Sunday, June 23, 2013

Love and War

I've never actually been to war. I played one game of paintball in college and found a corner to hide until the game was over. Nobody would want me in a battle with them, trust me. But life can sometimes feel like war. As Christians God tells us put on the Armor of God (Ephesians 6). Paul talks about us being in battle often. And there are two times in my life that I feel like I have been through something so intense and life changing that I will never be the same, like war.

One was when I went to Bible school in Upstate New York.  It was cleverly coined the "West Point" of Christians schools. It was two years of intense learning of the Bible. We had hard rules we had to follow. We had hard places we had to live out what we learned. It was intense and I'm really having a hard time putting into words what it was like. It's just that, you had to be there to know. And I can meet people who went to the school and we can start telling our stories and we just know what we're talking about. We know the life and what it did to us. We didn't even have to be there at the same time. We will never be the same and we come out of the one or two years we were there and we laugh and say, "How did we get through that? Were we really that crazy?"

The second time is now. Living up here in the city. Living this intense urban life. No one really understands it outside of those here or who have been here. Again trying to put it into words what our life is like right now is almost impossible. You just have to know.  You have to experience it. And having a community in the city is priceless. People that have come from all over the world to make it and experience the same things you are. People who have been changed by God and seek to love others. We get together every week like family and bond quickly because we are all we have here. Light in darkness. Yet we love those in the darkness. We want to love them to Life. It really doesn't matter how long people have been here. We all get it.

And a transient atmosphere comes with the territory. God equips, teaches, changes and then moves many people on. We've come to expect it. But it's still hard. It still hurts. It still sucks. Today we said "see ya later" to the Love family. They are moving back to Alabama and we know this is what God wants. We are excited to see what happens. We're excited to see God use them in major ways down south. But I have to remember that they need prayer. They are transitioning back into suburban life but they aren't the same people. They have experienced and have seen such a huge God in a Godless place. And to explain it to someone who doesn't know, is hard. So we will pray as we miss them. We will pray as we all get used to the new normal. We will pray as our hearts heal.

And as we sit around one day telling our war stories, we'll talk about the time that we lived a life eating dinner at 9:30PM and working 12 hour days like it was nothing. We'll tell stories about how God saved the unsaveable.  How he changed the unchangeable. How he used the unusable.  And how we got to be a part of it.  We will laugh and talk about how we can't believe we lived through it. And we'll say to each other "How did we get through that? Were we really that crazy?"

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Art of Being Good

I love rules. There is something inside of this second child that, although I like being a free spirit and have a strong will, I do enjoy a good set of rules. In school when the teacher would give us rubrics for a class, I loved reading it over and checking my work against it. If the teacher gave me points off, I expected it to be because I did something contrary to the rubrics. And because of all of this, I have decided that I would have made an amazing Israelite. I obviously could never have been a Pharisee or other form of leader, being that I'm a girl and all but I could've raised one or been married to one. I would have rocked as an Israelite.

I'm reading 1 and 2 Samuel again. I am so drawn to those books. Something about Israel not being satisfied with God being their King and wanting to be like other nations and have a physical king and God actually giving them what they desired, all to show them that it wasn't what they needed. Something about God choosing Saul, a handsome nobody to rule over Israel, again giving them what they thought they wanted. Saul tried to be a good king but the pressure of people and the love they had for David was so consuming it killed him. Something about David being this little ruddy boy that was such a powerful lover of and warrior for God. That he desired to please God and not men, enough to kill the man that helped Saul die. Enough to kill the men that killed Saul's son, although they thought they were doing good by protecting their king.

But I'm getting close to those words in chapter 11, "In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle..." That little sign that David wasn't where he was supposed to be. He should have been out killing people. He should have been out doing what he was made to do but instead, he stayed back. And we know what happens. The looking, the taking of what isn't his, covering his sin by murder, a baby taken as a consequence and then blindness to what he had done. We know how Nathan confronted him and God allowed the gravity of his sin, not to Bathsheba, not to his wives, not to Uriah, not to Israel but to God to be seen and felt. "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight," Ps. 51:4.

