Monthly Archives: November 2009

In Pursuit of Authentic Community

It seems the word of the week (or WOW as the area elementary schools like to call them) is “COMMUNITY.” I’ve seen numerous posts this week and last on the topics of defining community, pursuing community, what constitutes a community, how people behave in community and so on. I decided instead of high jacking someone blog in their comment section, I would use my own platform to put in my two cents.

I’ve found myself behaving defensively toward online and social media lately. Some people feel these means of communication prohibit real relationship and we’re all just fooling ourselves. Others claim that everyone is simply “posing” online and there’s no way to really connect authentically. I say it’s not that much different from face to face interaction. People hide behind masks everyday and I think opinions expressed online may actually be more authentic and honest.

I have a Facebook account, a Twitter account and a blog. My community has grown by leaps and bounds over the past year and a half. I remember asking God to expand my sphere of influence and increase my world mainly for the purpose of forcing me out of my box or bubble or whatever you want to call it. There was an unexplainable desire to know more and meet more people but in my current circumstance it seemed unlikely to happen in any conventional way. I work in the finance and operations department of the church I attend. My children are all grown and out of school, well beyond the play-date stage. I rarely see my neighbors. And I haven’t talked myself into joining a gym (not that I’ve tried very hard). I didn’t see where I was likely to cross paths with people outside my existing and small world.

Enter Web 2.0 technology.

Please understand, I don’t believe online community is meant to replace face-to-face interaction. I do have friends and family that I spend time with. We talk, laugh, cry, pray, eat, and just generally interact with each other. Sometimes this happens in person. Other times it happens with a phone call or through email. These people are a very important part of my life. They are gifts straight from God.

But I’ve come to cherish my online friendships as well. God has added such richness to my life through these relationships. He has opened my eyes to a world I would never have known existed and introduced me to people I would never have met (this side of heaven). And all of this was accomplished through blogs (and their comment section), Facebook and Twitter. Yes, social media is not strictly a tool of satan (not capitalized on purpose). God makes use of it too. Community has literally been placed in my lap (via my “laptop”).

We all bring something different as our part of the community. I know I’m smarter for “hanging out” with most of these folks (the jury is still out on if I’m wiser – there is a difference!). This past year I have really moved outside my old comfort zone as far as my thinking is concerned. Now I’m trusting that God is going to use this growing experience to move me outside my physical comfort zone as a result of my shift in thinking.

If the only voices I hear sound just like me, what will I learn? I’m already there. Where will I grow? How and when will I change? This job is big enough to require both my online and offline communities. It’s going to take both to accomplish this monumental task. And maybe even another venue that doesn’t even exist yet – (cue futuristic Star Trek-y music). So get out there and mingle. Live long and prosper and Nanu, Nanu to you too!

Okay, I just blew the “I know I’m smarter” part of this post, didn’t I?

Healing Our Hurts

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*Note* I really did not want to write this post. I started about a month ago and it began to take me places I didn’t want to go. So I put it on the back burner. I told myself I would finish it later. I had other things I could work on in the mean time. But as I started exploring the other ideas they became abnormally complicated and confusing. I couldn’t string two sentences together that made sense much less a whole article that would show people a little bit of God. Then it dawned on me. I was guilty (AGAIN) of trying to tell God what I should be doing (or writing) instead of listening to Him and following His lead. I don’t understand why I should write this and I still don’t really want to, but I think I have to before I can know peace. So here it goes…

Our most passionate ministry can begin at the heart of our deepest hurts. God is able to use a place where we’ve been wounded and healed by His hand as the starting point for us to comfort and minister to others who may find themselves in the middle of a similar experience. If we never experience pain, how will we be able to effectively comfort others when they face hardships?

 [God] comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received… 2 Corinthians 1:4

God uses the trials and pain of this world to prepare and equip us for His service. Does He enjoy seeing us suffer? NO! God derives no pleasure from our pain. But I do believe He welcomes the times when we curl up on His lap for the comfort only He can provide.

If you’ve  raised or even known a spirited toddler you can picture the scene I’m about to describe.

Toddlers quickly reach the age of independence. They require no assistance from anyone. Their favorite phrase sounds something like this: No! I do myself! They think they can do everything by themselves – I mean everything. They arrive at this point long before the child is fully prepared. You, as a parent, know what will happen. Out of nowhere the sidewalk jumps up in front of them and they land none too gently on their knees. There’s blood. There’s pain. There are tears. This same spirited child, who moments before was pushing your hands away in defiance, now reaches out for familiar arms. They want comfort. They want assurance. They want you. And even though you would never wish them pain, you still enjoy the feeling of being needed and able to administer comfort.

What a picture.

