As long as I live there will be something worth fighting for, worth writing for, and worth dying for.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

They were first called "Christians"...

Drive time=think time for me, it always has. Some of the deepest moments of my spiritual walk have been behind the wheel of a car, actually. There is something about being completely alone that does it for me. I can actually talk out loud with God. If I did that in my house, my family would first off, be eavesdropping. Secondly, they would think I am crazy. I really look forward to my time behind the wheel as a time of reflection and prayer.

Yesterday, as I drove to school, for some reason, I was thinking of Christianity. Recently, I have been working with a ministry that is predominantly Catholic. Mind you, I am not Catholic and do not intend to convert to Catholicism. In fact, I have been dubbed 'the Protestant' by their founder. The fact is, this Catholic ministry is doing more than any 'Protestant' ministry has done. Why is that?

As I thought of it yesterday morning, I became frustrated. It is a point that I have been thinking over lately, that maybe we are too busy being religious to be Godly. News flash to all: they are not the same.

It dawned on me yesterday morning that "Christian" has become a very bad, broad, label. Yet, we still use it. We have "Christian" Contemporary Music. We have "Christian" Schools. "Christian" dating sites. "Christian" this. "Christian" that.

In Ohio, one of the preachers would always say, "If you have to walk around telling everyone that you are in charge, then you aren't in charge." In other words, if you are what you say you are, people will know and you won't have to say anything.

Such it is with the term "Christian." Do you realize that the first believers did not use that name? Do you realize that the world gave them that name? It means "Christ-followers" or "Christ imitators." The world, at that time, had seen Christ, so they would know what a Christ follower would look like. Hence, the coinage of the term.

However, it has now come to mean anything from right-wind extremists to anti-government. Now, I know Jesus was not loved and He told us that we would not be accepted because He wasn't accepted, but would someone like to tell me why we are instigating this problem? Did Jesus instigate? No. He didn't. Did Jesus walk up to people, smack them upside the head and say, "You better listen to me, because I am God"? No! Jesus loved them. He reached out to them. He fellowshiped with sinners, and THAT is why people hated Him. Too often now the church is all about hating sinners, which would be why the world hates us.

My thoughts were capitalized last night when author Ted Dekker posted a similar line of thinking on his Facebook page.

According to a Barna Group poll, only 9% of those outside the church think Christians in America are nice, loving people. Whatever happened to ‘you shall know them by their love?’ Throughout most of the world Christianity is simply no longer associated with the core beliefs of sacrificial love that birthed our faith. It has become like a large vessel of dirty bathwater, full of nasty associations that fly in the face of Jesus’ teaching which centered on love and the cry that ‘we judge not lest we be judged.’ A Newsweek cover story cited the dramatic decline of Christianity in the United States. We live in a post Christian world, many would say. They might be right. And who’s to blame them? No one wants to swim around in dirty bathwater.

But wait a minute. There is more than dirty bathwater in this vessel. There is something precious and live-giving! And there is a rising generation of thinkers who are as eager to protect and cherish that life as they are to throw out the dirty bathwater.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, we say.

His cry was to get back to what it means to follow Christ and forget all of the hoopla and drammada of religion. We cling so tightly to the label "Christian" and it no longer means what we think it means. We spend so much effort and energy defending our stand and faith that we look more like Pharisees than followers of Christ. It's ridiculous really. So, I think I am actually going to drop the whole label of "Christian." I am not a Christian, I am a follower of Christ. Sadly, yes, there is a difference.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Only Pulse

Recently, the youth group at my church just started a study in Daniel. At the first meeting, they discussed the passage where Daniel asks for pulse to eat and not the king's meat. After ten days, Daniel and his friends looked better than any of the other captives of Babylon. It sounds like a great story, some huge miracle, doesn't it? In an age of high-protein, low carb zap a snacks, we cannot imagine that a diet of vegetables could make us look better.

But the Bible scores again!

Yesterday, as I readied for school, I flipped on the TV, which is highly uncharacteristic for me. I don't really watch it much anymore. I turned to a show on the health channel (my personal favorite) and saw an interview with a holistic doctor.

I hate the medical field in general, which is ironic since I once wanted to be a physician. I do not take medicines unless extremely necessary and even then, I only take half of the recommended minimum dose. I have never received a flu vaccine and will never take one on my own will.

