The arrival of Advent has found me thinking about hope, and how it somehow seems to leak through the cracks of all kinds of oppression and chaos here on earth.
In the morning silence, I found myself reading the Beatitudes as I was contemplating hope. If I’m being honest, I’d have to admit that hope and the Beatitudes seem like opposites, really-a sort of contradiction to what we imagine our hopeful lives should look like. But these confounding upside-down beatitudes actually reveal what has reign over us. They reveal that, when God has “reign of us” through Jesus, he gives us the counsel of the Spirit, which supernaturally allows us to respond to difficulty in uncommon ways.
People who walk in the moment-by-moment counsel of the Spirit have a resident hope, and they are quite at home, because their identity and indeed their very lives are firmly rested in Christ and what he did, not in themselves and what they can do, or have done.
So it is with us hope-dwellers. When we walk in this way of counsel and surrender to God, through Christ by his Spirit, we reflect the fruit, the DNA, the hope and the manner of Christ. The fruit of the Spirit is not then just a list of behaviors for people who hope, but rather a response to abiding with him. So then, even our spiritual disciplines simply serve to remind us that we have “everything we need for life and godliness” in Christ if we will just draw near and abide in him in all things.
...And when life throws us blows, and on days when we swallow hard and things are not going as planned, we have a reigning resource of hope.
Our “Beatitude kind of lives” lead us to the King of our hope who invites us to lay down the “yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5) and cling to Christ for every bit of resource we need, come hell or high water here on earth.
You know an Abiding Beatitude Soul when you meet them. There is an absence of striving. You often feel they are at peace to face the difficulties, the mysteries, and the disappointments in life, awake to Jesus’ presence and full of his Life, regardless of outcomes.
As I’m growing in the reality of Christ indwelling me, I find that the Beatitudes invite us all to reflect how we can live our wonderful, complicated, real lives “happy, rich, blessed” in all circumstances, by the Christ Life bringing hope through each of us. As we rest, Christ works “through, in, and with us,” thus bringing himself through us, to the world, wherever we go.
-Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
-Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
-Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
-Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
-Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
-Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
-Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
-Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The problem for most of us is that we prefer more common forms of richness and blessing that look very little like this list of beatitudes and more like success, health, beauty, and generally anything that looks like we are outwardly “winning” at life.
The Beatitudes are a signpost, an outward reflection of inner abiding with Christ, who is our living hope and reason for a weary world to rejoice.
Dear hope-dwellers, may you find hope leaking into your heart and mind as you welcome the dawn of Advent.
P.S. Here’s a beautiful song about our Living Hope, by Phil Wickham, if you’d like a little inspiration
If you know me, you know that I am an eternal optimist. I love to believe in what’s possible. This is true in “all the things” for people, life, work, family, friendships, creativity, come what may.
That said, the revelations of 2017-2018 felt like a heavy weight of grief that would not leave. It felt like cavernous disappointment in people I trusted. It wore a face of sadness, and loss, and mourning for things that are broken and hidden and wounded, with an aching for them to be made right, down here.
As my trust was greatly challenged, my friend posted Isaiah 61:3 on Facebook, and I could not get it out of my mind. So I read deeper and leaned in to the pain of this season as autumn fell across the south. On morning walks I found myself collecting acorns as a reminder that there is more. As I picked up the seeds of the mighty oaks, and gathered them on my counter as a reminder of a hope that is not earth bound, I found a deeper peace that came to my mind and heart. Isaiah knew that the acorn holds the secret to the potential of a mighty Oak growing into fullness, I choose to stand on the belief that Jesus is the joy bringer in the midst of any great sorrow, even when hearts are heavy and resolve does not come.
So, people, Church, and those who seek, if you need to trade sorrows for joy, your mourning for gladness, and your disbelief for a little faith, here are a few take-aways from Alexander MacLaren’s commentary, written 150 years ago, that have encouraged me to dwell in hope.
I have a deep love and gratitude for those who have prayed for me and with me through this year. Thank you for standing with me, dear hope dwellers!
