On why I love the Church…

God loves the Church. God also loves the World. when the Church neglects the World, God is disappointed. when the World rejects the Church, He is not surprised.

the Church is my mother. she nursed me from when i was just a babe and she taught me as best she could. the Church is where i learned of frailty. the Church is where i learned of my deep need for God. the Church is where i discovered pride. the Church taught me the Word of God. the Church taught me the law. the Church told me i needed a Savior. the Church outsourced me to inspirational self-help books, charity organizations, and the Holy Spirit. the Church instilled in me the importance of fellowship and accountability and then ostracized me without a single conversation. even still, i love her deeply.

the Church is my mother. she has her favorites. she’s busy in the kitchen, avoiding the “living” room. sometimes she’s the hit of the party, all smiles and hips swinging, avoiding the tasks assigned. she has high hopes for me, but is overwhelmed by my need. she lets me leave, relieved that i am no longer her responsibility, somewhat saddened that she was unable to fix me. the Church is torn… wanting to see redemption, but not willing to give up all that she has dreamt and manufactured. she took the path of good intentions and ended up a million miles from home. even still, i love her deeply.

the Church is a bride in waiting. the Church is a fiance in preparation. the Church has fired the wedding planner and burned bridges with the chosen wedding party. the bride has taken on the production of the ceremony and neglected that which makes it sacred. she has lost sight of the Groom. but it can be regained. hope is not lost. the Groom loves deeply. the Groom loves without repentance. and beneath her insecurity lives the bride He envisioned… a bride with a heart soft like His, a generous bride, a strong bride, a diligent bride, a healthy bride… clothed in a beautiful white gown, without spot or wrinkle, without brand name or corporate affiliation.

He is patient. He is good. He is forgiving. He is tender towards His bride. He hasn’t given up on the Church and neither should we. i have determined to love her deeply.

*[the term Church is used here in reference to the Western Church. this is in no way directly pointing to any specific local church.]

Gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful*

my heart was bruised by disappointment, but my heart has healed.
my heart was torn by what i desired deeply, but i conceded and now it is being made whole.
my hopes were placed in foreign ideas and unfit destinations.
my mind was set on what seemed good enough, and my passion pushing for what seemed right.
but when i settled down, wiped away the tears, caught my breath, and could see beyond the clouded contacts, i saw something beautiful.
i saw me.
i saw me apart from the additives that i was busy compiling to increase my worth.
i saw me, just me.
and in that moment i had hope of something more resilient, something intentional, something purposed, something beautiful.
now seeing what is beautiful, i see His beauty all around me.
i see it in the flowers in front of my picture window.
i see it in the mountains covered in a gray haze.
i see it in a garden blossoming tomatoes and lilies.
i see it in YOU.
i see His hand in it.
i see that He has made it beautiful.

All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like Him.

2 Corinthians 3:18 Msg

*repost

the Brighter Side of Meaninglessness…

sometimes i wonder if i’d be a millionaire by now, if only i had tithed for the last 7 years. imagine all the closer parking spots i’ve missed out on, or the bargains at the grocery store & the mall. maybe i’d be married by now and have 9 kids (i’d birth 10 but tithe one of them)…

oh tithing, you’re always holding me back.

i didn’t get the flu this year. i got the shot.
i didn’t get the H1N1 either. i didn’t get the shot.
i’ve kissed a few guys in my time and i never got mono.
i danced at a wedding and i didn’t get pregnant.
i was texting while i was driving and didn’t have an accident.
i had a piece of cheesecake and didn’t have an explosion.
i yelled at the crazy driver downtown and didn’t get killed.

i returned a kind answer to a bully and he told me to shut the hell up.
i kept my cool and didn’t lose my head and she still got angry.
i played by the rules and gave all the right answers and still didn’t get chosen.
i opened my wallet, my home, my heart and i haven’t heard from them in months.
i submitted, i served, i respected, i loved, and i wasn’t what he wanted.
“i let go, i let God”, and i let opportunity pass right by.
i took time for a sabbath and i got a parking ticket.

so what’s the point? where is my punishment? where is my reward? where is my consequence? 3 words: mercy, grace, & misunderstanding. as humans we crave punishment & reward. we need consequence or we feel that our actions are meaningless. i am one of the crazies within the church that thinks solomon wasn’t off of his rocker when he wrote ecclesiastes. he was the wisest man and perhaps he has been misunderstood. for me, it isn’t cynical or depressing to realize that “everything is meaningless”, it is actually quite freeing. he concluded his teaching with this: “fear God & do what He tells you.” that’s it folks. paul spoke of the one reward promised, that your race will end. you will arrive at the end and that is your greatest reward. because at the end you will meet with your maker, your Father, your Sovereign God.

