Dear Christian, I Have Good News

Dear Christian, I have good news.

Inspiration isn’t enough anymore. Why am I telling you this? Why is this good news? Because it will most certainly cut through the noise and it is certainly loud.

I can almost see you recoiling at that sentence. We like inspiration. It is why we pick up book after book. And it’s why we turn up the music and move our bodies, gracefully or not. We go to conferences like Imperfectly Brave Weekend. We scroll hours upon hours through Pinterest. (Let’s be honest with ourselves here, friends. This is a village of honesty, after all.)

To be inspired is unique to the human spirit, isn’t it? It is something we all crave. For some of us, pizza inspires. Others, ballet and a museum. Whichever, it is part of the vacuum inside of us — to seek inspiration.

But inspiration is simply not cutting it.

Take a look around.

We are a people, churched or not, desperately seeking to be inspired, and it hasn’t gotten us very far. Our choices for November 8th prove that. But there is good news, believer.

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CHURCH + INSPIRATION

In order to understand the good news, we must know that our desire for inspiration permeates everything. Even the church can slip into the ideal of inspiration. I’m also going to say it’s not really her fault. Everything about the gospel is inspiring. It gets under us and pumps our blood a bit faster. And if it doesn’t do that, it should. The gospel is by far the greatest love story that has ever happened.

And we love good love stories.

But I believe we are hinged on a crux with the American church. It isn’t a new crux, as I am not about to say believers before us haven’t faced this. If you are studying church history with Jennie Allen and her team, you know that the history of the church is full of its imperfections.

But it is a new crux for America. And so we are a tribe going a bit mad with political ads and scandals and news leaks. It’s all a bit much for the human spirit, yes?

 

FULL BRAINS + WEAK MOTIVES

We have become a society with far too much information. It’s loud. And yes, I am placing Christiandom under this banner. Our leaders keep saying, “LET’S INSPIRE THE PEOPLE! Let’s give them more information! More well-crafted sermons! More Bible Studies!”

And they should.

Publishing companies, churches, Lifeway and conferences are doing what they should. (My goodness, I wrote my own Bible Study and adore Beth Moore to no avail).

We do Bible studies to get women in the Word. And there is nothing else that changes a woman more than being in the Word. We write good sermons to shepherd tender flocks. We produce more information to make the Bible easier to understand. With any attempt at spreading the gospel, the motive behind it becomes the most telling.

And here is where we need to step into action. Big time. No excuses. All hands in. Ready, set, go.

This is actually good news. This is for you, sweet sister.

 

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MOVING FROM INSPIRED TO ACTION

Good news comes from being fed up with being strung out on inspiration. It comes when we decide to GET AFTER IT rather than scroll a little longer or wait until we feel a little bit better. It means we cease making excuses like, “I am too introverted. Work is too hard. I don’t really need other people praying with me.”

Excuses keep inspiration simply an idea. The actual gumption to GO is what changes us.

Now, I easily can slip into the “inspire” me equation. For years, I desired to know Jesus deeply. I felt the heat rise in my blood when I was told the story. I was saved for goodness sake. But simply being inspired wasn’t enough for me. Sunday after Sunday I went to church, wondering when I would really fall in love. I would squeeze in a quick five minute devotional before working out. Or my personal favorite, I would pray in the car and call it a day. But I felt heavy still.

And like that project on Pinterest that “inspired” you and you never tackled — it hangs over you like a weight.

But knowing Jesus was never meant to be like this.

 

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good news

 

BEYOND INSPIRED: PRAYER AND COMMUNITY

The Imperfectly Brave Weekend was a total of eleven hours on the weekend of October 28, 2016. But those eleven hours would have never happened without the accumulation of hundreds upon hundreds of hours worked by women and even men. And as they offered their gifts to the Lord, each came alive in their own space. Together, we co-labored for one mission. We tirelessly and also joyfully gave ourselves over to a mission of creating a lifestyle of prayer and community.

And why would we do that?

Because at this point, the church needs more than inspiration.

Facing an upcoming election where one man uses words to mutilate a woman’s worth and another woman who proclaims it is a woman’s right to choose to kill a life inside of her, we can’t simply be inspired any longer, believer.

We have to put action to our many pins on Pinterest, spiritually speaking.

