When What You Want Isn’t What You Need (From the Midweek Encounter Blog)

Every few weeks, I write a post for my church’s Midweek Encounter blog reflecting on that week’s sermon. We’re in a message series about layovers in life, and I especially appreciated the reminder this week that while God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want him to, he does answer them how we need him to.

 

When What You Want Isn’t What You Need

There’s a worship song we sing pretty regularly at Encounter that I struggle with at times. Called “Always,” it includes these words:

Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always
I will not fear, His promise is true
My God will come through always, always

 
One Sunday after singing it, I remarked to a friend that I wasn’t sure I bought it. At that point in my life, it seemed as though God was either moving really, really slowly, or perhaps not at all. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe God was there, but it was difficult to see how and where he was working. When we’re in a layover season in life, a time of uncertainty, disappointment, loss, heartbreak, change, or any number of other things that seem to keep us from moving from one place to the next, it can feel like “He will not delay” is a bit of a lie.

 

Keep reading at the Midweek Encounter blog.

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You Can’t Screw Up God’s Will (From the Midweek Encounter Blog)

For the past few weeks, my pastor has been preaching on finding God’s will. While it’s a topic that’s important at any stage of life, it feels particularly relevant in these young adults years. I’m a regular contributor my church‘s Midweek Encounter blog that offers reflections on Sunday’s message, and this series seems especially fitting to share here.

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You Can’t Screw Up God’s Will

Every time I hear a sermon or read an article or book about finding God’s will, I hope that this will be the one that makes it clear for me once and for all. Yet even as we after hearing about the importance of knowing God’s word, of surrounding ourselves with people who will give us godly advice, and learning how to seek God’s perspective on things, the decisions we face in our everyday lives can still seem cloudy. Which job should I take, or should I go back to school? Is this the right school for my child or would they do better at that one? Should I stay in Grand Rapids or move somewhere else? If we apply all the good tactics Pastor Dirk has been talking about for the past few weeks, we can still be looking at these decisions with concern that we’ll make the wrong choice.

Keep reading at the Midweek Encounter blog.

When Prayer Feels Pointless (From the Midweek Encounter Blog)

Every other week, I write a post for my church‘s Midweek Encounter blog reflecting on Sunday’s message. Our message series has been on prayer, which has had led me to have the not-entirely-uncommon (for me, anyway) feeling that my pastor is, in fact, and annoyingly, talking directly to me. Which has also helped validate my suspicion that I am not the only one who struggles with prayer.

 

When Prayer Feels Pointless

As someone who grew up in Christianity-saturated community, I’ve been told all of the “correct” answers for when we feel like God isn’t listening to our prayers.

“His ways aren’t like ours.”

“He answers prayer, just not always in the timeline we’d like him to.”

“When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.” (Okay, that one might have come from The Sound of Music, but I’m sure someone has said it at some point too.)

At least for me, prayer is one of the most difficult parts of following Jesus. I’d be willing to guess that unanswered prayers have been a catalyst for more than a few people to walk away from faith entirely. For those of us who have ever prayed, even if only a handful of times, at some point we’ve probably all wondered what the point is. We’ve probably wondered if God is actually paying attention, or if our words just fall to the floor, empty and meaningless. Maybe we’ve prayed the same thing for weeks, months, or years, and though we’ve been told that God answers prayers, even if it’s sometimes with a “No,” it seems that he has completely overlooked ours.

Keep reading at the Midweek Encounter blog.

 

Lessons from The Little Rascals (From the Midweek Encounter Blog)

Every other week, I write a post for my church‘s Midweek Encounter blog reflecting on Sunday’s message. I thought this week’s had a bit broader appeal than some, so I’m sharing it here.

 

As a child, The Little Rascals was one of my favorite movies. My siblings and I watched it more times than I can count and nearly had it memorized. At the beginning of the film, Spanky and his friends Alfalfa, Stymie, Porky, Buckwheat, and others form the He-Man Woman Haters Club, which pretty much exists to keep girls out of it. As the movie goes on though, we discover that Alfalfa has not only been hanging out with a girl named Darla, but even serenading her with a love song on a romantic boat ride.

When the other boys find out, they are shocked and even a little grossed out, so they hatch a plan to break up Alfalfa and Darla. Yet through a series of events, by the end of the movie the boys realize that Darla and her friends are not so bad and invite them to hang out in their clubhouse. While there are a variety of circumstances that bring about this change of heart, it all began with Alfalfa.

Though we may not make official signs, I think the Church often creates its own versions of the He-Man Woman Haters Club. It can be easy to point this out in the Church as the worldwide body of Christ, but we cannot ignore the implications for us personally. We may not make physical signs, but we make them in our thoughts, behaviors, and hearts. There are certain types of people we are just hesitant to enfold into Church life. Maybe we base it on occupation, income level, sexual orientation, age, political views, or any number of factors. After a while, we get entrenched in the mentality of there being an insider “us” factor to the Church, and an outsider “them” label for those we don’t deem worthy.

Keep reading at The Midweek Encounter blog.

Toddler Jesus

In addition to this blog, I also contribute to my church’s  blog about every other week. Since this one isn’t based on the sermon, it seemed fitting to share it here as well.

 

As Christmas approaches, I’ve been thinking about Jesus. Sometimes I forget he was human, that he walked around and talked to people and ate food and all the physical, tangible activities that come with being human. Nativities and storybooks portray Jesus as a serene infant held in his mother’s arms, or the more accurate ones might show him as a toddler when the wise men paid their visit.

