Tag: authenticity (page 1 of 2)

Authenticity and Telling a Better Story

Recently I did something I rarely do. I got 250 pages into a book and quit.

I had invested a lot of time, but I just couldn’t finish.

It was well written, compelling historical fiction about the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph, but I could tell where the story was heading and I just couldn’t take any more narrative about bad, sad choices, no matter how factual the research was.

Do you ever feel weary of authentically depressing news? Disappointed or dismayed over person after person modeling less than noble behavior?

Over the past ten years we have put an increasingly high value on “authenticity”. We want speakers, leaders, pastors, writers who tell us the whole messy truth. We want vulnerability and  transparency. No plastic saints thank you ma’am. This is a good thing.! A great thing even!

Scripture says,

“Confess your sins one to another…” (James 5:16)

“The truth will set you free…” (John 8:32)

But the stories we’re telling aren’t the only stories to be told.

There are true accounts of courage and sacrifice and service.

Stories can be authentic, but also good and inspiring. Not perfect or formulaic, but capable of lifting our eyes and motivating us to become our better selves.

This past weekend John and I were at an event hosted by Opportunity International – an organization that gives micro-loans to the poor to start small businesses, lifting them out of poverty.

The CEO of Opportunity shared this story:

Arles Mina is a client of Opportunity who now makes cheese curds and sells them from a hole-in-the-wall storefront in Bogota, Colombia.

However, there’s more to the story.

A young loan officer found Arles on the streets of Bogota. He was a drug runner for Pablo Escobar and was high on drugs when they met. The loan officer told Arles that he had a future and insisted he take a loan to start a formal business so he could earn a living and work his way off the streets.

Now, Arles says, “Opportunity has made me who I am.”

Arles received a loan from Opportunity. He repaid it and got another loan, and another, and another, expanding his business. Now he employs 3 women.

3 widows.

3 widows whose husbands were killed by the drug cartel he used to serve.

This is an authentic story. A story of redemption.

“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Phil. 4:8

Yes, we should be informed, and the truth can be ugly, but what if we major on the kingdom stories of restoration, reconciliation and redemption so we may “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24)?

A Selfie Gospel?

Living an authentic Christian life is just hard, isn’t it?

In a world of curated shiny “selfies” we want to be honest about our own mess and love others well in the midst of theirs. We don’t want to be the fakey judgey plastic Christians, banging others over the head with our Bibles, ignoring our own sin.

In the past few years I think there have been some brave, articulate Christians who have modeled vulnerability and authenticity well. It’s been a much-needed corrective to a Christian culture that just wants to show happy-clappy to the world and use the sword of Truth as a weapon of mass destruction.

These truth-tellers have been detailed and explicit about their mess, and God’s love, but sometimes I feel we’re in danger overcompensating – of making an idol out of authenticity and stopping short of truly grieving it as sin.

It seems like it has become more noble to talk about our sin than actually repent of it.

A pastor stands up or a writer writes “real” –  confessing motives, actions, thoughts, words – a heart that is darker than we’d guess.

We’re like, “Wow! That is so great! He is sooooo AUTHENTIC!!

We applaud their courageous honesty and breathe a sigh of relief. “Phew! I’m not the only one”, we think.

When we feel safe to show our rough edges, our failures, our missteps; we may celebrate grace. Yay! There’s NOTHING we can do to be holy, or good enough. I’m ok, you’re ok.

But have we translated Jesus’ acceptance of us right where we are, into an endorsement of whatever feels good to our culture? Has his patience in our minds morphed into tolerance of everything?

Does it mean we ignore God’s grief over our sin, or the price that He paid to rescue us, or the dreams that He has for our growth in character that is like Him?

Has “authentic” become code for celebrating sin under the guise of “Jesus is Love so it’s all good”?

Has love become all comfort and no cost?

Do we think someone loves us only if they endorse our behavior?

Here’s what I’ve been thinking… We get into trouble when we omit God from any Gospel equation.

You may say, “Well, duh!” but think about how inclined we are to do this.