So how? I would say this — get in the Word and start praying with other women. And please, don’t let those words inspire you. Do it.

Why?

When Jesus cleansed the temple, He made sure that everyone knew that prayer should be a priority. He declared “this is a house of prayer” as tables were being flipped and righteous anger absorbed His body.

When God’s people gather they should be in His Word and pray.

What will we be known for, Church? An inspiring place or a house of prayer?

So let’s do this together because I love a good team. What if you called one girlfriend? What if you made it simple and met for lunch. What if you wrapped up and said, “Let’s pray. Let’s really pray.”

And then what if you did that over and over again. What if you created a lifestyle of prayer and community?

You would change. And so would she. And so would your church. And then your neighborhood and your city. This is good news, believer. I promise that this is the best news.

Social Media Fast: And Why It Might Be For You

I’m back from my social media fast — a bit carefully — but I’m definitely back. There are too many words to say and too great an evil not to say them.

Overall, I am taking away this: social media is not inherently bad. I love reading about the Bride of Christ and how she is flourishing in different parts of the earth. The early church members never had technology like ours and I want to take full advantage for the sake of the Kingdom.

I also get a kick out of seeing my people across the world raising their kids and sharing their hilarious videos. And I think inspiring people via small squares and newsfeeds is noteworthy. The people I follow on social media rock and are changing their corners of the world.

In the same train of thought, social media can become a god and begin to fill us unknowingly (or even knowingly). The truth of who I am in Christ was becoming blurry with information overload. I needed to remember that I am a daughter of the King and nothing outside of Christ should be more life-giving than Him. Especially not social media. This alone is my greatest take-away.

I also wrote down the other four bonuses that came from being away because God tends to multiply His goodness when we put Him back in His rightful place. And I’m a fan of multiplication. (And if any of these sound good to you, maybe you should consider a fast too…)

 

I READ MORE

I don’t mean this in a mean, degrading way because I too fall into the trap of being satisfied with reading short tweets and seeing pretty pictures on Instagram. But while on a social media fast, I read more books. I read words by Tozer and felt my intellect being sharpened. I took time to curl up on the couch and read life-giving words by Lisa Bevere. I also gave myself the goal of falling asleep with my mind on Christ rather than on Pinterest. So, I kept a book nearby of The Names of God and fell asleep praying that name. Or I listened to music. And some nights I simply, went to sleep. Mind-boggling, I know.

Regardless of the words, I felt my mind was sharpened while I was away. And I am a firm believer that a smart woman is a beautiful woman.

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{Photo credit: Sarah Rudolph| Unsplash}

 

PEOPLE MATTERED MORE

This merely happened because I didn’t have my nose in a device as much as I once did. It means that when I saw someone in the grocery line, I didn’t have an excuse to pull out my phone, so I did what humans once did — engaged in conversation.

I am a tad bit fearful about what our society will become, not because of Donald or Hillary, but because of our inability to see humans as real people. What will happen when our kids never know a life outside of social media? Where filters become our friends because they hide our insecurities? Or worse, what happens when we can only be brave only behind a computer screen? Social media fasts for this reason alone is a win for society as a whole. (PS What if you and your teenager did one — together?)

 

I HEARD GOD’S VOICE

I took a social media fast mainly to prepare for the Imperfectly Brave Weekend. I really wanted to hear from the Lord and seek direction about what words need to be said and what direction He was leading. This gets awfully hard when inundated with information constantly from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or whatever you fancy. It’s not impossible, just tricky.

Let me simply say this: in giving up social media for several weeks, the Lord spoke more clearly and my love for Him increased. In math they call this a positive correlation. In my world I call this a win.

 

COMPARISON WAR LESSENED

This doesn’t mean I no longer had any problems with comparison. I did. I am a human and Target can still get under my skin. But I no longer ranked myself among my peers with how many likes and hearts I received. I didn’t feel the need to capture every single moment in my life or video every funny thing. Because I didn’t feel the need to “keep up,” I flourished more in my home and didn’t need to know what was going on in someone else’s.

I felt so much freer without social media. And just like a smart woman is beautiful, a free woman is captivating. And for this reason alone I will keep tabs on my social media input.

