A few days ago I opened the door from the kitchen to the garage to check on my laundry tumbling happily in the dryer. My foot made it halfway out the door when I yelled, jumped a foot back into the kitchen and slammed the door shut, probably getting a kick in at it before it closed. I’m a calm, cool and collected person. Yet when a warty frog gets in my way, I scream like a girl. Which… well, I am a girl, but not the screechy type. Yup. A frog was sitting there in the garage right where I had planned on putting my foot. It was big. And ugly. And hoppy. That same day my roommate brought her laundry in from the garage and put on her pants only to find a spider on them. Ugh. I can’t type that without shuddering. Bugs and spiders and slimy things are the one area where I am 100%, stereotypically girly. I scream and run out of the room and ask someone else to kill it.
Wanna know the funny thing? A couple months ago I saw the same frog in the front yard. I didn’t scream, yell or panic. I poked it with a stick and toyed with the idea of keeping it as a pet. Same happenstance, different location. It didn’t freak me out to find him in the yard because that was his territory. But suddenly discovering him in my territory was a different story.
I’m learning a lot about being like that frog. While the setting changed, Mr. Frog didn’t. In the yard and in the garage he was just being a frog. It didn’t bother him or change his stance if someone yelled, screamed, poked him, or wanted to take him home. He just kept on being his green ol’ self.
I had some metaphorical “frog in the garage” moments this weekend (with me being the frog and other people reacting and circumstances changing). The first happened Friday night at the bar. My friend Nancy and I were playing pool (we were both bad and getting kind of bored). A young man walked past us into the bathroom and yelled at someone else, “My back hurts!” Nancy and I looked at each other to see if we’d heard the same thing. When he returned from the restroom we put down our pool sticks and introduced ourselves, planning to take care of his back pain. We didn’t realize then that God’s main target wasn’t this young man, but his friend. We started praying for his back (yes, in a bar) and his friend walked up and asked if we were having a seance. He figured out who we were praying to and then purposefully tried to offend us. That happens quite a bit, but I notice that the offensive people are usually the ones who want to keep hanging out with us. The attempts at offense are the “frog” reaction. They see Christians in a bar and think, “Whoa! What are you doing here?! Get back in the church!” No one minds a frog in the yard or a Christian in a church. But Jesus didn’t tell us to hang out in church or even to build the church. He said, “Go, spread the kingdom of heaven.” I’ve learned to embrace people who try to offend me for being the same person outside of the church that I am inside of it. 9 out of 10 times when someone is trying to offend me, the same two things are revealed in them: they are deeply wounded, and they are desperate to know that God is real. That’s exactly what happened with this young man. He sat with us and talked for a while. He told us his story, one that would rip your heart out. He told us and then a shocked look shadowed his face and he said, “I don’t know why I told you that! I never talk about it.” After his initial shock of Christians in the bar I believe he found something trustworthy in us, and more than that I think he saw God in us. We got to pray for him and prophesy over him. He kept saying, “That’s crazy” or “That’s interesting you say that because…”.
It’s funny that I was so comfortable being myself at the bar, because my least successful moment being myself this weekend happened at church. I want to be like the frog where the circumstances around me don’t change who I am. I’m not quite there yet. I was filming Sunday night and just as we went live something happened that threw me off. I should have asked for a minute to get myself back together, but I trudged on and things went downhill from there. I was in a funk. The band didn’t practice, so worship was off. I completely butchered a shot in a most embarrassing fashion (the embarrassing part being that the whole team is on headsets and heard the dialogue between the director and me). Afterwards, as we were packing up I grew frustrated by miscommunications and still being a “newbie” and not knowing where anything goes. I was tired, not in the best mood, and imagining what the director thought of my “off” night. Funny how thoughts can spiral downward in a short span of time. Thankfully, I ran into an acquaintance as I was coiling up a few last cords. He completely encouraged me and reminded me who I was. He didn’t know I had had a rough night, but God knew, and sent him in my direction. Even when I forget who I am for an evening and lose my “froginess”, God remembers, and people around me know too. I’m glad they remind me when I need it.
So here’s to being more like Mr. Frog and remembering who I am no matter the situation or people’s reactions.
“Scandal” has a color and it is plastered on my fingernails. That has nothing to do with my post except that the fresh paint on my pointers is the reason behind my painstakingly slow typing. Which you wouldn’t know anyway… but now you do know and can appreciate my labor of love. On with the blog!
