Posts Tagged ‘ church ’

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.

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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.

a sunday school prayer…*(repost)

ever since i was a little girl in sunday school, there was a prayer i’ve prayed, a certain request i’d make, a deep hope i had developed, a desire that i couldn’t seem to let go of; “Dear Jesus, I pray that they would see me how you see me. I pray that they could hear your voice clearly. I pray that you would help them to be nicer, sweeter, use softer words, and be kind to me. I forgive them and love them. Amen.” i prayed this prayer in regards to nearly every influential male in my life… i prayed this prayer for 30 years. last year i let it go. it was the prayer of a little girl desiring softness from hard men. it was the fantastical prayer of a little girl that may as well have prayed for piano playing monkeys for Christmas or to one day marry a prince. in a moment of sobriety, i let it go.

i don’t pray as some have prescribed. i don’t ask for change in others. i am not arguing whether or not that is biblical, i am stating that i don’t do it. “Dear Jesus change their minds. Help them see your truth.” in my life, people haven’t changed from my prayers. harsh words didn’t soften, and apologies weren’t offered. but i grew colder and sharper from my frustration. i questioned God and the limitations of His dominion. it wasn’t good for me to pray this prayer. this prayer sucked the sweet and tender nature right from my heart.

i don’t pray that the Church would change their mind, or see truth. i don’t pray that they’d see us how He sees us or hear His voice more clearly. i don’t pray that God would help them to be nicer, sweeter, use softer words, and be kind to us. i just ask Him for strength, His grace and wisdom, His perfect peace and unwavering mercy. i ask for His presence, His provision and His protection as we walk out this journey.

and in letting go, they are released to their conscience and the freedom of their will…

the lactose intolerant christian* (repost)

i use to like cereal and milk, but it gave me tummy aches. and then one night i had a piece of cheesecake after a lasagna dinner and the pain in my abs was so intense i wanted to die. i was diagnosed as lactose intolerant. after further study, i discovered that as you grow older, your digestive system’s less likely to be able to digest milk. milk, as i had always suspected, was for baby cows. baby cows need milk, just like baby humans need their mother’s milk. humans do not need cow milk. it makes sense.

i weaned myself off of dairy products for 2 years and then slowly worked in some yogurts and solid cheeses. i still can’t drink a glass of milk, but i can have a little ice cream or cheese on my sandwich. truth is, when i didn’t eat milk products, i lost weight, my skin looked radiant, and i just felt a lot better. turns out that those cultures that have less dairy in their diets have astronomical percentages of intolerance. one study noted that 100% of native americans that were tested for lactose intolerance tested positive. my grandmother is a navajo. it makes sense.

i haven’t regularly attended church services for a few months. i do feel healthy, quite radiant, and lighter than ever. so many say that we need it, just like the government says we need milk, yet the word “need” seems misplaced. we need calcium and we need God, but perhaps as our digestive system matures, the medium also matures. can i get my calcium from greens and forgo the gas? can i get my God from community and relationship and forgo the turned stomach? it’s just a thought… but probably not. guess i’ll pop in a lactaid and work with what we’ve got;)

Never Beyond: we all have a present

“we all have a past.” these words are offered to those that are repentant.

“we all have a past, but we are accepted.” these words are afforded to those hesitant in trusting forgiveness.

more and more people are sharing their stories these days, telling their dirty tales with redemptive endings.  more and more people are willing to present their past as an example of God’s goodness, His grace, and His miracle working power.

i have a friend. she got caught living out a shameful present. i asked her how she’d been received by the Church, how they were handling her reconciliation. she said they’d accepted her and encouraged her that we all have a past. i looked her dead in the eyes and asked her “did anyone tell you that they had a present? did anyone mention the sin they now carry and cover up? friend, there’s no doubt that i have a past, you know that. but admittedly i have a present. i can offer you grace today, because God offers me grace today”. this grace is fresh and potent, new everyday and most necessary for my survival. His grace is steady, ready, and able to cover our past, our present and our future.