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{Photo credit: Alisa Anton | Unsplash}

GUT CHECK

As I mentioned, I had gotten increasingly used to my peers validating my life. I cared about taking pictures merely for the reaction of others, rather than for the pure enjoyment of sharing my family, my life and my convictions. This is where we get into tricky waters and I would argue that these waters need boundaries just like any other activities that attempt to give us purpose and meaning.

The truth of the matter is this: there are no true life-giving measures that come from social media. It is all smoke and lights. I am going to hold this reminder close to my heart as I step back into this world of small screens and hashtags. And if you feel like anything — any one thing — from social media is feeding you more than Christ Himself, I would think about boundaries or some kind of a fast, too.

And since I am kind of into seeing real humans and reacting to their real lives, why don’t you take a chance and come with your real body to the Imperfectly Brave Weekend? It will be better than sitting behind a computer screen. I guarantee it.

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An Invitation to Slow Down: Words to Heed Before we Burn Out

Dear sister (we are sisters after all), I find it important to glean from women who are wiser than myself and deeply hidden in Christ. Fortunately, I have several of these women; beautiful friends who take time to listen to my burdened soul, celebrate every day lovelies and take note of weary bones. Today I want you to hear from one of them, my editor and friend, Diana Dunne. She has an invitation for us; an invitation to slow down. And just between you and me, she is a trusted source, a woman radiating Christ. I don’t say this lightly — I would take her words to heart. Let’s slow down before we have nothing else to give. 

 

God has been leading me to pray for the women’s weekend in October. I’ve been praying that His daughters are not prevented from coming, not kept away because of “all the things,” as my friend Chrystan would say.

My prayer partner Katrina likened us women to being that “low man on the totem pole.” The one at the bottom, straining and sweating to hold the whole thing up. The one at the bottom nobody really notices, but without whom the entire structure comes crashing down.

I even got this mental picture of stop sticks being thrown in the road–you know, those spikey things police sometimes put down to blow out car tires. And I thought, that is what the enemy does: give us “flat tires” we can’t keep going.

Or so we allow ourselves to think. I am the driver; I must keep moving. Stopping is bad. I am the base; I must keep holding everything up. Resting is out of the question.

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{Photo credit: Bethany Legg | Unsplash}

I know that in the realm of good Christian things, women in America are blessed to have lots of choices. There are tons of worthy causes into which we can pour our time, our treasure, ourselves. And there are the demands of family, church, friends, work. Rarely are we given “free time” to do just as we please. So many little responsibilities tug at our sleeves, crying and demanding our attention.

If we’re not careful, if we’re not mindful, we will let our lives run away with us. We will get behind the wheel of our days, put ourselves in gear, and hit the gas. You know how it goes–kids screaming from the backseat, coffee sloshing out of your travel mug, speeding madly to make it through that next yellow light….

Somebody, please. Will Somebody throw out some stop sticks?

Because maybe, just maybe, it isn’t an enemy who is trying to make us stop. Maybe it is a Friend. Perhaps a flat tire is just what we need. You and I can’t see beyond the next corner, but He sees the entire road. And He knows whether we’re going to run out of gas in a deserted spot, or break down where there is no shoulder.

It’s time to slow down and acknowledge the real “low man on the totem pole.” He is also the most exalted, the One who’s holding all the things up–the job, the friends and family, us– everything. Because, sisters, it isn’t me and it isn’t you. It’s Jesus. And as we look down the road at our days lining up one after another like the yellow stripes on the road, I think we should plan a rest stop.

Yes. Let’s schedule a stop. Someplace where we can reconnect with the Son of Man who holds the whole world (including us) in His hands. My prayer is that if God is calling you to the Imperfectly Brave Weekend, you will make it happen. You can do this. Commit to it, and slide out from behind the steering wheel.

I’d rather use brakes than stop sticks, anyway.

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Pursuing Dreams: a lesson on pursuit

Imperfectly Brave sister, maybe you have forgotten? Maybe in the grocery lists and gymnastic classes and piles of homework and bills — maybe you just up and forgot how to dream. Or maybe you had a dream but at this point it seems far away (like that au natural hair we once had). Well, listen in close as my friend, Chrystan, shares a lesson that turns all things good. A lesson on pursuit. Because what was once could still be with our King Jesus.

 

Eleven years ago I shattered an important bone. I’m pretty sure most women have this bone, but I’m not a doctor so I’m not 100% sure. (However, I do watch Grey’s Anatomy weekly, so I think I’m fairly qualified.)

