Wednesday 18 March 2009

practical salvation... distractions... scattered in the city.....

March 16, 2009

Reading Psalm 71... In this Psalm, the king of Israel's purpose includes to receive from God His judgments and His righteousness, and then in turn judge God's people with righteousness and bring about abundance of peace... and to have compassion on the poor and needy and afflicted, rescuing them from oppression and violence, delivering and saving them from the oppressor, vindicating them ... so all the people will fear God forever, and the righteous will flourish.

Anyway, I was thinking about this... over and over in both the Old Testament and New Testament, there is this constant theme of justice, righteousness, peaces, crushing of oppression, delivering the poor, the needy, the afflicted. And that reminded me that that is the theme/ reason of the kind of fasting God wants from us, as well. I'm becoming more and more convinced that the "salvation" that God has provided is not just a "ticket to heaven" or even simply "spiritual salvation now and in eternity" ... but it also includes the practical, lived-out character and purposes of God, constantly, in all areas of the lives of His people... love, justic, peace, an end to oppression, caring for the poor, and so on.

It seems to me that the "gospel message" I have heard most of my life has rightly proclaimed salvation by the blood of Jesus... but has too often neglected the rest... Not meaning to, I hope... but then I think of the "scorn" from "evangelical churches" that I have witnessed toward the "liberal" churches and their "social gospel"... It reminds me of Jesus warning the Pharisees, who tithed even the herbs in their garden... but ignored justice and mercy and faithfulness, that "these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others." (Mt 23:23)

Yesterday at "church in the park" breakfast time I admit I felt kind of nervous... ___ was the only other woman there (except for one other who arrived just as we were leaving), and she is so quiet (and peaceful!). Me, when I get nervous, tend to motor-mouth... and then I'm embarrassed. I wasn't nervous about the people themselves - as hubby says, they are "real people!"

But I think I am struggling with all my thoughts about "church" ... and end up feeling like I should be "doing something" to "make it church" instead of just letting You lead in Your own way... which is totally where I do NOT want to be, but 50 plus years of that kind of experience is hard to shake...

Anyway, then we didn't "go to our church" morning service, and as the day went on I ended up with my tummy hurting bad... which it hasn't done at all in the past week as You've released me! Oddly enough, I can't stop thinking about what "other people... church people" are thinking. Of course, no one has called me to see why I've been away from "church services" lately.... so I'm thinking they can't be very worried about it! I guess that all my life, "going to church" has been one of the biggest RULES of my existence.

I even remember years ago when I was in my heavy drinking and partying stage, and hardly ever went near a church, that I would be sitting there on Sunday mornings, hung over with a beer in my hand, watching people go to church, and feeling guilty, and wanting to go myself (and it wasn't just "guilt" though that was part of it; and it wasn't just "habit" though that was also part of it; but the thing is, even then I wanted to be near - with - You and Your people...

I do believe it is important - crucial, even - to be part of a church - of a group of believers who gather regularly (even daily!) with You in their midst... to take part in Your body, Your family, Your work (in whatever ways of gathering that You lead them to be part of).

But at the same time I'm totally skittish about being dragged back into programs and structures, into that scaffolding that obscures and interferes with Your relationship with Your people, and with Your work in them and through them, as You really intend.

I want, at the same time, to get beyond this... well, what is beginning to feel like an "obsession with the whole church question" which I sometimes feel lately has been kind of taking over my life, obscuring my view of Your working, and obscuring my relationship with You and with Your family. I see the enemy taking a good work You are doing in my life, and trying to turn it into a distraction, so that I lose sight of, and relationship with, You! I must be vigilant! I do not want to lose sight of You no matter what! I want my heart to be always one with You.

It is a beautiful sun-shiny day (though quite breezy-chilled!) and I long to go out walk-about and see if there isn't something I can do to share Your love with others... but it seems so often I can't find anyone to talk with or whatever (though there are lots of people hurrying about... and yes, I am shy!).. Also, I long to spend time with others in Your Word, and in sharing Your life together and reaching out.

I was thinking how when I lived in really small towns, almost any time I went outside I would run into people I knew or recognized... or even if I didn't know them, they didn't mind at all if I was friendly or helpful... but it seems like the bigger the place, the more people just steer clear of any "stranger" who tries to be friendly toward them.

It seems hard to build relationships with the believers you know are scattered all over a large community (which is generally the rule in our "churches"). Of all the people in "our church" in the nearly 8 full years I've gone there, there hasn't really been anyone in "my neighborhood" (and my efforts to befriend my neighbors have not been successful, either... they're busy, or have their own "group," or whatever). There was a young couple a few blocks away, the girl started to "attend our church" and I tried to befriend them, but they didn't seem to be interested; maybe they thought I was too old? And the closest that others have been are probably over a kilometer away... many of them a lot of kilometers... not "walking distance" like where I used to live in small towns.

Also, in the small towns, people walk a lot, but here most people seem to drive. And in small towns, "jobs" are limited (so there is more chance of some people being at home), and there aren't a lot of sports teams and clubs and lessons for the kids and such, so people have more time for each other, while in bigger towns everyone seems to be so busy. And in big towns, people seem a lot more "bought into" the whole idea of hanging out with people who are "just like me" in terms of age, interests, whatever. Even churches tend to be like that - churches for certain beliefs or worship styles, churches for young adults or young families or seniors (or clearly delineated programs that woe-be-tied-you if you don't stay where you belong!) ... while in small towns there might be only one or two "churches" anywhere, and not enough people to have much in the way of "programs"... so it's much more "family" ....

But maybe this is just another "pet peeve" obscuring my vision, too, trying to distract me from knowing You, loving You and loving Your people, and hearing Your voice, seeing You working among Your family and out in the world... and just BEING with You and Yours! Eh?

Saturday 14 March 2009

You are really working out Your church plans related to my life!

March 12, 2009

So after breakfast I went to the upper room coffee time... It was such fun! ___ was there... and I found out she has degrees in law and psychology, and at one time was married to a pastor.... Wow! The secrets people have! Anyway, she is so sweet and humble... and I think wanting to really know You, eh? (I'd love to have her over for soup) .... So all of us around the table had great conversation... and suddenly, I felt really accepted there, for the first time... so yes, relationships are happening!.... and I am so happy!

Pastor Peter made some comment about "car-lot Christians"... and I whipped out my journal (which You led me to take along with me for the first time!) and I read him that "Kingdom and the carlot" parable... and we were both laughing out loud at how You orchestrated that... and brought confirmation to both of us about what You've been saying...

And then I (rather nervously) gave him my "business card" on the back of which I wrote my blog and "church journey" email addies (though I know he isn't much into internet) and he gave me his "church in the park" card... and I told him he could call me if there is some way I can help out...

And I came home just full of energy and joy (yesterday I was feeling so tired... didn't even journal or blog!) and I've sat down and started working on my "church journey" thing again... and just a few minutes ago I was working on November 2007... and there was record of You talking to me about reaching out with a "cold cup of water" ... and it even mentions Pastor Peter (whom I'd only "heard of" at that time. and I really had no idea who he was or what exactly he did, other than something to do with street people)... and there I was talking about (or You were talking about, I rather suspect) me maybe helping him some day and inviting street people into my home and all... so when I read that, I was just blown away!

oh! Guess what - a year ago I told You I'd love a year off to just study Your Word and get to know You more... never imagining we'd still be here this long, with me "unemployed" and having all this "available time" since the beginning of last summer!

"our church" radically becoming "Your church"? ....

March 11, 2009

The thing I woke up thinking about was Your church, and You - particularly my relationship with You. I've been setting up this "church journey" blog... and all these years I've been desperate to know You, to serve You, to preach (proclaim!) Your gospel, to "go out into all the world and bring the gospel to every creature," and then wanting more and more to be part of a genuinely "New Testament" church... part of Your New Testament church, locally, regionally, world-wide... in our time and as part of the church universal throughout time.

Such dreams I had! And not just "how to" dreams but great, passionate longing, desire, hope... even desperation! ... to walk with You as 100% as I possibly could this side of eternity... to have all of You I could possibly have, to be all I could possibly be in You... and yes, to do all I could possibly do, with and in You (and for You.... but You were teaching me to stop striving in my own "strength" and come to You in my actual weakness and rest in You, trust in You, obey and walk with You "in the moment" day by day)....

And when I see that passion, I wonder what happened? Maybe I just need to "read the rest of the story" ... but maybe, more to the point, I need to hear from You again....

I really do believe You have released me from the world's systems - even the "church systems" - and even the particular "local church group/ expression"... yes, even "body" that I have been a part of now for nearly 8 years! Not that You have released me from loving them, praying for and with them even, even "fellowshiping" with them in various ways as You lead me... but freed from the ... well, bondage! that keeps dividing them and putting a bushel over Your light in their midst, and over the "light on the hill" which they desire to be (and oh Lord, they are just pretty much the same as the rest of the other "local expressions of Your church" ....

I suppose of course that there is no "perfect" church anywhere, anytime, on this sin-stained earth.... but should we not long to be Your perfect bride, nonetheless? Should we not long to be lively branches totally joined to and feeding from and dependent on You, our vine? Should we not long to be a healthy, strong body, Y0ur church in each city, with every part fully functioning and fully united and working together with every other part and fully under Your headship?

The people at Abundant Life do want to serve You. They do want to be united (they even want to run around and "bring back to our church" all those who've left, and be re-united... I'm not so sure about that, Lord... maybe they need to start by rebuilding those relationships just in the general community (with You at the center... not "our church" at the center...) and just see where You take it all.

