Where is God?

A poem by Faye Elmore

So much hate in this world and not a compass to guide us.

Where is God?

People shooting people.

People running people down in the streets.

Where is God?

People lie, it’s their first language.

Cheat like they are entitled to everything!

Where is God?

Sexual predators and desires around every corner.

Everyone talks and no one speaks up.

Where is God?

How did we get to this point?

How did the world get so bad?

How did the world get so desensitized?

Where is God?

Let me tell you.

God calls us to be the salt of the earth.

God calls us to love one another.

To love our neighbor.

To turn from our ways and follow Him.

That’s where God is!

God is in me.

He is in you.

And He wants us to share it, to give it away!

Not to keep it to ourselves, for ourselves, or by ourselves,

But freely give it away.

Just as He did when He laid down His life for you

For me

For us!

So ask yourself this:

Where is God?

Are you doing what He asks?

Are you better than you were the day before?

Baby steps…

Okay.

But make a step to show up

To show…

Where is God.

As a young adult, I had to battle the stigma associated with being single. Society seemed, and probably still does, to demand that you fit the mold of being married and raising a family. Otherwise, you’re led to think there’s something wrong with you or you’re getting left behind. That begs the question, why do we want to fit in a mold anyway? Whose job is it in society to tell everyone what the status quo is and what’s normal and acceptable or not? Why do we listen or even care what other people think our lives should look like? There are more than 330 million people in the US alone. Do you mean to tell me every single one of us should be living the cookie cutter life of a suburban family, complete with a white picket fence and shuttling the littles to soccer games?

I spent most of my life single, and I’m here to tell you, I’m very proud of that and I wouldn’t have done it any other way. Of course, now that I’m 44 and 3 years married, it’s easy for me to look back and say how enlightening and empowering it was to be single, but would I have thought that 10 years ago? Twenty  years ago? Probably not. I didn’t have full perspective of how powerful that time in my life was until I got out of it. (Isn’t that how it always is? You never know what you have until you don’t have it anymore.)

What I learned in my “season of being single,” as I’ll call it, is a beautiful thing.  It’s something so many people think they already do and truly don’t, or people spend their entire lives looking for and never find.

Self-love.

Self-love is the thing we all need to be talking about. This is what we all really want, right? We spend our lives seeking validation from everything and everyone else… except ourselves. Why else would we try so hard to fit the mold? Or feel inadequate for not fitting a mold? What we should be doing is making our own mold that fits our true selves, actively discovering what we want our mold to look like and working to be the best version of that mold. It took me 40 years to figure out my own mold, and that was only after I spent years being unhappy because I didn’t fit the mold that was expected of me. I was 25, not married and no kids. Then I was 30, not married and no kids. Then 35…

I think it was when I turned 30, and spent my entire birthday crying because I wasn’t at all where I thought I’d be, that it hit me…why exactly was I sad? Am I lonely, yes, I think I am. Shouldn’t I be? I don’t even have a boyfriend. Am I sad I don’t have kids? No. I’m not ready for kids. Am I sad I haven’t bought a house? Yes, isn’t that what shows I’m successful in life? Or am I just feeling left behind because I see all my peers getting married, buying houses, making babies, and I’m nowhere close to having any of these things.

But then I dug deeper. Why in that moment in my life was I defining myself by what everyone else was doing? Isn’t that what we all do? In an age of social media, how can we not? We see a small glimpse into people’s lives, (what they decide to share anyway), and it tempts us to compare our lives to what we think theirs is. But I grew up in an age with no social media, and I still felt inadequate. That’s exactly what happens when we look outside for validation.

