What God can do in 10 years

We recently wrapped up a huge celebration of 10 years of God’s grace in Karis Church, and I realized that I spent so much time celebrating other people’s stories that I never shared my own.

It all began on a Monday morning, April 17, 2006, the day after Easter, as I read a news article about a new church in town that had its first public Gathering on Easter Sunday. At the time, my husband and I were pursuing membership at a church we loved, but the article intrigued me so much that I even poked around on this new church’s website. I remember being struck by the church’s values: truth, beauty, worship, community, mission, gospel, and mercy. I especially loved that beauty was included.

Fast forward two years to a Saturday night, January 2008. Tom and I found ourselves running Google searches – he on his laptop, me on the desktop computer – to decide on a church to attend the next day. We had, through much prayer and not lightly, separated from the church that had originally welcomed us to Columbia and were now ready to find a church to call home. God had been at work in our hearts, helping us question and sift through what we believed the Bible taught. We had grown, but we had been hurt, and we had walls up between the world and between each other.

At some point in our internet searching, Tom asked me to check out a website he found at the top of page two in his Google search. The church name was unfamiliar, but as soon as the page loaded I remember getting excited – I know this church! I read about their first Sunday!

It feels weird to say we never looked back, but it’s true. Instead of that Sunday being the start of yet another long search for a church family, we never went anywhere else. Kevin, the lead pastor, encourages other men to preach at times, both to give him a break and to raise up new leaders. January being one of those times, it took three Sundays before we could hear Kevin preach. I also remember, very uncomfortably, leaving church on each of those three Sundays under conviction about sins I had allowed to control me and recognizing how distant my relationship with God had become.

Karis in Tiger Hotel

Karis Church Sunday Gathering in Tiger Hotel. c. 2010

It’s a little fuzzy to think back on those early days and what it was about Karis that made it home, but here are a few things I remember:

  • being warmly welcomed by Brian and Christina Weaver
  • the senior pastor wanting to have lunch with us
  • Rob’s contagious enthusiasm for the mission of Karis
  • that we were two of the oldest people in the room on Sundays!
  • that a group of mostly 20-somethings were so excited about the gospel and about sharing it with the culture around them
Decade of Grace Block Party

Westside Block Party

Fast forward again, to a Friday afternoon, April 2016. I can barely recognize that hard-hearted, secretly wayward girl who walked into the Tiger Hotel in January 2008, though there are still some of the same insecurities and fears, still the bent toward the same sins. God has done so much through the community of Karis to soften my heart. He has used people in the church to call me out on stuff and ask the tough questions to help me see where I need to change and grow. Through the preaching and teaching, I have been stretched in my faith, widened my view of God and his holiness along with deepening my perception of my own sin. My relationship with Tom has been strengthened, as people in the church have lovingly shown me where I have been selfish and unloving toward my husband. By being given some leadership opportunities, I have been humbled again and again.

There is nothing perfect about this church over any other church. We try, by God’s grace, to live lives that give him glory. It’s not easy. Community is messy, as they say. As my friend, Anne, said about Karis: “Not many churches have people…who will love you where you’re at, but also encourage you to not stay there and to deepen your relationship with the Lord.” I’m excited to think about spending the next 10 years in this lovingly invasive community.

Decade of Grace

Celebrating a Decade of Grace at the anniversary party

 

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Day 18: Even still

Do you know the old hymn, It Is Well? If you click that link you can read a very heartfelt reaction I had to that song a little over a year ago. I also share the story behind the song, written by a man who lost nearly everything.

This morning, as we sang the song again in church, I had a visceral reaction. The words that really hung me up are in a tag added by another band recently.

TreeThe words?
“Even still.”

It is well with my soul.
Even still, it is well with my soul.
Even still,  it is well.

Why “even still?” Because I sing the song with excuses. Do you ever find you do that? We internally might sing something like this:

It is well with my soul, but I hate my job, career, major.

It is well with my soul, but I don’t like my roommate, spouse, boyfriend, family.

It is well with my soul, but I wish I could live in a bigger/smaller apartment, house it in a bigger/smaller city, town.