Needless to say, I was remarkably intrigued when this physician recommended juice fasting to a cancer patient. For months, all she ate was vegetables and she drank water. After six months, she was cancer free.

So, I decided to do a little research. Turns out Daniel and his friends were on to something. Juice fasting is a highly recommended detoxification procedure, used to cleanse the body of impurities. The deprivation of calories begins the process of the body eating itself. However, different from starvation, supplying the body with flesh, natural nutrients helps the body restore itself, so it just eats the bad stuff, like fat, and cancer.

Some benefits of juice fasting are listed as being renewed energy, increased alertness, cleared up acne and a 'glowing countenance.' Sound familiar?

I think I may just have to try it. This one is not about weight loss as much as it is about improved health. Lately, I have been subjected to frequent colds and congestion as well as allergies. All are conditions which 'qualify' for juice fasting. Some of our teens decided to go on a 10 day vegetable fast, but I might kick it up a notch right before the holiday (and psycho not-good-for-you-baking) season starts.

I thought all of that last night, and then this morning, my boss just handed me a juicer. She does not use it anymore, and just wanted to give it away. Too cool!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

An Example Through Leadership

For the past hour or so, a thought has been tumbling in my head. This concept of leading by example. How can that apply? Some people are the example first and then lead. For instance, I would be a bad person to lead discussion on a good marriage since I am not married. It's kinda the same reasoning behind why non-parents should not write a book on parenting. They have no clue what they are talking about. There is no example to follow.

However, what about situations where the example is the leading?

I've been tormented lately by this thought of starting a ministry to teenage girls, teaching them to be recklessly abandoned to Christ. Well, in my life that abandon is not huge. I have not forsaken all and flown to Africa to see what God would do with me. Nope. I live a relatively cushy life. I have never felt called to missions. Would I go? Absolutely! I would do it in a heartbeat, but if I bought a one way ticket to Africa, God would not bless. I would not be being obedient.

That being said, I haven't figured out how to reconcile this passion for ministry with this need to have experience. That is until these last few minutes as I have thought through some Biblical leadership. Think of Moses. Moses was free. He was called by God to lead Israel out of Egypt. Had he traveled the road before? No. He was called to lead and his example of faith was found when he stepped up and filled that role.

So, I am thinking. I am thinking of moving forward in a radical way by using the example of others in order to call young women to be reckless. Of using the stories of women around the world who HAVE been there in order to take that story to the women who are afraid to go there. In that way, it is not about me and following my example but it is about God and sharing His passion.

The thought I am working through now is can I become an example of it through leadership or must I be an example first?

Who said growing up was easy??

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Radical Faith

It is not often that God grips my heart so strong and impresses something on me so much that I can literally feel my stomach twist. Right now it is twisted so much that I might throw up and I do not know if it is the fear, the excitement or the 'Are you kidding me?!' shock I am in at the moment.

I spent the past four days in Ohio. Doing absolutely nothing. Correction: I was writing. As I sat on my grandmother's living room couch Thursday I thought of how flexible my current ministry is and how boring it is. Surely there has to be something more than this. That was the thought in my head all weekend. There has to be something more.

I have had many friends tell me I am blessed because my ministry is so portable. Right now, my ministry is so easily auto-piloted. The hardest thing was starting it. Now, God is taking it and working with it, and I am just letting Him. It is His ministry, not mine. Despite His working with that, I still felt like so much was lacking.

Thursday night, I looked over the study for my small group. I was ashamed. If you had asked me if I have a shallow faith, I would have told you no. Now, is it as deep as it could be? No, but I did not think it was shallow. Until I got to question 1 on the application. Then, I realized that I know a lot of Bible and can even do a lot of Bible but I am not connecting the two well. I can apply certain parts of Scripture, but the challenge of the study was to apply Scripture- period. I had to put it down for another time when I had time for it.

Thursday or Friday God had sufficiently planted enough disatisfaction with the current state of my life that I was chomping at the bit to do something about it. I started thinking about starting Reckless this coming summer, but after my little bout with the small group study I seriously doubted my ability to start a discipleship ministry. Besides, how reckless is it if all that is reckless is establishing a ministry about being reckless. (Did that make sense?) If I did that, I would be making myself big and that is not how it is supposed to work.

