Monday, September 20, 2010

The Vine & The Branches

In 2007, God spoke to my heart a statement that truly was a huge jumping off point for my journey WITH Him:

you are not connected to God through the Church - you are connected to the Church through God

This seed in my heart continues to take on more significance every year. At that time He first planted it in me - I was praying for a replacement spiritual mentor. My grandma had just died and I was lost. The week she died, I found myself laid out, cheek on the sidewalk, soaked in my tears of pain - just aching. I ached for not being able to see grandma again on earth, I ached for my mom, I ached for the mentorship I lost, I ached mostly because I knew I couldn't fake it anymore. I felt in a way that I was coming before the throne just me for the first time. I kept crying out for God to help me know Him. That I wanted to TRULY know Him - like grandma did. I had always approached the throne through grandma or with grandma (without her even knowing that really) and it was time to run to Him myself.

I was brokenhearted - and He came close - as He promises. He responded to that genuine outcry to Him and planted this truth in my heart. I knew then that I could stop searching so hard for mentors. I really felt Him loving on me saying - I know that you feel that you don't fit in anywhere - you fit with me. I promise you that the church's (lack of) approval of you or notice of you is no indicator of me and what I feel about you.

I felt so empowered. I felt so loved! I really felt He was asking me to STOP putting people in between me & Him. Jesus was the ONLY intercessor I needed.

He reconciled me to Himself. I am His and nothing can separate me from His love. Late 2008 early 2009 - God then started giving me this wonderful passion for His Church. His Body. His Bride. I was reconciled with Him --- and now looking back I realize that the next step was allowing Him to reconcile me with His Body - the rest of the believers. I believe that genuine, loving, reconciled, authentic relationships with others are only possible through close relationship with Jesus.

It's a process - it's a journey and so He continues to reveal more and more - but right now as I wrote about previously, He has called us to step outside the pen - the usual Sunday scene and way of 'doing' Church. That's a whole other story but basically - the Shepherd called us out - and the sheep know the Shepherd's voice and answer to His call. I trust Him. I don't get it all - I can't see the whole path in front of me --- but I do see the lamp upon my path right here in front of me and hear what He's asking. I trust His Spirit in me. I don't need the safety of the pen when I have the safety of the Spirit. again... that's another story.... BUT

Recently He introduced us to some other sheep and one of them put this seed in my heart into such great perspective. When I told him all this that God had done - He said oh wow,

I am the vine, you are the branches. Matthew 15:5 The branches are not connected to each other. The branches are connected to the vine..... SO because of that - we are connected to each other. Yes! We ARE the branches! There's the scriptural backing up of what God spoke to me years ago.

Wow - 3 years later this seed in my heart continues to grow - thank you God! :)

I can't stop thinking of this imagery.

Right now I'm reflecting on the visual of branches and the fact that the branches are closest to each other when they are closest to the vine!! When they are further from the vine - they are further from each other! Much more to come....

Thank you Jesus for all your reconciling work!!

Monday, September 6, 2010

After the leap

God is so faithful. So big. So loving. So trustworthy!! It truly has been the most wonderful journey these past 2 years especially. I could probably write for half a day straight about all He has shown us, done for us, done in us & through us.....

If I could talk to myself in the summer of 2008 (and really specifically back to may 13th, 2007 when 'my' world was rocked) from today, the future... I would say oh Randi Jo you have just made a decision that will forever change everything. God is about to rock everything you thought you knew! I would encourage myself to never give up hope and keep on keeping on. I'm glad I can't see into the future though and see what the battles ahead look like. He is so smart to give us only a lamp unto our feet... and not a spotlight onto the whole path we have to go. We can handle ONE step at a time - and sometimes we even do a horrible job at that! ---- doubting Him, doubting Him in us, refusing to obey.

Yes this journey of accepting the Holy Spirit and learning to abide in God daily, allowing Him to truly be my KING, my LORD - daily submitting to Him.... has been hard. It is hard to go against the flow of the masses. Hard to "float upstream". I felt lonely for the majority of the time since He came into my life. I have felt lonely in rooms full of 'family'. Lonely in rooms full of 'friends'. Lonely with brothers & sisters in Christ. But through all of it - the truth is I was NEVER alone and I knew that - no matter how I felt. Christ experienced true loneliness... so I will never have to.

I have had times of resenting the seeds He gave me. I oftentimes hated the tension I felt as I sat in a room with people I loved who were making decisions to go one direction when I know the Spirit was nudging us exactly opposite. It was difficult to speak out what God was showing me knowing it would challenge others with a lot more experience, money, backing, popularity, and 'wisdom'. But God does use the foolish doesn't He? I am naive. I foolishly believe that He can use little old nobody me. and looking back I can see that the warning flags He gave me DID come true because of decisions made. I have to trust Him in me.

