Blessed Are the Misfits – Is That You?

“Every day, busy, busy, busy making decisions, calling shots, bearing the burdens of the day, stressed about this and that and what will I do about this? What about that?

And then God makes me lie down. I must not be such a Big Deal. I must not be Manager of Everything, because, shoot, I can’t even manage being vertical anymore.”
– Brant Hansen

An opening like this makes me want to read a book:

“WARNING: If American church culture makes perfect sense to you and you fit in seamlessly, don’t read this.”

Because who fits in seamlessly? None of us. All of us are misfits in our own ways.

Brant Hansen puts words to it. These words are in his subtitle: Introverts. Spiritual strugglers. Or those who just feel like they’re missing something.

The rest of the book, Blessed Are the Misfits, explains why being a misfit is a good thing.

“While Chan said church people get ‘awkward’ when it comes to talking about Jesus, I can assure him that for many of us, the ‘awkward’ part starts with just talking.”

If you’ve ever said, “Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief,” then you’ll likely relate to many things here.

Blessed Are the Misfits

Brant Hansen is a radio personality for the Christian WAY-FM network. He is the author of Unoffendable, one of my all-time favorite books (read it, read it!). He works with CURE International.

And he has Asperger’s syndrome.

While this book is not a memoir, it does get personal. Because of Hansen’s physical struggles and social awkwardness, he often felt like he didn’t fit in.

But along the way, he found Jesus. And now he highlights Jesus to other people who may feel the same way.

Hansen reminds us that Jesus values the underdog. Jesus doesn’t require us to follow the crowd, or to feel all the same emotions. He wants our hearts, not our perfection.

“Yes, some of our prayers are clumsy or meandering or even immature and selfish, but I get the impression from Scripture that God would rather be in communication with an immature, selfish person than be ignored by a theologically fastidious one.”

In a chapter called, “Blessed Are the People Who Can’t Pray Worth a Darn,” Hansen writes:

“Jesus says, ‘Here’s how to pray . . .’ and He then prays for about twenty-five seconds. And then quits!
. . .
For people like me and maybe you, if you’re terrible at prayer, it’s just beautiful. And merciful. And understanding.
. . .
I want you to know that God understands, and still wants us at His party. This is a God who knows us and loves us, indeed.”

A later chapter entitled “Blessed Are the Introverts Who Keep Trying” includes this:

“So here we are. It’s just that the problem with being around broken people is, you know, all the broken people.
. . .
I’m learning that people don’t suspect that God can find them lovable. It’s my job to prove to them that He does.”

Other chapter titles include, among more:

  • Blessed Are the Unfeeling Faithful 
  • Blessed Are the People Who Just Read That Last Chapter But Still Have Some Questions
  • Blessed Are Those Who Don’t have Amazing Spiritual Stories
  • Blessed Are the People Who Do Church Anyway

And yet here we are, all loved by God, all in this together. A beautiful group of misfits.

“There are many promises in the Bible, but one gets repeated more than any other. It makes me again suspect God know us very well, indeed: ‘I will be with you.’”

That is a blessing indeed.

* * *

Have you ever felt you didn’t quite fit into church culture? Please share in the comments.

My thanks to BookLook Bloggers
for the review copy of this book


Advice for All Ages

4 Life Lessons for Kids of All Ages--Proverbs

We often give good advice to our kids.

  • Say “thank you” and “please”
  • Share your toys
  • Pay attention

But we often need to take the same advice.

While Solomon wrote most of the book of Proverbs to pass along wisdom to his son, it’s a treasure chest of good advice for us still today, whether a child or an adult.

Here are 4 life lessons from Proverbs that are just as applicable for adults as they are for kids. Which one do you need the most?

Read it all here

* * *

I’m writing today at Do Not Depart for our #31DaysInProverbs series.

Will you join me there?


Raise Your Hand If . . .

“So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands” (Ps. 63:4).

Raise-your-hand

 

Averie is 7. Something she says a lot is this . . .

