Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Resting In The Holding Pattern and Practicing The Way

Good Wednesday afternoon, my friends! I hope this finds you rested, peaceful and well. 

I wanted to bring you up to date on a few things that are going on in my life, first regarding my health, where we are currently with van life, as well as a HUGE work that the Lord is doing in my life right now through a series that I just happened on to a couple of weeks ago.

So first, my health and van life. We've been back in our home town of Lynchburg since early December. The original plan was to spend the holidays with our daughter and head out again after the first of the year.  But shortly before we arrived here I ran into what they believe is just a little minor health problem but one that is going to require further testing (19th), and possible surgery. So, with that, we've been in limbo. Thankfully we've been able to park the van on some land in an area that we've long been familiar with and love, so that's been nice, and it's allowed us to spend an extended amount of time visiting with our daughter. I can already see God's hand in this delay, so I'm resting literally and spiritually in that. My test is scheduled for 10:30 on the 19th of February, which is in just a little over a week, so while I'm not expecting that to reveal anything other than what we believe is going on, if you want to keep me in your prayers they would be appreciated. I think my biggest fear/challenge is that this is the type of test that requires that you drink some goop that I've been told by those who have gone before me, is difficult to keep down. Factor in my overly sensitive gag reflex when it comes to taste and texture, and yeah, fingers crossed and prayers lifted! :) 

That being said, since we've been parked and have a strong signal for a couple of months now I've taken advantage of this time and listened to a couple of series from a few churches and pastors that I like and they have all been life breathing! It may not be for everyone, but being an introvert I just have to say that I've really grown to love online services and even more when I discover a wealth of previous teachings in the archives. I've used the bible app for years as my primary source for devotionals, but in this season I much prefer listening to a live speaker! So, anyway . . . that was how I happened on to the series that I am currently in Practicing The Way of Jesus which is put out by Bridgetown Church. Y'all, (that's a throw back to my Texas roots!), I don't even know where to begin, but I guess I'll start with a confession.

I've been in church my ENTIRE life, I've attended a number of churches, tried 2-3 different denominations, and was part of a "non-denominational" (don't even get me started) church for close to twenty years. And while I will credit that church with teaching me the difference between religion and a relationship, for the most part I have s-t-r-u-g-g-l-e-d all of my life with trying to do all-the-things that I was told a good, fruit-bearing christian does. If I'm being perfectly honest and transparent with you, after awhile, I was burned out. I stop reading my bible for awhile, I occasionally prayed (usually during a crisis), until I would begin to feel guilty, doubt my salvation, and start the whole process all of over again. I even entertained at one time that I was simply not one of the chosen and that the reason this must be so hard was because God never intended for me to be with him forever in heaven to begin with. And can I just call that a lie from the pits of hell! But at my spiritual rock bottom, that's where I was.

In all honesty I think part of the problem was that in every case where a church body presented the steps to becoming a christian and led me to that point, beyond that, I was on my own. Other than instructing me to read my bible, pray, go to church, not a single person offered to come along side me and show me the way, which I realize now is because for the most part, they didn't/don't know it themselves, or at least, not all of it. The best advice I was given was to establish a slot and spot, open my bible, read, pray, get involved in a small group and find a place to serve. And guys I did ALL of that, and while for the sake of this post and the possibility of overwhelming you I will save most of that for another day, I have very strong and I feel spiritually founded beliefs about small groups and serving in the church, but I will share that with you in another post. All that to say, nothing about this model grew me spiritually. Yes, it filled me with a lot of head knowledge, if I retained it. I got a lot of great recipes from my fellow small group members, gained ten pounds, and I wore myself out physically and emotionally trying to make sure I checked serving off of my weekly good christian to do list. If I'm being honest, this aspect alone caused me to grow bitter and resentful  until eventually Sunday became my least favorite day of the week. I was so physically and emotionally worn out from all the "doing" and the "trying", that eventually I just gave up on the traditioal church model all together. Deep down, though I didn't know at the time what it was, I knew there had to be a better way. This couldn't be "life and life to the full" that Jesus offered.

