Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘church’

Lent, Day 3

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11 [NIV]

PresenceThe author of Brave Faith speaks from a place of introvertedness and “showing up.” As an off -the-chart extrovert, I am taking a different tack. For me, this devotion speaks more to Presence. Being There.

I have been working on prayer within the silence, connecting to my internal/eternal relationship with God . . . within. Bravery then can also be stopping the “external noise” long enough to hear, feel, and be in the moment.

So much of my time is spent thinking about what I did earlier today, yesterday, and a week ago OR pondering what I will wear tomorrow, what time I should get up, or what my plan is for the day. I have been losing the now; losing an opportunity to experience Presence. After all, God=I AM. Present tense, not I was or I will.

There is a type of courage that is required in the moment, letting go of what I did or did not do; letting go of what I plan to do or say. It’s the old phrase come to life: I am a Human BEing, not a Human Doing.

Our church is currently going through a terrible time as our beloved pastor has stepped down due to discovered infidelity and possibly more. It’s heart churning for everyone. But even worse are the attacks and the “I told you so’s” and who knows what else on social media. Personally, I know very few facts, but many are quick to surmise what was and when and who. Taking the Presence to this situation, I choose instead, to place him and his family and our church, into the moment. I cannot change what was and I don’t really know what tomorrow will bring, but there is this time now and invite my God into them, into us. I choose to feel unconditionally. And God will sort it out.

Read Full Post »

values-icebergIt’s an easy homework question this week, asking about our church’s values. Restore Church values are plastered all over the building in Havre de Grace, the collateral materials, and the website. There’s no doubts there, this part is important to the church’s DNA, the Code. But comparing those values with my own, is revelation of sorts.

1. We are faith-filled, big thinking, bold risk takers. This value is demonstrated in the church through the resolute faith of the leadership, trusting God for transformative power and miraculous answers to prayer; the vision for the future is big and beyond any one person’s ability or for that matter, even a group, to fulfill without divine inspiration and Presence. We walk on.

Me: I am a woman of faith, this I can say with confidence, throughout the challenges life has thrown my way. But am I looking back more than I am looking forward? That could be. I am, by nature, a “big” person. I mean, not tall or large, but when I express myself, it’s expansive. I tend to be too loud sometimes, and I tend to interrupt. I’m like a small volcano sometimes too. But do I think big for the future? I support the church in its future, but I have not found my own pattern within it, despite my service and participation. I’m not a complainer. I don’t kick against the goads. But do I take risks? Not so much. My joke has always been: planned spontaneity. I have taken some risks and they haven’t worked out, so I am, I confess, a little gun-shy.

2. We will do anything short of sin, to reach people who do not know Christ. The  church manifests this value through its commitment to reaching out to all people, with no judgment, and inviting them into the House. No one is asked to “clean up” before “showing up.” Therefore, we go out to the highways and byways, seeking those in need, seeking those who don’t know God, seeking those who have lost hope. Where? Events like egg hunts and movies in the park or military night out or single moms spa days.

Me: I am comfortable in my faith and in talking about my journey and my God. I am OK being myself in just about any environment. I believe in this open door policy. But I have not been as quick to open my own door. I’d like to move on that. Our current outreach events are good, they reach a lot of people, but I have not made time to work them like I did at the first. What happened there? I think it’s a bit like the tithe of money: if you don’t give it, then often the money is eaten up elsewhere. And perhaps it’s the same with time, if we withhold it from service, it is also consumed in the cares of the world.

3. grace-changes-everythingWe will lift up the grace and love of Jesus, rather than using our platform to judge and condemn. I mentioned this before, the church’s open door and open arms to all people. There may be people who walk into the House who are still struggling with deep sins or troubles, but the church is a hospital, not a country club. Grace is more powerful than anything else we can offer.

Me: I am much more open than I used to be. Somehow, in my many years of a Christ-centered life, I got the misconception that it was up to me to protect the Word (as though the Word could not stand on its own), and thereby add to it, more do’s and don’ts and can’ts and should nots etc. Such and such a group was sinning by choice and therefore, outside my world. I just can’t do that anymore. I let God do the judging and pray I can be an instrument of love and grace. Sometimes, it can be a fine line, I know and I don’t always walk it perfectly, but that’s fine too. Love wins.