Truth – Grace = Gospel – God  (pharisaical)

Grace – Truth = Gospel – God  (self-centered)

Both omit God from the equation.

 Do you take the kindness of God for granted? Do you see His patience and tolerance as signs that He is a pushover when it comes to sin? How could you not know that His kindness is guiding our hearts to turn away from distractions and habitual sin to walk a new path? Romans 2:4 The Voice

Clearly I’m not the only one thinking about this.

And…

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The church is where we as the broken and beloved come to receive grace and forgiveness, to place ourselves in God’s hands for His refining and redemptive work. This is not easy stuff! I’m thankful for grace AND truth… grateful that we’re on the way together.

 

Why We Need Mollys

My friend Molly texted our small group what we in our family call “a scathingly brilliant idea” this week.

Her thought was to create an Instagram account called “My Real Life”.  She even sent us the first two posts. I love her and I want to give her high fives.

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There’s a healthy drive for authenticity everywhere these days.

A backlash against Martha Stewart crafty perfection, and happy clappy Christians who “have it all together”, and women who are expected to bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan while simultaneously helping their kids with a science project involving earthworms and looking like Tina Fey (with her sense of humor).

This longing for “real” is good. We’re responding to fakery and stress tied to impossible standards.

But what about aspiring to our better selves? Continue reading

5 Characteristics of Healthy Community

Who are your people? Do you have a group of friends who are your tribe, or your “home team”? Those people you can tell the truth to and they won’t throw you out? They may kick you in the butt when that’s needed, but they’ll also hug you and say “It’s gonna be ok honey”.

My husband, John, has gotten a little bit sick of me raving about a community of young married couples I have the privilege of hanging out with. They are called Catalyst, and they inspire the socks off me.

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Right from the start, they have leaned into the sacrament of community. They are my heroes in this regard.

There are five vivid snapshots of our life-together that come to mind, highlighting characteristics of authentic, life-giving community. I thought they might be helpful to share: Continue reading

Hungry

The other night I invited a bunch of young women over for snacky stuff and dessert, wine and coffee, candlelight, pumpkins, and “how are you’s?” They showed up looking like delightfully hip pulled-together young wives and moms.

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Not everyone had met before, so we did some get-to-know-you stuff, but as the evening wore on, I felt a distinct nudge from the Holy Spirit. Truly out of “nowhere” I felt compelled to ask them to share a little about the season of life they’re in and the character quality of God that is most important to them today.

Now it would have been easy for them to open the door to their dusted and vacuumed “living room” like I had when I invited them into my home, but instead they were brave and authentic and before I knew it there were tears and prayers and a sense of feeding each other with love.

One way to feel stronger and less alone is to invite people into your really real life – into the rooms where things aren’t quite as neat and tidy as you might like.

When we’re vulnerable we remind each other that we’re all in the same boat, all dependent on the same Star-Shooter and Storm-Shusher, rocking along on the waves, looking for True North.

When we just share our shiny confident stories we tend to get compare-ish and competitive, but when we share our doubts and insecurities we hear “me too” and  find community.

People show up in our homes and in our lives hungry. But the food we share with each other isn’t always pumpkin bars. I opened my doors with a tiny “plan”, but I’m grateful that the Holy Spirit and some brave woman walked in and made it much more.

Let me give you some food so you may eat and have the strength to go on your way. 1 Samuel 28:22

Do you have places where you can share your real life? Are you creating safe places where others can open up?

Praying Aloud and Letters from Camp

I love Ellen Degeneres’ quote: “August is like the Sunday of summer.”  I agree!  I’m going to be traveling the next couple of weeks and taking a little Sabbath so I’ll be re-posting some favorite thoughts from the past. Let’s just call it “Throw Back End-of-August.”  Ok, maybe we won’t call it that because it’s super awkward.  Let me know if you can think of a different title. This post was from August of 2012.

Some (most??) people dread praying aloud as much as they dread getting on a scale the day after Thanksgiving.

When it comes time for closing prayer in your small group do you hyper-ventilate?  Suddenly decide you need to go to the bathroom?  Get a case of laryngitis?