Can you envision a parallel with the way God must feel when we insist on doing things our way, all alone, without His assistance? He knows it will lead to heartbreak and pain but He allows us to learn the hard way. I’m not saying that all pain and suffering is a direct result of us insisting on our own way. Some things enter our lives totally unsolicited and through no fault of our own. That’s a whole different discussion I’m not ready to tackle just yet.

I don’t believe suffering is caused by God to bring us closer to Him. I think suffering is the result of sin in this world. But I do firmly believe that God can use any circumstance, whether good or bad by our standards, to reveal His glory. It doesn’t mean He cares any less for us or that He doesn’t love us when bad things touch our lives. But think about this, if you had never fallen and skinned your knee how many times as a two-year-old would you have willingly crawled onto someone’s lap for some good, old fashioned loving? Would you have stopped exploring long enough for some hugs from Mom? If you had been allowed to  insist on doing everything yourself would you have shared those moments with Dad teaching you how to use a hammer without smashing your thumb?

It’s kind of the same with God. He uses those crisis moments, which are inevitable, to teach us, to love us and to show us His strength. Then when the tears are wiped away, the nose blown, and the knees cleaned and bandaged, we look into the eyes of the One who loves us more than His own life and we know His heart can be trusted. We can present our suffering and pain to Him as an offering. These items, though they may appear ugly to us, when placed in His hands can be restored and transformed  into a beautiful, healing gift for someone else. For through our experience we are able to reflect the love of God for someone who desperately needs to receive it.

I Stand Amazed…and Corrected!

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It never ceases to amaze me how much time, effort, and patience God invests in my life to show me the simplest things!

Sometimes there’s a lesson in a pair of shoes or the words of a song. Other times He uses the wisdom of a child or the beauty of nature. Still there are the times when He uses the ridiculous. You know, like a dirty coffee cup or a roll of toilet tissue. Yep. I’ve been chastised by a dirty coffee cup.

Now, something you should know about me is I LOVE to serve. I feel called to serve. (Actually we are all called to serve one another, but I’m not gonna drag you into my psychotic episode…yet.)

Okay, back to my issues.

I have a sincere desire for a servant heart. But I’m learning that having a servant heart doesn’t mean that I get to choose who I serve, how they get served and when the serving happens. Actually I’m learning that the service itself isn’t really the point at all. Imagine my surprise when God let me know, very clearly I might add, that He doesn’t really need me to handle anything for Him! I mean, for real?

Out of all the people written about in scripture, the two I most often relate to are Know-it-all-Martha, the sister of Lazarus and Mary, and Talk-First-Think-Later-Peter. And though these aren’t the only two people in history who’ve tried to serve God in an advisory capacity, it is a character trait they share with Yours Truly. My tendency is to try and point out to God who I think needs to be served and how I think I could best accomplish it my way, on my time table and with my own resources. I know! It’s ludicrous! But so many times I don’t just stop there. Oh no. That’s not bad enough, right? I sometimes cross the line and tell God why “so-and-so” doesn’t deserve my service! Can you believe it? I actually have the nerve to tell God that a person (much like myself) would be better off if they learned how to “do it themselves” and that I would just be “enabling” them if I lent a helping hand.

Whew! It feels good to get that off my chest! It’s true. Confession is good for the soul!

Now comes the hard part. Letting it go and practicing a little submission to God’s will. I’ll let you know how that works out for me.

As it so often happens, after a flaw is kindly pointed out in my life, my Father is faithful to back it up with His word. He has clearly shown me an example of what my attitude should be and I wonder how I could have missed it for so long. It caused me to consider the possiblity of a reversed situation. What if Jesus had my attitude…? (I know! Scary isn’t it?)

Can you imagine if the conversation in a garden between a Father and His Son some two thousand years ago had gone something like this?

Dad, I know what you have planned for me to do over the next couple of days. But don’t you see that it will only enable these kids of yours to continue to live any way they want to? Don’t you know that they will still disobey you and not appreciate the sacrifice you are asking of me? Wouldn’t it better if we worked on another plan? I really think they should be required to do some things for themselves, just to make it fair.

Instead, praise Jesus, the actual conversation was more like this…

Dad, I know what you are asking of me and if there is any other possible way, can we please use Plan B? Nevertheless, I’ll do it your way, not mine.

So now, here’s my lesson…if my main objective in life is to become more like Jesus, do I really have the right to quibble over washing a coffee cup for someone or getting riled up about another person failing to replace an empty roll of toilet tissue? I don’t think so. It was made clear to me that it’s not about the act itself. As ALWAYS, it’s about my heart. The molding and shaping and developing of the part of me that will last forever. The part that was created in God’s image. That’s the only thing that really matters to God – our hearts.

Any thoughts? Want to get something off your chest, too? It’s only fair. You listened to me, I certainly have time to listen back!