Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Jesus had feelings, it's okay if we do too~

I drove up to a small antique shop nestled in a quaint neighborhood, flooded with emotions I didn’t know how to process. I was going to meet the owner, Maggie. She was an acquaintance from long ago who was several years older than me. The few times we had met in the past it was obvious she had a strong assurance in Christ. We had been Facebook friends for many years and fell out of touch. But something in me needed to talk to someone who had some years on me in the wisdom department, and I felt prompted to reach out to her. I needed some sort of hope, because I was at the end of myself.

For the past several months, I was pretending. I was smiling when inside I was struggling. I was pushing through the days, saying the right things and doing the right things, but internally I was fighting sadness, fear and doubt. I didn’t believe I was allowed to go through a hard time. I felt this pressure to “count my blessings,” so to speak. I felt that I had to trust that God has a plan, that there is a bigger picture. But in the parking lot getting ready to go meet with Maggie, I was done with hiding out in my pain.

As I approached the little shop my feet were dragging and my shoulders slouched with weariness. When I saw Maggie, her eyes lit up at my presence. “You made it!” she exclaimed. Graciously she poured me a glass of ice cold water and ushered me to a small round table by a beautiful bay window that looked out on bushes of soft pink roses. Christian music was playing in the background, lyrics I knew so well. The centerpiece of the table was Maggie’s Bible. I remember hoping that she wouldn’t quote scripture–I needed to talk about my feelings.

After a little small talk, she dove right in. “What’s up?“ she asked. That was the green light to pour out all my weighty struggles. I was so tired of holding back my true feelings. Now that I had a chance to speak, my thoughts seemed to fly out of my mouth in a rambling mess. Maggie looked at me with compassion, and was not shocked at all by my heartaches and burdens. Her eyes shimmered with some knowledge that I craved to know.

There were 2 things Maggie said that struck me. She said God is not surprised by what you’re going through, and you don’t have to feel guilty for feeling the way you do. It took me a while for her words to sink in as I thought to myself…”I don’t have to feel guilty for feeling ashamed of my past, feeling doubtful about my future and the anxieties for what God has for me today?” Maggie’s words were everything I needed to hear. They lifted a hundred pound weight off my shoulders. It was as though Maggie was giving me permission to feel, and it was life-giving. Without guilt in the way, I could face my feelings head on and have the courage to keep seeking Jesus in the midst of my emotions.

I learned so much that day in a cute antique shop with a sweet lady willing to listen. Jesus knows the feelings we have and why we have them–they are no surprise to Him. In Scripture, like Mark 3:5, we know Jesus experienced emotions, and I’m so glad He did. Even though Jesus is bigger than our struggles and more than we can fathom, it’s comforting to know that we don’t have to pretend to count our blessings when we are in the midst of feeling ashamed, doubtful, tired and weary. We can admit our feelings and “feel” okay about it! I think when we are free to feel, we can change, because we are accepted and loved beyond emotions that come and go.

If you’re stuffing emotions today, who can you talk to? I hope you find peace in the truth that Jesus knows why you’re feeling the way you do. Nothing is a surprise to Him. Go to Him and unravel what you’re going through. Going to Jesus is a safe place where we can face emotions because His love never wavers in the midst of our struggle. Amen!

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Fist Pumps

Another day, get up, turn off the alarm clock and face the norm- I will be invisible. And the kicker is I work at a church. A wonderful, life-changing, radical hospitality church. And before you think I’m going to bash the place where I find purpose, I want to make it clear, I’m not. But what I am going to do is question why even the church has become weary. I can’t tell you how many times I have walked down the hall with someone coming straight towards me, and we don’t interact. We give each other an awkward glance, move our eyes to something else to take away the awkwardness, and we carry on with our day. But it doesn’t stop in the halls of church, it’s the common theme everywhere. It seems that we go through life making casual exchanges with people that have stories, and we walk away unchanged.  We hustle and bustle to our extravagant lives, at least they are extravagant to each of us. We have plans staked up a mile high of all that needs to be done, and all that we are a part of to feel, well, let’s face it, not invisible.

It seems that surrendering our daily lives to Christ has been lost in the chaos, and we don’t know how to stop and listen for God. When I’m at worship in church sometimes I look around with the same questions. Often times there is fantastic God-breathed music playing yet we stand as I mentioned earlier- weary. And I wonder to myself, how come we are not jumping up and down filled with joy? If we went to a One Direction concert, or some old school Neil Diamond set, the excitement would be different. I bet we would be jumping up in the air, waving our hands chaotically, about to have a heat stroke all because we are in the presence of what? A boy band that romances us, and some old guy that captured our hearts with “Sweet Caroline” a decade ago. And don’t get me wrong, I love those cute boy bands and old school jams, but when we are worshipping to the Almighty King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, we stand around afraid to truly let go, and be set free.