It was around that same time that I began following a hand full of Catholic bloggers and became intrigued with the Catholic church, and in particular, the liturgical year, also known as The Year of the Lord. I loved the rhythm and ritual associated with it, and tracing the life of Christ from his birth, to his death and through His ministry. I first began by observing lent, and then advent and eventually incorporated some of the other feast days into my personal faith. But there were other aspects that I struggled with, such as praying to the saints, and the belief that Mary was born blameless and without sin, not to mention the idea of confession and the status of the Pope. So in spite of the fact that it had enriched my spiritual life and drew me closer to what I was searching for, I found myself in limbo. I was too protestant to be Catholic, and to Catholic to be protestant, and I've been in that stage, for several years, until now.

During the pandemic I've been spending a lot of time listening to podcasts and searching the archives of pastor's and churches that I respect and listening to sermons. I had bookmarked a number of them and saved them for a later day. I've shared with you before, or at least, I think I did, that my word for 2021 is SEEK. So towards the end of the year I set up a file with some links to some sermons and series that I thought might focus on that idea, and one of them, which I orginially thought was a stand alone message was called Unhurrying With a Rule of Life. Looking back I'm not even sure what it was about this message that caused me to think it had anything to do with seeking, I think it was that word "unhurrying" that caught my eye, because for two years I've been telling the Holy Spirit that I want my word for the year to be "slow", "simple", 'unhurried", but He's not playing my game, so, a-n-y-w-a-y. Like I said, two weeks ago I clicked on that link and that was when I discovered that this message was actually a part of a much bigger series called, Practicing The Way. And being a Type A, Enneagram 5 type person, naturally I HAD to start at the beginning, and can I say that for once in my life my natural tendencies and personality served me well, because guys, I sought, and He is answering through this series. 

So, this series unlike any other instruction on being a christian has done before, keeps it pretty simple. There are three aspects to being a disciple (student) of Jesus Christ:

- Being With Jesus

- Becoming Like Jesus

- Doing the things that Jesus did.

And guys, that's it! Now you have to understand that Jesus did a LOT of things, like being in the word, and engaging in silence and solitude, observing the sabbath, fasting and praying, just to name a few.These are ALL of the spiritual disciplines that not only Christ, but that members of the early church engaged in, and yet NOT once in all the years that I have attended church has anyone ever instructed me in this, but it's all there! Yes, reading the bible and being in the word is one of those practices, BUT the instruction I received in all the years prior to this did nothing more than fill my head with knowledge, and knowing something is not enough, it's not even the purpose of God's word. Even Satan knows scripture! The purpose of reading the bible is to be with Jesus so that you then become like Jesus and to learn about how He lived His life so you can then go out and do what He did! Maybe this all seems so obvious to you, and  I hope it does. It has honestly been embarrassing for me over the years to watch my friends seem to effortlessly live out their lives with Jesus while I struggled to understand why this "formula" just never seemed to work for me. But now it has me wondering if they aren't missing out too, because I can promise you I know for a fact that many of the spiritual disciplines that characterized Christ's life have never once been mentioned in the churches I've attended. There are reasons for that, I'm just learning, and we can discuss that more in depth in future posts, but guys I am telling you, I've been missing out and missing the whole point and now, I get it! This series has been LIFE CHANGING for me and I'm barely even into it! I'm just now working my way through the Vision Casting portion of the series, and if you decide to listen to it I would encourage you not to skip over that part. While it was created to cast the vision to a particular church body, it will still benefit you in understanding the history behind the practices and why they are vital to growing as a disciple of Jesus Christ

So finally, you can expect that I'll be sharing more as this series and its transformative impact on my life is front and center at this time, in conjunction with striving to live a slow, sustainable lifestyle, and isn't it just like God that it all is just coming together in the most beautiful way, so much so that it feels like a gift I feel unworthy to receive!  I'll still include other content here as well, so if this isn't your cup of tea or it doesn't speak to you, then feel free to skip over this post and others related to it. I'll be back soon, becuase I have so much more I want to share with you! This is only the beginning!

~ Peace.

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