Here’s to acorns and oaks,
“To appoint to them that mourn in Zion, to give to them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.” Is. 61:3
Excerpts from MacLaren’s Commentary on Isaiah 61:3
The first point I would make is that-
I. Jesus Christ is the Joy-bringer to men because He is the Redeemer of men.
Remember that in the original application of my text to the deliverance from captivity, this gift of joy and change of sorrow into gladness was no independent and second bestowment, but was simply the issue of the one that preceded it, viz., the gift of liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that were bound. The gladness was a gladness that welled up in the heart of the captives set free, and coming out from the gloom of the Babylonian dungeon into the sunshine of God’s favour, with their faces set towards Zion ‘with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads.’
Now you have only to keep firm hold of this connection between these two thoughts to come to the crown and centre-point of this great prophecy, as far as it applies to us, and that is that it is Christ as the Emancipator, Christ as the Deliverer, Christ as He who brings us out of the prison of bondage of the tyranny of sin, who is the great Joy-Giver. For there is no real, deep, fundamental and impregnable gladness possible to a man until his relations to God have been rectified, and until, with these rectified relations, with the consciousness of forgiveness and the divine love nestling warm at his heart, he has turned himself away from his dread and his sin, and has recognised in his Father God ‘the gladness of his joy.’
Of course, there are many of us who feel that life is sufficiently comfortable and moderately happy, or at least quite tolerable, without any kind of reference to God at all. And in this day of growing materialism, and growing consequent indifference to the deepest needs of the spirit and the claims of religion, more and more men are finding, or fancying that they find, that they can rub along somehow, and have a fair share of gladness and satisfaction, without any need for a redeeming gospel and a forgiving Christ. But about all that kind of surface-joy the old words are true, ‘even in laughter the heart is sorrowful,’ and hosts of us are satisfied with joys which Jesus has no part in bringing, simply because our truest self has never once awakened. When it does-and perhaps it will do so with some of you, like the sleeping giant that is fabled to lie beneath the volcano whose sunny slopes are smiling with flowers-then you will find out that no one can bring real joy who does not take away guilt and sin.
Jesus Christ is the Joy-bringer, because Jesus Christ is the Emancipator. And true gladness is the gladness that springs from the conscious possession of liberty from the captivity which holds men slaves to evil and to their worst selves. Brethren, let us not fancy that these surface-joys are the joys adequate to a human spirit. They are ignoble, and they are infinitely foolish, because a touch of an awakened conscience, a stirring of one’s deeper self, can scatter them all to pieces. So then, that is my first thought.
Let us suggest a second, that-
II. Jesus Christ transforms sorrow because He transforms the mourner.
In my text, all that this Joy-bringer and Transmuter of grief into its opposite is represented as doing is on the man who feels the sorrow. And although, as I have said, the text, in its original position, is simply a deduction from the previous great prophecy which did point to a change of circumstances, and although Jesus does bring the ‘joy of salvation’ by a great change in a man’s relations, yet in regard to the ordinary sorrows of life, He affects these not so much by an operation upon our circumstances as by an operation upon ourselves, and transforms sorrow and brings gladness, because He transforms the man who endures it. The landscape remains the same, the difference is in the colour of the glass through which we look at it. Instead of having it presented through some black and smoked medium, we see it through what the painter calls a ‘Claude Lorraine’ glass, tinged golden, and which throws its own lovely light upon all that it shows us. It is possible-the eye that looks being purged and cleansed, so as to see more clearly-that the facts remaining identical, their whole aspect and bearing may be altered, and that which was felt, and rightly felt, to be painful and provocative of sadness and gloom, may change its character and beget a solemn joy. It would be but a small thing to transform the conditions; it is far better and higher to transform us. We all need, and some of us, I have no doubt, do especially need, to remember that the Lord who brings this sudden transformation for us, does so by His operation within us, and, therefore, to that operation we should willingly yield ourselves.
