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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What God did in...

In 1981, God directed my steps with perfect timing - not too early, not too late.  He answered a simply offered prayer and gave me much more than I had asked for or expected.

(I am reflecting on the years 1981 through 2010 throughout the month of September: 30 days for 30 years) 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

His Words, My Mouth

We attended St. Andrews United Methodist Church in Fayetteville this morning.  Our neice, Hannah, was being christened.  By the way, she was so cute and sweet in her little white gown, holding a little linen doll.  What a sweetheart!

I fully expected a stiff and formal service and a struggle to keep my heavy eyelids from closing.  And the service was indeed very liturgical - lots of congregational reading, acolytes, ceremonial moments and so on.  But there was a surprising sweetness in the place.  I felt a warmth and genuineness from the pastor, the musicians, the singers, and the congregants.  I especially appreciated the kindness expressed through hearty applause toward a young man who played a french horn offeratory and following the choir's anthem.

So I was confronted with an arrogance in me toward these people I had never met, just because they were in a big church building with an oppressive sounding name.  I expected death, yet found life.  I am so sorry that I prejudged this fellowship.

The pastor shared from Jeremiah 1 and God spoke to my heart.  That's where Jeremiah says, "I do not know how to speak".  Then a little further on it says, "Then the Lord reached out His hand and touched my mouth and said to me, 'Now I have put my words in your mouth'..."

I scribbled this passage down on an offering envelope from the back of the pew in front of me and thought about those words all day.  You see, I am horrible when it comes to talking to people on behalf of the Lord.  Very often people approach me to share the hard things they're experiencing in life.  I always want to say something encouraging and help them to look to God in their situation.  Yet time after time my words just dribble down my chin and fall to the floor.  This frustrates me to no end.  It's always been easy for me to say something funny and crack people up.  But saying something helpful is much more difficult. 

Recently I have felt like God - my loving Father - has shown me that He is calling me to be more involved in the lives of others who are following Jesus (and those who aren't as well).   But I am really rotten when it comes to conversation.  I always feel like I'm edging toward the nearest exit when I'm talking to someone.  And I never seem to say anything worth saying when someone hurts.

"Now I have put my words in your mouth".

I believe that God spoke to my heart this morning that I am to ask Him to put His words in my mouth - just to breathe that out to Him as I go about my day.  And I can't tell you how that thought causes my spirit to expand within me.

Pray for me.  I really want to be helpful with my words.  I really want to encourage and lift up those who are cast down, fearful, depressed, lonely, sad...  I want God's words to be in my mouth and to go directly to the hearts of those He loves.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Computer Golf

I feel like I'm playing computer golf when it comes to fellowship.

I've played real golf some in the past. I have good memories of playing a few rounds with my dad. I remember playing with different friends on different courses - most notably in the beautiful northern mountains of North Carolina. To me, the game was always secondary to the scenery and the conversation. My dad frequently reminds me of a time that I was writing poetry in the fareway instead of really concentrating on the game (I still have that poem - about Autumn leaves and my grandmother's death).

But then there's computer golf. Take away the conversation, the sunshine, the wind in my face, the sounds of birds and of cars on the highway nearby. Take away the good exercise, the smell of fresh mown grass... All you have left is points calculated by the computer, lots of mouse clicks, and imitation golf swing sounds.

I've had such good fellowship experiences throughout my life. My mind easily overflows with faces of good friends who walked together with me and the Lord. Ministry times, worship times, learning and growing together times, experiencing the sweet, sweet Spirit in so many places.

But right now, my fellowship experiences are few and far between and mostly shallow. I've prayed for some time that God would rescue us from this dry place we're in spiritually and let us experience genuine fellowship again. I'm still praying, seeking, and trusting God for it.

Just recently I enjoyed a wonderful conversation on Facebook regarding fellowship. Friends of mine who are actively involved in House Church, Organic Church, Simple Church (whatever you want to call it) were sharing their experiences. Friends in Mississippi, Colorado, and Boone, NC, carried on a conversation with my oldest friend who is a Southern Baptist pastor here in central North Carolina. What they described was so refreshing!

I was so inspired as my friends shared their current and recent fellowship experiences. It filled me with hope and I've been praying more urgently that God would similarly bless us, that He would lead us into new relationships and beautiful new experiences. I want my children to grow up experiencing life-giving communion and fellowship with other believers.

I know God has more for us than these plastic, surfacy acquaintances and interactions we are currently experiencing in the traditional church we're attending.

That's why I'm blogging again. I want to record the miracle of being lifted out of the ordinary, into the extraordinary in this area.

No more computer golf fellowship. I want the real thing again!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

House Church: Skip the sermon, worship at home

I was pleasantly surprised this morning to find an article in our local paper on the House Church movement. (Click on the title of today's blog post to be taken to the article).

Here is a copy of a letter, a sort of thank you note for printing the article, that I sent to our local editor tonight:

Thank you for including the article "House Church" in Sunday's Herald. I have several good friends who have chosen to fellowship in a setting much like what was described in this article, and they have been doing so for years. My wife and I always enjoy visiting their informal gatherings whenever we are able. House church (also called simple church or organic church) would certainly not appeal to those who prefer the traditional Sunday morning church experience. But it is a wonderful and refreshing alternative that many are embracing.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

This Time Blogging

As I resume blogging after taking over a year off, I want to approach it a little differently:

* I've disconnected my blog from my Facebook account. My Facebook friends are so varied - family, old friends, new friends, co-workers, some folks I barely know - that I felt restricted in what I could share.

* I want to drop the facade. I really don't have it all together, but I like for people to think I'm doing better than I am. Specifically, I want to share how much I struggle in the area of fellowship and "church".

*I hope to write short, to-the-point entries rather than long, drawn out ones. I hope to be more readable, even if I'm the only one reading me.

* And I want to just write. I'm not trying to win a Pulitzer here. I just want to get my thoughts down without too many mispelled words.

* Hopefully, I can enjoy come good conversation and get a little free counsel from the friends who read what I share.

'nuff said.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Prayer Walks

One of my favorite things is to go on a long hike down a well worn trail deep in the woods, praying all the way. I also like prayer-walking down the beach, down sidewalks and streets, on greenways... I'm a huge fan of prayer walks. I've been taking them since I was in my late teens. Every important event in my life - my marriage, musical accomplishments, making it through graduate school, our miracle children - they've all flowed out of many miles of prayer walks.

Now when I say many miles, I'm not kidding. I kept track of the miles of prayer walks over the five years we prayed for our son to be born. It was somewhere around 700 miles!

Recent busyness in life has kept me off the prayer walk trails for most of the last three years. But lately I've been out prayer-walking again. Raven Rock Park near Lillington has lots of great trails down to a beautiful river. Kiwanis Park in Sanford is o.k. in a pinch as there is one trail that is fairly private (see the photo above taken with my phone). And I re-visited San-Lee Park in Sanford the other day: nice short trails there that Melody and I used to walk when we were dating.

I'm grateful that the Lord has walked with me and talked with me down many, many trails and paths and streets and sidewalks and beaches through these years.

I hope I can get back to doing it much more frequently.