Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Just Stop

Do you ever just stop what you're doing and let yourself be swept away in the moment, swept away in the sound of His voice? That Peace calling your name, "Come dance with Me."? I don't nearly as often as I should. I get busy, I get distracted. I get tired. But sometimes I stop. Sometimes I acknowledge His persisting and I join Him in the song, in the dance. He sweeps me away, close to His heart. And He fills me with joy, with peace, with everything I didn't even know I needed. My children are so much better at this. When they hear His song, which I normally have worship music playing and lately that's been Awe by Christ Stewart, they just stop what they're doing and twirl. They just twirl and twirl. They close their eyes, they lift their hands, and the heart cry is always, "I love You, Jesus." I know this type of in-the-moment, swept away, awe takes many forms for many people. Sometimes I'm just playing the piano, practicing so my students don't over take me HA!, when suddenly I I feel that nudging, "Take My hand, come away." and I begin to play a song not of myself but a song of heaven. Sometimes I see His face in the smile of one of my children. I see that drooly baby grin and I feel His warmth overwhelm my heart. I can't help but soak in that moment and worship Him with all the trust in my heart, trust for that baby, for my family. Sometimes I'm out working in my garden and there's sweat, and muscle strain, and dirt. And as I dig deep in the earth I hear His whisper, "Go deeper, come, I have hidden treasures you could never imagine." And when I see those tiny sprouts my heart is full of hope and trust that He's not through with us yet. He's a live, and on the move.

It's in the heart of each of us to love Him. Passionately, intimately, fiercely love Him and I know it sounds cheesy to say but it's because of His great love for us. It's because He's always calling that He created us with the need to answer. And He's always speaking. I've heard many sermons about how sometimes there are periods of time God doesn't talk to us and I have to say I believe that's false. He's ALWAYS speaking. He's always calling you closer. Always. If He is the Lover of our souls how could He keep silent? If you went days, weeks, or months without talking to your spouse do you think maybe there might be something wrong? I'd like to challenge you by saying if you're not hearing His voice there's something wrong. And it's nothing to be ashamed about. It's easy to get to a place of distance with Him. So easy to look away, to be distracted, to not even realize you've started to wander off. And I don't mean just wander away in "sin" at least not by the typical definition. You can be active in church, reading your Bible daily and follow all the laws and rules that keep us on the straight and narrow but still have wandered away from the warmth of His embrace. There's temptation everywhere. I think that's why Pappa is speaking this to me today. The way to keep this from happening is to just stop. Stop what you're doing when He calls and just be with Him.

I thought I'd share a tiny bit of what this looks like for us. And don't mind the basket of laundry, or art projects on the floor. Don't mind the jiggly camera because of the curious baby. Just stop, see that life doesn't have to be perfect or put together for Him to love you and to call you and to see you and to want to be with you. Life doesn't have to be clean or orderly for you to be swept away by His love. In fact, in my experience He likes it a little messy.

Monday, March 10, 2014

No Borders, Boundaries, or Personal Space

Personal Space. We all need that right? You have to have balance. You can't say yes to everyone. You can't be pouring out your heart to people constantly because you'll get burn out. You can't volunteer for everything and you can't DO everything. Sometimes you just gotta say no. Sometimes you have to hold people at a distance. Especially those certain people. You know the ones I'm talking about. Those that just take and take and take. Those that criticize everything you do and say. We need boundaries for people like that....RIGHT?

Some people really struggle with this. So they wrote a book about it. Lots of books out there on how to just say no, to have healthy boundaries in place so you don't get hurt, don't give too much, and don't get burn out. Because let's face it people, there are leeches out there. Lost, hurting people that see life in you and they want it. They'll suck the very life out of you so be careful, put up boundaries so you don't get hurt.....RIGHT?

Sounds good, sounds true. God wouldn't want us to pour out to someone who doesn't appreciate it or will take advantage of us or will hurt us. Don't cast your pearls among the swine, right? I know I've thought and believed these things. I've even given advice along these lines. So why is Pappa stirring this up so in my heart lately? Why do I feel Him tugging at some of those borders, boundaries, and personal space bubbles I've erected? Could He have something better in mind? Could He have another, fuller, better, more satisfying way for me to live then for me to guard my heart and home? Let me share some of the questions, and ideas swirling around in my spirit today. Journey with me as I work this out for myself.

