Monday, April 29, 2013

"Ain't nothin' but a CHURCH thang..."

And THIS is the reason we love God's Church. It is such a gift when God shows you clearly the reason doing things His way pays off. More times than not- I ignore Him and feel the consequence, but WOOHOO for when we get it right! (Rare as that might be!)

This last year has been full of ups and downs when it comes to living with people. Whether it be "my people" that share my house, church folk, co-workers, or extended relations, I have felt more often the sharp slice of the old Proverb "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" than any other time of my Christian life. And I honestly was pretty sick of the painful clashing! Who wants to have someone rubbing up on you- scratching away the rough patches, sharpening the dull spots to make you "edgier"? I know- it is meant to be an encouraging verse, but I am ready for the other kind of encouragement. Something that talks about fragrant roses and quiet, soothing creek beds or something. Can't anyone find me THAT kind of encouragement?
In all seriousness, having walking with my family through a tough time and watching the way people view you change so much: changing friends,changing ministry, changing stages; it was sometimes the last thing I wanted to do on any Sunday morning to walk into a church with people who were still the same and looked so together. I would much rather have walked on hot coals, drank a couple gallons of vodka, jumped off a bridge, got in a fist fight, you get the drift. In reality, I would have rather just stayed in bed and watched Little House on the Prairie episodes- but all those other things sound so much more dramatic.

More than anything, we struggled with the mantra: "The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?" Proverbs 18:14 I read that so many times, I couldn't help but memorize it. I would tell God- "I just can't. I can't love anymore. I can't fight anymore. I WON'T." I'm sad to admit it.

 But God knows what we need better than we do. Where I thought sticking my head in the sand would be the best thing for me, He challenged me to "not forsake meeting one another with brotherly devoted to one another...encouraging one another...forgive each other..." SO many "one another" verses! Why couldn't we just ditch and run? Fly solo, be independent of others opinions, needs, feelings? "To each his own" thinking sounded really nice for awhile.
 Last week I had read a story- just chugging through my "assigned readings" on auto pilot- but one verse jumped out. In Luke 7, Jesus just finished healing some servant, and as He walked in to the city He saw a large crowd and a weeping mother carrying out her son in a coffin. She was an old widow, and this was her only son. This is the verse that couldn't be ignored:
"When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “[j]Do not weep.”
Oh, to think that God sees us, and feels COMPASSION for us in our sorrow!

 But Jesus didn't stop with that. Because He is God and can do whatever He wants, the passage goes on to tell us He brings the dude back from the dead and the guy sits up and starts chatting with everyone. Wah! Can you even imagine it?

This is what I love about God's word- it sounds like a fairytale story, but read on: "Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and, “God has [l]visited His people!” 17 This report concerning Him went out all over Judea and in all the surrounding district." (Luke 7:11-16) People saw this happen, people heard about it, were still alive to dispute it- and nobody did. I am sure many thought it was a trick, but the point is that they heard of it and the dude was walking around to collaborate it. Sooo good!

As I thought about the fact of a compassionate God, I felt ashamed that I so quickly distrust Him. So quickly give up and think He isn't paying attention to the little things that are "crushing" my spirit. I realized how little time I spend focusing on where I see God working. We have amazing friends. They have stood by us when they thought we were crazy. When they thought we were wrong. When they thought we were more a burden than a blessing. For every stinker, our church has two people who truly care. Who are committed to the gospel of Jesus and know that God saves lives, He changes hearts. My daughter and son are the most amazing two people and I see daily how God is growing them. My husband has stood by his family fiercely, in spite of his own struggles. A fellow blogger calls her son-in-law her "son-in-love" because she adores him. I can honestly say the same. I see my "son-in-love" trying so hard through sleepless nights, full time work, full time school, and I am thankful that he still shows up to church every week. No matter how he feels.
 It is a wonderful thing to recognize the support and love God's community can provide. In the midst of our troubles, I had several friends express their anger at church folk for what they saw as "punishment" for mistakes that many make. I saw friends leave, saying they were too bothered by how my daughter was treated. I listened to others debate all that was wrong with churches today. I felt it too. I know we are all ugly on the inside sometimes, and do and say hurtful things. My "advice-itis" has done it's own share of damage.

But what those who sit on the sidelines of church don't get to see, is the amazing things God can do through us- the worst of sinners. When we choose to take God at His word, believe that His ways are right even when it hurts, great things happen. Wow.
My daughter has a great big family of women who love her and will help her learn what it takes to do this marriage and mama thing for the long haul. My son and son-in-love have men who will call them out when they are slacking and show them how to step up when needed. Men who will show them how to love their wives and families with "never quit" strength. My husband has friends who understand him. It is almost too much to be thankful for.
(She's obviously found her hands!)
This last Sunday was the first time my little grandbaby- the little girl I will always call my "darling precious"- was awake through a good portion of church. I never get to hold her during church, but this week God gave me the chance. Oh, to see her sweet little face as she slept, hear her soft snores, and then see her big smile as she woke up to Pastor Scott's voice as he taught why GRACE matters. (Usually she just LOUDLY fills her pants while he's preaching!) To stand and sing "In Christ Alone" and watch her stare at the stage, taking it all in. To have a dear sister in Christ sneak over and ask for a turn, and to watch them sing and dance together. The "older women teaching the younger" ALREADY! Just like the book of Titus talks about. THAT is what is great about church! That is the reason God says we are to "do church", even when it's hard.

When I was little and stressed or sad, my dad use to always blow things off by teasing us and saying "It ain't nothing but a thang" and doing a little "Blues Brothers"-type hand jive. All day yesterday, I just kept hearing his deep voice saying:
 "It ain't nothin' but a Church thang."
 I'm so glad God didn't let me jump ship when I wanted to. Because church is a pretty cool "thang".

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." Romans 12:2-5
(Somebody got a new toy, and it's too adorable to see her in it! I can't believe how strong she is and outside a little supporting, she can actually stand in her exersaucer at only a little over 2 months! Too fast!)

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