Tag Archives: Faith

Great things might happen.

This weekend I’m preaching on Luke 24:36b-48 and I didn’t intend to.  I thought I would preach on 1 John but something kept calling me back to this passage of doubt and the disciples.  How they were scared and unsure when Jesus arrived.  How Jesus brought peace.  How he was patient with them in their uncertainty.  How he didn’t give up on them.  It spoke to me.

Jesus offered the disciples a tactile experience.  He allowed them to touch, to feel him.  He showed them how alive he was by eating and just being with them.  He calmed the chaos in simple ways.  He just was with them and brought them peace. This was his way of connecting to them after the resurrection.  It is so simple yet beautiful.

There’s so much we could learn from this.  He calmed the chaos by offering peace and just being there. As the church in transition we are living in a state of anxiety.  Anxious about what we should do, how we should act and what we are doing wrong, we find ourselves flailing looking for answers.  What we need to do is surrender control to God and just be.  We should be witnessing to the moments of grace that God has shown us.  We should be sharing the power of God in our own lives as individuals.

In our anxiety is feels like we’re trying to plan our way out of this mess.  We hope that with a powerpoint projector or some kind of fancy program people will see Jesus.  We believe if we find the next best thing they’ll realize the importance of Church.  Those things are great but they aren’t how Jesus did things.  If we look at Jesus’ example, he ministered through relationship.  Everything he did was about people and he didn’t have an agenda.  It was never about growing a church or keep one open.  He ministered and shared God’s love because he loved people and wanted them to know there was nothing God wouldn’t do to get into relationship with them.

That’s the best part of the Christian message isn’t it?  There’s nothing God wouldn’t do to get into relationship with you.  God loves us so much that he would die so that we could always be with him.  This kind of love is so incredible.  It’s so powerful.  It’s our story to tell and we should tell it.

We are witnesses to this great love.  We should share our individual stories of grace and the power of God in our lives.  If we let go of our anxiety and started to just share the story we would find ourselves in the communities in which we live.  We would meet people and discover who they are.  We would find out what the needs of the community were and we could begin to meet them.  There would be a sharing of lives, our stories and love would flow abundantly.  With no agenda beyond living the message of grace and love in the world, great things might happen.

It could be incredible if we just let go and lived.
It could be incredible if we just let go and trusted God.
Do you think it’s possible for us to ever let go and truly trust God?

The third dream…

I had a third dream last night but after much contemplation and discussion with my husband we’ve determined it wasn’t ‘the dream’.  This is a relief!

The dream I did have involved me arriving at church at 10:27 to lead a worship service at 10:30 and finding out that the church I was leading worship at was not in the same location as the one I was used to.  Instead of the church I was used to I entered a gray room with grey folding chairs and only 3-4 people that I knew.  Then when I got up to lead worship the call to worship was incorrect and the people just ever so calmly told me to go with it.  I had a very unsettled feeling in that church and I felt weird leading things.  It did not feel like I belonged there and I was glad to wake up.

{The vivid dreams need to stop.  I have been known to have crazy dreams before but these dreams are too real.  They’re starting to freak me out.}

An Easter Reflection: They had a choice

The sun is beginning it’s stretch into the sky.  Two women gather at the door while waiting for one inside.  They are ready to go.  Eager to begin the most dreaded task.  Eager to finish so they can try to move on.  She leaves her home, gently shutting the door behind her so as not to disturb those who may still be asleep.  It’s time.  They begin their journey.

They walk arms tucked in close to their bodies.  Baskets hanging from their arms bounce against their hips as they try to stay warm, try to stay unnoticed.  They walk together towards a tomb. Stories pass among them of better days.  Laughter slips out uncomfortably and they look to each other for acceptance and peace.  Their grief echoes with each step.  This is a terrible journey.

Their conversation shifts and one woman raises the question they were all thinking.  “Who will roll the stone away?”  The stone that is far too heavy for them.  Who will move it? They keep going, determined to succeed.  Regardless of the obstacle that lies ahead they know what they have to do.  They must give their teacher a small portion of what he gave them.  They must show him love in this final task.

