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“And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves, but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sean, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” Matthew 8:23-27
I was supposed to go to kickboxing this evening. I am absent minded and forgot my gym bag at home, by my door. So I told my co-worker I’d go for a run when I got home. Then I drove near Radnor Lake, so I stopped. Radnor is always a great place for me to talk with and hear from Christ. I figured a three-mile mall-walk would be grand, after all it’s the perfect evening for it.
Today the first two and a half miles were me throwing a tantrum. There are a lot of ‘heavy’ situations in my life right now. I have a lot of brothers and sisters here in Nashville going through some of the toughest situations and it just gets heavier and heavier. I was fed up and Christ was going to hear about it. It’s very difficult to walk quickly and not choke from tears. There was a lot of pleading on behalf of my friends and family. A lot of ”What the hell are You really doing?” My rant continued into my own frustrations.
You see, my brothers, sisters and I are like the disciples in this passage. Christ got in boat, we followed him there and now there is a storm raging. And for me, on this day, it felt like He is asleep. Others easily rest with Christ. Others trust if Christ is resting then it’s the best thing we can do. I’m not like that…yet. I’m the one waking him up saying “SAVE US! It’s too much! We cannot handle it! Could you wake up and do something already?”
In the passage above, Christ asks the disciples about their faith and then says to the storm “be still.” He did not use those words with me. Instead He said “I have been faithful in every area of your life. You have story, after story of how I have personally been faithful to you - why would I not be faithful in these other areas of your life?“
With those words the storm that was raging in my head and my heart was quieted. I have no answer to that question. As he has been in the past, of course he will be in the future. Why do I doubt? Because the waves seem to be bigger than the boat today. They are not bigger. And doubt is routed in fear. Perfect love casts out fear.
Be still dear ones – of course He will be faithful. It’s who He is.
I would like to introduce you to Jon. Jon is a brother who has been on this church journey with me for a while. He helps me put words to my thoughts, he teaches me to give and not just receive and he reminds when it’s Flag Day. Today is Flag Day here in the states, it’s also Jon’s birthday.
Yesterday Jon and I were chatting and he sent me a message he had sent to a friend. I thought it was a great explanation of our last two years together. So I’ll leave you to it. Enjoy and maybe stop by Jon’s blog and say Happy Birthday if you get the chance.
I read your facebook status this morning… I understand your frustrations and I agree that church can and should be more than it is usually made. I would be interested in talking with you about this as my journey has led me to something that I think contains all that you are looking for…and quite more.
If you want to give it a name it has been labeled organic church (but there are a lot of people who use that label to mean different things). We mean a church that is birthed by Christ (not by people), in which he brings a group of people together who are learning to live by the indwelling life of Christ in community. We believe that church is not a place you go or a thing you do, is what you are…24/7. Whether we are at work, at home, having lunch with a brother or sister in the body, or meeting as a group, we are the church. And we are a family. We don’t believe in a clergy/laity split. We believe we are all priests and that Christ is the head and we are the body. We don’t believe in the offices of the pastor, elder, or deacons, meaning we don’t believe people are employed in this position or voted into this position. Instead, we believe these are functions (pastor = shepharding, elder = wise person in the faith) that anyone in the body can perform when Jesus wants them to and He will raise up someone when necessary and the next time maybe it is someone else. We believe that we are all leaders and that Jesus will raise up who He wants to lead in a certain endevor and then next time someone else. It all ebbs and flows based on Him being the head and determining what he wants his body to do.
The downside is that there aren’t a lot of people doing what we are doing. We know of a handful of groups across the US (and few more in other parts of the world), but that is it. That is not to say others are doing something similar, but because it is not easy, requires a lot of dying to self, and being comletely transparent with a small group of people, there just aren’t a lot of people willing to do it. But, we are also not the first. There have been groups since the 1st century doing this, again, they have just always been the minority and usually have been highly persecuted by the institutional church for that they were doing.
