To Be Told conference notes: part two

It’s quiet in my house.  Well except for the squeaky ceiling fan.  It has a rhythm as it spins and while sometimes it’s unnerving and I just wish it would stop, other times it’s like a comfortable metronome just ticking off the day.  It becomes white noise as I sit here and think how to form my words.

I still have pages and pages of notes from the conference and it’s interesting how themes continue to pop up in various places.  When God determines to teach me, it seems he does it intentionally, driving nail after nail into his point until something finally pierces a hole in my wrong thinking.  There is a rhythm to it, like the ceiling fan.

As I continue reading  through all my conference notes, one little sentence that I jotted down popped out at me just now:

Don’t dismiss your story because it’s not as odd or extreme as someone else’s.

How many times have I done that?  How many times have I looked at the course of my life with Jesus and thought, Where’s my big moment?  Where’s the one definitive place where I can say that it was there, yes right there, that Jesus stepped in?  It’s just not anywhere to be found.

Because as I look back, I can find no one moment where he rode in and changed my world.  No one specific moment where I laid on the floor weeping in surrender and then stood up new.  No one wild moment where he pulled me out of a black hole and suddenly everything was different.

No.  I don’t have one of those absolute moments that I can say that it was exactly here that Jesus changed me.  And for a long time I thought that made my story less than impressive.  Jesus was just always there.  Minus a few spans here and there, I’ve always been involved in church, always known of God, always called myself a Follower.  I had an extraordinary conversion story worthy of a podium and a microphone.

It’s just always been.  Sometimes we are close.  Sometimes I push him away.  And sometimes I’m angry and don’t speak to him for a while.  But it’s always been.  We’ve always been.

At the conference, Dan Allender said that God is the author of our stories and that before we live a single day, God has written those stories in their entirety.  And each of us have  stories…yes, the little individual ones like how learned ride a bike or how we met our best friend…but more than that –  we each have the story of who we are that was penned by the Creator of the Universe.  No two are the same.  There is no other story like mine and, as Dan said, no other story reveals about God what my story does.

So while my story may not look or sound as magnificent as someones else’s, my story is mine.  And while there may not be one big moment where sparks flew or a bush caught on fire, there have been innumerable stories of where God showed up.  My life has been one long dance with Jesus full of spins and dips and even moments where I chose to dance with someone else and all the while, he waited for me.  He waited until I saw my new partner for the idol it was and ran back to dance with my true love.

Do you see that?  Do you see where he has always been there in your own life?  Maybe, like me, you don’t have a wild beautiful story of the moment your world changed.  You can’t put your finger on that one moment in time to say “Here.  Here it is.”  But it doesn’t make your story any less incredible than anyone else’s.  It is our stories that reveal God in us and those stories must be told.

Tell yours.

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To Be Told conference notes: part 1

So as promised, I’m going back through my notes from the To Be Told conference with Dr. Dan Allender this weekend.  You know how when you hear somebody speak and everything they say is like “WOW” and you can’t write fast enough?  Yeah, that was me.  I’m planing to listen back through to a copy of a previous conference to see if I can pick up on some of the things I missed writing down.

However, one thing among several that stuck out to me was this:

Your calling is not what you do, but how you do it.

It took a minute or two for that to sink in.  For me to really grasp what Dr. Allender was saying.  Honestly, it was probably the next day before I really understood what he was getting at.  And then it was like a light came on.

I’ve felt so lost since I left my church in regards how I can go about serving God in the areas of the my “calling” of leading worship and Bible teaching since I don’t really have anywhere to do that now.  Both of those areas are definitely dear to my heart and places where I thrive.  Music makes me come alive and I love studying the Word of God.  I’ve been told so many times, oh leading worship or teaching the Bible is your calling, and I’ve surely felt that to be true.  But after hearing and mulling over that one little nugget it was like it was clear to me.  My calling is not leading worship or teaching the Bible.

No. My calling is this:   To be faithful to my scars.

But what does that mean?  Another thing Dr. Allender said was that we can find our brokenness and our passion by looking at whatever causes us to make a fist.  And in looking back over my own experiences there is one area that incenses me so much.

It’s when sheep are orphaned by the church.  Over the years I have seen sheep who have strayed from the path and have been booted out of the fold on their ear.  I have seen sheep who refuse to sit down and stay quiet be frozen out of the flock.  I have seen wounded sheep limp away unnoticed.  And to that I say, no.  That is not how the church is supposed to operate.  Sheep don’t just wander off without a reason.  Either the gate got left open or somebody tossed the sheep away.  And somebody has to care why.

I have found myself orphaned by the church more than once.  I still distinctly remember to this day one Sunday morning when I was probably about 16 or 17 and I was teaching 3rd grade Sunday school.  Me and another lady each did every other Sunday and on this particular Sunday, she walked into the classroom on my Sunday thinking it was her week to teach.  When she realized I was already there and set up, she acted haughty and ugly to me in front of the kids because she said I had taken her day.  Honestly I don’t remember if it was her day or mine, but what I do remember was how embarrassed I was in front of the kids because she’d made me feel so small.  I avoided her after that and if I remember right, I quit teaching Sunday school when that year was up.

In another situation, I had a friend a few years ago who made a mistake.  He did something he shouldn’t have done and was basically tossed out on his ear.  He didn’t even hear from the pastor for nearly three weeks after it happened.  Amazingly, he stood through it and has grown in his faith in Christ as a result of walking through that trial and the relationship he had with that church has since been healed, praise God.  But more often than not, it doesn’t end that way.    Were it not for his resolve to find healing and reconciliation, I dare say he’d have been completely forgotten.

Being orphaned by the church, whether in a small thing or a big one, can be deeply painful and unsettling.  The places you thought were safe aren’t safe anymore and the places you thought you stood firmly are all of a sudden shaky.  So many times I saw situations from a quite different perspective than the majority and I was made to feel like I was in the wrong, like I was making a bigger deal out of something than what it was.

But my scars tell me otherwise.  I know what it feels like to be belittled by someone in the church because they are older or because they have more authority that I do.  I know what it feels like to be shushed like a child whose opinion carries little to no weight.  I know what it feels like to be overlooked.  I know what it feels like to be wounded by the church.  And I know what it feels like to walk away from a church I served faithfully for almost 16 years and it to go virtually unnoticed by the majority of those in leadership.

Church wounds run pretty deep and can be incredibly difficulty to get over.  In being faithful to my scars, I allow myself to vulnerable about them and it opens up space for others to feel less alone.  I can mourn alongside those carrying their own church scars.

My calling?  To be faithful to my scars…to be a safe place for those orphaned by the church.

What about you?  What calling do you believe God has given you?  What things cause you to make a fist?