Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Fears

I find it hard sometimes to truly know my own heart. It is much easier to discuss a topic of controversy then discuss what lies hidden even to myself sometimes. Today a blogger, Naked Pastor, gave a list of 10 things that compromise his greatest fears as a pastor. It somehow begs for the reader to be as open and authentic. So here goes my attempt. As of right now I can only think of 3 and they are very similar. Who knows if I know my own heart enough to come up with all 10.

1. Finding out I was wrong in the past (especially if I am unaware of it and thus have not had the opportunity of repenting and/or making it right
2. Deeply hurting my Husband in some way.
3. Losing the love/relatinship of my older children
4. Being embarrassed for doing something stupid
5. Becoming unhealthy at my own hands (weight, physical strength/flexibility, unhealthy eating habits)
6. Debt
7. Finding out what I believe now (especially about Grace and who the Father truly is) is wrong
8. Hurting the dear friends who presently remain my friends
9. Junk taking over my house/life
10. Realizing that I will be wrong in the future and thus run the risk of hurting someone else.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Pursuit of The Sinless Life

I have been a Christian for at least 48 years of my life. Just this week though I realized something about myself that I had packed along on this new journey of Grace. Something that I had assumed all along and had just come along with me into what I thought was a new mindset. In actuality, I had just carried over the old mindset and applied it to the new.

The thing I realized was that at least from the time I entered Bible School at 19 till today I have looked at salvation as a means so that I might not sin. Of course I always knew I would never be sinless. But at least my idea of this Christian life was that as I "grew in the Lord" I would sin less and less.

I just got rid of a lot of books from my book shelf the other day. As I stood back and surveyed them I realized how very many books I had hoped would free my from my sinful self. There were books on how to make my marriage better, books on deliverance, books on taming the tongue, books on becoming more godly, books to help me understand the Bible more - because we all know if we know our Bible, we will not sin as much. (My God, just do an amazon search on Joyce Meyers. People have made their fortunes on sin management books.)

Then as I was listening to a podcast that Darin Hufford did the other day, (Super Spiritual Expectations) he blew me away with one statement. He said, "There are a lot of people who are wondering if they embrace this Grace message, that maybe, then, they will experience the freedom from sin that never came in their old religious life." He went on to say that the message of Grace is about a relationship - not about becoming sinless.

I realized that I had thought to myself, "Maybe if I understand Grace, understand the Father's heart for me and understand how to actually have a relationship with Him, maybe I will get a handle finally on my _____________." (fill in the sin of the moment) I was simply replacing the books on my shelf with the message of Grace in hopes that it would do for me what they left untouched.

But that is not what Grace is for. Grace was given, "in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Grace was given in spite of our sin. Grace was given because we could not do it. It was not given so that we then would be victorious, it was given because we will never be victorious. He loves me IN MY SIN.

There is a fine line somewhere here that I don't want to cross. I'm really not sure where it is though. I feel like Paul who says, "so will we sin more just because of Grace - Heavens NO." I'm not advocating giving up and just diving into my sin, knowing that Grace has covered it. But it is a mind shift of monumental proportions for me.

The message of Grace is not for me to obtain so that I can finally get my act together. It is offered to me because I can't. It truly "is finished," and there is nothing I can add to this. And so today I find myself overwhelmed by the act of Love that brought this into my life.

(*by the way, I have never read the book shown above. Just thought it was a great picture for what I was talking about. It might be a wonderful book :)

So Then, How Are We Changed? - Grace Given

I have been back in the office more since the kids went back to school. Because of this I have been catching up on some podcasts.

I've listened to many of Darin Hufford's podcasts the past few days. I listen to him because Darin still has the ability to make me cringe and push me past my comfort zone. He and the gang that broadcasts with him, pokes and prods at my religiosity, constantly uncovering new ground that I have not thought of before. His book, "The Misunderstood God: The Lies Religion Tells About God," is ready to be released next month and I would encourage you to get a copy and read it.

The other day though he said something that I've chewed on ever since. (I'm not quoting him but just telling you what I heard.)

He said something to the effect that, "love received" is not what really changes us but - "love given" - does.

He went on to say that if we look around at people in our lives, we all can see that love given to a parent, friend, child, spouse or stranger is never a guarantee that that person will change. We all know of the wayward teen who has parents at home that love that child so much, or the wife who chooses to walk out the door with a husband behind that longs to have her back, or of the countless people in shelters who have someone reaching out to them with love and a hot meal. Yes, sometimes we see those people respond and change, but what Darin said is that it is interesting to him that when he sees someone love, when he sees a person decide to DO the loving, you always see change happen.

We are changed by giving love.

