whether you change or not

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“Jesus the risen Christ is with us this moment. Right here, right now loves you and accepts you just as you are.

You do not have to change to get his love. You do not have to give up your sin. You do not have to have a conversion experience. Obviously, Jesus wants you to change and yes he wants you to give up your sin and your selfishness… be converted and live, experience the freedom of the children of God but you don’t have to do that to get his love and acceptance. You have that already, before you decide to change and whether you decide to change or not.

Do you believe this?”

(part of a talk that I was watching given by Brennan Manning)

How absolutely scarily beautiful is that?!!

I can’t trust God

I can’t trust God. I don’t have the energy.

I can trust him for my son. I can teach my son about God’s intimate love for him. I hope I can show my son the love of God, but I can’t trust God.

I need some things and I want some things and I’m not really sure that if I put my belief in Him right now that He will come through. I’ve been here a lot of times before. I want to just throw in the doing it myself and let go to trust… But my numbness and my thoughts of how I can do it myself plague me and lead me away from that wanting.

I desperately need God to help me love and trust. I don’t know if I can conjure up the strength to psyche myself into believing Him again. I expect the worse. I expect that if I trust Him, I will lose the window of time to do it for myself.

What a struggle.

I don’t really want to hear from anyone how there is more to this than just struggling with trust. I know that. I just have made a deal with myself to be honest in my thoughts, in a safe way here, whether or not my thoughts sound unholy or immature. Whether or not I feel completely insecure in sharing something that other God followers will relate to or not. Whether or not it will make people pity me or judge me.

I don’t feel uh he’d in at all to all those soaking in the Presence of the Lord right now, although I do feel His presence deeply now and then.

I need God, but my “need” for Him right now sometimes feels as if its a conditional need. “I will trust you if you do what I say I need” and somehow, Biblical stories of God striking people down are all that are going through my head right now.

Sheesh.

The disappearing church

Do you know what I think about all this talk about the decline in church attendance and how more and more Americans identify themselves with no religion whatsoever? (More than ever before in the history of our country apparently)

I think we’re missing the truth big time. The front page story isn’t that people are so wounded by the church that they’re leaving in droves (though that is happening). The truth isn’t how does Christianity meld itself into society without losing itself or compromising.

The truth is that it’s God at work. He doesn’t live in church buildings. He never has. He is moving everyone out into the streets, into the broken parts of their lives, into the creativity that He meant for them to be in, into the bland landscape of no particular religion so that He can have the freedom that we rarely gave or give Him in our gatherings. His light explodes into darkness and His life is arriving like splatters of color onto the blank canvasses of our numb, sarcastic, jaded, lonely souls.

He’s always wanted to break out. Like the guy who tried to keep the Ark of the Covenant from toppling over, we try to keep Him in place. (2 Samuel 6) He doesn’t want to have to be confined, He wants to be with us!! For heaven’s sake, don’t try to keep things steady, let Him out of the box!

We take ourselves too seriously. We see things backwards. We mourn at the decline of Christianity in our country and try to build more programs (or arks), or try to write the most hip blog to hold on to the people so they won’t be lost, but really, we’re the lost ones. We’re blind. We can’t see that what we fear the most is probably the biggest blessing to God… People being positioned to be less bound up by rules so that He can carry grace straight into their lives and make His home of love inside them. Us included.

Be free. Be free and think outside of all you’ve ever known. You’re loved and you’re not alone.

Hiding

I’m in that kind of mood these days… Hiding away, thinking a lot, digesting what I read and hear, not having much to say out loud about it. It’s all rolling around me inside, totally alive, but outwardly quiet.

I read a friends post about isolation recently and it so clicked with me that it’s been in the forefront of my thoughts for several days. So freeing to be taken aside through isolation (spiritually). Maybe “taken aside” isn’t the correct description because I don’t feel that I’ve come off the path in this journey. I feel that I’m looking for and finding Jesus.

So many political things I could have been throwing out views on. So many religious views to debate. So many days just slogging through the work day. So many magical moments of encounters with God and people within all of these issues and viewpoints and boring old days.