As they arrive at the tomb their worries shift.  The stone is no longer an issue.  They are now faced with something much worse.  Their friend’s grave has been tampered with.   The three of them look at one another.  Lines on their forehead begin to collect sweat as they panic.  What will they do?  What if the thieves are still in there?

Bravely, together they burst forth into the tomb.  Almost as if to surprise who is there.  They don’t surprise him, he surprises them.  He sits as if waiting for them.  Dressed all in white, calm and collected.  The women alarmed hold each other for support.

He is waiting for them.  They wonder why?  What’s going to happen now? Where is his body?  What has this man done?

He tells them not to worry.  He tells them of a miracle that’s happened.  That Jesus is up, he’s alive.  He tells them to go tell the others.   He expects them to do it right away.  Backing out of the tomb.  The women turn and flee.  Uncertain of what to do.  They tell no one. Their instructions were to share.  We’re told they said nothing.

They said nothing…yet.

We know the end of the story.  We know they shared with others.
We’re gathered all over the world today celebrating this moment because they told shared the message and it has now been shared with us.

They had a choice.
They could choose belief or disbelief.
They could choose to keep this good news or to share it.

Today because of their choice we gather and celebrate.
Today because of their choice we know Jesus and his love.
Today because of their choice the world is changed.  Hope is reborn.  Life is new.

He is risen.
He is risen indeed!

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This is based on the Easter Story found in the Gospel of Mark.  If you’d like to read more click here.

How Auto-tune ruined the world…

Ok, that might be a stretch.  Auto-tune hasn’t really ruined the world but it’s ruined music in a lot of ways.  There was a time when the unique qualities of a singer would be showcased on their recordings.  Now everyone sounds the same and anyone {talented or not} can claim to be a singer as we can technologically enhance their vocal performance.  When you remove the rough patches and unique vocal qualities you’re left with something that sounds generic and boring.  It’s nothing anyone has never heard before.  It’s nothing special at all.

This morning after gymnastics I took my son to the Bulk Barn and we had fun picking up a few supplies to help us make some dessert for Easter.  I was slightly horrified as I turned the corner and found a cake pan shaped like a cross with instructions on how to beautify it with flowers.  I don’t know about you but I really don’t want to eat a dessert shaped like a torture device.  It just doesn’t seem right to me.  Instead of accepting the cross for what it is, we’ve prettied it up and thrown some bunnies and eggs around it.  It’s like we’ve auto-tuned Jesus.

Have we auto-tuned Jesus?  In many ways I’m afraid we have.  We come in on Sunday hoping the minister will say something that inspires us. We have self-help books that are tailored towards what we want to hear.  We avoid the hard texts because they can’t be meant for us.  We’ve personalized things so it’s exactly what we need and want.  We’ve auto-tuned the whole process.

When we create a faith that is comfortable and exactly what we like, it’s not the faith that we started with.  When we leave out parts of the message that are difficult or challenging we’ve changed the picture and ultimately the message.  As Christians we need to deal with the heavy stuff too.  We need to deal with the picture as a whole.

As a church I wonder if we would be more effective if we dealt with the difficult things.  What would happen if we addressed the need for evangelism and the mainline church? What would happen if we addressed stewardship and the overabundance of churches for the population we sustain?  What would happen if we discussed the importance of living in the world not separate from it?

If we started having these difficult conversations I can guarantee you one thing, we would begin to see passion once more.  Passion that has been sorely missing in our churches and our faith.  For too long now we’ve accepted the status quo as being okay.  We’ve auto-tuned our faith to the point that we no longer experience the rich depth that is contained in it’s history.   It’s time for us to embrace the whole story once more.

Easter is hard.

