A Wound in the Body

I had a rather difficult conversation with a friend from church who I haven’t talked to in a while. And while I was grateful I could offer advice and listen to the pain they were experiencing, it left me unsettled. Both mad and sad.

Have you ever felt that way?

It’s awful.

This friend spoke about some frustrations in church life, the desire to be recognized as a leader after many faithful years of volunteering, and simultaneously the loneliness and hurt they were feeling within the church by peers. In both areas it seemed like they felt forgotten.

It’s a difficult topic to try to uncover but I feel like it needs to be said..even if it’s not eloquent and way too wordy.

Now, I’ll give it my best try.

For much of my life I have witnessed…unsavory parts of church. Unsavory because..let’s be honest, just because people are Christians and attend church, doesn’t mean they still can’t be mean or worldly. I don’t think it is humanly possible to enforce perfect and ideal treatment within the church, but I also think there are some things I notice within my own church and quite honestly, every church I have attended that cause me sadness.

Ultimately and unfortunately people are still people.

Now I don’t think that is abnormal. To be able to look in love at a place you call home, and see what might not be working.

So here’s my burden.

I want the pain expressed by my friend and the pain expressed to me by various other people I’ve connected with to be constructive when it comes to church staff. I want them to have an opportunity in an open forum of people experiencing the same frustrations, to speak directly with the staff who make decisions and create leaders. Often times it can seem like the higher you are within a church staff, the more you see the church as a whole and not necessarily on a granular level.

I don’t profess to know the intricacies of managing a church and its attendees but I know what it’s like to hear the anguish of a friend. I know what it’s like over the course of recent years, to teach classes to women and hear the same pain my friend expressed: the feelings of being a total wallflower even though you are actively involved or to feel like there is no place for you amongst your peers because they value the wrong things, or while volunteering to overhear other volunteers joking about “how things are.”

I wonder, if it has to be this way. At what point should you be concerned for your “body” and vocalize it?

To speak plainly..is it so wrong to wonder what your place in church is? To wonder where that person or mentor or leader is, who can guide you towards your proper calling? To notice the hard work you have put in and realize you might be ready for more? Who can release you to be more of the leader you have proven to be? How long do you wait?

Likewise do you pray and wait for the proper leader to say, hey, it’s not okay that you are feeling alone and isolated from your peers, here is what we can do?

Can’t we do better?

It can be hard sometimes to want to make your church better. I felt that after the conversation and quite frankly, I don’t feel like I have any power to change anything except what I can do in my own life for her to encourage and include her and to offer advice. But sometimes I still feel like I’m just one person and I hope for a larger change.

In some quiet time in my room I reflected on 1 Corinthians 12 MSG:

25-26 The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.

My heart related to “if one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt”. Because it’s true. To me, as a non-pastor, as a non-staff member, as just an attendee of the same church, I felt oddly like I let this person down.

I immediately felt like, I might not be a paid staffer of this church, but I’ve felt these pains before, and I’ve heard so many others express the same pain, so I know that it’s important, and I’ve tried in my own small way to make a difference and yet, what more do I do? And simultaneously who do I really think I am?

I suppose the final question is..

Is it human nature to feel voiceless at times in of all places, God’s house? Or do we, the Church, sometimes lose perspective?

Are churches meant to be perfect, no, but can there be more opportunities for the house of God to have “dinner talk” around the table with all members? Can we without judgement feel free to express concerns with the highest level of church, and if so, when? Where is the opportunity? Could the vantage point of people in different capacities at church be beneficial? I think so.

Would love advice or feedback below.

 

Jesscbnyc Recommends: GQ’s “What Would Cool Jesus Do?”

Hey friends,

 

Just sharing this really great article from GQ. It was wild to read since Hillsong NYC is my church and I’m not nearly as cool as most of the people who go there.

I totally get where people would think having fun at church or being popular in the media means a church might be after the wrong things. But I would also encourage people not to put God or Church in a box.

Would love to see your comments below.

 

Article: Read Here

Winter School

I had the privilege of attending Winter School at Hillsong NYC last week and have tons of great notes and thoughts from Robert and Amanda Ferguson who teach out in Sydney Australia.

One of the things I didn’t account for was on the final night, Robert Ferguson calling on the Holy Spirit.

Now you’re either thinking one of two things:

  1. It’s church, isn’t the Holy Spirit always there?
  2. Oh here we go, this is a charismatic, Assemblies of God thing.

Now let’s be real here. As a Christian I think I’m fairly good when it comes to the Holy Spirit. I like when the Holy Spirit is happy inside of me even when I want to feel sorry for myself some days. I like when the Holy Spirit helps me recall good verses in the Bible at random. I like the Holy Spirit how I like coffee..I’m not a big drinker but I appreciate it every now and then.

