Bump into a Tree and See What Falls

My husband gave me the book, Blessed are the Misfits, for Christmas last year. He knows me well. I have always felt like a misfit—in my family of origin and in most Christian misfits 2circles. This is my place. This is my role. Is it okay to be a misfit? I often wonder. How does God view misfits? That is the question.

In Blessed are the Misfits, Brant challenges the status quo of what we aspire to in our spirituality.

What if we don’t fit the mold of what American Christians believe faith should look like? What if we don’t get choked up with emotion during worship songs? What if we don’t feel God’s presence at church, or feel much at all? Does that mean our faith is inferior compared to those who seem to “emote” easily?

While this is not my issue, I cry at the drop of a hat, this message of reexamining our standards of how we judge one another’s faith is worth pondering.

If you can’t rely on your feelings, how can you tell God is there, working in your life? Jesus said if you want to judge a tree, you look at its fruit. Someone might immediately, like clockwork, break down in tears of genuine emotion at the first chord of every worship song. Wonderful. But that’s not “fruit.” —Brant Hansen, Blessed are the Misfits

How can you tell if God is working in your life? Brant asks. If you are having amazing spiritual experiences? If you speak powerful, poetic prayers? If you lead an awesome ministry? “Nope,” he says. It is all about the fruit. He uses the analogy of bumping into a tree and seeing what falls. Brilliant.

Bump into a tree, and see what falls . . . 
Sometimes it’s love and gentleness . . . 
Sometimes it’s jealousy, anger, and power plays . . .
Sometimes it’s lawyers . . .   
Sometimes it’s patience and kindness . . . 
Now you see what kind of tree it is.

This analogy gives us a simple image with a profound truth. It is the fruit of the Spirit in us that God desires. Brant points out that most of the teaching in the New Testament consists of instruction on how we should live. Christ, and later, the Apostles, talk mostly about how we should love, forgive, be patient, show mercy, and foster peace—not how to evangelize.

Hansen describes this largely overlooked fact about the New Testament.

You’d think Paul would have filled his letters to the churches with evangelistic emphases, commands, encouragements, and advice, but it’s just not there. Yes, Jesus tells His disciples to “Go into all the world . . . ” to make disciples (Mark 16:15), and the Twelve did exactly that. But Paul doesn’t seem to think this was a message intended in the same way for everyone. His letters to believers have almost nothing about this.

This book challenges the group-think of the Christian community at large. Within the church are many stigmas and stereotypes. We must accept and love, not judge and compare. In matters of discernment, we must always measure things against the Word of God, the ultimate authority. What does it have to say about who or what is most highly valued?

For those of us who don’t seem to ever measure up, this book is an encouragement. Are we buying into the “one size fits all” Christianity? There is no such thing.

Yes, God is at work, but if the Bible is any indication of how He actually operates, He’s at work on the margins, not on the stages. —Brant Hansen, Blessed are the Misfits

Those who mourn, don’t pray poetically, are evangelical failures, who struggle, and who don’t have amazing spiritual stories are God’s beloved, and are blessed. The unfeeling, wounded, depressed and lonely are some of God’s most powerful warriors.

Our culture values achievement. God values those who love him and humbly serve Him.

Children of God come in all shapes and sizes. Not just physically, or ethnically, but in personality and temperament. We serve a God who loves diversity. The body of Christ is made of many parts. Though some might not be as shiny as others, each has equal value.

Misfits, outcasts, or those who are just plain different will find comfort and understanding in this book. Learning about someone who is awkward, an introvert, and one diagnosed with Asperger’s, like Brant, and an influencer in today’s culture is powerful. It gives the rest of us hope.

Together with radio producer, Sherri Lynn, you can find him on “The Brant and Sherri Oddcast,” or speaking at groups, conferences, and churches. Check out his website at www.branthansen.com.

Thank you, Brant, for sharing who you are in Blessed are the Misfits. Because you are me.

 

 

 

 

 

Well Done Good and Faithful Servant

Billy Graham went home this morning to be with his Lord and Savior. A hero of the faith. What a long, accomplished, faithful life he led for almost a century. What a gift he has been to our world.