How does He do this? One answer to that question is-by giving to the man with ashes on his head and gloom wrapped about his spirit, sources of joy, if he will use them, altogether independent of external circumstances.’ Though the fig-tree shall not blossom, and there be no fruit in the vine . . . yet will I rejoice in the Lord.’ And every Christian man, especially when days are dark and clouds are gathering, has it open to him, and is bound to use the possibility, to turn away his mind from the external occasions of sadness, and fix it on the changeless reason for deep and unchanging joy-the sweet presence, the strong love, the sustaining hand, the infinite wisdom, of his Father God.
Brethren, “the paradox of the Christian life” is, ‘as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.’ Christ calls for no hypocritical insensibility to ‘the ills that flesh is heir to.’ He has sanctioned by His example the tears that flow when death hurts loving hearts. He commanded the women of Jerusalem to ‘weep for themselves and for their children.’ He means that we should feel the full bitterness and pain of sorrows which will not be medicinal unless they are bitter, and will not be curative unless they cut deep. But He also means that whilst thus we suffer as men, in the depths of our own hearts we should, at the same time, be turning away from the sufferings and their cause, and fixing our hearts, quiet even then amidst the distractions, upon God Himself. Ah! it is hard to do, and because we do not do it, the promise that He will turn the sorrow into joy often seems to be a vain word for us.
It is not ours to rejoice as the world does, nor is it ours to sorrow as those who have no hope, or as those who have no God with them. But the two opposite emotions may, to a large extent, be harmonised and co-existent in a Christian heart, and, since they can be, they should be. The Christian in sorrow should be as an island set in some stormy sea, with wild waves breaking against its black, rocky coast, and the wind howling around it, but in the centre of it there is a deep and shady dell ‘that heareth not the loud winds when they call,’ and where not a leaf is moved by the tempest. In a like depth of calm and central tranquillity it is possible for us to live, even while the storm hurtles its loudest on the outermost coasts of our being; ‘as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing,’ because the Joy-bringer has opened for us sources of gladness independent of externals.
And then there is another way by which, for us, if we will use our privileges, the sorrows of life may be transmuted, because we, contemplating them, have come to a changed understanding of their meaning. That is, after all, the secret charm to be commended to us at all times, but to be commended to us most when our hearts are heavy and the days are dark around us. We shall never understand life if we class its diverse events simply under the two opposite categories of good- evil; prosperity-adversity; gains-losses; fulfilled expectations- disappointed hopes, Put them all together under one class-discipline and education; means for growth; means for Christlikeness. When we have found out, what it takes a long while for us to learn, that the lancet and the bandage are for the same purpose, and that opposite weathers conspire to the same end, that of the harvest, the sting is out of the sorrow, the poison is wiped off the arrow. We can have, if not a solemn joy, at least a patient acquiescence, in the diversities of operation, when we learn that the same hand is working in all for the same end, and that all that contributes to that end is good.
Here we may suggest a third way by which a transformation wrought upon ourselves transforms the aspect of our sorrows, and that is, that possessing independent sources of joy, and having come to learn the educational aspect of all adversity, we hereby are brought by Jesus Christ Himself to the position of submission. And that is the most potent talisman to transform mourning into praise. An accepted grief is a conquered grief; a conquered grief will very soon be a comforted grief; and a comforted grief is a joy. By all these means Jesus Christ, here and now, is transmuting the lead and iron of our griefs into the gold of a not ignoble nor transient gladness.
And may I say one last word? My text suggests not only these two points to which I have already referred-viz. that Jesus Christ is the Joy-bringer because He is the Emancipator, and that He transforms sorrow by transforming the mourner-but, lastly, that III. Jesus gives joy after sorrow.
‘Nevertheless, afterward’ is a great word of glowing encouragement for all sad hearts. ‘Fools and children,’ says the old proverb, ‘should not see half-done work ‘; at least, they should not judge it. When the ploughshare goes deep into the brown, frosty ground, the work is only begun. The earth may seem to be scarped and hurt, and, if one might say, to bleed, but in six months’ time ‘you scarce can see’ the soil for waving corn. Yes; and sorrow, as some of us could witness, is the forecast of purest joy. I have no doubt that there are men and women here who could say, ‘I never knew the power of God, and the blessedness of Christ as a Saviour, until I was in deep affliction, and when everything else went dark, then in His light I saw light.’ Do not some of you know the experience? and might we not all know it? and why do we not know it?
