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A High Seas Adventure

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Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.  ~Neil Postman, The Disappearance of Childhood (introduction), 1982

For the first time in my adult life, I had the opportunity to participate in a church’s Vacation Bible School, my church’s in fact.  The love for my church has grown bigger over the past 5 months that we’ve been there, but I think it grew ten fold this week as I got to see not only our children learning about God and even practicing what they learned, but our adult and teen workers being taught about God by the children.  I was hugely impacted by the enthusiasm our children have for God and how they display it in their own individual, unique ways.  It is in our best interest to raise our children up in the way they should go so they will not deviate from it, so that they will be the examples for our world, examples of goodness, kindness, love, and godliness. Though no one could see it because my face was generally hidden behind my camera (a place that is quickly becoming my safe zone), the children, adults, and youth of our wonderful community and small town church brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion during our High Seas Adventure.    I am so grateful to be a part of this church and for every opportunity I have to serve and fellowship with them, and I love to call Louisburg Baptist Church my church home!  It is a church that is growing and a church that is striving to constantly love and serve our community, our nation, and our world and a church with which God is surely well pleased.

A House Burning

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“It always amazes me to think that every house on every street is full of so many stories; so many triumphs and tragedies, and all we see are yards and driveways.”

Glenn Close

“I remember, I remember, / The house where I was born, / The little window where the sun / Came peeping in at morn.”

Thomas Hood

I don’t actually know the people who owned, lived, and grew up in this house….but I know that it was a happy home by the stories people tell.  I know that the girl who grew up there, while she apparently didn’t really mind them burning the house down, she didn’t want to be in town when it happened.  I know that if someone burned my childhood home down – the house that I still visit regularly two or more times a week, the house where my parents still live 27 years later – I would most certainly not want to be in town either.  But I also know that the burning of this house served such a great purpose.  It had not been inhabited in many many years.  And the owners surely knew that the church could use it for something since they handed over the property to them years before.  I had absolutely zero attachments to this house, but somehow (while I was excited and enthralled at the process of it burning down) I was sad.  Happy and sad.  A family played there.  They had memories there.  They ate and slept there.  Somehow, I just don’t see a house as sticks and bricks.

While I was a bundle of emotions, I couldn’t help but watch this whole process of burning the house down.  The firemen prepped and trained.  The EMS stood by prepared for anything that may go wrong.  The community came to watch.  Neighbors sat on their porches for the night.  People brought cameras, food, and drinks…lawn chairs even.  Children played on the church playground not more than 25 or so feet away from the burning house and were brimming with excitement….waiting for the big flames to come.  I witnessed some serious teamwork.  I’m not sure I can really say that I’ve ever seen people work together so diligently and calmly to make sure that not only the job gets done but to ensure that it gets done safely.  Those men and women are seriously dedicated.  Most of them are volunteers, the chief even.  It was fascinating!

Thank you firemen and EMS for letting me dart around you all evening and thank you for your dedication to what can be such a risky job!

Ps.  I can honestly say I have never had as hard a time choosing pictures to post here as I did for this.  So I just posted as many as I could bear to be patient for 🙂

Blog friends and viewers, please do not copy and/or use the pictures posted on this blog for personal or public use.  If you have friends or loved ones that participated in this event, I will be making copies of the disc with all the edited images available for a nominal fee.  Please contact me via email or facebook if you wish to have one.  Thank you!

Daring to Discuss

“Church isn’t where you meet. Church isn’t a building. Church is what you do. Church is who you are. Church is the human outworking of the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s not go to Church, let’s be the Church.”

Bridget Willard

I have loved my church for almost the entire time that I’ve been attending….over 2 years now.  I love the people.  I love the service, the fellowship, the teaching, the events, the programs they offer.   However, it has come to pass that I have become more objective to what my church is, who my church is.  There are times in my life where ignorance is bliss.   This has been the way with church.  I am always sad when I notice that I am not ignorant anymore because I am forced to deal with the bad and the good about any given thing – in this case, church. And so this has compelled me to write this post.

