Saturday, September 19, 2009

Crazy Love

So...I'm "reading" (read: listening to) Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I started it this summer while I was determined to go running at the park every so often. The goal was to go more than every so often, but the goal and actuality didn't match up. Anyway, I've been "reading" it, and I have taken to repeating a certain section. I loved it so much that I spent time this week listening to a few seconds, pausing to write it down, then listening to more, writing it down, and repeating that process for about 5-7 minutes of content. I'm not going to repeat it *all* here, because I want you all to read the book (or at least listen to it). I will, however, share some really good nuggets of what I've been listening to, and my thoughts on how I am processing it in my own life.

Here we go...

"Lukewarm living while simultaneously claiming Christ's name is utterly disgusting to God. And when we are honest, we have to admit that it isn't fulfilling or joyful to use, either. But the solution isn't to try harder, fail and then make bigger promises only to fail again. It does no good to muster up more love for God, to will yourself to love him more. When loving him becomes obligation, one of the many things we have to do, we end up focusing even more on ourselves. No wonder so few people want to hear from us about what we ourselves feel is a boring, guilt ridden chore."

It is so easy to get sucked into guilt trips that we set for ourselves. We have lofty goals for ourselves and are quick to forget that we are sinners. When you have been a Christian for a long time, or even a short time, it's easy to "go through the motions" and put on a happy face. It is easy to live at surface level with people and never get past the facade, fooling even yourself into believing that you have it all together. What tends to happen, though, is that the mask wears thin in front of some people, or it cracks when we really look in the mirror of our lives. We mess up, and then are shocked to believe that it happened! If I truly knew that I am a sinner, the true state of my heart and root of my selfishness, I would not be shocked when it manifests itself in my actions or thoughts. I would know that it was my nature, and fight the good fight against it, praising God for his glorious grace that knows all of that junk and loves me still. When we make a list of things to do, people to pray for, bible studies to do, it can easily become a chore, setting our hearts up for failure and disappointment. The cool thing, though, is that God isn't disappointed when we fail. To be disappointed, you need to have high expectations. He doesn't have high expectations for humans. He knows we will fall. That's why Jesus came. (This not to say we should continue sinning with reckless abandonment...Romans 7-8, Galatians 5)

"Prayers for more love result in love, which naturally causes us to pray more, which results in more love. Imagine going for a run while eating a box of Twinkies. Besides being self-defeating and side-ache inducing, it would also be near impossible. You'd have to stop running in order to eat the Twinkies. In the same way, you have to stop loving and pursuing Christ in order to sin. When you are pursuing love, running toward Christ, you do not have the opportunity to wonder 'Am I doing this right?' or 'Did I serve enough this week?' When you are running toward Christ you are freed up to serve, love and give thanks without guilt, worry or fear. As long as you are running, you are safe. But running is exhausting. If, that is, we are running from sin or guilt or out of fear, or if we haven't run in awhile. However, if we train ourselves to run toward our refuge, toward love, we are free, just as we are called to be. As we begin to focus more on Christ, loving him and others becomes natural. As long as we are pursuing him, we're satisfied in him. It's when we stop actively loving him that we find ourselves restless and gravitating toward other means of fulfillment."

It was very ironic (is that the right word? Did I at least use it better than Alanis did?) to be listening to this for the first time while running, something that I don't do often. He's right. Running is exhausting when you haven't done it in awhile. So is initiating relationships, praying, reading the Bible. When you're out of practice at a musical instrument or sport, it takes time to build up your strength and endurance. The author is saying that love is the same way. If we are out of practice loving God and loving others, we will need time to develop those habits and endurance again. We will need strength that is not our own in order to truly love those people in our life that rub us the wrong way, or that need so much from us when we feel we have nothing else to give. I know when I'm driving somewhere far away, recently those trips have been back home to visit family, going *to* the place is always more bearable and feels faster than coming *home.* The distance is the same, the amount of hours in the car is the same. The difference, though, is the expectancy and excitement of going somewhere, looking forward to spending time with people that I love and miss. Coming home from those times, I'm driving away from a place that I love, going to another place I love, but the place I'm going is normal. It's not nearly as exciting as seeing people that I haven't seen in months. Does that make sense? I'm not feeling very concise/clear.

So...I copied more than I planned...oops. I think this post is long enough.

General idea: Run towards Jesus. He loves you and along the way you will be able to love others and do the things that he wants you to do. If you switch the order, you'll end up feeling guilty and frustrated with yourself.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Community Goals

Something I was reminded of yesterday at LaFa was the purpose of community in our lives. I want to get this out this morning before it's gone...bear with me.