David was so good. He was a good Israelite. He believed God and followed him. You see it over and over again in 1 and 2 Samuel. He goes up against the giant as a young kid. You see him spare Saul's life twice. Yet, he is also capable of murder. Of adultery. Perhaps even of rape.

In our society people believe they are born good but then through society or circumstances or family they are made evil. This is why we are shocked by bombings and school shootings. How could someone do this? Who influenced them to do these terrible things? It's in our churches too. We forget Romans. We forget that Paul said that "just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sin." Romans 5:12. We forget he said, "No one is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God." Romans 3:10-11.

It's easy to see the evil in the mean people. It's harder to see it in the good. Especially when it's you. I had a friend who is suffering because of something someone else did. She had nothing to do with it yet she is living the consequences. In her anger she yelled, "I did everything the right way!" "I didn't do this to me they did this to me." In her hot tears she quenched her fist and cried. Why would God allow this to happen to her? Why would God seem to punish her for doing right? She is a great rule follower. Yet, she is suffering. And as I was discussing this with my Maker, who is oh so sweet, He reminded me of something.

We all have sinned. We are all evil. We are all not worthy of any good. As much rule following as I have done. As much as she has done, we fall short. I was reminded of a time in youth group when our youth minister asked what we would say to God if he asked us why he should let us into heaven. And I remember thinking, because I don't drink or cuss or have sex with anyone. I'm a good servant for Jesus. I was serious. I was a great rule follower. But then our youth minister said, "If your answer was anything other than 'Because of what Jesus did for me' then you're living for the wrong thing." And I scoffed at him. I scoffed just like a good Pharisee would. Yes, Jesus dying was a great thing but I also did great things. And there in my depraved, dead heart I did not understand. I did not seek God. I was not righteous.

And how thankful I am that less than ten years later, I was pursued by One who chose to open my eyes. I was bought with a price that I could never repay and placed blameless before my Maker. To be able to have a relationship with Him. And read books like 1 and 2 Samuel and be in utter amazement of His patience and His goodness and His complete self-control to not zap His chosen people because of their stupidity. And then to be reminded that I deserve the same, no matter how good I am at following rules. No matter how much satisfaction I have in being "good"; Jesus is the only thing that makes me good.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


Much of my difficulty in this transition has been shocking. There has been so much that has taken me by surprise. I have analyzed why this might be. Last week I went down to South Jersey for a retirement party of a former coworker and many people were saying that I was living their dream. I laughed because I AM LIVING MY DREAM! Yet, the reality of this dream is not as pretty as it was in my mind. I walked into this move thinking it was going to be fun. But that's not reality. We are doing what God wanted us to do. Why did I think it was going to be easy and pretty and dreamy?  For too long I've walked my Christian life scared of doing ALL God wanted. I've said, "Yes Lord! Yes! Send me! (Except could you make it easy and oh, please be gentle and oh, I'd like to take some things with me and oh, let's not be all weird cause then we'll be 'those people' - K? Thanks.)"  

But for only the second time in my life I've been willing to let go of it all. Everything. Honestly, I suppose God has been very merciful because He has done most of it for me. Stripping us of everything and everyone.  And as I have come to this place, our pastor tells about us about 40 days prayer our church is going to do together.  He preached on Joel 2:12-32. Verse 12 and 13 say, "'Yet even now,' declares the Lord, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.' Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster."

I've been thinking a lot lately about when I first became a Christian. In April of 1999, I became a child of God. I really didn't know what I was getting myself into.  I just knew I did not have a relationship with God and I wanted one. I knew that in order for that to be possible, Jesus died for me and I could do nothing on my own but accept that sweet, sweet gift.  I was the whore wiping Jesus' feet with my tears. But now, I feel like I've morphed into the Pharisee trying to gain God's approval with my awesomeness.  It's not something I set out to do, but walking through life trying to make everything easy, it just happens. It's a side effect of an easy life. 

I am excited about our 40 days of returning. He's brought us to that point through these hard months.  I'm expecting great things. And I'm not hoping it will be easy, for the first time.