Sunday, December 16, 2007

Worship- on an Icy Sunday Morning

For many, many Sunday mornings, as long and Husband and I have been married, we would wake up to our alarm clock ringing just a little later than our weekday wake up call, and he would roll over and say to me, “Let’s go worship!”

He loved to go and worship corporately. Where I was concerned with all that it took to “put it on,”( – making sure everyone was in their place and doing what our leader and his wife would have wanted – making sure that my kids were in their places and looking appropriately – making sure no “goofy” people were bothering the leaders – making sure the nursery and children’s departments were running smoothly – making sure that the few new people that wandered in were greeted appropriately – trying to be nice to all the people that I did not really have a relationship with – you get the idea) Husband would be up front far before the worship music actually started, meeting with God and loving on Him with all his heart. I did come in later usually to join him on the front row after all fires were put out and everyone was accounted for – but by then it was hard to center my mind and focus on Father when I was so concerned about what everyone else thought about me.

So this morning when I woke up the first thing that popped into my mind was the phrase, “Lets go worship God.”

As many of you who read my blog know, we are not attending any Sunday morning service. I have not been in corporate worship for over 6 months. I’m not even sure I could do it yet. So the question sets in my spirit today and I want to know what it means to be home today with my family and worship this wonderful Father whom I am just coming to really know for the first time.

So for a bit of "corporate cyber worship," here is what I am saying to Him in worship today.

Papa I am amazed by you. You are so good. You reveal yourself to me as you did to David when he said, “I will sing unto the Lord for he has dealt bountifully with me.”

I am so grateful that you are here with me and that you love me. I am so terribly grateful that you took ALL my shame and nailed it to the cross. In doing that, I no longer have to ‘DO” anything to please you or cause you to love me any more than you already do. All my works of service did nothing to alleviate the guilt and shame of my sin. All I had to do was realize that you did it completely, and it was done. I am whole. I am loved. I am totally accepted.

I am becoming to love even the broken parts in me that still remain because they show me how you love me completely. Your love is truly amazing. I worship you today. I bow my life before you. Even if I do no outwardly religious thing today, my heart will bow.

Today is yours. As we are together in this house I ask that you be among us and that you be honored in our laughter, our eating together, our play and our work.

Thanks Papa, I love you so much.

What are some of you saying or doing today in worship? Please leave it in the comments below or link it to your page. I would love to read what you are saying.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My Blog Roll - Helping Me to Become

Good post today from Kevin at A Watchman's View from the Wall entitled, "We have this many in..." He talks about how you describe a journey away from the traditional church and says this:

It’s easier to describe what I am doing than to tell you what I am becoming.

Isn't that true? Especially to those who are busily telling you what they are doing.

This is what I love about my blog roll. Every day there is something to feed me and draw me closer into a true relationship with Father - to 'become' and not just 'do'.

On that note, please see that I have added my blog roll on the sidebar. As I was making it up I wanted to put the names of the people who are writing (or their blog names). I want to personally thank all those who I read. Each day it is amazing to read these people. Sometimes I skim their posts. The really good ones who talk about something that touches me, or the really funny ones I read aloud to Husband. Sometimes I laugh with them, sometimes I cry but I am always encouraged to think. (Is there anyone out there who is thinking, "Ok lady, step away from the computer for a while....")

Two that I have never seen on your pages are Dooce and Confessions of a Pioneer Woman. Heather (Dooce) has left the Mormon church and some of her past posts about this were what drew me but her sense of humor has had me crying with laughter. Ree/Pioneer Woman is a lady that lives out on a ranch and also has a wonderful sense of humor and takes the most amazing pictures. She is on Part 13 of her meeting and marrying a Rancher when she was a City girl and it is really funny - go back and start with the first post in her series. These two are not about the church and so that is a fun break.

Mostly, I have found that these pages that I read have become persons. When Brant Hansen wrote about his taking medication for depression and how he struggled with that and being a Christian, I was not reading a newspaper account, I was reading Brant. Or when Heidi at Redemption Junkie wrote about her son and his hospital stay and their exhaustion with the nightly testings, I was reading Heidi and not some person in a medical journal. When I see that RobbyMac has posted I don't think that I am going to read something from a webpage but I think, "Hey, Robby has written something."

Therefore the blogs on my sidebar all contain the first names of the people who write because they have become people to me. I find myself moved by their lives and journeys. I don't always agree with what they write but I love the discussion.

So thank you all. And if I left anyone out - please comment. Sometime I keep up with you by linking from other's pages. And new bloggers/lurkers, leave a comment so I can see what you are writing too.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Good Questions for the Journey

I have added another blog to my reader - Windblown Hope. (In fact in the next few days I'm going to expand my sidebar blog roll to list all (or almost all) that I keep up with.)

I appreciated reading someone who is farther out (6 years I think) on this journey away from the traditional church than I. I had left a comment on his post the other day (One for the Leavers) to ask him what lies in store for us. What does this path look like 6 or more years from now. In an email to me he wisely stated:

"It is unfortunate that I cannot "show" you how we live or what we do. On the other side it is fortunate that I cannot "show" you. This is a struggle that is meant for you alone. Like Jacob (Gen 32:24) it is a wrestle with God in the dark."

He goes on to say though that he can give me "hints" to begin to sort out the way. I may refer to these questions in other posts but the one that blew me away for the past week was his question #2:

If you were the only person on this planet, what would your relationship with Jesus look like? What would you "do" for Him? Could you do anything for Him? What does your relationship with Him look like?

I instantly thought about the only man who was the only person on the planet - Adam - and what his relationship with God would have looked like.

It would have involved spending time with God - as in their walks in the garden. Conversations, being with each other, talking about what Adam saw and was doing - all of these come to mind. Maybe in their talks, Adams loneliness was made evident and produced an Eve. Maybe my conversations with God will let him know what I need instead of the checklist I used to bring. I've been wondering how to "pray" now. Maybe this is what I am looking for.

What would I do? This one was exciting to answer in that it was so simple and yet profound. I would do what we talked about. Adam did not give God his 5 year plan. God did not ask for it. They just talked about whatever and Adam did the mundane of taking care of the garden - or just living in it. He did not need to build anything to impress God. Therefore, my doing needs to be born out of our being together - not the other way around.

And then, what does my relationship with God look like. I'm afraid in the past it was heavy on the 'doing' side and light on the 'being' side. Heavy on the action, light on the conversation. I was like those moms who are so busy doing for their kids that they never look at them in the eyes. And yes, I tend to be that kind of a mom too.

Anyway, how would you answer those questions, and do they stretch you at all?

Thanks Windblown Hope, I'll keep reading and thinking.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

WWJDWTC – The Samaritan Story Retold

Sunday night Husband and I were asked to attend an Aids Benefit Dinner in our town. They are a group of people who have formed a way to help people who actively have the aids virus here. We jumped at the chance. It was so fun to be in a group of people, eating good food and laughing with some newly formed friends (thanks to Best Friend).

I never expected to encounter a story from Jesus lips though….

During the presentation of the evening, there was an interview done of a woman in our town who had become infected with the aids virus (her identity had been shielded). They wanted her to tell her story because she was not gay and had not been an intravenous drug user. It was clear that her life had been hard and was probably not exemplarily but she also was not the norm in the spread of aids.

What was interesting though was as she talked, I kept thinking that I had heard her story somewhere else….

She had gotten very sick - so sick that she was almost dead. A friend had encouraged her to be checked for Aids and then her life really started falling apart. People started going around her. They ignored her pleas for help. They fired her from her job. They refused to let her live with them. She was desperate and left for dead. Then this organization stepped in. They got her medical attention. They paid for all her bills. They found her a place to stay. They stayed in relationship with her when everyone else left. She is alive today because of this band of people here in my town. This band of people does not go by a name that we Christians would recognize….they are gay or lesbian or politically to the left. Most of them have not been in a church for years if ever. But they had stopped and helped this woman.

I wonder if any Priests or Levites passed her by. I wonder if she even knew any of us. I wonder if I ever knew her.

Mostly I wonder if Jesus was talking about her and I didn’t understand or care or listen.

Wait a minute Jesus, what was the name of that Samaritan group?

Friday, November 30, 2007

WWJDWTC - Week 7 Threads of Grace

WWJDWTC – Week 7

Haven’t updated much about this. Fellow syncrobloggers have posted about what Jesus would do with the church- and then go out and do it. Glen Hagger on his blog Re-dreaming the Dream, asked today to share our reflections on this time we have spent. I started here on October 15th with my first post. Mostly about walking away from the wreck and walking out into the unknown of what my life is going to be now. You can link to my past posts if you want to read about this portion of my life. Just click on the WWJDWTC link at the bottom of this post.

