Unexpected Lessons I Learned in Church

This fall marks 10 years since I started my senior year of high school, and being the sentimental person that I am, my thoughts keep mulling over what I’ve learned and how I’ve changed since then. I’ve gone from single to married. College is completed and already five years in the past. I’ve held six different jobs. My address has changed twice. I’ve traveled upwards of 15,000 miles. And I’ve been a part of four different congregations, ranging from a charismatic church to a Baptist church. My thoughts for some reason keep circling back to church.

Church has grown me up a lot in the past decade, and I came across a page in an old journal that reminded me how.

My senior year of high school had just begun, and my home church was on the skids. Actually, our last Sunday there was just a few weeks away. Understandably, I was disappointed I wouldn’t be finishing my big senior year at this church in which I had spent all of my middle school and high school years. Beyond those feelings, I was well aware that our situation had come to the point where it was time to leave.

So, back to that page in my journal.

They were sermon notes from August 2007. This particular Sunday morning, my dance group performed during the morning worship service at a local church. I had performed at this particular church before, and would go on to perform there three other times in the next two years. After worship, my mom and I stayed in the service. The pastor preached a message on Joseph in the book of Genesis, and while I don’t remember all the details, the message touched my church-confused spirit.

In the midst of one messy church situation, God used another congregation to encourage me that church could be healing, not hurtful. It encouraged me that God’s word could be presented truthfully and gracefully, not manipulatively. My soul relaxed, and begin to open up again to the beauty and mystery of God’s bride, the church.

What I didn’t realize at the time that God was connecting me to my future home church, the church that my husband and his family belonged to, a connection that would strengthen over the next four years and be tempered in other congregations. And when my path crossed again with Cherokee Hills, I knew it was time. Point being, it wasn’t a straight line that got me there, but one that criss-crossed, unwound, knotted up, and then straightened out. And that’s OK.

In the past 10 years, I’ve seen the church wound people. I’ve also seen wounds healed in church. I’ve witnessed God use the church to pour forth faith-filled prayers like a fountain, and accomplish powerful, wonderful things.

Ten years ago, I was more apt to define myself by a denomination, and while I better understand some of the differences, I’m less likely to identify as one or the other. I’ve come to see how God’s will WILL prevail, even when humans get in the way, because his ultimate goal is to spread the gospel.

I’m also beginning to get the *tiniest* glimpse of how vital community is. I say tiniest because I know how much I still have to learn.  Community doesn’t mean tidy relationships. No ma’am. To reap the rewards of community means you sometimes a lot of times constantly sow seeds of inconvenience, patience, and grace, something I severely lacked vision for ten years ago.

Have I arrived or got it all figured out? To quote the apostle Paul, “by no means.” By no means have I arrived, but looking back over the past decade of church experiences has reminded me not only of the power and beauty of the Bride, but how God uses church to grow us.

The Power of Kairos

Line after line of text scrolled by as I flicked my finger across the mouse pad, editing my weekly lot of articles for an online publication. A comma here, a fixed link there, a capital here, here…and here. Most of the articles lacked zest and cohesiveness, but I was finally editing an article that was clear and captivating. Suddenly, my cursor hovered over a word- a new word. My inner nerd grinned gleefully as I quickly opened another tab and Googled kairos.

In Greek, there are two words for time: chronos and kairos. Chronos refers to the linear progression of time, and more darkly, takes the view of time as a master, or really, as an executioner. We are all slaves to time, and march to his drum. Not so with kairos.

Kairos refers to special moments and specific seasons, and when used in the Bible, it refers to God-ordained moments and seasons. Immediately, the word took hold of my spirit.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16

Ephesians 5 is one of the approximately 80 places the word is used in the New Testament. In this passage, kairos is used to exhort the believer in regards to the times the church was living in. Just a few verses later, another admonishment to walking in God’s timing.

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:25

A sobering reminder for the newest of believers to the oldest of travelers with God. Do we understand the times we are living in? Do we keep in step with our gracious shepherd? I myself am guilty of struggling to accept and walk in the season God has given me.Walking in the power of kairos

Doesn’t Feel Like Kairos

If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll know that my husband and I have been walking through fertility challenges for three years. While there’s nothing physical preventing conception, God’s answer for expanding our family has been “not yet.” That timing is difficult to accept for many reasons and so this season feels all wrong, like a sweater inside out and backwards. I feel left behind. I feel left out. I feel certain this is not kairos timing.

