Friday, May 29, 2009

God is NOT linear

First of all I need to thank Terri Abraham (@mtabraham on twitter) for this title. It's something she told me years ago but its come up again recently in my life.

I've been tutoring a local high school student recently. She was failing Algebra II in a big bad way and I told her I could help. You know because us pastors use Algebra and Trig on a daily basis so it should be no problem right?

Actually it wasn't too hard. I was a math geek in high school so I remembered more than I thought and was able to look up the rest. I'll also brag a bit here - she pulled her final grade up to a B.

I really didn't teach her much math but some study skills she was lacking in. Her teacher was new to teaching after having been an engineer for 20 years or so. His teaching style was different than what my friend was used to but not all that different from what she'll encounter in college. I just taught her how to study a different way and what questions she needs to ask. I hope that those lessons stick more than her memory of the Unit Circle.

For her final exam we were reviewing the graphing of inequalities. Basically it is just like graphing a regular line except that you need to shade certain parts of the graph to show it could be > or < and/or = any point on said line. For those of you who can't picture the visual it all boils down to there not being just one answer for the problem. There are several points that answer the equation and several that don't. Separating the two is the goal.

Which brings me back to Terri's quote. Being the math geek that I am, I constantly want to put God in my list of bullet-ed things to do and/or understand. I want to get to the next level of Christianity by doing x, y, and z but as I'm reminded, God is not linear and as I'm created in God's image - neither am I.

There are a lot of things that God is NOT. God is not evil, stupid, or apathetic. There are a lot of things I'm not. I am not boring, tall, or talkative. There are a lot of things that God is. God is gracious, loving, strong. I am insightful, funny, and driven.

But even with all of these things that I am and am not and the things that God is and is not, there are a whole host of things that we can't even begin to mention. If God were linear then we would know all points on the line. We would understand EXACTLY who God is. And so my friends I'm happy to say that God is not linear. God is greater than what we can imagine. And that makes our journey even more exciting.

Until Everyone Hears,

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"But I don't know any non-Christians"

Ahh... the cry of those who want to change the world by growing the numbers in their church but feel that evangelism is a dirty word enacted only by those "crazy" people that knock on your door in the middle of dinner (my apologies to the crazy people).

In a sense, I understand the dilemma. How does one passionately follow Jesus without looking like a Jesus FREAK!!!!!!??

Well seeing that one of my responsibilities is to equip people to do spiritual things today is your lucky day! This short 4 step program will guarantee that you too can sow seeds of good news without feeling like the smelly kid in the class. So stay with me. It's just this easy...

Step 1: Know where you are.

Get a map or a compass if you have to but in reality 60% of the population has no strong affiliation with a church, mosque or synagogue so the excuse that "I don't know anyone looking for a church" is not really true. Very few people are "looking for a church" but many are searching for deeper meaning and a way to connect so that they may make the world a better place. Listen to people and hear what they mean (not just what they are saying) and try and help them find what they are looking for - EVEN IF IT MEANS SENDING THEM SOMEWHERE ELSE!

These people may not be your friends or close co-workers but they do exist and you can find them at the grocery store, library, car-pool line, subway stations, bus stops, schools, doctors office, etc... This leads me to...

Step 2: Pray for guidance

Well this seems obvious but I often forget the obvious so I thought I'd mention it here. Sometimes we desperately want to share our blessings with others but don't know where to start. Ask God to show you how to be the person you are created and called to be. I guarantee you'll get an answer BUT be careful. The answer may surprise you. If you are truly open to the work of the Spirit, God may introduce you to someone while you wait for your tires to be rotated that is looking for a church home OR God may show you a news article on foster children in your area that tugs at your heart so much you add on three rooms to your house and take them all in OR God may tell you to quit your lucrative job as a computer programmer and go to seminary to become a pastor. Crazy huh? It happens.

Step 3: Follow Through

Spiritual growth is not a check list (as much as I would LOVE for it to be so) that you just mark off each day. "Read Bible - check. Pray - check. Invite neighbor to church - check. Go to church - check. Give money - check." All good things and all important things for different reasons, but the main reason we are called to "make followers" is because of the follower and who we are following. It's not enough to just invite. It's not enough to just shake their hand at the door of church. It's not enough to just pray that the church will grow and do nothing else.

