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Posts Tagged ‘journey’

About 6 months ago our church took 8 weeks to look at what makes us each uniquely strong.  I blogged on my top 5 Strengths then. We had some discussion about how our church would be if we all lived out of our strong suits, rather than trying to compensate for our weaknesses.  It was a fascinating time for me, as I love amassing new information, and am also pretty strategic and had all sorts of "ohh if someone with strength x worked with someone with strength y it would be a beautiful thing" moments.

Recently our pastor went and did some more training with the Gallop organization in regards to becoming a strength driven church, and this last Sunday we did an anonymous survey that ties into this.

It was fairly straight forward, rating your response from Strongly Disagree(1) to Strongly Agree (5).  I was flying through it until I came to this one:

"I will take an unpopular stance in defense of my faith"

It was all I could do not to raise my hand and voice a complaint.

Let me explain.
(Thank You Rob Bell for the imagery)
Often when people talk about faith the connotation is religion [1}.  Religion is useless. Religion is a bunch of precepts and external strictures that define behaviors.  Religion is hard and unyielding, like a brick wall.[2]  Brick walls need defending when they come under attack, as the  structure could become damaged and not at all sound.   Defending religion allows for hatred of people who don't believe like you do.  This is not what I signed on for when I chose to follow Jesus.

Faith is not the same thing.

Faith is something much different. It's a journey, a way of life, a movement of mind and heart that is played out in how I live, not a set of practices and external strictures.  It is something that changes me from the inside out. Something that brings life and joy. (Rob Bell Likens it to a trampoline.  You don't defend a trampoline.  You just invite people to jump[2]) It doesn't need defending. Ever. Period. Simply put, I do not need to argue on behalf of my faith, I just need to live it. I am not going to waste time defending it, as that will accomplish nothing.  No one is going to be won by arguments.  People can only be invited to go on the journey with me.

This being said, my faith journey may cause me to take an unpopular stance.  For Instance I may have to say that  the amount of children in our area that are in poverty is a crime that the church (in general not ours necessarily) is largely not addressing.  Or I may have to say that it isn't good enough to say you're pro life if all you care about is life before birth, but are for us blowing people up in mid-eastern countries.  I may have to take the stance that you have no right to complain that homosexual marriage is a threat to the sanctity of marriage when you can't treat your own spouse with respect.  I may even have to say that it is part of our responsibilities as believers in God to care for the earth and the environment. It may get worse.  I may have to tell you to forgive someone who hurt you, or call you to account for gossiping, or I may have to publicly repent for not forgiving, or for gossiping myself.

Faith may cause you to take an unpopular or uncomfortable stance, but not to defend it.

So this is what I wrote on my survey.
"by way of explanation, I will never take an unpopular stance to defend my faith. My faith should never need defending. However I will take unpopular or uncomfortable stances on account of my faith." (or very similar words to the same effect). 
I might as well have written my name on my survey.
Oh Well.
If they don't know me by now….:)

1. "Religion is the building after God has left it."  Bono
2. Imagery from the excellent "Velvet Elvis" by Rob Bell

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So I've set myself the task of revisiting places where God had used scripture to shape my character over the last number of years.  I am not trying to get back to that place, but instead reawaken the hope and/or the movement that these places brought.  Each one was significant, and I'm interested to see what God has to say for me today. 
    I started out in Habakkuk.  An interesting little 3 chapter book in the Old Testament.  It starts off with Habakkuk complaining at God, and God responds, and then Habakkuk gives another complaint, and then God responds, and then Habakkuk does this Psalm of praise that is very faith filled.  He tells God that he's heard the stories of what he did in the past, and asks God to Renew them, in Habakkuk's day and time.  He also said that if every evidence of God's favor was gone, he would still trust in God, and call God his salvation.
    This book became very important to me in the times after 9/11 mostly because of one phrase "in Wrath, remember Mercy", something I prayed a lot as I saw us become vindictive, and justifying an ill thought out war by our fear and anger.

    This time reading it, even though I was struck by these things again, that wasn't what hit me.  There were a couple of things that caught my thinking differently.  The biggest one was that Habakkuk was determined to wait actively for what the Lord had to say, and the Lord tells him:
     For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
       it speaks of the end
       and will not prove false.
       Though it linger, wait for it;
       it will certainly come and will not delay.

    If you have read previous posts you know that I am struggling with the Silence of God, and trying to figure out what he's asking of me in this time.  This spoke to that search and longing. It was interesting.  Not a huge revelation, but the understanding that my place of waiting is one that many have shared.  I'm in a long line of 'saints' who have gone before me, in a similar  place.