My soul has strained to rush past the Lord, but that has only left me tired and aching. One of the many lessons God has taught me on this journey is what it means to truly submit to his sovereignty by accepting his timing, his kairos.

I don’t know why God is having us wait to be parents. Perhaps the Lord is orchestrating our future child’s friend group. Perhaps there are world events in the works that because of when they are born, our future children will be perfectly in place to make a difference. Perhaps they are being protected from some unforeseen disaster, unforeseen at least to our eyes. Perhaps the Lord is working out flaws within myself and my husband to make us better parents in the future. All things unknown to us, but laid out clearly to the Author of Life.

Daily Kairos

Think about the implications of kairos in every area of our lives, the importance of walking in step with the spirit when it comes to restoring a relationship, witnessing to a friend or neighbor, parenting children, or launching a ministry. All of those endeavors and transitions offer opportunities to lag behind, or rush down the road. Both choices out of step with God. Both potentially hampering to our walk or to the lives of those around us.

Instead, I encourage you (as I remind myself) to remember that chronos is not our life’s master as children of God. Rather, God exercises kairos over our lives from the moment we are conceived to the moment we open our eyes in heaven. He’s not late. He’s not early. Let us be a people who are aware of the times, who are sensitive to God’s timing. Let’s walk in step with the spirit, walk in the power of kairos.

Season: Autumn of Our Souls

When I think of fall, I immediately think of cozy.

Seasons Autumn of Our Souls

Curling up on the couch watching a football game with a bowl of chili…settling into a good book with a cup of coffee or chai tea…yummy candles and warmers filling my house with sweet and spicy scents…going for a walk in the cool evening with my hand snugly fitting into my husband’s, all these things spell  F-A-L-L in my corner of the world.

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Deep down, beyond the cups of chai and cozy blankets, our souls long to be comforted, don’t they? That may look different for different people, but we all crave it. We go through seasons of intense toil which grow us, shape us, and prepare us for other challenges on down the road. It’s good and right and what God intended for sure.

But thankfully, God also promises his children seasons of rest and comfort.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. Psalm 29:11

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Psalm 107:28-30

As the sights and sounds of fall build and swirl around you like the rust colored leaves across a sidewalk, what are you seeking from the Lord? Are you in need of the comfort only he can provide, but you’re not even sure how to voice what you need? Trust me, you’re not hiding anything from him. He knows what’s really going on the back hallways and basements of your heart. Pour your heart out to him. Open those doors to the musty rooms and dank passageways. You won’t be left empty, for he is faithful to fill and comfort you.

On the flip side of that, could you be the extension of the Lord’s comfort to someone in your life right now? Sometimes a hug, an encouraging word, or watching someone’s kids is as soothing as lighting a pumpkin-scented candle. Listen to those around you and see who the Lord is leading you to comfort.

On a personal note, fall represents a season of harvest, though not in the ways of corn and wheat. Kurtis and I’s anniversary is in the fall, and our wedding is a symbol of harvest to me, a harvest of years of seeds planted and cultivated and then reaped.

It Was the Last of Times, It Was the First of Times

We don’t always get to walk in seasons of harvest, do we though? The season we are currently in is definitely one of sowing, so our approaching anniversary provides a wonderful reminder that we don’t sow forever; a harvest must follow.

Are you in a season of harvesting or sowing? This fall, whatever season you find yourself in, rest in the Lord’s comfort and never stop looking for ways to comfort others. And take heart that the harvest must follow the planting.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4


Enjoy this post? Then you’ll enjoy the rest of the “Seasons” series!

Scriptures for Back to School

It’s back to school season and I have to say, this is the first August that I do somewhat miss the excitement of new classes, seeing old friends on campus and clearly the best part of any new school year, new school supplies.

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So for those who are headed back to that school grind, here are some scriptures to meditate on as you delve into new classes and trust the Lord anew every day to meet your needs, from tests to finances to parking spots… a feat not unlike the opening of the Hunger Games. Especially at UCO. May the odds be ever in your favor.

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Knowledge & wisdom

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. Ephesians 1:17

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7

But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16b

Protection & favor

Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield. Psalm 5:12

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands. Psalm 90:17

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

Energy

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles;  they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:29-31

 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being. Ephesians 3:16

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