My main recent decision? I’ve decided that every person is loved by Jesus and that their path to Him will look very different to mine. I don’t care if they believe in Him or not. They don’t have to measure up to my standards. Hell, if I’m honest, I don’t measure up to may standards!!! They are LOVED. And so am I.

Gay marriage? I don’t mind it. It doesn’t threaten me. I feel for them. I feel that if the Christians who truly believe its sin worked on loving those around them, straight or gay or anything in between, the world would be better off because of it. I don’t think the world, or my children, will be better off because of a debate about marriage.

Politics? I don’t have time for the power hungry. I believe politics do play a roll in these times, but not as big a roll as we give them. The undercurrents are full of the presence of God. That’s where I am choosing to look to gauge my life and times.

I’ve taken a leap off the tracks of the discussions about what church is, what should it be etc, etc, etc (thanks to a very concise and beautiful dream that gave me permission to do so!)

I still struggle in my day to day 9 to 5 job, but that’s ok for now. It isn’t heavy like it used to be. I’m hearing some things in my heart, I’m looking at a light at the end of the tunnel.

I love my friends and I miss England a lot these days. Really longing for their company, laughter, depth, and a good night out with them in an excellent pub.

I’m loved by my family and that’s just an awesome feeling. I love and enjoy my husband so much. My sons really do delight me. My parents bless me. I’m rich because of my family.

These are good days. I think it’s going to get better and better from here. I have so much to learn about everything!!!!

Wherever you are in your journey of life I hope you feel loved, I hope you have people around you who love you, and I hope you are continuing to learn to love. Without love, none of this means anything. If I can remember that, I think I’ll not waste my life. (remind me of that on the days I want to strangle my boss, ok??!!??). 😉

Take care, guys. Good night.

are we margin, or are we centre?

Here is a link to an article that Paul Leader has written called Are We Margin, Or Are We Centre? His question is a vitally important thought for us to consider whether we’re church attenders, believers outside of what’s considered normal, or wanderers who aren’t sure what it all means or where we belong. Why do I think it’s important? How we view ourselves, the Church, our place in it, and the world will either add to an empire or add to lives. Our views will either keep us bound up and, in turn, bind up others or will free us up and therefore set others free.  Or I guess a third option would be that we just stay with the familiar and the safe in order to stay within our place of comfort; whether we choose this option be it out of fear, lethargy or excuses, I believe this is a fatal mistake to our spirits and to the world.

My comment on Paul’s post was basically this: 

I view the center to be where people want you to come in to something to be a part of it. Where you are told that this is where you need to come to hear a certain message and “be in fellowship”.

The margins are where I am going it alone, yet at the same time traveling with others, as we all tread along in our journeys towards Christ while learning to love others without being bound ourselves and without imprisoning those who we are loving.

“I sought to hear the voice of God and climbed the topmost steeple, but God declared, ‘Go down again! I dwell among the people.’ ” (John Henry Newman) I think I am beginning to discover in a deeply personal and profound way that the margins are where I get to serve people out of love and not out of obligation.

 

So, check out the article and may it challenge and encourage you!

http://3generations.eu/blog/archives/5865

When the Mundane Becomes Holy

As most of you know I have been exploring what Christianity means. I guess you could say I am working out my salvation. Lately, I’ve been realizing the wonder that each so called normal moment holds.  From spending time with my husband and sons, to making the choice to be merciful and kind to someone who has hurt me. Here are my thoughts last night as I (for once!) understood what the Way was through that moment and the feelings involved in it:

Maybe the only comfort I have right now is doing what is loving and right. I always thought comfort was about God helping me feel better but that’s not necessarily it. This time it was showing mercy to someone who hurt me. How is that comfort? Because within that act love and forgiveness and focusing on someone else’s need instead of my own was in action and love being given is what brings life. I am discovering that this is where I connect most deeply with the Presence of God.