I still can't help but wonder if maybe... well, Lord, I'm kind of afraid to even write it, because it seems so "radical".... but I'm wondering if maybe they should just "let it all go" ... the building, yes, but also the "constitution" and "by-laws" and programs and music equipment and even the name "Abundant Life"... even, dare I say, the entity that name represents.... maybe even purposefully NOT meet together as "that group" for a determined period of time... or even not as "small groups of that group" meeting as "church services" in homes or whatever...

and determine to each personally grow in knowing You.. and to get to know each other - one another! - individually, or at least in gatherings of no more than 10 or a dozen, not formal gatherings, but maybe meals, times of helping each other in practical ways, being involved with other believers (ie helping Pastor Peter serve the poor, getting to know and pray with and fellowship with those in "other churches" in simple ways - and with those who've "left our church" ... ha! doing some pro-active forgiveness and reconciliation and relationship building with them! .... purposefully avoiding just hanging out with their own comfortable little group (clique? oh dear...)...

And see where You take them...

Oh, I see, You're saying to put "me" into that last sentence, instead of "them" ... okay... and see where You take me... Yes. Yes!

(I'm thinking maybe, after all, that's where ___ has been, kind of... but I do want it to be from You!)

Sunday night and Wednesday night church services ought to be against the law... or not? .... a bit of humor here....

March 8, 2009 (again…)

So after hubby got home from work, and we had breakfast, he took me out for a long drive out through the back country roads - still quite a lot of snow up there, though most of it’s gone here on the valley bottom. And then we went around some small-town roads we’d never explored before.

Hubby was saying, as we drove back into town, how he’s actually starting to like this community (we’ve been here nearly six years, but he’s really only “been here” since summer 2007 because before that he was mostly working far off in a logging camp)… anyway, he’s really starting to like it, especially since he’s been working at this senior’s residence and been making good friends there (both residents and staff)…. He is totally loving taking care of elders! I can tell you, it is truly his “gifting!” … So yes, I saw this coming… but I’m wondering what that might mean in terms of our “plans” to move on…

Anyway, now it’s “church time” and here I am sitting in the easy chair by the front window, writing and watching the world go by (it’s always quiet on Sundays…).

When I started to journal this morning, what I really meant to write about (does this sound familiar? lol) was that when I woke up at 5:30 (which felt awfully much like 4:30… seeing as it’s “spring forward” weekend…), I was thinking about the whole “Sunday-go-to-meeting-church-thing,” and I remembered #5 from “25 Sort of Random Things I Do and Don’t Believe” (quoted on the Edgenet site), which reads:

“5. Sunday night and Wednesday night church services ought to be against the law.”

Well! My reaction to THAT was that I actually preferred (past tense… they’re pretty much a relic of the past here… along with dinosaurs, etc!) those to Sunday morning services… which of course you had to dress up for, sit up prim and proper, listen to a long (and often boring) sermon by the same Reverend week after week, sing the more formal hymns (chosen of course by the pastor or song leader, theoretically to back up the sermon topic, in most cases)… (Oh, and woe-be-tied-you if you didn’t behave appropriately… I, who was Miss-Goody-Two-Shoes as a general rule, even I had a visit or two to the basement after getting home from church… and my poor wiggly brothers more often than I, I’m afraid!)… (Of course nothing like that happens in this day and age… hmmm? oh dear!) … (Hmmm… I wonder if my golden-haired little sister, ten-years-younger-than-me, ever had such an enlightening experience??? Things were changing by then, I’m thinking! … and my parents were lightening up a bit! Oh the trials of being the older children! But I digress…)

While Sunday evenings (at our more-or-less-middle-of-the-road-evangelical church) were generally way more relaxed and often far more interactive! (Interactive… now there’s a term I don’t recall back in the day…). Anyway, when I was a child and teen, Sunday evening services, unlike their more formal morning counterparts, often featured missionaries with slides and ethnic clothes and interesting “souvenirs” (and if you were lucky, you’d get to have them stay overnight at your house, and hear all kinds of really interesting stories!); or the youth group presenting a skit or musical production of some kind; or an itinerant “evangelist” (who might stick around for a week or two, and then you’d have meetings every night all week!); or even maybe one of the men of the congregation giving a sermon/talk (also often boring, but at least a change, eh!).

And the Sunday evening song leader always took “requests” for “favorite” hymns (and even Sunday School choruses, from the kids), and there were always “testimonies” (most often about how “the Lord saved me 65 years ago on February 23rd at my mother’s knee” … but sometimes by recently-saved-youth-group-members who had just come-out-of-terrible-lifestyles, which tended to be described in some detail, which was interesting… but also discouraging to the “good kids” who didn’t have such wild stories to tell, and therefore weren’t paid nearly as much attention to by the church folks, which led some of them to trying to develop some wild stories of their own… okay I’m digressing again, and no, this wasn’t in the original journaled writing… and yes, if you’re thinking it sounds autobiographical you’re probably right… yeah, time to get on with my point! So anyway… umm… where was I?

Oh yes… So there were always “testimonies” and maybe two or three people would pray instead of “just” the pastor (this could also be interesting to a child, because some of the “old saints” would start or end every phrase with a “holy sigh” … or perhaps always pronounce “Lord” as “Laawwwdddd!) … Sometimes they’d even pray especially for someone right there. And quite often there would be an “altar call” because, after all, the “evening service” was also knowsn as the “evangelistic service.” And then, quite often, there would be lots of good food afterward! All in all, the evening service was quite partipatory compared to the morning - actually a lot more “body life” (though I also do not remember that particular phrase being used back in the day, either…)

Of course at the Native Pentecostal Church we attended where I first really “came to the Lord” (I’ll always be grateful to those people… ) the evening service was the main service. Sunday morning at 11 am was “Sunday School” with classes for all ages. As a young adult, full of energy, and as a new Christian who obviously needed a “church ministry” (okay, I’m being a bit facetious here…), anyway, for whatever reason I was chosen to teach the half dozen little scholars of various ages who caused too much of an uproar in the regular classes, resulting in the other teachers threatening at one point to quit en-masse! (They were VERY uproarious little folks, I must add!). Anyway, they put us in the tiny “nursery” space, in which the crib took up half the space, and a little table took up most of the rest. There were no “materials” and really no room to sit down… and anyway these little folks (yes boys, for the most part) weren’t the “sitting down” types anyway, so I’d tell them a Bible story (quickly!) and then they’ll all eagerly take parts and act it out.

I particularly remember the enactment of the Bible story in which the sick man’s friends let him down through the roof to Jesus. The littlest boy was quickly appointed to be the sick man. The others pulled the sheets off the crib mattress, climbed up on the little table (very squashed together; there were a few very entertaining tumbles off, but finally they all managed to stay put), wrapped the little guy up in the sheets, and then flung him off the “roof” to land rather suddenly on the floor, pretty much in the lap of the “Jesus” lad! (I used to have a snapshot of that wonderful little group… I wonder what happened to it?) (Now come to think of it, that class surely must qualify as “interactive” church, right?)

Anyway, years later when I was teaching at the local high school, and these little guys were all about 6 feet tall, and hadn’t been to Sunday School in many a moon, they came up to me one day and reminded me of those classes… and started telling me details of the Bible stories we’d shared, that I would never have expected any Sunday School scholar, no matter how studious, to remember! (But I’m going down yet another rabbit warren, I suppose… yes, and rather enjoying it… still, to get back to my point…

Anyway, this church was “Indian church” (with a smattering of white folk too)… and Sunday evening service would officially start at 6 pm, which meant the doors were unlocked sometime before that. Anyway, folks would start wandering in, and then someone would pick up a guitar or other instrument, and folks would start to sing “favorites,” and eventually when the pastor judged that there were enough folks to actually start (anywhere from 6:30 onward), he (or sometimes someone else), with his guitar, would start “leading singing,” which generally meant taking more favorite hymns and choruses, or sometimes introducing a rousing new chorus (most of which were scripture-based).

Of course there would also be testimonies, prayer-and-laying-on-of-hands (they were great believers in praying for healing), and such. The people loved their music, and they’d sometimes get into it so thoroughly that the pictures on the walls would literally start swinging on their nails. The “worship team” consisted of anyone who wanted to play an instrument, and they generally sat in the front couple of rows and sometimes scattered throughout the audience as well. There was sometimes “word of wisdom” or “tongues and interpretation” but it truly wasn’t crazy or out-of-control.

I’ll tell you - those believers may not have been very “polished” but they were sincere and enthusiastic and alive! The vast majority had lived through incredible sorrows and difficulties and God had rescued them and was real to them! Far more real to them, in fact, that to me, who had been “brought up in the church” with a “nice, middle class background” … in fact, it was the reality of God in their lives and in their midst that actually really turned me to God… but that’s another story!

Anyway, eventually, about 7:30 or so (or maybe 8:00, depending)… they were not clock-watchers… it would be preaching time. The native pastor was always encouraging the people to bring along “preachimonies” - little talks of 10 minutes or so each, that included both testimony and teaching (which I suspect was pretty close to what might have been happening in those early New Testament churches… you think?). So that could take anywhere from 10 minutes to a half hour or so… and then the preaching began! Sometimes it was the pastor himself, sometimes a guest preacher (usually native as well), and almost always it was… well, exciting! Yes, powerful! And very much teaching of the Word, with preaching of the gospel included! And at least an hour long! Punctuated by lots of enthusiastic “amens!”

Almost inevitably that would be followed by an altar call… yes, for people to “come to the Lord” … but especially for people to pray for each other, hug each other, listen to each other and encourage each other, repent, forgive…. lots of tears… and lots of joy… and then lots more joyful singing afterwards, and finally lots of sandwiches, cookies, coffee, and kool-aid in the back “fellowship room.”

Generally, people could count on being home by 11ish… or 10 if church were short! (When we later attended “native church” in Inuvik, instead of food at the church after the evening service, people would often go off to each other’s homes - not planned ahead, just spur-of-the-moment general invites to anyone who might want to come - and they’d continue there to sing and share and visit till sometimes 3:30 or 4:30 in the morning!)

