you don’t actually spend time with anyone who is gay, let’s just start there. Because I promise you that when you love those who don’t necessarily share your same background or beliefs, you will look at everything in a new light. Because it won’t be about an “issue” or a “culture war.” It will be about you and the right-in-front-of-you folks whom you love. And that changes everything. It no longer allows us to throw around cheap cliches and Christian-y catchphrases, but it forces us to ask what those words might mean to our loved one. That is the journey we must take.

And at every point in that journey, please remember that at no time did Jesus ever hurt people (and especially not entire groups of people) with his words or by ignoring their plight entirely. He was moved, deep down in his gut, with compassion for the masses. He always treated every single person with the love and dignity they were worthy of simply because they were created by God.

He was always on the lookout for those who were hurting, who needed love, and who needed to be reminded of their worth. He gave us the very best example of what it looks like to love in words and deeds. So let’s make that example our focus, and all else secondary to that. Let’s be about the business of standing side-by-side with those who are hurting. Let’s be that Samaritan, who defied all commonly held cultural parameters and looked past it all, seeing nothing other than a fellow human being lying bruised and battered in a ditch and said How could anyone pass this person by without reaching out? And if we become battered and bruised at the same time, so be it.

So yes, more love and less hate. Nothing can undo the hateful actions that happened this weekend in Orlando. Nothing, ever. But we can continue to assault evil with love every time we pray, open our mouths to speak, or encounter another human being. Every single day.

Whatever our personal beliefs are at this moment, there is absolutely no debate to be had over whether or not the people in that nightclub were loved by God and worthy of dignity and respect as human beings. That’s not even a thing. Not even.

But let’s ask ourselves: Will we, as people of faith, mourn alongside anyone who mourns, even if we think them to be different than we are? Will we love God’s people more than our perceptions? Will we come out and speak, take a posture of wanting to learn, and say that maybe this is awkward, unsteady territory but we are willing to go there because we want to love extravagantly like Jesus did?

//

As I’ve written and rewritten this over the past few days, it has dawned on me painfully that I should have said these things long ago. I should’ve said essentially these same things also to my friends of color and of other faiths, who have frequently been targets of violence and hate and continue to be. Sometimes it just feels as if the hatred and violence is compounded all the more by the thousands of competing voices yelling in the aftermath. As if anyone needs another opinion. But I will use my words more often on behalf of peace and on behalf of those I love. -Krysten

Come With Me: Beyond the Invitation

Don’t you just love opening an invitation?  Lovely, thick stationery with an embossed seal takes a little effort to tear open, but it  carries so much excitement inside.

Not only does an invitation reveal something very special, such as an upcoming wedding date or a chance to shower some love on a new mother. But it communicates something to you as the recipient as well.

You are important. You are loved. I chose you for this. I want you to be part of this monumental moment.  It just wouldn’t be the same without you. Please say you’ll be there; I want you to experience this with me. Come with me and become part of my history.

In Suzie Eller’s just-released book, Come With Me, she reminds us that every single day, we have a chance to hear those words of invitation. Not only to hear them, but to accept them wholeheartedly.

Come With Me Release Day

Suzie journeys alongside the original 12 disciples of Jesus, and plants herself firmly as the 13th disciple. Throughout the book, she leans in to what they may have been thinking and feeling as they heard Jesus’s words, witnessed His miracles, and walked with Him daily, never having the benefit of knowing how His story continues even today. They didn’t have the luxury of hindsight, of being able to look back over thousands of years of scholarly analysis and see the nuances in what He might have been saying.

They were rough fishermen and despised tax collectors. They were Regular Joes. They went about their daily business of mending nets, reeling in the catch, balancing the books, squinting to record figures.

But they got an invitation. One by one, Jesus said Come with Me.

He had no sales pitch. Nothing at all that would indicate they were ablout to live a prosperous, carefree life. In fact, many of Jesus’s words would indicate the exact opposite.

But they each accepted the invitation. Leaving their jobs. Their families. Their positions. Their very identities in society.

Unlike the invitations we get in the mail today, Jesus’s invitation didn’t list a location, a dress code, a meal preference. You know, the things that help us be prepared for the big event. Nothing of the sort.

So why would these individuals say yes, knowing nothing beyond the man who was standing in front of them?

It didn’t make sense. They literally had no reason to open themselves up like that at first. No guarantees of any sort. But when Jesus spoke those words, they knew something more, something bigger than they’d ever dreamed of, was right there in front of them.

I doubt they knew it at the time, but by accepting Jesus’s invitation to Come with Me, they actually acknowledged that they were chosen.

It was an invitation alright. To put faith into practice. To understand forgiveness and mercy. To see with different eyes and hear with new ears. To be fully known and absolutely chosen anyway.

This exact same invitation Jesus gave to the twelve is the one we still have today. For some of us, it sits unopened in a pile of other important things, but we fear opening it because then we will have to make a choice to RSVP. For many of us, we have opened the invitation and accepted, but somehow thought it was about what to wear or what to buy to take along with us, missing the bigger picture entirely. And yet for some of us, we’ve been part of something bigger but the memories have faded.

This book is for all of our hearts. It’s about the journey we take when we decide not to just accept Jesus’s invitation, but to go wherever He leads. Out into deeper waters. Into unknown places. Into the darkness to carry His light.