Jesus Christ, even here and now, gives these blessed results of our sorrows, if they are taken to the right place, and borne in right fashion. For it is they ‘that mourn in Zion’ that He thus blesses. There are some of us, I fear, whose only resource in trouble is to fling ourselves into some work, or some dissipation. There are people who try to work away their griefs, as well as people who try feverishly to drink them away. And there are some of us whose only resource for deliverance from our sorrows is that, after the wound has bled all it can, it stops bleeding, and the grief simply dies by lapse of time and for want of fuel. An affliction wasted is the worst of all waste. But if we carry our grief into the sanctuary, then, here and now, it will change its aspect and become a solemn joy.
I say nothing about the ultimate result where every sorrow rightly borne shall be represented in the future life by some stage in grace or glory, where every tear shall be crystallised, if I might say so, into a flashing diamond, which flings off the reflection of the divine light, where ‘there shall be no sorrow nor sighing, nor any more pain, for the former things are passed away.’ When the lesson has been learned, God burns the rod.
But, brethren, there is another sadder transformation. I have been speaking about the transformation of sorrow into joy. There is also the transformation of joy into sorrow. I spoke a little while ago about the ‘laughter’ in which the heart is ‘sorrowful,’ and the writer from whom I quoted the words goes on to say, ‘The end of that mirth is heaviness.’ ‘Thereof cometh in the end despondency and madness.’ I saw, on a hilltop, a black circle among the grass and heather. There had been a bonfire there on Coronation Night, and it had all died down, and that was the end-a hideous ring of scorched barrenness amidst the verdure. Take care that your gladnesses do not die down like that, but that they are pure, and being pure are undying. Union with Jesus Christ makes sorrow light, and secures that it shall merge at last into ‘joy unspeakable and full of joy.’ I believe that separation from Christ makes joy shallow, and makes it certain that at last, instead of a garland, shall be ashes on the head, and that, instead of a festal robe, the spirit shall be wrapped in a garment of heaviness.
It’s “Giving Day” in north Texas, and I’m celebrating what our agency calls #minervasoul, because we have the privilege of supporting clients who want to end poverty as we know it through innovative higher education, others who want to eradicate human trafficking in our city, some who want to tangibly love people better by the way that they do business, and yet others who are lifting people out of homelessness. The one thing they all have in common is that they want to make the world where they live and work a kinder, more generous place to be. I’m following the North Texas generosity online as I send last emails and make sure the kids and grandparents have what they need before my husband and I embark on a two-week journey through Greece to experience some of the places where God used the apostle Paul to build and spread the Church.
I find it no coincidence that I am typing these words with a few hours of sleep and a burning in my heart to breathe the air, see the places and connect my minds-eye back to the essence of what drove Paul to preach with such fervor and urgency about the glorious life that Christ would bring to this dusty earth and into our hearts.
This departure and pilgrimage is met with the announcement of the Willow Creek Advocacy Group and a process that still lies in the spaces between what is right and true, what lies in a man’s heart and what happened with one of the most influential and powerful men in global church leadership in my lifetime. He was both boss and friend, pastor and human. We watched this revelation of abuse of power unfold before our very eyes, and I have never wept as much as I have in this last year over the depravity of man, even well-intentioned man, and the tornadic destruction it wields in its wake. So as I have packed, settled work accounts, kissed my children one last time, I am reflecting on Paul's desire for us to be free from all of the earthbound things that tend to bind us. I am grateful for my new "online church" with its beautiful, colorful, rag tag community of believers and doubters, advocates, researchers, doctors, lawyers, pastors, ministers and faithful prayer warriors that have gathered to see this set right. I'm writing this in response to the many requests that have flooded my cell phone over the last few days. I have so many thoughts, but no conclusions. What I know for sure is that this Willow Creek Community Church crisis that has become part of my life in various ways for more than two decades, still makes me burn, like Paul, for a fully biblically-functioning church here on earth.
