On life, glacial evangelism, and a Reblog: “Just Be…Normal”

On life, glacial evangelism, and a Reblog: “Just Be…Normal”

“Life isn’t always about being ‘out there,’ always with a smile on our faces and willing to give a measured account of Christ’s death and resurrection in fine-print detail.  Sometimes life is about — well, everyday life.  And just being ourselves — normal people — is enough to bring hope where it’s needed.”
— Tsh Oxenreider Simple Mom

I’m a born writer, and I love to write, but I am all too familiar with all life changing in an instant.  My own world started going down in flames a week ago Friday, but it turned into a raging inferno last Thursday afternoon.  It was just after four, I’d been passing the afternoon in a completely mundane way — my netbook has some “special” qualities (e.g., the screen only works when you hold it tilted 45° facing the keys and typing blind, the battery is on its way out and won’t hold a charge, and it won’t pick up the weak WiFi signal in the house because its antenna isn’t as sensitive as my NOOK tablet), so because of this it hadn’t been online for awhile…thus when I turned it on over visiting my mother and niece for lunch, it started updating everything.

Everything.

So much for my planned job search.

I made myself a cup of tea around four, was going to drink that and head home.  While I was waiting for it to cool, I had my USB cables and was going to move picture files of baby guinea pigs off my phone and onto the other two computers to upload to Facebook (easy, something to be done over a cup of tea).

Things didn’t work out that way.

When I pulled out my phone (still silenced from when I pit it on Silent Mode for the morning’s Bible Study class), I found text messages and missed calls about an emergency unfolding back home.

Dumped a perfect and beautiful cup of too-hot tea down the sink (I’m pretty sure tea — not blood — flows through my veins).  I am still sorry about this.

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Raced home the five or so blocks to take my place in the unfolding nightmare as “support staff” to the famiily I live with (and have lived with for the past two years).  Without much for details, suffice it to say that my role is somewhat one of an embedded missionary, kind of like Mary Poppins/care pastor in a family with three small children.  I love them all, they are family.

The advantage in this situation is that I am cool in crisis, have some background how to navigate what is going on (it’s on my résumé), and an already an established/stable/normal presence in this household.  “Miss Val’s in-charge” brings no drama, and Miss Val will probably take you on an adventure.

But the disadvantage is that my own life is now in the middle of a very big mess (prayers appreciated if you are so-inclined), which has put my own ability to write and every single plan and “To Do” List on hold.

So my own life and writing are probably somewhat on-hold at present, and I am going to have to let the wise and inspiring words of others carry me — and you, perhaps — for a little while until I know what’s what.

But I’m still reading and still thinking, still an absolute prayer warrior for intercession in the lives of all I love so dearly.

That said, the post I’m reblogging here with a link really resonated with me when I read it this morning . Now, you’ve heard of “elevator pitch” evangelism? That’s the speed-talking-close-the-deal-to-the-point-why-you-need-Jesus.

And I don’t think it works.

My evangelism style — especially with the Jonahs and burned-by-churchy-hypocrites God sends my way (I haven’t met an Ethiopian eunuch yet) — is more along the lines of “glacial evangelism.”

Because glaciers move very, very, very slowly…but have a profound and deep impact on everything in their path.

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Yes, St. Val knows this is the proper cultural reference

My personal philosophy is that the world does not need another Jesus freak who truly is a freak — no knowledge of how life in a secular society works, profoundly lacking social skills, not merely intolerant but downright hostile, and so ridiculously fake and polished as to be grating and abrasive. So many of the broken people God sends me have been burned by just such people.

What I am advocating is not a policy of being soft on Jesus in the least. The truth is that if you are truly a Christian, truly empowered by the Holy Spirit, your life will be radically different starting with the way you think and view the world. That’s not to say you will be a socially inept separatist, rejecting the world wholly…it just means you will be a little more mindful of your choices, values, how you spend your time, and how you live your life.

But it doesn’t mean you can’t still be a normal person.

Because the truth of the matter is, unless you are a “real” person of character and integrity, no one in the world is going to care to listen to what you say anyway. The truth about evangelism is that if you can make a friend, you can “do evangelism,” because the entire process is profoundly relational.

Which is why I think the whole crusade model and elevator pitch evangelism is garbage: no follow-through.

Because life in-Christ, a life of discipleship isn’t about “say the thing, pray the prayer — *poof* — #HolySpirit!!! No, there is much more to living a life of Christian Discipleship not covered in any ither way but…living a life of Christian Discipleship. That really is the beginning and end of it. And it may draw ire to say I’m soft on ire for saying it, but by no means am I insinuating that the only thing necessary for Christian evangelism is to be a nice person and hope people notice. Sometimes the everyday nitty-gritty details of what effective witnessing requires is the street cred of normalcy and just being ourselves (in-Christ) to witness that Christianity isn’t something open for application only to supersaint separatists.

