Friday, August 24, 2012

Where do you worship?

Today while Kyle and I were driving to the airport so I could catch a flight to Colorado to see my family, Kyle and I were discussing theology. We have started doing this often, since I am in school studying theology and in the process of learning what I believe about the Bible. As we were talking, the subject of “church shopping” came up. Being in the ministry for almost nine years (which by no means equates to us knowing everything), we have seen families come and go at the three churches Kyle has pastored at.

We often hear the phrase “I am shopping for a church,” and as much as I understand this concept, it is difficult to understand why or where people get this idea. Often many families are not searching for a place to serve; they are looking for a place to be served. They are not looking for opportunities to connect with a community; they are looking for a place that either confirms what they already know about the Bible, God, and Jesus, or they are looking for an emotional/spiritual high that gets them through whatever rough patch they are dealing with at the time.
As much as the Church can do these things, the church is not really meant to be our spiritual “Wal-Mart.” I shop at Wal-Mart often, and I know that I can go there and get low prices on pretty much anything I need or want, but there are a couple things that happen when I shop at Wal-Mart for everything.
1.     Most of the clothes are cheaply made. They do not last very long, and end up falling apart after a short period of time.

2.     I end up leaving with things I do not really need, they are just things that I want. I spend more money than I planned on spending, because I have it in mind that things are low cost.

There are a couple ways this connects to how we treat the church. Most people are more interested in what they can get inside the Church, than how they can serve, grow, learn, and be challenged. We are looking for our long held beliefs to be upheld, while the pastor gives us super good tips on how to be a better Christian. When what we really need to do to be a better Christian is to start loving people, living with them in community, and go to Church to live out the life of love we are called to by God.

The other claim I have heard is, “They just are not free or open enough in their worship.” My reply to this is if you are really interested in worshipping God, for who God is and what He has done in your life, what the other people around you are doing will not matter. If I am in church to worship God, the Creator of heaven and earth, then I am going to be consumed by worshipping Him. The people around me are with me, as the Body of Christ, to worship with me, but what they do or what they are not doing should not be the focus of my worship. My focus is on God. My worship is for God. Who we are as humans, is complete when we worship the Creator. And we can be who that is wherever we attend church, no matter what the other people around us are doing. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Black, White, and Grey

I hear many Christian people talk a lot about having the “right” to say whatever they believe, regardless of what that means to the person they are speaking against.
Many Christians seem more interested in sharing these beliefs than living them, and it makes me wonder what we are missing. Jesus didn’t say, “The greatest Commandment is to go out and tell everyone what you believe.” He in fact said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Does that include being obnoxious and insistent that what I believe is superior to everyone and everything else, and if you don’t believe it, you are going to Hell?

This does not sound like Good News to me. Good News is just that, GOOD. It does not hurt or wound people, it draws them in. It romances, courts, and moves them into a loving relationship with God. When fear is involved in the decision of whether or not to live in relationship with God, we are not sharing “Good News.”

As the political power of the fundamental right changes and slowly slips from their fingers, they will get louder and louder about how much of what they are saying is “biblical.” But the problem is, in the postmodern culture, the Bible is not the end of all truth within the world. Postmodern people think that truth can be found through relationships, experiences, and traditions that we take part in. The implicit change this needs to bring to how the Church teaches Biblical truth is we have to show them how Biblical truth applies to the experiences, relationships, and traditions they have. We cannot do this by preaching to them each Sunday; we can only do this through living in relationship with them. Just getting someone into the Church is not going to be enough in generations that question what it means to know what is truth and what is not. It has to be lived out, in and among them, for them to begin to understand.

Let us begin to navigate what it means to live a Holy life ourselves, in loving relationship with God and with others, and for this to become more important than yelling about what we believe to people that have heard it before and do not care. If we do not find a way to live truth in the world, we will lose the postmodern generations that do not view truth as black and white. Let’s start diving into the grey area and helping those that are in it navigate it with the power of the Holy Spirit in and among them. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tired of standing out.

