Origins: Journeying On

For three years now, I’ve been on a journey.  A pilgrimage, if you will, into my own heart.  Three years ago, we began what is now called Origins, a group of house churches who lean on one another for support and encouragement.  For most of the three years, my house has been the meeting place for “house church.”

By now, I’m accustomed to the double-takes and odd looks when I tell people my church meets in my home.  I’m confident about what we do and why.  I’m able to easily tell another person what a house church is and why it’s a perfect fit for our family.  Three years seems to be a milestone of sorts.  In a human life, the first three years are crucial to setting beliefs, behaviors, and “bents.”  After three, most kids are out of diapers, moving toward school, and asserting more and more independence.  Babyhood is definitely over and toddlerhood is quickly nearing its end.

So what about our house church journey?  It’s three years old now.  Infancy has passed, and I look around and think “Hey.  We really ARE doing this!!”

So what has house church meant to me?  Here’s my top three:

1)  House church has given me confidence in my faith.  When we began, there were many scary moments for me as I let go of things that were part of brick-and-mortar church.  Would I “stick it out” with God if no one was expecting me to play the piano, teach a class, or show up lookin’ good on Sunday morning?  Would I love God as much without the “game” to play that I was so accustomed to winning?  Could I separate myself from the things I’d always used as outward proof of my love for God?  The answer is:  YES!!!  Yes.  With 100% confidence I can now say that I am God’s daughter.  He is my Father.  I love Him more than ever.

2)  For the first time in my spiritual life, I have experienced unconditional acceptance for who I am as a person, not for how well I play, sing, speak, look, or what I know about the Bible.  That is not to say I haven’t HAD this type of acceptance.  There are many beloved friends, teachers, pastors, fellow believers who have extended this acceptance to me in the past.  I simply could not let myself experience it while still attempting to earn it by playing well, lookin’ good, and being the poster child.  There have been moments in my living room when fellow believers have prayed for me, and I for them, we’ve struggled and celebrated, and kept on being there for each other, all without the trappings I was used to.  I NEEDED to know, deep down, that not only would I still love God if stripped of my church “position” but that other believers would still love ME.  And they do.

3)  It’s OK to let God take care of me.  In the past three years, people have come along who’ve needed what house church offers… the healing, the acceptance, the rest.  But for the group that meets in my home, there hasn’t been an explosion of numbers.  No one’s beating down the door to get in.  Not that I expected or was shooting for a group that is bursting at its seams.  We do not have a goal of building a church building to house our meetings.  In all seriousness, I… we have needed the past three years to let God work in us, care for us, and knit us together with Him.  I’ve learned that it’s ok to let God teach me and lead me, even if the steps are miniscule.  I’ve learned that big crowds, microphones, offering plates and the latest tunes are not necessarily evidence of God’s presence or His blessing, or His work in my life. 

I’m so grateful for the simplicity, the straightforwardness, the purity of BEING the church.  I in Him and He in me.  In us.

Our hands in His, we journey on.

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Ain’t How It Works

There’s something some Christian people do that I can’t stand.  They say, or post on social media, statements like: “I had a car accident today but wasn’t hurt.  God is so good!”  or “So-and-so was healed!  God is SO GOOD!”  I hate this because to say God is good because you get what you want is to say God earns His merit upon His ability to please you.  Ummm… that ain’t how it works.

This brings me to a lesson I’m learning:  Some tragedies in life make it seem that God is not at all good.  However, if our circumstances could change God’s nature, then in essence there would be no God.  If I believe in God, and I do, and if I believe He is good, and I do (see rising sun tomorrow morning if you doubt this.  If still in doubt, read something by C.S. Lewis) then my circumstances CANNOT change Him whatsoever.  He IS unchanging.  So He can’t be good when things are good and not good when things are bad.  I need a God who’s bigger than my circumstances, or else I don’t need a God.

When I was eighteen years old, I married the person I thought God wanted me to marry, and headed off to put my husband through Bible college.  With all my being I wanted to please God, and sincerely thought I was doing so.  I spent the next thirteen years enduring infidelity after infidelity in one form or another.  I’ll spare you the gory details, but you get the point.  Why would God allow that to happen?  Why did He let me go through all that humiliation? I gotta tell ya’ I’m not quite sure.  I have a few guesses, and of course, there’s plenty I’ve learned along the way.  But WHY?  I really can’t say. I CAN say that my faith still stands.  It has transformed… mutated perhaps, but it stands.