On the way to Bible study this morning my mind wandered to what that meeting in heaven must have been like. I tried to picture Dr. Graham standing before Jesus face to face. Would he weep? Would he collapse to the ground at Jesus feet? Would he dance and sing praises to the Lord? My mind could only wonder.

Billy Graham preached his first sermon when he was around nineteen—nineteen! As the son of a simple dairy farmer in North Carolina, and in the power of the almighty God, he changed the world. According to CNN, in his lifetime, Billy Graham ministered to over 215 million people in more than 185 countries. Stunning.

Almost one hundred years. That is how long this great man walked the earth. Spreading the gospel like a wildfire. So faithful. So obedient. So in love with Jesus. And, I would imagine, so overjoyed that he is finally home.

As I drove home from the post office yesterday, the emergency alert on my phone sounded. I was on the freeway so I couldn’t look at it. I noted that the sky was clear. It couldn’t be the weather. When I came to a stoplight, I glanced at it briefly. “Emergency alert for Westfield and Grand Park,” it read. As the light turned and I put my phone down, my heart started beating faster in my chest. What was happening? I’m sure it’s nothing, I thought. Please, Lord, Jesus, protect Emily and Jessica’s school. The adrenaline was pumping and my mind raced until I got home and saw it was only a test. Thank you Jesus!

The world is a scary place in 2018. My heart breaks for the kids from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and every other student who has been affected by a school shooting. We have failed our children. The enemy now runs right past us, to them. The young and vulnerable. How could we have let this happen—again?

We are shaken.

One might wonder if our nation can continue as it had before? Is it possible? So sad. So tragic. But, as author and speaker Tony Campolo used to say, “It’s Friday . . . . but Sunday’s a-coming!”

With the passing of Billing Graham, our minds turn to the hope we have in the risen Jesus. Once and for all we can look forward to putting all this behind us and going home to be with our precious Savior one day. That glorious day is promised to those who believe.

As I picture Jesus face to face with his Billy, tears fill my eyes. I imagine Jesus’ expression as that of a giddy child on Christmas morning and of a father seeing his son return home all in one. An expression of pure joy and delight emanates from the face of the Son of God as he welcomes his good and faithful servant home. With a warm embrace, this beloved evangelist can finally rest in eternal peace with his Heavenly Father. He is home at last.

I can hardly wait for that glorious day. My soul yearns for home. At forty five. How does one wait ninety nine years to go home? I can’t fathom it.

May I suggest you meditate on the moment when Billy Graham went home. Color a picture of it in your mind. Such a sweet moment it must have been. As your imagination runs wild, set your mind on the things above. And, set your mind on the things to come. Each one of us has that moment to look forward to. The moment we finish the race. What will your moment look like?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2

Thank you, Mr. Graham.

Living in the Tension: The Clumsy Dance of Marriage

It’s Valentine’s Day, a day to reflect on life and love. Through the many ups and downs of life, it’s the love that sticks. It’s the love that sustains. True, selfless love is what makes marriage triumphant.

However, after twenty one years of marriage, the amazing, life changing marital advice I usually give to newlyweds is . . . . get a king sized bed. That’s it.

I recently read a blog post in which the writer was joking about wanting to go into marriage ministry three seconds after she got married. Been there, done that. As wisdom comes with age, the longer you are married, the more you realize how complicated relationships are. I might have once thought, give it twenty or so years, and I’ll have this marriage thing figured out. That just confirms how naive I was.

Marriage is living in the tension of knowing that you can never fully satisfy or complete or validate another human being. It is the knowledge that you will never be the perfect spouse, partner, helper, lover, or leader. Whether you are husband or wife, you will never be enough. And you were never meant to be.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. John 6:63

God is the satisfier. God is the validator. God is the only perfect leader or helper. And we must live with the tension that we cannot do relationships perfectly.

Marriage is a clumsy dance. It’s learning and growing together in the messy pursuit of relationship. It’s discovering how little our desires and wants matter in the grand scheme of things. It is the tension of knowing no matter how warm and wonderful you make your house, it will never fully be home. Our home is not here.

What we can do is be a part of our spouse’s story of sanctification, the journey toward an eternity with an awesome God. And our spouse can be a part of ours.

What have I learned in twenty one years of marriage?

God must be the center

God must be the center of our lives. He must be our Lord and Master. This is the only hope we have in marriage.

