The Road

Everything

As long as people of our Christian faith are merely coming to a service, listening to a message and leaving, they will never come face to face with their personal questions, failures, shame, and curiosity. They will continue to deny the need for a savior and life transformation. They will continue to believe that they can pick up the mantle of Christianity by saying some cheap prayer and going about their business. Authenticity is not just a best practice, it is a requirement. Jesus spoke directly to the obstacles in the hearts of men and women, and if we cannot emulate that, taking an honest look within, we can never even begin to see His footsteps, let alone follow them.

The biggest liars derailing an authentic community are ourselves, believing our lives to be complete, without sin, and the process to be over. We are always to be on a path towards Christ, which includes conviction and confession and then celebration. If we continue to skip the conviction and confession we are celebrating our own spiritual deaths.

We must know that the road to Jesus is paved with humility and love. Putting others first; sacrificing and the giving up of one’s life for others. The first will be last and the last will be first. Obedience is better than sacrifice; if you have an offering to the Lord but strife with another, first seek humility and harmony, then you can please the Lord with your offering.

But mustn’t we also know, then, that the road to destruction is paved with fear and pride. That they are one in the same, just as love and humility are. That it is not the poor who fear being poor, but the wealthy who fear being poor which drives their ego towards pride, and then greed, and then judging others. In this same way it is not the unsaved who fear hell, but the saved who live under this fear that drives the ego towards pride, and then self-righteousness and then the condemnation of others. This is what the world sees that the tower of pride we build has blinded us to. We talk so much about how a Holy life should be lived, but instead, lay our foundation on our own ability to accept, create, and control God, and in practice we don’t even believe He is real.

This is in direct opposition to the road to Jesus.

The Calling

Liturgy and Devotion, Poetry

Let not your heart fear to do what is right,
Be it the hardest request ever asked.

This world will try to conceal and complicate,
And detour you with sins of your past.

Still all is forgiven and all is lost
when you’re asked to follow the call.

The voice of forgiveness, mercy and grace,
is not taken if wanted, nor heard by all.

So drop your intentions and plans of defense,
and strategy that won’t win the war.

Brave is a new creature, without pride,
that is willing to trust evermore.

The enemy, real, the cost without end,
as many by the thorns are drowned.

Be wise to let go of all that you love,
and let the dead see themselves to the ground.

Darkness surrounds us and swallows us whole,
if vigilance is out of our sight.

Still the light never shined so bright and so pure,
as in the darkest of night.

In the Face of Uncertainty

Everything

In the face of uncertainty we often forget that we are not yet in our forever home. We, in fact, are not even close to home. We are far from the feeling that we have arrived, and that we can rest, and that all is right in the world. We are far from the notion that we are safe, and it is a time to lie down in the green pastures and bask in the peace that is promised.

Where we are now, we have the charge of toil, and testing, with a promised companion, but without the relief we so desperately seek. Let us not forget that all things here will end. We can no more hang on to the homes we live in as we can the flesh we embody. We are here as aliens, and much of what we encounter is foreign and strange, and difficult to understand.

Our companion serves as a guide in this foreign land, and will lead us to our promised forever home, but we must not become distracted by the troubles of this world, lest we lose sight of our guide. Rather, let us fix our eyes upon the one who gives life, let us be vigilant, long suffering, and steadfast in our faith. Let us remember why we are here. Let us remember that our presence here is to ease some of the suffering around us. Let us not believe the lie that we are here for our own comfort or glory.

Instead let our hands and feet be tired from lifting others out of despair. Let our hearts be saturated with the burdens of our brothers and sisters of faith. Let us lean into the promise we are given, and the truth on which we stand. For we were not promised a life of ease, rather a new life at the end of this temporary one.

Life without Lines

Everything

Featured photo by Shayan Sanyal

Church as a child was a Sunday occurrence, filled with donuts and coloring pages in service. Today, my husband and I host a church of 30+ in our home. The journey between these two points is filled with an amazing awakening of my heart by the movement of the Holy Spirit.

Needless to say the definition of church has changed drastically for me over the years.