I know this all may sound crazy and heretical and nuts, but, it is the most beautiful thing I have seen and been a part of…ever. Look, I’ve been to seminary, lived as a missionary overseas, worked for a church, yadda yadda, and this makes more sense than any of that. It puts answers to questions I’ve always wondered about the church but was never allowed to ask or were brushed aside.
But above all, it is bout learning to live by His life that is inside us and that he is big enough to lead his church and that 40 people can come together and hear is mind and voice and be in agreement as to what he wants us to do. I have seen more of Christ in the last 2 years than in my entire life. It is about love. Non-judging love. We also believe that we are saints (as Paul referred to the many believers in the churches he wrote to). Yes, we were sinners in the past, but our belief in Christ has transformed us. Christ is our life and he lives in us. Yes, we may still sin, because of our flesh, but we are not sinners, we are just those that sin (and there is a big difference). Living from the perspective you are a sinner means you always need to be doing more, better, becomming something else. Living from being a saint, means you are already there because of Christ and now you are just living out of Christ’s life. And there is so much freedom in what we are doing. Galations type of freedom. We fully believe in the fact that the law has been fulfilled, there is no more old covenent of laws, rules, do’s and don’ts. We believe we are all free in Christ and Christ can lead us in what to do and not do.
We believe that there were two trees in the garden (look it up, it’s there). The tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They were told they could eat from the tree of life, which is Christ and if they had done so he would have been their life and shown them how to live. But instead they chose knowledge of good and evil, ie, rules and knowledge of what to do and not to do. You can’t have both. You either have Christ or you have human knowledge of morals. It’s a choice.
If you guys want to know more, let me know. We can talk over the phone or I can point you to some books that people who have been doing this for a long time have written. And if it this sounds nuts, no problem. I’m not offended. It’s not for everyone.
I have an older sister and a younger brother. Yet, it has been living in this community of believers, living in Body Life (the ekklesia); where I have learned what it means to be sister. It is here that I am learning what an honor it is to be sister.
When I was part of the religious system, it was often implied that the end-all, be all of experiencing Christ and His love was in a marriage relationship. I was taught marriage was the relationship where you most experience the intimacy of Christ and His Bride. Because of this, the title of ‘wife’ has always been a very deep part of my longings and my desires. I have come to learn that the truth is this desire to be married is just a shadow of a deeper desire, which is to experience the fullness of Christ and His great love for me.
I no longer believe the marriage relationship to the be the end all, be all of relationships. I no longer believe it is the only place we can experience the fullness of Christ. Please do not misunderstand me, the marriage relationship is an amazing and beautiful shadow of Christ and his Bride. By being in community with my married brothers and sisters I come to know a different facet of Christ through them and their marriages.
However, I used to cringe on the inside when someone addressed me as sister. In my fleshly opinion, it was the ultimate “friend card” I had ever heard. At first it left me feeling hopeless. A false feeling, this hopelessness, but something I had to deal with anyway.
Guinness and Texts
The other night I was having a drink with a single brother and we were trying to get the bartenders attention. He said, “We need a hot girl over here to help.” My response was something like “I got this.” After ordering we went about our conversation, more brothers and sisters join us and we watched Star Trek: Into the Darkness in IMAX 3D. The next morning I woke up to a text message that reads:
I didn’t mean to insinuate u weren’t a hot girl. Ur my sister. U are beautiful, K?
At first I did not remember what he was talking about, which is amazing in and of itself. Four or five months ago his “hot girl” comment would have stuck with me for a long time. I was giddy when I realized how much Christ has transformed my heart.
The more I dwelt on this text, the more truth entered my heart, the more freedom I received. I began to realize how much more depth, richness and honor there is in a being a beautiful sister, than in being a hot girl. Again, an example of all Christ has done in the last few months. I used to strive after the lie that I needed to be a hot girl to obtain a relationship full of honor, depth and richness.
In the Scriptures, Christ says that in heaven we are neither married nor given in marriage. Marriage is for this side of eternity, a physical shadow of a greater reality (Christ and His Bride). The eternal relationship that last is the brother/sister relationship. Christ himself calls us brothers. We are co-heirs with the Son of God, part of his family.