Me?  Like it or not, I’ve been doing it for a long time.  Occupational hazard.

So I’ve gotten at least fairly ok at the “lifting ups” and the “if it’s your wills” and Bibley words like “grace and mercy”.

My out loud prayers are kind of like business letters all proper and punctuated, politically correct and polite.

But my real prayers?  They sound more like David’s prayers of desperation than Mary’s Magnificat. Continue reading

The With-God Life

I recorded this conversation in 2002 when Maggie, like Alexander, had had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week.

Me, trying to comfort Maggie: Remember sweetie, the Bible says, “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves those crushed in spirit.”

Maggie: Mom, I’ve just had a bad week, I haven’t been trampled by a horse!

Me: Ok, got it.  Ratchet back the hyper-spiritualizing.

Recently I’ve circled back to Psalm 34 where that verse is found.  It’s a “praise-the-Lord-even-if-I’m-dying” Psalm, because God is present.  It’s a good reminder Psalm.  God has used it in my life in some of the lowest times (can you tell from all the scribbling and times I’ve dated it?)photo-149

But on other days I love it that we also have the “crap-life-sucks-and-never-will-get-better-so-let’s-kick-ass” Psalms.

Psalm 35, for example Continue reading

Safe Places and Risky Questions

We’re taking a few days of vacation this week! Since there are so many new readers to the blog, I didn’t think you’d mind a repost from a couple years ago.

“So how and what are YOU doing these days?”  A seemingly simple and innocent question from a friend I hadn’t seen in a few months.

I want to yell, “DOING???  What am I DOING??   I’m Road Runner running straight off the cliff and not realizing it!  I’m Charlie Brown constantly falling flat trying to kick the football!   I’m like the psycho squirrels in my back yard, frantically spinning around, more than a little confused about which way is up!”

Fortunately I catch myself, realizing this might not be an appropriate answer, especially since we’re in the middle of a crowded Starbucks and I’d probably start crying and that would be ugly.

Instead I smile and answer confidently, “Oh everything’s good!  I’m doing a lot of little things, resourcing some organizations here and there… praying about some different options.” Which is true as far as it goes, but certainly gives a different impression than my first answer!

Have you ever felt like everyone else has their life together with a master plan complete with long and short range goals and is right on track doing meaningful work on the highway to success? Continue reading

Cussing for Jesus?

This is a post that seemed to connect with a lot of you a year and a half ago.  There are many new readers so I thought I’d post it again.  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

I’m really nervous about posting this.  I’m afraid it may sound judgmental and may make people feel really cranky.  Others may be offended.  And it may not even be a relevant post to those of you reading this.

I read an article in USA Today last year that addresses something I’ve been pondering for awhile.  It talks about the trend in publishing (books, music, plays) to use profanity in the title.  The article says, “What used to be profane is becoming prevalent – and very profitable.”  Turns out that naming something “S— My Dad Says” makes the book sell more.  Go figure.

Not so surprising in secular culture I guess, but what about Christians?  It seems to be the badge of validity with faith bloggers lately too.  There’s a pastor who’s known for using crude language in his sermons.  Is this about shock value?  Authenticity?  Prophetic edge? Or something else? Continue reading

5 Things I’m Learning Around my Scarred Table

Tuesday we had a large group of people over for a BBQ in our backyard.  It was truly the perfect Minnesota summer evening.  Dry, 78 degrees, miraculously mosquito-free.  (for a minute I looked around thinking Jesus must be coming back).

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It was a delightful evening of good conversation and laughter, but it’s not like everything was perfect.  John burned most of the brats and 7 (yes 7!) people cancelled within an hour and a half of our start time.

It’s not like everything is always coordinated.  I’ve been known to use a hodgepodge of leftover holiday paper napkins.  Other times we’ve planned for outside but at the last minute rain has blown in or it’s been so hot and muggy we’ve had to frantically un-set and re-set for Plan B, everyone preferring to crowd in our small, but dryer, cooler house.  And I don’t always  usually handle this well.  Often I’m just a stressed out hot mess about change and flexibility.

Continue reading

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