by Jen Hatmaker on April 14th, 2014

Undoubtedly, one of the best features of our new DVR/On Demand/Netflix world is the ability to watch our shows and skip the ads. I mean, all the good commercials will get posted as a Youtube video on Facebook, so the wheat will separate its own self from the chaff, and we won’t miss such gems as this:

But inevitably, ads slip through. Sometimes we just cannot wait and we must watch a live show and suffer through the commercials. Clearly, these are the dark struggles of life. (Don’t even get me started on the limited amount of Pandora skips. It’s like the universe hates us. WHY GOD???)
 
Now I’m just going to make this observation: most ads are for morons. More specifically, only fools are going to bite these dangled carrots. Really? Your mousse product will not only battle this Texas humidity and turn me into a hair model but will also make people laugh hysterically at my wit? Who knew I was that funny? And look at all these young, good-looking friends my new hair attracted! Let’s run through a field together laughing hilariously over our shoulders at one another while our hair bounces and shines!
 

I have some information to pass on to advertisers. I am here to help you. I realize that sometimes when you’re locked away in your labs, you can forget about us, regular consumers who live in the real world, but I’m here to remedy that. We would like you to know that our brains are actually functional, and furthermore, we have a decent grasp of the English language, including words that you’ve made up that aren’t actually a thing. I’d like to save you some time by offering up the following marketing tactics that don’t work on us.
 
Yes, a good deal of us are getting older and some (ahem) are turning 40 this summer and we don’t care to go gently into that good night. I know. Fine. True. You’re onto us. However, when you peddle your products with made up words like “collagen modules” and “liposome spheres,” you make us have angry feelings. When you tell me that your “synthesized skin-identical ceramides will visibly turn back the hands of time on skin damage,” I would like to know if you were actually there in my teens and 20’s when I put oil on my face and refused to wear sunglasses so as not to get an irregular sunburn tan? Am I to believe you so deeply understand my particular brand of irresponsibility that you can reverse decades of solar tomfoolery? With your ceramides? Stop it. Unless you have a time-traveling DeLorean, these wrinkles and sunspots are here to stay.
 
I realize you also have ideas about correcting my “lipid layers” (a poetic rebranding of “fat”…well done), but the promises of “radiance and luminosity” sound rather farfetched. I am already fairly luminous because I live in Texas and for about eight months of every year, I enjoy a healthy sheen of sweat on my “epidermis,” but thanks anyway. Please choose adjectives that I actually want to resemble. (And also decide if we want to be “radiant” with your one product or “matte” with your other one. Pick a lane, Cover Girl.)
 
Another thing. Regarding your celebrity endorsers: The day that Jennifer Lopez actually styles her hair with Loreal EverSleek and Julia Roberts loads up her eyelashes with Maybelline is the day that magazines stop casting 22-year-old models in anti-aging ads (“The only thing that will help this college student fight the evils of aging more than our expensive cream is her PHYSICAL AND BIOLOGICAL YOUTH!”). This is horse-crappery.
 
Advertisers, we don’t believe for one second of one minute that these wealthy, famous women who actually travel with aestheticians and masseuses on their permanent payroll are fetching their beauty products from Walgreens. We know that Sarah Jessica Parker did not color her hair with Garnier Nutrisse Natural Shades #60 Light Natural Brown. We would rather you just said, “Gwyneth Paltrow doesn’t actually use our lip gloss, but we’ve included a picture of her in our advertisement because she wants you to know that she thinks fondly of you while she herself has her lips injected with the actual blood pigment of fairy babies.”
 
Listen, we would prefer you just talked real to us. We might actually believe you if you said, “This product will neither enhance your chakras nor transform all of your troubled relationships, but it might mostly remove the hard water stains in your bathtub. That’s about the most we can do here.” Super. Even better if you cast a tired-looking mom with dirty hair and torn yoga pants scrubbing the tub with an expression that makes sense for the task rather than a coifed lady in ironed linen capri pants smiling at her bathtub like this is the most fascinating moment of her day. I have never one time in my life been delighted while scrubbing my shower. I hope this makes sense to you.
 