4. We will love people when they least expect or deserve it. This is one of my favorite code/values of the church because it is our version of “random acts of kindness” and “paying it forward.” It’s being loving to the unloving. It’s touching the untouchables. Some of this looks like meals brought to an entire staff at a school or a basket of cheer to the fire station or police station, or just handing out “rah-rah” sports beads or glow sticks on the 4th. Simple stuff.

Me: I used to be better at this, like giving my entire block holiday cookies or gifting my staff. I like to giving little symbols of caring. I hope to re-connect to this part of myself and remember how to do it without a huge money investment. That I can’t do anymore.

body-of-christ35. We believe the church is the hope of the world. This has been a new thing for me, this love of the church itself (not a “single” church, but Church, as in Body of Christ). But the point is that this body of believers, operating in community and in love, has a chance to change the world — not by political railings but by humble service and prayer and faith.

Me: I have not loved the Church. I confess that. There have been so many believing people who have hurt me and judged me and, well, you all know that sad song. I need to do better here, finding a better connection between the Presence of the Holy Spirit in the People. And love them. Sometimes, I am ashamed of other believers (not so much in my local body), but in the bigger arena, those who play in politics particularly, who feel mandated to be the hope of the world through rhetoric alone.

6. We are united under one vision. This has been an important element of our local church that has caused some people to pack up and move along. That’s made me sad sometimes, and yet, I understand that there are expressions of the Presence in lots of different ways, from dark room theater style worship to glorious cathedrals and classical music. It’s not for everyone. I decided, from the beginning, to take this ride at Restore Church and although there have been things I didn’t particularly love to do, I wanted to see it through. And God has blessed this one vision.

Me: For many years, I prayed and prayed for an upbeat, spirit-filled, contemporary church in Havre de Grace. This church has been my answered prayer and I didn’t want to miss it. I’m in.

7. We are spiritual contributors, not spiritual consumers. This is an important difference that many people still don’t get. The idea here is that everyone who attends the church should be doing something. Church is not showing up at a Sunday morning service once a week anymore. Church is a living, breathing expression of our faith every day. Of course, if a person is hurting and lost, it will take more time to find a way into service. But people of faith, should be contributing from their storehouse of gifts.

Me: In some ways, I’m good here. But I confess, I’ve wanted to slide sometimes, to just show up, to just be a fly on the wall. But I know that’s not really me either. But I’m still not good at the balance, the family/work/church balance. So I do what I do best (talk) and a little teaching, and hopefully, a little more writing and administrating.

giving8. We will lead the way with irrational generosity. So, if you want to be in a church that is trying things and has a big vision, then you might as well get used to the idea that there will be financial expectations. But, with a heart. If we can’t give from the heart, willingly, then our giving will sour the well. If people want leaders to stop asking for money, then give generously and give a tithe, and the asking will stop because there will be enough.

Me: Not perfect in this area. I am nearly at the full tithe and give by automatic withdrawal. I don’t have to think about it. And that’s a good thing. But above the tithe, is not so easy. I’m feeling the pinch of a new lifestyle as a widow and retirement around the corner. It’s hard not to worry a little about resources. But God has been faithful.

simplicity9. We believe simplicity enables excellence. I’ll have to talk to my pastor about this one. It probably has to do with my mental model for simplicity vs. his model. I think this value/code is similar to the single vision, but I’m not really sure. Or maybe just the simple message: We exist so that people far from God will be raised to life in Christ.

Me: I am interested in simplifying my life. I have certainly had to downsize since leaving my big house. I have let go of a lot of “things.” But I don’t know that I have fully embraced the single vision for myself that is the church’s vision. In fact, I know I haven’t, because I just wrote about that last week. Here is the place, where it all comes screeching to a halt. I support the church’s vision, but I haven’t really made it my own yet. This is a matter for prayer.

