Tag Archives: church

Merciful Days: Still doing the church thing?

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Still doing the church thing

So, after all these years, you’re still doing the church thing?

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I live with a man.  We share a bathroom sink, two kids, and a whole bunch of household chores.  I am here every day.  With him.  And the life we share.

I love to look into his eyes.  I love how his hand wraps around mine.  I love sharing life with him.  Even all the tired, boring, mundane parts.  We lean together to dream.  We lean together to make ends meet.  We lean together and face the odds.  And it is bliss.

He is good.  He is kind and generous.  He gives and loves and invests.  He is handsome and strong.  He is brilliant.  He is a natural engineer in every setting.  He finds answers when no when else has.  He fixes what no one else can.  He brings peace and stability and strength where ever he goes.  He is fun and funny.  He amazes me every day.

Life with him… in our rental apartment… with the heat at a bare minimum… and big dreams in our hearts… is glorious.

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My Beautiful Flock

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Jer13v20This has consumed me:

Where is the flock that was given to you [to shepherd], your beautiful flock? (Jeremiah 13:20b Amp)

As I read Jeremiah 13 today, these words reached out from the page and grabbed me.

Where is the flock that has been given to me to shepherd, my beautiful flock?

Personally, I know Yahweh has asked me, called me to be a shepherd.  For nine years I did so as a “professional” pastor on staff at our church but for the past four years I have not been in a formal, official pastoral position.  I have not, however, stopped serving those God has given to me to care for.  It just looks different.  It looks… less structured. Less frequent. Less purposed.

Oh.

Where is the flock that has been given to me to shepherd, my beautiful flock?

Today I’m praying.  Who I am supposed to be caring for today?  The flock of this season.  Not necessarily those I cared for in the past.  I’m asking the Holy Spirit to tell me who He has given to me today, for this season.

Without a doubt my children and husband are at the top of that list.  And I could easily assume four other specific people are also on that list.  They’ve been on my list for many years.  God spoke to me about caring for them.  But, beyond my immediate family, I’m not going to assume anything.  For, honestly this is more about my relationship with the Holy Spirit than the completion of a task.  So the one thing I can confidently assume is the Holy Spirit will have something new for He and I to talk about.  And that is beautiful.  For I am a sheep in His flock.

So, with prayer journal in hand, I’m about to talk with God about my flock.  My beautiful flock.  I have a huge sense of anticipation.  Who is He calling me to care for now?

When I know who He has called me to care for, I can give my energies with joy.  And I can let go of others, with joy. It is so exciting that God invites me to be part of His Kingdom and He gives me important work to do.

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I submit for your consideration:  If we all cared for the flock God asks us to care for, would the entire Body of Christ be well cared for?  What would we all look like, if we were sheep well-cared for?  What would it do for the health of The Church?  What would it do for the health of all our work-lives, families, marriages?

Is it grabbing your heart too?!  This feels so massively important and beautiful.

Where is the flock that was given to you [to shepherd], your beautiful flock? (Jeremiah 13:20b Amp)

Where is the flock that has been give to you?

Goofy Foot Revelations

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I learned to snowboard during the huge December snowfall of 1998.  The day I first strapped on a board, there was over two feet of new snow on the slopes and it kept falling hard all day.

Not only my first day snowboarding, it was my first snow experience of any kind.  This girl from the tropics was pretty excited.

I took a group lesson.  At first it was awesome.  Everyone moment was magical.  Then it was frustrating.  I couldn’t stay balanced.  I spent most of my time on my butt (or face).  Snowboarding was hard.  It wasn’t fun.  I was cold.

Then a moment that changed everything: the instructor switched by board around.  “That’s the problem,” he encouraged me. “You’ve been leading with the wrong foot.  You’re a goofy foot!  No wonder you’ve been having a hard time.”

That switch was a game changer.  By the end of my first lesson, I was a skilled “falling leaf” snowboarder.  😉

My joy and success came from one important thing:  Knowing which foot to lead with.

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He moved me to tears.  His words were beautiful truth.