It began as a place that I would go to think about God, which had very little to do with the other six days of the week. Church has now become so much a part of me I could not distinguish it from myself. It describes how I feel about God, how I feel about His people, how I live my life, how I love my husband, and even how I raise my family.

The change was so gradual that I almost missed it. Little by little the lines defining each area of my life were being erased, and what was left was complete continuity of my faith. First was my friendships, they began to take on the sound of church conversations. As I was excited for the second chance at life that I had been given, and as I began to realize that it was not a temporary change, I couldn’t help but share my heart changes with my friends. I felt more alive than I had in years. I felt like for once, my situation was not defined by my circumstances, but rather my God, who is literally the creator of the universe.

Next came my relationships with my children.

I began to think about the principles that God laid out in His Word as more than something to help me sleep at night.

They were really handy for knowing how to react to every situation I ran into. Now I must say that my life was not without real struggles. I was a single mom with two children under the age of two, but for every heartache, I turned to the scriptures to see if there was an answer, and to my amazement and increase of faith, there was.

I began to hunger for the Word as it healed, very specifically, every heartache that I had endured. I was so hungry for the Word that I began to read my bible during lunch in the break room of my very corporate and secular job. After a few weeks I was joined by other Christians with their bibles, and even curious agnostics who just wondered what this crazy book reading club was all about. I spent my time daydreaming about all of the purpose that God was infusing into each moment of all of the lives lived. It was all I could do to stay focused on the little things in life, when my eyes were so recently opened to the greater things.

I learned over the years that the excitement I was experiencing was quite common for the recently converted. What was not common was for that excitement and passion to endure. I have often seen newly converted Christians get corrected by over political, mature Christians that are in essence discouraging others out of acting passionate about their faith.

There is an unspoken rule to be faithful, but not too radical, to be a lover of Jesus, but not so strange that you give Christians a bad name.

I guess I have never been one to conform, because I still can not follow all of the political rules to Christianity. I am still moved to tears with passion at the thought of all that I have been given and forgiven each day. I am still compelled to speak of God with reverence, and the Bible with awe at its power.

Fast forward to today, my husband and I want nothing more than to share with others that they are not forgotten, not alone, that their pain and suffering is not for nothing.

We long for others to experience the freedom that comes with knowing that there is a God who can heal their hearts, use their heartaches to reach out to others, and that Jesus can forgive them of anything they may be carrying around.

It turns out that my faith can not be contained in one day of the week, or in one song, or even in many of these combined. God has brought me through so much, and given me so many blessings that I thought could never happen. Today I spend 6 days a week in my church building doing my day job, and every second of every day being the church everywhere. My job feels nothing like a job most of the time, and my faith feels nothing like it did long ago. The lines for me of separation between my life and my faith are completely gone. I no longer think about God only on Sundays, and I no longer eat donuts, but life without lines is much sweeter than the church I once knew.

Lost in the desert, where the promise began.

A Church in Formation

WANDERLUST

A desert is a barren area of land where little precipitation occurs and consequently living conditions are hostile for life. The lack of vegetation exposes the unprotected surface of the ground to the processes of denudation. About one third of the land surface of the world is arid or semi-arid, otherwise known as desert.

A little over eight years ago our family had just moved to a new town and I was placed on bed rest while awaiting the arrival of our youngest son. While this may seem a pleasant break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to most, I can assure you it was not this way for me. I was at 16 weeks gestation and had 24 to go with strict orders to doing nothing.

It was then that I first felt it. The pulling devastation of the desert. The dryness of heart and soul. Now some could argue that pregnancy hormones were at play, however, this was not my first pregnancy, and I was certain that this feeling was very new.

I spent far too much time making lists of things that made me happy or sad, and journaling every thought that came to mind. For some time my process of searching out the root of my arid condition drug on. It was in a moment of frustration that I picked up my Bible seeking an oasis from the abrasiveness of pain.


Psalm 42 is what I read.

As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
For the help of His presence.
O my God, my soul is in despair within me;
Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan
And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls;
All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.
The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime;
And His song will be with me in the night,
A prayer to the God of my life.
I will say to God my rock, “Why have You forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me,
While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.


