Christians Be Nice.

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Over the weekend, I was chatting with a woman from San Francisco, whom I’ll call Meg. We were talking books at the Storyline Conference and she asked what mine was about. I told her what I tell everyone:

“I write about Jesus for the urban, liberal skeptic and all the people who are so irate at the church they won’t even consider Jesus a remedy for loneliness, depression, fear and anxiety.

Meg leaned into me, lowered her voice and said:

“I’m not sure how I feel about the Jesus thing, but do you think everyone here is a Republican?”

“No, I don’t,” I said laughing. “But that is a brilliant question.”

The Storyline Conference is hosted by a bunch of Jesus-guys from Nashville and Portland. You know, the guys in skinny jeans, Rag and Bone boots and Ray Ban reading glasses who know how to use their Macs really well. It’s them and about 1,700 other writers and artists from all over the country.

Meg admitted to being well-embraced by the Storyline community (good job Jesus-guys!) but I think she wondered, since she votes a certain way, if she would be embraced by Jesus himself.

HOLY CRAP HOUSTON THAT’S A PROBLEM! But in lieu of the inevitable finger-pointing let me say, I care less where the perception comes from, and more about combating it.

Christian friends listen for a second – Do you know how many people like Meg are reluctant to ask about Jesus because they don’t want to argue about gay marriage and abortion in the coffee line?

Do you know how many people “in the world” are starving for something to hope for, who would take a running leap into the arms of Jesus if they could hear what he said without all the commentary?

We have this incredible privilege to introduce people to Jesus just by being nice to them, but for some it has become, not just culturally acceptable, but mission critical to challenge the moral, religious and political views of strangers as soon as they disagree with them.

Where did Jesus say his followers would be known by that? Name the verse. In fact, love and fruit, are the only metrics by which Jesus said his followers would be identified.

So it’s bothersome that Meg was cagey about Jesus because she might be a Democrat or Buddhist or Wiccan or gay or vegan or whatever. It also made me want to post her picture on my desk forever so I can remember for whom my bell tolls.

I don’t want to be remembered for my opinions,” my friend and favorite superhero Bob Goff says. “I want to be remembered for my love.”

Willow Creek

Photo Credit: Willow Creek Community Church

Later, as the conference wound down, Willow Creek Community Church was gearing up for Saturday night service. I never imagined being excited to go to church on Saturday night, but when you are heavily loved by Jesus in the exact condition you’re in, it changes what you think is fun.

Plus, in a church of a zillion people, the girl on stage with the green hair and the banjo and the girl in the stilettos who sounds like Billie Holiday except for when she busts into original spoken word poetry, are sure to throw down something holy and cool.

They did. Then a 30-ish pastor got up and said the third commandment – don’t take the Lord’s name in vain – is much more than an injunction against cussing. It is a warning to anybody who would bear the name of God absent its love and mercy.

The Crusades, the Salem Witch Trials, segregation, he said, were all examples of Christians charging into the world, with the name of God held high but stripped of its grace and power, leaving nothing to the bearers but their own names, agendas and brands.

The early church, he said, had no buildings or Bibles, just people who had been with Jesus and were marked by the experience, consumed with his light, his passion and his love. The church grew fast because that’s what people wanted then and that’s what they want now.

I don’t know Meg’s history, or what her faith looks like, but I think she feels like Jesus has been appropriated by a team she’ll never play for, so therefore she can’t play.

Meg, if you are reading this, not only are you welcome to play, but he wants you to, because you are singular, precious and beloved and nobody can play your position like you.

Your Fears Are Punks.

Yesterday, at the Storyline Conference in Chicago, I got permission to slip off some little handcuffs I didn’t know I was wearing.

For four years, I’ve gotten up every morning (well, ok most of them) before the sun and studied the Bible for hours. This is just about the only arrow in my quiver. Most of the time, if I hit the mark on a tricky target it’s because of that.

But I realized, I’ve made a law out of it.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/strandloper/

Photo Credit Steve Crane

Somewhere along the line, I came to believe if don’t read and study everyday, in exactly that way, God will reject me. The light he gave me will go out and the word will slip from my mind like soap down the drain, and quite frankly, I’m afraid of that.

But as I watched the orange leaves flutter to the ground, and considered the orderly march of creation through its seasons, I felt the spirit say, “Why do you think studying and praying is holier than writing and praying? Isn’t it all the same thing? Use that time in the morning to write.”

And with that, I got a little bit free. Free to worship him differently – using what he gave me, to do what he told me. No lies. No fear. Just grace.

This may sound like such a simple thing, and like all great truth, it is. As a child of God, I am completely free to move into new seasons without remorse or fear, just as the leaves do in fall. The process is in fact necessary to keep me nimble, humble and growing.

Plus, I already know this is right because the place where God speaks clearest, the Holy Spirit moves quickest and my own words surprise me the most is right here, in front of a glowing blue screen, in the dark, talking to you.

So that’s where we’re headed.

Creating something beautiful that doesn’t exist yet, requires freedom and stillness and courage, but that can’t happen if we’re terrified to step across lines either we’ve drawn or others have drawn for us. Remember, where the law of the Lord is there is liberty.

Or as Bob Goff put it earlier today.

“Your fears are punks. Give them the boot.”

Want to Quit Your Job? It’s Thursday.

New York Times Bestselling Author Bob Goff is famous for saying, “Quit something on Thursday. Maybe even your job.”

Bob believes that in order to make space for things you want, you have to clear out some things you don’t – even big things. So at his Love Does Conference in Seattle last year, I took him up on it.

“All right Bob,” I said, and quit my job, with my new BFF Lisa Long standing by.

The Culprits.

The Goff Unemployment Index rises by two.

I heard from that raven haired beauty Lisa Long today, AND GUESS WHAT SHE DID?

She quit her job…And it’s not even Thursday. Now, Lisa didn’t exactly work at the mall, she’s had a very big job for the last 22 years, so quitting was no small thing. But I’ve never heard her more excited.

“I have so much joy today and now I’m like Ok Jesus, whatever. I’m ready.”

Try praying like that some time.

Here’s the fun part.

This wasn’t a whim, Lisa’s been considering it for a while. Yesterday morning she got up early to pray it over and wound up watching a couple of videos Bob posts. This was one of them. It’s 30 seconds. Watch it!

Six hours later, I posted the same video on my Facebook page and she saw it – again. Then she picked up the phone, called a meeting and pulled the chocks like a boss.

It’s not that Lisa isn’t scared, she is, but because she believes the Kingdom of God is a way of being in this world, right now, she is brimming with hope about what is next, and I CAN NOT WAIT….(How about a big white ship? hint hint.)

If you choose to live in the Kingdom of God – and by the way Bob would say, you’re not just invited, you’re welcome – it’s ok to reject coincidence. It’s ok, when people who love you post on Facebook things you’re already thinking, to believe that may just be God saying,

“Let go baby. I’ve got this. I’ve got plans for you.”  Jeremiah 29:11

Without the confidence I gained from reading Jeremiah 29:11 a thousand times, I wouldn’t have had the guts to quit selling insurance. If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have gone to Zambia, which led me to Mercy Ships, and nine out ten people agree, bandaging the feet of lepers in West Africa is more interesting than selling insurance.

So, where do you need to pull the chocks and who are you trusting to help you?

Bob’s pal author Don Miller put it like this at the Love Does Conference:

“Are you being too careful? Is it robbing the Kingdom of God of something? We don’t want you to be careful anymore.”

Happy Thursday.