Archive for June, 2003

am i beautiful now?

Friday, June 27th, 2003

the rain clouds,
they’ll come back.
it will fall
and you will live again.

i know you’re waiting
for love
to pour into your glass
maybe then
you’ll feel beautiful.

the rain clouds,
they’ll come back.
it will fall
and you will live again.

grace shines her smile
into your cold corner.
she’s like the sun
she’s like the rain
she brings both
for she is beauty.
with love at her side
she calls your name.
how will you respond?
it matters not
for they care just the same.
if you allow them to or not
they care just the same.
whether you acknowledge them or not
they’ll be by your side.
for you are cared for.
you have been shown grace.
you have been shown love.
And life is yours.

Food For Thought

Sunday, June 22nd, 2003

Here’s a quote from the man who first “messed me up” with postmodern thought:
“If we as Christians took the energy we use to prove we are right and others are wrong, and invested that energy in doing good, more people would see we are right.” Chris Wells

Time Will Tell

Friday, June 20th, 2003

stumbling through the sky
through distant rainclouds
and fears
my stomach is in knots
there’s no one here
to dry my tears

i’m afraid
of what isn’t
i’m afraid
of what could be
i’m afraid
of falling farther
without you here
with me

silence cries out her concern
she paints blue over the clouds
over the rain
it refuses to fall
to give me rest from this place
i’ve so long lain

your foot slipped
through my emotions
and my heart found
its way to my sleeve
truth is a funny thing
when it breaks

i’m afraid
of falling farther
of falling for you

Comfort and purpose don’t belong in the same sentence.

Monday, June 16th, 2003

Over the past few weeks I’ve found that I’ve become increasingly frustrated with life in general. I thought that this was probably just due to the fact that I didn’t have a job; I didn’t have anything worthwhile to throw my energy into. There was nothing making me get up in the morning. Well now I do have a job. Actually, I have two. And life doesn’t have any more meaning than it did when I was unemployed. I’m not sure why I’m surprised by this fact, because it shouldn’t surprise me.

Yesterday was a turning point for me. I was caught up in a lot anxiety and basically wanting to be absolutely anywhere but here. Praise the Lord for friends I can talk things through with and who give me godly wisdom and insight. If it weren’t for Clay and Ty I still wouldn’t really have a clue what is going on or what I’m supposed to do about it.

When I was on SoD my relationship with God advanced in giant steps, and I found God in ways I never had when I was at home. I became a new creation. Yesterday I realized that I don’t know how to be that person when I’m at home. It’s not that I don’t feel free to be myself with my friends, I just don’t quite know where I fit anymore. I also realized that I was starting to fall back into some of my old habits and character traits: things that I definitely do not want back in my life. I think I was picking up on some of my old habits just so that I would know where I fit: so I would know what my role is. But that role is now one that I refuse to play. I see now that it’s good that I don’t know where I fit. I don’t want to be comfortable. Yesterday my friend Ty said to me: ” I think sometimes our worst enemy in seeking after God is comfort. That is what the world seeks, that is where the whole rest of the world spends their entire lives working towards and we don’t feel complete in a comfortable place as people living with the Spirit of God in us. We cannot, it’s impossible because the Spirit in us longs to take us deeper and out of our comfort zone to reach a burned out world.”

Ty also said to me: “I know you care about being near to God, I’ve seen it in you in the past and even with your frustrations with the “neutral gear” now. You know God has more for you and you are hungering for it but don’t know where to start.”

I think I’ve started now though. I’ve recognized (again) that my strength is not enough and that comfort will not carry me through life. I need to do something with my life, but more than that I need to be someone. I need to be someone seeking after the heart of God. “Service flows from worship. Always put worship before service, and service will result.”(Gareth Goosen)

Ministry Opportunities

Monday, June 16th, 2003

I went to my parents’ church yesterday. It was interesting…yeah, interesting is a good word for it. As in many churches these days, there was someone from the ‘welcoming committee’ at the door to shake my hand as I walked in. By the time my hand was in her’s, her eyes had already strayed from mine to the person walking in behind me. I’m sure this goes without saying, but I felt really welcome.

