Posts Tagged ‘Jess Bousa’

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.

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Pastor Jess Bousa of Restore Church tells an interesting story about a woman who called up a pastor to give the church broken pianoher piano. When they arrived to pick it up, she explained that she had purchased a new piano and no longer needed the old one. And so she gave it to the church. I am “convicted” as they say by this story. After all, is that the intention of giving to God, our second, third or fourth best? Or, is it supposed to be our first fruits? In other words, not the old piano but the new one. That’s a sacrifice, that’s giving something of true value. We so often treat the church like the used clothing store. I have been guilty of this too.

Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name—there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the Lord. [Deuteronomy 12:11, NIV]

What choice possessions have I given? I am close to the full tithe. Not completely, but close. I’m still negotiating, I know. It’s fear based. I know that God will bless me if I give out of my faith. But when I withhold, my faith becomes dented, like a dip in the road. Or worse, maybe it’s whack against my foundation. For a while, my house will continue to stand, but if I allow enough whack, I shouldn’t be surprised if there’s a collapse. I’m just sayin.’

But outside of money, what else is there to give? Our church collects clothing for swaps and the like. It’s amazing the condition of items that are given: stained and torn, sometimes it would do better in the rag bag. Is there pleasure in this kind of giving? Or during the holidays, we are encouraged to “adopt” a child and purchase gifts for him/her. We finally had to spell it out, “spend $75” on your adopted kid because people were going to the dollar store, buying the cheapest things, the least valuable.

freedom-writersAbout a year after we adopted our Russian daughter who was struggling with English in high school along with white, middle class bullies. At the same time, she had never known people of color, so I took her to see the film, Freedom Writers. In this film, a teacher, played by Hilary Swank, inspires a class of at-risk students to learn tolerance, apply themselves, and pursue education (a hope for a future). But before the teacher got there, these same students, mostly poor, were given the worst supplies, the shabbiest books, and so forth. The administration reinforced the expectations that the students were unworthy. The teacher in this film took a risk and gave them new books and opportunities never afforded them before. She gave her best. And she commanded their best. [For my daughter, this opened her own eyes as well, to prejudice of all kinds and she turned a huge corner.]

Once I admired a pair of earrings a woman was wearing. She told me they were her favorite earrings and she, too, liked wearing them. The next time I saw her, she gave me a small box and inside were the same earrings. Not new, no, but the very ones she loved the most. And now, they are one of my favorite pair as well. A small gift she gave, but from the heart. She gave the earrings to me physically, but in essence, she gave them to God.

letting goI’ve been doing a lot of downsizing as I moved into a smaller house. I literally had to let go of most of my furniture and when I could, I sold it. But really, not all of it would sell. Among these things was my very expensive bedroom set. It was two days before moving day and still no one would buy it and so, I gave it away to a family in the church. And I felt better about that giving than any dollar I earned from anything else. simplicity

Slowly, I’m getting the idea. It may take one more downsize, one more letting go move, to really “let go” of the stuff, to experience true simplicity. For I’m thinking that it is out of simplicity that generosity flows. I will no longer “rate” the value of what I have and give the less or more valuable, but all of it is a feather in the wind.

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wake up 2I was so proud of myself a couple of months ago. I set myself a goal to wake up at 5:30 a.m. every day (even non-work days) and I did it. Someone asked me why I bothered with this exercise and I explained that I was trying to find another hour in my day. But the part I didn’t understand then (which I learned this week from Pastor Jess) was that I didn’t use that extra hour to wake up the second time.

The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. [Romans 13:11b-12, NIV]

Beginning today, we are entering a time of year called Advent, a time of waiting for the arrival of Christmas, the time the Church has designated to celebrate the birth of Christ, our long-awaited Messiah. Advent (and Christmas, for that matter) is a purely man-made time of year and yet, I’m glad of it. I need to direct some energy and preparation to my spiritual awakening. That is what the Christ was all about, that is why Jesus came into the world, to wake us all up.

But there is a challenge for believers to see past the tinsel and the commercialism and the anxious Martha-type shopping and planning. After all, families will gather and great amounts of food will be eaten and gifts will be collected and distributed (some well chosen and others not so much). It’s not that such things are inherently bad at all. It’s just that we need to balance these external activities with some inward contemplation. If we don’t . . . if I don’t, then I will make the same mistake I made two months ago and miss the point.

Sometimes it’s more than just busy-ness that overtakes us. For those who have little money, it’s a heartbreaking time in which blinders and dark glasses are a necessity to shut out the cacophony of the marketplace: “buy, buy, buy” or “lay-it-away” or “charge it.” Every sign and commercial is telling people what they want, whether they want it or not. And soon, everyone groans under the weight of wishes and wants they cannot have or cannot afford. Our eyes are not open; not the eyes that count.

Open your eyes 1It is for this second awakening that I want to engage our hearts and minds during this season. Pastor Jess talked about the ever-present armies of God surrounding us and our circumstances (see II Kings 6:15-17). Elisha prayed that his servant’s eyes would be opened to see them, to actually see through and beyond the enemy soldiers camped nearby. So it must be with our Christmas season.

We must wake up and look beyond and through the difficulties, the depression, the expectations, the clamor, and the demands of others and focus on the coming (and present) Christ, whose birth we celebrate.

How often do mothers post their birthday wishes to their children and include a picture of the child when he or she was just a baby or toddler? Those were the innocent times, the days and weeks and months when the future was unknown and the child had a world to explore. Jesus came into the creation just so.

Come with me on this Advent journey. We will wait together and prepare and when we come to that day, we will see the light that broke through the darkness.

Just give a little time to your inner life. That’s all it takes to wake up again.