10. We continually increase our capacity to expand by structuring our church for the next level. This is a leader thing, this idea of building the church’s infrastructure – not bricks and mortar, but people who can help make things happen.

Me: Not there yet. I’m not fighting the growth, not at all. But I have not found my place in the growth. Not yet.

This blog post was written in response to homework questions, but I challenge you, how do your personal values line up with your church or whatever group you consider to be your spiritual home.

Read Full Post »

Basic-Human-NeedsI’m not really commune material. Is that a confession? I mean, how many people do you know who are? It sounds so wonderfully romantic, these newly minted believers who met together and shared together and insured the stability of everyone: no one was in need.

The community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, “This is mine!” about any of their possessions, but held everything in common. The apostles continued to bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and an abundance of grace was at work among them all. There were no needy persons among them. [Acts 4:32-34a, CEB]

But what does it mean to be in need today? We have corrupted this word, I’m afraid. I look at my own life and it’s a bit of a joke. For instance, I have two grown children and a “plus one” living in my house right now and along with myself, there are four cars between us. That’s right, every person has his/her own car. And yet, if one of those cars isn’t working, the first words out of our mouths is: OMG, we NEED a car. Each person has his/her own cell phone (of course) and there are 3.5 bathrooms, so we are almost 1:1 on that score as well. We have 3 dogs and each dog has his/her own dog bowl. mazlowThe list goes on and on. These are not the “needs” that the first testament church was meeting.

More likely, this verse refers to food, shelter, and clothing. Each person who joined their “church” was guarantpeople helping peopleeed a sustainable life.

As far as living corporately, I don’t believe we will ever reach that point in the contemporary church.

However, I still believe if every church on every corner of every city, town, or community, would engage and provide folks in their immediate environment with necessities of life, then hunger could be eradicated, adequate clothing could be provided, and everyone would have a roof over their heads. But, the cycle of poverty and welfare in this country has become a nightmare of “need” wrapped in entitlement. I don’t know the solution. How can we turn the culture back from this slippery slope where people enter into deep debt to have a car or a house or private school they cannot afford. It is not just a cycle of poverty, it is a cycle of perceptions and expectations.

How can we become more authentic in our relationships with people in our midst? How can we be satisfied with less? How can I?

Read Full Post »

cornerstone[Peter said] “. . . then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’” [Acts 4:10-11, NIV]

This is the gate of the Lord
    through which the righteous may enter.
I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
    you have become my salvation.

The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone; . . . [Psalm 118:20-22, NIV]

gateOriginally, a cornerstone was foundational to the construction of a building because all other stones would be laid out in reference to it. Later, this stone became more ceremonial with inscriptions and time capsules and the like. I am sure that both Peter and the Old Testament writers were referencing the Messiah as a cornerstone to the faith in its most traditional sense. For the disciples, Jesus was the cornerstone for something very new upon which believers would build a church–a force of change. For the psalmist, the prediction would be that the One Messiah would be rejected (unrecognized for his assigned role to humanity) and despite being a way to God, the way would be closed. And yet, despite rejection, the foundational stone would remain and the “building” would grow.

We are living the outcome, for good and for ill. The “house” is still standing, rooted and grounded by the cornerstone. And inexplicably, this structure is also a gate. As soon as anyone links up with the cornerstone, that person becomes a “gate” for the next person to enter, to connect.

holdinghandsIt’s a strange metaphor when combined, and yet, I get it. In this picture, the gates (the people) are transparent but linked up. We are transparent because we want people to be able to see inside, to behold the glory as it were, the spark and flame of life.

Jesus, the cornerstone of the Church as it was meant to be. Jesus, the cornerstone of my life as it is meant to be as well. Come in. The way is open; the gate is open.

