Homemade Teardrops

Did you know a tear drop can throw off light or sound without ever absorbing it? If you look closely you may even see your own reflection in it. I saw mine.

Several months ago I was sent. When God says “GO” I obey. Entering new territory wasn’t easy. Guards at every entrance questioned my rational.

             “But I’ve been sent as a gift to you!” I proclaimed, mile after mile.

And while I was able to set up camp in this new territory, and actually cultivate some fruit, I felt an odd dryness inside. Something was missing. Not there in that place. No. That place was perfect. But inside of me.

I looked around at this perfect-special place, rich with hope, joy, laughter and water. How could anyone be thirsty here? On the outside I smiled with them, lead with them and poured in and poured out at every opportunity. But on the inside I was becoming uncomfortably dehydrated. Yes, dry and dehydrated yet God would not allow me to drink.

I wasn’t hungry.  God was sustaining my hunger. I’ve learned through many a crossing, to lean on him every step of a journey. Since God had lead me to this oasis, surely he was going to allow me to drink at some point. What more could He want from me? I had been obedient to everything He had asked of me. If there was something I hadn’t been obedient in, surely he would show me, forgive me, and lead me that I may lead others well.

I had felt this thirst before but God always provided water to quench it. What was he up to this time? Had he sent me to a mirage? Was this a desert?

As I felt my thirst grow, I began to understand it better.

Upon hearing news that the homeland I had traveled from was experiencing change- I asked God to let me return home to check on the spiritual children that I knew wouldn’t respond well to change. For 7 years I had been with these sweet ones, through all kinds of trials. If I returned, I realized I would be bringing nothing with me but my compassion and love for them but somehow knew that would be enough.

God heard my prayer. Still parched, I had to find water soon or I knew I would die and be of no use to anyone any further.

I reached the gates and there she was, all grown up. When I had left she was just a spiritual baby. But there she stood. A woman ministry warrior for Christ. She greeted me, arms outstretched, a single tear welled up in her eye.

            “Welcome home friend”. she said and hugged me.

I felt her tear, wet on my cheek as she whispered  into my ear

            “All those years ago you saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself, and if it wasn’t for you, I would never have taken that next step and be the leader I am today. I just pray I can do for another woman what you did for me.”

In that moment I saw my complete reflection in a single tear and my thirst was quenched completely. 

God revealed to me everything I needed to know about being obedient, being thirsty, being sent, wandering, being filled… and coming home.

~C

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Perspective Shift

[1]The Lord knows our plight. This is why “fear not” is the most often repeated command in Scripture (365 times). Fear vs. fearless is the theme I found running from start to finish in a project I have been working on for school. I was asked to invite a non churched person to attend a service, and then give feedback or analysis of what they experianced. I then had to create a report on the process. Simple enough, right? Wrong. I expect many Christians feel some type of evangelistic fear when inviting the un-churched to church. We want to be fearless, but there is a combination of fear and fearlessness required anytime one is crossing a kingdom building threshold. My prior church talks with, “Rose” had never gone smoothly. I had pre-supposed a distress surrounding this invitation process as well. I feared my invitation would erupt into another friendship boundaries blowout.

Rose is an EGR (extra grace required) friend and I love her for that. She teaches me how to relate to others like her. She calls things as “she” sees them and in many ways opens my eyes to things I would miss about my own faith walk.  I admire that about her, even if she sees things very different about Christian living than I do.  If I were looking for an honest response from anyone for this assignment, I’d get plenty of feedback and sharp answers from Roses’ viewpoint for sure. Rose and I had been brought together because of my deep love for Christ, but we had remained together because of her thought provoking questions and the way she challenged me as a Christian.  

She is a political historian and a wealth of clinical, emotionless, and didactic information about Christianity and its influence as a world power. We have talked for hours about the history of the church, my faith walk, love of Christ, big C church and church politics.  She has walked with me and for the most part discouraged me as I persevered through many of my own personal leadership struggles. But somewhere along the way, Rose and I developed a mutual respect for each other’s walk. This invitation was going to cross that sacred boundary of live-and-let-live harmony that our friendship had arrived at.

So I prayed, then set my hooks in the watered down coffee over lunch with a fear filled but directed question.

Rose, I’m working on this project for school and you would be the perfect person to help me out with my project, if you would be willing to join me for a church service on Saturday night or Sunday morning and then provide me with some feedback about your experience. What do you say? Will you help me with my school project?”

I was shocked by her immediate response.

“Sure, I’d love to. This is going to be fun! How come you waited so long to ask me again? I bet my friend Christina would love to check out your work to. Can I invite her to come along? We were just talking about everything you go through just so you can do what you do.” 

Her response startled me. My mouth simply dropped open. I remembered a point Reggie McNeal made in his book ‘Missional Renaissance’ about pioneer leaders extending the territory where the good news is being shared. I wondered if I’d been bringing the good news to Rose at this lunch table all these years and didn’t even know it. 

Rose had always been very verbal about her opinions about rights, and corporate politics and church history, but I had noticed more recently that she was becoming less cynical in her responses as she watched me persevere through my struggles because of my faith. She had been asking more questions and then sitting reflectively quiet lately too. I had no idea until now, how intimately “my” perspective of church and my faith walk had been affecting Rose and hers. She taught me a valuable lesson in that moment about how both fear and fearlessness can keep leaders from being gifts to the church for its mission if we are not mindful.

            Believers in Christ are to message Gods love and purposes to others through words as well as personal life example in community and worship. God had been softening Roses heart enough to let my relationship with her make an eternal difference.  This is the very message of evangelism my church stands for… being before belonging… discovering before deciding.  Relational ministry, inside and outside the church walls allows this to happen organically.

Rose joined me for a Saturday night service and provided valuable feedback for my evaluation, as well as years to come of lively lunch conversations. What’s more, her fear of “organized religion” was now shattered at the cross that Saturday night. She fearlessly returned the following morning with her friend Christina for Sunday service. Her feedback was valuable, but her presence was priceless!

            McNeal writes that the missional church is people. [2]The most crucial witness to the world is a vital, Spirit-filled local church that is vibrant by the message of God’s mission. Rose felt that presence from the moment she arrived to our church and shook the hand of the first greeter. She gave our church high marks for being a church “of” Small Groups rather than “with” small groups. She had asked some directed questions to the Small Group table host that evening and felt that the groups were designed to encourage people to be in relationship with each other more than in relationship with the church walls.