We were being preached at about spiritual gifts. The ultimate question we were left with was, “What kind of church could we be if we would ever get it right in the area of spiritual gifts and combine it with love and all work together for the church?” Ultimately a very valid thought…if it weren’t for the fact that every time the word ‘church’ was used it was referring to the 200 people in the room, and not the rest of Christ’s body around the world as well. The sermon notes said: “Whatever your gift is, use it for the strengthening of the church (local body).” Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the church the entire body of believers? We are, as Paul calls us numerous times, the church of God(for example: 1 Cor 10:32, 1Cor15:9, Gal1:13). We should not be associating ourselves with one particular “church” or denomination. Rather, we should be associating ourselves with Christ. We have only one Master, one Teacher, and that is Christ (Matthew 23:8-12)

When the sermon was over there was a short skit about discerning your spiritual giftings and how you can put them to service. Included in the suggested possible ministry opportunities were: singing in the choir, playing in the praise band, ushering, being on the drama team, and yes, even setting tables for a potluck dinner. Perhaps you can help me. You see, I’m having trouble seeing how participating in any of these activities can actually be classified as ministry. I fail to see how the church is showing the world Christ’s radical upside-down love when we minister by being on the church’s decorating committee or by baking cookies for VBS. In this, how is the church reaching out to the lost? Clothing the naked? Feeding the hungry? Looking after the sick?(Matt25:31-46)

While it’s incredibly important to build community and build relationships with fellow believers, I don’t think those things can really be classified as ministry. These are integral parts of strengthening the church, but ministry requires something different from us.

What Formula?

Thursday, June 12th, 2003

Here’s another great quote from Mark Buchanan’s Your God Is Too Safe.

“This is a bitter irony. That a faith based on staggering mysteries–the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Cross and Resurrection, the imparting of the Spirit–should have become shorn of mystery, so plodding and prosaic, so mundane and managerial is a bitter irony. It’s an irony that Jesus’ famous statement to Nicodemus, you must be born again, has in our hands been turned into a slogan and a formula. Out of Jesus’ mouth, in Nicodemus’s ear, that statement proclaimed a staggering mystery. It was the ultimate antiformula.

“The wind blows wherever it pleases,” Jesus goes on to tell Nicodemus, who struggles in his literalism and rationalism to understand. “You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). This is no formula. This is a description of the in-breaking and surprising move of God. This is something we can’t work for, work up, predict, direct. It doesn’t slot neatly into a program. You just hear it coming and fling yourself headlong into the hurricane.”

Safe Prayer

Thursday, June 12th, 2003

I’ve recently been reading Your God Is Too Safe by Mark Buchanan, and have been completely floored by some of the things that he has to say.

“God is not safe. God is not a household deity, kept in our safekeeping. And–be warned–God’s safety is not our business. Our role on this earth, be it prophet, king, priest, or bank teller, is not to keep the Almighty from mishap or embarassment. He takes care of Himself.

The safest thing to do with a God like this is not to play it safe with Him. It is to never get so caught up in keeping the traditions or hastening the innovations that we forget to throw ourselves headlong into His brusque and tender embrace. It is to never get so busy protecting God that we fail to take refuge in Him. It is to never become so preoccupied in our Keep God Safe march that we forget to dance before our God with all our might…, tripping the light fantastic all the way into the holy wild.”

I realized I had made God entirely too safe in my mind…and I took things a little too far with my realization. Throughout my days I would find myself thinking about any given thing, “I should talk to God about this.” Not long after, I’d hear another voice in my head saying, “No, if you pray about that you are assuming God is more safe than he actually is, so don’t talk to Him about this.” My prayer life was almost nonexistant for a while because I assumed almost all the things on my mind were things God would file in my “safe prayers” folder.

While it’s true that some of the prayers I bring before God are entirely too safe, many are not. And if I said that I’ve now found “the way to pray”, I hope you would call me a heratic and run me out of town so as to not pollute the minds of others. I most certainly have not discovered the formula for prayer. There is no formula for anything: only a gracious God who gives us an infinite number of chances when we screw up time and time again in our attempt to unashamedly dance before Him. I’d say that’s much better than trying to find the right formula from millions of options.