Inversely, Creators of As-Seen-On-TV Products, you can probably tamp down the utter defeat your actors experience when struggling through ordinary tasks like using the remote control with their arms trapped under an unwieldy blanket (#struggle) or slicing a tomato. I’m not sure these challenges are incapacitating an entire generation like your market researchers have led you to believe. “Chopping vegetables the old way” doesn’t actually “take forever,” and I’m not sure “eliminating one of cooking's most frustrating tasks with the innovative EZ Egg Cracker” has its finger on the pulse of the average cook’s ability to, well, crack an egg on the side of the bowl without a nervous breakdown. I’m just saying your ads are fairly high on drama and low on actual felt needs.
 
Maybe the problem could be solved if the As-Seen-On-TV people just market to the celebrity endorsers and skip us altogether, because they have real troubles that need addressed. Why, just recently Gwyneth lamented the age-old frustration with Parisian concierges: “When you go to Paris and your concierge sends you to some restaurant because they get a kickback, it’s like, ‘No. Where should I really be? Where is the great bar with organic wine? Where do I get a bikini wax in Paris?’”
 
Bless.
 
In the meantime, I have one inch of gray, lovely readers, so I’m off to color my hair with a boxed dye, which I know will have stunning and otherworldly results, because Cameron Diaz uses the exact same brand.


What advertising tactic gets your goat? Because I didn't even mention pharmaceutical ads which is A WHOLE THING.

by Jen Hatmaker on April 2nd, 2014

The combined hours of untroubled sleep this last week has got to be under ten. Around 2:00am, I woke up with some clarity on next steps, and a tiny weight rolled off my shoulders. I laid in bed the rest of the night praying, letting the Holy Spirit speak to me, listening, being very still in the Word, which is tucked into every crevice of my heart.
 
I got an email yesterday from a very dear event planner that will soon host me for her conference. With absolute care and kindness, she asked about my position on homosexuality, because while my World Vision blog held space for peace and dialogue, I kept my personal conviction close, which I have always done. But when this good woman wrote, “I personally need to know which direction your heart lends itself on this subject. Simply because I’m responsible to my superiors and consistency,” I knew it in my gut: she is right. I owe this to her, to others like her, and to my brothers and sisters in Christ whom I love. To the degree that it rests on my transparency as a leader, I bear responsibility for the conscience of others, and it is unfair to withhold.
 
First, the reason I’ve always held this conviction close, inviting only my real friends and family and community in, is because I am loathe to be a pawn in a hateful public war. I refuse to be a point in some win column, used for my influence and lumped into ancillary groupthink I don’t share. I’ve said before that this conversation best belongs in true relationships, around dinner tables, over coffee, in real life, and I still believe that. The toxic public sphere is not a safe place for this, as last week certainly proved (which is why comments will be closed on this one). Real human hearts are in play, and we should take nothing more seriously.
 

But for the sake of the conscience of my brothers and sisters who in some way sit under my leadership as a teacher, I want you to know that I land on the side of traditional marriage as God’s first and clear design. I believe God’s original creation is how we were crafted to thrive: in marriage, in family, and in community, which has borne out for millennia in Scripture, interpretation, practice, and society (within and without the church).
 
Brandon and I have held this position forever; this is not a new revelation or a result of peer pressure. I’ve written every previous word on the subject from this belief. We did not come to this conclusion lightly or without reams of study, discussions with our gay and straight friends, and prayer. We have investigated biblically with gay couples, reading together, praying, listening. We have much skin in this game and do not cast opinions from the wings, dealing in theoretics instead of flesh and blood.
 
However, I remain disturbed and pierced at how many Christians have handled the gay community publicly. It is a source of extreme grief. We may share theology, but the application of that truth remains a disconnecting point. While Scripture does command us to “speak the truth in love” (and surely Facebook is the dead worst place to exercise that practice), that is not the end of our biblical responsibility.
 

Applying truth through the hermeneutic of love is a faithful response to Scripture and certainly to God. And while plenty of Christians indeed treat the gay community with respect, for so many, “speaking truth in love” doesn’t come across loving at all. These are real people and their hearts are fragile. When I read Ben Moberg’s blogs last week, I had to shut my laptop, walk to the bathroom and sob.
 
If our only response is to speak the truth in love to the exclusion of the hundreds and hundreds of verses that call us toward mercy, peace, kindness, hospitality, and patience while leaving judgment to God, the only One able to judge fairly and correctly (James 4: 11-12), consequently also the only One who transforms and sanctifies, then I insist that you exercise that practice with every single sinner in your life. Every single one. Every single sin. Otherwise that obedience has no integrity. Every. Single. Sin. I want it called out in truth and love, I want it blogged about, I want it argued into legislation, I want it discussed in public forums outside of genuine relationships, I want articles, I want excommunications. I would respect a believer who calls out every sinner and sin around him in equal measure over one who selectively applies Scripture to certain categories. (I would not like that believer, but I would at least respect his consistency.)
 