I hear about transition frequently. It’s one of those “hot topic” words around here. I generally neglect to acknowledge transition in my life because it is so frequent that it has become one long wave. This is coming from the woman who lived in 12 places in 6 years and had about as many jobs. I know what I’m talking about. But this last transition introduced an element that I hadn’t experienced to such an intense degree before: TENSION. I’ve been feeling it for a few weeks now, but was only able to put a label on it last Friday. On Valentine’s Day I started a new job with Bethel Media. (That’s the media department of Bethel Church, in case there’s any confusion…) I am a part time camera operator, video editor, and lighting expert for them. I wholeheartedly anticipate and relish going to work. I thought my desired niche was in editing, but I’ve found working behind the camera quite fun. One of the production teams’ largest tasks is filming and streaming Bethel’s church services. It’s exhilirating doing a live shoot (and a little scary, considering how many people I know will see it). That was an unexpected discovery. I really can’t say enough about my coworkers and bosses. They’ve all been so welcoming and helpful in every way: from answering my stupid, “Uh, I’ve never done this before”s to stopping by the sound booth before we shoot just to say “hi”. The whole department is in a transition and we are all figuring out how to be a production team that is based on relationships (God’s kingdom) instead of money (the world’s system). It all sounds wonderful and like a dream come true, right? So you want to know where the tension is.
#1: I realized this today while I was getting the mail. I had just gotten off the phone with one of my bosses and I backtracked through my cranial log all the jobs I’ve had the past few years. They go like this (in receding chronological order)
That covers my job history since September 2008. Two and one half years exactly. That is two and one half years of ZERO team work and next to NO supervision. Suddenly I find myself thrust into a job situation where team work is essential and team relationships are nurtured and encouraged. Throw in one manager who is a total verbal communicator (I’m the ultimate internal processor) and me being in strange waters working in such a professional production atmosphere. Did I mention that I’m pretty independent anyway, so I hate not knowing how to do something and having to ask?
#2: I alluded to the large learning curve. Large is an understatement. Sure, I have some media background, and have had a bit of training, but I feel like a Kindergartner going to the 3rd grad class on accident. They’re using pencils while I’ve still got one of those fat crayons that teachers give to little kids in my hand. I won’t go into too much depth here. Feel free to use your imagination.
#3: Busy. I have some set hours now. I’m busy and re-learning how to schedule my time (one perk of self-employment is flexible hours) and say, “no” to things. This is a good tension.
#4: Media vs. Outreach. This is where I first identified the tension. I’m still an intern. The only reason I had decided to stay in Redding was to stick around next school year and continue to help in the outreach department (then, a few weeks later, I was recruited for this job. Sneaky, God. Sneaky). I love media and my job and want to see the whole Hollywood system rebuilt. And I love outreach and the church and traveling and teaching and preaching and equipping people. Shoot. How?… Wait, maybe… Ugh. I’m only one person! How can I have two such different passions? And they’re both desperately screaming for my attention, affection and time. I got to the point last week where I was so exhausted, just from life, that I couldn’t make one more phone call or send one more email. And then I had a conversation with someone who shed some light on my plight. I met with the man who oversees all of the interns. Each intern meets with him a couple times throughout the year. He started our conversation by saying, “What can I do for you?” I was prepared for any question but that one. I paused and what spilled out, more to my surprise than his, was all this jumble about feeling the tension between media and outreach. When I paused for a breath, he said without pause, “Don’t choose. Never choose.” I stared; he continued. “Life is too short not to love who you are and what you are doing. Do both. It will fluctuate at times where you will do more of one or more of the other, but if you really love both, then never choose.” He inquired a little more about the practicals of the situation like finances and whatnot, but in the end his advice remained. It took me by surprise and has definitely stuck in my mind and replayed several times. I know the execution of doing both things will be a bit messy, but I think will be worth it.
That’s really all I have. No pretty, ribbon-tied summation. I’ve been feeling a tension, I identified it, and now I’m doing a tight rope walk. Or maybe a tight rope dance. I think I’m going to need a lot of grace and this thing will end up looking more like a crazy dance than a walk in the park.
Shoot. I’m not sure where time escaped to since my last post. It has been on my mind to write, but alas, time is an evasive culprit. But I’m back with quite a few items on my agenda.