I had found the remedy to my torment… it had been months since I had been to a church service. I began to ask my husband each week to go to church. At this point in our life we lived 45 minutes away from Northland, and my husband was disenchanted with the institution of church. Still, we dredged our growing family every Monday evening to worship, and yet it was not enough to quench my thirst. Sure, it was a step in the right direction; the pushing back of the darkness within, and yet I looked to the skies and the rain to my soul did not come.

I ponderously noticed that going to the Monday night service was just as lonely as sitting at home. For me, a struggling introvert, it became far too easy to be lost in the abyss of seats and the backs of heads of fellow Christians who had no idea that I was suffering. It became clear that being in Christian community was something more, and an essential element to my spiritual health. It was at this point that we first conceived to navigate a home church. After so long, the early days of home church were experienced as awkward at best. Still, we gathered our closest 5 friends and their significant others and set out on our journey. At last, I had begun to push back the complete isolation I was lost in. My wandering had been given direction and I could now clearly see the fire I was to follow through my desert to the promise land.

SOJOURN

The Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.

Exodus 13:21-22 NASB


The first steps of a journey are a glorious feeling of shaking off “the chains of old” and moving towards the boundless future. Something happens by around the two thousandth step though, you notice your feet are aching and your nose is full of dirt, and you are hungry and tired of walking.

All of a sudden, one mile into the journey, you consider going back. You begin to remember all of the good things about the place you just left. With time and a little distance, the chains which once brought you anguish begin to visit your memory as would a safe and familiar friend.

Living in an authentic Christian community is not like they show you in those campy Christian films that highlight all of the wonderful things that instantly happen to those who traverse the path of righteousness.

Living in an authentic Christian community is a lot like living with people who are broken and whose lives are in disarray, and who are in need of a little saving from themselves quite often. This can be rough for someone whose heart is on the mend. For someone who believes that they are “taking hold of their faith” and “doing the work” this can be devastating.

Every time someone was not able to make it to our house church gathering my heart was silently clenched by fear that I was not doing it right, or that they were not doing it right. I prayed fervently for all of us, and begged God not to send me back into the arms of despair.

Years passed, and while I grew in the Word and in faith, my joy turned into my burden. I then sought to fill my life with success as measured by the leaders of faith. Those who stood on stage, those who had been a part of the church organization since before I was born. Those who were most often quoted, those who were “famous” in Christian circles. I tried to get more connected, to be more intentional, to push the boundaries of my faith into movement. “You just need more!” I told myself.

These too, proved to be empty endeavors. More time around Christians did not grant me depth of relationships. More church did not grant me less lonliness, guilt, and fear. More “doing” was doing the opposite. So I sat down and cried.

Tears do an amazing thing sometimes. They remind us that we are mortal, that we are fragile, that we are in every essence of the word human. Somewhere in my tears I muttered a prayer that I give up. That if God wanted something done He can just go ahead and do it, because I was tired of working out my salvation for Him and getting kicked around.

And then the burden lifted. I did not notice its absence at first. Perhaps I mistook it for apathy, or some snubbing attitude towards God “You do that! That’s your job God!” I would say in my mind… and He DID! What happened next could not have been taught through instruction or learned vicariously, it can only be understood through personal experience.

MOUNT ZION

When you spend your days taunting and goading the God of all creation, and when He finally turns around and answers, you shut up and listen. It was time for truth, from the one who is truth. It was time for a life lesson from the one who is life.

My friends often joke about what they call “my red line to God” like in the classic movies where there is a red telephone to call the man in charge. While I am most jovial at this illustration of my prayer life, the development of said prayer life was quite humbling in contrast. Let’s just say that Job quickly became one of my favorite books in the Bible.

When I would see an issue that needed addressing I would smartly lay it in God’s lap and challenge Him to do something about it. God would, as any loving father, show up and put me back in my rightful place with His power every time. As I realized what was happening, I began to be more careful about what I prayed. I began to only pray for forgiveness and that God’s will would be done.

Gently God began to speak to me in my prayer time. That is, after I was done telling Him how to do His job. As soft as a lovers caress was the life giving voice of the one who created me without blemish or fault. As renewing as the night is to the scorching of the day was the forgiveness and understanding that I received. God was neither surprised nor bitter about me trying to control my faith or my life or even Him. He knows the struggles of my heart, and offers His grace and presence in spite of my brokenness.