First and foremost, should I marry, he will be my brother in Christ. To know him and understand him as this prior to husband will significantly affect the rest of our relationship. It will have an incredibly dramatic effect on our communication and our love for each other. If you are a married Christian you have married your brother or sister in Christ. Honor your spouse as you would your brother or sister. Words simply cannot express the depth of this brother/sister relationship.
It’s a Privilege
Now, sister is a title I wear with joy. When greeted this way, my heart gets all mushy inside. It’s a spoken reminder of a greater reality. It brings great joy to my heart, and ultimately to the heart of Christ, to live within the greatness of this title. It is a privilege to be your sister.
I was driving to a friend’s house the other day and I was reflecting on my almost relationships. My history with men is a perpetual mess of “I-like-him-he-doesn’t-like-me” and then finally “he-likes-me-I-don’t-like-him”. As Christ and I were chatting, I said “My timing sucks”. His response was “Yes, it does.”
Not what I really wanted to hear in that moment. I was looking for a “Baby girl, it’ll be ok. I still love you!” not a blunt, matter-of-fact agreement. He didn’t stop there though. He said “But if you would prefer, I can give you my timing, in place of your own. It’s always perfect.”
It was in this moment I became aware that I have always seen Christ’s timing as a punishment. Why? Because as I’ve watched friend, after friend, after friend get “my” desire, and not me. My assumption was if I would focus on Christ more, or ‘delight’ more, or give more of myself away or if I would just do more, be better – then it would finally be the right time. I thought of Christ’s timing as punishment because I was about me, and not about Christ. I was about being/doing good enough to be rewarded.
Then there is the thought: “It would be better if Christ had done _____.” Mary and Maratha thought it would be better if Christ had showed up before Lazarus died. It would have been better not to have experienced the pain of losing a brother. Early in Christ’s ministry, Peter thought it would have been better to continue to heal the sick who had lined up outside the door, instead Christ knew it was better to move on to the next city to share His Father with the people there. “It would have been better if”…is a lie. Christ is for us, there is no ‘better than’.
My it-would-be-better-if moments focus on my past and the present. I have no idea what the future holds and how Christ’s timing is perfectly building His kingdom. It’s not about me. It’s about us, the Body of Christ, being built together in Him. It’s about living out eternity now. It’s about expressing Him and living His Life, not my own. I have to die to myself so that His Life and eternal purpose can live.
That is how I was able to see Christ’s timing as a life-giving opportunity, rather than a punishment. He is always doing more than we see. Always. There are no accidents or coincidences. Christ uses all of our experiences to create this full expression of Himself through us. He wastes nothing. He redeems everything. His timing is so much deeper, so much more rich, so much more satisfying.
His offer is for you too. Your timing, what you think you want – when you want it – sucks. But He’ll give you His perfect timing. If you want it.
For the most part, I like routine. Until I get bored. Then I crave new. I’m currently discontented in many areas of life. It’s not a bad discontentment, it’s just not allowing me to be comfortable. It’s allowing me to be aware things change. That’s why when I quasi-offered a job last week. It was exciting.
This job is in Bloomington, Indiana. Because I know Christ is getting ready to usher me through a season on new things, I thought this was maybe His way of moving things. I mean, I hadn’t heard from this person in two or three years and here they are offering me a job. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to take it, until…
…I really thought about it. You see the community of Believers I am apart of, this ekklesia*, we are entering a season where Christ is allowing us to get to know each other on a deeper level, really just ushering in a new depth of who He is, expressed differently through each of us. It is a very scary process–to be known so intimately by so many people.
These people are my brothers and sisters and yet they haven’t totally seen the depths of crazy I can easily hide. My past experience has led me to believe the lie that when I show this side of me, people will walk away. Can you relate? I believe there is always that little bit of us we don’t want anyone to know about, that part of us we try so desperately to ignore because it obviously isn’t loveable so we keep it to ourselves and pretend it doesn’t exist. That’s why it was tempting to take this new job in a new city. That’s why I thought it was the ‘new’ Christ was doing. But it isn’t. It’s the complete opposite of what He is doing. It would not be pressing into Christ, it would be running away from knowing and being known. Moving would be the opposite of being drawn into the depths of Christ.
