Thursday, June 30, 2011

You’re the One that I Want (Church Search Part I)

Now that I’ve moved I have to find a new church.  I want to be involved in the community in which I live, so even though I’m still pretty close to my current church, I think it’s important that I find a church in my new city.  The problem with this is that I HATE the church search.
                Being a little bit of an introvert and having a tendency towards shyness in some situations (such as walking into a room and not knowing a single soul), being new in a place is not really something I love.  Instead, it’s something that gives me minor anxiety and I have to talk myself into it, which goes something like this:  “It’s going to be ok.  It’s not going to kill you.  Yes, it’s going to be awkward, but you’ll survive it.  It will not kill you.”  That’s right; my encouragement to myself when I walk into a room filled with strangers is that I won’t die from it.  By the way, this is also what I used to tell myself when I had to get teeth pulled or other painful dental/orthodontic procedures done.  
                The odd thing about my anxiety in looking for a new church is that I used to do Young Life ministry, which means that on a fairly regular basis I walked into a cafeteria or high school gym or football stadium and managed to go up to teenagers and start conversations and build meaningful relationships with them.  I much preferred the part of ministry that involved discipleship and deep conversation over dinner or coffee or ice cream, but to get to that point, I had to actually meet teenage girls.  In case you haven’t set foot in a high school since your own graduation, let me remind you that teenagers are a tough audience.  Yet I did this week after week for about six or seven years.  And my encouragement to myself wasn’t that I wasn’t going to die from it, but instead that God was with me, and He had called me to this.  I walked into a situation having prayed beforehand and I prayed silently for most of the time I was in those situations.  I didn’t pray for myself nearly as much as I prayed for girls I wanted to love and share Christ with.  It wasn’t about me and my awkward feelings, it was about them.
                But when I start church searching, it unfortunately becomes all about me.  Are these people nice to me?  Do people introduce themselves to me?  Do they make me feel welcome?  How will this church serve me?  Will my needs be met here?  Does this place have what I want?
                So I wonder…if searching for a church to call home becomes less about me and more about, well, Christ, won’t it be easier?  Sure, I’ll still feel awkward walking into a place where I don’t know anyone (that part of my personality isn’t changing anytime soon), but if I’m more concerned with how I make others feel than how others make me feel, with how I can serve a place rather than how it can serve me, then surely my encouragement will come from Christ being with me and calling me to this city, rather than knowing that I won’t actually keel over and die from feeling uncomfortable in a new environment.   So on to the church search!

Monday, June 27, 2011


Anger, it seems, it like a hard candy shell, only not quite so sweet. 

It protects the heart from all that wants to assault what lies underneath. 
It can become impenetrable over time. 
It’s easy to hang on to and hard to let go of. 
Anger is what protects my heart from grief, sadness, loss.
But in all its protecting, anger is also preventing my heart of stone from being changed into a heart of flesh. 
It is preventing God’s work in me. 
It is preventing the refiner’s fire softening and melting all of my hard edges into something lovely and beautiful. 
If left to its own devices, it will harden even more to bitterness and will render me unable to love people, to show compassion, to feel, to see God, to be human.

So I’m breaking the hard shell around my heart; the fragile center is vulnerable and raw and breaks too easily. 
It hurts. 
But I trust that this is the better way. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Heart of the Matter...

I have recently discovered something unpleasant about myself:  I’m not very good at forgiveness.  I guess at 30 this shouldn’t be such a novel discovery, but I’m pretty good at turning a blind eye to my own sin when I really want to.  And apparently I really didn’t want to see this.  After all, I’m pretty good at forgiveness when the person who wounded me apologizes and seeks out reconciliation.  It’s the other kind that’s hard; you know, that really wrenching pain that someone causes and is either completely unaware of or doesn’t care one bit about.  The kind you’re never going to get an apology or an admission of wrongdoing for, and there will be no reconciliation.  That type of forgiveness I’m not so good at.
                One reason is that my overblown sense of justice means that I think people ought to pay for their mistakes.  And I suppose I see an apology as a humble type of payment.  The other is that it’s much more comfortable to hold on to anger.  After all, that person deserves my anger, and it provides some sort of twisted safety net.  If I let go of it, am I saying that what was done to me was in fact ok?  That I can just pretend it never happened, when it quite obviously did and left a number of scars on my heart to prove it?  So, no thanks, I’d rather NOT forgive and just be mad and hope that harm befalls the person who hurt me. 
                Thankfully, God’s not so accepting of my attitude, and He is calling me to forgive.  He’s hit me between the eyes with this recently, as He’s led me to two different books that are not actually about forgiveness but feature forgiveness quite prominently in ways I wasn’t expecting, including an eerily parallel example to my own life.   I’m happy about that because being angry isn’t all that much fun, and I’d much rather move forward with peace and joy and freedom.  Plus, my anger doesn’t hurt anyone but me.  But there’s a price to be paid for this forgiveness.  As both authors reminded me, forgiveness is costly.  If it was free, there would have been no need for the cross.  If it was easy, it wouldn’t be so radical a concept, and compared to how the world usually chooses to handle offenses, true forgiveness is nothing if not radical. 
                Unfortunately, I like to be comfortable and offering forgiveness will decidedly be uncomfortable.  Instead of exacting vengeance, I’m the one who will have to bear the cost of the wounds inflicted.  I am the one who will have to deal with the most hurt and tender places in my heart, and give those to God.  I will have to give up my anger, my desire for an apology, my desire for vengeance, and instead choose to forgive.  I have absolutely no idea how to do this, especially when the wounds still hurt.  Speaking the words, “I forgive” doesn’t make it true. (Imagine the possibilities if it did, though!  “I am currently dating a Ryan Reynolds look-alike who loves Jesus.”  Poof—there he is!  Anyway, I digress.)  I suspect, however, that being able to forgive has something to do with really, truly believing scripture.
                I have to believe that I really am as sinful as the Bible says I am, that I am dead without Christ.  I have to believe that through Christ, God has forgiven me of all of my horrible sin, the sin that nobody on earth knows about and would be shocked to learn, the sin that takes me to my knees.  It is only because I have been forgiven that I will be able to forgive.   I have to believe that God is sovereign over every square inch of my life, that He is FOR me in a way that I cannot comprehend, that He wants good things for me, and that what others may have meant for evil, He means for good.  And I have to believe that apart from Christ, I can do nothing.  Without Christ’s power and His grace, I am unable to forgive.  So please, Lord, give this broken girl the grace and the strength to do what she is powerless to do alone. 
                Practical steps would also be welcome.  Directions, complete with diagrams, would be most appreciated. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Molly made two new friends over the weekend, Audrey and Moose.  Audrey may be more of a frenemy, but as for Moose, well, I think it's true love.  I don't (yet) have pictures of the two of them together, but Molly definitely has a little bit of a crush.  I think she was giving away a bit too much at first, but she did get a kiss from him eventually, so apparently her charms are working.  Maybe I need to take some notes :)

Molly likes to be under things, most notably my bed.  Usually it's her hind feet sticking out, or she's all the way under the bed, chewing up the underside of my box spring (it could be worse), but I finally managed to get this picture.  So cute!

Molly likes to dig holes, because she likes to eat dirt.

This is my friend Ava, who's 4. She's the daughter of one of my best friends from college (Kristi), but when Kristi was about to go with me to the beach for a girls' weekend, Ava told her mom that she was my friend.  I'll take it, Ava!  She's pretty awesome.  I love you, sweet girl!