As I look towards the New Year this year I find myself struggling with something that is always nagging me in the back of my mind. I realize that it is again one of those "voices" from the past that I still have yet to shake. It is the voice that taunts me, ridicules me, and whispers that I am no longer building anything significant with my life.
In my old church, every act we did was significant. We were the elite of God's Army. We were the ones who heard his voice and we were the ones that were in the process of bringing the Kingdom of God to earth in this day - no in this hour.
Every act of kindness did not stand on its own. Instead, every act of kindness was a blow against the enemy's kingdom.
If you served anyone or anywhere in the church, you were supporting the advance of God's kingdom.
If you gave money, you were planting seed that would be returned 10 or lately 100 fold.
If you gave a gift to the pastors it was not simply a gift. No, you were laying your gift at the feet of the Apostles.
If you sang on the worship team or even just in your seat it was not just a simple act of adoration. Here, you were breaking through the heavens so that the Kingdom of God could come down.
If you prayed you were doing an important job, you were binding and loosing. You were causing something to take place in the heavenlies.
If you were a good parent or a good spouse you were discipling hundreds by your example.
If you were righteous at work - if you did a good job - you were in the process of taking over that secular job for the Kingdom of God.
If you made money in your secular job you were a part of the transferring of the wealth of the Gentles to the Kingdom.
If you kept your home and yard clean it was a witness to your neighbors and thus you were taking part in the great harvest of souls.
If you drove a nice car you were showing the prosperity of the Lord that was promised to the saints.
EVERYTHING WAS IMPORTANT!!!!
This has been the hardest mindset to shake. In a way, it was so hyped up that it felt like a drug. Coming off the drug has made me feel dull. Dry. Worthless. Of no value.
What does my life matter? Kindness is simply kindness. Giving is simply giving. Prayer is simply conversation and worship is an intimate experience. It is all so un-glorious to the side of me that used to get all her importance from what she did.
I seem to be painting in a pallet of gray as opposed to the brilliant colors that were used in the past.
Part of me, I'm sure the drug addict side of me, longs for the brilliant colors of just a few years ago. Those colors made me feel so important - so vital to the work of God.
And so today as I wrote this out I realize that I want to be somewhere else a year from today. Here is where I want to end up next year:
I want God to take this seemingly gray pallet of colors that I now have in my hand and, with me, paint a beautiful picture. I think if I don't give up - If I continue to be faithful with the brush and colors he has given me - that He will miraculously cause my picture to come to life in the most beautiful colors ever imagined. It will exude His brilliance and all who look upon this picture will understand that a miracle has been wrought. They will understand that the simple strokes of gray have been made into color only by His hand.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
How many of you have grown up in churches where the title of this post is often repeated over everything good that happens to the church or the people in it? We used to give testimonies of “What God had Done.” that week in our lives. Each year we ended the year on a time of giving thanks for all that God had done that year. We often shared our testimony with a non-Christian and filled it full of “what God had done” for us to the point that it made it look stupid to turn down such a God and his invitation to also participate in all the good he wanted to do for them. (I think we imagined that God did not do the same for them, just we who believed like us and especially those that attended our particular group.)
Something happened this month that has had me pondering this phrase. Husband reached the point in his business where the home office opened a new office for him here in our town. Their philosophy is that each financial representative needs to have their own office with their own administrative assistant so that the customers/investors will be personally taken care of. A small town approach to investing.
His office is beautiful. It looks like he has already achieved success. We have a prime location close to down town. If you didn’t know that the bulk of the funding came from the Company, you would assume that he is doing brilliantly at this new career of just 2 years.
But it has been the hardest thing he has ever endeavored. He sweated bullets to pass his Series 7 exams. He worked long hours going door to door and talking to new clients in the dead of winter. He has pushed himself to be a salesman while still trying to remain full of integrity. He has turned down profit for the good of the person sitting across the table. He has struggled with living with quotas and sales deadlines that never run his life before. And yes, he is right where the company feels he should be at this time. They are happy with him. Happy enough that they trust him to open an office downtown. But he has worked extremely hard. None of it has been easy.
See, we were taught that as we begin something there would be “favor” on us. We had tithed and given and were to reap 100 fold. We had been faithful and so God would be faithful to us. Everything good that happened in our lives was attributed to the goodness of God and his favor on our lives. The new office would have been “spun” something like this at our annual year end party:
We give praise to God for his favor on our lives this year. Husband's new office, the beauty of it, it’s prime location and everything. He is so good to us. We have sowed and are now reaping God’s blessing in our lives. Praise Him.
(makes you want to puke - right?)
But instead, this office and all that it stands for smacks of really hard work and really long hours by a man who is tired and often not very satisfied with his life. It has not felt like favor, it has felt like an emotional rollercoaster. It has not felt like reaping - especially since we don’t believe in that crap anymore.
The wild thing about it is that before I would have never had the guts to really say it. I would have only given the ‘spin’ and not the truth of how I really felt. And I think this speaks to the insidious nature of our conversation before we left. Everything was sugar coated. Everything was wrapped in a “God’s favor” colored wrapping paper that covered the truth of what was going on. Nothing was real. Nothing was hard and anyone who really told the truth was not “giving God the glory.”
So what do I believe about God in our year this year? I believe He is good. I believe when Marsh felt he could not go in the office another day that there was strength of a Father who loved him and did not keep him on a goal oriented treadmill - work does - God does not. I believe that the relationship that we have with Him (and each other) this year is stronger and more real. I believe that He has heard our prayers and empathized with our struggles. I believe the favor in our lives is the same favor that is enjoyed by all. It is not measured with success or wealth or circumstance that come to us but with an open invitation to have a relationship with Him. I have no more favor on my life than you do. I have no less than someone else. My relationship with Him is not determined by how giving I am. My relationship with others is. It is to them he asks me to give anyway.
Yes, “Come and Look at what God has Done.”
Then go and see my husband’s office and slap him on the back for all his hard work and perseverance.
And while you are there ask him what he knows of the Father's heart. To that he can speak.
(yes that is a real picture of his office!)
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Dr. Barb Orlowski has her website up with all the research that she did on people who leave their churches under duress. Many of you took part in her survey.
It is an excellent resource of different books and articles that were published when she compiled her study. It is long but fascinating to browse through. I found some books that I would love to have on my shelf as well as more Internet sites to explore.
Check it out here at Church Exiters Ministering Restoration: Recovering Spiritual Harmony