Valentine’s day. I’ll spare you the details of my actual Valentines Day (though it did involve one of my roommates rebuking a guy who came to our party). The Friday before Valentines Day we took 120 roses to our usual bar. Our team got together before we went and wrote notes with encouraging words to attach to each rose. We gave half of the roses to the bouncers to hand out. We gave them the roses with non-religious notes. Throughout the night we gave away roses to women (and men!) and started conversations with people about their roses. Everyone was so blessed. A couple quick stories: The first girls I talked to had received their roses from the bouncer and they didn’t know who they were from. My friend and I explained what we had done and they gushed. They said that was the best thing that happened to them all day. Yay! As we were talking to them, one of their guy friends came up. During our conversation, my friend ran off and came back with a rose. She encouraged him to read the note. I watched his face as he read the note about how much Jesus loves him and he looked on the verge of tears. The simple words cut straight to his heart. His countenance changed to a more sober and serious one. Then he launched into telling us about his life. All night there was story after story of people getting a card that said exactly what they needed to hear. I had written one note that said something like, “You are turning over a new leaf, this is a time of new beginnings for you.” That was the only one I wrote like that and I thought, “Weird, where did that come from?” The girl who received that rose said, “No way! I was telling my friend that yesterday!” Isn’t that amazing? We had no idea, but God did! God even had the tiniest details taken care of. The store we bought the roses from ran out of red roses. So we substituted one bouquet of yellow roses with red edges. You can see it in the picture above. (Those were our roses, they looked nice in my kitchen for a night.) Anyway, a woman came up to us, staring at the roses. She had always wanted yellow roses with red edges, but had only ever received red or yellow. We gave her two of the unique roses and she was thrilled! That was my Valentine’s Day. It was fun to bless people on a day that can be hard for so many singles (and non-singles, I suppose).
Bethel is starting a new ministry and I was privileged to be a part of the inauguration. This past Sunday was the first time that prophetic booths offered after a Sunday night service. There were 16 pairs of students/ interns/ ministers in a room and people would sign up to come in for a 15 minute session to receive a prophetic word. If you’re not familiar with prophetic ministry, it’s simple. We ask God what He wants to say to the person, listen to what He’s saying and tell the person. We have all been trained and the words are only encouraging, edifying and comforting (1 Corinthians 14). No exposing sins, directional words or dates, mates or babies. It’s so fun because, in this situation, the recipients were complete strangers so it’s clearly God talking. My partner and I were having a good night. God’s first language isn’t English and He talks in a myriad of ways: pictures, sounds, songs, phrases, Bible verses, just to name a couple. I saw one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen over one woman. It was a zombie. Yup. I told God, “No. That couldn’t have been you. I’m not telling her I see a zombie.” Saw it again. It was God. Seriously!? I asked Him for an interpretation. I mean, come on, that’s weird. He told me that she was going to minister to people who have been so wounded that they are like the walking dead. She will bring life to them and set them free. Wow, I’m getting chills just typing that. So I told her, “This is going to sound strange, but I see a picture of a zombie.” I saw my partners’ head jerk in my direction. “But God is saying…” and after I gave her the explanation she started crying. Thankfully they were happy tears because the word hit home for her. Phew! Believe me, I would never tell someone I see a zombie over them unless I’m sure it is God and have an edifying interpretation for it.
Trust. I had to trust that that word was from the Lord. I would say that trust is a theme in my life right now. A couple weeks ago, a friend gave me a word where she saw that I’m in a crazy season of life where everything is whizzing by and around me, and God is telling me to be still in the midst of the storm. Unfortunately, I keep forgetting this word and then wonder why I’m feeling crazy and like I lost my peace. But God is good and keeps reminding me. Numerous times He has taken me to Mark 4 in the scriptures. In that passage Jesus and his dudes are on a boat in a crazy storm. Jesus takes a nap while the disciples totally freak out about the storm and think they’re going to die. I’ve been doing a whole lot more of the, “Hey, Jesus. Don’t you see all of this going on!? I’m gonna diiiiiiiiieeeeeee!!!!” OK, that’s a little dramatic. But I miss His invitation, “Be still with me.” So the last few days I’ve been trying to be still with Him. Instead of taking all my problems to him (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but I’m letting the storm rage around me while in the safety of His Presence. Of course there are seasons to fight and intercede and weep on the floor, so it’s always nice to know what season you’re in. In my own life in the last couple weeks I started a new job, I have been trying to finish the other projects I had been working on, then I thought the conferences I’ve spent months planning for my internship were falling apart for reasons outside of my control. On top of that I continue to go to school, lead a Bible study, bar ministry, juvenile hall ministry. And every time I turn around another friend is moving away or getting a boyfriend or girlfriend while I deal with my own stupid guy drama. Then there’s all the typical financial woes and just trying to stay on top of everything and everyone in my life. In talking to some other people, it seems like this is a common trend of crazy life seasons. Everyone is in transition and many are encountering God in new ways they don’t understand and it feels… like a storm. But it’s OK. I’m just gonna chill with Jesus and wait this one out.