While she was there, Rose interviewed a few volunteers without them realizing it. She was looking to see if they had the same passion for serving as she has witnessed in me over the years. She was happy to report only one person had a theological education, but all those she communicated with had passion and appeared competent in their role. That assessment fit nicely with the scorecard shift McNeal is talking about where the shift will require staff to be engaged in coaching people for their personal development while partnering with God in communicating His work here on earth.

            Our church staff got high marks for focusing on home, life, work, school and community “life centered growth” moments. In addition, our church has re-allocated funds to help community leaders realize a personal development culture.

            The church is currently exercising the necessary changes needed in Micro skill development, resource management and paradigm shift issues to continue to lead the way from being “church based” to “Kingdom-based.”  There is a cross-domain collaboration going on in the community of believers and non-believers and with this church that allows intentional development of people and community.

            I believe all sectors of our community are overcoming pre-supposed fear and are fearlessly coming along side each other as in the case of myself, Rose and Christina. God is being glorified through a missional renaissance movement that focuses on developing the five biblical purposes in a person’s life and preparing our community for eternal responsibilities and rewards.

If you have been fearful of having that conversation with a friend, you may be suprised to find out that you have already had it without words. Go ahead, invite them again and see if your everyday living has changed their mind and God has changed their hearts through you!

~C


[1] Reggie McNeal Missional Renaissance

[2] Robert E. Webber’s Ancient-Future Evangelism: Making your Church a Faith-Forming Community (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2003), pp. 159-60

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From Decided to Discovery

From Deciding to Discovering & Back.

There is something to be said for being OK with my weakness but from an evangelistic perspective, something beautiful about others being ok with my weakness. Our church family feels like a collection of broken people who are favored by God, pulled from an abyss of limitless limitations in Christ in order to accomplish more as a team then we could ever imagine or accomplish on our own, (breath). Yes that was a mouthful. What I am so excited about is a ‘discovery’ mission, if you will.

I feel emotionally liberated every time I set out to serve Christ, and discover more of his grace and favor in my life instead. As a woman who has clearly heard Christ’s call on my life-I was growing ashamed of my decisive nature. I would struggle with the limitations placed over my perspective of what I called “serving in effective ministry.” Worse yet, I was growing wearing of taking the hits from members for deciding to protect my leaders, and hits from leaders for deciding to protect our members.  I know, welcome to ministry- right? 

I know for certain I am called to serve people in Christ’s name, regardless of whether they “join” the church, want to serve, or are simply checking the place out. I’m a believer in decisiveness as I am certain it is a necessary component for an effective leader however, recently-my eyes have been opened to the exciting process of Celtic Christianity models of discovery.

As I study the subject of the early Celtic Christian movement, I am challenged by St. Patrick. He discovered the truths that were all around him in each culture he was exposed to and then applied the Scripture he had contextualized to witness to people he was in relationship with. That was the key, relationship. He discovered the heart indicators of pre-Christ potential and simply did life with these people. He empowered lay leaders to “lead as they are” and people to “come as they are” and met these people where they were in order to lead them through the discovery process of both leadership and life in Christ’s body.  

Discovery is exciting! There is something contagious about people “discovering” Christ together. Decisiveness supports transformation but discovery seems so…. I don’t’ know- contagious! Yes, that’s it. Evangelism becomes contagious in the context of discovery I think. Pastor Rob Jacobs of Saddleback Church in Rancho Capistrano was the first to point me in the direction of a discovery mission and my eyes have simply widened from there.

There is something endearing, attractive, alluring captivating even about the “discovery” process. Even discovering my weaknesses seems exciting when I am surrounded by others who are discovering theirs too. (Hmmm, 2Cor 12:9 anyone?)

While I know my most effective ministry has yet to be poured out, at least for today I’ve ‘Decided-to-Discover’ more of Christ and let Christ lead me through the lessons of leadership.

~C

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Spirit of the Camino

The journey to the Camino de Santiago started for me after previewing the movie called “The Way” at a Saddleback staff meeting about a year ago. I remember turning to my pastor that day and telling him I was going to walk that road one day. I could feel the certainty then, just as I had felt the call 7 years earlier to radically step out in faith and enter into full time ministry work.

Here I am now, 2 months into a season of rest, about to turn 50 and listening for what comes next. I have a holy discontentment in my life that seems to be hushed only by the fierce search to know him more and pass on those learning’s as I go. I believe its love that moves me forward. I pray it’s love that compels me to move.

I am taking this walk with my husband. He loves my colorful search for Christ. He gets that I want to know more of Christ than contentment will allow. Our life is quite content and simple by most standards. But both of us have a hunger to know more of Christ, love people deeply and be part of something bigger than ourselves. I guess that’s why were best friends and lovers. We just get each other.  

Kevins parents made it to a 60th wedding anniversary this weekend. Quite an event and a perfect send off pre event for our trip down the road to Spain. Dads not doing well health wise and there is a very real possibility we could be called back to San Francisco before we even get started. We thought about cancelling, but dad would not hear of it. As a matter of fact he is making me take a ribbiting frog light on the road with me. He asked me to deposit it at the St James Cathedral for him. He said it’s a personal joke between him and God.

I’m carrying with me the prayers and requests of my friends to the footsteps of the cross. As believers we all have access to Christ with simply a moments whisper but the idea of having a personal prayer warrior walking your prayer along a 2000 year old road creates a special bond for the pray’er and the prayee.  Since I get to be the one praying for all these requests (some I’ve read-others personal between them and God), I get the privledge of using them as inspiration to keep me going should my feet get tired or my back become weary under the 23lb back pack I’ll be lugging along the road with me. In some way, these requests will be favored (by me anyway)- as I pray for them daily.

Tradition says that when you carry the burdens of your friends on your back along the road, you somehow forget your own dilemmas. I can see that in any act of service. I absolutely believe in the power of prayer, and though I don’t claim too many dilemmas in my life at the moment, I do have lots of questions I’d like God to answer for me. Perhaps this time alone with my husband and nature will help me hear Gods voice more clearly so I know how and who I am to best serve when I return.