As my ears were tuned to the Holy Spirit, I was convicted of the actions that were leading me away from God. The sundry list of things I “shal not do” grew, but the burden became lighter then ever. My joy returned to me, and for the first time in a long time I was worshiping God with every action in my day.

Meanwhile, in the world of circumstances, things were falling apart. I see now that there were false idols in my life that were being shattered, as my faith and joy was being restored by the presence and voice of God.

THE LAND OF MILK AND HONEY

After the death of our first home church, the prospect of beginning another one was kind of like spying the giants in the promise land. It appeared as though we had huge things to conquer just to set foot in that fanciful place.

This time around there was one thing that we were going to be intentional about; we would be sure to acknowledge that we are God’s Church.

How simple a requirement, and yet how lovely a concept. To keep the focus on God. To lean into God in a way that we are not “doing” church but we are “being” church. Out of that would come everything else. Out of our relationship with Jesus would come all that we are and do. Jesus would be the example, the defining characteristic, the cornerstone, the living water, the center to each of us and to us collectively.

Thus Abel house was born. “Abel” was chosen because Abel’s offering was pleasing to the Lord, and because he was the “keeper of flocks” not the “tiller of ground.” Genesis 4:2 NASB

So here our next chapter is being written. We are a broken people, who need saving from ourselves. We are a people who face giants together, in prayer. Giants like sickness, loss, hardships, and discouragement. We also share praises, encouragement, fellowship, laughter, and successes.

It takes courage to be a part of a house church. You will be known by name. Others will dare to share in your pains and your joys. It will be difficult to hide, or to remain anonymous, to zone out, or to suffer alone.

The blessings that come from being a part of a house church are, however, without measure. Not one of us is greater than the other, yet together we are greater than one. We have seen God moving, answering our prayers, strengthening our knowledge of who He is, bringing life to relationships that were strained, growing our faith, and enriching our worship. We are not the church gathered in one place. We are so much more then transports of the Church. We are members of one family, of one body, coming together for one purpose, to “be” exactly as God prescribed.

“I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.”
Leviticus 26:12 NASB

Legacy

Everything

Right now, as I write this post, my grandfather’s very long life is slowly waning. His name is Ed McGuire, and he has been a pillar of faith in my life. When I was wayward and feasting with the swine, he was on his knees for my life. When I was in need of encouragement he reminded me that I can be anything that I put my mind to. When I was afraid of my inadequacies, he was the gentle reminder that my life is not my own. The most paramount realization that I have had about my grandfather happened around six years ago. We had taken a trip to Sioux Falls to have a family reunion, and most of our family was gathered in many different homes and hotels around the city. Robert and I were traveling with three of our children so my grandparents insisted on us staying in their home, which was my mother’s childhood home.

ed

A beautiful thing happened the first morning I awoke in my mother’s childhood home. I realized as I stumbled to the kitchen around 6:15 that my grandfather had been up and out of the house and was just returning home to fix breakfast for us. As he put the coffee on I absentmindedly asked where he had been that morning. His answer has impacted my life more than any other conversation I have ever had. He explained that at their church there is always someone praying every hour of the day. That morning he had been praying as he does every morning, from four to six o’clock. He then unrolled what looked like a mini scroll with hundreds of names on it. He explained that he barely had enough time to get through each name on his list, and how he wished that he had just one more hour to pray for his loved ones.

On that list I saw my name and many names later were my children’s names, and my ex followed by Robert’s name. My grandfather saw that I recognized both names, and he apologetically and humbly explained that once he adds a name he does not remove it. He later apologized to Robert for having George (my ex) before him in his prayer list. He explained that he is aware of the struggles with addiction that George faces and expressed that he feels that George needs prayers more than we realize, even though he had abandoned his family. I found his prayer time as a whole to be utterly enchanting. To be so devoted to prayer, to carry a name and pray with such love that would span decades and relationships. What an amazing gift he had been silently giving to us all. What a treasure it was that my grandfather, whom many in my family call a stoic man, was sharing such heart and passion and beauty with me.