Monday, September 24, 2012

Bank on Commercial St. is Robbed, Christian Responds

a knife robbery

Our church services on Sunday prepare us to be light to our communities.  We celebrate stories of God working in His people every time we gather, and God commands us in the Psalms to declare His works publicly.  Here is a story that inspires me.

Last Friday (September 21st) a man with a knife walked into Umpqua Bank at about 10 am.  The robbery took place about two blocks from McKinley Elementary School where my friend, April, has three of her five children attending during the school day.  When the bank was robbed, the Elementary went on lockdown for about an hour; in addition so did South Salem High School and Howard Street Charter School.

The man escaped on foot into the local neighborhood and the police could not locate the man.  If you have any information about this situation, please contact the police.  Here is the article in the Statesman Journal.

School let out later that afternoon and April's children walked home and were animatedly talking about how their school had been on lockdown.  The kids knew that the robbery took place where their family did their banking.  April's heart was moved by her kids and most especially because she regularly goes into the bank and knows the people who work there pretty well.

God moved in April's heart to do something about it.  :)  She told me later when they came over for pizza and a movie that night.  And she doesn't yet know that I'm writing this blog post.  Her story was presented to me rather briefly and with a ton of humility, and I might get some of the details wrong of how it went.  Hopefully she will read here soon and can tell a little more of the story of how it went.

She got her kids all "cutified," all five of them, ages 10 years to 10 months old.  She made a homemade card and wrote a scripture in it and also got some balloons.  The whole troop walked into the bank.  She said to them, "I know what happened to you this morning and how horrible it was, and I thought you could use some cheering up."

The scripture was Isaiah 40:10.  "Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."

Umpqua Bank usually has about three people working in front but at this point there was a full staff of about eight people and they were all on edge and watchful.  They might have been called into work because of what happened.  April said that one woman cried when she interacted with April and her family.

This is the sort of love that transforms culture and helps bridge belief for people who would turn to Jesus if only someone would lead them to Him.  I'm so impressed!!!  I have so many excuses why I don't think I should share Christ publicly.  April's example has renewed my heart about how the gospel changes lives, changes communities, changes cities.  I want to celebrate with her the hope Christ had planned from the beginning of time to bring to the people at this bank.  Even acts of thoughtful love without an accompanying scripture are a touch of God in this world.

I'm reminded of an article I read at about a business that was impacted by a tragic suicide of one of their employees.  Two Christians there started seeing God open the hearts of their fellow co-workers who were looking for hope.  A pastor of a local church took a chance and started meeting in the gym facility at this company with these two Christians.   It was really simple.  They sang praise music with a guitar.  Their coworkers came.  People were believing in Christ for eternal life.  Attendance kept growing from 10 to 20 and finally 100 employees.  The pastor went back to his local church which had been more or less stagnant in growth for several years and resigned because God was calling him to pastor this new church plant, born in a business.

Can there be a church in a bank?  How about in a gym?  Who lives for this sort of thing?  God does!  Anything can happen when we plant the gospel!  How can we join in the great commission?  Here are a couple of thoughts.

10 Simple Ways to be Missional

"Over and over again when people begin to engage a life lived on mission they wonder or ask, “How would I ever have the time to DO all of this?!” But God has designed our lives in such a way that we already live in a rhythm of opportunities to both display and proclaim the gospel. It is not a matter of adding new things to our life; it is about living with increasing gospel intentionality. We must shift our thinking from “Additional to Intentional”." - Caesar Kalinowski

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Meet Lauren

This morning I met Lauren.  She came into the auto repair place and sat down beside me and my son.  She's in her 60s, and is holding the cash in her hand she's going to use to pay for her car's repair.  The money is sticking straight out from her hand and she's sitting there with a face of concern.  I asked her about her car's problem and I cracked a joke, and she actually laughed at it for some time which is cool because I'm not that funny.  She said she had come all the way from Independence hoping that they would be able to fix it and that they had helped her before by charging her such a little price.  I said it was a far way to come and she said that she had a daughter who lived in town.  She said she comes in to help her two children a lot but they do not come out to Independence to see her, and she looked sad but trying to hide it.  I said do you have someone you can call if your car has trouble?  She didn't answer.  I said I think everybody needs a few support people.  Would her children help her if she needed something?  She said no.  She said her comfort is in knowing that at least she's possibly a better person for being thoughtful toward others.  I said well how about I give you my phone number.  And if you need help you'll have someone to call.  She waved her hand away at me like I was being too much.  Then she lowered her head trying to hide a few tears about to fall.

