by Jen Hatmaker on November 12th, 2014

I’m pretty much a Fun Time Girl. Laughter and humor are my go-to staples. Brandon and I have had this conversation 338482 in our marriage:
BH:      What movie do you want to rent?
JH:       A funny one.
Bless. It is just what I reach for. I just love to laugh. I like funny people and funny things. (My sub-category is sarcasm.) This is both my preference and my style.
But sometimes life is really, really hard and I am in the weeds. Sometimes I need sober, thoughtful instruction to lead and comfort me. Sometimes I crave depth in the midst of struggle. As one who thrives in exterior spiritual work, it is innately good for me to learn from someone with a strong interior constitution.
Many of you know my mom has cancer. It’s so dumb. We still can’t believe it. She looks so normal and plus we don’t get cancer. Mom is the only calm and stable person in our family. The rest of us are prone to hysteria and drama; you would think we had the cancer to hear us go on. Crisis has found our doorstep, and it is decidedly not funny (even though Dad asked us in the hospital after Mom’s surgery if she was going to make us dinner that night…we are somehow managing Cancer Humor which apparently is a thing).

by Jen Hatmaker on September 16th, 2014

No passing zones
This is not a thing here. Every zone is a passing zone. Those double yellow lines? Pure wishful thinking of the ET Transportation Department. Enormous bus coming right at you in the opposite lane? Still a passing zone. The middle of the road, the shoulder, the median, the sidewalk...all passing zones. It is irrelevant how many cars are next to you, in front of you, or coming at you. These are not details that matter. Simply beep your horn and barrel around someone. Everyone else will move. Except the donkeys. The donkeys will not be moved. The donkeys clearly have a death wish.

by Jen Hatmaker on September 12th, 2014

Here is what I find easy: describing the best practices of Help One Now, touting the capacity of Aschalew (the local HON leader), explaining the HON priorities of preserving families and empowering the Ethiopian people, specifically the most fragile ones. It is easy to talk about the effects of sponsorship because it is so measurable and obvious.
Here is what is harder: helping you GET IT. I can’t duplicate the look on these mothers’ faces as they describe how sponsorship has changed their lives. I can’t translate the smells, the songs, the laughter, the hope. I wish you could be here. It is no secret I love this country. Fine…guilty. I am not objective. Lots of reasons, including these two:

by Jen Hatmaker on September 11th, 2014

A couple of years ago, Brandon and I had an illuminating conversation with a local leader in Ethiopia. He led a church and accompanying nonprofit in his community, and a western group caught wind of his work. Eager to do good and chomping at the bit to do that good internationally (so sexy), they enacted a plan to visit his children’s home once a summer. Because they failed to listen, learn, and enter into a foreign culture with humility, not recognizing the local leader’s expertise, cultural intuitiveness, and authority, they visited his community once a summer with their pre-determined mission to paint the children’s home. Again.
So one day before they arrived each July, he instructed the children to go into the forest, gather dirt and debris, and rub the pristine walls down with muck so the Americans could paint and feel good about their “helpful yearly trip.”
We can do better than this.

by Jen Hatmaker on September 4th, 2014

“It is a special voice that can lead the next generation of believers from within. One who understands every struggle and disappointment, one who has walked away and came back, one who is both prophetic and compassionate. Nish Weiseth is unquestionably one of those leaders. Speak is just impossibly hopeful. It tells of a better way, better community, better grace, better story. You nod, you cry, you shout, and ultimately you go quiet and whisper, “Lord, here is my life; may it speak of You.”
I wrote those words when I first read my friend Nish’s book, Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World.

I've made my cover design envy annoyingly clear to Nish. She is so over it.