As for Wednesday night services, in my childhood and youth, Wednesday night service was “prayer meeting” … and the people who turned out regularly were those who were really believers (this was also true of Sunday evening more than Sunday morning… the “Sunday-go-to-meeting-Christians,” dare I say, tended to stick to the Sunday morning service, and even to my childhood eyes, it was quite obvious to me that there was some kind of relationship between stale services and the attendance of folks for whom “church” was apparently some kind of “social obligation” or whatever… but again I digress…). Anyway, the Wednesday night prayer service attendees tended to be the “faithful few” (and their families… for the “faithful few” there was no question that the whole family attended! Yes, it was sometimes a bit boring. Yes, it was probably way too “programmed.” Not to mention “old-fashioned.” Yes, some of those “old saints” probably droned on way too long. Yes, our knees got sore (uh huh, people actually knelt to pray at prayer meeting… for a long time). And yes, we kids didn’t always go along graciously.

But I will tell you this: that is the time and place in my childhood “church” experience (that, and the daily 6 am prayer meeting at Family Bible Camp each year) where as a child I really saw people in relationship with Papa, Abba, Father! People really conversing with Jesus, their Savior! Being in love with God! Tears sometimes streaming down their cheeks, faces glowing. It was from times like that, that already, as a child, I could not doubt that God was real…

The only thing was, I kind of had the idea that to know God like that you had to be: a) the pastor (yes, we had one like that); b) over seventy with white hair and wrinkles (especially my Grandpa); or c) my mom (whom I always longed to be like, but thought it was a hopeless quest that would never happen… but that’s another story, too…). So I didn’t realize till many years later that it was possible for a “normal” person (outside those rarefied categories) to be a “saint” like that….

Anyway, that is my rather long-winded reaction to point #5 of the “Random Things I Do/Don’t Believe” …

I suppose it wasn’t the “service” part of Sunday and Wednesday services that I believed in, after all, come to think of it… Rather it was the opportunity those occasions offered for the body, the brothers and sisters, the church… to actually BE the church in some more meaningful way, as far as “services” go…. more one-another-ing, more relationship happening, people having opportunity to really “love” (as a verb!) God and each other… God definitely in the room and allowed - desired even - by those “old time saints” to be “part of the action”…

So what, I wonder, do these memories have to show me about how You want me - us - to BE YOUR CHURCH here, now? It really wasn’t (back then) about “how” we “did” those services, that so affected me, I see now (because as I’ve said, some aspect weren’t always so “pleasant”)…. but it was when You and Your body met together, loving, sharing, encouraging, learning… one-another-ing!

Should I stay or should I go? ....alternative expressions of church.... and my prejudices :-(

March 8, 2009

While I was laying there in bed early this morning, not wanting to move, I was also kind of dreading even getting up to face the “Sunday church question” … “Should I stay or should I go? …. la de da de da…” (Isn’t there a song or jingle like that out there? I hear the tune singing in my head when I think the words…). I find myself caught between habit and “should” and “don’t let the crew down” and “but we need you…” etc…

AND the sense that if I keep going, I’m never going to really step out to BE the church, and I’m just going to keep on “doing” church even if I started a “Sunday Supper Soup” time or something…. because splitting my time between the two is, first, going to keep me in the “doing church mode,” and second, is going to eat up “being church” time and life…. I’m thinking it’s time to take the plunge and “dechurch” as I once had to “deschool” … (maybe later I can reassess … or more clearly hear Your voice… on if and how You might want me to be involved in “traditional church” once my 50 plus years of “church” assumptions have had a chance to clear out a bit…. Lord?)

Okay, while I was writing that, I was just thinking about Pastor Peter, who spends his days, every day pretty much, with You and Your church out on the street…. Anyway, one of the things he’s been doing for a long time, is “church in the park” on Sunday mornings, dragging his barbeque out of his van, and making hot “breakfasts” (and supplying other needs too if needed) for local street people… along with a few other believers who also join them there, talking, building relationships, listening to Your Spirit guide them, living out Your life all year round in all kinds of weather…. definitely an “alternative” expression of “church” but one that really, really seems to reflect Your church we see in the New Testament!

Anyway… he feels You are leading him to expand on church in the park by adding a somewhat more formal “teaching” time…. he might be able to use a local “church basement” for those who are interested to move into after breakfast outdoors, though he dreams in the long-term of a “non-church-building” place where outreach activities plus gatherings of Your church can happen every day… So as I understand it, he is looking at this need he sees (that You are showing him) to develop an additional, more “church gathering” time (though certainly not in the “traditional church” pattern… perhaps somewhat in the Tuesday and Thursday morning “coffee time” style that he’s also involved in but with opportunity for more formal teaching and discipling).

Boy oh boy, I’m thinking there sure seems to be a fine line between truly “sharing church” and “leader-led church.” I guess in this case, there is the thought that the breakfast itself is free to all who want/ need it (and not “inside a church building” with all the “trappings” that implies to people who are most often very wary of such expressions of Your church)… and then they have the choice to participate further, or not, in this “learning/ discipling church time.” So there isn’t a perception that “church” is being forced down their throats, or whatever….

And there is something to that, New Testament church/ scripture-wise… (So I’m just thinking this through… pardon me, folks, if this doesn’t immediately “line up” with your take on it!)… Anyway… in the New Testament church I see “feeding outreach” (yes, actual food) to the poor of the church… but then again, Paul also mentions that the Jerusalem Council reminded him and the Gentile Church to remember/ give to the poor, and it doesn’t specify which poor! And of course You, Jesus, said repeatedly that You have come to the poor, the lost, the “unrighteous/ sinners!” (And that really did shock the “righteous” folk, eh!). (Hmm… I see I myself am needing a thought-adjustment here… oh dear…).

And then, the “gatherings of the church” were generally for the church, the body of believers, for edification, encouragement, teaching, etc… Okay I was going to say “for worshiping and glorifying God” … but frankly, unless one specifically considers “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” as “the worship,” one has to notice that Old Testament scripturally, “worship” is a “temple” activity… and since we, the New Testament body of believers, are each of us the temple of Your Holy Spirit; then everywhere we go, everything we do, both in “church gatherings” and every day, all day, becomes a matter of glorifying and worshiping You… which, oh dear, means my own worshiping is even far more lacking that I had supposed it to be (when I have considered my “worship” enthusiasm and participation “at church” - or rather, my lack thereof….)

And then there is “evangelism/ great commission” stuff. Well… beyond the breakfast feeding of the “poor” and the relationship building and sharing about You that happens there, Pastor Peter also does that every day as he walks our streets and brings the gospel to everyone he meets (the not-so-poor too… not to mention that he has a habit of going around and talking to the “pastors” of the “local churches” … and has also submitted himself to the advice and covering of a group of them whom he refers to, with a chuckle, as his “board!”)… Anyway, as he walks around sharing the gospel, one-on-one, talking, building relationships… yes he definitely has the “gift of pastoring/ shepherding!” as well as carrying out the “great commission” in very practical and daily ways… he also takes care of physical and emotional needs of a part of society that many consider “throw-aways” (if they consider them at all)… AND those he reaches, he also disciples… on-going, daily, relationships (he’s been at this for years…).

No, he doesn’t “stand on the street corner and preach to the lost” … but I wonder if his way isn’t more effective in the long run because of the discipling… Still, You do use the “preaching to the lost” folks too… after all, preaching (which is of course evangelistic sharing of the gospel to the lost, generally outside “gatherings of the church” … as opposed to teaching, which is building up the body, and is what usually goes on in “churches” even though we have a habit of calling it preaching…); anyway, preaching and evangelism are both gifts, ways that You reach out to mankind in Your love, through Your Spirit… and in the end, yes, they work together, as the people reached by preaching are brought into Your church. Okay, actually street-corner preaching and relationship-building-preaching are both forms of evangelism… (I did say I’m trying to figure this out, right?)… and both of them need to be followed up by discipling, which is where the gatherings of the church in their various expressions (with teaching, one-anothering, etc) really comes into play.

So yes, I was talking about the expression of the church that Pastor Peter is part of! So Peter’s people, those who have believed, ARE YOUR CHURCH too!… Oh dear… I’m afraid I’ve been rather thinking of them (well, those who’ve come to belief in - into relationship with - You) as new converts that “need to be brought into the church family” and so they are… and so it has been happening, Peter and them together, in relationship, on the street… but now he’s just wanting to take it a step further, to… ummm… oh yes,I think he’s wanting to integrate them to some degree into the greater community of believers, to maybe expose them to new relationships and sharing and teaching and one-anothering…. by providing a place (and no, he really doesn’t want it to be a “church building” in the long run, but he doesn’t have another option right now… yet, at least!).

So, hmm… I’m thinking out loud here, and I’m afraid my “prejudices” are showing through (oh my goodness! I’m prejudiced?!? Me??? No way, eh! … oh yeah…. I think You’re working on digging that plank out of my eye!…)….

Anyway what I wrote was (and I feel a bit foolish actually posting it, but maybe others might be traveling through this too…) … providing a place where there can be a meeting of believers from, dare I say it, “both sides of the track” (oh dear, I/we have a problem, don’t we?) and where these “baby believers” (okay, but I’ve chatted with some of them at the morning coffee times, and I’m not so sure they’re as “baby” as we’d think!) can develop body/family (church!) relationships with more “mature” believers (or maybe, more to the point, we all have a lot to share with each other, and a lot to learn directly from YOU through Your Spirit as we gather in Your name…). (Speaking of these “mature” … or perhaps just “different”… believers, hopefully they’ll not only drop in as guest speakers or once-a-weekers or fulfilling-my-need-to-do-good-deeders, but learn from Pastor Peter … and YOU! of course! … to invest their lives way more fully in YOUR CHURCH! …. oh Lord, You’re really talking to - laying it on - me, aren’t You? hmmm…. Please help me!)

