Thursday, March 8, 2012
Earlier in the week I was reading the first few chapters of Acts and felt God really impress on my heart some verses and thoughts. So I just did what I normally do and journal them out. I had Brandon read what I had written (which I never do!) and he has encouraged me to put it on this blog for all the world to read... yikes!!! So I'm going to let you read my journal! Figuratively, of course! :) This is just an excerpt, straight from the pages of the sacred vault of my heart... no editing or rewriting, just as I wrote it that morning. I hope you get something out of it as it is something that I am very passionate about. The Church. More precisely, His Church. But, I'll just let you read it....
"Some thoughts I want to write down.
Acts 2:44-45, ' Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.'
Acts 4:32, 34, ' Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul, neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.
Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold.'
Acts 2:46, ' So continuing daily one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.'
- beginning of Acts tell of the beginning of the church in it's purest state. These were the relational characteristics of it
1. generosity towards each other
2. one accord - unity at the highest level (heart and soul)
4. breaking bread daily - fellowship daily
5. looked out for each other's needs and met them
7. simplicity of heart*
Anyway, just a challenge of how are we, as The Church, living by this? Are we in this deep knitted of a community? Do we live generously towards each other or tight-fisted? Do we live with a common goal and purpose - do we see ourselves as a company of like-minded believers joined together to make the name of Jesus famous? Or do we merely just "go to church"? Our hearts need to be knitted together w/a single-minded/focused goal - making Jesus famous.
Fellowship - we need to not just meet each other's needs and live generously w/each other, but we need fellowship. Intertwine our lives w/one another. Live our lives together. People should be involved in our lives and we should be involved in theirs. People should regularly be in our homes and we should regularly be in theirs.
*Through fellowship/relationship we will learn what their needs are and can meet them.
Simplicity of heart - no ulterior motives; pure --> we need the Holy Spirit and Christ's love to work in us toward this end.
I am sure the early church was messy but what a beautiful picture we get of true community and love for each other born out of a love for serving and knowing Jesus.
What a challenge to us in the world we live in this day. Where walls are our closest companions, not people. Where busyness is our mode of operation.
John 13:35, ' By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.'
Pretty much says it all. This is the Church that Jesus' desires. A Church that loves each other like He loves. A Church that is knit together in pureness of heart (simplicity), w/one purpose and passion. A Church that intertwines our lives w/each others.
Do I do this? Is this how I see the Church? I said on Sunday for Jesus to move in my heart in such a way that I loved His Church like He did and could see her like He did. That I would be captured by what captured Him so much that He was willing to die for her. May I be willing to lay down my life in service to her, seeing her as Christ sees her, loving her as Christ loves her. This love starts with me."
I began to make a mental checklist of how the church is described by others (non believers and believers alike), and I came up with many things, Love being low on the list. Hypocritical, divisive, judgmental, pious, legalistic, elitist, money hungry, boring, funless (even a word??), among others. Now I realize these are generalities and there are many times we cannot help one's perceptions of us, no matter what we do. But if these are the common words to describe us then we have a problem.
Jesus, himself, said we are to be known by our love for each other, our brothers and sisters in Christ. Not the needy and poor "out there" (though that is well and right), but for those that are right next to us. Are people so blown away by how much we love each other within the church that they are drawn and compelled to be a part of it. Or are they turned away by how much we accuse and argue over trivial matters? How much we distance and pretend with each other? Or how "perfect" we are, all sinless and holy?
What are we known for? Love for the world, but despising each other? Quick to judge, whisper, and accuse but slow to embrace? Come on people, we are in this together! We have a mission - making Jesus famous on this earth and He said we will do that by our love for each other. That is how they'll know! It starts here, at Home, between you and me.
I'll end with this... if Jesus was so captured by a Bride of such great beauty that He was willing to leave the glory of heaven and give His very life for her, then maybe we should take note. Maybe there is something more to her. Maybe we should realize that while He died for us, the individual, He also died for us, the complete, whole picture of His glorious, beautiful, breath taking, heart capturing, head over heels silly in love with Bride. We are one in the same. I am her, the individual. And I am her, the corporate. And I better, better treat her right.
So that is all, just some thoughts that have been churning through my heart. I hope that maybe you get something out of this and we can all allow the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts so that, once again, we can be known on this earth by our love for one another. And in turn, Jesus' Bride will shine brighter and brighter with the glorious reflection of Him to the rest of the world, so that they may come and take their place within our Home.
