Social Vs. Familial Groups

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In a recent post entitled “Finding Your Tribe”, I mentioned that as you discover your purpose and passion you may discover that the people around you do not share your passion or your vision. I recommended that you continue to pursue your purpose and trust that God will surround you with people who love and support you. The piece that I did not fully address is the difficulty associated with disconnecting from the group that you have grown accustomed to.

The Americanized version of church is a social group at its core. Their convictions are held in place by social pressure. There are so many churches to choose from that attendees often choose one where people think and believe the same way they do. As a result, the bonds that connect them tend to be more social than spiritual or supernatural. That is in stark contrast to the Bible’s view of Christ followers. According to the Bible we are to be brothers and sisters in Christ. This familial relationship was intended to be based on our common father, not on the ideals that we share inside a brick and mortar building. This distinction is important because as you begin to wake up to your calling and passion, you may find that you are part of a social group. If that happens you need to be aware that social groups behave differently than groups that share a familial relationship through Christ (Christ followers). I have spoken to several “Sleeping Giants” recently who, like our family, have awoken to discover that they were in a social club, not a group of brothers and sisters. That is why I am taking the time to address this topic.

In the post “What to do When You Don’t Fit In”, I shared the account of a church that was faced with members that felt like God was calling their family away from the group. In the post I detailed how beautifully this was handled. The members were sad to see them go, but their departure was not a threat to the group, because the group’s cohesion was based on a familial relationship, not a social ideology.

Social groups tend to be cliquish. You are loved and welcomed as long as you share the ideologies and expressions that form the core of the group. If you voice disagreement or act in a way that disagrees with the group’s core ideology, you are no longer welcomed in the group. For example, if you join a dog lovers club and then decide that cats are more important than dogs, vocalizing that will cause a distance between you and the other members of the club. This will most likely result in you no longer being welcomed to speak on behalf of the group. That is how a person gets removed from a social group.

In contrast, a group that is based on a familial relationship through Christ has another way of handling things. The Bible clearly lays out the process for confronting someone who is straying from core ideologies. The first step is a one-on-one conversation about the issue. I have found that these type of conversations solves a lot of problems. It allows a person to state their case and for two people to come to an understanding. Often what we perceive as a huge problem is simply a misunderstanding. If two are not able to come to an understanding the next step is to invite some others to witness the conversation. Finally, if the person still persists in their error, we are to treat them the same way we would treat someone who is ignorant of our core ideologies; with love, respect and kindness.

As I stated earlier, the Americanized version of church is social at its core. So, do not be surprised or offended if you are treated poorly when you begin to voice something other than the group’s core ideology. It does not mean that they are evil or out to hurt you. They are simply in a social group and are restricted to function within those parameters.

On the other hand, if you find yourself being confronted about your actions, as is detailed in Matthew 18:15-17, then you can rest assured that you are in a familial group of brothers and sisters, through Christ. You should take the opportunity to explain your actions, ensure your actions are Biblical and welcome the other person to speak into your life. Never assume that you, alone, hear from God. The familial structure is there to offer much needed balance. My sincere hope is that you are surrounded by brothers and sisters that are willing to weigh God’s direction out with you and that together you can be part of an experience that I detailed in “What to do When You Don’t Fit In”.

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Good-bye, Summer!

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Well, summer vacation is officially over and all the school madness is back in session.  One-fourth of the kiddos was excited about school starting again and has been talking about it since school ended in May.  I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t a boy.  Our once painfully shy caterpillar has morphed into a social butterfly and feels the need to be part of anything she can be accepted into.  Today is the fifth full day of school and already we are signed up for crossing guard, run club and Glee.  She also talks continually of soccer and tennis.  Forget cars for the teenagers, I think we need a car for the 5th grader.

Speaking of 5th graders…wow did I have a hard time sending her off to school this year!  I’ve never had a tough year like this one.  Kindergarten was bittersweet for me with all the kiddos, and I teared up a little each time, but this year…yikes, man!!  I think the humidity is making my eyes sweat profusely.  And who’s bright idea was it to have all the teachers lined up outside their doors for the open house AND on the first day of school so that my daughter felt the need to stop and hug every one of her previous teachers!?  Nobody needs to see you, get back in your classroom.  Those new parents can find you by looking for your name on the door.  I felt like I was walking the Green Mile.  A very humid, eye sweating Green Mile.  In spite of making me teary, I was so thankful to walk down that hallway and see the impact each of those beautiful faces has had on my girl.  She LOVES walking into that building every school day.