Why homosexuality has devolved into such an isolated war, I am uncertain, but as I lay in bed last night, listening, still, prayerful, God reminded me of the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), which Jesus told after a very smart expert of the Law asked how to inherit eternal life.

“What is written in the Law?” [Jesus] replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”


I find it so ironic as a Bible teacher that the Savior of the world boiled down the kingdom to such a simple formula while me and mine exegete everything within an inch of its life. When I get bogged down, I always remember Jesus: Love God and love people. There you are. Do this and you will live. The end. I love Him.

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Ah, yes. This is so human. What is the morality clause? Who can I omit? Who gets to stay in? Who are the outsiders and insiders here? What are the categories?

Then Jesus told a devastating story about a man beaten, stripped, robbed, and left for dead on the side of the road.

As I lay in bed, it was instantly and perfectly clear that the gay community has been spiritually beaten, stripped of dignity, robbed of humanity, and left for dead by much of the church. You need only look at the suicide rates, prevalence of self-harm, and the devastating pleas from ostracized gay people and those who love them to see what has plainly transpired.

Laying next to them, bloodied and bruised, are believers whose theology affirms homosexuality and allows them to stand alongside their gay friends. (Again, you don’t have to agree with this, but there are tens of thousands of thinking, studied people who hold this conviction.) The spiritual gutting of these brothers and sisters is nothing short of shameful. The mockery and dismissal and vitriol leveled at these folks is disgraceful.

Also wounded on the side of the road are Christians who sincerely love God and people and believe homosexuality is a sin, but they’ve been lumped in with the Big Loud Mean Voices unfairly. Painted as hateful intolerants, they are actually kind and loving and are simply trying to be faithful. The paintbrush is too wide, the indictments unfounded.

Boy, this debate has wounded many travelers, hasn’t it?

We don’t get to abandon the theology of love toward people; the end does not justify the means. That is not Christ-like and it is certainly not biblical. As a faith community, it is time we relearn what “speaking the truth in love” means. Something that actually feels like love is a start. If the beginning and end of love is simply pointing out sin, then we are doomed.

“A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.”

Jesus is my favorite ever. This is not even subtle. Who not only ignores this beaten man but moves physically away from him with barely a second glance? A priest and a Levite: two members of the religious elite. This is so direct and specific a point, that anyone who identifies as Christian should take sober heed. No mention is made of this wounded man’s character. We know nothing of his faith, his practices, his background, or even his heritage. There is no qualifier or disqualifier, because it shouldn’t matter. All Jesus tells us is that he is wounded and alone and that not one but two religious leaders left him in the gutter.

When people are broken and cast off, Jesus notices who stops and who walks on by unmoved, unaffected, uncompassionate.

“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’”


JESUS IS MY FAVORITE EVER. This is not even subtle either. Who is precious? Who is tender and generous? Who binds up his wounds and sets him toward healing? A Samaritan! A religious outcast discredited by the keepers of the law. The agent of healing is an outlier who Jesus purposely placed in the role of honor. Both the wounded man and the caregiver are outsiders in the religious sphere, operating literally on the margins. So often religious power and position and authority is inversely proportional to humility and deference and mercy, and people who attend to needs first are painted as heretics.

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”


I am convinced we need no more soldiers in this war.
 
We need more neighbors.

 
We need more outliers willing to pick up the bloodied and beaten gay community and bind up their wounds with oil and wine, religious approval aside. We need generous and faithful neighbors who stop and say I see you and I see your pain and I care. We need agents of healing over agents of judgment, because if God’s kindness leads us to repentance, who are we to offer anything less? This will come at a personal cost, just like it did the Good Samaritan, but it is the right thing to do. The hard, right thing to do.
 
It is what neighbors do. They show mercy. They bind up wounds and trust God to heal.
 
This is absolutely the kingdom I understand. This one. The one where Jesus tells stories that subvert power and lend honor to outcasts (Jesus! Best.). The one where He came for the sick and the lost. The kingdom that led with mercy and made religious people uncomfortable and everything was upside down. Where power is lame and humility is celebrated. The one where God sanctifies us inch by inch into the likeness of His Son, because who else would we want to emulate? This is the lens in which I understand God and it’s as biblically faithful as I know how to be.
 
