Sunday, May 27, 2018

Critical Community

Out of breath and riding the high of feeling like I was exactly where I was supposed to be, I rattled on about the youth ministry and proudly showed off the room where the kids meet as my wide eyed friend took it all in stride for me. They’ve been visiting our church and her kids have expressed interest in coming to youth discipleship and since that is the ministry team I serve on, I enthusiastically walked her through what their afternoon would look like.

But since service had already begun, we scurried back down the hallway to get back to our families and worship. We passed by one of my dearest friends husbands who was busily making sure the kids classes were all sorted and ready to maximize their time together.

“Here ya are, Patrick!” I called out as we passed and slipped him the check I owed him. My friend and I quickly made our way back down the stairs and through the lobby before going our separate ways at the worship center. I settled into my seat next to my ER nursing friend and hugged her since it had been several weeks of work and travel that have kept us from seeing one another. Several songs in, and Patrick’s wife made her way to her seat by her kids, followed several minutes later by Patrick.

As service ended I grabbed the youth intern to chat about an event and then hit the door, I had to get on the road to my nieces 3rd birthday party. But as I settled in for the two hour drive north, I realized I hadn’t even spoken to one of my dearest friends, and reflected on how common that is for us at church.

“Do not forsake meeting together”

I don’t think that verse from Hebrews is addressing specifically “church” in a traditional context, although I believe that’s part of it.

How did this woman I barely talk to on Sunday mornings become a person I don’t just admire but deeply and personally love and respect?

The answer is in the title: community. We talk about how critical it is, but do we really get it? A church requires a lot of serving people to run smoothly. If you are where you should be on a Sunday morning you will find yourself simultaneously in worship and in ministry. The two go hand in hand and make a Sunday run smoothly and effectively. But having a job to do sometimes doesn’t allow for that relationship building time of two or more Christians lives.

We absolutely have to have community with other believers or you will be an anonymous face, not serving, not participating, and not being apart of the vitality of your church.

How do you view your time at church? Do you “go” to church, or are you apart of one? And do you understand what I’m trying to say when I ask that? You will eventually get bored of going to a church and being a no name character of the script. At some point you either leave or take part.

Don’t mistake me- I’m not saying jump on the fist most glamorous opportunity that comes along. Don’t call attention to yourself, but do plug in. Do find where you should serve. Do find a need and fill it. Do find the people you should be meeting with. Do find community. Do not just show up and leave every Sunday. We were made for so much more.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

"can I have it?"

My sister nannies a little girl who's charm, sass and big brown eyes could rival just about any force of nature. I jokingly call her my mini-me, because in so many ways, its like looking at a smaller, less understandable version of myself. However, Tiny Riley is certainly one of a kind.

I laid on my bed today with my window open, listening to the two of them as they played in the front yard. When her mother came to pick her up, I heard my sister say, "can I have it?" and in my mind's eye, I could picture little Riley standing there, belly poking out, arm behind her back, hand tightly gripping a favorite toy, resisting it's surrender. I know whats going through her little mind. I can put myself in her place exactly. This person that she knows, loves, and trusts, is asking her to give up all her things, and all she wants is to hang onto her best thing, her favorite thing. And still, her authority is asking her surrender that best thing.

My sister knows, that waiting for Riley, is her mom, brother, home, toys, dinner and daddy. She knows that in order for Riley to have those things that she love infinitely more than that toy, she has to surrender that toy to get them. She can't go home, until she leaves the toy that belongs here, here.

This child usually keeps me in stitches, but today, she caused me to be convicted.

I could just hear the Father calling me gently, asking me, "can I have it? can you surrender to me, this thing that you think is so good, because I know that what's coming is better?" I wanted to act like I didn't know what He was asking of me. I wanted to put my hand behind my back, grip tighter, and I wanted to pretend like I hadn't just heard the protests of a child being asked to give up her precious thing, because what was coming was better. Because I knew I was being asked to give up a precious thing, and I didn't want to. I've struggled all day with the idea that I have to surrender something. I have tried so hard to pry open my own hand, knowing that He is asking for whats in it, asking me to surrender this thing.

All He's asking me today, is "can I have it?"

It's a humbling question, I don't want to answer it, because my flesh says "no, you can't" but my heart knows, that what He has is so much better.

So, can He have it?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Do Not Let Your Heart Be Jonah

I'm standing at my mom's kitchen island feeling somewhat sporty, productive and Pinteresty. This morning I donned my favorite leggings, running shoes and a messy bun. I've got Jason Castro gently singing and some shortbread bars are baking in the oven, preparing for the second step. Life is alright. It's not what I want exactly, but it's alright. 

This morning, we sat down to read an expert from Andrea Lucado in a She Reads Truth study, and she wrote about Jonah and Nineveh. I've always viewed it as a story of great redemption, and it is. Mostly for me because, I have never been able to recall what happened to Jonah because I've always sort of...ignored it. I don't like that the great redemption doesn't seem to include his own. We in fact have every reason to believe that Jonah just kinda disappeared and died. He was angry at God and said as much (Jonah 4:9)

 But what do we do with that? What do we do when we experience the same emotion of "that's not fair"?