In my own life I can look back and just observe the times that I have changed the most radically. I see it as I review times such as marrying my husband and learning to give for probably the first time, having my first child and realizing that 'I' no longer existed and suddenly I had to decide on a life of service, or reading "Blue Like Jazz," a few years ago and understanding that I really did not love people like I should and then start to act on it, or the times I faced loving and standing with my grown children as they made decisions that broke my heart, or the times I faced choosing to give love and grace to those who may have hurt me

All of these times mark clearly, the times that I have seen a change in me. Times when the core of who I was was somehow softened and molded into what Jesus may have intended for me in the first place. They purged the selfish "me" and brought out a more grace-filled "me."

I suspect, in my musings about Grace lately, that Grace is just like this. I have understood, it with a head knowledge of God's Grace towards me. But was always frustrated that I did not see an equal amount of change in my life. Therefore, I wonder if I am really changed more by Grace given to me and then in return poured out on those around me than I am with just Grace received and not given away. It sure seems that way.

I suspect that Grace truly becomes alive in us and may actually change our hearts as it is being given out to someone else and not by just having the head knowledge that we have received it. How many times have we given Grace and withheld judgment towards someone and find that something deep inside our hearts has been purged? How many times do we, with gritted teeth, choose to forgive and give Grace and then find that something in our heart has been softened by the very act?

And isn't that just like the Gospel to have us dispense what has been given to us? Hmmm, maybe there is something to that verse that it is better to give than receive!

Just something I'm thinking about this morning. What about you. Have you seen a change in yourselves as Grace was given to you or as you gave it? Stories, please, if you have them!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Responding VS Initiating

I think one of the biggest changes I see in myself these days is the anticipation returning that God will do something in and around me. Let me explain though because it differs from what I was like before in my Charismatic life.

Three years ago we were always planning for God. We would plan worship services so He could be with us. We would plan for the non-Christians so that we would be ready for them. We would get prayed for so that we would be ready to hear the Holy Spirit. We would give so that we were ready to get what was coming to us. We were always trying to help God out or be in such a position that we would not miss Him when He showed up.

It fostered an atmosphere of expectancy - to be sure. But so very often that expectancy was dashed as again, God did nothing spectacular that day. This left me, at least, feeling like I was not doing enough, preparing enough or somehow was deficient in some way. It also left me constantly looking around and being judgmental. Who was not doing their part, who had sin in their life, what was the hold up - "is it something you are doing?"

After two years of just refusing to prepare for anything I find something very interesting happening.

1. I have an awareness of God's presence that is unlike anything I experienced in those meetings where He was touted to be there "IN POWER." I"m not afraid this presence will leave me. It is pervasive. It is just here. I can't explain it other than that. He is with me. It is not exciting as much as comforting. It is not powerful as much as it is kind. It is not life changing as much as it is life transforming.

2. I find myself responding to Him instead of preparing for Him. When He speaks to me, I am amazed and grateful but I don't expect the same thing to happen in the same way the very next day or week. I don't try to get Him to do it again. I love it but He is under no obligation to perform at my will.

3. When I recognize His hand or his voice in something I am delighted. I used to be so anxious and actually a bit ticked at Him all of the time. After all, I was working so very hard and he rarely gave me any indication that He was helping out. But now it is a calm delight that settles into my soul when I actively see Him speaking or doing.

4. I realize that I could not reproduce what he just did or said even if I tried very hard. Here's an instance of that. The other day I was mulling over Grace and how it has changed my life. Sometimes I find myself feeling like I'm on a slippery slope into oblivion with nothing to hang onto. (I'll explain this more in another post) But out of nowhere I realized that if I were truly slipping down this slope and in danger of losing anything I would have the handhold of His goodness to catch myself on. It then came to me that when Moses wanted to actually see God, God placed him in a cleft of a rock and caused his Goodness to pass before Moses. I was amazed that when God let someone see him, the part of his Glory that he chose to show was his Goodness.

It was like tumblers falling into place as the Father spoke to me of his Goodness that morning. I was suddenly surrounded by a tangible feeling of His Goodness. It took all the anxiety away from wondering if I was on a tangent. I realized that God, in his Goodness would rescue me and always provide a safe place to hang onto.

But here's my point. How in the world would I reproduce that kind of experience with God? How would I form a gathering where he could speak to everyone at the same time of this fact? How in the world would I get God to tell my kids the same thing as he told me?

Answer is (I think).....I can't. All I can do is respond. All I can do is be willing to let him speak or act. Maybe out of the overflow of my heart I could share this with my kids or a friend or two. Maybe they too will be blessed by what happened to me. But what I want for them is the same comfort to know that when the Father wants to speak to them - He will. Out of His Goodness not out of our preparing for Him.

And so I find myself here....at this spot....simply responding to what He is doing. If He does nothing or says nothing I will wait. I truly hope this is OK. It goes against everything Church Lady believed.