My “season of being single” taught me a lot of things. It forced me to learn how to love myself. When you’re alone all the time, you get inside your own head a lot. For some, that can be excruciating. There’s a lot going on inside our own heads. Deep inside, that’s where all our baggage sits. Who wants to sit alone and stare at all their baggage? I certainly didn’t. But for most of my life, I had no choice. Some people get engrossed in work so they don’t have to sit with their baggage. Others drink or do drugs. Still others busy themselves with superficial, temporary relationships that offer no depth, because going deep means to go to where your baggage is sitting. For me, I didn’t love my job enough to get engrossed. I drank socially, but it didn’t consume me. The thought of having another superficial conversation or relationship exhausted me so much I threw up walls so I didn’t have to socialize with anyone. So, then that left me with myself. Whether I liked it or not. I didn’t know it at the time, but this allowed me to become so tuned-in to myself that I slowly started learning what I liked. What I didn’t like. What I cared about. What made me feel right in the world. And most importantly, how God fit into all of that. I started praying to God, not because that’s what I was raised to do before dinner or before I went to bed, but because I genuinely wanted God to be a part of my life. When you continue to do something on a regular basis, over an extended period of time, it’ll start to have lingering effects. It wasn’t necessarily my goal; I didn’t really have a goal at the time. I was just trying to live day by day. But looking back at it now, I was developing a true relationship with God. I was also developing a true relationship with myself. I started recognizing the things that had value in my life and the things that had no value. I began to weed out these things of no value, because I found myself at a point in my life where I truly valued myself. The more time I spent with God and myself, the more I didn’t want to waste my time on things that had no value.

Perhaps it was also my sense of maturity growing as I got older, but by my mid-30s, obtaining a boyfriend was the furthest thing from my mind. At this point, I had shed enough tears, screamed into enough pillows, lain awake for enough nights, and endured enough lonely days. After I fought kicking and screaming for enough years, I learned to completely rely on God and His plan for my life. I lost my obsession for trying to make things happen in my will. I fully embraced God’s will and I became confident in the fact that when He was ready, God would bring that person into my life. I wasn’t going to have to figure it out all on my own. How liberating that became for me! I could finally relax. I didn’t feel pressure to force anything to happen, I trusted God had it under control. I was strong. I was independent. If I needed to do something, I didn’t wait for someone else to come along to do it for me. I watched a how-to video, got the tools I needed, and I figured it out. The more I did for myself, the more I loved and respected myself. I learned to not seek anything external to contribute value to me. It all came from within, because as my relationship with God deepened, so did my trust in Him.

And wouldn’t you know, the person God had for me was right under my nose all along. He was a friend of a friend, with whom I’d periodically spend time with in casual group settings. Little did I know God was working in his life, too. He was preparing us both for the person he had prepared for us… each other. For years, this person wasn’t even on my radar, and vice versa. It just wasn’t time yet. Sure enough, one day out of the blue, during one of our group social outings, he looked different to me. I noticed a spark. A butterfly in my stomach. A deeper conversation than we’d ever taken the time to have. It’s funny how we start to see things differently when it’s divinely orchestrated. I saw him, and he saw me in a completely different light. Needless to say, the rest is history, but I would be remiss if I didn’t say, timing was everything. If it happened any earlier, it wouldn’t have worked. Neither one of us would’ve been fully prepared to be the best versions of ourselves for each other.

I say all of this to say, learn to love yourself, trust God, and trust the process. Don’t compare your life to others. God’s plan for your life is for you only. He knows what he’s doing, and believe me, what He has planned for your life is well worth the wait. Let go, and let God.

We have all lived through a cultural revolution. Because of the internet and technology we no longer need to go to the “brick and mortar” places like banks, shopping centers, grocery stores, and video rental stores. We can do almost everything online and through streaming.  Many of us work from home and no longer need to go to a physical office.  This shift has also affected how we view time.  We are no longer bound by what “time” we should go shopping, check our bank account or watch a movie. We can do most of these things any time we want.  Most of us have acclimated to this new cultural shift and for the most part like it.  What’s really driving this is our insatiable desire for “convenience.”  We like things quick, easy, accessible.

This has spilled over into our spiritual life, namely going to church. The whole aspect of church is going to a brick and mortar building at a certain place and a certain time. This has become a struggle for many as it’s just not how we operate in our life anymore. Then comes the invention of the online church. Some churches were doing this pre-covid, such as our church, but most started it and continue to do it since covid.

I have several thoughts about this.  First of all, the online church is here to stay.  To say it was just temporary due to Covid is like saying Amazon is temporary.  Just like we watch our movies on demand, now people can see the church service on demand.  It’s more convenient to watch from our couch than get ready, especially with kids.  Some work Sundays so with no streaming they would totally miss the service. Others can’t come due to health reasons.  Some that miss can watch it and catch up with the sermon series.

