Friday, January 24, 2014

Dancing with God

Okay, call me a little odd...I can handle it (most of the time).  Or as Charlie Shedd, author of about 40 christian books titled his last one, "I'm Odd, Thank You God."  I think I would have like Charlie.

How do I know I'm odd you ask.  Well, I was raised a good conservative, reformed, Dutch girl.  All 4 grandparents as Dutch as they come.  I was raised to believe you shouldn't be showy, you must not get a big head, and don't make a scene!  We were taught not to smoke, drink or dance...  We took ourselves a bit too seriously!

I never really "Rebelled," but I did learn in early adulthood to relax, discover the JOY of my relationship with Jesus, as well as a freedom from self in my identity in Christ.  This was a very good thing, and yet something that needs to be relearned every so often.

It was a little odd when, in midlife, I began to imagine the people in our congregation dancing on the tops of the pews during times of praise and worship...not on the seats, but on the tops, dancing from pew to pew. It was quite a sight!  (Getting people to dance in the isles would have been miracle enough.)  It was a beautiful sight, and I longed to dance for God.

It was a few years later that I began working with young women in our congregation as we put liturgical signing to music.  Sometimes it was very close to dancing, which touched many lives and perturbed others.

In the last couple of weeks God has brought the theme of dancing to my attention again.  The first time was through a quote from the book, Apprenticeship with Jesus, by Gary Moon.  Gary says, "(Jesus) sends the Holy Spirit with music and a dance chart so that we can learn to waltz with the Trinity, even now, as we wait for the real party to begin.:  The Spirit draws us in to an intimate, joyful relationship with Father, Son and Spirit as we move/dance through our lives.  What is life meant to be like if we can enter this partnership with God?  As we read the Gospel of John, Jesus reveals the Father's desire for this's why Jesus came...reconciling our relationship with God!  Read John 15-17 to hear Jesus heart for this intimacy.

The second quote comes from a pastor named Steve Brown of Key Life Ministries.  Steve says, "You can't dance with God while looking at your feet."  Why would we want to look at our feet?  Maybe because we're embarrassed; "I'm not used to dancing!"  Maybe it's because we are so afraid of doing it wrong.  Maybe we need to trust that we have the Master Teacher, so we can let go, let him lead us, let him pick us up when we stumble.

I really don't think God cares if we are clumsy as we learn to dance with him.  I think he longs to bring us into the JOY of an intimate relationship.  Maybe it helps if we join hands and discover the dance together.  I wonder what most helps you get on the dance floor.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

All God's People

I got a phone call yesterday that went like this: “Holly, this is Angel (Spanish pronunciation that sounds like “Onhel.), Angel, the Mexican. I found a toilet on sale.” I love this guy :) Angel and his wife Janelle and children are some of my favorite people right now. Janelle is an RCA pastor, Angel is in seminary, Miss Miriam is 6 and Miss Lorraina is 4.

This family is living in a house we are rehabbing with the goal of renting to college or seminary students. Angel is working off rent, thus the excitement over a toilet on sale. In his life before seminary Angel worked in construction; painting, laying flooring, drywalling, etc. It is such a blessing to have someone willing and able to help us finish the work.

They are blessed to be able to have a way to rent without having to use up all of their savings. It is a win/win. We met them a few years back in British Columbia, and God has just kept us connected every since, despite both of us making cross country the same place, though we had no idea this was going to happen back then.

Angel has the greatest sense of humor, alongside a heart's desire for community development that honors and respects all people; that recognizes we are all created in the image of God.

I feel so blessed that Angel and Janelle's and the girls are a part of our diverse “family.” Often I am overwhelmed by the people God has placed in my life. People who can teach me so much about God's world...people who stretch me...people who teach me to eat flavorful new foods..people who make me stop to think about the things I assume are Christian, when really they are just cultural...people whose hearts beat with passions I know little about because of my sheltered beginnings...people whose faith impacts mine....people who are different, and yet in our core beings we are all the same...created in the image of God. This is our primary identity...our uniqueness in all creation.

I read the phrase recently, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” I wish I could remember who said it, so I could give credit. Imagine the difference it would make if we all believed that each person we encounter has (sometimes hidden) within them the image of God! One thing I am confident of; we best live out our image of God in community! We need each other to be the best we are created to be.

Imagine the difference it will make if we all...each and every one of us realized that we are bearers of the image of God as we walk around our worlds loving the other image bearers...the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the not so beautiful, the likeable and those not so likeable. 

The challenge...Believe it! Embrace it! Live it! Be in a fellowship, a community, that helps you wrestle with what this means.

Psalm 8:4  who is mankind that you take thought of him/her, and the son of man that you care for them?
Genesis 1:26  The God said, "Let us make man(kind) in our own image, in our likeness..."
Genesis 2:7  God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Living in the Room

LIVE IN THE ROOM in which you find yourself.  This simple phrase is one I heard a couple of months ago.  At first it reminded me of the much used phrase, "Bloom where you are planted."  Now that phrase takes me back to colorful hippy posters in the 60/70's.

But this phrase, "Live in the Room in which you find yourself" has been growing on me.  In part, it speaks to my sense of not being planted anywhere.  What with Al doing transitional/interim pastoral work which means we are never sure what the next 6 months will bring, and my totally transitional work with Midlife Momentum we are never quite sure where the next room will be.

Added to this lifestyle I was introduced to this phrase in Australia, a place I love to be, yet I'm not planted there, but I spent all of November in that room.  I volunteered at Lilah's school, getting to know the teachers and her little friends. I helped Cory and Elisa with some projects they wanted to get done before #3 shows up in February, and spent as much time as I could drinking in the wisdom of 2 year old Luka.  I continued to build relationships with wonderful friends as we all grow in our understanding of living into God's plans and purposes for us---His Church.

Most of December was spent in German Valley, IL.  Talk about a contrast!  Small town, rural congregation, full of salt of the earth warm and wonderful people...okay there might be a couple "ornery" people, like you and like I.  God bless all of us.

The phrase has come to my mind over and over again lately...when I'm missing somebody, or wishing I could be more connected with some cause or organization.  When my heart was longing to be with family, or a friend.  It was like the Spirit would whisper, "Live in this room today.  This is where you are, this is where I AM."  It would reorient me back out of my pity party to see what God is up to in this room.

Each room has blessings and struggles.  Each room teaches me something wise and wonderful.  Each room is filled with the presence of God.  Each room has people who bless and challenge me, and God seems to put me in all these different places at this time in my life...for a purpose.

I think I am sensing a paraphrase of what Paul states in Phil. 4:11.  It goes like this...In whatever room I find myself, there I will be content.  Even as I write this I struggle a bit with that surrender.  What if I don't like the next room?  What if there are things in that room I didn't sign up for?  The rooms I am in right now are all pretty good, Thank you, Lord! 

On the other hand...He who has been faithful throughout my life, will be right there in the room with me.