“Faith Is Not In A Floor Plan”

Saturday, June 7th, 2003

So I’m home alone for the weekend and in an attempt to keep myself occupied and entertained, I decided to rent a movie and ended up with Simon Birch. I guess it’s been out for a couple years already but I had never really heard anything about it. Anyway, it’s about a boy named (you guessed it) Simon. He wasn’t expected to live more than a day because of problems with his birth, but he lives to be almost 13 years old. He is incredibly small, but he has big dreams, and huge faith that God is going to use his life for something amazing. He refuses to accept a small god that has no plans for peoples’ lives: a god who is distant and safe. It did exactly what I hoped it would: entertain me. On top of that, it made some really great statements about faith as well as some problems with the institutional church. Here are a few things from the movie that really hit me. Oh and see it, it’s amazing. :)

Simon is at church on Sunday morning and has a bit of an encounter with the reverend. He shows wisdom far beyond that of your typical twelve year old:
reverend:”It’s always nice to see new faces in the congregation. I’d like to invite them to join my wife, children, and myself for coffee and donuts downstairs after the service.”
Simon:”What does coffee and donuts have to do with God?”
reverend:”…they’re merely refreshments so people can socialize and discuss the current (church) events.”
Simon:”Who ever said that church needs a continental breakfast?! I doubt that God is interested in our church activities. If God has made the church bake sale a priority, then I’d say we’re all in a lot of trouble.”
The children are then dismissed for Sunday School and Simon is sent to the corner of the classroom until he is ready to apologize to the reverend for what he said. The reverend walks in and says:
“Simon, what do you think you’re doing sitting in the corner?”
Simon:”Thinking about God.”
reverend:”in a corner…”
Simon:”Faith is not in a floor plan.”

Later, Simon is talking to his best friend Joe about his faith that God will someday make him a hero.
Joe:”But you don’t have any proof.”
Simon:”I don’t need proof: I have faith. Your problem is that you have no faith.”
Joe:”I got faith. I just want proof to back it up.”

It’s surprising how Hollywood manages to keep surprising me when I least expect it.

Open Your Heart

Friday, June 6th, 2003

swallow your fear
it can’t be that bad
to open your heart
to a love so real
if only i knew it were true…

the stars whisper
telling me of your joy
dreamdrops pour over my body
beams of sunlight,
demanding i look twice at your beautiful face

swallow your fear
it can’t be that bad
to open your heart
to a love so real
if only i knew it were true…

Hope

Monday, June 2nd, 2003

hope is a light faint to see
it crawls out from underneath
to reach a hand out to my calling
to break the fullness of my falling.
it offers strength,
however small
a crutch to lean on
an ear to my call.

Good News

Monday, June 2nd, 2003

“How could the gospel of Christ be truly called “Good News” if God is a righteous judge rewarding the good and punishing the evil? Did Jesus really have to come to reveal that terrifying message? How could the revelation of God in Christ Jesus be accurately called “news” since the Old Testament carried the same theme, or “good” with the threat of punishment hanging like a dark cloud over the valley of history?”

This is a quote from Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel. I’ve been thinking about grace a lot the past while and wondering just how gracious God’s grace is. I haven’t really come up with anything yet, but that’s my burning question: how gracious is God’s grace?

“Come follow me…”

Sunday, June 1st, 2003

I got an email a few days ago from Leighton Tebay and he asked me about my year on SoD: What did I like? Why? What didn’t I like? Why? It’s a tough question (well, four questions actually, right?) but I’m going to try my best to answer it. It’s bizarre that I didn’t really take time before to contemplate something as important as this.

Church
Probably one of the hugest things about SoD for me was living in community. Thirty people living closerthanthis for six months was something I thought was going to be a really big challenge. It was a challenge at times but more than that it was one of the greatest blessings and learning experiences ever. I got to see what real church is all about. All week we were together: talking, sharing, praying…and just being real. You can’t live with people all the time and hide who you really are. People saw who I really am and wrapped their arms around me and loved me. There was safety to be real and honest with people because I knew there would be nothing but love and grace extended to me. Support. Encouragement. Vulnerability. Honesty. These are a few things that are key to a healthy church seeking after the heart of God, and these are all things that were present on SoD.