When it comes to the Holy Spirit though, for me, it’s really easy to get freaked out.

I feel like I told this story before, so if you have heard it bear with me. I don’t remember how old I was. Younger than 3rd grade I would guess, so about 7 or 8 at the oldest. And I remember that my aunt and uncle were in town visiting. At the time my parents were separated and I remember sitting on the couch in the living room with them, while my mom ran an errand or was outside for some reason. And I remember them trying very hard to teach me how to speak in tongues. I remember as a small child being really confused and almost embarrassed that this was happening. I didn’t get what was happening and I felt like I was disappointing my aunt and uncle somehow by not being able to speak how they spoke.

So that’s my first memory.

Fast forward to about four or five years ago, when I had my next really odd experience with what I still can’t be sure was the Holy Spirit at a gathering outside of my church. I remember being in a dark place, feeling depressed, and raising my hand for prayer. Long story short, I felt this really weird hot dripping egg yoke falling all over my body from my shoulders where strangers’ hands were laid on me to my toes. Once it was over I felt like my entire body was on fire, and sick to my stomach. So sick in fact that I had to leave the gathering before the sermon even started and proceeded to spew my insides all the way to the station where I thought I would be able to take the bus home.

Yay?

So needless to say I still have a hard time with “the Spirit” and “tongues” and all that.

I simultaneously want God to do His thing with the Spirit and am actually scared of what that will feel like.

So I’m at Winter School and Robert is closing the final night in prayer and he prays for the Holy Spirit to come and basically descend on us.

Now it might seem odd to you since hey, I’m a Christian so I should be okay with this, but I start to get sweaty and panicky. I start to think am I going to spew everywhere once it comes? Will I just start babbling? Will I be slain in the Spirit like they show on TV?

Haha. Anyone else?

I recorded both days in the sermon so I don’t remember at what point it hit me, but all of a sudden. Boom.

I kid you not it felt like someone shot me in the heart with a paintball pellet. Like actually it felt like I was hit with something but then it dispersed. Like it cracked open once it hit me. Like a snowball that whacks you in the chest for a second but then falls apart and spreads out.

I don’t know what that means.

It’s not like I started speaking another language or anything at all. I just sort of paused, expecting something weird to happen, but nothing did. Except the feeling that the Holy Spirit punched me in the heart.

I look forward to kind of, figuring out what all of this means in my life. Do you guys have any interesting stories? Am I the only one that is still sort of….anxious about this whole thing? If not, be of good cheer, I’m still sort of bashful about this whole thing too.

 

Christ Before Me, Christ Behind Me

The past few weeks have been, challenging.

So much good is in my life and yet equally we can all agree that there will always be something trying to pull you down.

Let me paint a picture for you.

I volunteer at Hillsong NYC as one of the leaders for Venue Design. This means all the signage, seasonal decor, etc is set up every week and broken down every week to make the venues we occupy feel more like home. We’ve been using this long poster box to house promotional materials, but if you know anything about the boxes shopping items come in, sometimes the weight of what you are carrying was not meant to hold all that is inside.

Hello.

But that’s a whole other sermon am I right?

The point is I saw someone try to lift that weight today and the box crumbled. Papers were everywhere and crumpled, and although the ideal thing would be to have a stronger box, sometimes you have to work with what you have.I explained the situation earlier today to my mom by saying “it’s like trying to carry a brick in a tissue box”.

That’s how it has been internally for my family the past few weeks.

For those of you who might be new to my blog and life journey, my older brother is schizophrenic. He has a kind, often simple spirit and is often mistaken for my little brother because of his temperament. When he was 21 he was diagnosed after a paranoid episode that he had never experienced before. They say mental illness strikes at that age if it is going to strike at all in a person’s life.

I both love my brother and feel like I do not know my brother.

These few weeks have reminded me of that very point.

Schizophrenia is often misunderstood in the media because so often you see people with mental illnesses villainized. Not every person is going to go totally off the deep end or endanger their life or other people’s lives. For my brother it is a matter of failing to identify fantasy or imagination from reality. It’s a confusion where he currently does not believe that our birth mother is our actual mother, it is a situation where he believes he is actually a hero in a video game he is currently playing. It’s a kind of imagination that you cannot always escape from.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Inception it reminds me of that. You go deeper and deeper into levels of dreams and after a while you feel like you can’t wake yourself up.