The little hummingbird pin in the picture above was my mothers. She passed away last year but her pin is making the trip with me. You already know who the frog is from!  

It’s interesting having everything I own, or at least will be responsible for, stuffed into a pack that I’ll carry on my back for the next 2 weeks. Kind of simplifies life a little.

Though my intentions are to blog as we go, its highly unlikely I’ll have my way. My keyboard was not interfacing with my phone and once I resolved that issue, my phone was not interfacing with my blog.  I don’t even know who reads my blog anyway. I just write because I feel like it’s import to do so. Half the time I can’t even find my blog myself so God will sort out the details of it all.

Tomorrow morning September 18, 2012 we head to Madrid to begin this leg of our adventure.

Buen Camino friends. I’ll keep typing if you keep praying!

~C

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Revelation of Revelations

Revelation of Revelation. 

To help me prepare to hike the Camino de Santiago in late September, (where I was certain God would answer my hearts question of “what comes next”)  my newly married 28 year old daughter decided it would be a good exercise to hike the Grand Canyon with her first. Coordinating time away with Amber is getting more difficult to do now that she lives 400 miles away. Hiking the Grand Canyon seemed like a perfect opportunity to spend time with God, time with Amber, and to test my hiking skills in preparation for the Camino. I had no idea I was about to have several very intimate encounters with Christ!

As I packed my gear bag, I pondered this current season of rest I’ve entered into after having served in ministry (at full capacity) for the past several years. I wondered if God was ever going to speak to me on the subject of rest, or if He was just going to let me wander through it till I got to the end of it?

After a quick prayer, I grabbed my iPad, my gear bag and off I headed to Arizona where my daughter was waiting for me in her new truck packed with our camping gear. I had to chuckle a few times as I made my way to the airport. Memories of me throwing her, the dog and a tent in the car and heading down to the beach for a camping weekend flooded my mind. Nothing feels better than my adult child enjoying her childhood memories enough to want to continue them with me now.

 “Your so good to me” I whispered out loud to God as my husband pulled the car up to the American Airlines terminal curb.

 “I’ve only just begun to move your heart my dear. You’ve been moving so fast these past few years, you got a little ahead of me. Now that your slowing down a bit, I’m about to reveal myself to you in a very personal way child. See me….” a voice spoke to my heart.

 It was almost audible and made me pause a moment to look around to see if someone was standing there with me besides my husband. Shrugging my shoulder, I lifted my backpack over the other, kissed my hubby goodbye for the week, and headed inside the terminal.

 “If that was you God, I sure hope your going ahead of me on this little adventure then because I may be in over my head. What am I thinking? I’m trying to get ready to hike the Camino de Santiago by hiking the Grand Canyon? You can’t let me get ahead of you on this one God! I’m trying to find more of you, not run ahead of you.”

 “Oh, I’m waaaaay ahead of you child. I have a great adventure planned for you and your daughter this week and I plan to show off a bit  if you let me.”

 I giggled to myself. “Let you? Like I have a choice?”

 “Oh, yes. You always have the choice to see me as I am. You just tend to complicate me a bit. In doing so, you miss out on so many simple pleasures I have prepared just for you every single day.”

 “Hmmm? Ok, well since I’m in this season of rest then, show me the side of you I’m missing then and show me what to do with the revelations.”

It was 6:40 Wednesday evening and I’m sitting near the window on the flight in to Phoenix. That’s when God decided to flexed his mighty muscles for me in a way I’d never seen or felt before. Just as we are about to descend, God whispers into my headphones, “Take a peek out the window. I’m going to start your weekend with a bang!”

 And there it was. BANG! The most amazing light show I’d ever seen. From the air it looked like the natures channel having a special on air art.  Oh from the clouds the boom reverberation and color was incredible. Every color imaginable was laid out for me, with dancing streaks of white lights racing across the purple colored canvas, framed in the white plastic border of an American Airlines window. Spectacular!

 I looked around to see if anyone else was as excited as I, but they were all too busy with their papers, snotty noses, or head phones to be bothered. Then I heard Him say, “No, this show was just for you sweet one.”

 Stepping off the plane into the airport I had little time to prepare for the heat that should be awaiting me outside. All the news reports said 115 degree temperatures would be there to greet me. The doors open from the air-conditioned airport leading to the outside. I steadied myself. But humidity was all that blew in through the electric doors.

“For your arrival, I’ve cooled the entire city,  washed down the streets and watered all the plants”

 “Oh, well then, you have thought of everything kind sir and I thank you. ” I giggled once again to myself. This was going to be fun. I could feel God in a very personal way. Different. Almost perusing me, flexing and showing off as if to say to me

 “see me as I want to be seen, not just as you’ve seen for I am so much more and I delight in your appreciation of me.”

 Yeah, certifiable I know even as I try to articulate it. But, I’ll do the best I can as we go.

 Amber pulled up to the curb, “Hi ya, mom, crazy weather. But  look, God washed my car for me!”

I just had to laugh out loud.

The next morning we finished packing up with final supplies and hit the road to the Grand Canyon. Stopping at a Gas station to fill up, my daughter almost flipped her lid over the biggest smallest beetle guarding our particular gas pump. The detailed color was crazy amazing.

 “I’ll be in the simple as well as the big things this weekend. Look for my treasures everywhere. I’ll be hiding special treasures just for you to discover.” The familiar voice announced.

 We arrived to the Grand Canyon by 1:00 pm Thursday. The camp site was perfectly situated far enough from the bathroom to keep the noise down but close enough for a late night stroll if needed.  The clouds overhead were heavy and dark. Monsoon warnings came across the radio. We hurried to set up our tents before the down pour. 

 “Don’t rush, I got you covered” said a calming voice. Suddenly sunshine was directly overhead while circling all around we hear a downpour! Simply marvelous! I’m giddy with joy now. I feel completely cared for and filled with excitement and anticipation of every moment He is offering me here.

 Sunset arrives and so do some baby birds. The sweetest sounding songs filled our dinner table. Literally the birds came all around us just to sing us an evening lullaby. Sweet sounds. So tender, so romantic, so caring. We sleep like babies.