At least we are going back to school on a marvelous summer high.  We try to be very intentional about making memories each summer.  Doing something out of the ordinary so our kiddos have something fun to remember.  I know, I know isn’t our life out of the ordinary enough already?  But, we only have 18 summers with our kiddos and probably only 15 that they’ll actually remember.  Depressing isn’t it?  I want them to have 15 FANTASTIC memories.  My sister was a big help this year.  She got married just so we could have a summer memory.  Thanks, Greggles and Jackie!! 😉  We really did have an awesome time that involved my kiddos watching an active 2 year old (and teaching him ridiculous things to say) while we made tissue paper flowers, 200 s’mores favor bags, 200 fruit kabobs, and made and sewed roses onto the hem of a wedding dress in addition to beading vines and flowers around said wedding dress. Ok, the bride really did most of the dress work, but we helped a little.  I am taking all the credit for the 1,411 cookies I made for the reception though.  Yes, one thousand, four hundred and eleven.  I. Am. Awesome.  I really loved all of it and it didn’t seem like work at all.  I just like detailing the things we did to remind myself of just how crazy we are.  You know, in case I forget.  The kiddos were able to spend more time with my dad than they had in the previous summers since we have moved and they loved it.  They kept saying they didn’t remember that he was so funny.  Well, dear ones, I think you were too young to appreciate the brilliance of sarcasm while we still lived there.  Now you know.  Parenting win.

We also spent a little over a month with Aaron’s family where, in addition to everyone being spoiled, the older boys learned the value of working a really long, HOT, body breaking day of work.  John is a concrete contractor so they learned the art of setting up a job, re-barring, pouring, troweling, grinding, cleaning up and everything else I don’t understand about concrete.  I just said all those words because they’re what I overheard in conversations.  I have no idea if they’re even in the right order.  But the boys know, and that was the whole point!  A little blood, sweat and tears builds character.  Ha!  We celebrated Max’s 13th birthday with an all day trip to a water park.  Layers of skin were lost that day, and it was a miracle anyone’s eyes were able to stay open long enough to drive home, but we had a blast!  I thoroughly scared Jack (and the life guard) by screaming like a ninny on a ride that three year olds were bravely hopping on multiple times.  It was only mildly humiliating.

Summer is such a precious time for us.  We love being able to spend so much time surrounded by family and friends.  We love you all!!

Now, back to our normal out of the ordinary lives.

 

The First Video Blog!

Five+ minutes of pure awesome.  😉

Things Aren’t As Bad As You Think

Things Aren't Always As They Seem

We have been sustained by God alone for nearly 16 months now. When I say “God alone”, I mean that we do not make our needs known to anyone, except God, and rely on God to provide. Whether it be through people or provision “mysteriously” appearing in our wallets, the mail, the ground, God is in charge of it. We do not receive government assistance or solicit outside support. A family of 6 can not logically survive in this world without having a “real” job or government assistance, yet we have done it. How you ask? God provides. Jenny has faithfully documented each time this has occurred, but I wanted to share one example to illustrate what we are talking about.

This past weekend someone felt directed to give us $155. This was enough to cover two of our bills and leave us with $9. The kids will be on spring break next week and we planned to go to Illinois and visit family for the week. We were faced with a conundrum: Pay both bills and be unable to go to Illinois or pay only part of the bills and go to Illinois. Jenny and I debated about this for quite a while and neither of us felt peace about partial payments or missing a spring break visit. Finally, we decided to let the issue rest and decide later.

We went on about our day and I remembered a conversation I had over the weekend with Max (11 years old). We were preparing for bed and he said, “I think I know what God wants us to do”. I said, “What is that?” He said, “God always provides just enough for each day, so I think we should just pay or buy whatever we need each day and trust him to refill it the next day, instead of worrying about what comes next.”. That sounded good at the time and I congratulated him on his demonstration of faith. We discussed how it was Biblical (Matthew 6:34), but it is difficult to live that way, even though the Bible instructs us to.

