Catching up with God

(by a Christian who’s still wet behind the ears)

Encounter (Sunday class) week 1.

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One of our assignments this week for class was to write about something where we see God working in our life.

I had a really interesting experience at Hobby Lobby. I really don’t like going there, because there are never enough checkers and if I get too overheated sometimes I feel like I’m going to pass out while waiting in line. Well, they opened a new line, and I got behind a woman with a few things, and she turned and said to me “You only have two things, please go in front of me!”

I was really grateful to her for it– she saved me two or three minutes at least. I think that a lot of times we’re concerned about how to make that connection with another person, and we don’t think about the easy ways to do so– to help another person out, even in a small way. Letting me go first cost her a little bit of time and nothing more. How many more things could we do for one another in the spirit of patience and generosity?

I got a new book last night called Take This Bread by Sara Miles; it talks a lot about setting up a food pantry in a poor neighborhood church in San Francisco. One of the things that stood out to me was an explanation of why a lot of people volunteered to help set up and hand out food– because they, like everyone else, loved to give things away and be thanked, but being poor they very rarely got the chance.

It really made me think about whether giving or receiving is the better blessing…

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Written by Corrvin

February 8, 2009 at 3:08 am

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Gwydion Oak’s essay is still good.

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I read Gwydion Oak’s essay, “How to Share the Gospel with Pagans,” years ago when I was Pagan, and now that I’m Christian it’s still good reading.

Here’s some notes I sent to one of our group leaders for our Sunday class:

This essay is specifically about talking to people who have a faith
that is not Christianity, and also it’s posted on a Pagan website (The
Witches’ Voice) so it’s pretty centered around another faith. However,
he has some good points:

1. “…it is critical that you understand clearly what [the people
you’re talking to] actually believe. You don’t have to agree with
these beliefs, but it is important that you see [them] as they see
themselves.”

You won’t impress people by arguing against something they don’t
think. This applies not just to other religions but to other beliefs
as well: if a woman says she is a feminist, then instead of arguing
that it’s wrong to belittle and hate men (because that’s not what
feminism is about), maybe you would be better off pointing out the
many strong Christian women past and present, and how the Church gives
both women and men a footing for that strength.

2. “…when people look at another faith, they are quick to see the
negative side and slow to see the positive… Rather than becoming a
“defender of the faith, ” focus instead on the transforming power that
the Christ can have on individual lives, and the positive factors of
the faith. ”

This is what we had on Sunday in the sermon, learning to tell our own
“faith stories.” Before I was a Christian, I had a lot of little
“breadcrumb trails” dropped for me by Christians. The ones of those
that worked the best were people who did things that were hard–
things they admitted were hard! And how did they do them? They got
strength from their faith. I wanted, as I think many non-Christians
want, to see HOW Christ changes people. The first step to bringing
others with you along the path is to look like you’re happy and
content on it!

3. ” But a crucial question that any would-be missionary must ask
themselves before they begin is whether they can be a genuine friend
to those they would teach – a stay a friend even if those people don’t
accept their message.”

If you’re able to become friends with someone, then you should be able
to stay friends with them. It may take days or weeks or years before
they’re ready to listen to what God has to say to them. God doesn’t
give up and we shouldn’t either. If we have to show them what it’s
like to be loved by God by starting with our own love, then that’s
what we do.

People are going to take forever to come to Jesus if they don’t know
what they’re coming to, what kind of life they could have with Him,
and the easiest way for them to learn is to see us out there living
our lives for Him.

==============
More later, I think, but I’m so tired from work I can’t think.

Written by Corrvin

January 28, 2009 at 11:09 am

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Wow, that was fast!

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I was talking with my dad this morning about RG– she’s an elderly lady who’s been welcomed into my family in Ada, because she doesn’t have any living children or near relatives of her own. We were talking about advocacy, and I said how it would be neat to have something like hospice (where hospice is an organization that helps a dying person and their loved ones go through the process) but instead of just the very end of life, to have it be for ALL of life. To help people manage their lives as fully as they could, especially in times of crisis and illness and trouble. For someone, or some group of people, to stand with others, as a friend, an advocate, a brother or sister, whatever’s needed.

And what do I get in my email 3 hours later? A note that there’s a presentation by Stand in the Gap next Tuesday, and do I want to go?

OH MY GOODNESS YES!