Go and do likewise…I will sure try.


I so regret providing another battle ground last week, so comments are closed on this one, good readers. I put this into your hands with humility and a very, very tender heart. 

by Jen Hatmaker on March 25th, 2014

Hi, good readers. Here we are again, stumbling through another ancillary brawl regarding gay marriage. If you missed it yesterday, Rich Stearns, CEO of World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization "dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice," announced a policy change to allow employees in same-sex marriages to be eligible for employment.
 
To Christianity Today, Stearns said, "Changing the employee conduct policy to allow someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ to work for us makes our policy more consistent with our practice on other divisive issues," he said. "It also allows us to treat all of our employees the same way: abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage."
 
Regarding sexual conduct, World Vision has always held an abstinence requirement for single employees and fidelity for the marrieds. But with employees from over 50 denominations, some of which sanction same-sex marriages (United Church of Christ, The Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), as well as staff in the 17 states plus the District of Columbia where same-sex marriages are legal and binding, World Vision has chosen not to make this issue a condition of employment. Rather, they are leaving the theological sorting to the local church of which WV considers their organization an “operational arm,” not a “theological arm.”
 
As Stearns explained: "I think you have to be neutral on hundreds of doctrinal issues that could divide an organization like World Vision. One example: divorce and remarriage. Churches have different opinions on this. We've chosen not to make that a condition of employment at World Vision. If we were not deferring to local churches, we would have a long litmus test [for employees]. What do you believe about evolution? Have you been divorced and remarried? What is your opinion on women in leadership? Were you dunked or sprinkled? And at the end of the interview, how many candidates would still be standing?”
 
He went on: "It's easy to read a lot more into this decision than is really there…This is simply a decision about whether or not you are eligible for employment at World Vision U.S. based on this single issue, and nothing more.”
 
As you can imagine if you are a thinking person, the outcry was swift and furious.
 
I spent last night and today readings dozens of rebuttals, rebuttals to rebuttals, emotionally manipulative analysis, and hundreds of comments. I hashed it out (again) ad nauseam with Brandon. I jumped on the phone with my friend and partner in global community development, Chris Marlow, CEO of Help One Now, of which I gratefully serve on the board. I prayed and breathed and slept on it all. I will attempt a measured response that might help us through yet another damaging fallout surrounding the single most polarizing issue in our generation. I aim to be a peacemaker, because someone has to be.
 
First of all, the Christian community is not going to reach consensus on gay marriage. Every article, regardless of its position for or against, is the same. The support arguments; same. The rebuttals; same. The circular thinking; same. The responses are fully predictable, the language identical, the interpretations immovable, and after all the energy expended, we discover we are at the same impasse.
 
This is a fact: Thousands of churches and millions of Christ-followers faithfully read the Scriptures and with thoughtful and academic work come to different conclusions on homosexuality (and countless others). Godly, respectable leaders have exegeted the Bible and there is absolutely not unanimity on its interpretation. There never has been. Historically, Christian theology has always been contextually bound and often inconsistent with itself; an inconvenient truth we prefer to selectively explain.
 
But regardless of theological bullying, there has never been "one way" to interpret scripture. There has never been "one way" to be a biblical church. Even the early church leaders had severe and lasting disagreements about the nature of God, the Holy Spirit, Jesus, Salvation, Faith, Works, etc. This admission is not an indictment on the Word of God at all. Rather, it is simply a reasonable assessment of the trajectory of the kingdom as God has interacted with each new generation of the church.
 
Reason and humility occupies too small a place in the analysis of the historical church and the progressive interpretation of Scripture. We just get ANGRY and DEFEND and say WELL I GUESS YOUR BIBLE IS MISSING A SECTION. It’s immature and myopic and a watching world is dumbfounded by our refusal to critically self-evaluate and invite nuance into an ancient text that was written across several cultures, 40+ writers, 1500 years, 8 genres, and an entire worldview shift once Jesus hit the scene.
 
My point is this: What seems crystal clear to you is not necessarily to another believer. You don’t have to like that, but it doesn’t make it any less true. You may fill-in-the-blank on the issue (and homosexuality is certainly at the top of the list here), but the church has a long history of revisionist interpretation, selective obedience, varied theology, and cultural adjustments with the arc of freedom (see slavery, women, interracial relationships, the requirements of the Law). We could take a sermon from one of our most revered Christian voices today, drop it into the church 500 years ago, and those congregants would be forced to conclude that he had lost his ever-loving mind, so different would some interpretations be.
 