Again, I find myself wanting to offer my little home (which is only a block or two from “downtown” where Pastor Peter’s church lives on the streets…) as perhaps a gathering place for YOUR church…. people of WHATEVER “group” or “side of the tracks” or “lifestyle” or whatever it is that … yikes… divides us!

(Yes, and right away the “buts” instantly rise up in me…. the same old tiresome tunes… some of them I’ve had others “point out” to me… and some, I’m afraid, might actually be right out of “me” …. I won’t say which is which, because I’m not actually sure if maybe all of them come out of me, at least sometimes…. oh dear…)

BUT what will the landlord say?

BUT what will my hubby and son (and other kids when they hear about it) say? (Hmmm… when they were home for Christmas, I was going on about how I’d love to “be a missionary and reach out to poor people in some third world country” and one of my kids said, “Why don’t you start out by reaching out to all the poor people right here?” … hmmmm again…)

BUT won’t it disturb hubby’s sleep since he works nights and needs the house quiet during the day?

BUT what if “those people” come back and steal something they see when they’re here at the “church gathering” (whatever form it might take… Sunday Supper Soup… or breakfast… or whatever…)

BUT won’t they make the house smell? What if one of them is wearing dirty - or even, heavens forbid, “pissy” clothes, and they sit on the couch and make it stink? What if they wander into the private areas of the house? What if they come back when they are drunk or strung out or whatever and you can’t handle them? What if they’re like that one girl I “reached out to” awhile back, and she became a “parasite” (yikes! did I really say that? )… What if? what if? what if?…

Yes, Your Word does say we need to be “wise as serpents” while also being “gentle as doves” (Doesn’t it? Maybe I should check that out…)… But maybe if you have a variety of the church together, being family, maybe you’ll have relationships developing and growing… and You, Almighty God who is all powerful and all providing and all wise will be in our midst and taking care of us…. (Not to mention that “suffering” is Your way - ha! most of the suffering in the New Testament church was caused by the “righteous, perfect” people, yikes!)… So then, “what’s the problem?”

(Assuming of course, that we are walking with You, practicing Your presence, seeing Your Work and taking part in it… led by Your Spirit… rather than just starting our own little “programs” …. )

an interesting fast.... enjoying You, learning from You, sensing Your heart...

March 7, 2009

This week has been an interesting “fast.” I haven’t been so “law-bound” about it as when fasting in the past. Actually I used to fast quite often, even regularly for a time, and it got to a point where I was becoming “obsessed” over every little “failure” (like even being totally guilted for licking a stray bit of peanut butter off my finger when making a sandwich for one of my kids… and every time I fasted the hunger pains came sooner and harder, and I felt sick and dizzy: just mentally craving food even before I could possibly be hungry - literally minutes into the fast!) … so finally I just gave up.

The thing is, I think I was fasting because I “should” and “it’s the way to get God to answer prayer” and so on. This time (after probably a year and a half to two year break at least, maybe longer) the idea to fast again came from a “week of prayer and fasting” announced at “our church” …. I, feeling a bit rebellious!, didn’t pick up the “package” of instructions etc (which is kind of ironic, considering there was a time when I was the one who made up such packages… irk…) … However, I did ask You about it, and You led me to fast TV, Facebook, and sugary foods.

The interesting thing is that You haven’t been laying guilt trips on me for “small failures” … and I’ve even sat down and watched a couple TV programs WITH hubby - really WITH him, not just “parallel” - and enjoyed it! … which made him happy, and helped me realize that even though it isn’t “my” personal favorite way of “relationship,” that if I do it with the aim of relationship and pleasing my husband, it becomes about that, and isn’t, after all, a “waste of time” … and even - eh?!!! - becomes pleasing to YOU! … especially my attitude change, and the improved, closer relationship between hubby and I… which in the past day or two has also led to including YOU more, praying together, sharing our hearts about You, etc… not instantly and hugely, but like a new dawn, with the sun’s rays slowly spreading across the land as it slowly rises over the horizon… I wonder, could this even be part of why hubby is feeling better these days”? Wow! I wouldn’t be surprised!

Of course that would also make sense in that I’m not constantly sneaking to take “Facebook breaks” now, in the limited time we do have together! I did check once (or twice maybe?) the first day, and thought about it the 2nd day… but just realized this is day 6 and I hardly even think of it, even though I am spending a lot of time on the computer (getting so many of the more “urgent” things on my “projects-to-do list” finished up (while hubby is sleeping) - Yay! I think I didn’t realize how incredibly much time was being just twiddled away on Facebook and the little “TV breaks” that just kind of s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d out and o-u-t-…..

As for the “sugary foods,” sometimes I do really CRAVE a sugar-high snack… and yesterday I ate a square which hubby brought home from work (one of the aides made and shared them)… probably that was what brought on that incredible “hunger” afterward… oh dear… I ended up ending 3 or 4 chocolate chips as well… and then 2 quite large pieces of dark chocolate… lesson learned, I hope!

All of which was foolish because the previous days I just drank lots of water (which I really need to do anyway) when I get cravings… Anyway, last night hubby and I went grocery shopping… and I realized I am really craving veggies again, which I haven’t for quite some time! So that is a good thing! (And I needed to get veggies for “Sunday Supper Soup” anyway, if I’m really going to do that… Lord? Your will be done! Please make it clear!)

Anyway, I know I’ve been foolish (and even disobedient) a couple time during this fast, and yes, the “guilt” has tried to slip in and grow… but Thank You that I’m coming to realize that it’s really about relationship with You, rather than a “have-to-do” and “have-to-do-perfectly-law-type-thing!” I do want relationship with You! (And maybe You are honoring my weak efforts… seeing as suddenly I am also spending way more time with You here, journaling, after a rather long dry period… And then there is also improved relationship with hubby… and even with my son, I’m thinking!)

The thing is, I haven’t been spending hardly any more “focused/ formal” prayer time with You since I started this “fast.” I mean, You know, “going into my closet and praying” (from a list or whatever; using instructions; going by the “package” ….) for an hour or two non-stop, to “replace the time I would have spent eating/ watching TV/ going on Facebook. Actually, I haven’t been very rule-bound or ritualistic or anthing about it at all! I did once go into my room and kneel by the bed and pray urgently for a couple minutes about a deep concern on my heart, but then I just kind of left it there with You, and through the days since, whenever I think of it again, I just stop where I am and bring it to You again… as I seem to do about most “prayer requests” (and praises!) now.

I have had a few “guilt” moments, or at least moments of “concern” that I’m not “fasting and praying correctly,” but mostly I’ve just been enjoying more continuing, on-going awareness of Your Presence, and consequently, without much real “focus” or “effort” have actually been “praying without ceasing” far more, and enjoying You, learning from You, even beginning to sense far more clearly where Your heart is on various things I’ve been wondering about, and what You want to do through and with me, and even - this is so cool! - sensing Your Presence and action in so many more “little, day-by-day” circumstances, occurrances, even just the weather and people walking by in the alley outside my window, and hearing the birds singing and such!

And I have to say that I am becoming far more aware (it’s “growing on - in! - me”) of the need for my own awareness and involvement in caring for the poor… here and WORLD-WIDE! … and for the incredible need for Your loving justice!

Earlier this week I was reading Isaiah 58 again. Now I am the one, remember, who used to make up “how-to-fast-and-pray” kits… and of course I always referred to this scripture (among others of course). But oddly enough, the emphasis in my “kits” always ended up being rules and regulations… like verse 5: “a day for a man to humble himself… for bowing his head like a reed And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed”… trying desperately to make my fasting “acceptable… to the Lord” — and yet, what YOU are really saying in this passage is that this is NOT the fast that You choose! It’s actually (verses 6 to 7) “to loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke… to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh…” and (verse 9) to “remove the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness” and (verse 10) to “give (furnish) yourself to the hungry And satisfy the desire (soul) of the afflicted” and (verse 13) to “turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day”….

And then… the results! “8. your light will break out like the dawn, And your recovery will speedily spring forth; And your righteousness will go before you; The glory of the LORD will be your rear guard… 9. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer… “Here I am” [Wow! relationship!] … 10 … your light will rise in darkness… 11. And the LORD will continually guide you… satisfy your desire (soul) in scorched place, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden… an [unfailing] spring…. 12… You will raise up the age-old foundations… repairer of the breach… 14 … delight in the LORD… [fed] with the heritage of Jacob…”

Wow!…. hmmm… could this have anything to do with Your church? What would happen if this became our lifestyle, not just our “fasting?” Isn’t that totally New Testament church biblical? …. hmmm… but how can that happen (practically?) if we put all our resources into maintaining our buildings and paid staff and such? I was reading that:

(The Church has had its day…!”

By David Allis Nov 2006)

Our model of church is expensive

o There is huge financial cost in operating organised churches in the western world. Consider the combined factors of weekly income required to operate the church and the capital tied up in church buildings.

o If we choose to view this finance as being used completely to generate growth in God’s kingdom, then the cost of this growth is very high.

o In addition to the financial cost, there is a huge cost of volunteer time in operating the normal organised church – … millions of hours are given to running the church & its programs each year.

o What proportion of a typical church’s time, energy & finance is spent on maintaining ‘church’ for the members? I estimate that it is typically 90-95%.

(end of quote)

…….. maybe we really need to go back to Your Word…yes, no doubt those kinds of changes might be “painful” to us… but maybe the church would be opening the way for Your Spirit to use Your bride to “turn the world upside down once again” …..

Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness (loyalty), And to walk humbly (circumspectly) with your God?”