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trustThe truth about trust is tricky. I mean, I have struggled with trust all my life. Sure, betrayal is a stumbling block to trust. But personal strength and intelligence can get in the way too. My mother taught me all the ways to combat trust: self-sufficiency, stick-to-it-tiveness, if you want it done right do it yourself, and so on. Trust requires a perpetual surrender.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence.” [Proverbs 3:5, CEB]

On Sunday, Pastor Jess Bousa, taught the message this way: to recognize the sovereignty of God, we must acknowledge God’s control of situations when things are “bad” and not just when things are going swell. After all, it’s easy to trust God when life is moving along sweetly and securely. It’s the tough times that call on the truth of our trust and faith in this One God.

One of his examples was II Kings 6:15 – 17, when Elisha’s servant feared the encampment of the vast army of the Arameans out to destroy the prophet. But Elisha could see what his servant could not, God’s army that encircled them all: the “second circle” that is God’s domain. This is the circle where trust is engaged. This is the circle where God operates, the bigger arena where our human strengths are worthless, where our intelligence can no longer figure things out, where our manipulations no longer have impact. Trust happens there.

Elisha prayed that God would open his servant’s eyes to see that second circle.

I pray the same. For me.

And yet, I must remember this, unless I go through the chaos and clatter of life’s challenges, I will never get to see God’s power in my life. It’s a paradox of faith. I surrender this day. I must. I will to do it.

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ImpossibleIt’s been the word of the season at Restore Church this year: impossible. And it’s a word that all believers must hear, should hear, need to hear and understand. This word is about us today and our faith. This word is about the extent to which God will do something from nothing. Thanks Pastor Jess Bousa for this word, now illuminated.

It sounds impossible, but listen—you know your relative Elizabeth has been unable to bear children and is now far too old to be a mother. Yet she has become pregnant, as God willed it. Yes, in three months, she will have a son. So the impossible is possible with God. [Luke 1:36-37, The Voice]

The concept is a simple one, that the impossible cannot be expected: it is a miracle after all. And yet these miracles are among us every day but we fail to give them their due. Isn’t it a miracle that a man, like Jess, could be transformed from full-blown drug addict to pastor of a thriving church? Or that I, a self-indulgent, pot-smoking, foul-mouthed actress wannabe could become a follower of the Christ? Or that my children, all adopted, would be “the ones” out of a million orphans to come into our family? All of our lives are filled with the miracles of impossible when God takes the raw material of “nothing” and makes something. Whether one sees the Genesis story as word for word real or symbolic, the message is the same: Creator God is a Maker God, who uses building blocks that none of us can really fathom. Something from nothing. Possible from impossible.

In Greek, impossible is adynateō with meanings that bridge the distance between weakness, inability, and powerlessness to the bottom line: it cannot be done. And God asks me, when will I see and understand the adynateō in myself? Not weakness in what I want to do, my dreams and ambitions. No. This is the weakness in the face of what God wants to do. In Corinthians 12:9, God speaks through Paul saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God is talking about the God Plan in Paul’s life and ultimately, in my life too.

God’s power manifests in doing God’s plan. 

impossible triangleOh, silly me. I have missed this obvious all along. I keep trying to get the blessing (and success) for my ideas, my plans, my ambitions, my projects. But there has been little room in my masterminding for the impossible, the unexpected, the miracles of God.

How many sermons and teachings have we heard about knowing God’s will for our lives, as though we might be able to figure out the impossible?

This is the only time I can truly say that the cliche, “whatever,” used by teens for the last decade or so, is truly the correct word in this situation. Our surrender to God is a “whatever.” That is, whatever God wants to do, whatever the Holy Spirit wants to manifest, whatever is possible in God’s cosmos, I choose to embrace today.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am sure this is not a passivity where we simply lie down on a bed and wait for a miracle. If anything, it’s a reckless abandonment of my narrow views in favor of the expansive potentialities of God.

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St. John is obsessed with love and its power. But to speak of it in today’s world sounds trite and cliche. Love has been relegated to movies and teenagers. Do people really believe love is a power so strong, so rich, that it can change a life, a culture, a world, a civilization? Or is it just a Valentine?

I John 4:12
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

I don’t really feel qualified to write about this topic at length, mostly because of my own anemic love life, and by that, I mean loving the unlovable, the unlovely.

It’s not that I don’t believe God is in the love of family, friends, and loved ones, but I have a sense that loving in the hard places, the paradoxical times, the nontraditional people, the unexpected situations: this is where God manifests more profoundly. These would be the occasions I might actually experience the same God who loved me when I was deeply entrenched in life-killing habits (drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and the like). That love turned me around. That love upended my perceptions. That love was conscious and real, almost tangible. It was one of the reasons I committed my life to becoming a follower of the Christ: I saw God by being loved unconditionally.

For whom can I do the same? Why am I so afraid? There was so much grace in being on the receiving end and yet, it has become so difficult to get out of my safety net and love others the same way, without judgment, without expectations, without strings attached.

Our current church has a lot of buzz phrases, some more meaningful than others, but without a doubt, the one that resonates the most with me is that we offer love and service to others “with no strings attached.” I know that our pastor, Jess Bousa, pulled this mandate out of his own experiences, out of the God-love that was given to him when he least deserved it. The church, Good Cause Foundation, the open door policy he has established, are all an outgrowth of seeing God and thereby showing God through himself. Jess got it and he’s one of the reasons I’m hanging around this young pastor, I want to catch the fever.

It’s all simple: love others if I want to see God. And as I see God, I will want to love others. Infinity. Circle. Mandala. Synergism.

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