A Journey of Faith

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Mission and A Peace

Last night Pastor challenged us to write our life's "mission statement" as we thought GOD would write it. The only thing I could think was simply... Serve HIM. As I set out on this new journey, I don't  really have a clear picture of what that service will look like. I know I keep thinking 'pastor', that is what I am looking towards as my final destination. But even in that role, there are so many different ways to serve. Will I serve in a small church or a large one? Will I be the kind of pastor that people feel comfortable going to for counsel? Will I work more with younger people? Or will it be the older brothers and sisters that I am more involved with? What will it be like to be on the other side of the pulpit each week?
I keep waiting for the worry and panic about all the changes I am facing to set in. And it hasn't. I keep wondering how it is that I am feeling such a peace about this. After all, I am looking at leaving my home... both the house that we have worked so hard to make ours, and the spiritual home that my church has become for me. I am looking at starting fresh in a new town and a new adventure that, if I am honest, I don't know fully how I will ever succeed at. But all I keep thinking is that GOD is in charge, and if HE wants me to succeed, I will. And as far as moving... well, since GOD is everywhere, and all my friends have phones... I guess that will be doable too.
And as for the peace.... "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to GOD. And the peace of GOD, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in CHRIST JESUS". That certainly fits, because I have no understanding when it comes to this new peace I am feeling... just that it has to have come from HIM.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Love Language

I listen in on my kids a lot. It's interesting to hear the conversations they have sometimes... enlightening even :)
One thing seems to happen a lot though. Some of my kids like to help... maybe one of their love languages is 'acts of service'. I am the same way, it is how I show others that they are important to me, to do something to make their day easier, or their load lighter. But, I don't know if my kids are too prideful, or if they are too independent, or what the issue is, they don't like to let people help them. I don't know how many times I have heard one of them offer help only to have to one being helped yell back 'no! don't! I can do it myself!'. What is up with that? Why are we so quick to refuse help from others? Why are we so quick to assume that the other person will be put out or inconvenienced by helping us? I know I have done it all too often. I don't want anyone to go out of their way, yet I never feel like I am going out of my way when I offer to help someone. What is up with that??
We are suppose to be JESUS' hands and feet, and voice in this world. We are suppose to serve others, both those we know and love, and those we don't. Doesn't that mean that we should also support fellow Christians in fulfilling that 'call'?When we deny someone the opportunity to serve, is that ok? I keep telling my kids that. That if they don't let their brother or sister help them, they are denying that person the opportunity to serve them, and to obey and serve GOD.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What do I Love Most About my Church?

I am on a committee that is working on a stewardship campaign designed to increase the people in the congregation's personal connection to the church. One of the things we are doing is to have people answer a few questions about their feelings for the church. Each person will have the opportunity to write their answer to each question on a heart that will then be displayed in the church.

The first question is "What do you love most about our church?"

My first thought was that that was an easy question to answer, but the more I thought about it, the more things I thought about, and the harder it is to narrow it down to one thing. Of course I love many of the people there, I have friends there that are a constant source of love and encouragement. I love the theology, that we are GOD's hands, feet, and voice in a fallen, troubled world that so needs to know HIS love. I love the building... it is my heart's spiritual home. But I think what I love the most, what pulls my heart there the most, is that it is where I have learned of my GOD. It is where I have learned to hear that still, small voice that speaks to my heart. Where I have learned of who I am as a Christian, and of who I can be for HIM. It is where I found my spiritual voice. What do I love most about my church? The whole package... the building, the people, the spiritual connection... I am so blessed to be a part of it!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Our Own Personal 'Patronus'

I was watching Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban today while ironing (I know... Harry Potter... but that is another post some other day). This was the movie where Harry has to learn how to fight off 'dementors'... creepy creatures who suck the happiness out of their victims, even robbing them of their souls if not stopped. The weapon used to fight off these terrible creatures is called a 'patronus' and it physically stands between the dementor and the would be victim.
As I watched Harry's first feeble attempts at using this new weapon, I was thinking about how his struggles are very like ours when it comes to fighting off the enemy. Just like the dementors, he stands waiting to suck away every bit of happiness we posses, and if we let him, he will take it all from us. And just like Harry, we are vulnerable to the despair and hopelessness that can come from letting him in. But, just like Harry, we have a weapon we can use to fight off this real life 'dementor'... and it doesn't even require any magic, just faith.
When Harry was beginning to try out the spell that would protect him, he faltered. His confidence was shaken by the memory of being defeated by this creature before. He spoke the words that would give him protection, but he was weak and afraid. As he continued to try to work this 'magic', his confidence grew, but he was still too unsure to make it work. It wasn't until he saw himself doing the spell that he gained the confidence he needed to do the spell correctly.
We don't have a magic wand, fancy words, or a time turner (that's how he was able to see himself...long story). But we don't need any of that (and GOD says that trying to use any of those things is wrong). We have GOD's word. HE tells us that HE has given us authority through belief in JESUS to overcome the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19). If we have accepted JESUS as Savior, we have the HOLY SPIRIT in us, and HE will protect us from the enemy. That is better than any patronus could ever be. All we have to do is call on the name of JESUS, and the enemy will turn tail and run. He may come back, and he may attack even more aggressively, but he will NOT win! Like Harry, we may be haunted of times that the enemy has appeared to have victory over us. And like Harry, we may think that  we are too weak, or too inexperienced, or just too small to have victory over such a foe. But 1 John 4:4 says that the one that is in us is greater than the one that is in the world, so it doesn't matter that we aren't able to do it. HE can.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Decision Made and A Peace Found

Tonight was the closing program for the Vacation Bible School at our church. As the director I was the one who spoke to the families gathered to watch the kids preform. As I drove home I compared this year with past years. Most notable was what was missing from last year. Missing was the anxiety, complete with sweaty palms, racing heart, sick stomach and general panicky feeling. I was still a little uncomfortable, but I did it and it felt ok... wow. Since I made the decision about my future, I have felt so much more at peace in general, and specifically, I have felt much more comfortable talking to groups, even praying out loud in front of people. I have a long way to go, but I can feel that "peace that surpasses all understanding". Not to say that life is a bed of roses, well I guess maybe it is, complete with the thorns. But at least that part is headed in the right direction.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The pieces start to fit....