I don’t say this because everything will be better if God is at the center of your marriage, though it might be. I don’t say this to sound religious, or because I like clichés—I don’t. I say this because knowing and being in relationship with the Creator of the universe is what life is all about.

We were created to be partakers of the glory of God—the greatest glory that could ever be imagined. His glory is so magnificent and immense there isn’t room for anything else. And even if there was, it would pale in comparison. Glorifying God is our purpose and privilege in this life.

The longer I have walked with God, the more aware of my inadequacy I have become. To know more of Him is to know less. But, to know Him more is to be filled. My cup overflows.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Psalm 23:5

While it is God’s design that a husband and wife bring each other joy, our main source of joy, validation, and identity should come from God. If God is not first, or we lack a genuine connection with Him, our marriage will likely suffer.

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12

Marriage is a call to put oneself down for the “other”

When I first got married, I believed I would never be alone again, and that my husband would fulfill all my needs. Ahh, the naivete of youth.

We assume when we get married we will always be cared for and nurtured, and we will finally be happy. Marriage and a family will fill the emptiness and heal all our wounds, right? Even Hollywood tells us that our soul mate will complete us.

We have been deceived. Marriage is not about us at all. It’s about loving the “other” well.

Marriage is an opportunity to practice selflessness. It is a tool in the battle against pride. It is the great classroom for learning humility and selfless love. Nothing could ever humble us more than our marriages.

Marriage is living in tension and friction

How am I doing in my marriage two decades in? Let’s just say I’m always a work in progress. Christ followers spend their lives working toward something they can never fully achieve. That is the tension. And so it is with marriage.

God tosses us about in the spin cycle of our life, in order to smooth the rough edges through relationships. This has been painfully true in my life.

Let’s just say there are parts of me that I would prefer to just sweep under the rug. Things I would rather stuff deep down in a drawer. However, God is in the business of healing. He has used my marriage to open every drawer, every closet, and every spare room in my soul. Nothing is left untouched. I am laid bare.

With marriage comes friction—the coming together of two, rough-around-the-edges, beings. Friction hurts, but is necessary in the race we are called to run. If there was no friction between us and the road, we wouldn’t get anywhere. Don’t we want to cross that finish line? I do.

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2

As long as marriage is made up of people, in a fallen world, it will involve tension and friction—even in the best of marriages. When we rely on our own wisdom, we fail. The wisdom of marriage is foolishness. We must lean on God. We must trust His Word. Only God can make the clumsy dance of marriage into something beautiful.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Recently, my husband and I had a heart to heart with my fifteen year old daughter. She was upset with me and laid it all out on the table.

She spelled out what I was doing wrong as a parent and as a person and how it bothered her. Why couldn’t I be like other moms? I read between the lines. I could feel my heart begin to crumble. As her disappointments and my shortcomings were laid out in front of me, my soul cowered under the weight. Like a World War II plane that’s been hit and is going down, “mayday, mayday!”

Every parent must come to terms with the fact that they are not a perfect parent.

On the surface there was truth in what she said. I was complaining too much, and being too judgmental. I needed to work on my attitude toward others and the world. I needed to have more love, more compassion, and more acceptance. However, there was a lot she didn’t know. She didn’t see the weight I carried or the emotional battles I fought every day.

My daughters saw what I allowed them to see. They only saw the tip of the iceberg. They didn’t know what my life was like before them. They didn’t know about the missing pieces in my soul from my past. They saw only what came out, unaware of what was kept in.

And then she asked this question, “Why can’t we be a normal family?” And there it was. The final blow. I was between a rock and a hard place.

In the words of Joyce from Stranger Things, “this is not a normal family.” I can relate.

I suffer from depression. I have sheltered my kids from this for most of their lives as most people with depression probably do. What choice does one have?

It is important to let kids, as they become young adults, see the humanness of their parents.

However, the last couple years as my kids have begun to mature into young adulthood, I have started letting them see behind the curtain a little bit. I thought it might prepare them for life. Especially if they are prone to depression. However, what I have shown them is still a small portion of what I carry.

How does a parent with depression raise a teenager and survive? How does a person who is already emotionally fragile take the arrows of a hormonal adolescent?

Our woundedness is laid bare when our kids become teenagers.