Love to All. I pray this day you will know how amazingly special you are to the God of the universe who is intimately acquainted with you and STILL thinks the world of you!
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
I love that, as a kid, my mom would take the time to spend days helping to decorate my "mailbox" for my valentine's party at school (I mean, c'mon people, this was a massive work of art happening!), or that I would always get cards from my parents and grandparents with little hearts and a quick rhyme about why I was their special Valentine. I loved searching through my pre-made, perforated valentines for just the right saying and "artwork" to go to my very best friend, or the chance to slip a "romantic" little quip to a fleeting crush. I mean, what better way to disguise our secret affections, however deep or shallow they may be, on a day when it is expected! Genius!!
I know to most people, Valentines holds a mix of emotions and expectations that really just give it a bad rep, or even erroneously forgoing an entire people group within our society. Oh what is being missed!
Valentine's Day is not about singling out the loved and unloved, creating some elitist holiday, but rather about celebrating the relationships in our life and giving expression to what is in our heart 365 (or 366 :) days of the year. In my family growing up, V Day was never relegated to just romantic feelings. We celebrated friendships, siblings, parents, children, grandparents, teachers, and even near strangers!
One of my favorite Valentine's ever, was when a group of us girls in high school spent the night together, and then proceeded to spend the whole day of Valentine's watching black and white movies while eating donuts. All day. It was awesome. We weren't feeling sorry for ourselves or spitting in the face of all things love and romance. We were just enjoying being together and the chance to celebrate our friendships with each other. Whatever it meant to them, I don't know, but to this day it still sits in my highlight of Valentine memories and a picture of the absolute potential of such a holiday.
We humans aren't typically good about opening our hearts to each other, even those we love the most. That is why we have books and seminars on the subject. Sometimes we just need a little help and the tools put in our hand to do so. And what a better tool than a whole day screaming the very value of humanity.YOU ARE LOVED AND YOU MATTER! Whatever the relationship.
I love that, growing up, I was surrounded by, what I feel, is the true meaning of Valentines. I love that, regardless of my relational status, V Day gives me a chance to celebrate the people in my life and to meet the greatest human need of all time. Love.
I feel that I have fallen very short in this area (loving people, not celebrating holidays :) and fear that I do not always do a great job of modeling to my children what is in my heart. But it has been very good for our family to really come back to basics and make sure our foundation is strong at it's core. Our family had a great Valentine's day yesterday from home made cards, breakfast in bed for daddy, a Valentine Dance by Asher and Safari they choreographed themselves, home made pizza and watching Cars 2 together, to Asher and Safari's secret "garage sale" to raise money to buy us Valentine's presents (let's just say, I had to put a stop to that one :). I hope it is just the beginning of a lifetime of memories for my kids. I hope that they feel so loved and secure, that Valentine's is a day worth celebrating no matter what state of singleness or romance they find themselves in. I hope they are so able to love those around them that they are never at a loss for friends or meaningful relationships.
I am so thankful for the picture my parents painted year after year for me of what Valentines is about, and I hope and pray that I can do the same for my kids, but I pray that I do not stop there. I hope that whoever is in my life, for however long they are there, will feel that they were loved and valued by me.
Happy Valentine's everyone. And whatever state you find yourself in on Valentine's form here on out, listen to the day that is talking all about You.... You are Loved and You Matter.
Here are some pics from our day... sorry there's not much but without an actual camera these days, we don't get a lot of pics of stuff right now
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Some days, it was just too deep to even express. It felt as if I put words to it too early, I would be defiling the holy ground that God was moving on within my heart. So I ended up just leaving it there for a bit. I hope that was okay with you.
There has been some time, some space, that I feel I can begin to put to words this unfolding journey God has me on. So, if you feel so obliged, come sit with me for a bit and let me share with you the depths of my heart. And I say that very, very purposefully...
Since the day our feet has hit the soil of this country God has pushed me, challenged me, debased me, and completely stripped me. Over and over again. Immediately, my world was rocked to it's core. Not just the semantics that a move like this brings of transition and getting resettled in life, etc. Not only was going to grocery store enough to put me in tears for the night, or the stress of running outside in the rain to grab my nearly dry laundry off the line just to have it smell like mildew for the next few days because I couldn't get it all the way dry in the heights of Sydney winter. Nevermind the frustration of having to pretend you understand what someone is saying when you actually haven't the slightest idea. Just smile and nod :)
All that seemed nothing compared to the utter crushing that God has been doing in me. When I say there where days I had no words, I mean I had no words. I would try and they just weren't there. Many times all I could do was just cry. In worship I would just cry. Many times my prayers were just tears pouring and pouring down from my face, from my heart. But honestly, those times that I couldn't speak were times I felt God so near to my heart. No words were needed. I knew He heard me when I couldn't say anything. He understood me when I couldn't understand myself. A year and a half and I haven't been able to understand what God was doing. I couldn't see it. He was always so near yet felt so vague.