As of yesterday, I want to thank these four individuals that were announced publicly for stepping forward to begin a process that I hope and pray will be redemptive for all involved. From all I read, they seem to be a great group of people. It is my desire to honor and respect the process that the independent Advisory Council offers, unless they give me reason to distrust their motives, process or actions in how this is handled.
This investigation is a defining moment for Willow Creek and for the Evangelical Church at large. It has the opportunity to reveal, highlight, and model how the bride of Christ can be led by servant leaders who allow the indwelling Christ to define their leadership patterns, behaviors, relational patterns, emotional health, and organizational decision-making, once again.
This situation has created great distrust by the way in which the Willow Creek leadership mis-handled my situation alone, let alone all the others. This situation has had severe consequences for me personally and for all involved. It needs to be resolved, for the gross injustice that has occurred to be made right, for the sin that has caused such destruction to be revealed and dealt with, and for the unhealthy power structure that has damaged so many to be removed and rebuilt biblically.
I believe that Bill’s actions and the Willow Creek debacle will be studied for many years to come. Willow Creek and the Willow Creek Association’s current and future response to abuse within the church is critical because of their national and global influence on church leadership. These findings and how they are dealt with have the potential to provide a model for what is good and acceptable for leaders and churches going forward. This is a great opportunity for the church to hit the reset button on Christ-centered, biblical relational and organizational leadership.
The investigation into Bill Hybels’ actions regarding his abuse of power and sexual misconduct is a huge task. It requires legal, spiritual and relational integrity for the Advisory Group chosen to investigate him. I cannot confirm whether the Advisory Council has the skills to oversee the proper investigation, as I’m not aware of their prior experience with oversight of weighty investigations regarding abuse of power and sexual misconduct. That said, someone must step up to lead a process that calls for clarity, repentance, and ultimate healing for everyone involved.
I choose to believe that God is in control of the situation and has brought it to bear for the purpose of refining and redefining Biblical leadership for the modern-day church, to bring purity and holiness to the Bride of Christ.
Here are a few answers to questions I have been receiving. They leave me with more questions than answers, at this point:
If Bill is unrepentant, he will stand before the world, who, I believe, will consider his unwillingness to cooperate with investigations as an admission by default. He must live with the consequences of his choices. We may always wonder why he has been unwilling to open his life to being investigated fully, accurately, and thoroughly, for the sake of integrity and his own spiritual well-being, and for the healing of those he wounded.
The church has a bright future because the sovereignty and grace of God allows it to flourish in spite of man’s choices. But the church is most glorious when she radiates in truth, with the full expression of Christ, without blemish, living and moving about in this world, expectant for the kingdom to come.
If this investigation is done well, it “will sift wheat from chaff” in leadership structures of the church and encourage that which remains to thrive, for the sake of the gospel. The Evangelical Church must bring Jesus back to the forefront of spiritual leadership and fully recognize him once again as the Head of the Church. The Evangelical Church must address the issue of power abuse and sexual abuse running rampant in “successful” churches. Instead of being in the headlines for covering up misconduct and abuse and giving standing ovations to abusers, let’s be known for leading the way toward repentance and health, for the church of the future.
"So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."
Late Wednesday afternoon, May 23rd, hours before the most recent Willow Creek elder statement went public, I received a text from one of the Willow Creek elders, a friend and former ministry partner who had previously contacted me. He indicated that Willow Creek had engaged a third-party Christian conciliation firm to pursue resolution and reconciliation with the parties involved. This was not previously discussed with me nor requested by me. The engagement was confirmed on Wednesday night by the elders’ public statement, read by new Willow Creek elder board chairman Lane Moyer. Here is part of my response to the elder who contacted me:
"In reviewing the company you referenced (Crossroads Resolution Group), they are clearly Christian conciliators, and not independent investigators of abuse situations, including sexual harassment in the workplace. So, it appears that you are treating this like a relational dispute that needs to be resolved, rather than a 1 Timothy 5 situation of a leader being accused by 2 or more parties of patterns of sin. This is not an issue of relational reconciliation, it is an issue of dealing with the sin of a leader. This latest step by the elder board only further communicates to me that you either don't understand the nature of the problem, or you collectively have no intention of discovering the truth and holding Bill accountable for whatever he has done.”