Submitted for your consideration: (in)courage — Just Be…Normal

Blessings for your Sunday (so glad it’s Sunday, I really need to spend some time with my church family in all that swirls!!!) — VKS

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Bright Prayers in a Dark Garden

Bright Prayers in a Dark Garden

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Olive Trees in the Traditional Garden of Gethsemane, Photo source: http://eternalscheme.com/getting-to-the-story/olive-trees-in-the-traditional-garden-of-gethsemane/

I was sitting in church at the local parish church up the street Thursday morning, waiting for a special prayer service to start with the kids from the parish school.  I’m Presbyterian, but the Roman Catholics worship God every day, so it’s with the beautiful and faithful parishoners of the wonderful and dynamic church up the street that you’ll find me many mornings.

We love Jesus, I have no apologies.

I only grabbed my J.B. Phillips New Testament in Modern English to take with me as I scooted out the door (quite literally — there was a Razor scooter involved as my primary mode of transport up the street).  Service was sweet, though not particularly deep — it was like a typical little kids’ chapel service.

In flipping through to compare Last Supper and Passion narratives, I found no traditional, liturgical “Last Supper” narrative in the Gospel of John, but I did find John 17…and in the “fresh” voice of Phillips breathing life into this text, I was absolutely blown away — how could I have somehow “missed” this chapter?  This was what I read, in the translation in which I read it, in a chapter titled Jesus’ prayer for his disciples — present and future:

When Jesus had said these words, he raised his eyes to Heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son now so that he may bring glory to you, for you have given him authority over all men to give eternal life to all that you have given to him. And this is eternal life, to know you, the only true God, and him whom you have sent — Jesus Christ.

“I have brought you honour upon earth, I have completed the task which you gave me to do. Now, Father, honour me in your own presence with the glory that I knew with you before the world was made. I have shown your self to the men whom you gave me from the world. They were your men and you gave them to me, and they have accepted your word. Now they realise that all you have given me comes from you — and that every message which you gave me I have given them. They have accepted it all and have come to know in their hearts that I did come from you — they are convinced that you sent me.

“I am praying to you for them: I am not praying for the world but for the men whom you gave me, for they are yours — everything that is mine is yours and yours mine — and they have done me honour. Now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world and I am returning to you. Holy Father, keep the men you gave me by your power that they may be one, as we are one. As long as I was with them, I kept them by the power that you gave me; I guarded them, and not one of them has been lost, except the son of destruction — that the scripture might come true.

“And now I come to you and I say these things in the world that these men may find my joy completed in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them, for they are no more sons of this world than I am. I am not praying that you will take them out of the world but that you will keep them from the evil one. They are no more the sons of the world than I am — make them holy by the truth; for your word is the truth. I have sent them to the world just as you sent me to the world and I consecrated myself for their sakes that they may be made holy by the truth.

I am not praying only for these men but for all those who will believe in me through their message, that they may all be one. Just as you, Father, live in me and I live in you, I am asking that they may live in us, and that the world may believe that you did send me. I have given them the honour that you gave me, that they may be one as, as we are one — I in them and you in me, that they may grow completely into one, so that the world may realise that you sent me snd have loved them as you loved me. Father, I want those whom you have given me to be with me where I am; I want them to see the glory which you have made mine — for you loved me before the world began. Father of all goodness, the world has not known you, but I have known you and these men now know that you have sent me. I have made your self known to them, and will continue to do so that the love which you have had for me may be in their hearts — and that I may be there also.”

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I still question how in the world I lived and loved God so long, and yet somehow “missed” this chapter. These seem like simple words, but are powerful words for the intercession of Christ on behalf of his disciples…past, present, and always. These is always a lot to think about in all the events surrounding the Garden of Gethsemane, but this chapter takes it to a whole new level.

Blessings for this Good Friday. I’m on my way Downtown for mass at the Cathedral. Presbyterian though I may be, those Roman Catholic roots run deep, and NO ONE does Good Friday like the Catholics. — VKS

Wind in my sails

Wind in my sails

(This is painted on a cross hanging on my wall...)

(This is painted on a cross hanging on my wall…)

“When I stand before God at the end of my life I would hope that I would have not a single bit of talent left and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.'” — Erma Bombeck

I’m in a temporary small group study for Lent right now.  I am a demographic misfit — an unattached and unencumbered “young person” (Protestants tend to drive these people away, but that’s another discussion).  I was the elected leader of the young people at a previous church.  I was grumbling to a dear friend of mine last month that I would just as soon start my own small group study and volunteer to host and facilitate it if my life were in a better place just to get out of dealing with the seasonal misfit group.

My life is not in a better place.

Some of the reason I’d happily avoid the whole thing is a particular difficult personality.  I’m not a gossipy person, not gonna go there.  To steal a line from the late pastor friend of a pastor friend of mine: we are not called to be “fruit inspectors.”  I’m a strong personality too…moving on.

And yet, for various reasons, my cranky butt keeps showing up every week.