What if instead of saying yes or no we inquired? What if we asked Him if He wants us to do something? What if instead of pouring out of ourselves we poured out of Him, and were extension of His heart?  What if we never had to fear burning out because there was grace to accomplish whatever He told us to do? What if there was a never-ending supply of resources, peace, love, grace, compassion, consideration, patience, etc.? What if we didn't turn anyone away who was hungry, weary, or hurting even if we didn't agree with what they believe or their actions? I promise you He will never, ever have you turn someone away. That's just not who He is. Even if they've hurt you in the past, even when they've hurt Him, He always hopes. So, what if we were just Love? What if we never had to fear for ourselves or our hearts? What if we never had to be afraid of getting hurt? What if we were so so deep in Him and we so trusted His love, acceptance, and His satisfaction in us that we could be free and vulnerable with people? What if we didn't have to worry if they liked us or about how they might treat us because who they say we are doesn't matter? What if we, like Him, were not afraid of sin?

I'm being reminded of all the walls, and boundaries that I've put into place and every single one that I can think of is there out of fear: fear of being taken advantage of, fear I might be treated badly, fear I might not be heard, fear I might not be seen for who I am, fear that my kids might be hurt or see something I think they shouldn't.  And here's a thought about our children: what if who they were created to be was one of our greatest resources? What if who they are is the Part of Pappa He wants to show to someone hurting? What if we could trust Pappa to protect them as well? Every single wall I've raised was put there by me, to protect myself. Never has He instructed me to protect myself ever. Period. Oh and here's a doosie, there are even a couple of walls to protect my Self from my God. Because what if asks me to do something I don't want to do or if He does something I don't understand? What if I can't trust Him.....?

I'm ready for a world, for a Church that throws their concern for "balance" out the window. What does that even mean? "Oh be careful, stay in balance." Well here's the deal folks, everywhere I look the world is so OUT of balance and in wrong direction, and if I can be so bold, all these fears are a major factor. What if the church stopped worrying about getting burn out or getting out of balance or with giving too much that they didn't have anything left for themselves or their family? What if we trusted our Father and go where He says go and give when He says give and trust that He will take care of us and ours? People are hurting and dying out there and I have the tendency to look the other way because what if I get hurt? I ignore the starving and cold man on the street because what if He tries to hurt me or my children? I push off the needy relative or acquaintance because I'm too tired, or have nothing to give, or am too offended by their neediness. But what would this world look like if instead of being afraid we might have to do something, we asked if HE wants to do something? What if my children saw me trusting Pappa and living out His Gospel instead of being consumed with self or fears? What if they saw me loving with a fierce love that could only come from Him? What if I CAN trust Him? What would happen if we did trust Him?

A friend of mine, nah a crazy rock star uncle of mine, shared this on his Facebook status and I had to share.
"Pride cannibalizes awe. When our thoughts drift to how we have been poorly treated, how we are right or deserving of more, or how we will never be good enough, our worship is devoured, eaten up by the Self. We remain under the umbrella of our own authority, recognizing no greater authority and no longer enjoying greater Greatness. There is an antidote to pride, and it is not to think less of ourselves. Instead, we ought to dwell upon the God who did become one of us, who gracefully withstood our scorn and self-adulation. Jesus is the God who, in the face of pride, calls us to the cross. How can we be proud there?" 

And can I add, how can we be afraid there? 

Do you feel convicted? Is it a holy, righteous fire that fuels that conviction? My heart burns with it now and I've found that it's much better and easier to respond quickly to Him then to wait until that fire has grown cold. Let's be His hands and feet and stopping playing church and Be the church.

Grace and Peace.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

DO you have the right to an opinion?

You don't have to look far to see something you don't agree with. Especially if you call yourself a Christian. I almost hate to use that term because it's practically become a derogatory term. To clarify, by "Christian" I mean someone who genuinely loves the Lord and is doing their best to let Him actually BE their Lord. As a Christian, living in the freedom of His Lordship, it's easy to see those that are not living that way and see the negative that lifestyle may bring...in your opinion that is. It's easy to see the darkness when you're used to living in His light. It's easy to see the lack all around you when you're living in His provision. It's easy to see fear and hate and all around ugliness when you are so aware of His peace, love, and beauty. And so it's easy to point it out. And it's easy to start to think that you have the right to point it out. It's easy to begin to forget that all those beautiful things are bestowed on you because you have a gracious and loving Father and not because you some how are more deserving then someone who is living in darkness.

Lately I've seen and heard fellow Christians voicing their opinions...and claim the right to those opinions concerning the choices of not love in others. Don't get me wrong, I've been guilty of this myself. The real question in my heart lately, though, has been, "Do I actually have the RIGHT to my opinion??"  I've been hearing lately by many this idea that we all have this God-given right to our opinions. And well, that just doesn't feel right to me.