As Christians, we tend to flock to that which we know, those which we know.  Even within our churches there are cliques.  There are women who dress similarly, cut their hair similarly, shop at the same stores.  There are men who do the same, who play the same sports, who talk the same way.  Yes, we may have our little minute differences (i.e. music preferences, food preferences, the weather, etc), but in general we all act the same.  We are often so close to one another that we are no longer capable of truly reaching out to those who are different than us…even if we want to.  We expect those that enter our churches to conform to what we believe and how we believe it. Even if we don’t think we’re expecting, we really do.  Our actions prove it.  We are disdainful and “sad” for those who don’t.  We love on people more if they are coming to faith and, often, love on them less when they don’t.  We don’t take people for who they are where they are.  We often take people with the sole purpose to minister to them, teach them, mold them.  These things are not bad.  They are wonderful, but it should not be our sole purpose.

People walk away from the church every day.  Why?  Because they feel like we don’t take them for who they are.  They feel like they don’t fit in, aren’t accepted.  They feel like “the church” is trying to change them, not just love them.  I am really stepping out on a limb by writing this post.  I am risking serious ridicule.  I am risking hurting feelings and stepping toes of people I do love dearly.

I’ve noticed a lot of local churches growing.  That’s wonderful!  I’ve noticed that the people that are entering our churches and the ones who are becoming new members are Christians.  That’s just ok.  We need other Christians to join our churches so that we can continue to outreach and serve efficiently.  However, what are we doing for the non Christians that enter our churches?  What are we doing about the people who leave the church, who stop attending?  Do we call them?  Email them?  Make every effort to contact them?  Check on them?  Do we really even want them back?  Do we want the people who are the black sheep of our Christian family in our churches? Or are we happier when they leave because there is less conflict, less debate?  You may say that those people who leave have every opportunity to contact us, to reconnect, to attend.  They are invited to all the functions and their email address is attached to all the mass emails that are sent out.  Really?  Is that the correct Christian mentality?  Are we supposed to wait for them to come to us?  Are we supposed to be offended when they don’t?  Are we only loving people that are willing to become like us or are like us already?  We preach grace and love.  We teach grace and love.  We show grace and love relatively easily to one another, but are we showing it to those who don’t believe or those who believe differently? Are we caring for them just as much if not more than we care for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ?  Let these questions sink in.  It is likely not easy to admit that any of these apply to us.

I’ve found that Christians often let their convictions get in the way of Christ.  We are convicted about different things.  We are convicted that we’re doing something bad and should make every effort to change that.  I think this is a good thing.  If you’re doing drugs and the Lord convicts you of this, you should change it.  The same applies for all evil doing, all things that are bad for you or those around you.  We are convicted we are right about something, a belief, a law.  This can be bad.  I’m not saying it always is.  But if we’re convicted that we’re right and we’re wrong, what then?  Is it the Lord convicting us or is it us and our own personal beliefs?  We should analyze this because Christ wants us to love him with all our strength, mind, and heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Everything else will follow.  This constant attempt to be good, obey laws, and be right pushes “outsiders” away and ultimately defeats the point of being a Christian – to outreach and connect with people who are not like us.

All this to say that I think many of us are not the church.  Church is not who we are as the quote indicates.  For many Christians church is the legalistic law that actually prevents us from being Christians.  I’m disappointed that I know someone special and close to me who has walked away from the church for the very reasons I’ve discussed above.  I’m  even more disappointed about the ones I don’t know that have done the same.  These black sheep of our church family so desperately want fellowship.

Our sermon in church today was on service.  Are we serving our fellow man without the motive to sway them to “our side”?  Or are we serving them for the purpose to get them to church?  Or are we not even serving them at all? I see a lot of conditional love, service and grace.  It’s heartbreaking. It is our job to pursue relentlessly, serve and love unconditionally, and to have grace that abounds.  Unfortunately, I’m not really seeing a lot of that.

One of the lyrics from a song we sang in church today said, “Sometimes the space between ourselves is greater than the distance between the stars.”  Somehow we must close these gaps because people are slipping through.  They are receiving lukwarm handshakes, cautious glances,  wondering smiles, and silence.  No wonder they don’t want to come back.

Satisfaction Guaranteed

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:12-13

Our pastor preached on evangalism today and on being good stewards…planting, sowing, and harvesting. It’s something I feel, as Christians, we generally have problems doing. We don’t evangalize enough. And when we do, it often seems awkward, forceful, and unloving (I can say this after having been on the receiving end in the past).  We don’t use our talents and treasures enough for God’s glory and to bring people to Him.  We often don’t serve our church as well as we could.  For me, I can say it’s primarily that I’m preoccupied…with me that is.

