Wednesday, May 25, 2016

My Least Favourite Part of Church Services

I've often wondered if I'm the only one who feels this way, or if there's more who feel the same way sitting in church pews each week. I love church. I love my church.

But there's a moment in almost every church service that I don't really look forward to. Some weeks, I would say it's the moment I dread.

What is it?

That moment, usually after the first song, when someone tells you to greet the people around you before you sit down.

Writing it down, it doesn't sound like something that's a big deal. And compared to so many things in life, it probably isn't a big deal at all.

But, it's a moment when I'm often tempted to just slip out of the service just to avoid the awkwardness I feel doing that.

It's not that I don't want to talk to people, or I want to just ignore the people around me. But, I do find it awkward to just shake hand sand say hi to people I may or may not know. I would much rather take a few minutes for a conversation with someone, than say nothing more than hi to a dozen people in the next minute.

I've always been like this. When I arrive at a party and there's a crowd of people there already, I'm not going to be the one who says hi to everybody. I'll find a couple of people to start a conversation with. Over the course of an evening, I'll talk to more people, but large groups of people can be draining for me, so I'll look for the smaller groups within that through-out the time I'm there.

It may only be a minute or two in church, but that time can be draining for someone like me. With ever person I turn to, I'm draining to social energy I have to spend for the evening. And some weeks, I don't have very much to begin with, so it's really tempting to avoid this time of spending what I have to spend that night.

But, I also don't want to come across as rude to anyone around me, so I'll turn and shake hands with people around me. I'll do my best to engage in this part of the church service as well, but more weeks than not, it's a challenging time for me.

I've had this post sitting as a draft for a few months because I've been trying to figure out a way to wrap it up. A way to bring it to some kind of a conclusion. But, that is proving to be elusive. However much I want a tidy ending to this post, I'm beginning to think there isn't one for this post.

It's not something where I can say "this is what we should do about this." It's something where all I can say is we need grace for each other. I know some people who like this part of a church service. And I know I'm not the only one who could do without it.

So, what do we do? 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Vulnerable Community


They all stared out the window across the room.

No one dared to break the silence. No one knew what to say.

The longer they say, the more awkward the silence became.

Eventually someone would have to speak. Someone would have to break the silence.

But, what does someone say?

The best responses would require vulnerability. Do any of them want to take that chance? Can they trust the others in the room?

Finally, someone broke the silence. Took the risk of being vulnerable.

That's all it took for others to share. For a safe place to be vulnerable with each other. A place where they could really love each other. A place where they could celebrate together and mourn together.

I've been reflecting a lot recently on the importance of having safe people in our lives where we can be vulnerable. Places where we can turn at our best and at our worst and find love, support, encouragement, and challenge when we need it.

It's become a bit over-used and lost of some of its impact, but that doesn't reduce the need for us to have real community with other believers. We were made for it and we can't live the full life God created us for without it.

The importance of community has been something I've become more accutely aware of in my own life recently. In the last year and a bit, I have relied on the community I've built in my life in a way I haven't in the past. And I've never been more grateful for them than I am now.

I'm talking about the type of community that comes from just doing life together. From sharing the good and the bad of life together. Those people you can laugh with and cry with.

Do you have the community in your life?

Are you investing in it?

Are you willing to seek it?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Exposing what Hides in Darkness

"This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is Light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.
If we claim to be without sine, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
                                                                                                            1 John 1:5-9

Fear hides in darkness.

Fear causes us to hide in darkness.

We don't want what we've tried to keep hidden in darkness to be brought into the Light.

This means we don't let God in, because He is Light.

Because God is Light, He exposes what we try to keep hidden in darkness.

Sometimes we only allow Light into part of the space. We'll allow the Light to shine on the places we feel we've had time to clean up a bit.

We think by doing so we're walking in the Light, but there is still a darkness beyond the entryway. We've been confused by the enemy to think that doesn't matter, and the he uses it to gain back ground in the areas we've begun to let the Light into.

In these times, we think we're walking in the Light as long as we're facing the door so we can't see the darkness behind us. We're lying about walking in the Light, because the enemy has confused us.

We have to make the choice to let the Light go beyond the door and the immediate area we feel like we can keep somewhat in order in our own strength.

We live with a fear of what will be exposed if we allow the Light to come completely in and dispel the darkness. What we see in the shadows of the Light we've allowed in only so far scares us and we feel like it would be better if we just leave those places untouched and in the dark. But, Jesus wants to expose those places to the Light so the good work He has begun in us can be finished.

These verses in 1 John speak of exactly that. Our need to admit our darkness and let the Light in. The process of taking that first step may be full of fear and anxiety, but once we actually let the Light in, we'll never regret it.

That first step is confessing our sin, our darkness. God gives us forgiveness and purifies us from our sin. He removes the darkness by flooding that place with His Light. Darkness cannot continue to exist when the Light comes.

As much as we might wish this was a one time thing, it's something we must do continually, as we easily forget and turn out the Light in areas of our lives. We also have an enemy who is diligently looking for any way he can get in and turn out the Light on us.

We need to continually invite God's Light in to expose what's been hidden in darkness. And then be willing to confess what is exposed. That is the only way we can walk in the Light that brings fellowship with God.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

When Prayers Don't Seem Like They're Being Answered

How many times have you prayed for something only to feel it wasn't answered the way you wanted and were praying for?

If you're like me or others I've asked that question to, the answer is probably more than once.

When this happens, it can shake our belief in the power of prayer. We can begin to wonder if the time and energy we invested in the prayer was worth it.

I've been in this place a few times and I've had to wrestle with the questions that came, trying to make sense of it. In some of those instances it has seemed like it would be easiest to just give up. But, then I'm reminded of all the times I've seen prayers answered and it reminds me of who I keep praying.

During these times of questioning, I've come to realize a few things about prayer and what seems to happen in response to our prayers.

God made us with the ability to choose in every situation and He doesn't remove that just because someone is praying. God will provide the opportunity and He will use people and circumstances to point people to Him and the plan He has. But, those we pray for still have a choice to make that will decide what the situation looks like as it plays out.

Our prayers still play an important part. There is a spiritual battle we can't see, but is always going on. Even if we don't see the outcome we were praying for in a situation, our prayers were important because they are fighting that spiritual battle. They were a part of the removal of obstacles to the people we were praying for being able to hear God. Yes, that person still had a choice to make, but our prayers helped to remove the obstacles to hearing.

I don't know about you, but that reminds me that my prayers are important no matter the outcome of a situation.