When a famous person does something I may not approve of, do I have the right to form an opinion about whether I think it's wrong, because hey, after all aren't they a role model and haven't they chosen to be in the public eye and don't they have the responsibility of living a perfect life?? When the President makes a decision that I don't agree with don't I have the right to voice my opinion about it on a social network? When my pastor decides to wear jeans instead of a suit don't I have the right to form my own opinion about whether or not he's being spiritual enough? When another mom at the grocery store has clearly chosen a different style to parenting isn't it right for me to voice my opinion about it? Or maybe even just think about my opinion about it?

I started thinking about what that word opinion really meant because I think Christians have turned it into something it's not and to quote Fezzik from The Princess Bride, "I do not think that word means what you think it means." So I looked it up in the good ole dictionary. Opinion: 1. a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty. 2. a personal view, attitude, or appraisal. 3. a judgment or estimate of a person or thing with respect to character, merit, etc.

By forming a personal opinion about someone you are judging them. It's that plain and simple. Whether you voice it or not it's judgement. And what does judgement mean? It means the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, especially in matters affecting action; good sense; discretion. So essentially by forming an opinion about someone or their actions you have taken a place of authority in their life. You have come to the conclusion as to whether they are right or wrong. Who's place of authority you ask? Ahhh and here's where you may want to stop reading...it's God's place.
Can we have a moment of silence for all the pieces of our souls that just died? *Gulp* 

OK so here's the deal. I'm not writing this blog because I've formed the opinion that every one is too opinionated and judgmental. I've just noticed a trend, especially on social media, and especially from Christians on social media who are making judgements and justifying them with the word opinion. And so the truth is we're not called to be opinionated or judgmental. We're called to be the Love poured out, the Compassion driven, Forgiveness giving people He's created us to be and modeled for us in His very existence. Obviously, that doesn't mean agreeing with or encouraging behavior that is blatantly not love. Let's just remember that none of us would be the same without Jesus and if someone's life is reflecting a life with out Him it's cause for compassion and love not judgement and shame. 

So in conclusion, based purely off the definition of the words opinion and judgement and the well known Scripturally based standards concerning judgement the answer to the question in the title of this blog, NO we do NOT have the RIGHT to our opinions. Would you please join me in repenting for all the times we've done this and let's receive His forgiveness and His supernatural revelation concerning these things? Let's ask Him to teach us how to love the unlovable, those easy to judge, and let Him fill your heart with compassion for all those who are desperately in need of it.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Priest, a Rabbi, and a Jehovah's Witness walk into a bar....

So what do a priest, a rabbi, and a Jehovah's witness all have in common besides the start of a bad joke and now the title of this blog post? Two words come to mind: organized religion. Lately I've been contemplating the idea of the Church and exactly what that means for us, big picture as THE Church and small scale for our family. I got to thinking about why we do what we do when it comes to our practices and beliefs, how we fellowship and why we chose our path of worship. I also recently read a book that got me thinking a bit deeper a long these lines.

I first started thinking about all the things I love about different religions because here's the deal, I love people. I love all types of people. Even Muslims. Even Jews. Even Catholics. And even though I've chosen my own way to worship and like every one I tend think my way is the better way there are still many things that I genuinely appreciate about other religions and people groups. For example, I love traditions. I love routine and I have a hard time with change. This part of my self is extremely drawn to avenues of faith like Catholicism and the Orthodox Church. I love the structure, and the preciousness of different rituals and ceremonies that go deep with their meaning. I'm also a little wild and crazy. May be why the Pentecostal church draws my admiration. Sometimes I want to drop all the constraints of those traditions and run around the church screaming about how amazing my God is and of His amazing love and grace poured over me with out measure.

Here's another thing about me: I am a true missionary at heart. I have deep compassion for people who don't know this Love that I have come to know and can't live with out. I love the Baptist heart for missions. What an amazing work they have done all over the world. Another reason I love those of the Methodists stream. Hate the sin, love the sinner is their motto and you can see it by the size of their churches. You don't get that large by making people feel unwanted.

Jehovah's Witnesses. What can I say about them. Do I brace myself when they come to the door? Um, yes. But listen, something moves them to go door to door telling people of their faith. I don't know many others that do this. It is a strong belief and a strong love that brings them to a stranger's door to tell them about Jesus as they know Him. And I just can't judge a person for that.

I could go on and on because there are sooooo many different religions. But obviously there are parts of each one that I don't agree with because I've been called a different way. The number one reason I am pulled away from organized religion, non denominational or otherwise is this, any time there is a hard and fast rule about anything, a standard of measure for which to judge someone...eek that's where I want to jump ship pretty quick.