Second, online church is the new front door to the church.  Most people that come for the first time have already come for the first time via streaming, so they already know what to expect. And when they come, they already have a pretty good idea that they will like it. There are many advantages to the online church.

So then, let’s get to the question of, “Do I need to go to church?” The answer is, “Yes if at all possible.”  So, what’s wrong, if anything, with just watching it online?  There is nothing wrong with it. It just doesn’t give you all you need as a follower of Christ.  The church is not a building but a body of Christ. A body is meant to be together. A body is meant to be connected to each other. When we come to a church service and we are “together,” there is a life-giving fellowship that is shared and experienced.  People that watch online and then come always say that it’s much better to be here in person. Does that mean you can’t get anything out of watching it online? No, you can, and people do, but it’s just not the same.

There’s an old saying, “If you can’t beat them join them.”  I know it’s not realistic for everyone watching online to start coming to a physical building at a certain time any more than it is to ask people to quit using Amazon. So, here at WCC, we have created what we are calling “WCC Home Churches.”  This is a way to experience church at home as if you were there.  Here is the structure:

First, you invite your friends and family over at whatever day and time. Then you turn on the streaming and participate in, not just watch, the service.  So, for example, when the singing starts, everyone stands and sings and worships together. Next, during the offering, everyone is encouraged to get their phone out and give via the WCC app. When the sermon begins, follow the message and take notes via the app. At the end you will have been given questions about the message to discuss. Afterward, hang out and fellowship together!

You might be thinking, “What about the kids?” We have an app that gives the kids’ lesson via streaming as well.  You could have people take turns presenting the kids lesson.  As you can see, you have just experienced “church” as if you were there.

I think the big take away is, don’t just watch it alone.  It’s easy to become a spectator and not a participant. But it’s when we participate and engage that we experience God’s presence, hear God speak, and grow spiritually. So, if you primarily watch church online, how about signing up to become a Westmoore Home Church.  You can e-mail my administrative assistant, Tanya Secrist, at tanya@westmoore.church and she will send you the structure on how to do it.

Going to church can be in a building or in a home. The question you must ask yourself is, am I participating and experiencing worship, fellowship, small groups, and giving to the mission?  Now we can do that in both places!

Ruthless Trust: A Ragamuffin’s Path to God

By Brennan Manning

Book Review by Julie Schofield

I have always been a lover of books. The smell, the feel of the pages, and the worlds they held captivated me at a very young age. There have been many books that impacted me, but besides the Bible, none have had the effect on my life more than Ruthless Trust: A Ragamuffin’s Path to God by Brennan Manning. Published in 2000 as a sequel to the Ragamuffin Gospel, it held what I truly needed; the answer to my struggles following Christ. Trust.

My walk with Jesus has never been a smooth one and I was under a lot of condemnation due to my continual failures. I read many books written by Christian authors, preachers, and teachers, almost in desperation, looking for answers.

One of the duties at the a public library where I worked was shelving books as they came in. As I was sorting the items on my cart the title caught my attention because I immediately thought of my mother calling my brothers and I ragamuffins when we came home filthy dirty after a long day outdoors. (It was the seventies. Sometimes she didn’t see us until dark.)

         In the book’s preface Manning gives us the definition of the ragamuffins:

         The unsung assembly of saved sinners who are little in their own sight, conscious of their brokenness and powerlessness before God, and who cast themselves on his mercy.

 “If the Lord Jesus Christ has washed me in his own blood and forgiven all my sins,” the ragamuffin whispers to herself, “I cannot and must not refuse to forgive myself.” After stumbling and falling, the ragamuffin does not sink into despondency and endless self-recrimination, she quickly repents, offers the broken moment to the Lord, and renews her trust in the Messiah of sinners. She knows that Jesus is comfortable with broken people who remember how to love.”

I was so tired of struggling and wanted to be able to trust in Jesus so badly I had to check it out.

Brennan Manning is, like me, a flawed Christ follower. He is not coming from a place of judgment or perfection. He is open and real in his writing, exposing his own sins and letting the reader know he understands those who struggle in their walk with Jesus. He has a heart for those that haven’t grasped the grace and love of Jesus and suffer in self-loathing. The ones who wonder if they are really saved when they continue to fail time and again.

