Saturday, November 21, 2009

Worship @ the Y

I'm in a group called, "reGENeration." Meeting every other Wednesday, together we're studying a book called "Crazy Love" by pastor/author Francis Chan. It's a great book challenging us in our love relationship with God.

The other Wednesday night, in a video segment of our study, Francis shared a moment when he really encountered Jesus; when he was overwhelmed with his love of God. He happened to be in Israel, at the sight believed to be where Jesus prayed to God the Father in Gethsemane, the night before he was crucified. Amazing...But, then Francis said he later came to the realization that God is not confined to those places, and he didn't want to be the kind of worshiper who's only moved in extraordinary situations. He wanted to be sensitive to the presence and majesty of God in the every day. The video ended with Francis posing the question, "Can you recall a time when you were face-to-face with your love of God?"

Here's my answer...

When I work out at the YMCA, I always either listen to an iPod, or read a book. There have been several times when a song has moved me emotionally and spiritually, and I am weepy while on the leg press or the fly machine. (Maybe people just thought I was in, "No pain, no gain" mode.) But, there was one moment I experienced at the Y that was so deeply worshipful for me, I will never forget it.

Allow me to set the scene...I'm on an eliptical machine. It is approximately 7pm-ish on a weekday--so the YMCA Fitness Center is hopping. I'm about 20 minutes into my session, reading "The Shack" by Wm. Paul Young. (*For more info on this book see my blog from February titled "Shack Attack!") Suddenly, I read into a scene of the book saturated with so much emotional and spiritual significance for me that I am literally overcome. Tears are pouring down my cheeks, unabashedly, dropping all over the book and the controls of the eliptical. Though you need to read the entire book--or at least the specific chapter--to fully grasp the power of this passage, I would like to share with you the segment that broke me in that moment...

"...And, then, Mack saw the lights. Single moving points emerging from the forest, converging upon the meadow. As [Mack came] into the meadow, [he saw] an army of [people]. There were no candles--they themselves were lights [and colors]. And, within their own radiance, each was dressed in distinctive garbs that Mack imagined represented every tribe and tongue...These were the children of the earth, [God's] children...Little bursts of fire and light ignited when they would [laugh] or whisper. Even though Mack had no idea what was going on, they obviously did, and the anticipation was almost too much for them...[Then], a hush descended. The anticipation was palpable. Suddenly, to their right, from out of the darkness emerged Jesus, and pandemonium broke out. He was dressed in a simple brilliant white garment and wore on His head a simple gold crown, but He was every inch the king of the universe...He walked the path that opened before Him into the center--the center of all Creation, the man who is God and the God who is man. Light and color danced and wove a tapestry of love for Him to step on. Some [people] were crying out words of love, while others simply stood with hands lifted up. Many of those whose colors were the richest and deepest were lying flat on their faces. Everything that had breath sang out a song of unending love and faithfulness. Tonight,the universe was as it was intended."

As I read those paragraphs, in my every day moment, I came face-to-face with my love of God; my NEED to worship Jesus. Just as the worshipers in the story, my adoration was all-consuming, and it had to be expressed. I felt as though--even on the eliptical--the ground on which I stood was holy. And, I must, MUST worship. So, there, in the YMCA, I stepped off the machine and fell on my face, on the floor--crying, my soul and spirit praising the Lord. It was a powerful experience with God that day. Unashamed. Uninhibited. Fully engaged.

Oh what a world it would be if we worshiped God with the passion and freedom He deserves!...Oh what a world it would be if pandemonium broke out at the name of Jesus!...Oh what a world it would be if everything that has breath sang out a song of worship to the Almighty God!

The Bible tells us that one day, "at the name of Jesus every knee will bow...and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!" Let's start today!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Do You Want a Victory?!

I regularly hear from or about people who are struggling. I receive prayer requests, lend an ear to friends, watch the news, read Facebook posts...Hurting, struggling people are everywhere I turn. I even see one in the mirror some days.

Today I was reminded of a tragic event that happened to friends from my church early this year. A young guy, named Jerricho, died suddenly and unexpectedly--leaving his family and friends in shock, pain, and feeling extreme loss and defeat. All who knew and loved him were broken.

A few days later, I attended Jerricho's memorial service. It began somber and sad, as anyone would expect. But, then, our Pastor spoke...She told about Jericho in the Bible. The city of Jericho. This story, found in Joshua 6, tells of God's miraculous provision for His people by breaking down walls. Appropriately, the name "Jerricho" means "walls come down." Our Pastor explained how God had spoken clearly into her hurting heart, telling her that He wanted to use this tragedy to tear down some walls in the lives of the people who loved Jerricho. Whether it be walls keeping them in depression, unhealthy in their relationships, mired in discouragements, tangled with distractions, or stubborn against salvation in Christ. He wanted to give them victory--and He wanted to bring beauty from the ashes of Jerricho's death by speaking to them about the victory they can have when the walls come down. And, reminding them, that Jerricho was now experiencing the ultimate victory because, before his death, he had let the walls come down between him and God, asking Jesus to be his Savior. She encouraged all of us to let Jerricho's name, and his own choice to follow Jesus, challenge us; to allow his loss in our lives to be a catalyst for walls coming down, leading to victory!

I left the memorial service very inspired. And, I felt God speaking to me. I'd like to share with you the letter I wrote to Jerricho's family following the service.

We all have, or will, experience pain, and tragedy, and loss--in a variety of ways. When you find yourself in those dark, helpless places, I hope you will remember this...

My Dear Friends,

My heart, thoughts, and prayers are with you.

As I was listening to the memorial message today, and hearing about what Jerricho’s name means…well, I believe God brought this song to mind, for my own comfort, as well as, to share with you.

It’s old school. Like 1987 old school. And, it’s Carman—a classic Christian artist back in the day…But, it’s also POWERFUL.

The song tells the story of the Battle of Jericho in the Bible. More importantly, it tells about the Victory of Jericho. As a matter of fact, the song’s title is, “Jericho: The Shout of Victory.”

I think the reason I’m led to share this with you is to reinforce today’s message—about walls coming down. And, also, to remind you of the victory that Jerricho has because of Jesus…To remind you that his is a victory we all can have hope, confidence, and take comfort in…And, it’s a victory available to each of us—a victory over all with which this broken world would try to destroy us.

In a section of the song, it talks about the power that is in praising God, and in claiming the victory that is ours through him. That part goes like this:

“…Something with tremendous power that assassinates fear and doubt: It's the high praises of victory unleashed by a shout...When David played his songs of praise, demons fled from Saul...As Paul and Silas worshiped God, the chains began to fall...It lifts us above the circumstance and lets God's power flow...The shout of victory binds the devil with chains that won't let go…”

I’m praying that when the right time comes, God will give you the power and courage and strength and faith to shout your victory through the praise and worship of Him!

It is my hope and prayer that God will clearly be very near, very real, very known to you all…

Much Love,

P.S. If you are interested in the complete song, here's a link to a youtube video of "Jericho: Shout of Victory"

Friday, November 6, 2009

Who Am I?

I did a study once. It asked me to examine who I am. This is what I came up with...

Who Am I?

I am an Intense, but Fun Woman…
Inexperienced, but Lovingly-Faithful Wife…
Difficult, but Grateful Daughter…
Sometimes Irritating, but Proud Sister…
Busy, but Thoughtful Grand-Daughter, Niece, and Cousin…
Stretched, but Invested Friend…
Tardy, but Dependable Employee…
Neurotic, but Thorough Organizer…
Perfectionistic, but Committed Director…
Demanding, but Kind Leader…
Delegatory, but Involved Manager…
Occasionally Overwhelmed, but Willing Participant…
Self-critical, but Passionate Artist…
Rebellious, but Desirous Follower…
Over-Detailed, but Excited Planner…
Frustrated, but Determined Creator…
Offensive, but Forgiven Sinner…
Unsure, but Dedicated Minister…
Distraction-Struggling, but Consumed Worshiper…
Stubborn, but Dependent Child of God…
Nothing without Christ; Unstoppable with Him.

So...Who are you?!

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Risky Request

I was laying in bed last night, and as per typical, I was unable to fall asleep immediately. It really doesn't matter how tired I am, it's always at least a few minutes before I can completely doze off...

So, as I lay there--not awake, but not fully asleep--I decided to pray.

I sort of mumbled/half-breathed the prayer, "I want to be like you, Jesus."

At almost the same moment the final word exited my mouth, I felt a heavy impression on my heart and in my thoughts. It caused me to literally gasp, then exhale a deep breath of..."Whoa." Suddenly, I was AWAKE.

This impression, that I am certain was from the Holy Spirit, spoke clearly to me...

"Be careful what you pray for."

Then, my mind was immediately filled with the truth, "Yes, Jesus is holy, selfless, dedicated, impacting, a great leader, full of compassion and love, just. BUT, remember...Jesus was also scorned, scoffed at, ridiculed, rejected, betrayed, and ultimately, beaten and murdered."

Again, "Whoa."

I think I'll be processing all that implies in my life for awhile, but what I take immediately from it is the admonishment and the reality-check that Jesus' life was not just a bunch of miracles and Messiah-moments...He wasn't always surrounded by tangible success or people who appreciated the purpose He came to serve...And, if I truly desire to be like Jesus, I need to live consciously aware that my life won't be either. It may even require extreme sacrifice.

Allow me to leave you with this concept, though...No matter what, I am thoroughly convinced that a life lived smooth, but without Jesus at the center, is no life compared to one fully devoted to His likeness--even if it is full of trial and tribulation.

"To live, is Christ. To die, is gain." Philippians 1:21

Friday, February 13, 2009

Shack Attack!

If anyone has chosen to read the body of this blog based on a false assumption that they'd find info about the notorious basketball player, Shaquille O'Neal here--well, then, I apologize for any misleadings in my entry title. Sadly, I have nothing of note to offer in regards to Mr. O'Neal...I do, however, want to talk for a moment about "The Shack"; a book written by Wm. Paul Young. And, my blog title is entirely accurate, because, MAN, did this book attack me! But, in the absolute best way possible!

Now, I'm aware that I may be a little late to the playground, so to speak, by just now commenting on this book. (But, try to cut me some slack--I'm just getting my bearings back after a few month span that included my wedding, "The Big Three" winter Holidays, and exciting job adjustments!) However, if you're thinking, "The Shack?! That's SOOO 6 months ago!"--clearly, you need to read it again, because somehow the message must not have sunk in the first time. :)

This book will blow your stinkin' mind, my friend. Count on it.

It will rock your preconceptions of the world around you, God Himself, The Trinity. Bank on it.

It will make you think twice before you offer out the "But, He was Jesus!" whine to excuse coming up short in any area of life. No Doubt. (*More on this in another blog!)

Most of all, it'll move you. I don't know exactly how, as I am sure it's different for each person. And, I'm even certain some will have a negative response--but, you won't finish "The Shack" without having been affected in some way. I promise.

Reading this book was a "Wow" moment for me...Actually, it was several "Wow" moments. So, get ready--there will be more blogs about "The Shack" coming your way!

But, in the meantime...READ IT.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Unsettle Me.

I received this powerful article/prayer in my email last night. It's so good, I just had to give you all a crack at it, too!

by Lysa TerKeurst

Unsettle me.

These are the two words rattling about in my brain today. I almost wish it was a more glamorous prayer. Surely more eloquent words could be found for what I'm feeling led to pursue during this new year. But these are the words - this is the prayer for my 2009.

The funny thing is I've spent my whole existence trying to find a place to settle down, people to settle down with, and a spirit about me worthy of all this “settled down-ness”. All of this is good. A contented heart, thankful for its blessings is a good way to settle. I like settled, it feels good, familiar.

But there are areas of my life that have also settled that mock my desires to be godly woman - compromises if you will. Attitudes that I've wrapped in the lie, "Well, that's just how I am. And if that's all the bad that's in me, I'm doing pretty good."

I dare you, dear soul of mine, to notice the stark evidence of a spirit that is tainted and a heart that must be placed under the microscope of God's Word. Yes, indeed, “Unsettle me Lord”.

Unearth that remnant of unforgiveness.

Shake loose that justification for harshness.

Reveal that broken shard of pride.

Expose that tendency to distrust.

Unsettle me in the best kind of way. For when I allow Your touch to reach the deepest parts of me - dark and dingy and hidden away too long - suddenly, a fresh wind of life twists and twirls and dances through my soul.

I can delight in forgiveness and love more deeply.

I can discover my gentle responses and find softer ways for my words to land.

I can recognize the beauty of humility and crave the intimacy with God it unleashes.

I can rest assured though harsh winds blow, I will be held.

Goodbye to my remnants, my justifications, shards, and tendencies. This is not who I am, nor who I was created to be.

Goodbye shallow love, sharp words, self-focus, and suspicious fears. I am an unsettled woman who no longer wishes to take part in your distractions or destructions.

Welcome deeper love, softer words, unleashed intimacy, and the certainty I am held.

Welcome my unsettled heart.

Welcome 2009.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Similarities Between Obama and Jesus?

I read an interesting article this morning. It was written by one of the Bishops of my denomination--The Free Methodist Church--named David Kendall. Just thought I would share it with you!

Triumphal Entries and Salvation for the World
By Bishop David W. Kendall

As our new President journeyed to his inauguration in Washington, D.C., I’ve thought often of Jesus. There are similarities between them. Both came from relative obscurity and quickly rose to prominence. Both inspired crowds of people with soaring rhetoric and engaging presence. Both connected in ways unlike most other leaders. Both led a movement that enlivened ordinary folks with hope. Both made people think a new day had come.

Both journeyed to the capital to fulfill their destinies. Both were greeted with joyful welcome. Both entered the city in ways that re-energized a storied but threatened heritage — Jesus recharged a long but tired expectation of kingdom-come, while President Obama has embodied the dream that most embraced (at least in public) but feared might never quite come true. Both made people think that maybe this time it’s for real. Both went to the city at a time when the world really needed the good news their arrival signaled.

Of course, President Obama is not the Messiah. And, of course, much of the wild enthusiasm that attends his presidency (which has hardly begun!) is likely misplaced. Despite the enormous, even cosmic, differences between President Obama and our Lord Jesus I’m still quite sure we will look back and see that both disappointed their most enthused partisans. Let me explain.

Jesus disappointed by staying true to his Father’s kingdom-way, which is not of this world. He disappointed by insisting that serving self (whether the individual or corporate self) and seeking to save self leads only to disaster. He insisted that “pouring out” or “losing” self leads to kingdom-dream-come-true or “salvation.” Then He led his followers to the place of death, which also turns out to be the place of resurrection.

I hope and pray that President Obama will pursue Jesus’ way as he leads our nation; that he will call us to lose ourselves for the sake of others, to lay down our lives in love even for our enemies, to champion the causes that God so clearly champions in the Scriptures. I believe there are ways a nation can do such things. I hope and pray our President will lead this country to reflect the values of a kingdom-not-of-this-world.

Two things make me optimistic. First, President Obama has already acted in ways that make people from all sides of the ideological divide mad (e.g., he included religious leaders in the inaugural events from polar opposites of the spectrum). That is, he demonstrates so far a freedom from party ideology. Second, he has spoken hard truth that nobody wants to hear (e.g., it will get worse — perhaps much worse — before it gets better).

Christ-followers do not have the option of being cynical or even negative. We have the calling to pray, to remain people of hope, to speak good whenever possible, to disagree graciously, and to lean into a future that may lead to a cross in the short term, but eventually will lead to resurrection.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Why I Love the Church...

I love the church because…well, what’s not to love?! (Don’t answer that! *wink*)

Seriously, though, nothing is perfect, but wow, some things are really great! My church is one of them. I have 100% grownup here. All “almost 30” years. And, there are SO many wonderful things I could mention…but, lately, I have been really coming to a deep understanding of, and reverence towards, consistency—and the affect it has. I am who I am, and have what I have, in large part because of consistency. Not just in places and surroundings—though I wouldn’t discount that—but, mostly the consistency in people. I am grateful because my family has always shown Jesus to me, and expected Jesus from me, with equal passion in public as at home. I was sent to schools where I had daily opportunity to engage with people who challenged me and encouraged me in similar ways. And, pivotally, I’ve had the privilege of belonging to a church that has provided me family, friends, role models, prayer warriors, generous hearts…I could go on and on. The consistency in those arenas has been an unmatched blessing. The impact is remarkable. I know that without it, I would not be who, or where, I am. For over a couple decades, I have had a front seat view of people worshipping, giving, loving, challenging, needing, providing, encouraging, comforting, and ministering…My church has consistently been a beacon of God’s light and truth in my life…And, once I was old enough to choose my own way, my own standards, my own life—it was that consistency that kept me firmly rooted in the saving grace of Jesus Christ and with a passion to share it with others.

For this, I am so thankful, and say heartily, “That’s why I love the church!”