We’ve Got To Do Better: Making Ministry the Heart of Church

I am not among those who have given up on the local church.

But I AM critical of the way we in the U.S. –and especially the Southern U.S. -do church.

Let’s be honest. 

Most of us go to church because it makes us feel good, refuels our spirits for the week ahead and is a safe spot to park our kids for a few hours respite from the demands of parenthood.

An added bonus is that sometimes we get to contribute to a cause, a mission or a personal need without having to get TOO involved.

So we come away feeling pretty good about who we are, what we believe and how much we “sacrifice” for others and the Kingdom.

But this is not what Christ came for folks.

He didn’t come so that we can have a weekly club meeting, soothe our souls and shut out the world.  He came so that desperate hearts on the fringe could draw near.

He rent the veil so that no one who trusts His finished work is excluded.

Not even the messy and imperfect.

Not even the poor or unlovely or slightly crazy.

We have got to do better.

We have got to make church a place where people who have no hope feel like they are welcome.  We have got to reach out and reach down and reach across and pull those hurting hearts inside.

I know (believe, me, I know!) that it takes more energy than you want to exert.  It takes more flexibility than a crammed-full schedule can allow.  It takes more time and more emotional investment than any of us really want to spend.

But this is what Christ came for.

He came to expose the barriers religious people had erected between God and man. 

He came to make a way where there was no way.

How welcome are the truly broken to our house of worship? Do we want to see their pain, entertain their questions and offer hope that includes walking the road alongside them and giving support for the long haul?

Jesus came to heal the broken.

Healing takes time and resources. It requires personal commitment to those God brings into our lives. It is messy and can’t be boiled down to a formula or pamphlet.

Jesus has invited is to be His hands and feet.

Will we accept the invitation?

christ has no body but yours teresa of avila

If I Could Sing One Song This Would Be It: “Love the Broken”

I definitely don’t have a solo quality voice.

I can carry a tune but it’s best carried mixed in with others in a choir so the occasional missed note is barely noticeable. 

But if I was granted the ability to belt out a single song and have it broadcast far and wide, this would be it:  “Love the Broken”.

Not, “Love the Lovely” or “Love the Sexy” or even “Love the One Who Loves You Back”.

Nope.  

It would definitely be, “Love the Broken”.  

do justly love mercy

This is the song I’ve learned the hard way.  It’s the song that’s been burned into my heart and mind and soul and spirit.  It’s the song that resonates in any language, across time and across miles.

It’s the song every single heart can understand.

Because we have all been broken at one time or another.  

And we have all desperately needed love at one time or another.

I’m really not that great at many things.  I’m a decent cook, a mediocre housekeeper, a devoted but probably not up-to-the-highest-standards shepherd, a lazy gardener, and a wish-I-could-follow-directions-better crafter.

But I am a full on, all out, no-holds-barred lover.  

I am unashamed to speak blessing over strangers in public places.  

I will not be silenced by a sheepish glance when my kids wish I’d just stop telling them how very much they fill my heart with so many good things.  

I hug.  I give cheek kisses.  I hold the hand of a person whose heart is breaking just so they know they are not alone.

I believe with my whole heart that at least one verse of the New Song we will sing in Heaven is “Love the Broken”.  

Because isn’t that really what Christ came to do?

His ultimate act of sacrifice was to bring the broken and outcast into the Kingdom.  

He is Hope for the hopeless, love for the unloved, peace for the war weary soul. 

Truth is, I’m going to spend my life on something.

I want to spend it like Jesus.

the one little person you love

Repost: Fragments

I recently heard  a young woman describe a Chinese grieving ritual on an NPR broadcast:

At her grandfather’s funeral, his oldest son was tasked with demonstrating the depth of grief and pain the father’s passing left behind. He stood before the casket, raised a clay bowl above his head and smashed it to the ground while loudly wailing.

The bowl was shattered into fragments too small and too fragile to be put back together in any semblance of what they once represented.

Read the rest here:  Fragments

Blind and Broken

How do you know when you are blind?”…”You don’t…you only know afterward when you can see. The blindness of the disciples does not keep their Christ from coming to them. He does not limit his post-resurrection appearances to those with full confidence in him. He comes to the disappointed, the doubtful, the disconsolate. he comes to those who do not recognize him even when they are walking right beside him. He comes to those who have given up and are headed back home, which makes this whole story a story about the blessedness of brokenness.

[Barbara Brown Taylor, Gospel Medicine]

Oh, how I am tempted to build a wall between myself and Jesus!  

I keep thinking that I must be a certain way or do a certain thing to be worthy of His grace and mercy.

The checklists I create are really just a way to make myself feel better about my own helplessness.

And I am so very helpless.

There is no prerequisite to receiving grace.

He comes.  

He gives. 

He saves. 

I am the good shepherd. I am the one who really cares for the sheep. The good shepherd is willing to die to save his sheep.  ~Jesus

John 10:11 WE

sheperd

 

 

 

 

NO Heart is as Whole as a Broken Heart

It is possible to go through life without having to question your faith.

But I’m not sure that is a good thing.

Although I would never, ever have chosen this path, child loss has forced me to entertain questions I might have ignored and to dig deeper than I might otherwise have done if life had been easier and less challenging.

My faith is not blind faith. 

My faith is not unchallenged faith. 

my-faith-is-a-wounded-faith

I am facing the fact that terrible things happen even to those who love and trust God.  I will not parrot empty phrases that promise smooth sailing to new converts if they will “only turn their lives over to Jesus”.  

I don’t even know where we get that idea.  Every single disciple was martyred except John and he was boiled in oil and exiled to the Isle of Patmos.

faith-deliberate-trust

There are faithful believers starving TODAY, dying TODAY and suffering TODAY. 

Why should I be exempt?

‘No heart is as whole as a broken heart.’ And I paraphrase it differently: No faith is as pure as a wounded faith because it is faith with an open eye. I know all the elements of the situation; I know all the reasons why I shouldn’t have faith. I have better arguments against faith than for faith. Sure, it’s a choice. And I choose faith.

~Elie Wiesel

#thankful AND #broken

I wrote this post Thankful But Broken, in November, 2015-just barely 18 months after Dominic ran ahead to heaven.

If that’s how I felt THEN, it’s even more how I feel NOW.

Both the thankfulness and brokenness have burrowed deeper into my bones.

Losing the earthly companionship of a child I love has shattered my heart into so many fragments that I can’t find them, much less piece them back together.

But it has also made me oh, so aware of each day’s blessings and of each moment’s sacred holiness.

be-thankful-for-today-change-in-one-moment

I can receive more freely because so much has been stolen.  I appreciate what I have because I know what it is to long for what can never be again.  I can both hold onto and let go of people and things and trust that in the end all shall be well.  Because I know exactly what it feels like when all is most certainly NOT well.

The cracks in my heart make room for more love, more joy (muted though it is) and more thanksgiving than my whole heart could have ever held.

heals the broken heartedI am truly thankful.  AND truly broken.

So my November exercise is to embrace BOTH.

My ‘Thankfulness Journal” has two lines for each day:  “I am thankful for” and “I am broken over”.  Like the Psalmist, I choose to breathe out my brokenness in lament and breathe in the promises of God in gratitude.

I am sad and shattered that this life is hard.

I am encouraged and comforted that God is good.

I can admit both and still be faith-filled.

faith is deliberate confidence