Just wanted to share this video with you all. I edited it and mentioned that I was working on it in some past posts. It’s a promo video to recruit students to live in designated neighborhoods in Redding and host house churches.
Credits: Music by Ian McIntosh. Footage by Julie Peters, Elizabeth Kelley and Sarah Meng. Edited by Sarah Meng.
If you had walked through the hallway in my house this weekend, you probably would have seen the door to my bedroom closed and heard the subtle songs from IHOP’s Prayer Room streaming through my speakers. Last week was quite unexpected. The things that occurred, that is. Unfortunately, some for the bigger things that happened aren’t quite official yet, so I must restrict myself to vagueness. (For those of you whose minds immediately go there: no, not a boyfriend.) I did learn a bit about what I’m made of and what I believe amidst those “unexpecteds”. Let’s journey back through my week.
Just for a bit of context: I’ve been doing a bit of freelance graphic design and quite overbooked myself on accident. That combined with school work and my internship culminated in an intensely busy week for starters. Keep that in mind as you read.
I went for a walk with a friend on Tuesday morning. (Our weather has been gorgeous. Just rubbing it in a bit.) We began to talk about identity and knowing who we are. That is something I have been ruminating about quite a bit lately because I have found myself in an new territory in that area. I have a good grasp of who I am and my giftings and talents, etc. However, I’m discovering lately that there are many things within me that I’m not aware of. Those discoveries have come in the context of conversations with other people. And they are a bit uncomfortable. Even when they are pulling out good, quality things in me, it has the effect of sandpaper. This is just another part of community. I’ve come to this place where I know who I am, but to become the person I’m supposed to become I need people to help pull me in that direction. I’m not talking about sin or anything (though accountability is important), but about potential. One of those conversations happened on my walk. My friend (metaphorically) stuck her fist in my chest, pulled out some gold and said, “Hey, what are you going to do with this?” She saw an attribute in me that I was created to walk in. God showed her how I was made to be and how it was deferred. She saw what I didn’t and told me. Now I am working with God on that area. This is why I love the prophetic. All it is is seeing what God has to say about someone, who they were created to be, and telling them. The prophetic tells us that those little hopes and gleams we’ve seen in ourselves of who we want to be, God declares, “Yes! Yes! I did create you to be that way!” Identity. Good stuff.
On Tuesday, something really good happened that I can’t tell you about yet. Sorry. That got me pretty excited. Thursday was the opposite. I was running around church trying to get a DVD burned and ready to show in the afternoon. Then there was an emergency meeting and some things started to fall apart. Yup, can’t really talk about that either, but the direction things are heading are pretty disappointing for me. It would have been easy to get upset, to point fingers, to cast blame, but I didn’t. I just sat and thought, my mind telling me I should be mad. But the closer I get to God, the less things shake me. All week, through the good and the bad, I kept thinking, “It really doesn’t matter how any of this shakes out. I know that I’m where I’m supposed to be, I have God, and that’s all I really need.” He’s taken me on this journey in the last week, months and years of being grounded in Him and knowing that nothing can shake me. I can have peace in the storms because I’m with the one who calms the storms. There’s an old fable about King Solomon and a jeweler. King Solomon had a ring and he wanted an inscription put on it, but he didn’t know what he wanted. He did know that he wanted to wear the ring all the time. He handed the ring over to the jeweler and let him decide. The jeweler came back. When the king looked at the ring it said, “This too shall pass.” The jeweler explained that in the difficult times he could find courage in knowing that it will pass. Also, when things were going well he could find humility in knowing that it will pass. I don’t want the good things to pass particularly, but in the long term all of this is temporary, whether good or bad, and we are left with the One Thing.
The highlight of my week came on Thursday though. I was at church and had just dropped off the DVD I had been working on. I knew that Georgian and Winnie Banov were in first year. Holy Spirit whispered, “Just pop in for a minute.” So I did. I ran into a few friends and then sat on the bleachers. All of a sudden I heard my friend Chelsea laughing across the sanctuary. Holy Spirit whispered again, “Go find Chelsea.” So I did. She was laying on the floor amidst a mess of people. We said, “Hi”, and I joined her on the floor. Well, I didn’t get up for over an hour. Lots of laughing and encouragement and fun. Just what I needed. I love the way God encounters us. Sometimes it is fun like that, other times it is intense and I can’t wrap my mind around it. But either way, I love interacting with Him.