They don’t see my brokenness. They don’t see the child that felt lonely and rejected. They don’t understand depression. Not many people do.

My daughter doesn’t know the details of my story. She doesn’t know my pain. And she can’t. She won’t. I won’t put that on her. However, what comes out of me is partially a product of my pain, loss, and childhood issues. It isn’t an excuse. It is an explanation.

She doesn’t know how hard I have to fight, or how high I have to climb everyday just to get to where everyone else starts out.

The tension is letting my teenager get more of a glimpse of the real person behind the mom—the real, flawed person. The tension is knowing that she can only have half of the story. And knowing that she will judge based on her limited understanding.

Let’s face it, being judged hurts. Especially if its coming from your children, your kids in whom you have poured your soul. Those for whom you have sacrificed everything. They know none of this. That is the sacrifice of parenting.

I have to be the grown up. I have no choice but to deal with the pain of my past and deal with the pain of the judgement of my kids at the same time. And do it all without blaming or explaining. Only through God’s strength is this possible. Without Him I would crumble.

 

Putting up the Mirror so We Can Pass on Our faith

The following in an excerpt from Kim’s upcoming book, Pouring In, Tipping the Scales in Favor of a Personal, Passionate, and Permanent Faith in Your Kids.


I was twenty seven and clueless when I had my firstborn. I was actually amazed they let me leave the hospital with my daughter, Emily. How could they let ME walk out of here with a baby? Are they crazy?

Through the years, my husband and I fumbled around going this way and that, doing the best that we could as young parents. We were tossed to and fro by well-intentioned advice and made many mistakes.

We were typical American, Christian parents. Purposefully or not, we mirrored things in our parenting that we observed from our parents, the media, the culture, our community, the Internet and our church. All of which seemed like a sufficient group of resources.

But were they sufficient? Did they point us in the right direction?

I can tell you what my husband and I, and the affluent community where we lived, were focusing on in regards to raising our children.

We believed things like . . . . .

  • Our kids’ self esteem is so important, they must never feel bad
  • Education is most important in our kids’ lives
  • We must always say ‘yes’ to our kids to produce a positive environment
  • Kids’ happiness should be the focus of parenting
  • We need to teach our kids to love themselves
  • Our kids should have everything that they want 

You might get lucky and raise a good kid with this set of values. He or she might do well in school and seem well adjusted and happy. Or, he or she may end up entitled, self-centered, or at the very least, worldly.

75% of young adults raised in a Christian home leave the church after they leave the home. Think about that—on average, three out of every four kids attending your youth group won’t be attending any church a few years from now.
~www.crossexamine.org

Though the numbers may vary slightly from one study to the next, they all come to the same conclusion—we are losing our kids.

Is there no manual for parenting? Well, there is and there isn’t. Among the many books on Christian parenting, only one is essential. The Bible is the best parenting book there is, because it was written by the first parent that ever was. It sounds like a cliché, but it is absolutely true. It doesn’t contain every possible question or scenario we might encounter in parenting. But, is it sufficient? You betcha!

Why?

Because the key to being a good parent is primarily determined by who you are, not what you do.

It’s who you are that shapes your kids. In fact, it’s challenging to point to a Sticky Faith factor that is more significant than you.
~ Dr. Kara E. Powell and Dr. Chap Clark, Sticky Faith


If we are to make a dent in the problem of young people leaving the faith, we must be willing to look in the mirror. We, as Christian parents are the first step in the equation of our kids’ faith.

Our character, attitudes, behaviors and lifestyle reflect the status of our faith. Is it alive? Do we live what we believe. Or, is it dead?

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.   James 2:17

Our kids will know if our faith is real, or if it isn’t.

Teenagers Young Team Together Cheerful Concept

I want my kids to leave my house as disciples of Christ . . . . not just Christians.  Disciples not only believe, they are students of Christ and they follow Him. Making disciples starts in our homes with our kids. And we have to parent differently if we are going to raise up a generation of disciples.


Pouring In, Tipping the Scales in Favor of a Personal, Passionate, and Permanent Faith in Your Kids

I’ve seen it in your eyes. Christian parents have been watching their teens turn away from the faith for decades, and you fear your kids will do the same. It is never too late to tip the scales in favor of your kids developing a personal, passionate, and permanent faith in Jesus Christ.

$12.00