(And yes, You DO want contriteness of heart… an important part of fasting… and of our walk…. when we focus on “rules” and “methods” don’t we run into the very real danger of our “faith” becoming an outer thing rather than a heart relationship with You and between the members of Your body? ….

Isa 57:15 For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever (dwells in eternity!), whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite” ….

So…. justice, kindness, humility with God, contriteness… This is the fast YOU choose… this is the LIFE, the relationship to which You call Your body, Your bride, Your church….

Amen! (Thank You!)

Ohhhh…. It’s gray, chilly, windy out the window… and flakes are drifting down… again!

church and children... and Sunday Soup (groups of ten!)

March 6, 2009 (more)

I had sent that quote about the need for the influence of non-relative adults as part of the family of God being part of and impacting the lives of our children, to “our pastor” and he immediately responded with “Amen!!!!” So this morning, slightly tongue-in-cheek (but really dead serious) I sent him a short email wondering if God is giving “our church” an opportunity to explore ways that might work this out (realizing of course, but not coming out and saying so, that it could lead to an awful lot more soul-searching for “our church” … and maybe more “problems” … and changes…), seeing as You don’t seem to be “providing workers” for the childrens and youth “programs” we’d apparently like to get going/ resurrect… hmmm…

Oh, by the way, the quote is:

(Ideas from the Edge" - Why I Don’t Go To Church Anymore! by Wayne Jacobsen)

But don’t our children need church activities?

I’d suggest that what they need most is to be integrated into God’s life through relational fellowship with other believers. 92% of children who grow up in Sunday schools with all the puppets and high-powered entertainment, leave ‘church’ when they leave their parents’ home? Instead of filling our children with ethics and rules we need to demonstrate how to live in God’s life together.

Even sociologists tell us that the #1 factor in determining whether a child will thrive in society is if they have deep, personal friendships with nonrelative adults. No Sunday school can fill that role. I know of one community in Australia who after 20 years of sharing God’s life together as families could say that they had not lost one child to the faith as they grew into adulthood. I know I cut across the grain here, but it is far more important that our children experience real fellowship among believers rather than the bells and whistles of a slick children’s program. (end of quote)

I was telling hubby about the 23rd Psalm/shepherd/pastor thing. And last night I read him parts of the “groups of ten” item from Edgenet…

Church: Simple and Regional Compiled by Gary Goodell

Groups of Tens

The word eser is the Hebrew word for the number ten and represents the smallest division into which Moses put the people of God for the purposes of wise administration. This is the group where everyone talks.

These smaller groups are home-based, intergenerational meetings, where we share our lives on a regular basis, make our needs known to each other, and bear each other’s burdens. This dynamic is experienced through a weekly meeting in our homes around the joy of a shared common meal and the restored richness of the Lord’s Supper, (Acts 2:46).

These groups are not cell groups, or even just Home Groups. They are real churches, complete and autonomous. They have leaders; they receive offerings for missions, the poor, and needy. They evangelize the lost, baptize the converts, dedicate the babies, marry the wed, and bury the dead, and obviously celebrate the sacrament of communion. These smaller groups are not just extensions of the “mother ship” local community church that has a central campus around which all life swirls. They are the church.

………..Smaller, participatory, family-like environments are ideally suited for today’s culture and will assist greatly is helping people to become passionate disciples of Jesus Christ.

……..a kind of Participatory Church, where everybody talks, laughs, eats, worships, in an atmosphere where all learn, all minister, and all grow.

Apart from the intimacy of lovers, there are few human actions that bind people to one-another more closely than what the Romans called, a convivium, their word for a banquet that literally means “living together.” Defenses are dropped, and believers feel grateful to be with friends around the meal. We argue and discuss and quarrel and tease and laugh. In Simple Church children watch their parents and learn about living. From the marriage feast of Cana, to the Last Supper, to His post-resurrection breakfast on the shore of the lake, Jesus loved to eat and drink with His friends. He used the imagery of the banquet for the Eucharist in which He leaves us His abiding presence. Jesus, Himself, was even known as someone who came, “eating and drinking” (Matthew 11:19).

………..“Shared meals construct and sustain human relationships. Inviting someone to share a meal powerfully symbolizes solidarity. Indeed, the word companionship comes from the Latin cum + panis, meaning, “breading together.” Meals are social realites of great importance. Because meals express the very texture of human associations, they often exhibit social boundaries that divide human communities. We make decisions about not only what we will eat but with whom we will eat. Patterns of table-sharing reveal a great deal about the way of life, and the norms and commitments of a particular community.

“Within the Gospels, Jesus’ meal patterns receive special attention. Many of his critics observed, “this fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:1-2; Mark 2:15-17; Matthew 1:19). They were shocked and appalled that Jesus welcomed everyone to his table. His behavior indicated acceptance and friendship with those who had been judged unfit for table fellowship: the tax collector, the Gentile, the prostitute. His open invitation, manifested the radically inclusive nature of his kingdom, a kingdom that cuts across the barriers we erect between insiders and outsiders, the saved and the damned, the elect and the outcast, barriers often most rigidly enforced at the table.”

The Mutually Edifying Meal

One of the best passages to help us prepare for a Simple Church meal is the classic Hebrews 10:24-25 text, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (NIV)

“Let us consider how we may spur one another on to love and good deeds…” How do we know if our meeting has accomplished what God wanted? We know if people leave being highly motivated and spurred on to love God and others, that they will be able to express that love in good works throughout the week. The kind of meal is summarized in two words: Eating and Blessing. Both activities are designed to “spur one another to love and good deeds.” Both of these prophetic acts are designed to strengthen, edify, and encourage the church.(end of quote)

……. because hubby had heard me talking on the phone to A about Sunday Soup (and how amazingly, looking back, it sometimes was like this description of “Groups of Ten”)… and also about the first day I was in in his home village, the day I met my future husband, and he took me to a number of homes in his village, and introduced me to the nonnies (grandmothers), and everywhere we went we ate some soup from the pot each one had sitting at the back of their woodstoves…. and when I read that description of “groups of ten” it just so seemed to FIT… And I’m wondering, can we start doing something like that again?

(Sunday Soup was lunch every Sunday around 1 pm till whenever, and anyone could come (as few as two, as many as thirty once or twice!), and we’d sit around and eat soup (and whatever else happened to be available/brought along), and we’d just visit, and get to know each other way more, and sometimes we’d end up sharing about the Lord, and/or praying together, and/or singing together… whatever just “happened to happen” as Father led! It wasn’t meant to be “church” … but reading that “groups of ten” description - and the New Testament descriptions of gatherings of the church - I’m thinking it really was!)

Shepherds/ pastors.... really thinking about this topic... from the 23rd Psalm!

March 6, 2009

And this morning, when I woke, I was going to jump up to get my Bible and stuff - but You led me to pray first for Your guidance (and - oh Lord, please - Your Spirit - full and overflowing! I ask right now! Please cleanse, forgive and fill and keep on filling me!)… anyway, then I started to talk to You about “church,” asking You, “Oh dear God, please show me - us - what “expression” of church You want us involved in… even if it means going back to “our [traditional] church!”

And almost instantly, “out of nowhere,” the hymn, “The Lord’s My Shepherd, I’ll Not Want” (from the 23rd Psalm) just came into my mind - and I stopped and listened to the words all the way through… and suddenly it occurred to me - NO! YOU showed me - that while of course the Psalm is about You, the Shepherd (and Your relationship to me/us - which of course I fail to respond to as I should… because I’m afraid that up to now I’ve pretty much thought of it as a Psalm about You, and while I’ve loved it, and loved that You care for me and guide me and all in those wonderful ways, I’m afraid I’ve never really realized that it also is calling for a response from me (more that “just” praise of/to You… which clearly I also do not do enough - hardly at all, actually, these days!).

But even more than that - and what YOU really showed me so clearly - is that it is a picture of how the church should be; yes, in our relationship to You - but also in our relationships to “one another” (oh my goodness, the “one another” theme has really been coming through in the Edgenet articles!).

Anyway, first of all, a “pastor” is really a “shepherd!” And this psalm defines what that means! And furthermore, all of us in the church, as we “make disciples” and as we are in “one another” relationship, also become “shepherds” to each other in many ways, on many levels - and it should be day-in, day-out of course, just as a shepherd cares for his flock of sheep! Wow!

Look carefully at this “shepherd’s psalm!” If current “churches” - current pastors in current churches (of all stripes/ expressions) decided to make this their job description - imagine how the “expression” and “flavor” would change - and if they all followed this same template, the template that is really the description of our “lead shepherd” of the church, You, Jesus Christ (and responded to You, the Head Shepherd, in the ways it implies, as sheep and as under-shepherds)…

Then there WOULD BE UNITY in the church universal… especially if all us sheep also:

1. responded to both You, the chief shepherd, and those whom Your Spirit has gifted as pastors/under-shepherds, as this description implicitly calls for, and

2. we also took this as our personal job description in the “one-another” shepherding which is clearly central to the New Testament church mandate and call! Wow!

We’d just stop worrying about all the surrounding “details” and “scaffolding” and “distinctives” and “systems” and such… and those details that do not fit would fall away, and those that truly “have their place” would fall into place naturally and would no longer fight for dominance or be a “problem” but simply do their share when and where they have value to the core - to Your purpose and plan and love for Your bride, Your church! Thank You!

So… please show me as I go through this Psalm, what You want me to see!