So my reflections: I could say that it has been a wonderful, spinning, fast, miracle laden, signs and wonders kind of existence since then.

But I would be lying.

The truth is that it has been mind numbingly slow. We have had a few wonderful kingdom-kind-of-conversations with friends and our children. I got to feed a few of my daughters friends one evening. Some encouraging posts from the blogging world came in the past weeks. I got to sit by the ocean for a few days. But that is it. Looking back I can see bits of Father’s grace weaving their way in and out of our lives. Slow. Almost seemingly deliberate. No hurry. No immediacy.

See, in my old church (CLB) we were busy. We were always going to this or that. Most nights were full. Some with good things – I’m not discounting those. But some of it was sorely un-needed. But we were busy and I got used to feeling good about being busy. We were all about “Building the Kingdom of God”(you have to say it in your best impression of Sponge Bob Hall Monitor voice). There were prophecies about it each new year how this New Year would be AMAZING. But it never turned amazing. Just the weaving of God through our lives. But that never seemed enough. So the next year we just moved on to “Another Amazing Year Where God Would Do Amazing Things.” (come on – do it in the right voice). Trouble is that no one had the guts to ask what had happened to the previous year and why it mostly sucked with regard to the prophecies and except for the weaving of Father’s thread of grace that always prevailed we would be lost.

I grew tired of the “Another Amazing Year” prophecies even before we left. But I did not know what to believe in their place.

Until now.

Now with this mind numbingly slow season of life in the Kingdom of Father I find that the bits of threads of his grace being woven in and out of my life and the lives of those around me are precious. They are really what it is all about. They are the “What Would Jesus Do With the Church” and what He has always done with the Church - lived his life in and through us.

Maybe at the end we will see the tapestry of our lives….and the thing that will stand out – the thing that we will probably miss if we don’t pay attention to it now – is the brilliant hand of Father as he weaves.

And that is what I believe now.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Song about Leaving Boats

This was sent to me by Gloria after reading my last series on Grace and the Building of Boats, written by Fernando Ortega. Nothing sums up a idea or dream as well as poetry.

Thanks Gloria.

I heard the master calling across the stormy sea
there is life for anyone who'll take it
not a path of safety or false security
put your trust in me and you will make it

leave the boat behind
step into the angry tide
walking on... walking on the water
come and follow me down a road you cannot see
walking on... walking on the water

hear the call to freedom, you who are afraid
dance upon your fears out on the ocean
hear the call of glory, join the fool's parade
come to me you proud who would be broken

leave the boat behind
step into the angry tide
walking on... walking on the water
come and follow me down a road you cannot see
walking on... walking on the water

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Grace and the Building of Boats - Part IV

Theologically Shopping For a New Boat Called Grace

So I have been shopping around for a new boat. My older children will have to shop for their own boat. My younger children will be in this new boat with Husband and myself until they are old enough for their own boat. (Yes, he is shopping with me fortunately.)

We have looked around at all the stores. Some have speed crafts, some have seemingly very simple crafts but the paddles are huge, some look too much like the last boat we left. Some have less “fixings” on them but seem just as heavy. Some purport that they are “new and improved and more relevant.” Some are telling us that they are working on a new model because they found out after years and years of getting everyone to buy their boat that it had major leaks in it and could not get the people to where they were going. Now they are going to build a new one that is going to get the required results. We are welcome to buy their book on the making of the new craft. It just seems that they are not going back far enough to the blueprints to really do a good job at this new one. I don’t know… A couple of stores are only building luxury liners. You can haul a ton of people on them.

But in every store there is a boat off in the corner. It is very dusty. It does not look like it will hold up at all. The salesmen do their best to try to keep us from even examining it. They all seem to say the same kind of things. Things like:

“That boat is way too simple. It will never get you anywhere, just look at it. It does not look safe to me. Too flimsy.
How will your kids be safe in that ? If you got in you would almost be IN the water. The water is way too close to the top. It is too small. Your kids may fall out or be tempted to swim in the water. It does not give you enough distance away from the water.”

Most of all they all stress that they have NEVER seen anyone use this boat. Others had come in and cut it up for parts for their other boats but no one had actually sailed in it. Well, that is not true. They had heard stories of someone trying it and being very successful at navigating the waters in it but those were just stories. No one there at the store thought it could be trusted or used.

But this boat draws us. Why? It is so simple. When we step into it, …it fits us - completely and thoroughly. It is light, even the boys can carry it. We can see that in its lightness it is strong. The material is nothing we have ever seen before. Well we had seen it when we tried to cut it apart and pad our old boat with it but to see it as the whole craft is amazing. It has a built in navigation system straight from the manufacturer. That was something that the old boats said they had but they also had other navigational systems that they seemed to rely on more frequently. This new boat has nothing else. That seems very scary. Everything about this boat which has been christened “Grace” seems to be different yet strangely it feels right.

When we asked the salesman about this boat and what the cost of it was he said the strangest thing. He said that they had had a prophet looking guy come in from the home office and say cryptically that this boat was to be given to anyone who asked for it for free, but to warn the consumer that it would cost them their lives. The salesman was very confused as to what that meant and could not tell us anything more than that. I think he was a little miffed because if we took this boat for free he would not get a commission. Plus he did not want to be responsible if it cost us our lives.

He told us that the only payment was a measure of Faith…and that was the final question. As we dug deep into our own pockets and searched for Faith would we find it?

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast.

We have bought the boat, or I think….really….it has bought us. This is the scariest thing we have ever done.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Grace and the Building of Boats - Part III

Grace and What She Says

We needed to leave our old boat. It was too heavy. We couldn’t paddle it anymore. Our kids were being hurt by all the things that were poking them. They were jumping ship. It was leaking as much as we didn't want to admit it. And most of all, as I studied The Book, it wasn't what the Master Builder had in mind at all.

As I have studied more and more about the grace gospel of our Father, I am drawn to her like a bug to a light. She fascinates me. She calls out to me. She even feels dangerous. Can you get too close to Grace? Is She really safe?

Grace says that Jesus paid the whole thing.
Grace says it is not by my disciplines that I am saved.
Grace says that Father loves me, likes me and is even very, very fond of me.
Grace says that if it is by grace it is no longer by works – because if it were, it would no longer be grace.. (Rom 11:6)
Grace says if you look to any law to justify you (make you more OK with God) you have fallen away from grace. (Gal 5:4)
Grace says, in one of her most famous passages that it is by grace we have been saved through faith---and this not from ourselves, it is a gift of God---not of works (the stuff we do) because we would boast and brag about ourselves. (Eph 2:8-9)
Grace is an easy yoke.
She is loving - not judging, forgiving - not holding grudges, freeing - not restricting,
admitting your doubts - yet choosing faith.
She is risky - not safe.
She is relationship - not rules.
Mostly, Grace says, “I’m enough."

I think it was the central message of Paul to all his churches. They also had boats built to navigate through life. There boats were called “The Law.” But you know, their Law was not much different than what I had built my boat out of. Mostly my boat was Old Testament Law and all it’s rules brought over into the New Covenant (a fancy way of talking about the differences that Jesus came to make) and with a new coat of paint I called it Grace. But it wasn’t. It was as heavy and cumbersome as The Law. I was just as boastful and proud of what I was doing to be OK with God. Pharisees still paddle their boats around today and I was one.

So I need a new craft. This craft will be made of Grace.
More on that tomorrow in, “Theologically Shopping For a New Boat Called Grace.”

Monday, November 12, 2007

Grace and the Building of Boats - Part II

Grace and Why Would You Leave Your Boat

In my last post I described the boat we had built in our family to safely navigate the waters of our life in Jesus. Remember that it was very outfitted. We had everything we could think of in it to keep us safe. It was huge! Big! Sturdy! So why would we want to leave it?

Did I mention that it was heavy? It did not seem so heavy when we first started building it. In fact it was quite light. At the beginning there were not many expectations for our boats or others. We just needed to love God, love to worship him and love each other. We often tied our boats together and ate and had fun. Our kids played together and we loved to be together. We didn’t only meet together on a Sunday morning but played together as families a lot during the week. But little by little over the years it seemed that something would happen. Either someone would wreck their boat or the leader would notice that something was missing from his boat and we would add things to keep us safe. And so it became very heavy. Just to take it out on a Sunday would make you tired. It was so much easier to just keep it tied to the dock.

We added the spiritual disciplines so that everyone would be safer. We thought there would be fewer wrecks if everyone was doing the five or then 6 or then 7 disciplines. Our kids would be safer. People would get to the goal in one piece. But as things were added it just got heavier and heavier. Some actually sank because of all the stuff that was added.

