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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Are Your Comfortable with Church?

I am not usually one who is big on seeking out new experiences. In fact - I kind of HATE it. I am a wall flower by nature and a self proclaimed extroverted-introvert. There for, my "comfort zone" is usually very small and I am in control of what happens there.

Church is a comfort zone for me. I have been "in church" all my life and have worked at a church for almost half my life. I am VERY comfortable here. I know what it looks like, I know what is supposed to happen and there is control. But God has been changing that zone of late. The once controllable world I call church has become less so. 

Last Sunday was one of the rare occasions I find myself out of my local church. In a city that is unknown to me a friend was used by God to take away just a little more of my comfortability with church. He asked me to visit Church Under the Bridge with him. 

I had never heard of such a thing but he explained that it began as a ministry to the homeless (not in my comfort zone) and 30 years later, there is a full blow church that literally meets under the overpass bridge of a major freeway every Sunday (really not in my comfort zone!) 

My first instinct was to use my sleeping daughter as a reason for not going. But after a good breakfast, we decided to leave the comfortable and experience something new. And boy did we. I will try my best to paint the picture for you.

Church was a place where everyone served, setting up folding chairs, plastic tables, a portable stage and port-a-potties. Church was a place where they served a hot meal to anyone who came. Church was a place where the dividing lines of race and social status no longer existed - being under a bridge has a way of leveling things. Church was a place of worship in song so pure with no agenda, sung by a homeless man with mental challenges and a woman who sung in a language different than mine and yet every word spoke to my heart. Church was a place of being washed by the Word of God spoken with the passion of a woman who really KNOWS God. Church was a place of honest discussion about the things that we let divide us as we pondered MLK's dream. Church was a place of communion remembering the ultimate sacrifice made to rid the world of the division between God and man.

Church was reaching out and hugging a homeless man who just wanted to know he is loved (I think he may have been the church's self proclaimed greeter.)  Church was shaking hands with Richard, who was so very proud of his "church" that he picked up all the small bits of trash as they blew in the wind under the bridge, which was somewhat of a futile effort. Rain, snow, or summer Texas heat - these people meet here to be the Church. 

The word 'challenged' doesn't seem to quite encompass what I feel about this experience. But it is causing me to deconstruct what I have always known to be "church" and to question if it is OK for me to be comfortable there.

My daughter and I were debriefing our experience on the way home and as usual, she was an inspiration to me at the ripe old age of 13. She explained that on their summer mission trips to Mexico there are a lot of homeless people, and that she thought maybe God showed her this to somehow minister to them when she goes again this coming summer break. She said that her Student Ministries pastor (who is very wise) has told them to "get comfortable with being uncomfortable." 

I think I might need to work on that a little bit. How about you?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Breath Taking

There are not many things in this world that are truly breath taking, and the ones that are - many times we are to busy to notice. This morning I had my breath taken away.

My normal schedule is to wake up and make lunch for the boy and then take him to school (usually still in my pajamas) a bit bleary eyed. This morning, both my young ones had to be to school early, so off went at the crack of dawn. I am not sure if it was because I was more alert this morning, already having showered for the day, or what exactly, but when we drove out of our neighborhood this morning I literally gasped when I saw the sunrise.

It was truly magnificent. This picture was taken a full 15 minutes after I originally saw it and it had changed significantly, but it is still awe-inspiring. I had my daughter turn around to look at it out the back window of the car and reminded her that we were given the gift of that sunrise this morning. 

The moment so touched me that I have thought most of the day about the creativity of my God and how each morning He paints the sky like a fresh canvas, never looking exactly like any other one and then repeats the same thing each evening. I wondered what the sunrise in Pakistan this morning looked like and in Saudi Arabia as I read my Facebook news feed and chatted with friends abroad. All unique and yet beautiful and breathing taking for those who were blessed enough to take notice.

These thoughts took my mind to the very first sunrise and sunset with only God there to enjoy His masterpieces. How breathtaking that must have been.

It saddens me to think how many of these gifts I have missed because I am to sleepy or to busy to notice. So this year of 2012 is devoted to not missing the breathtaking moments as often as I am blessed to catch them. To hearing the still small voice of the Great Creator beckoning me to stop and see what He made for me to discover each day. 

Happy New Year and here's to a year of catching awe-inspiring, breathtaking moments and being thankful for each and every one.