1. The LORD is my shepherd.

You love me. You are my guide, protector, feeder, etc. You are the center. The under-shepherds, then, are a reflection of You. You are their pattern. All their actions (if they are really guided by Your Spirit of course) are You acting through them. So they themselves are NOT in a position of power: always You are doing Your work, through them. So their shepherding is a position of humility and servanthood! Our shepherding (as all of us have shepherding opportunities along the way) is a position of humility and servanthood! Always, always, we point to, look to YOU. “Hide the pastor behind the old rugged cross” KB used to pray. Our eyes are lifted to You, the author and finisher of our faith, the Great Shepherd! The “pastor’s” hands outstretched in love are Your hands outstretched - nail marks and all! And that applies to all of us, too, in the context of “one another!"

How do I/we respond to You, the Great Shepherd? The words are easy - but we are called to walk in them - love, trust, obedience, respect (awe, fear, reverence!), believing, hope, praise, glory, joy… with all our heart and soul and strength (and mind!) to YOU… and Your love, too, through us, to our neighbor (including our human “pastors” - those whom You gift with “shepherding” … and of course there will also be times, if we are truly following the “one another” mandate, for all of us to “shepherd”)…

And with Your love, all those things that go with it, the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5: 22-23) : love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control - to them, as we love ourselves - as Your love sets the example, as You love them through us! And as You Yourself provide the means - Your Spirit - to give us the ability to respond in Godliness, because of course it isn’t in us “naturally”….

Ho! If we responded to our pastors/shepherds (both those You have especially gifted in this way, and all those in the body who at some time or other also shepherd us!), what joy it would bring them. Surely that’s what Paul must have had in mind when he urged respect and honor (yes, even double honor!) to those God has given to shepherd us… and what he was also thinking of when he was advising Timothy and Titus of their obligations to those they were shepherding also. It really is “one another” and it always comes back to us on our knees before You, our Great Shepherd!

So honor goes to our earthly shepherds, but even that honor is only a reflection, a practical in-action-working-out of the “all honor and all glory” that belongs to YOU alone! (Which is why human shepherds must never for a moment lose sight of the fact that their shepherding role is always one of humility and servanthood… )(how difficult for us… possible only with constant awareness and obedience and submission to and worship of our Great Shepherd).

Oh my goodness! This is way bigger than I imagined! Because You are huger - infinitely! - whatever that means! - than anything I or any human being can imagine! Amazing God! Amazing grace! Amazing love! Amazing Shepherd!

(Oh Lord, teach me to “shepherd” others as You shepherd me… to be a little child learning about life by watching her parents and wanting to be “just like” them… and trusting them, believing in them implicitly… The thing is, we CAN EXPECT perfect shepherding from YOU (alone!), and that’s where our eyes and hearts must be trained - You give us human under-shepherds through whom You “work out” some aspects of Your Shepherding - but they are only vessels. You are The Shepherd. Our trust in in YOU.

1b. I shall (do) not want.

A shepherd fulfills the needs of others. Provides. SERVES. Well, that’s New Testament church biblical, for sure! And our response? Gratitude… love… serving in return… honor (Oh yes, aren’t those some of the “one anothers?” ) (Ummm… what goes around comes around, eh?…)

2. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters (waters of rest!)

This is interesting. I know from experience that You give me rest, You lift my heavy burdens (and in return I accept Your yoke which is easy and Your burden which is light… hmmm… how does that work out in my relationships to my human shepherds???). How does a human shepherd give his “flock” rest? What are the “green pastures” to which he (or she!) leads the sheep? What is the “practical working out” by the under-shepherd of the spiritual (and yes, sometimes very physical/ emotional/ etc) rest that You, the Great Shepherd, give us? Lord? This is something I really have not considered before! Counsel, perhaps? Praying with the sheep and leading them to You, The Rest? Maybe even serving in practical ways (shoveling of walk of a senior? Oh my!). And then how do the sheep respond? Honor? Maybe even providing rest for the shepherd?!? “One another!”

3. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths (traces) of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Maybe this is what we’re used to thinking of when we talk about human pastors/shepherds. The teaching of the Word, the edifying of the saints, encouragement, guidance. But - ALWAYS “for His name’s sake” … always for YOUR glory, never for the under-shepherd’s glory! And our response? How do we respond to You, the Great Shepherd? Praise, honor, glory, obedience… Obviously the under-shepherd needs to be careful to “pass on” these responses to You… but don’t we all need to do that whenever these responses come our way? (Oh my, this is a “heavy” aspect… hmmm…)

………. So hubby came home and I made him breakfast, tidied up… Oh! Last night we watched together a 2 hour documentary on CBC about the “next big one” (Cascadia fault and consequent horrendous earthquake and tidal waves…) and hubby laughingly said, “So are you sure you want to move to Vancouver Island?” and there was a lot of video and discussion about Uclulet-Tofino… and we couldn’t help thinking of our special friends there! Who we know aren’t worrying at all because they know God is in charge and whatever happens is okay! (Ha! you guys know who your are! :-) )

Well, I’ll have to look more into the rest of the 23rd Psalm and the whole shepherd/pastor thing… later!

Friday 13 March 2009

Maybe You work with different people in different ways, eh? ...

March 3, 2009

At coffee time this morning one person was telling us about this mega-church in the States that has 8000 members and an enormous “campus” with a whole big wing for childrens programs, including several nursery rooms full of cribs. It sounds like they think this is a really good thing… And all I could think was, “So is it really good? What is so good about that? I’m wondering what kind of “family of God” it is that puts all the babies out of the way like that…

Every day I am just feeling more and more called out of the whole organized, structured-like-the-world church thing… But other people seem so excited about it all… So maybe God just works with different people in different ways… I feel kind of lost when everyone around me seems to be excitedly buying into the whole building-and-programs approach to doing church (rather than seeking to maybe find a way to BE church instead…) (But they really do believe that the way they “do” is a legitimate way - maybe even the “right way” - to be the church….)

Oh dear God - one of my daughters phoned and asked me to pray for them! Wow! Praise Your holy Name! You ARE so working in her heart! Dear God, You called her when she was small, and You have never let her go; You are always there waiting and longing for relationship with her… and same with all my children… and yes, hubby and me, too! Thank You!

My son just bought himself a new video game - and that small thing gives him so much excitement and joy! Lord God, YOU are so great! And so I, as Your child, should be full of joy in Your Presence.. Help me, please…

I want to go out and do something for people I meet along the way as I walk about my community. But every time I go out, almost, it seems like nobody wants to talk to me at all… Everybody rushing about… And yes, I find it hard to initiate conversations… especially since it seems like most of the people hanging around here are all men! There are so many men sitting around in the coffee shops these days, way more than before, and so few women. I wonder if a lot of the men have been laid off their jobs, and the women are having to work extra (probably in the low-paying jobs that are still available…) to keep their families going? Well, when I walk around, at least the beauty of Your world makes me smile without even meaning to - and lots of times that causes others to smile back!

I long for relationships… I am lonely here, Lord…

My self-righteous finger-pointing attitudes

March 1, 2009

It’s really incredible how You send along messages to us when we really need them. And You use so many different ways. This past week it’s been, nearly every day, a totally appropriate devotional from “Words From the Creator” by Robert Soto (on Tribes of Christ).

Yesterday’s, February 28th, was based on Deuteronomy 3:12, and read, in part, “Sometimes we need to stop and learn who we are and who God the Creator made us to be. We have to listen and learn what our path in life will be and how we can accomplish what the desires of our heart tells us to learn… There are some things that come naturally to a man, and there are other things that we have to learn… so we need to learn what our relationship to God the Creator is each day of our lives. So listen and learn what God desires of your heart.”

Yesterday, when I was kind of hurt from ___’s nasty emails to me, the word was, “It is not my job to hate and get even. It is God the Creator’s job to take care of both the one who got hurt and the one who did the hurting” (based on Matt 5:11-12, Feb 27).

And a couple days back, wondering what You might be wanting from me, I read “Among the Apache, they would name a person according to his character, or what best described who he was… If God changed your name today, what would you be called”? (based on Is. 9:6)

And here’s a good one for me lately as I’ve been foolishly worrying again about wanting to do something “worthwhile” : “We need to look at the circumstances we are facing each day and just carry what we need to survive. Look at the spiritual burdens, lighten the load a little and learn to rest and just do what we can do. When life has become too burdensome, take that which has gotten you down and give it to God the Creator who is always willing to help you.” (Based on Psa 68:19).
And of course I have again felt my heart being turned toward first nations people AND toward simple church - and a few days ago I read, “if Christianity had come in its truest form, our Indian people would have openly embraced what Christians had to offer. Instead, they came with demands for changes that would have destroyed all of who we were, and all of who God the Creator had created us to be… The gospel is not a doctrine of outer change, but a doctrine of inner change…. He [Jesus] was talking about simple faith in the One who gave His life for you.” (John 6:45, Feb 22). That really helped me after I watched that Truth Project video where the speaker talked about how the Mayflower Compact presented their undertaking to plant the first North American colony in the area of Virginia “for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith” … which unfortunately was followed by, not too long after, King Philip’s War and other similar events…. hmmm…

So yesterday a friend called and we talked a bit about church stuff… and she emailed me a website to check out:

Anyway, the Edgenet site has a lot of really interesting articles. This morning I read “The Problem with Preaching” - which is the best article I have read on that topic! Also read, “An Interview with Brian McLaren”; awhile back I had read his book The Secret Message of Jesus" - which was interesting, but sometimes it seems to me that he is “pushing” his thesis just a bit too far and too hard, still it is worth considering….

So this morning I wasn’t really sure about “going to church” but decided to go anyway. When I got there, I mentioned to someone that I wish the seats were more in a circular setup so people could see each others faces, not just the back of their heads as it is with the perfectly straight rows! I admit I was feeling pretty “rebellious” when I saw how straight the rows were set up today. I didn’t even want to sit down. I though of pulling out a couple chairs from the rows and putting them along the side wall so I could at least see peoples’ profiles, if not their full faces!

