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Posts Tagged ‘church’

Known

Yesterday I made a new friend whom we’ll call Dinah. We just clicked (I have a feeling she’s a clicker, because I can be a little less clicktastic). She’s also a self-proclaimed blogaholic, so if she’s reading, hello!  As for the rest of you, if you read regularly, you’ll know that I’ve made a LOT of new friends in the last six weeks or so. It’s been an amazing thing, this.

I’ve actually been really skeptical of the new church because people have just seemed to accept me so quickly and easily. Frankly, it’s weird. I don’t know what to say except that I just seem to fit here. We’ve been at the church for about three months now. I’ve already joined a small group, gone on a girls’ night out, had solo time with a friend, volunteered at our food pantry, and been really, really honest about my stuff with pretty much everyone.

I’ve always feared being known. Being exposed is pretty much every mammal’s fear; that’s why cats freak out if you touch their bellies and people cry in yoga positions like camel — there’s an innate terror at the thought of being revealed. But today Jesus told me something pretty amazing. He said that being known is actually my safety. See, when I’m isolated, the lies I’ve believed my whole life twist in on themselves, growing deeper roots and gaining power. When I risk being known, I grow ever more safe because people know me well enough to speak the truth, call me on my crap, and hold me accountable. It’s hard. It’s good.

A couple of months ago, a friend was leaving our old church. I asked a couple of mutual friends why he was leaving, and one of them said rather snidely, “Ask him if you want to know.” My fear what that he would think I was gossiping about him, so I went and told him about the interaction and asked his forgiveness, because I truly didn’t want him to think I was trying to harm him by asking. And do you know what he said to me?

“I know heather, and that’s not you.” He KNOWS me, and he KNOWS that I’m not a gossip. Had I slunk away, as I’m wont to do, he would never have been able to act as God’s mouthpiece for me at a time when I needed it desperately. He saw me, spoke truth to me, and set me free. It was precious.

So being known, hmm. I’m still a little wary of this process because it feels like I’m on a bullet train heading straight into the heart of community. Community is, as Dinah said, messy sometimes. Indeed, and I’m so grateful. It is well.

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Abandon

This afternoon the Music Man and I were snuggling with the Radiant One in our bed. I was busy trying to figure out the latest iTunes update (grr), so he went downstairs to make dinner. The baby was climbing Mt. Mommy, but she saw daddy leave and started to cry.

And do you know what he did? He kept right on walking out the door! Like three seconds later, he walked back in and she made her famous squinchy Hero Daddy face and was all smiles, but I was upset.

I said, “There she was crying for you and you just WALKED OUT ON HER!” And then I stopped long enough to realize that was my childhood, not my childrens’. My husband isn’t perfect. He gets irritated and short with the kids sometimes, and it makes me crazy, but he’s never going to abandon them. He’s never going to walk out and leave them crying  just to do whatever he wants.

There are things I wonder. Does a man who abandons his child actually love her? Is he too selfish to love anyone? As a mama with lots of kids, I know that loving children well is a terrifically difficult thing. I couldn’t have done it when I was my parents’ age.

On the other hand, I flat out refuse to accept the excuse that he thought I was better off without him. If you really think you have nothing to offer a child, don’t you MAKE yourself into someone with something to offer? And if not, doesn’t that just mean that you don’t care enough?

Today in my mom’s group (crap, I have to finally admit that I love my new church. Gooey eyes, puffy hearts and neon rainbows and all), one of the girls was praying for me that I would experience my worth, sense the love of God, and know that they loved me. Did you catch the transition there?

I mentioned that I struggle with worth, and this woman, whom I’ve met once and frankly, I was pretty sure couldn’t stand the sight of me, said that she LOVES me. It’s all just so surreal. So I find myself in this bizarre place as an abandoned child who is learning to live in the abandon of loving and being loved. Meantime, I’m just hanging on to Jesus. After all, there’s really no other place to go.

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On Friendship

Friday night I went to Girls’ Night Out with friends from my new church. If you’ve known me long, you know that this is a big. huge. deal.  I’ve always tended to be a bit of a loner, an introvert. However, that’s been challenged lately.

Last Monday, I told my sweet friend Prisoner of Hope that I was going out with new friends. I asked her to pray for me because, “I don’t do well in groups.” She looked at me incredulously, and said, “I can’t let you speak that, it’s not true. YOU are the person who takes care of everyone, makes sure they know what’s going on, ensures they’re comfortable …”

Ok…

Then Friday night as we were leaving, I was saying goodnight to a new friend. She said, “I can’t believe you said you’re not social. You so are!”

So in a week, one person who has just met me and one person who knows my heart inside and out both told me that I was wrong about myself. Hmm. I’m listening.

I took all of that to my session yesterday, and the Not-So-Casual Observer and I hashed it out. We talked about what it would mean to be affirmed, to believe that I was a “valuable part of a group.” Let’s just say it was a hard hour.

