Tag Archives: Church

I Basically threw up on the page here…

 

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My mom told me she misses my writing.

Sometimes I wonder if she is the only one reading. You know how it is when you create something? A poem, a blog post, a song, a photograph…whatever it is, you can keep it to yourself or you can put it “out there”. But once you let it go, once you invite people in, everything changes.  Because as human beings, we like to be liked.  We enjoy admiration.  Some of us, like me, put a lot of stock in what people think.  Mostly I like to not upset anyone. My love language is Words of Affirmation.

But here’s the catch. If you are creating, speaking, writing, sharing, and everyone loves you that seems kind of boring right? And if art doesn’t compel us to think or dream or imagine or discuss or change or grow, then what do we need it for? Beauty… yes, I get that… but even beauty is subjective.

More than anything right now in my life I feel I feel compelled to speak and write and pray about and wrestle with the questions.  I used to be afraid of the questions because they meant I didn’t know. And early on I made knowledge an idol.  But now I know I don’t know. You guys, we don’t know. None of us know. So to pretend we do is silly and all of us pretending has led us to this place. Two sides, both digging their heels in, declaring themselves the smarter, better, more righteous side. Pick any topic and that’s where we are…divided.

Yet, I stand in the middle. Literally. I’m such a contradiction. But aren’t we all really? We are not the caricatures portrayed on the evening news.  I feel so frustrated being defined by other people. I will say who I am, what I think, what I believe but you don’t have that right. Stop making assumptions. You think you know everything about me because I love Jesus? Please. And because I’m a woman? Heck, I know lots of women and none of us agree on everything.  Because I’m a wife, a mother, a yogi? Because I’m white? Because I went to college?  Yes, all of these things are factors in my experience but you guys…honestly, we have to stop pigeonholing people.

Listening is key here. I hope on the podcasts to bring stories to you from people who are willing to be vulnerable and wrestle with the questions too. Sometimes our “YES!” is a surrender. Which is weird, right?  We think of our “YES!” being active and goal oriented and sometimes it is but before we can write the book, start the ministry, open the business, begin the non-profit…we must do the hard work.  We are invited to the still small voice…the tender whisper in the dead of night. The biggest “YES!” is often humble and quiet and not what you want at the time. It’s the “YES!” that begins the transformation. The willingness to open your heart and mind to something new.  You becoming the YOU that you are meant to be.

I have so many things I wrestle with…I’m going to start with the toughest one for me right now.  When I say tough, I mean shedding tears tough.  Because I’m wired this way, when I am struggling with something, I read and listen and dig in like it’s my job.  I’m prepared to say this one is the one that has never gone away for me. It feels like my life’s work. Internally and maybe externally too. It feels like the thing I need to write about and talk about and struggle with because it matters. It’s never resolved and never will be resolved and that’s where my angst lies. I don’t even know how to word it. It’s going to be messy. Here goes…I love Jesus but I don’t like religion. I have been frustrated and disappointed and angry and disgusted by church. I see hypocrisy and it makes my stomach churn. I have decided I can say, “I’m a Jesus follower and not a religious person” and I’ve felt good about that in some ways but not completely satisfied. Because I have a heart for church.  I love community. I love people. Following Jesus isn’t something we should do alone. We are not wired that way. We all want and need a place to belong.

My favorite stories in the Bible are when Jesus acts the opposite of what the religious leaders think and expect. He’s constantly telling them they are way off.  I love Him so much. He showed us the way to love the outcast. But with religion oftentimes we only allow the people in who look and act and think like us. Forgive us Lord.

I love the quote that says that church is, “A hospital for the sick, not a museum for saints”. And when I say the sick, check yourself…I mean you. And me. Not just the other guy.  We are all sick and in need of a Savior. Yet, sometimes people don’t feel welcome in church so they sit it out and we all miss out on knowing them and growing from their presence.  What does community look like for Jesus follower?

A pastor at our church told us that helping the refugee (called the foreigner in the Scriptures) is not “a Liberal agenda item”…it’s the Gospel.  He said that right in the middle of the election season. At that moment, I was pretty excited about church. (It ebbs and flows) Because I felt conviction in my heart. I felt like God was looking into my heart and saying…”Hey you…this matters…listen up!” The truth is I’m scared of refugees and I’m afraid of the unknown. I like rules and order and predictable outcomes. But Jesus asks me to be open to the messy and unpredictable because that’s where the growth and beauty and truth can be found. He keeps asking me if I’m willing to let my world be rocked and my thinking be challenged and my boundaries to expand.  Am I ready and willing to be uncomfortable?

Following Jesus is uncomfortable.  It’s not all cute quotes on Instagram (although I love those!) and pretty outfits and beautiful music on Sundays. When someone calls me religious, I cringe. Even the word, “Christian” drudges up some baggage that I’m not willing to claim.