I gently took her hand and said softly, "honey I didn't mean to make you upset, I'm sorry."  She said, "No it's ok, that sounds nice I didn't think I could meet anyone who would be nice like that."  She smiled.  I said, "Really, call me," as I was headed out the door.  She said she really did not have a sense of family with anyone, to answer my real question about her kids.  I said, "Well you do now.  Call me sometime soon."  She said, "That would be nice, even if it's just to visit, I don't have any friends."  She was happy I could see, to say that out loud even though she felt some shame in admitting it.

Because she didn't mention a husband but she did mention children, I'm assuming she's a widow.  And she's a poor widow.  I can't help but think of God's Word : "True religion is this, to look after orphans and widows in their time of need."  (James 1)

She needs something a little larger than I can give her.  I can offer her my husband and my children, my family, but she needs a sense of family that's about extended-family size.  It would be a lot for me to serve her and love her the way that she deserves, but if I could invite her into a family setting, it would be so neat to see the bold words I said in faith about having a family now, come to fruition, with many people loving her, serving her, each person being unique in how they do that.

I'm praying right now that there would be a family of Christians who will step out to manifest Jesus to this dear woman.  I want her to not be taken advantage of, to be served selflessly.  I want her to experience the love of God in an unconditional way so that she has a safe place to understand what Jesus Christ has done for her - that He is that "better person" just as she knows is the right thing to do :)

Would you like to meet Lauren?

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Prayer Closet

I need to listen a whole lot to what God says, more than I do everything else.  The solution is to regularly use "the prayer closet."  When I listen to anything else there isn't as much bigness for Christ to tell me who He says that I am.  It means that even when someone throws something as gritty as judgment at me, I excuse myself politely and say I've gotta go. I've gotta have a prayer closet where I go spend some time and I come out afterward victorious... cleansed of whatever wasn't quite in alignment or affirmed that I was already on the right path... or whatever God discerns that needs to be discerned.

It's a miracle to see God do this in a Christian's life.  After a continuous experience in the prayer closet Christians care very little with whether they have been abandoned to some expectation because Christ has met that emotional panic inside their heart.  Have you seen Christians who come out of a prayer closet?  What do they look like?

We ought to receive discipling-judgment from other Christians, because their voice often is one and the same Spirit; God.  However without that prayer closet, it can cause a believer stalemate.  Christians can overtake Christians with their Christian judgments which are actually true from His Word.  These judgments are the tool that God wants to use, but it quickly should become God using them, after we first receive them from the Body of believers who know us.  Why?  There are several reasons why this is important.  First, whether or not we attain victory over our failings is on the line.  Second, our Savior wants to use these truths in a mentoring way.  Christians are not always capable of imitating the mentoring, advocating grace of Christ.  Most importantly He wants the glory for our having been mentored.

Paul was a figure in the early Corinthian church upon which the congregation was deciding if he was the choicest orator of doctrine.  It could have crimped his confidence.  1 Cor. 4:3-4,
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court.  In fact, I do not even judge myself.  For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord.
For Paul, their odd use of him as a role model caused him to write back to the church about the spiritual mind of Christ.  He was given this message to write to the church after first being set free in the prayer closet.

I have seen Christians come out of the prayer closet who passively admit to their Body of people who know them, any variety of evils with a smile on their face because they recognize that they are forgiven.  It's no longer a part of their lives because Christ has told them in the prayer closet that that unconformity is no longer a part of who they're seen as.

But that's in the case where there is actual sin and I don't know for sure what God will bring out to me in the prayer closet.  Sometimes the prayer closet is an experience where He acquits me, and the joy and power of the Holy Spirit only gets more incredible because He explains that I have an opportunity to share Him with them.  Think Job at the end of that Book and how he advocated in the end for his critics.

I desire that when my heart receives someone else's opinion, my heart is already full of God's voice. Man's judgment either adds or subtracts only a little as it passes through the prayer closet. I want this for myself today, this morning, at this moment.