Dear Heavenly Father:
Your response time today is EXCELLENT. Thanks!
In Jesus’ name,
Amen!

Written by Corrvin

January 20, 2009 at 11:49 am

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Serve (like a grownup).

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Our Sunday sermon was on the third part of our mission statement, “Serve.” It was about serving as Christians. Here are some of my notes, just bits I pulled out because I liked them so much:

What is Christian service? An act of love and humility. It’s not patronizing. It’s saying “I would be the one in need, except for the grace of God.”

Our natural tendency is to want to be served. When we serve, we give others an opportunity to see Jesus.

So, I got home from church to find a message from work that they need me in early, we’re trying to cover someone who’s sick. And, of course, this means I can’t do laundry, cook dinner, or do anything but go straight to bed and pray for sleep soon.

Well, before this, I’ve felt like I had two options: suck it up and do it, or say no– which means that the other people who do a lot of the coverage will have to work even harder. Is that right to do to them? Shouldn’t I be helping out for their sake, if not for the business’ sake? And this all went back to the sermon today, and I thought about it, and I’ll tell you in a minute what I thought.

So this morning we talked about serving others. A friend of mine asked me, is there a limit? How much are we supposed to do? Well, I think there is a limit and it’s a natural one, but it’s one that can be pushed. I think that service, serving others, is the physical action that is the counterpart of the spiritual action of loving others. Love without service doesn’t touch anyone, service without love doesn’t heal anyone. If you push yourself to serve, at the cost of your own personal spiritual growth, at the cost of sleep, of caring for your family, of keeping your own promises? You’ll find your service is bitter and worthless.

You’ve got to balance love, service, and the rest of your life all together:

Service is what pours as an overflow from a life of love and devotion.

Love your family. Love your neighbors. Love God. Love yourself. And what comes up out of that river of love is something you can share, in the time that you’ve got left over. If we all each of us just used our leftover time and energy, and used that to pour more love into the world, what would happen?

And like anything else, the more you do it, the more you’ll be able to; serving makes you more able to find opportunities to serve, to share, to love, to grow.

So, back to my personal dilemma, what am I supposed to be doing? Well, “I don’t WANNA go to work, waah” isn’t a very grownup reason not to do it. We grownups get to have feelings but we don’t get to decide what we do and don’t want to do based on them.

But what about:

    I need time to carry out my responsibilities to my family.
    I need time to take care of myself.
    Having to come in for 12 hours with no notice means I can’t cook my own lunches, which COSTS me money, which I’d rather spend on something else.

Those are good, reasonable, grown-up answers. So I have a list of things I’m going to ask for, things that will let me help out flexibly but still have the resources I need later on, when I talk to my boss about this later today, and see if I can’t change things so that I can help out as needed AND take care of my own stuff.

Funny how things work out when you go at the problem as “How can I help?” rather than “How can I get out of this?”

Written by Corrvin

January 19, 2009 at 5:26 am

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Thirsty?

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Last night we had Bible study and began at Psalm 42:2.

My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?

And we talked about thirst, and how if you’re truly thirsty your thoughts dwell on satisfying that thirst constantly. One of the women there talked about a situation where she was truly thirsty and really wanted water.

I started thinking, actually, about those physical desires for food and water. Hunger and thirst today, to those of us who are lucky enough to live in a rich country, are minor inconveniences. How many of us have been in a situation where we were hungry and REALLY had nothing to eat? (Not just “on a diet” or “don’t like what’s in the cupboard.”) How many of us have truly felt the pangs of hunger and had NO WAY to satisfy them? How many times have you been hungry, and been grateful to someone who shared their food with you?

So, maybe today, hunger and thirst, though still very real, aren’t as vivid as they used to be. What do we lack now? I think a lot of us have our hearts set on the idea of “home” and “safety”– how many of us shudder whenever our friends are late, or our partners aren’t answering the phone?

Do you pray desperately at night and in the morning for the safety of your loved ones? Do you dream of a home made secure? I know I do; for me, God is the living water springing up, but more importantly He is the foundation of my home.

Written by Corrvin

January 15, 2009 at 9:13 am

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Show your face, show your shame

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About 10 years ago, a Korean friend of mine shared a story with me, a story which she said was about cultural differences.

“Imagine that you are at a women’s spa, a place where you can go and get a facial, a massage, skin treatment, and so on. Because of the various treatments, during many parts of your day at the spa, you are not wearing any clothes at all, even underwear.