I wrote a post a while ago about things in our spiritual lives fitting together like pieces of a puzzle, to make the picture of our faith. Since then the idea has been rolling around in my head a lot. I like puzzles. I like the idea of getting all the pieces, and figuring out how they fit. I like the sense of accomplishment that comes with putting that last piece in, especially on a really hard puzzle....like the puzzle that life is. But does GOD really expect us to find all the pieces? Even over a lifetime of learning about HIM, does HE really intend us to figure out all of it? Or does HE want us to always have something else to work towards? I wonder if HE intentionally designed us to always have a hunger to know more of HIM, to always be striving to understand just one more facet of HIS being. HE is so big and so unfathomable, we could spend a hundred lifetimes, and never crack the surface. So how do we balance that craving to put in the last piece, with the knowledge that we will never find the last piece this side of HIS kingdom?
There are days that so many pieces have fallen into place, so many things seem clearer to me, that I feel like I would burst with the added weight of it all (good weight mind you).Days like those I have to get it out of my head (those are the days that there are a lot of posts on my blog!). Other days I feel like someone has swiped their arm across the surface of my 'puzzle' and wiped out most or even all of my progress. The amazing thing is that those pieces aren't really scattered, just rearranged into a different and sometimes more beautiful picture. The really amazing thing is that if I 'look' at those pieces, HIS fingerprints are there, on every one of them. Every one. HE didn't miss a piece. Ever. I don't know why HE loves me so much. I guess that is one piece that I will always be trying to find the place for. I guess that is one piece that really fits everywhere at the same time. Because whether it is the piece that is trusting HIM, or the piece that is believing I have received HIS grace.... HIS love is there. Whether it is the piece that is walking the path HE has laid out for me, or the piece that is surrendering everything to HIM... HIS love is there. Every piece is colored with HIS amazing, unending, unconditional, unbelievable love. And it makes a beautiful picture.


My kids and I watched 'The Shunning' today. It's a story of an Amish girl who is shunned by her community for the offense of 'drifting away' from her community's beliefs. Watching the main character endure the rejection of her friends and family was heartbreaking. Imagine, for nothing more than following your heart, the people who are suppose to love and support you turning away. Imagine, knowing that the rules your community lives by are not in accordance with GOD's will for HIS children, and having to chose between what you know is right, and losing that connection we all need so desperately.
I think sometimes we get so convinced of something, that we can't see past it. We can't see the big picture for that big ugly tree that is growing in front of our eyes. We can't see that we are so focused on something that isn't even clear, that we are shutting out what HE really wants us to learn. I have some dear friends that are in deep disagreement that GOD would call a woman to serve HIM in HIS church, as pastor or elder. They believe that women who do this are disobeying HIM and HIS word. I disagree. I think that that is what has been passed down for generations, rooted in the society of the Bible, where women were not educated or respected. I think it is different now. JESUS came to show us a new way, to show us that GOD isn't about rules and restrictions. HE doesn't want us to quibble over the little things, HE doesn't want us to be divided by these silly beliefs that don't do anything to honor HIM. HE wants us to see HIS love, and pass it on. HE wants us to go and make disciples, to teach others of HIS love and grace. HE wants us to live for HIM and in HIM. And if we are doing that, how can that be wrong?
It seems to me that everything is either of GOD or of the devil. If someone feels called to follow GOD, to give everything to obey HIM, how can that not be of HIM? How can leading others in the faith, teaching others of HIS love, helping others grow closer to HIM, how can that be something of the devil? It isn't!!! It has to be of HIM! I can't imagine that GOD wouldn't be smiling when HE sees one of HIS children leading another to HIM, helping that amazing relationship to grow. I can't believe it would matter one bit whether the 'leader' were male or female, whether they had different skin color, or chose a lifestyle that wasn't according to HIS will. Certainly HE has rules HE has given us... and for good reason. HE calls us to be a people set apart, to be in the world but not of the world. But those rules are there to remind us that HE has a plan for us, a beautiful, amazing, eternal plan. Not to make us feel guilty, or condemned, or less than anything but HIS. The Bible says that the only thing we have to do to have eternal life with HIM in Heaven is to accept JESUS as Savior. That's it. Not wear certain clothes, or love certain people. Not reject someone's call... whether we agree that it is a call or not. Not listen to certain songs, or read certain books, or avoid certain businesses based on the beliefs of the owners. Those things are something we need to consider as we make our way as Christians, but not because it makes us more acceptable to HIM. We do those things because our actions honor or dishonor HIM. Our choices reflect our beliefs and our words reflect our characters. I believe HE wants us to stand by our beliefs. Who are we as Christians if we don't? But if we stand by them to the extent that we condemn someone just because they don't agree with us... what does that show the world about Christians? More importantly, what does it show the world about CHRIST???

LORD in Your mercy, hear this my prayer... 
I pray LORD, that no one would ever feel 'shunned' by my actions, my words or my beliefs. I pray that I will always speak Your Truth in love, so that others will know You through my life. I pray that You will give me discernment, and wisdom, and clarity in the decisions that I have to make in my life. Please guide my way, light my path, and make clear to me what Your will is for my life. In JESUS' name I pray. Amen