  • Raise your hand if you know want to play a game.
  • Raise your hand if you’re ready to eat.
  • Raise your hand if you want to see my Halloween outfit.

So after visiting our church one Sunday morning, she asked at lunch:

Why do people raise their hands at your church?

It was a great question. Why do people raise their hands?

I used to wonder the same thing myself.

I grew up in a conservative church. No one moved their hands during a service except to turn the pages in the hymnal or flip to the next Bible reference. (We were masters at Bible sword drill competitions.)

But now I worship with a body of believers where we comfortably lift hands and clap hands and raise hands to heaven.

It makes perfectly good sense.

Maybe this is why:

  • Raise your hand if you agree these lyrics are true.
  • Raise your hand if you know God is faithful.
  • Raise your hand if you need God to help you.

Granted, we don’t have to lift a finger to assert those same beliefs. But maybe in asking our bodies to participate with our minds, we’re kicking our hearts into gear as well.

Worshiping in spirit and in truth looks differently for every person. There is no one-size-fits-all worship. A paraplegic can worship God just as fully and sincerely as a skilled athlete. A stoic worshiper can be just as pleasing to God as a charismatic dancer. Worship is as individual as we are.

I didn’t explain all that to Averie when she asked. But I’ve continued to think on it myself.

Ultimately, what matters is this: Are we raising our hearts to God?

And if our hands go up at the same time, so be it.

“Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven.”
Lamentations 3:41

* * *

Did you grow up in a hand-raising church? Or is it foreign to you? Please share in the comments.

If you still haven’t seen this, you’re due some laughter.

Tim Hawkins on Hand Raising

Tim Hawkins on Hand Raising

Related reading:


Meet Travis 1. Meet Travis 2.

It seemed odd. In one week, I met two new friends, both named Travis.

Meet Travis 1, Travis 2

Friend 1:
It’s Friday afternoon. He says, “My name is Travis. But you can call me Trav.

On Saturday morning, a different place, a different person. . .

Friend 2:
He says, “My name is Travis. But you can call me T. Or T-Bone.

Friend 1 is a pastor of a Methodist church in my hometown.
Friend 2 is a homeless man looking for a ride to his family in Florence, an hour down the road.

Friend 1 is at school reading with Jenna’s 1st graders.
Friend 2 is at Outdoor Church killing time.

At first glance, you’d think they have nothing in common.

  • Friend 1, Trav, is white; Friend 2, T-Bone is black.
  • Trav likely lives in a nice home in a nice neighborhood. T-Bone plans to sleep at the Salvation Army.
  • Trav and I lack time to converse much, but T-Bone unravels his story all morning.

Alike or Different?

They both are very polite to me. They both are likely around the same age. It doesn’t come up with Trav, but T-Bone volunteers that he is 36.

But T-Bone has had a really bad week. He says he needs some lifting up. He says he can tell when he meets someone if they’ll uplift his spirit. He’s here today for that, hoping for that. I assure him he’s come to the right place.

He tells me about his girlfriend (she’s about to break up with him, he feels it; he wants to break up first). About his grandma. About being an Ohio State fan.

T-Bone talks about the nitty gritty of life. Openness happens when other things are stripped away, when you’re wondering where your next meal will come from.

I ask him if he’ll stay for lunch after Outdoor Church and he says he might as well; he has nowhere else to be.

But the more I talk to T-Bone on this Saturday morning, and think back to Trav on Friday afternoon, the more curious I am about their commonalities.

Sometimes outward differences blind us to likenesses. Our preconceived stereotypes pile on. Surface-level judgments cause us to miss community.

And Then Faith

And then T-Bone tells me about his faith.

That’s when the similarities between the two Travis’s come more into focus.

While Trav doesn’t say anything about his faith, I hope and assume he has a full one since he’s a Christian pastor. But T-bone is vocal about his. He says that through the storms, he knows he has Jesus.