Awaking to the sunrise. A magnificent amber color of course. I make my way down the path to the ladies room. I hear a voice saying, “I’ll be in the details today. Look for me.”

Just then I look down and see tinny purple and blue flowers pushing up though the ground. I want to slow down and take a closer look but my bladder full of morning coffee urges me on. “I’ll take a closer look on the way back I promise. I won’t take your gifts for granted” 

Exiting the ladies room, I make my way back up the path looking for the blue flowers in the area I heard the voice. Scanning the ground for the purple and blue hues, my eyes catch a sight that simply takes my breath away. A purple heart shaped plastic bracelet just feet away from the flowers. I reach down to pick it up and notice it also matches my shirt! “Ahhhhh, he has thought of everything!”

 I return to the camp sight and try to articulate my adventure to my daughter. She laughs and says, ” Mom, you do know how crazy you sound right, you don’t actually HEAR God do you?”

All I can do is smile and let her believe what she needs to. These little gifts may be intended to be between just God and I this weekend. But God knows there has always been a longing in my heart to share him with others as he reveals more of himself to me. I was made to share anything that fills me with joy, with those I love. That’s when I thought I’d trying to explain it to her, and try to capture it in writing for her and others to read later. If it doesn’t make sense, then its simply not for anyone’s enjoyment than mine, and today that’s more than enough!

We fill our belly and our back packs and head off on our first hiking adventure through the Grand Canyon.

 “What would you most like to see today my love” God asks of me.

 “Hmmm, since I know you’ll be in the small details today, show me something free and alive in the wild. Something I wouldn’t normally get to see up close, but not too close that it will eat me!”

 We reach the southern rim of Shoshone Point. The view is breathtaking. Grand is not even the word for it! Vast, majestic, breathtaking maybe,  but I keep my eyes focused close on details as well as far in inexplicable comprehension of the greatness of the views. Little bugs, little flowers, little moments with my daughter. All of it grand and small at the same time. What a sweet combination!

 On our hike back to camp my daughter asks what happened to the mighty beast God “told” me he was going to romance me with today? 

 “I’m  brave, not stupid. I didn’t ask for something dangerous. He simply asked what I wanted, but he didn’t say he was giving it to me. And, I didn’t ask for a beast. I asked to see up close a large non flesh eating animal in the free. Some times I find it’s romantic enough just to know God knows my desires.” I said.

 “Mom, mom… mom! ”

 Turning we both see there in the wild, feeding on the grass hill no more than a 100 yards from where we were, this incredible, free, gentle but very large free and alive animal. Neither my daughter nore I knew what it was. Deer? Too big.  Antelope? Who knows but it allowed me to take a few photos before it saunters off back into the wilderness from which it came.

My daughter looked at me with no words coming from her mouth. I smiled that all knowing woman in love smile, raised an eyebrow and said “Well, he never disappoints, and His timing is always perfect, that’s for sure!

 We sat in silence for a few moments and just let it settle in. Then we headed back for camp.

 Later that evening, my daughter was splitting wood for the fire. I was enjoying the setting sun and typing away on my iPad trying to capture the crazy epic moments of the day before they disappeared into the fog of my middle age mind. The air was clean and crisp while thunder clouds hovered off in the distance. Amber looked at me than looked over at the pine tree and I watched her walked towards a little speck hanging from a satin string sparkling in the setting sunlight.

 “I have a little present for ya ma.” She said and laid the gift on my armchair. “It’s the tiniest little caterpillar I’ve ever seen. Didn’t you say  God told you to look for him in the small things? So here is another little gem for you today”, she said squealing with joy as I snapped a picture with my iPad.

Oh the gifts keep coming. Only this time through the honest childlike laughter and tender moments alone with my adult daughter. I know she knows He is this close. She can feel Him too but it’s different for her. As it should be for each of us. But she was letting Him lead her to connect with me there in those moments.

 10 minutes later my daughter points out a hole in a tree in the shape of a heart not 50 feet from our campsite. I walk over to investigate and snap a picture. I just had to smile at how God loves the things I love and loves me through them too.

Taking a fitting photo, the tree with the hole in the shape of a heart and on the other side is my daughter in the distance cooking our evening meal.

 “Oh God, you are really amazing! So many gifts packed into one sweet day. I’m overcome with awe at the intimate way you care for me.”

Saturday morning, nothing tastes as good as camp coffee. Blue jays busy at work chirping out a morning greeting.

 “What could you possibly have for me today God? I am so filled.”

 “What time will you spend in my word that I may then speak clearly to you my child?

 Flipping open my half drained iPad. It immediately lands on Ephesians 2 19.

  “Ohhhhh, the memory verse I’ve been working on all week. Ok I’ll read it here in this surreal garden of Eden.”

 The midst of the morning sunrise, a blanket of His morning beauty covers me like a cozy comforter and I snuggle into it in between sips of camp coffee and read His word with a new heart and fresh eyes.

 “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Ephesians 2:19-22 NIV

 Filling my eyes with beauty and heart with special gifts from him are only half the joy. He knows how much I love him and how true joy is understanding him and then sharing that understanding with others. There is more work for me to do. He was assuring me through words of affirmation that I belong. I am not alone. I’m no longer an outcast or unnecessary. That this season of rest is a gift to me, not a punishment.  God was filling my heart with more of him with this morning reminder to me. I was made to love and be loved. I belong. 

This season of rest is a reminder that love and relationships require energy. The kind He is about to renew in me. So, for now, for a while, He is asking me to rest and simply enjoy being loved by him. For the first time in a long time, I feel worthy of receiving love. He has found me worthy. I cry. A flood of emotions come over me as I enjoy the way God is speaking my love language of affirmation this morning.

 I lay back in my chair and allow my bible to fall to my side as I watch the smoke from the morning fire pit encircle the dew drops of the overhanging pine trees. It dances and plays with the wind as it climbs to the tops of the morning trees. Then the smoke causes me to squint signaling its time to wake my child, strap on my back pack and head out for another days adventure.

“Oh I have much to shower you with today my love. Let’s go and keep your eyes up today.”

 “Ok. Eyes up. Got it!”