And did I tell you that this boat got uncomfortable? With all the additions it seems that you were always being stuck with something that you had not done yet or needed to add. All the stuff made it impossible to move around freely. We felt crammed. When we did get together with others on a Sunday morning I felt so proud of my boat that I wanted everything to be perfect. I started making my children play the part of being happy in this boat. They had to be at all the meetings, events and such. There were not times of fun as much as we had had before with the others in their boats. It seemed that after all the “shoulds” there was less time for just fun.

And where was grace? Well we knew of this material of grace. We liked the feel of it. Of course you could not build a boat out of it, (or so we thought) but you could cut it up and use it in places to try to pad all the things that seemed to poke at you when you were sitting or working in this boat. Grace was sometimes used in our boat but you could not use too much of it. A little poking and prodding was good for our kids.
I think the final straw for us though was the addition of seat belts of loyalty and not questioning. As they got tighter and tighter we started realizing that it went against what Jesus said about building boats in the first place. He came to set us free. His burden was light. There was only one Father, Teacher and Rabbi….Him. We began to listen to other stories about boats out there that were absolutely wonderful. Did they really exist? We needed something.

Tomorrow’s installment is Grace and What She Says.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Grace and the Building of Boats - Part I

The title of my last post made me laugh. I entitled it Grace Has Moved. I, of course meant that our friend Grace had moved her blog site from blogger to wordpress. But what had been formulating in my mind this week is a post or series of posts about how the message of grace in the scriptures has totally moved me from one place and perspective to another.

Here is how I would describe it.

Just a mere 9 months ago I was in a boat. This boat was taking me and my family down the river we call life in Christ. It was a good boat, very strong. It had all the bells and whistles of rules and legalism. Of course we looked at those who were catholic or Amish and told ourselves that our boat was not legalistic but it was in its own way. It gave you exactly what you needed to do to belong to our group and be what we thought was a successful and vibrant Christian. We had the bells and whistles of Bible Study, Prayer, Journaling, Outreach, Worship, Tithing, Giving, Rest, Prophecy, Headship, Covering, Submission, Women in Ministry, Small Groups, Discipleship, and so on. The seat belts were installed and tightened by being loyal and not questioning the ones who directed our little fleet of boats. If you were really loyal then your boat got to be in contact with the leaders boats in a much more significant way. Our job was to look successful and encourage others to build a boat just like ours and journey with us.

Those who did not build boats like ours we looked upon with sadness. They obviously did not know what we knew about boat building. Theirs had major pieces of equipment missing. They allowed other boats to float along with them. We could not understand why they would not see how wonderful our boat building projects were and just come over and build boats exactly like ours.

Best of all our children were safe in this boat with us. They looked good. They knew all the features of this boat and could tell you exactly what you were to do with them. Our family’s boat was one of the best in the church. Many times we were applauded for having the kind of boat that the leaders said best exemplified and reflected them. I was always looking for the new additions that they would propose and hurriedly add them to our boat.

Six months ago we left the group of boats we had been traveling with. We started reading about grace. Grace in the gospels is everywhere. Most of what the disciples struggled with after Jesus left them with the Holy Spirit was how to go about living this grace filled life in a group of people who understood nothing but legalism.

As we left our group and started studying this message of grace, we found we also wanted to leave the boat that we had built.

I will leave the “why” of that for tomorrow’s post.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Grace Has Moved

Emerging Grace has moved. Her new website is titled Kingdom Grace. Please pop over there, add her to your blog roll and check out her new page entitled "Recommended." This is an excellent source of web spaces and articles. Thanks Grace!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

WWJDWTC - 4 Week Update

Since I decided to walk away from the wreck of my life in the institutional church four weeks ago I have actually done some things. I have had lunch (by myself) and then dinner (with Husband and her husband) with a follower of Jesus that I met at the bank where I bank. We also invited out another couple for dinner who have been severely abused by their CLB. I met her online after she left a comment on my blog and we found out that we only lived about an hour and a half away from each other. I have also visited the diner where my daughter works three times now. I have talked to some of her friends, her boyfriend and met some others.

So how did it go? In all of the encounters there has been a feeling of…..ineptness. I have a hard time coming up with the right word. But the word inept I think describes it best. I feel inept. For the first time in my life I really don’t have a plan for any of these lives. They are not coming to my preplanned program. I have no time to prepare anything. I feel inept to be a friend to the bank lady although I would love to. It seems like such hard work to even get together without all the crutches of church life. When we have, it has been wonderful. God seems to be present. I walk away encouraged. I think she does too. Our stories are fun to share. But what do we do now?

In the dinner with the couple that I met online, I felt like I walked away more encouraged than I left them. They were wonderfully warm. It was healing to share our story and hear theirs. I wish I could come up under them and help them bear their hurt. They truly understood when I described getting an invite back from my daughter’s wedding from a formerly dear, dear friend and having a Zero placed in the “How many would be attending” line with no explanation. They understood the hurt and pain and that was a salve to my heart. But I felt inept at helping them bear their own pain. Maybe just having someone who understands the feeling is enough for now. I can do that.

In the late night visits to the diner I have felt the most inept. Here I am, the mom of one of the waitstaff – sitting and drinking coffee for a few moments. I got to talk to one of her friends who is on his way to San Francisco to try and find some sort of happiness. I asked him a little about his plans and wished him well. Mostly I was interested for a minute in his life. I walked away feeling that it was one of the most awkward conversations that I have had with him and wondered if my going there was really of any value. But a few days later another daughter told me that she had run into him and he said how great it was to talk to me and actually had tears in his eyes. From what he told her she thought that we must have had this wonderful heartfelt conversation. (He must have been remembering another conversation than the one I was a part of.) So maybe my time there is less inept than I thought. We will see. I won’t give up yet.

I never felt inept at running a program. When I invited people to my “thing” (whatever it may have been) I was pretty good at it. I could run a program. With people I feel inept. But really that may be a good thing because if they come away with anything I will know it was a God thing and not a Me thing.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Halloween - The Heart of a Child

Today I downloaded all the syncroblogs of others who have weighed in on the subject of Halloween.

To Halloween or to not Halloween – that is the question. I seem to have a lot of pagan-christian friends here in the blogworld because for the most part, they have all weighed in on the side of “it never hurt me and we are being hypocritical if we celebrate Christmas and Easter and not Halloween” side of things. (Actually there were very good posts about this and I don’t mean to trivialize them)

You see I used to believe that we Charismatics had actually dealt with the demonic world and so we knew better than to mess with Satan’s camp. Actually we held the keys to the real secret behind the truth of participating in Halloween. (Satan is stronger than Jesus). Therefore in allowing your children to participate in dressing up in a costume and going from door to door for candy from their neighbors the enemy would certainly get a stronghold in their little lives and they will end up doing drugs, sleeping with their boyfriend, dressing goth and rejecting the God of their parents.

But wait. I have one of those. AND SHE NEVER PARTICIPATED IN HALLOWEEN!! We actually told her that good Christian kids did not participate in an ungodly holiday. That it was wrong to put on a witches outfit and go out and get candy. That it would be better going door to door and praying for people on that night or going to a church sponsored "harvest party". We did it ALL right. We were the good Christians on the block.

So what went wrong? And here is the real question that we with children are asking ourselves. Can all the outward things that we do really shape the heart of our children? Can we pull so far away from the world that our children’s lives will not be touched by sin? Who really is stronger – Jesus or Satan?

Let me explain. I have 7 kids. 4 girls and 3 boys. They all range in ages from 25-6. With each one of them we have known both the strengths of their characters and the weaknesses by the time they turned 4 years old. You could tell which ones had a problem with lying, self confidence, or anger. You could pick out the ones who would have a problem with eating too many sweets, which one would want to hide his sin and which one would not care if you found out. You could tell who would be a giver and who would be more selfish. You could see who was more decisive, who was the musical one, who would be your greatest helper, who naturally saw what needed to be done and so on. They were all raised in the same home with the same parents and except for themselves with the same siblings. Some we home schooled, some we sent to public school.

But the thing that is so amazing to me is that you could tell what you were going to deal with in each of them as they grew up when they were 4. It had virtually nothing to do with what we did or didn’t do. It was in them. Their strengths and weakness were already bound up in their hearts. It made no difference whether we allowed them to dress up for Halloween or not. And to think that something so much outside of them will actually influence them to behavior that is not already inherent in their little beings is just somehow crazy to me now.

So if you ask me, (and you really haven’t), I say go ahead and celebrate Halloween or not. But don’t think that the celebration of it or the avoidance of it will change one thing about who your children are, because only a relationship with one Man will ever change a child’s heart from what it is, to what it can become.

If you think that anything outside of Grace will change them, then trust me, you are in for a horrible, guilt inducing trip of parenthood. And you will end up blaming yourself for celebrating (or not celebrating) Halloween some day and that is just crazy.