So I turned down the new quasi job offer and the adventure of moving to Bloomington, IN. I know it’s the right decision, not because of my individual circumstances, but because of what Christ is doing among us – among my brothers and sisters. I no longer make decisions based on my independent self. I make them based on this community of Oneness that we share. Besides, I don’t think the Hoosier’s would really enjoy this Spartan living in their city.
Christ has taken this solitary girl and placed her in a family (Psalm 68:6). It’s not about what Christ is doing in my life or where he is leading me. It’s about what Christ is doing in our lives and where he is leading us.
*for more info or explanation about this type of ekklesia, check out my brothers blogs: Jamal, Milt, or Frank.
Week Seven of The Biggest Loser brought the ending of teams and the beginning of everyone for themselves. It brought temptations and visits from family. I’m starting to get really attached to these people and was sad to see Mike go home. I’m encouraged that his family is joining him on his journey. There is nothing more encouraging than when people join you on your journey.
But the line that I have been thinking about for the last week comes from a conversation Gina was having with Dolvett. He said, “…somehow your worry is bigger than your joy.” He goes on to talk about how our mental bondage is greater than our physical bondage. I couldn’t agree more. It isn’t until we are given right thinking that our physical can change. That’s why, I believe, Jillian doesn’t take any crap and goes straight for the jugular She wants to get to the root of the mental bondage, the lies, and rip them up to replant truth.
But somehow worry is bigger than joy. We worry about many, many things. We worry about health and jobs and money and relationships. At one time or another your worry has been bigger than your joy. That’s why we love children. They don’t worry. Joy comes easily to them. That’s why Christ says that we must become like them to see the kingdom of Heaven.
A few weeks ago my friends and I had a slumber party for eight little girls. We had a pizza party picnic in our living room which was immediately followed by dress-up, getting their hair, nails, make-up done. Then they had a photo shoot, a dance party and watched Tangled. The anticipation for this evening, as you can imagine, was great. It was all they talked about for the week leading up to the big event. One of the girls was so excited she could not stop jumping around once she arrived. There literally could have been a trampoline under her feet. It was so fun to be with them this evening! They laughed so much. We laughed so much. It was an evening full of joy.
On the other hand, worry will trap you. When Christ speaks of worry, he reminds us he takes care of animals and plants and that he will take great care of us, his children. He reminds us not to worry about tomorrow and take it one day at a time. He tells us our earthly parents can give us good gifts and he gives greater things.
Worry is a thief. It robs us of life. It robs of us of seeing joy in the sunrise or sunset. It robs us of seeing the joy in the first cup of coffee or the evening tea. The solution? Turn your eyes upon Jesus. All worry will fade away. I promise.
As I think of life and love and light I think of my friend Tiffany Ann.
I have known her for 17 years. We met when we were 17 and freshman in college. Our freshman orientation groups where meeting at a professor’s house and she arrived in her gray car with colorful smiley-faced stickers honking her horn. I watched from afar that day, in awe of her ability to be free from the opinions of others.
A few weeks later I found myself working with her in our school cafeteria’s “dish pit.” The rest is history. Tiff and I have always had issues with staying still. Knowing this, we would regularly ask each other when our ‘me’ time for the week was–whilst meeting at 5:30 in the morning. Looking back we both wonder why in the hell we did that! Our ‘me’ time could have been spent sleeping!
But through studying abroad (her) and moving to a different state (me) our friendship has remained. Through hell and high-water we fight with and for each other. I talk to Tiffany on my way to work almost every day. Recently I sighed, and she asked me “what’s wrong?” She knows my sighs and if they are from sadness, just being tired or if they are happy. She knows when my cheeks turn red from embarrassment and tells me “you’re cute” when I get pissed in traffic.
When we were 28 we starting taking birthday trips together: some are big voyages and some are just visiting each other at our homes. For our 30th we spent two weeks in Italy. When I didn’t have a towel at one of the hostels, she cut hers in two.