The rest of my weekend was thrown off by a last minute babysitting job on Friday night, so no bar ministry for me. On Saturday, I spent most of the day in my room with God, which I hadn’t planned at all. Sunday was ended with an amazing night at church. Banning Liebscher talked about what I had been learning on Saturday. He talked about how the foundation of everything we do is our time in the secret place with God. It’s the things that no one ever sees or knows about. All of a sudden, it didn’t matter that my week was crazy, that I hadn’t gone to bar ministry or church at juvenile hall, but God was pleased that I had chosen to take my day off and spend it with Him. He’s the only one who is worth it anyway.
The word that keeps coming to my mind this week. Strangely enough, it has been poignantly absent from my conversations due to overuse and misrepresentation. It has been replaced by team, family, group and, yes, even army. But what everyone is talking about, acting on and scared to communicate is community.
I have heard about it, listened to sermons about it, read books on it, watched DVDs…. you get the picture. The only thing I hadn’t done was see it in action and be a part of it myself.
Things in my world and the Bethel world have been shifting towards this, but just this last week did I begin to understand the importance of community. No, there wasn’t a crisis in my life, thankfully. That’s what you think, right? Community suddenly appears and becomes relevant when there is a crisis or a death; when someone needs to be comforted. That is such a small fraction of community.
It started with something that had been bothering me and someone else finally vocalized. I help lead a ministry that goes to a bar on Friday nights. I love it, I love the people we meet! This has been one of my highlights of the last few years. The look on someone’s face when they realize that they just met Jesus in a bar is unforgettable. Anyway, I was feeling a bit uncomfortable with the ministry because it felt like we were going as a bunch of people, just to go. Sometimes I met the people I’d be ministering with an hour before we hit the bar. It didn’t sit quite right. Finally, one of the other leaders, Daniel, said that we should have a core group of people who go every week, so we are genuinely friends and then we can bring a couple of new people. We implemented this a few weeks ago and it makes such a huge difference. Last night we went out with a team of ten and we had a blast because we were having fun with each other and it was contagious. Well, there is more to the story. Before we go out we spend some time in prayer. Not your typical “sitting in a circle and praying one at a time” kind of prayer. We were all laying on the floor. Laughing. Praying. Declaring what we wanted to see Jesus to that night. Saying words of knowledge. I said, “We’re going to meet someone before we get to the bar (we were still at church)”. Ahab was lying on the floor when the janitor came in, but Ahab didn’t realize he’d come in and they don’t know each other very well anyway. Ahab said, “We’re going to meet a black man from Florida who was a star track athlete.” The janitor piped in with, “That’s me!” We were expecting it to be someone at the bar and were tickled to find that they had wandered into our pre-bar prayer time. One of the things that came from our time on the floor.. I mean in prayer.. is that someone had the idea to bring a birthday cake to the bar and we’d celebrate everbody’s birthday! It was brilliant! We brought a cake and set up at a table. People kept turning to look at us with a, “ooh. I wander if they’re sharing” kind of look. We put candles in each piece and started passing them around. It so happened that the first girl we handed one to had her birthday that day! But everyone got to celebrate their birthday! It was one of the funnest times I’ve had at the bar. There was such a light, fun atmosphere. Of course people got healed and touched by God and I can share those stories another time, but what impacted me was our community. We went as friends with a silly idea to celebrate everones’ birthdays.
I’ve been quite blessed the last few weeks to get a glimpse of and participate in the house church community. I think I mentioned that we’ve been working on a promo video for the house churches. The idea is to get loads of students to move into designated neighborhoods in Redding and transform the neighborhoods through loving the neighbors. This is true community. We shot interviews with some of the leaders yesterday and I was quite awed by these people. Men and women around my age who moved into lower income neighborhoods and they’re always available to their neighbors. They’ve built connections, seen people saved, set free, healed and being discipled. Part of me was always hesitant about “evangelism” because it didn’t seem to be doing much good. People prayed a prayer and then what? They go to church a few times, can’t get connected and go back to their same way of life except this time they think Christians are snobby and hypocritical. Awesome. We call it “one night stands”. That form of evangelism creates orphans instead of children. But lives are being transformed through the house churches and community evangelism because my friends are willing to take the time to hang out with these people. We can’t transform peoples’ lives, only God can. But everyone needs people to be there with them through it all. My friends from Bethel who are involved in the house churches have built extremely strong relationships with each other. Their lives are so beautiful because they love God, truly love each other, and willingly love those around them even when it isn’t convenient.