Reflecting on the conversation, in light of our bill/Spring break conundrum, I realized that yet another portion of scripture needed to be proven true for our family. Did we trust God enough to “give us this day our daily bread” or were we still trusting in our own ability to plan? I discussed this with Jenny and together we agreed to pay both of the bills, in full, and trust God to “refill it” as Max said. We paid the bills and within hours someone contacted us and said, “I feel like I am supposed to give this to you.” and handed us $100. So, God did “refill it” and we go on to live another faith filled day.

I share this to encourage you about our situation. We are not as bad off as you might think. The God of the Bible is with us and he provides, just in time, every time. This is just one example. There are many, many others. As I have mentioned before, we could simply stop listening to the still small voice and trust in our own abilities once again, but no one in my family would be satisfied with that. Our adventure allows us to put our faith into action and see our children have faith that can not be generated via a church service, weekend conference or retreat. God is in the process of “healing our faithlessness” as he promised in the book of Hosea 14:3-4: “Assyria cannot save us, nor can our warhorses. Never again will we say to the idols we have made, ‘You are our gods.’ No, in you alone do the orphans find mercy.” The Lord says, “Then I will heal you of your faithlessness; my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever.

CAN I HAVE IT?

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The last few months have been, by far, the most difficult we have ever experienced in our faith walk.

There was a time when we tsked and turned up our noses at the children of Israel for their whining and lack of trust in God’s promises and his timing. When it’s your turn to wait on God’s promises and sit through his timing (which is not even close to our time tables) you realize how very similar you are to the children of Israel. When we’ve been given a promise we feel like it should happen right away. We would never say it or admit to it, but that’s our expectation. We turn into children that have been told, “when you’re old enough you can have a certain toy or privilege”. We say, “Can I have it yet? Am I old enough yet? Is it time yet? Can it be today?” The questions are never ending.

When we first moved to Tennessee, we felt that God had told us we would have more than enough and we would be a blessing to others. Then, he made it very clear to us that we were not to seek employment. Uh, how are we to have more than enough and bless others if we’re not working and being paid? We felt him issue a challenge to us, “Do you trust me more than anything else? Will you obey and follow me even when it makes no sense to you or to those who know you? Work for me and I will take care of you. Do you you trust me?”

This was, and still is, a very difficult challenge to accept. The work he has called us to is not anything that can be seen by others at this time. We are continually struggling with the thought that we look lazy to the people watching us. We’ve often been met with cynicism and scoffing. God doesn’t call people to not be gainfully employed and only “work for him”, right?…

The other part of the challenge God gave us was that, to trust him completely, we needed to give all our needs to him. We’re not going to ask people to help us. If we need something we tell him, and he will tell someone to send money, or groceries, or toiletries, whatever the need may be. Or, he’ll do it himself. Think Elijah and the ravens. It sounds terribly naive and childish, but that’s exactly what God asked and he has always provided. It hasn’t arrived when we wanted it and sometimes not even when we thought we needed it, but he always provides.

We had been in Tennessee for a year before God showed us exactly what our purpose here is. We are working with Kevin Adams to create a ministry that encourages other believers to step into their callings and passions even when it doesn’t make sense. We will have our own life stories as testimonies to share with them. We will be able to give them modern day examples of how God is there when you step out in faith. He’s not only the God of the Bible, he’s God right now.

So why is all of this so difficult? Even as I reread what I wrote I don’t see anything that’s overly trying. It’s trying because we live it every day. Because at anytime we could “rescue” ourselves. It’s the NOT rescuing ourselves that’s the hardest. We’ve been living with another family in a 3 bedroom home since December. Every month we wonder if we’re going to have enough money to put gas in the van to get the kids to school, we wonder if money is going to show up on time to pay our storage and phone bills or if all of our belongings are going to be lost, for lack of payment, and if our phone service is going to be terminated. We have to say “no” to the kiddos when they ask for their favorite cereal or a box of “fishy crackers”. If we were to go get “real jobs” we’d be out of this perceived mess in no time. We could work opposite shifts and be in our own home again and buying whatever groceries we want and paying bills on time with no problem. We lived that way before, we can do it again. It’s not even like it’d be a sin to go get jobs. That’s normal life stuff!! Except, God told us not to. He asked us to trust him completely.