Suddenly, a FIRE breaks out, and in order to save your life you must run out of the burning building. The only thing you can grab is a tiny little washcloth. You run out of the building to see a group of onlookers and of course the fire department and police and ambulance. How do you cover yourself?”

Well, naturally, I mimed using the washcloth to cover my crotch, and holding the other arm across my chest.

“That is what most American women would do. You pretend you are in a swimsuit and that helps you keep your dignity. But here is what most Korean women would do.” She held her imaginary washcloth up– in front of her face. “If you can’t see my face, you don’t know who I am, because all naked people look the same. So I’m embarrassed right now, but when I get dressed and take my washcloth down, I don’t have to be embarrassed if I meet you again.”

So, Sunday in church, the sermon was about growing, and part of it was about allowing the Holy Spirit to come in and grow us in the right direction, and giving up our impulses to do things that were wrong and bad for us in order to let God lead us in the right way.

The preacher asked if there were any of us who had some part of our lives where we were really struggling with letting the Holy Spirit come in to change us, and if we did feel that way, to stand up. And we had several people stand up, including a gentleman sitting in the pew in front of me, and we some of us gathered around those people to lay hands on them and pray over them. Now, this is important– I don’t have any idea what exactly he was struggling with. But I do know that he was willing to stand up because he WAS struggling. If that were me I know it would be really hard for me to stand up in front of a couple hundred people, even just to say “Hey, there’s something I need help with” without telling what it was. It’s hard to admit you’re naked in front of others.

And what does it take to make that change? To stand up, to stop pretending that your teeny washcloth is a swimsuit, to just show people that you’re a naked human being in the process of escaping from something that will claim your life. What does it take to remind us that it could be our sisters, our mothers, our wives, shivering and embarrassed there?

Do we each of us have the courage to stop pretending that we’re perfectly dressed while fleeing from a fire?

Written by Corrvin

January 12, 2009 at 3:27 am

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The Experiment

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So Wednesday I went to church, having not yet picked which class I wanted to attend. They have a socializing brown-bag thing beforehand, so I asked people’s opinions, and got an overwhelming “try the Experiment!” answer.

So I showed up and it turns out The Experiment is a new group starting, with a 4-stage plan:
1st week: Pray together
2nd week: Study together
3rd week: Fellowship together (there is food in this)
4th week: Serve together

This being the first week of the month, it was prayer time. One of the guys had a guitar, so he played and we sang together. Of course I don’t know any of the music but I can follow along pretty well and join in the chorus the second time. I really like the singing, and I look forward to the time when I actually know some of the music and can really join in.

We did communal prayer and people just spoke out about what they were praying. It wasn’t something I’ve ever done before, sitting in a dimly lit room with a bunch of people in a circle just speaking as they felt inspired to. I wouldn’t feel right sharing what was said (at least, not without a good reason) but I felt really good about being there.

You know that feeling you get when you share something deep and secret with a good friend, like the secret is just welling up in your heart and you have to share it or burst? And then when you do, there’s that sense of relief, of outpouring. Praying together is like opening your hearts to let out a thousand secrets to God, and inviting Him to come be in their place.

So we prayed together, and now I know why people feel that sense of community with their church. It doesn’t matter whether I told them my secret thoughts or not– they were there when I told them to God, and that makes them my people now.

Anyways, our fourth week– service– really has me excited. I’ve been thinking about it and trying to figure out what we can pick to do. See, I think it would be awful if we went over to help someone who needed help all the time, but we only did it once. That would just leave them worse off than before!

What we really need to find is people who just are having a particularly down time right now and need a one-time visit, like for instance a woman whose husband is in Iraq, and who just twisted her ankle and can’t walk her dogs very well for a few days. We could pray with her (which keeps her from having to get dressed and limp out of the house) and walk the dogs, and that would be awesome. Or someone who’s broken her leg, we could help her move the things that need to be moved so she can take care of herself for the few weeks until it’s healed. And pray for healing and patience and all those wonderful things, and ask her to pray with and for us and others.

I think that’s something important, that we don’t divide the world into the helpers and the helpees. All of us need help and all of us need to give help, too. I think asking someone to pray with us, and for us and others, is affirming that THEY are important, and not only as the object of our assistance.

So, next week is study, I’ll be sure to report back on that too!
–Corry

Written by Corrvin

January 9, 2009 at 2:04 am

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