I may not feel that I am being comforted during the act or after the fact, but I know that I have loved someone who has not been able to love themselves or shed any tears for a very long time. And you know what? God was in the midst of my act of love. And I really was comforted by Him. Not because I am so awesome for making a right choice but because He lives in the very acts of loving someone. Jesus was so present there. I was humbled to be able to give love.

Ever since I came home from England after working on the streets with the lonely and the drunk people, I have been frustrated that I am not in that lifestyle anymore. I have ranted and raved here on this blog about being stuck in my cubicle prison cell. However, I am becoming aware of the fact that someone in my very own house was who I could serve last night. It filled my spirit up with awe to give love to someone in my house last night just as much as walking those streets in England did.

God is everywhere and in Him we do live and move and have our being. Only, it’s taken me awhile to get the hang of recognizing that He’s telling the truth when He says that.

He is real.

Hypocrites

We helped friends pack up their moving truck last night. For a couple of hours we were the only couple there.  Then two or three other families showed up… the only other families left in town who were a part of the church our friends used to go to who are currently speaking to them.

Up until three or four months ago our moving friends were a part of a church. Then it came out that he had fallen back into an addiction problem. So, while his wife dealt with their two little ones and they, as a couple, dealt with his addiction and its affect on their family, their pastor and his wife pulled away, began telling people about the situation (it wasn’t a public situation until they started talking about it) and also started spreading rumors about them.  They basically severed ties, spoke condescingly behind my friends backs and to their faces and tried to use God as their excuse in doing so.

While packing up their moving van during the day yesterday before Patrik and I arrived to help (it was just them with their 2 kids all day trying to pack and load), the pastor came by and said he had thrown his back out and couldn’t help and his wife sent a note that said “I’m sorry you took what I said and did wrong” – apparently still unable to apologize or take responsibility for ripping into hurting people and turning others against them. Gee, do you think you could get on the phone and get some guys from your church here who haven’t thrown their backs out to help? Nah, just walk on by and go back home.

Well, my friends have been working hard at their marriage, have been in counseling, he has been in NA and they are doing better. All while dealing with being alone in a town where they used to have a church who were more like family… or so they thought.  Now, he has been offered a job and a new start in Tennessee by family.

As we were buckling Eli in his carseat and getting ready to leave their house late last night I looked at Patrik and asked, “how does it feel to be more like Jesus than a pastor and his wife?” He could tell it was a question I was asking out of frustration and he just said he was giving a hand where someone needed help.

I don’t know why I’ve felt the need to post this. It just really pisses me off that people like this are leading other people and hurting them as they go. Trust me, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened with this pastor and his wife. It really hurts me and makes me so frustrated. I don’t know what to do about it other than vent and pray. And at this point I am better at venting than taking that frustration to God in prayer. But I will do that today as I sit here and search for Him in the injustice of it all.

I know the verse about pulling the log out of my own eye befere I point out splinters in some one else’s, but this seems to be about abuse of power too. Yes, I have to examine myself. Yet, I have to say that this is sickening and wrong too.

Anyway, on with the day now. May I see God because He is here and I am loved. There is a way to perfect peace in every situation and it is being still with my Jesus and soaking in His love. I hope today I can respond to Him and rest in Him. That’s the only way, isn’t it? I hope that my friends who are on the road now in their moving truck, with their two little ones, on a long 12 hour drive to their new home find that freedom that comes from God’s presence and love right there where they are.

who ya gonna bust on then?

I’ve had two experiences lately that have made me think and ask a certain question.

The first is that this week I’ve read a couple of 2012 prophetic words sent out by people who have certain things on their hearts to share. These are not weird freaks, these are people I trust who are just people who love God.  On the flip side, I read the following on this dude’s facebook page… I’m friends with this guy on fb, but I don’t know him. He’s some author guy who I have found to have very thoughtful and profound things to say at times. Here’s a bit of what was posted on his page in the last few days:

Let us begin by clarifying that this is not a “prophecy” for the New Year. We find most such prophecies troubling, because God does not operate on the basis of our subdivisions of time. Not being confined to this time-space world, a day is as a thousand years—and a thousand years are as a day. The more we grow up into Him, the less we will concern ourselves with such “prophecies.”

