Thursday, August 27, 2009

Crazy Love

I recently borrowed and read "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan. It is a deep book (with cool interactive website features). I think I'm going to have to get my own copy so that I can highlight all of Francis' profound words and not ruin someone else's copy.

What I gained from it were some not very encouraging and not very surprising insights.

1. I struggle with being lukewarm (as in I am when I would prefer to be hot hot hot).
2. I struggle with being obsessed (as in I am not when I would prefer to be so when it comes to God).
3. I need to (and want to) love God more. I need to pray about my lack of desire/action.
4. I don't really feel like I know how to develop and maintain an intimate relationship with God.

Let me expound on that last one. I desperately want to be completely in love with God so that all of my thoughts and actions are the result of my love for him. I want for my life to be nothing more (and nothing less) than an outpouring of love for my creator and Savior. I want these things, but I can't seem to figure out how to get there. I read books about developing an intimate relationship with God. I try the suggestions in the book. I have a daily quiet time where I pray and read the Bible. I read more books about loving God. I try to find ways to use my time and talents to serve others (not always, but I'm working on it). I feel like in all of this effort I am still missing the mark. I understand that a relationship is not developed through a formula. It's just so hard for me to continually think about God and to converse with him continuously because the tasks of "living" keep occupying space in my mind and day.

I try to think about it as doing what I do to maintain relationships with people I see. I will call them, email them, schedule activities and dinners to spend face-to-face time with them. I'll take pictures to commemorate occasions and post them on Facebook. I give gifts and affection. Okay, so I do this with God too, but I don't feel like it's increasing our intimacy. I think I really struggle sometimes with God's invisible quality (in relation to a physical "being" as I know God's qualities are visible through creation - it's not quite the same). Sometimes I do wish I could sit down across from God and see his facial expressions and reactions to what I tell him. Sometimes I want to give him a hug and feel his reassuring arms around me. I'd love to hear him laugh and see him smile. But I can't. So how do I fill in this gap? I don't know.

I see people who do have a deep and intimate relationship with God. They love him and know that they are loved and cherished by him. And his love is visible on their faces. It makes me wonder, what am I doing wrong? Or what am I not doing? I'm not satisfied with where I am and how I feel, but I don't know how to change it. My only thought is to continue to pray - to tell God that I want more of him, that I want to be completely surrounded by his love so that I do feel different. That I need him to deepen our relationship because I can't seem to do it with my efforts. Maybe that's it. Maybe he's calling for surrender. I guess I'll try that.

With 2

I am quite behind in posting my notes from our second week of the With series. And I'll be even farther behind with week three because I wasn't here to hear it and have yet to make it to the website. I am so slack these days. Anyway, here's a very belated recap of the message two weeks ago.

I'm With Stupid

Joseph - coat of many colors, dreams of superiority (Genesis 37-45): didn't exactly do the smartest thing by showing off his favoritism and sharing his crazy dreams.

Sometimes we think that if we are with the right people, then everything will be okay.

We think relational happiness comes from finding people who are easy to get along with.

"We all, like sheep, have gone astray." (Isaiah 53:6) -> We all make mistakes and hurt others by our words and actions. The big thing is to admit our failures and take responsibility for our part.

In Joseph's story, no one ever tries to work out their issues with one another. The brothers don't ask Joseph to stop wearing the coat or sharing his dreams. Instead they sell him into slavery.

Our tendency is to avoid issues/conflict/confrontation with others.
>Avoidance kills community (no one grows or changes)
>When things go unaddressed and undealt with, relationships suffer
>"Do not let the sun go down on your anger" (Ephesians 4:26)

Is there anything you need to talk about with someone that has not been addressed?

People who love authentic community prefer the temporary chaos of conflict to the peace of permanent superficiality.

We need truth tellers to remind us of our values, let us know where we get off track, and to encourage us to do the right thing.

Genesis 39:2, 20-23 "The Lord was WITH Joseph...
>Just because he had difficult times doesn't mean God wasn't with him.

Isaiah 43:2 "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."

Genesis 50:20 -> "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.

Some of the best things in life come from the most unlikely of places.

Romans 8:31,34,35,37 What shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?...Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger of sword?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

This was such an encouraging message that helped me to remember that no matter what is going on in my life, God is still with me guiding me through. I also really liked the comment about authentic community. I am not good at small talk and surface relationships. I want honesty and depth and real life. While these types of relationships are sometimes hard and messy, I desire them more than the easy breezy no-commitment ones because there is a richness to it that you don't get staying at the surface. I like to feel connected to people. To have people who know all about me - the good and the bad - and still choose to be in relationship with me.

So what would be my personal application? I guess to continue to put myself out there in order to build authentic community. To be honest with my issues as well as to be bold enough to confront others when necessary. I do struggle with conflict. I'd much prefer to let things smooth over, but that doesn't make anything better. I am growing slowly but surely in this area. I think marriage helps. Well, what really helps is to have a relationship that you are invested in and desire for it to be the best and healthiest it can be which means sometimes doing the hard thing of dealing with issues. I guess that's why marriage comes to mind, because it is one of those relationships for me.

