Thursday, October 30, 2008

God Chooses to Need a Body

I've been thinking about the people that God uses. In the Old Testament we see Moses, who by his own admission was not worthy. And yet God said to Moses that he would be 'like God' to Pharaoh. We also see David, the 'man after God's own heart,' but David had his share of screw ups and regrets and returning to God. We see Noah, who's post-flood doesn't exactly fit that of a fine, upstanding man...

If we look at the advent story we see that God chose to use Mary to be the mother of Jesus - a young girl to mother the son of God. We see Joseph. A carpenter called to be the earthly father to the Son of God. Shepherds called to be the first ones on the scene.

Three decades later: Jesus calls fisherman. Jesus spreads his message through a Samaritan woman who had (up until the moment she encountered Jesus) lived a very sketchy life. Jesus used a tax collector (Matthew), a former prostitute (Mary), a former killer of Christians (Paul).

And there are many other examples. When I look at all the examples it makes me see that I fit pretty well into the crew. I fit right in as one who is flawed, who hasn't always been the person I wish I were, who continues to mess up and who spends a lot of time feeling like I'm not up to the task. And yet, Jesus uses us to be his body.

So, these thoughts lead me to questions about the body. How can we, New Hope, become the healthiest body possible? How do we better spur one another along toward good deeds? What does it mean to truly love one another to the point of laying our lives down for one another? What are the things we need to do within the body to show the world that Jesus is the one who makes all the difference in the world?

Post Christian France

About a week ago, 20 or so New Hopers hung out for the evening with Dave & Carolita Fraley. The Fraley's have spent the last 30 years as missionaries in France. We had a great time together eating, laughing, praying, and hearing about the ways in which God is building his church in France.

I was struck by many of the stories Dave & Carolita shared. They spoke of how important it is for the people to whom they minister to see their love above all else. They talked about how no preaching or program could outdo just merely loving the people they came into contact with.

They shared that many have given up on France because there seems to be so little fruit, but then they went on to share some of the fruit. They talked about people that have grasped God's grace and are living in that grace in amazing ways. There are a handful of multi-cultural pastors that are full of faith and God's love and are living that love to everyone they meet. There is one church building in particular that houses 3 churches in it. They gather at different times to make the best use of the space and still they are running out of space.

They shared how many of the people they've encountered in France live life very cognitively. They are not apt to be swung by an emotional event. They also shared that in France, Sunday is a day for family. So to work within the culture, they have begun having Saturday night dinners and conversation. Saturday keeps Sunday free for family. And the conversations allow people to think through things and see God in it.

Dave & Carolita ask that we continue to pray for God's mission in France. In particular for the leaders who are rising up to be the second generation leaders.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I am a TERRIBLE Relaxer

Did you ever feel like you simply couldn't get off the couch? Like a couple days of your life had sucked the lifeblood out of you? That's kind of how I feel today. I've had a couple of super-busy days filled with both good and challenging things. Today has been a day of rest and I have made the most of it - if by made the most of it you mean tried to rest and sit around a lot. When Steve got home from work, I told him I successfully did almost nothing this entire day. He said that's what most people call 'Sunday'.

You know what, I'm not good at relaxing. I need it; I know I do. I see the signs: My girls have to repeat themselves over and over for me to catch what they said...I am irritable...I have an inability to make healthy choices...I zone out...I'm tired even when I've had enough sleep...

I am seeing today the genius in God's design of rhythm and sabbath. I am trying to discover how to make the most of it. However, all day long I have swung between guilt in feeling like I should be doing something and a complete lack of energy. Why is it that I struggle with rest? I am trying too hard to please people that I have forgotten how to please God in this area? I want to learn how to redeem rest in my own life. I do not believe in a dualistic view of life and spirituality and yet...

I wonder what all it takes to worship God through rest. Planning for it and taking regular time for it. Realizing that sometimes extra-sabbath is required. What else? How can I learn to offer God my relaxation (or any aspect of pleasure, for that matter)?

Cool Web Site is a great site for listening to music on your computer:

Monday, October 20, 2008

New Hope is being the Church

As I listen to Mickey Mouse Playhouse in the background, I am hanging out with Micah while Paul and Stacy are at the second Chemo session (thank God for Chemo & thank God for Mickey Mouse Clubhouse…) & reflecting on the weekend. This weekend has been full of opportunities to ‘be the Church’ together.

If you’ve been around New Hope at all in the last few months, you know that we’ve been walking through the difficult diagnosis of Hodgkin’s in our lead pastor, Paul. He has had a biopsy, faced mortality, tumor removed, diagnosis given, insurance dropped, recovered from surgery, head shaved, and now he is on Chemo treatment number 2. In a couple hours it will be 2 down, 10 to go. We have watched and prayed as people we love walk through a season filled with uncertainty, frustration, God’s faithfulness, unexpected blessings, and everything in between.