PS: By the way, in case you are wondering……Jesus is stronger!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

WWJDWTC - Update on Week 1 - Operating System Cannot Be Found

Week #1 of my effort to participate in the syncroblog of What Would Jesus Do With the Church was not, um…….stellar, in any sense of the word.

I had made the decision in my mind to stop just looking at the church and trying to discern what was wrong with it and go out and DO or BE the church instead. It sounded so noble. It sounded simple, easy.

Now I know why I did not want to leave the comfort of judging (discerning the problems) in the church. It is scary out there (here).

Yes, I had a few wonderful encounters where God said something very profound to me. I shared it with some of you who read this. But, in all honesty, that was the only thing that happened.

Now if I were God, I would have read my blog (He does read this, right?) and been so pleased with this woman writing (me) that I (God) would have planned tons of stuff for her to walk into as soon as she left the comfort of her own self. I would have had that lady at the grocery store that she helped, turn to her and ask why she was so kind, giving her an opportunity to tell her about Papa’s love for her that day. I would have had many divine connections lined up for her that week just to express to her how proud I (Papa) was of her decision. People would have been saved, healed and delivered! Surely God would not have let me just deal with the un-direction of my life while only saying a few things about seeing and separating from Him. Doesn’t He know I want to DO SOMETHING!!! That is the whole point of this month.

So by Saturday I was pretty despondent. I had even gone to the book store to find something to read and left after about an hour with nothing but a new copy of The Message. All other books, books that have been reviewed and that I had wanted to buy and read did not even begin to interest me. Me. The one who loves to read. And on top of that I could not even make eye contact with anyone in the store. They were all busy in their own worlds and did not care that I wanted to be the Church in their presence.

So I sat on my front porch. I had my laptop with me but it was sitting on the side of the swing playing music. Not even Christian music. Just a musician by the name of Ingrid Michaelson that I’m love with. Her music that is. All of a sudden my laptop stopped. I knew it was charged and so I looked over at the screen. It simply said, “Operating system cannot be found.”

I laughed. Hard. My computer was prophetic. My operating system….that which I had based my whole life off of…was no longer to be found. See, in church, I had a job. I knew what I was to be doing. Pretty much they told me what they needed and I did it. If my husband agreed, I was busy. My operating system was intact. The church gave me direction and purpose. It was my operating system.

Now I need to implement a new operating system. I want Papa to be this. I want to do what he wants me to do and be what he wants me to be. I can’t make this work off my old system. (Circuit City says they can’t either. My hard drive crashed….they think. They can’t even keep it alive long enough to test it.) The system cannot be found. The old way is dying. Or dead.

Friday, October 19, 2007

WWJDWITC – Redefining Sin

The eyes thing the other day has stuck with me. I can’t get over the feeling that I felt Papa’s pleasure in looking at a brilliant tree.

Later that day I was “future tripping.” (HT to "Willie at WindRumors) No- this did not involve drugs - just my imagination. I was imagining another person and my exchange with them. This was not really happening. But in my head it was. I do this a lot and I’m really good at it. I’m so good at it that I can really get into it before I have to pull myself back and realize that I’m not really in that world at all. My blood pressure goes up, I get mad, anxious, and annoyed or whatever the situation calls for. All this is over an imagined exchange with someone that I am not actually having!

But this time I felt something. I felt Papa pull away. I stopped and in the middle of this day dream I realized that God could not look at this person in the same way that I was looking at them. He could not join me because even though I was really mad at this person, he was “especially fond of them.” He was not mad at them and so he could not join me. I lost the feeling of being able to participate in his “being” or in his presence in the same way that I could when I looked at the tree earlier in the day.

The loss of us being able to be in agreement, was palatable. I could feel him draw away. Not out of judgment towards me but out of sadness that he could not see in the same way that I was seeing. We couldn’t agree. He couldn’t participate.

I realized that sin was just this - Him not being able to participate with me in a way that He desires to and the loss of that in my life.

Maybe in all my rules to keep myself from sin, I have missed out on the one reason that may actually change my heart -- His loving, kind presence and sheer enjoyment of sharing life with me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

WWJDWTC - Lesson #2 My Eyes - His Eyes

Note: I think, from the decision that I made a few days ago, that my posts are going to get much more simple, more personal and maybe more often. I know a lot of you who read are interested in looking at the bigger picture of the church. I also know that you need to expedite your time that you spend on the blog pages. Therefore if you need to delete me from you reading and you no longer comment on my pages, please feel free to do this. I write mostly for myself and the few who resonate with my personal journey. If the direction that I am taking still interests you, please come along. But if you find yourself no longer connecting, please feel free to excuse yourself.


So as I was drinking my second cup of coffee this morning in a pause between the morning rush and the deciding what is for dinner and planning for the rest of my day, I looked outside my large picture window in the front room and paused. I breathed deep taking in the vibrant yellows and orange hues that are adorning a lovely old tree across the street. In that moment I paused and asked Papa what he was doing today and could I be a part. I distinctly heard in my spirit, “I’m enjoying the sight of that beautiful tree, Isn’t it stunning?”

Wait…..God is enjoying the sight of something I am looking at? In my enjoyment I can also sense His enjoyment? He is entering into my space in time here and interacting with me over a simple beautiful tree?

Now this may sound weird to you. But I let the thought run. Ok, if Papa could enjoy what I am looking at and if I could feel, somehow, his enjoyment, then could I also do the same when I looked at a person today? Could my enjoyment of them somehow mirror his enjoyment of them? Could I sense his delight? His excitement? His frustration? (Surely he gets frustrated too.) Could my compassion somehow tap into His compassion? Could I use my eyes today to see what He sees? Can my eyes become portals through which I can find out His heart toward people or situations? Is this what Jesus was doing when he said that he only did what he saw the Father doing? Maybe Jesus saw something, knew that the Father was seeing it also and then asked the Father what he was feeling about it (or just immediately sensed it) and what, if anything was to be done.

Maybe this is basic to you. Nothing, no thought, is new. But today, this thought blasted through my world and made me change my perspective. I like walking with Papa. Especially on a beautiful Fall day.
And, I can't wait to see my kids tonight.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

WWJDWTC - Lesson #1: Having a New God

I don’t plan to update this new phase (experiment) of my life (walking away from the wreck) every day. But when something happens, I will post about it.

This morning after several cups of coffee and while folding laundry I remembered that I was going to ask the Father to show me what he was doing today and if he showed me and it was something for me to act on I was willing today. So I did. But as I started to address Him, I inadvertently called him Papa. You see I had just read this excellent post by “Willie,” author of The Shack and the name for God, being Papa, what “Willie” calls God came to mind and to my lips.

Now, calling God, Father, is ok by me. I can see that. I have done that often. It is a common name for God in my head. But frankly, the name of Papa as a name for God seemed kind of hokey to me. It is ok for a novel, or for someone else like a friend that I know who is kind wild and free, but not for me.

But today, in walking away from the wreck of my life in the institutional church I found that somewhere in standing around and looking at the wreck another God had replaced the one I went into the wreck with. This God was so different that I could not even refer to Him with the same name.

I realized that I did not want to walk away from this wreck with my old God. That God was demanding and I never measured up to his expectations – nor did anyone else. My old God would have wanted a plan. A plan for today, tomorrow and don’t forget to work on the 5 year plan too. “Without vision the people perish,” or something along those lines. My chores did not change nations. I would have felt worthless and looked for something that appeared more like his “will.” Mostly, I felt that my old God loved me but was not fond of me. He just wanted me to get to work.

This new God was fond of me and when I called him Papa this morning I saw him smile gently. Not really saw it as much as sensed it. This God wanted to walk with me. He was not so concerned as to the direction we took as that we were walking together. Nothing made Him happier than for me to ask Him where we were headed and could I tag along. He was not too busy for me. He did not care if I had wash to fold, phones to answer and dinner to cook. Those chores were not substandard to doing his “will.” They were what he wanted to do with me today. He was content. My Papa was content. Wow!!........Did you read that? Can God truly be content? Can He be content with me?

Ok, so lesson #1. I have a new God to walk with. I hope He does not mind. I sure don’t.

Monday, October 15, 2007

WWJDWTC.....Or….Walking Into The Unknown

(PLEASE NOTE #1: Right off….for those who hate the whole – What Would Jesus Do – theme, bracelets, jewelry, bumper stickers and way of thinking…..I’m right there with you. I’m smart enough to realize that I have NO idea what Jesus would do in any situation. I’m enough of a Pharisee at heart to realize that if Jesus walked through my door today he would probably shock, disturb and stretch me and if I were not careful, humble and teachable; I may eventually want to put him to death.)

That said; Let me tell you why I am participating in a syncroblog entitled; What Would Jesus Do... With The Church. Erin invited those of us who have been looking at the church to spend a month and DO some of the things that we feel the church is not doing. Go here to see the guidelines for this and please participate.