Read Full Post »

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. [Philippians 2:5-6, The Message]

cursillo crossFor many years, Mike and I served in a variety of para-church organizations whose mission was to create a once-in-a-lifetime 3-day retreat based on the Cursillo model. While in Georgiain 1984, we attended our first Cursillo weekend (#14) and thereafter served on a number weekends sponsored first by Atlanta Christian Cursillo, emmaus crossthen Walk to Emmaus as well as Tres Dias. When we moved to Maryland, we served in the Delmarva area for Walk to Emmaus and eventually found Maryland Emmaus (the weekends are numbered and although they are in the hundreds now, our weekends were #5 and #6). These retreats were a lifeblood for both the attendees and the “servants.” It was on these weekends that we learned about servant leadership and sacrificial service. Later Mike moved his energy to yet another outgrowth of these weekends into the Maryland prisons, and kairos crossserved on several Kairos weekends. There also evolved weekends, called Chrysalis for teens. Together, Mike and I contributed and served on over one hundred weekends. And we did this out of love. chrysalis cross

It was here that we experienced the joy of serving, where each and every person on a team gave 110% of their time and commitment to the weekend and its preparations (anywhere from a 12-25 week commitment, depending on a person’s role). There was structure and yet there was creativity, laughter, tears, music, clowning, teaching, sharing, and great food (or at least, lots of food).

Being a project-oriented person, the process appealed to me from beginning to end. Being a results-oriented person, I saw changes to both team and participants. And several of the relationships formed on those retreats lasted far beyond the weeks of direct service. One of most popular jobs or roles on the weekend was the “cha.” This person demanded the most of the person physically, running errands up and down the hill, setting up chairs and tearing them down, moving sound equipment, delivering gifts, dressing up in silly costumes, waking up very early and going be the churchto bed very late. The focus of every retreat weekend was the participants who were first-timers. At the heyday of the movement, people would be on waiting lists for years, to attend. The weekend experience was life-changing.

These retreats were the best of Church.

the-80-20-ruleBut they were never intended to replace the local church. And often, the men and women (who attended separate weekends) would return to their home church, ready to serve. Unfortunately, in churches everywhere, everyone who attends church is not on the same page. And so, the people who are willing to serve freely often serve into burn-out. It’s so much harder to serve in a community when only a small percentage (often the proverbial 20%) of the people are actively pulling/contributing the bigger share (time, money, energy, etc).

decoloresI cannot imagine what serving on an Emmaus weekend would have been like if every team member didn’t know what his/her role was, didn’t give that role his/her 100%, and didn’t understand how that role impacted the experience of the pilgrim participants. What teams did understand was that each person has a gift to give and each gift is like a different vibrant color, the same kind of rainbow of color that typifies the love of God shining through the prism of Christ. DeColores.

The message of each servant/team member was really the same: “I am here serving you because someone served me.”

Read Full Post »

Widows-MiteIt’s not really about the amount we give; instead, generosity is often measured by the cost to the giver to give it [hint: as in “sacrifice”]. In other words, it is some part of the story about the woman who gave only two coins, her last two coins, and she was cited for being far more generous than the rich men who gave out of their abundance. [Luke 21:1-4]

In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. . . . They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. [2 Corinthians 8:2-3, 5b, NIV]

As a believer for many years, I have been around the bend several times about giving and tithing. As a baby Christian, although I loved Jesus dearly, I was church-skeptical. Why should I give them my money? How will they use it? How can I trust them to use it wisely? (So self-righteous, as though I was using my funds well. Hardly.)

Then I went through a period of legalism where I tried to follow the letter of the scriptures, from purity to tithing; I was determined to please God, to perform superbly. And perhaps, if I was very good and very faithful and very exacting, I could become a super Christian and perform miracles for God. Forgetting of course, that we all fall short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23].

money pressueShortly after that, I began to follow various teachers and did my best to align my understanding of the intentions of God with their explanations. I became a kind of disciple, from teachers who garnered thousands in arenas to popular television evangelists. It was during this time that I met my husband, who I put through the paces of meeting my mother and getting her approval, etc. (it was a Gothard thing, for the folks who remember him). And yet, we were engaged in 3 days and married in 4 months. I think it was all that “purity” talk that put us on a fast track.

As a couple, we started out in a more traditional setting in Mike’s home church. The people were kind enough, but there was little fire. I had been introduced to contemporary praise and worship by then and a traditional service felt wanting. The whole giving thing went to a back burner as newlyweds and he had never practiced tithing.