I ask T-Bone where he got his faith. He says his grandma, definitely his grandma.

I haven’t seen T-Bone since that Saturday morning, nor Travis since that Friday afternoon. Our paths may not cross again this side of heaven.

But I’m glad they crossed so close in time that one week in December. So we could meet each other. Hear a little piece of each other’s story. And see what we had in common.

Everybody has something in common with everybody else.

Maybe a name. Maybe an age.

Maybe a Savior.

We all have something in common

* * *

Do you share a name with any of your friends? Do you have friends who are totally opposite? Please share in the comments.


How to Love Well in Our Culture

“Often we mean well, but we don’t love well. In every single encounter Jesus had with people, we see an unwavering attitude of love even as he calls them to leave their sin behind and follow him.”
– Chris Hodges

Right or Righteous?

We all live in a certain culture. How does our culture affect us and how do we affect our culture?

Some people believe one thing; others believe the total opposite. As believers in Jesus, we need to be the most loving with all, whether we agree or disagree. How?

Using the life of the prophet Daniel, Pastor Chris Hodges lays out five main principles in The Daniel Dilemma about how to love well in today’s culture.

Truth without grace is mean. Chris Hodges sm

“Here’s what we need to remember: Truth without grace is mean. Grace without truth is meaningless.”

While I don’t always agree with Hodges’ exact biblical interpretations, I greatly appreciate his foundation of grace, his attitude of humility, and his reverence for Jesus. His love for God and his love for people are evident. (I listen weekly to his sermons via podcast from Church of the Highlands. Because of his consistency in walking his talk, I pay closer attention to what he shares in his books as well as his sermons.)

“Being right and being righteous are not the same.”

Five Cultural Dilemmas

Hodges answers five cultural dilemmas on how to be a person of influence, standing firm and loving well. Here they are with quotes from The Daniel Dilemma.

1. Confused identities (Culture’s great impact)

  • Know our God-given identities (chapter 1)
  • Settle our core values (chapter 2)
  • Be ready to stand our ground in the tests of life (chapter 3)

The more time you spend with Jesus, the less time you’re going to spend being intimidated by the opinions of others or worrying about your problems. Worshiping God has become the first thing I do whenever I’m faced with a loss, crisis, or major setback.”

2. Whom will I worship? (Culture’s greatest test)

  • Worship God (chapter 4)
  • Don’t worship other gods (chapter 5)
  • Give our lives fully to Jesus (chapter 6)

“Worship changes everything. Through worship, we move from viewing our problems as big and God as small to the exact opposite: because we remember how big our God is. Worship restores our perspective.”

3. Who is in charge of my life? (Culture’s greatest question)

  • Identify our pride (chapter 7)
  • Put our feelings in their proper place (chapter 8)
  • Give God full control of our lives (chapter 9)

“If we want to overcome pride in our lives, then we must turn from being self-sufficient back to being God-dependent. . . . God doesn’t bless us just so we can hoard a lot of money and buy stuff. He blesses us to be a blessing for others, to advance his kingdom, to reveal his love through the gift of salvation in Christ.”

4. Unfocused and busy lives (Culture’s greatest culprit)

  • Understand the brevity of life (chapter 10)
  • Focus on our priorities (chapter 11)
  • Heed the warning signs of weariness (chapter 12)

“It is better to have less of what doesn’t matter and more of what does. . . . Focus on things that will last. . . .God’s plan to bring light to a dark culture is us.”

5. Truth and grace (Culture’s greatest need)

  • Learn how to connect before we correct (chapter 13)
  • Let God change us into his likeness (chapter 14)

“My purpose as a follower of Jesus is to give people hope. People are ready for God, but they want hope, not a debate. . . . Evangelism is not telling others what they should do; it’s telling them what happened in you. It’s never ‘Turn or burn!’ It’s ‘Hey, guess what happened to me.’”

Keep the Hope

Ultimately, this is a book of hope. Christianity is a religion of hope. It points us to the reliable One we put our hope in.

