Monday, March 16, 2009

Same Kind of Different As Me

This morning my heart continues to be stirred in places where I have had many questions and ponderings. A dear friend recommended this New York Times best seller about a month ago. I felt impressed to get to the book store as soon as possible to purchase it. I read it in just a couple of days. Now I am reading it aloud to my whole family and my son in Atlanta is also reading it.

This story is about racial barriers that were overcome between a black man and a white man. However, it runs further and deeper than that. It is a picture of pain,betrayal, greed, anger and hate that is touched by the love of God and transformed into lives transporting love, freedom, and fruitfulness.

I do not care if one is in church, out of church, black, white, Chinese,young, old , or middle aged. If one is rich, poor, unemployed,single or married, this is a read for everyone. This true story has answered many of my questions about God's heart and has challenged me to rethink what the church is really supposed to be about. And even more importantly what this life in which we are placed here to live is all about. I have been disrupted by this miraculous story. I am challenged and I am frustrated. I believe it is a good thing!

For the last six months my family has not attended church. Since we have been in AZ our lives have been so different. The reason I mention church is because church is all we have ever known. John and I are going on 25 years of marriage and for most of those years we have been very involved in the churches we have attended. We have always taken our children to church. The older kids have been in Sunday School and youth groups. John and I have been involved in children's ministry, youth groups, marriage and family groups, counseling, and single's ministry. You name it we have done it.

Now we are disconnected totally from the church. At least for now. Or are we really? My older sons have seen so much in the church that they do not want to go back to get involved with any youth group. My oldest son recently posted on My Space that he is tired of the institutionalized church.He expressed that people do not want to go to church because they are tired of feeling like dirt when they leave there. I have to agree with him.

I could feel guilty about that. I could blame myself as a parent for his attitude.I could internalize it all and say it is a parenting issue. However, what I am reading between the lines is not such a bad thing. No, the church is flawed and always will be until the King of Glory splits the sky and takes us out of this world. However, what troubles me is that with each passing day, the church is being less effective than being fruitful. I researched a statistic recently that stated that church growth is mainly people who are moving from one church to the next. The growth of churches in our nation at least is not because of the lost joining our churches. This troubles me.

Another point I want to make is that we have taken our children to church all of their lives. Now all they see is what they do not like about it. Why is that? Our older ones do not want to go. My 16 year old even shared that he is fatigued by all the drama!

I am thankful that I can talk to my kids about this. My faith is very important. My biggest and most repeated prayer for my children is that they will love the Lord with all of their heart, soul, and strength. If they choose to not attend church that is okay by me. However, I have to believe that it will be out of their relationship with God that brings them to love and serve others....not their relationship to a church.

The fact that the children have expressed their frustration is a positive thing. It shows they care enough to say it and to be bold enough to verbalize it. Frustration can be vented in the right direction to make a difference. This is my prayer for my children. That God would take their disappointments, wounds, frustrations and godly anger to make a difference in how God really wants His Kingdom to be built.

I think of Jesus and His righteous anger in the temple when the people were using it as a market place. He was furious that the temple was being used for selfish motives rather than for a place of prayer and worship. To be honest,I think we can learn a lot about the "religious facades" as we listen to our young people. Instead of labeling them as cynical,obnoxious, or as "sporting a tude" (attitude), maybe we ought to rethink our judgements of teenagers and young adults. Maybe we should credit them that "maybe they are onto something here". Just maybe God in them is frustrated too at what the church has become.

Now what does all this ranting and raving have to do with this book that I am promoting? Well you need to get the book to get what I am really trying to say.
This is a perfect story about love and compassion. It is about two men who come from totally different lives and backgrounds. But the genuine love and faith of one woman changed them both. An ordinary woman took time to touch one life in a very deep and profound way. It was enough for her to just love this one person. She loved him into being changed. And the result was her seed of love burst open to touch other lives also. Her love was simple, yet extravagant. And it lived beyond anything she could have mustered up herself. She was a modern day example of Jesus and of the way church is supposed to be.