Then, and this is what I love about God, He used completely random circumstances to rattle the last bit of my sanity. I went and visited my friend, Katy, on Saturday. We spent an hour or so sitting in her dorm room and I noticed a book on her bed. I grabbed it and flipped it open to a random page and this is what the author wrote, "I looked at my husband and blurted out, There has to be something more to the Christian life." I skimmed through the chapter quickly as the authors reflected on "big" Christians from the past.

Their conclusion was that, at some point, ministry stopped becoming about them. That they surrendered their lives entirely for the life God wanted for them, the life He would empower them to live. I looked at Katy and said, "I have to get this book."

The entire drive home Saturday and the evening were spent mulling over what needed to change. What exchange am I not making. What is next because, there is, indeed, a next. There is a big next that I am missing and, honestly, I do not think it has anything to do with a book. If the books work, that's great! But, they are portable. A writing ministry is portable. I could write books from a jungle in Kenya if I wanted to. Writing is too small to live for. There has to be more.

For that matter, a ministry is too small a thing to live for. What if God calls me to something small? Would I be ok with that?

It occurred to me that I am not dependent enough on God to be OK with that. He still is not everything He should be to me. Not even close. It has to be a big deal or no deal at all for me. Still, I do stuff. I do lots of stuff.

God does not want our stuff.

You would think I would learn that.

This morning, as I attended services at my old church in Ohio, it hit me that I really miss the on fire Christian fellowship. I miss the atmosphere of Bible school and I was hoping to find it in my small group, but haven't. So, in the middle of the sermon, I was tallying up numbers to figure out when I could move back to Ohio and plug into the ministries there at the church. I was calculating mortgage payments and everything. It was dissatisfaction to the extreme.

Then, it was as if God said, "No. I don't want you to come back here."

"Well, God, I cannot exactly stay where I am. It isn't working."



"So. What next?"

"That's kinda the question I had for you. What is next?"

"Do you trust Me?"

"Of course."

"Enough to cash in on a dream you had years ago?"

"Umm... sure."

"Ok. Let's go."

"Go?? Go where?"

"You'll see."

Years ago, we are talking maybe three or four, I longed for a day when I could literally say, "Ok, God, I am all Yours. No strings attached." I wanted to have all of my loans paid off from school and a good setup in savings, ready to go out into the world. I wanted to be at the point in life and in my faith when I could truly be Reckless and just step out in faith and walk the water.

For the past few months, I have been telling friends about next summer. "Everything seems to be lining up for summer 2010. I will be totally free by then. I will be 24. I think God is going to do something big." I was pretty fixed on it being marriage. That obviously is not happening. But I realized this weekend, that, instead, that is the time I have been waiting for! The moment I have been waiting for is nearing. The moment when I can cut all ties and say, "Ok, God. No loans. No job. No family ties. It's just You and me. Let's do this."

Now that I see it, it is freaking me out. More than that, an old old old old old old dream (like before wanting to be a doctor dream) is being reborn and I find myself thinking, "Where on earth did that come from??" I am excited and apprehensive. I'm trying to stifle my logic, because my logic wants to wait another year.

Still, I am taking step one tonight. I am asking to come out on the water, and if God says yes, I am going to go. I am going to trust Him to get me through. I can't help but feel like this is crazy! Because it is. But that's the thing with faith. Faith, in its truest form, is reckless. People do not offer their sons for sacrifices or step onto a raging sea because it makes sense.

This, for the moment, is my anthem.

Great Adventure, by Steven Curtis Chapman

Started out this morning in the usual way. Chasing thoughts inside my head of all I had to do today. Another time around the circle try to make it better than the last.

I opened up the Bible and I read about me. Said I'd been a prisoner and God's grace had set me free, and somewhere between the pages it hit me like a lightning bolt. I saw a big frontier in front of me and I heard somebody say "let's go"!

Saddle up your horses we've got a trail to blaze through the wild blue yonder of God's amazing grace. Let's follow our leader into the glorious unknown. This is a life like no other - this is The Great Adventure.

Come on get ready for the ride of your life. Gonna leave long faced religion in a cloud of dust behind and discover all the new horizons just waiting to be explored.
This is what we were created for.

This is the greatest journey that the human heart will ever see. The love of God will take us far beyond our wildest dreams.