But it wasn't just with God. Even with those around me, I just felt so.. lost. All the time. I never felt like myself. Normally someone who always has something to say and is usually full of passion for something going on inside her or around her, I felt completely silent and empty on a constant basis. And I succumbed to this silence and emptiness.
It was during this time that I went from being completely crushed and broken down by God to being flattened and stretched farther than I ever have before. Much like when one uses a rolling pin to flatten dough, stretching it out a little farther every time. I felt so at my limit on every level I was afraid a nervous break down was in my very near future. This was during my semester from hell :).
I didn't know when to fight and when to submit. I didn't know what was God and what was the enemy. I could barely catch my breath and I had to constantly run to God just to keep sanity about me. My capacity to handle was pushed to it's utter limit. Handle what, you ask? Anything. The smallest thing required more than I had to give.
I felt like God was pushing me so much from the inside and it was showing up through my ability to handle pressures on the outside. And I just wanted Him to stop. Just so I could feel like a normal person again.
All this culminating with a break down in the dark, in my garage one day,with my dad on the phone from the other side of the world listening to me sobbing over the line. I was done. I was finished. I couldn't handle anymore. So I quit. I quit both jobs I was working. I pulled out of singing in Kids. School was done for the semester so all my responsibilities were done for the year.
And I just breathed.
I felt completely different. Slightly scarred, but utterly at peace. Totally empty but ready to be filled. Completely broken down but in the hands of the Potter.
And it was in this breathing that He began to reveal.
It was at this moment that I realized a huge truth about myself. My complete and utter inability to just be. To be vulnerable. To be okay. To be still. To be God's daughter. To be the passion of Jesus' affection. To just be with Him. To just sit in His presence. To be transparent with others and let them in my heart. To be imperfect. To be me. As I am. Without all the answers. Without all the ability I need. Without having it all together. Without my facade, my barriers and walls that I didn't even know were there.
There were many, many other lessons I have learned and truths that God has revealed during these times but this one has been the heaviest for me. And the most challenging. A total redoing of my identity. How can I be when my whole life has been in doing? I realized then that I have built a life on letting what I do be what defines me. Take away what I do, and what do I have left? Not much. Just me. And that has always been my fear. That I am not enough. The soul-reaching fear that I am not enough in and of myself.
Though God has been dealing with this in me for many years it just went to whole other level this past year and a half. He has used circumstances and relationships in my life here to break me down so He can build me back up correctly. Firmly planted in my true identity.
I can be honest and say this is a journey because if you were to ask me what that identity is I don't think I know all the way, and what I do know I can't yet put into words.
But I hope I will live my life finding that out.
"Father, I pray that I will always first and foremost know what it means to be Your daughter above all. The daughter of my King. The bride of my Saviour and Lover of my soul. That if I never "do" anything for You, that I am enough for You, as I am, failures, weakness, and all. Help me, Jesus, to be a lover of Your presence above all else that has my heart. That in the midst of doing, I will first remember to be."
What a journey we are on. I don't know why I chose to write about this other than it is a feeble attempt to be on my part. To be transparent and vulnerable. To let people into my heart and be at peace that I wrote this first to Jesus, second to you. So whatever fears I would have about it I can lay it to rest, because the love letter of my life is already nestled away in His heart and my Father is already proud of me.
Friday, October 7, 2011
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Most people my age and older are well acquainted with the Six Million Dollar Man. I personally have never had the pleasure of encountering this iconic figure of my parents’ decade, but I am just old enough to recollect the murmurings and references of such a famous figure of pop culture from days bygone. Those who are younger than me may have no idea what I am talking about.
The Six Million Dollar Man was a superhero in his own right with his body being severely injured after a crash, then being given “bionic” implants in his right arm, both legs and left eye enabling him to have strength, speed and vision far above human norms. How could that not make for a great tv show, right? Uh, yeah sure. Sounds fascinating.