 My new son-in-law drove to join our camp today. It’s Saturday and time for one more hike out to Shoshone point. With our back packs securely fastened about our waist and shoulders, the three of us head out but then decide to take the truck to the starting point because as I “keep my eyes up”, I notice the sky is looking particularly dark. We have been warned of monsoons so I stuff an emergency blanket into my pack just in case.

An hour into the hike with my eyes up most of the way, I notice we seem to be following a very dark cloud all the way to the end of the point. We have hiked out as far into the south rim as we can go. Looking across the canyon, God decides this is where he will show off a little for my pleasure. I look about the cannon and there are sweet puffy clouds everywhere except dead in front of us. We climb out to get what feels like the best seats in the house.

From the South rim, we look across to the North rim where the dark cloud begin a dance with each other sending booms of sound echoing across the canyon belly. Lighting thunder and cloud creations like no other I’ve ever seen. We sit, looking up- there on that cliff, spellbound by the beauty of it all. Then I hear my kid call to me from another point. I hadn’t even noticed they had left. 

“Let’s go!” they shout.

It’s as if time stood still and these moments were mine forever. I snap a few pictures just to be sure I wasn’t making it all up in my head and then off I went back down the trail towards the kids. Though the terrain was not that difficult, I had my eyes focused on the road ahead of me as I balanced the 20 lbs on my back. 45 minutes into the hike I feel a warmth move over me and a voice says, “Look up Cynthia, look up because I have another gift for you. Look up.”

As I did, there in the thickets was the most beautiful white deer. I guess you call it a buck because it had horns. I had to blink a few times to be sure I was seeing correctly. The kids were only 10 feet in front of me and heard me gasp. My daughter turns around to see why the clanking of the buckles on my backpack had stopped. I was frozen in awe.

“What it is mom?”

I pointed.

“OMG? Ryan look! Wow good eye mom!”

 The  buck looked at me as if expecting I’d want a photo of it. I snapped a few as it stared at me from less than 30 yards away. Another mighty display of His generosity. His nature dressed in white.

“See me, know me in a personal way. I will speak to your eyes, ears, heart and head so that all of you will be filled with my presence.” And I was. We all were.

 Sunday morning. Our last day in camp and Ryan’s first experience camping with Amber. I had woken early to light the morning fire. There was a chill in the air left over from a gentle rain that had passed through over night. I set the coffee pot to perking atop the Coleman stove, and I read a few pages from my book as I lay back in my hammock. Oh yeah, I bought a hammock and it was a glorious purchase. Laying back, watching the morning sun transform the morning dew to steam through the trees, I strike up a conversation with God as though he were hanging in a hammock right next to mine.

  “I sure love those kids in that tent right there God. It’s clear they are nuts about each other too. They they are constantly laughing and play games with each other like school kids. Last night they must have stayed up for hours playing that board game “trouble” and it was simply delightful to hear them laughing out loud and so joy filled. Thank you for calling them to you as well. It’s a wonderful assurance that they rely on you for all things even if they hear you differently than I do. Thank you for meeting me here and showing me a very personal side of who you are…”   

 On and on I went, thanking him for my children, my husband, friends, home, garden, job… I must have spent 30 minutes thanking him as I was so filled with gratitude for everything old that felt new and everything new that felt so familiar. It was as if God had turned on the sound and color to my living.

 Finally God interrupted and said “You know, I’m very pleased your grateful for all these things and I want you to always be grateful but not because I need you to thank me, because I want you to be filled with joy as you are right now always. That is what unconditional love does… It fills you with love. This is the reason I want you to accept my grace so you will be filled with my love always. So, enough wrestling with me for blessings and enough thanking me for the day. What do you say we just play  and laugh like children did last night shall we?  I too delight in hearing your laughter.”

 Then the sound and smell of fresh percolated coffee, caused me to look over at the red coffee pot steaming and bubbling atop the stove. At the same time, a flash of red hidden high up in the tree over my hammock caught my eye. I get out of the hammock to turn off the fire on the coleman stove under the coffee pot, then head back to the tree to investigate further what the red flash was.  There, about 20 feet up is a red feather or peace of plastic laying across a branch. I find a few rocks and begin tossing them at the object trying to knock it from its setting missing narrowly with each toss and giggling wildly with each try because I almost knocked myself out with the first few rocks as they came tumbling back off the branches right towards me. I laugh so loud I wake the kids.

 My daughter exits her tent to see her mother tossing rocks up a tree.

Mother…what are you doing?” she says laughing at me laughing.

 “I’m trying to knock my morning present out of the tree”  as I continued tossing rocks.

 “Oh brother. Another gift from God I suppose?”  She asks, fully expecting me to say yes.

 “Let me try.”  And she slips into Uggs and picks out a perfect tossing rock.

For the next 15 minutes, she and I laugh as we challenge each other with every toss. Who will be the one to knock it loose? Whack. She is the one who finally hits it dead on, and immediately the red plastic begins it twisting and twirling through the air landing right in front of us. 

 “Oh cool” she says. “its one of those twirly bird arrows from a kids dart game. See this hook right here, put it in a rubber ban and pull this black part back, then let go and it flys through the air.”

 After locating a rubber ban, she enjoys her coffee while I enjoy my new kids toy. Only God could be so playful and simple. It was the perfect way to end this very intimate time of rest with him….playing like a child among his  grandure and simplicity.

 So many times I’ve gotten him so wrong. I make him so complicated and distant. I get “seeking him” or “service to him” so twisted in my head that I forget how to simply play, laugh and hang out with him.   

 As the Grand Canyon became a reflection in the rear view mirror of our truck,  I believe God revealed to my heart that in resting in Him, I have a chance to heal everything yet broken in me or (at age 50) I will soon begin to die from it…and it’s my choice.

I wondered if this playful, personal Jesus would be coming home with me? As soon as I thought the words I heard him say; 

  “I’ll be in your housework and your hammock. I’ll pursue you to the ends of the earth to show you my love for you. And when your finally convinced that I will never leave you, that you are safe, valued, loved, necessary and important to me, that you belong to my family always and there is nothing you can do to be kicked out of my home or heart- perhaps then you will  have no need to ask me ever again not to leave you, and you will start to believe we will be together always. And we will be sweet child. For an eternity. You and I. And yes, there’ll be hammocks and whirlly birds in heaven.”