There are two other reasons I am participating.

Best Friend said something to me the other day. She reads my blog hesitantly. I say hesitantly because she is super sensitive to all the negativity that many feel during this time. See, the reason she is my best friend is because she is able to look beyond my faults and sin and annoying bits of personality and actually love me. The only problem with that is that she is able to do that to everyone. Even those who hurt her desperately. So, knowing those that I sometimes write about is a source of hurt for her if she senses that I do not love them in the same way she is able. She misunderstood something that I and another commentator said the other day and told me that, at some time, those of us who had left the church would need to get on with their lives and just live. Even though she misunderstood what I had said, I took what she said and chewed on it. Did I need to move on?

The last thing that happened was something that Wayne Jacobsen said. I was listening to his series on his website called Transitions. He was speaking of sins and those things that we are addicted to. He said that our obsession with anything other than this life in Jesus, is bondage. Our desire and involvement IN sin can be bondage but so also can our desire and involvement to be OUT of sin. Whatever ties up our hearts other than walking each day with and in the love of Father can be bondage. What I felt the Spirit saying was this - being in bondage to leaving a church system and focusing only on that is just as damaging as being in bondage to the system in the first place.

Let me explain, here is the picture I get. Last May, my family and I were in a terrible wreck. (This wreck was all that happened when we left our church.) Everyone involved, everyone, walked away with injuries. Those on each side were affected. It was a terrible wreck. Nothing is or will be the same.

I was not prepared for this wreck. I had no back-up plans. I had not decided to leave with a direction in mind. I had no other transportation ready in case of a wreck. I was left, standing on the side of the road just looking at this mess.

I hate wrecks. I hate that so many had gone before me and experienced the same things. I hated that I had looked the other way and not stopped to help them. I hated that I had blamed them for having the wreck. I hated that I was so much to blame.

I found others who had experienced wrecks just like mine. They were and are invaluable voices for me. They assured me that the injuries I had sustained were not just my own sin. They gave me hope that, in time, the memories of the wreck and those involved would fade. I was grateful.

I did leave the scene of the wreck for a while to ask some people to forgive me. But you need to understand….I had no idea what to do next. Do I look for another means of transportation for me and my family? Even if we found one, where were we to go? Could I ever trust another driver or another mode of transportation? Were we even supposed to have these contraptions that we (the church) travel in?

I started to evaluate everything. Were we supposed to be in this kind of transportation to begin with? What about those who designed the transportation that caused the wreck? Were they to be held accountable? Were there any new designs that would protect us for future wrecks? How about the big transportation companies - the ones who kept producing types of transportation for all kinds of people and the wrecks that they caused? Could we change them? Could we get them to see our point? Was it only the drivers of these vehicles or was it the vehicles themselves? Maybe it was just the direction they were traveling. Maybe if we just went another direction then the wrecks would be eliminated. What really did the original authors mean when they described the modes of transportation that they used? How about we just tweak the accessories on the transporting vehicles? Would that make it better? Maybe different tires, different windshield wipers, different brake systems, different air bags, different forms of fuel. There was so much to evaluate. I could stay here forever.

At Watchman’s View From the Wall’s on What Was That All About, I wrote in the comments last week that it is easier to look backwards and evaluate than it is to walk away into the nothingness of not knowing. In some ways, I have walked away from the wreck but I find that I have walked away backwards, with the wreck always in my sight. And in many ways, I have not walked away at all but only circled it. Kevin says at the end of this very timely article for my life that, “Change can’t occur until we get tired of staying in the same place.” Brilliant stuff huh?

So this month, and hopefully from this point on, I am going to purposely walk away. It is not that I will never look at it again. If it helps someone else to look at my wreck or theirs, I will.

But I need to walk into this nothingness and find out if Jesus, if the Church is really there.

Here is my overall, very simple commitment for the month:
I am going to ask Father at least once a day to show me what he is doing around me that day. If he shows me and if I can be involved I plan to try to act on it.

I have two concrete plans:
One is to make an effort to meet other believers. I have one that Father has urged me to ask out for coffee and I plan to do that this week. I have a few others that He as asked me to make appointments with to see what their lives are involved in now. I will call this week to make those appointments.

The other plan is to go and sit with those who want to be loved. My daughter works at a downtown, late night diner. Many of her friends, who came by our home when she lived here, work there also. They know me. I’m going to go down once a week or so and drink a cup of coffee and see if Father is doing anything among them. It will mean being out after 11:00 one night a week. But I like coffee. And I love these kids.

That is my plan. I will update the blog this month as I walk away. You are invited to read along with me and I hope to also participate.

Please let me know in the comments if you read my blog and are going to participate. I would like to also keep up with your stories.

PLEASE NOTE #2: Father has us each on our own timetable. This happened just when I needed it. Do not participate out of guilt. I could not have done this last month. You may just need to read along and be encouraged for the time when Father asks you to walk away too. The day will come.

PLEASE NOTE #3: If you feel called to look at the way we do church and evaluate it, please do not take this post as a judgment on what you are doing. I am grateful to you who are doing this. I just don't think that this is my platform for right now. There are better and brighter minds out there already working on this. They don’t really need me.

The kids at the diner do though.

Living His Life

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Tagged.....and Why I Can't Answer This Yet

Emerging Grace tagged me for a meme on why people (non Christians) do not like Christians. The complete instructions are to: List four things about Christians: three negative perceptions that people have and one thing that Christians should be known for.

Last night I made my list. But you know what. As I got ready to post it this morning I realized that I don’t really know anyone who does not call themselves a Christian. I mean I could give you some names. I know people. But I don’t really know them.

I’ve explained before in this blog that in my former church I had set myself up as the one who discipled the ones who came into the church. My time and energies all went toward the new and developing Christians and fellowship with people mostly just like me. I mean, after the Sunday morning meeting and all the other meetings I attended there really wasn’t time for much else. I never belonged to an outside organization, club or group. Since I homeschooled my children (until just the past few years) I did not even have school type excuses to meet the world. I also run our own business, and while I talk on the phone, taking appointments and such, it also does not lend itself to meeting any of those “non Christian people.”

I am beginning to take some steps outside now though. I just had drinks and dinner with Best Friend and some of her co-workers last night. It was a blast. I don’t remember when I’ve had more fun. And then there is the lady who ownes the florist shop down the road who found out that I love to make cinnamon rolls and actually asked me if she could come to my house some day and have me teach her how to make them.

What I am trying to say here is:
I have no idea of what they think of us or why they don’t like us.

I have only heard others like me tell me what they think of us. I have never asked them. I don’t even know them enough to really ask them.

So I made a call. I called my daughter who is living with her boyfriend. (She is the one running so hard away from religion right now that she is going to run smack into God out there) She has said that her boyfriend hates Christians. So I asked her to ask him for me. When he answers, I will get back to you and update this post.

You see, I’m no longer interested in what I think to be true. I have found that what I thought to be true even just months ago were lies of my own and others' making. I want truth. I really want to know what they think.

So, I’m going to ask them. So……more later……

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Heart "Bent" on Worship

(Note: See Jon Birch's site for more comics like the one on the right)

Since we have left our church I have chewed on the idea of worship. I was disheartened because there was nothing in me that wanted return to a worship service. I was not sure I would even like it anymore. I was afraid to go back and the idea frankly made me a little sick. This disturbed me greatly because music is so important to my spirit. I know it can connect me to God, to others and to his body. I love music. Others, who I read about and listen to, seem to have not taken anything bad from their experiences in worship and seemingly it was the one thing that they missed the most from their institutional churches. So why did I not want to go back? What was up with that?

Robbymac blogged about worship leaders the other day in Whips, Flames and Morpheus the Worship Leader. Please read this. He defines the two kinds of worship leaders. Those that stress that you “perform” in worship and those that just worship and allow you to enter if you wish. After reading this and thinking on it, I may know a bit more of why I am so reluctant to go back to a worship service.

Now let me be the first to say that worship in my CLB was pretty stellar. Our leaders were impassioned people who did not carry a strong arm into the worship space. We were known for our worship. But at the same time there was this unsaid, unspoken idea (at least in my thinking) that if you were just sitting there while everyone else was outwardly worshiping that you were not “entering in” and could actually impede the work of the Holy Spirit. “True believers” worship freely. This meant that you could see them worship.

I was a leader in this church. I sat on the front row. I therefore, needed to put on a good front. People needed to see me worship so they could follow me and worship too. I did not want to impede the Holy Spirit. I became convinced that to truly look spiritual I needed to raise my hands, dance a bit when called for, look joyful for the joyful songs, somber for the repentance songs and passionate for the more passionate songs. I needed to somehow outwardly show that I was actually worshiping. I have realized in the past few days that I had made it into a production about me, my leadership, my godliness, my qualifications, my holiness, me, me, me.