He said something like: The church is a family that is offending each other and forgiving each other. Over and over.

Forgiving each other.  That’s what makes us different.  THAT is our hallmark.

NOT that we are un-offensive.  NOT that we meet or hold others to some level of appropriate behavior.  NOT that we deserve to be loved.

Our cultural identifier is: Our unending forgiveness of each other.

Oh Francis Chan.  Thank you for pointing, once again, to the fullness of God’s Word.

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When I talked to my amazing husband about it, he asked “what about correction?” 

He is right, of course.  If it’s all about forgiveness, when does correction happen?

Correction needs to happen.  Mentors need to speak instruction and guidance.  People need to change.  God’s plan is to transform us towards holiness.

But, isn’t it all a question of which foot we lead with?

If we LEAD with correction and follow with forgiveness, are we truly behaving like God’s people?

In a world of regular-foot riders, God is a goofy foot.

In a world where we give forgiveness only when it is deserved, God gives it liberally while we are still inflicting Him.

“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, no one is likely to die for a good person, though someone might be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. ” (Romans 5:6-8 NLT)

To mirror our Father Yahweh, we must LEAD with forgiveness and follow with correction.

Check out Matthew 18:20-22.   Two well-known passages that happen to be right after the other!

For where two or three gather together because they are mine,  I am there among them.
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No!” Jesus replied, “seventy times seven!” Matthew 18:20-22

In the midst of our community, God dwells… and forgiveness between humans is needed to the nth degree!

Riding goofy foot made my life better

Snowboarding regular foot was awful.  I was miserable.  I was struggling.  I was failing.  Riding goofy was fun.  My body worked better.  My balance was strong. I stayed on my feet.

How much better will life be if we live with the right leading foot?  Our church families will work better.  Our faith balance will be strong.  We will stay on our feet.

Forgiveness first.  Correction second.

The church is a family that is offending each other and forgiving each other. Over and over.

I have new glasses on:  I am expecting my friends and church family to offend me.  And I am bracing myself to lead with forgiveness.  I will choose it… (Help me Holy Spirit!)

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My community of goofy-footeds

I am now choosing to lean towards those people who ooze forgiveness.  I want to be a groupie that follows forgivers around.  I want to be bubbling with it.  I want my words to be full of grace.  I need to rub shoulders with people who lead with forgiveness.

Thinking again about 1 Cor 13 being a snapshot of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  It’s a passage about the Body of Christ (not marriage / weddings). Read 1 Cor 12 & 14 to see the whole picture.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud  or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

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This post is a response to the “Fellowship” topic in Francis Chan’s “Basics” small group study.

P.S.  I am not talking about abusive situations.  (Abuse is not ok.  Run.  Get help.  Stay away from dangerous people.)

Change Of Plans

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Today I had a big decision to make.  It had many layers to consider.  It led me to question my own heart.

I am scheduled to preach at our church next week.  A couple of months ago I was give my assigned passages: Psalm 109-115 and Acts 13-16.  When I read through, there were lots of little things that stood out but nothing major I felt to focus on.  So I’ve been reading them almost daily every day the past couple of months and praying for God to show me what He wants for our church family.  It wasn’t easy or fun.  But the journey has been deep and good.  And I feel God has spoken and I am excited!

I landed on Acts 15 with a little side journey through Psalm 111.  I felt drawn to talk about the “things we do” as Christians and why, in a Faith that clearly says we are not saved my our own efforts, God asks us to do things.  It’s a fine balance that humans really struggle with.  Different people lean towards different ends of the spectrum in accordance to their personalities, histories and journeys.  But both ends do exist:  In our Faith we do nothing, and we also do a lot.  God breathed vision in my heart about the why of what we do.  I am excited to share.

My personal circumstances have been beautiful metaphors for the topic.  It seems so timely.  I am actually happy to be currently wearing a heart monitor.  It’s a great metaphor that I’m excited to share.  I’m actually okay with being suddenly without work… even though that work was crucial for paying for my medical treatments.  It’s a perfect illustration for the main sermon point I feel God led me to.  I’m okay with the many other weird things going on in my life these days because I’m seeing the point of the sermon being worked out in my own life.  And that’s the only way I like to preach… from the depth of the journey God has led me through.  If I haven’t lived it, I don’t like to teach it!

