Posts Tagged ‘ Jesus ’

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.

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?

My current view…

Lord, that I might not take for granted, not even for a moment, the peace I’ve been granted, the stillness of this season, and the freedom that I’ve come to cherish.

Though my questions remain unanswered and my hopes remain in waiting, my heart is at rest in your sweet, sovereign hands.

And even when I wake early in the morning, moving about my day as if I had a clue, the truth is the only thing I know is you.

My insecurities like the tides, rising in the darkness and lowering in the light of day.
My hopes like the boats that dock in shallow water & set sail in the ocean’s depth.

You guide me in your silence, singing softly in the scenarios that leave me here wanting you.
You gently remind me, in the things ripped from my pit bull grip, that you are in control.

Lord, that I might not take for granted, not even for a moment, the peace I’ve been granted, the stillness of this season, and the freedom I’ve come to cherish.

on the local Church… my fair weather friend*

i would like to include a chapter on “the Church: a fair weather friend” in my “one day to be released” book about the Insecure Church. [Don’t steal that!] i am not alone in my experiences. i am not a special case or a rarity. i’ve heard the stories of the sinners and the saints… all forgotten and some even discarded. in serving for over 15 years as a church leader, i’ve experienced both the process of leaving a local fellowship and being shunned by a local fellowship.

the Church likes to sell itself as a family, perhaps under obligation, but many haven’t experienced the follow through of that. whether we chose to or were unable to serve any longer at the local church, the once evident need for us was severed. the phone calls stopped. the invitations ceased. the holiday wishes were non-existent. it’s a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s become par for the course. it can feel as though you were loved because you served them. you were appreciated because you assisted in their mission and vision. you were counted because you were a servant. you were included because you got the job done… for free in most cases. these statements may not be truth, but they are the honest struggle of many.

I’ve dealt with it and processed my emotion & frustration, but i wonder if the local church knows that this is her m.o. i am curious if she realizes that she is in direct violation when she instills in us the importance of fellowship and accountability and then ostracizes us without a single conversation.

it seems to me that family is family regardless of vicinity or effort.

fair weather family? it’s not possible.

the Church, to many, has been a fair weather friend.

*originally posted January 4, 2010

a plain little turtle takes down a king…

On the far-away island of Sala-ma-Sond,
Yertle the Turtle was king of the pond.
A nice little pond. It was clean. It was neat.
The water was warm. There was plenty to eat.
The turtles had everything turtles might need.
And they were all happy. Quite happy indeed.

They were… until Yertle, the king of them all,
Decided the kingdom he ruled was too small.

i remember touring the notre dame cathedral in paris.  it was one of the first things i did when i moved to france.  the guide book gave the details of its majesty and spoke of all the wars and weather it had survived.  it was, at that moment, amazing to me.  and then upon further study of cathedrals and european kings, i began to see it quite differently.  i began to hear the king’s command echo strong “we’ll build it bigger, greater, better!!!” i began to notice the detail of the stones, the carvings, the stained glass.  this stone was brought in from such & such, far far away and these stones were arranged by hand… the hands of regular folks.

So Yertle the Turtle King, lifted his hand
And Yertle, the Turtle King, gave a command.
He ordered nine turtles to swim to his stone
And, using these turtles, he built a new throne.
He made each turtle stand on another one’s back
And he piled them all up in a nine-turtle stack.

the flying buttresses in the front of the cathedral were not a part of the original design.  they were added because the walls were forced by the king to reach higher and higher, causing stress fractures.  we are told that a glorious cathedral was needed to honor a glorious God.  nearly 200 years of effort, energy, finances, disputes, and determination.  most workers spent their entire lives working on this cathedral, never seeing it in its completion.  they were told that they were a part of something big.  they were bringing honor to their God.  they would be rewarded in heaven.  i began to feel very very differently each time i entered the notre dame… i began to see the modern church.

Then  from below, in the great heavy stack,
Came a groan from that plain little turtle named Mack.
“Your Majesty, please… I don’t like to complain,
But down here below, we are feeling great pain.
I know, up on top you are seeing great sights,
But down here at the bottom we, too, should have rights.
We turtles can’t stand it. Our shells will all crack!
Besides, we need food. We are starving!” groaned Mack.

i remember pulling up to the church parking lot, passing the reserved spots filled with jaguars, mercedes, bmws, what have you.  the owners of those beautiful cars also had beautiful homes.  they took long vacations to exotic destinations and had a little lipo before they hit the beach.  the church building was massive with amazing amenities.   the church system offered meetings and friendship.  lots of meetings.  everything was high-end and state of the art.  the expansion never stopped.  there was always something more to do.  it was an amazing looking church, but the workers, we were in great pain and some of us even sick and starving.

That plain little turtle below in the stack,
That plain little turtle whose name was just Mack,
Decided he’d taken enough. And he had.
And that plain little lad got a bit mad.
And that plain little Mack did a plain little thing.
He burped!
And his burp shook the throne of the king!

And today the great Yertle, that Marvelous he,
Is King of the Mud. That is all he can see.
And the turtles, of course… all the turtles are free
As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.

by Dr. Seuss   (adapted)

His message was simple and austere, like his desert surroundings:

“Change your life. God’s kingdom is here.”

Matthew 3:2 Msg