I have always had a few close friends and been content with that, but I can feel myself being pulled into the draft of this swirl of community. We had a dinner this week for the 2nd year students Chris is asking to intern with him next year. I will be very involved with them. There were about 30 people at the dinner and I realized that me committing my life to them and to Chris next year isn’t a small commitment. I’m really giving myself to them. My strengths, my weaknesses, all of who I am. It’s not going to be a superficial group of evangelists, but a family of brothers and sisters who live life vulnerably. And I’m so excited! Honestly, I want to be like some of these students when I grow up. I know I have strengths to offer them and quite a bit to learn from them.
The other example of community came from an unexpected place. I had a job interview in a department at Bethel and the gentleman I was interviewing with explained how the department is transitioning. He said that he had structured the department so that the jobs are generic. Someone moves on and he can throw someone else into their position. He said that God had been teaching him about how things are structured in the kingdom. He said he was moving from the generic positions, to picking people and creating a job around them. Sure, it will be harder when they leave, and by the world’s standards it doesn’t make sense. But he wants a team based on relationship. A team where people don’t clock in and clock out and work for him because of their skill set. Basically, he wants people and relationship over workers and striving for results. He gave me a brief overview of the job and left the decision in my hands. I was so excited that I wanted to say yes right away, but figured i should calm down and pray about it. I can’t imagine saying no. Perhaps some people would say no because they want to clock in and out and go home. Not me. I like the idea of being in community with my coworkers. Sure, it won’t be as easy. There is always risk with relationship. But I quite prefer to have the hard times along with the even better times than just be a minion somewhere.
This whole thing is a bit scary. Like, “Oh my gosh. I have to let people get to know me.” But I’m at a point where I know I have something to offer them. And even when I don’t, it’s OK. I have one friend who ALWAYS knows when I’m having a bad day. And it’s great because I don’t have to pretend with her. I never make excuses or act like I’m better. She still loves me when I have a bad day. Last night at the bar one of my friends asked me a question and I replied and he said, “Meng, I love you! You’re so easy to love!” Nope, don’t go there! It wasn’t romantic or anything. It was community. We’ve gotten to know each other as friends the last year and a half ministering together, traveling together, going to the bar together. And you know what? I love him too. True community fosters healthy love for others. We can all use a little more love, don’t you think?
Two thoughts on the title.
1) I tricked you. You probably thought I was going to alliterate all the titles with “s”. HaHA!
2) Spell check is telling me that Unoffendable is not a real word.
Some good news this week, of course. We have a monthly dinner for outreach leaders. This week was a small gathering of maybe 15 people, but three people got healed while we were there. One guy had messed up his wrist that day while cutting down a tree. It was swollen. Then the swelling and pain left after we prayed. Another lady had thrown out her back and was in bed. After a few prayers she was dancing. One young chap had a tooth ache. God showed up and he ate dinner without any pain. Yay! We weren’t even trying. It was a casual dinner. “And these signs will accompany those who believe…” [Mark 16].
God has been teaching me some tough things lately. First the stubborn thing, now this unoffendable one.
Un-offendable: someone who is not easily offended
People have told me that I don’t take offense easily (or I don’t hold a grudge or I’m quick to forgive. You get the picture). I had quite the revelatory moment recently where I was in a situation, took offense at something, and then Holy Spirit made very obvious the consequences that would happen if I were to stay in that mindset.
It was dumb, really. There was a bit of miscommunication, a few crossed wires, and some mixed signals on top of that. The situation left me frustrated and confused by a particular individual. I was in my room fuming a bit afterwards. I had promised to do something for them and, in my frustration, decided to back down on my word. That was me throwing in the towel on this new relationship. Then I heard a little whisper, “How can you judge a situation when you don’t even have the whole picture?” Pause. Huh. “Good question, Holy Spirit.” I quickly realized several things. I hadn’t even considered the other person’s side, that there could have been perfectly reasonable explanations for what happened. But what really shocked me was that I had sided with offense. It wasn’t even unforgiveness, because the other person didn’t sin against me. But I was offended due to my perception of the situation and assumptions about the other person. And I saw the chain reaction of that stance: I was ready to dishonor my promise and cut off a relationship. Ouch.
In simple terms, my offense turned off my love towards that person. I vividly saw the evil course offense takes. Somehow we think we have a right to be offended. “Well, they did this and I…” It is all too easy to become offended, but offense is a deathtrap for relationship and love. And those are exactly the things we are called to in the Kingdom. As a follower of Jesus, my call is to love God and love people. If I am holding on to offense, my hands are too full to hold someone else’s hand or pray for them. It frightens me to think of how many relationships have been damaged or ended because of a small offense that grew into big ol’ grudge and then into a seemingly irreversible rift. I want to be aware of how my relationships are doing. I want to be aware of moments when a thought pops in my head that if I choose to agree with it, could stop my love towards that person. Jesus could have been the most offended person ever, but he loved everyone. Love has to be more important than our “right” to be offended.