It is well with my soul, but I don’t like my body, hair, ears, voice, feet, personality.

It is well with my soul, but I wish I was married, pregnant, single.

Even still.

The reminder is that, yes, this world we are in is flawed and imperfect and filled with people who sin (including ourselves). People may grievously wound us, intentionally or not. Yes, we may not be satisfied with our station in life. We may never attain that dream we’ve clung to our entire lives.

Even still.

With our souls it can be most well. Even still.


crushing your kingdoms

This is part of a series of 31 days of Crushing your Kingdoms. Click to read all posts in the series.

I’m also linking up with Testimony Tuesdays:

Holly Barrett

Day 17: Let your light shine

light_shine

 

Part of Crushing your Kingdoms, a #write31days blogging challenge series.

Day 15: King Me

My Dad used to play checkers with my sister or me on the pull-out drawer of his massive wood desk. We’d pull up a kitchen chair across from him and sit down to match wits against our beloved father. I can still remember the glee of being able to shout, “King me!”

firehouse checker by sciondriver (CC BY-NC 2.0)

firehouse checker by sciondriver (CC BY-NC 2.0)

King me, right?

King me. Put me on the throne. My thoughts, my preferences, my desires, my issues, my wants and wishes. King me.

Our Facebook posts, instagram feeds, and tweets shout it out – king me.

We spend our days building up a kingdom that centers around us. Our home, our family, our job, our school, our needs. It just keeps going. King me.

I guess I would call this the kingdom of self. We all reign in our own kingdom at times. We selfishly want things to go our way. We act or scheme or direct conversations so the focus stays on us.

It calls to mind Mark 8:

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

This kingdom may be the hardest to crush. It seems to be a back and forth struggle. Sometimes I feel that I can put myself aside for others, and then the next thing I know it’s “king me” all over again.

Do you see yourself calling out “king me” sometimes? I don’t think that this is one we can crush on our own or quickly. It takes prayer and constant handing over to God. Daily.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23

crushing your kingdoms
← Read all the posts in this series here.

Day 9: Reflections on glory

This is a post I wrote a little over a year ago. I was reminded of it as we sang All Creatures of our God & King today in Karis Church. I’m sharing to focus on God’s kingdom today.

sky

Since the temperature has dropped a bit, I slipped out on the back deck tonight with a drink and my music to practice for Sunday morning.

If you’re at all like me, when you find yourself in a quiet space outdoors and the sky begins to kaleidoscope in hues of blue, purple and pink with the setting sun, you’re gonna look up and watch the sky at some point.

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in heaven along

These are the words that floated through my ear buds as I watched a drifting cloud.

Thou rising moon in praise rejoice
Ye lights of evening find a voice

And then I realized fireflies were dancing around me.

Let all things their Creator bless
And worship him in humbleness

Now the rhythms of the cicadas and crickets catch my ear.

Oh, doesn’t your breath catch sometimes with a glimpse of God’s glory?

I know there are times when God feels distant and you think your prayers don’t go past the ceiling. I know that sometimes there are hurts and pain that are mountains high and healing seems or is unreachable this side of eternity.

But the in-between times, when you just glance around and see a bigger picture than the one you usually focus on?

Glory.

Can you join me? If not now, then later today, or this week? Stop and look for God’s glory that is shining out around you.

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing
O Praise Him!
Alleluia!

20130629_195854 (640x358)

Praise! Praise the Father! Praise the Son!
And praise the Spirit, Three-in-One!

O Praise Him.
Alleluia!

Alleluia.

Want watch/listen to the whole song? Find it here.

What did you notice? Would you like to share it in a comment?

bold_crushing

You can read all the posts for this 31 day series here.

Day 3: Before the Throne of God

I’ve spent much of the day continuing to extract water from our basement, so this is going to be short and sweet.

Today, look not at your own kingdom, but go before the throne of God.

We sing this song in Karis Church. I hope you enjoy it. My favorite is verse two:

When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within.
Upward I look and see Him there, who made an end to all my sin.
One with Himself, I cannot die; my soul is purchased with His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high, with Christ my Savior and my God.