Last night’s topic was “Spiritual Gifts” — what are our gifts and how can we best use them?  I know what mine are, I use them.  A hiccup has been the accident that required me to resign from all of my various ministry activities because I am no longer in-charge of my own transportation to church, but I’m working on trying to figure out “What next?”

Because unless you’re dead?  There is always something in God’s kingdom to be done, even if it is just the dishes (which I totally ROCK at, by the way).

I was writing to a friend this morning (and she will know who she is when she finds this):

Last night’s class didn’t go well for me (and yet I keep showing up…), but was a great session for others.  I really am lost at trying to explain to people that if the Holy Spirit is the wind in your sails it doesn’t matter what you “can” or “cannot” do, because it won’t be YOU doing it.  It just baffles me how many people can’t wrap their heads around “Lord, make me an instrument if thy peace.”  It’s not that hard, it really isn’t, you just need to make room for God to move and let God be God.  Maybe I really am foolish in the same direction as St. Francis of Asissi?  I feel sorry for the next human who intones the name of Mother Teresa in the context of “someone so unattainably great I’m off the hook,” because I am going OFF on that person.  I’m sick of it.  People say she was a living saint.  So what?  She doesn’t get to carry the torch for all humanity, she is just one example of what is possible if a person takes seriously the call to do God’s work in the world.  I think if I went so far as to declare that we are ALL called to be living saints, I’d be run out of most churches.  Because it’s true, and because we are…though how that call manifests in the lives of each of us differs.  I just don’t have an answer for this frustration.

And I don’t.

Many years ago a very dear friend of mine wrote in a letter to me that if we don’t use the gifts God gives us, it is like spitting in God’s face.  She’s right.  There is a big difference between talking about how and where “it might be nice” to serve and actually making the inquiry “How can I be useful?”  If the communion of saints is God’s cheering section, there are no positions for the vocation of keeping the bleachers warm in the Kingdom of Heaven (sorry to disappoint — the job classification doesn’t exist — try hell…).

Life is a matter of life and death, it is not a matter of muddling through.  I have heard some people say that “God grades on a curve.”  Actually, no just God grades on a curve, not really.  You can still be fully acceptable to God with imperfection, but God isn’t going to change your grade on the grading scale by throwing perfection out and grading on a curve.  Grace?  Totally.  Mercy?  Absolutely.  Just?  Unquestionably.  Our imperfection will stand as our score, it’s the judgment as to whether that score of our heart (whatever it is, low or high) is acceptable (Christ as intercessor helps here).

We are doomed to imperfection, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try our best.  I am having a series of small battles with one of the small children in my world who will ask for help before she tries.  That doesn’t work with Miss Val, and trying to scrape through life without trying or applying ourselves doesn’t work with God either.  If the toddler in my world scribbles on a coloring page and declares it “done,” it’s great because scribbling is all she can do.  If the kindergartener in my world scribbled the same scribble it would be unacceptable to turn in to his teacher because he was being lazy and can do better work.  In the Kingdom of Heaven, the perfection of the work is not the thing…what matters is the effort and motive behind the work.

And so yes, I have the argument with Christians quite frequently (I have it so often it’s starting to become an essay): “God is not calling me to be Mother Teresa.”

Really?  Hmm…you don’t know much about Mother Teresa, because, yeah…he kind of is.

Her line was “do something beautiful for God.”

She didn’t set out to become Mother Teresa either.  She was a nun, she saw a need, she asked a question: Can I leave the convent to help the people?

They thought she was a nut (this is NOT DONE!!!!!); the Vatican had to get involved.

She left to help the forgotten, invisible, discarded, poorest of the poor…one person at a time.  She had two hands and two feet and a loving heart and the power of the Holy Spirit, what else could she need?

How about the courage to walk out the door and follow God?

What I say to people is that all Mother Teresa did was do what she could (the best she could) with what she had where she was…with the power of God.  That’s all God can ever really ask of us.

And what happens when people heed the call to follow God outside their cozy, comfortable box?  They “do something beautiful for God.”

Because the truth is that if Jesus Christ is Lord, he can’t be “Lord” without submission to his authority and our service to him: this is the backbone of Christian discipleship

Post-script: As I think on this — just to be clear, this is a general frustration with humanity, not any particular individual or group per se, but so many conversations on this topic have happened over the years. It never really changes. I also certainly don’t have it all figured out. — VKS

Finding friends among the “fools for Christ” and “friends of God”

St. Francis of Assisi coined the phrase “fool for Christ” — may we all live and die so “foolish” as St. Francis!!!!

As I’ve read the Bible over the years, and paused to reflect on the lives and the story of the lives within, it often strikes me that I would be friends with some of them  had we ever lived contemporary to each other “in real life.”

I think I could have been married to this one.

If your friends could describe your life with one word, what would it be?  I like this life and the answer of this man’s friends.  One of my heroes…in the quietest way possible.

Truth For Life with Alistair Begg — “Son  of Encouragement”