We are different but the same. Most college friendships aren’t supposed to last. But ours did. Why? Because of Christ. He knew we would need each other. He knew and knit us together. He continues to reveal himself to us–through the other.
FRIENDS is one of my favorite shows. There are very few life situations which cannot relate to a FRIENDS episode. If have had a bad day and need a laugh, I find an episode to watch. My favorite of favorites is The One Where No One is Ready.
One reason I love the show is because of the community these friends share with each other. The idea of having community, and having so much life and love spring forth from that community, is something we all seek. It’s a desire set deep within us.
This week I have been thinking about the friendships in my life: the seasonal friends and the non-seasonal friends. The seasonal friends come and go at their appointed time. They are the friends you meet when you are in college, or new to town, or they are co-workers. But eventually the season ends; college is over, you move again or you get a different job.
Then there are the lifelong friends. The ones you have known longer than you haven’t. They are rare and deeply special. I have been blessed with a few of these friendships, and for this entry I’d like to focus on three of these friends. We’ve been friends since we were 14 or 15: Shayne, Jessica and April May.
The four of us have been through much. Driver’s training, marching band, prom, graduation, more teen drama than an episode of Teen Mom, middle of the night pool jumping, deep conversations on swing sets, college graduations and weddings one, two and three. Between the three of them there are nine children. We graduated high school in 1996 and 2010 was the first time I wasn’t able to see all of them at Christmas. We talk at least once a week, if not more.
To me, the most amazing part of our friendship is that no matter how much time has passed between our face to face time, it feels like I just saw them yesterday. There is no ‘catch up’ that needs to happen: we just jump in (much like we jumped into that random person’s pool in the night) like we’ve never been apart.
In high school you write in your peers’ yearbooks things like, “friends forever,” and you wholeheartedly believe it. Yet very few of these friendships are forever. Forever is a long time. Forever is eternal and we have no idea how to measure eternity. Yet that is what Jessica, Shayne, April and I are. Eternal Friends.
You see by all normal standards our friendship should have fizzled by now. We left high school before the uberconnected days of worldwide email, high-speed internet connections, and facebook. We now live in Utah, Tennessee and opposite sides of Michigan. Our face to face time is few and far between these days. Our lives are in four different stages. Our hobbies are different, our (their) children are different ages, we have different theological beliefs. And yet…
Before the foundation of the world was laid, it was determined that the four of us would be knit together through the bond of Christ. He is the only thing that has kept us together all of these years. They each have this unique expression of Christ. They are my familiar place, a comfort in the midst of the storm. They are beautiful and full of grace.
On Thursday, Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving. All month long Facebook status’ have given thanks for various people, places and things. It is to this end that I write this blog. I can’t give anything other than words….
But Shayne, Jessica and April May — I love you sister-friends. I’m grateful for the impact you have made on my life and the expression of Christ you have been to me. I look forward to the day we all sit in the same room again and pick up as if it were 1996. You are a gift. You are a treasure.
Here’s to being friends from then and for all eternity.
In the very near future I will be having my gallbladder removed. I’m nervous and yet ready to be feeling well again.
What I find interesting about the entire situation is the timing. If you don’t know, your gallbladder helps you process fatty foods. You know, the good stuff like pizza and burgers and desserts and dairy. Also known as all of the foods I have removed from my diet as of late.
My first (fleshly) thought was that it was some form of punishment for deciding to finally become healthy. Or it was a consequence of treating my body so badly for so many years. I finally desire to take better care of my body and BAM! I get sick. I recognize and wrestle with the lies I believed about who I am and how they relate to food and I wake up on a Thursday morning unable to eat. It felt like a mean trick. And yet there is there something more.
It is not a punishment. It is a gift. Christ’s love for his Bride ( the church) is so intense, passionate and kind that he will do whatever it takes to ensure nothing hinders our relationship. Once my gallbladder is gone my physical body will have difficulty processing many high fat foods. Many of these high fat foods were where I found comfort and acceptance. Christ is removing any temptation I may have to revert back to that line of thinking. As Jacob wrestled with the Angel and walked limping, I will have a scar to remind myself of the depths and riches of His love for me.
