Put Up or Shut Up

Last week, I went to a conference at my church entitled “Naturally Supernatural.” My church has a healing ministry where “prayer servants” pray for anyone and everyone who comes through the doors every Monday night. This workshop was to teach both members and leaders from other churches how to pray for people and to do it in a way that isn’t off-putting to those who might not be comfortable with the supernatural.

“Supernatural” in this case refers to hearing directly from God, receiving prophecy, and praying for miraculous healing. Now, this is not something most of the Western church is down with. There are many people and, in fact, entire denominations that run from this idea. We base our theology on the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, especially John 14:12 (NIV), “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” What did Jesus do? He taught the Kingdom, healed the sick, and delivered people. He told us to do the same.

That being said, I have been hearing from God for two years so I figured it was time to take the next step and learn how to pray for people. Sitting there I didn’t feel like I was ready and I didn’t think I was really getting much out of it. I was even regretting signing up for it. Was I just wasting my time? Was this what God wanted for me?

Turns out the answer was an emphatic yes. This week one of my co-workers was in a minor car accident. She was rear-ended and it hurt her back. Nothing’s broken but she was really sore the next day and in pain. Late morning, God told me to go pray for her. I admit that I didn’t really want to. I’m not a person who seeks attention and I wasn’t sure I was ready to be labeled “that girl who thinks she can heal people.” I tried to ignore it and he told me to be bold. I realized that I made the commitment to surrender my life to the Holy Spirit and to be obedient and if I didn’t go pray for a co-worker’s back then I was really just all talk. That is unacceptable. So I went and asked her if I could pray for her. She thought I meant in general until I told her I meant right then. She let me and I prayed for healing for her back. Nothing flashy, just a quiet simple prayer commanding the pain to go. She thanked me but seemed a little skeptical. I know she’s a Christian but I don’t know how she feels about this kind of stuff. It didn’t matter. I was obedient and that’s what matters. The next day she thanked me sincerely for praying for her and said her back felt much better.

I may be looked at as odd in the office now because of it but I’d rather be weird with God’s works than just plain weird. I didn’t know what God was planning for me when I signed up for that conference but doing it was a step in faith. Like our pastor said last week, “The Promised Land only becomes visible as you walk.” I’ve talked the talk. Now it’s time to walk the walk.

Leave No Woman Behind

I didn’t really have grandparents growing up. I mean they existed but they lived far away and I didn’t establish close relationships with them. My grandfathers died when I was very young but both my grandmothers are still living. Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know my mom’s mother, Gramma. She lives in Florida with her husband and we’ve gone down there several times to visit with them and my mom’s other relatives.

Let me explain something about Gramma. She has not had an easy life. There are a lot of reasons my mom moved a very long way away from her family. She likes to keep at least two states between her and them. God has been doing great things for all of them in the last several years but still. And Gramma has made a lot of progress with the Lord and forgiveness. She has been attending a Lutheran church with some of her friends.

The last time she was at our house was in 2001 for my brother’s high school graduation. A lot of big moments happened between then and now. I graduated high school and college, my brother graduated college and got married. Those are things grandparents usually attend. But Gramma couldn’t come for various reasons, one of which being her nerves couldn’t handle traveling that far. It’s 10 hours by car on the interstate and navigating an airport at her age and her anxiety level would be a nightmare. So I just accepted that Gramma would never visit us, we’d just visit down there.

If you think God isn’t in the miracle business anymore, think again. Back in August, my 84-year-old grandmother and her 89-year-old husband did indeed navigate airport security and fly to my house. It may not seem like much but, y’all, that was a miracle.

And it doesn’t stop there. We got to take Gramma to our church, something we’ve wanted to do for a long time. Now, the church I attend is not everyone’s cup of tea. We believe in miraculous healings and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Some people would call us crazy. During the service they asked the twenty somethings to come down front and then they asked everyone over sixty if they’d come down and pray for us. When we were finished and I turned around to go back to my seat, Gramma had come down and she was praying for a girl. I admit, I never thought I would see that.