I love the story of Hezekiah in 2 Kings chapter 19.  Criticism has come against him and Jerusalem in 2 Kings 18:19-25,
Say now to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: “What confidence is this in which you trust?  You speak of having plans and power for war; but they are mere words. And in whom do you trust, that you rebel against me?  Now look! You are trusting in the staff of this broken reed, Egypt, on which if a man leans, it will go into his hand and pierce it. So is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him.  But if you say to me, ‘We trust in the Lord our God,’ is it not He whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and said to Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem’?”’  Now therefore, I urge you, give a pledge to my master the king of Assyria, and I will give you two thousand horses—if you are able on your part to put riders on them!  How then will you repel one captain of the least of my master’s servants, and put your trust in Egypt for chariots and horsemen?  Have I now come up without the Lord against this place to destroy it? The Lord said to me, ‘Go up against this land, and destroy it.’”

Hezekiah tore his clothes.  To say it too simply, he was upset.  He might have trusted in the chariots of Egypt but to do so would not have been singular trust in God alone.  He took the letter of criticism and literally spread it out in the house of God.  2 Kings 19:14-16,
And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord.  Then Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said: “O Lord God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.  Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God.  ... Now therefore, O Lord our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God, You alone. 
In Your Prayer Closet

We believers have got to pour out the whole story before God.  Literally spread it out on your bed, or whatever.  Ask Him to look on those words said to you.  Ask Him to speak to you about your heart in it.  If you've ever experienced a moment where Christ sets you free so powerfully, it gets addictive and I'm sure that you've had a moment like this in times past, but today I want a rush of His opinions toward us to overtake us... because God is so much better of an Advocate than any man aspires to be.  Including the closest friend in your life.  Or a Christian you respect.  Or a spouse.  Or a crisis or confusion.  Our low moments when we're judged means only "a little" in the hand of a God who prepared in advance good works that we should walk in them.
coming out of the closet

Don't let anyone have too much of the judgment seat in your heart before He does.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My Daughter, Grace, Sept 2012

Grace has now started attending middle school!  It has been an amazing transition for all of us this summer.  She no longer has to wear uniforms to school, and we have had fun shopping for things that are just her style.  There was a camp for incoming sixth graders a couple weeks before school started where she got to see her classrooms and see where her locker was going to be, and she learned how to open a combination.  All of her girlfriends are traveling on with her from elementary school.  They are the "nerdy girl" lunch table as of last year's experience of fifth grade.  Grace has at least one of these girlfriends in every single class she's got this year (seven classes total).  What a comfort!  And she has been excited that her home economics teacher will be a familiar face from Salem First B.!

Grace, age 11
Her favorite subject is reading, and her favorite books are fantasy and mysteries.  For a long time she has wanted to be an agent for the FBI when she grows up, just like her grandfather (my dad).  Last year according to test scores she told me she's "the fifth smartest girl at school."  I don't know for sure what that means, but I am happy that she has great grades and does her homework most often without being told.

Last year at the end of school there was a final concert for band and orchestra students.  Grace won the "most improved" award for 5th grade band, an honor which only 4 other students received!  Here's her story about the trumpet: she had started the year with it and from September till November she kept trying to make all the notes correctly, could not do it, and was beginning to fall behind even though she never gave up.  Her teacher said, "would you like to try another instrument?"  The flute was suggested and she got very excited.  She borrowed a flute and her teacher said, "She learned in three days what the other kids took a month to learn."  She is very proud of her accomplishments - and the band teacher said that the entire class is very talented when it comes to having a sense for musicality - Grace was included in that acknowledgement.  Amazing, Grace!

Grace has also been on leadership for the last two years of elementary school.  Teachers select students for the privilege of leadership.  At the beginning of last year the staff met with the ten students who are in leadership and asked them this question: "What can we do to serve our community?"  Grace came home and we began to discuss potential ideas.  We considered how our church (Salem First B.) in the previous year had gone to Marion & Polk County Food Share to help organize food distribution to the poor.  She loved that idea especially since the facility is right across the Parkway from the school.  The teachers selected Grace's suggestion!  They were in the Keizer Times, with a photograph as they served the M&PCFS.  Amazing, Grace!