What about you? Do you have any relationships that you are invested in enough to deal with conflict?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I have been thinking about how my job in the church office could cause others to misconstrue the motivation or drive behind some of the things I do. Relationships are important to me. I enjoy getting to know people better on a one-on-one format as that works best for me and my introvert tendencies. I have had the desire to develop a specific relationship with someone who attends our church and am excited to see what happens. It is something that God has laid on my heart to do and it is also something I want to do.

I have also felt the urge to visit a few other people that I don't see very often, probably because it's summer and everyone takes vacations during this time. I am thankful that my job allows me to take time to see people during the day. However, I wonder if some think that I am visiting them because I "work for the church." I don't want others to think I'm "just doing my job" rather than doing something of my own prerogative. I'm sure that pastors feel this much more acutely than us lowly office administrators, but I still wonder if people think I've been instructed to contact them.

I am sure that there will be people that think that but I hope that most people attribute my actions to genuine care. I don't know how one is to gauge these thoughts, I just wanted to share my concern. I wonder if Jeff or Neal (our pastors) think about this or feel this way as well.


Sunday we kicked off our new series WITH. I am very excited about this series. There are all sorts of fun things going on. This past Sunday, we started our "text and win" contest. At the start of service, the band plays a song whose title contains the word "With". The first person to text the name of the song and the artist wins a prize. Travis Crafton won on Sunday, being the first to figure out it was "Only Want To Be With You" by Hootie and the Blowfish. Jeff also tossed out some cool t-shirts and informed the crowd that they could pick one up after service.

Sunday's message was titled, Who Are You With? Below are my notes. For the full message, click here.

People with strong relationships live longer and are more able to battle illness than those who are isolated.

"It is not good for man to be alone." Genesis 2:18

I-It Relationship: one person relates to the other as an object; it's all about MY desires and wants (i.e. The church wasn't meeting my needs. I wasn't getting fed.)

I-Thou Relationship: both people's needs and desires are equally important; serving others and meeting their needs

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 : how would you like a relationship like this? Paul uses the word "agape" which is love that focuses solely on the needs of the other person.

Douglas Copeland quote from Life After God: "Now, here is my secret. I tell it you with an openness of heart that I doubt I shall ever achieve again. So I pray that you are in a quiet room as you hear these words. My secret is that I need God - that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give because I no longer seem capable of giving. To help me be kind as I no longer seem capable of kindness. To help me love as I seem beyond being able to love."

We need God to help us love and to help us make relationships all that they can be.

Emmanuel = God WITH us (Jesus)

Jesus was all about being with us, being present at all times. When he left, he sent the Holy Spirit to dwell IN us so that we would never be without him.

God created the church to be where we get 1 Cor 13 relationships.

Will you start or continue to do life in/with the church?

You don't drift toward community but toward isolation. Deep relationships don't just happen.

*Pick one relationship to focus on improving for the next few weeks.

Personal application: I do desire to love others like 1 Corinthians 13 describes. I can't imagine what relationships would be like if we all tried to love like that. I understand that with a love that always trusts, always forgives, and is patient that there is plenty of room for abuse by others. I think that's why more people don't try to love this way. I desire for our church to be a place where people feel welcomed and loved and motivated to love and serve God more. I guess it starts with one.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sex and the Soul

I recently read a book called Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance and Religion on America's College Campuses by Donna Freitas. It was a book resulting from her research on different college campuses ranging from evangelical Christian schools to Catholic schools to secular universities. It was quite interesting to read about her conversations with a variety of college students.

There were definitely a lot of differences between the atmosphere at the evangelical Christian schools and the other types. It was interesting to learn that Catholic campuses were pretty much the same as secular universities in attitudes and behaviors.

While I was reading the book, I was thinking about my experiences while at school. I could see how religion could be divorced from sexual experiences on many universities, even if one is a Christian. I did flounder spiritually until I got involved in a campus Christian group and was able to spend time with others who shared my beliefs and values. I needed people who would encourage me to live what I believe and to help me grow in my spiritual relationship with God. If I hadn't found the group, I don't know what I would be like now.

When I arrived on campus, there was no one really telling me what churches were in the area or what groups were available on campus to become involved in. Sure there's a link on the school website that lists all of the organizations on campus, but how does that help me find one that is a good fit? I didn't have any friends who could point me in the right direction.

The book also opened my eyes more to what many students experience on college, the hook-up culture. Yes, I saw bits and pieces of it but it wasn't really part of my personal experience. I'm sure part of it was due to my lack of involvement in the party scene. I can't imagine trying to develop a committed, respectful relationship out of a one night stand. And yet, according to the book, this is what many women hope because they do not see another way of attracting a guy.

The book filled me with sorrow and compassion for all of the young men and women who cannot see a way out of the pressure-filled social scene laced with alcohol and casual sex. It has made me even more desirous to complete the book I'm working on to get it out there. Perhaps if more options were presented, it would help students to think what they truly want for themselves rather than going with the flow.