That moment, is where you find my heart this morning. Pondering the question "what do you do with the hurt and anger you feel when someone seemingly blatantly undeserving of redemption...gets redemption?" We have evidence that Jonah never did rejoice in their repentance and redemption. Andrea also brings up the prodigal son, and his faithful brother. He was angry. 

I confess I have found myself in that place more the past few years than I ever thought I would be. I confessed to my sisters this morning, and I confess to you now, I've tried to be the son that stays. I haven't always done a stand up job, but I have never left, nor have I ever wanted to. I have tried to live my life in a way that honors my Father, and yet there are people in my life who did not, and are now redeemed and leading the lives of wives and mommies: the life I have always prayed for. And more than once the last few years the thought "it's not fair" has screamed through my mind. What do you do, when you were the one who stayed, and you watch as your Nineveh confesses and repents and lives in the glories redemptive grace of God? 

You rejoice. 

You stop looking at your own merit, your own life, dreams, desires, hopes, purity, whatever, and you just rejoice. You follow the example set by the father of the prodigal, and you rejoice. 

If my desires ever come in the way of my truly rejoicing for a sister in Christ, then I have every reason to believe that they have become an idol. And when a sister experiences redemption,  my option is to rejoice. To find the joy, and to celebrate that with her. 

I haven't done a great job of this the last few years, but I am purposing to do so now. I rejoice in redemption, I rejoice in others joy, even if there hasn't been redemption. I rejoice at your joy, and I am celebrating with those who celebrate. 

It is so much easier to wallow and keep my eyes on me and all that I want and do not have, but I miss so many opportunities to rejoice when I do. No more. Joy from here on out! Let's rejoice sisters! 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Truly Home for the Holidays

Since my last post was such a downer, I thought I would let y'all see what the Father has been up to in other areas of my life the past few months. This is very brief compared to the details of what has actually gone on, but its enough to hopefully be a lot more positive than I have been as of late! :)
In June of this year, I showed up at the doors to my church weary, humiliated, angry, lonely, and hungry. The seven months leading up to that moment, I had spent in a church that I had been cautioned to examine carefully. I started going there, stayed there, and left there for all the wrong reasons. It was a classic case of “two wrongs don’t make it right” but clearly, I kept trying. Before going there I spend the previous five years feeling so lost, drifting from Church to Church looking for home. My soul craved to find the church body I could call Family and mean it. That was something I hadn’t experienced since mid high school, and now here I was, into my 20’s and feeling more lost and broken than I ever remember feeling.

When I showed up, I confess, I didn’t want to be there. I was broken in many ways, not just emotionally, and the Lord had to heal me for a lot of weeks. As He did, He gave me the courage and joy I needed to be “all there” as Jim Elliot said. I began to invest in the Church I was attending and I began to experience for the first time in many years, real fellowship, real teaching, and real community.

The holidays (October to January, basically) are my favorite time of year, and I love the Christmas Eve service and the parties and all the things surrounding this time of year, but I spent the last few years wandering around during that time. But this year? This year I’m home. And I can’t wait for all this season has in store.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

God, did You forget?

Father, my heart is aching this morning. I want to fill it and have it filled with all sorts of things that are outside of my control. I want to whine and complain; quite simply I want what I want and I want it now.
But more than those things I want to be faithful to the God who loved me first. I want to take these ugly thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ.
As my King, you are requiring that of me. I know you are. But as my Father also, I think you want to hear my heart and right now Lord, my hear is just aching. I feel void of joy, with little hope. I feel in their place are rising jealousy and anger.
I sat down to shoot a funny vlog and bring smiles to people's faces, and I found I could not even muster the energy to pretend to be funny or happy right now. Sitting here in the quiet for now, all I really want to do is cry. I want to cry and cry out to you, because Lord, I feel you have forgotten me. I have been actively working on purging sins from my life, so my heart can be openly communicating with You. I have been trying to remove those blocks and hindrances so I can hear from You, and speak to You. But Lord, I can't feel you. I can't sense you. I can't see You, and I feel like You have forgotten me. It feels as though my desires, hopes and dreams have fallen by the wayside. It feels as though what I want and long for do not matter. It feels like my heart is breaking and You can stop it, but You aren't. And I'm trying, but I don't understand why.
I am seeking to serve You and live my life to honor You, I am trying to have joy and peace and patience, but I am having a really hard time. I am trying to glorify You in the life I am living, but God, what are you trying to teach me in the waiting? What am I supposed to be doing during this time? I feel like I'm just existing. I am seeking to be intentional and to be purposeful in my life, but Lord, why does it feel as though everything I do lacks purpose? And is there a deep flaw in my dreams, that I need to surrender them? I don't want to be so stuck on certain hopes that I miss what You have for me and if what I am praying for, and Your plans don't line up, please give me a heart for Your plans for my life. I don't want to think for a second I know better than you, so please Father, make my heart beat for You and Your Will. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Taking Heart During Fear