Still, I often find myself asking God for something. “Bring my children home safe” for example, and then thinking to myself, “He might not.  Probably won’t.  He doesn’t owe you that.  Plus, look at what He let you go through already.  No guarantees, honey.”

Some people think I’ve changed, or so I hear.  The way I practice my faith is certainly different than it was when I thought being a minister’s wife WAS what God wanted for me.  BUT, I’ve reached a different place with God.  For so long, I thought the same goofy things I complained of above.  I praised God for being SO good when things would go my way.  I never said He was bad when I didn’t get my way, a good Christian would never say that out loud.  But I wondered inside, how could I still trust Him when He might let it all fall down at any moment?  It’s at that heartbreakingly honest place, my friends, that something dawns on me like the meaning of Christmas dawns on the Grinch…

 HE defines my circumstances, my circumstances cannot define Him.  There is MORE to the faith and MORE to God than just what is going on in my life at any given time. It’s out here on the outside of accepted thinking, out here with the doubting thoughts that no one wants to admit, out here with the questions that have no good answers that I stand and yet here He is, and SO much bigger than I thought He was.  God is with me still, I know it in the depths of my soul. God is the ONLY thing still there when everything else falls apart.  Nope, I don’t know what His reasons are.  Don’t even know if it was He who allowed my saddest circumstances.  But I know He’s bigger than my circumstances.  I know He’s the only One who can hang with me ALL the way, no matter how crazy or whiny or messed up I get.

Bottom line is… if God must answer to me, then actually, I’m god.  And like I said… that ain’t how it works.

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Never Disappointed

“I’m disappointed in you.”

Ever heard that from your parents?  Said it to your kids?  Felt like that’s what God would say to you?

Evidently, there’s a child-rearing Bible study out right now that justifies the use of the above statement with children.  The very idea gives me what my Granny would have called the “heebee jeebees.”  My parents, thanks be to God, never said those words to me.  Somehow I still always knew when I’d made a mistake. I’ve been talking with my 14 year old about this when she recently expressed she thought God was disappointed in her.  My heart broke to find she actually thought that, and yet the more I think it through, the more I wonder how many people use this method, and further, how many think God uses it on His kids?  Think about some things with me:

How effective could the statement, “I’m disappointed in you.” actually BE?  I say, not effective at all.  Unless, of course, you are attempting to accomplish humiliation, irritation, and ill feelings between you and your child.  Perhaps some say this phrase and really mean, “I know you can do better.”  or “I wanted better things for you.” or “I expected you to make a better choice, and I’m surprised you chose this way.”  But when “I’m disappointed in you.” comes out, what it REALLY communicates is:  “If you performed better, I’d be happier with you.”  and “I’m in a certain class, and you, because of your choices, no longer qualify to be in my upper crust group.”  and “I’m embarrassed by you because you aren’t as good as me.”  and “You’re just not as good as I thought you were.”

If I desire to parent my children as God would parent me, then I can’t say “I’m disappointed in you.”  You see, God, no matter how big my mistake has been, hasn’t been disappointed in me.  He hasn’t been disappointed in you.  Disagree?  Then I would ask you, how, if Jesus knew of your every sin when He died on the cross for you, could he possibly be disappointed?  Disappointment, by its essence, includes an element of surprise, an element of expecting one outcome and actually receiving another.  Yet God in His omniscience knew every bad choice you and I would make and still gave His only Son to be sin for us, to bear our punishment.  He knew EXACTLY the outcome.  You and I have never once surprised God, even with the most outrageous of our antics.  And without some element of surprise, you can’t have disappointment.

But I’m not omniscient like God, right?  Right. I still feel upset when my kids make bad decisions. However, unless I think that God has waited until now to create the first three perfect humans since Jesus and given them to me to be my children, then I must expect that these precious ones WILL make mistakes.  I should expect that they’ll have the same drives, same temptations, same flaws that all humans have and will, on occasion, fail to measure up to standard as they fight to handle their frailty.  More than wanting my children to know how upset I am that they messed up, I want them to learn from their mistakes, and I want them to know they don’t have to be perfect to be LOVED.

