The Value of Friendship

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” C.S. Lewis

I don’t often disagee with C.S. Lewis. I have loved his works since I was really young – beginning with The Chronicles of Narnia at a very young age and slowly absorbing and reabsorbing other works of his like The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, etc. His ideas, illustrations, and imagination have definitely affected the way I view God, Christianity, and love.

However, today I definitely take issue with the quote above. Technically, he is correct. But realistically, not so much. Never do I feel more loved than when a friend, knowing so much about me, my life, and needs, steps in to offer to sacrifice on my behalf. Today I was reminded of the absolutely priceless value of a friend who loves you and of the real need of human beings to have such relationships. There’s really nothing else quite like it in life. The love of family, while also priceless and completely irreplaceable, is quite distinct from the love of a friend. There is no blood tie there, no obligation, no pressure… just love.

I totally agree with Lewis on this point: “Love is not an affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.”

Today’s been a really incredible day. I’m learning to rest and I’m also being reminded of all of the incredible people that God has placed in my life to love me, support me, and teach me. I am more than blessed.

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Dream Vacation – Part II

So yesterday as I was polling my office, my facebook friends, my mom, and searching the internet for some fun, inexpensive weekend getaways from DC, I realized several things:

*I have numerous countries that I’d like to visit, but even with an unlimited budget this weekend, I probably wouldn’t have gone to any of them. I’ve been dreaming of a trip to Spain, Portugal, Greece and Turkey for almost three years now, but I would have bypassed the chance to do that to just jump in a kayak and float down a river in east Texas or lie on a beach and listen to nothing but waves.

*When I asked myself the question: “If I could vacation anywhere, where would I go?” – The answer wasn’t Europe (which I absolutely love-this in no way should be interpreted to mean that I no longer love traveling or all things European), places I dream of visiting, or even home. I wanted to go somewhere I could really rest. I decided that for this weekend, that actually meant staying home. I might still go visit some places in and around DC that I’ve been wanting to see (I constantly have a list), but I decided that God was really asking me to set aside time to be still.

If money wasn’t a hindrance, I would have decided to go to some small island somewhere with miles of beach – white sand, really blue sky, and clear water. In my imagination, this place is small, with similar landscape everywhere, and not much else to see or do. That would keep me from running around from place to place, trying to see all of the important sites and landmarks (like Court and I did in Europe several summers ago). I realized that I don’t think I’ve really ever gone on a vacation just to relax (other than some incredible weekends/holidays in Pennsylvania now and then and a couple of weekends in WV).

So, that’s a goal in the coming year – take a week to just relax – go somewhere fun. Maybe I’ll take a cruise while they’re cheap or visit somewhere else I’ve never been. I’m learning a lot about myself this summer and one of the things I’m learning is that I need to cultivate the ability to be alone. And to be quiet.  Both of those things are invaluable, especially in cultivating one’s relationship with God and maintaining one’s emotional and spiritual health.

So I’ve created a list of things I’ve been wanting to do and started doing them… just one at a time – I refuse to be in a hurry. Today I called my sister and talked to a best friend for a long time, went running, tried out a new salsa recipe, tried a snow cone stand I’ve seen for over a year and never taken the time to stop at (won’t be returning, by the way – snow cones are only good in Texas), napped, finished a great book (another new post re: politics coming soon), and got a great tan.

There are important lessons that will be learned this weekend. Thankfully God got my attention this week and reminded me of how much I need Him, His rest, and His peace. I can honestly say that I’m realizing that I keep myself busy many times because I don’t know what to do with the quiet time. This weekend is about learning what to do in the quiet time, and more than that, it’s about learning to enjoy it.

(For those of you interested in visiting one of the top 10 getaways close to DC, visit: http://dc.about.com/od/hotels/tp/Top10Getaways.htm)

Dream vacation

I’m not sure if anyone is really even reading this or paying attention… but I’ve been asking myself this question all day and decided to see what sort of responses it might elicit from the world at large.

If you could vacation anywhere, where would you go? Why would you go there and what would you do while there?