Thetake-the-plungen, we found another church and our faith exploded through the body of believers, the anointed pastor, and the call to service. Here we gave willingly and for the first time, even sacrificially, of our money and our time. We trusted God and we trusted them. We also discovered several Cursillo-type para-church organizations that moved yet closer and closer to Christ, and another outlet for giving. Such joy.

When we came to Maryland, we continued in our love and faith, but we were being challenged to give where we knew no one. Again, the distrust from old came rearing its head.

Around this time, I was challenged by the remarkable story of Jackie Pullinger who went alone, in her zeal, to Hong Kong in 19giving to poor66 (and still remains) where she made a powerful impact. But what stayed with me the most from one of her sermons was her story of giving without reserve to the poor. A visiting friend chastised her saying that the man to whom she gave money would probably spend it unwisely, and she said that her Christ instructed her to give; what happened to funds afterwards was God’s problem.

And with that, we began to tithe faithfully, ten percent, as written.

habitsBut, then, the challenges to our commitment began: the costly adoptions, a new house, travel to family far away, and so on. And although we gave consistently, I would not say it was generous of us at all. Not really. We were doing good things, serving, and going on mission trips, of course. But we simply got out of the habit. Like anything else, the longer you do (or stop doing) something, the more natural & comfortable it feels.

Restore Church

Finally, Mike and I found ourselves at our current church, Restore Church, right in our small Maryland town. The love for the people and the pastor was an updated experience of our Atlanta days. But we were also being challenged to consider giving generously, not comfortably. A few months before Mike’s death, we committed to tithing again. And God blessed our decision immediately, with a light shining out of the financial morass we had made.

oneNow, with Mike gone, our family financial situation is tenuous at best, but I am in this one mind: God is the author of my journey, which now is missing my life’s mate, but God is God and so, this is the new way. I have an inner conviction that I cannot shake that I must trust God more than ever, tithe and even give above that tithe, because I am no longer my own, but God’s and God is my essential one priority.

 

Read Full Post »

New JerusalemI have read (Bible Study Tools on Jerusalem) that there was a time that Jerusalem was invincible. I can certainly understand how that could happen, just thinking of the miraculous creation of the temple and the tangible presence of God there, how could any enemy prevail?

Jerusalem is built like a city joined together in unity . . . It is the law for Israel to give thanks there . . . Pray that Jerusalem has peace: “Let those who love you have rest. Let there be peace on your walls; let there be rest on your fortifications.” [Psalm 122:3, 4b, 6-7, CEB]

But not unlike the confidence in the Titanic, the unsinkable ship of wonder and power, people abused the vessel itself. The Temple was the core of Jerusalem, it’s lifeblood issued from its center, but the leaders and kings continued to misunderstand its role, the basic requirements of worship and faithfulness. As a result, they began to undercut its effectiveness. So it was with the great ship whose design was flawed and never fully tested, whose strength was challenged by boasting and unnecessary risk. Both Jerusalem and the Titanic suffered due to the pride of its caretakers.

And I wonder, are we doing the same thing with our religion? Are we borrowing from the texts the parts we want to use as a hammer against others and setting aside the words that condemn our own actions? Are we elevating our own understanding above the understanding of others? Are we so sure in the details?

And what about the Church itself? Have denominations and preferences become silos from which we are no longer able to see clearly? Now we have a myriad of “Jerusalems” into which we are endowing superiority and funds for the sake of our structures and mindsets.

God promises the earth, the peoples of this earth, a “New Jerusalem.” I do not believe that this is necessarily a humongous cube that will drop down out of space (the heavens) and we’ll all take a ride. Instead, I see it as a unified peoples, living for the sake of others, honoring humanity and the God who made us. The New Jerusalem comes at a cost, the paradox of letting go and surrendering to a different way of living and thinking.

Jesus was on a mission to bring us closer to the New Jerusalem. We’re not there yet. We may have to sink the ship a few more times before we are able to build a structure that can be inhabited by Truth.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: