Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I grew up as your typical “church kid.” There was never a week that we missed going if we were in town. We had to be really sick to stay home.

I never knew anything different than getting up Sunday morning and getting dressed in your nice clothes and heading off the church. I knew that not everyone did that, but I thought they were the ones who were strange. My family was the normal in my books.
Because church was such a regular part of my family life, I have very few memories of childhood that don’t relate to church. My life revolved around Sunday school, kid’s clubs, youth groups. And I enjoyed most of it.
There were times growing up when I wondered what it would be like to not go to church. I thought maybe I’d try that when I was an adult and could choose for myself. But, then that point in my life came and I chose to stay. Church had become my extended family and I didn’t want to leave.
I grew up in a great family, surrounded by parents, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, but church had become a larger family to me. One that my biological family was a part of. And I’ve learned that when you have that kind of blessing in your life you shouldn’t too easily let it go.
My work with a ministry that reaches out to the outcasts of western society has driven this point home for me over and over again. The homeless, the addicted, and the mentally ill are often left to face the world by themselves, without their family by their side. And seeing this each day makes me even more appreciative of my biological family and make me hold tighter to the extended family I have found in my church. With them on my side, I’m confident that I’ll never have to face the world alone.
When you have people to walk beside you, life seems so much easier. When I need advice or encouragement or a push to get moving again, my extended family at church is there to do just that. And I’m learning that I need them much more than I ever would have thought.
Sometimes it just seems like I need a person who isn’t related to me biologically to look at something in my life and give me their opinion. If they don’t have a personal interest outside of being my friend, then can show me things I didn’t notice and that people closer to the situation wouldn’t point out. Since this is my extended church family, I can be sure that they still have my best interests in mind. I don’t have to question their motives.
Growing up as your typical “church kid” is something I’m glad I have in my background. I feel like my life is richer for the people church has brought into my life. I really don’t want to imagine what my life would be like without it, because I feel like there would be some gaping holes I wouldn’t know how to fill.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

conquering fear

“Just take the first step,” she called from below.

I wasn’t sure how I managed to get up to this point. I didn’t remember climbing the ladder, but I was the start of a high ropes obstacle course. Harnessed in and 20 feet off the ground. I hate anything that takes me up so high.

“You just have to start. You can do it,” she called again from below.

I almost looked down, but knew if I did that I would never get started.

Cautiously I took the first step onto the rope I was supposed to walk on. My hands tightly gripped the guide ropes to keep me balanced. With my second step everything started shaking. Each step got more challenging as the rope swayed more. My hands couldn’t grip the rope they were holding tightly enough. A few more steps and then my foot slipped. I didn’t fall, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue.

“Don’t give up. Just get your foot back  on the rope and keep going,” she encouraged from below.

I knew I couldn’t turn around on the narrow rope to get back to where I started and I wasn’t going to try to do it backwards either. I kept moving forward. This wasn’t so bad after all. I decided I could do this.

I finished walking the rope part. Next came a swinging wooden bridge. Conquered that. A balance beam. That high up? A single guide rope to hold onto. Slow and shaky steps, but I reached the end of it.

Then I reached the zipline. The last part of course. I froze again. Flying through the air? No way! I can’s do this. And from here, I could climb down and be done.

One more call of encouragement from below, “You’re almost done! You can do this!”

I was pretty sure I couldn’t, but she kept encouraging me. Finally, I closed my eyes and jumped. Well, more like I fell off the platform. A few seconds of falling before I was caught and then I sailed off the end. I couldn’t open my eyes until I reached the end. Feeling my feet hit solid ground was the greatest feeling in the world.

“See! I knew you could do it,” my friend exclaimed.

She was right. I had done it. I had faced my fears and done what I never thought I could do. It was so freeing! I have proved my inner thoughts wrong.

That day was my biggest life lesson on fear. Sometimes we just have to do it anyways. Stop letting fear keep you from trying. If I hadn’t put on the harness, if I hadn’t climbed up to the platform, if I hadn’t taken the first step, if I hadn’t kept going when I slipped, I never would have known the freedom of facing my fear and conquering it. There’s no better feeling I have found.

The same is true in all areas of our lives. We may be asked to do things that scare us to even think of trying. But, if we actually take the first step, we may just be surprised to find that we can do it. With each shaky, unsure step our confidence grows and before we know it we have done the thing we were most scared to do.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

take a holiday?

Okay, I'm sitting here and just realized the clock says 11:45pm . . . meaning I only have 15 minutes left in the day I'm supposed to post something here. It's crazy how even just the first day off for holidays can mess with your schedule enough that you forget things. Sometimes change from the "normal" schedule does that.

I've been thinking a lot about our need for times we take a break lately. I think it come from realizing that it had been almost two years since I'd taken more than a day or two at a time for holidays. So now to have a week and a half off seems strange.

But, I'm learning that sometimes we need to take breaks from the busyness of daily life. We need time to rest. We need time to rejuvenate. Sometimes we just need a change from the everyday life we live for a few days.

At a leadership conference I was at last week, one of the speakers said, "you can't sprint for 6 months, but you can for 6 weeks." He was talking about it within the ares where we lead, but I started thinking about it in life in general. I can give something everything I have for a short, set period of time, but I can't do that indefinitely. I need breaks from doing that if I'm going to survive.

But I wonder if somehow in our culture today we've gotten ourselves mixed up on this and we're trying to sprint indefinitely. And when we discover we can't do that is when the catastrophic happens in our lives. Something that can take us out permanently.

Maybe that's why we need to once again embrace the importance of taking breaks - of taking holidays. You don't have to go somewhere and spend a lot of money to take a holiday. This holiday for me consists of lots of things I can do within an hours drive. But, I'm taking a break from most of my normal, everyday life. Somethings go on, but much of it is put aside right now. And I'm doing other things I don't always do.

It's what I needed. Maybe it's what you need to. To somehow figure out how to take a break - to rest, to rejuvenate. Not an endless break, we'd get bored then, but a break with a set end date. Time to remember why we do what we do each day and to be ready to jump back in with new energy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

contentment or longing?

What do you think of when someone brings up contentment?

What do you think of when someone talks about a longing for something?

Contentment and longing. Two words that bring a variety of responses.

I’ve gone back and forth on whether I like contentment more in my life or living with a long for something different. I always thought it had to be one or the other. That’s how it was taught to me.

I would tell people I long to get married one day and they tell me I have to be content with being single first. I would tell people I wanted children of my own one day and they tell me I have to be content with not having children of my own first. Rightly or wrongly, these comments told me it’s an either or.

But, lately I’ve discovered something about these two words that changed things in my life. It’s not and either or. It’s a both and.

Contentment and longing can both exist in my life. It’s not a case of choosing one or the other. I can embrace both at once. And it makes my life better. I can be content with things in my life right now and still have a longing for things I don’t have.

I can be content with a great job, a ministry to serve in at church that I love, an amazing family, and good friends. But, I can also have a longing to be married and have a family of my own. The contentment and the longings can coexist in my life.

A life without contentment sees us always running to the next thing. Our longings start to rule. Life becomes hurried and busy.

A life without longings is boring. We just go through each day doing what we always do. Nothing seems to change.

But when we combine the two, we live a better life. We learn to fully appreciate all we currently have. We also keep things moving as we long for something more and different.

It’s a challenge to find this balance, but I believe it is a must. We have to stop telling people they must be content with things the way they are and have no longing for anything else before God will allow anything to change in their circumstances. This simply isn’t true. And if they really followed that advice, nothing would ever change because they wouldn’t want it to change anymore.

What we need to do instead is learn how to keep our longings in check. We can’t let them rule our lives, but we can’t put them away for good either. We have to learn to walk the line between being controlled by our longings and becoming so content with how things are we don’t ever change.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

share the stories

I've heard it said many times in different ways, if we don't learn from the past we're bound to repeat it. We keep repeating the same mistakes in new ways. And we forget the good things that happened that we can learn from too.

It makes we wonder about how disconnected we are from our past in the church today. I remember when I was growing up, every time my church anniversary rolled around we took the time to celebrate and remember both the good and hard. Pictures of the churches past were brought out and stories were shared. I don't remember the last time that happened. I was still a child when it did.

There is so much we have to learn from that history. But with each year fewer people know it. I wonder if we're losing the stories of God's faithfulness and provision in the past. The stories of  how that part of God's family followed God and made decisions.

We have our current stories. We have the memories that we make each year. And those are all great. But we can't forget the times before that. The current stories are built on top of the older ones to record the God-filled history of our church.

We need to hear the good stories, the exciting ones. We also need to hear the stories of the struggles and God's faithfulness in the midst of them. These stories give us courage and renew our resolve in the midst of current struggles. We need to understand where we came from and why things were done the way they were. Knowing them makes us stronger going forward.

When we know the stories of our past, we learn from the good and bad of them. It helps us make decisions going forward. It encourages us to keep going.

If we refuse to learn from the past of our church we're making a huge mistake. The stories must be shared. They are what make us who we are today.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


It was time for church again. Parking in my usual spot, I headed for the doors. I was early. Typical for me. A few people were already there. A grabbed a bulletin as I headed to my seat.

My seat. Isn’t it strange how we get possessive over a place to sit on a bench? The place where we always sit at church. We feel lost if someone is there when we walk in.

I watch the people coming in as I wait for the service to begin. Families. Couples. Singles. Some come together. Some come alone.

The ones who come alone, they seem to stay alone. No one comes to sit with them. Others don’t seem to see them there. They are invisible.

It’s how I often feel. Invisible. As I sit alone. No conversations. No hugs. No handshakes. Just me alone. Invisible in the crowd.

The service is over. I linger a few moments, then gather my purse and Bible to leave. I smile and maybe say a quick hello as I walk past the families gathered around.

Longing to be noticed. Hoping to be seen. I take my time at the coffee bar, seeking familiar faces. A chance to have a conversation. Still I feel invisible as others pass me by. I am still invisible.

Finally, I leave. Crying as I sit in my car. I wonder if the day will come when I’m no longer invisible.

A week goes by. It’s time for church again. Do I really want to go? No one will notice if I don’t. I am invisible. I think I’ll skip this week.

Monday comes. My phone rings.

“Missed you at church. Is everything alright?” the voice on the other end asks.

“Yes. Just had a busy week.” is my reply.

I can hardly say the words. Tears are forming in my eyes. A lump in my throat. I’m not invisible. Someone noticed. Someone cared.

I guess I’ll keep going. Maybe I’ll even be bolder in my attempts to talk to others. They may feel invisible. I need to let them know they’re not. I notice. I care. Like someone did for me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Psalm 130:7-8

Today I'll finish with my thoughts in Psalm 130, by talking a bit about verses 7 & 8:
Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
     for with the LORD is unfailing love
     and with Him is full redemption.
He will redeem Israel
     from all their sins.

The psalmist is pretty clear about where our hope should be and why it should be there. God is where we should place our hope. He is worth placing our hope in. The kind of hope we place in God is placing all our expectations in Him.

The psalmist also give reasons why we should place our hope in God. He says that we can put our hope in God because God's love is unfailing. God's love will never fail us - He will never betray us, or hurt us, or turn His back on us when we need Him.

The psalmist also tells us that we can put our hope in God because He redeems us. God purchases back everything that the enemy has stolen from us or that we've allowed the enemy to take from us. God will redeem all those things in our lives because it is to His glory to do so.

Where have you placed your hope?
Do you trust God's unfailing love for you?
What areas of your life do you need God to redeem from your enemy?
Ask God to do that as you place your hope in Him.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Psalm 130:5-6

Today, I continue in my thoughts on Psalm 130, talking about verses 5 & 6:
I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits,
     and in His Word, I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord,
     more than watchmen wait for the morning,
     more than watchmen wait for the morning.

I love how these verses talk about waiting for the Lord expectantly. A waiting that is looking for something to come, not just sitting back. A watchman's job was to keep watch for any possible attacks on the city during the night. That's a watching that speaks of being ready to do something and being expectant of something. That's definitely not a passive waiting.

It challenges me on the concept of waiting in my own life. Am I passively waiting? Or am I expectantly waiting, ready to act?

The psalmist speaks of waiting for the Lord. There weren't just waiting for something - they were waiting for God to come. The knew Who they were waiting for. And that Who they were waiting for was worth waiting expectantly for.

What about the waiting in your own life?
What are you waiting for?
Are you waiting expectantly? Or passively?
Is what you're waiting for really worth waiting for?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Psalm 130:3-4

A couple of days ago, I started writing some thoughts about Psalm 130. Today's post and a couple of more posts after this will continue to talk about it. Today, I want to spend some time on verses 3 & 4 of Psalm 130:
If you, LORD, kept a record of sins,
     Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
     so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

When I read those words, I'm so thankful to be reminded that not only does God offer forgiveness for my sins, but He also doesn't keep a record of them. I don't think I would ever want to see how large a record of my sins would be. That would be overwhelming and more than a little bit depressing. But, thankfully, God doesn't keep that kind of record of our sins.

God offers us forgiveness of our sins. How great is that? To me, that's a pretty amazing thing when I stop to think about it.

The last part of verse 4 really stuck with me as I reflected on this psalm ". . . so that we can, with reverence, serve you." God's forgiveness isn't conditional - all we have to do is come to Him and ask for it and then turn from our sin. But, God's forgiveness should show something in our lives. According to the psalmist, God's forgiveness is so that we can serve Him.

As followers of Christ, our lives should be lived in service to God. And we are freed to serve Him because of the forgiveness He gives us when we ask. God's forgiveness is something truly amazing to live in because it frees us to do exactly what the psalmist says - to serve God.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Psalm 130:1-2

I've been working on a study of the Psalms of Ascent (Psalm 120-134) recently. It has been a great study. The other day, we got to what is probably one of my favourite psalms out of this particular collection - possibly one of my favourite psalms overall.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD,
     Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
     to my cry for mercy.
If you, LORD, kept a record of sins,
     Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
     so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits,
     and in His Word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord,
     more than watchmen wait for the morning,
     more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
     for with the LORD is unfailing love
     and with Him is full redemption.
He Himself will redeem Israel
     from all their sins.
(Psalm 130, NIV)

I love the psalmists honesty with God and declaration of truth about God in this Psalm.

I want to focus mostly on what the first couple of verses in this Psalm have to say today.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD,
     Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
     to my cry for mercy.

God hears our prayers when we cry to Him. He hears our cries for mercy. God listen attentively to us. No matter what the depths we may in when we call to Him, He is there and He listening and He answers our cries for mercy.

I don't know about you, but sometimes I need the reminder that I can call to God from anywhere and He will hear and answer my call. It seems like it's something I far too easily forget, but the Psalms give us an examples of exactly this over and over. It's an example we would do well to learn from. But, it is also only the beginning of it. The psalmists never stop at this cry, but always go on to praise God for who He is.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


It seems like there is always one weekend a year where I'm far more conscious of all that I'm thankful for than any other time of the year. That weekend would be this weekend. I think with the holiday this weekend being called Thanksgiving, ti makes me stop to think.

As much as there things in life that I don't have that I really desire, I'm reminded once again of just how much I have to be thankful for - how much God has blessed me. Both people in my life and things I have. I can't imagine what my life would be like without the people in it, who I'm thankful are a part of my life.

I find myself wondering why it seems like it so often takes a holiday called Thanksgiving or something else that specifically speaks to that for me to think about this. Most of the time I just go through life with all that I have and don't even think about it. Often, taking for granted that I have those things and that those people will be there for me. Maybe this is something I need to learn to make a more consistent part of my life - not just a once a year thing.

How do I make thankfulness more a part of my life? What will that look like for me? What does that look like for you?

I think for me, and maybe for all of us, it has to begin as something we intentionally choose. If it doesn't come naturally to us right now, then we have to decide that we will stop at regular intervals and take a moment to thank God for all He has given us. And, over time, that becomes a more regular part of our lives. Over time, we learn to live a life of thankfulness rather than always needing a reminder to be thankful.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

why should we love the church?

Since I wrote my last post on Tuesday, I’ve continued to think about the topic of loving the church. I started to think about why we should love the church. Since I feel that we should love the church, then it seemed natural to me that I would want to know why I should.

I just started reading a book that speaks to this from the first chapter, Messy Church: A Multigenerational Mission for God’s Family by Ross Parsley. Right from the beginning, the book talks about church being about family. That the church is a family that we are part of.

One particular quote from the book, explained it in a better way than I can:

“We need the kind of family that knows us, our fears and faults, but loves us anyway; the kind of family that will invest and forgive no matter what. It’s a community of people who share privileges and responsibilities as we learn how to live together in harmony. Church can’t be a place where we feel like a visitor, or somewhere we’re afraid to allow others to see our messages. It’s got to feel like home.” (Ross Parsley, Messy Church)

To me that describes church at its best – a family where we feel at home. And I think that makes a pretty good case for why we should love the church.

If you stop and think about it, we love our families even when they drive us crazy, or do something that hurts us, or make us mad. And we love them when they do good things too. If we do this with our families, doesn’t it make sense that we should do the same with our church families? In my books, it does.

I think when it comes to answering the question of why we should love the church, it comes down to how we view our church. If we view our church as a family, then we should be loving it the same as we love the families we grew up in (or wish we grew up in). A church family loves each other through everything – whether it is good or bad.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

love the church?

As I sat in a church membership meeting a couple of nights ago, the thought crossed my mind that I love my church. It seemed to come out of nowhere. I mean, the discussion was about budgets and finances. Even as someone who deals with those things for a living, the truth is I don't particularly enjoy those parts of the meetings. But, it was at that moment that I found myself thinking about how I love my church.

Just to clarify before I go further: What I'm talking about when I talk about my church is the local body of believers that I'm a part of. And about both the people who make up this group and the "institution" (for lack of a better term) that it is.

In the days, since this meeting, I've thought a lot about why I love my church. It's been a while since I've thought about it, because the truth is I've had moments in the last few years where I wasn't sure I loved my church. Without going into details, I think it's sufficient to say that when people are such a huge part of something you love, the potential for things becoming challenging exists. And despite struggles at times, I can honestly say now that I love my church.

Over the last few years, I've heard more and more people say that they love and follow God, but they don't want anything to do with the church. I've always struggled a bit with how to respond when someone says that to me. Scripture makes it pretty clear that this life as followers of Christ is not meant to be lived alone. We need to go through life with other people.

Church is a place where we gather together with other believers from all walks of life to learn and grow. And it's not gathering just with people whose lives look the same as ours. But, also with people whose lives look different from ours. And it is important.

This has made me wonder if we need to learn to love the church. Maybe thoughts like the one I had a couple of days ago shouldn't seems o strange. Maybe they should be normal.

From what I can see in Scripture, the writers of the New Testament saw the gathering of believers as important. This was the early church. And the early church had structure and things in place to help ministry happen too. It's inevitable that when you gather people together to do ministry some sort of structure will develop - sometimes formally and sometimes informally, but it will happen. And that's not a bad thing.

Should I love my church?

I believe the answer to this question is yes. And that should be the answer for all of us who claim to be followers of Christ. As followers of Christ who are not made to walk this life alone, we should have a church that we love. What the church looks like may be different for different people, but we need to have a church that we love.

Do you love your church?