I discovered one of my favorite verses for the very first time hours after a friend passed away after a two year battle with cancer. Finding it is my favorite personal miracle. I had gotten the Bible 7months earlier for my 16th birthday, so it hadn't been very long, but I to this day have no recollection of writing the reference in the front of it. After crying for hours, tossing and turning and finding no rest or solace in sleep, I grabbed my pink and brown Bible, and just started flipping, searching desperately for something comforting. I remember the ache and the pain so well, feeling so needy for His word. I don't know how long I flipped around in the Word, feeling lost and broken, but I opened the front flap and there scrawled in blue ink was John 16:33. Still feeling lost and in desperate need, I turned to it and discovered Jesus's sweet words:
"I have told you these things,
so that in Me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart!
I have over come the world!"
I finally rested after that. What a sweet and timely gift. The memory, and the words, have stuck with me since then. I would never want to repeat that season or experience again, but I also wouldn't trade all the things I learned and experienced for anything.
After such an impressionable memory, the verse pops up often. I pay extra attention when someone posts it, because its one that has so much significance to me. Therefore, anytime I experience the sense of fear, I remind myself that Jesus said to "take heart!" Because He's already overcome it.
I've never been a particularly fearful person, but I confess, for whatever reason, the last year or so, I've dealt with fear in an exceptional way. I can't put my finger on why or when it started, but almost every time I see a news article about a fatal crash on a highway I know specific friends drive, or in an area I know people, I panic until see some indication that they're ok. I don't talk about it, but its there, lingering in my mind: fear. With its long, knotted fingers grasping my mind and heart and squeezing until I'm almost irrational in my thoughts.
My dad and I drive separately to work so that we each have our vehicles to go and come as we need, and fairly often, we get separated on our commute either just because of light cycles or taking different routs. But this morning as I pulled into our parking lot and looked down, expecting to see is truck, all I saw was darkness, and panic filled my racing heart. As I got closer, his truck was there, and the lights came on, taking the darkness and my fear with them. But in those moments between not seeing and then seeing his truck, all I could think was he had been in a wreck and because I took a different road, I wouldn't know. Was I supposed to open without him? Do I drive his rout and look for him? Do I call the police? Mom? Do I just wait?
Fear is a gripping virus. As soon as I saw his truck and the lights, as soon as I see this friend isn't even in that part of town, or that family member is clearly fine, I realize how ridiculous the fearful feelings were. How irrational and how gripping they are. Its after the fact, that I remember to take heart.
We are told over and over to "fear not" to "have no fear". We're told to trust Him. To be still in Him. Another of my favorite verses says "Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and see the Lord’s salvation He will provide for you today " (see Exodus 14:13&14) I love these verses, and I believe them, so why is it so hard to take heart? I'm not writing because I have the solutions, I'm writing because I need the prayer. I need to confess this and walk in faith.
Paralyzing fear isn't from Him. Today I am claiming the promise that I have a new spirit, one of power, love, and sound mind.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Stop Wanting Your Desires?

"Take delight in the Lord,
and He will give you your heart’s desires."
Psalm 37:4
I confess, I struggle to do this. All of this. The "adulating" this. The "daughtering" this. The "friendshipping" this. The "employeeing" this. The "delighting in the Lord" this. I'm not good at it. Any of it. And I find it especially difficult when it seems that He's giving the desires of my heart to everyone around me. The truth is, its not everyone, but it's certainly a fair amount of people. And they're all living the dreams I've always had. To be in love, to get married, to start families. To find their person, and do life with them. So many engagements, weddings, and baby announcements in the last few days, my heart is overflowing with joy and excitement for these people I LOVE. And I am so HAPPY for and WITH them, but I confess sometimes the nagging flesh whispers, "its not fair." Most of these people never seemed to particularly pine after these things, although I think I can safely say most of them eventually wanted to get married. So why is God letting them have this, when its what I have prayed for? I wanted to get married young (by young I mean by before now.)
My fleshly advice to myself has been to beat my heart into no longer wanting it.
But that's not what I see in Scripture, and I'm glad that's the case. He tells us to ask, and He tells us to delight in Himself.
I read somewhere about the best way to kick an addiction. Clearly having a desire is not the same thing as having an addiction, but it can be, and the concept applies. The article said the best way to help someone over an addiction isn't to just deny them that thing, it's to encourage something else. When you constantly deny yourself, you create a martyr attitude, and then justify the addiction yet again by saying "it's not fair, therefore I deserve this." how counterproductive. chase. something. else. But what you choose to chase matters. Addictions are life draining, so what are you chasing that's life-giving?  I can't beat my heart into no longer desiring to be married and to be a mom. It's not going to work that way. But I can learn to desire something so much bigger, so much better, and so much more, than these earthly, fading things. I can learn to delight in the Lord. And when my delight is Him, what I desire is Him.
What a comforting thing to know, that I can choose to delight in and long for the One that will never come to an end.