Busy vs. Beloved

“The world pressures me to make things happen. Now. But when things don’t go as planned,I often try to regain control – by shutting down my heart.”

Bonnie Gray, from her new book, Whispers of Rest

 

Wait! What?

“But when things don’t go as planned, I often try to regain control – by shutting down my heart.”

I think I inwardly wince as I reread those words. Especially the last five ones. It’s Day Seven, entitled Beloved, in the 40 Day devotional book, Whispers of Rest.

I write in my journal, “Do I do this?” and then draw an arrow pointing to the quote I’ve just written down. I don’t really have to think hard about it. I know the answer.

Yes I do.

It’s not the discovery that I do this that bothers me.  I know it but can I accept the truth of it? I would prefer to stay in denial. If I accept the truth of it, I need to open my eyes to where I shut down in my life. Where I am trying to do or strive, that it costs me my heart.

We do = we count. At least that’s what it feels like. If we aren’t doing something, what’s wrong with us? The world tells us we are lazy. We are stupid. We don’t matter. I need to contribute to be a part of acceptable society. To do so, I shut down my heart, so I can get my To Do list done. The cost is a cold hard heart.

If I don’t feel, I can’t get hurt. At least that’s what I tell myself. If I don’t allow my heart to get involved I believe the lie that I can control the situation or the people. Maybe more importantly I am telling myself that if I shut down my heart and emotions, I can control myself. Escape unscathed.

But that’s not the point, is it?

Further on in Day Seven, Bonnie writes; “Jesus didn’t shut down his heart. He opened his heart to love and brokenness, so that he could one day make your heart his home. Your story is his story.”

What would it look like to open my heart to love and brokenness instead of shutting it down? I write in my journal.

Jesus lovingly turns to us in our brokenness and mess. He meets us right there. He invites us to a life of healing, hope and wholeness in Him. 

What if we turned to those around us, in our own circles, in love? Instead of turning away from their brokenness, their mess, we turned to it? What if we turned away from productivity that the world clamours for and instead turned to people? To ourselves?

  • Maybe we would be more open to getting our hands dirty in the messiness of life because we don’t have a To Do list to check off.
  • Maybe we would be more willing to stop and really listen to someone instead of thinking of what we need to do next or look at our watches, thinking that time is slipping away.
  • Maybe we would comfort more rather than scold.
  • Maybe we would be a better spouse and parent because we are engaged in the moment.
  • Maybe we would shed the chains of what we think is control and instead experience the freedom of actually living life. Experiencing both the ups and downs instead of trying to control them.
  • Maybe we would let ourselves off the hook.
  • Maybe we would turn our hearts back on. Maybe we would accept the love that is offered to us by the One who never turned away from us even in our mess.

Life might actually look radically different.

It’s so much easier to shut down. No doubt about it. But we miss out on the abundant life if we do. We may have our list all checked off but in the end what does that do for us? Nothing. It’s lifeless and cold.

16

We don’t have to prove anything. We don’t need to produce any worldly thing. We just need to be loved. Beloved. See that? Be Loved = Beloved. Louie Giglio points out that little word play in his book, I am Not but I know I Am. You just have to be loved to be the beloved.

“Before Jesus performed a single miracle, he was already beloved.” Bonnie writes. God loved His Son. He loves us too. Because I am beloved, I can open my heart instead of shutting it down. I can share the love that God gave me.

 

I have had the pleasure of being on the launch team for Bonnie Gray’s new book, Whispers of Rest. It’s a 40 day devotional that invites you to rest in God.

I have really enjoyed the invitation to rest and go deeper with God in those periods of stillness that this book offers to each reader. It releases today.  You can find it here at  http://www.whispersofrest.com

Why Go To Church?

A few days ago, I read a blog by a woman whose husband died last month from cancer. She writes that as a widow, she doesn’t care if her church is trendy or if it has a coffee bar. She is hurting and she needs Jesus.  You can read it here. It’s worth the time. I happen to agree with her.  Even if you don’t, she makes some very good points.  (BTW this is not a rebuttal blog at all.  She got me thinking, that’s all.)

Being in church leadership, I understand why churches are resorting to cafes and hipster tactics. As leadership, we are told again and again how the millennials and everyone else is leaving the church en masse or not entering it in the first place. People think church is archaic and irrelevant in today’s world. They don’t have time for church. People have been wounded by the church and people professing to be Jesus followers. There are all sorts of reasons why people don’t go to church. But hey, Starbucks is full on a Sunday morning. So I get why churches are deciding to incorporate the trendy into Sunday morning tradition. Sometimes you just want to get people to come out because they have to be inside to hear about Jesus. To meet Him.

Thankfully we have the freedom to choose the church we attend. Some of us are visual learners so a video or drama helps us learn better. Some of us learn by writing notes during the sermon. Some of us learn by doodling through the sermon – our hands busy while our minds take in the words. Churches don’t all need to be the exact replica of one type of church. We were all created unique by a very big God. It’s okay if our churches are different from each other.  As long as Jesus is our priority.

Some will argue that no, they don’t need to be in church. They can learn about Jesus elsewhere. In nature. In other relationships. I would agree but just like church, you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. Our relationship with God is not one dimensional. We need it all; nature, godly relationships and church.

There’s one other thing. I know it’s hard to believe but some people encounter Jesus for the first time ever in a church!!! I know, right?

The one thing that must happen in church is Jesus is preached. The Word of God must be taught and then lived out. Especially by those in leadership. Jesus must be present in order to be experienced.

