Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The One Thing I've Learned From Skipping Church:

Romans 1:20
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 

Okay, I'll fess up.  I haven't been to church in over a month.  Having an unpredictable newborn has made it difficult to get to church these days...and the times that we do make it, the little bundle of crying distraction that we face is too cute to ignore.  Though before I go on I have to say, I am really looking forward to getting back to church (hopefully you who have judged my absenteeism will continue on with reading now...;) 

But I must admit, taking a break from church has really opened my eyes to one thing: God is everywhere.  Somehow, He's been showing up outside of the boxes I tend to confine Him in...and He's been surprising me.

The beautiful thing about our Lord is that when we invite Him into our lives, He promises to make His home within us.  Church or no church.  He's alive and living within me.  And if I allow Him to, He reaches out and connects with me everyday. 

This has been the greatest lesson I have learned while being absent from church.  I have been challenged to see God beyond the four walls of a building, but rather, to see Him every day, in every thing.  And trust me, He has showed up.  In the autumn leaves, in the quiet and stillness, in the smiles of my baby girl, in the conversations with friends, in the words of Scripture, in my prayers. 

But one thing is for sure, I only find Him when I seek Him.  I guess that's the main lesson I'm learning in my life right now.  I'm learning to seek Him more...not on Sundays, Thanksgivings and Christmases....but every day.  In the mundane.  In the routine. It's sad that there are many who attend church every week, twice a week, and at the end of it find themselves full of religion, but never really having found God. 

This is the one thing I've learned from being absent from church: That church is really in my heart.  Lord, make your home in me again and again.  Give me the courage and the motivation to find you there.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Why Everyone Thinks Christians Are Crazy:

2 Peter 2:1-3
1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. 

I was flipping through the TV channels this morning and came across a show titled "Religious Program" in the TV Guide I decided to take a look.  Unfortunately, what I came across was far from religious.  

A Reverend (he has the nerve to call himself that), by the name of Peter Popoff was selling his "Miracle Spring Water" , claiming that this water would help you wipe away your debts by the "supernatural power of God".

I couldn't believe my eyes.  Here is a man, absolutely abusing his authority and misusing the name of God for spiritual gain.  I don't know about you, but in my opinion, this is a clear example of why many people think Christians are totally crazy.

Let me clarify by saying- this is not true Christianity. 

The word Christianity when pulled apart means Christ-likeness.  Those who know anything about Christ know that he was the furthest thing from a lying, stealing, fire-breathing evangelist out to make an extra buck.  In fact, Jesus Christ was nothing short of pure love.  He came as an advocate for the weak and the poor.  He came to heal the sick and mend the broken-hearted.  He came to love unto the point of death...and even then, to love more.

I find myself angry.  Less angry with Petter Popoff (although he did tick me off) and more angry with the Christian subculture at large.  Though you and I may not be guilty of TV scams, we have not always represented Christ as we should.  We have been greedy, arrogant, and prideful at times.  We have been harsh, judgmental, and straight up mean.  We have represented our SELF, far more than we have represented our Savior.  And though our sins may not be plastered on national TV, they still grieve the heart of God.  It's about time things change.

Christians, we can only do so much in preventing the misrepresentation from others- but we can do incredible things as a body if we will each take a look at ourselves and ask Jesus to give us direction in how we represent his name.  Ask him to open our eyes to the poor, the broken, and the needy.  Ask him for humility, love, and compassion. 

It's not too late, for there is still time for our Lord to save us from ourselves


Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Husband Made Me Cry:

Ephesians 5:1-2
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly beloved Children.  And live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave his life for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 

We started a new tradition in our family every thanksgiving since the death of my Uncle Abe.  Each member of the family draws two names out of a hat, and publicly shares the things they are thankful for about the name that they drew. 

This year, I got lucky.  One of the names I happened to draw was the name of my beloved husband.  It was my turn to share, and as all the things I wanted to share swirled around in my mind- I found myself choking up, tears streaming down my face, unable to say one word. 

You see, my husband made me cry. 

He made me cry because I am married to the most incredible man I know.  Words don't begin to do justice to the way he loves me and to the kind of man that he is.  He has a huge heart, overflowing with love and affection to those around him. He is truly an "imitator of God" in how he lives his life toward me. 

I visited Cornerstone Christian Fellowship one Sunday, and Pastor Jay happened to be sharing on the topics of love and marriage.  Something he said that day has profoundly impacted the way I live and will never be erased from my mind.  He challenged us as married couples to be the "closest thing to Jesus that your spouse will ever see". 