What Willow Creek is suggesting is the proverbial cart before the horse.
They continue to refuse to address the presenting issue, which is Bill Hybels’ sexual misconduct and abuse of power. They are skipping over several important steps while trying to catapult this to resolution by conciliation process. Transparency, accountability and repentance must occur before the process of reconciliation or resolution can begin. I welcome the opportunity to enter into a reconciliation process with my brothers and sisters at Willow Creek, at the proper time. Now is not that time. Now is the time for truth to be discovered and then handled in a way that is consistent with biblical mandates on leadership.
1 Timothy 5:19-20 states,
“19 Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. 20 But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning.”
There are now seven women who have come forward with accusations against Bill Hybels. Seven. The alleged behavior is not merely “inappropriate”, it is actually sin. The next thing to do biblically is to “reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning.” That would require a full and impartial investigation and a revelation of Bill Hybels’ mysteriously hidden emails, texts and behaviors, so the truth can be revealed. Stating that “some of Bill’s choices were inappropriate” falls far short of reproving him publicly. Willow Creek leadership has not attempted in earnest to discover the truth and has shown no intention of doing so.
Willow Creek elders and leaders, I respectfully implore you to heed the words of the apostle Paul, in verse 21 of the same passage: “I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.”
May it be so.
Regarding the Willow Creek Association, I received an email late last week from Tom DeVries, the President of the WCA, asking me to have a face-to-face meeting, with the goal also being “resolution and reconciliation." I appreciate that he reached out to me. I told him that I would be open to an initial conversation, under the following conditions:
Here are links to statements from some of the other women:
I have been watching the responses to the allegations of misconduct by Bill Hybels, as reported in the Chicago Tribune, determining how best to address them…honoring my love of the Church and the people of Willow Creek. My account regarding Bill’s inappropriate behavior toward me has not changed in more than 20 years. I am simply recounting what happened to me. I have nothing to gain from bringing all of this to light. Until recently I thought that the inappropriate actions by Bill were isolated incidents, which is why I kept silent until now.
In July of last year, I became aware for the first time that many of the situations I had encountered with Bill had also occurred with other women spanning more than 30 years, and that there had been an investigation into the matter. These emerged as patterns-what I now believe to be classic behaviors of grooming, perpetration and abuse of power. And when I found out that the most recent allegations were only a few months old, I realized that women were still at risk.
For clarity, I am including more detailed facts of my story below.
In the mid 90’s Bill singled me out on one of my first international trips with the Willow Creek conference team in Australia. During the first leg of the trip, I was told by a leader that Bill liked how I looked and that I was his “type”. Later on that trip, we stopped at a resort to rest for a few days. Bill asked me to go on a bike ride with him. During that ride, he asked me if I thought I might have the spiritual gift of leadership. He told me to take a gifts assessment test and find out, mentioning that he recognized leadership qualities in me. He then told me that I should take good care of my body and stay thin and fit, because leaders are more respected when they are in shape.
At various times over the next months and years, Bill sent subtle and confusing messages.
The next morning, Bill and I were the first ones at breakfast in the hotel. He pulled me aside and asked me if anything had happened. “You know what happened!” I said, and then he asked me if I was going to tell the elders. I said, “Not this time, but if you ever do anything like this again, I will go to the elders.”
I told Scott shortly after I returned from Sweden, and a few months later I shared it with 3 of my closest friends, all of whom were senior leaders at Willow Creek, including an elder, Betty Schmidt (read Betty's statement here.) I shared it with another close friend and my mother in the months following. Several confirmed the story to the Tribune. Betty asked if they should take it to the larger elder team, and I told her no, that I had confronted Bill and that I warned him not to do it again. At the time, I thought it was simply a weak moment on his part and wanted to be forgiving. I told my friends and trusted leaders, so they would be aware, in case it happened again.