This weekend, I was struck by how Paul and Stacy (and Rebecca, Jacob & Micah) are loved by all of you. I watched as a gifted group of people took the lead on a benefit, and many others came in to serve in a bunch of different ways. To everyone – from the person who sold tickets to all their friends to those who worked tirelessly for hours on this event, I just want to say what a beautiful expression of love that was. None of us can physically walk in Paul and Stacy’s shoes right now, but we can follow God’s lead and be his hands and feet. There have been sooo many ways people have helped: with meals, cards, phone calls, lawn mowing --- and many more . I feel as though God is using this situation to teach us to hear the cries of others and learn to be his hands and feet on a regular basis.

The second beautiful example of New Hope ‘being the Church’, was at Second Harvest on Saturday. About 30 people bagged 3,000 bags of corn flakes that will (within a couple weeks) be in the hands of people who need them. I was struck by the camaraderie and friendship I saw. The goal was to help out an organization that is doing a lot of good in the Valley; friendship was the beautiful byproduct. It was neat to go to the gatherings on Sunday and see folks who (previous to Second Harvest) had never spoken to each other now sharing friendship. Worshipping with music on the weekend has new depth when time has been spent during the week worshipping through serving. I look forward to many more opportunities to worship together OUTSIDE New Hope’s walls.

The third and final example I witnessed this weekend came because of a death of a Son/Brother of some New Hopers. I have watched as individuals have comforted, cried with, hugged, prayed for, fed, and organized on behalf of Barb Witherstine & John and Melissa Ciavarella. Today after the funeral, New Hope will host the funeral dinner. I’ve already seen a team of people there to set up tables and another team bringing in food for the family. Again, we cannot walk in their shoes, but we can walk as closely as God leads. I am so thankful to see people step in.

The cries are endless. Our role is to listen and act as God leads. None of us can do it all – nor is that God’s desire. Our role is to ask God to help us hear the cries, move us out of our comfort/our schedule/our plan and put us in a place where we hear the cry of those outside our walls and in who are hurting. God desires that we hear what he hears. Just as we learned in the teaching this weekend, when we are with the hurting, the hungry, the oppressed, we are with God.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Reflections on They Like Jesus, but Not the Church

My 12 year old daughter thought it was the best study we've ever done and she is going back through and reading the book. My 14 year old daughter felt like it was lacking because she feels like New Hope is so different from all other churches (and she couldn't get past Dan Kimball's hair).

For some of my friends it was an opportunity to look at how the church has oppressed women in the past and the impact that had. God is healing.

During this teaching series I also read a book called "The War of Art." I HIGHLY recommend the book - just may bring out the writer in you; however, it contains some 'spiritual' views to which I do not ascribe. I liked being open to a book that I do not 100% agree with. One of the things that struck me most about the teaching series is that it is our responsibility to figure out what we believe and why we believe it. The days of blind following are over. We are called to be thoughtful theologians.

Some New Hopers see that we - as a church - need to repent...Myself included. We need to own up to the narrow-mindedness that has divided people and learn to respect and love everyone - whether they challenge our belief system or not. God changes hearts. It is our job to love.

My hope is that the end of the teaching series is NOT the end of the conversation. As we talk & as we listen, we learn. I love learning with all of you.

Monday, October 13, 2008

East to West

It seems like the reminder of God's faithfulness to me always comes right at the perfect time. In the past it has often been through a Godly mentor who always had a knack for reminding me of my TRUE identity in Christ. That friend has since moved away and I was just thinking this morning how I could really use one of those 'reminder talks.'

Then I happened on this song. Hopefully, it encourages you as it did me.


Here are the Lyrics:
East to West by Casting Crowns

Here I am, Lord, and I'm drowning in your sea of forgetfulness
The chains of yesterday surround me
I yearn for peace and rest
I don't want to end up where You found me
And it echoes in my mind, keeps me awake tonight
I know You've cast my sin as far as the east is from the west
And I stand before You now as though I've never sinned
But today I feel like I'm just one mistake away from You leaving me this way

Jesus, can You show me just how far the east is from the west
'cause I can't bear to see the man I've been come rising up in me again
In the arms of Your mercy I find rest
'cause You know just how far the east is from the west
From one scarred hand to the other

I start the day, the war begins, endless reminding of my sin
Time and time again Your truth is drowned out by the storm I'm in
Today I feel like I'm just one mistake away from You leaving me this way

I know You've washed me white, turned my darkness into light
I need Your peace to get me through, to get me through this night
I can't live by what I feel, but by the truth Your word reveals
I'm not holding on to You, but You're holding on to me
You're holding on to me

Jesus, You know just how far the east is from the west
I don't have to see the man I've been come rising up in me again
In the arms of Your mercy I find rest
'cause You know just how far the east is from the west
From one scarred hand to the other
One scarred hand to the other
From one scarred hand to the other

Friday, October 3, 2008

I love Pittsburgh

If you're anything like me, "getting out of dodge" can sometimes be a helpful activity. Here is a link to some great, free stuff in Pittsburgh.

Grab a friend and take an adventure. Heck, if you don't have a friend, call me. I'm always up for a trip to Pitt!