This scar will remind me who I am. Christ is literally taking the old away. He refuses to allow me to be found in a place where I define myself by anything other than who He says I am! This is so unfathomable. I am grateful for the way he is showing his immeasurable love for me.
Sure, you may snicker and say “Heather, you’re just having your gallbladder removed.” And if I were only looking with my eyes, I would agree with you. But the spirit searches deeper than the eye. It focuses on things unseen. It places hope in things unseen.
There’s a 90′s praise song lyric that says “I will never be the same again. I can never return. I’ve closed the door. I will walk the path and I’ll run the race. And I will never be the same again.” This is true. Once you have been given a vision of Christ, in whatever way, shape or form he gives it, you will never be the same again. I am grateful his desires is for me and for us. I am grateful he goes to extreme lengths to bring truth to each of us. I am grateful for gallbladder surgery.
Today is the official first day of Autumn. The late summer of 2012 has been a very exciting and very busy time in my life. So grab your cup of coffee (or tea) and get comfortable. This could be a long entry.
Between August 1st and September 23rd, I attended two baby showers, two bridal showers, visited San Francisco, was part of helping two friends get married, decided to change my eating habits by becoming a Vegan for 30 days, starting working out six days a week, and celebrated my birthday.
I’m tired just reading that sentence.Although it has been busy, it has also been life-giving. Specifically in the area of food. When asked about why I chose to be Vegan for 30 days, I never know where to begin. Let’s begin in early June.
When I got back from Ireland I began using myfitnesspal.com to track my calories, workouts, etc. I began the journey hoping to shed a specific number of pounds by my birthday. When I’m honest, I knew then I needed a season of restriction before the weight would come off. However, I am stubborn and wanted to prove that I could do it while have a well-balanced diet which included everything but in moderation. I did see results and recognized that my body type is just one that is slow at losing weight. So in mid-August when my sister-friend challenged me to be a Vegan for 30 days, without any expectations for after the 30 days, my first reaction (flesh) was to get up and run screaming from the table. My spirit knew it was something I needed to pursue. There would not have been such a violent reaction in my mind, if there wasn’t something trying to hang on.
What was trying to hang on? A false identity. An identity rooted in lies I’ve believed, excuses I made, and cruel seconds of bullying I had accepted as truth. The majority of these lies, excuses and bullying were directly related to food. When I looked at all the events that would be happening in the next 30 days it would have been easy to make excuses to not start the Vegan challenge until October. It would have made ‘more sense’ to begin then. But I know myself well enough to know that it was then or never. I no longer desired to live in the death of false identity. I craved truth and life. So on August 19, 2012 I began the challenge.
And on August 19, Christ immediately used His Body to replace this false identity with truth. Through my brothers and sisters Christ told me I was a lion, I express His deep vulnerability, that I am a very potent person, and that the most ordinary, everyday things are intimate between Him and me, much like a picnic. He reminded me of how I finished the 5K I ran, and as my brother jumped over the arm of my chair, this physical act broke something in the spiritual. Their encouragement, this truth offered to me, set me free. In that moment I was overcome with the truth and love of Christ.
What amazed me the most is what I had written to my sister who challenged me to begin this journey. Only she (and Christ) knew I had ever written this
I have hidden who Christ has made me because who I am intimidates me. So I’ve kept her hidden. I wouldn’t have said it till now, but in Christ I am a force to behold. There is much I don’t know about my identity in him, but the impostor identity I’ve been living is lame in comparison.
Each day of the challenge more and more freedom came. I’m not going to lie, it was difficult. But because of Christ and His Body, it was not as difficult as my imagination had made it. He continually placed opportunities for me to make choices that brought life rather than death. As I chose life over death, I found (and still find) myself craving more life. I learned that San Francisco without sourdough, clam chowder or chocolate is still an amazing city. (although I do look forward to visiting again and having those things) and that not eating what everyone else is eating does not make the event less enjoyable. Every day I learned more truth and forgot the false.
The journey’s not over. There is still much to forget and more truth to find. After all, this was just the late summer. Autumn is just beginning.