To be honest though, I’m like everyone else. I don’t always want to go to church. Sometimes it’s just a single Sunday. Other times it’s been for a season. There are a number of reasons why. But after reading this blog, I have to ask myself, Why am I going to church? As a pastor’s wife, I kinda have to. That’s one reason. But that really isn’t good enough for me.

Why do I go to church? That question coincided with my Lent reading from Margaret Feinberg’s #Beloved study of John. I was a day behind so the passage was from John 5. It’s about the man who sits beside the pool waiting for the water to be stirred. He can’t get himself in because he is paralyzed. Jesus comes to him and asks him a bizarre question. “Do you want to get well again?” (John 5:6 Phillips) Really? Of course he wants to get well!

 

Jesus’ question had nagged at me throughout the day. It was a main point in Margaret’s blog about the reading too. After reading the widow’s blog about church, I put the two questions together. Why am I even going to church? Do I want to get well again?  I think the two are very connected.

Even though the church has many faults, God still wants us there. It is a place of fellowship and community that is centred around Him. There is healing and hope in hearing about other’s people’s journeys. It’s one of the widow’s main points about church. She wants to hear about people’s own stories of God not what the flavour of coffee is. She’s absolutely right. It’s through our stories that we get to know God better. That it becomes personal. One of the places this should happen is our churches. (Sometimes the leadership gets their priorities mixed up.)

It also is a place of learning. The pastor has been taught to teach the bible. More than one message I have heard in a lifetime of sermons has cut me to the close. Changed me.

1797399_10151869367926626_1919888910_n

Do I want to be healed? Do I really? Or would I rather just sit by the pool and make excuses? Put up my walls and shrug, “Oh well, guess that’s not for me?”

Do you want to get well again?  He’s asking us today that very same question.

Yes I do. I think that’s why I don’t leave church. It’s not perfect but at the moment it’s what we’ve got.

It’s also a place I have encountered Jesus more than once. Like in ancient times,when Jesus taught in the Temple, His presence is still in our churches today when we invite Him to come, bringing healing and power. It comes through His Word, through people acting as His hands and feet and through the testimony of His people.  As I head out to church, a part deep inside hopes to meet Jesus there as I stop and sit. I probably will have to surrender my own will. I may have to let people help me, carrying me to the pool. I may have to take down my protective walls, but He’s there waiting.

IMG_2679

Me. You. We just need to come.

Do you want to get well again?

Lent: Learning to be #Beloved

Lent has begun. I skipped pancake Tuesday because well, I hate pancakes. Too much sweet and honestly, it’s breakfast for supper which I despise.

However, I decided to join Margaret Feinberg in reading through the Book of John and colouring and doodling my way through her book Beloved: 40 Days in the Gospel of John. I went through the New Testament with Margaret a few years ago during Lent, which I really enjoyed.  This year’s idea intrigued me.

img_3179

To be honest, I haven’t participated in Lent recently. Bible reading had become a chore and a have-to-do and so I stopped. What was the point if I was just going to be fake about it, right? So I read when I felt like it but mostly I didn’t engage in daily devotions. There I admitted it.

By the end of 2016, God was nudging me. It was time. I picked up Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. I had read it before and liked it. It appealed to me. It was short but meaningful. A good start for a prodigal bible reader.

I’ve kept it up too because at some point you have to stop going by feeling and instead go by faith. But I felt the need for more.

Then, I saw Margaret’s book and decided to order it and work through it for Lent. I liked the idea of marking the text in colour and the creative aspect of working my way through scripture. I hoped it would help me to love reading God’s Word again or at least ignite a spark.

Margaret admitted to starting early because she was so excited so I admit I cheated a bit too and read the scripture through yesterday and started to circle the verbs in red. I was in a bit of a panic because I wasn’t sure I could spend that much time in the Word. I doubted myself as I read. What was a verb again? (Hello, English major here!) I thought to myself, “I can’t do this! It won’t be perfect!” But I made myself start.

I’m glad I did because today was not a good start to Lent. I was grouchy. The basement has a leak that we can’t find. It rained all night. Life happens and I forgot about Lent and reading Beloved.

I saw the email in my inbox after dropping the boys off at school. A reminder. I realized I didn’t really want to do the day’s reading. I wasn’t feeling it. Ironically, Margaret has suggested asking ourselves at the end of the day’s reading, “What do I most need to read but least want to hear?” Welllll today I just plain didn’t want to read God’s Word, any part of it but it’s what I most needed. Maybe not a great way to start Lent but for me, today, it is what’s happening. It’s what’s real.

The good news? God meets us in our very real places. Once I got reading and marking and colouring, I had fun! It’s the best time I’ve spent in God’s Word in a long time. It was just for me. No studying for a message or any other agenda. It was just time for me and God. I felt lighter for it.

img_3211
I’m pretty sure I’m going to be challenged by both scripture and the discipline of sticking to the readings, this Lent season. I have let these muscles atrophy. But already I have learned that God doesn’t expect perfection. (Thank you Margaret for making that point!) I don’t need to mark up my book perfectly to learn from it. I just have to do it! He graciously and generously fills in the rest.

What are you doing for Lent this year? It doesn’t have to be complicated. I think if you just take the step forward, He’ll meet you wherever you are. Because that’s His character and He loves you so very much.

Here’s a link to find out more about Margaret Feinberg’s Beloved study for Lent.