Wednesday, September 26, 2007



Lately I've had a real struggle to find alone time with God. Solitude is something I learned to adore in Russia, and not making it a priority has really taken a toll on me spiritually. I'm reading Celebration of Discipline right now and it's really reminded me of how important being alone in thought can be.

I guess the reason I haven't made it a priority is that I'm afraid of becoming a hermit again. I want to be focused on Christ, yet loving all people I see. Those should go hand in hand, but it seems to be a strenuous battle to keep both for me.

I find myself missing Russia often, or at least the healthy balance I had while there. My life slowed down so much there in that every morning I had considerable amounts of time to read, sit in silence, drink coffee, and pray. I basically had a mini-Sabbath every morning, and I miss it dearly. I miss it like I do a person. It's more difficult here since I have to wake up so early, so I'm trying to figure out how to have "Sabbath" time but also give myself to people and responsibilities.

Alone time lets me slow down... and think. Life seems to get hazy so very quickly, but being alone can remove me from that haze and allow me to look at my life clearly. I can stop and remember that life isn't about me. My problems don't seem so big anymore, and God reveals to me how I've been selfish, arrogant, and lazy.

I love reading the Bible and spiritual books during quiet time, because they give me a healthy lens to look at my life through. And I miss it. I miss being able to pour over a single verse or parable for an hour just for fun. I'm getting a lot of knowledge in God's Word, but missing it's wondrous beauty... and it breaks my heart.

Silence lets me look at life reverently, because it's so easy to become robotic in my interactions and obligations. I think I have had an irreverence for life lately, and I'm ashamed. It's so refreshing to sit and appreciate the goodness of life that God has given me. Most of the time I shove life down my throat just "pressing on" and getting through it. It takes great effort to slow down and simplistically enjoy God's many gifts and expressions of love.

God really is seen and experienced in the quiet, not just in the emotionally thrilling experiences of life. I miss solitude. I miss Jesus. I'm tired of praying "on the go" and living a fast food spiritual life. I want to live it deeply and lovingly and courageously... and I pray God gives me strength and wisdom to fight for it.

Monday, September 17, 2007

the lovely church


Sorry for not posting recently, but the California trip really threw me out of whack in getting back into things.

Everyone in AIM talks about how difficult it is coming back to the States from the mission field, and all of it's true by the way. I've dealt with a lot of personal issues coming back in Russia, but I've had the blessing of being encouraged by others going through the same struggles. I think I've been surprised of how many people have had violent reactions coming back to the States: angry or discontentment with the Church or American culture, even leaving the Church altogether.

That makes me sad.

Russia was so refreshing for me. Issues were non-existent, and people, for the most part, had no negative stigma attached to the Church. Every Christian there decided to follow Christ on their own, which in result produces a Church full of genuine and faith-filled Christians.

But many Christians in the States, I've noticed, are timid to even admit they are Christians because of the violent reaction many people have to our religion. A lot of non-Christians have been burned by people claiming Christ, and so they connect us to those bad experiences. And I share the frustrations with many Christians to so many people who have given Christ a bad name (myself included).

But I've noticed that many times the worst criticizers of the Church... are Christians. It's so discouraging to sit with a group of brothers and sisters and hear them slam the "Church", as though it were some organization.

But we are the Church. So when we complain about the "Church", we complain about ourselves. I do think that if we view the Church in America through a spiritual lens that there are many glaring sicknesses and problems within it. But those problems are within me, because I am the Church.

It's been weird coming back into what I call the coffeehouse culture. By that I mean especially my generation that loves to sit around and talk through and discuss things, mostly from a third-person point of view. But a lot of times it just turns into complaining, and I have to admit I've fallen into that many times.

I know the Church has lots of problems, because it's full of people. But there's enough people in the world that hate the Church... we don't need it coming from within. I have to admit I've been the world's worst at this unloving kind of judgmental slander.

But no matter how many problems seem to be overwhelming us I have to keep believing... the Church is good.

I believe that. Christ died for the Church, and we all came to Christ because of the glaring truth that we were dirty and worthless, and only in Christ could that change. But we all carry our baggage from our past life with us. Transformation into Christ's image doesn't happen quickly, it's a process. I pray I'm patient with the pride, hypocrisy, hatred, and selfishness that comes from the hearts of others as Christ is being patient with my own battles with those same things that take over my life so terribly often.

I love the Church, the body of Christ. We can't say we love Jesus then slam the people He died for. It's so easy to sit on the sidelines and be angry with what's going on on the field, but it's so much harder to pick up the ball and do the hard work.

I've been convicted lately that just because the Church in America is different, that doesn't mean it's not good. I pray God forgives me for my arrogance in ever questioning that. This is where I have to walk by faith that He knows what He's doing with His body. I have to constantly be reminded and comforted by the fact that He is God, and I'm not. I'm so glad that He has more patience with us than what we give each one another, and that His forgiveness is so full and deep that it can transform us from the inside out... giving us the strength to see the best and not the worst in each other.

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever complaints you have against each other, forgiving each other as Christ forgave you. And above all put on love, which is the bond of perfection." Colossians 3:13-14