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Be forewarned.  This is the first of several spiritual posts, chronicling my journey, dealing with the stuff that that dregs up.  If you don't feel into any of that…I'm not going to be annoyed.  I'm just mentioning this because some of the subject matter is pretty raw for me, so If you feel like commenting, please be gentle, and courteous. My fragile psyche thanks you 🙂
     *as always thanks to John whose format I have appropriated*

    O.k. So.  The last month or so has been a little difficult for me, mostly because there is a convergence of stuff happening: Norm dying, the visa struggles, trying to figure out next steps, going through everything I own and trying to decide if it's worth transporting to England (should I get to go). Not to mention the personal struggles, such as dealing with weight, being alone, no kids…etc, all things you've heard me moan about before. 

    In the middle of all this has been The Silence of God, which has probably been the most difficult to swallow. Mostly because of the history that this entails.  Somewhat vague, I know, but see how it plays out in the encounters I've had recently.

    A little over a month ago a couple in church came up to me after the service.  I don't know them very well. I've seen them, said hello to them, but didn't even know their names. I kind of referred to them in my head as "High pitched, King James prophecy guy" (because he has a very high pitched voice, and when he has words from the Lord that he shares with our congregation he tends to throw in a couple of thee's and yea verily's.) [2] [3] Anyway, he and his wife seemed very excited as came over to where I sat,  just following the church service.  I was kinda nonplussed, especially when he said that he felt God had a word for me, mostly because it has been a really long time since God has said anything to me, directly or through King James English. So, beaming, he gave me this word. "I feel like God is saying that he is going to take you to the next level.  Like he's going to bring you to a deeper place with him.  But it is not like you're just going up the stairs, it's like I see you in this elevator, that is going fast and high, up several levels. Like you are going to get much closer to him then you have been."  He goes on this theme for a few more sentences. 
   
    I'm not going to lie.  That sounds like a winning proposition for me.  It is like water to parched ground.  My immediate response was to tear up and ask them to pray with me about it. Then I drove home.  By the time I got there (less than two miles down the road) I was a blubbering mess. Why? Because of the Onion Memory. You know, the thing you think about, from your past, that makes you cry.

    Here's the deal.  In '99 I led a team to England with a short term mission organization.  We worked with a ministry in London, helping with some local churches, and the various ministries that they had.  The leaders that we worked with were a very intriguing husband-wife duo, who experienced a huge life changing miracle (no exaggeration) while we were there [4].  The husband side of this couple was very prophetic. [5] Never once in the entire time we were there did he ever have a 'word' for me, although God spoke truth to many others through him, until 3 days before we were supposed to leave.  The churches had this big goodbye party for us, and towards the end, they all prayed for us.  In the midst of this prayer time Husband felt like he had something from God for me.  He spoke that there were going to be some significant obstacles that had to be overcome before I would be released to come to England (oh so damnably true) and also said "I feel like God is going to take you to the next level.  It's like you are reaching the end of a video game level, but instead of just going up to the next level you've found the warp zone, and you are going up very high, closer to God in your relationship and your ministry is going to the next level too." Hmm. Sounds familiar doesn't it?

    Three days later I returned to the US and within a few months was asked to come on staff at my church as the Worship Arts Coordinator, and (more importantly) head up the Youth Ministry.  This was also the beginning of one of the most painful, difficult, and gut wrenching period of my life [6]. So Suddenly this new prophecy doesn't seem so wonderful. I just sat there in my car thinking "Ok God, can you just tell me how much this is going to hurt. so I can prepare myself"

    So now that we got the exposition out of the way,  I was living in this place for a few weeks when I attended Artzy Carmen and youthworkerf's adoption fund raiser.  I walked into the room and other than those two (whom the event revolved around) the only people I knew were marlafb2000 and her husband B. I got my food and moved to sit by them.  Marla informed me that she had to go be responsible for the money so I had to keep her husband company.  B and I got to talking, and he mentioned reading my blog, and laughing about the whole church directory thing.  He asked me how I got to know that, and I told him about everything I've just related in re the prophecy stuff.  B listened, and encouraged, and said that I was in their prayers.

    The next morning I was on the worship team at church.  We gather to pray, all of us involved in leadership of that particular service, about half an hour before church starts.  B and I were among the people there.  B caught me on the way out, and asked if he could talk to me.  First he started by apologizing on behalf of the church for any wounds that I might have as a result of their behavior.  It was pretty much a beautiful thing, and I appreciated it, but I don't really blame the church, it's more like I thing that God used that on the journey, and yes it was painful, but ultimately it is something he has used to shape me.  I take my pain up with God, not the church.  Anyway, B then says that while he was on the way to the fundraiser God told him that he had a word for someone there, and that he would tell B who it was for later.  B said on the way home God told him that it was for me. 