Eventually, though, I sat in the back row. And immediately noticed that the people in front of me were heavily perfumed. I’ve had to leave “church” several times because of my allergies to scents, and I have actually prayed not to react at church…

The worship leader was very excited and joyful, literally laughing and praising God, lots of “hallelujahs” … it was a lot like my memories of “native chnurch” (he is native, too)… There was a time in my life when I would have been really excited and thought, “Wow, this is great worship” … and likely it is pretty good worship, and the team really did seem to be really in the Spirit… only it was just the “worship team” speaking (singing) to the rest of the congregation, and there was no give-and-take (or even hardly any participation since the songs were all new). A couple people did get excited and clapped to You, it’s true… but it was, I think, I kind of restrained response; they just aren’t used to such enthusiastic worship I guess!

The perfume wafting straight at me was so strong, that when the worship team finished their songs, I put my coat on. The preacher gave time for people to greet each other before the sermon so I just slipped out. A couple people asked why I was leaving; I just said, “perfume” … and they agreed it was really strong… (though I was using it more as an "excuse" than anything...

I am feeling too rebellious, I think… not “filled with the Spirit” and “speaking the truth in love” …. I do want to fast and pray this week, only I don’t want to do it in a “packaged, programmed” way. The church had a big basket of “fasting packages” to hand out after the service…

(So I just now read Isaiah 58… and realized that my heart isn’t right about all this… and that I need to stop, repent from, my self-righteous finger-pointing attitudes, and instead become one to remove the yoke and loose the bonds, to share with the poor, to be led by God….

I have been wishing I could open my house to the poor… But wondering how I can do that if my family doesn’t like the idea… and what if people steal our stuff (ha! we have precious little worth stealing!)… and what would the landlord say?…. and so on…
Maybe that’s why I’m wishing for a place of our own (owned, not rented) preferably with a big, welcoming, open area… I don’t mind tiny private living quarters if I can just have space to welcome people in!

Anyway, even way more important right now: I am longing for Your Spirit in my life!!! I have been dry. Please, please, please come in, dear Holy Spirit. Please, please, please teach me to love, dear loving Heavenly Father. Please, please, please renew in me the joy of Your salvation, and give me the great, longing desire to pray, to walk with You, to trust and obey, to believe, dear Jesus my Savior! And please, my Lord and my God, use me as You will! Please forgive me for how I have been. Thank You! Amen!
Yay! (That was easy… Thank You!!!)

church day-by-day.... Your way!

February 28, 2009

I was thinking about fasting again. I’ve decided to add candy and desserts and sugary snacks to facebook and TV. I was wanting to start eating a lot more veggies but now we are short of cash. What to do? Lord? Should I do some tutoring or babysitting?

My tummy is really sore these days - ulcers again, I’m thinking. Hubby says to phone the doctor on Monday and make an appointment. I can’t do a total fast with this tummy pain.

Obviously I haven’t been praying in a focused (or much otherwise) way for some time. Even my journal entries are “bare.” I am feeling a lot alone! You have been gracious in giving me the Upper Room coffee times, plus services at church from time to time, and the Truth series (but at the end of each Truth video, people who don’t immediately leave, seem to pull into little groups and I just can’t bring myself to “break in” … I wonder if there is a message for me - from You - in there? Like “be friendly yourself” … or “I’ve released you… so it’s time to move on… or??).

Plus I had that long coffee time with my friend ___, and coffee with a former student, and the girls’ night out, and coffee with ___ (unexpected! nice surprise!), and coffee and potluck at ___’s, and ___ giving me a ride home the other day, and meals with ___ and ____… Goodness! A LOT more social life/ fellowship now than in the past…Daily… often unplanned…

And yes, I do sometimes feel at bit “at sea” without predictable, planned “programmed” events! I’d really like to have (or go to) a house gathering (Sunday-soup style, but visit after, share, etc)… (and invite the street ministry church in the park in for pancake breakfasts…)

Or maybe You just want me to be patient and take it day by day, and keep my eyes open for the opportunities You send? (Which obviously I haven’t even been recognizing and appreciating in many cases till hindsight kicks in… like all those fellowship times I just listed!).

More of Your church here and there....

February 25, 2009

Mom’s first birthday in heaven (so to speak)… I’m missing her, I’m afraid…

So yesterday after hubby got home from work, we had breakfast, and then went to the Upper Room coffee time. I enjoy it more and more. People are becoming more and more open talking about the Lord - some real relationships are developing.
There were about 3 or 4 conversations going on, when hubby started talking to someone about the time he saw that evil spirit in our house back in the day - and how You told him to deal with it - and how when he told it to “be gone in the name of Jesus” there was a great light that filled every nook and cranny in the basement - and it just instantly disappeared. Hubby had gotten maybe 1 1/2 sentences of the story out of his mouth, and suddenly the place became totally quiet, everyone listening.

Anyway, after we left, hubby wondered aloud to me why he had told that story - why You led him to do so. Well, as I told him, I’m not sure of the “why” for those other people (though it sure caught their attention and there was some discussion afterwards about the reality of spirits - and about God’s mighty power compared to the enemy’s weakness (which was the context in which hubby had mentioned the incident in the first place).

But for me at least, if was confirmation that the fear/ panic attacks I’ve been experiencing lately, “out of the blue” with no apparent reason like stress or whatever, both day and night, are spiritual attacks… and I also realized they only happen at home… So we got gas, then went for a drive around the lake… and we prayed together, hubby especially praying, for total protection of our home and family from these attacks. (And no, I didn’t have any more attacks since! Thank You, Lord).

In the evening we went to our friends’ home for potluck. It was a lot of fun. ___ made up a handout that summarizes his view of the church (which is really New Testament scriptural) and invites others to consider it, seeks out those who share this - dare I say - vision… So I asked him, more or less, “So what’s the plan?” and he replied, “Oh! No plan!” He’s just totally waiting to see where You lead…

Oh yes, at the coffee time, the guy who is kind of in charge was telling us all about his dream to possibly find a building that could be a center for reaching out to street people… where meals could be prepared, clothing and other needed items made available, informal gatherings of the church (body of Christ and interested non-believers) could take place… but he said if it happens it has to be “without conditions” because he wants You, Father, to be totally in control! At the moment he does these kind of things outdoors in local parks and such, and from his van. At the same time, he’s seen a number of new “churches” start up in this city, wanting to really be New Testament based, and it seems like in every case so far they’ve pretty quickly become just like every other church in town….

Hubby was telling ___ that he’s looking forward to working here in the summer… I was a little surprised by that. At the same time, he’s all ready to send out applications to Vancouver Island, so we will see what YOU have in mind, eh! (I’m pretty sure he, too, is open to that - wanting that!).

You are moving us on to something new and different...

February 22 2009

A lady at church gave a presentation about spending the past year with the Mercy Ship, at Liberia. I liked that she was so honest and open about the whole experience.

Some people at church are very excited, as a man came in off the street, and painted the sanctuary of the building (”our home” as one person described it), and people are all of a sudden volunteering for various positions, though some positions like childrens church workers stay empty…. I don’t know, … While it is nice to see other people so happy, I am disappointed, I think, to see what looks like just getting back into “traditional church” in so many ways, when the recent “troubles” potentially opened the door for honest and open discussion about church and what Christ really means it to be… It seems to me that most people are content (and even happy) to stay within many of the long-standing parameters of this particular church group… Well, that reminds me of the “So You Don’t Want to Go to Church?” book, too… I guess that’s okay, though; You work in so many different, creative ways, Father.

But I really do feel You are moving our family out to something new and different.
I have a growing longing to be with native people again… and the land and ocean too….
Your will be done!

thank You for all the "church" times this week!

February 15 2009

So I woke up this morning with a sore throat, splitting headache, sore eyes, sick to my stomach… allergic reaction to those cleaning products… And so I didn’t “go to church” … not even to “church in the park.”

I have not been “praying from my list” hardly at all the past couple weeks at least… though I quite often think of individual requests and just pray for them then and there… I should no doubt pray more for these “supplications” …. But I have also been realizing once again that prayer includes all the time I’m thinking of You, talking of You, journaling, the things I’m doing because of You, getting excited or thankful when I see Your works, read Your Word, hear Your voice… yes indeed…. that is what I want” life in the vine… prayer without ceasing! …. practicing the presence of God!!! (Not (of course) that I’m there yet, but oh dear God, thank You for moving me in that direction - Your direction - and please forgive me when I get distracted (especially when I choose to be distracted! Oh dear… I am sorry…)
Thank You for all the “church” You brought my way this past week! It was awesome!

I am tired now. Maybe I need some “Sunday siesta” Lord?

Question for myself: Do I fill the places I go with the “spectacle of God’s presence”?

I've had some wonderful daily church this week!

February 14 2009

Hubby took me to Starbucks for a strawberry creme frappuccino, and to Tim's for a bagel this morning! Happy Valentine's Day!

So today was exciting because I finally got my Mother's Journey site finished!

I have just joined a group on the 'net called simple church .... I also got started on pulling out notes on my "journey" church-wise ... Now to get them posted...

I have been wondering what to do about "going to church" now that I don't "have to" ...

I did go out for a walk mid-day. It was beautifully sunny but kind of chilly. An interesting thing happened. I stepped into the Christian bookstore (which I haven't done for a long time). I was "browsing"... and "eavesdropping" on the owner and and another man having a conversation about the church and about so many people "dropping out" ... and the store guy says that it seems like an awful lot of the "drop outs" are far more dedicated to really following Christ wholeheartedly than the ones who stay.

They were talking about the "economics" of "the church" too... and were saying that churches are finding it harder and harder to cover their budgets these days... and that a lot are having to downsize or to close down "ministries" because the building and pastoral salary costs take up all the income... and that the majority of the giving now comes from those aged 60 and up.