Anyway, I’m pretty sure this special “bone” that we have is right around the area of our hearts. The heart and this bone work well together–except when they don’t. You see, sometimes our own hearts get in the way of this very important bone. Now, I didn’t do well in Human Anatomy in college, so stay with me on this.

Eleven years ago, I shattered my very own “dream bone.” I know. It sounds excruciating, and I can tell you it was one of the most painful and longest healing injuries I have ever endured. I can assure you, if you have ever shattered a dream bone, you know full well what I am talking about.

You see, eleven years ago I had a baby. Before that baby, I was single, living on my own and ready to tell the people in my life I was moving to Nashville to pursue a career as a country singer. I had just about made up my mind when the news came in…and all things were shattered. The dreams I had for my life were no longer. I began to set my life on autopilot. Single moms don’t have the time or the luxury of pursuing dreams. There’s a baby now that needs provided for, and that’s just that.

So, for years my dream bone had been unset, unhealed, uncared for. So much so that I forgot how to dream. Instead, I began to pursue Jesus. Slowly, I began to heal.

a lesson on pursuit

{Photo credit: Chelsea Francis | Unsplash}

a lesson on pursuit

{Photo credit: Jillien Minera | Unsplash}

Eleven years ago I was on a path to destruction. I was pursuing my own glory, my own goals, my own pleasure. Any dream God had for me, any path with light on it, I would have destroyed. It took about eight years for Him to right this in my life. You see, dear sister, pursuing God-given dreams and pursuing our own glory and desires are two totally different things with completely different outcomes. Yes, God has given me a great gift for singing, leading and speaking. He has created me to be a lyricist and made me a being of passion and creativity. These gifts, paired with the right motives and a heart in the pursuit of the glory of God, can do amazing things. Yet for years I took these gifts and altered them to be about my own glory.

Pursuing Him first led to the greatest adventure of my life.

Eleven years ago, God allowed me to break–to shatter from the inside out–so that one day I could tell you He showed me how to pursue Him using the dreams and gifts He had given me. This also allowed my shattered “dream bone” to mend around a heart that beats to His rhythm. For this I am so grateful. Pursuing God has been the best thing for my dreams; it has allowed Him to reveal a greater adventure than I ever could’ve imagined. An adventure that, in my own imperfect life, has led to brave revelation of a life lived to sing His praises.

I leave you with this: pursue the Lord first, and He will give you dreams that align with His. And those, sweet sister, are the dreams to pursue with your whole heart. Those are the ones worth fighting for.

“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

Want to hear more from this chick? You can! Tonight! Join us at our Imperfectly Brave Worship Night at 7 pm at Journey Covenant Church. Can’t wait to see you there.

It’s Not You, It’s Me: a social media break

Friends,

I love this little space of ours. Truly. It feels like each week we can come to the table, have a sweet conversation and talk through some of our crazy world. I love that we can talk about big topics via Facebook and Instagram. Most of the time I am energized by it and my heart flutters each time we chat.

But to be honest, I need a break.

 

And what I really want you to know is that it’s not you. It’s me.

Really.

 

As I prepare for the Imperfectly Brave Weekend, I need to create space to hear from God. And although I have space, I need to make that space a bit quieter. I bit more sacred. I plan on hopping off everything (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest) for the next two weeks (or until the Lord reveals). The rest of the Imperfectly Brave team will be posting all the good things (they are seriously the best). And we will still be preparing for the upcoming weekend.

So why does this affect you — our little tribe?

Because during this break, I would love if you prayed for Imperfectly Brave. Pray that myself, the other speakers, the worship leaders and prayer group leaders would be completely in tune with what the Lord wants us to say.  We need your prayers because this vision is bigger than anything we could have dreamed up on our own. You see, we believe that every single woman has an imperfectly brave life. And we believe it is our mission to gently (yet fiercely) bring us into our bravest place — God’s arms. That kind of a vision needs prayer + space.

Thank you in advance for praying. God hears. If you want to keep up with Imperfectly Brave make sure you head over to our Facebook page and Instagram. We would even love to have you at our worship night. (It’s incredible). And if you haven’t yet registered for the weekend yet, consider this my personal invitation from me to you. We would love to have you there.

 

All my love,

Whitney

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