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.