I am so glad I heard Holy Spirit when He spoke to me that night. I changed my attitude right away and asked for forgiveness for judging the other person and for withholding my love from them. I realized that I can’t afford to have offense in my life. It is entirely too costly.
Disadvantage: Debating what to set as the wall paper on my phone… no “couple photo”.
Advantage: Not shaving my legs all winter. With an exception of a few rare warm spells.
Disadvantage: Going places by myself. Even if it’s to meet friends, there’s that momentary fear of, “What if they’re not there yet and I end up sitting there by myself? What if they don’t show at all?”
Advantage: Twitterpation at meeting a cute new guy.
Disadvantage: Buying dinner.
Advantage: Being Single.
Disadvantage: Being Single.
(look for a real post tomorrow)
I have heard so many people at Bethel talk about ministry being “easy”. I finally understand and have been experiencing what they are talking about. Ministry just happens when you are being yourself and living in tune with Holy Spirit.
All of this started when I gave a couple guys a ride home from a party last week. I give people rides frequently because I enjoy having a few quiet minutes in the car to chat and get to know people. Also, you really can’t go far out of your way in Redding, so it’s not much of an inconvenience and people appreciate it too. So when these guys asked for a ride, of course I didn’t mind. They live in one of the more “colorful” neighborhoods in Redding (and by “colorful” I mean one of the Redding Hoods). A bunch of students live in the neighborhood and have a house church going, and there is also a student outreach team that goes every week to build relationships with the people who live there. As we pulled into the neighborhood, one of the guys commented how the atmosphere in the neighborhood had felt really good for a while, but that there’d been a shift recently and it felt a bit funky. Not even feeling anointed or the prompting of Holy Spirit I opened my mouth and started saying, “Yeah, I feel like someone moved in recently, even in the last month, who for some reason has authority in this neighborhood and brought some spiritual junk with him.” The guy I was talking to agreed and at that point I saw a picture in my head of a smaller guy with a red goatee and a little girl. I didn’t say anything because I see pictures in my imagination all the time, and usually I’m not sure if it’s my head or God talking to me. That was Saturday.
Fast forward to Thursday at 7am. My alarm clock went off and I grabbed my phone. I usually abstain from checking my email until I’ve gotten up, eaten breakfast and spent time with God. But to allow myself a few more minutes of lying in bed, I clicked through my email on my phone. One was from my co-intern Karina who was reminding me that we have to have a promotional video to recruit students for the house churches done in ten days and we needed to shoot footage that afternoon. I groaned and rolled out of bed realizing that my day just got crazy. I met with Karina and our friend Julie, who normally does our filming. Julie had to work that afternoon and Karina had to train some new students for their outreach. That left me to do the filming. I assumed I was going to go to Karina’s neighborhood to shoot, but she asked me to go to Clay Street because they have the most students. The same neighborhood I had been to on Saturday.
So I met up with the Clay Street group and got some footage of them. Then I pretty much put the camera away and jumped into ministering with them. We went door to door to people they knew to check on them and pray for them. I loved it. At some point we changed up groups and I ended up with Ben, the guy I had given a ride to, and another girl. We were walking back to meet the whole group when Ben saw some hard looking guys down a side street and wanted to go say, “Hi”. We walked up to introduce ourselves. The man farthest from me turned around and he had a red goatee. I recognized him from the vision I saw on Saturday night. I introduced myself and started chatting. He said he had moved into the neighborhood less than a month ago. He also mentioned that he had lived in the neighborhood five years ago. While we were talking a little girl came out and was yelling at him to get his attention. Even though she kept insisting, he seemed to really want to keep talking to us. As I talked to him I kept asking God for a prophetic word for him, but all I heard God say to me was, “What is true about him?” As I said goodbye I told him that Jesus loves him and has great plans for his life and for his family. I hadn’t told anyone about the vision of this guy I was talking to, but as we walked off Ben said, “That’s him! That’s the guy!” I said, “I know! I had a vision of him on Saturday while we were talking!”
I kind of laughed at God afterwards. Like I couldn’t have set any of that up, it was so Him. I wouldn’t have been in that neighborhood either time, but I just volunteered to give a couple guys a ride home and shoot some video. I showed up and God spoke to and through me. It’s really a testimony in progress. I’m curious to see what happens to this guy we met. There’s obviously a reason that God showed me a vision of him and then set me up to actually meet him. Ben invited me to attend the house church that night, but I already had plans with a friend. Maybe next week.