This was Day 3 of Crushing Your Kingdoms. Did you miss Day 2?
Keep going and read Day 4.

You can view all posts in the series here:

crushing your kingdoms

Crushing Your Kingdoms – 31 Days

crushing your kingdomsWe all do it.

We set goals, we aim high. We create bucket lists and reach for the stars.

We attempt to set up our own little kingdoms with little ol’ me on the throne.

We may pin things to our Pinterest boards to build up our kingdom. Perhaps we cook and clean and decorate the “perfect” house.

We may work long hours, using a career, to create our kingdom.

It’s possible we’ve decided the kingdom must happen through our children and we bow to their every whim and desire to give them the perfect childhood we didn’t have.

In the quiet hours, late at night, when the house is still and you’re not able to sleep, that’s when you can be honest with yourself. Your attempts to build a kingdom are wimpy at best. If anything, you’ve created a sandcastle kingdom, but a strong wave will knock it down.

For the month of October, I will be joining a couple thousand bloggers in #write31days. Each day in October, we’ll look at why we set up our own kingdoms, which kingdoms needs to be crushed, and whose kingdom we should be building (hint: the Lord God).

You can come back to this page anytime to get links to all the posts in this series.

Is there a kingdom you immediately thought of while reading this? Let me know in the comments and it may make its way into the series. Also, if you’re visiting from #write31days, let me know so I can visit your blog!

Day 1:   Wanting our own way
Day 2:   Four lessons from a flood
Day 3:   Before the Throne of God
Day 4:   Counting blessings & revealing messes
Day 5:   Sit in the hard places
Day 6:   Stop building on sand
Day 7:   Praying for grace
Day 8:   Put on the new self
Day 9:   Reflections on glory
Day 10: Idol Factories
Day 11:  Appearance isn’t everything
Day 12:  My best guess
Day 13:  The Words of Others
Day 14:  Hear our hearts cry out
Day 15:  King me
Day 16:  Theirs is the kingdom of heaven
Day 17:  Let your light shine
Day 18:  Even still
Day 19:  Christ is king over Ebola
Day 20:  Though you ruin me
Day 21:  What others are saying
Day 22:  You are here – a brief recap
Day 23:  God’s grace is greater than my sin
Day 24:  How dare you?
Day 25:  Ears to hear and eyes to see
Day 26:  Four kingdoms (root idols)
Day 27:  Where your brokenness bring you
Day 28:  When longing for approval
Day 29:  How to crush your kingdoms
Day 30:  Seeking the True Kingdom
Day 31:  Continually crushing

bold_crushing

God’s Got This – a peek into His sovereign will

berries of winterWe all have ideas of how we expect things to go in life. We make plans and expect they will turn out as we planned. Large project or small, we start down a course with a set expectation.

Sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes it’s an epic mess. Sometimes we end up with our own version of a Pinterest Fail.

I’m at Camp CUMCITO this week. We planned to have a fully staffed week. We planned to be able to fill the camp with campers. My husband planned to be here with me. My church planned to have a team of 15 people and bring 25 local campers with us.

God’s been teaching me a lot about His sovereignty lately. I had a refresher course a couple of months ago during a class my church taught. God’s in control. He’s so much bigger than my plans. God doesn’t scramble to figure out Plan B. For Him, there is no Plan B. It’s all His Plan A.

Basically, God’s got this.

I’m here at camp as a team of five from my church – not 15. I’m so glad that these four came with me. I’m so thrilled that they committed to serve. God planned exactly who should be here this year.

We ran into difficulties in getting parents on board and ended up not being able to bring any campers with us this year. God is not surprised by this.

My husband had a flare-up of back pain and is not able to work right now, let alone serve a week at camp, so I’m here without him. God orchestrated that he would be home and I would be here.

We not expecting to have a full camp. Campers weren’t able to attend this week for various reasons and we think we’ll be short about 30 campers. God knows and planned the exact campers who will step off the bus on Monday.