One thing my son stated on his My Space post is that he is concerned that those who are truly living out the Word of God are so few that it is not enough to make a change. I see his point. It is a lot like Gideon and his army. God kept reducing the number of men until it looked like a hopeless fight. Then the Lord fought through them in strange and mysterious ways. In the end, they were victorious! God moved in and through a few to win the fight.So it can happen. Much can be accomplished through a small number.

So if enough of those who are frustrated,righteously angry, and passionate about God's heart for people are only a few, then Hallelujah! May those few will be as Gideon and band together to make a difference.Maybe some of the seemingly "cynicals" will be the very ones God will raise up to usher in the Kingdom of God. Maybe through the seemingly hurt, pained and sarcastic few there will be a revival of righteousness in the land. If one is frustrated...great! Now what will we do with it?

God is changing the face of the church. The overall church (not all) has truly drifted away from love and mercy. I am tired of seeing poor souls come into the church and not being loved. In my years of being very involved with the church, I can honestly say that I could only maybe tell you about 2 or 3 sermons I have heard. I can maybe tell you a little about some of the bible studies that I sat through. And they were good.

But listen up folks! What I remember the most about my years of being in churches are the few people who really loved me. These were people who invited me into their homes. These were people who gave to our family when we were in trouble. We did not have to ask for help. They just knew we needed help and they gave it. These were individuals who simply loved me for me and wanted to be my friend. I was not their spiritual project in which they would pull me aside long enough to try and discern all my demons and get me delivered.These people just loved me and encouraged me. They truly wanted to see me soar and to go even further in life than they had.These sweet souls would encourage me and point out all the strengths in me rather than picking out my weaknesses. And because of that, I opened my heart to allow the Holy Spirit to change the things in me He wanted to change in HIS timimg.

When we first moved here, one of the first things on "my" list was to find a church. I went to websites, sent emails to churches to try and make connections. You name it , I did it. The truth is, I was putting pressure on myself and on my family that God was not applying. After attending one church where no one would hardly talk to us, we became even more frustrated. After praying and talking,John and I agreed that the Lord just wanted us to rest and relax for now.

Sometimes God will remove you to heal you. And that is exactly why we are so far out here. I have been so ingrained to think that God moves you so He can use you. God does not "use" people. The word "use" is a terrible word. It is as if HE uses you for His agenda. But I am learning more and more and being set free! I am learning that He just wants to love on me! I can rest! I can be creative and do fun stuff! I can talk to Him and walk around my house with Him. I can be! Just be me and relax!

And as I learn to do that more and more, I can truly live in love! I can just love people with His genuine love. I can just be friends and enjoy people no matter who they are and where they come from! I can go to the grocery store and be His light! He will bring people into my life and I can love them freely. There is no other motive than love. And this is what will ultimately build the kingdom of God. It is not about building some other person's vision. It is about His vision. It is about what is really beating through the heart of God. And to really know what that is, I have to join my heart to His in a tight relationship with Him.

Oh how I wish I could find some of these genuine people and thank them.They were the mothers and fathers of the kingdom that had a secret we need to recapture. I want to be like them!!! And if I never get to thank them here on earth, I know that I will be one of the jewels in their crowns! And I will have that chance to say,"thank you! Thank you for loving me for real! Thank you for giving! Thank you for seeing the greatness in me and not withholding words to make it known. Thank you for imparting life into my spirit."

In addition, there are a few that may read this that have genuinely loved our family. I want to also say thank you. Your love and friendship are priceless and I do not take it for granted!

I know I have vented alot in this post. And no one may even read it. That is perfectly okay with me. I am healing. I am frustrated. I am recuperating. I am honest. I am real. And I love the church! I love His house! But what is that really? What is it supposed to look like? I so long for the day when we see more and more of the people of God going! Going like Jesus to where the poor in spirit and heart dwell. That is what He did! He was not into building His buildings and congregations through a man made motive! He was all about love.....with no stings attached! Praise His Name.


kblair said...

Fantastic post my dear.

supplies overflowing! said...

wow- this is truly powerful. I cannot say anything more.