For the ragamuffin the answer is ruthless trust. He writes, “If it be your way, the sign you can trust will be the slow, steady, and miraculous transformation from self-rejection to self-acceptance rooted in the acceptance of Jesus Christ.”

Ruthless Trust was written after Manning’s spiritual leader remarked, “Brennan, you don’t need any more insights into the faith. You’ve got enough insights to last you three hundred years. The most urgent need in your life is to trust what you have received.”  These words prompted a reexamination of his life, ministry and his relationship with God. He had to ask himself if he really trusted Jesus. Manning had served Christ for over forty years and after thousands of hours of prayer and meditation he states that childlike surrender in trust is the defining spirit of authentic discipleship. Then he adds that the supreme need in most of our lives is often the most overlooked, namely the need for an uncompromising trust in the love of God. While it is good to go to God as a beggar to the King of kings, it is vastly superior to approach God as a little child would approach his papa.

This book challenged me. Was I really trusting in the work Jesus did on the cross? Did I believe ALL my sins were forgiven? Did I see God as a loving Father that cared for me or someone who could never even like me? Through reading this book, I realized that I did not have the ruthless trust I needed and was crippled as a disciple of Christ. How could I tell people about the great love God had for them when I wasn’t trusting in that love myself?

Throughout the book Manning includes inspiring words written by others like Mother Teresa, Henry Nouwen, Richard Rohr, along with scripture scholars and philosophers.

More importantly he takes you on a journey through many of the verses in the Bible about trusting the Lord, of which there are many.

In the final chapter Manning writes, “Ruthless trust ultimately comes down to this: faith in the person of Jesus and hope in his promise. Ruthless trust is an unerring sense, way deep down that beneath the surface agitation, boredom, and insecurities of life, it’s gonna be alright. Ill winds may blow, more character defects may surface, sickness may visit, and friends will surely die, but a stubborn, irrefutable certainty persists that God is with us and loves us in our struggle to be faithful.”

I absolutely loved this book and highly recommend it to anyone that struggles to trust. Reading It was a turning point in my understanding of God’s love for me. I have a lightness and joy that was missing when I allowed condemnation to rule me. I can’t honestly say that I never succumb to those feelings but now I have the answer. I go to my papa. Ruthless trust in his love has changed my life!

Curtis Rose is the Production Engineer for Westmoore Community Church and has served at WCC for over twenty years in the production ministry. If you’re interested in serving in this exciting area, please contact the church!

 

1.“You Came” by Johnathan David Helser

 

2.”The Goodness” by Blessing Offor & TobyMac

 

3.”Getting Started” by Jeremy Camp

 

4.”Hymn Of Heaven” by Phil Wickham

 

5.”God Is In This Story” by Big Daddy Weave & Katy Nichole

 

6.”Abba” by Johnathan David Helser

 

7.”Fill My Cup” by Andrew Ripp

 

8.”Heart of God” by Zach Williams

 

9.”Same God” by Elevation Worship

 

10.”Always” by Chris Tomlin

            Because I’m a freelance writer, I’m involved in a lot of different projects, and one of the things I do on the side is run a coaching business for writers. I have to keep my client numbers low due to time, but I really love it, and enjoy working with writers at all levels and stages of their manuscripts.

            The hardest thing to convince beginning writers of is allowing themselves a messy first draft.  Writers tend to imagine that published writers sit down at their desk, start glowing with some kind of divine inspiration, and out pours a masterpiece.  I guess they think the editors at the publishing house are just there to catch typos.

            The truth is that no matter how good a writer is, they don’t nail their book on the first draft.  It’s too many words. Too much plot.  Too many discoveries along the way that cause us to go back and rework beginning chapters. Seat-of-the-Pants Writers (of which I am) are particularly vulnerable to messy first drafts. Outliners, on the other hand, tend to have it a bit more pulled together. Still, neither kind of writer ever hits it on the first go-around.

            Much like these writers I work it, many Christians seem utterly aghast at the weak spots in their faith.  “Why don’t I have it together?” “Why do I keep tripping up here?” “Why do I fail so much?” “Why aren’t I more like Jesus?”