If you meet someone who is lost do you just buy them a map and hope it turns out okay? No! You get a map and look at it together and walk with them on their journey until they safely reach their destination. And - very important here - you usually don't just say "Oh I know where that is. I'll drop you there." (and then distract them so much they can't find their way back.) You help them find what they are looking for and make sure they understand where they are going and how to get there because sometimes they'll need to get back there again on their own.

If a spiritually lost person is searching and you want to help, help them with the entire journey. This will take more time. This will require you to build a relationship with someone you may not want a relationship with, but a butt in the seat is not the final goal - a life of abundance is.

Step 4: Believe

I know we are out of order here but usually we start out spreading the good news about who God is because of what we believe and along the way we end up spreading news more about what our church is doing and we tend to forget about the reason why.

Believing in what you are doing will show itself in all aspects of your life. If our mission as a church is "to make new and better followers for Jesus" then I not only have to reach out to make new ones but I also have to make sure that a) I am one and b) I'm working on the "better" part.

Step 5: Stop reading and start doing

Hah - I threw in an extra step. Why? Because there are no magic steps to grow your church and there are no magic steps for you to become evangelism leader of the year. DON'T focus on the numbers, the empty seats, the check list that I and many other wish life had but instead focus on God and people. Love God, love neighbor, love self and if you do this it will flow that way that God intends for it to go.

Until Everyone Hears,

To do list

Its almost mid year so before school lets out I decided to evaluate how my goals for 2009 (see list on the right column) are doing.

1) Read thru the Bible: I'm in the book of 1 Samuel. I'm behind where I should be but have made much progress and I'm learning even more every time I read.
2) Maintain healthy weight, exercise and diet routine. Doing well with this. I'm down 10 pounds and I'm still working on it. I walk daily and eat low carb and low fat often.
3) I did an online scrapbook for last year and it was SOOO much faster than what I used to do. I'll do Dori's baby book the old fashioned way after her b-day in June
4) Dave Ramsey's baby steps. I'm still in the 3-6 month emergency fund step.
5) House decorating. I painted the office and rearranged the furniture. Its a much better layout. We also have plans to buy a new sofa and hopefully paint upstairs. That'll do it if for this year.
6) Anniversary vacation turned into a family thanksgiving cruise. One year we'll do the Hawaii trip for just the two of us (hopefully soon).
7) Roxy no longer jumps at the door (the vet is a different story). She's doing much better but has about a year or two to go until the puppyness goes away.
8) Dori's been developing nicely and goes to grandma's once week and usually gets to play with Emma too.
9) Still havent found my workshop or class non-job related. I'll look again in the fall. I was hoping to do a one day yoga workshop but the one I found I had a conflict.
10) Have 200 in worship at Lighthouse. Working toward it. We maybe moving into a different/better facility soon so I'm hoping that will build momentum!
11) I'm up to almost 12,000 words on the book. I WILL be done this year.

My goal for next year - less goals.

Hope you are doing well on yours.

Until Everyone Hears,

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Life Savers

Today right before the sermon, someone offered me a Life Saver. She handed me a brand new pack and told me I could open it. After about 3 minutes of trying to get the end off, she leans forward and told me it took her 10 minutes to open hers. She thought she was so cleaver by offering me a Life Saver in church and telling me that Jesus is my life saver but the problem was that if it took way too long to open and her point was lost.

There are somethings in life that are worth the trouble. Chocolate comes to mind. Good chocolate (not necessary expensive chocolate) is worth the trouble it might take to open. A good book is worth the trouble to wait for its release and finally open and read it. And of course (plug for my husband), there's nothing better on a really hot summer day than opening a glass bottle of ice cold Coke. Its worth the trouble.

Of course I've had all these things before and know their joy (to use Mark's word from this morning). But I'm sure the first time I tried these things it wasn't hard for me to "open" them. Someone I knew probably told me I'd like it and handed it to me and watched me enjoy it. They may have even helped me try these good things many times - kind of like a drug dealer getting someone hooked on a fix.