 I knew then, the adventure I seek with Him on the Camino de Santiago during this season of rest is simply a new beginning of yet another new beginning. God is showing me how to find Him and then share Him with others in a new way and I am getting very comfortable just letting Him be Himself with me.

 “Ok God, let that journey now begin!”

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When Godly Counsel Becomes Irritating…”It’s NOT Just Orange Juice!

It’s Not Just Orange Juice!

When Godly counsel becomes irritating.

I had spent the better part of the past forty-eight hours with 650 Christian writers and speakers at the She Speaks Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. I had been preached to, purged on, and prophesied over. My blood sugar was now screaming at me, almost as loudly as the keynote speaker from across the shimmering stage in the center of the room. 

I’d successfully picked through the greens served for dinner, buttered up a bun or two, and chugged back at least three full glasses of old-fashioned sweet tea. Now, the only thing I wanted to do was wrap my mouth around a chocolate spoonful of that highly anticipated final course.

        “Proverbs 31 Women…the voice of a sister who believes in you will always be the voice that saves you from inflicting further pain on yourself,” the speaker wailed to thunderous applause as the shining lights bounced off her dimpled pink cheekbones. Her words entered right to the core of my being. I reached over and grabbed the hand of my dear friend who had invited me on this weekend journey and gave it a squeeze as if to say “I will always trust your truths to me.”  She squeezed back, smiled, and mouthed “Me too.”

And then it arrived. The moment we had both been waiting for. Dessert!  Oh, this was no ordinary dessert friends. This was the gift I was going to give myself for having survived two sleepless nights of incessant elevator chimes. This was the dessert that was going to make me forget I had actually brought and wore sensible shoes all weekend long!

The white gloved hand positioned the elegantly manicured dish in front of me and then before all six ladies at my table.”Ohhhh” was the only sound my mouth could make before I had to swallow what felt like a tidal wave of liquid forming beneath my tongue. Mounds of dark milky chocolate swimming in a creamy white sauce with a truffle cup filled to the brim with a glistening golden juice now sat before me.

“Oh where should I begin?” I thought silently.

My girlfriend was way ahead of me and leaned over and said “Careful, I think the chocolate cup is filled with pineapple juice”   She knows I’m deathly allergic to that particular liquid.

My rounded shoulders signaled disbelief as I let out a sigh….. The other ladies at the table caught by my expression, asked my friend what was wrong with me.

She’s allergic to pineapple juice. Like epi-pen, emergency room, allergic!”

Noooooo, that’s not pineapple juice….. It’s…Just….Orange Juice,”

they said, licking their lips and waving their chocolate filled spoons in the air one after the other as they slurped up the liquidy sugar.

         I wanted to dig in and be just like everyone else savoring the goodness of the moment. Perhaps if all these goodly women were in agreement with each other, then surely my friend must be mistaken.

Surely It’s…Just…Orange juice!

        The soft voice of my dear friend, was not matching the voice around the table, nor the one inside my head. I stood conflicted. I remembered one of my favorite verses, Proverbs 12:15.  

        “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.”

Ahhh, there it was; Counsel. The conflict. I had learned the hard way how to listen for God’s direction when conflicting opinions were coming from godly women. I nearly drowned in “wise counsel” for a good long season of my life.

        Age 22; “Do I leave him, or do I stay?” 

        Age 37, “Is he leaving me or will he stay?”

        Through those years I had gotten so confused by all the “wise counsel”  I could no longer discern what would be orange juice or what would be pineapple juice to my soul. The allergic reaction I had experienced to life itself nearly killed me. Two divorces, drowning in Christian counsel and still so unsure of God’s voice. If I hadn’t cried out for wisdom I think I would have perished. But I did call on wisdom and as I grew in maturity in Christ, I was better able to discern His voice through others.

        James 1:5 says “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.   

        The worship music in the room grew louder. It was now moving some of the women to their feet in preparation for the guest musician’s arrival. My friend did the thing she does with her eyebrow as if to say; “I could be wrong but why chance it?” I heeded her warning and dipped a finger instead of a spoonful into my mouth. As soon as the liquid touched my tongue, I knew. Instinctively I pulled the napkin from my lap and spit into it. The other ladies, now uncomfortable with my un-Southernly table manners, felt the need to reassure me this liquid was not poison to my body.

        “It’s Just Orange Juice!  Go ahead, enjoy it! It’s so good!”

Coughing and trying to clear my throat—I was unable to clearly speak.

        “Oh, here, have some water—you’ll be fine. It’s Just Orange Juice” they continued.

        Feeling a little foolish, I reached for the water to help clear my throat. I could feel my left ear begin to throb. My neck was on fire and my scalp began to itch. One of the girls even flagged down the waitress and asked her to check out the liquid’s ingredients. And while I know it’s still possible for me to experience a psychosomatic response simply out of life experienced fear, I’ve gotten so much better at discerning real danger regardless of popular opinion.

        While the ladies clapped their hands in praise to the beat of the music, I tried to do the same. I rose to my feet, scalp itching and arms burning, I did my best to join in the praise and ignore the sensations now coursing through my body. The waitress reappeared from behind a thin black curtain with a concerned look on her face.

                “I asked my boss and he said the dressing is a carmel………”

        Before she was able to get the rest of the words out of her mouth one of the ladies chimed in and said “It’s just orange juice isn’t it?”

        The waitress responded ” Well yes, but it’s an orange caramel drizzle with….”

        “Seee, You’ll be fine …..It’s ….Just …..Orange-Juice. Come on let’s sing!”

        Suddenly I felt foolish and hot. Was I making it up? I felt little, wrong and a nuisance. One of the ladies even moved to another table where she could worship God without the drama. I was mad at myself. It’s Just Orange Juice. They all said so!

        I closed my eyes and tried not to scream at the conflicting voices in my head. I tried to praise God pretending what I was experiencing wasn’t really my experience. But I knew better. As I lifted my hands to heaven in that blue lit room I felt a warm hand slide across my back. It was as if truth was moving through my body and calming my racing heart.

        “It’s pineapple juice in that cup and orange caramel on the plate. Thank goodness you only ate a little. You’ll be fine, but THAT’S DEFINITELY NOT JUST ORANGE JUICE, and I believe you.” the sweet voice affirmed.