            The Bible tells us why, pretty plainly. We’re human. From the beginning, in Genesis, to the end, in Revelation, the Bible recounts story after story of humanity messing everything up. Even the good guys. Even those with the best intentions. Mistakes are made at every turn. Intentional disobedience wreaks havoc. Rebellion. Anger. Even murder.

            So, just about as early as He could, God began whispering about sending a Savior. (Gen 3:15).

            The truth is, our salvation is a free gift from God. The sanctification of our souls (revising ourselves to be more like Jesus)…well, that’s going to take work. But we need to be careful, and work in the way God asks us to.  Work smarter, not harder, as they say.  Because as it turns out, we’re not even able to contribute much to our sanctification either.

            So how do we work smarter?  Well, much like an editor guides a writer into revisions of their book (yes, I did say that with an “s”!), God guides us in the revision of our souls, if we’ll listen to Him.

            As one who has tried to revise my life in my own power and in my own wisdom (and been utterly frustrated by it), let me give you four points I’ve learned within the sanctification process, that may help you work smarter.

Read the Bible with one thing in mind – getting to know God and who He is.

Reading the Bible with any other intention (such as trying to figure out all the promises God must fulfill in your life) can leave you frustrated.  “God said He would supply all my needs and here I am with an overdue bill!” Yes, there are many passages in the Bible that assure us that God wants to take care of us, and is able, but the intention of the Word is to reveal God, and His plan of salvation for humanity. Our relationship with Him can only grow if we know Him. How can you trust someone you don’t know? Studying the Bible with the intention of learning about God will help you trust Him as He molds and shapes you into the image of His Son.

His plan for growing us and dealing with our hearts is vastly different than how we would do it.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul describes the upside-down world of how God works: “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Weakness? What? The world tells us, the stronger we are, the better.  That goes for physique, intellect, emotional and psychological attitudes, and more. If you’re strong, you’re doing great. But Jesus taught us that He doesn’t work that way.  It’s in our vulnerabilities and our soft spots, in the parts we feel the most inadequate that He begins to reveal Himself and His glory.  In short, when we get our big muscles out of the way, He can start doing some things that REALLY show power. True power. Power that does things like raise people from the dead. I can barely raise myself up in the morning, so how do I think I’m going to change much about myself without Him?

Work smaller not bigger.

 

When I work on novels, you might think that as I write I’m thinking of all the thousands of people who will be reading these words and that is what motivates me to continue to finish the book. You’d be awfully wrong about that. The more I think about the numbers, the worse I get. When I write, I end up thinking about one person, and I write it for that person. With my books, it’s usually my editor. I’m eager to hear what he or she thinks.  The smaller I work, the bigger accomplishments I’m able to achieve. That’s true for the kingdom of God too.  God didn’t gather the disciples together and say, “Hey look, I need you each to have a huge social media presence, preach to crowds of no less than a thousand, and try to get a book deal.”  He, in fact, told them to take care of widows and orphans. Give water to the thirsty. Visit the prisoners. He knew already what meteorologist and mathematician Edward Norton Lorenz noted in the 1960s when he coined the term The Butterfly Effect. He believed that the tiny flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil could set off a tornado in Oklahoma. In other words, the smallest change can cause larger consequences. A ripple effect.  Change within ourselves begins to occur not by doing big things or working extra hard or long. God, who can do all things, chooses to work in the small things to accomplish more than we can ask or imagine, in the world and in our hearts.

Suffering is part of the process, not a punishment for inadequacy.

 

No matter how many times I tell myself that hard things happening isn’t a punishment from God, when the hard thing happens, I almost always, at some point, whisper (or yell), “What did I do?”  Well, first of all, what a stupid question. I know good and well what I did. Everything I wasn’t supposed to. I mean, do I really want to present that question to God and stand there while He pulls out His list?  For the day? For the year?  For my life? I think not.

            If we’re honest with ourselves, none of us are getting any holier sitting on the couch eating nachos and watching Netflix. The comfortable life doesn’t produce much in the way of fruits of the Spirit.  I know for sure that all of my seasons of growth in God have come from hard seasons of suffering. Some heavier than others. But all full of confusion and turmoil, feeling God wasn’t there, but knowing full well He was. Trying to push past my feelings and doing that thing called “faith.”