I claim Jesus. I follow Him. And I’m asking Him…what would you have me say to the refugee? How do I love the LGBTQ friend? How am I called to minister to the poor? How can I participate in healing this broken world? How does being a Jesus follower play out in the political arena? What does love look like in 2017? Can I forgive churches for not being what we want and need them to be? Can God reconcile all my contradictions? Do they need to be reconciled? How can we be the church?

So I guess I’m asking…will you be messy with me?  Can we talk about the tough stuff?

My pastor said the other day, “The answer to racism is the Gospel”. And I agree.  Because the Gospel brings transformation of heart and mind.  When we know Jesus, we see the world and people through the lens of sameness. I mean that in the best way. The Namaste way. The light in me sees the light in you. No masks, no fear, no difference.  Our insides recognizing each other…the recognition of God within us.

I’m excited about these conversations.  I hope you are too. “Do not be afraid”, I hear Him saying. We can handle this. And it’s time.

©2017 Sue Bidstrup, All Rights Reserved, Great Big YES™

Two years of Sundays

Two years ago when we moved to Austin, we had to find a church.  I don’t mean that in the sense of, “It’s the right thing to do” but rather, we had to find a church.  As in, “our lives depended on it”.  It felt desperate. And guess what, desperate hearts find God.

When you uproot your life, there is this feeling of excitement and opportunity but there is also a very real sense of being untethered. Flailing.

God is my anchor.  And hearing His Word and being around His people is what I needed.  My family needed that too but of course, they sent me out to find the church.  You do the work they were saying in essence, we will show up when you have it all figured out.

I was “alone” when I first heard our pastor speak.  The room was packed but I didn’t know a soul.  This was not a space I’m used to occupying.  I’ve spent years crafting community and placing emphasis on connecting and building relationships.  That is where I thrive.  It’s strange for me to walk into a building filled with hundreds of people and not know a name. Worse yet for me, no one knew mine.

The Pastor spoke and I just knew it.  Sitting with goosebumps and a lump in my throat, I whispered “Thank you”. See, God had led me to this church and this pastor and this moment.  Aloneness and all.  Loss of identity and all.  He wanted to make the Gospel the thing.  He wanted to make JESUS the thing.  Not my outfit or my friends or my kids or my husband or my ministry or my neighbors.  Just me and the Word of God being preached like I’ve never heard.  This guy was wearing jeans and he was my age and he was married and had kids and his Southern accent was both comforting and a reminder of how far away I was from home. But what he was saying reminded me that I am always home in the Lord.  Where I go, He goes.  When I am desperate, He will show up.  When I am lost, He is the way.

I had heard about this pastor and his way of preaching truth that in no way is watered down.  I had heard he “brings it”. And I knew that’s what I wanted.  What I needed.  I was seeking a strong word. A bold declaration.

I believe we are all looking for people to tell us the truth.  I think the truth has been watered down and we are afraid to speak into people’s lives because we don’t want to seem harsh or preachy but we are all secretly hoping for someone to have the courage to speak the truth with confidence and courage and conviction. Speaking truth is real love.

The next week I took my family and again, was blown away.  He was preaching from the Old Testament and he had maps up on the screen and was diving into geography and history and I actually had to laugh.  He was speaking directly to my husband and son who want facts and love to know the history of things.  The second week we went as a family, he preached the Gospel, straight up. He didn’t mince words, he didn’t flinch or apologize.  I cried like a baby.  Right there, I thought, THANK YOU GOD for this man who is PREACHING THE GOSPEL TO MY FAMILY.  I went up to him afterwards and thanked him profusely, blubbering and carrying on.  He smiled and warmly shook my hand and welcomed me and my family.  I’m so grateful he said YES! to the call on his life.

We’ve been there two years and I can’t help but think those two years were exactly placed on purpose as the two years before my daughter leaves for college.  The Lord’s timing is always perfect. As we sat in church this morning, I realized it was our last Sunday before she goes to college.  We were all there together.  We would be again on  holidays and vacations but not every Sunday anymore.  I was grateful for the rhythm of Sundays, the predictability, all of us together, lunch afterwards.   I will miss this, I thought. I will miss her.

There are so many things we do as parents to prepare children for college.  Many have to do with academics and manners and common sense stuff and personal hygiene issues. Honestly, I’m still telling my teenagers to brush their teeth.  We try to teach kindness and respect and decency and compassion and empathy and independence.  We tell them we love them and we tell them all the things our parents told us.  I spent some time yesterday explaining how to do laundry and how important it is to separate darks from lights.  (I still mess this up sometimes!)

I’ve always known that my most important role is to teach them about God and how much He loves them.  To teach them about Jesus and His sacrifice and His gift of grace.  Sure, I told them about God and I took them to church all their lives, but these last two years…we have lived like we believe it.  The church is a big part and the pastor is instrumental in teaching us the Word of God and how to apply it.