On Sundays it was thankfully not required or expected of us that we go to “church”. I went to an institutional church maybe 2 times within 3 months. I felt no need or desire to go, because I had church every day of the week. When I did go to “church” I didn’t walk away feeling filled or even uplifted really: I walked away thinking, “I miss everyone from SoD.” Growing up in a modern institutional church, people would constantly preach at me about church being a body and not a building. It’s something we all know with our heads but I wonder how many people actually know it with their heart. Head knowledge doesn’t get us very far does it? Knowing with your head that something isn’t right generally results in a passive acceptance of circumstances because, “Heck, that’s just the way things are. It may not be the way it’s supposed to be but there’s really no way of it being any different.” Knowing with your heart that something isn’t right results in a passionate cry for change because, “This isn’t the way things are supposed to be! And if this isn’t what was intended, then there has to be a way for what was intended to come alive.”

Healing
There are times when life deals us a hand of hard and cruel cards. Sometimes we end up holding cards that….put simply, they suck. And we are left with two choices in our time of trouble: to seek God or to seek ourselves. High school found me seeking myself a lot. I carried a lot of excess baggage and pain that God never intended for me to carry. Self-Pity was one of my best friends for far too many years. On SoD, God spoke through so many of the speakers who came to share their experiences with us. I was able to let go of so many things that I hung onto for so long, and I realized that I had to make a choice to either seek God or to seek myself in life. God healed my broken spirit and gave me new life and new hope.

Knowledge
Someone can believe in something with everything inside of them and then preach at me until they are blue in the face, but until I actually experience (through the Holy Spirit’s work on my heart) what it is they’re talking about their words will mean nothing to me. One thing that was repeatedly pounded into my head my entire life is that, “God is good.” Right. Ok, I know that. But I didn’t know that. I had been told that and my head knew it, but my heart didn’t.

The School of Discipleship’s hope is that when you finish the year you will have a deeper understanding of God, yourself, and the world. When I was on SoD, God showed me a part of how good he really is. And I could try to explain what I know, but unless your heart has seen God’s goodness, my words will mean nothing. I now know God’s faithfulness. I know his strength in my weakness. God has shown me that he really does speak to people. He’s graced me with a bit of understanding of his relentless pursuit of us. And I’ve realized that there is nothing I can do to reveal these truths to anyone: it is God and God alone who reveals truth to peoples’ hearts. I also understand myself better now. God showed me my identity in him, not the world. He revealed my life’s purpose to me: to love. Simple as that, and now it makes sense. I understand the world better and that all any given person in the world is searching for is love.

Loyalties
SoD is part of Canadian Mennonite University. I’ll admit that I have a Mennonite heritage: I eat summa borscht, cottage cheese perogies and farmer sausage, and I can speak low-German. I don’t have a problem associating myself with being a Mennonite in terms of cultural implications, but I shy away from associating myself with the Mennonite Church. My heritage has nothing to do with my personal relationship with God. My relationship with God is not dependant upon what my ancestors did or did not do; what they did or did not believe. There were times when people would hear I was from Canadian Mennonite University and then they automatically assumed they knew something about me: people know things about Mennonites. But…no….you don’t know me. I’m a Mennonite that dances. “Yikes, what kind of a Mennonite are you??” I’m one that doesn’t hold loyalties to any one particular denomination of the institutional church. Rather, I hold loyalty to God.

So there’s a glimpse at my year on SoD. There are many more things I could say, but readers’ attention spans are only so big (as are the attention spans of writers : )

An Obscure Look At Evangelism

Sunday, June 1st, 2003

I whipped this poem up a few days ago. No title. Enjoy….

i have glimpsed
only a few
of your infinite dimensions
i fail to see the whole
i lack understanding
yet i see beauty
i see radiance
and somehow it comes from inside me
it wants to pour
from my hands
my eyes
my lips
but to let it out
seems dangerous
then they would see
then they would stop.
look.
ask questions.
then i would fail
to be invisible.