Some days its hard to cope with. I know I cannot save my brother. I know that he has a life ahead of him in Heaven of total health and to God be the glory for that. I am grateful that this is a promise we as a family can look forward to. However there are real human realities that you deal with as well. Sometimes that just feels like giving up. Sometimes that just feels tormented by the lies of the enemy. Sometimes you wonder why God hasn’t healed your brother. All of these things are acceptable to feel. But I was reminded at church today that my circumstances do not need to alter my convictions. My conviction is that God is good and loves my brother and while his mind might betray him our God never will.

God is behind me. God is before me.

God is likewise behind you and before you.

Let our hearts not grow weary. God is good and the things today on Earth will not hold us. We have eternity of joy as our future.

Be Free

I found this organization after reading a Buzzfeed article. I think it’s a wonderful idea. So often when it comes to New Year’s, we become consumed with what we can do personally to improve our own lives. However, I want to continue to find creative ways to help people. This could be as simple as deciding to buy jewelry or a handbag from this company, sponsoring a child, or donating to a local cause. Mirriam-Webster defines a “resolution” as:

res·o·lu·tion

noun \ˌre-zə-ˈlü-shən\

: the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc. : the act of resolving something

: an answer or solution to something

Since when did a New Year’s resolution become something as shallow as working out more, traveling, treat yourself more, or any of these somewhat trivial things? I encourage us all to become people who challenge ourselves with each new year. What are we doing to improve as Christ-followers? What are we doing to make an impact? What are we doing to improve the lives of others? What are we doing that has lasting success and not just temporary satisfaction?

I think these are worthy challenges and worthy New Year’s resolutions. Challenge yourself to do something more this year…I plan to.

Happy New Year.

Works-in-Progress

I had a situation from my past come up yesterday. While I dealt with it better than I would have previously there were still some missteps that I immediately confided in God about. Unlike in the past where I would allow the Enemy to torment me for not doing things a certain way–I gave it to God and weighed the victories and losses. Today’s blog post comes from the current state of my heart and I hope it encourages you.

It’s still hard for me to really fathom God’s love. I think this is the case for all Christians if you’re really and truly honest enough with yourself. We know our pasts, our current struggles, our bad thoughts, our temptations, whatever they might be. And because we are humans and somewhat obsessed with comparison, we can often wonder why God even bothers with us. I want so badly to be pleasing to God, but I think this can often manifest in unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves or what we might have grown up hearing in church. We are not Jesus. Just because we’re Christians and covered by His blood and adopted into eternal salvation, doesn’t mean we are going to make the cut all the time. We are a living oxymoron. We are still human, broken-vessels and in essence Jesus’s blood spilled on the cross simultaneously poured into our lives to cover our brokenness and also made it possible for us to be formed into a new vessel. I think the church for a long time has failed to really explain how this works. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the church expects you to poof into a brand new creation. Salvation isn’t a microwave. A lot of the time it’s a slow-cooker. Sure you can be 100% saved but that doesn’t mean that doesn’t take a life-time to walk out.

I remember being so mad one time a year or so ago when I watched a televangelist scolding a man who asked for prayer because though a Christian who asked Jesus into His heart, he still struggled with alcohol. I think it’s a sad thing when instead of reminding people that we are all carrying our crosses daily, and that we will all fall short of perfection until we reach Heaven, that we often become the mouthpiece of the Devil. Harsh? But true. The Enemy is the King of guilt and shame. I’m not saying wrongdoings aren’t wrongdoings but we are all stumbling through life. We are covered in grace on one hand but we are like infants learning how to walk at the same time. Luckily God is merciful and instead of becoming fed up with humanity as we read so many times in the Old Testament–He brought the final act of generosity which was to send His son. To teach grace and forgiveness. To tenderly guide us, to show us the way, to show that while we fall short, He never will. A simple Google search showed me this passage which I thought was very well said:

In Colossians: 3:12-13


, God instructs us on how to deal with each other as he deals with us: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another…” Stan did that for me. I became one of the best cutters the company ever had. There was nothing I would not do for my boss. I continued to work for him until they closed the plant. I was one of the last employees out of 200 to be laid off when the plant closed several years later.

God deals with you and me the same way Stan dealt with me. God invests a lot of time in us and is not ready to wipe us out because of our mistakes. Instead, He encourages us not to quit.