Before you think I forgot about you, the one who gets it, stay in this with me. I know there are still those who give their all in all. I saw you, and the other few, that weren’t afraid of worshipping with all your might. You’re the ones others look at and think, man, they are a little cray, cray. And maybe you are a little crazy, but you have one thing the majority doesn’t- joy! And I want that joy, and I want the love I have for Jesus to be known. I’m tired of being weighed down and feeling invisible to a culture that is sleep walking, and figuring out how to capture relevancy with the millennials.

There has been a slow churning and burning in my soul that is done with mediocre. For me, my own weariness looked me square in the eye when I was serving with a lady twice my age. We both signed up to serve at a nationwide church event, and I was stoked. We both showed up at the same time, and received the same news. The artists that were going to be playing that night in worship were not selling any merchandise- so in short, our help was not needed.  

With that, the lady that was twice my age began to rant off all the reasons she was upset. She huffed and puffed about how she drove all the way to the church for no reason, and wished someone had called. I mustered up a look of compassion and understanding, when in reality, I was annoyed with her poor attitude. Trying to save the day, and remove the scorn on the lady’s face, the leader in charge of the event let us know she had found something we could do, and that we could still be useful. So it was good news and bad. We would get to help out in some way, but I was stuck with negative nelly by my side. Sigh of frustration.

But then something happen within me. I thought to myself- let me kill her with kindness. Let me butter her up like loaf of bread and be the church. So I did. I began asking what she did and how she is involved with the church. And the heavens opened up, her bitterness began to melt away into authentic conversation. She began to tell me about her hopes for the future and what weighed her down in the present, and I was reminded of my own struggles. As we kept working side by side the concert was about to start. And I did something really out of character, especially in my introverted nature. I asked the lady that was twice my age to stay and go to the concert with me. She was hesitant at first, part of her still dealing with the chip on her shoulder. But then she finally agreed.

We end up sitting close to the front of the arena and as the music amped up and the most beautiful choir in the world began to sing, a look of relief came over the lady that was twice my age. Half-way through the night she confessed that her day had turned around and she was so glad she stayed. As the concert kept unfolding and the talented musicians brought worship to life, I found myself  jumping up and down with joy next to the lady that was twice my age. I’m talking fist pumps in the air, shaking our tail feather, shouting out to Jesus the Almighty- it was that kind of joy. Unashamed, worries went by the wayside- it was more than I expected. In fact, it was the most unexpected evening. As we walked out of the concert, all of a sudden the lady next to me didn’t seem twice my age, she was more like a young girl, gone giddy. She gave me like three hugs and went on and on about how she had so much fun. And I was just as giddy, because the whole night was a God thing.

That night reaffirmed my faith. That night I didn’t feel invisible anymore and I don’t think the girl gone giddy did either.  I thought I was going to church to volunteer for an event but I ended up ministering to a precious lady that became my friend. And the funny thing is that I usually feel so incapable of ministering to people because I think it requires a certificate or degree from seminary school. But man, I was wrong. I just need to get out there more, I need to speak up more. I am qualified to be a friend, a listening ear, a person who invites people to stuff. I’m the first to say I’m far from perfect and I was becoming that weary church person. I was letting myself fall into the hum drum of life, I forgot my passion for loving hurting people. But that night, with that lady, I was reminded of how perfect God is and how he can take any situation and turn it around in an instant so He receives the glory!

We just have to be willing and step out of our weary selves, even for a moment. We need to do this, there is no better time than now. Fellow weary, faithful followers of Jesus- try something different. It could be doing something you always wanted but felt too afraid to do. It could be raising your hands in worship unashamed in church. It could be saying hello to a stranger. It could be showing grace in a bad situation someone else caused. Let the Spirit of God come alive in your worn out soul and uncover the lost art of having joy. And in the process of letting our love for Jesus be known, I think we will reach the millennials, too. Amen!


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Slingshot Questions

For so long I used to slingshot questions to God...why, why, why, when, when, when. But there was no answer or  neon sign, the only response I would often get was crickets chirping in the night and my own quiets sobs into my pillow. Yet the truth is that God was not silent, he was just not showing me what I wanted to see. 

I was clinging onto my questions and rejecting God's answers. I held onto relationships, struggles, and fears thinking I was abandoned. But in reality I was stuck in the small picture rather than the big picture. As seasons have passed, I have learned something important.  There is always a beautiful reason we are going through an ugly mess. And sometimes the only way to get through whatever it is we are going through is to believe that there is a bigger story. 

When I learned to stop pleading and rely on the plan that is unfolding, I wasn't so afraid to let go of things I wanted so badly. As I began to surrender my questions to God, He showed up. In other words, I started getting out of God's way. I let Him lead, even when I didn't like where I felt He was going. But then I started to find this strange peace, I started to worry less. I didn't have as much desire to know the why and when. I just wanted to be His and trust that He has good for me.

If your calling out for answers today, be dependent on the fact that God knows your deepest desire, pain, frustration, shame and hurt. Lay down your whys and whens at the foot of Jesus- rely on the bigger story that is unfolding and find peace in being His.