How very grateful I am that God is teaching this idea to me, His daughter.  His grace wasn’t given to me because I earned it, but because He loves me.  I’m so glad He isn’t waiting until I’m good enough to give me His approval, but gave it to me for free, based on the perfection of Jesus Himself.  I’ve striven many years to be “good enough,” to be as perfect as I could be, and yet I’ve always come up feeling like my best just didn’t make the cut.  What a freedom to be loved by God in spite of my flaws!  With that belief, I’m free to be me, to love God back, and continue getting to know Him through my own good and bad times.  The temptation to just quit, since I’ll never measure up anyway, is gone.  I’ve already “measured up” because of Jesus, so now I can get to know God and myself and explore who He made me to be.

I want that so much for my kids.  I want them to know that kind of love.  I want them to know the One who IS that kind of love.  I want them to climb higher than I ever dreamed they could, because they have the confidence to try, knowing they’ll be loved whether they succeed or fail.  That’s what I have in God, it’s what my parents lived for me, and what I want my own babies to know above all else, even as I try to believe it myself.

 

 

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Hulk

Lately my sons have picked up a fascination with the Incredible Hulk.  Through the miracle of Netflix, they’ve been watching the old school show from the 70’s and 80’s that I remember watching with my brother and sister as kids.  We loved it then and my boys love it now.  I don’t know about my brother and sister, but I guess I always thought we had our very own Hulk at home, our Dad!  Somehow mom figured out how to paint Bud green one year and he was Hulk for halloween! And of course take one look at my brother’s website and you’ll see just how Hulkish he actually IS!  The ol’ Hulk has influenced our lives in more ways than one.

Laugh if you like, but those old Hulk shows have really got me thinking.  I’ve observed a few things:

1)  I think it’s interesting how the Hulk turns a negative emotion (anger) into his superpower.  Anger has been the downfall of many people and has ruined many relationships.  I think anger is feared by many because it is difficult to control, so we don’t allow it any expression at all until we’re at explosion.  Anger is a painful emotion and I know I find it easier to stuff it down than try to deal with it appropriately.  What would it mean if we could allow a potential fault to actually become an asset when used properly?  The Hulk’s always about righteous indignation, in that he turns green in anger only to save the day and defeat the bad guys. Could this principle apply to other flaws as well?  Could my other potential problems like my love for too much sugar be channeled into something positive?

2)  I can’t help noticing that the crux of Hulk’s superpower is the ability to force things to happen.  Someone won’t cooperate?  No prob for the Hulk.  He simply picks them up and places them where he likes.  Airplane cargo door in the way?  He just rips it off!  Someone trying to run him over?  He just stops the car.  What a dream!  To be able to simply make it happen.  Now, there’s no way I’ll ever come close to that in physical strength.  But what about mental, emotional, psychological strength?  I don’t often need to rip off airplane doors, but there sure are plenty of times I’d like to be able to have the mental determination to get that next book written in spite of all the distractions in my life.  I’d like to be able to overcome the fatigue that turns me into someone I don’t want to be.  I’d like to be able to “grit my teeth” emotionally and power through the walls I’ve put up to protect myself.  I’d like to be so darn irresistible that… well, I wouldn’t be resisted!!  I stare in fascination as a big green Lou Ferigno powers through another harrowing situation and deep down I want that type of strength too.

3)  The Hulk’s always been my favorite superhero.  Better than Superman (too pretty), Spiderman,(too mysterious) Batman,(too self-important).  There’s something wonderful about the Hulk’s inconceivable strength matched only by his tenderness with those in need of saving.  Reminds me of my daddy, my big brother, and yeah, of God.  There’s something great about that strength used on behalf of someone weaker.  There’s something so comforting about being protected in that way.  I honestly think this concept drew me to God as a child, the knowledge that He is so big, so omnipotent that no evil is a match for Him.  I’ll always need God in that way, and always find such joy in the knowledge that though all power is His, He chooses to speak gently to me, to carry me tenderly, and to use His incredible strength for my good but never to hurt me.

Perhaps it’s twisted that my brain runs in all these directions while taking in a campy old superhero show with my little boys, but it does.  So why not subject you to my Hulkish thoughts?

Aw, David Banner, I like ya pretty good when you’re angry.

 

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