Break open your words, let the light shine out, let ordinary people see the meaning.

Psalm 119:130

What are your thoughts?

*originally posted 3/24/10

Fiction: Friend or Foe (revisited)

when i was a little girl i went to sunday school. sometimes i even wore a bonnet. i remember being told fantastical stories about heroes, miracles, floods, and fires. i remember the colorful felt board that was somehow supposed to transport me, via my 5 year old imagination, into the the world of biblical times. i remember being told that there were 2 of every kind of animal on Noah’s ark. i also remember being told that in heaven there were streets of gold and that we each got a mansion and maybe, just maybe, we’d be able to fly! i remember my favourite hymn was “I’ll Fly Away”. it’s not that i was altogether anxious about the proposed rapture, but more that i had much interest in flying and if there was flying in heaven, then that’s where i wanted to end up. i also remember, like one would remember a near fatal car accident, the day that i read the story of the Great Flood and found that there were more than just 2 of every kind of animal… way more. and then to add even more devastation… noah got drunk! i also lost interest in heaven when i realized that the ability to fly wasn’t promised. “i’ll get there when i get there”, i thought. i just wasn’t in any hurry. those are only two examples of my personal discovery of truth after being fed fiction.

my life has been a journey of uncovering mystery after mystery… pursuing truth and pursuing God. why do we adapt, simplify, or even sometimes offer half truths when sharing God’s Word? when i was very young my parents purchased a bible for me. if i had questions, they would tell me where to look and read it for myself. they had their answers and i was prodded to get my own. as my brothers and i grew older we had more and more questions. “the preacher said blah blah blah, but my bible said blah blah blah.” “Daddy who’s right?” my dad had a degree in Bible and my mom had a deep love for it… both of my parents, in essence, were devout truth seekers and they passed this on to their children.

i often feel that many of those that are in management of the church fear the notion of truth being revealed, if truth is not being fed straight from them. do they fear that if we read Malachi we may see what is actually being stated? or if we read Acts we may see the layout for what a church truly is? can we not handle how many animals were really on the ark? could we not digest the possibility that heaven may be very different than what we’ve been told? this is the sure thing, the foundational truth, and upon this all other portions of truth find their rest… that Christ is the Son of God and through Him, salvation is ours. the bible says in 1 Timothy 2:4 that God wants all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. whether we read truth or are told truth, we are afforded the beautiful yet quite painstaking journey of knowing truth. we must come to know it. this takes effort. this takes hunger. this takes time.

christians ought to  speak truth and point to truth so that all may come to know what is truth. fiction may be easier, but it sets us up for mistrust. fiction may seem more clean cut, but it is the messy mystery that truly makes the miracle. fiction is our foe and truth is our freedom.

Psalm 25:4-5

5 Pastors: on my return to the local church

So the news has been posted. The world has been informed. I’m moving to Nashville. But that’s not the biggest news. Perhaps to some, the even bigger, earth rattling, ground shaking, proportionately epic news would be that I am also returning to the local church. I want to publicly thank 5 pastors, who perhaps without even knowing it, led me back to the local church.

5 Pastors.

5 Shepherds.

I have never served in their churches and with some, I’ve never even attended. Frankly, I’ve only heard 2 out of the 5 actually preach. But these 5 men were absolutely instrumental in my healing and in leading me back to the local church.

Pete Wilson (pastor at Crosspoint Community Church in Nashville) replied to a tweet long ago that I’d sent out announcing I’d just ordered his book Plan B. May seem small to some, but it was huge to me… A pastor who responded & seemed to be listening. Then of course there was his response to my post on Why I Don’t Follow Rick Warren. He encouraged my questions. He encouraged my hope. This was the first noted catalyst in my healing.

Francis Chan is a pastor that I paid attention to from afar for quite some time. I had heard the stories of his church practices and loved every one of them. I finally visited his church for the 1st time on the evening of his resignation. I was blown away. I left with hope for the church. I left with hope that one day, I may find acceptance and commonality in a church community. I later met him in an airport & he was more gracious than I’d even expected. Another catalyst in my healing.

Dave Gibbons (pastor at Newsong Church in Irvine) is just one of those pastors that will either scare you to death or set your heart at ease. Why? Because he’s open. So very very open. He’s open to the Holy Spirit. He’s open to God’s plan. He’s willing to shake things up and let go of church plans as God speaks and/or leads. This can be scary for some, but I found myself trusting quickly as he admitted he didn’t always know what was next for the church or how things would be done in the future. His church has been my go-to suggestion for friends in the area that were having trouble trusting the Church’s system. He is a shepherd, my Dr. Drew during Church Rehab and he was another catalyst in my healing.

