Posts Tagged ‘faith’

lifestyleSo here’s a few questions for you and my answers. Feel free to add your two cents in the comments.

  • What is the kind of lifestyle your local church is encouraging you to live?
    • This is an easy answer in my church, that is Restore Church, because they advertise their lifestyle “code” throughout the building and on the website. It is the church’s desire that each and every person would discover what it means to live a faith-filled life, to take risks for God (outside the box as it were), reach people with the message of God’s grace, to live in a judgment-free zone, to give generously of our time and resources, to bless others when they least expect it, to be spiritual contributors instead of consumers, and to be united under one vision, just to name a few.
  • Secondly, how does the church demonstrate this lifestyle?
    • Because there is a strong vision for this church, most of the activities and ministries of the church are vetted in relationship to the code. Like a personal goal, the question is asked, does this activity move us closer to reaching people far away from God and bringing them closer to a new life in Christ.
    • So what are these activities? There is a lot of emphasis on outreach in the community from the largest egg hunt in the MidAtlantic (100,000 filled eggs) to movies in the park in various communities throughout the area. The church partners with a sister non-profit called Good Cause Foundation to give generously to those in need such as Drop & Swap for families (free clothing and child equipment) as well as Single Moms’ Spa Day in addition to other fundraisers to have funds available for needy families.
    • Within the church, there is an effort to draw people together in the quest for reaching outliers because serving together is more powerful than serving alone: Small groups, women’s & men’s ministries, children’s ministry during services, Awana, and a variety of volunteer teams that bring folks together (AV, greeters, parking lots, food, teachers, etc.)
  • But the third question is more critical: How do I demonstrate this lifestyle?
    • And there’s the rub. Do I? In some ways yes, I do. I am committed to the church and the church mission. I serve faithfully each week in one or more services as a host and prayer intercessor. But it is only on occasion that people come up and ask for prayer. I feel underused in this capacity. Do they not come because of the flow of the service and people are ready to leave, or do they not trust me, in particular, with their prayer needs? Have I shown myself worthy to intercede? Perhaps not.
    • I am in the Hillsong Ministry School because I believe my designated role as lay pastor demands a commitment to this process as well. I get that.
    • Historically, I have been in small groups, some more successful than others. So far, I have not had much consistency with a group here. I have been invited to attend a group (first time), and am hoping to attend, but there is the reality of my work schedule in which I must often work 1-2 nights per week. How many nights out are too many? I struggle with this all the time.
    • Sometimes, I just push back. I want to stop and just be still. But even that is somewhat unrealistic. My home is not merely my own but shared with a single daughter and her infant son. If I am not busy outside the house, then I am expected to be helping inside the house.
    • Summary: I don’t serve as much as I could. When I do serve, it is with a heart full of faith, which over the last year, I know, my heart has truly been tested and I know that I know that my faith is indeed built on rock. In that way, I am all in. And that is probably the core of it for me.

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FinishedIt’s the last breath, this “giving of the spirit.” We breathe in an out, minute by minute and day by day, but then, there is eventually the last breath. And so it was for the Christ.

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. [Matthew 27:50, NIV]

The one thing that has crawled around inside my head ever since Mike died is a simple question: Was Mike really done? Had he accomplished his mission, his purpose? There were so many plans yet and so many possibilities. Was he really done?

And as I reviewed the stories in Matthew, Mark, Luke & John, of Jesus’s last day, especially his time in the garden, I sense a similar question. For he does ask in verse 39 (and 42 and 43), . . . “if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will,” or some version of this. There are many treatises on this request, but for me, today, I am simply caught with the similarity to my own question. Could Jesus be asking, “am I done?” “Am I done already?” “Is it enough?”

God’s answer was clear. To that point, what needed to be done was done and what needed to be done next, had to be endured for the completion of the whole package.

Jesus’s moment was in the garden, the moment he let go one more time, and trusted in the Spirit of God that indwelled him.