So the next time you or someone you know makes a mistake, be gentle, kind and encouraging. Look for ways to solve the problem and don’t quit! Treat others the way you would want to be treated if you were the one who goofed. Look beyond the mistakes in yourself and in others and see the potential. We will all say the words, “Oops, I made a mistake,” many times before we reach our full potential. But keep trying. Keep learning. Keep forgiving. We can all be in God’s Kingdom some day in spite of our mistakes. [http://www.ucg.org/christian-living/oops-i-made-mistake/]

I think that’s beautiful. In no way am I saying deliberately take advantage of God’s grace and do whatever you want, but I think we need to stop listening to the voice of the Devil and even the condemnation heaped on us by other Christians and remember that God’s voice is the only one that matters. God is not shocked by our mistakes. He is not stomping His feet and throwing tantrums in Heaven. Luckily He knows who we are growing to be, and since He exists outside of time, He does not grow weary of the journey we are on to get there.

God I thank you for Jesus. I thank you for your love and kindness towards me when I know I do not deserve it. In the grand scheme of things I am not special. I am not that great and yet you still remind me that You created me on purpose. I am not a disappointment to You and I am not an accident that You made in Heaven. God, help me to see my mistakes in life as bumps in the road. I can trip but I do not have to fall and never get up. Thank you God that You see me in my final stage and therefore nothing I have done, am doing, or will do in the future will ever take that fulfillment away from me. Because of Jesus I am sealed. Because of my humanity I will fall short. Teach me to fail less but also help me to forgive myself more. We are all a beautiful mess made perfect by You. Amen.

Found on dailyletterings.tumblr.com

ANOMALY

“We are infinite. Made for one another. Made for love. We are undone by our own humanity. By moments of nearness. But we break with distance when we are alone. It gets so dark we almost wish it was never light. And then in one moment, one precious moment, a light shines in the darkness.”

I have been waiting for this film since it was announced as a project in 2013. Two talented members of Hillsong church Dan DiFelice and Salomon Ligthelm announced their collaboration on Kickstarter. [ https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/639662626/a-n-o-m-a-l-y ]

I just watched the film which has a running time of 37:54 and loved it from start to finish. It’s a different way of re-telling the classic Biblical account of the birth of Christ. There aren’t too many differences outside of the time being set in the 1960s, and instead of the Star of Bethlehem it’s the Bayt Lahm comet which will signify the arrival of the baby Jesus. We also don’t have three wise men coming to see the child and present him with gifts, and the birth of Jesus takes place in a hospital where the mother is alone as opposed to a stable alongside Joseph.

None of these creative tweaks bothered me because everything critical to the story remained the same. Oliver, Anomaly’s Joseph, is shocked to find out that Haylee, Anomaly‘s Mary, is pregnant when they have not yet been intimate. Oliver’s family is unhappy with Haylee even before we find out that she’s pregnant and it is assumed in the film that they have a break-up of some kind before Oliver launches into space to fulfill President Kennedy’s challenge to achieve the longest continuous space flight to date. As an astronaut there is definitely an obstacle to his physical ability to be present during the birth and also an emotional obstacle because he believes that Haylee has cheated on him in order to have become pregnant. I think it was a smart choice and definitely a creative way to navigate how the Biblical Joseph would have felt. In Matthew 1 (MSG) it says:

20-23 While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—‘God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.” This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term:

Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son;
They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”).

Joseph would have been torn back in that time. Even in the 1960s I’m sure many people would have still looked down upon an unwed mother. So imagine what his inner turmoil would have been like. In the film Oliver literally has a “way out” and can disappear into space–as far as you can get from Earth. However, the God of the Universe still has access to him no matter the distance. We get the idea of this through the blast of light from the comet and the rattling of the spacecraft while Oliver is in space.

As I was writing this, it also occurred to me that there was the idea of three wise men through the NASA analysts instead of the Biblical magi or astrologers. These are very smart men and you can see from the beginning of the film that they are all shocked by this comet. It doesn’t make sense to them.

2014-12-24_1225

Years ago a scientist named Noel Fitz had predicted the Bayt Lahm comet and it is assumed that he was not taken seriously. I think in a way the character of Noel fills in the historical detail needed to explain the birth of Jesus and I like the idea I came up with of him being a physical representation of Biblical prophesy.

I also liked the name of the comet “Bayt Lahm” which I Googled and found to be very significant:

Bayt Lahm – a small town near Jerusalem on the West Bank of the Jordan River; early home of David and regarded as the place where Jesus was born – http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Bayt+Lahm

I’m curious to see what you all think of the film or if you picked up on any symbolism or cool aspects that I may have missed.

Merry Christmas!