        I was reminded of the messages from the nights keynote speaker

The voice of a sister who believes in you will always be the voice that saves you from inflicting further pain on yourself.” 

        By encouraging me to sample instead of slurp, her wise counsel not only protected me from inflicting further pain on myself, but her reassuring words guided me to a victory over self doubt in that moment as well. This was where wisdom led me and the voice of God had resided.    

        ‘Where there is no guidance, the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory’. (Proverbs 11:14)

        I’m quite certain it was NOT the blood red Orange Juice of Jesus in that cup and had I sat there alone, I could have perished in something as simple as a tablespoonful of pineapple juice. Yet, there, among those well meaning Counselors, I stood, in my sensible shoes, with my itchy scalp, scratchy throat, red ear, and by my side were wisdom, and a sister who believed in me. 

        Looking at the plate of chocolates in front of me, I smiled and realized God is in the details. Just because it looks good, doesn’t make it good for me. No matter how wise the counsel;

         Sometimes, It’s Not Just Orange-Juice.

 ~C

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Oral Traditions-Relational Truths

Today’s studies on Church history and Oral Tradition got me thinking about how close the church is to having its history come back around full circle on it.  I found it interesting that the ‘oral tradition’ of communication, person to person, is something our pastor is striving towards today in our regional campus. Relational Ministry is a buzz word that stings a little if you get too close to it but it is clearly essential for pollination of our community if our community church hopes to survive. Do I think relational ministry will replace the corporate worship service, no. But I do see its value both inside and outside of the church walls. 

 A transformed life is a message beneath a message of Christ’s Grace and love, right?  When we push towards the goal of relational ministry as a church, we become open to and aware of the opportunity offerings of a Christ message delivered first hand. I would even go so far as to say the symbolism a transformed life speaks of Christ, is often louder than some of our verbal messages.

If the history of “Oral Tradition” suggests that the authority resided in the tribal leader, and I relate that to my regional church- I come back to our “One Church, Many Campuses” approach to worship with Christ still being the messenger. I know Christ is not standing at the pulpit today. But I relate our senior pastor to kind of like a tribal leader. His Christ inspired messages are carried out by the campus pastor. But I clearly see the application of those messages applied into the community ‘relationaly’ via a transformed life change.

Ok- I know I’m stretching it a bit here. And while I know we were studying corporate worship and I’m blending in evangelism and perspective, my question remains. Will today’s relational ministry be considered tomorrow’s oral traditions?  

Traditions and stories are still used to transmit the message of the culture, they are just different. It’s true we don’t do much ‘mystical chanting’ these days, (unless of course your caught in front of a member whose voice comes eerily close… but that’s another story.)

I wonder what it would be like if our truths were still all relational? Now that’s a lecture I’d find the time to participate in.

~C

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Is Worship a ‘promised land’ effort?

 Well, right from the start she captured my attention with a simple statement

          “Two years ago I taught my last seminar focused solely on worship. A year ago I disbanded my worship resource site, Sacramentis.”

 I figured, any teacher willing to make a statement like that must certainly be looking for truth to pass along. That was a woman I wanted to learn something from as I study the Theology of Worship.  

Sally Morgenthaler in REV!(May/June 2007) continued with fascinating statement after statement as I read on;

          “If a contemporary worship service is the best witnessing tool in the box, then why give a rip about what goes on outside the worship center? 

The pastor that asked Sally this question was right on target in my opinion. I see both sides to this argument.  When the values are clear from the lead pastor down- then the value communicated behind the worship production will be found in the community as well. That is a “dual Purpose” church service we are speaking of here and unfortunately they seem to be in the minority of her evaluations.

I find myself asking some very important questions as I study this important subject called worship. Is it possible for corporate worship to have the capability to witness to the unchurched?  How do we make worship accessible to the unchurched and not “gut it of its spiritual content on the way to making it culturally relevant” as Sally points out. 

Then there is the question of worship-leadership. How can we (as worshipers and or leaders of worship), bring someone into a personal relationship experience we are personally having with Christ unless that person knows Christ in the first place? That is the question still burning on my heart.

I’ve been part of the church plant generation playing “portable church” 52 weeks a year. I’ve been waiting 6 years to enter the “promised land” of no more set up and tear down, no more trailers to pull, no more lugging boxes in and out of my blue hatchback at 6:30 am. I’m hard pressed for the answer to how we get the unchurched to actually show up to church and did we skip a step in our expectations on the way to the promised land? We were a team of talented committed ‘do-whatever-it-takes-to-grow’ go getters who believe that if we just grow exponentially we will survive. No, thrive! I followed hard after our pastors vision and idea that “if we build it then they will come.”  

This morning my heart is asking me a solid question; Was I was part of something that gave non-Christians a chance to reflect back to us how they perceive our worship of Christ and our desire to include them in that process?  At the end of the day, should cultural and missional realities have anything to do with worship in the first place? Now that’s the tipping point question I think.

Sally rounded out my study time with this statement;

            “May you and the Christ-followers you serve become worshippers who can raise the bar of authenticity, as well as your hands.”

In that, I am confident we were on point as a team.  

As I continue to study the subject of worship, I am reminded that worship is not a ‘promised land’ I finally get to nor is it a place I go anymore than it is a place I can ask someone else to go. Worship is something I am and do and from there invite others to engage. From that place with another I am invited to experience Christ more deeply.  

Organic? Strategic? Culturally relevant? Maybe a little of it all, but it centrifugal for sure. Of that, I am certain…at least for today.                    

~C

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Anger Binds

Anger blinds and keeps us from seeing anything good about another person or situation.

I have called people names and said things about others that felt right to my flesh at the time, but clearly was not Gods best of me in those moments. You’d think I would learn….

Certainly I’m a better version of myself today than I was years ago but just the other day I found myself busting out some old responses that left me feeling worthless and incapable of ever getting this mouth of mine under control. And that is where Christ reminded me of the truth and lie in that single sentence.

I am not worthless. No matter how many times I fail, I am created in the image of God and He has a purpose and a plan for my life. But, so does the enemy of my soul. The lie the enemy whispers over and over that I’ll never get it right so why try! Gods response is where the truth resides. I cannot get my mouth, anger, hurts or anything else under control until I let go of that control to Him. It is Christ’s Spirit that lives in me that tames my tongue, soothes my hurts and calms my anger.

