Sunday, November 4, 2012

Walk This Way

Have you ever had one of those days where every happening and every thought meld into one giant lesson by the time you hit the sack? That was my Saturday this week- yesterday. And today continued the trend, so now that I am finally getting the opportunity to sit and write all of this out, my brain and heart are thoroughly drenched, swimming in a crazy whirlpool of thoughts, feelings and discoveries. All good. I feel full, inspired, excited and expectant- but uneasy. I guess any time you find yourself at the brink of change there is some uneasiness- or there should be- Peter getting out the boat, skydivers before jumping out of the plane, repellers rounding the cliff peak...

To preface the "whirlpool," you should know that this week has been one of studying about the Holy Spirit. Kevin started the week with a lesson on "Coming Alive to the Holy Spirit," in which he discussed in general the working of the Spirit of in our lives and some common misconceptions of the Spirit. We continued studying this topic in our smaller groups Wednesday night, and our particular discussion focused on how the Spirit led the church in Acts 2 into a very organic devotion to each other, the teaching, praying, and communion with Christ to which God daily added more believers. A sampling of our thoughts were: "We may even do "good" things without the Spirit leading us- if we are just doing because we are "supposed to." Sometimes the Spirit does not lead us to comfortable places. The Spirit forcibly drove Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted for forty days. How might we hinder the work of the Spirit in our contriving church activities, etc... making our ministry more about us than God?"

So, Saturday comes around, and from the moment I wake up this is what I desire to do:

Pretty glorious, huh? But, because I'd planned to meet a friend at a coffee shop, I decided it would be best if I had my quiet time there, but she didn't show, and here's what I ended up doing: (Now, disclaimer about this following video- I'm totally grateful for facebook and think it can be used to accomplish much good, but this was not the time for me to get on. Enjoy the song, though; it's a riot.)

So, I did finally close the computer and journal, which helped, but then I was antsy to move, so I left to do a couple errands. Once I was home, laundry and boxes were calling out my name. (I'm currently packing up my apartment to move in with my new roomie, Mary at the end of the month because Liz moved back home a couple weeks ago.) And I was like, "Ugh...well, I'll put on a sermon while I fold laundry." Turns out this wasn't a bad idea, because I chose Francis Chan's "Cheetos and Treadmills: Grace to Become Who We Want to Be" sermon, which ended up being all about living in step with the Spirit, not gratifying the sinful nature- and really listening to God. If you can, it's well worth your time to listen. Halfway through, I paused it, changed clothes and drove to the park. FINALLY I decided to do something for my heart.

And it was good. Talk about a PERFECT day for a walk- a nice chilly breeze, clear skies...  :)

While walking the sandy paths of Halyburton, I mediated on things I'd learned from the lesson-1. That when you are keeping in step with the Spirit, you can't simultaneously indulge the flesh (Gal. 5:16). 2. That we don't need to pray for the Spirit to guide us, because that is his nature; we need to pray for the humility to listen and obey- or rather Trust and Obey. (If you are not familiar with the hymn "Trust and Obey," click here to listen to the back story and a nice acoustic version of the song.) So I mused and prayed for a while wondering what the Spirit is leading me to do while I'm here in Wilmington and what he might possibly be leading me toward in the future, what he would lead me to in the next hours...

On my last loop around the park I realized that they key I'd taken off my key ring to hold with me for my jaunt was not my car key but my apartment key. Oops. That was dumb. Locked myself out of the car. "Oh, well, no sweat. I guess God just wants me to meet the AAA guy who'll come to save me." So, with Mommy's help, I get the number for AAA and in about 20 minutes the van of salvation appears in the parking lot and finds me sitting cheerfully on the trunk of my car, enjoying the weather. Steven, my rescuer, finagled around with the passenger door for a while and eventually released the lock, leaving me still with enough time to get home and change before going to see The Color Purple at Thalian Hall with my friend, Brittany. Wohoo!

But, here's where the story gets sad. I disobeyed the Spirit. Even though I wanted to share with Steven and at least offer him and invitation to church, I let him walk away.  How could I do that when I'd spent the entire 10 minutes we had together prepping myself to share an invitation and hopefully more than that? Perhaps therein lies the problem. Maybe I was relying on myself. As I started the ignition I thought, "I could knock on the window (because he sat in the van a minute or so before pulling out), but I fought with myself instead. I drove away, realizing my error and asking for another opportunity.