Now any of you who are married can understand what a feat that really is.  I mean, your spouse is one of the only people who experience you at your "finest"....when you're angry, hurting, worried and absolutely irritated.  They see you at your lowest points in life- as you take down the mask and show your true self to them.  And some days, that true self can be pretty ugly. 

I was challenged that day to really take a look at how I love my husband...and how I love others.  I want people to look at me and be able to say that I have lived my life as a reflection of the love of Jesus.  What an incredible honor...what an amazing challenge. 

I'm thankful for a husband who is truly a reflection of Christ...and more so, I am thankful for a God who gives us the greatest example of what it means to truly love.  May we be imitators of God in how we live and how we love. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

In God We Trust...Or do We?

Isaiah 26:3
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are stayed on Thee, because they trust in you. 

"Habit is overcome by habit.  A habit of worry must be replaced with a habit of trust"-Thomas A Kempis
It's sort of ironic that I carry around a purse full of coins that loudly proclaim my undivided trust in God...because the reality is, trust is something I struggle with each and every single day. 

And on top of my own trust issues...there's nothing more difficult than trusting God with your life...than trusting Him with the lives of others.  I've always struggled with this.  Anyone that knows me well will tell you - I tend to be a worrier.  I find myself particularly worried about things that are completely out of my hands, which in most cases, has to do with the people I love.

I worry about my husband, driving home from work on a snowy day.  I worry about my parents, their health, and the future.  I worry about my brother, hoping he makes all the best choices and decisions in his life.  I worry about the patients I see as a counselor- the difficult journeys that they face. I worry about my loved ones who don't know Jesus and the path their lives will take.  And now that I'm a mom, I find myself worrying about my baby girl...her health, her safety, her needs.

I know, I know...there are hundreds of verses in the bible about worry.  In fact, God clearly tells us not to worry about our lives, what we will eat, what we will drink, what we will wear.  And most days, I can ultimately grasp that.  I can hand Him my life.  I can face my fears.  I can trust Him with my future...

But what about the ones I love?  For some reason...for me, this kind of trust takes a greater faith. 

I'm learning to trust God with others.  It's been hard for me, but I am learning to let go and realize that He loves and cares for each and every one of them in ways I can't even comprehend.  I'm learning to hold those I love dearly with open hands trusting that there is a God who knows them far beyond my most intimate moments...and that He knows what's best.  He has their days numbered, their decisions guarded, and their lives protected.

He takes care of what I can't. 

If He really is God...He can be trusted.  And when we trust Him...we will finally be in perfect peace.  

So let's take some time to asses our beliefs: In God we trust...or do we?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"The Everlasting Manna"- (Willy Wonka's Got Nothing on this One)

Exodus 16: 4
Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread [manna] from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.

I was talking to a friend the other day who was discussing how incredible it has been watching God provide for her.  Every day- somehow and some way- she gets through.  Her days have been hard...dealing with some incredibly difficult things...yet, everyday God pours down the grace she needs for that day.

Maybe you, too, are going through a trying time in your life.  There may be moments, or even days when it seems like your body is ready to shut down and you wonder how you will make it through. 

What I find astonishing is that for many Christians...getting to that point in life brings with it a sense of shame and humiliation.  Christians somehow have believed the lie that we are supposed to be strong, smiling individuals 95% of the time.  As if God requires his children to be perfectly happy and strong every moment of every day. 

If you think about it, that is exactly the opposite of the truth.  What makes a Christian truly a Christian comes down to one basic thing: their need for a Savior.  This need doesn't end at the point of salvation- it begins there. 

All throughout scripture we are faced with men and women who are crying out to God every single day...crying for healing, crying for hope, crying for joy...and even crying out for food.  The bible talks again and again about a God who comes for the needy and the sick....a God who answers those who are broken and hopeless....a God whose strength is offered once our strength begins to run out. 

And that is where we should find ourselves day after day...crying out for our daily bread.  Crying out for our Savior.  There is something terribly wrong if you find yourself as a Christian with little need for God's intervention on a daily basis. 

But for the rest of you....rejoice.  Rejoice because the quantity of your needs will never supersede the quality of his desire to quench and fulfill your needs.  Every last one.  And He will always be just in time. 

You see, Heaven will be filled with needy people....people who have finally made their way to the ultimate fulfillment of their every need.  The one true source of everlasting manna.   

Monday, November 8, 2010

White Noise:

1 Kings 19:11-13
 11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” 

   Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. 

   Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 

Noise.  There is never a shortage.  Even right now as I write I hear music playing in the background, my baby cooing as she plays, the sound of the tea kettle boiling water, construction outside my window...we're constantly surrounded by noise.  Beautiful noises at times, annoying ones at others- yet no matter where we turn we can't escape it.

Last night at church we were discussing the topic of hearing God...listening for His voice in our lives.  We have a tendency to try and speak over Him in how we live.  Our prayer lives are reflective of that to be sure.  Lot's of talking going on...with very little listening.

But even for those of us who are desperately trying to listen- it doesn't always come easy.  We are bombarded by the loud hush of noises...each one doing its part in drowning Him out.  And as Elijah found out, His voice doesn't always come amongst the loudness of this world.

Wouldn't that be just like our God?  He comes in the quiet.  He comes when no one expects it.  In the quietness of a gentle whisper, in the subtlety of a little babe in a manger, in the humility of an uneducated carpenter.  No parades.  No banners.  No trumpets blaring.  He comes to the silence...hoping to find us there as well.  Hoping that we will leave the seduction of all the noises in our lives to meet Him.

I don't know about you but I find this a very daunting task.  It's hard to get away and get alone.  Sometimes entering the silence can be a scary thing...we're so comfortable with the noise.  Because sometimes, the silence can bring out in us things we were hoping to muffle through the noise in our lives.   

Join me in taking the risk of entering the silence...away from the distractions of this world.  Join me in taking steps into solitude and peace...watching, waiting to hear His voice.  Join me as we let the winds, the fire, and the earthquakes pass...and wait for His gentle whisper.


Check out Rob Bell's video and his thoughts on tuning out the noise in our lives: 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lessons from a McDonalds Drive Through: On Real comfort

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 

I was having a particularly difficult week.  My situation seemed quite over my head, and I wasn't sure how I was going to come out on the other side.  I didn't feel like I had the strength...nor was I sure if I even wanted the strength to get through.  Sometimes it seems easier just to give up, doesn't it? 

I had a short break in my day, and felt my stomach growling in hunger.  It was the first sign of hunger I had felt in many days, as my situation seemed to overwhelm even my natural desires.  The closest stop?  McDonalds.  Good ol' comfort food, maybe that would make me feel a little better.

As I pulled through the drive through and placed my order, a young man greeted me at the next window.  His dark, braided hair flowed in dread locks, tucked away in a ponytail behind his work visor. 

"How are you today, ma'am?"

"Doing well" I lied, "How about yourself?"

"I'm hanging in there."

We could have stopped there, and my flesh really wanted to.  I wasn't necessarily in the mood to have a chat...but something inside of my soul begged me to press on...

"Just hanging in there?  Well, is there anyway that I can be praying for you Ryan?" I chose to step outside of myself as I read the nametag on his uniform.

"I got lots of people praying for me, but sure.  Tomorrow is my birthday...and I'm working.  I have a job interview for a new job too.  Seems like all I do is work these days.  You see, life has been hard for me.  My dad died, my grandma recently died...and I'm just trying to make it through.  Their deaths really took a toll on my life, but, I guess I'm proud of myself that I've stayed off the streets and outta drugs.  I'm trying to get through, and go to college..."

We spoke for a good five minutes.  He shared some stories from his life and some of his struggles.  And believe it or not, there was not a single car waiting behind me in this usually busy location. 

I encouraged Ryan the best I could, and as I drove away, I prayed for him....that God would bless this young man, that he would strengthen him.  That God would work miracles in his life and most importantly show Himself to him.  That God would comfort his heart...and that he would bless him on his birthday, his job interview, and for the rest of his life.

I don't know how to explain it...but my interaction with Ryan that day was just what I needed to take my eyes off of myself for a moment.  I was able to comfort him...and in comforting him, I felt an overwhelming amount of peace, joy, and comfort.  I was able to step back and take a look at the purpose of my life...a purpose that had been buried by my emotions...a purpose that had taken the back seat to my anxiety and fears.   The purpose?  To love God...and to love others.  A purpose that overwhelms me with peace and grace every time I choose to accept it. 

I can honestly say, the greatest lesson I learned this week took place at a McDonald's drive through...one of the most unexpected places.  And at the end of the day, my comfort came not from a by then cold burger and fries....but by the precious love and grace of my Savior...a grace that floods my heart and carries me through: when I let it. 

Thank you God for your overwhelming comfort...help us to comfort others.