I am tired of standing out. I realize there may be lots of people in this world that feel differently, because they have always been the wallflower, the person no one notices, and always left feeling on the outside of life, but I promise you, always standing out makes me feel just the same.

I have been singing since I was nine years old and come from an entire family of singers. When I say entire family, I mean it. There is not a person on my dad’s side of the family that is not musically inclined in some way (this is an exaggeration, but it is probably close). From the time I was a kid, people wanted to meet me. I remember being eleven or twelve and adult women asking me for my autograph for the one day I would be famous. Being able to sing, made me think that was all God had for me. I did not have any other plans for who I would be or what I would do growing up.

Please know that I am not asking for a pity party, but I want to point out that the grass is not always greener on the other side. Now as an adult, I have four boys age 1-8 years old and I would not switch them out or trade them for anything. But, we stand out. Everywhere we go, someone has to say something about me having four boys. It is tiring, it is annoying, and I do not want to answer any more awkward questions like, “Are you going to still try for that girl?” How exactly does one do that? Try for a girl, are you kidding me?

Being a Christian makes me stand out as well. I realize this is a good way to stand out, but sometimes I wish I could just blend in like everybody else. I wish I did not have to be different, think different, and want to fully trust God for who He is. Sometimes it is just tiring. Whenever I am somewhere in public and another lady and I will start chatting, the inevitable question is asked about what my husband does for a living, and as soon as I say, “he is a youth pastor,” a change comes over the person I am talking to. They seem to have this idea that they must constantly talk about godly things, being Christian, and going to church as soon as they know we go to church. This is good because I have been able to tell them about my faith, but on the flip side it is hard being treated differently because my husband is a pastor. Sometimes, I just want to be treated like a human being, just like everyone else.

Do any of you ever feel this way? Or do you feel the opposite? 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Marriage, God, and how we view ourselves.

There are lies being told about what marriage is supposed to be; about the roles of men and women within marriage, and within the world. We view marriage as a relationship worth having as long as we feel like we are receiving something out of it, and we think that once it does not work for us any longer, it is time to leave. I would like to go against all of that, and say that marriage is about sacrifice, humility, love, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, peace, and most of all the ability to stick to the other through all our hard times. I would like to point out two ways that men and women need to learn and change so that the relationship can be stronger. These are my own observations, and things I have learned through my almost 11 year marriage. (Not that I have all the answers!)

Women: The world tells us that we are only here for men’s sexual pleasure, including our husbands. We view our relationships with our husbands through how well we are pleasing him inside and outside the bedroom. We think that relationship has to be us constantly serving him, without ever being served. But marriage is serving one another, loving one another, and it goes both ways. There are times that our husbands must serve us. During those times, be thankful that your husband loves you that much. A man that is able to truly humble himself, and show the Love of Christ in serving the basic needs of his wife and family is a man after God’s heart. Remember that most men do not think the way we do which is okay because we were made to be different. We compliment the other person’s strengths and weaknesses to become something whole within the framework of our family and world.  You also need to know what your identity is outside of the relationships in your life. God made you, yes you, for His will and purpose. Do not short change yourself by not asking God what He wants to do with your life. Whether that is being a stay at home mom, working part time, working full time, raising a family, or not raising a family at all, each of those things can be part of who God has called you to be.

Men: Self-control is a virtue that many of you have never been taught. I have four sons, and I have been convicted greatly about their need for being taught this. There has been this idea that men are completely unable to control themselves sexually, and I would like to take the opportunity to say that is hogwash. Through the grace of God, we are not slaves to the sinful nature of the body, and we have power through the blood of Jesus Christ to be free from sin. Sexuality is a gift from God that is shared between two people who love and are committed to one another. Women should not withhold sex to hurt the man or use it against him, and men should not expect it whenever they want it. It is a mutual, loving decision made between two people. Love your wives, treat them better than you treat your own body, and give them grace.

That is the main point… we are all in need of grace. We all fall so short most of the time of fully loving and cherishing our families. Our spouse’s feelings on this get expounded a hundred times more than that, because they are so connected to us emotionally and physically.

