Two friends and I went to see Disney’s Moana yesterday afternoon. I was excited for sure (I tend to either like movies or LOVE movies…so it’s always exciting for me) but gosh it’s a good one, y’all. And in a way that only a God as kind as ours would do, He put His hand right over a pain point in my heart while I watched Moana.
I don’t want to give any movie details away, but as brave little Moana heads out on her mission, she carries a glowing green stone with her, the visible symbol of what she is called to, the important work she’s been chosen (by the ocean) to do.
When some time has passed (about an hour for us, a few days for her) and Moana has done everything she knows to do and is still failing, when she is deeply disappointed and out of strength, in the middle of the night out on the ocean in her canoe, she decides she can’t do it anymore. This calling on her life is too much and she turns to the ocean and with the stone in her hands, begins to speak to the waters.
“Why did you bring me here?” she asks, “I’m not the right person. You have to choose someone else. Choose someone else. Please.” She holds out the stone, offering it back to the ocean, and a wave reaches into her palm and takes the green stone and lets it drop through it’s water to the bottom of the sea. And then Moana cries.
And so did I, right there in the movie theater.
Because I don’t know about you, but there are days that I look back to God and open my hand and say, “take back this calling, please. I can’t do this. Let someone else have it.”
I want Him to choose someone else.
It feels too hard.
I tried and didn’t succeed like I thought I would.
This isn’t how I pictured my calling, my life, my ministry, my future. (Can I get an amen?)
Just this week I said to God, “Hey, I didn’t sign up for this and I don’t like it. Do You even care about that?”
(Sure, I’m talking about being single, but also some other areas of my life that are in a bit of turmoil currently.)
Somedays, not most days, but probably more days than I want to admit, I ball up all the things I feel called to write about and talk about and live through and I stretch out my hands and ask Him, “Why did you bring me HERE?” And I remind Him I’m not the right person. And I ask Him to choose someone else. Please.
And it makes me cry.
Throughout the film, Moana has a mantra about who she is, where she is from, and what she is doing. A few minutes after this heartbreaking scene when she gives her calling back, through a series of flashbacks and a visit from someone in her past (no spoilers here!), she remembers who she is. She remembers her unique spot on the planet. She remembers what this is all for. And she dives deep into the ocean after that glowing green stone. Moana grabs it for herself this time. What was handed to her before is now something she is choosing, because she sees how much it matters.
(And now I am a MESS in the theater.)
Because for every conversation I start where I hand back to God all that He has called me to do and the life He has given me, He speaks up quickly and reminds me of who I am and why I’m here and what this is all for. And then I have the strength, and the genuine desire, to CHOOSE this life for myself. To believe that it matters, to be grateful for the calling and the opportunities and my unique spot on the planet.
Phew. I didn’t plan for Moana to talk to me about God and my calling and remind me to persevere and even rejoice in where I find myself today- personally and professionally- but she did. What a beautiful and kind moment from God to me in the middle of an animated kid movie. What a way to remind me that yes, He does care and yes, He does see, and yes, all of this matters. And I’m really really grateful.
I have been nothing but the worst of all bloggers this fall. I am so very sorry. At an event recently, the host asked if I was to be introduced as an “author, speaker, and blogger” and I cringed thinking how long it has been since I put words to the page here. (I’m putting lots of words to other pages, don’t worry, I’m still writing, but just not here like I should or want to.) I have big plans for returning with a vengeance in 2017 though, so don’t you worry about that!
But today, I asked a dear friend of mine, Michael Wear, to pen a little something about the election. Michael is a massively trusted voice in the faith and politics world, and I’ve watched the last few years as he has led this conversation with integrity and compassion. This is what he had to say to us today…
. . . . .
The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Psalm 23 (NIV)
This morning, we woke up to heated talk about the presidential election. Throughout the day, political strategists will make their predictions, and the stakes will be discussed in starker and starker terms as we move through the day. Millions will agonize over their vote, and then nervously watch the returns come in tonight.
This election has been disconcerting to say the least. It has been defined by the presumption of fear and instability. We are told that great enemies surround us, and that our fate will be decided when the votes are tallied.
It is right to think of pleasant things while reading the twenty-third Psalm: the calm of still waters and the peace of green pastures. We read this Psalm, some of the best-known literature the world has ever known, and we are transported in our minds and in our spirit. We are reminded of God’s character and the promise He has for our lives.
The Psalm is used often at funerals—I read it at my father’s service—and it is depicted on lovely home decor. It is a Psalm for all times, a reminder of the constant things and eternal truths.