Well I have encountered my own Six Million Dollar Man, except I like to call him the Eight Dollar Man. An iconic figure in my own life reminding me what this life is truly about after all. And instead of a life altering crash this story begins with a normal day at work. A place I have desperately tried to get out of but God has stubbornly refused my advances, reminding me once again that He is less concerned with our “comfort” and more with our character and willingness to be used by Him in any circumstance.
About a month or so ago, I waited on an older man at our establishment on a Friday night, eating dinner by himself. I remember that he ordered the Atlantic Salmon with steamed veggies and a glass of wine. How do I remember that? Well, a great waitress never reveals her secrets. He was a well spoken, well mannered man, dressed nicely in relaxed business attire. He reminded me of the type that would sit in his library smoking a pipe while listening to opera. I don’t know if he does this or not, but in my mind this is how he spends his free time.
As is my job, if a customer initiates small talk I will interact following their lead. And as many conversations do here in Sydney, it followed the normal pattern of “Oh, are you American?” “Why, yes, I am”, with a plastered smile on my face. “What brings you here?” and then I delve into my rehearsed speech of how my husband is attending school here and on and on, to which they ask what is he studying, where does he go, etc. I answer that he is studying at Hillsong College. At that point I get many different responses depending on their belief of Hillsong, which is funny, because it is never based on their belief of God but rather Hillsong Church.
It was at this point that he responded with, “I have always wanted to go there.” Explaining that he has watched them on tv, but was never sure how one attends, to which I responded that all you have to do is show up and we would love to have him, etc. Now, I have invited many people to church and received many interesting responses (do you have to pay to get in, can anyone come, etc.). So this was still nothing too unusual. Throughout the rest of his meal we small talked here and there as I went about my duties serving him and the surrounding tables. At this point he formally introduced himself to me, shaking my hand. We talked about his job, where he was from, where he has traveled, etc. At the end of the meal, he thanked me profusely, gave me a tip, and was on his way. Nothing grand, nothing out of the ordinary.
A week or so later, I saw this man while “window shopping” with my family at the local shops. Not knowing if he remembered me but feeling the need, I walked up to him saying hi, reminding him who I was and how I knew him. He said, “oh yes, I tipped you five dollars.” I remembered what he ate, he remembers what he tipped. An interesting relationship servers have with their customers. I asked how he was doing, introduced him to my family, etc. He inquired if I was working that night, to which I answered yes, that I was going to go in a few hours. He commented that he wouldn’t be going that night, but spoke of why he enjoys our particular restaurant, etc.
He asked again about Hillsong Church to which I invited him again, telling him the times of services, etc. He reiterated his question of what does one do to get in. I reminded him that all he needs to do is just come, that we are more than happy to have him, and there is a whole host of people waiting to help him with whatever he needs. We finished up the conversation and my family and I went on our way, thinking how interesting that our paths would cross again like that, and is God up to something.
I went on to work that night with not much more thought to the situation when lo and behold, I spied this Eight Dollar Man across the restaurant once again eating dinner by himself. I then spent a good 10 minutes trying to decide whether to go over and say hi or not. I mean, I don’t want to seem like a stalker or anything and creep the guy out, but I did want to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Was this a case of a lonely man searching for God and responding to a caring individual? Or did the earlier conversation only wet his appetite for Salmon again? I truly didn’t know.
He was not on my side of the restaurant so I really had no reason to “happen by” his table. Not to mention Friday nights at our restaurant are too busy to just be moseying around without accomplishing something purposeful. I had pretty much decided against it but then I just stopped and prayed in the kitchen. God, if this is You, then enable my path to cross his and I will step out and say hi to him again. I proceeded to busy myself with the demands of my job when on my way back to the kitchen, guess who stopped me? That’s right, Eight Dollar Man. On his way to the restrooms, which did happen to be right by my side of the restaurant. God works in mysterious ways, eh?
We interacted in a small amount of small talk and that was it. He was on his way and I felt a huge amount of relief. Relief for not missing out on an opportunity from God. Relief that I would not be mistaken for a creeper. And relief that I fully believed at this point that yes, God was indeed “in this”.
Fast forward a couple of weeks. It is a Friday morning not unlike many others. I had a College Wives Girl’s Night planned for that evening. I had specifically taken off work for this, picked up an extra shift that week to cover missing that night and I was really looking forward to hanging with some of my girls. I had big plans for this day. Little did I know, God had even bigger plans, all starting with eight dollars.