I am genuinely excited to share next week.

Our Pastor called this morning to say that an incredible mentor pastor from our local area has offered to come and share with our church family.  This mentor pastor has been pivotal in my personal journey.  I LOVE his wisdom and insight and passion for Jesus.  The date he is available for our church?  Next Sunday.  Our awesome pastor gave me full power of choice.  He asked me to pray and hear from God who should preach next week.

I prayed.  I heard “rest.”  I asked, “Rest and not preach?  Or rest in the process of preaching?”

My heart went through the pros and cons.  Then I called my amazing husband.

My husband is incredible. Honestly, he is the most amazing human I’ve ever met.  Strong, influential, powerful, wise, intelligent, sincere, deep, stable, gentle, kind, patient and loving.  Oh so loving.

In his Bible reading and prayer today he felt God talking to him about being refreshed.  One of the passages he read this morning was Psalm 107.

He also turns deserts into pools of water, the dry land into springs of water. Psalm 107: 35

He said his heart resonates with the word, “rest.”  We have been feeling so stretched lately.  And he knows how intense I need to be the week before teaching.  It just so happens that he has a few days off in the week ahead.  The first time off he’s had in a long time.  We could actually have some quality time together.  That sounds like pools of water in our desert season!

But, he said, Psalm 107 also says: “Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out!”  He is a huge fan of me using my gifts.  He loves when I preach.  He supports me either way.

And so I share my fear with him:  I don’t want to cop-out.  I don’t want to be unfaithful.  I don’t want to walk away from an opportunity God has invited me to be part of.  I want to be faithful.

His response is still hovering in my heart: “You are not in any way unfaithful.”

God spoke through my husband today.  (Again.)  A word of love and identity.  I message of truth and life.  And peace has become my clothes today.

I desire to be good.  I desire to be lovely.  I crave to be a true daughter of God.  I just want to give all that I am for His use.  Today I feel God answer and affirm these desires of my heart.  He sees me.  He knows me.  I am loved by Yahweh.

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I am not preaching next week.  My pastor graciously accepted my answer.  He really had given me full opportunity to choose either way.

I’m looking back now at the journey of the past couple of months and it is not for naught.

I’m not sure I’ll ever share this sermon that’s grown in my heart.  I’m a firm believer in hearing from God for each message.  In my 10+ years of preaching I’ve only repeated a handful of messages.

I always go through deep personal transformation through the sermon preparation process.  It used to be non-stop when I was preaching weekly at a youth pastor.  Now the journey seems to be longer and deeper as I only preach every now and again.

There is a feeling of joy in the intimacy of this message that may stay unspoken.

Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. (Luke 2:19)

Today I am grateful for the journey of preparation.  I’m grateful for the trust of our Pastor.  I’m grateful for the affirmation from my husband.  And I’m grateful for the days of rest and refreshment ahead.

Looking forward to today and every day.  May I ever be available and faithful to be used or not used by God as He sees fit.

In a well-furnished kitchen there are not only crystal goblets and silver platters, but waste cans and compost buckets—some containers used to serve fine meals, others to take out the garbage. Become the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to his guests for their blessing. (2 Tim 2:20-21)

Selah.

How is your journey?  What is God speaking to you these days?
Want to read though the Bible with me?  Today’s readings are: Psalm 107; Acts 11:19-30
The passage that stood out to me was: He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves. What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into harbor! (Psalm 107: 29-30)  // What a blessing is the stillness God brings to me life.

Grace Given

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A friend talked to me today to repair a hole in our relationship that I had unwittingly caused.

In that conversation I saw her extend a level of grace that is rare.  I can’t stop thinking about it. She chose to give grace despite being in pain.

Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others]. (1 Peter 4:8 Amp)

She chose to disregard the offense.  She chose to forgive.  She chose to cover my error.  She chose to make up for my shortfall.