Consensus is impossible here. So we go to the next level: how do we deal with explosive issues like gay marriage without destroying people, specifically involving this World Vision announcement?
 
Reactionary, emotional attacks are not helpful. Denny Burk decrying the “collapse of Christianity at World Vision” under a “false prophet who comes to you in sheep’s clothing…but inside is a ravenous wolf” is exactly the sort of emotional jargon that whips Christians into a frenzy and incites us to crucify one another. Burk declared that we would know false teachers by their fruits: “In other words, what they do will often reveal far more about who they are than what they say.” Then he absurdly called as his witness this singular policy change to demonstrate what Stearns does – not serving 100 million vulnerable people in nearly 100 countries. Somehow this marriage concession had neutered decades of faithful work with the world’s poor.
 
We do not need any more inflammatory soldiers in the culture wars; we need more thought leaders who are slower to publicly condemn their faithful brothers and sisters and quicker to invite reason and dialogue to the table. “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion” (Proverbs 18:2).
 
Nor is it fair to put the entire spiritual burden on sponsors in this case. Stearns said, “It's my hope that all of our donors and partners will understand it, and will agree with our exhortation to unite around what unites us… I'm hoping not to lose supporters over the change.” That is intellectually dishonest. At no point does a Christian organization with a predominantly evangelical base make a policy change surrounding gay marriage and truthfully expect it not to offend.
 
I would have preferred Stearns admit that they absolutely know they will lose some supporters and weighed that cost soberly, they have X amount in the bank to cover the initial losses so the shortfall doesn’t get passed down to the least culpable here – the kids – and offer a gracious way out. To change a policy that knowingly offends the majority of his base without acknowledging their established theology or making any concessions for their conscience was unfair and passive aggressive.
 
So for World Vision sponsorship, I see three options, all of which are fully valid:

1. If you are so offended by the employment of a legally married gay person at World Vision that you can no longer support your sponsored child with a clear conscience, then that is your right. Without question, you hold an established evangelical position. Christians who espouse traditional marriage are often all painted as hateful and abusive (the squeaky wheels get all the oil), and that simply isn’t true. For many, this is their genuine conviction not born out of disdain but belief. 

May I suggest cooler heads prevail here? Because the children have always been at the center of the World Vision mission and still are, possibly give WV your 3-month notice, affording them a short runway to replace your sponsorship? Or even finish out your year-long commitment with notice of your non-renewal? The emotionally volatile STOP BANK PAYMENT IMMEDIATELY isn’t necessarily the best way through when a child’s monthly needs are at stake. I think sponsors can reasonably and faithfully find a better exit strategy where the losses are mitigated. If you plan to pull your sponsorship, please do it prayerfully, humbly, and carefully. This is a moment to practice gracious disagreement and radical love in the midst of theological disparity.

2. Perhaps you don’t agree with gay marriage, but this policy change at WV doesn’t affect your support of their mission. This is not a deal breaker for you. Great. It doesn’t have to be. You do not need to defend your continued sponsorship. Without question, WV is a high-ranking international charity that has transformed millions of lives. It has a solid, established history and employing married gay people has no bearing on their infrastructure or unambiguous mission to serve the poor in the name of Christ. If your conscience is unaffected, you can continue to sponsor your child, comfortably lay your head on your pillow tonight, and sleep like a baby. Carry on. 

3. For supporters of gay marriage or WV’s right to extend employment protection or simply believers in their global mission, perhaps you pick up a sponsorship that will certainly be dropped. While WV has enough revenue to maintain the current level of international support (anything less would make their announcement incredibly irresponsible), and certainly no dropped sponsorship means a child goes without water or gets pulled out of school tomorrow, the sustained effect of canceled sponsorships will eventually take a toll. If you are outraged at canceled sponsorships, then perhaps the kindest, healthiest response is to cancel out the cancels. $38 a month. It’s too easy. Inflamed, angry arguments will have no effect but mitigating the financial deficit will. Again, this is a moment to practice gracious disagreement and radical love in the midst of theological disparity.

------------------------------------------------------------
 
Brothers and sisters, I am starving for reasonable, measured Christ-followers to become the dominant voices in the ongoing culture wars. We needn’t race to our laptops with our hair on fire every time another Christian offends our personal sensibilities. We certainly ought to consider calling another believer’s salvation into question the gravest action.
 