Shaun King was the pastor of a large church in Atlanta. He walked away from all of that and moved to Southern California. As I watched this unfold via Twitter, I was in awe and filled with hope. A pastor that walked away from his title, his investment, his job, all because of his conviction & revelation? What the £@{%~€?!! Shaun is known to speak his convictions without apology on his blog and Twitter and Shaun was another catalyst in my healing.

Brent Hodge (campus pastor at Crosspoint Community Church in Hendersonville) has been a friend on Twitter for over a year. I have always been encouraged by his willingness to dialogue on taboo church topics. But the real amazingness came when I stayed with his beautiful family during my recent vacation to Nashville. He gave me the grand tour of the city, history lesson and all. He made space for me in his home and made me feel welcomed as a friend. He knows my story, and doesn’t appreciate me in spite of it, but all the more for it. Brent was another catalyst in my healing.

These snippets aren’t the whole story. There are many details that hit even deeper, but that is MY story, to be told at another time & perhaps in a less public way. The most important factor was always trust. I had lost trust. It didn’t matter whether the community was trust worthy, or the leaders were trust worthy, or even if the system was trust worthy. I just needed to see glimpses of pastors, who didn’t require my service to them or their dreams, that could be trusted. Not to be perfect, but to be life giving, hopeful, grace-filled, unapologetically pliable, and openly questioning the system that I have spent my entire life questioning.

Thank you sirs. Thank you for allowing God to use you to lead me back. Thank you for not giving up on Him and the things He’s taught you. And thank you for not giving up on me.

just catching our breath…

Note: In honor of International Women’s Day, a repost.

she seemed so very graceful to me and yet so very tired. i wasn’t the first to notice her, but it was the first time that i had noticed her. she stood tiny. she stood strong. she stood worn, yet calm. her chin up, pleasant disposition, she had finished and stood still to find a moment of rest. this little dancer of 14 years stood a mere 39 inches tall and she had my attention. she was surrounded by majestic paintings, enormous sculptures and camera toting tourists, but she had my attention. i was captivated by her strength. this little dancer was just catching her breath.

she presented herself with crafted skill, a tight routine, proven procedure, graceful in motion and eloquence in movement. broken in two, with pain in her heart and bloody toes, she had completed her dance. she was 14, i was 15, you were 19, he was 25, we were 27… i’ve considered to myself whether or not 34 is too early for retirement. this little dancer is just catching her breath.

so much soreness sustained by a regard for her craft, so many aches bound tight by hope and the trust that some day she will find rest. her body broken down, her mind stronger than ever, she requires the time to straighten her shoulders and close her eyes, but remains in position, ready for the next dance. her muscles carry the memories of her training, suspension, triumph and defeat. her heart carries the gift and an unrepentant loyalty to the giver. this little dancer is just catching her breath.

we are just catching our breath…

If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut,

he’ll help you catch your breath.

Psalm 34:18 Msg

La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans (“Little Dancer of Fourteen Years”) c. 1881, is a sculpture by Edgar Degas of a young dance student named Marie van Goetham.

on fear…

“He who is brave is free.” Seneca

i am afraid. i am afraid of so very much. i get nervous just thinking about driving in the mountains or meeting new people. i want to not show up when i’m invited to a party and i may not know the others attending. i am afraid of the insane people who walk the streets of los angeles. i am hesitant to sit next to strangers in any capacity. but i am brave.

truth is, i love driving and venturing into new territories. i love meeting new people and hearing their stories. i love to dance and party it up with friends and strangers alike. i love the freedom of journeying through the city streets, smiling at passers by and making random conversation with fellow journeymen. i love the opportunity to catch a glimpse of a soul, whether it be in conversation or through observation. so i am brave.

since fear has set itself against me, against what i love and what i was made to do and enjoy, then fear is my enemy and bravery my feat. whether you are convinced of it or not, i do life afraid. i fight back fear like an arch rival, with me since childhood, determined to trip me up and paralyze me. i stare fear down like a worthy opponent that awaits me at every turn. i fight fear by the hour. my arsenal is doing what it says i cannot.

He says i am free. He said that He has set me free. then why would i live any differently. why would i allow fear to lord over me. why would i let fear keep me, assign me, tame me, name me, lame me?

you can call me brave. you can comment on my courage. but know that fear is with me on the regular. this journey i’m on didn’t come sweetly. these things i’ve seen didn’t come easily. i have sacrificed comfort for a battle. but i have exchanged torture for satisfaction. my portion is fear, and by His grace i’ve developed courage. for fear is my enemy, but bravery is my feat.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela

be encouraged.

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