I love how Dr. Diane Langberg, a Christian psychologist, speaks of suffering: “As we enter into suffering—our own or another’s—seeking God in the dark places of our lives, the glory comes. It is not from the end of suffering or its effects, but from little by little being transformed into His image as we suffer.”

            What every seasoned writer knows is that the REAL magic of a book happens in the revisions. Pass after pass after pass of the book begins to reveal more and more of the good stuff. It can be arduous. And sometimes even boring, reading the material over and over. It can be frustrating, when you know something is there but you can’t quite get to it yet.  But in the end, the discipline of revision will produce the kind of book that readers will remember. Likewise, the process of sanctification, of becoming more like Him, is never going to be evident right away. Like a book, it’s pass after pass, revision after revision, until suddenly we realize it—we’re becoming more like Him.

For every action, there is an opposite or equal reaction. – Newton’s Third Law

Newton’s Third Law means that in every interaction, there is a pair of forces acting on the two interacting objects. The size of the forces on the first object equals the size of the force on the second object.

When I used to read this, I never equated it to relationships. But a few years ago, I put this into practice in my marriage and it changed it completely.

My wife and I were going through a rough stretch and she was threatening to leave me. One day I was praying for my wife to make some changes and I really felt God whisper to me: You can’t change her, but you can change you.

It really hit me hard, but I started making some changes. For example, I stopped complaining when she put dirty dishes in the dishwasher. I thanked and complimented her more. I started reacting differently to things she said or did.

The change in her didn’t happen immediately but I could tell things were turning. It took about three years for things to get exponentially better but it did, and I began the practice in all my encounters. I realized that how we treat others affects how they treat us.

My wife and I almost never have bad service in restaurants and that’s mostly because of her. She will find something to compliment the server on almost as soon as he or she walks up to the table.

Everyday life has all the opportunities for this. A smile to a stranger that may be having a bad day. The person who checks you out at the store, can you get them to smile or laugh? Try it, it is contagious.

Even more, try it with your family members you don’t necessarily like. It works wonders on your kids. If you spend most of the day at work, ask yourself this question: are they better because they work with you? Stop the gossip and find good things to say about people. Gossip can be contagious but so can complimenting—even more so.

So, the challenge is to spread the love and goodness of our God through our actions to everyone we meet, even when you don’t feel like it, because it will change your attitude as well.

I recently watched a documentary called Jesus Music about the beginnings of Contemporary Christian music. It included old footage of Love Song, a band of long-haired hippie musicians I saw at my church when I was a teen. The lyrics they sang and the way they spoke about the Lord was moving and powerful.  I felt Jesus calling to my heart, but was hesitant to walk that aisle in front of Terri, a friend I invited to tag along with me and my family. I found out later that she felt the same pull. We both regretted our choice to ignore Jesus that night. Little did we know he had another plan.

God was doing a brand new thing in the lives of the Cali kids in the 70’s. Many had discovered that the peace, love, and rock and roll experience had left them disillusioned—either addicted to drugs, homeless or both. The summer of love was over and the air in Northern California had chilled, so they went south, where Chuck Colson, the pastor of a church in Costa Mesa, along with his wife, had a heart for the kids living on the beach.

Many members of Pastor Colson’s church had difficulties getting past the long hair and the unwashed smell of the young hippies coming through the doors, but soon they couldn’t deny that God’s Holy Spirit was on the move. Thousands were being baptized in the Pacific after accepting new life in Jesus.

Greg Laurie was one of them. A neglected teen searching for love and acceptance, he soon found it in Jesus and his followers. Laurie went on to be the pastor of one of the largest ministries in Christianity today and continues to be a faithful servant and disciple of Christ.

Laurie went on to write a book about his experience, detailing one of the greatest revivals in the history of our faith. It’s called “The Jesus Movement.”

Reading about this time was very personal to me. I didn’t live on the beach or get baptized in the ocean, but my life was changed forever by an encounter with one of the hippies that did. Not what you would call stellar students, my friends and I were cutting class and smoking cigarettes in the bathroom at school. There was a girl sitting on the floor with us and she asked us if we knew Jesus.  Mainly to shut her up, but also because all of us had grown up going to church and had heard our parents talk about God our whole lives, we said yes.  I truly thought I knew who Jesus was, but as she spoke, I realized that I didn’t know the guy she was talking about. Her face and eyes shone as she told us about her Jesus. How he loved us and came to save us. There was such power in her words it seemed as if I was hearing the Gospel for the first time. When she asked us to come outside and hear more, my friend Terri got up, looked at me and said, “I’m going this time,” and I followed.

As we walked down the street, we saw a very familiar sight. The Jesus Freak van! A wildly painted VW bus full of hippies, it served as a mobile church of sorts, and those in it handed out tracts telling us to how to get saved. Instead of running away, this time we knelt with those beautiful people and changed the course of our lives and our eternities. Jesus saved my soul that day through his followers, a group of Jesus freaks who stepped out in faithful love for God and shared the good news with us.

The Jesus Movement happened during a time of great turmoil. The Vietnam War, civil unrest, racial tensions, the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, and the mistrust of the government all led the young people of this country to rebel against authority. They thought the answer would be found in drugs, free love and dropping out of society. Instead, they found that Jesus was what they were searching for all along.

Our country faces many of the same problems today and Jesus is still the answer. We have been born for this time and in this generation for a reason. People are frightened, angry, and divided, yet God can do a mighty move once again if his people will humble themselves and pray. People are searching for the answer but have trouble trusting in religion and the church.

There’s an old song that said they will know we are Christians by our love, but that is not our reputation today. Unfortunately, and often warranted, Christianity is known for judgment and intolerance.  If we want this to change, we have to take his command to love seriously. It is up to us to pray and ask God to move. He is still the same God who brought that great revival in the seventies. He can do it again.

 

Julie Schofield has attended WCC for over twenty years. She is a wife, mother and grandmother to three of the best kids ever. In April, she retired after thirty-three years at the public library. (And loving it. “Retirement is all it’s cracked up to be!)

 

 

I hate taking out the trash. It used to be a whole thing between Rene and me. I know, I get it…how hard is it to take out the trash? But I just didn’t like it. I think the only thing I hated more was mowing.

Here’s the thing about trash: SOMEBODY must take it out. I mean, sure…you can let it sit there, but it takes a special kind of dysfunction to be impervious to an over-spilling trashcan—especially when it stinks. MOST people—even trash–hating–taker–outers like me—cannot stand to live with the filth and stench of a full, overflowing trashcan. There comes a breaking point where the trash MUST GO OUT.

For Rene and me, we just had different breaking points. Hers was at the point before the kitchen trash bag is hard to get out of the trashcan, whereas mine was typically when you could no longer give it the old shove-it-all-down-cram anymore. I mean, I could usually get at least two or three good shoves and get that trash nice and smashed together, where the old fish juices and coffee grinds would leak as you pulled it out, while the bag, bulging at the sides, slowly began to rip away. Rene’s silly logic was that perhaps if we took out the trash when it was three quarters full, maybe the bag wouldn’t rip coming out and we wouldn’t have to clean up an unnecessary mess in the kitchen. (And by “we” she meant “she.”) But I was convinced of two things: One, I was making the trash bag last longer. And I had a decent success rate of getting even a ripped trash bag outside BEFORE it completely came apart.

Let’s be real clear, here: the reality was far more simple than two opposing world philosophies on when exactly you should take out the kitchen trash. The truth is, I am lazy. And I hate taking out the trash.

But if I’m honest, I’m like this spiritually, too. I don’t like to take out the trash in my life.

You know, we’re human, but even if we can walk the best walk with Jesus, or do all the spiritual disciplines almost perfectly, we still have stuff, spiritually, to clean out. We still accumulate garbage in our lives. That’s the truth of it. What we feed ourselves spiritually, what we’re exposed to daily, what we think about, how we struggle, and on and on…there’s no way we can avoid trash getting stuck in our minds. The problem is, we often fail to flush out the trash or in a real sense, take it out. If the mind is the battlefield for a spiritual walk with Christ, somewhere up there is a trash can for the trash. As Christ followers, most of us probably do a pretty good job of throwing out some of the trash that comes in. The question is, do we ever TAKE the trash out?