Since we’ve already gone to meddling, let us continue in this “rant” for a few more moments.
Most prophecies having to do with dates and seasons, “shifts” in the spiritual atmosphere, etc., seem to us to come primarily from those who desperately need a new season or a new shift for reasons of self-interest.[1] They often favor certain geographical locations. There is a prideful propensity to make our town the most important town in God’s heart.

Now, first of all, I find them a bit negative and, to be honest, a little bit condescending to people who do hear from God and experience life in the ways that they are speaking against.  So, hmmmm…

The second experience I’ve had is hearing an American preacher who apparently lives in London and has podcasts on the web.  I listened to one or two of his podcasts this week while sitting at my desk at work.  Their church seems to be alive and open. However, he said something during one particular teaching about how you shouldn’t just sit around and be drunk on God, but should go out and get a job and prepare yourself for what God wants to do in your life (that is my paraphrase of what he said, not a direct quote).  And, since I know people who really are wasted on God and God seems to be enjoying them, providing for them, and really loving through them, I found what the pastor said a bit sad.

So, after these two experiences this week I want to ask the non-2012 prophecy guys and this pastor, what if you’re all right?  What if you hear God the way you hear God? What if the more mystical find God in a more mystical way? What if you were supposed to go out and train for the vocation God said He wanted you in and what if they mystics are supposed to soak and savor?  Who ya gonna bust on then?

It all seems a bit odd to me because these are the ones who teach that we need to make room for the new. Get out of the old mindset. Yet, I hear them being closed or critical to the unknown, the uncomfortable, the less cerebral and the more mysterious.

I’m going to post the rest of that non-prophetic post below.  It kind of makes me sad.  I don’t have the mystical experiences like the guys I know do, but I’m open to God coming to me in that way and I have seen an angel or two myself with my eyes wide open, and smelled Jesus and felt the literal hot fiery love of His presence in the car on the bridge leaving Wales and going back into England. I could list numerous things here that are not logical. Yet, I believe some who haven’t had experiences like those could and indeed do love Jesus and know Him.

Seriously, those who preach to be open to what’s new sometimes shut it down without even realizing it. Or maybe they aren’t that open?

I haven’t posted the names of the pastor/church I’m speaking of or of the three men who submitted the 2012 post I’ve mentioned. I don’t think that would be in the right spirit of things… yet, I do wish I could say what I’ve said here to them. In love. Why? I believe it’s the truth, that’s why.  And I also believe it is why we become tired and jaded.

However, I’m going to keep my heart bowed down to Jesus and my eyes on Him because He brings me massive hope and satisfaction.  These past few weeks have been brutal in so many ways, but so peaceful thanks to Jesus.

Here is the rest of that post I mentioned up above:

To the new covenant creation, Jesus is our “Portal,” the Open Door, the Way, into the heavenlies. We need no other. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is everywhere all the time! While there remains a significant place for prophets (in the foundation, along with apostles), their role was radically changed in a moment, an instant, on the day of Pentecost when Jesus returned in the person of the Holy Spirit to fill and abide in His church, forever. God now speaks by Him!

Those who are waiting for Him to do something dramatic need to understand that He is waiting for us to do something, in particular:

Come into New Covenant order
Be led by the Spirit
Become disciples
Grow up
Take on responsibility
Fit together with others
Find our identity in Jesus, our function in His body

Questions: Would not such an agenda glorify God and fulfill His purpose? Would not such an agenda extend His kingdom on the earth? Would not such an agenda promote a dramatic response from heaven?

God has chosen to not function in isolation from His creation. He has willed us to be co-laborers with Him in bringing the kingdom from heaven to earth. If we are waiting for a divinely produced cataclysmic occurrence while we neglect to follow the obvious commands He already has given us, we will continue to regard every cloud formation, every earthquake and every windstorm as a sign of the times.