Easter is hard. Jesus starts the week triumphant, riding on a donkey. He ends it on a cross.  In between there is pain. There is agony. There are questions.  Then comes death.  Emotions run high.  Despair and emptiness are almost felt in the air.  That emptiness lingered when he was gone. Amplified by his absence.

Swirling in the disciples minds are thoughts of anguish and despair.
Ashamed at their actions, horrified by their decisions, they hide and mourn. Then something changed. The world was somehow different. The rock is rolled away. The tomb is vacated. Before the women arrive, hope returns but no one knows it yet.  When the women arrive, hope starts to spread.  Life springs forth. Everything is new once more.

Easter is hard. We want to skip over the bad parts, to travel right from the triumphant entry into the empty tomb.  We want to travel from hope into hope.

Given the choice, we would gloss over the real parts, we would ignore the ugliness of humanity.  These parts of the story resonate too deeply in our souls.  But if we allow ourselves to live the story, to go from start to finish we find something incredible.  In despair we see God. In ugliness we find beauty. In darkness we find light.  In shame we find forgiveness.  Through it all, we see Jesus.

We see Jesus.
The one who brings hope. The one who is light. The one who is.

When we enter the story we see Jesus.  That’s what’s truly hard.  Seeing Jesus forces us to confront his place in our lives. Seeing Jesus forces us to let him in. When we let Jesus in our lives change.  Easter changes us and change can be scary.

Don’t be afraid to let Jesus in this week. Easter may be hard, but nothing great ever came easily.  Just ask Jesus…

Landslide

I have a lot of friends who write blogs.  I would say 99% of them are about their personal lives with a hint of Jesus but there are some that are more specific in their direction.

One of my friends recently started a blog called “The Next 500 Years” and his first post {which you should check out} is a bit of an introduction to where he’s going to go with the blog.  He talks about this time of transition in the church as being like the moment when you are at the top of the roller coaster and about to launch down into that giant dip.  It’s the moment when you are absolutely terrified {even if you know what’s coming}.

I like the roller coaster imagery but for me I see it as more of a landslide.  An event that is years in the making, waiting for that one thing which will send everything sliding down the mountain.  No one knows what will happen.  No one knows what it will look like once the event is over.  There is only one guarantee, change is coming and things will never look the same again.

I love the Dixie Chicks rendition of the Fleetwood Mac hit “Landslide”.  It’s something I listen to often and there is one line of lyrics that particularly hits me with regards to life, transition and inevitable change.

“Well I’ve been afraid of changing ’cause I built my life around you”

Sometimes I wonder if we {as Christians} have focused and built around the church buildings instead of Jesus.  Maybe that’s why we’re so scared of changing because we’ve been focused on the wrong thing.

Whether we’re at the top of a roller coaster or sitting on the side of a cliff that’s just about to let go, change is coming.  We might not like it.  We might not want it.  But it’s coming.  I’m looking forward to seeing what the change will bring.

How Mad Men made me think about disconnect & the church {with a hint of Zou Bisou Bisou}

I can’t get this song out of my head.
I blame Megan Draper.
I have to say it may have been the only good thing about Sunday’s episode for me.


I’ve watched Mad Men from the beginning and I’d like to say I’m happy it’s back but really I’m not sure I care because it’s been so long and I feel so disconnected.  I think it’s that way with a lot of things.   It definitely seems to be that way with church.  People tend to talk to me about their faith (occupational hazard) and it’s often a reflecting on how things were, or how much it meant to them back in the day.  Once you’ve walked away it’s hard to come back.  Things are never as they were and memories become hazy and it’s easier to let things lie.   They’ve lost connection with the community.  It’s hard to reconnect after a long time away.

I was willing to let go of the show.  I was willing to walk away after Sunday night’s episode but my husband says I cannot, I must give it a chance.  I know this is only a television show and it doesn’t affect my life if I don’t watch it but it got me thinking.  Are we willing to put in the effort it takes to reconnect with those who are not connected with the faith any longer?  Are we willing to put ourselves out there and share our lives with them so they can see who we really are?