In 2000, I noticed Bill flirting with 5 female leaders that he was mentoring. The term for this behavior among leaders was Bill’s “flavor of the month”. I made an appointment to confront his behavior. I went into his office, sat across from his desk, looked him straight in the eye and listed the women by name (including Nancy Beach), counting on my fingers 1-5. I then said, “You need to knock it off!” He sat silently staring at me. Then I said, “Do you understand what I am saying to you?” He said, “Understood.” I then said, “OK?” and he said, “K”, and I got up and left his office, trembling.
In 2001, Scott and I were asked on a WCA trip to South Africa. Shortly before the trip, Bill called me to his office in the presence of two supervisors and told me, “You’re going. Scott’s staying home. You’re an ‘A Player’, Scott’s a ‘B Player.’” As the team leader, I had to go home and deliver the news to my husband.
I became pregnant and gave birth to my first daughter in December of 2002. In early 2003, while still on pregnancy leave, I was contacted by Willow Creek’s HR department and told that there was an issue. When I returned from my leave, I was told that there were 12-15 people who had issues with me, and that I was not allowed to talk with anyone in the department about it or ask anyone if I had offended them. I was moved to another department and eventually fired with severance. I was given the opportunity to write a resignation letter that painted the situation as my choice to leave. I was required to have it approved by HR, which I did. A couple of years later, a former vocal team member was visiting us in Texas, when she suddenly broke down and tearfully confessed that she had been a part of a plot to remove me from my position. She didn’t go into detail, and she was distraught and crying, so I didn’t press her on it, as I had moved on with my life.
This is what happened to me.
I believe the women who have come forward because our stories are so similar.
For the sake of the other women and for the sake of the church, I cannot stay silent.
“The worst kind of fear isn’t the thing that makes you scream, but the one that steals your voice and makes you silent.” -Abby Norman
We all feel it.
It follows with us wherever we go.
It hangs out in the depth of our depths, where words often fail. We all long for something.
Sometimes we’re reminded of it when we have nagging memory of dreams, or things or circumstances that never came to be–something that failed to come into being.
it appears out of nowhere; it is a thought, a deep cutting feeling that nudges at our silence and waits for the answer to come.
Let’s face it; we all find ourselves wanting for something to change, to move, to be different, to heal, to be restored, and we find ourselves longing for life to be a little better, a little more meaningful, and for things to work with a little more grease and a little less of the intangible.
Whether it’s injustice, our relationships, our jobs, our success, youth, our homes, our cars, our grades, our friends, our pocketbooks, our dreams, or even hopes for our kids to turn out all right, we still long for all kinds of things.
We find ourselves rating them in the mental tally of our minds, when situations feel fearful, unfixable, uncontrollable, broken, dead, or returned to us utterly unfulfilling and empty.
These thoughts come to us in the strangest of moments. They come and pull at the frayed edges of our mental sweaters when we are otherwise consumed with managing life as we know it.
There it sits.
It resides next to the parts of life we’d rather cut from the “subtext” of our daily lives and nestles up close to our loss, regret, disappointment, failure, and fear. It creeps into the unknown, and attaches itself to our deep wounds. It reminds us about our scarred and often failing humanity. The less hopeful version of us that we know so well.
Our longing bears the same weighty-ache that the earth was carrying on the night that “Hope” dropped down from the heaven-lies.
And like our weary hearts, the earth was cold, numb, and waiting for Jesus to come and breathe life into the foggy, chilly night air of a weary world.
And then, the Christ entered in and brought respite, reminding us that we are not left with the crumbs of our loss, and failure and longing.
The breath. It came and made an invitation to our deeper invitational belonging.
Christ came for us.
And with His breath came the beating inhale and exhale hope.
He still comes to us each day, in the mundane moments, where we wait and hope for a shift to crack the hardened parts of our hearts that have huddled in bunkers of self-protection. He comes when our souls ache and our hearts break and we wait for clouds to part and light to enter in.
The invitation comes in every single moment and pursues us, always and always. He is right there, with us and in us.
He pursues us again and again even as we wade through the mire of our souls groaning.
He is the reminder that we are not alone. We belong.
God with us.
Come, Lord Jesus, be our hope.