We had a great visit and I’m so thankful God made it happen. She got to see my brother for the first time in 13 years and meet his wife. I thought that was the extent of God’s miracle for us but as per usual, He gave more than was asked. My mom talked to Gramma a couple weeks ago and she mentioned that the little Lutheran church she attends just isn’t doing it for her anymore. She wants something more.

Y’all, let me tell you something about the Holy Spirit, He leaves no one behind.

“For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:8 (NIV)

Why Not?

As I sit in my office breathing in the scent of Sweet Pea from my Wallflower, exhausted from 7 weeks of workplace hell, I can’t help thinking about how all this happened.

It started in the spring. Our firm bought out a couple of smaller ones and we took on some major new additions. It’s put a strain on everyone. We’re small ourselves and we’re not equipped to handle this amount. Then we were told we’d have to change our entire way of doing things by converting to a new, harder-to-use, very un-user-friendly program. Add in some serious problems at the top level and you’ve got a recipe for rebellion.

One night, as I was stressing about the situation and thinking about how useless the whole thing was, a train of thought started running through my head. There could actually be a solution to this. I’ve always been a leader and I often get put in leadership positions. I’m also pretty good at mediation. Emotions were running high with everyone and there was so much whispering at the office. The things I was thinking about would open communication and help to reconcile the situation. It would also put me at the center of the fray. After I had hashed it all out in my mind, I thought, “I can’t do that.”

Then God said, “Why not?”

And I didn’t have an answer. At least not a good one. He gave me these leadership and people skills. Wouldn’t it stand to reason that He would want me to use them? Hadn’t He already given me many situations like this to practice on? Hadn’t He already revealed that He was using me at this job for His purpose?

So I stepped into the fray and no, it wasn’t easy. I got pummeled from all sides and it left me drained and wondering if I had done the right thing. But then others started to step up and we had the opportunity to make our concerns heard. They decided to the delay the conversion until we could all consider the consequences. That’s a huge relief going into the autumn. Did it fix everything? No. But it fixed the most immediate problem and brought the other issues to light.

Part of being all in for God is hearing His voice and being brave enough to act when you know it’s Him. He doesn’t give us the entire answer up front. He expects us to recognize the opportunity and step out in faith, trusting He will take care of the outcome.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Romans 8:31 (NIV)

Why not, indeed.

Not to Church

This is a follow up to one of my previous posts “To Church or Not to Church” where I lamented the absence of fellow 20 somethings at churches.  I think I may have shed some light on my own question:  Church can be exhausting.

I’m not talking about long services (and God knows I have sat through some marathons) but what the church expects of its members.  I spent two years at a very small non-denominational church and enjoyed it for the most part.  I did get involved.  I brought a dish to the potluck, food for the poor, volunteered in the nursery, went to the Bible study, and led a short-lived dance worship group.  But it seemed like that was never enough.  There weren’t enough people to cover the nursery so I was always getting called in at the last minute and people weren’t showing up for the dance thing.  And they always wanted me to be doing something more.  I left that particular church for reasons unrelated to that but it’s something that seems to be happening everywhere.

I went to another non-denominational church that wasn’t a whole lot bigger.  I only went a couple times but while I was there, I was encouraged to take the New Member Class so I could get my Member Certificate.  What, are we in first grade?  But that’s another discussion.  Then the pastor went on and on about how we’re supposed to serve and it’s not okay to just attend.  You have to be a member and you have to be involved in some way and you have to do, do, do.  The reason I left this one was because there were no young people there.  I tried one that was bigger but not a mega church.  There were a few young people there but again I got the Do Speech.  I started to ask myself, “Am I not a good Christian if I’m not involved in something?”  I got so wrapped up in trying to get involved and meet people and be what I was “supposed” to be and do what I was “supposed” to do that I ended up feeling completely disconnected from the church.  Instead of being preached to, I felt preached at.  It felt like I was being told I wasn’t good enough.  As if I don’t get enough of that from other aspects of my life.