Right now it seems like faith has become too individualized in the Christian community.  We talk about our individual journeys, our preferences, our theology, our desires and our needs.  What about the journeys of those who are new, those who are lost or those who are struggling?  What about the preferences of those outside our walls?  What about their needs, desires and wants?

We need to move past our own agenda and into Jesus’ agenda.  We need to support one another, love one another and share the hope that Jesus offers.

Community is important.  Community centered around the good news and the hope it brings.  We really need to share in the ministry and mission of Jesus.  We need to get out into the world, get our hands dirty and work side by side spreading hope and peace.  Jesus called us into community.  We need to shift our focus from what we want to what people need and start being the church once more.

It’s in the doing…

“Life’s not about expecting,
hoping and wishing.
It’s about doing,
being and becoming.
It’s about the choices you’ve just made,
and the choices you’re about to make,
it’s about the things you choose to say – today.
It’s about what you’re gonna do after you finish reading this. “
~Mike Dooley

“It’s about doing, being and becoming…”

What am I going to do after I finish reading this?
What am I going to do after I finish?
What am I going to do?

I’ve been mulling this phrase over in my head for quite some time.  What am I going to do?

I’m often told that I must wait to hear what the Lord requires, that I need to be patient and not move too quickly.  I am reminded that we need to sit in contemplation.  I am told that we must not move too quickly for fear of moving ahead of God’s plan for us.

I’m all for not jumping ahead but it seems to me that as Christians we’re being encouraged to do too much sitting.  Far more sitting still than Jesus ever did.  I feel like God is so much about the doing.

Take Micah 6:8 for example

“But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
take God seriously.”

or Matthew 22:37-40

“Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

These two passages are really about doing.  About living and loving.  Being just, kind and fair to your neighbor and living as God wants us to in the world. We are told not to ourselves to seriously. Perhaps all of this contemplation is leading us astray and preventing us from doing.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of hoping, expecting and wishing that things will change.  It’s easy to sit and wait thinking someone else will take care of the mess we’re in.  But God reminds us that the most important thing, the thing that really matters is people.  The rest of our concerns are secondary to the needs of the people around us.  I’m going to listen to God.  I am going to do that thing, that important thing he says, I’m going to love.  I’m going to serve.  I’m going to put myself out there.

Maybe if I do this.  Maybe in this action I will find myself going where God is leading.   After reading this I know what I have to do, I have to become the person God is calling me to be and the only way to accomplish that is in the doing.

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          This post is part of the Gathered Thoughts Link Party that’s happening today at LoveFeastTable.  I was given the prompt by my fantastic hostess Donna at Hey Donna and the task was to write something inspired by that quote.  She sent me the quote on a beautiful card that unfortunately I cannot take a picture of due to a broken camera but as soon as I get it fixed – you’ll see a picture!
          I’m linking up with many others today and would love it if you’d pop over and check out some of the other posts that are going to be featured.  There were 365 cards sent out with inspiring phrases so you’ll be sure to see some amazing posts.  What I’ve read so far has been incredible!

Independence.

We’ve entered the phase of independence.  The desires of a two year olds heart are few but fierce.  He longs to be in control.  He wants things to happen when he wants it to happen.  He doesn’t understand why he’s being asked to wait, to surrender, to let go of his plans.

Rationally I understand why this is so hard for him.  He is transitioning from a phase where his every need was met.  He cried, he got fed.  He was cuddled whenever he needed comfort.  His toys were always within arms reach and couldn’t hurt anything if they rolled away.  It was a simpler time.

Now we’re dealing with a toddler who wants to eat all the time.  His rapid metabolism {due to his CDH} means I have snacks on the go for him constantly.  Sometimes I’m not fast enough or I’ve made the wrong choice.  His lack of verbal prowess hinders the communication process and leads to much angst and frustration.  His toys are now hard and dangerous.  Tossing them aside can mean damage to things around him.  He doesn’t understand why he cannot do this.  He can’t see why there are limits to his actions.