    B said "The word is this 'You passed the test'.  It was like God was saying that the test was a test of faithfulness, and you passed the test, and the faithfulness that you showed would now be sewn into the next season you your life."

    Needless to say, I didn't really have words to respond, beyond moist eyes, and a soft 'thank you'.  I'm still wresting with this.  Some moments I feel hopeful, others I feel tentative and scared, other times I try and talk myself out of this.  I'm trying to not be gun shy, but I still struggle with hope.  It still feels reckless and dangerous to me.  I want to be able to trust what God is doing, and what he's building, but still the cost of the past seems very heavy to me.  I've paid a heavy price for where I am today, and therefore am apprehensive of the future costs.

     I am trying to believe.  And trying not to cry.  And trying not to insulate myself.  It's not that easy. I have started watching Buffy again from the beginning. Portentous.  Shows that I'm afraid.

[1] Geek points if you get the reference.
[2] As if God speaks in 16th century English.
[3] After this encounter I looked through our new church directory to find out his name, so I could ditch the nickname, but that didn't work as they were not in it.  I did, however, discover this.  Ironic, eh?
[4] Story for another time, but if you beg me enough I might just tell you sooner.
[5] Interestingly I came across a new definition of a prophet recently.  A prophet is someone who is passionate about calling people to live out the truth they already know.
[6] If you want a snapshot of the pain you can check out the pain here.  Just recognize that the recording is amateur and my talk starts half way through the first one.  

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So the last 24 hours have been good.  I had Momentum which is fun.  and then drove down to Ft Wayne to be with my friend/sister B.  We had a lovely long talk.  One of the things we talked about was this:  I am learning to not be so  spiritually selfish. I do things in obedience to God, even when it costs me, but deep down I feel violated.  Like I'm doing this, it costs, you owe me, but you never pay me back God!  I am having a hard time remembering that this is not a barter system, this thing between God and me.  I so often feel deserving.  No, more like I feel I have the right to things.  I have the right to be happy, I have the right (God you SO owe me) to be loved by a man, I have the right (God you owe me) to get married, I have the right (God you owe me) to have kids, etc. and the list goes on, and on, and on.  Right now in this stage of the journey, I'm realizing, it doesn't work that way.  Well, I knew it before, but I think It i just sinking in right now, you know, deep in my spirit.  Obedience is better than a Gift to God, it doesn't come with strings, or the expectation of being repaid in kind, and My Faithfulness, My Obedience, My Chastity, My (relative) Poverty,  My Isolation from family are not things that God tallies up and says, "My Good Girl over there has earned enough points for the Financial Blessing". (much tho I'd like it to work that way)  So I've actually been spiritually Glowering at God recently. Why are you always picking on me?!?  When's the next crisis going to drop?!?  What the heck are you doing with my parents?!?  HAVEN'T WE ALWAYS DONE WHAT YOU WANTED!?! I even started writing songs about it.

 

 Wasn’t I the one who laid it at the altar?

 Let go of all the claims I have on this life?

 Did I somehow loose you in my eagerness to follow?

 And run too far with what was never said?

 For now I’m tossed between frustration and failure

 And I can’t breathe

So recently I've been thinking about this, and the Madeline L'engel book came to mind, A Wind in the Door ( i highly recommend the whole wrinkle in time series, a treasured series of mine since childhood) but part of the story involves Deepening where the even the smallest creature has to choose to sacrifice itself, and Deepen, in order that the whole might live.  And I reallized that I am on the Deepening stretch of the journey.  I am at the place where I have to give up my 'rights to' and realize that I may morn the loss of many things on my journey, and not get what I desire.  That God is God and I must choose obedience. Time to Deepen.

The other amazing thing that happened was that I went to church with my friend, and the church service was all done by Native Americans, who were couching everyithing, the gospel, the worship, in native american culture and

metaphor. IT  WAS AMAZING!  I cried, and laughed, and was so full of praise for this unexpected jewel.  The dancing, the worship, the drumming, It was  breathtaking. I got some cd's I'll upload a song, but you should also check out the podcast of the sermon. It was VERY GOOD by a native american who holds intertribal powwow's for worshiping God, Plus he's very in your face.  He was talking about expanding our worldviews. He said "all I'm saying is if the two radio shows you listen to faithfully are rush limbaugh and James dobson, you need to expand your world view". It was amazing.   http://www.hccfw.com/staticpages/index.php?page=podcasts    This is the link for the podcast.

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