Trusting him and waiting on him does not come easy. It’s heavy and it’s heart wrenching. God doesn’t want it to be that way for us, but this life is so loud it’s hard for us to completely trust him without worry. Upcoming or late bills, having $5.00 left in your pocket for the week when you still need gas in your van, not being able to let your kids go to after school functions because you can’t use that precious gas to bring them screams in your face very, very loudly. Life is loud and God speaks in a still small voice. He speaks to us and tells us to trust him and everything will be ok. We believe that, until life comes screaming in our face again. Trying to find that quiet place where you can focus on him and truly believe and live Matthew 6:24-33 is extremely difficult. It’s difficult to believe that when you seek him above everything else your needs are met as effortlessly as a lily blooms or a raven finds food.

This post isn’t to gather pity. It isn’t to rant and say “Woe is me!”. This is a real life post. We’ve been struggling with these feelings for awhile now and I couldn’t escape the thought that someone else is out there feeling the same things. You are wondering if you are the only ones that feel like walking away from the waiting and rescuing yourself. You are wondering if anyone else understands the weariness and heaviness of waiting on God. We understand. We understand and we want to remind you that God is always good. He doesn’t always make sense, but he is always good. If he gives a promise it will happen, and only he knows when the time is right. He’s making us new, he’s taking our hurts and replacing them with his strength, and only he knows how long that takes. Patience will produce a beautiful new creation and a modern day story of God’s power and faithfulness if we will trust and wait.

Jenny

Journal Entries Part 2

08/03/2014

We felt like we needed to go to church in Goodlettsville today, so we went but we are exhausted and ready to give up on this crazy adventure. The things that give us peace do not make sense. For example, we have peace that school for the children is not something that we need to worry about, but the first day of school is on Friday and we do not have resources for supplies, we do not have a house and the friends we are staying with live in a different county. All of these factors should give us serious anxiety, but they don’t unless we try to solve them by making something happen. If we simply listen to the still, small voice inside we are calm. The problem is that my mind is not satisfied with reassurance from the still, small voice; it desperately tries to figure out a solution for the school dilemma and in the process causes serious anxiety, fatigue and frustration. Additionally, the only marching orders we have from God are “pack up, it is time to go”. I just wanted to go back to being a sane, rational “Christian” that talks about God, attends church and has a job!

It was in a state of utter frustration that we went to church today. On the way Jenny and I vented our frustrations at God and I resolved to give up. After all, we have options. I could attempt to get my old job back or we could move to Illinois and stay with my parents. We told God that we needed a real, clear word from Him or we were going to have to quit.

We arrived at church 20 minutes late, due to construction traffic, and as we walked in the building went strangely silent (300+ people). A member of the congregation began speaking in tongues and a few minutes later this interpretation was given: “I spoke the world and universe into existence and I am aware of your situation. You feel that your circumstances are impossible, but I PROMISE YOU that I will handle it if you will allow me to.” It was as if these words were spoken directly into our hearts and we were instantly refreshed. The service continued and we left feeling very encouraged, as well as determined to follow God where our trust is without borders.

08/04/2014

Today we decided to rest as we intend to pack our suitcases, clear out the rooms at our friend’s house and “go” as that is the only direction we have from God. Our spirits are high.

08/05/2014

We packed the van with the last few items that needed to be moved to storage and took them to our storage unit, then we packed our suitcases and loaded the van up. We scheduled a house showing (after all, God told Jenny to pick a house) for the afternoon and planned to stay in our van until God told us where to go.

In the afternoon we prayed with our friends, thanked them for housing us and left to see the house. We looked at the house, prayed for the occupants and that the house would sell quickly, then we went to a local parking lot to wait on God. While we waited a couple came out to a dead battery, so we gave them a jump start, but outside of that, nothing spectacular happened. It is as if God got busy doing something else and has chosen to ignore this little band of crazy people. We are sleeping in our van tonight.