After a couple months of striving to be the model Christian I realized that this was people stuff, not God stuff.  Yes, the Bible says that Christians should congregate and volunteer their resources to help those less fortunate but people can take that too far.  They try to do too much and expect everyone else to do that too.  I want to be involved and help but I also don’t want to be looked down on if I just need to attend services and be fed for a while.  This and the other stresses in my life were becoming overwhelming so I made the decision to take a break from church for a while.  And maybe that’s what other young Christians are doing.  It’s not because we’re lazy or we don’t want to help, we’re just tired of being told we’re not good enough.  Many 20 somethings are unmarried, childless, and don’t have a good enough job, leading some to think of themselves as failures already.  I did for years.  We don’t need the church encouraging those kinds of feelings.

The Church is made up of people and therefore imperfect but I hope that pastors can understand that pounding on and guilting people into serving is not the way to go about it.  I’m taking a break from church not because I’m turning away from God but because there are times when you just need to rest your mind and tune out all those voices telling you to be better, do more.  This is just my season of rest.  Church will probably come with another stage of my life.

To Church or Not to Church?

I’m a Christian.  I grew up in the Methodist Church.  I spent my high school and college years as a believer but didn’t attend any church regularly.  I started going to a non-denominational a couple years ago.  I wanted to get to know other Christians, particularly ones my own age (ie twentysomethings).  Too bad nobody told me they don’t exist.  Or at least they don’t seem to be in the churches.  Or maybe they just aren’t in the churches I’ve attended. 

I know some people who go to the local mega church so I decided to see what that was all about.  I felt like I was at a concert not a church.  Now, I’m not saying a church has to have stained-class windows and wooden pews and rotting carpet and old-people smell but this was set up in a hotel and you had to wind your way through several hallways to find the “sanctuary.”  I would probably still be there if my friend who attends there regularly hadn’t gotten me through that labyrinth.  Everywhere you looked there were flashy signs and all these different rooms.  I’m still not sure what all of them were for.  Certainly not anything as mundane as prayer or Bible study.  This is mega church after all.  I do know what one was for.  It was the “Overflow Room.”  Not as ominous as it sounds.  It was for the people who got up to go to the bathroom during the service.  Yeah, they don’t let you back in.  I may be the only one but that kind of restriction and rule setting really breaks down the feeling of community.

The pastor isn’t there by the way.  He’s in some other part of the state and you watch him via satellite on the big screen.  That’s another thing that bothers me.  It makes me feel removed from everything somehow.  The size and scope of it all makes me feel like I’m being kept at arm’s length.  And I realize they are reaching a lot of people that way and that’s great.  Call me old fashioned but I thought that church was a place like-minded (and hearted) people got together to have a community and friendship.  This just seems like more media.  Watch the pastor on TV, just have them debit your bank account for your tithe and that’s it.  No interaction.  They do offer smaller groups and have events to get people together but I’m an introverted person.  I’m not great at busting up in somewhere and making a party.  It works for some (and maybe a lot considering the size of these things) but there’s an intimacy that I crave in a church.

But I digress.  I’m wondering why young people like myself aren’t seen very much in the church.  Are they all at the mega church getting another media fix or are they simply uninterested? Have they turned away from God or do they work jobs where they often have to work on Sundays and never have a chance to attend regularly?   A disturbing thing I see is all the younger people at church are couples.  Where are all the freaking young SINGLE people?  My mother told me she’s heard many young people over the years say things like, “When you’re married then you go to church.”  Really?  So partying until all hours on a Saturday night is more important that doing God’s work?  Church is only acceptable when you’re old and married and have stretch marks and maybe a divorce?  Is church considered “uncool”?  That’s very disheartening to me.  I want to find other people like me (and a husband by the way) but I guess I’m not going to find them in the church.