Embracing these challenges will go a long way toward pleasing God and fulfilling His purpose in 2012. We should get a lot more excited about finding and fulfilling our purpose in Christ than in chasing gemstones and angel feathers.

The fullness of Christ in us, together, the hope of glory in the earth, is our New Year’s resolution.

If we pursue the practical, we will experience our share of the mystical. If we pursue the mystical, 2012 will be no different than 2011, or the years before that.

Truth spoken in love,

blessed are the honest, for they shall see God.

Over the past several months I have often attended a Wednesday lunchtime bible study with a few ladies from work at a restaurant called Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. Now, on a normal evening you could easily spend a coupla hundred bucks on dinner if you ordered the good stuff and had a few drinks. They provide a free lunch for the Bible study… so… I go. Yep. I have mainly gone for the food. The pastor guy who teaches while we munch is a good guy and full of excitement about what he has to say.  A few times I’ve walked out of there feeling like God taught and confirmed some things to me that He had already been speaking into my heart.  A lot of times I get all Shannon on the guy and just tune out when I hear him saying things that he thinks are “cutting edge” (but are really just regurgitated law dressed to look like freedom) or when I hear things that don’t sound any different than what I grew up learning in what I call the machine that is usually what we are familiar with and call church. However, I think it’s a minor miracle that God has helped me not grow all bitter like I used to when I hear that stuff.  For the first time in ages I’ve been able to stay pretty healthy and love the person and not get hung up on the religion/doctrine/mantra/crap.

So a few weeks ago I was feeling particularly burned out, exhausted and overwhelmed during one of these lunchtime bible studies. Mainly, I was checking out my facebook news feed on my iPod.  I was fading in and out, listening to him teach about Matthew 13, the parable about the sower:

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the [i]word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. 20 The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the [j]word, immediately he [k]falls away. 22 And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the [l]world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 23 And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”

When the dude got to verse 22 and read it I felt shocked with the realization that I am that person.  I really am.  It was a moment when God speaks to you and you hear it.  You hear it, you chew it up, you swallow it, you digest it and you get nourishment from it.  I didn’t just feel surprised, I felt relieved.

Then the pastor guy read verse 23 and followed it up with, “I hope everyone in this whole room is the person in verse 23!” 

The grace of God came into my heart right then. I knew it was grace because I wasn’t bitter against him and didn’t get angry.  I did want to say, “Why do we want to be that person? Why put that on everyone in this room?” but I wasn’t raging at him while wanting to say that.

I have to explain something… Grace.  I felt so loved the moment that I began knowing that now in my life I am the one whose thorns of worry and wanting and fear have choked out the word of the kingdom of God. It was such a freeing revelation to me. Why do I want to be anyone else? Grace has met me HERE.  If we could just teach and live in this Grace, no one would walk away dejected and down on themselves, they might actually believe that God is love and total mercy. I cannot be better and I do not know how Jesus will make me someone who has soil in my heart that is good and understands the word of the kingdom, someone who bears fruit again. I cannot make myself bear fruit again. Damn the trying!!!!!!!  I am free, do you see?

This is why I titled this post “blessed are the honest, for they shall see God.”  Honest acceptance of of God’s revelation is holy, no matter what tangled up place in life you and I are in.  The revelation wasn’t a lesson for me to learn. The revelation was Jesus himself standing there with me and showing me who HE is in this place with me. Isn’t that the point? Jesus Himself. Enough.

I love Him and I am so thankful to Him.  The tiredness is still in my body, my emotions, my soul, but I lift myself up to Him and thankfully smile and soak in His tenderness, healing and love.

We teach one thing and live another. I have been guilty of this too.  The truth is, I don’t have to do anything to be loved through and through. I don’t have to do anything to be transformed. I open up my arms to Him. I honesty accept His words and life. He does it all. It’s beautiful. I feel amazed and drunk by His love for me.

Tonight, reading Psalm 139 is like drinking a rich, fiery, rare wine that is love. And I’ll end it here with that.