Beautiful.  I am totally in awe.

I’ve known her for a long time.  I knew her when she was a girl.  I’ve had the privilege of watching her grow up.  I was her pastor and leader.

For years I extended grace to her because, after all, she was just a child.  I find grace is easy to give to someone who is “lesser” than you.  Grace with reason.

But no longer am I an adult and she a child.  We are both women.  We are peers. We are equal in the Body.  Unique and different but equal.

Today she extended grace to me that I have never extended to her.  Grace without reason.

Powerful.  Beautiful.  Transformative.

I love the redemption power God gives us through the Holy Spirit.  Thank you beautiful friend.  I so value your wisdom, love and sisterhood.

Speaking Truth in Love

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I was asking a wise friend for advice about what to do in an awkward situation I had been put in.  Should I say something? (aka “speak truth in love.” aka speak my mind.)

Her: “Do you love them?”

Me: “Wow. No, I guess I don’t really truly love them.”

Her: “Then you should shut-up”

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.   If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.  If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhereSo, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. (1 Cor 13:1-3)

Love is the precursor.  Love is the foundation.  Love is the essential element.  No good will come if love is missing.

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It’s become a commonly used phrase these days: “Speaking Truth in Love.”  But I feel like the people who say those words are often being more about speaking “the truth” and less about the “love” part.  The Bible is pretty clear about this: Love is the essential hallmark of God’s people.

This phrase “speaking truth in love” comes from Ephesians 4.  It’s part of a passage about the Body of Christ working together and growing into health, maturity and love.

He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ. No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love – like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love. The Old Way Has to Go   (Eph 4:11-16 Message)

I had the privilege of being on staff at my church for 9 years.  During that time I had the honor of working side by side with our senior pastor.  I learned many things from him.  And there is one that totally changed my life: His pursuit of God’s Love for people.  Our pastor and wife carry heavy burdens.  People’s lives are messy and pastors are looked to for all kinds of help.  Sometimes people treat them poorly and expect huge things from them.  For almost a decade, I watched our pastor agonize over each person and each situation.  I think most people would consider him to be “quick to speak.”  But I got to see the hours he took to pray and pray and pray before speaking to people.  What was he praying for?  Love.  He wouldn’t speak a word until he was fully in love with each person in the situation.  He begged God to open his eyes to see people who He sees them.  Sometimes I felt like things simmered for too long and I would beg him to intervene.  But he wouldn’t act or speak unless he had love.  This is one of my favorite things about our pastor.  And I think it’s one of the things hardly anyone knows about him.  How could they?  He would have to betray confidence in order for people to know how much he pauses to pursue God’s Love.

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:25)

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God is a multi-tasker.  Or rather a multi-being.  He is Truth AND He is Love.  He is good AND He is righteous. He gives perfect Justice AND He gives full Mercy.  All at the same time.  All. At. The. Same. Time.

But we humans are little.  And isn’t it true that as we walk out our Faith, we sometimes lift some concepts higher above others?  Like when we are actually being more about “Speaking the Truth” and less about the “in Love” part.

This is why we need the empowering and indwelling Holy Spirit.  This is why we need to study God’s Word.  This is why we need to stop being products of our human cultures and totally be of His culture.  We need to whole-heartedly choose to pause to pursue God’s Love for each other.

Some people defend Loveless speech by saying that are a “truth-speaker.”   I totally relate.  I am someone who will call a spade and spade.  Truth is important to me.  BUT in God’s culture, Truth is bankrupt without Love. (1 Cor 13:3)

If we haven’t paused and begged God to fill us with His Love for the other person, we do not have His support to speak.

This week I happened to be on the receiving end.  I was spoken to by a person who did not love me.  It makes my stomach hurt.  I think we all need to do a study on what Godly Love actually is.  (Hello 1 Cor 13. I think I’m going to be diving into you and digging for a deeper understanding of Love.)

I know for sure I’ve also been on the giving end of “speaking truth” without love.  It’s easy for me to speak up when others don’t feel able.  I grab the bull by the horns.  But how many times have I taken the time to pause and be full of love?  It is time to aggressively add the art of “pausing for love” to my life.