We need intellectually honest Christians capable of critical self-evaluation. The church has never, not for one millisecond of its entire history, been right about everything. This sobering fact should give us pause and inject some much needed humility into our ethos. It should at least produce Christians who are swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. Better to treasure our beloved gospel with humble hands than mar it with arrogant hearts, because as often as we consider ourselves its gatekeepers, we are really only its unworthy recipients, usually blind to our own defects while remaining crystal clear on everyone else’s. 
 
If we are truly concerned about revival, about God’s sustained presence in our generation, then our only recourse is to get on our knees and beg Him to purify our own sinful hearts. Let us not cast the burden on “them” and “they” but take faithful responsibility to allow God’s spirit to reign in you and me. May we take precious care of our fellow man, treating hearts and minds and bellies with the utmost respect, daring to believe that love is indeed the most excellent way. And may our generation not be remembered by all we tore down but by all we built back up.

“You will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”
Isaiah 58:12

by Jen Hatmaker on March 24th, 2014

I refuse to be shamed by this: I love American Idol. Thirteen seasons in and I still dedicate DVR space to it every week. I don’t even care, you guys. My musician friends are all it harms the integrity of creative license and fabricates a fan base that makes true artisanship something something and other words come out of their mouths and I’m like ALEX PRESTON.
 
Fabricating a fan base MY EYE.

Week after week, okay fine, year after year I sit on my couch and grin at the TV. Then I pull up my favorite performances of the night and grin at my laptop. Then they win or lose and I cry and they hug their parents and I sob and they are amazing and I get choked up every week.
 
I am proud of them. Like a Mama.
 
I have a similar reaction when listening to an incredible Bible teacher or reading a brilliant book (Jenny points out that I never say this is a great book… I always say this is so well-written!) or watching someone pull off a spectacular dinner party or build something beautiful. I am constantly proud of people.
 
I am inspired by people doing what they do best.
 
I mean, I really am. As I read or pay attention or listen, I constantly catalog other people’s gifts, and I think: This is so their lane. I cannot explain this surge of pride I feel when someone bravely offers their gifts up or shares their talents with us or just sings her song well.
 
And I don’t just mean folks with very public gifts. I choked back full sobs at Remy’s Elementary Talent Show Friday; not because there were six separate performances of “Let it Go” (Jesus, give us strength), but because a group of teachers dressed up like cows and foxes and chickens and choreographed a surprise routine to “What Does the Fox Say?” and I sat there thinking They are so good at being teachers! Look at these teachers being so awesome! These are the luckiest kids on earth!
 
You can barely tell from this angle, but the teacher in the black shirt is fully pregnant.
She deserves a Congressional Medal of Honor.

Gosh, we were just born to stuff, weren’t we? God truly built gifts into our lives. Everyone is just innately good at something. Some of us get to make a living with our gifts and others just bless the world with theirs. I am thinking of several women right this second who are really, really good at friendship. They are such good friends to me that it isn’t even fair. And others who I constantly admire for being such good moms. Like, they are really good at mothering. Two of my friends threw creative, fun, adorable parties for their daughters this weekend and I was in awe because I am not a Fun Party Mom; this is a gear I just do not have, but when I see it in someone else I’m all well done and thank you for inviting Remy so she can have some childhood memories of fun parties and maybe time will dull her recollection and she’ll think I threw some.
 
I don’t like when people minimize their gifts. Oh, I’m just or it’s only or it’s nothing… This aggravates me. There is a difference between humility and insecurity, and wrapping ourselves in self-effacement does no one any favors. We teach our watching children to doubt and excuse and diminish. Do we want our kids to reflect on the mothers who raised them and have absolutely no idea what we loved? What we were good at? What got our pulses racing and minds spinning?

Don’t we want them to see us doing what we do best?
 

My mom went back to college when she had four kids spread out over high school, middle school, and elementary school, and that has always been a source of pride for me. She was a teacher in her heart and needed the degree to match, so she chased the dream long before it was convenient or well-timed or easy. Yes, she fell off the oat bran wagon (kindly recall 1991) and we had to buy store-bought prom dresses, but we got to watch her fly. It never occurred to any of us to settle for less.
 