Then again today I decided to go for a walk at the Sundial Bridge (pictured above). I rarely go there anymore because there’s a nice ranch near my house with walking trails. But I happened to have met a lady downtown and was on my way home. On my way back to my car I ran into some Bethel friends. They said, “Hey, come join us. We just met these ladies and we’re praying for them.” So the end of my walk turned into a crazy, fun time with a bunch of Bethel students ministering to and loving people at Sundial. I just stopped to go for a walk.
I am quite liking this “ministry is easy” thing. I’m not even trying to get in these situations, they just happen. God keeps setting me up and I like it.
I could tell some more stories, but I think I’ve rambled on long enough. Let’s just say that the same sorts of things happened last night at bar ministry. It’s like Woody Allen says, “80% of success is just showing up.”
The other day I was talking to God when He chuckled and told me I’ve been a stubborn child. It was one of those, “You could have had things a lot easier for yourself if only… ” types of laughs. The days surrounding the New Year were particularly tumultuous in my inner-world for this very reason. Stubborn. For the last two and a half years I have been stubborn about wanting to live in Redding, CA. In fact, my attitude was pretty bad.
This is a good place for a rewind. Two and a half years ago I lived in Kansas City. I had fun friends, was going to school, helping with a church plant, leading Bible studies, had a decent job and was paying the bills. And then God. That September I packed up my Jeep and moved halfway across the country to Redding, California, to go to ministry school. I was planning on going for one year and moving back to Kansas City.
And then first year wrapped up and I thought, “Second year sounds like it is going to be really good. Maybe I’ll stay if I get accepted.” Which I did. I wasn’t at all anticipating doing the third year internship until last February. I helped with an evangelism conference. It ended on a Friday and over the weekend I thought, “Maybe I would stay to intern if Chris (the outreach pastor) asked me to stay. But that won’t happen”. I ate those words two days later. So I stayed. Then, before Christmas, Chris asked me to stay for the 2011-2012 school year to help oversee the small army of interns he is recruiting for next year. “Awwwww, dang it! I have plans,” I thought, “I’m moving to Miami!” Though, I’ll admit that before Chris asked me I had this horrible premonition that I was going to be staying in Redding longer than I thought. For the record, Redding is a small-ish town, and I’m a city girl. I want to be in a CITY where there are colorful people and concerts and museums and cool restaurants and coffee shops. God and I wrestled about it. I told him all my grand ideas on why I should move away and do what I want. Then three things happened that changed my perspective:
1. The four of us current interns and Chris had a dreaming session about next year. I looked at that list and I looked at my dreams and realized that I would be doing a whole lot of things I love and want to be doing for the rest of my life. I would be pastoring people, helping organize the expanding outreach department, doing some admin work, working on various media projects, and traveling with teams to churches to preach and train people.
2. I was driving to meet a friend at night. As I drove on the “freeway” (see, I am a Californian now) at night, approaching downtown Redding, I realized that it was quite pretty with the lights and the river and what not.
3. Heidi Baker spoke at church a week ago. She talked about how you only get fruit from things that are planted. She asked us to consider what we need to sow to see fruit. I think she was talking about sowing into different ministries, but God told me, “You need to plant yourself in Redding.” I realized that there are things I haven’t received at Bethel because I hadn’t “put roots down”. Plants get nourishment through their roots after all. So I am officially planted in Redding until God says, “Go.” It could be a few months or a few years. But I’m here. And I’m changing my attitude. For two and a half years Redding has been home in the sense that I have an address here. But now I’m getting used to it really being home. In fact, when I get some money, I might even get a California driver’s license. Also, God has been gracious and joined me with friends over the last few years who are also called to stay in Redding, for a while at least. It helps to know that all of my comrades aren’t going to abandon me after this school year.
4. I went to a party this past weekend and realized that many of the people there are about to be invited to intern with Chris next year (thus the people I’ll be working with). I looked around and realized that they are amazing and I really love each one of them. I know I have a lot to offer them, but, honestly, there’s quite a bit I want to learn from them too.
At that same party I had a conversation with a guy and he was talking about people whose biggest aim is to come to the school of ministry and eventually get asked to be on staff, like Bethel is the ultimate goal in ministry. In summary, he said that where we end up in this life doesn’t really matter. Every accomplishment we have we are going to throw at the feet of Jesus anyway and spend all eternity with the most beautiful man ever. When he said that I kind of chuckled, because I’m the one who wants to leave, and God keeps telling me to stay. But I did realize that it doesn’t matter if I’m in Redding or Miami because it’s all about Jesus. Sometimes I need to be reminded of that.