Sometimes it was more difficult to refrain myself and NOT go out "in a blaze of glory" flipping tables as our friends have described.... but He orchestrated our departure beautifully.

I am totally humbled at the seeds God planted in my heart and continues to. Many times I recognize seeds from God because they come out of nowhere. Like sitting in the shower thinking about the cheeseburger I just ate and then BAM something enters my thoughts so powerfully and so off the train that it is as noticeable as an elephant all of a sudden walking into my house. Many times the thoughts seem impossible... foolish.... and simply profound. Many times they are just little 'nudges' that may seem simple & meaningless and then looking back - I see listening to that 'nudge' started a ripple effect that profoundly impacted the molding He was doing in me.

God has grown in me a passion for Him and His Church.. out of nowhere. I was just a simple nobody in a traditional baptist church sitting in a pew and going through the motions... and He used the death of grandma to knock me to my knees (well cheek to the cement on the sidewalk) crying out to Him that I wanted to KNOW Him. TRULY KNOW Him like grandma did.

He has given me a passion for the Truth. Passion for sheperding and His Word. Passion for THE Message!

I am passionate about HIS work being done in us individually... and therefore in His Bride. I am passionate about our role of being Jesus' Bride & His Body... and the submission that is needed in that role. I am so in awe that He chose me to speak so much into.

To summarize where I am now ---- we leapt (leaped?) -- we made the decision to leave/step away from the system of things that we feel are becoming idols to many in our western culture... and things that we feel are ultimately ineffective in discipling people, unifying the Body or bringing glory to God. As hard as the leap was - it was easy. Everything up to the leap was a lot harder. Finally leaping was so beautiful to feel that freedom and just ahhhh peace.

As freeing as it felt - nothing in life is without some struggle. Just like baby birds leaping out of its nest into the unforgiving uncomproming gravity - we felt like we were doing nothing but fluttering as hard as we could at first. Fluttering as we felt we had lost some 'security' even though that wasn't true. Fluttering as we detoxed from the 'feelings, emotions and power' of the Sunday show. Fluttering as we had to come face to face with many of our idols we didn't even know we had. Fluttering as we realized how few genuine authentic relationships we had. Fluttering as we found out how much work God had to do in us - how badly we wanted to fit in and people please when God was trying to get us to focus on Him and not those around us. Fluttering as we had to come face to face with ourselves spiritually and be in a raw, real, genuine place with God - outside of all the theatrics.

but God is so faithful. After that period of fluttering... He has made sure to cover us in His love, encourage us through others & each other, reassure our souls through His Word & Spirit. Spur us back to obedience & the discipline of abiding in Him.... not because we were told to do it. Not because it's part of a 5 step process to be closer to Him... not because "everybody" is doing it... but because He called us and our heart responds. We desire to "Seek Him".... "Cry out when He is near" .

He has renewed us again and reminded us that HE is our strength. Though our little wings feel tired - HE is our rest. and He won't let us drop. HE gives strength to the weary.... those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength! They will soar on wings like eagles (Isaiah 40:31) Amen. This verse is so special to me. One of our verses we pray for Raymond and gave him at his birth. One of the verses my grandma (my spiritual mentor) really held tight to and passed on to me at a young age.

He has taken our little tiny tired aching wings and given us strength. In such a short time He has truly changed us in so many ways. Changed our marriage, changed the way we face decisions & the way we look at new information.

We have been gathering with brothers & sisters we actually met online over a year again but just never made the decision to gather. We have been meeting for about 3 months and last night had our 2nd "vertical" time with God together. We had been doing a lot of horizontal time before that - reading Life Together by Bonhoeffer, getting to know each other, sharing stories, encouraging each other in Scripture, sharing what God had been teaching us. And I'm so glad one of our brothers encouraged us into vertical time. Though I know the horizontal time is worshipping God as well! I love being together. I love worshipping God through many forms - as one Body. I love how Raymond sees it all play out. I love how he is there with us as we read the Word together, pray together, sing together, teach and encourage each other. I look forward to being in an even closer knit community in the future and taking even more steps to being the Body He desires us to be!

God has proven again and again how little He needs OUR work. It's not our work. It is His. Santification and His building of His Temple, His Body, His Bride.

As far as building His Church - HE IS! and I want to continue to participate in that. He keeps connecting us to others - in such cool - only God could have done that - ways and it's amazing how little marketing the Holy Spirit needs. But that's a whole other post!!!

God you have no need to prove anything to us - yet you care so much about our little nothing lives. You prove yourself faithful to us all the time. You are so trustworthy. So powerful.

I am not an emergent christian... I am not a christian hipster... I still don't know a label for us other than God's children, servants of the Christ, part of His Bride, His Church, His Body. I don't need a label.