No wonder it makes me sick now.

And that is what is so hard. Was this really taught at my CLB or was this just my own bent heart wanting to fit in and be recognized? I would love to take a survey of all that sat in the same services as I did. Was it just me? Was I the only one that believed this subtle, twisted message? Did everyone there who were raising their hands, kneeling or dancing really mean it or was it a show for some? Did we as leaders let people know that is wasn’t ok just to be there and not perform? What was actually said?

So many times I want to point my finger at the institution for all its problems and what it does to people but then I realize that the institution that is fundamentally and primarily flawed is my own heart.

For that I repent.

Filed under: Uncategorized — jonbirch @ 12:00 am

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Un-Churched Communion

As we exited our church in May a thousand questions swirled around our heads. Questions, like, what are we going to do with our kids, worship, fellowship, teaching, giving, discipleship, baptism or the Lord’s Supper.

Slowly, bit by bit, Father has been visiting each question. He hasn’t always answered each question but there has been a time to talk with him about them. I both love and hate this part of my journey right now. . A subject will come up through a simple thought, something that happens or something I read. I remind Him that I still have questions about this topic. But you know what? Most of the time, it seems that He appears content just to listen to my question. He does not seem to be in any hurry.

But every once in a while Father gives me something substantial. Simple, but substantial. It was that way the other day as I listened to a podcast from the God Journey. It was the podcast from May 4, 2007 where Brad and Wayne were interviewing a close friend of Wayne’s named Bob Stamps.

Mr. Stamps has studied for a lifetime on the significance of the Eucharist, (we called it either the Lord’s Supper or Communion.) During his talk with Brad and Wayne he blew me away. In summary, this is what I gleaned from their talk.

When Jesus first offered this symbol to his disciples he was sitting at a dinner table. They were in the midst of doing something incredibly common. They were eating dinner together. In this setting, Jesus says to take the elements of the table, bread and wine, and He said, when you eat like this, remember me. Bob went on to say that for CENTURIES this act of remembering the Lord’s death till he came back was only done around someone’s dinner table. It was in the midst of eating together at someone’s dinner table that this remembrance was observed.

A few things stood out to me and will forever change how I view having the “Lord’s Supper.”

1) Jesus wants to meet me - not just in a building where we all come together for two hours on a Sunday morning for a ritual, drinking out of little tiny cups and a morsel of bread. He wants to meet us in the most common of settings. In my dining room. At my table. With us. Among us. In our homes. With our family. With our friends.

2) He never said, build a special table at the front of the building where you meet on Sundays, cover it with a white cloth, fill tiny cups with juice – not wine, and have special golden plates to put tiny pieces of very, very dry crackers on it. Now make sure that every knows that this table is holy. You may call it the Alter.

3). This meal we are to share is to be among people we have relationship with. There is very little relationship among those we went to church with. Oh, we were together a lot, we worked on things a lot. But in that morning that we came together for a service we barely got out hellos, how are you, how’s the kids, yeah – we are busy too…football you know…and various other “greetings” but not true fellowship. Try having those kinds of conversations around the dinner table and you see what is so crazy about the whole thing. Life gets talked about at the dinner table. Good stuff….bad stuff….laughter…tears, are all mixed in and among us as we talk. And THAT is what Jesus wants to be a part of. That is the setting he wants us to not forget him. He wanted to be surrounded with family and friends in this remembrance.

4). The meal is to be abundant. I’m not talking about lavish. But I am talking about a meal. Jesus did not say that He wanted us to come together for a sip of wine and a bite of dry cracker. He said, “When you do this……meal….remember me. I wonder if the tiny portion that we get in a typical communion allotment is somehow a tribute to the amount of grace that we feel is also poured out for our sins. This was never to be the picture. It is out of a sizeable portion – a meal – that we are to take a portion of that and remember him. From abundance we remember his abundant love, grace and provision.

4. The meal is to be shared. How much of my life have I sat with just myself – inspecting and feeling guilty for my sin and then sipped the juice and chewed on the dry cracker all by myself. Alone. Just me and God. Sometimes we would take it as a family and later in years we would sometimes celebrate it of sorts with each other or another couple. But mostly it was just me. My sin. My shame. My guilt. My repentance. (See what Mr. Stamps says about Paul's admonition to inspect our lives during communion - it is truy freeing)

5. Why did we exchange wine for juice?. A dinner with wine changes everything dynamically. It becomes a celebration. Wine makes the heart glad. Wine is a symbol of richness, lavishness, God having a party. It is a remembrance of his death but it is a remembrance of JOY for all he has done for us. He paid it for us. He is our victor. Church would have been a lot more fun if we had just come together for a dinner and served several bottles of good Shiraz. Maybe even the poor and the pagan would have wondered if they could join us.

Anyway, I encourage you to listen to the podcasts of God at Our Table and then the next one entitled, Living in the Arms of Mercy. You can access them here or on itunes buy putting Wayne Jacobsen into the search bar and clicking on the God Journey. Let me know if you get any other revelation from them.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Another (Better) Review on the Shack

Brother Maynard over at Subversive Influence just did a review on The Shack.

If my review piqued your interest, please read his and you will probably read the book for sure.

Also if you are reading it or have read it or are planning to read it, would you please leave feedback here about what you thought or what it stirred up in you. It does not have to be positive.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Prayer at the Ocean

You need to know something about me to understand this story. I Love The Ocean. I Love The Beach. I Love The Smell. I Love The Sand. I Love the Sunshine. I Love The Ocean! I only can afford to visit it once or twice a year but Husband tries to make sure that happens for me.

This past weekend Best Friend had rented a house by the Ocean. She invited me down for a few days of their week because she loves me and that is why she is my Best Friend. In fact almost anyone can be my best friend by inviting me to the beach…I’m easy like that. But she is my Best Friend for putting up with my crap too, so only she gets her name capitalized.

The day I arrived it was raining. The next day it poured. I was so disappointed. I love the ocean but can enjoy it much more in the sunshine. As I sat on the beach at 10:00 the first morning there were thick clouds everywhere. The weather report said it was to rain all the days that we were to be there.

I sat there and realized that I could pray about this. I could ask God for sunny weather. But I didn’t. Here is what I remember praying. “Father, I love you. Thanks for letting me have the time to come here. I would really rather that it be sunny but you know what? I am going to trust you with this one. I just want the time with you today and tomorrow. If it rains, I will just spend the time with you. If it is sunny – the same. Come and be a part of my days here at the ocean.” I sat in peace….content.

Guess what? By 2:00 that afternoon the sun came out and stayed out the whole time we were there. The whole time!! We could sometimes see heavy dark clouds to our North and heavy dark clouds and rain to our South. But right where we were on the Outer Banks coast – it was glorious.

Now this did a few things in me. Had I prayed for sunny skies, I would have been proud (and amazed) that my “prayer worked.” I would have hit the “prayer jackpot” in some way. Know what I mean? Had it rained after I had prayed for sunny skies I would have been tempted to think that God did not like me, was mad at me or was not capable of answering my prayers.

As it was, the sunny skies just produced gratefulness. I was so grateful that Father was there with me. The sunshine was just a wonderful bonus. He did not reward me for praying right. It had become more important to spend the time with Him in whatever way he had planned than it was to selfishly decide that I knew best for the weekend.

But now the test came. Did I just hit a formula for prayer? Is the success to my happiness just wrapped up in asking Father for relationship and then he will treat me each and every time to what my heart truly desires? Is this how I should always pray? Should I write a book? “The Prayer of Relationship – How To Get The Skies To Clear.”

Some of you may think I am crazy but this is how my mind works. I LOVE formulas! I love when it always works. I’m a very disturbed person because I should know by now that formulas have never made me happy. They never work all the time.

So I resisted the urge and talked myself out of this new way of praying being a formula. And the next time I pray for something, Father may very well encourage me to pray for what I want or specifically for a thing or a happening. He can do that. No formulas. Just relationship.

(But I do think I could make money on a book by that title……hm….)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Books To Read

I have not done an official book recommendation yet on this blog. I have two today.

The first is the book to your left. It is available on, here. If you are in or have come out of a church that is using terminology such as, Apostolic authority, covering, submission to authority, headship, set man or apostolic sons, please read this book.

One of the main strengths of this book is that it is a reaction to the abuse that exists in the camp and not the camp itself. Dr. Crosby is not "throwing out the baby with the bathwater" but is definitely cleaning the baby up.