I do not have all the answers to having the perfect marriage; I just know that there will be good times and there will be hard times. There will be times you love the other person so much, that you do not want them to leave your side, and there will be times that all you want to do is walk out the door and never see them again. But, you will never fully get away from the other person. Who you are has become, partly, who the other person is. Learn to forgive, and show the other as much grace as you expect to be given. If you walk away now, realize that the other person will always, inextricably, irrevocably, be connected to you in some way.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I work out!

In January of this year I decided to seriously start working on my weight. I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life, and with at least four Aunts or cousins who have had gastric bypass surgery, I envisioned myself going down a very bad road that I did not want to travel. We joined the gym, and I began working out.
I fell in love with Zumba and yoga, and started lifting weights at least twice a week. I started keeping track of how much I ate, and became more aware of portion sizes. I found out that I really tend to want healthy food… I love salads, cilantro, green pepper, onion, tomato, zucchini,  squash, water melon… to list a few. When eating out, I stay away from fried foods (I splurge on fried chicken from time to time, but very few and far between), and do not really like potato chips and other junk food that is the downfall of most people. My weaknesses are ice cream (which I bought for the first time this summer, yesterday) and homemade baked goods (which I do not bake very often).
I was pleasantly surprised to find that I do not eat very badly. So, why am I so heavy? Why have I only lost about ten pounds so far?

I am so tempted to join a shake club or take a weight loss pill just to lose it all as quickly as possible, but from what I read that is the least likely way to take weight off and keep it off. To take the weight off permanently, I must exercise regularly and change my eating habits permanently. I would like to have huge results in a short period of time, and every time I go to the gym without losing pounds of weight I want to walk away and do whatever I can to lose it. But: I know that persistence and patience will pay off. It may take longer, it may hurt more, and I might have to put aside my own competitive nature to do things quickly, but it will be done.

Yet, in the meantime, I am going to stop doing the following:
1.     Talk bad about myself or my body. Regardless of what I weigh, God is still good, I am still His Creation, and I will hold my head high and walk with confidence in who God made me to be.
2.     Not compare myself to others who may be losing it more quickly than I am. My journey is my own with God, and it does no good to expect the same results as the person next to me.

I would also like to point out that I want to be strong, not skinny. Healthy; not thin. I want muscle. I want to feel like I can run, play, hike, swim, and move without hurting myself. I have learned that I love working out! I like the way it feels when my lungs are burning, thighs are stinging, and sweat is dripping from my brow. I like feeling strong! I also enjoy having energy on a daily basis, and having an overall feeling of body awareness that I had lost in the last 9 years of having four children.
It might take me longer, but I am patient. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

How do you read the Bible?

Is it something you run to, find a random verse or two that prove the point you want to make, so that you can win an argument? Or confirm a thought or belief you already had?

Is it like a self-help book, that gives you pointers and recommendations about how you “should” live, but you can never really live up to those standards?

Think about this, because it’s important. How you read God's Word is how you connect with Him relationally. Scripture is important in the Christian life, because it is the only place we can go to read what God’s story is. The point He is trying to make in this world.

Now stop, and think of how God speaks to each of us. He speaks through stories, experiences, traditions we have within our families and communities, and through His word. If all of those things are not coming together, to bring a whole picture to how we view God, ourselves, and others, we are missing the point. We are missing exactly what God has created us to be. God created us to be in relationship with Him and with others. Our relationship with God transforms and renews us, into being fully human and available relationally to every person we come into contact with, so that God’s love shines first and foremost in our lives.

I encourage every person reading this blog to stop and truly think about what it means to be a Christian. If what you believe makes you a Christian, how can we act out those beliefs in the world? Is just standing up for those beliefs truly being Christ to everyone?

Think deeply. Love Truly. And use the brain that God has given us to uncover the stories in His Word that give us the true meaning of what it means to be a Christian. Never stop learning, searching, and growing in the transformational grace of the Lord.