That sounds all fine and good, but isn’t that a little scary? Can’t we just be happy with RSVPing and showing up for that one thing and just calling it good?

Don’t worry, Suzie understands. That’s why she encourages us in this book to “whisper yes where no wants to take root.” Throughout the pages, she shares ways that Jesus drew her closer by taking small baby steps of faith. Notice that I said Jesus drew her closer, but Suzie makes it clear that she also had to move closer each time she felt that stirring.

My life became hinged on Jesus nearly 14 years ago. The thing I continually learn is that He is always and forever choosing me. No matter what, He wants more of me. More of my heart. More time with me. He is the ultimate pursuer. No matter how inadequate or stagnant or unlovable I might feel, He is always reminding me of His invitation.

No expectations. No prerequisites. No list of improvements that have to be made before I can accept the invitation. He says Come with Me. I just have to whisper yes and allow Him to walk me through the rest.

Friends, Suzie’s Come with Me book officially released today! This is one you can read on your own or with a group, allowing Suzie to be your guide into a new adventure with Jesus.

My copy is already a little ragged, with multiple dog ears and notes scribbled in nearly every margin. It’s one I will revisit again and again along the way. Be sure to check out Suzie’s blog and some of her other beautiful books, such as The Mended Heart and The Unburdened Heart.

 

 

 

live now.

A phone call telling us a friend had taken his own life. A message from another friend that his father had passed away, when he had just spoken to him that morning. A friend buried a parent after she had just lost her husband.  A family member with a back injury, and it looks like surgery is on the horizon. A car accident–luckily it didn’t result in any harm to either party. All of this just in the past month or two.

And again last night, a dear friend who awoke to find her daughter with blue lips and a lack of gaze in her eyes. Thankfully she has recovered, and already has that twinkle back in her eyes. Thank you, Jesus.

But that feeling. That empty feeling. My friend said it best… she couldn’t get the “what if” out of her mind.

This. All of THIS.

It reminds me that we only have one life. Every single moment of it is precious and important. We have to make the most of all of the moments that we get, whether we feel like they are spectacular or not.

We have to make a choice to enjoy and pursue and live in the moment…

and listen

and notice

and make a difference

and not sit this one out

and give of our gifts

and pray and serve

and make others understand that they are WORTH IT.

Worth our time, our attention, worth a place on our schedule. Worth space in our hearts. Worth our heartbeats themselves.

I am the first to admit, my calendar sometimes looks like a cage. All those black lines, squaring up and rounding out the minutes of my life… scribbled in and squeezed into and running and running together. Sometimes I look at my days and think “what have I done?” and not in the way of wanting to know what I have accomplished or checked off the to-do list.. but what have I done with my time that matters?? Actually matters? To me? To others? To eternity?

today is the best day

I don’t want to waste a second. I love so many people and I want them to know it. I care about many things and I want them to be evident. I have so little time and I want to use it. I want God to use me in this little span of time that I am borrowing. I want to live.

live now

So simple

Matthew 22:36-40

Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

We try hard to complicate things with rules, expectations, and even especially religion. But Jesus literally says that it’s that simple. It’s not about who you vote for or what you wear or who you are married to or what color you are or how much money you have or even what church you go to. What’s important is that your whole heart belongs to God and that it shows by the way we love people.

It’s what breaks chains. It’s what frees us. It’s what changes us. It’s what forgives and heals and restores. It’s what binds us all together no matter how hard we try to keep to ourselves and just worry about our own little worlds.

It’s Love. It’s so simple.

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squeezed margins

I’m so loving/hating the 31 Days series on “margin” over at The Stanley Clan. I have read this most recent post about 6 times already, trying to lean into a version of those words that the author’s friend shared with her. They are so true and timely for me too, and I just don’t have a clue what I should do with them.

I know what needs fixed but just don’t know how to fix it exactly. An improvement in one area seems to inevitably mean suffering in another. Balance seems to be something always (way) beyond my grasp. I can’t figure out how “normal” people make it happen. I kind of feel like I’m setting up a bunch of those Jenga game towers, except none of them has all their pieces, so I keep having to take some from one tower to add it to the other, but then I turn right back around to figure out a way to get the first one built back up before it falls completely over.

Lord… Show me how to make even one margin. Just one.

deep and high and wide

Came across an old hymn today that I fell in love with. I was not raised in church, or anywhere near one for that matter. I am actually kind of thankful for that in some respect, because these songs of praise, many of which are hundreds of years old, are all new to me. I suspect that because they’re still new to me, I am able to see and hear and feel their meaning a bit more extravagantly than if they had been played in the background of my life all these years.

I’m going through a bit of a cloudy place right now. There’s been more confusion lately than clarity. More melancholy than joy. More loneliness than embrace. Much more grey than rainbow. But even in all this, even when I’ve been struggling to piece things together, I never forget how deep and high and wide God’s love is for me. Even when that understanding slips out of the spotlight and onto the sidelines, it’s still there. No matter how big and loud and obnoxious every pressing problem around me seems to get, there’s a little mustard-seed-sized place in me that whispers: it’s worth it. you’ll see on the other side of this soon enough, just wait. He won’t let you down.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus!
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me,
Is the current of Your love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Your glorious rest above!