What are you good at? Not sure? What do people constantly say you are good at? Others can usually identify our gifts long before we are willing to concede. Maybe it is career material. I’ve long said that someone will pay you to do what you love. You might be stuck in a job you hate doing work you don’t care about while your gifts are languishing on the sidelines, awaiting your courage to put them in the game.
 
Do you know that I always, my entire life, loved to write but never dared imagine that could be a thing? I taught elementary school, which as I’ve made clear, is one of the noblest professions, but I wasn’t great at it and I felt trapped. I later stayed home with all the babies which I birthed every other summer, and when the youngest was about to turn 2, I told Brandon: According to our schedule, I’m due for another infant this summer, but I'm super over babies so I’m going to birth a different kind. And I wrote my first book. Obviously writing a book no one asked for with three kids five and under is an Insane Person Choice, but sometimes you throw out logic and decide to run your race.

Do you know what else? I thought humor was one of my throw-away qualities forever. Surely that had no place in any Jesus Work. Frankly, it was something of a liability I thought, like I should overcome it and get serious, for the love. What kind of a Bible teacher loves Will Ferrell? I guessed I should just do my best with the Real Stuff and try to tamp down the humor, because I am a grown woman who Works For Jesus. But guess what? God made us all as an entire package. It all counts. There are no throwaway qualitites. In fact, those might help point you in just the right direction. Nothing is wasted: not a characteristic, a preference, an experience, a tragedy, a quirk. NOTHING. It is all you and it is all purposed and it can all be used for great and glorious good.
 
Maybe your best thing won’t draw a paycheck, but it is still where you shine and glow and come to life and bless the world. May I legitimize your gifts please? Just because you don’t get a paystub doesn’t mean you should shrink back or play small or give it all up. Do your thing. Play your note. We are all watching, learning, moved. You are making the world kinder, more beautiful, wiser, funnier, richer, better. Give your gifts the same attention and space and devotion like you would if it paid. (Or paid well. Some of us do our best, most meaningful work for peanuts. Do not be shamed out of your race for a bigger paycheck. I did not make a living as a writer for YEARS. My neighbor once when I told her I was a Christian author: “Oh! Is there a market for that?” Me: “I have no idea.”)
 
Run your race.
 
Maybe you need to invest in your gifts. Take a class. Go to a conference. Sign up for a seminar. Start that small business. Put that website up. Build in some space. Say yes to that thing. Work with a mentor. Stop minimizing what you are good at and throw yourself into it instead with no apologies. Do you know who is going to do this for you? NO ONE. You are it. Don’t bury that talent, because at the end of the day, the only thing your fear netted you was one buried talent in a shallow grave.

How many of us are trotting out that tired cliché – “I’m waiting for God to open a door” – and He is all I love you, but get going, Precious Snowflake, because most of the time chasing the dream I put in your heart looks surprisingly like hard work. Don’t just stand there, bust a move. (God often sounds like Young MC.) You are good at something for a reason. God designed you this way; this is on purpose. It isn’t fake or a fluke or small. This is the mind and heart and hands and voice you’ve been given: USE IT.
 
Let the rest of us grin at you while you run your race. Let us be proud. Let us be inspired and grateful that God made you to do this thing and you are doing it LIKE A BOSS. The timing is never right. Forget that. It won't just fall into your lap. That’s fake. You are probably not guaranteed success. Sorry. This might be a crapshoot. It will be hard and require sacrifices not just from you but maybe from your people and you might step out on shaky, shaky legs. But off you go because we were not created to stand still, even though that is safe and familiar and you are practically guaranteed never to fall or stumble or grow weary.
 
We were made to run.
 
RUN.
 
I’m grinning at you. We all are.


by Jen Hatmaker on March 19th, 2014

I like to think I’m an easy person, that I can flex and flow. I’m not wound super tight. For example, last week during Spring Break, it occurred to me somewhere around Thursday that none of my children had taken a shower that week. Do you see what I’m saying? I’m chill like that.
 

But there are a few things that I cannot handle. My threshold has been reached and I could become that crazy person who screams at the Barista because her half-caf is the wrong temperature. High maintenance over-priced hipster coffee is not my issue, but some other things are. I give you a handful of things I wish would go away:
 
The Frozen Soundtrack
 
If you have a daughter between the ages of 4-12, I do not even need to explain this. How can I help you understand my despair? Well, perhaps this picture of Remy’s bedroom door that faces our front entry (you’re welcome, guests) will help you understand what we’re dealing with:
 
Every word to "Let It Go" transcribed, including exclamation marks, all caps, and melodrama.