“I’d rather have hope in what an all-powerful God can do than certainty in what I am limited to do.”

And it shows us a way to pass along that hope to others.

“With so much turmoil in our world today, more and more people are looking for hope. The more we look and act like Jesus, the more others will find hope in God. This is how we reflect God’s glory—by looking like Jesus.”

Hodges does not say it is easy, but he shows it is possible.

“The secret of influence isn’t what you say; it’s how you live.”

* * *

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

 My thanks to Net Galley
for the review copy of this book


Is This a Throwaway Prayer?

No prayer is a throwaway. God is better. Lisanotes

Many of the words we say are throwaways. We talk to be talking. The content isn’t relevant or important. Just a blurb. Throwaway lines.

But our prayers? Is there such a thing as a throwaway prayer?

Wait in Line

The outside line was long and slow-moving. Mothers and a few fathers stood outside in the cold (and sometimes rain).

Their goal? Pick out free Christmas gifts for each of their children, specifically, a stuffed animal, a book per child, a new-in-the-package toy, and a stocking stuffer.

And a prayer.

I don’t know if they all appreciate that particular gift. Or if they just tolerate it. But no one turns it away when we offer a prayer of blessing as they wait in line at Manna House for Christmas.

My Spanish is poor, but when one quiet Hispanic lady urgently wanted to tell me something before we prayed, I did my best to understand.

In her broken English, she explained that she had been in this line four years earlier. And a young lady from our group had prayed for her.

Three months later, something happened. I was all ears.

But My Little Prayers?

Praying for person after person, only briefly learning their names and needs, can sometimes leave you with questions of your own.

  • Are my non-eloquent and often stumbling words adequate enough for this responsibility?
  • Do I know this person or their needs enough to be praying for them?
  • What if I pray for the wrong thing or make them feel awkward or harm their faith?

Is my prayer a throwaway prayer?

Why Every Prayer Matters

As I listened to the lady detail her story to me, I heard the answer: No. No prayer is a throwaway. No prayer is unimportant.

Every prayer matters because. . .

  1. God is listening.

Even when our prayers aren’t adequately heard or understood by others, God hears every word. When our message is incoherent even to ourselves at times, God still knows what we mean. God even pays attention to the thoughts underneath the words, hearing as his Spirit translates them into coherent requests.

He loves when we talk to him. He is honored by our requests.

  1. God knows what’s best.

Our prayers matter even if we ask for the “wrong” thing. We can trust our Father to answer in the best way. He is smart enough and good enough to give us what we really need, not just what we ask for. We won’t throw him off-track by begging for Job B if he’s already lined up Job A for us.

We don’t have to pray the answers. We just make the requests.

  1. God has power to act.

I’m sometimes reluctant to pray for someone because I know I can’t really help their situation. But isn’t that exactly why I need to pray? I can’t do much, but God can.

My words are just the smoke signal. His words make things happen.

Her Answered Prayer

The lady finished her story.

On that Christmas four years ago, she had recently experienced a miscarriage. She had been devastated. She had asked and received prayers about it.

Three months later, she was pregnant again. And this time she carried to term. Now she was here to bless her three-year-old daughter with Christmas gifts from Manna House.

She wanted to be sure someone knew. The prayer had been answered. Dios te bendiga.

And I was the blessed one to receive her story. Why? Maybe because four years ago, my own daughter was one of the young women praying over these moms. Could she have been the very one who prayed over this lady? Was it her prayer that was answered, a quick prayer in a moving line over a stranger she didn’t know?

Yes. Jenna confirmed it when I told her the story.

Every prayer makes a difference.

Because God is different. He’s not like us. He’s better. Wiser. Stronger.

May we never lose confidence to pray for others. Not because of who we are, but because of who God is.

No prayer is a throwaway.

* * *

Prayer can be a mystery to us. But it’s not to God. Please share your thoughts about prayer in the comments.