July 29, 2014
A year ago, I met the true and living God. When I gave my first testimony at my baptism, I had no idea what to expect of the future. All I knew was that I was in great need of healing. Nothing worked in the past to heal my wounds. The Lord waited to show himself to me until I had exhausted all other avenues of happiness and fulfillment.
My life was in a state of despair. No job to make money; no money to buy a car; no car to find a job. Not only had my destructive behavior compelled my wife to leave, it also alienated my friends, who had little patience for my hysterical phone calls. I was utterly alone. Because so much of my life was dead, I was desperate for real warmth and life. I was desperate to be human. Having never experienced personal wholeness in my family, my encounter with the person of Jesus became my only frame of reference for health.
Over the last year, I've tried to understand the process of redemption. Here's the best way I can put it: the light of God's presence is more than a glimpse of His love, it is also a call to repentance. This repentance is simply realizing that God loves you and has placed a call of holiness on your life and that your sin is preventing you from experiencing it. My despair was a dreadful and crippling incapacity to receive love and forgiveness from the Father. This is the linchpin. How do you stop holding onto the world and start holding onto God? Receiving from God can't be thought about, it just has to be done.
And now, I am really living on a prayer—a prayer that is hope, and this hope is deeper than anything else. The answer to despair is hope. God's love is real, and I am dying to the old self. I am believing it, and I am receiving it.
This has been a year of unforeseen blessings, which include a wonderful job, an older Christian couple taking me under their wing, and flourishing, healthy relationships with those in my life, including many of you at this church. The destructive coping patterns of the past have been largely replaced by tools of spiritual growth—such as listening prayer and confession. I am convinced the sole reason these things, the things I've always wanted, the things I was made for, have been given to me is because God is coming to live in my heart, replacing the despair with his presence. This is what Jesus means by the crazy promise in the Gospel of Matthew: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
I cannot express the depth of my gratitude for Church of the Resurrection. When I come here, I meet Christ. At Rez, we see and meet real people, not personas. We see the miracle of new life. God working in me and God working in us, the church, to redeem the world.
July 28, 2014
“I hope they’re not here yet, I’m nervous.” My Parkside girls squirmed in their seats as we pulled into the driveway. “What if they don’t like us? What if they don’t talk to us?” In the next minute we circled up eighteen kids on fresh green grass to meet each other. Parkside Girls Club meet your Home School University pen pals. There was an extended thick silence until nine of them climbed aboard the trampoline and a few others went over to play badminton. With bouncing and birdies they dissolved into a group of kids who acted like they’d known each other the whole school year.
Last fall, I needed a break from the intense writing curriculum and decided to give my class a chance to write letters, with pens, paper and pencils. No keyboards, no texting. The students in my class wrote to the girls in our Parkside group. Suburban West Chicago kids who like to belt out the soundtrack from “Frozen” became friends with refugee kids living in Glen Ellyn who also sing “Let it Go” into their hairbrushes when no one is looking. They had more in common than they expected. Our sons, who had determined they would play golf rather than attend the party, decided to stay. Once the trampoline began to get out of hand, they enticed them to climb to the top of our eighty foot pine trees and take in the view, (this was a bit much for my husband, the lawyer.) A few made it up there and saw that Wheaton looks like the Amazon canopy from that height, no houses visible. All geographic and ethnic boundaries dissolve when you are taking in the world from God’s overhead perspective. Our sons loved teasing the Parkside girls about how much Sarrancha sauce they put on their hot dogs, which they didn’t eat. We should have served rice. At least all the first of summer watermelon was devoured before the grilling was even over.
Piling them into the car brought cries of, “We should do that again,” from one of the shyest girls in my class and, “They were so nice to us. I love those girls.” So often, we don’t feel like doing that one more act of love that might really mean something to someone, because there are about a thousand rational reasons not to. I should go golfing with my sons was one I was mulling over. But when we go there, we get to witness His work of love with “canopy eyes” and see the view from above. We may be exhausted, but we are uplifted and in that view we grow closer to the one who made love possible. I was so proud of my kids that day….all eighteen of them.