So I started thinking about this book I had read. It was one man's journey from being lost in a world without Jesus to pastor and finally leaving the typical church and having "house church". Our family attends a non denominational church and an even less traditional house church...of sorts. HA! I truly believe every church has the opportunity to be used by God in a unique and individual way not unlike each person is created with a specific design and purpose. Our church has such a beautiful anointing for healing those wounded by other churches, cause hey, it happens. Another church comes to mind that has a huge and fabulous children's ministry and in all the years it's been around I can't remember one time a public scandal has been a part of it's history. That's pretty amazing. But what if this author is right when he says the Church is supposed to be like family?

And that's exactly what I'm finding. A family. But why does that start freaking people out? Because it really does. You start talking about meeting as a family, worshiping God together, caring, and helping each other like a family and people start getting a bit uncomfortable. Why?

Let me back up and share some observations with you. These are my own personal observances and may not be true for anyone else. But what I've noticed in every single "church" that I've been apart of is this allowance for the possibility of what is most often described as "Guests" or "Newcomers". The pastor and worship leader are constantly aware of the possibility of guests, people who may never have been in a church, seen a church, heard the name of Jesus, or only recently started coming to their church. The entire service then caters to this possibility. For example, a church with, let's say 300 people is made up of 90-95% faithful attendees and in the case of Tulsa, Oklahoma those people are largely made up of families who consist of children of God who were raised in the church, who've been "saved" for as long as they can remember. And all of those God-fearing people are also aware of the possibility of newcomers. So when the pastor gives the salvation message again at the end of service everyone quietly, patiently, faithfully listens and hopes that perhaps someone will be saved today. But the odds of someone in that 5-10% not being saved are pretty slim, especially in this area. But nonetheless the entire service is custom made for what is lovingly known as a "Baby Christian" or someone who is "Lost" someone hearing the Word of God for the first time. So how does a church ever become grown up Christians made up of mature sons or daughters of God? Their own personal quiet time, small groups, discipleship groups, and Bible studies are an excellent place to start. But what if there is another way? What if the Church was a family?

What if when you gathered together with your family to worship you were all aware of who each other are? You would be aware if there was a stranger in your midst and you would cherish the chance to get to know him or her. And what if when you began to share with one another it was with a knowledge that you were all on a journey to maturity, to adulthood in your faith? And what if worship was about really touching the heart of the Father and less about getting everyone to sing the words or stand or not stand or clap or not clap or just be comforted because of bone weariness life lived alone apart from a family?? What if you went somewhere in worship? What if you, altogether as a family, accomplished something in the Spirit for the Kingdom? What if instead of spending time shaking hands with the stranger next to you, you hugged your sis and in that moment you knew your hearts where somehow joined as one? What if instead of taking up tithes and offering and hearing another message about why we take up tithes and offerings you spent time sharing about how God made provision supernaturally that week? What if, instead of listening to a message largely catered to a Guest, or someone who doesn't know of Christ's love, you shared and listened to what God is doing and speaking into the hearts of His grown up children TODAY??

Why is family so weird?? Because it's made up of crazy uncles, red headed step children, goofy cousins, and protective older brothers? Ha well there is that. For me if I had my choice I'd rather be THAT family, the big fat Greek family all up in each others business. Because what if your car broke down? Wouldn't it be nice if you had a cousin that could fix anything with an engine and could come fix it NO CHARGE? What if you had sister you could call when you were desperate for a babysitter? What if you had a mom and a dad that was just always there? What if you had an uncle that could build anything, home, barn, shed, or just be there to help hang a shelf or fix a broken cabinet? What if you needed help moving? Wouldn't it be great if there was an army of family to get you packed, loaded, and unloaded in one Saturday and the only thing they expected was some pizza at the end of the day? What if you went a little over board and bought a new entertainment center off craig's list made of real wood and it had to be picked up TODAY and oh yeah it's upstairs? Wouldn't it be nice if you had a brother you could call to help pick it up? And wouldn't it be funny if that brother accidentally dropped his end and broke one of the doors and then you had license to tease him for all time? What if there was always a birthday, wedding, or birth to celebrate? What if there was always someone to help keep you on the straight and narrow, to pray with you, encourage you, hug you, cry with you, SEE you for who you were created to be, and speak that into your life even if you don't believe it yourself???

Well all those things I have and are real life examples of my family outside of church. I'm not saying you can't find a "family" within a church but my prayer for the Church is that instead of watering down Christianity we could all grow up, see each other, and go outside those walls to find and rescue the "lost" instead of waiting and hoping they find us. And if that's weird...well wouldn't be the first time I've been called that!