Visiting

This weekend I am away from home.  My daughter and her friends are at conference in the city and me and one of the mom’s came along for the ride.  By ride, I mean exactly that… we drop them off at the door and pretend we don’t have any blood relation to them.  Then we mom’s head to IKEA to shop and they hopefully get a fresh message from God.  We’re praying for good stuff to happen in that building.

But this morning I get to do something I find so fun.  Visit another church!  Its a rare treat these days as my heart and my responsibilities lie at home.  But when the opportunity arises, I love to visit elsewhere.  And where we are going just happens to be the church I spent my high school years attending.  In some ways it is as familiar as an old sweater, but it most ways it is a fresh new place where God is doing some good good stuff.

They had a rapper thee Friday night.  I’m pretty sure no rapper darkened the doors of that church when I was in High School!  And where have all the suites gone?  Not even the ushers wear them.  In fact, last time I was there the pastor was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and didn’t even stand behind a podium!

Things have changed with me too.  I don’t think I will ever attend a church without observing and analyzing my environment.  What they do.  How they invite people in.  How they worship.  Where the ushers go.  Where the kids go…

I have been at a few churches that mean well, but could use some tweaking. And I have been at others where I want to bring home a few of their ideas.

I recommend taking field trips when you can.  The only thing I would stress is that you would pray for grace and contentment before you go.

Grace, for those times when it feels like they could use a bit of help.  It can make you feel pride in what you have at home.  I attended a church like this not long ago.  It was a tough one to have grace for.  They had a really cool website and the place sounded awesome.  Bless them for their efforts, but they forgot to have someone at the front door to tell newcomers how to get through the labyrinth that was their building into the sanctuary.  We just wandered alone down halls thinking it was probably too late to find somewhere else to go… and the service was hours long, with more than one sermon.  Grace.

And sometimes you go somewhere where things look amazing.  Like they have it all together and everything runs so smoothly.  It can make you discontent with where you are and that is not a good thing.  Its great to pinpoint the things you like and what the take homes are.  But remember visiting and attending are two totally different things.  And beyond the sheen of Sunday, every church has flaws.  But every church is the Bride of Christ and are seeking Jesus every Sunday.  I just thing that collective international worship Sunday mornings… the anthems of praise from little groups of people everywhere is the very best visual ever.

I love that God inhabits those praises where ever we are and that we can take part in this global thing that is the church.

Be blessed this Sunday – wherever you may be worshipping. 

Godspeed.
Cheryl

31 day button

Advertisements

Flipping Ahead

March 16th the doors will open and the children will race through the doors of our church for a week of Day Camp. Some will be hesitant, some will cling to a parent and many are ready to run (literally) from the minute they get there. They all know that something is going to happen that week but are not sure what that something is. By about three in the afternoon everyone has become acquainted and the place is buzzing with excitement. I can stand on the platform now and ask for volunteers and just about every hand will not only be raised, but children will begin to moan and whine and hold their hand higher, hoping for the chance to be the “chosen one”. As I look down at the crowd and call one out I promise you they don’t sit down and smile and my gesture, but rather they race to the front of the stage, ready for whatever is coming next. Not an ounce of hesitation is evident, they are completely present in the moment and awaiting your next words. They know that whatever I have for them to do is going to be good.

And then I am humbled.

Humbled at the realization that this is what Jesus is looking for in me. When he calls my name. When He choses me for a job, I know He would love me to race to his side eager to hear His instructions. Attentive to His voice and calling ready to act.

There was a day when I was like that. I was a child then. I embraced the call with everything that was in me and doubts were squashed under my readiness to act. Now, I have grown, and matured, discovered many of my weaknesses. I’ve realized my list of shortcomings is huge and accepted that I’ll never be wise enough, talented enough, educated enough… I’ve become adept at making excuses and settling for a big pile of mediocrity. Kind of like the man we are going to be learning about at Day Camp.

Meet my buddy Moses.

This guy stood, barefoot, in front of a burning bush, listening to the voice of God and his response was basically, “Sorry God, I’d love to help you out but…well, there’s these sheep… and I have a bit of a stutter, so THAT would work would it?… and well, I could recommend my cousin if you’re still interested in this whole, letting your people go thing… do you want his number?”