The team at People of the Second Chance (POTSC) has begun the Never Beyond Poster Series and i am offering my blog space to engage conversation on the matters of Forgiveness and Grace. this week’s Poster is in the likeness of Casey Anthony. i know her name best from the flood of facebook statuses and twitter updates that came during her trial and of course the wild river of opinion that covered my feeds on the day of her verdict. i do not know the condition of  Ms. Anthony’s heart. i haven’t listened in on her prayers or noted her silence. so, from the stand point of not knowing, what then can i determine concerning her position and her standing with God? whether she be innocent, guilty, repentant or indifferent, one thing is obvious… she is still very much in her present.

and in her present, i ask YOU this, what then can WE offer her?

on the road to Somewhere…*

i once had a friend ask me if i was jealous of the woman he’d chosen. he had been single for years, we’d been close, the answer was no. the women in his life, that he suspected of jealousy, were essentially mourning the moment of not being chosen. i didn’t want to be with him, but i was growing weary of singleness and becoming discouraged in the absence of my own partner.

this other fellow i know came in all casual and cool, slow in acknowledging our chemistry. we laughed, we dove into conversation, we always had a really great time. i saw his nervousness, his restraint, his curiosity, his adrenaline pumping when i was near, but i also witnessed the intoxication of his current state of comfort. i chose to let him in, give him a piece of my mind, and offer up a portion of my time. he decided to stay sedentary, watching me from the sidelines. i chose to keep on moving.

i walked through the church doors in hopes of meeting my match. casual handshakes, names exchanged, and “so glad to meet you, so very glad to meet you”. they watched me walk in, they watched me walk out, and rarely lifted their eyes to at least engage. all the printed signs spoke of a potential connection and a desire to know me, but it was taking too long… way too long. they also seemed sedentary, but they paid me no mind and didn’t even watch from the sidelines. i chose to keep on moving.

i do not hesitate to state that i have a deep desire to be chosen. it would be silly to claim otherwise. just as i’d hoped for him to be motivated by our connection enough to make a move, i desired them to be motivated by my decision to show up time & time again enough to let me in. but their hesitancy to choose has forced me to move. i continue in hope and not in desperation. i will one day find and also be found, i have no doubt. but these things take time… opportunity and action will one day align.

Barricade the road that goes Nowhere; grace me with your clear revelation.

I choose the true road to Somewhere, I post your road signs at every curve and corner.

Psalm 119:29-30


*Respost (still on sabbatical)

the stress of sobriety*

The problem with writing about religion is that you run the risk of offending sincerely religious people, and then they come after you with machetes.

Dave Barry

i’ve been writing about religion and the protestant western church for years now. if i had to take a guess, i’d say at least 10 years.  i was raised to not see the Church just as it is, but also as it is intended to be.  this is the very thing that breeds inner conflict, but this is also the very thing that saved my life.

as i looked back, i realized that i’ve spent many of my years in leadership trying to get people to stay in their church.  i wasn’t the only one.  as leaders, many of us grit our teeth in public and shout in the privacy of our cars.  we are conflicted with the institutionalization of the Church.  very few speak up, since our salaries, positions, titles, and reputations are possibly at stake.  we speak our convictions in dark corners and convince ourselves that God will change the hearts of men, the men in charge.  we keep peace for the good of the whole and we sip on the wine of “one day we will see breakthrough.”

The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.

George Bernard Shaw

there are many different “wines” that we sip to stay happy & motivated.  the wine of “human ambition and the exhilaration of ladder climbing”, the wine of “there is a reward waiting for me at the end of this”, the wine of “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”, the wine of “i am blessed as long as i stay faithful”… there are many different flavors, being grown in different vineyards with different elements and influences, but they all come from the same fruit source.

“They hit me,” you’ll say, “but it didn’t hurt; they beat on me, but I didn’t feel a thing. When I’m sober enough to manage it, bring me another drink!”

Proverbs 23:35 Msg

i was a drunkard for nearly two decades.  i was wasted on misplaced hope.  i was intoxicated on insecurity and ignorance.  but i stepped away.  it took more than 28 days.  i took on sober living in solitude.  eventually, i found others that were doing the same.  we held each other accountable and we encouraged each other in the Truth.  i was aware of the present condition of both myself and the Church… i was sober.

there is stress in being sober.  there is a pain in being awake and aware.  there is a responsibility that comes with clear vision and self-control.  it’s not easy being a designated driver.  it’s not so simple to show up sober and leave sober when you shake hands and hug others that reek of wine.  i maintain sobriety for the journey… one day at a time.

Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:13 KJV