August 15, 2017

When White Supremacists Come To Town

Friends, many of you know that I live in Charlottesville, Virginia. We moved here from Texas nine years ago in order to plant a church, and we in fact returned a few weeks ago from a sabbatical in Texas to get back to the business of ministry in our city. And what a time to return: this past weekend was something our whole nation watched through images and social media. I had the privilege of writing a piece for the ERLC about our response here in on the ground. Please read it first and then continue with this blog post, which serves as a follow-up to the ERLC post.  


Part One: When White Supremacists Come To Town

Part Two: What Now in Charlottesville?


I live in Charlottesville, Virginia, a city that in a few horrendous hours has become synonymous with violence and hatred.
Photo taken by Evelyn Hockstein/Washington Post of UVA students, counter protesting, who were surrounded by alt right marchers on the UVA campus
I desperately want to tell you that this isn't Charlottesville. And in some ways, it isn't. Many of the protestors you saw on the news came from outside of our city. They rallied around the issue of a Robert E. Lee statue potentially being taken down. However, this is Charlottesville and this is Virginia. We live in a place fractured by racial history and racial wounds. There is a reason the alt right has chosen to center their rallies here. We must acknowledge that racial sin has been under the surface in our city and our commonwealth all along, to its very inception. This is hopefully giving us the opportunity to address, confess, and acknowledge what we can no longer ignore. My prayer is that we seize it.

This is Charlottesville, but it isn't just Charlottesville. This is your town, too. Many people are praying for our city, and we are grateful for that. But don't miss this. Charlottesville is a mirror to your own cities and your own hearts. Let it be. Don't move on without acknowledging racial sin exists and is thriving. Pray for your own cities and your own hearts when you pray for Charlottesville.

As one of my African American friends said to me, "These people gathered together in one place to scream their hate. But they live somewhere, and many more do, and they express their hate to individuals in ways unseen by the media everyday."

This is a powerful opportunity for the gospel to be shared. We have a Savior who makes peace between God and man but also person with person. Ephesians 2 says the "dividing wall of hostility" is broken only through Christ. So, Christian, wherever you work and wherever you neighbor, what has happened in Charlottesville provides a wide-open opportunity to share the love, peace, and reconciliation that Jesus offers all people, because everyone is talking about it. Most of all, it is an opportunity to manifest that reconciliation.

Ask the question of your neighbors and co-workers, "How did you experience what happened in Charlottesville?" Listen carefully to the response, even--no, especially--if it's hard to hear or uncomfortable. Perhaps then you too will be asked and listened to. This is a moment of truth, Christian. Will we say and do what's right, or will we turn the other way, hoping racial issues will go away?

Our purpose is not to foment more anger. Our purpose is to showcase the love of Christ. I read Colossians 3, thinking of our response to violent anger and racial sin: "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which you were called in one body."

This is going to happen again. The alt right has vowed to come back to Charlottesville and to take their ideology to other public places. Some disrupted a Charlottesville church service on Sunday morning, lifting their hands in Nazi salute. We need Christians everywhere calling white supremacy, violence, and hatred what it is: evil and antithetical to the gospel. We need to stand together on this. And we must know what God has to say about citizenship, race, and our oneness in Christ, as well as our unique distinctions that make up the Church, or as Scripture calls it, the "multicolored" wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10). And we must be bold in speaking and doing what is right.

Finally, we should not be shocked by this. If we are shocked, we haven't been paying attention. If we are shocked, we don't know the depths of sin in this world. We shouldn't be shocked, but we should be grieved. Grieved enough to once and for all lose our apathy and be a part of God's healing in our nation.

What now in Charlottesville? Yesterday at churches all across our area, we grieved and mourned. It is tense still in our city today as I write this, or as a salesperson said to me, "It's as if everything is so uncertain." It is uncertain, but we're having conversations.
The evening after the rally in our downtown, members of our church gathered with our friends from our sister African American church in town to talk, join hands, and pray for God's will to be done in us and in our city. We invite you to pray for us what we prayed for ourselves: pray that we'd use this opportunity to honor Christ and one another. Pray for how the pastors and leaders in our community can lead others and how our church members can boldly share Christ. But also pray with us. Pray for repentance, confession, and forgiveness. Gather others, talk about these issues, and pray for God's Spirit to do a work in our nation and in our own hearts.

June 12, 2017

What I'm Doing This Summer

Several of my friends who live out of state have asked me recently how this (now past) school year has been for me. "It's been good," I say every time, and I mean it every time. "It's been full and rich and at times overwhelming, but above all it's been really good."

When I think about what's been good, I think about my husband. He astounds me with how he uses his gifts and influence, how hard he works, and how much he cares for those he pastors while at the same time caring for me and for our children.