He gives a thorough explanation of all the words used in the Greek that people in the Apostolic movement are using. He gives each a fair piece of study and explains what they are really saying. His chapter on Spiritual Covering is brilliant. I also enjoyed his grasp of the Old Covenant theology and New Covenant theology and how that shapes the landscape of what we now call church. I have read books especially from Bevere and others on authority and submission and I see now that much of what they base their premises from are strictly an Old Covenant mindset.

This book needs to be read by all those who call themselves an apostle or are in relationship with one. If you are at all questioning the teachings of these new apostles, please read this.

The Shack

I took many theology courses in my Fundamental Bible College when I was in my 20's. I realized early on that what I really believe about God does shape my life. Unfortunately I came out of that encounter with theology believing that God was very mean, had stopped all the fun stuff of miracles and such, and theology became dry and dead. Since then I have adjusted my theology bit by bit. Nothing though has changed me as much as this book has.

This is the deepest book of theology that many of you will ever read - but don't let that scare you off. I read it to my 12 year old son and he loved it. It is a meeting of a man (Mack) who has experienced a horrendous tragedy and has suffered through a "Great Sadness" for three years following. He is angry at God for letting this terrible thing happen. God invites him to revisit the scene of the tragedy to meet with Him there. Mack takes God up on his offer and spends a weekend with Him. He gets to ask God all the questions that you and I would love to ask. God reveals himself to Mack and we get a glimpse of a God that seems to be too good to be true.

The favorite thing that I took away from this book is the relationship that God has with himself and the relationship that he asks us to be a part of. There are wonderful nuggets of life with God that you will chew on for years and years after reading this.

I cannot tell you how much you need to read The Shack. We cried with joy at such an unveiling of a Father who is truly good and truly loves us. Husband, Son, and myself have read it at least twice so far. I even gave it to one of my daughters who is running so hard away from God right now. With tears in her eyes she shared with me her favorite parts.

Please order it now. And just a note. You might has well order one to give away, because, trust will wish you had.

Note: Amazon is now offering this book and you can see it here and read some of the reviews

Friday, September 14, 2007

Nothing has changed. Yet everything is different.

Nothing has changed – Yet everything is different.

Nothing has changed. I love the Church. I try to gather with the Church as much as I can. I delight in the Church.

Yet everything is different. I don’t go “to” church. I don’t go to services. I don’t participate in any church activities. All my friends do not belong to the same “church.” I am not a leader in the “church.” My kids are not being raised in the "church."

Nothing has changed. I love to worship. I love worship songs that bring my heart, mind and spirit into the same place where the Spirit of Father feels real to me.

Yet everything is different. Worship is not prepackaged for me. I don’t “go” to worship anymore. If I worship it is by my own decision to make time to tell Father that I love him. Sometimes worship does not even involve singing. Sometimes it is just in the sitting and listening. Sometimes it is in the loving of someone else that Father puts in my path. Sometimes it is in preparing dinner for my family so that we can gather around the table and love each other and have Father there with us.

Nothing has changed. I love to give. I love to give an offering of money. I love to be generous.

Yet everything is different. I no longer have one basket that I put all my offerings in. I no longer give from a place where if I don’t, God will be mean to me. I no longer give out of obligation. No one ever sees me give anymore. I don’t march down front to put in my money into a basked in front of the whole “church”. I give a lot more to the poor.

Nothing has changed. I love fellowship. I love to help people grow to be a follower of Jesus. I also love to learn from others how to grow more to be like Him.

Yet everything is different. I don’t have prepackaged fellowship. There are no meetings that I attend where the “fellowship time” is set aside for me. Many friends no longer want to have fellowship with me because they perceive that I hurt them by leaving their church. Fellowship is much more intimate now – just with a few. Much like how sweet something tastes after you have eliminated sugar from your diet, this fellowship is soooo sweet. Even brief encounters with other Christians (that I don’t’ even know) at a bank or grocery story feels like the sweetest fellowship ever.

Nothing has changed. I love God. I speak to Him. I even call this “prayer” sometimes. Nothing has changed.

Yet everything is different. I have changed how I speak to Him. I sit with Him mostly and do not speak. I listen a lot more. I have changed from calling him “The” Father to just Father. I ask him for other things – not so much my own stuff anymore. I don’t pray about “church” things anymore.

Nothing has changed. I love the teaching that comes from others on the Word of God. I love to hear what they have to say.

Yet everything is different. I don’t have prepackaged teaching every Sunday morning. I have to go and search it out. Also, for the first time in my life I allow myself to question who is teaching and what they are saying. I can disagree. I can love one part and spit the other parts out. I have to decide for myself if it matches up to the Word in a way that I think that Jesus and the disciples meant it to. Another thing is different too. I learn from anyone who speaks. I am not forced to only read or hear one “stream” of beliefs. I have read or heard from staunch Presbyterians, atheists, the Reformed faith, the charismatic teachers and most lovely, those who sit around my table with me. I love to be with others who are learning new things. I’m on a journey and it is fun to have so many of you talking to me, teaching me as I go.

Nothing has changed. Yet everything is different.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

"Raised in the Church"

Words are so odd to me right now - especially religious words. Words that just a few months ago flowed from my lips without a thought. Now, as I read them in a whole new light, I find my mind tripping over them.

Some of you read my words on prayer. Religious words, words full of theology – maybe good or maybe bad. Vague words. Church Lady words. Words from books. Words from someone else. Words that make you part of a club. Words that mean something to a very few of our population. Words that need an interpreter if you talk to someone outside of the “church”.

Another one hit me today as I read it. They said, “I was raised in the Church.” When they say it you can hear the capital “C”. Now we know they were not raised in the building – although many of us felt like we were with all the endless meetings. I know I grew up with Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night and then of course when old enough for youth group meetings we were together at least one or two other nights. Before we were old enough for youth group there were the choir practices that we had to sit in the hard pews on a Thursday night for what seemed hours. Hmmm....maybe I was raised in the Church.

But this is not what people mean when they say that phrase. They are not talking about the actual time spent. They are talking about being raised in Christianity. With Christian teachings, Christian friends, Christian theology, Christian lives, Christian buildings. Christian leaders, Christian meetings, Christian rules, Christian pastimes, Christian schools……..But they do not say they were raised in Jesus. Or in a relationship with any sort of a Heavenly Father. It is not about relationship. It is an institution.

Now my children are not being raised “in the Church” like their older siblings. This makes me ask what are they being raised in? I wonder how they will speak of this “raising” that we are doing now.

If I could help them with the words, I would hope they could say when they are grown, “I was raised loving God.” Or, I was raised as a Christian - but not like you think.” Or, “I was raised in a Jesus follower kind of way.” I wonder what they will say. I definitely don’t think they will say they were “raised in the Church.” And today, at least, that does not bother me.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

And This Is My Hope

And this is my hope:

Party! by Emerging Grace

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I’m going to be honest here.

For the past month or two I have, for the first time that I remember, dealt with depression. No, that is not entirely true….I am depressed. (See how in just a few words we can distance ourselves from what we consider “wrong” in some way and make it sound so much better?).

I admit it. I exhibit all the signs of it. I checked. Everything is so easy to find nowadays on this thing called the Internet. Actually I did not have to look it up. I just knew it.
I’m sad. I cry a lot. I have lost a lot of desire to do much of anything that I found satisfying before. I’m dreaming a lot when I do sleep. I dream constantly about running into different members from my CLB. When I don’t sleep I am besieged by thousands of thoughts. What if? What about? Why? What can I do? What will they do? What will they say? I swing from anger and then back to compassion and then to sadness and then to numbness with startling quickness.

It is hard to admit depression. It would be easier to admit it much later, after, hopefully I have figured out what exactly is wrong with me and “conquered” it. But I need to admit it now.

But you know what? I can hear the voices screaming in my head how wrong it is to feel this way. Some of them sound a lot like my own as I have leveled some of these words at others. Voices that say things like:

Just be happy for crying out loud.
You need to get your head wrapped around the “truth” of the Word
Just get up, take a shower, put on your makeup and you’ll feel better.
Just set up a time with me and we will pray against this spirit of depression.
If you would just get back into fellowship with the believers in our church you would feel better.
Of course you are depressed. Look at your giving. God is not blessing you.
Maybe if you spend some time, early in the morning, in prayer and connecting with God, you'll be better.
You say he is depressed? Well of course, he broke covenant with our body and is now out there all on his own.
You just need to speak the Word. God’s promises will not return void.
Get under our covering and God will rebuke this demon of depression.
We have been given the spirit of an overcomer. You can do this.
We have a spirit, not of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind so if we are truly walking with God the spirit of a sound mind it will keep away any depression.
Don’t hang around people who are depressed. You will start to believe that the gospel does not work. They will steal your faith.
Depression is a sign of a very unstable person. Certainly not mature in the things of God.

Shall I shut them up now? You get my point.