Grace is blossoming in her relationship with the LORD.  A couple years ago we discovered that Grace was suffering with some substantial doubt that God is really real.  Rather than seeing information as the missing piece to her knowing God, because she already knew the Bible so well, we took another route. We began with Jeremiah 29:13 which says,
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
I began reading to all the children at bedtime a chapter or two from the bible.  We started in Genesis 12 with the story of Abraham, and now we are half way through Exodus (we get into seasons where we don't read at night because the kids use it for advancing naughtiness).  Through it all we have seen the power of God and how He promised to do things hundreds of years before they happened.  We have seen how God is the one who holds all the burden of seeing a covenant come to pass.  We have seen how transformative it can be to put our faith in Him.

I have waited to see where her heartbeat really lies in her life, and she has shared both good and burdensome things.  Recently she took a spiritual gifts test and discovered her gifts are evangelism and compassion.  Her number one sense of crisis that causes her to want to trust God to help her is with anxiety.  I regret that I might have passed on a bad example to her because she somehow feels responsible for a lot....  But when she does notice things that make her uncomfortable, she prays about it.  Then afterward she says "it went away!" and we praise God.  Amazing, Grace!

Every once in a great while I ask Grace "Do you know that you are saved?  What if you just know the scriptures and you have not really trusted in Him to save you?  How do you know?"  Her answer after a moment of reflection is to totally dismiss my inquiry and she says, "I know that I am saved... because when I prayed to him, I told Him that I didn't want to be at the far end of the table away from Him, at the fellowship dinner.  I want to be able to see Him and be near Him.  And, Mom, He gave me so much joy!  I can't tell you how awesome it feels!  I just felt so good.  I just felt so happy thinking about Him."  She laughs out loud when she tells me this because it so overwhelms her voice and face, that she can't even put words on it.  Amazing, Grace!  Romans 15:13,
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Grace has been longing to share the truth with a couple of girls her age, all summer long.  Most especially her cousin.  She has deployed herself to share how awesome it is to believe in Jesus and know Him with her cousin, and then she comes back to me and we debrief how it went.  Her cousin was possibly deflecting the conversation of Christ, and Grace came back confused.  I suggested she ask her cousin straightforwardly if she wanted to talk about Christ only because Grace wanted to talk about it or was she sincerely interested herself?  Grace came back and reported another discouraging moment: the cousin was in fact not interested in much beyond going to heaven.  I kind of left Grace with no response for a couple weeks on that, because I mean, I feel the same way, lost, when I come to a dead end, too.  But I prayed about it and talked to Grace again.  I explained how we are meant to share the gospel with those who listen to us, not just the people we love the most.  And I suggested Psalm 1 as a way for her to bring closure to her cousin and her choice.  She felt a lot better after that.

But there was a day, in the car, where Grace really experienced an epiphany of the Spirit.  She wouldn't stop talking about God, to me, and ask me questions about what God is like and how He engages Himself.  I stopped answering her questions very quickly.  Instead, I asked her to answer her own questions.  What does she perceive is going on?  Then for what she said that was true, I quoted scripture after scripture to her to verify by His Word that she was right on track.  It kind of amplified her as she continued.  For a couple of hours on and off in the evening hours, she began sobbing.  She wanted so much for her cousin to know the love and joy of God.  She didn't understand how to manage the thought that her cousin didn't have God as she had known Him.  Again, for awhile I didn't know how to answer her.  All I could think about is how I felt like that so much, before.  I prayed again, and explained from the wisdom He gave me in that moment, that trusting Him would help.  "As you entrust your cousin to God, the burden in your heart will fall on Him.  And He will not disappoint you.  He will give you encouragement, every once in awhile, that He is going to take care of your cousin.  He is going to do it.  Pray!  Tell Him what you are telling me."  She did.  She still wept a bit.  But, she felt better; she acted relieved.

Lizzy had been in the backseat during this most emotional moment, and was quiet the whole time.  In the silence afterward Lizzy slipped a drawing forward and gave it to Grace.  There was a picture of two girls together and a sentence:

When I grow up I want to be just like Grace.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Some Crusty Thinking on Community

I've had this thought for a long time that it was my church's job to pull me into the church as much as possible.  I waited on them to create church events where I could be with them and build connection with them.  I needed the church to express all the intentionality in relationship toward me because my relationship energy was intentionally spent on bringing spiritual sojourners into space with me.