Let me back up. I first met Nish two years ago under circumstances we chuckle about now: I was speaking at a Lifeway event called dotMOM in the deeeeep south, and Nish was invited as a blogger. Now, I was comfortable and familiar with both LW, a mom conference, and suth-uh-nuhs, but Nish was like what in the actual what? Not her usual jam, yall. I randomly sat by her on the airplane on the way home and she asked do these things wear you out? and I was all way and promptly fell dead asleep because I am an excellent travel companion.
She later wrote this piece: “Alabama, Southern Baptists and a Recovering Cynic”

As you might imagine, we were instant friends.
Not longer after, Nish invited me to contribute to the online writing community she built called A Deeper Story, a diverse, compelling gathering of writers and thinkers discussing weighty spiritual issues in a safe, inclusive environment. At DS, I was introduced to so many fresh voices asking good questions and creating space for struggle. Nish spends most of her time elevating other writers and leaders with incredible generosity and grace. I am exceedingly proud of her for leading this good work. Wrangling a gaggle of Christians with such varied theology, life experiences, and perspectives is no small task, yet the DS community remains fiercely respectful and supportive. It is a marvel.
The success of A Deeper Story is really a touchstone for the message of Speak, proving that it is indeed possible for believers to come together in the name of Jesus and fight for grace and community amid substantial, even profound differences. In the hateful, disgraceful world of internet commenting, Speak tells of a better way, and the mechanism is simple:
Be brave enough to tell your story and courageous enough to listen to others.
It really is that simple to begin. As long as we stay isolated and anonymous, we can tear people down to our hearts content. We can slash and wound and destroy with no consequences, further fragmenting not only the church but our very communities. It’s so easy. We are exempted from the difficult work of reconciliation. No need to dig below the surface to listen or learn; we can make knee-jerk assumptions, rash conclusions, and downright false accusations. We can safely ignore nuance, complexities, and even fragile human feelings. Separated, we are free to fear one another, second guess motives, assume the worst, and spread untruths. (This is working quite nicely. One need only pull up Facebook on any given day to affirm this paradigm.)
What if, according to Speak, we did the hard work of telling our stories? The gritty, complex stories we all have? What if we ventured out bravely and said I am broken in this tender place or I am recovering or I am dreaming a new dream. Rather than firing missives from afar or making assumptions in silence, what if we sat across the table from each other over coffee and listened? As Nish referenced, Ann Voskamp begs: “Give me your story, not your sermon.”
Our cynicism would take a real hit, I’m telling you that right now. Common ground would astound us. Humanity would take a forward position where only criticism once resided. We could build bridges instead of burning them all to the riverbed floor.
And don’t we need some bridges repaired? Our world is literally burning down around us right now. Hate and fear is taking down whole communities. The suspicion of “other” is tearing apart neighbors, races, and even nations. Speak is a manifesto toward peace, and I can’t remember a time when we needed it more. (If you need a character witness on Nish, she spent last week in Ferguson listening to pastors, citizens, and community leaders, learning from them and praying for peace with them. Hopped on an airplane and went where the hurt was. Like Jesus.)
Like Nish discusses in Speak, telling and hearing stories – not our personal sermons – is the front door to healing divides in our culture, church, and world. It is how we release our gifts to the community, invite the kingdom to break through, proclaim God’s work, and advocate for justice. People don’t want our soapboxes; they need flesh and blood.
We need this message desperately.
I want to leave you with a prayer from Nish as she puts Speak into your hands:
“It’s my prayer that this book will encourage and inspire you to explore your own stories – as well as to seek out the stories of others – and to tell them with grace and abandon. It’s my prayer that this book will remind you that your life and experiences have great value and that the world needs to hear about them. Stories can change us, change the hearts of others, and change the world. It’s my prayer that this book gives you the freedom to speak. And when you do speak, I expect the world around you to look a bit more hopeful, bright, and good.”

Amen, good friend. Amen.
I want you to read this and one of you for sure is going to have it. Enter a comment to win a copy of Nish’s book Speak by answering this:
Tell us a time when telling yours or hearing someone else’s story changed your perspective on them, their “group,” or your preconceived ideas. OR: Who have you been afraid of or put off by that you can reach out to in vulnerability and fight for grace?

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