I’m asking because I suddenly found myself with a lot of free time on my hands this week and stopped long enough to ask myself what I really wanted to do with it. I don’t have the money or enough time to take some of the incredible trips I dreamed up, but it was an interesting thought process. I’ll share a bit later on this evening… I’m still thinking 🙂

Expectations

Today was a really rough day. Seems like a lot of life situations all came together and broke me not once, but multiple times throughout the day. I tend to store up stress, anxiety, concern, hurt, and pain all together until I just can’t hold any more… and then it all comes pouring out, accompanied by tears, as a few not-so-fortunate individuals found this evening. It’s not that I don’t pray about things – most days this summer I’ve felt almost like I pray without ceasing about some situation or another – I think I’m finding instead that it’s my perspective that predisposes me to this type of response.

Tonight’s Gathering service was like finding water after a long time in the desert. And I know that sounds dramatic, and very well might be, but it definitely helped to put today, and in fact, my entire summer into perspective.

John talked about expectations and how our expectations affect the outcomes of our lives. His message was mostly geared toward those who underestimate God and His love and what kind of expectations we should really have when it comes to our relationship with Him. And that aspect of it was great, but it opened up my eyes to a lot of the real sources of the discomfort, pain, and even anger that I’ve encountered and walked through over the past several months.

The real source is me. It’s all about my expectations. The expectations I place on other individuals and their ability to perform and to love me well, the expectations I place on myself to always do what should be done and in the manner it should be done in (to achieve perfection or as near to it as is humanly possible), and the expectations I’ve placed on God – asking and expecting Him to fit into the box I’ve created for Him without even knowing I’ve done so.

expectations placed on others

Somewhere in the midst of all the craziness I’ve forgotten an important lesson that God began teaching me last fall regarding expectations and loving people.  The two don’t go together. God’s showing me again what it means to love completely – as He loves. And that means loving with no expectations, no demands, no agenda, etc. I am to love people for who they are and for what they will be, not for who I expect them to be.

This was my conclusion last fall: if I have any agenda, any requirements, or any expectations, I merely barter my affection. For my love to be complete, I have to love without conditions.

This is my conclusion this fall/end of summer: there’s also a real difference between expectations and anticipation. And it’s okay to be disappointed when things fall through, when people let me down, and when situations beyond anyone’s control just simply don’t happen as planned. And I shouldn’t be upset with myself for anticipating. Anticipation, after all, is a very nice thing when its dream is fulfilled.

expectations placed on myself

I’m a perfectionist extraordinaire. I absolutely can’t stand it when I don’t perform to the best of my ability, or when I make stupid mistakes, or find that my laziness or lack of wisdom has created a large problem that I must face.

Days like today are actually such a blessing, because I am forced to remember how truly human I am and that there’s absolutely nothing in my life that I can handle on my own – I am forever going to need Christ and His mercy, love, and grace. The truth is that I’m not really capable of living up to anyone’s expectations – even my own – without a solid relationship with Christ and the companionship and help of the Holy Spirit. His wisdom is absolutely essential to my life and I need to be so much more sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

expectations placed on God

This one’s a bit more difficult and spans my entire lifetime. John (McGowan, not the apostle) is completely correct in his statement that the expectations we place on God really do determine what our experience with Him is like. And I think that if our perception of Him is distorted that our expectations will be as well. The difference between how we should see God and how we should see people is that we absolutely must see them for what they are. God is God… He is I AM and can be no other. All throughout His Word, He invites our expectations:

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.” Eph. 3:20-21

I think the difficulty here lies in determining which expectations are Biblically-sound and which are the result of misunderstandings of Scripture, false teaching, and our desire that God conform to our image of Him, rather than allowing ourselves to be molded and shaped into the likeness of Christ. And that is a much longer post for a later date…

all of that to say that I need to change. I need to be more like Christ. I need to stop expecting people to behave in certain ways and simply appreciate them; I need to take a step back from all of the things I’m doing and with some sort of objectivity determine if the expectations I’ve placed on myself are realistic, and even more importantly, evaluate their worth in the kingdom of heaven… and lastly, I need to continue to take a closer look at Scripture and continue to deeply pursue the truth of who God is and what that means in terms of what I expect Him to do in my life.