I’ve been reading about him, preparing for camp and smiling at His foolishness. I confess I have an advantage over him. I can flip the pages of my Bible and read ahead. I know about the plagues, and the passover, and the parting of the Red Sea. I’ve read about Joshua and the wall of Jericho, of the Promised Land and the fulfillment of all God’s promises. I can flip back and read about his sister, Miriam, caring for him in the bulrushes, and his childhood amongst Egyptian royalty. I can see how his whole life had prepared him for this task and I know what God did through Moses.

But, sitting on a hill, all this shepherd could see was the Midian landscape where he had taken up residence. This vista represented his escape from his mistakes and from an identity he wanted to deny. In this field, a world away from the king’s palace, Moses had safely curled up amongst the sheep content to live out his days in complacency.

But God could see, and we know God had a plan.

Jeremiah 29:11 promises us that God still has plans. Just like unsuspecting Moses, He has a job for me, for you, for all of us. His desire is that we become like the children in Mark 10 who race to his side, eagerly anticipating what His words, not like Moses hunkered down amongst the sheep making excuses. (As if it was about me in the first place!)

Do you ever wonder what Jesus said as they ran to his lap? What did He see as He looked in their faces? What does He see when He looks in yours? Maybe it’s time to climb on up and hear for yourself…

The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them. Mark 10:13-16

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD ? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. But take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it.” Exodus 3:4-12 & 4:10-17

One Smooth Stone

The young boy stood, staring straight ahead, resolved to finish the battle started by the Giant he faced. Behind rocks and craters the soldiers peered out at the child and trembled in their armor. This was the point of no return and in the balance hung the freedom of every man. Their minds raced back to the comfort of days past, as they recalled the familiarity of avoidance. Sitting in limbo was a much safer option than what faced them all right now. How many sunsets had come and gone since that mighty soldier had disgraced them all?  It had long become more important for this army to be safe than to risk it all in what appeared to be a suicide mission.

Until the boy came along, stirring up trouble and unspoken fears. With his awkward stance, hands and feet to large for his gangly body. His question raised the hairs on the back of these mighty men.  Soldiers.  Really.  It wasn’t about who was mighty enough to fight this monster, because the truth was he was bigger and stronger than any of them.  Despite the powerful jawlines and muscular stance of each of the king’s men no one dared to stand face to face with this enemy and look him in the eye – this giant that taunted them incessantly.  Deep in the recesses of their heart was a nagging far stronger than the giant’s.  “Was the God that they stood for, who had called their people “Chosen”, even strong enough?  They spent their days waiting for a sign, or a flash from the sky.  One that woul densure their safety and prove they served the one true God.  Then, this adolescent entered the camp, stepped on their toes and dare to insinuate that they should do anything but wait.  The thought that someone should step up and fight sent a wave of discomfort through the ranks.

Even after it was agreed that he would be the one to go, the king looked to secure his victory with the trappings of a common soldier.  But no, the young boy would not don armor and mighty sword to defend his God, but rather the familiar feel of five smooth stones.  Then, face set towards the enemy, he walked away from the camp with a backbone no man at camp had ever witnessed.

He stood alone, stone in hand.  And the people for whom he would one day be king, crouched, holding their breath and waiting.

Either their God was who He said He was or they had all been deceived.

It was fear that kept them cowering behind rocks, living in tents, waiting endlessly for someone else to make a move.  Even now, they remained, poised to retreat, fearing the worst as Goliath stood unhumanly tall mocking the boy.

Had the giant looked closely he would have seen the fire of God blazing behind David’s eyes…and  might have glimpsed the destiny of this youth.  But rather, mired in conceit, he spewed threats and barbs.

And then…shoulders back, arm poised, David threw his stone.

The scream, the dust flying, the crash seared in the minds and hearts of each Israelite watching.

It would be a story told again and again over their lifetimes.  Through the rheumy eyes of aged men whose years would fall away like scales as they told the story,  “Our God, young child, the one true God came through that day.”

The glory was not in the felling of the Giant, but a bolstering of the faith of a nation and a reassurance in the heart of each man The power and deity of their maker was laid bare and known to them. The fear that had immobilized the Israelites had been shaken to its very core and at its root they discovered the greatness of their God displayed not in the might of a sword but in a small round stone placed in the hand of a young boy.