I’m preoccupied with my satisfaction, my contentment.  How can I share the love of Christ, my gifts, my talents, my money, and how can I be a good steward for the Lord if I’m preoccupied with the life I don’t have?  Our pastor, during the same sermon, mentioned that if we are in God’s will, then we will be satisfied and content.  We will be happy with where we are in our lives and what we have.  When he said that I immediately had flashbacks.  Flashbacks of envious moments at friends’ houses because they had something I don’t, of times when I didn’t invite someone over because I was scared of what they might think of my home, flashbacks of so many lost opportunities to spread the news that we can live forever in Christ free of our sins!!

If I strive to look to the Lord, follow the Lord, love the Lord, and love and serve others, my satisfaction is guaranteed.  I can be content with my tiny home, old appliances, creaky floors, and drafty doors.  I can be satisfied that some mysteries of God will not be unveiled until I see him.  I don’t need to have everything or know everything.  I don’t need to keep up with the Jones’s.  I don’t need to be a scholar or well known or have a high paying job.  I do need to remain in God’s will and be content with the blessings he’s provided.  And when that is the case, I can more fully serve my family, my church, my community, my world.  I can better reach out.  I’ll be more apt to give away what I have to those who might need it more without thought of whether I’ll be satisfied without it.  I’ll open my home more quickly and eagerly.  I’ll develop better relationships because I won’t be worried about what they have that I don’t or what I desire that may prevent me from becoming friends with them.  My satisfaction in Christ is guaranteed…no returns, refunds or exchanges needed.

My husband argues that family comes first and that we are serving Christ by serving our family, and I do agree with him.  However, my next thought is, think of the example we are sending our children if we are not serving our brothers and sisters in Christ and the lost to the fullest of our potential!  Isn’t it our job not only to strive to be like Christ but to teach our children to do it also?  In serving the church and the lost, we ARE serving our families (and Christ)!  I want to strive to be like Paul is in the Philippians verse.  I want to be content in every circumstance of my life because I know that in my contentment in Christ, I can do all things.  I can be a good steward, serving my family, my church, and my world.

My Grace Is Sufficient

I have some awesome friends…brothers and sisters that I never had. So when one of them – probably the best friend I’ve ever had – told ME that I should have a little grace for the husband who has hurt me and our family -and even my friends -beyond any words…beyond any comprehensible measure. I was devastated. Crushed. How could she? She’s supposed to defend me. To stand up for me. To love me. Hadn’t I had given enough grace to him? How could I possibly spare any more? It took some moments…I say some because it really was before I realized she had. She’d done more than any of those things. She’d done all of those things and most importantly she loved me enough to correct me.

Wow. What if God said that? I can just picture it now…a letter from God saying, “You know, Liz, I think I’ve had more than enough grace for you for this lifetime. I’m so done with that. You blew it.” Now, my next contention to this logic is, I’m not God so I’m not even physically able to give grace like He does because I’m human! Cool excuse, huh? Well, that kind of negates Him working through us and the whole Phillippians 4:13 thing that says, “I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me”. There are numerous passages that could negate that logic, but the point is that the logic just isn’t all that logical for a Christian.

It is my job to have grace in every circumstance, with every person, every day. The only way I do that is with the Lord. So whatever seems humanly impossible (the bestowing of grace to my husband is the thing of the moment) is completely more than possible! And you know what? I don’t even have to worry about getting it! God just gives it…every time, all the time. Not to mention, I’ve done WAY worse to God than any human could ever do to me and continue to be supernaturally blessed! Actually, when I think about the number of times I’ve hurt people even continuously and they have forgiven and continue to love me and even overlook many of those hurts. That’s not natural. That’s God.

So while my humanness DOES make me want to just yell at my friend at the top of my lungs that I’m SO DONE with having grace for this man that is still my husband, the Lord interceded for me (thank you, Lord). And I don’t have to fear it or be anxious about it because I know He will give it when it’s needed. We don’t even have to ask. It’s a gift.

You know, I’ve never had any non blood relative love me like my Christian friends do. It’s amazing really. I simply have never experienced such an awesome power as that which is displayed through them. I’m not so naive as to think that all churches are like mine and all friends are like mine. I know the “church” isn’t perfect…even wrong in some cases. And I know many many many Christians mess up. Many are just plain wrong in their thinking, behavior,etc. I even know that MY church isn’t perfect and my friends are certainly not perfect. And I’m so GLAD! It gives the Lord even more room to work and show us what He can do!

“Grace isn’t a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It’s a way to live.” – Jackie Windspear