However, I would have to say, it has been in the undoing that we have most profoundly met the Lord.  It has been in the flailing.  It has been in the many, many times over the last two years when we had to each individually walk into a room knowing not a soul and know we would be okay.  It is in the times we did it afraid, whatever it was.  It has been in the practice of trusting…the practice of believing…the practice of leaning into God…that we can now truly understand.

Faith doesn’t grow in comfort zones.

I heard Christine Caine talk about how in today’s world everyone wants everything to happen quickly, like selfies on Snapchat or Instagram.  But God moves at His own pace, His process is more like old school photography.  He takes time to develop us and a lot of our developing happens in the dark.

Two years ago we were invited into the darkroom.  We were invited out of our comfort zone.  We were invited into a new thing.  We said yes and it changed everything.

Now my daughter is invited into a new thing.  A new dark room.  A new stage of development.

And I’m invited into one as well but for the first time, we will not be in the same dark room.  We go into our development alone and when we see each other again, we will be changed.  A little more of us will be revealed.

I am not afraid to let her go.  She has heard the Gospel and she has spent two years of Sundays sitting near her mother who sings off key with hands raised in praise for the way the Lord will always, always lead us Home.  No matter where we are.

 

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©2016 Sue Bidstrup, Great Big Yes™ All Rights Reserved

For the Love – It’s Time!

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Every once in a while a book comes along that INSPIRES.  Jen Hatmaker’s new book, “For the Love” does just that.

This book is for all my friends who are leaders.  That is EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. OF. YOU.

Mothers, daughters, sons, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, friends.  You are champions.

Young, old. Single, married, divorced, separated, dating. You are loved.

I’ve seen you do your thing…teaching, writing, preaching, speaking, lawyering, doctoring, hugging, laughing.  You can be a boss in the boardroom and make a mean cupcake for the class party.

You are hand holders and snot wipers.  You offer a shoulder to cry on and a seat at the table.  You laugh freely and love deeply. You offer your heart.

You know things…like how to make a 10 year old boy roll on the floor laughing and how to recognize when your teenage daughter has been slighted by a friend.

You push the swing and swing on the swing and swing the bat. You are comfortable in fancy shoes and cleats and muddy bare feet. Your mission field is the neighborhood, the workplace, the bus, the yoga studio, the coffee shop.

This book is for you.

You know it is more important to be kind than it is to be right. You know when to compromise. You walk through life with open palms, not clenched fists. You understand that vulnerability is a strength. You know the first one to say sorry actually wins.

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We see you in churches and neighborhoods and schools and walking paths and breakfast diners. We see you in the stock market and the business school and the interview. We know you are behind the camera and in front of the camera and you are the camera. You have vision and depth and soul. You create art. You draw people in.

You are on mission. Today. Where you are.

This book is for you.

You have been offered grace. By God, parents, teachers, coaches, friends, many people in your past. Grace is your lifeline and you have been saved. You reach out to offer that grace to others and so others seek you…other grace givers …humble servants and truth tellers.

The older you get you recognize your gifts. You don’t minimize yourself or your talents. You no longer want to sit on the sidelines. You don’t want to read about what others are doing…you want to go to battle. You don’t fear what will happen if you fail, you look forward to what will happen when you succeed. You show up. You are ready to do the deep work. You are free.

 

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This book is for you if sometimes you feel not worthy. You wonder, “Have I done enough?” …”What is my calling?”…”Who am I?”  Jen addresses all of this. She also addresses the church with chapters like, “Dear Church…” and “Dear Christians, Please Stop being so Crappy…” 

This book is for you if sometimes you find yourself wondering if you your family is too crazy (NO), If it really is too difficult for you to crack an egg (NO), if Sarah Jessica Parker and Jennifer Lopez get their beauty supplies at Walgreen’s (NO) and if you should wear yoga pants outside of the house with no shirt covering your bottom. (FOR THE LOVE…NO!) Jen covers all of this beautifully. She’s got your back.

There are recipes and thank you notes and lots of personal anecdotes. She includes Scripture and always leads you back to love and truth and Jesus.

 

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You will love her for her honesty. She becomes your best friend, mentor, teacher, preacher and coach. She tells you it will be okay and you believe her. She holds a mirror up, tells you to take a good long look, assures you that you are beautiful and equipped and then says, “C’mon now, get going!”

This book is a movement.  This book matters. “For the Love” is a battle cry.

We are missionaries. In all the places we live and work and abide. For all the people we see, heal, touch, hear, comfort, teach, love.

Jen reminds us, “You are too vital to lose years to regret or shame or insecurity or fear. We are not slaves to those masters; Jesus saw to that.”

She encourages us, “Take all the hard parts-the failures, the losses, the wounds-and give them to Jesus for glory. He makes magic with those, I tell you.”

Amen.

Let’s go make some magic, shall we?

©2015 Sue Bidstrup, Great Big Yes™, All Rights Reserved