This new time of testing limits and attempts at expression is difficult on all sides.  I’m attempting to be patient.  I know that it’s a stage that we all go through and I know he is merely trying to find his way in this big, scary world.   These are his first lessons about life.  His first discovery that life isn’t always seem fair.  His first discovery that things don’t always go your way.

For the most part we’re stumbling through it all just find but at times I stop, shake my head and wonder why?  I cannot for the life of me see the merit in attempting to do something over and over again when you know the answer is going to be no.  And then after some thought I realize I do know what that’s like.  I continue to persist with God.  I ram my ideas in to each prayer and constantly demand that things go my way.  I like to pretend I’m open and honest but sometimes {ok a lot of the time} there is a hidden agenda.  There’s an ulterior motive to help make my life more comfortable, to make things better for me. Luckily through it all God continues to love me and work with me {much like we continue to work with our young son}.  There is encouraging and guidance even when I fail to see the bigger picture.  God offers grace even when I don’t deserve it.  God says no when things aren’t right for me.  I’m very lucky that God is patient.  I’m blessed with God’s grace.

Grace is a wonderful thing.  I am so thankful that God offers grace.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

An extra day!

I’ve done a lot in the last week.  I’ve read.  I’ve worked.  I’ve played.  I’ve slept {not enough}.  I have been busy and could really use a day to relax, unwind and recover.  Sadly it’s not to be.  For some reason the world hasn’t recognized this 29th day in February as a bonus day.  They still expect me to participate in the regular business of things.

After working on ‘regular business’ this week I find myself slightly crazed.  I needed a break so here I am.  As I deliberate on the next book to pick up in my Lent project, I thought I’d write down a few thoughts that I’ve been mulling over regarding the first few things I’ve read.

Here we go: 

C.S. Lewis says “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”  How many of us work to keep our daily lives comfortable and forget the bigger picture?  Jesus was always reminding us of the bigger picture.

Francis Chan reminded me of the bigger picture this week as well.  When he was the pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in California they gave away 55% of their budget to the community.  He said it was because Jesus says in Matthew 22 –“…’Love others as well as you love yourself.'”.  They believe they should spend as much on others as they do on themselves.  It is phenomenal.  I wonder what would happen in a Presbyterian Congregation if this was proposed?  We’ve got a tendency to hoard our resources for a rainy day.  We’re always afraid we won’t have enough.  When will we start to trust in God?

Speaking of saving for a rainy day the book of Malachi is a fascinating read.  God wants the doors of the temple shut on the priests who are worshipping incorrectly and bringing him the things they don’t want as a sacrifice.   The priests are hoarding their resources, keeping them for themselves.  In verse 10 God asks the people to test him.  He says “Test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams. For my part, I will defend you against marauders, protect your wheat fields and vegetable gardens against plunderers.”.  What if we really believed that God would provide if we gave our best away?  What would happen if we shared our resources the way we are called to?  Do we really believed that we were called to do ministry in the world and not just maintain buildings?

To sum up my ramblings:

C.S. Lewis tells us to aim at heaven.  To strive for something we believe unattainable or impossible.  Something we require God’s help to get.

Francis Chan reminds us that it is possible and such a blessing to give, for when you give you invite God in and must be fully dependent on his grace and movement among you to survive.

The prophet Malachi reminds us that no one is immune from incorrect worship.  The priests had tried to deceive God and had lost faith in him.  Such an important reminder at a time when it feels like we’ve all lost our way.  Trust in God is the only thing that will sustain us.  We must be willing to let go of what we perceive to be our needs and instead look at the needs of those around us.  God always provides.  We’ve got to stop looking out for ourselves and start looking out for others.

This project has been crazy so far.  I’m only two books and a book from the Old Testament into it and already I’m starting to think that a home church/rental facility is not a bad idea.  No overhead and all the money except for bare expenses can go into the community.  This is why I avoid exercises like this!   People are going to think I’m crazy…