The Narcissistic Church

I’ve been doing a lot of research on ministry – taking a fresh look at things I’ve assumed to be essential to ministry for years.  I’ve  had several conversations recently with friends and family that have really prompted me to reexamine traditional ministry and compare it to the ministry we see in Scripture. It seems that the church is much too inwardly focused – we’ve become narcissistic and I fear it will make us culturally irrelevant in the next decade or so if significant change doesn’t take place.

There’s a stack of books on my end table – including some of the following titles:

Simple church : returning to God’s process for making disciples / Thom S. Rainer & Eric Geiger

Unleashing the Church : getting people out of the fortress and into ministry / Frank R. Tillapaugh

Unleashing your potential : discovering your God-given opportunities for ministry / Frank R. Tillapaugh

Mastering outreach & evangelism / Calvin Ratz, Frank Tillapaugh, Myron Augsburger

Searching out the truths of Scripture and then allowing it to create the philosophy of ministry that we hold tightly to is not an easy task. It requires a lot of research, much time in prayer, and a truly humble and a teachable spirit. Obviously, the Word of God is the authority on ministry philosophy and so I’m starting there first, but hopefully the titles listed above will aid me in piecing together what I believe about ministry and outreach, my belief that I’m called to full-time ministry, and just church operations in general.

I just recently finished Mark Dever’s 9 Marks of A Healthy Church and Joshua Harris’ Stop Dating the Church: Fall in Love with the Family of God – and I highly recommend both.

Some questions I’m asking myself:

*What does it mean to be committed to depth over width?

*What does a true missionally-focused church look like?

*Where should our resources really be directed?

Churches do ministry so many different ways… but if we truly desire to do ministry God’s way, it’s important to really examine why we do what we do and allow change to take place if it needs to. If the goal is to bring God glory and to further His kingdom, then that will best be done by doing it His way. And that will almost definitely push me out of my comfort zone, make me look beyond my own experiences, and change the way I view the world of missions, church, and ministry.

P.S. For others who are interested, these sites are great!

http://www.9marks.org/

http://tcteam.wordpress.com/2009/02/24/what-happens-when-we-are-inward-focused/

 

think, process, pray, understand, absorb, change, repeat

So much of life is a simple cycle – think, process, pray, understand, absorb, change, repeat – much like the “wet hair, lather, massage, rinse, repeat” instructions we find on the back of our shampoo bottles. Although, on the spirit and soul level, the process through which we learn and absorb life lessons, deliberate and dissect Scripture, and come to conclusions and understandings about God becomes much more valuable and inherently more beneficial than the simple process we follow as we jump in the shower each day.

Life is a process. And it’s not as simple a process as I’d like for it to be at times. I understand the significance of this process more and more with each passing day. The process – the journey, if you will – is what makes me into who I am. God reveals more of Himself to me as I follow Him each day… as I take time to think, process, pray, understand, and absorb, and change to be more like Him, and then begin again when I encounter a new situation, a new problem, a new pain, or a different kind of test.

You see, I’m truly more stubborn than I would like. And this process is all about God teaching me humility and teaching me to trust. I find that I learn more when I process out loud or on paper. And I like to have a history of the things that God’s leading me through. Most of my musings usually relate to ministry, theology, leadership, or politics in some way, but more recently I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about myself – what I believe, who I want to become, and what I want from life overall. I’ve been reexamining my life’s purpose – that of bringing glory to Christ and of making His name great; while at the same time desperately trying to be content (should the words ‘desperate’ and ‘content’ really be used in the same sentence?)… to enjoy today and this season and not wish myself ahead of God’s will and His plan.

I’ve had an online blog for years, but I feel like it is time to begin again and anew… kind of like I’m doing with my understanding of God… and use this blog as an outlet for dreams, ideas, random thoughts, and my understanding of this process we call life.