08/06/2014

A horrible night’s sleep! No one, besides Bella, slept more than a couple of hours and we were up by 5:30am. We went to the local Rec. Center to shower, etc. and then we spent the day by the pool. It was nice to be clean and relax, but the lack of sleep and direction from God was causing me to despair. Additionally, I was pulled over for expired license tabs (need to renew but I do not have a residence…). I just received a warning. Amazingly, the kids and Jenny have been full of faith all day. In the late afternoon our friends, from Franklin, texted and invited us over. I was reluctant to go as I wanted to wait until God spoke to us, but the thought of air conditioning and comfort of a home was too much, so we agreed to stop by for a visit. They were so kind and offered us loving care, food and insisted that we stay the night. I was too exhausted to protest, so we are sleeping in their home tonight.

08/07/2014

We slept in today and felt better as a result of sleep. I had the opportunity to talk, at length, with my friend and felt refreshed, but still frustrated with God’s lack of communication. We were invited to another friend’s home in Spring Hill for dinner, so we went there in the evening. They also insisted that we spend the night, so we did. We stayed up late discussing the pure insanity of “following God” but all agreed that there was peace from doing so. Just before bed, I went outside to get something from my van and walked right into God (no other way to describe it). I felt like he simply asked me to worship him. I was more inclined to poke Him in the nose and ask where he had been for the last two days while my family and I were living like gypsies, but I simply dropped to my knees and worshiped. It felt good.

08/08/2014

Woke up at 2am to a text from my mom advising me that my grandmother had a heart attack. It is as if God is allowing the pressure cooker to heat to the boiling point. We were directed to pack up and told that it was time to go, so we went. As a result, we are homeless vagabonds living out of our van and now my grandmother’s health is failing and I can’t even go see her. What does God have to say about all of this? “Worship me.” God is talking but he is not saying anything that we want to hear. The first half day of school is today and, as of this morning, we have no money for supplies or house to justify their attendance in the schools that they are registered in.

Our friends from Franklin have a son getting married tomorrow and we have volunteered to help with the groom’s dinner tonight. We have no money for gas and just enough to get to the venue and back to Spring Hill, so we needed to decide to either assist at the groom’s dinner or go to the wedding tomorrow. Since we would be the most use at the groom’s dinner, we decided to go there. Shortly after that decision, we were given $500, completely unsolicited. This allowed us to get some food, pay our phone bill, attend the wedding as well as the groom’s dinner and buy school supplies. The kids did not get to attend the first half day of school though.

On the way to the groom’s dinner we once again encountered God (no good way to describe it, sorry) but we felt He was acknowledging our family’s passion to wrestle with Him for His blessing. We had a wonderful time serving at the groom’s dinner and met some amazing people. We were also able to bless others who had a financial need. Overall, it was a good day. God talked (although He did not say what we wanted to hear), God provided and we were able to be a blessing.

08/09/2014

We attended the wedding today and had a great time.

08/10/2014

We went to a local church with some friends and found the worship and message refreshing, but we are frustrated again about feeling peace, when our kids can not attend school (out of county issue). After much debate and reasoning we decided to send them to school tomorrow. After all, they are registered, expected to be there and we could get creative with what we told them about our living situation. I confess that this is not directed by my spirit, but by my logic.

08/11/2014

Woke the kids up early, got dressed and started out for school. Alex, Jack, Jenny and I were so heavy in our spirits about going that we just wanted to cry. The boys agreed that it made sense that they go; their friends are expecting them and they want to go, but they can not say that God wants them to go. Jenny and I feel the same way, so we simply drove to a local parking lot and are waiting for direction from God.

In the late morning I emailed all three school principals explaining that we had to move from our rented home and were living with friends. It felt good to be honest, but I was concerned about what might happen. The Middle school principal contacted us right away and assured us that she would champion our case to the county school board and told us she would call us back with specific direction.

08/12/2014

We heard from the middle school principal this morning. She advised us to simply bring the kids to school and she would work out the behind the scenes details. It was to late to bring them today, so they will officially start tomorrow.

We also moved back in with our dear friends, so we are no longer van dwelling vagabonds. We finished the school supply shopping and are ready for a good night’s sleep (in comfortable beds!) and the first full day of school.

08/13/2014

The school day went amazingly! Alex had friends that meet him at the high school and showed him the ropes. Jack acted as mentor and guide to Max in middle school and Bella was met with cheers and excitement from students and teachers. God is good.