We have not been able to find enough volunteers to work at camp this week. Not sure if it’s the Independence Day holiday or what. We are short about 12 staff positions and people are having to stretch and do double-duty and get creative about how we make ends meet. Even this is part of God’s plan.

Not one single bit of this is a surprise to God. While we do all we can to fill the gaps and make plans, God knows exactly who will be here. He’s in charge of exactly what will happen this week. He is in control.

God’s got this.

Maybe there’s something in your life that’s not going according to your plan. Perhaps it seems like everything is falling apart. God is over all. He is at work in your life with His Plan A. He’s got this. I hope you can trust in that today.

winter berries

 

His Peerless Worth

This song has been on repeat for the last day. Different bits of the lyrics hit me each time.

…Joyful choose the better part…

…Let his peerless worth constrain thee…

…What can strip the seeming beauty from the idols of the earth?…the sight of peerless worth…

It’s so easy to focus on things of this world, even good things, and take our eyes off that which is peerless worth. God is beyond compare. There is none comparable; no one to be considered his peer.

And suddenly the things that have occupied my time and attention seem flat and shallow compared to his peerless worth. Soak in that as you listen to this song.

 

Hast thou heard Him, seen Him, known Him?
Is not thine a captured heart?
Chief among ten thousand own Him;
Joyful choose the better part.

Captivated by His beauty,
Worthy tribute haste to bring;
Let His peerless worth constrain thee,
Crown Him now unrivaled King.

What can stripped the seeming beauty
From the idols of the earth?
Not a sense of right or duty,
But the sight of peerless worth.

’Tis that look that melted Peter,
’Tis that face that Stephen saw,
’Tis that heart that wept with Mary,
Can alone from idols draw.

peerlessworth

Where is the Joy?

Welcome back to Five Minute Friday. The general idea is to receive a prompt word and write about it for 5 minutes. No major editing, no fixing things to make the perfect post. It’s about writing.

This week, I left it really raw. It was one of those words that I wanted to overlook, but I stepped up to the challenge to write anyway. What follows is a rough estimation of how my brain works. I like where we finally ended up, but the getting-there was H-A-R-D. Disclaimer: I went way over 5 minutes, but you’ll see why.

This week, the prompt is Joy.

————

The clock is ticking… The meter’s running… 

And I sit and try to figure out what in the world I could say about joy.

|    |    |    |    |    ← the cursor keeps blinking at me.

The Bible is filled with promises of joy. The 2nd fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace…

But I don’t feel it. Life is hard sometimes and my joy seems to dissipate like morning fog as the sun rises.

Nope. No.

I don’t remember a joyful moment today.

And I wrestle with how that balances with the people who are bubbling over with joy so much of the time.

I remember how, just before Christmas, a friend had a really exciting thing happen in her family. She couldn’t contain her joy (rightfully so!). One day she shouted on Facebook, “JESUS IS SO GOOD!”

At the time I was working through Advent, preparing to greet the Christ-child anew in celebration of his birth. My heart was raw, wounded, and sore. I mulled over her triumphant shout, happy for her, aching for me. It struck me at the time, that while I couldn’t shout in joy that God is good, I could still whisper it in pain. I could sob it in prayer.

Jesus is so good.

God even used that to allow me to encourage a few other people during the Advent season, to shyly show a tiny window of my pain so that someone else’s day would be brightened. There was a quiet joy in that.

Joy God is good

Back to today. A joyless day? God is still so good.

But my heart aches. God is so good.

And today’s problems will still be here tomorrow. He is good.

But I just want to scream out my frustrations! Jesus is so good!

joy.

Today is the first day of spring. We’re between the two holidays of Christmas and Easter. The joy at the manger to the joy of the cross. You see that now, right? The sorrow has a bright side. God is so good. He orchestrates everything for good, for His glory.

The joy of today is that even on a hard, exhausting, stressful day, God is so good.

Joy!

————

You can read more of this week’s Five Minute Friday posts here – Joy.

I’m linked up with:

Five Minute Friday       

  • Hi, I'm Janice. I'm part bookworm and part creative. I love both science and music (and the science of music). I'm stumbling around trying to grow closer to God. Click the photo to read more about me.

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