So Brittany and I make it to The Color Purple in time- and WOW! What a show! This musical rendition of the epic story of a downtrodden woman finding love and life is now my second favorite show next to Les Mis. It paints such a full picture of life, struggles with who God is and how he works, and ultimately is a story of redemption. Beautiful. Here's a link to the opening number- "The Good Lord Works in Mysterious Ways," a perfect song, really, to wrap up the story. (And the last number soars with the refrain, "Look at what God has done.") I could write another post just on thoughts from this maybe another time.

After this, I got to share some special time of fellowship with my new brother, David Johnson and his friends Heather and Jonathan, whom I'd met a couple times but not gotten to speak with further. We had some dinner together and shared encouraging stories about how God has worked this week. It was truly encouraging. David especially had an awesome interaction with a guy who is now studying the Bible, all because David stopped in the middle of the road to pick up the cellphone of a motorcyclist and followed him to his place to give it back. Kevin shared the full story with the congregation today, and it will encourage you to hear it (and the whole sermon- it was great.) After talking, Jonathan pulled out his guitar and hymnal, and David pulled out youtube and we sang several songs- some new ones for each of us- all of which are, in David's words, very "Christ exalting." It was refreshing to sing with friends; I realized it had been a while since I'd gotten to have that joy outside the full church body meeting. I left with a more focused heart and two new friends. Definitely a good night. A Spirit-filled night. I look forward to having more times like it in our developing church culture here in Wilmington. today. Sunday! And Daylight Savings Time! I woke up feeling alive. And today I did indeed take a walk first thing. Then went down to the coffee shop again for the make-up time with the friend. We had a good talk. Our friendship is growing, and I'm praying to not fear bringing up Jesus with her. I know she's not interested in religion, but Jesus and religion are very different things. After our time talking she asked if I'd like to have a movie night with her, and of course I was like, "Of course!" I'm so happy that she's enthusiastic about building a friendship with me because I feel that most times I'm trying to reach out to people the relationship tends to be more one-sided. Anyway, I think she and her husband are really cool and they will be so much cooler when they have God!

Went home, cooked some butternut squash soup for the week and listened to another Francis Chan sermon, which also happened to be about the guiding of the Spirit- focusing more on the fruits of the Spirit. Main point that stuck out: We must live up to what we have already attained (Phil. 3:16). If we keep growing in knowledge without applying it, we are bringing judgement upon ourselves. Phew... the dangers of being raised around the church...the amount of spiritual books on my shelf means nothing. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1 Cor. 8:1).

Let me now attempt to tie all of this together with thoughts from the time with the church this evening and Kevin's lesson (link above), which he titled, "The Antioch Effect." In short, the Antioch church was started by members of the church who had fled because of persecution and were sharing with Gentiles in Antioch- sowing seed left and right. They did not share as the Jews would have- first to Jews, so when word got out that a large number of believers existed in the city, Barnabas went to check it out. He was greatly encouraged to see such a strong contingency of Gentile believers and sent for Paul to come fill their need for teaching. Down the road, however, the Jewish Christians try to force circumcision upon the Gentiles to make them "real" believers, but the gospel prevails- to the great relief of the Gentiles! The points: We can get so focused on our systems, strategies, etc... especially those of us who have been around awhile, that we are no longer fools for Christ as the gospel calls us to be. The ability to teach and the spiritual maturity is wonderful and needed, but to an extent we are not to "know what we're doing." We are not be stuck in our comfortable patterns of... fill in the blank. Throw aside all those beating-around-the-bush ways to bring up the gospel and just bring it up! Speak of Jesus. In short, my heart was churning within me- desiring the abandon of being a fool for Christ- yet being reminded of the barriers I have hit in attempting to do so. Wondering, I guess, if it's possible for me to be as free and surrendered as I desire to be in my heart. Of course it is possible, but Satan tells me I'l never achieve the closeness and experience of Jesus that I desire to have. Again I return to the question, "What is the Spirit telling me to do? Am I listening? And am I ready to obey what I hear? To jump out of the boat? To give up or go out or _____? I don't know what that blank is for my near future, but for tonight it is to be self disciplined- go to bed on time and get up and really have a great study and prayer time in the morning! After that, we'll see.

So, let us keep in step with the Spirit and not put out the Spirit's fire. I love you all. Thank you for your prayers.