Yet, to think this Psalm is primarily for our moments of reflection or mourning is to miss its meaning. The Twenty-Third Psalm is not just for the backdrop of our lives, a reminder in the moments when we finally catch our breath. No, this Psalm is meant for when we are in the very thick of life, for the very moment of crisis.
David, of course, was not someone who lived a simple life. He was a warrior and a king. He led armies and slayed giants. He faced major trials—many of his own making. This Psalm is not just a reflection on God’s faithfulness, but an overflow of David’s experience of God’s faithfulness at the present time.
Today, I want to remind you that the same God who led David beside still waters, and who prepared a table for him in the midst of his trial, that God is alive and well. If you have cast your lot with Jesus, He says that we can abide in Him and He will take care of our needs. If David can find security in God as others plot his demise, surely we can trust Jesus for our security in the midst of an election.
This does not mean that we ignore reality. This is the great relief of the Psalm: that David is able to acknowledge that he walks through the valley of the shadow of death, but God meets him right there in the mess with blessing and anointing and comfort.
Likewise, as we move through this day, we do not ignore the real consequences that the outcome of this election will have on our well-being and that of our neighbors, our country and the world. We can even care deeply about the outcome. But let us not live as though we have no Shepherd. Jesus encourages us, “in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
We can find security at all times in Him, and we need not fear any evil. We worship a great and compassionate God, who is ushering in a certain kingdom, and whose term as King is not for four or eight years, but all time.
. . . . .
Don’t you love Michael?!? I promise he’s about to become your favorite twitter follow and your favorite political thinkin’ man. And this writing is SUCH good truth. Honestly exactly what I needed to hear today. Michael is the author of the forthcoming book, Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy– I hope you will too. Totally worth it.
. . . . .
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this week has been disturbing and heartbreaking and sadly culturally shifting. Even now, as I type, the interstate in Atlanta is shut down with protestors.
And I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to help. It feels so big and scary and out of control. I don’t know how to help heal a nation of centuries worth of racism and systemic preferences and to make our black friends feel heard and safe and loved AND make our police feel safe and respected and…. sigh. It’s all so hard, y’all.
Luckily, there are a lot of good people on the planet who are smarter and braver than me having conversations that I want to listen to and be a part of. And all I’ve known to do is read and learn and connect with people that are different than me.
So here’s what I wanted to do tonight and share with you, friends. I’ve tried to collect up the resources that I have found really helpful this week and that I know can be trusted. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with every single tweet or line of an article, but all are worth checking out if you, like me, are so deeply saddened and ready to be a part of the change.
. . . . .
Each of these people are helping lead the racial reconciliation conversation and have, in the last week, taken even more important steps to helping make things different. Black, white, police families. These are voices I trust and think you should be following:
Also, you can follow the #solidarityispower hashtag to be connected with the conversation about what we can do to move forward, with Christ, towards healing and helping.
. . . . .
Here are three recorded conversations that you should make time for as soon as possible:
. . . . .
After listening to the call with Adam and Michael (and many other wise voices), I loved that they gave us actual action steps to be a part of the solution. Here they are.
. . . . .
I like these organizations and what they are doing to continue this conversation:
. . . . .
Just to be clear. I really want you to hear this. I called friends today that are connected to police departments for some resources and asked how we can partner with them as well. The answers were the same- because police aren’t really allowed to talk about any of the things that are going on, there aren’t many blogposts or websites or movements. The reason there aren’t more links to that is because they don’t exist (at least, not that I was told about by trusted friends).
But I want my Nashville police to feel like I love and support them as well. So at the suggestion of a policeman’s wife, next week I’m going to deliver a card and some treats to my local police department.
So maybe there is some way you and your kids and your friends could thank your local police?
. . . . .
I don’t know very much about how to help this situation, people. But I promise you I’m committed to this conversation in ways I haven’t been before. Forgive me for that. Forgive me for letting this issue swirl around me and staying quiet about it, but I can’t anymore. I’m not full of the answers, but I’m asking a lot of new questions, making new friends, and jumping into conversations I was afraid to engage with before.
I felt like this was hopeless and America is too big for me to make a difference. But then I heard Michael Wear say, “You are not powerless. You have an awesome God who is on the side of justice.” And then I thought, “I may not be able to change every city in the nation, but I bet I can get involved in some small way in my town of Nashville.” So I’ll take treats to police and pray for my black friends and our churches and keep reading and learning and talking to new people and seeing what it looks like for me to be a part of changing the trajectory of this story. We must, y’all. We must get involved.
Do y’all have resources that you have found helpful this week?
People to follow?
Articles to read?
Please leave the links below.