When I think about what's been good, I think about my children, who are now 14, 11, and 9. In many ways, it's been a challenging year with one of our boys, and I've felt my powerlessness and helplessness to know how to parent him without the help and direct intervention of God. I've prayed through tears and at times frustration, and I believe by faith that He continues to unfold a miraculous work.
When I think about what's been good, I think about our church. I would choose to attend our church even if my husband wasn't the pastor, and I'm well aware some pastor's wives can't say that. Our church is certainly not perfect, but it's full of love and the Holy Spirit and the truth of the Word. We have the best people around, who care for others and reach out to their neighbors and serve with joy.
When I think about what's been good, I think about the women in my life from all ages and stages whom I call my friends. They pray hard, ask important questions, mourn when mourning is called for, and celebrate wins. I'm so glad God has given me the friends He has.
And, finally, when I think about what's been good, I think about writing. Sometimes just before I fall asleep at night, I remember suddenly that I've gotten to write a few books--my long time dream--and I whisper, "Thank you, God."
However, none of these good things have come this year without struggle and large doses of uncertainty and insecurity. Sometimes the good things have come with a side of longing: I want more undistracted time with my dear husband and ease regarding my friendships. I want more time to savor the good, and I want a heart that sees the good so clearly.

To put it frankly, this year I've felt overwhelmingly busy because of the goodness. I know that sounds funny, but it's true. My husband and I talk all the time about "stewarding the abundance," and that's just what it is. We've been given abundant opportunities and relationships, and it's difficult to know what and who to give our primary attention to beyond our children.

It's there, in the intersection of abundance and choice, where I see my sinful desires for my own kingdom and my own glory and my own way. More and more this year, I've found it difficult to quiet myself before God or to remember that I'm His servant rather than entitled to certain circumstances. I too often forget to turn in gratitude toward Him, knowing all is from His hand. Instead, I want to meet the expectations of others so they'll approve of me, and I want more successes that I can call my own.

In other words, I've allowed life to get noisy, and I feel like I've lost sight of some important things. I don't even know what those things are exactly; I just know that I've lost them.

For that reason, I will be using this summer to get quiet and still. Kyle has had a pastoral sabbatical lined up on the church calendar for some time now, and it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I realized how much we need it. We need renewal in every sense of the word, and that's something only God can give. So this summer, whatever I've lost sight of, I want to find in Him again. I want to wait on the Lord for instructions regarding how He'd like me to "steward the abundance," because I can't for the life of me see the forest for the trees right now.

It's hard to get quiet and still, isn't it? The lure of busyness and constant connection is strong, at least it is for me. And what we may find in the stillness may be difficult to face, which is all the more reason to quiet ourselves and submit our hearts to the Lord.

Part of me getting quiet and still this summer will mean no blogging and no social media (except for the occasional personal picture on Instagram). I wanted to let you know that I will be away and also say that I'd be grateful for your prayers for spiritual renewal. I will also be seeking the Lord's direction for this little blog and how God might want me to serve others through writing, speaking, and teaching in the future. If you think of me at all, I'd love prayer for clarity and direction in these things.

Thank you for reading this blog, and thank you for your hearty reception of Messy Beautiful Friendship this spring! I look forward to continuing to serve you when I return at the end of the summer.

Love,
Christine

I'll leave you with some articles I've written elsewhere this spring and other helpful resources for your summer: 

June 1, 2017

Jen Wilkin on the Mistakes We Make in Friendship

When I first started telling others I was writing a book on friendship, I was inundated with questions and topics they thought I should cover. One question happened to be the same I myself had considered personally: Is it ever OK to walk away from a friendship? I had some thoughts on it, and I did in fact address it indirectly in my book, but it is a complicated and complex question. So when I recently got to chat with Jen Wilkin about friendship, I put that question to her, along with some other complicated issues regarding relationships, such as:

  • What is the biggest mistake she's made in friendship
  • What she's intentionally done that has most helped her begin or develop friendships
  • What she sees are the main hindrances to friendship that women create for themselves
  • How we know if/when it's OK to walk away from friendship
  • How we can both give and receive "faithful wounds" as the Bible commands

Jen Wilkin is a wife, mom of four, Bible teacher, and the author of several books, including None Like Him. Find her online at her blog or Twitter. Listen to our chat at the link below.
Listen to my chat with Jen.

Also, don't forget about the book club giveaway, ending June 14th! I will be Skyping with one group at the end of the summer and answering any questions you want me to answer, personal or otherwise. To enter your group, read the details here and post your group's picture on Instagram by June 14th at midnight EST. 

May 24, 2017

How to Be a Friend Magnet

Perhaps you’re one of those people with many friends. I am friends with people like you. You are likable, fun, considerate, helpful, and all-around good human beings. You are awesome. I flock to you. 
These friends of mine, upon hearing that I was writing a book on friendship, asked me to tackle these questions: How does one foster intimate, true friendships and remain hospitable without becoming cliquish? Is it even healthy to cut off the number of friendships you have?