I’m sorry Daughter….many of these were leveled at you. Please forgive me.

One of the funny things about living in this kind of toxic church belief system is that for some it was the CHURCH that caused their depression. Or at least what we were teaching in the church. Did we ever step back and say, “Oh, my God, what might we be doing that is causing this person to struggle like this.” Would that have been a good question to ask ourselves?

Another reason it is hard to admit being depressed is because if my old CLB ever heard that I was struggling with depression right now they would have been given the match to light the wood stacked at my feet. It would prove just how wrong and unstable and full of demons that I now am. My one ray of light has been Husband, who has been so patient with my tears and crazy – unlike me – behavior. He has said time and time again, “Honey, you are right where God wants you. He has something to teach you and show you about yourself and him.” I don’t know what I would have done with anyone less understanding. Best Friend and one or two others have also been so encouraging and not judgmental in this whole process

But then yesterday I looked onto my computer and read a bit of what someone else is going through. Heidi at Live With Desire was one of the first people that gave me hope that I was not crazy in coming out of our CLB. Monday, she again did that for me. In her Thoughts About Depression she says some simply amazing things. Please, please take the time to read it.

If you have ever struggled with depression, or are depressed now please read her post.

If you have never struggled with depression – you too need to read it. It will keep you from saying all the stupid things above and wounding people even more.

Thanks Heidi…And Husband….And Best Friend….And all the friends who now surround me. Your grace to me is amazing.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Prayer Story

We have been reading and talking about prayer these past few days. I have a story that makes me smile every time I think about it. Mind you, I’m not sure if the theology behind this is really true. I could probably pull some Bible verses around it and make it sound just as good as any preacher that I have heard lately but I will spare you the Bible gymnastics. It is just a story. My story.

During one of days that I knew we were going to have a meeting in our CLB (church left behind) I was in deep anguish. I wanted to do everything so perfectly. I wanted there to be no room for deception in our own lives. I wanted no one to be able to point any fingers that we were not completely like Jesus in our handling of telling our pastors that we really, really disagreed with them. (Now, I realize that, 1) I can’t be perfect enough and 2) people will believe whatever they want to believe)

Anyway, one morning about 4 months ago, I could not sleep. I got up crying. As I came downstairs I saw the couch and I dropped to my knees sobbing. I cried for a few minutes and then started praying/sobbing, “Please Jesus, please come and be here with me. Please come and be here. I need you. Please don’t leave me alone to do this, please come and be with me.”

This went on for many minutes. At one point I actually took a breath. I was not in the listening mode but all of a sudden, in my thoughts, I felt like I heard Jesus say in a bit of a rebuking kind of voice, “I am here!” Now I don’t know what God sounds like when he speaks to you but this the tone of his voice was as if he was trying to get through to me so I would stop begging Him to show up. He also sounded like he had said it a few times already and I had just not heard him yet.

Of course I immediately thought of all the verses that I know that he would not leave me and of his omnipresence that I had been taught all my life and sheepishly said, “Thanks Jesus, thanks for being here.”

I then took another deep breath and began to frantically tell him all about what I was worried about, what had happened, all my fears and panic for what the day would bring. Again, at one point when I paused to catch my breath I thought I heard him speak peacefully again. He said, “I know all of that, I was just sitting here with my Father talking to him about all of this. He knows all about it and he loves you.”

Again verses flooded through my mind about Jesus sitting on the right hand of the Father and interceding for us. (I’m a good Bible student when I am pushed to be)

But the thought and picture of this brought such sweet peace to me that morning. I realized that he really was talking to the Father about this. That they really cared and that they had not left us alone in all of it.

But then a crazy thought crossed my mind and came flying out of my mouth. “Jesus, if you are there, talking to the Father about all of this…. I mean, if He is right there being all God and stuff…. and knowing everything like he does….and you guys are talking about it right?..... could you please tell me how it is going to turn out. What is going to happen?”

Again, in my mind I heard him say back to me. “No, He hasn’t told me what is going to happen yet but that is ok.”

I decided at that moment that I probably better not push this one. If he wanted me to know ahead of time, he would tell me. (and if he had told me I would have probably really screwed up and asked for the lottery numbers too for the day)

But it does make me smile…and cherish that morning on my knees…and think about all the theological implications….and again brings peace to me knowing that they talk about these kinds of things…right?

And maybe just listening and breathing right now is really ok.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Prayer Without Throwing Things

Cindy asked me to contribute to today’s sycroblog about prayer. I told her that at this point in my journey the words that have surrounded my experience of prayer in the church mostly make me want to throw things. I don’t really know what I can contribute to this discussion but here was what I was chewing on all week as I thought about my emerging prayer life.

First a list of the words that now make me oh….so….tired. What prayer is not to me right now.

Prayer warrior, intercessory prayer, prayer of faith, praying in faith, The prayer of faith, unceasing prayer, prayer and fasting, prayer of salvation, prayer march, soaking prayer, prayer meetings, prayer requests, warring prayer, beseeching prayer, foxhole prayer, persistent prayer, strategic level warfare prayer,

(By the way, if you don’t get what some of these are, you must not be in a church as “special” as ours was.)

watchman prayer, prophetic intercessory prayer, spiritual breakthrough prayer, The Lord’s Prayer, praying women, praying wives, praying moms, travailing prayer, deliverance prayer, prayer shield, prayer walking, prayer lines, prayer teams, prayer leaders, prayer towers, prayer rooms, prayer closet, house of prayer, prayer shawl, prayer rug, overcoming prayer, enlarging prayer, healing prayer,

Are you tired yet?

prayer cloths, prayer oil, kneeling in prayer, shouting in prayer, standing in prayer, weeping in prayer, prayer partners, availing prayer, city wide prayer, hidden power of prayer, prayer evangelism, answered prayer, prayer journal, call to prayer, prayer language, prayer in tongues, edifying prayer, expectant prayers, personal prayer, 10/40 prayer window, miraculous prayer, praying through, praying for, praying over, praying around
and on and on and on…..

So without all the trappings of prayer that once made up my life, what is it now? I really have a hard time explaining it.
The closest word that seems to describe it is breath.

You know how it feels to get up in the middle of the night to a crying baby. You go in and change, feed, and rock your child. Along sometime in the dead of night this infant that you have given everything for, finally decides to sleep. As I held my children like this, them breathing softly, it was my favorite time in the world. They were completely satisfied, relaxed and at peace. I was totally enjoying just being there, holding them and listening to their breath.
It was miraculous. It was complete.

Husband asked me on our Friday night date what I was thinking about prayer. I told him that I was having a hard time describing it. He then told me to close my eyes and tell him what God looked like when I thought about prayer.
I told him that God was seated, leaning forward, not speaking, just breathing and listening for my breath. He was not mad at me, (a good jump for my imagination) or impatient, just intent on being with me and listening….both of us…just listening….and breathing. I, listening to his breath and he, to mine.

Right now that is prayer for me.
For once, I’m not saying much. For once, I’m not demanding that he say anything.
For once I just want to be held and be at peace and just

Monday, August 20, 2007

But They Didn't Call.....

Didn’t they realize that even though we disagree on church things I still love them and their family?

But they didn’t call.

Maybe their invitation got lost in the mail. Wouldn’t they call then to see why we did not RSVP?

But they didn’t call.

Don’t they realize that even though we disagreed sharply and are not now in the same church, nothing would have stopped us from joyfully attending their daughter’s wedding?

But they didn’t call.

Do they not remember the times I stood up for their daughter? I was the one who encouraged her when everyone else wanted to give up on her. Don’t they remember how I loved her and believed in her?

But they didn’t call.

Do they understand that I spent the week before her day crying that I was going to miss her wedding?

But they didn’t call.

Do they understand that somehow I thought that even at the very last minute they would call and say, “What in the world are we thinking…Of course we want you here…Please come.”?

But they didn’t call.

Don’t they remember that we were family? Family can disagree on the huge, important things and yet come together on the real things, right?

But they didn’t call.

Do they understand that I spent the time that the service was going on silent, thinking and praying that God would be there in all of his love and fullness?

But they didn’t call.

Do they think that just because we left, we don’t love them or care deeply for them?

But they didn’t call

Don’t they know that despite our differences we still rejoice at every good and perfect gift that comes to them from the Father?

But they didn’t call.

I don’t write this to garner your sympathy. Father’s love and abiding presence is the only balm for such things. I also do not write this to garner any support for “my side.” There is no “my side” nor do I want you on it.

I write this for the same reason that I blog at all. I write so that when you experience hurt that decisions like this bring, you will feel that someone else has maybe felt it too and that they said that God would be there in the midst of their tears and heartache (and at moments…anger).

He was.

He called….He came….He cried with me….He never left…He understood.

He even understands why they didn’t call.

And He loves.