Christ has taught me to endure an uncomfortable situation for the sake of another and offer grace whenever possible. He has also taught me to become aware of the warning signs in my body that tell me to remove myself from an unhealthy situation “before” I start busting out some old anger move or verbally damage the other person.

Yeah, I’m still working out the “before” part, and quite honestly there is still a person or two that can easily take me from 0 to 100 on the emotional anger scale in seconds. These are the people I pray for daily (as well as myself) because I react to them like a caged animal thats fighting for emotional survival. It’s because I’ve cared deeply for them that I subconsciously offer them access past my warning signs.

Anger comes from deep emotional hurts that need to be turned over to Christ daily. On any level, a less than graceful reaction calls scripture to my mind and in particular Matthew 5:22. Even verse 25 & 26 says the consequences of not dealing with anger quickly and humbling myself will always have a poorer outcome in the long run.

Becoming the woman God has called me to be requires a certain sacrifice of the flesh and a giving up of temper tantrums. I’ll not always understand the motives of others, but neither is a woman of God called to judge them. If I didn’t cause it, I can’t cure it and certainly I no longer want to contribute to it. “It” being anything in my life that is less than edifying to Christ.

Anger binds ugly to ugly and hurt to hurt. Stopping the cycles of self loathing and choosing to LIVE in Christ takes commitment.

When history looks back at my life, what glory of God will it see? I hope it sees just the shadow of a hurt, sinful, broken girl, who one day gave her life to Christ and was transformed into a glorious light of His Amazing Grace.

In reaching for a Christ life as my goal, I not only honor myself, but others along the way.
~C

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Hermeneutics?!? What?

So I decided to take a little class on Bible interpreting. My presupposition and pre understanding of what this class would require of me was based on the fact that I did not see a final term paper listed as a requirement. I wrongfully assumed that though this class would be “required” of me at some point, it did not appear to be a class that would require much of my time to complete. I wrongfully assumed it was the perfect class to undertake during the busiest season of service to my church.

A suitable assessment summation for the disposition and mind set of how I began my Hermeneutics class this semester requires me to use the words; uneducated, uninformed and unaware. I could even apply ignorant to my knowledge of what Hermeneutics was about all together. I had heard the term ‘hermeneutics’ I just didn’t understand what it meant. Sure I was organically using some of the principles of hermeneutics in my daily roles and responsibilities in my church; I just didn’t know I was doing it and by default, that is considered ‘spiritualizing’ the Word.  

Once I committed to payment of the course and received my workbook, I realized this class was one Satan would have preferred I’d have skipped. I soon learned about “feel good” interpretations of Scripture reading and relating. I was comfortable reading a Scripture passage and believing that it was telling me what I wanted to hear. But God has clearly changed my heart through this class. I now listen for what I need to hear rather than what I want to hear. My mentor has been instrumental in helping me through that process. I’ve discovered how to see a passage in its whole context. I haven’t always been good at that but I know that I can never read the bible the way I did before I took this class.

The assignment that was required of me on Genesis was the most powerful for me. As I researched the 3 major themes that I found in chapter 12:1-4, I began to see those same principles repeated over and over throughout my own journey as well as reflected there in God’s Word throughout the entire Book. The principles of God Speaking directly to us, ‘calling’ us and having a plan, and specific journey He wants to send us on, sort of merged together in such a way that I almost had to look at the message as one big message rather than separate ones. Yet, Hermeneutics required me to look at each separate message in detail first in order to see that big picture clearly.  At the end of the day, I believe that is what Hermeneutics is all about, bringing the details of who God is alive so I get a more focused bigger picture.

Because of this class, I believe I am better equipped to build my life on the solid significant Truth of God’s Word. Daily quiet time has been the only way I’ve been able to handle stress in my life but now my quiet time is filled with new adventure and excitement. My journey in His Word has become richer as I look for the authors intended meaning of a scripture. I am no longer afraid to wrestle with the differences between what a scripture means to the biblical audience it was written to and the world I live in today. When I cross a principlizing bridge I feel like I’m on a great adventure. Some bridges are narrow and others are vast but they are all helping me to understand how I will modify or qualify a principle so I can truly grasp the text in my own town and give it a proper application.

When I read God’s Word today, I can now see fingerprints left by those who came before me. My world is changing, even the way I do ministry is changing and I’m convinced that the way we as a community ‘do’ church is changing. But the one thing that I am certain never changes is God’s Word. It surprises me that I found that truth inside my own heart through this process. I’m now grateful for the very thing I was so sad I learned in this class. I was really disappointed to find out that there are no ‘deeper meanings’ to God’s Word. In Malachi 3:6, God says, “I, the Lord, do not change.”  That is called the immutability of God. That’s a fancy way of saying that God’s always been the same, He is the same right now, and He will always be the same. He is perfect so there is no need to give me more or less of Him. He offers His complete truths through scripture to me and anyone else who cares to seek Him out there. I guess I wanted to feel special so I took the news that He speaks the same Word to everyone, as though it was a personal insult that God didn’t want to say something special just to me. God actually went silent to me for about 3 weeks during this class. At least the way I was accustomed to hearing him speak to me anyway. It was the most painful experience I think I can ever remember going through, and I’ve been through a lot in my life. But through the process, I found the Word of God was truly all I needed to maintain the stability of my life and to continue to lead others forward.

Once I came to terms with what God was showing me, I soon felt an added awareness of His presence return and His ‘familiar’ voice began speaking again. I quickly found my passion returning for seeing things as God gave me gifts to see them, but now I am better prepared to give an answer for ‘why’ I see things the way I do. I certainly went full circle during this class.

 This moment I am ever grateful that I learned that Scripture has to support Scripture. I’m wiser knowing and believing that God’s Word has been built on God’s unchanging Truth and nothing I dream up or any opinion I or anyone else has about His truth can change His Truths! God is perfect, He can’t get any better – and He can’t get any worse. So God says, “I never change.”

Thank you God. The same personal and real relationship I have with Jesus is the same one God is offering to you! Again, thank you God!

~C

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