There was another flash of crisis I think, on the cross, before he last breath. In verse 46, “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lamas sabachthani” –which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Another question about the end? Is this it? Some have written that Jesus was separated from God in that moment as he took on the sins of the world. But I’m not so sure. I believe God spoke and it was private. And God said, “Come.”

I believe the same for Mike, who lay on the floor alone, in much pain, and probably cried out to his God, to his Savior, and he was no longer alone but joined to the world of Spirit who said, Come. It is finished.

And he too, gave up his spirit, into the loving care of God of gods, King of kings, Lord of Lords. Rest now, my husband and my friend. I give you into God’s care now too.

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sit walk standOn becoming commissioned as a lay minister, I have to confess, I had some doubts. In fact, it reminded me of the moments right before walking down the aisle. That voice, “Are you out of your mind? This is not for you! Go back!” But of course, whether for courage or stubbornness, I went forward. I walked it.

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called . . . [Ephesians 4:1, NKJV]

On Wednesday last, I had the privilege of sharing my commissioning with five other fellow travelers at Restore Church Campus in Havre de Grace.  We were challenged (and entertained) by Don Cox, one of the church mentors and overseers (don’t particularly like that word, but the thesaurus wasn’t much help. Other choice was “head honcho.”) Anyway, his message was powerful and touched on the very heart of my peek into the future: sit, walk, stand. Don promised to speak on the entire book of Ephesians, and so he did, having put a great portion of it to memory.

The three words are echoed in the title of Watchman Nee’s book, but it is not a book for the faint-hearted. Written in the mid-seventies, the book still resonates today.

So what is this odd sequence of sitting and then walking before standing? Sitting is establishing one’s location. Here, and presumably, in Christ. I have written about this myself and find that phrase to be one of the great mysteries. Before anything else can happen or before any “going,” one has to accept the Christ truth and surrender to it. This is primary to faith.

Now, the assumption might be that standing would be next. After all, once in Christ, let me stand and stretch and experience the feeling. Ha Ha. Not so. It’s a go word: walk! And take Christ with you.

It is in this section that I really appreciated Don’s words as he illuminated Ephesians 4:1: not just to walk but to walk worthy. The newer translations say it a little differently, but this particular phrase will be clanging around my spirit for a while. And it’s not about rules or “do’s” or “do not’s.” Instead, we are asked to make decisions along the way, “is this action or this choice worthy of the One who lives within me, the One with whom I share spiritual space?”

And then finally, the moments of standing. Each and every journey has stopping points. Sometimes, they are places to rest, have a drink, eat a bite, and then take up the hike again. Other times, it’s a great wall of unexpected sorrow or diverloss (actually, joy can stop an expedition in its tracks too). These times are the ones where we are encouraged to suit up for the next leg of the journey. In Ephesians, Paul uses the metaphor of a suit of armor. That’s probably not the best one for a 21st century audience, but we get the idea.

So, in a way, there is a resting as we stand, but there is also prepping. And in some cases, we may need to sit again in order to remember how we have come so far and ultimately, why.

I am no different today really than I was a few days ago except for this one truth. I get it. I am in the process of suiting up. Perhaps a better image would be a wet suit before the big plunge. So be it. Let’s roll.

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keep walkingAnd yet, there are times–in fact, many times, when our hearts are full of hope, our spirits are at rest, and our eyes are looking forward, but the way does not clear. And despite these words:

Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
    they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
    their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; . . .

[Psalm 112:6-8, NIV]

We are shaken and we fear and we hesitate. That’s right. It happens.

I know these things for I lived them. I have walked with confidence and I have seen the glory of the Lord, like a true Shekhinah. I have shaken in the Presence and I have heard the voice of God. I have trusted when there was nothing to trust and I have known steadfastness. My faith is strong.

But that doesn’t mean I am not human. Nor does it mean that I do not fall in my faith. I weep and I call out to God, who has seemed to forsake me. I have walked the lonely corridor where no door is open and no light shines ahead.