As I sat in church trying with too much effort to open my Life Savers, I thought that if this were a real life saver - I'd be dead by now and I hoped that for those people who come to visit our church they don't find the love of God so hard to open. I hope that someone they know tells them of their joy and makes it easy for them to experience that joy too.

We often wonder why people don't show up at our church to experience the same joy that we do but we also forget that not everyone has had those experiences. Some people have had very odd, strange, or painful experiences in the church and just as all books aren't worth the wait for, I believe that not all churches are worth the wait either. So if you've never experienced one that can bring you joy why would you bother trying again?

I hope that you can put God on your Top Five Joys list but more importantly I hope that you are able to find a place where you can experience that joy and live the life God calls you to. For me, I've found that at Lighthouse. Keep searching if you haven't found it - its worth the trouble.

Until Everyone Hears,

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Ten 'Can'-mandments

I normally don't like blogging other's intellectual property (even with siting the source) but this was a LIST. And you know how I love lists. So enjoy these - its good stuff.

May 9, 2009
Ten 'Can'-mandments
by Rick Warren

In our Devotionals series, Pastor Rick Warren discusses the Bible passages that inspire him the most. Today's Devotional is based on this passage:
"I can do everything through Him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13 NIV).

So often we think of commandments as a list of don'ts. Instead of focusing on what we can't do, let's start looking at what we can with this list of ten "can"-mandments!

1. Instead of thinking, "It will never fly," think, "Through God's strength, it's worth the try!"

2. Replace the thought, "It won't work," with faith that, with God's strength, it will work!

3. When someone says, "It's never been done before," respond by saying, "That means God's giving us the opportunity to be the first."

4. "What if we fail?" What if we fail to try, knowing God says we can do everything through Him who gives us strength?

5. "We don't have the money." Where God guides, he provides so that we can do everything he has called us to do.

6. "We don't have the time!" Perhaps God is telling us to re-evaluate our priorities as we rely upon his direction and strength.

7. "We don't have the expertise." Maybe not, but we can learn as God directs our path.

8. "It's been tried before." But we're wiser now because we know we can do everything when we rely on God's strength instead of our own.

9. If someone says, "There are so many problems with it," respond by saying, "Yet, there are so many possibilities when we're trusting God instead of ourselves."

10. Instead of saying, "It's not working out," say instead, "Let's try it one more time, but this time focused on God and the truth that we can do this through Him who gives us strength."

"Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse" (Philippians 4:8 MSG).

Friday, May 8, 2009


"Saying goodbye, why is it sad? Makes us remember the good times we had. So much to say, fooling to try. It's time for saying good-bye."

Yes I AM quoting a muppets song and no I don't care how silly that makes me!

I've had to say good-bye a few times this week. Last weekend I attending the Glover/Steele/Johns family reunion. It was great to get together and I even may end up officiating a cousin's wedding next year because of it, but in the end we all said good-bye and I knew that for some of them I wouldn't see them again until next year.

I also had to say good-bye to my covenant group of pastors that I've been meeting with this year. Although I'll see all of these people once a year or more so, I'll never get to spend time with them in this setting and in a small way this makes me really sad. We've grown close like family and shared great, deep feelings. I'm blessed to have had them there during this time of my life.

And today I said good-bye with and for someone in our church who lost their father. I never knew him but said good-bye all the same. I hurt for her and her brothers and the pain they felt from celebrating their dad's life and also remembering their mother who had died a long ago. In a strange way it is always a blessing to be there for someone when they mourn a death.

I don't know how people say good-bye that have no faith. For me, saying good-bye is a celebration of who we are, a reflection for the transition we're going through at the time, and a blessing for the future. It does make us remember our good times and helps us seal those memories in our heart. Good-bye's are hard because we want to say so much and yet there's not always words to express our feelings.

So as I was reminded of today in the funeral, I need to stop and say "I love you". If you are reading this it is probably because I love you. All of the people that I know read my blog I love. And the ones I don't know, I write so that you can find love - hopefully through God but also through others expressing God's love. So again I say, "I love you." and may all your good-byes be blessings.

Until Everyone Hears,

Karen and I on our Covenant Group Mission Trip!

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