While these pictures present a snippet of truth, as I imagine Jesus did snuggle with his mom sometimes, I think they only portray a portion of it. 

Because Jesus was human. 100%, sippy-cup-toting, clapping, shrieking, tantrum-throwing, nose-wiping-on-Mary toddler human. 

Keep reading

Why I Keep Writing About Church

I write about Church a fair amount. It’s a touchy topic, one laden with emotion for many people. Church can be complicated and messy, and it can bring up bad memories or reopen wounds we thought had healed.

But I keep writing about Church because I keep seeing the good side of it, and in all the Church bashing that takes place, I sometimes think Church could use some cheerleaders. I haven’t always been in a place to be that person, and I know that I won’t always be. For now though, I able to champion Church, to remind us of the good of Church in spite of the bad.

Photo Credit: Flickr User  Arian Zwegers, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Arian Zwegers, Creative Commons

For much of my childhood and teenage years, going to church was something my family simply did. There were times when I enjoyed it well enough, though I don’t remember actively looking forward to going to church very often. The first two years of college, I bounced around churches a bit until deciding to stick with one for a few months. Finally, as I drove away in tears yet again because no one seemed to have the time to say hello to the college girl attending by herself, I figured God didn’t want that for me either.

Then, through a situation I can only describe as a “God thing,” I found out about a new church. I showed up once, and have kept showing up ever since. Almost every week I drive away from my church wishing I could hug it, feeling incredibly grateful that God has blessed me with this community for this season of life. It is nothing but a gift to be able to show up to the same place each week, to look forward to hearing sermons, singing songs, greeting friends and making making new ones, to seeing all the ways that God is using the church and the people in it to bring little pieces of his kingdom here. It is not we that are doing good things though, it is He. Anything good that comes from our church is simply an expression of God’s grace, and we are merely players in it.

I can’t tell you what the future holds for me, my church, or my involvement there, but right now, I don’t think I’ve ever been more certain that God has me somewhere for a reason.

I also fully realize good church experiences are not the case for everyone. I don’t want to deny or excuse the dark side of Church—the abuse, the exclusion, the hypocrisy, the judgment, the hurt—but I also don’t want to ignore the good side of Church because of those things.

So I will keep writing about Church, because maybe it can breathe hope to someone who has never felt this way about Church, thinks they will never feel this way about Church, doesn’t even believe it’s possible to feel this way about Church. I wish everyone could walk or drive or skip away from church wanting to hug it, because I think that’s how Church in its perfected state is supposed to be. It won’t always be that way, because sometimes Church is just really hard.

But it can be so, so good too.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What are some of your good church experiences?

The Beauty of Church

Three years ago, I walked into a church that met in a school. I heard about it in an odd manner, as the pastor had stopped into the ice cream store/coffee shop where I worked at the time, looking for my boss. He asked me a little about myself, and we chatted for a few minutes before he left his business card for me to give to my boss. The church’s website was listed on his card, so when I got home, I looked it up. A few weeks later, on the last Sunday of August, I attended for the first time.

Today, on the last Sunday of August three years later, that same church I now call “mine” celebrated a huge, momentous occasion. We had our first service in our very own building, only three years after we officially started meeting every week.

There’s an element to this that is crazy. The age of our church itself is young–only three years old–and demographically speaking, we are a very young church. We’ve seen the studies that say that Millennials are leaving Church as fast as they can run, and probably everyone who attends my church has seen that firsthand in their family and friends.

But we’ve also seen our Sunday morning services that, at times, nearly overflow with college students. The people that everybody says are leaving the church are coming to ours, but I don’t think it’s because we’re really awesome—it’s not our doing, but God’s. And we are blessed to be a part of it. I am blessed to be a part of it.

Both of our pastors and many in our congregation are Millennials—from those who never left Church, to those who left Church for a while but not God and decided to give Church another go with us, to those who never tried Church but are trying it with us—and a myriad of others in all sorts of life stages. We’re together, growing and struggling and discovering what it looks like to follow God well, no matter where we are.

And this thing that we’re doing, of buying a building and signing a mortgage and settling into a neighborhood, is risky and a little scary and a lot of exciting.

I’m not telling you it’s always easy. The nitty-gritty of running a church or getting a new building isn’t easy, and the personal work of going to church, getting to know people at church, of being church, is not easy either.

If anyone tells you that they always want to go to church, that it’s always easy for them to get involved and to feel like they belong, that church always feels happy and joyful—they’re probably lying.

Church isn’t easy.

Sometimes it’s really hard. Sometimes the sermons don’t seem to apply to you for weeks at a time. Sometimes you really can’t stand that one song they keep singing. Sometimes you want to sleep in on Sunday morning or skip that meeting on Wednesday. Sometimes your feelings get hurt and you feel a little lonely and left out. Sometimes you feel like it’s all a little pointless and can’t you still love God even if you don’t love hanging out with his people?

Yes, you can love God even if you don’t love hanging out with his people.

But some really, awesome, beautiful things can happen when you hang out with his people. I’m not saying they happy every day, every month, or even every year—but they do happen. And in those moments you see and feel the way that God is moving in Church and in those broken, messy people, and you count it all grace and mercy and love and you wonder how a feeling like that can possibly stay contained in your human body, because it just feels so out of this world because it is.

And that is Church. That is why my church has taken a bold, risky move by buying a building—because we believe in Church, of the power of God in and through his people to impact the lives of others, and perhaps, a neighborhood and even a city. We do what we do because our God is big and he moves in bold, risky, exciting ways. Because this is the beauty of Church.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How have you experienced the beauty of Church?