Then today, I taught at AVC, our old church. My sweet friend Purity (new to the cast of characters, but like a big sister to me and known for several years) mentioned that I’m different (Thank You, Jesus)! She also mentioned that when we were just getting to know one another, several people told her that “heather just doesn’t want to be known.” Ouch.

Now, I don’t believe that was true, because the longing to be truly known is in all of us, designed by God. But I think it illustrates just how deeply wounded and afraid I have been for so long. I thank God that He’s changing that part of me.

It feels like I’m conducting an archaeological dig of my own past, the Truth, who I was created to be. I said to NSCO yesterday, “Why can’t something just be EASY for once?” Her answer had something to do with how many children I have; I’ll refrain from posting it here, but it made me giggle.

And so, hmm. Friendship. I believe that I’ve met two women at my new church who will become good friends. Now, I take friendship pretty seriously, but I’m sort of out of practice. Add to that the fact that I’ve never had friends who were peers and mothers (some of each, but none who are both), and I’m in deep water here. But the fact is that I WANT to have friends now, and that’s more than I can say for the last decade, so that’s something. Actually, it’s a lot of something. I’m pleased to discover this new person in myself.

And by the way, if the girl is reading who mentioned Friday night that she wanted a nickname on my blog, it’s Cara. Look up what it means, because you were the first from VCC. And I’m so grateful for the “moment” we had last Sunday, looking forward to this week!

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“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” Malachi 3:10

I don’t know about you, but I sort of love this dare from God. Our new church takes it literally by providing a food pantry called The Storehouse. It’s for both members of the church and members of the community who are struggling. Now, if you know me well, you know that food, most especially healthy, whole food, is my passion. I get excited to feed people, and I get equally upset when people aren’t fed.

Since we’ve only been in the church for three weeks, so far my contribution has been limited to tithing on our food budget for The Storehouse. I have to admit that I have a huge vision for this place, but it’s not mine to take over. Well, at least that’s what I thought at first.

The Music Man has been telling me for weeks that I’ll end up running the place, and it seems that he may be right. It turns out that the couple who started The Storehouse is moving to the North Africa as permanent missionaries. This whole church move has been so God-led that I believe I will (eventually) run The Storehouse, and I’ve already expressed my interest in being part of this ministry.

I believe that feeding people is one of the ways we show them love. I believe that a food pantry should be better than Spaghettios and Spam. I have a rule of not bringing anything to The Storehouse that I wouldn’t want to feed my own family.

Why couldn’t we make our food pantry whole-foods based? What about food that’s suitable for vegetarians? Celiacs? How can we label foods so that the big eight food allergy sufferers are safe? Why can’t we have fresh foods? 100% whole-grain breads? What about creating a small recipe book to tuck in with the groceries so people know HOW to use a one pound bag of green split peas?

A simple  labeling system, a walk-in cooler, a partnership with our local bread supply store, the recipes I use with my own family, bound and distributed, dance in my head like Sugar Plum Fairies. I’m a bit tentative, because they all require both a big move of God and the help of many other people.

“Test Me in this,” He says. I long to obey.

This is not a glamorous ministry. It’s not the sort of thing that would grace the cover of a slick magazine or create a quotable speaker on the Christian talk circuit. Still and although, these questions nip at my heart. How do we reach people with the saving message of Jesus when their hunger roars in their ears? How do we convince them of a loving God when their children’s eyes plead for bread? How can we nourish them with the Gospel of love if we don’t nourish their bodies with real nutrition?

What an unbelievable gift this is, to labor with God in the bringing of His Kingdom. This is my heart’s cry, my big dream. All I can do is obey Jesus, and pray that it is His good pleasure to use little me!

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love Me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love You.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” John 21:17

I’m a little late to the party, but if you’re a last minute gal like me, check out A Holy Experience. Ann and the people from She Speaks are giving away a scholarship to the July conference in North Carolina, which seeks to connect women to other women and to the heart of God. Deadline is tomorrow, 9 am!

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It’s been  a roller coaster of a year for my family. We lost lots of friends in a church transition (people left, but we’re not calling it a church plant or a church split. Call it whatever you want). We had a baby. We got jobs, lost jobs, started counseling, heard from a father, and were called to a new church.

Today I was thinking about a father’s blessing. In the Old Testament, a father’s blessing told you who you were. We crave this, need it, and so often miss it.

When the church transition happened, my family was promised a blessing as we  followed God by staying at our church, but it never came. Someone important in our lives, powerful, and significantly opinionated told me that he didn’t believe we’d heard God, that I was just leading my husband by the nose because I wanted to stay with my “new friends.” Ouch.

I spent months doubting my ability to hear and follow the Lord. This man, who I love and admire and respect greatly, stole my blessing and stripped me of my confidence. Such is the power of our pastoral leaders, if only they knew.

Today we got word from our pastor; he believes this is a God-lead move, he wants to release and bless us to go to our new church. I find myself sobbing at the thought, not only of leaving my church family, not only at getting the blessing I was willing to wrestle for, but of the absolute gift of those lies coming untrue (Listen to Jason Gray if you don’t understand this expression).