As I reflect on the last seven days, I can clearly see that God was up to something. It was not what I expected (we move out and He gives us our house, etc.), but it was just what was needed. We had a chance to bond more closely with others in our circle of friends, we were financially blessed by over $1,600 (the majority miraculously came from a government entity and was completely unsolicited), our children are able to attend the school of their choice, our license plate tabs are renewed in the correct county and, finally, we learned that our hope should be in God, not in what He will do for us. We got frustrated with Him because He was not doing what we wanted Him to (give us a house), and we failed to see that He was doing exactly what we needed.

Now that all of those details are in order, I am ready to pour myself into my work with author Kevin Adams. He and I share a passion for awakening the modern Christian to the amazing power and provision that faith alone can bring, and I am more passionate than ever to see that vision accomplished. I plan to write a blog post about that “ministry” (I don’t like that churchie word, but it fits) in the coming days.

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God is Completely Logical

Over the last year I have been challenged by many aspects of the Christian life. As a result, I have written extensively about how illogical God is. I felt this way because when I compared the God that I had been personally experiencing to the God that church had always told me about, there was a disconnect. The God I was always told about made sense, if you just understood the context of the Bible or the Greek/Hebrew root words, but the God I was following did not fit that mold. I had no doubt that He was directing me, because of the fruit that was coming from my life, but He asked me to do things that the God of church experience would never ask.

I believe I finally figured out why I was so confused. The following little exercise, comparing atheism to Christianity, helped me to see why I was so confused. This is simply my understanding of atheism and Christianity.

ATHEIST

Belief: There is no God

Actions in Life:

– Make schooling choices based on what will give you the best possible job opportunities.

– Make career choices based on what provides the most money and still allows time to enjoy life.

– Choose a spouse that agrees with your life goals.

– Pay off debt, save for kids college and retirement.

– Be as kind as you can, because you will reap what you sow (Karma).

– Give to charitable organizations (good karma).

CHRISTIAN

Belief: There is a God

Actions in Life:

– Make schooling choices based on what will give you the best possible job opportunities.

– Make career choices based on what provides the most money and still allows time to enjoy life.

– Choose a spouse that agrees with your life goals.

– Pay off debt, save for kids college and retirement.

– Be as kind as you can, because you will reap what you sow (Bible says so).

– Give to charitable organizations (Church says so).

– Attend church

When I compared the lives of Christians and atheists I realized that they were essentially the same. Their faith statements were different, but their actions were the same. As a result, I do not fault someone who elects to free up their Sundays and Wednesdays by changing their monicker from Christian to Atheist. The major challenges to a change of this nature are mental and social, not practical. In other words, since Christians and Atheists don’t mix, you will need to change the people that you interact with on a regular basis, but you will not need to change the fundamentals of how you live your life (see lists above). You will just need to overcome the mental (I could go to hell, etc) and the social (what will my friends/family say) obstacles and that is not easy. As a result, people rarely change their labels.

This challenged me to examine the God of the Bible more closely and without the rose colored glasses of religion. What I have found is that the God who led me to Tennessee and oversaw the destruction of my empire, is the same God that is in the Bible. He called Abraham to a land that he did not possess, told him he would have a child in his old age and then left him to wait. He gave Joseph a dream and then put him into an Egyptian prison for years. He called Moses to deliver the Israelites from Egypt and then hardened Pharaoh’s heart so he would not let them go. He delivered the Israelites from Egypt and then wedged them between the Egyptians and the Red Sea. He anointed David King and then gave Saul an evil spirit that caused him to chase David into the caves like a rat.

Once I stopped comparing the God of Sunday church to the God I was following (seemingly to my doom!) and started comparing the God I was following to the God of the Bible, I realized what He is doing, in my life, follows a Biblical pattern. He had a plan and He looked for people brave, or crazy, enough to follow Him no matter what He does and He showed the world His power.

I could easily return to the Christian life and make my choices, as detailed in the Christian list above, but I have chosen to put my life in the hands of the God of the Bible. As a result, I am confident that He will continue the pattern, from the pages of scripture, and will show Himself powerful in my life. I am not interested in simply living a good Christian life, I am intent on living a life like the faithful from Hebrews chapter 11.

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