Why do I write this? Because I was reminded yesterday in service, to keep going. Just keep going. There is something in the going that eventually reveals the underlying truth. Only when I have stopped, even briefly, have I seen the effects of fear grow roots. And to move, after stopping, gets harder and harder, the longer I delay.

I walk. I go. And my confidence in the Presence of Christ Jesus returns. First as a whisper, but eventually as a song.

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laying on of handsThere are times when a church or body of believers wants to raise up people among their own to take up some of the tasks and ministries that have been traditionally done by the pastor alone. And although many cannot go back to school or attend seminary, many faithful can and do pursue God and God’s Word privately. For this reason, through the laying on of hands and public prayer, both outward expressions of blessing and trust, I will, along with a few others, be so invested soon. I am humbled.

The community presented these seven to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. God’s word continued to grow. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased significantly. Even a large group of priests embraced the faith. [Acts 6:6-7, CEB]

With this designation will come some enjoyable opportunities like conducting weddings, blessing babies & families, and helping others navigate grief and coordinate memorial services. I expect to do some additional short term coursework again in counseling and hopefully, do more devotional writing. Feels right.

I have to confess, initially, I was rather cavalier about this idea, even thinking of it solely as a side job and a little extra income. But it has not taken long for God to show me that “ministering” or caring for others is not a lightweight mission but carries the burden of keeping them in the heart, praying for them, and diligently seeking God for what is best in that moment. Marriage, birth, and death are milestones of a life.

When the New Testament church expanded the responsibilities of its own people and publicly commissioned them, the believing community experienced exponential growth, enfolding some of the most “religiously” bound traditionalists as well as the lost and hurting into the koinonia of faith.

May my own faith be an authentic reflection of the God in whom I believe and entrust my life. And perhaps, as with so many Christian paradoxes, through reaching out to others in this capacity, my own healing with continue.

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Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.” [John 6:35-36, NIV]  I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. “But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.” [Psalm 81:10-12, NIV]

 No one can make or convince another person to believe, particularly in the things of God. The proofs will always, somehow, fall short; the explanations sound hollow; the passion suspect. Believe or not: there is no try.

Belief in God requires an acceptance of “other” that is outside our normal range of perception. God is not like us. God is not just me or you or nature or the universe. God is all and God is nothing. God is paradox and logic. God is light and dark. alpha omega

God manifests among us through humans in a variety of ways and for this reason, there have been (and still are) saints and charlatans. Jesus is our prime, for those who believe, of course.

Jesus is the physical God with a specific message and example of grace and redemption and love. Jesus completed the circle of promise that was initiated in the heart and soul of sentient human: Adam, if you will.

But Jesus, the physical, departed earth more than 2000 years ago. What’s left? More God. Spirit. And faith that it all really happened, God really IS and WAS and WILL BE.

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tearsLike so many things in life, we are part of a circle. As we help bear the burdens of others, God bears ours (and that of the others we took upon ourselves). When a friend’s heart is heavy or circumstances pouring over them, we have a responsibility to help. Our fear is that we will be crushed or infected. But God’s promise is sure:

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. [Galatians 6:2, NIV] Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. [Psalm 68:19, NIV]

I had the opportunity this week to meet someone new and to hear her story, filled with disapmourn with those who mournpointment and sorrow. She needed to talk. She needed someone to listen. She need to offload. My cost was only time and my faith that God would ultimately carry the most of it. We are all so similar. Human pain and loss is universal. It’s easier to see it in others than to walk it. But time does bring some reprieve and the touch of others helping us hold up our heads, our hearts, our souls.

Another brother in my extended community of faith has passed, a contemporary with my own husband. I cannot reach out physically to his wife who has moved away, but I do lift her and her family up in prayer. This lifting is a conscious carrying that is just as important as listening or talking to someone in person. Prayer is vital to burden bearing. Even though she may not know about it, God is faithful. And another, closer to me, will feel the call to hold her close, to wipe her tears, to sit and listen, to laugh when she laughs and to weep when she weeps. [Romans 12:15] It is the way of faith.

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