Guide us, O thou great Jehovah.
. . . . .
Abby Wambach retired yesterday as one of America’s most influential, impactful, and talented soccer players. More international goals than ANYONE who has ever played soccer- male or female. World Cup champion. Olympic Gold medalist (twice). 2012 FIFA Player of the Year. (And the list goes on. If you don’t know soccer, just take my word for it: she’s the best. Like, literally.)
Abby and I are the same age, and though our soccer careers had significantly different trajectories :), I’ve admired her play for years… decades, actually. Watching her retire has been interesting to me. Another player our same grade retired earlier this year, long-time Liverpool player Steven Gerrard, and it all has me asking AM I SUPPOSED TO RETIRE AT 35 WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME TO OPEN A SAVINGS ACCOUNT SO I COULD QUIT WORKING TODAY?
(Kidding. I have a savings account. It’s just near empty.)
Yesterday, the internet was abuzz with Abby Wambach tributes, and rightly so. But this one stood out to me. (Meaning. It made my cry at my desk.)
“Forget me, forget my number, forget my name, forget I ever existed,” she says. “Forget the medals won, the records broken, and the sacrifices made. I want to leave a legacy where the ball keeps rolling forward, where the next generation accomplishes things so great that I am no longer remembered. So, forget me. Because the day I’m forgotten is the day we will succeed.”
I teared up watching it, not just for the soccer history and the impact of her leaving the sport, but because the truth in this Gatorade commercial is true for all of us. While I probably don’t agree with everything Abby has ever said or done (and we aren’t real life friends), she is so so right on this one.
If we are leading the next generation correctly, our names can disappear from the spotlight, but we will live on in the hearts and accomplishments of the people that know us, close up or from afar. My impact is not dependent on how many people recognize my name in fifty years, but on how many people live differently because of how I lived.
It’s a Gospel idea, really. Don’t live for yourself, don’t live for your own glory. Don’t work to be remembered, work to make a difference. For those of us who follow Christ, that’s the goal, isn’t it? Don’t remember me, remember Him. Don’t follow me, follow Him.
Don’t be like me. Forget me. Be like Him.
It doesn’t matter your job: soccer player, author, speaker, teacher, garbage collector, preacher, film critic. Abby is right for you just like she is right for me. When we fight to hang on to our legacy, it will slip through our fingers. But when we fight to help someone else leave a legacy and make an impact, that’s when the world is a better place.
To be fair, will we forget Abby Wambach? No way. I won’t, at least. No soccer fan in this generation will. But I also won’t forget Beth Moore or Tom Tanner or my own parents. You just don’t forget the people that cleared the path for you to be who you want to be. And I want to be that for the next generation- I want to see them far surpass me, buzz by me in knowledge and influence and skill.
So today, I’m asking myself: am I living in a way that says I’m seeking to be remembered OR living in a way that causes change and impact for the glory of God, even if I’m forgotten?
And I think my answer is simply what Abby already said. I want to leave a legacy where the ball keeps rolling forward, where the next generation accomplishes things so great that I am no longer remembered.
So, forget me.
. . . . .
Please tell me you’ve seen this clip with Jimmy Fallon and Nicole Kidman from Tuesday night’s episode of The Tonight Show? Where Nicole tells him that ten years ago she hung out with him thinking they could maybe be a thing- both were single and she was interested. He thought it was a hang out about a movie role. And a love connection was never made.
Watch it if you have a few minutes….
I watched them the other night, Jimmy being in legitimate shock at Nicole being interested enough in him to hang out and see if there was any chemistry. He had no idea that was her intention then.
That day, she walked away disappointed. And still single.
That day, he was oblivious. And still single.
Eventually they married other people, had kids, live way different lives.
And as I watched that segment, I felt God whisper to me,
. . . . .
I think about myself. I think about my single friends. I think about the worries we have (I have) of being alone forever. I think about that time I cried at my dentist’s office when he said, “the right guy at the wrong time is still the wrong guy, Annie,” because I knew he was telling me the truth even though I was sure the character in question was (a) the right guy at (b) the right time.
And I cannot even list for you the amount of times I’ve thought a relationship was going to work and it didn’t. But I can list the reasons that scroll through my mind every time it happens.
(I could. But I won’t.)
Yet here sit two celebrities, seemingly not hindered by budget or looks or opportunity or any of the lies we hear in our heads as to why we are single, and they missed a chance.
They missed the wrong; but in time, they got the right.
I needed to see that.
I needed to see that sometimes it just doesn’t work out because sometimes it just doesn’t work out. I needed to watch as two people, ten years later, finally see the story through the same lens. I needed to be reminded that God’s sovereign hand is tightly gripped around my little life. I needed to remember that for all the times I’ve walked away from a man and thought, “dang, he is NOT interested in me” and felt deeply alone and sad, Nicole Kidman has felt that, the guy had no idea, and the truth? God knew all along.
God. Knew. All. Along.
. . . . .
He knows when I walk away disappointed. He knows my story. But He knows the story of each man I encounter too. God knows the chances I feel I have missed. He knows that often what I call a “miss,” He calls a “rescue.”
He knows when I walk in a room full of the wrong guy, I will still try to make one (or two) right. And they don’t play along and I’m sad. He knows better for me will come. And maybe better and I have been in the same room already. I don’t know. God knows.
And whether you are Nicole Kidman or Annie Downs or [fill in your name here], I think this story is great reminder that He knows you. He sees you. There is not an encounter in your life in which He has not been near. And He is working ALL things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
We will never know how many near misses and misunderstood stories and random circumstances all had to dance together to get us right here, with the right people, at the right time.
. . . . .
If you haven’t seen, new nude magazine cover photos were released of Kim Kardashian this week. (It’s not the first time, but it surely seems to be the most viral release.) It has been hard, nearly impossible, to avoid seeing her full backside displayed, and as of yesterday, her full frontside as well. And while I hope you can get around the internet without passing by these, most won’t be able to. If you can avoid seeing it, do. If you can protect your children from seeing the photos, do.
If you can’t, like I couldn’t, I have a few things to remind you- as a grown woman- and to remind you as you mentor the next generation of women. Please say these things to yourself and to the younger women in your life.
. . . . .
1. We are worth more than this. While the human body is beautiful, this particular display does not add to or celebrate the value and strength of her as a woman. These photographs are not a great reflection of the worth of a woman.
2. Every body is different. We are each uniquely made, uniquely shaped, and uniquely celebrated by God. Therefore…
3. There is not one body that is THE female standard. She is not what we are all supposed to look like. This woman is not our standard. The world will try to convince you, with just a few simple photographs, that we should all look like that. We shouldn’t. I should look like the best version of me, you should look like the best version of you, and we should not feel pressure to conform our bodies into any one shape.
4. You are beautiful the way God made you. I needed that reminder after I saw the pictures, maybe you do too.
5. What the internet says about your body does NOT determine your worth. Positive or negative. What Kim is displaying for every teen girl is, “look! show it all and everyone will LOVE you!” No. No they won’t. They will not respect you, they will not honor you, they will not love you. They will look at you, and they will use you, but it will be short lived and way less awesome than you are imagining.
Also, while we’re here. Likes on your instagram post don’t decide if you’re awesome or not. RTs of your tweets aren’t the what make you valuable. The comments on your posts don’t judge your worth. To quote my friend Cassie, “your online presence is not who you are. It is not your heart. It isn’t your soul. And it is certainly not your value.”
6. Cultivate who you are on the inside. Please. It matters far more the woman you are versus the way you look. Read good books. Deepen your friendships. Learn how to cook. Pray. Jog if you like it. Dance if you want to. Finish school. Become the woman you want to be on the inside, and your inner beauty will radiate out in major ways.
7. Don’t be naked on the internet. Ever.
. . . . .
I’ll leave it at that. Speak to the heart of the young women in your life- remind them of their worth. Speak to your own heart if necessary, and say the kind things. God made you on purpose. This isn’t our standard. This isn’t beauty. These photos need to be a good internal check for all of us to remember what we value, what we honor, and who we are letting determine our truth.
(And yes. You need to talk with young men about these photographs as well. That blog post is coming…)
But. That’s not why Sean’s story matters.
Yes, everyone’s story matters. But that’s not what Sean’s story matters.
And this isn’t going to be a sexual purity post. That’s a great part of Sean’s story, but it isn’t why this I Am Second video matters.
Here it is, by the way. (It’s worth a watch, I promise.)
Is he perfect? Probably not. But he’s open about his faith and his mistakes in front of the eyes of millions who are believers and non-believers and THAT’S why his story matters. Because MILLIONS of people know who he is and probably the majority of them like him and that’s why his story matters.
But it doesn’t have to be millions. It can be one. Or ten. Or three hundred. Your story matters because you get to live your life in front of people who don’t know Jesus. And they will see Him in your story.
I’m no theologian and I’m not the type of blogger that writes posts about where the church is going and all that jazz, but I will tell you this: if we want to see people saved, we have to talk to them about Jesus. And they only way they will listen IS IF THEY LIKE US.
YoungLife says it best. “Earn the right to be heard.”
Gone are the days when street preaching impacts young lives (if it ever did). Passing out tracts and tiny New Testaments may still be effective (if it ever was), but the problem is that WE as Christians don’t want to do that anymore. Do you? I don’t. It doesn’t feel authentic to me. If I want people to know Jesus, I want to tell them about Him with my life and words. Not just tracts with sentences that I explain to a stranger.
So maybe it’s my generation and younger. Maybe it’s the ones coming behind us. But I’m telling you, as sure as I’m sitting here, 20-somethings don’t want to be preached at. They want to feel like they KNOW you and THEN they will listen.
THAT IS WHY SEAN’S STORY MATTERS.
Because he has earned the right to be heard. And now? Now they are hearing.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot. And talking about it a lot with people in my life, for months actually. Since Beth Moore wrote this blog post, since Pete Wilson preached this sermon. And I’m telling you it looks like God is doing something new on this planet- opening doors for Christians to get mainstream attention for HIS GLORY and for the salvation of souls.
Sean’s story matters to me because I’m seeing him do what I want to do. To be clear, I don’t want to be on the Bachelor or Bachelorette… per se. I don’t necessarily want to be famous- I’ve tasted the tiniest amounts of it, just enough to know that it isn’t glamorous and can be pretty terrible and if God doesn’t do it for you, it’s not worth the cost.
But I do want to be a Christian that non-Christians like and want to listen to. I see Sean and it reminds me of who I want to be. I want to be honest with my life, humble with my words, and I want to be as famous as I need to be in order for people to come to Jesus. Nothing more, nothing less. For His glory and the salvation of souls.
That’s why we’re here. That’s why your story matters. Because someone will see God’s glory in it, and maybe someone’s soul will be rescued.
That’s why Sean’s story matters.
That’s why my story matters.
And I pray for us, that God will make our lives flow like a stream in a wasteland.
Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
Sometimes I worry that the more teen books I write, like Speak Love, the more people are going to expect me to know things.
How do we help a girl like Miley?
How do I keep from my daughter being like that?
What is this world coming to?
All valid questions, but I’m not sure I know how to answer them.[If you aren’t sure what I am talking about, google Miley’s VMA performance last night. Don’t watch it with kids around. I won’t post it here.]
Last night, before I went to bed in the lovely town of Houston, Texas – yes, I’m in Houston- I watched the performance. To be fair, I actually only googled the VMA performances because I care about the fact that NSYNC reunited. See, before we were an internet family, way back in 2000, I was an NSYNC super fan and I feel no shame about it.
But you couldn’t have been on the internet for any length of time last night and not heard people talking about Miley.
Right? I mean, bless that girl’s heart. Something is broken. Somehow her compass has come unhinged and her true north no longer exists.
My wise friend Ben Backus tweeted this last night:
And he’s right. While I immediately trashed my Monday blog post about how much I love rental cars [riveting stuff, y’all] so I could write about Miley, I don’t want to vent about her. Honestly, I’m not mad at her. I want to be her friend and let her come home to Nashville and rest out of the spotlight for a few months. Because she is a wounded bird to be sure. Can you see that? Can you hear that? She is wounded and fluttering around screaming for help.
And she needs your help. And my help.
So how do we help Miley? Get ready. You should have seen this coming a mile away.
We speak love to her.
I know, I know. You’re mad that your teen sister or young daughter was exposed to that behavior! and where is culture going? and am I defending her? and aren’t I grossed out by what I saw? and isn’t she crazy? and why am I not expressing pure outrage because I’m a teen Christian author?
But in my heart, I don’t feel outrage. I’m very sad for her. When that performance was over, and she left the stage, the internet blew up with hatred and disgust [and I am not saying the internet shouldn’t feel that way]. Miley still washed her face last night and climbed into bed at some point and in that most honest moment right before she fell asleep, I wonder if she was sad. Or embarrassed. Or if she is so deep in the rabbit hole of this whole thing that she felt nothing.
I want to yell down that rabbit hole and tell her to come back.
While today’s headlines are tearing her to shreds, we as Christians HAVE to sound different than the world. We HAVE to yell a different chant in her direction about how God made her on purpose and how she is valuable because of WHO she is, not WHAT she does. I’m not saying we ignore the influence she is having, but if we want to help her [and that is the question titling this post after all], then we have to look at her with eyes of compassion and have our words sound from there.
If the title of this post was “how should we REACT to Miley?” or “How do we talk to our daughters about Miley?,” well sisters, that’s a whole different thing.
But if we want to help her? We have to speak love.