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” Matthew 1:23
“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8
The church is meant to be a living expression of a living gospel. The church was never meant to be a gathering of people gathered to consume truth and leave.
This "by standing gospel" reminds me of our fascination with online shopping, where we save God in our own little digital shopping cart and decide if we want to engage and be part of the greater experience of knowing Jesus, His fullness, His truth, His presence and His community, ...here on earth and in the moment.
The modern church has acquired a consuming mindset and a worship deficit. We cannot bring truth to bear in real life, if we are simply watching church, watching the singing and listening to teaching.
We have a crisis of worship.
Yes, we have a crisis of worship with our singing, our preferences, our well-meaning judgments, our by-standing, and our consumerism, but we also have a crisis of worship in our hearts. This crisis is not denominational, nor location specific, it is not online or in any particular room.
It is heart specific.
If we want to unleash the gospel in our churches then we must unleash our worship with the practical, living, singing, praying, weeping, rejoicing truth of the gospel. This cannot merely be spoken, it must be lived, spoken and sung, it must be alive and unbound. It must be beating in our hearts and running through our veins.
Glorifying Jesus in "all the things going on in our lives" is paramount to living our spoken gospel.
God is always activating transformation in us and among us.
He always brings things to life when he is present.
He is present in us.
This active gospel is so much more than a few songs, offering, announcements, the spoken word and maybe an ending song that we all hope we recognize from our past. It goes beyond atmosphere, lighting, age of our leaders, styles of our music and our modern box checking view of church.
If we are to change the culture, then our own hearts must break for the things of God to spring up in our hearts and manifest themselves in our relationships, behaviors, and lives.
We must be bold enough remove the "rules" that keep us bound in ritual and consumerism.
We must come to church with a transformed mindset.
We must come inviting the living Christ to be manifest through us, even though we come with our earthbound limitations.
Regardless, we come.
We come to worship whether hungry, broken, full, in need, at rest, restless, expectant, obedient, waiting, watching, listening, hoping, dreaming, but expectant and ready for anything that God wants to do.
There is a journey to wholeness in Christ. It looks like surrender and manifests itself in discipleship, invitation and replication.
It begins with surrendering our time to His timing, our talents to His mission, and our treasures to His kingdom.
These are the signposts of transformed people.
When we understand our identity in Christ, then we can embrace our sovereignly initiated vision to gather and unleash the power of God inside of us. This beckons us to glorify, magnify and lift high God's power and God's own sacrificial vision for the lost to be found, for the found to become unbound, and the unbound to become living worshipers on mission, wherever they are planted.
We gather to declare that we part of the divine invitation to freedom and life, no longer slaves.
We gather to be reminded that we are free.
We come to prophesy, which simply means that we declare what is to come.
We believe it and we declare it again and again.
Worship must be a priority.
It goes before and comes behind our beliefs and puts skin on the dry bones of our hearts.
13 The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath[a] enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone.8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath;prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lordhave spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
If you know anything about my life, you know that I love working with people. I also love the idea of living my own life in technicolor. I believe that every person has the option to live in grey monotony or technicolor fullness. It is a privilege to help people find their own version of "technicolor" in their work, art, and lives.
Listening more fully.
Much of the time, I get the privilege of just being a listening mirror in my job and in my work. Being a listening mirror gives people permission to simply ask the questions and say out "all the things" that they hold in the deep spaces of their hearts, minds, and organizations. I love "being with" people and helping them move the dial on things that matter to them: their work, their voice, their art, their dreams, and even their beliefs.
Your “thinks” have purpose.
These deeper "things” that we hold in our minds and hearts, are the "thinks" that make us unique and hold the secrets to the grander purpose of our own lives and work.
Finding your voice.
Listening is the first step in helping someone become courageous enough to hear what is already beating in their hearts and pulsing through their veins. This is what helps them learn to hear the sound of their own voice and helps them learn to speak more fully with their very lives.
The art of listening is what truly “seeing into someone” is all about.
Seeing and listening.
It looks like caring and even looks like loving.
It is sometimes called coaching and consulting.
#whatsonyourmind #liveonpurpose #artlistlife #listening #consulting