In the space I shared with these spiritual sojourners, cool things were happening.  They were blessing me and I was blessing them.  It was great for me individually to see God expand the church (by giving people eternal life, even if they never attended services).  I didn't want to work alone, so I depended on the church community to pull me into their world so that I could merge where I was with the sphere for which I was filled with passion.

come on, church community, pull! 

Yes my sphere in the world was getting "the church" from me individually as I am a part of Christ, but I knew they weren't knowing the blessing of the church as a family so they could see their own identity in God's grace toward them.  Sharing the gospel of course was most important.  Church community was always the secondary sell, not always as successful.  That left me feeling like I was always working mostly alone.  I was sad.  I didn't know how to say in words that I felt neglected.  If sojourners never made it all the way to church community, I just didn't see how I would ever get to enjoy fellowship at church without simultaneously downplaying the great commission.  It's a catch-22.

Now I think differently.

I was wrong.  The church community can be just as much invited into my space as my sphere.  Then wherever I am, the church community is also but much more naturally than scheduled church community events.

Why did I think the two spheres are separate??  They in no way have to be.  I guess it's just another consequence of thinking about the church as a location (the church is a building) instead of thinking of the church only as God's people (the church is believers wherever they are).

Seven months is how long it took to apply it personally.  I have been nodding my head at PAX all this time but now this really faulty thinking is starting to crack.  And I feel much better.  It's so much more simple now.  And a lot less painful.  I don't need to be pulled, I only need to invite.  I still flop like a fish a bit when I'm at PAX.  There's a lot of crusty thinking I've built up from years of not feeling sufficiently pulled.  I think I'm gaining critical mass.

I hope that if you're like me and you love to reach your world for Christ, you will feel helped by this testimony.

Choose Hate

We've heard Jesus tell us that we must hate our life to gain our life.  I thought I would write it down with a picture to keep it fresh.

I am so completely blessed!  I hope you can say the same about your life?  I respect my blessings and I am sure that I take most of them for granted.  In the grand scheme I know I don't deserve them.  But I do know they are on loan to me.  I've felt that way since I was saved.   

I believe God is inviting me to hate my blessings and accomplishments as Paul wrote in Philippians.  A blessed life is garbage compared to the surpassing greatness of something else: knowing Christ (more, better).  Is this a little too liberal?  Paul says that everything is garbage, not only the life he had before he was saved.

I've changed my approach to God in prayer.  There is nothing that is so desirable about my opportunities that I should keep accepting it as my only understanding of how to "know" God.  There's nothing I need to do today, so, God, do something Yourself.  Really, nothing, I wonder at myself sometimes?  Yes!

How has the LORD replied?  I see more of God's power.  I see Him doing things powerfully that I have always wanted to witness.  I want to keep regarding myself this way, because it is freeing.

I love God doing neat stuff.  It makes me want to love my life, and I do.  I like the theology I'm learning.  I like being needed, I like being necessary.  I like having the conversations I realize are going to be happening.  

I don't see the bad news for awhile.  There's this crazy little pattern of deviation from His plan that happens when I like my life: "sin and earth."  I call unintended deviations, "earth."  (I think the Bible calls this "worldliness.")  The earth is imperfect and filled with pictures of futility.  Even worse is when I intentionally include deviations, and I call these "sin."  Some examples are when I listen a little too much to life.  God commanded me to think big of Him.  

These elements of sin and earth get mixed in with God and His work, and it becomes a mixed bag.  I still believe that what He is up to is indeed good.  And He is still going to do it, but I believe He has to battle with me so that I can truly grow.  He blesses me, true.  I do not see God as much, but I do see His power sometimes.  Eventually the sin and earth quotient becomes too big and I say because I am forced, "I hate my life."

That I would choose from the outset the purity that "hate" affords.  Who doesn't adore life as His child, and I am no exception.  If I want to see God's pure power, the best choice?  Hate.

blog archive

Phrase Search / Concordance
Words/Phrase To Search For
(e.g. Jesus faith love, or God of my salvation, or believ* ever*)