May we all, the whole Body of Christ, embody the Love of God evermore.   Let’s be afraid of being bankrupt without love.  So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. (1 Cor 13:3)

Want to read through the Bible with me? Today’s readings are Psalm 69; John 10:22-42

Looking in the mirror and seeing problems

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The Church is Yahweh’s idea. Jesus founded it, built it and leads it. The Holy Spirit maintains it, unites it and fills it.  And by “it”, I mean “us”.  Me. You. We are the Church.

I’m a Church lover.  I am passionate and dedicated to being an alive and active member of the Body of Christ.  I am a fully vested part of the local church.  I am all in.

I love Matthew Barnett’s blog posting today.  It’s about the Church and one of the (many) problems we have: Division and Factions.

What I love most is that Matthew Barnett is not an “outside” judge.  He’s not speaking from an inactive, external point of view.  He’s a fully vested Church lover.    I get sick of hearing people complain about the Church but stand at a distance.  The way for the Church to be healthy is for all the parts to be engaged and active!  (1 Cor 12, Eph 4, Rom 12)

There are many beautiful and awesome things about the Church.  I am proud to be part of it.  But there are many things that are not good on any level.  We should all be looking in the mirror and searching for anything and everything that needs to be worked on. Yes?

It starts with me.  It starts with you.  We need to be, individually and collectively, more like Jesus.

I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. (1 Cor 1:10)

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Church Gangsters…Warning, Pretty Hardcore Posted on June 6, 2012 by

I’ve seen it! The devastation of street gangs in a city. We’ve picked up kids on a bus from a housing project, only to have to run a separate bus a hundred yards down the street to pick up kids from a rival project. It would be so simple to combine these routes. However, there are too many fights and divisions on the bus. The division is over hate which has no reasoning behind it.

I often wonder how a few yards can separate communities that should share so much in common. Both communities could rally together concerning fighting poverty or better schools but instead the fight is over something small and meaningless. Kids are raised in camps taught to despise and divide. Usually, it’s over some small beef that took place years ago which simply lingered. Gang division destroys generations.

But there’s something worse. Church gangsters. People fighting over methods and strategy. Blogging about what they don’t like in a minister or ministry based on certain doctrine. It’s the same attitude of Bloods and Crips, raising up a group of people to divide and usually it’s over method, style, or someone else’s success. We should be rallying about Jesus dying on the cross for mankind and cleansing us from our sins. Repentance and confession that lead to salvation.

My heart breaks as I see this play out. The conflicts of street life have entered the church. Pastor, that comparison is too extreme? No, it’s not. People die over this, leave the church, live bitter or angry all in the name of being right or more spiritual than the other group.

A kid was coming to our church. For the first time in his life he was on fire. He found a home in the church. His mother pulled him out of church because we had guitars in worship and wore jeans. The boy never went to church again and we lost him to the world. Street gang thuggery at its finest.

It’s time that we rally around eternal life and what we agree on. Even if we disagree on some things, how in the world is picking on someone who disagrees with you on theology going to change anyone?

It’s time we agree on the important things and leave the gangs of religious camps. The worst thing about arguing over non-essential differences is all the time that could have been used making a difference. I know many people find comfort in their little camp of “Believing their right” but it’s damaging, it hurts people, and has got to stop. Gang mentality amongst ministries might be worse than street gangs because we know the Bible and should know better.

It’s time that the church refuses to “Conform to the world” of gang culture and be famous for our incredible unity on essentials not random things that have no eternal value. Let’s turn in our rags of spiritual camps and come together and change the world.

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How is your relationship with the rest of the Body of Christ?  Do you see unity or disunity in your heart?  Are you part of the whole Church or do you find comfort in a cliche or faction?  These are tough questions but they are worth asking.  Have you looked in the mirror lately and considered what you look like? Are you a beautiful part of the Body?

Want to read through the Bible with me? Today’s readings are Psalm 50 ; John 2:1-25