So many times, I have tried to live life as a list of things not to do, or even as a list of things to do (often in replacement of the things I'm not supposed to do). I've always been a "good kid". That's not what this life is about, though. That's not what a relationship with God looks like. The Bible talks about how the life we have due to our relationship with God through Jesus will be so attractive and so different that people will know something is different about us. They will ask why we do the things we do, why we love our enemies, and how it is possible for us to live with such faith and confidence. Not saying that I already do those things, or that those three statements are the definition of what it means to follow Jesus.

I was just reading in Acts this morning, in response to several people sharing from the book last night at LaFa. I came across the passage that I love, that talks about community, about the first church. They weren't called a church, though, they were called believers, apostles, "The Way."

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hears, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Acts 2:42-47

Breaking of bread is mentioned several times in that short passage. There is something about eating together that tears down barriers and brings people closer. A goal that I have for the community that I am in and the community that is created when people come together under a common purpose, is to devote ourselves to the word, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. I think last night was a good example of that, and I just pray that it continues!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

...nuggets of wisdom from this weekend...

I want to blog more regularly, because then maybe people would read and comment on my posts more. And I love that! I want to write not for me, but about what God is doing, in hopes that it will encourage or challenge others. I mean, some of this is for me to process what's going on and put my thoughts into words, but I also want to encourage anyone that reads it.

Enough rambling about my goals for this blog. On to the topic at hand. This weekend I went to the lake with some friends. AMAZING. Six of us shared a house for a 1 1/2 days, and we spent most of Saturday on a boat in the middle of a lake, either pulling wakeboarders, speeding around, or swimming. It was fun. It was also a great time of community with people that I am just starting to get to know. I loved that, too.

Anyway, Saturday morning we all woke up at different times, but as people woke up, some of us were sitting on the patio and we started talking about a lot of different things. I was trying to read through Ephesians and get back into my study of that book, but obviously God didn't want me there, because I kept getting distracted by the conversation and we somehow got on the topic of Solomon and then to Ecclesiastes. I haven't read through Ecclesiastes in a while, so I started flipping through, reminding myself of the content/context.

A couple of nuggets that really stuck out during the conversation (first, personal. second, as a group):

Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you - for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others.
Ecclesiastes 7:21-22

So many times in my classroom I am almost paranoid making sure that I know what the students are talking about when I'm not looking. I don't know why I feel like I have to know everything that's in their conversation, or why I think that it's often about me, but something in me wants to know what they are saying all the time. I am learning to let go, and learning that it doesn't matter, and that I don't need and really shouldn't expect to know everything they talk about. They're teenagers. They're going to talk about their teachers. They're also going to talk about a lot of other things that I don't want to hear. Ha.

Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise - why destroy yourself? do not be over wicked and do not be a fool - why die before your time? It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.
Ecclesiastes 7:16-18

Something that Noel at Riverview talks about a lot is living "razor's edge" Christianity. There is a fine line sometimes from being on the side of either extreme. I have lived at the extremes sometimes, but the goal is balance and discernment. Good stuff.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

New Favorite Song

I can't believe that it took me so long to listen to "Remedy" by David Crowder Band...I mean, the album has been out for a year! I'm looking forward to "Church Music" that comes out on Sept. 22, but thanks to Tricia, my roommate for a week, I listened to the full "Remedy" album finally! And I bought it on iTunes today because I can't get one of the sounds out of my head. I love it!

Before I post the lyrics and why I love them so much, I want to say how much of a blessing it was to have a roommate for a week! I got to see Luke & Shel, I had someone to come home to and help make decisions about what to eat and what to do. I had company sitting at a coffee shop getting some work done. Granted, I did forget to keep up with some things (like finance stuff, groceries and dishes), but the joy of having a dear friend at home that I could come home and chat with about anything more than made up for it! So, if you're reading this, Tricia: you're great!

Now for the lyrics *smile*!

Surely We Can Change by DC*B

And the problem is this/ we were bought with a kiss/ but the cheek still turned/ Even when it wasn't hit
And I don't know/What to do with a love like that/ And I don't know/ How do be a love like that
When all the love in the world/ is right here among us/ and hatred too/ And so we must choose/ what our hands will do

Where there is pain/ let there be grace
Where there is suffering/ bring serenity
For those afraid/ help them be brave
Where there is misery/ bring expectancy
And surely we can change/ surely we can change

And the problem it seems/ is with you and with me
Not the love who came/ to repair everything

Where there is pain/ let us bring grace
Where there is suffering/ bring serenity
For those afraid/ let us be brave
Where there is misery/ let us bring them relief
And surely we can change/ surely we can change
Oh surely we can change/ Something

Oh, the world's about to change
The whole world's about to change

I want to love people the way this song talks about...loving with action. It's a beautiful all should listen to it!