Romans 12:2 says: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is good, acceptable and perfect.” Renewing isn’t something we do once. “Re” suggests that this is something we should be doing often, even daily. A lot of trash comes into my mind daily. And like my kitchen trash, it doesn’t take much effort or time to walk it out to the big trash containers.

The difference here is that I’m creating space in my mind that can be filled with better things, better thoughts, better ideas from God. When I’m taking out the spiritual trash in my mind, I’m asking the Lord to fill that space with His thoughts. I think, maybe, this is one way Psalm 51:10 works in my own life when I pray: “Create in me a clean heart and renew a right thinking within me.”

We are always going to struggle with our thought life on some level. Some of us, like me, struggle more than others. It’s okay, it just means I get more exercise taking out the trash!

I really do want to have more of God’s thoughts and ideas in my mind because not only am I able to walk in more peace with Him on a consistent basis, I’m also able to be more at peace with the people around me. Yeah, just like at home, I still must be reminded that the spiritual trash needs emptying. But unlike before, I kind of enjoy taking out the trash. It actually feels pretty good!

Now mowing the grass…well, I guess that’s a whole other devotion!

 

 

 

Today’s blog post was written by WCC’s own Aubree Secrist, who has recently become a new mother! But the astounding wisdom she shares today about being a young and aspiring Christian can be applied to all of us as we search for God’s will and fulfillment in our lives. – Rene

 

When you’re young, growing up is one of the most exciting things to think about. With a young, adventurous mind, your thoughts can wander to all the amazing things you can accomplish. It comes at different times for everyone, but you finally decide what you’re going to do with your life. The anticipation of starting the rest of your life keeps you constantly excited. In your mind, this is the turning point of when life really begins. 

What happens when those dreams and aspirations don’t come to fruition? What happens when your plans are interrupted by life events? What happens when the door that leads to your future is continuously closed? Or what if that career you thought would be perfect for you, doesn’t give you the fulfillment you just knew it would?

As for me, I’ve always worked hard. I’ve had a job ever since I was able to. My mom took me back and forth to my first job, since I was too young to drive. There were even times throughout high school and college when I had multiple jobs. My parents always pushed me to have a strong work ethic and reminded me that my hard work would not go unnoticed. So that’s what I did. I decided on my career early on in high school. I kept my head forward and didn’t let anything get in the way of the life I wanted for myself. I put time and effort, and then even more time and effort into getting to where I wanted to be. Then the day finally came. All my hard work did pay off. This is when life begins, I thought. 

My mindset quickly went from I just scored my dream job to, this isn’t for me. A state of confusion came. There were so many why’s. Why me? Why does this not make me happy like I thought it would? Why did I work this hard to get this result? I can’t say that I wasn’t frustrated with God for a while. Many times, I thought, “God I prayed for this so much, so why did you lead me here if you knew I would hate it?” After all the other roadblocks I’ve had in my life, I thought it would have been nice to have one here if this wasn’t supposed to be for me. 

The excitement you once had about growing up becomes daunting. The thought of “this is what you have to do for the rest of your life, so you better like it” becomes scary. Then the fear comes. The fear of being stuck. The fear of telling the people around you and what they might think. Will you let them down? Or worse, will they not understand? All these thoughts become consuming and almost put you into what feels like an identity crisis. It makes you wonder, who am I? Who am I supposed to be? What is my purpose in life?

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that what Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:1-2

It can be so easy to get caught up in our identity in this world, that we can forget our identity lies in Jesus Christ. The One who created us, is the only One who knows our hearts and that only He can truly fill them. We make the mistake of letting not only careers, but possessions, relationships, materialistic things, etc. define who we are. This commonly leads to us searching for what’s next, wanting the next best thing, or thinking we “failed” when things don’t go as planned. We have good intentions and think we know what will make our life perfect. As the Bible tells us, God has a divine plan for each and every one of us before we come about this Earth, yet we still try to make it on our own. Limiting ourselves to what we have in mind, only takes away from the gifts God wants to share with us. When we let go of our own plans, God can reveal His perfect plan, which is far greater than anything we could ever imagine. When hard work, time, and effort are put into a relationship with our Maker, that is when life really begins.