And they were also talking about how churches are finding it harder and harder to find funds to hire associate pastors like youth pastors... and that it seems like the "criteria" for affording a youth pastor, for example, is the number of youth that turn up to youth group. And that it seems this "cost effective factor" is leading to "successful youth groups" that are more and more the ones which provide "safe entertainment for teens" versus providing spiritual guidance and discipling. Some very "popular" programs even use secular music and videos etc rather than "Christian" ones.

The store wasn't very large, and I had "browsed" the entire place about 3 times by the time the conversation ended (it was getting a bit embarrassing going round and round!). But I was really glad I heart it (even if "eavesdropping" isn't exactly cool...). Sometimes I feel like nobody I know wants to talk about these things... I was thinking it would be so great if the owner put in a few chairs or a couch or even some cushions on the floor so people could just come in, sit around, and talk about the Lord and the church and such. I think it would be a good place, because people from all kinds of different "Christian backgrounds" go there, and it could be a good way for the "church at our city" (shades of the NT churches...) to meet informally.... not to mention the non-believers who drop in there out of curiosity.

Anyway, I've had some wonderful daily church this week - the "street people coffee time" on Tuesday morning (I like the back alley entrance, the long stairwell that direly needs a vacuuming, and the real people and honest, open conversation!)... then watching that "Truth Project" video on Wednesday, and having a good conversation afterward with some of the other people watching it (but... the conversation wasn't about the video, but rather about "the church" as it is described in scripture, and how that's different from what we've been experiencing in "going to church" ... and how those differences are maybe a big part of the "difficulties" "our church" has been struggling with)...

and coffee with a former student and her friend also on Wednesday... and then a good long phone conversation with a friend on Thursday about our longings for "real church"; and supper together and good visiting on Friday with some fellow believers; and phone visits with each of my daughters today... as well as that conversation at the book store....

So I don't know if I'll be "going to church" at "our church" tomorrow (Sunday)... I've been thinking of dropping in again at the "church in the park" where coffee and a hot breakfast are available for street people, and friendship and open discussion, and even hats and mitts and such available for those who need them on these cold winter days... not run by "a church" as "a ministry" but simply a group of believers (from "different Christian backgrounds") who want to share Jesus by following His example! That's church too!

enjoying "being the church"... and thoughts about church "membership"

February 11, 2009

Yo! So yesterday, Tuesday, it was cold and windy. I ran out and took some "snow melt to date" type pictures - then it snowed (lighty- and then mostly melted) again today!

Yesterday morning I went to the Upper Room coffee time (with street people), and had a great chat with a guy who lived on Haida Gwaii for a couple years. Turns out we know lots of the same people and places.

Today I actually did a lot of typing from my old journals... got them caught right up to date! Wow! Finally! That is something I've been working on for a good year or so! Now to post it on my Mother's Journey site.

A friend sent me a link to a simple church site. I signed up... liking it already!
I had a great visit over coffee at Tim's with a former student and her friend. Excellent!

This evening I went to the Truth Project videos on science and Darwinism. Pretty good. Not so much new information, but stuff I already knew well put together and well presented.

Someone asked me if it is true that we are "leaving the church" as they had heard it through the grapevine (oh dear..). I said that we are planning to move as soon as hubby gets a job, and so we're doing as much stuff as possible ahead of time (de-cluttering, packing boxes, closing down group memberships, etc), so we can GO when a job offer comes. I also explained how I feel about "church" in general, and particularly the "political" structures... (including recent "politics" that go way back, and need to be dealt with in terms of forgiveness... and maybe some major de-structuring... in my viewpoint!)

(And as I said to hubby later, I am feeling like having one's name on a membership roll is in a strong sense agreeing to "church structure" which I really struggle with because it seems so unbiblical... and it also results in me being begged to attend "meetings" and take part in "voting" that I just can't agree with...)
Well, Father, You have "released me" - not, of course, from the church as Your body - but from the "politics" and "scaffolding" ... thank You! Wooh! (And a wee bit scary... yep, reading/typing today my "de-church" (like my past "de-school") fears I was writing about last summer.

I am thinking I may make separate "pages" on my blog for my various "topics" ... keep my day-to-day blog going, but set up "topical" archives (rather than chronological ones) if I can figure out how to do that.

Really been enjoying reading everybody's "25 things" on Facebook! So cool!

my kids confused and hurting about church...

February 5, 2009

In the past few days, some of my children have come right out and told me how they feel about church, and what they believe… and I’m so happy to have them sharing that with me!

But at the same time that nagging little voice has been getting on my shoulder… and making me “worry” (instead of trusting You)… making me want to shake them, and holler, “But it’s not about church! It’s about you and God! He loves you! He wants relationship with you! etc etc etc”

Still, it seems like somewhere along the line, they did get the idea that it’s “all about church” (and I know they aren’t thinking of the church as Your family, Your body, Your family… but the religious, organizational, system-riddled, too-often hypocritical and harsh and insensitive structures that have been added on … and have often obliterated You and Your body…). (And I think that the “churches” that we attended were actually “not so bad compared to some”…)

But when I look back to when I was their age, I too had somehow gotten pretty much the same idea… and I know so so so many people who are in the same boat (though some apparently have had wonderful experiences! Maybe have really gotten to KNOW YOU early on… not so slow as I’ve been…)

Anyway, I guess it’s not really surprising my kids are confused and hurting… and what maybe worries me the most is that I’m probably not being much help to them, because I’ve been confused and hurting too… and I haven’t been able to give them “happy, happy, joy, joy, simple answers” but instead I seem to have passed on my own pain and confusion (so maybe theirs is my fault to a large degree… oh dear… sorry)…

And at the same time, it seems like I haven’t been able to pass on much if any of the amazing love I’ve found in You (and actually in a lot of Your people too!)… the amazing “knowing You” that has been coming out of my past pain and confusion … (maybe because it’s too late? … after they’ve already grown up and moved out…) …

Or maybe after all, they actually need to get to KNOW YOU THEMSELVES! … and all I can do is keep loving them, praying for them, and sharing You (and Your love, Your amazing reality in my own life) when YOU give opportunity – in Your way, Your timing… Your will and purpose and plan!

Yes, Lord. Please take care of my babies – YOUR babies!

Thank You.

expressing doubts about one's beliefs...

February 2, 2009

Here's a question I asked myself when typing from my old journals: Have I possibly been too open in front of my kids (and others) about my own doubts, wondering, questionings? Would they have had less doubts of their own if I hadn't expressed mine? If I had "protected" them from ideas of the world... and from my own spiritual struggles? hmmmm?

It seems to me like when I was growing up, expressing doubts about your beliefs, or anything related to them (what other people expected you to believe, the rules and regulations supposedly required by those beliefs, the interpretation of scripture presented by the church group you - well, your family, that is your parents, and you by extension - belonged to, and so on)... well, expressing doubts or asking hard questions just "wasn't done." I remember when I was in university, and learning a lot of different ideas and philosophies and such, and I was attending a church-based Bible study, and was asked to no longer come, because my questions might upset the faith of others, especially new believers...

But that "we don't mention our doubts" attitude did not seem to stop me from having doubts and questions and struggles... and it didn't seem to stop a lot of the rest of my generation... many of whom simply "dropped out" ....

church in the park.... dechurching... thinking about schools again...

February 1, 2009

hmmm... interesting thought... the activity of the church (aka the body of Christ) when directed by Jesus = His wedding feast preparations!

Another thought: what's the difference (is there really any?) between organized, programmed activities; and the things one does as opportunities present themselves? For example, regularly helping out in a church's "kitchen ministry" (organizing potlucks, special dinners, even a soup kitchen outreach or whatever); vs keeping one's eyes and ears open to what's happening in the neighborhood, among friends, etc and then just filling those needs, (like babysitting for free for a tired mom, or making meals for families with illness or recent loss, or inviting lonely-looking people to join your picnic or whatever?) Any thoughts? One thing I've noticed is that in some ways the former sure seems easier or more convenient or whatever: a regular, set time; more likely to have others "sharing the work;" seemingly safer (would you really want those soup-kitchen clients in your kitchen at home?), more "fun" maybe to be among friends than strangers...

There's a "church in the park" in our community every Sunday morning from about 8 to noon I think, drop-in... there isn't a "program" or "worship team" or "sermon" or anything, and while it's pleasant to be outdoors in the summer, those rainy spring and fall days, and these freezing, snowy, gray winter days aren't quite so pleasant... but there's always lots of hot coffee and good, filling breakfast, and a half dozen or so people who love God are there just to be friends with the street people ... and to "walk the talk" ....

It IS "organized" in that they are faithfully there and there is coffee and food... but beyond that there isn't a program... what happens is pretty much whatever is needed (besides coffee and breakfast!)... talking to folks, praying, maybe giving away your mitts on a cold day to someone who needs them more than you, finding out needs and figuring out ways to help... whatever... following the Spirit's lead... giving a cup of cold water in His name... I wonder, how is that different than the "church up the street"? (And no, it isn't a "ministry of a church up the street" ... just some people who want to share God's love....) Hmmm...

I heard tell that the pastor of some church that hosts a very nice "Christian School" in their facility, has been wondering about the whole question of accepting government funding (and thereby being required to follow the "program" to a large extent)(without raising tuition costs...) - realizing that withdrawing from accepting funding might well mean not being able to hire paid teachers (any teachers out there willing to volunteer their services, hmmmm?) nor to be able to offer the accoutrements of education that we've come to expect... and who's going to send their kids to a school like that? What kind of value system, world view, etc, would attract potential parents to send their children?

...... I kind of feel like right now I'm going through "dechurching" ... like the "deschooling" people go through when they decide to home school their children in a way that is not a carbon-copy of "the system" ....

....... "It's only in Your will that I am free.... ALL FOR JESUS!"