The friends that I mention are women using their influence to serve others, honor others, seek out the best interest of others, and love others in a way that brings glory to the Lord. For those who are jealous of the friend-magnets in your midst, to be fair, I don’t think it’s as cut and dried as it seems. I believe these women are a real-life chicken/egg scenario: do people come toward friend-magnets simply because of who they are, or do these friend-magnets consistently go toward others ready to bless and honor? I see my friend-magnet friends working hard at friendship and being extremely others-centered. They are genuinely interested in others, honor others, and listen to others. My friend-magnet friends all have wildly different personalities, so it’s not that they have a charisma necessarily, although I think they are delightful people. They are simply people who consistently go toward others, no matter who they are, and seek to make other women feel comfortable.

If you are a person who attracts friends easily, please know that you’ve been given a gift from the Lord. You’ve been granted a magnetism and a way of making people feel loved. Thank Him for this gift, but please also recognize that this gift is not about you. The gift you’ve been given is the gift of influence, and it’s important to consider how you will use it.

If you are a woman who attracts friends easily, my encouragement to you is to use your influence to serve the outsiders. Keep an eye out for the marginalized, the fringe, the new, the lonely, the quiet and unsure ones. Your influence pointed in the direction of an outsider can have great impact. It doesn’t take much—a word of welcome, an invitation to a playdate, a thoughtful encouragement about a job well-done, or remembering her name—and a whole new world opens up for the one who needs a world, any world, to open up.

The truth of the matter is that we all have the ability to be friend-magnets when we enter a room with the words, intentions, and body language of seeing others--There you are!--rather than saying Here I am! Everyone look at me! Everyone listen to me! or the opposite, false humility response, I hope no one notices me. I will feel too self-conscious. We esteem others as more important than ourselves. We keep an eye out for the one standing on the fringe of the circle. We move toward the outside and pull those we find there into the mix. And let’s face it: Don’t we all feel like we live on the fringes in some capacity? Haven’t we all felt like an outsider at some point? We all know the relief of someone pulling us from the outside to the inside. We’ll be their friends for life.

An honoring person who looks for the outsider soon becomes a safe person for many, many women. In other words, her opportunities for friendship are abundant and overflowing. This is why my people-magnet friends are asking, “How does one foster intimate, true friendships and remain hospitable without becoming cliquish?” and “Is it even healthy to cut off the number of friendships you have?” Because a person who honors others will eventually have to navigate these things.

And I say, in response, that part of honoring others is connecting others. There is a special kind of joy in connecting two women we think will hit off or who share a story, interest, or life circumstance in common. We don’t have to be everyone’s bestie, and just because we’ve included someone doesn’t mean we have to become their intimate friend. We can help foster community among women by being a bridge between them.

So, for my darling friends who are worried about having too many BFFs to handle, this is what I would say: honor all and be deep friends with some. Be friendly and hospitable to all and give intimate attention to a few. Welcome all. Keep an eye out for all. Love all. You don’t have to be close friends with everyone, but you can certainly use your God-given influence to bless others and connect women with one another. Be a friend magnet and you’ll attract joy too.



This post is an excerpt from my new book, Messy Beautiful Friendship: Finding and Nurturing Deep and Lasting Relationships, which explores the joys and complexities of friendship among Christian women. I invite you to read and discuss the book together with other women this summer. I've posted a reading schedule and will also be giving away a Skype date with one group. Details can be found here.

May 17, 2017

Lore Ferguson Wilbert on Transition, Loneliness, and Friendship

Summer is fast approaching, which means warmer weather, watermelon, later nights, and perhaps a vacation or fun day trip or two. For some, however, summer will bring a move, which are never easy, especially when they take us away from beloved church communities, familiar routines, and comfortable friendships.

Lore Ferguson Wilbert knows a little something about transition. Lore is a wife, puppy owner, writer, and speaker. In the past two years, she's gotten married and moved cross-country three times. In those moves, she and her husband Nate have suffered miscarriages, job loss, and enduring loneliness. She recently agreed to share with me what she's learned in those years and what advice she'd give others who are anticipating a transition or adjusting to one. Watch below as we discuss:
  • What she learned about making friends in a new community
  • Practical ways to take a new friendship deeper
  • How getting married has changed her friendships
  • How she cultivates friendships with women in all ages and stages of life
  • The difficulty of making couple friends
  • Why God may choose to give us periods of loneliness as a good gift
  • Friendship practices that Lore's purposeful and intentional about 
        
Find Lore on her blog, Sayable.net, or on Twitter. 

 
Have you put out the word yet about gathering with other women to discuss Messy Beautiful Friendship this summer? I can't wait to Skype in with one group and chat about all things friendship! Find out all about the book club, giveaway, and the reading plan here.