Now maybe, perhaps, I mean I don’t know but I’m speculating that if it was just listening to “Let it Go” on a continuous loop, I might be able to handle it, but what I am actually hearing is REMY’S rendition of “Let it Go” on a continuous loop, and I love that child within an inch of her life, but she does not have a future in composition. She feels differently about her musical potential and has been asking my friends lately what she had to do to “get on a stage,” to which I whisper under my breath, “Join debate.” Bless. All I’m saying is, if that Frozen CD “gets lost” or “gets scratched” or “get shattered with a hammer,” I expect you to look the other way. I am a woman filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, but this is one area even God’s strength cannot reach.
 
Loud Phone Talkers in Airports
 
I’ve been assaulted on my last four or five trips by this breed of person. And reader, I don’t mean the ordinary Mom who is quietly talking to her children before she flies to Minneapolis for a sales conference. I’m talking about the guy with the phone and the decibels and the clear disregard for his fellow airport compatriots and is all so then I was like, listen bro, if I wanted to move to Detroit, I would freaking pack my bags and move to Detroit, I mean, this is my sales territory and if Dennis wants to move in on it, then we can throw down until he steps off. I’ll say that to his face, bro. What a wang nugget!
 
I feel like I am taking crazy pills.
 
Dear Loud Phone Talker at Airport Gate, this is a small space. Look at us all in here. It’s basically like we’re sharing a bedroom. We are your roommates quietly doing our homework and reading our textbooks and you are tempting us toward mob violence. We are a peaceful people ordinarily, LPT, but if you don’t stop the piercing noises coming out of your mouth hole, Dennis is going to be the least of your worries. WE will throw down if YOU do not step off, bro. Yes, us, these peace-loving moms and uncles and young children and elderly grandmothers sitting near you. You don’t know what we’re capable of.   
 
Let me tell you something: If airplanes start allowing cell phone service during flights, that is the first clear evidence of end times.
 
Phones That Cannot Be Dropped
 
You know what? Hi, Apple. Well aren’t you the cat’s meow. You got us. You got us good. We belong to you. We cannot live without you. Our phones and tablets and computers and apps are all synced, and now we’re locked into your updates and newer versions and latest technology, because OOPS, the old technology doesn’t work anymore and unless you upgrade within six months, your phone will turn to salt like Lot’s Wife.
 
And about this phone. Any phone that is so precious that it cannot handle one tiny drop on the floor is a menace to society. What do you think we are? A People Who Never Trip, Drop Things, or Bang Into Stuff? You are not a phone for humans; you are a phone for stationary plant life. You are only good for cacti. You are small and slippery. It is your lot in life to fall on floors at which point you shatter right alongside our replacement budget.
I may break you, but you will not break me. Seven weeks and counting with this baby.

You ought to be better than this, man. You are weak. How am I supposed to tweet about the Loud Phone Talker in the Airport now? My right index finger is permanently damaged from your glass shards, and these ten fingers are how I make a living. Thank you very much for ruining my career.
 
Middle School
 
I’ve now been in middle school four times and I have two delightful more trips through this quagmire of awkwardness. Hey Middle School Teachers, YOU DESERVE FORTY MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR. Bless it all. These children are all possessed. Reader, tell me there is no worse three-year period in the human experience than 6th-8th grade. It was unquestionably my worst stretch, and now I have one survivor, two soldiers in its trenches, and two more in the innocent, precious world of elementary school still.
 
I told Sydney (who has struggled and fumbled and tripped all the way through MS), “Baby, these are your worst days. You are horrible, your friends are awful, your body is a nightmare, your brain is impaired, your peers are lunatics and sociopaths, your emotions are a trainwreck, and you are convinced that your parents are hopeless morons. You could be a Prisoner of War and have a better experience than three years of middle school. Just put your head down and get through it. High school is better, college is the best, and then you grow up and pay bills and then you die. I love you. Good talk.”
 
And I believe you all know Caleb is in sixth grade. Jesus, give us strength, for this one testeth the patience of our wills and I beseech thee to grant him either frontal lobe development to increase his favor or strong legs to outrun us, for thine is the kingdom but as for me and my house, we are not above woe and wrath.

Can you even handle this picture? His cuteness and charm is currently saving his life.

These are my current hot buttons. How about you, Dear One Who Only Has So Much Patience? What are some things you wish would go away?
 





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