After paying rent that day we found we had only eight dollars left in our bank account. Not an unusual event here during this season of our life in Sydney, Australia. But this time we still had needs left that required money. At the thought of another year in this state of circumstances just seemed a bit too much for us that day and so after a time in prayer with each other and God, crying out for breakthrough and provision for what was still needed, we continued on with our day.
Brandon and I found ourselves “window shopping” in the same shop that my family had met Eight Dollar Man in. For the first time in a while I thought of him (the Eight Dollar Man), wondering if he did indeed make it to any services at Hillsong Church, how he was doing, would I ever know if inviting him ever made a difference.
A few hours before I was due to party it up with my girls I received a phone call from work that they needed someone to come in and cover for another server. Now, like I said, I had my plans for this evening and normally there is no way I would let work interfere with something like this, but as soon as they asked I knew I had to say yes. My bank account gave me no other choice, not to mention something in me rose up that God was ordaining this. I assumed maybe I was going to get a huge tip or something grand of that nature. But once again, God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.
I went in to work praising God for His provision and giving me opportunities to access that provision in our lives, ready for anything that He might do. Now, I want to pause right here and say that we have seen God do outright miracles in our life, especially since we have been in Sydney. I mean outright miracles. Things that are unmistakable, have carved an utter confidence in us that God is indeed on the throne and is our Provider in every sense of the word. I have no doubt in His provision for us, but sometimes I do have to adjust my mentality of what that means and looks like. Provision covers so much more than getting what we want. It covers what we need, and very rarely do we as His children ever know what we need.
So there I am at work, serving my tables, offering smiles, dealing with disgruntled customers, and whatever other task lay before me, all with an unshakeable confidence that I would see God move. When out of nowhere, there is Eight Dollar Man eating dinner! He stops me with a huge smile, I sit down and say hi, shake his hand, and ask how he is doing. He asks about my kids and husband, if everyone is doing well, then he tells me that he did indeed attend a Hillsong Service! I couldn’t believe my ears… he actually went. And not once, but twice!
This lonely, older gentleman, who eats dinner all by himself, wanting to go to church but just not sure how, actually went. All because a young woman, all the way from the other side of the world, who has grumbled most of her way through this job, with nothing to offer in and of herself, invited him. God is truly wondrous! I told him that I hope he would comes back to church again and that if he lets me know ahead of time then Brandon and I would be more than happy to meet up with him so he doesn’t have to sit alone. His face lit up at this and he said that he would truly like that.
I walked away from our conversation in awe of God. I felt a complete sense in my spirit of God saying, “Provision? I’ve got your provision. To provide for you is nothing for me. This is so much bigger than your provision. Lives are at stake. I knew then that He used the eight dollars in our account to cause me to go to work that night. To deter me from the plans that I had made for my night. And I was grateful for the eight dollars. I was grateful that He had allowed us to be in a position that would propel us into what He is doing. And I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing, with exactly what He wants in our bank account because it is nothing to Him to turn those numbers around over night.
So will we ever see him again? Will we ever sit with him in Hillsong Church? Will I ever have the privilege of seeing him come to know Christ? I don’t know. But I do know this. If all we have is eight dollars to our name for the rest of our life, but He is using those eight dollars to position us for His kingdom then so be it. I would rather have eight dollars and reach people for Him then have eight thousand and be utterly useless to the kingdom of God.
And that is why he is our Eight Dollar Man, a superhero to our personal faith. Inspiring us to live above the norms of life, to do away with apathetic attitudes, reminding us again of why we are here and what we are to be about even in the most unsuspecting of circumstances. Nothing puts it better than the words of God himself in Matthew 6:30-33, “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” (The Message)
Sunday, January 23, 2011
There is a level of God known easily by man, revealed to us in a plain way. But there is so much more to Him than just what is seen at a glance or felt in a moment. There are depths and mysteries, and secrets that we can't even fathom to be real. And sometimes I can feel Him speaking and stirring in me. And I get so frustrated b/c I can't seem to tap into it fully. Can't seem to get that clarity on it that I so desperately want and need. I feel my "depths" churning within me. And when I feel that churning,that movement from deep within, it would be in my best interest to quiet all aound me so that I can hear what this voice of the Deep is saying to me. Because I believe that He is speaking, always speaking. It is just a matter of whether we are listening or not. And He has this way of pulling things from our depths that we didn't even know were there. Feelings, thoughts, longings. And He draws those out of us because, left on our own, we would bury them deep within never to see the light the day again.