We DID hear God correctly a year ago. My HUSBAND is leading our family into this move. JESUS is my confidence. God is restoring what the locusts have eaten. And even though I count this a joy, I’m still haunted by the fact that my blessing is coming from someone other than the one who promised it.

“There’s no wound that love won’t mend and finally redeem” says one of my favorite songs. I’m seeing that happen, seeing the Kingdom come today. For me.

We’re given the choice: bless or curse. What do you choose?

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Exodus

Image from Riversonfineart.com

In preparing to leave our church, the Lord has been speaking two specific scriptures to me time and again. The first was preparatory, “I will not let you go until You bless me.” It was a double reminder: first, to be willing to struggle for the blessing of doing what God has called us to do, and second to know that we will not leave where we are without a wholehearted sending from our church.

The second scripture is Ex 3:1-6. There Moses was, tending his sheep on the mountain of God, minding his own business. Then, the angel of the Lord just appears in the burning bush. Moses, understandably interested in this on-fire-but-not-consumed bush, goes to check it out. As he approaches, God speaks to him by name.

“Take your sandals off, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

This morning, I had a thought. God called Moses to remove his sandals, when effectively all sandals did in those times was to keep a bit of separation from the elements. Moses’ feet were surely filthy beneath the thin bit of leather; sand gets in and on everything and sticks violently. So why remove them if what’s beneath is just as dirty as the shoes themselves?

Because God wanted Moses closer to Himself. He wanted what stood between them to be removed. God’s heart is that what separates us should be taken away so that even our filthy feet vibrate with His holiness.

I wonder, do the feet tingle while standing where God is? Do they reverberate with His awesome presence? Are we cleansed by simply standing where we are told to stand? I think so, on all accounts.

Last night we got our fourth and final green light in the new church process; I talked to the Not-So-Casual Observer about how the counseling relationship looks if we are in the same church. It was a good discussion, and so freeing to know that SHE is the one who will take care of the boundaries, all I have to do is follow her lead. That feels safe to me.

The grief is finally setting in, and I’m bracing myself for a season of painful goodbyes and well as painful hellos (I’m a little shy in new situations). I’m hoping to embrace it as yet another gift of this season of my life.

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Wow, it has been a packed week! Three birthdays to prepare for (my Joyful One is turning THREE tomorrow!), the baby isn’t letting me sleep (nearly delusional from deprivation), and the usual busyness of life seems to be overtaking me. And y’all know about counseling, which is already kicking my butt. Things are just a bit tough all around. Not bad, just complicated.

Anyhow, on Thursday God woke me up at 3:21 am. I prayed, I sang worship songs to myself, I watched my baby’s sweet face and murmured mama love to her for three hours. Somewhere in that time, God spoke that we were about to leave our church, the ONLY church I’ve belonged to as a believer. He showed me a picture of deep roots, gnarled together, knit tight. Community.

My first thought? “Um, no.” Seriously, I thought I was losing it because I’ve been just so sleep deprived. Not wanting to miss what God might choose to speak to me, I asked the Music Man to be listening for anything the Lord may want to tell him during the day.

He came home and said, “I feel like I’m supposed to ask you if we’re changing churches.” Gulp. Well, ok then. We were in agreement, but felt we needed to wait for one more confirmation because it is such a hey-uge decision. It came first thing Sunday morning.

We discussed a list of possible churches, and the top of the list is another Vineyard church, just 30 miles closer (each way) to our home. On paper, this close Vineyard looks perfect. There’s just one leeetle issue, and that’s that the “new” possible church is the church the Not-So-Casual-Observer belongs to. So she and I will have to have a chat to discuss what that would look like.

After church, I went into a meeting with the women’s ministry team and was absolutely blown away by what I heard. Ransomed Grace just came out and asked if I had anything to say to the team. I told them what God was saying to the Music Man and I, and time stopped as I awaited her answer.

She said, “Well, the reason I’m not upset (I was crying by this point) is that God’s already told me that it’s time for your family to live in community. And I think you’re supposed to stay in the Vineyard. Community. Vineyard.”

Did I mention that the church we’re most considering is called the Vineyard Community Church? I see God’s fingerprints all over this situation. I’m giving up my leadership position, my teaching, essentially all my service, but I have perfect peace.

I’m so sad, but feel like this mourning is a good thing. I’m feeling something, and that’s better than I was doing when I started counseling four months ago.

We went to talk with our pastor today, because we feel strongly that we should not leave our current church without his blessing. I want to be sent out, for there to be no question that we’re following God’s call. I want my old pastor and my new pastor to be able to have a chat about where we fit into church life. I feel like I finally understand why the Bible says “A good name is better to be chosen than great riches.” I care so much about maintaining my good name, and want to be bridge builders within these two churches.

After talking with Johnny, the plan is to do a week on and a week off at a new place, then talk with him about how we feel after we’ve gotten the lay of the land. This is sacred ground here, and I want this to go exactly the way God wants it to.

We’re so excited, even though this comes at great expense. Please pray that God would help us know that we’re home the minute we walk in the door, and that our kids would transition seamlessly.

It’s time for a new adventure!

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